Friday, January 30, 2015

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

Around the World in 80 Days

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

    Thursday, January 29, 2015

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

    Lost Cities

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

      Monday, January 26, 2015

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

      Midnight Party

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

        Wednesday, January 21, 2015

        Round, Round Like A Record Player, Baby (Classic)

        Another classic Grapevine post from February 2007... for the record, today is one of those "33 1/3 record in a 78 rpm world" days as well.

        Remember record players? Yes, I know that some of you don't... that the only record player you've actually seen used in the one in the hatch on the TV show, Lost. But for some of us, there's a certain warm glow around the memories of picking up an album & sliding out the sleeve, carefully putting the record on the turntable & setting the needle down. Depending on the size of the record, you set the speed - 33 1/3, 45, or 78 rpm's (revolutions per minute).

        Of course, by the time I bought my first stereo system (complete with record player, cassette player and... wait for it... 8-track tape player), they weren't making 78's anymore. My dad, who had a pretty decent collection of jazz records, didn't have any 78's in his pile of albums - and my stash of late-disco-era platters (ELO, Barry Manilow, Donna Summer, Yes, the Star Wars soundtrack, etc.) certainly didn't have any. Of course, like any kid, every once in a while I'd crank a 33 1/3 record up to 78 rpms and enjoy the chipmunk-ish sounds.

        Well, today is one of those days where I feel like I'm a 33 1/3 record in a 78 rpm world. It's not just that my brain feels like it's mired in super-glue... it's that the very speed of my life, the multitude of responsibilities & obligations whizzing at me, feel like they're going to tear away pieces of me.

        As a follower of Jesus, I realize that isn't the whole story - but down here on the turntable we call "life", it can be hard to see when everything is zipping past me. All I want to do is close my eyes & hang on. So, in moments like this, on mornings like this... heck, every morning, I have to turn to capital "T" Truth to gain perspective:
        So we're not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There's far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever.     2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (The Message)
        And then I open my eyes & see the world afresh. It may not move any slower - I may not move any faster - but it's no longer a complete blur. It's no longer a string of unrelated obstacles & trials... there's something bigger going on.

        Wednesday, January 14, 2015

        #49: Harry's Grand Slam Baseball (Mark's 100 - 2014)

        Harry's Grand Slam Baseball

        Mark's Ranking
        • 2014: 49th
        • 2012: 76th
        • 2010: 59th
        • 2005: did not appear
        • rank: 2561
        • rating: 6.33
        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.
          • This is a tremendous filler game.
          • 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.

          Tuesday, January 13, 2015

          #50: Timber Tom (Mark's 100 - 2014)

          Timber Tom

          Mark's Ranking
          • 2014: 50th
          • 2012: did not appear
          • 2010: did not appear
          • 2005: prior to publication
          • rank: 2182
          • rating: 6.62
          Print Status
          • very OOP 
          Why It's On The List
          • An amazing 3-D board and top-notch components make this racing game (you're racing to get to the top of two of the four mountains) a great family experience.
          Tips & Tricks:
            • There's a heavy "take that" element in this game that I normally don't like it - but it works here.
            • Marco (the designer) published a 2nd edition set of rules that are MUCH cleaner and easier to learn from than the first set of rules.
            • While I love this game, I don't recommend buying your own copy unless you're independently wealthy. The only ones I can find right now run $150 or more.

            Friday, January 09, 2015

            #51: 1st & Goal (Mark's 100 - 2014)

            1st & Goal

            Mark's Ranking
            • 2014: 51st
            • 2012: 89th
            • 2010: prior to publication
            • 2005: prior to publication
            • rank: 1154
            • rating: 6.86
            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...
              • There are six expansion sets that change up the dice for each team... we own four of them and absolutely love playing with them. (With one caveat - see below.)
              • 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 wrote about one of the best decisions R&R Games made - to publish Special Teams cards to go with each expansion team - in my blog post Making Special Teams Special Again. (This is the caveat I told you to look for...)
              • There is now an iOS app for 1st & Goal... but I haven't got to play with it yet.

              Wednesday, January 07, 2015

              #52: Viva Pamplona! (Mark's 100 - 2014)

              Viva Pamplona

              Mark's Ranking
              • 2014: 52nd
              • 2012: 53rd
              • 2010: 39th
              • 2005: 56th
              • appeared on all four lists
              • rank: 2597
              • rating: 6.36
              Print Status
              • very OOP
              Why It's On The List
              • It's a great theme (the running of the bulls) with great art and even better game play... you must have courage to win - and the willingness to shove your opposition to the ground.
              Tips & Tricks:
                • The tempo of the game can vary wildly - depending on how the Toro cards appear. That's not a bug... it's a feature - part of what makes the game so charming..
                • I was pleasantly surprised how well this game works with 3-4 players... of course, it's a "more the merrier" game that is an absolute joy with the full complement of six people around the table.
                • This is from the same gaming design family as Viva Topo and Midnight Party. (It's a family I'm fond of...)
                • I've often wondered about how you can lose courage points when someone else shoves you (and worse yet, they get them!), but it's still fun.

