Saturday, March 31, 2012

#70: Lowenherz (Mark's 100 - 2012)

Lowenherz

Mark's Ranking
  • 2012: 70th
  • 2010: 26th
  • 2005: 10th
  • appeared on all three lists

BoardGameGeek

  • rank: 296
  • rating: 7.17

Print Status

  • OOP

Why It's On The List

  • One of the nastier Euros out there - you are princes dividing up the kingdom by force & by guile. Negotiation is vital - as is reading your opponents' intentions.

Tips & Tricks:

    • You can lose more points from having one of your kingdoms cut into pieces than you gained for claiming it in the first place - be very careful the shape of your expansion. Don't let a castle or a mine tempt you into building an unprotected finger of land.

    Extras

    • Sadly, I don't think this game works well with any number EXCEPT four... which explains why it's dropped from list to list.
    • I have not played Klaus Teuber's redevelopment of this game, Domaine - based primarily on my irritation with his redevelopment of the original Entdecker.
    • Here's what I wrote about Lowenherz for The One Hundred.

    Friday, March 30, 2012

    #71: Nexus Ops (Mark's 100 - 2012)

    Nexus Ops

    Mark's Ranking
    • 2012: 71st
    • 2010: did not appear
    • 2005: prior to publication (barely)

    BoardGameGeek

    • rank: 170
    • rating: 7.27

    Print Status

    • in print (reprinted)

    Why It's On The List

    • A really nice "dudes on a map" game that.subverts the ever-present turtling problem with a varied set of rewards for attacking other players.

    Tips & Tricks:

      • Hordes of cheaper figures can work just as well as a few big figures - and sometimes even better..

      Extras

      • I have not played the new edition - but I'm glad it's in print for a new generation of players.

      Thursday, March 29, 2012

      #72: Castle Panic (Mark's 100 - 2012)

      Castle Panic

      Mark's Ranking
      • 2012: 72nd
      • 2010: did not appear
      • 2005: prior to publication

      BoardGameGeek

      • rank: 560
      • rating: 6.75

      Print Status

      • in print

      Why It's On The List

      • A cooperative fantasy of defending your castle from a variety of malicious monsters... with the added bonus of a very nice "one vs. all" mode (similar to LOTR: Sauron).

      Tips & Tricks:

        • You have to plan ahead - it's not enough to burn out your best cards w/out considering how those cards may be useful to other players.
        • I can not recommend the expansion highly enough - it takes a very good game & makes it a great game.

        Extras

        • This is a probably the most family-friendly of the cooperative games (well, along with Forbidden Island).
        • Here's my review of The Wizard's Tower expansion for Castle Panic.

        Wednesday, March 28, 2012

        #73: Route 66 (Mark's 100 - 2012)

        Route 66

        Mark's Ranking
        • 2012: 73rd
        • 2010: did not appear
        • 2005: did not appear

        BoardGameGeek

        • rank: not ranked
        • rating: 5.45

        Print Status

        • really, really OOP

        Why It's On The List

        • It's a racing game where you want to travel the ol' Mother Road at blazing speeds from Chicago to L.A. - then want to "get your kicks" on the return trip and move as slowly as possible.

        Tips & Tricks:

          • Speed management is tricky - and even more so if you play with a full complement of 5 players.
          • That said, the game is probably at it's best with 3-4 players.

          Extras

          • Wolfgang Riedesser designed the game after traveling the U.S. in a convertible.
          • I know it's an extremely "fluffy" game - but I really enjoy the odd combination of races and the nicely done theme.
          • There is a companion card game which shares the same art style but is closer to Milles Bornes design-wise.

          Tuesday, March 27, 2012

          #74: Nur Peanuts (Mark's 100 - 2012)

          Nur Peanuts

          Mark's Ranking
          • 2012: 74th
          • 2010: 91st
          • 2005: did not appear

          BoardGameGeek

          • rank: 3421
          • rating: 6.04

          Print Status

          • OOP

          Why It's On The List

          • It's a 45 minute gambling game with some vague abstracted similarities to Monopoly... and it tends to produce very, very positive reactions from most folks who play it.

          Tips & Tricks:

            • The most expensive spaces are not necessarily the best ones to buy... buying low-cost spaces saves money on the purchase AND later when you park your piece there for free.
            • Because of the neutral pawns, the game works really well for 4-6 players... and is even still playable with 3.

            Extras

            • The name of the game loosely translates as "Chump Change".
            • Here's what I wrote about the game for my 2010 Top 100.

            Monday, March 26, 2012

            Crackpipe Remote: Spring 2012 Edition

            I haven't written about TV in a while... doesn't mean I've stopped watching, though. But I've been working to get non-gaming-related content back to the blog - and this was first in line.

            For those of you who will inevitably ask how I watch this much TV, I don't sleep as much as the average person...

            Shows I Gave Up On This Year
            • RINGER - Literally bailed on this one during the pilot when one of the most inept green screen FX in living memory totally took me out of the already questionable story.
            • REVENGE - I could see where it could be enjoyable if I was in the right mood... but it was just too over-the-top for me.
            • TERRA NOVA - Great premise. Bad show.

            Shows I'm Still Watching But Don't Know Why

            • HAWAII FIVE-O - Actually, I do know why... my wife likes this show. (I enjoyed the first season but a lot of the writing this season has been forced & over-the-top. Good guest stars, though.)
            • UNFORGETTABLE - I seriously don't understand why I'm still watching this. But I am.

