Tuesday, October 15, 2019

My Top 18 Board Games (as of today)

In previous years, I worked really hard to do long multiple blog post lists of my top 100 (or 200) games... but life has conspired to make that less and less likely now. Granted, I'm still getting to play a lot of games... but writing about them has become trickier.

So, in honor of nothing in particular (except a meme-ish thing going around boardgaming Twitter), here are my 18 top games. (Note: the meme is Top Nine - but I couldn't narrow it down that far, so here's my top 18.)

Notes: 
  • I've been tracking plays since 1997. Only Dungeonquest predates that... I'd conservatively estimate another 30+ plays of the game in the late 80s and early 90s.
  • The time estimates are courtesy of the excellent Board Game Stats app.



  • 445 plays
  • approximately 170 hours
  • 114 plays
  • approximately 218 hours
  • I've written a BUNCH about Heroscape over the years... probably the best post to start with is Heroscape for Beginners (and Robo).
  • In 2010, I wrote a goodbye letter to Heroscape when Hasbro ended the line.
  • 14 plays
  • approximately 50 hours
  • 11 plays
  • approximately 32 hours
  • 81 plays
  • approximately 43 hours
  • 10 plays
  • 9 hours
  • 7 plays (in less than 3 weeks)
  • 11 hours
  • 24 plays
  • approximately 58 hours
  • I'm really proud of my review of the Festival Season expansion...


  • 105 plays
  • approximately 110 hours
  • 49 plays
  • approximately 42 hours
  • 86 plays
  • approximately 65 hours
#13 Catan
  • 145 plays
  • approximately 138 hours
  • 62 plays
  • approximately 23 hours
  • Here's what I wrote about Flowerpower for Game Central Station (my old website)
  • 132 plays
  • approximately 103 hours
  • Here's my review of the Alvin & Dexter expansion.
  • 30 plays
  • approximately 21 hours
  • 102 plays
  • approximately 170 hours
  • We tried an interesting experiment in game play - The Bloodsworn Arena - and I wrote about it.
  • 11 plays
  • approximately 15 hours

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Asking for a King

When Samuel got to be an old man, he set his sons up as judges in Israel. His firstborn son was named Joel, the name of his second, Abijah. They were assigned duty in Beersheba. But his sons didn’t take after him; they were out for what they could get for themselves, taking bribes, corrupting justice.

Fed up, all the elders of Israel got together and confronted Samuel at Ramah. They presented their case: “Look, you’re an old man, and your sons aren’t following in your footsteps. Here’s what we want you to do: Appoint a king to rule us, just like everybody else.”

When Samuel heard their demand—“Give us a king to rule us!”—he was crushed. How awful! Samuel prayed to God.

God answered Samuel, “Go ahead and do what they’re asking. They are not rejecting you. They’ve rejected me as their King. From the day I brought them out of Egypt until this very day they’ve been behaving like this, leaving me for other gods. And now they’re doing it to you. So let them have their own way. But warn them of what they’re in for. Tell them the way kings operate, just what they’re likely to get from a king.”

So Samuel told them, delivered God’s warning to the people who were asking him to give them a king. He said, “This is the way the kind of king you’re talking about operates. He’ll take your sons and make soldiers of them—chariotry, cavalry, infantry, regimented in battalions and squadrons. He’ll put some to forced labor on his farms, plowing and harvesting, and others to making either weapons of war or chariots in which he can ride in luxury. He’ll put your daughters to work as beauticians and waitresses and cooks. He’ll conscript your best fields, vineyards, and orchards and hand them over to his special friends. He’ll tax your harvests and vintage to support his extensive bureaucracy. Your prize workers and best animals he’ll take for his own use. He’ll lay a tax on your flocks and you’ll end up no better than slaves. The day will come when you will cry in desperation because of this king you so much want for yourselves. But don’t expect God to answer.”

But the people wouldn’t listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We will have a king to rule us! Then we’ll be just like all the other nations. Our king will rule us and lead us and fight our battles.”

Samuel took in what they said and rehearsed it with God. God told Samuel, “Do what they say. Make them a king.”

Then Samuel dismissed the men of Israel: “Go home, each of you to your own city.”

