I know that a lot of board gamers put a lot of stock in Essen as being the great big convention that has all the new releases, but for the last two years it is starting to feel like there is a shift, or at least a change in the board gaming world. To me at least, GenCon seems to be the place where lots of new, interesting games are coming out. Add to this the combined effect of all the KickStarter projects that are trying to come out around the same time and August is feeling more and more like Christmas.
This is my roundabout way of saying that a lot of new games showed up at my house in the last few months and I haven’t had a chance to play them enough times to review properly or simply haven’t had a chance to play some of them yet! So, instead of a review, I offer to you, dear reader, Part One of my 2 (or 3) part series of quick impressions. Strap in, because there’s a lot of games to cover!
August is GenCon month and it’s killing me. Between all the new stuff that’s coming in because I backed it on Kickstarter and the new shiny coming out of the con itself, there’s just so many new games coming in that I thought seriously of dumping 20 games this month instead of 10, but I stuck with 10, which is still a lot of games.
Choices of what to drop is starting to go to games that I’ve own for a while and either I’ve actually never played or that I really don’t think I’ll get around to play. I don’t think I have very many “games that I really don’t like” anymore in my collection, apart maybe from the occasional dud that I’ve just picked up. Rather, I’m starting to cut games that I figure have a very low chance of be brought to the table, which does feel good. Getting rid of games that I kept simply because they were sort of ok and “maybe one day” is a very good feeling. Will I ever reach 600 games? Not this year, unless I decide to do a massive purge. If I manage to bring the collection to under 700 and clear out one or two games for each new game that comes in, I’ll be happy.
I’m not a car guy. It’s not even that I’m not a fan of cars or that I don’t follow car culture, it’s that I don’t enjoy racing video games, boardgames or just watching it on tv. Heck, I don’t even have a driver’s license. Now, I know a little bit about cars (I did work in a gas station, which was odd), but they just don’t interest me.
So why my interest in Thunder Alley? Well, it is a GMT Games publication and as such, does suggest that there will be a little more tactics, a little more strategy than just a simple racing game. The designer was also familiar to me (he also did Manoeuvre), which had some interesting twists on old mechanics. Also, it promised an interesting experience for 2 to 7 players. I don’t have many games that can handle the higher player count, so if the game promises to be fun and simple, I’ll at least give it a go.
I’ve been playing around with video for a little bit now, trying different formats and things such as the TimeLapseReplayseries and various attempts at reviews (haven’t posted any of them). One area that I wish there were more, shorter videos out there are video tutorials. Now, there are some very nice efforts, but I find most of them to be too long. So, here’s my attempt.
What you have here is a tutorial (or “Sit Down and Let me Teach you How to Play”) of Thunder Alley (GMT Games) by Jeff and Carla Horger. I was very curious when I first read about this game since I am *not* a racing fan and was hoping that this would be more interesting. Well, after one game, I can tell there’s something really interesting here. The game is fairly simple, but there’s a lot of fun to be had. Expect a full review as soon as I can get 2-3 more games in, and believe me, with the kind of impression this game made on first play, it shouldn’t take too long!
I realize that it is a little rough around the edges, but it’s a good first try. It came out a little longer than I wanted and I figure that with time, I’ll get better. I certainly hope that I’ll stop dropping my S’s! Only when you watch/listen to a recording of yourself to you see how many little mistakes you make!
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 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…
Imagine 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!
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.
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.
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.