Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Our Favorite Games - Part 4

Here are Part 1 , Part 2 and Part 3 of this series. Below is Part 4 of Our Favorite Games.

Aubrey Bell

Shannon Bell
Dave Fair
I tend to like longer, meatier games, but shorter games are good if there is variety or interesting decisions. The best games offer tense decisions and multiple paths to victory, as well as a variety of things to do while you play. They also reward long-term planning and strategy over luck.
My top 5 (right now) are: Age of Steam, Roads & Boats, Agricola, Dominion, Race for the Galaxy.

Two games do deserve special mention:
18xx & Descent: Journeys in the Dark ... Despite only having played 2 different 18xx titles, I am very interested in playing more, and playing them more often. They are everything I like in a game, and rising quickly on my radar. Descent, with the Road to Legend expansion takes me back to my old days of playing D&D in my basement. It's a really fun romp and would be in my top 5 if it played a bit faster.

Noreen Fair
Bob Jones
(Reprinted from my blog.)

# 5 - Railroad Tycoon - In Railroad Tycoon, the goal is to create a network of awesome-looking railroad lines allowing you to ship goods longer and longer distances while taking advantage of numerous tactical scoring opportunities that crop up. There are multiple routes to victory and agonizing choices throughout.

#4 - Princes of Florence - In Princes of Florence, players are Renaissance patrons seeking to inspire craftsman and artists to create great works on the player’s manor. An auction for landscapes, builders, jesters and various cards leads off each round followed by the purchase of buildings, freedoms, other cards and the playing of Work cards. Once a work is created, the player must decide whether to take the proceeds in cash to assist in future auctions or to sacrifice the cash to gain victory points, a fiendishly tough decision. The player whose works gain the most prestige is the winner.

A sophisticated theme and a wonderful blend of many different mechanics make Princes of Florence challenging and satisfying. Player interaction is mostly limited to the auctions that start each round but the auctions can make or break your strategy; depriving an opponent of a crucial element of his Work can cost him the game. What I really love about POF is the necessity of intricate plans to produce the highest possible value work at the right time and managing your resources to make it happen. It’s a juggling act, but a heck of a lot of fun.

#3 - El Grande - El Grande is the quintessential “area control” game where players place their Caballeros in Spanish provinces, hoping to have multiple majorities when scoring occurs after every third round. There’s virtually no luck, so skill in taking advantage of which action cards are revealed each turn to manipulate Caballeros is key.

El Grande is an awesomely balanced five player game, undoubtedly one of the best five player games we play. Each turn calls for tactical decisions to maximize your action, while simultaneously keeping all of your competitors at bey. Pulling off a double-whammy of taking control of a province while simultaneously knocking an opponent off his perch in another province is incredibly satisfying.

#2 - Euphrat & Tigris - In E&T, the players represent the very first civilizations rising in the fertile crescent. You place your leaders on the map and build civilizations with farmers, traders, priests, and government tiles. Build adjacent to another civilization and you may go to war with potentially devastating results. Civil war is also possible as leaders clash. Build a monument and receive a steady income of victory points, but be careful; too many riches can draw the attention of greedy enemy leaders looking to usurp your position.

The oldest game on my list, E&T is the masterwork of my favorite designer, Reiner Knizia. In the original Hans Im Gluck version, the pieces are beautiful and fantastic, and the play is tense and brain-burning. You have almost limitless options and on any given turn while you play what you think is your best move, you’re almost certain that there’s a better move you could have made.

#1 - Taj Mahal - In another Knizia gem, players represent different political factions in India. Play cards to establish your position in various areas, hoping to build palaces in the current province. Leave the battle when you’re in the lead to collect your prize. Leave when you’re behind and get nothing. Establish chains of palaces for big points or collect province tiles and score when collecting resources.

Taj Mahal is seemingly a one-note game. The mechanics are fairly simple. You do the same thing for 12 rounds and then whoever has the most points wins. So, what’s to like? Turns out, everything.

Taj Mahal is one of the most tense games I play. There’s a definite poker aspect as you play chicken with the other players, hoping they’ll back off while you’re in the lead. Are you bluffing or do you have the cards? Heads-up contests between two or three players can be absolutely devastating to those who stay in too long and end up with nothing. Other times you go in hoping to take one quick palace and end up taking most of the province. Rarely in a game does accurately reading your opponents pay off such large dividends. Best with five players, Taj Mahal is simply a great gaming experience.