            Shows I Like But Want Some Improvement

            • BLUE BLOODS - The first season was really, really good... esp. the portrayal of a realistic family who had a real & meaningful faith connection with the Catholic Church. That's been shortchanged by the writing this season - but when you've got Tom Selleck & Len Cariou around to do the heavy-lifting, you can get away with that.
            • ONCE UPON A TIME - The first of two LOST-inspired shows to premiere this year, it's a real mixed bag. The fairy-tale stuff has been very, very good... and the twists on the old tales are well-done. Sadly, the Mayor/Evil Queen is given very little to work with except mustache-twirling evil & scenery-chewing. (I'm 4-5 episodes behind on this one - but Tivo keeps them for me.)
            • MISSING - Have just seen the pilot... am worried it will be "Nowhere Ashley Judd".
            • AWAKE - Have just seen the pilot... curious as to where it will end up going - if anywhere. (It's not an easy show to watch casually.)

            Shows I Look Forward To Each Week

            • ALCATRAZ - The second of the LOST-inspired shows... and the better of the two. After a bit of early fumbling about, they've found a good tone, a sardonic X-FILES-ish sense of humor, and some genuine horror/tragedy in the premise. As well, they seem to be unspooling pieces of the mystery w/out giving the whole thing away. (I'm 3 episodes behind on this one - with the season finale showing tonight.)
            • PERSON OF INTEREST - Combining the acting chops of Jim Cavaziel & Michael Emerson with some extremely tight writing (last week's "baby" episode managed to have humor w/out overwhelming the edgy nature of the show) makes for a winning combination.
            • THE FINDER - Don't expect this to last... but I like the quirky, shaggy good humor of the show.
            • THE FIRM - Thankfully, 22 episodes were purchased to start with (it's actually a Canadian show)... because the ratings on this one have exiled it to Saturday nights. Shari & I like it a lot, though - they've borrowed the "flash forward" technique from LOST and used it in a different (and interesting) way.

            Reality TV

            • SURVIVOR - the Coach/Ozzie season had some lovely moments... but I was so happy to see a season w/out a returning player this spring. OTOH, "One World" has given us (and thankfully taken away) one of the most obnoxious emotional bullies I've seen in a long time (Colton). I'm looking forward to seeing what happens now that his bad juju is gone from the show.
            • AMAZING RACE - The boys have started watching with us... which means we get to explain why you shouldn't use "that kind of language" and also given us some excellent negative examples of how to treat your wife or girlfriend. At the same time, the race usually delivers some lovely moments (the Border Patrol guys giving Bopper some of their winnings, for example... or this week's Temple of Fire "hoedown") that are worth the junk.

            And Finally, A Fond Farewell

            • CHUCK - went out on a high note... there were some lovely moments and a willingness to mess with their own mythology in order to give the show a fitting & wonderful close.

            #75: Ca$h'n'Gun$ (Mark's 100 - 2012)

            Ca$h'n'Gun$

            Mark's Ranking
            • 2012: 75th
            • 2010: 94th
            • 2005: prior to publication (barely)

            BoardGameGeek

            • rank: 451
            • rating: 6.75

            Print Status

            • in print

            Why It's On The List

            • What other game can you think of where you get to point foam guns at each other & spout lines from bad heist movies while trying to get your share of the loot?

            Tips & Tricks:

              • The secret to the game: bluff well.
              • OK, there's another secret: get lucky.
              • The game NEEDS 5+ players to "work".

              Extras

              • The Yakuza expansion makes it playable with 7-9 players... but there's also an interesting variant using two base sets that will play up to twelve.
              • There's also a LARP-ish version of the game called Ca$h'n'Gun$: Live that uses cards & a large (think BIG room) playing area that's primo with 12-20 folks.
              • Here's what I wrote about the game for my 2010 Top 100.

              Sunday, March 25, 2012

              #76: Harry's Grand Slam Baseball (Mark's 100 - 2012)

              Harry's Grand Slam Baseball

              Mark's Ranking
              • 2012: 76th
              • 2010: 59th
              • 2005: did not appear

              BoardGameGeek

              • rank: 2050
              • rating: 6.32

              Print Status

              • recently OOP - you can still find copies, though

              Why It's On The List

              • It captures the feel of a baseball game - and does so in 15 minutes (or less). The Out of the Box production is very nice as well.

              Tips & Tricks:

                • Use Fly Out cards when there aren't any runners on base.

                Extras

                • This game lends itself to playoffs/tournaments at gaming weekends - games are short enough to be held between "real" games.
                • The story behind Harry's Grand Slam Baseball is fascinating... listen to Mark Johnson's "Boardgames To Go" podcast on it for more information.

                Saturday, March 24, 2012

                #77: Tales of the Arabian Nights (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                Tales of the Arabian Nights

                Mark's Ranking
                • 2012: 77th
                • 2010: 89th
                • 2005: did not appear (prior to republication)

                BoardGameGeek

                • rank: 209
                • rating: 7.27

                Print Status

                • in print

                Why It's On The List

                • It's the old "Choose Your Own Adventure" books in board game form... and, with the right players, a completely engrossing & enjoyable two hour "experience game" romp.

                Tips & Tricks:

                  • Play with 3 players - that way every one gets something to do on each turn & stays involved.

                  Extras

                  • This is the only game on my Top 100 that I don't own.
                  • Here's what I wrote about Tales of the Arabian Nights for my 2010 Top 100.

                  Friday, March 23, 2012

                  #78: Cafe International (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                  Cafe International

                  Mark's Ranking
                  • 2012: 78th
                  • 2010: 43rd
                  • 2005: 42nd
                  • appeared on all three lists

                  BoardGameGeek

                  • rank: 1173
                  • rating: 6.34

                  Print Status

                  • OOP

                  Why It's On The List

                  • The not-so-PC artwork & bright colors can cause you to miss the very sneaky moves you can make in this open information tile placement game.