1st Samuel 8:1-22 The Message

To quote Darth Vader, it is “all too easy” for me to read passages like this (where the Israelites demand to “be just like all the other nations”) and let out a rueful chuckle at the thick-headedness of the Israelites. I relax into the comfy Barcalounger of my own self-satisfaction, safe and secure in the knowledge that I – a mature believer on this side of the Cross – would never behave this way.

The painful reality is that I’m an expert at hiding my ravenous desire to be the king of my own life – so I can be like all the other people who have the dubious privilege of running their own lives. Presented with the truth of where choices like this inevitably lead, I stick my metaphorical fingers in my ears and clap my hands over my eyes.

But, just like the Israelites, my choice to ignore truth thankfully doesn’t mean that God ignores me. And just as God used the monarchy to prefigure the coming of the Real King, He uses my twisted desires to lead me into truth, surrender and actual freedom.

Thick-headed. Self-blinded. Usurping a throne that belongs only to the One who died for me… and yet He still loves me and leads me.

Where do you want to be “king” of your own life?  Take a few minutes to talk to God about abdicating the throne to Him.

Note: songs that sprung to mind while I was writing this: The 77s: “The Lust, the Flesh, the Eyes & The Pride of Life” and Andrew Peterson’s “The Good Confession (I Believe)."

I wrote this devotional for our church's 10th anniversary devotional book - Restoration Church Nashville.


Friday, August 09, 2019

Procrastination Corner: A Plethora of Mini-Reviews from Mark “Fluff Daddy” Jackson

Jefe: We have many beautiful piñatas for your birthday celebration, each one filled with little surprises!
El Guapo: How many piñatas?
Jefe: Many piñatas, many!
El Guapo: Jefe, would you say I have a plethora of piñatas?
Jefe: A what?
El Guapo: A plethora.
Jefe: Oh yes, El Guapo. You have a plethora.
El Guapo: Jefe, what is a plethora?
Jefe: Why, El Guapo?
El Guapo: Well, you just told me that I had a plethora, and I would just like to know if you know what it means to have a plethora. I would not like to think that someone would tell someone else he has a plethora, and then find out that that person has no idea what it means to have a plethora.
Jefe: El Guapo, I know that I, Jefe, do not have your superior intellect and education, but could it be that once again, you are angry at something else, and are looking to take it out on me?
from ¡Three Amigos!
What follows is a collection of my thoughts about a plethora of games that other Opinionated Gamers have reviewed over the last year (or so). In some cases, I hadn’t played the game when the review was published; in others, I was just too busy/lazy (take your pick) to write up my thoughts at the time.

Hopefully, I have many beautiful reviews for you to enjoy, each one filled with little surprises.

Catan Histories: Rise of the Inkas (3 plays)

I have two complaints:

  1. While the plastic “pathway to Machu Picchu” roads are look very nice, they are a pain to pick up once you have them placed. In a normal game of Catan, this wouldn’t be a big deal. In this particular version, where you lose your road network twice during the game (as your old tribe ages out and a new tribe moves in), it’s a pain.
  2. The misprint on the Longest Road card – though, to their credit, Asmodee is offering to replace the misprinted card via their parts website.

Other than that, this is a really great twist on standard Catan that manages to cure many of the complaints that my eldest son (who is NOT a Catan fan) and ½ of my regular gaming group (also NOT Catan fans) had about Die Siedler von Catan.

  • There are more resources to trade… and more ways to trade them, which makes it more difficult to get resource “stuck”.
  • Until near the end of the game, it’s much more difficult to get hemmed in with no alternatives, thanks to the old tribe/new tribe dynamics.
  • Warfare cards (aka “Knights”) not only help you get rid of the Robber – they also expand your hand limit for taxation.

It runs about 90-120 minutes with 4 players… 75-90 with 3 players. It’s officially a 13 point game, but the points you get at the beginning and at each transition make it a 9 point game. (For comparison, vanilla Catan is an 8 point game once you figure in your first two settlements.)

For a much more extensive review, check out what Dale wrote earlier this year on the Opinionated Gamers website.

Fast Forward: Fortune (4 plays)

I wrote a pretty extensive review of the original three Fast Forward games here… which you should go read at your earliest convenience.

