Friday, October 24, 2014

#85: Roll Through the Ages - The Bronze Age (Mark's 100 - 2014)

Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age

Mark's Ranking
  • 2014: 85th
  • 2012: 50th
  • 2010: 51st
  • 2005: prior to publication
  • rank: 350
  • rating: 6.98
Print Status
  • in print
Why It's On The List
  • Civilization Yahtzee - 6+ hours = Roll Through the Ages. And besides that, it's fun.
Tips & Tricks:
    • It's easy to get locked into a single strategy - but you MUST pay attention to what the other players are doing so you can act and react appropriately.
    • The solitaire game is actually pretty enjoyable.
    • There's a very nice iPhone app of Roll Through the Ages..
    • The print-n-play expansion, The Late Bronze Age, is an excellent addition to the game - and can be had for the cost of printing the files for your own use.
    • With the Essen 2014 release of Roll Through the Ages - The Iron Age, I now have to be more specific about the name. 
    • [cool information about upcoming stuff redacted for security reasons]


    I've always enjoyed the radio show This American Life - but I seldom get to listen to it due to when it airs on our local NPR station.

    Note: this is the part where I admit I'm an idiot for not considering that This American Life would also be in podcast form until about 3 months ago. All those years, wasted. Sigh.

    Anyway, I now listen to This American Life each Monday on the way to & from work, thanks to the magic of iTunes. Also, I'm enough of a fanboy to think it was cool that Ira Glass & the staff were in the Veronica Mars movie.

    So when they started teasing that they had a new podcast-only show coming called Serial, I was curious. And when they took an entire TAL episode to give us the first episode of Serial...

    ...I was hooked.

    Let's start with the "official" description of what Serial is...
    Serial is a new podcast from the creators of This American Life, hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial will follow one story - a true story - over the course of a whole season. We'll follow the plot and characters wherever they take us and we won’t know what happens at the end of the story until we get there, not long before you get there with us. Each week we'll bring you the latest chapter, so it's important to listen in order, starting with Episode 1.
    Which, I'll admit, sounds a little dry. Until you realize that the first story they're exploring is this:
    On January 13, 1999, a girl named Hae Min Lee, a senior at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County, Maryland, disappeared. A month later, her body turned up in a city park. She'd been strangled. Her 17-year-old ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was arrested for the crime, and within a year, he was convicted and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. The case against him was largely based on the story of one witness, Adnan’s friend Jay, who testified that he helped Adnan bury Hae's body. But Adnan has always maintained he had nothing to do with Hae’s death. Some people believe he’s telling the truth. Many others don’t. 
    Sarah Koenig, who hosts Serial, first learned about this case more than a year ago. In the months since, she's been sorting through box after box (after box) of legal documents and investigators' notes, listening to trial testimony and police interrogations, and talking to everyone she can find who remembers what happened between Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee fifteen years ago. What she realized is that the trial covered up a far more complicated story, which neither the jury nor the public got to hear. The high school scene, the shifting statements to police, the prejudices, the sketchy alibis, the scant forensic evidence - all of it leads back to the most basic questions: How can you know a person’s character? How can you tell what they’re capable of? In Season One of Serial, she looks for answers.

    It's a real-life murder mystery - with all the confusing turns, dead-ends, questions & a-ha moments that make it both fascinating & frustrating... and absolutely riveting listening. I can't recommend it highly enough.

    You can download episodes each Thursday on iTunes... and you should start from the beginning. (Episode 5 released yesterday.) Other information (maps, photos, letters, etc.) related to the story are available on the Serial website.

    Note: the language & subject matter is occasionally non-family-friendly, as befits a murder mystery.

    #86: Flowerpower (Mark's 100 - 2014)


    Mark's Ranking
    • 2014: 86th
    • 2012: 27th
    • 2010: 17th
    • 2005: 78th
    • appeared on all four lists
    • rank: 1541
    • rating: 6.59
    Print Status
    • way out of print
    Why It's On The List
    • Despite an off-putting box cover, this is a tremendous two-player game of building gardens that can be played "friendly" or "cutthroat"... and enjoyed both ways.
    Tips & Tricks:
    • You must use the "community garden" area wisely - ignoring it will simply allow your opponent more space to plant with.
    • Wait to use your "weeds" (you only have three of them) until your opponent has filled up enough of his side of the board to make them painful.
    • Pay attention to how much space you'll need to get a flower bed to the next point level - there's no use making a bed of five flowers when they're worth the same as a bed of three flowers.
    • This is a game that begs for a reprint!
    • Here's what I wrote about Flowerpower for Game Central Station (my old website)

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

    #87: Machi Koro (Mark's 100 - 2014)

    Machi Koro

    Mark's Ranking
    • 2014: 87th
    • 2012: prior to publication
    • 2010: prior to publication
    • 2005: prior to publication
    • rank: 562
    • rating: 7.10
    Print Status
    • in print
    Why It's On The List
    • an unbelievably simple city-building game with a variety of tactical options and lightning fast play
    Tips & Tricks:
    • The value of various cards changes with the number of players in the game - most noticeably the red (restaurant) cards. Play accordingly!
    • You don't have time to get distracted into building the "monster" play - you just need to build your landmarks.
    • You don't have to build your landmarks in order - in fact, there is a viable strategy where you NEVER roll both dice, so you don't need to bother with your cheapest landmark until the end of the game.

    #88: Forbidden Desert (Mark's 100 - 2014)

    Forbidden Desert

    Mark's Ranking
    • 2014: 88th
    • 2012: prior to publication
    • 2010: prior to publication
    • 2005: prior to publication
    • rank: 145
    • rating: 7.50
    Print Status
    • in print
    Why It's On The List
    • while thematically a cousin to Matt Leacock's Forbidden Island and mechanically related to Pandemic (both of which will appear on this countdown), this beautifully produced game is somewhere between the two in difficulty & family-friendliness.
    Tips & Tricks:
    • The average amount of sand deposited on the board is roughly 1.3 sand per card - which means you MUST watch your pool of sand tokens carefully.
    • Water supplies can be a distraction - or your doom. The first & most important trick to beating the game is getting the balance right.

    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