Either there’s been a lot of discussion about what is and what isn’t a micro or I hang out with people who are obsessed with board games. No matter, I find that quite a interesting discussion. Apart from those who deny that they exist at all (let’s call these people Jason), most of the definitions seem to give more of an insight into the person than the games themselves. There are those who claim that simplicity and game length defines a micro; others claim that footprint and components define a micro; other claim that they are nothing new really, that they have been around for a long time. There’s some interesting conversation to be had, that’s for sure but at the end of the day, micro or not, they are games and they live or die by whether they are interesting and can stay interesting.
AEG is one company that has been doing real well with this resurgence of the micro: first came Love Letter, then Agent Hunters, with Mai-Star and Cheaty Mages following closely. And then the moment I’d been waiting for some time, the release of Sail to India, a micro-sized game that contains a huge game. Is it a micro since there isn’t a lot of components and the footprint is fairly small? Maybe, but on the other hand, the game is meaty and the playtime is around 1 hour, even with experienced players. But more important, is it fun? Let’s find out! Continue reading →
I have to confess that I have no great love for racing games in general. For me, those that don’t focus on the race per se are far more interesting and successful (like Royal Turf) than those which try to recreate something that is really all about reflex and endurance. For me, they all feel like an exercise in getting the right roll/card more than being able to recognize a key moment and take advantage of it. Well, that was true until now…
I’ve been talking a lot about Thunder Alley in the last few weeks and with good reasons. Not only is it relatively easy to explain, it also accommodates up to 7 players and keeps everyone on their toes. I never thought I’d say this about a racing game, but it’s quickly is making its way in my top 10 of the year, if not top 10 of the last ten years (I should do such a list at some point). Why is that? well, let me tell you all about the NASCAR game that wasn’t a NASCAR racing game…
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Way back when I was in college I used to have two different games in my bag at all time, just in case we’d want to play something while we were at the pub instead of being in class. The games were fairly simple: Red Empire and Car Wars the Card Game. While they were somewhat portable, the boxes were ditched fairly quickly in favor of plastic bags, making them even more portable. As I got older and the games I played became more complex, I stopped carrying games in my bag unless I knew I was going to play something that day.
A funny thing happened a few years back. Not only did I get back into gaming in a more serious way, but a bunch of small (micro) games started coming out, with of course Love Letter at the forefront. Not only were these games simple, but they were small enough that I could carry one or two in my bag at any time. Well, someone has gone and done it a step better: Chris Handy has come up with the Pack O Game, a series of games so small that you could carry all six of them in your bag without making the smallest bump. Small is good, but are the games any good? Let’s check it out!
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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?
Well, 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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By now, it should be no secret that I’m a big fan of trains as a theme for a game. I just find that, as a theme, there is so much to explore there, be it from the track laying point of view, the engine and economic engine point of view, the moving of goods point of view or from the corporation and those who run them point of view. I’ve yet to see a game that combines all of these points of view (the 18XX family comes close, but doesn’t cover the actual transport of goods), but one can dream. It is such a strong, rich theme that a lot can be done with it.
It is not often however that a game takes the trains theme and doesn’t include building tracks on a map. That is exactly the angle that Russian Railroads takes, casting the players in the roles of rail barons who try to build railroads out of Moscow towards other Russian cities, but without having a map of Russia involved, and opting for worker placement as its central mechanic. How is it? Great (it is, after all, on my 10X10in2014 challenge list)! Why? let’s find out, shall we?
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Ah, train games. Seems that every other post I am talking about one of the greatest theme for board games, trains, and everything they seem to encompass. Be they simple games like Ticket to Ride or Union Pacific, slightly more complex games like Russian Railroads or Locomotive Werks or the big guns like Age of Steam, 1880, 1817 and all other 18XX. All these games have the same core, the iron horse, but all feel quite different in the way they represent their subject. They all have a different focus and level of complexity, and in the end, they are all lovely games for different reasons.
There has been many attempts at bringing dice to train games. Some have been successful or at least interesting (Railroad Dice) and other seem to have missed the mark (Railways Express). After Quarriors, which innovated with a dice building game, Wizkids stepped up to the plate once more and delivered a train-themed dice game, Trains & Stations. Any good? Let’s find out, shall we? Continue reading →