The Purge: July Edition

Another month, another purging of games that are just not getting enough love, or that I’m just not interested in any more. Yes, there’s one instalment of the Purge missing, but work has been kind of crazy lately and all the usual excuses. But you’re not here for that, you’re here to know how things stand and maybe score some good games for not much. So, let’s see how things went since last time, shall we?

What? You don’t care about what games got traded/given/sold/exchanged? you just want the new stuff? Skip everything and get to the good stuff here!

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Review: Yardmaster Express

To say that I love a good train game at this point would be kind of pointless. Between my dabbling with Ticket to Ride, my well-known love of 18XX and Age of Steam/Steam, my discovery of the great Paris Connection and countless other, I love a good train game. One thing I haven’t seen often is a good card-based train game (don’t get me started with a good dice-based train game). Sure Express was pretty good at the time and Yardmaster is an interesting meld of Uno and Ticket to Ride. Even 1830 Card Game is very good, even if the components are… rudimentary. But what do you do when you have 15 minutes to play a good train card game?

Yardmaster Express boxWell, this is the question Yardmaster Express attempts to answer. A short, drafting game that plays 2 to 5 players and that takes about 10 minutes to play. What’s more, it’s very easy to explain and simple to understand. What do you mean, no one had asked that question? Well, so what. I love a good train game. Does Yardmaster Express have what it takes to be one of the good ones? Let’s check it out.

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VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game contest winner!

What a week! To think that this contest came about from a shipping error. Well, over 400 of you checked out the contest page and 31 people participated, taking nice selfies of themselves along with a cup of coffee (check out the #dicelovecoffee tag over on Twitter) and I discovered that many of you love your coffee along with your games. Saw some great game collections along the way and struck a few conversations as well.

Wha? Enough chit chat and make with the contest winner already? ok, ok. :)

Here’s the winning photo:

What a smile! I think it has something to do with X-Wings...

What a smile! I think it has something to do with X-Wings…

Stay tuned because not only will I have a review of VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game, but there is another contest coming for the original VivaJava: The Coffee Game, including the Geekspansion! That’s right! The out-of-print, hard to find, pricy to purchase game for free to a contest winner! What will be the contest, I have no idea, give me a few days to think about it…

Thanks again to Chris at Dice Hate Me Games for allowing me to run this contest. Much appreciated and I hope everyone who participated had fun.

Until then, Happy Gaming!

Contest: Win VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game from Dice Hate Me Games

I was one of the backers in the recent Dice Hate Me kickstarter campaign for VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game, backing the project for both the new dice game and the original VivaJava: The Coffee Game (I really don’t have a lot of 8 player games and this one looked interesting). I had been following the progress of the game and couldn’t wait to get my copies of the games.

pic1722425_tImagine my surprise when one day, Tanya, my lovely wife, tells me that I had received two big boxes from the US. I knew that I had one box coming in for the games, but two? What was in that second box? She told me that they were from the same place and it made me even more curious and could not wait to get back home to see if I had received some other kickstarter that had forgotten to let us know that the game had shipped.

Imagine my surprise when I found that the games had been double shipped! I love games and VivaJava, in both incarnations, looked like superb games, but I really did not have any use for two copies, unless…

Yup! The very first Strawpixel contest is born! I asked Chris over at Dice Hate Me Games if he would mind me doing a contest with the copies instead of sending them back and he graciously accepted. So, here we go!

How can you participate? Well, we won’t just do a boring contest, with people posting comments or filling in a form. Nope. Let’s be a little more creative. If you want to get a chance of winning a copy of VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game, including the Game of the Year expansion, which adds even more fun to the base game you simply have to follow me on twitter (Genialgenius) and tweet to me and Dice Hate Me (DiceHateMe) a selfie of you and your favorite cup of coffee along with the hashtag #DiceLoveCoffee. I’ll pick a winner at random from all the entries. You have until Sunday July 6th at 9h00pm EDT to send in your tweet and I’ll only count one entry per tweet.

I’ll post some of the winning photos along with the winner of the contest on Monday the 7th at 9h00am EDT.

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s see some photos!

I’m currently working on a video overview/review of VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game, which will hopefully be out soon.

Happy Gaming!

