Thursday, May 29, 2014

Gaming Highlights: Memorial Day Weekend 2014 (Saturday)


I am an unabashed fan of Michael Schacht's zoo games... in fact, I find them much more enjoyable and compelling than the more straight forward (and portable) card game they are based on, Coloretto. (For me, Coloretto has always felt as if it was all mechanic and no fun.)

This is only the second time I've managed to get ZooloAquapalooza to the table... and it was a little long but a lot of fun. We not only used the two base games, but also added in:
  • Zooloretto: Exotic
  • Zooloretto: Boss
  • Zooloretto: Big Boss
  • Zooloretto: Iberian Lynx, Grizzly & Octopus
  • Aquaretto: Three Co-worker Tiles
  • Aquaretto: The Trains

The plethora of expansions involved probably reduced some of the tension (with the expanded number of strategic & tactical options) but it made for some really interesting decisions as each of us blazed our own path.

Important safety tip: the first time we played ZooloAquapalooza, we used The Savings Book expansion from Zooloretto. This is a BAD idea when using both games - do not do this!

Braeden chose to focus primarily on building his aquatic zoo in the early- to mid-game, which gave him a good score there but hampered him in the end-game as he was forced to take numerous animals into his pool and barn. Collin went for a more middle-of-the-road strategy, as did I... but I figured out how to get the donation/sponsor engine (from the Boss/Big Boss expansions) working and rode them to a commanding victory.

Monsters Ravage America

Yes, the original Avalon Hill version of the game... which for some of today's young whippersnapper gamers is "old school". But for those of us who cut our gamer teeth on Wooden Ships & Iron Men and Squad Leader, this is actually one of the last gasps of a once-great wargame/board game publisher. (If you want to read the story of the final days, you can check out an excellent Geeklist entitled My Days at the end of Avalon Hill... in which the designer refers to the art design on Monsters Ravage America as "a graphic Chernobyl, and we knew it.")

Braeden & I played two player - which was, as I had remembered it would be, a little weak compared to a four player game. Still, this is "King of Tokyo: The Wargame" - and any time your monster can get hit with missiles and mutate 3 different times is a bonus.  (I had War Spikes, Atomic Breath, & Iron Stomach - what turned out to be a winning combination.)

Other monsters ravage something or other games you might be interested in: Rampage (a very family-friendly dexterity game based on the arcade game) and The Creature That Ate Sheboygan (a chit-wargame/microgame from the long-defunct SPI that could use a fresh development polish & reprint with plastic minis).

I'm already on record as a fan of Monopoly (played correctly, of course) - but if push comes to shove and I have to pick a favorite version to play, this is it. Designed by Rob Daviau (yes, the same guy responsible for Risk: Legacy and the upcoming SeaFall), this is Monopoly reimagined by someone aware of current gaming mechanic technology: individual player "roles" (the Mayor, the Developer, etc.), more variety of building options, and a well-thought-out system of Fortune points (victory points) that makes it much easier to stop the game at whatever point you need to and find an actual legitimate winner.

I freely admit that the DVD "News Flash" portion of the game can become grating (especially when you've played it enough times to have seen each & every arc of news stories at least 3 times), but the random elements for Chance & Community Chest are very nice... and the variable payment system for the new buildings (parks, casinos, restaurants, and piers) is a nifty addition to the game.

Braeden violated Monopoly Wise Trading Rule #1: big properties aren't worth much if you don't have the cash on hand to develop them. So, I traded him the dark blue monopoly for the pink monopoly... and held onto one property of the rest of the groups to choke off any more monopolies from coming into play. It was just a matter of time.

Rogue Agent (solo play)

I'm currently working on a full-blown review of Rogue Agent... and needed to get it "to the table" at least one more time to make sure I wasn't missing something before finalizing my conclusions.

I realized a few things in my four "player" play of the game in Android Mode:

  • I was still missing some of the rules.
  • The game "works" better with 4 players than 3 players... and with 3 players better than 2.
  • I'm really conflicted about this game - there are some things I really like but a couple of plays have fallen flat as a pancake. On the other hand, we've had two other games of Rogue Agent that were nail-biting fun.
The jury is still out - but I have to say I appreciate the helpfulness of the designer & the publisher (Stronghold Games) in trying to answer my questions, both about rules & about design choices.

Look for my full review in the next week or so.

Read about Friday's games here!

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