We’ve played all the way through the deck and then started again (with a slightly different group)… and I’m pleased to say it’s my #2 game out of the four Fast Forward entries:

  1. Fear
  2. Fortune
  3. Fortress
  4. Flee

By the way, I don’t count Fine Sand as a Fast Forward game – it’s a Fable game. With that said, it’s my least favorite of Friedemann’s experiments with designing card games that develop as you keep playing them.

Fortune has a bit more math than Fear… but at its heart, it’s a similar “how do maximize my hand?” kind of game. The twists are fun – which is pretty much a requirement for the Fast Forward series – and it plays quickly and cleanly.

Chris Wray’s write-up does a better job than I can of giving you the details.

A review copy provided by Stronghold Games to Mark Jackson.

Gingerbread House (6 plays)

This is one of the more delightfully dark themes I’ve had the privilege to enjoy – where each player is a witch attempting to have various fairy tale creatures over for dinner. Literally.

Gingerbread House is chock full of opportunities for clever tactical play and has well-made/designed components. It’s received a positive reaction with pretty much every one I’ve played it with… because it’s a light Euro in the super-filler category that is family & gamer-friendly.

With non-gamers, the basic goals are just fine – but if the folks you’re playing with have any experience with board games, the “advanced” goals add another layer to the game that is an extra helping of fun.

The big chunky house tiles are a plus as well – not only do they make it easy to figure out whether or not you’ve finished a level, they’re just fun to play with. And don’t discount “fun to play with” as an important part of the gaming experience – that’s one of the things Gamelyn Games has figured out with the creation of Itemeeples. Love or hate the games, it’s just cool to give your ‘dudes’ tiny plastic weapons. (For the record, I like many of the Tiny Epic games… we’re really enjoying Tiny Epic Mechs right now.)

Greg Schloesser wrote the Opinionated Gamers review of Gingerbread House.

Monster Lands (4 plays)

Monster Lands is a sloppy, messy wonderful hulk of a game… and Dale was absolutely correct in assuming in his review that I would be a big fan. There’s dice placement – but less dice-rolling than you’d think – and some tricky decisions to be had on how much you’re willing to risk in your quest for reputation and glory.

My first play was with four new players – subsequent plays have been 2 and 3 player games. The rules are a bit much the first time through… but the clear/colorful iconography works well (and there’s a nice “card catalog” at the back of the rulebook when you’re confused.

Game length directly correlates to the number of players… and this is one of those games you should avoid like the plague if you have AP-prone players in your group. That said, the folks I’ve played with have been quick to play and not obsessed with min-maxing, so we’ve had a wonderful time, even when things go wrong. Our average playing time is about 30 minutes per player so far.

There are rules in the expansion for shortening the game by one round… which I’d recommend, particularly when you have players who don’t enjoy long(er) games.

I think we’ve become a little too cautious… I want to play again (soon!) and see if taking more chances with “cheap” heroes is a viable strategy.

Neom (11 plays)

My initial rules read of Neom (prior to seeing the game) made me think it would be an interesting but difficult to play 7 Wonders knock-off. I’m happy to say that the first day I taught/played (a few weeks after Essen 2018), I was proven wrong… and ended up playing it 3 times in one day. As soon as it became easily available in the U.S., I jumped on a copy… and it’s now in regular rotation here at Chez Jackson.

I’m a huge fan of both 7 Wonders and Suburbia – enough so that I own every expansion for both games and plunked down a C note in order to get the Collector’s Edition of Suburbia this fall. So, when a game can easily be described as combining some of the best bits from both of those games, I’m in.

And that’s the way I introduce Neom to gamers – the drafting is similar to 7 Wonders and the tile-laying feels like Suburbia. But the misses some of the innovations that make Neom more than just another chip off the old blocks:

  • Using a “bomb” draft item (Flood, Fire, Crime Wave) in each era that hurts others but denies you a turn
  • The initial “seeding” draft of cornerstone tiles – they do more to set strategy than the similar Leaders expansion in 7 Wonders
  • The simplified resource system – including the creation of trade routes and the ability to buy resources from someone farther away at a slightly higher cost

Most important is the reality after 11 games that there are multiple ways to win:

  • Focus on your cornerstone tiles
  • Build a suburb (lots of residences)
  • Be the resource king (and the $ that go with it)
  • Build a balanced city

Also nice – it plays well with 2 players (using a similar system to Fields of Green), balances nicely with 3-5 players, and even has a decent solo mode.