Steve Lollis
I'll give a go at these every convention, schedule permitting (sometimes with success):

Memoir '44
Battle Cry
The Stock Car Champions Racing Game (McGartlin Motor Sports)
Hammer of the Scots
War at Sea
Wits and Wagers

Other that I'll play in a heartbeat:

Um Reifenbreite
Can't Stop
El Grande

Three that have recently hooked me that could move to the above list:

Le Havre
Steel Driver
Tinner's Trail

No Tom, Confucius didn't make my list!

Next time, I'll summarize all the results. -- Bob

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Germantown 03/16/09

Sixteen No wait, Seventeen in attendance on the sixteenth!

  • Aubrey and Shannon Bell
  • Leslie Barkley
  • David Briggs
  • Dave Fair
  • Doug Hoylman
  • Ben and Bob Jones
  • Eric and Laura Reinhold
  • Bill Salvatore
  • Carol Loman
  • Todd Heidenreich
  • Christopher and Tiffany Bass; Alidia and Clarisa Findley
First up, Big Points, a simple but fun game of moving pawns forward to capture colorful discs for points. Dave F 30, Carol 23, Todd 20, Doug 15.

Lost Cities: The Board Game is a really excellent board game based on Knizia’s Lost Cities 2-player card game. Eric won a commanding victory. Final scores were Eric 345, Laura 250, Bill 220, David B 170.

Steel D
river is another rail game from Warfrog and Martin Wallace. Final scores in a very close game were Leslie 1140, Dave 1120, Doug 1090, and Todd and Carol tied at 1040.

With the arrival of the Bells, the Joneses and the Bass-Findley family, out came Diamant for seven players. Chris had by far the greatest single round, bringing out 27 points of gems in a single mine. Unfortunately, it was his only score. My discovery of the Golden Turtle helped give me the victory. Scores Bob 36, Alidia 29, Aubrey 28, Chris 27, Tiffany 22, Shannon 22, and Clarisa 17.

Ben played a quick game of Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation with David B. Ben taught the game so I'm not sure David knew what was going on. True to that, David left Frodo alone in a territory and Ben pounced, killing the Ringbearer and winning the game.

David B, Eric and Shannon taught Bill how to play Qwirkle and he schooled them back. Bill 104, Shannon 87, David B 80 and Eric 76.

Dave introduced the card game, Bonnie & Clyde, the fifth in the excellent Mystery Rummy series. Final scores were Aubrey 106, Leslie 94, Doug 93 and Dave 68.

I brought Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers to play with the Bass-Findley family as they’re fans of the original game. Unfortunately, I bollixed up most of the scoring rules pretty badly. Still, it was a good game. Chris was wracking up huge numbers of fish in his river system so it looked to be an easy victory. However, Alidia successfully merged her hut into his system to gain equal points. This, combined with her joining my mighty meadow, gave her a well-deserved win. Alidia 81, Chris 74, Bob 66, Tiffany 60, and Clarisa 51.

Ben rejoined the group and played a round of Cheeky Monkey. Shannon 25, Bill 23, Ben 19, and Eric 16.

The final game of the night was the release version of a really good game we were playtesting last year, Roll Through the Ages. Aubrey dominated with 30 points! Dave and Doug 18, and Leslie 17.

Thanks to everyone for coming out.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Damascus 03/13/09

In what we are still stubbornly calling GCOM-Damascus, this time we met at Chateau de la Jones, in Germantown. There were 13 of us meeting on Friday the 13th. Oddly, we didn't play any spooky games. In attendance were:

