Friday, February 13, 2015

Friends '88 in 2013

This video is two years old... today. It was filmed as we drove eastward across the mountains into the Mojave Desert.


Thursday, February 05, 2015

#45: Lost Valley (Mark's 100 - 2014)

Lost Valley

Mark's Ranking
  • 2014: 45th
  • 2012: 34th
  • 2010: 20th
  • 2005: did not appear
  • rank: 790 (new edition - 2073)
  • rating: 6.84 (new editiion - 7.25)
Print Status
  • original edition is OOP - but a new edition (with some changes) is in print
Why It's On The List
  • A very cool exploration/gold mining game with mean & tricky heart - if you can't accept that stuff you build will be used by others to mess you over, you don't need to be playing this game..
Tips & Tricks:
    • You can not do everything - although it is legal to own both a canoe & a horse - and there's a tipping point in the game where spending gold is actually spending away your chance at winning. One of the important skills is figuring out when you just need to ride out the strategy you've chosen, even if the terrain isn't particularly friendly.
    • As much as I want it to work for 3 players, I think about half of our three player games end up with the player who goes "solo" (doesn't travel the same side of the river as the other players) ends up winning - it's easier not to fight. The only way to avoid this is to either (a) cooperate w/the guy on the same side of the river as you to race each other, or (b) only play with four players.
    • Watch the timer - a player with a substantial enough lead in gold & a decent mode of transportation is highly motivated to find the source of the river & start that timer rolling.
    • There are some great player aids up on the Geek - and it's probably required for you to download & read the extensive FAQ.
    • The new version of the game is Lost Valley: The Yukon Goldrush 1896. I have not played it yet - but I hope to correct that very soon!

    Wednesday, February 04, 2015

    Memoir '44: Operation Barbarossa - Phase One

    It's no surprise to my faithful readership that Memoir '44 is one of my favorite games... and that one of my favorite ways to play Memoir '44 is playing a chain of multiple scenarios (a "campaign"). This blog post is a battle by battle record of a Grand Campaign against my son, Braeden.

    Operation: Barbarossa is actually three smaller campaigns layered together to create an epic 10-13 scenario series of battles. (If you're a fan of Memoir '44, I can't recommend the Campaign Books highly enough - this campaign is from Volume I. I wrote an extensive review of Volume II when it was released.)

    The Grand Campaign is divided into two phases:
    • the first two battles of each zone (North, Center, East) are fought in the first phase (which you're reading about in this post)
    • the remaining battles of each zone are fought in the second phase (which you'll be reading about in an upcoming post)
    There are also historical "what if?" events that occur and further complicate the strategic and tactical planning.The Soviet Defensive Strategy enabled Braeden to dig in with sandbags as we began to advance... but the Finns went ahead and attacked Leningrad, which reduced his reserves in the North.

    Barbarossa Center: Bug River

    Boardgaming echoed actual history as my Axis forces rolled out strongly in the center & right flank, over running the tank turret field bunkers and using armor to block the troop train from reinforcing the bridge over the Bug River.

    It was a rout - but this is early in the campaign and the Russian winter has yet to flex its muscle.
    • Axis: 6 (including the bridge objective)
    • Allies: 0
    Barbarossa Center: Pruzana

    An Axis tank attack across the center of the Russian line was repulsed with heavy losses... mitigated only by a strafing run that gave broken units time to retreat. Later, though, an infantry charge across the open ground of the left flank was wildly successful, due to the slow response time dictated by the Russian commissar system.  
    • Axis: 5
    • Allies: 3

    Barbarossa North: Raseiniai

    At the same time (historically, if not in game time), Army Group North pushed on towards Leningrad. The battle at Raseiniai (a Russian counterattack against the relentless Axis advance) began well for the Russian cavalry, as they routed the waves of tanks plunging through the center. A delayed push on the left flank with German tanks & mechanized infantry manages to push through to the key bridge across the Dubysa River. The Axis (me) triumphed, but not without heavy losses. 
    • Axis: 7 (including the bridge objective)
    • Allies: 5
    Barbarossa North: Velikaya Bridgehead

    The Axis advance was nearly stopped at the Velikaya Bridgehead. Weakened German tank units were routed by Russian cavalry & armored forces on the right flank, forcing the slow movement forward of Axis reserves and a counterattack on the left flank. The Russian commander (Braeden) had horrible luck - which was the only thing that allowed my mechanized infantry to lunge into the town of Pskov on the left flank for the win (barely).
    • Axis: 6 (including the town objective)
    • Allies: 5

    Barbarossa South: Brody

    The largest tank battle in history (until Kursk in 1943) took place on the southern edge of Operation Barbarossa... and this time the Russians prevailed by pushing forward with their tanks. Worse yet, they managed to kill Der Panzergraf (a heroic German leader) - breaking the spirit of the Axis troops. 

    Though the Allied forces managed to converge on the center of the line, the Germans were able to push the Russians out of the town of Dubno, albeit a hollow prize after the death of their beloved Panzergraf.
    • Axis: 4
    • Allies: 5
    Barbarossa South: Russian Breakout

    The Axis forces won an important victory in their attempt to reach the oil-rich regions of Southern Russia when they attempted to escape the oncoming onslaught. Despite an impressive display of air cover from Russian fighters, the German tanks were able to decimate the Russian forces as they attempted to push forward in the center and the right flank.
    • Axis: 6
    • Allies: 3

    The campaign will continue (we've even got the next battle set up on the game table)... but the advantage now shifts to the Soviets defending their homeland. I could be in trouble.