Review: Steam

In the late 1990s, when I started getting back into boardgames, the first few that I discovered were pretty much the standards of the time: Settlers of Catan, El Grande, with some Magic, Illuminati and the like thrown in. When the 2000s started, meatier, and yet still simple, games started to emerge, like Princes of Florence, Puerto Rico, Stephenson’s Rocket and Liberte by a certain Martin Wallace. This last title fascinated me simply because of the multiple path to not only victory, but also to ending the game. I remember many an evening playing this, walking the knife’s edge in trying to put myself in a position to win without pushing the game too far lest one of my opponents push it over the edge to score a win.

pic392515_tNaturally, when Wallace’s next title came out I was intrigued. I had hoped that it would be as unforgiving as his last title and as deep without being overly complex. Boy did he ever deliver! Age of Steam was everything I had hoped for and more. Not only was it cutthroat but it was also unforgiving, with one minor misstep causing you to go bankrupt and be out of the game. It also had something else that fascinated me: different maps. Simply using a different map and using maybe some rules modification, you got a whole new experience, forcing the players to change their strategy. I fell in love but with a harsh mistress. The game was perceived by many in my different gaming groups as too difficult and unforgiving. While I managed to play it, it still sat almost forgotten, that is until it came back as Steam, published this time by Mayfair Games. Was this a good thing? Well, let’s find out.

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10 X 10 in 2014: April/May Update

Things are keeping up pretty well in the 10 X 10 Challenge. Playing a lot of the games on the list, giving me the chance to fully dig into them and discover what really makes them tick, It’s interesting how some of my strategies evolve the more I play some of these games, while with others, I’ve yet to fully crack how to play them well.

Discovering new ways to play old games is at the heart of the challenge, and I’m really enjoying myself. Of course, having to explain the rules less helps as well but I’ve also noticed that the times I do need to explain the rules, it goes much faster as I know not only the rules, but those that are important.

I ended up skipping the May update as it was a little crazier than I imagined. At very least I was able to keep up with posting reviews, which is maybe a little more important than these updates, no? So, how did I do in the last two months? Let’s find out.

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Time Lapse Replay: 2038: Tycoons of the Asteroid Belt

Train games, and more specifically 18XX games, are a huge family of games that share some common ideas, if not mechanics. The core concept is always of people owning/running train companies and attempting to run them better than the other players. Sure, elements like track laying/route developing, delivery of goods or stock market can be present or not, but they all deal with trains. Well, that is until 2038: Tycoons of the Asteroid Belt (James Hlavaty and Thomas Lehmann) published by TimJim Games came out, that is.

This week’s Time Lapse Replay will be looking at 2038, a game of intergalactic space mining in which 3 to 6 players vie to make the most money by running and holding shares of different space mining corporations.

In 2038, the players represents investors in space mining companies who buy and sell shares in various companies, all in an effort to see who can best manage their share portfolio. Players who control the majority shares of a corporation control them, deciding where they will explore, discovering valuable asteroids that hold various types of ore and what type of spaceships they will buy to exploit said asteroids. As the game progresses, the different companies will (hopefully) increase in value as their share’s price goes up. The players have to figure out what the best time is to pay out dividends to other share holders and when it is best to withhold the funds to gain operating capital. The game ends when there is not enough money in the bank, which can take anywhere from 5 yo 6 hours.

While 2038 shares a lot of aspects with standard 18XX games (it has a stock market, players own shares in companies that can change hand, etc), there are a few things that sets it apart from other of that family. The major different hinges in the way tracks are built, in that there are no tracks (makes sense when you think about it, since you know, space…). Rather, the players will draw tiles from a bag (second major change: luck!) and place them on the board, creating routes. Also, instead of the standard route running from major cities to major cities, in this you will pick up goods at the mines you placed (the tiles that were drawn earlier), placing cubes/tokens to indicate that this mine has been hit in this round. Thus, you get a sort of reverse pick-up and deliver where the turn order becomes important if you have several mining corporations in the same neck of the woods. There are other differences with standard 18XX, but those are the big ones.

In this particular game of 2038 (the first one our group has played), the TSI, which is the very first corporation that can be started, took off early and never looked back Jason backed it quite heavily, especially after most of the other players dropped their share in order to raise funds to start their own companies. We quickly got the hang of exploring for different types of ore and settled a bit into a routine of exploiting everything that was close and not pushing the “train rush” (buying a ship/train can make earlier, cheaper ships to rust and thus be removed from the game). We called the game before the bank ran out of money since it was pretty clear that no one could catch up to Jason. All told, the game took about 5 hours, including rules explanation.

