Wednesday, October 22, 2014

#89: Coal Baron (Mark's 100 - 2014)

Coal Baron

Mark's Ranking
  • 2014: 89th
  • 2012: prior to publication
  • 2010: prior to publication
  • 2005: prior to publication
  • rank: 407
  • rating: 7.37
Print Status
  • in print
Why It's On The List
  • a smooth-as-silk worker placement game that doesn't have the typical "I took the one spot you need & you're hosed" problem that sours me on most worker placement games... the theme is odd (coal mining in Essen) but works like a charm with the mechanics to make for a great playing experience with 2, 3, or 4 players
Tips & Tricks:
  • This is both an "avoidance" game - where you want to take the path of least resistance and avoid running into the plans of other players - and a "edge" game - where you want to edge out the other players by using the fewest number of workers to get a valuable space.
  • Because you can always use a space by paying one more worker than the number of workers that are currently residing there, you are never boxed out. It may be too expensive, though.

Friday, October 17, 2014

#90: Tante Tarantel (Mark's 100 - 2014)

Tante Tarantel 

Mark's Ranking
  • 2014: 90th
  • 2012: did not appear
  • 2010: did not appear
  • 2005: did not appear
  • rank: 4434
  • rating: 6.21
Print Status
  • OOP
Why It's On The List
  • "Auntie Tarantula" (that's how the game translates into English) is an odd blend of think-y movement decisions (the movement of your bugs is fixed at one space per turn) and wild swings of random craziness (Auntie T., on the other hand, moves at the whim of a die roll). 
Tips & Tricks:
    • This is the first "kid game" on the list... but there's enough going on here to make it a nice end of the night filler game.
    • My boys were both playing this by the time they were 5 years old - WITH adult help. The endgame scoring & the odd movement system for the spider (along with the German language notes on the board) require some supervision.
    • Timing your exit from the web is key... since the point values fluctuate, it's important to think about player order & the appropriate level of risk.
    • This game was #18 on my Kid Games 100 back in 2009.
    • Tante Tarantel was reprinted in 2009 in a "two games in one box" edition with the also fun (but not quite as good) Igel Argern

    Thursday, October 16, 2014

    The Obligatory "If Only I Was At Essen" Post

    If I was at Essen - right now - I would...

    ...try to get a demo of the Magic: The Gathering Board Game, even though I could care less about the collectible card game, because it's designed by Craig Van Ness, one of the geniuses behind Heroscape.

    ...go hunting for a second-hand copy of Tal der Abenteur, my long-sought-after "grail" game... I've played it once and enjoyed it immensely. (It's like Honeybears, only with a dash more game involved.)

    ...hang out with Dale Yu and act as his manservant/Sherpa to cart games back to his hotel - all the time secretly siphoning off the stuff I know he's gonna hate & I'll love. a number of folks from Europe face-to-face - FINALLY - that I've been corresponding with since the late 90s. (Mik, for example... or Jeff Allers... or Vlaada!) the following games/expansions and then have a devil of a time trying to pack them into my suitcase:
    • Claustrophobia: Furor Sanguinis
    • Castles of Mad King Ludwig
    • Tash-Kalar: Arena of Legends – Everfrost
    • Clash of Cultures: Civilizations
    • Pandemic: The Cure
    • Mahé
    • Historia
    • Throne of the World
    • Crash Cup Karambolage
    • Mit Mist und Tücke
    • Blocky Mountains
    • Nations: the Dice Game
    • Colt Express
    • Realm of Wonder
    • Time Masters
    • Deus
    • Spike
    • 7 Wonders: Babel
    • Adventure Tours
    • Hellweg westfalicus
    • Omega Centauri
    • Aruba: Battle Race 
    • Mythotopia
    • Onward to Venus
    • Mangrovia
    ...rack up a ridiculous amount on the credit card that I will have to explain to my non-gamer (but incredibly patient) wife.