                Tuesday, January 06, 2015

                #53: Prophecy (Mark's 100 - 2014)


                Mark's Ranking
                • 2014: 53rd
                • 2012: did not appear
                • 2010: did not appear
                • 2005: did not appear
                • rank: 923
                • rating: 6.73
                Print Status
                • in print
                Why It's On The List
                • Once upon a time, I loved Talisman. This is Talisman with actual meaningful decisions.
                Tips & Tricks:
                • While there are tactical decisions to make, this is still an experience game. You have been warned.
                • We play with no more than 3 players (it's just too slow with 4+) and usually play "first to 3 relics"... though we do the "whole shebang" every once in a while.
                • I really like the Dragon Realm expansion - if only for the Races and the extra cards in the main deck. (I have not played the Water Realm expansion - which only came out in English last year.)
                • Most inflammatory comment I've ever made about these type of games: "Between this game & Return of the Heroes, no one in their right mind should be playing Talisman or Runebound."
                • Here's what I wrote about Prophecy for my 10 Games I Want to Play More post.

                Monday, January 05, 2015

                The Lidless Eye

                When you stare into the abyss the abyss stares back at you. (Friedrich Nietzsche)
                Sometimes, my best blog post/sermon ideas come to me while I'm in the shower. I'm not sure that what follows is one of those - but it did occur to me while I was trying to get shampoo out of my rapidly thinning hair, so I guess that's gotta count for something. Right?

                The title of the post comes from The Lord of the Rings (which we can also blame for Dungeons & Dragons, large chunks of prog rock, and Peter Jackson's remake of "King Kong")... it's one of the names of the "big bad", Sauron. More importantly for my purposes, it's a phrase that seems to aptly describe the new realities of television in a world full of smartphones and massive amounts of bandwidth.

                Between the 24 hour news cycle and the ability to stream content at will, we live in a world where the lidless eye is (as the name would suggest) always open. Scarier still is the fact that the lidless eye truly peers at us without blinking... with our television sets hooked up to DVR boxes and our iPhones harvesting a couple of Santa's worth of cookies, we are feeding information about ourselves, our habits and our tastes into the voracious maw of a variety of companies & entities.

                Now, I'm not here to advocate dropping off the grid or even exiling your TV to the junkyard. We are not going to be able to put the genie back in the bottle... and, while I'm pretty much over pop-ads and 95% of the videos on YouTube, I don't ever want to go back to watching TV without a DVR. What do I want to suggest that this lidless eye reality has a profound effect on how we "do church" and/or "walk with Jesus".

                We have, I think, a trio of options when attempting to speak "capital T" Truth into the lives of those around us:
                1. We can attempt to out-shout & out-sensationalize the culture. We can be flashier, bigger & louder.
                2. We can run away & hide. We can demonize the culture & the technology that carries it into our lives.
                3. We can be the voice of reason & faith. We can engage the culture with wit, wisdom & the heart of Jesus.
                If you've read this blog before, you've already figured out that I'm a big fan of #3. 

                Quickie Applications (for church leaders):
                1.  Bigger/louder isn't necessarily bad - there are times when we need to attract attention to the truth. When our volume is always goes to "11", however, it's easier for people - both Christian & non-Christian - to tune us out.
                2. There are times for contemplative retreat & silence - but walling ourselves off from the culture means that we will cease to be "salt & light" (Matthew 5:13-16) to a world around us who needs to hear & experience the love & grace of Jesus Christ.
                3. Engaging the culture is not an event - it's a lifestyle that has to be modeled and taught.
                Quickie Applications (for Christians in general):
                1. You don't have to shout, literally or metaphorically. You don't have to win every argument. Not every theologically questionable statement needs you to bump/set/spike it back in their virtual faces with a Bible verse and and an alliterative cliche. 
                2. You need to listen to people who you don't agree with - whether it's politics, theology, philosophy, culturally.. or if you just think they're wrong about their taste in music. The only way we get a chance to speak truth in a way that will be heard is to listen first. You don't have agree with their pseudo-Gnostic beliefs, their love for Coldplay and/or support the politician they campaigned for... but you do have to treat them with respect.
                3. Engaging the culture is not an event - it's a lifestyle that has to be chosen & prayerfully lived out.
                I've written about this subject before... you may be interested in reading:

                Friday, January 02, 2015

                #54: Small World (Mark's 100 - 2014)