  • Bob & Carol Jones
  • Dave & Noreen Fair
  • Scott & Liz Percival
  • Eric & Laura Reinhold
  • David & Martha Briggs
  • Doug Hoylman
  • Eric Haas
  • Aubrey Bell
We got together and played a few games. Duh. What we played:
  • Ticket to Ride, with the 1910 expansion. Eric R won handily with 158, followed by Noreen (122), Liz (121), Laura (102), and Doug (also 102).
  • Metro, a game about making circuitous Parisian subway lines, where Eric H won 84 to Martha B's 71, and David B's 56
  • There were 2 games of Dominion. Noreen won the first 40-36-33-29 and Liz the second 39-31-16-11. Eric R & Doug were the other two players.
  • Zooloretto, where Eric H scored 21 to Laura's 20 to squeak out the win, followed by Martha at 16, Carol at 15, and David B at 11.
  • David & Goliath, a trick-taking game with a twist that the lowest card played wins the highest one played, but the highest one played wins all the rest. Doug won easily with 187 to Eric H's 140, Eric R's 131, and Liz's 121.
  • Five, count 'em, FIVE games of Bananagrams. Liz won 2, Noreen won 2, and Eric H. won one. Other players were Eric R & Doug.
  • The final game to end, was the first to start. The 3-4 hour time guesstimate being horribly off, it was 18VA. Part of the 18xx family of economic train games, these are long, rich games. Final scores were: Aubrey 4946, Scott 4827, Dave 4580, Bob 4370
Thanks for coming out, thanks to Bob & Carol for hosting. We all had a great time.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Our Favorite Games - Part 3

Click for Part 1 and Part 2 of the series. Now on to Part 3.

David Briggs

  1. Blue Moon City
  2. Ticket to Ride - USA 1910
  3. Kingsburg
Scott Fisher
I would put my top five as ...
Not in any order. [Scott continued by naming his very favorite game but we don't want to go there.]

Carol Jones
  1. Dragonland, by Reiner Knizia, is my favorite game; somewhat of a sleeper. But, if you haven't tried it, you should. It really plays on two levels, and is very deep if you consider all the strategies. However, children can pick it up and play and enjoy it as well without understanding the deeper strategies. Some people say it was designed as a children's game, but it really doesn't play like one at all. It does use dice to control movement, but it is not roll and move. There are many options with each roll of the dice, and the fun comes in when you decide which option is best. Also it is one of the most pretty games we own.
  2. Agricola
  3. Princes of Florence
  4. Samurai
  5. Tiki Topple: This was probably my favorite new game this month, just edging out Bananagrams. My son really enjoys it too. The bits are fabulous and it teaches quickly. It is by Gamewright available at Barnes and Nobles ($15.00), along with Bananagrams. It is a very easy line ordering/card game, with excellent bits. Easy to teach, plays quickly and fun. Good for kids who read and adults alike.
Tom McCorry
  • Twilight Struggle – Area control, historical flavor, shifting situations, can be played using PBEM
  • Dominion – Card management with good player interaction, quick playing, expandability
  • ASL Starter Kit Volume 1 and 2 – Historical conflict simulation, many scenarios, manageable rules set
  • Agricola – Worker placement game, economic engine building, need to adjust to cards provided
  • Carcassonne Series – Tile Placement game, quick to long play, nice mix of variants
  • 18XX series (Steam over Holland is current favorite) – Mix of tile building, stock management, and group think.
Howard Wagner
Here's a "10" I thought no one else would pick:
  • Reef Encounter – My reaction after my first game was “Wow.” First, the components are absolutely gorgeous. There is a real “under the sea” feel to the game. The game reminds me of Tigris and Euphrates, but Reef Encounter builds on those basic mechanics and the game is taken to a higher, more refined and complex level. The flipping and locking down of the coral strength tiles is brilliant. Reef Encounter is a deep thinker’s game that retains the “fun factor. Best of all, it plays beautifully with two players, which is important to me.
Again, the group shows a great deal of depth, even as Agricola, Dominion and Ticket to Ride continue to wrack up votes. Some games that are good for kids but also for adults show up in Carol's list.

Next, Part 4!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Our Favorite Games - Part 2

Click here for Part 1 in our series on our favorite games. Now for Part 2.

Martha Briggs

Rick Pasquale
For me, Agricola is clearly at the top of the list.
  1. It's fun*
  2. It's enjoyable with any number from one to five
  3. It has sophistication, but isn't so complicated that it turns off non-gamers.
  4. It plays relatively quickly (two can play in 30+ minutes).
  5. The multitude of card combinations and choices makes it a game with great replayability.
*Fun: Its a game where success is based upon creating and developing, rather than destroying. So even when you don't "win" by having the highest score, you've nonetheless succeeded in developing your own unique farm. Although you sometimes miss out on a selection taken by another farmer, there are plenty of alternatives to pursue, so "screwage" is minimal. The game has nice graphics and for some of us, even miniature animals and materials to get fully immersed in the game (and escape from reality).