    #91: Zauberschwert & Drachenei (Mark's 100 - 2014)

    Zauberschwert & Drachenei 

    Mark's Ranking
    • 2014: 91st
    • 2012: did not appear
    • 2010: new to me
    • 2005: new to me
    • rank: 3048
    • rating: 6.16
    Print Status
    • not sure about the print status... it looks like the publisher (Adlung) still has it available, but that's in Germany
    Why It's On The List
    • the name means "Magic Sword & Dragon Egg" - and it's a fantasy-themed game of auctions, negotiation and engine-building that has won my two sons over
    Tips & Tricks:
      • There are two components to playing Z&D well:.
        • remember that you can negotiate - but never trust that the player following you in the turn order will honor your deal
        • remember there is a certain level of engine-building that must be done in order to be successful - just saving up energy to zap monsters for victory points will not win you the game
      • I am a huge fan of both expansion boxes - they add some great twists to the base system that increase the variety of paths to victory. They do, admittedly, add some length to the game.
      • I haven't written much about this game, either... sigh.

      Wednesday, October 15, 2014

      #92: Rampage (Mark's 100 - 2014)


      Mark's Ranking
      • 2014: 92nd
      • 2012: prior to publication
      • 2010: prior to publication
      • 2005: prior to publication
      • rank: 354
      • rating: 7.17
      Print Status
      • in print (well, almost back in print)
      Why It's On The List
      • a dexterity game of monster destruction - with a 3D city built out of meeples. What's not to like?
      Tips & Tricks:
        • This is an experience game - yes, skill with flicking & blowing (monster breath) will help you win, but there's a LOT of luck here.
        • This game is catnip to teenage boys - rave reviews from every one my sons & I have introduced it to...
        • I like the "side B" of the escaped meeples chart better than the "original" side.
        • The reprint of the game is named "Terror in Meeple City" - Asmodee had to bow to pressure since the game theme & artwork was too close to the trademark material of the beloved old-skool video game.
        • This one was on my Essen wishlist from last year... glad I got it for my birthday!

        Tuesday, October 14, 2014

        #93: Drôles de Zèbres (Mark's 100 - 2014)

        Drôles de Zèbres

        Mark's Ranking
        • 2014: 93rd
        • 2012: 58th
        • 2010: 57th
        • 2005: new to me
        • rank: 4312
        • rating: 6.57
        Print Status
        • really OOP
        Why It's On The List
        • I'm a sucker for zoo-themed games (as you've seen and will see) - which is funny, as I don't particularly like animals. Anyway, maybe it's the theme that makes this perfect information game work for me.
        Tips & Tricks:
          • Understanding how each piece works is key to making good choices.
          • Like many two-player abstracts, you have to decide which battles are worth fighting over... and which battles you can lose in order to win elsewhere.
          • I enjoy how the odd theme "works" for explaining the game... and how quickly it plays.
          • The name (and game) are French... and no, I can't pronounce it. (It means "Funny Zebras" and is actually the name of a French film comedy about bank robbers.) When I tried to order it from Levalet (which is not pronounced "lev - el - et", by the way), the nice gentleman from Montreal repressed a snort at my butchered attempt at saying Drôles de Zèbres

          #94: Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game (Mark's 100 - 2014)

          Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game

          Mark's Ranking
          • 2014: 94th
          • 2012: prior to publication
          • 2010: prior to publication
          • 2005: prior to publication
          • rank: 21
          • rating: 7.98
          Print Status
          • in print
          Why It's On The List
          • a simple system of simultaneous movement programming combined with gorgeous pre-painted minis... and it's Star Wars, for crying out loud!
          Tips & Tricks:
            • This is NOT a cheap game system to get involved with... but if you're patient, you can sometimes find X-Wing minis for sale.
            • Yes, there is a lot of luck involved... but superior movement planning & winning the "bluffing" game helps you win the game.
            • I like scenarios with objectives better than straight out "kill or be killed" scenarios - wish there were more 'official' scenarios. How about a scenario book, Fantasy Flight?!
            • It's not specifically about X-Wing, but I did write what I consider to be a helpful rumination on "toolkit" game systems

            Monday, October 13, 2014

            How To Shrink a Universe Into A Great Two Player Game

            This isn't exactly a review - it's more of a "hey, I playtested this game and it's awesome" kind of love-fest. I am not paid by Tasty Minstrel Games, I have received no swag and/or sample product, and I spent my own hard-earned dough on inkjet ink to mock up the prototype to play. Not only do I not have any dog in this fight, I don't even own a dog.