                  Tips & Tricks:

                    • Watch for "locked" nationalities - where you can no longer play a man or a woman - and ditch those tiles onto the bar to not only gain points but keep them from eating up space in your hand..
                    • Pay attention! Don't set people up for big plays!

                    Extras

                    • While a couple of the stereotypes in the art bother me (particularly the Chinese), I'm heartened that we Americans get the whole "Texan, big hair & sunglasses" treatment.
                    • There are two other spin-off games: a card game (which is much more random but still fun) and a card game for the younger set (which I have not played).
                    • Here's what I wrote about Cafe International for The One Hundred.

                    Thursday, March 22, 2012

                    #79: Andromeda (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                    Andromeda

                    Mark's Ranking
                    • 2012: 79th
                    • 2010: did not appear
                    • 2005: did not appear

                    BoardGameGeek

                    • rank: 1214
                    • rating: 6.40

                    Print Status

                    • OOP

                    Why It's On The List

                    • The trading mechanic is tricky & interesting... and when you add the rummy-ish set collecting to pay for actions, it's even better. However, those who don't like taking chances should avoid this game & the fabled Cosmic Hockey Puck.

                    Tips & Tricks:

                      • Like many Euros, running contrary to the groupthink in this game can be profitable - if everyone is building their tech & ship levels, consider bombing planets for quick points. OTOH, if there's a rush to get planets, hang back & build up your ship and tech.
                      • You can't win everything - so stop trying At the same time, don't be in a rush to move pieces back to Earth - leave them there & let your opponent do it for you.

                      Extras

                      • I've grown in my appreciation of this game over time - freed from the expectations of being a think-y Eurogame, it's charms are readily apparent.

                      Wednesday, March 21, 2012

                      Game Review: Carnival

                      Designer: Cherilyn Joy Lee Kirkman Publisher: Dice Hate Me Games Players: 2-4 Playing Time: 20-40 minutes
                      Review by Mark Jackson (5 plays with a review copy provided by the publisher)

                      Carnival has hit the table 2 times at my house…

                      • one 2 player game with my non-gamer sister
                      • one 2 player game with my gamer 10 year old son

                      …and 3 times at my gaming group…

                      • two 3 player games
                      • one 4 player game

                      …and after much deliberation, I’ve decided that Carnival is a chocolate-covered Peep.

                      Yes, yes, I know that some of you live for processed marshmallow hunks with the consistency & flavor of sugar-coated Styrofoam. I am not among your number. However, I was intrigued by the culinary possibilities of taking the highly sugared Peep and dipping it in milk chocolate – but the reality does not meet my hopes & expectations. It’s still a Peep.

                      Which brings us back to the subject of this review – Carnival. Though dressed up with some interesting ideas & very attractive card art, Carnival is an underdeveloped low-control set-collecting/rummy game.

                      The Game

                      The play of the game is simple enough – after discarding down to six cards in hand, players either use a Wild Card to ditch some or all of their hand in exchange for the same number of cards (this doesn’t happen very often, as there are only 6 wild cards in an 86 card deck) OR they roll the 3 dice and choose two of the dice-activated actions to execute. You can

                      1. draw from the deck
                      2. draw from the discard pile
                      3. steal a random card from another player
                      4. steal a random card from another player then give them a card of your choice your hand
                      5. take a card from another player’s tableau and then give them a card from your tableau
                      6. take a card from another player’s tableau and then discard a card from your hand

                      A player then plays down cards into his tableau. You need two cards to “meld” (all the rummy players in the audience nod knowingly) and once you have at least one card in a suit (you could lose a card due to another player’s action), you can add cards to it one by one.

                      To end your turn, you draw back up to three cards.

                      You are collecting cards in your tableau (called “Midway” in the game for thematic reasons) in order to make four-card “sets” of each of the five available rides (suits). When you’ve completed 4 of the possible five sets, you win.

                      Each player is also given 3 tickets, which allow them to do one of three things:

                      • add or subtract a pip from one of the dice when choosing your actions
                      • reroll all three dice
                      • block another player’s action

                      Completing a “natural” set does two things: it protects that set from being messed with and it gives the player a ticket back (if he has less than three tickets when he completes the natural set).

                      The Interesting Ideas

                      I see two interesting if under-developed ideas in Carnival:

                      • I like the IDEA of using dice to determine your actions – in theory, it should force players to play in order to be flexible in what they can do, leaving them with ways to utilize as many possible dice combinations. In practice, it means that about half of your turns are simply about drawing new cards… and that effect is exaggerated in the early turns when players don’t have many cards in their Midway, thus making 1/3 of the possible die rolls useless to players.
                      • I have the same kind of mixed feelings about the ticket mechanic… while it should offer some answers to the problems I have with the dice-activated actions (by allowing you to change pips or reroll), once again that didn’t happen in actual play. Players saved their actions to defend their tableaus & their hands in the late game – where stopping another player is a doubly good: you not only keep your cards safe but you also force him to burn up one of his actions in the wasted attempt.

                      But interesting ideas do not necessarily lead to a playable game. (Here I am forced to admit that one of my “guilty pleasure” designers, Nik Sewell, has this problem as well – calling S.P.I.V.s “playable” is what we English majors charitably call “stretching the truth”.)

                      Carnival IS playable – it’s no Sufferin’ Spirits, to once again take Nik Sewell’s name in vain – but it has some problems that lead to a game experience that feels scripted, regardless of the number of players.