Eric Reinhold
My favorites aren't always what I want to play at GCOM sessions...
Favorite 2 player games:
Bill Salvatore
Serious games:
Games for fun:
New (to me) games I'm still trying out:
The less a game has in the way of random elements, the less skillful I am at the game, in general: terrible at Wealth of Nations, Age of Steam, and Caylus, for example (although decent at Antiquity, because it's almost a solitaire). If such games are rich in logistics, production, and other forms of pseudo-economic planning, and if I were any good at them, they'd be my favorite group.

Games with the randomness level of, say, Power Grid, Princes, and Puerto Rico are my favorites, because once in a while I can get lucky, even against good players, but games with even more randomness, such as Attika, Taj Mahal, and the Ticket games, are really more in my wheelhouse, because I’m more lucky than skillful.

Games that I'll play pretty much any time that I have time to play (and opponents) are marked with an asterisk. Games not so marked I’ll happily play unless I can get people to play one of the asterisked games.

I hate games that require a lot of negotiating, because no one ever trusts me -- they must have a reason for thinking that way, but i don't know what it is. I have a weakness for non-negotiational train games; and for games that are convenient to play by email or over the Internet that it's easy to find opponents for. If anyone has suggestions about games not on my list that they think I’d really like, I’d be eager to hear them.

Judy Trent
These are the four that popped into my head immediately. I'm sure there are others that I have forgotten and left behind to play Through the Ages though.

Thanks everyone. Part 3 coming soon!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Our Favorite Games - Part 1

Recently I asked the folk of the GCOM West Yahoo! group to send me a list of their favorite games. I didn’t put any restrictions on the request, asking that people list any number of games and add any commentary they liked. The list wasn’t limited to absolute favorites but any games that currently caught their fancy.

I received fifteen responses. Because of the size, I will break the results into multiple posts and post them over the next few days. Here’s the first batch.

Leslie Barkley
Goodness, pick out a favorite game, or even 5....

Doug Hoylman
These are a few of my favorite games:
However, the games I'd prefer that people bring to sessions are new ones and ones we don't play very often.

Scott Percival
I think of games in terms of categories, so I'll pick one from each category.
  • Age of Steam: Well Rounded Brain Burner. Its got many of my favorite game mechanics: role-selection, auctions, route-building, economics; lots of player interactions. My favorite part is the (typically) tight competition and endgame tension. Even though I find it exhausting, losing a close game is a joyous occasion, winning a close game is nirvana.
  • Bamboleo: Geeky Dexterity. If I had my way I'd alternate brain burners with dexterity games. The physical activity loosens me up and refreshes me. The engineer in me loves to calculate the mass distribution on the plate to see which piece to take. I don't care who "wins" as much as I want to see how far we can get: I view it as a cooperative game.
  • Advanced Squad Leader: wargamer's wargame. Strategy and Tactics, Oh My! I don't care for Memoir '44, I want a wargame where I can fully develop and implement my own unique strategy and tactics.
  • Tichu: Favorite Slippers. Like an old pair of slippers you love because they fit so well. It was challenging at first, but I've played so often that the "Tichu Pathways" in my brain have fully developed so I don't have to think about it anymore. Kind of like running down stairs: if you had to think about it you would be in serious trouble, but if you let your subconscious take over it is a breeze. I can play even when I'm so tired I can't think straight. A light game, but a pleasant way to spend time with your friends.
  • Go: Deep Abstract. Simple rules yet complex game play. Kind of like fractal definition. Calls very loudly to the geometry geek in me.
Laura Reinhold
Bryan Snyder
  • Iron Dragon - Rail Game. I like rail games in general but the empire builder type games offer some good route vs money planning with a minimum of conflict. (Oh, there is game screwage. Just not as much as a lot of other games). It is a good relaxing game that still works the brain a bit. The randomness of the destination cards and event cards makes each game a bit different
  • Axis and Allies - Even though I have been on the losing side most of the time, I like the cooperative aspect of the game. You have a good mix of strategizing, money management, and the fate of the dice rolls.
  • Can't Stop - Quick fun game of risking another dies roll for the win or losing it all
  • Dominion - I like the whole idea of starting with a few cards and building your deck up.
That's it for the first batch. There's certainly a wide variety of games represented, from dice games to card games, from abstract games to wargames. There are already three mentions of Dominion.