    Monday, February 02, 2015

    Akaba Redux: A Cool Discovery


    Here's some highlights of what I wrote about Haba's Akaba way back in the day.

    I had listed both The Black Pirate & Akaba in my Kid Games 100...
    So, you may be wondering why I'd turn back around and put another puffer game on the list. Well, I'll tell you - I think they're both great games that offer very different play experiences. 
    This is the more wild'n'wooly of the two games, since each player is working to move as quickly as he can... the active player puffing away at his magic carpet, scooting it around the board, while the player to his left is busy rolling a pair of color dice, hoping for them to match so he can yell "Stop!" and end the active players travel.
    Dexterity games are always tricky... younger kids like the action but don't always have the fine motor skills necessary to play competitively.
    While kids age 5+ can play the game, you need to be 6-7 years old to have the coordination to carefully puff your carpet across the board instead of blowing it about as if you're in an Arabic remake of The Wizard of Oz.
    Of course, I had to get in a final word...
    My older son enjoys this game more than The Black Pirate, I think primarily because of the frenetic pace of each of the turns. I was surprised by this, as I thought that the pirate theme would beat the magic carpet theme - but evidently not. I'm good with either of them: Akaba if I'm up for high-charging silliness, The Black Pirate if I'm wanting more of a careful dexterity challenge.
    A Cool Discovery 

    I had played Akaba 20+ times over the past decade... but it wasn't until yesterday afternoon that I discovered this on the board...

    Yes, that's right... the guys on the board are playing Akaba. Sadly, the nifty headgear was not included with the actual game. (I'm not sure I'd look good in a fez, but I'm willing to try.)

    Friday, January 30, 2015

    #46: Around the World in 80 Days (Mark's 100 - 2014)

    Around the World in 80 Days

    Mark's Ranking
    • 2014: 46th
    • 2012: 48th
    • 2010: 76th
    • 2005: did not appear
    • rank: 954
    • rating: 6.58
    Print Status
    • out of print (but pretty easy to find a copy on BGG)
    Why It's On The List
    • another lovely implementation of theme (getting from place to place while using time wisely) that allows for both hare & tortoise strategies to play out
    Tips & Tricks:
      • Buying cards at the right time is as valuable as getting re-rolls... use your coins wisely.
      • Use the detective not only to keep people from moving forward but also to force them to move in ways that cost them time.
      • On the flip side, don't let the appearance of the detective rush you into decisions that will cost you more time than the penalty for ending your turn with him.
      • There is another enjoyable game on the same theme from Wolfgang Kramer - Around the World in 80 Days - which has a different but also unusual movement mechanic..
      • Six players is a little much in this game - but it works. I like it best with 3-5 players.

      Thursday, January 29, 2015

      #47: Lost Cities (Mark's 100 - 2014)

      Lost Cities

      Mark's Ranking
      • 2014: 47th
      • 2012: did not appear
      • 2010: 71st
      • 2005: 53rd
      • rank: 253
      • rating: 7.12
      Print Status
      • in print 
      Why It's On The List
      • I've played this over & over and I'm still intrigued each time. How far can I push my luck? Should I play aggressively or defensively? For such a simple game, it continues to draw me in. (Probably doesn't hurt that the production of the game is gorgeous.) Now, it's not that I win all that much. My wife is a pro.
      Tips & Tricks:
        • I know some people don't like the big cards or the board... but I do.
        • Good Lost Cities play is based not only on the cards you draw but also on the play of your opponent. It is a game about reading their plan as much as executing your own.
        • Lost Cities spawned a whole series of games:
          • Keltis & it's uglier cousin, Lost Cities: The Board Game (I enjoy them both)
          • Keltis: Die Orakel (which I have not played)
          • Keltis: Der Weg der Steine (which I like enough to put on my top 100 games list)
          • Keltis: The Dice Game (so-so)
          • Keltis: The Card Game (decent - but I like Lost Cities better)

        Monday, January 26, 2015

        #48: Midnight Party (Mark's 100 - 2014)

        Midnight Party

        Mark's Ranking
        • 2014: 48th
        • 2012: did not appear
        • 2010: did not appear
        • 2005: did not appear
        • rank: 1497
        • rating: 6.43
        Print Status
        • OOP - but it's been released in multiple editions and isn't impossible to find
        Why It's On The List
        • #3 on my Kid Games top 100 list... this game is equally successful with kids and adults. It's a chase/push-your-luck/filler game that never ever falls flat.
        Tips & Tricks:
          • I strongly suggest not grouping your partygoers together - that's an easy way to get nabbed by Hugo post-haste.
          • The missing numbers on the dice (replaced by ghost symbols) are 3 and 6... plan accordingly, especially when you are aiming for the +3 rooms.
          • My copy is now 26 years old - I bought it on a date with my bride-to-be (we celebrate 25 years of marriage in June!) at the Texas State Fair.
          • There was supposed to be a new German edition of this game in 2013 - but according to the Geek it was never released.
          • I wrote an extensive review of Midnight Party for my Kid Games 100.