                      Stick to the Script

                      Since you can’t hoard cards (you must discard down to six cards at the start of your turn) and the only consistent way to get cards is to play out your hand (in order to draw back to three cards), players tend to do just that. Once your hand jams up with cards that duplicate ones you already have in play, the only way to clear them is to use a wild card – if it hasn’t been stolen from you already. (Players begin the game with one wild card.)

                      There’s another incentive to lay down as much as you can – it costs your opponent more to steal a card from your Midway than it does from your hand – he will either have to transfer one of his cards into your Midway or discard a card from his hand, depending on the dice roll. This acts as a mild deterrent to using those actions, which leads to a continuing cycling of player hands searching for the right cards.

                      As I stated above, tickets tend to be stockpiled for late game use to slow the leader or protect your lead, depending primarily on how kind the dice & the cards have been to you. From the mid to late game (yes, I feel funny using those terms for a game that lasts 20-30 minutes), any other use invites the one-two punch of (a) using a ticket to get the action you need, followed by (b) a player using their ticket to cancel the action, thus causing you to lose both a ticket and an action.

                      With those rules in place, it’s simply a race to draw the best cards while hoping the dice don’t hamstring your efforts to do so… and that was Carnival with 2, 3 or 4 players.

                      The Dark Underbelly

                      Thanks to the magic of television, we all know that carnivals have a dark underbelly of seediness, right? (I offer into evidence HBO’s CARNIVALE, the fourth season of HEROES, the truncated mess that was THE CAPE, and that really creepy X-FILES episode with the carny geeks.) Sadly, Carnival also has some shadowy & questionable dark corners:

                      • The rules, while laid out in an attractive fashion, have some gaps & clarity issues. Questions like “do you shuffle the discard pile if you run through all the cards?” and “Can you trade identical Midway cards?” have only been addressed on BGG. (A modest proposal: when your “Game Notes” – clarifications – run most of the length of your rule sheet and still miss things, it’s time to think about rewriting the rules.)
                      • The most notable rules rewrite (per BGG forums) is for the Hand Trade action – a player doing this must choose a card to give before taking a random card, which is the opposite order from the published rules.
                      • As written, the rules for managing the discard pile only work if the players use Wild cards to exchange part or all of their hand. Without that action, the discard pile can reach a point (most likely in two player games) where a player can only get one card from the discard pile – even if he has 2 (or even 3 with triples) discard actions. This means that dice rolls are even more limiting – and thus will force you to burn tickets early to gain actions, leaving yourself unprotected as the end of the game nears.
                      • While I once again want to praise the lovely art design of the game – I especially like the art used for the rides and the clear iconography on the player aid cards & center board – the graphic design has some problems. The four types of each ride (suit) – Lights, Banners, Seats & Materials – are only identified by a small banner at the top & bottom of the card. This information is important for other players to have and is difficult to see. (In fairness, graphical clarity was a problem with another amusement park card game that I playtested – Joe Huber’s Scream Machine. The prototype was actually easier to “read” on the table than the published version.)

                      Kick(starter) Me!

                      Now we reach the part of my review where I try to gently suggest to the publisher of Carnival (and many other publishers) that the temptations with Kickstarter projects to “hold back” parts of the game in order to encourage monetary support may be fiscally wise but game design foolish. While I have not been able to play with the Wild! Die or The Sideshow expansions, I’ve done a bit of reading on BGG in order to figure out how they might change the game – and perhaps deal with some of my issues with it.

                      The Wild! Die is simply a die that replaces one of the original dice that has a “wild” symbol on one face – meaning you can choose any action. Frankly, since one of my struggles with Carnival is the limiting nature of the die rolls, the increased chance of being able to call your own shots seems like a step in the right direction.

                      The Sideshow is a set of six replacement Wild cards that can either (a) do the normal work of a Wild card, or (b) have a special power that can be activated by discarding them:

                      • Man-Eating Chicken: force another player to skip a turn
                      • Water Lily: draw two cards
                      • Draco: force another player to discard a Wild card
                      • Goliath: take one card from another player’s Midway
                      • Twist Tina: search the discard pile & take a card from it
                      • Hypno: force a player to discard a Ticket

                      While the serious gamer side of me rebels against adding more random elements to a game that is already pretty low control, the tactical gamer side of me likes the increased opportunities for clever plays and the thematic gamer side of me likes the introduction of some carnival elements to a game that – lovely as it is – has a very pasted-on theme.

                      But short of marking up my own Wild! cards, I’ll never know – thanks to the Kickstarter model of funding game publishing.

                      Note: I have no idea if either of these expansions were part of the original game – that’s purely speculation on my part. However, both of them could have a positive effect on game play without adding any real complication to the game, so it’s a shame that they are not available to the general public.

                      Final Thoughts

                      One of the toughest things about writing a critical review in our not-so-large board game market is the knowledge that the publisher & designer (in this case, one & the same) seem to be very nice people and you’ve basically told them their child is ugly and they’re dressing him funny.

                      At the same time, I don’t think Carnival is a fully finished game as published. There are some good ideas for game mechanics that needed to be worked over & polished… as well as a full rules rewrite and some graphic design changes that need to be made. (Credit Dice Hate Me Games with being aware of the rules problems – they are promising a new rules set sometime in the next month.)

                      There’s nothing wrong with a rummy-style set collection game – I just want it run smoothly, not lurch like a carnival ride missing some key bolts & safety latches.

                      This review originally appeared on the Opinionated Gamers website... and if you follow the link, you can find more insightful commentary on Carnival from some of the other reviewers.

