Saturday, April 20, 2024

#50: Ascending Empires (Mark's Top 100 2024)

Ascending Empires

  • rank: 1,591
  • rating: 7.2
  • published: 2011
  • designer: Ian Cooper
Print Status
  • way out of print... but wait, there's good news!
Why It's On The List
  • For a game of space conquest (complete with a tech tree), it zips along at a blistering pace. Turns are short, decisions are tricky, scores are close, and there are multiple ways to victory. Plus, you get to flick stuff!
Tips & Tricks:
  • As much as I love flicking games (CatacombsCarabande, etc.), the flicking here is not the whole game - it's just a part of a much larger space-empire building game.
  • The game scales really well from 2-4 players - which is odd, considering it has a four-quadrant map.
  • There are even some official variants for the game posted on the Geek... both of which are quite good.
  • Combat is NOT the most important thing in the game. While you can't ignore it, it won't win you the game by itself.

Friday, April 19, 2024

#51: Clash of the Gladiators (Mark's Top 100 2024)

Clash of the Gladiators

  • rank: 7,491
  • rating: 5.9
  • published: 2002
  • designer: Reiner Knizia
Print Status
  • out of print
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.
    • You don't need to have a bunch of spears or tridents, just more than the other player. Don't get obsessed with them.
    • Shields are good... there are only 8 in the game. You should draft shield-bearers first.
    • 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.
    • This is the fourth of seven (7!) games designed by Dr. Knizia on my top 100 list for 2024.

    Thursday, April 18, 2024

    #52: Monopoly: Tropical Tycoon DVD Game (Mark's Top 100 2024)

    Monopoly: Tropical Tycoon DVD Game

    • rank: 17,281
    • rating: 5.8
    • published: 2007
    • designer: Rob Daviau
    Print Status
    • out of print (but pretty easy to find on Ebay)
    Why It's On The List
    • It takes the classic game (Monopoly) and makes it extremely gamer-friendly by adding Cosmic Encounter-ish roles, a variety of choices for building, and a great victory point system that lets you stop the game at any point and declare a legitimate winner.
    Tips & Tricks:
    • Basic Monopoly strategy still works with Tropical Tycoon... but there are major new considerations when you are building on monopolies. You can build for cash or for points... or for some balance point in between.
    • The more people playing, the more careful you have to be about how you make trades. Some of the cheaper properties can be converted into pretty powerful income streams if you plan correctly.
    • The only problem I can see with the game is the need for a DVD player - all of the card draws/random events are keyed off of the DVD.  That said, it works really well without being overly intrusive. (Yes, the "funny" stuff gets old the 2nd or 3rd time you hear it - but it still works.)
    • Here's two things I wrote about Monopoly on my blog aka pastor guy: Giving Away Your Own (Monopoly) Money and The World's Most Famous Game And How It Got That Way. In short: "most of you play Monopoly wrong... and that somewhat explains why so many gamers hate the game."
    • Here's what I wrote about Monopoly for The One Hundred
    • This is the first of six (6!) game designs from Rob Daviau on the countdown.

    Wednesday, April 17, 2024

    #53: Streetsoccer (Mark's Top 100 2024)


    • rank: 2,681
    • rating: 6.5
    • published: 2002
    • designer: Corné van Moorsel
    Print Status
    • out of print
    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...
      • And like backgammon, what appears initially to be a random dice game actually reveals itself to be a very tactical game of risk & probability.
      • There are three different online PBEM versions of StreetSoccer... the one I used to play on (a lot!) was Little Golem.

      Tuesday, April 16, 2024

      #54: The Guild of Merchant Explorers (Mark's Top 100 2024)

      The Guild of Merchant Explorers

      • rank: 466
      • rating: 7.7
      • published: 2022
      • designers: Matthew Dunstan & Brett J. Gilbert
      Print Status
      • in print
      Why It's On The List
      • This extremely clever flip’n’write game doesn’t actually contain any writing – but it does have enough look-ahead to make wise decisions and enough luck of the draw to force you to hedge your bets.
      Tips & Tricks:
        • Creating villages gives you jumping-off points for later rounds... which is essential to scoring well.
        • Keep track of which cards have been flipped - so that you don't base your plays on something that can't happen this round.
        • It’s been a hit with everyone I’ve taught it to… and I find it relaxing and enjoyable to play as a solo game.
        • There are four different maps in the original box, with 2 more maps available as an expansion from AEG. 

        Monday, April 15, 2024

        #55: The Magic Labyrinth (Mark's Top 100 2024)

        The Magic Labyrinth

        • rank: 1,344
        • rating: 6.8
        • published: 2009
        • designer: Dirk Baumann
        Print Status
        • in print... I think
        Why It's On The List
        • Second. Best. Memory. Game. Ever... but the over-the-top production means it gets requested more often - and therefore ended slightly higher on the list than Hallo Dachs!
        Tips & Tricks:
          • Do not mistake this for the unexplicably popular A-Mazing Labyrinth (or the spin-off games in that series). This is closer to an old favorite that it "fires" - Magical Maze.
          • While the game works great with 2, 3 or 4 players, it is probably best with four players. By watching more players explore the (hidden) maze, it's easier to figure out a safe route to your destination.
          • The expansion - only published in Germany as far as I know - is very, very good. It adds one-way walls as well as three special one-time abilities: a felt wizard's hat (cause another player to miss a turn), a wooden vial of potion (move until you reach your destination or hit a wall), and a wooden magic wand (get rid of your destination chit & draw a new one). The picture of the game on this post is using the expansion.

          Sunday, April 14, 2024

          #56: Royal Turf (Mark's Top 100 2024)

          Royal Turf

          • rank: 408
          • rating: 6.9
          • published: 2001
          • designer: Reiner Knizia
          Print Status
          • very out of print
          Why It's On The List
          • Another great example of Knizia using math to make fun instead of dry as dust slogs (I'm looking at you, Auf Heller und Pfennig/Kingdoms.) It's horse racing with actual gambling & great levels of player involvement. It plays well with 4-6 players and I've never had a dull game of Royal Turf.
          Tips & Tricks:
          • Play with the "zero"/bluff bet variant & face-down bets. Trust me on this one.
          • If you're in the lead, make sure your bets are on the better odds horses... and with the players who are closest to you in score.
          • If you're behind, leave the leader on his own on a couple of horses. (This takes working together... which doesn't always happen.)
          • There have been three versions of the game - my favorite is Royal Turf, but Winner's Circle may be easier to find.
          • Here's what I wrote about Royal Turf for The One Hundred.