Teri Noseworthy’s review is as glowing as mine – and well worth your time.

Scorpius Freighter (3 plays)

Somehow, we (the Opinionated Gamers) managed to publish TWO reviews of Scorpius Freighter


Here’s my two cents: I think the biggest issue with this otherwise really enjoyable Firefly-ish game is the chance that some or all of the purchase/contract areas can stagnate. We haven’t seen an issue with that yet in our games… but the problem is inherent in the design as published.

There’s some online debate about how to fix this… so I’ll take a shot at it as well.

  • Each player may wipe one of the following areas when landing on the appropriate rondel space:
    • Ship upgrades
    • Cargo holds
    • Side jobs
  • The cost to wipe is 1 credit (orange) the first time; 1 hand (action) the second time; and 1 credit/1 hand for each subsequent time.
    • Thematically, the first time you buy the seller/buyer a drink. The second time, he’s not that easily swayed and you have to help out in some way. From then on, he expects you to grease his palm and accomplish a dirty deed done dirt cheap.
  • Contracts cannot be wiped.

I personally love the high-quality production of Scorpius Freighter – and the interesting gameplay. (The great theme is a bonus.) It’s a pick-up-and-deliver game without a map; it’s a rondel game that doesn’t make me want to run screaming from the table. Note: your mileage may vary.

This post originally appeared on the Opinionated Gamers website.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

It's Still Personal: My Five & Dime Game Lists for 2018

Hey, campers... I may have stopped collecting the Five & Dime stats for everyone else - but I haven't stopped collecting my own!

Here's my own personal Five & Dime list (the games I played 5+ and 10+ times in 2018).

As always, I include only face-to-face games and games played with human opponents over apps/online.

Games with an asterisk [*] were on my Five & Dime list last year, games with two asterisks [**] have been on my list for the past two years, games with three asterisks [***] have been there for three years, games with four asterisks [****] have been there for 4 years, games with a plus [+] have been there 5 years, games with a plus and an asterisk [+*] have been there 6 years, games with a plus and two asterisks [+**] have been there 7 years... and games with a plus and three asterisks [+***] have been there (wait for it) for the past 8 years!

If you're curious, here's the games that have been on my Five & Dime list for 5+ years

  • Race for the Galaxy (8 years)
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse (6 years)

Quarters
  • Star Realms 26 ****


Dimes
  • Clank! In! Space! 21 *
  • Jump Drive 21 *
  • Race for the Galaxy 20 +***
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse 19 +*
  • DC Comics Deck-Building Game (includes Multiverse, Teen Titans & Forever Evil): 18 ****
  • Team Play 17
  • Ticket to Ride 16 *
  • Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar 13
  • 7 Wonders Duel 12 **
  • Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure 12 *
  • Powerships 12
  • DC Deck-Building Game: Confrontations 11
  • Memoir '44 11


Nickels
  • Flamme Rouge 9 *
  • Hero Realms 9
  • Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization 9
  • 7 Wonders 8 ***
  • Magic Maze 8
  • Alien Artifacts 7
  • Archaeology: The Card Game 7
  • Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 7 *
  • Rhino Hero: Super Battle 7
  • Space Beans 7
  • The Quest for El Dorado 7
  • Wasteland Express Delivery Service 7
  • Zirkus Flohcati 7 *
  • Betrayal Legacy 6
  • Broom Service: The Card Game 6
  • Catan 6
  • Descent: Journeys in the Dark (2nd edition) 6 **
  • Dungeon Alliance 6
  • Favor of the Pharaoh 6
  • Las Vegas 6
  • Nations: The Dice Game 6
  • Novo Dice 6
  • Ticket to Ride: New York 6
  • Downforce 5
  • Eminent Domain 5
  • Escape from 100 Million B.C. 5
  • Fast Food Franchise 5
  • Roll for the Galaxy 5 **
  • Sequence 5
  • StreetSoccer 5
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game 5
  • Tiny Epic Quest 5
  • Trains 5 *
  • Wurfel Bohnanza 5

Just Missed (with 4 plays)