                Small World

                Mark's Ranking
                • 2014: 54th
                • 2012: 19th
                • 2010: did not appear
                • 2005: prior to publication
                • rank: 95
                • rating: 7.44
                Print Status
                • in print
                Why It's On The List
                • While I know I'm going to inspire some carping & complaining, I believe that the designer & Days of Wonder took a decent but flawed game (Vinci) and turned it into a whimsical, more enjoyable and better game - Small World. This is fantasy combat in a pretty abstract form... but still packed full of fun.
                Tips & Tricks:
                • This is one of those games where owning some expansions adds to the enjoyment - the extra races & powers keep the replayability high.
                • Order in which to buy expansions (in my ever-so-humble opinion): #1: Be Not Afraid, #2: Grand Dames of Small World, #3: Tales & Wonders, #4: Cursed. (I have not yet played Royal Bonus or A Spider's Web.)
                • Though I enjoy the Necromancer Island expansion, it's not worth the $$ people are selling it for - Days of Wonder has recently reprinted this one where you should no longer be buying it elsewhere.
                • If you're going to buy Small World: Realms (an expansion that lets you build your own maps & scenarios), you'll probably want the stand-alone Small World: Underground (which I don't like as much as I do the base game)... and you won't need to bother with tracking down a copy of the Tunnels expansion, as it is included in Realms.
                • Don't bother with the Leaders expansion - we certainly don't use it.
                • You have to be a certain kind of person to revel in the chaos of the Tales & Wonders expansion - but if you are, it's very, very good. (I am.)
                • Days of Wonder just recently released a new edition of the iPad version of the game... I don't own it but I'm told it's well done.
                • Here's what I wrote about Be Not Afraid & Necromancer Island for this blog.
                • And here's what I wrote about Vinci for The One Hundred.

                #55: The Ares Project (Mark's 100 - 2014)

                The Ares Project

                Mark's Ranking
                • 2014: 55th
                • 2012: 24th
                • 2010: prior to publication
                • 2005: prior to publication
                • rank: 1288
                • rating: 7.07
                Print Status
                • in print
                Why It's On The List
                • It's not an easy game to learn (there are some tricky interlocking systems), once you've got over the rules assimilation hump there's a fantastic game to explore. Players are asymmetrical factions in a war over a distant planet... any resemblance to the computer game Starcraft in play speed and/or theme is purely intentional.
                Tips & Tricks:
                • It's going to take you 4-5 games to start to see the wide variety of ways you can use the various types of attacks to advance your progress in the game - hang with it! The "wow" factor the first time I figured out how to make a Raid turn the tide of battle was worth the price of admission.
                • The rules look worse than they are - follow the suggestion in there to play a "battle only" game so that the rest of the system doesn't overwhelm you.
                • Each faction has a distinctive feel & play style… but unlike Summoner Wars, the differences are so pronounced that each faction in The Ares Project has it’s own mini-rulebook. They produce & use power in different ways, have different units, modify those units with different kinds of cards… even create new units through various methods... please don't let that complexity keep you away from a tremendous game!

                Thursday, January 01, 2015

                Five & Dime 2014: No Matter What, It's Personal

                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've played 5+ and 10+ times in 2014).
                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... and games with five  asterisks [*****] have been there (wait for it) for the past 5 years!

                • DC Comics Deck-Building Game 49
                • Star Realms 21 
                • Summoner Wars 20 ***
                • Fast Food Franchise 15 **
                • Eminent Domain 14 **
                • Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition) 13 *
                • Suburbia 12 **
                • Machi Koro 11
                • Race for the Galaxy 10 ****
                • The City 9 ** 
                • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Deck-Building Game 9
                • Memoir '44 9
                • Wiz-War (eighth edition) 9
                • Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Skull & Shackles 8
                • Rampage/Terror in Meeple City 8
                • Can't Stop 7 *
                • Web of Power/China 7
                • Eminent Domain: Microcosm (playtesting) 7
                • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Deck-Building Game 7
                • Marvel Dice Masters: Uncanny X-Men 7
                • Quantum 7
                • Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age 7 *****
                • Ticket to Ride 7
                • Tiny Epic Kingdoms 7
                • Bounce It-In Game 6
                • Gelini Nightlife 6
                • Numeri 6
                • Sentinels of the Multiverse 6 **
                • Smash Up 6 *
                • Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game 6 *
                • The Battle at Kemble's Cascade 5
                • Au Backe/By Golly! 5
                • Castles of Mad King Ludwig 5
                • Clash of Cultures 5
                • Hop Hop Hooray! 5
                • King of Tokyo 5 *
                • Quarriors! 5 **
                • Qwirkle 5
                • Rogue Agent 5
                • Tier auf Tier: Jetzt geht's rund! 5
                • Völuspá 5