                      #80: Dungeons & Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                      D&D: The Legend of Drizzt

                      Mark's Ranking
                      • 2012: 80th
                      • 2010: prior to publication
                      • 2005: prior to publication

                      BoardGameGeek

                      • rank: 271
                      • rating: 8.00

                      Print Status

                      • in print

                      Why It's On The List

                      • It's the last hour of an epic D&D adventure condensed down into board game form... the cautious hunt for the villain, the escalating numbers of monsters attacking, the desperate final battle.

                      Tips & Tricks:

                        • Varying the number of players in this cooperative game changes the difficulty - we've found that small parties (2-3) can have real trouble with some scenarios.
                        • I like the variety of modes in this version of the game: the majority of scenarios are cooperative, but there are team vs. team scenarios as well scenarios with traitorous party members.

                        Extras

                        • This is the third game in the series - along with Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon - and all three of them can be combined.

                        Tuesday, March 20, 2012

                        Old, Older, Oldest

                        A couple of weeks ago, the Opinionated Gamers website hosted a series of articles on old(er) games that we still love... and I contributed to that discussion. What follows are my picks for the top three games I still play from the not-so-distant past...

                        “OLD” (2000 – 2009)

                        (1) Race for the Galaxy; (2) Memoir ‘44; (3) Puerto Rico

                        • I think 2009 is too close… so I’ll make sure that two of my picks are pre-2005 and that all of them are still available for purchase. (Sorry, Heroscape.)
                        • So the one from post-2005 is the absolutely addicting Race for the Galaxy. It’s worth the time & effort to get over the “what the heck is going on here?” hump in order to enjoy a game that is decidedly NOT multi-player solitaire – the person who ignores what others are doing almost always loses. I’m willing to play this one pretty much any time someone asks.
                        • Memoir ‘44 is my favorite game in the Command & Colors system… shoot, it’s my favorite “war game” of all time. It plays quickly & cleanly, has a huge amount of variety in the scenarios & extra rules, and is a blast to play even when my 6 year old cleans my clock.
                        • Finally, there’s a reason that Puerto Rico has just been given a pimped-out 10th anniversary reprint… it’s an amazing game. Avoid playing with those who insist that they’ve “figured out the perfect strategy” and instead begin to explore the intricate series of trade-offs & tension that is one of the best Euro designs in print.

                        OLDER (1990 – 1999)

                        (1) The Settlers of Catan; (2) Showmanager; (3) Fast Food Franchise

                        • It’s become “cool” in gamer circles to crack on Settlers… and the constant barrage of Settlers product (most recently announced: Star Trek Catan) makes that kind of behavior more likely. But behind all the popularity & product is a really resilient & enjoyable game system – a design that revolutionized board games & is still wonderfully playable today.
                        • There aren’t many games in my collection that work well for 6 players… Showmanager is the stellar exception. The game speeds along as players invariably find themselves making difficult choices that impact not only themselves but the other folks who follow them in the turn order. There is much rejoicing & much gnashing of teeth & much, much fun.
                        • Fast Food Franchise may look like a Monopoly clone – but there are a lot of wonderful innovations packed into this nearly 20 year old game courtesy of the designer, Tom Lehmann. Yes, it has player elimination & event cards – but dismissing the game because of those things will cause you to miss out on what has turned out over the years to be a consistently great gaming experience every time it hits the table – whether with my 10 year old son, a couple of non-gamer couples, or a group of hard-core gamers.

                        OLDEST (pre-1990)

                        1) Dungeonquest; (2) Midnight Party; (3) Um Reifenbreite

                        • When I recommend Dungeonquest, I’m not talking about the very pretty but overly complicated Fantasy Flight release – I’m in love with the quirky mongrel that is the Games Workshop edition. Never more than an hour in length, it really is multi-player solitaire (the board game equivalent of “who can hold their breath the longest?”) that still inspires eliminated players to hoot, holler & cheer as you fight against a game system that is (as I’ve said elsewhere) “like playing D&D with a dungeon master who hates your guts.”
                        • Midnight Party (also released as Ghost Party) is a simple game of tag (with a benevolent ghost)… and yet has proven over the years to be one of the most-loved games in my collection. It works brilliantly with 2-8 players over an incredibly wide range of ages (kindergarten to one foot in the grave).
                        • I struggled for this final spot between two sports games – and in the end chose the bicycle racing genius of Um Reifenbreite over the quick-playing Harry’s Grand Slam Baseball, primarily because of the variability in length of the various races & the ability to chain races together in Um Reifenbreite. This is a one-hit wonder by a designer who’s fallen off the map… and it manages to capture the feel of team bicycle racing without undue complication or reduction of pure grin-inducing fun.

                        #81: Clash of the Gladiators (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                        Clash of the Gladiators

                        Mark's Ranking
                        • 2012: 81st
                        • 2010: 82nd
                        • 2005: did not appear

                        BoardGameGeek

                        • rank: 2837
                        • rating: 5.85

                        Print Status

                        • OOP but it's not real tough to find a copy

                        Why It's On The List

                        • Knizia at his dice-y best... it's an excuse to make gladiator movie jokes & beat on your friends for fun & profit.

                        Tips & Tricks:

                          • It's OK to make a crazed run at a dangerous animal on your turn - esp. if you're down to your last 1-2 gladiators in a group. If you win, you get the big "kill". If you lose, the points don't go to another player.

                          Extras

                          • There are people who've run computer simulations to figure out the best possible teams for the game - ignore those people. They suck the fun out of everything.
                          • Here's what I wrote about CotG for my 2010 Top 100 list.