A caret [^] denotes that they were on the Five & Dime list last year... and a pound sign [#] marks games I'm pretty sure will return in 2019.
  • Bohnanza #
  • Bounce-It-In Game
  • Colt Express
  • Fabled Fruit ^
  • Fast Forward: Fortune
  • Gingerbread House #
  • Hit Z Road
  • Hotshots ^
  • Karuba
  • Liar's Dice
  • Mystery Rummy: Al Capone
  • Neuroshima Hex
  • Port Royal ^#
  • The Colonists
  • The Resistance
  • Tiny Epic Defenders (2nd edition) 

After All These Years

These are game that fell off the list... after years of repeated play. I felt compelled to say a few words at their passing.
  • Codenames *
    • We had a couple of years of playing this a lot - but now it only comes out at family gatherings.
  • DC Comics Deck-Building Game: Rivals - Batman vs The Joker *
    • Teen Titan Go! Deckbuilding and Shards of Infinity are the new 2 player flavors of the month... we've probably played out Batman v Joker (though it's still a really good game).
  • Skip-Bo *
    • My oldest has had a number of bad experiences playing this - so, despite the pleading of his mother & girlfriend, I don't think this one will see the light of day any time soon.
  • Summoner Wars +*
    • Probably the saddest loss - this was a staple game for myself and the boys... but our huge collection sits there at 2-3 plays a year now.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Sheep Dog: An Open Letter to Pastors

Dear Pastor:

You are not the chief Shepherd. That job is already taken.

You are the sheep dog for your congregation - and you must do whatever the Good Shepherd tells you to do to take care of them. This may well include nipping at their heels... or throwing yourself in front of predators who seek to steal, kill & destroy. 

Listen for the Shepherd's voice... always. Listen like your life and the lives of those entrusted to you depend on it. They do.

And take care not to mistake your desire to be petted and fussed over for the voice of the Shepherd. It is far too easy to become the pet of the sheep you are called to love & protect. You should expect encouragement from the flock - but you can only depend on the words that come from the Shepherd's mouth.

You are part of a glorious heritage of sheep dogs - some who became famous, while others toiled in obscurity. Recognition of your faithfulness and skills may not be forthcoming in these pastures... but that should not change your diligence or your work ethic.

Sometimes, you will run hard to stay ahead of the flock, guiding them as the Shepherd leads. At other moments, you will wait - wait for His command, wait as the sheep find their way, wait because activity will cause more problems than it will solve. Both the working and the waiting are profitable, if they are done under the Shepherd's guidance.

And, some time in the future, you will no longer work the fields, but instead enter into a well-deserved rest before the fire and the words of the Shepherd: "That'll do. That'll do."

May you make much of Jesus,

Mark Jackson



John 10:10-15
John 15:14
1st Samuel 23:1-6
2nd Timothy 4:3-5
Hebrews 11
Psalm 27:14
Matthew 25:21

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Mark's Bundle of 2018 Essen Game Thoughts


Had the wonderful opportunity this last weekend to play a BUNCH of the new Essen releases... what follows is my "quick takes" on the 25 games I played.

THURSDAY

Marble Bobsleigh: Silly but quite enjoyable real-time marble racing game - improved by having a crowd of people around to cheer & laugh. Players blow their marbles down the track - but not too hard, or they'll "crash". I don't need to own it, but I'll gladly play it as a late-night closer.

Trapwords: What if you made Taboo more difficult...? Well, that's what CGE did with Trapwords. The clue-giving rules are even nitpick-ier than Codenames, but with the right crowd (and we had the right crowd), it was a lot of fun. I'm afraid, however, that this one could flop with the wrong group. (The box does contain a wider variety of "map" tiles which can make the game easier - with kids and with folks who don't normally play word games, I'd start out with the "1" or "2" tile.)

FRIDAY

Blackout: Hong Kong: Nicely crunchy Euro with some thematic tie-in (especially on the objective cards). The puzzling out of how to play your cards for maximum effect was really interesting. We played a 4 player game with newbies in 2 hours (not including rules). I really liked it... but I'd avoid like the plague with anyone with AP tendencies.

