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

Time Lapse Replay: Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear, Scenario 2

In this week’s Time Lapse Replay, we will look at Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear (Academy Games) by Uwe Eickert, specifically the second scenario. This is still one of the learning scenario which introduces most of the systems of the game and as such is simple to pickup and fairly fast to play. I was playing the Russians and Chris Donavan was playing the German and the game lasted about 1 hour, which each side controlling 4-5 units. This footage was taken at Stack Academy le Quatrieme, on May 3rd 2014.

I like wargames, but what I like more is a interesting system that is used to simulate/recreate something that’s I’ve seen a 1000 times. Most wargames, be they tactical or grand strategic, tend to fall back to the same tried and true systems, instead focusing more on the order of battles and strength ratios than on the systems that attempt to place you in the shoes of an officer having to deal with his forces.

This is what I like about Conflict of Heroes, in that while it does retain the classic formula of hexes and movement points, it still pushes the envelope with a rather unique activation system and even throws some cards in for some added chaos.  The activation system has a cinematic feel, with each player doing one action on their turn (shoot, move one hex, play a card). Each action cost a variable amount of points, depending on which unit is performing it and each unit only receives the points at the start of its activation. Switch to a different unit, and the former units loses all remaining points and is Spent for the rest of the turn, generally unable to do any actions. You can always use Command Action Points instead in order to break away from this limitation, but those are limited and won’t be replenished until the end of the turn.

The game unfolds like a chess match, each side careful in the way they move and how they spend their points and commit their units. Unlike a lot of wargames where all units are moved and then fired, this game has a very staccato feel to it, with units performing single actions at a time.

Lots of fun and easy to get into, I’ll do a more in depth review later on when I have more games under my belt.

Happy gaming!

 

The Purge: April Update

And so the great Purge continues, with 10 more games being added to the list. I think the pace so far is pretty good, with as many games going out than are coming in (purchases are down, but there are a bunch coming in from Kickstarter). My game total at the end of March (not counting expansions) was 502 and I’ve managed to keep it at that level, so yay?

Finding games to get rid of is starting to get trickier, but I sort of expected that when I came up with the idea. Though choices, but making sure I’m only keeping those games that I really want to play or that really offer something different. Can I really make it to 100? We shall see.
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Time Lapse Replay: Steam’s Underground Railroad map

In what I’m hoping will be a regular feature on Strawpixel, here’s the first Time Lapse Replay of a session we had a few weeks ago. This first game is Steam (Martin Wallace, published by Mayfair Games) and more specifically the Underground Railroad map (Ted Alspatch, published by Bezier Games).

I love Steam and I don’t get to play it often enough, even though I have a ton of maps for it (even the one for the Montreal metro!)

I’ve started a Youtube channel for all of the replay videos and will be posting more in the coming weeks (I’ve got Hegemonic, Conflict of Heroes and Space Empire 4X already shot and just waiting to be edited).

If you like what you see, please subscribe to the channel and upvote this article and the website over on BoardgameLinks. I can always use more traffic!

Happy gaming!