                          Monday, March 19, 2012

                          #82: Mamma Mia (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                          Mamma Mia

                          Mark's Ranking
                          • 2012: 82nd
                          • 2010: 38th
                          • 2005: 72nd
                          • appeared on all three lists

                          BoardGameGeek

                          • rank: 758
                          • rating: 6.53

                          Print Status

                          • Rio Grand Games is planning a reprint

                          Why It's On The List

                          • This pizza-making card game is a combination of "Chicken" and "Memory" - and a hoot to play.

                          Tips & Tricks:

                            • If you can have the 15+ ingredient pizza in your hand at the end of a round, it's easily playable on your first turn of the next round to scoop up all the leftover ingredients.

                            Extras

                            • There's a nice expansion version of the game called Solo Mio - but I don't think it's really necessary. The base game is just about perfect.
                            • Here's what I wrote about Mamma Mia for The One Hundred.

                            Sunday, March 18, 2012

                            #83: Tanz der Hornochsen (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                            Tanz der Hornochsen

                            Mark's Ranking
                            • 2012: 83rd
                            • 2010: did not appear
                            • 2005: did not appear

                            BoardGameGeek

                            • rank: 1319
                            • rating: 6.54

                            Print Status

                            • OOP

                            Why It's On The List

                            • Designer Wolfgang Kramer took his classic 6 Nimmt game & converted it into a delightful hoot of a board game - and one I'd rather play than the original card game.

                            Tips & Tricks:

                              • One of the key decisions in the game is "when do I buy more tiles"? Making that decision correctly gives you a better chance at victory.

                              Extras

                              • You do not need to have played 6 Nimmt/Take 6 in order to understand "The Dance of the Bulls". Everyone is pretty clear that you don't want to step in the poop.

                              Saturday, March 17, 2012

                              #84: Vom Kap bis Kairo (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                              Vom Kap bis Kairo

                              Mark's Ranking
                              • 2012: 84th
                              • 2010: 79th
                              • 2005: did not appear

                              BoardGameGeek

                              • rank: 1379
                              • rating: 6.73

                              Print Status

                              • OOP

                              Why It's On The List

                              • A small box card game about railroad building across Africa (the title translates as "From the Cape to Cairo") that packs a wallop - the sealed bid auctions are only half of the game, as you struggle with when to invest precious cash into building rails instead of giving your opponent a gift.

                              Tips & Tricks:

                                • The value of a card is not determined by how cheap it is to build across it - the number of track symbols makes a HUGE difference, particularly if you're trying to catch up.

                                Extras

                                • I love that they managed to pack such a great game into such a small (30 minute) playing time.

                                Friday, March 16, 2012

                                #85: Tobago (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                                Tobago

                                Mark's Ranking
                                • 2012: 85th
                                • 2010: 80th
                                • 2005: prior to publication

                                BoardGameGeek

                                • rank: 211
                                • rating: 7.21

                                Print Status

                                • in print

                                Why It's On The List

                                • It couples a unique treasure-hunting mechanic with a beautiful & variable production to create a nifty push-your-luck family game.

                                Tips & Tricks:

                                  • Read the rules carefully - we messed things up in a couple of different ways because we (gamer-ly) assumed we knew how it would work.

                                  Extras

                                  • The one thing missing from the game is a helpful player aid to remind you about amulet powers - thankfully, one has thoughtfully been posted by Evan S over on BoardGameGeek.

                                    Thursday, March 15, 2012

                                    #86: StreetSoccer (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                                    StreetSoccer

                                    Mark's Ranking
                                    • 2012: 86th
                                    • 2010: 24th
                                    • 2005: did not appear

                                    BoardGameGeek

                                    • rank: 729
                                    • rating: 6.69

                                    Print Status

                                    • don't think it's in print... but there are lots of copies available on the secondhand market

                                    Why It's On The List

                                    • It doesn't so much simulate soccer (like Pursue the Pennant attempts to simulate baseball)... instead, it uses a backgammon-ish mechanic to simulate the feel of a soccer game - and does so brilliantly.

                                    Tips & Tricks:

                                      • Like playing backgammon, winning at StreetSoccer is as much about the position you leave yourself in as well as pushing hard to score... .

                                      Extras

                                      • There are three different online PBEM versions of StreetSoccer... the one I used to play on (a lot!) was Little Golem.

                                        Wednesday, March 14, 2012

                                        #87: Power Grid: The First Sparks (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                                        Power Grid: The First Sparks

                                        Mark's Ranking
                                        • 2012: 87th
                                        • 2010: prior to publication
                                        • 2005: prior to publication

                                        BoardGameGeek

                                        • rank: 430
                                        • rating: 7.20

                                        Print Status

                                        • in print

                                        Why It's On The List

                                        • I liked the original Funkenschlag game a lot - but it was crazy long. Power Grid was better graphically & shortened the playing time, but I found myself left cold by the math-y-ness of the whole thing. (No, I don't know why that didn't bother me with Funkenschlag.) So, when Rio Grande published the newest take on the same system that tightened the game up another couple of notches, I fell in love.

                                        Tips & Tricks:

                                          • The main place you can affect others is on the board - your expansion can cause other players real havoc. It's much tougher to do that in the "auction" than it was in Power Grid.

                                          Extras

                                          • Evidently, the advent of language did not include the development of spelling - the development card is headlined "Speach".

                                            Tuesday, March 13, 2012

                                            #88: The Broadway Game (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                                            The Broadway Game

                                            Mark's Ranking
                                            • 2012: 88th
                                            • 2010: did not appear
                                            • 2005: 58th

                                            BoardGameGeek

                                            • rank: 3377
                                            • rating: 6.93

                                            Print Status

                                            • way OOP

                                            Why It's On The List

                                            • I bought this originally out of the clearance bin at a Toys'R'Us - and I've probably squeezed every penny of value out of it in the past 25 years. It's a roll'n'move investment game that uses 10% shares in Broadway shows - investors share in the profits & the losses. The game can be pretty vicious, but my wife & I have had great success introducing it to both gamer & non-gamer friends.