Western Legends: The game system works - turns are quick and players have lots of opportunities to do Western-y things. Billy the Kid trying to rob the same bank 6 times and only succeeding twice got funnier & funnier with each attempt. However, I think there are serious balance issues - this lovely looking game has the feel of something that was playtested by a small group of folks. 18 year old me would have eaten this up with a spoon; 54 year old me was glad for a chance to play but probably wouldn't make time for it again.

Gingerbread House: I hadn't heard much about this before seeing it - but it's a nicely produced building/collecting game - as you are witches using your ever-expanding gingerbread house to lure unsuspecting fairy tale creatures in for points & glory (and dinner). Very enjoyable in just under an hour with four players - and it looks like it would scale nicely. (This was one of the games that got positive marks from pretty much everyone who played it this weekend.)

7 Wonders: Armada: As others have said, this could well be the best 7W expansion yet. After one play (where I came in last), I think it would combine REALLY well with Cities to make a slightly longer but very enjoyable "epic" game. It's on my must-buy list - but no one is surprised by that, since I own all of the previous expansions.

Cryptid: I’m not a deduction game fan – but this scratched more of a Tobago itch than a Black Vienna itch. We played the basic version - there's a tougher setting that might have made my brain melt. Another one of the “don’t need to own but wouldn’t refuse to play” games.

Black Skull Island: Imagine if someone played Coup and thought “What this needs is more randomness and pirates.” The nicest thing I can say is that it functionally works as a game. Not recommended.

Blode Kuh: Very light family card game about passing the pain (in the form of increasingly shaggy-looking animals) around the table. (Seriously, the sheep looks like he’s been living in the gutter on the bad side of the farm.) Lots of laughs and a perfect choice for playing with non-gamer family over the holidays.

Shadows: Amsterdam: A real-time team vs. team puzzle, using pictures as clues for other pictures (spaces on the board). Enjoyable for a play, but I don’t need to play it again.

Fine Sand: Played two games using the solo mode – seemed to work just fine but I had trouble seeing from the rules where there would be much more game by adding more players to the table. It’s a Fable game (which I usually like), but my limited look at it feels like the base game is a little thin to hang a longer series of games on…

SATURDAY

Monster Lands: Dice/worker placement game that is dripping with fantasy combat theme – a little rules heavy but much fun was had. However, our first 4 player game ran 2 ½ hours, which is too long for what it is. (I had similar issues with Roll Player – another nicely thematic game with “when does this finally wind down?” issues.) There’s a clear end to the game – but it took us a while to get there. I’d like to try this again with 3 players, which would cut down on the playing time.

Sunflower Valley: Simple family-oriented roll’n’write. I’d play it again but I don’t need to own it.

Concordia: Venus: I can’t compare it to Concordia… because I’d never played Concordia before. (I know, I know… revoke my cool kid gamer card for missing a very good Euro game.) I really liked this version of the game – it reminded me of a more fleshed-out take on Eminent Domain: Microcosm, a little 2-player card game that I’m a big fan of. (We did not play the “team variant”, which is evidently a big selling point for the Venus expansion.)

Lighthouse Run: Pretty game of sailboat racing – reminiscent of Selecta’s Viva Topo, except there’s a storm cloud rather than a cat. Perfectly playable, but a big tricky for younger kids due to moving around the beacons. It would be a difficult game for parents and older siblings not to run over younger children.

Luxantis: HABA uses an LED-loaded board to create a “maze” game of sorts – actually a cooperative adventure. We had a great time with it – there are different ways to adjust difficulty, though I think the rules could be clearer about how shadow creatures move on the castle board. If my boys were still young, I’d buy this in a heartbeat.

Walls of York: Nice bits, playable game – but I don’t need to play it again. The idea is clever – but the game itself doesn’t really go anywhere interesting. (And, once again, there are some unclear rules – come on, people, rules need playtesting as well as the game.)

Raccoon Tycoon: Massively over-produced… and yet, this was actually quite enjoyable. Turns are quick and there are a number of ways to work to acquire cash, resources and victory points. The buildings are extremely powerful – and the order in which they come out will affect the path of each game. (Another “should have been fixed in playtesting” gripe – the text on the chunky & attractive building tiles often needs clarification in the rulebook. They act in some ways that are non-intuitive.) I did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did.