            Well, that's not entirely true. I want to see Tasty Minstrel succeed, because I enjoy a good number of the games they are creating and publishing. I want Seth Jaffee (the designer) to design more games. And I want a copy of this game that doesn't consist of my hastily printed-on-inkjet slips of paper shoved into low-quality sleeves with foreign-language Magic: The Gathering cards as backing.

            The last of those desires is taken care of, as Eminent Domain: Microcosm is fully funded - all any of us have to do is plunk down our $10 and set our clock radio for the spring of 2015. You have until Friday night (October 17, 2014) to join in and get not only this splendid little 34 card game but some nifty extra cards for Eminent Domain, Dungeon Roll & the upcoming Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers.

            So, with that introduction taken care of and way too much discussion about hypothetical dogs & Korean M:tG cards, let's move on to the question and answer portion of this blog post.

            Is this just a shrunken version of Eminent Domain?

            No. I'm a huge fan of Eminent Domain (and I'm enjoying playtesting the upcoming Exotica expansion)... but this is not Eminent Domain: the Dice Game. (Yes, I know it's a card game... what I'm suggesting is that Microcosm is emphatically not just a simplified version of the original game, created to cash in on the brand.)

            10 minutes? Really?!

            Not on your first play or two - but those won't be longer than 15-20 minutes. Once you know how the game works, 10 minutes is very realistic. 

            Only 34 cards? Really?

            Yes, really. Players begin with no cards in their hands and draft a card each turn, then either:

            • play a card from their hand, OR
            • pick up all of their played cards and put them back in their hand
            Each of the cards has multiple functions:
            • the action you take when playing the card
            • an icon that affects the power of your actions (most cards)
            • instructions on how you will score influence (victory points) at the end of the game
            With that few cards, doesn't the game get "old" quickly?

            Absolutely not. There are multiple ways to build your influence over the galaxy, even with the short playing time & limited number of turns. Tactics can be affected by what cards are available to draft - or what planets your opponent has colonized or conquered.

            My oldest son & I have played 6+ games of this... and the scores are getting tighter each time. We're learning how to sabotage the other player by drafting to steal points, as well as making strategic "reloading" turns at the right time. Each game is more exciting rather than less... and the playing time has tightened up as well.

            How do I order this and be as cool as you are, Mark?

            Glad you asked. Follow this Kickstarter link.

            Seriously, Eminent Domain: Microcosm a great 2-player game... even if you're not a fan of science fiction games. This is a splendid design.

            Sunday, October 12, 2014

            #95: Tumblin' Dice (Mark's 100 - 2014)

            Tumblin' Dice

            Mark's Ranking
            • 2014: 95th
            • 2012: did not appear
            • 2010: did not appear
            • 2005: new to me
            • rank: 434
            • rating: 7.12
            Print Status
            • in print
            Why It's On The List
            • it's shuffleboard... with dice - and as simple (and silly) as that sounds, the stairstep design of the board (and the curved edges) make for a really great game
            Tips & Tricks:
              • You can play this with more than 4 players if you add extra sets of colored dice. (Six is probably the maximum number that works - but we've tried it with 8!)
              • We play 4 rounds, with the order of players changing each round... the player with the lowest score goes last.
              • Use the dice of other players as "backstops" for your dice - especially when you're shooting for the tiny 4x platforms.
              • I haven't written much about Tumblin' Dice... except to brag about how I found my near-mint copy in a thrift store in Fresno, CA for $5.