                                            Tips & Tricks:

                                              • Though the box suggests you can play this with 2-6 players, lots of experience says that 4-5 is best.
                                              • You need to have at least one show that you control (produce) and be invested in shows with all of the other players in preparation for the endgame.

                                              Extras

                                              • For a long time, I kept DETAILED stats on paper about each game we played of this... each player had an average ending total, a win/loss record, and the like. This was our obsession.
                                              • In fact, I taught my wife to play The Broadway Game before she was my wife!

                                              Monday, March 12, 2012

                                              Games R Me: Trivial Pursuit

                                              This post was originally written to pump our 40 Days in the Word campaign... I've modified it a bit for my personal blog.

                                              I'm actually pretty good at trivia games - of course, my dad loved to say things like "You can tell me who was King of England in 1590 but you can't remember to take out the trash 5 minutes after I tell you to!" (For the record, Dad was correct - I stunk at doing chores - and it was King James I.)

                                              The same can be true of the Bible - having grown up in church, it's easy for me to tell Bible stories or quote certain verses. I've got all that information stored up in my brain.

                                              But winning a game of Bible Trivia isn't following God - it's the rough equivalent of being the Trekkies who question William Shatner in the classic SNL "Get A Life" sketch . Instead, what we really need as followers of Christ is to go from:
                                              • people stuffed full of Bible trivia OR
                                              • people who are scared of how little they know of the Bible

                                              to:

                                              • people who love God's word
                                              • people who learn God's word
                                              • people who live God's word

                                              And that starts not by prepping for your next win in Bible Scattegories (yes, such a game exists) but by reading the Bible to with a heart willing to do what it says and a mind looking for a bigger & better picture of the God who loves us.

                                              #89: 1st & Goal (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                                              1st & Goal

                                              Mark's Ranking
                                              • 2012: 89th
                                              • 2010: prior to publication
                                              • 2005: prior to publication

                                              BoardGameGeek

                                              • rank: 1712
                                              • rating: 7.33

                                              Print Status

                                              • in print

                                              Why It's On The List

                                              • Stephen Glenn has created a fun & fast-playing dice football using a card deck to call plays - which allows for a greater variety of outcomes without unduly complicating the process.

                                              Tips & Tricks:

                                                • It takes a couple of games to get the hang of hand & clock management...
                                                • While I haven't played with them yet, there are a number of expansion sets that change up the dice for each team.

                                                Extras

                                                • 1st & Goal essentially replaces Pizza Box Football in my top 100 - the only thing I really miss about PBF is the (very abstracted) real NFL teams.
                                                • The 1st down marker & the ball are magnetized, btw - they won't slide around on the (metal) field. A very nice production touch!
                                                • I'm really looking forward to playing in the 1st & Goal tournament at The Gathering of Friends next month!

                                                The Death of Avalon Hill Explained...

                                                ...in one picture from an AH catalog in the late 1980s. (The headline says it all.)

                                                Sunday, March 11, 2012

                                                #90: For Sale (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                                                For Sale

                                                Mark's Ranking
                                                • 2012: 90th
                                                • 2010: 62nd
                                                • 2005: 94th
                                                • appeared on all three lists

                                                BoardGameGeek

                                                • rank: 178
                                                • rating: 7.20

                                                Print Status

                                                • in print, albeit in a 3-6 player edition that I don't like as much as the original

                                                Why It's On The List

                                                • Possibly one of the best filler auction games ever created - though I wear out on it occasionally. Players bid for the first choice of a set of houses... then, when all 20 of those are sold, those houses are sold to buyers in a blind auction.

                                                Tips & Tricks:

                                                  • While I'm glad that the newer version of For Sale exists (so more folks can play it), I don't like the redistributed card deck so that it will work with six players And, no, sadly, it's not backward compatible.
                                                  • Don't forget that the chips you save from the opening rounds of bidding are added to your final score!

                                                  Extras

                                                  Saturday, March 10, 2012

                                                  #91: Jamaica (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                                                  Jamaica

                                                  Mark's Ranking
                                                  • 2012: 91st
                                                  • 2010: 49th
                                                  • 2005: prior to publication

                                                  BoardGameGeek

                                                  • rank: 478
                                                  • rating: 6.83

                                                  Print Status

                                                  • in print

                                                  Why It's On The List

                                                  • Stunning beautiful game about pirates racing around collecting treasure that manages to have plenty of fighting without feeling like it's a "fighting game".

                                                  Tips & Tricks:

                                                    • The extra treasure cards (a giveaway expansion) are nice but not necessary - in fact, a couple of them probably unbalance the game.
                                                    • Don't over-think this one... often, you're simply making the best of bad choices due to a small hand size & unfriendly dice. Still, that doesn't take away from my enjoyment of the game.

                                                    Extras

                                                    • If you have a copy of the game, take one of the pirate decks and lay the cards out end to end, matching the pictures. It makes a long pirate mural... just another lovely art direction touch in a game that is full of them!