2038 makes for a very different 18XX experience but I’m not really sure how I feel about it. The corporation that Jason ran, the TSI, seemed too overpowered, easily staying at the top of the stock market for the whole game. Granted, it might have been that we didn’t pay it the attention it deserved and we let Jason get away with an easy win, but still. I’d be curious to play it again and see how things pan out that time.

While 2038 is out of print, it is still relatively easy to get a hold of a copy for a decent price. If you really like 18XX games and are looking for something different, it might be worth your while to hunt it down.

Happy Gaming!

Review: Hegemonic

To boldly go where… no games has gone before? Nah, the 4X genre (eXpand, eXplore, eXploit and eXterminate) has a fairly long history in boardgames, going from the originator of the genre, Stellar Conquest and later to Twilight Imperium to more recent faves like Eclipse, Space Empire 4X and now Hegemonic (yes, I know I’m missing a bunch and yes, I also know that 4X games are not only space games, although to me it feels like they have to be).

Hegemonic - There's a new 4X sheriff in town

What makes 4x games so fascinating? I really believe that they are, in many ways, the ultimate expression of a game, be they boardgames or video games (and there are some great 4X video games out there). After all, there aren’t many games that let you shape an entire civilization, from birth to, perhaps unfortunately, death. The main issue I have with them is that they all seem to follow a specific pattern, one that might have been forged by one of the best computer games, namely Master of Orion. Does Hegemonic fall in this trap? Let’s find out, shall we.

Oh, and before we start, this is a rather long review so if you’d rather just skip ahead to what I think of the game…

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Time Lapse Replay: Hegemonic

For a lot of people, 4X games (eXploit, eXplore, eXpand and eXterminate) are the ultimate games since they give the players the ultimate power: go around and grow, not just a character or a business, but an entire civilization, defining how they expand as they discover the lands around them, how their technology grow and ultimately, who they are as a people.

In this week’s Time Lapse Replay, we’ll be looking at Hegemonic (Oliver Riley) published by Minion Games, a 4X games in which 2 to 6 players attempt to colonize and take control of the various galaxies that make up the universe.

In Hegemonic, while the players are nominally space empires fighting against each other, they are in fact fighting to establish area majority in as many Galaxies (a grouping of 5 hexes delineated by a red border) as possible. Thus, it’s not really about how many territories you have bases in, but rather in which territories that matter in the end. To do this, they will create Industrial, Diplomatic and Military networks which all have their strengths and weaknesses. Unlike other 4X games, each of the different networks can be used to attack or takeover any other type of network, with no network being intrinsically better than any other type. For example, it is completely feasible to use an Industrial network to take over a Military network. It’s all about how the networks are developed.

This is a very low luck game, with a good amount of negotiation and trying to figure out what the other players are holding/will be playing. While the length of time needed for a full game can be a little on the long side (roughly 30 to 45 minutes per player), at the same time there is enough player interaction that the game flies by, with very little downtime. There are so many cool/new ideas in how the game works (the very basic way the networks work, the idea of player actions based on a hand of cards that always come back, etc) that it is almost a must play for anyone who is interested in seeing how new ideas can bring a breath of fresh air to a genre that has been stagnant.

In this time lapse replay, we can see the Yellow empire spread out quite nicely at the start of the game, grabbing an early lead that it never lets go. The game was called with one full turn to go, with the Yellow player being over 20 point ahead of 2nd place, since we figured that we could not possibly catch up. The game took about 3hr, with set up included. All the players knew how to play, but still needed a little refresher every once in a while.

I like this game quite a bit. While it’s not quite a 4X or at least the 4X I was really looking for, it is still a very strong game with some unique aspects that merit exploration. Watch for my review of it in the next blog post.

Happy Gaming!

Review: Evolution

There was a short discussion the other day on Twitter about whether or not there were too many evolution-themed games out/coming out and this struck me as strange. As much as evolution is a cool theme, I can’t think of many games that do use it at their core. The only ones that come to mind are Evo, Dominant Species, Quirks and Primordial Soup (probably better known as Ursuppe) but a quick look at BGG shows me that I’m wrong, with 3 pages of games that fit that category. There seems to be a lot of evolution-themed games, but most of them seem to be pretty obscure or don’t really take their theme to heart. EvolutionWell, add another one to the list, namely the previously web-published Evolution, a game that focus on two aspects of evolution, namely survival of the fittest and quickly adapting to your current environment. In the fast-growing jungle of boardgames and cardgames, does it have a chance for survival and shine among the new releases or will it fade away quickly, a new species that didn’t have the right stuff to survive? Let’s find out, shall we? Continue reading