Astro Drive: Fast moving space race that would easily fit in a backpack and can be played on a small table… and actually has some fun things going for it. It plays in less than half an hour and still offers a number of chances for clever decisions. Wish they’d added a “what does this space do?” cheat sheet apart from the rulebook, but it’s not that difficult to remember all of the various dangers.

KeyForge: Played for the first time with two decks that weren’t starters… and was pleasantly surprised that the game seems reasonably balanced and had lots of opportunities for clever play. A concern if I were getting into KeyForge purchasing: I wouldn’t want to get decks that were similar in composition – I’d like to make sure I have variety IF I was going to go down this particular gaming rabbit hole.

SUNDAY

Neom: played 3 times in one day... 1 solo & twice w/4 players. This is a really enjoyable blending of 7 Wonders drafting and Suburbia-ish city-building. Different strategies work... there doesn’t seem to be a “best” way to approach the game. The iconography is pretty clear - except for the Cornerstone tiles, which are drafted at the start of the game and are all unique. A player aid would have been helpful... or at least a separate folio with the explanations so the back of the rule book doesn’t have to be passed around. All that said, I’ve had fun each time I played and look forward to playing again. 

Scorpius Freighter: This should have been the licensed game that went with the Firefly franchise... it’s a tightly designed game with three cleverly disguised rondels for picking actions. While the theme is somewhat abstracted by the design, the artwork and really nice production carries the day. It ran a little long on our first 4 player game... but I think this will end up being a 90 minute game for 4 once everyone has a game under their belt. It also looks like it will scale well for 2 or 3. 

Horizons: More science fiction theming... but it’s pretty much a complicated way to build an area control game. I won by pushing the timer hard. The UI has issues- players all need to be able to see top cards of five alien piles as well as those cards in front of other players and the thematic art eats up too much real estate on the cards to make that possible. I don’t need to play it again. 

MONDAY

AuZtralia: I don't usually love Martin Wallace's game designs... and I'm rather tired of people pasting on Cthulu themes. And yet, there's actually a really good game here about the Old Ones hiding out in the Australian outback, fighting against the encroaching colonists and their farms. Note: it's helpful to have some idea of what the Old Ones might choose to do (the Revelation cards) before you start playing - high-level baddies spawning on temples played havoc with our strategic plans.

Fast Forward: Fortune: Just got about 1/3 of the way through the deck in our first set of plays - it reminds me of Flee, which was our favorite of the first crop of Fast Forward games, so that's a positive. 





Monday, November 05, 2018

30 Years Ago - "You Belong With Me"

Thirty years ago, I took this cute girl from our college Bible study group out to see Tim Miner in concert at Footloose. 

Glossary for those not from the 80s and familiar with CCM
  • Tim Miner... incredibly talented "white soul" Christian artist who had put out one of the more groove-heavy albums of late 80s CCM
  • Footloose... a Christian "nightclub" in the Dallas/Fort Worth area (basically, just down the freeway from the airport) 
  • Tim Miner AT Footloose... since his home church was in Rockwall, TX (just an hour or so away), he had a full band and dancers... it was an awesome show
That cute girl said "yes" to a second date... and then there was the dating... and then, a little over a year later, she said "yes" to marrying me... and the love of my life really is the love of my life. 

But since this was originally intended to be a part of my "Christian Music From the 80s That Is Still Good" series of posts, I give you "our song" - from one of the more iconoclastic CCM artists ever, Tonio K. I put it on a mixtape for Shari Jo - and it still makes me smile every time I hear it.

For 80s music fans, the female vocalist with Tonio is Maria McKee (from Lone Justice). And there's a great article about the Romeo Unchained album here.



Two o'clock
The moon is down
We say goodnight
You're headed for bed across town
We haven't even known each other that long
But it doesn't even matter
When you leave it feels all wrong

You belong with me
Darlin' we belong together
And every time you leave
It's obvious we're still connected
You live in your world
And I live in mine
But the collision of worlds is just a matter of time
You belong with me

Now I can tell
You're so afraid
You've been lied to and taken for granted
And treated like some kind of slave
I'm not after your freedom, i'm after your heart
And I know it's gonna happen
And I knew it from the start

What happens to people in love is some kind of mystery
But what passes for love on the streets these days is a joke
So when people like us finally stumble into each other
We've got to hold on tight and never let go