                                                    Friday, March 09, 2012

                                                    #92: Union Pacific (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                                                    Union Pacific

                                                    Mark's Ranking
                                                    • 2012: 92nd
                                                    • 2010: 78th
                                                    • 2005: 13th
                                                    • appeared on all three lists

                                                    BoardGameGeek

                                                    • rank: 156
                                                    • rating: 7.63

                                                    Print Status

                                                    • OOP - but available in a new version, Airlines: Europe

                                                    Why It's On The List

                                                    • Alan Moon took the design work he'd put into Airlines (his homage to Sid Sackson's Acquire) and fleshed it out into a beautiful & playable stock market/push your luck game about building rail lines across the United States.

                                                    Tips & Tricks:

                                                      • There are some helpful rules clarifications that smooth out the (very) few rough spots in the game - dealing with useless track cards & how you obtain shares of Union Pacific. You can check out the blog posts I reference below.

                                                      Extras

                                                      Thursday, March 08, 2012

                                                      Games R Me: Pass It Down

                                                      Like I said, my Grandma Jackson is the one who taught me to riffle shuffle (and do "the bridge" - a skill which I still like to show off). She played Monopoly with my sister & I (and, according to my dad, with him & his friends when he was growing up). I think that much of my love of games started with her.

                                                      But it wasn't just games - she & my grandpa had a huge library of Reader's Digest Condensed Books... and I had permission to read them & borrow them. Because of her, I got exposed to a huge variety of novels & writers - something that has informed my eclectic (some would say "weird") reading tastes to this day.

                                                      The same is true of her faith in God - her faithfulness to Christ and her Christlikeness got passed down to my dad. And, because of the influence of my mom & dad, I became a follower of Christ at the age of 7.

                                                      Now, 40 years later, I'm passing down the love of games to my boys. And, thankfully, my faith... one of the highlights of my life is getting pray with Braeden as he asked Jesus into his life.

                                                      I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also... continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 1:5, 3:14-15 (NIV)

                                                      Question: What are you passing down to your children & grandchildren?

                                                      Games R Me: The Introduction

                                                      This post was originally written for a gaming weekend at my church (back in January)... it's the intro to a couple of posts about the intersection of gaming & faith.

                                                      By the time most of you read this, I'll have been playing games for 48 hours. Well, not 48 hours straight - I do take time to sleep & eat - but on a gaming weekend like this, I'd guess that I spend 14+ hours each day sitting at the table rolling dice, drawing cards, and making bad decisions that lead to my eventual loss.

                                                      And I love it. I've been playing games since I was a little kid, thanks to a grandmother who loved cards (she taught me how to shuffle) and would get down on the floor to play whatever I asked... and to an aunt who bought me my first "bookshelf" game those many, many years ago.

                                                      In fact, thinking of my Grandma Jackson reminds me of a couple of important gaming/Jesus related thoughts... and I've decided to share them with you!

                                                      #93: La Citta (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                                                      La Citta

                                                      Mark's Ranking
                                                      • 2012: 93rd
                                                      • 2010: 86th
                                                      • 2005: 47th
                                                      • appeared on all three lists

                                                      BoardGameGeek

                                                      • rank: 193
                                                      • rating: 7.25

                                                      Print Status

                                                      • in print

                                                      Why It's On The List

                                                      • It's a sprawling game of city development with a simple rules & a great story arc.

                                                      Tips & Tricks:

                                                      • The game can punish new players - mistakes are costly. You need to anticipate when you're going to gain people from neighboring cities that will overwhelm your ability to feed them.
                                                      • The only potential problem with the game is the clogging of the card display... but there are numerous ways to fix that with house rules.

                                                      Extras

                                                      • Gerd Fenchel has two published designs - the very gamer-friendly La Citta & the very family-friendly Kraut & Reuben (about planting vegetable gardens).
                                                      • Here's my post on the game for my 2010 Top 100 list.

                                                      Wednesday, March 07, 2012

                                                      #94: Zahltag (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                                                      Zahltag

                                                      Mark's Ranking
                                                      • 2012: 95th
                                                      • 2010: did not appear
                                                      • 2005: did not appear

                                                      BoardGameGeek

                                                      • rank: 5207
                                                      • rating: 5.76

                                                      Print Status

                                                      • OOP

                                                      Why It's On The List

                                                      • a low-bid construction card game - you need to underbid the competition and keep your workers "on the job"... it's a refreshing twist on standard auction game mechanics

                                                      Tips & Tricks:

                                                      • This game is occasionally dismissed as "blind bidding." Let's be clear here, people - if you're paying attention, this is NOT blind bidding. Sheesh.

                                                      Extras

                                                      • The designer, Franz-Benno Delonge, created another much-loved city-building game - Big City (which will show up much later in my Top 100 list).
                                                      • I also need to say "thank you" once again to Joe Huber who introduced this game to me.

                                                      Tuesday, March 06, 2012

                                                      #95: O Zoo Le Mio (Mark's 100 - 2012)

                                                      O Zoo le Mio

                                                      Mark's Ranking
                                                      • 2012: 95th
                                                      • 2010: did not appear
                                                      • 2005: 96th

                                                      BoardGameGeek

                                                      • rank: 637
                                                      • rating: 6.70

                                                      Print Status

                                                      • I don't know if it's still officially "in print" - but you can get a copy from Amazon.com

                                                      Why It's On The List

                                                      • lovely graphics & components combine with "in the fist" auctions & tile-laying to make a zoo-building game that's relatively quick (45 minutes) and always interesting to play...

                                                      Tips & Tricks:

                                                      • Yes, there are problems with the income system (you get $ based on the number of tiles in your zoo) and the escalating point values (scoring is similar to Acquire) in the later rounds - but in such a short game, part of your job is to plan to deal with both of those issues rather than whine about them when the game is over.

                                                      Extras

                                                      • The box says ages 9+... but my six-year-old enjoys this game (when I help him with tile placement).