Please discuss or ask any questions in the Comments below.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Germantown 03/02/2009

Fourteen gamers this night!

  • Leslie Barkley
  • Aubrey and Shannon Bell
  • Dave and Martha Briggs
  • Dave Fair
  • Doug Hoylman
  • Ben and Bob Jones
  • Eric Reinhold
  • Christopher and Tiffany Bass; Alidia and Clarisa Findley
With five players ready to go at six o’clock, we started with Cheeky Monkey. This was one of the most even games I’ve played, with everyone doing reasonably well. Consequently, the game was over much quicker than usual without the typical “dingo-dingo” draws crushing everyone’s hopes and dreams. Final scores were Ben 22, Dave F. 17, Bob 17, Eric 11 and Doug 11.

Next up, a new Amigo game, Six. As dice are rolled, each player tries to run through his deck of cards, scoring points when the dice match the amount on a card. There’s also a speed element as a hidden hourglass counts down time. If time runs out while it’s your turn, the next player can call you on it, costing you a scoring card. I really liked this. I was the best with the dice (luckiest) and won 36 to Dave F. 31, Doug 24, Leslie 23, and Eric 19.

When Aubrey and Shannon arrived, Shannon joined Ben and me for a quick game of Tiki Topple. I scored heavily in the first and third rounds while Shannon mounted a valiant comeback after a scoreless first round. Final scores were Bob 23, Ben and Shannon tied at 16.

Meanwhile, Aubrey joined the other group for Gem Dealer, a quick auction game making its first appearance. Eric won with 4, followed by Aubrey and Doug with 2 each, and Dave F and Leslie with 1 each.

Looking for another reasonably quick game, Dave suggested Pandemic and was joined by me, Aubrey and Ben. Despite a great start and a quick curing of the red disease, things took a bad turn when epidemics struck closely together. We managed to cure the yellow disease before the end but humanity lost with the eighth outbreak.

With the arrival of the Briggs and first time guests, Tiffany, Chris, Alidia and Clarisa, we broke into three groups.

One group played Bruno Faidutti’s Citadels, where players take the roles of Thieves, Assassins, Kings, Bishops and others to build the most valuable district of the city. Martha crushed all comers. Martha 37, Leslie 25, Dave B. 24, Shannon 24, Doug 23, and Eric 20.

Dave and I played Reiner Knizia’s Poison with Chris, Tiffany and Clarisa. Usually we don’t play the full five rounds but the game was going quickly so we went the distance. Chris and Tiffany started out strong and finished with excellent scores. My luck in the last few rounds gave me the win by a whisker. Scores were Bob 7+4+3+3+2=19, Chris 0+4+4+6+6=20, Tiffany 2+2+5+0+12=21, Dave 9+10+2+0+7=28, and Clarisa 10+6+4+17+11=48.

Meanwhile, Aubrey took on Ben for two games of Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation, an excellent two player game. Ben has been crushing me regularly at home but in this case, Aubrey won the day in both games.

They then broke out one of Ben’s favorite games, Wasabi. I haven’t played this with two players but it seems to have played just fine. Final scores were Aubrey 29, Ben 13.

After Citadels, out came Cheeky Monkey again. This time, the scores were lopsided as usual. Shannon 50, David B. 21, Leslie 14, Doug 12, and Eric 1. Yes, that’s a 1. Yikes.

Dave then joined Ben and Aubrey for a couple of quick games. First up, Loco, a quick-playing fun game where you play cards and take chips, hoping that at the end your chips are worth more than the other players’ chips. Dave F won 66 to Ben and Aubrey’s 60.

They then brought out Tiki Topple. Dave F 33, Ben 16, Aubrey 3. Ouch.

I played two games with Chris, Tiffany and Clarisa, now joined by Alidia. First was Reiner Knizia’s Circus Flohcati a press-your-luck game where players try to collect high scoring fleas in each of the ten suits while laying down three-of-a-kind sets for 10 points. Chris was the best ringmaster here. Chris 60, Bob 52, Tiffany 50, Alidia 44, and Clarisa 36.

For the last game of the night, we tried Six again. Thanks are due to Eric who caught a rule we were playing incorrectly only a couple of turns in. In a very close game, Tiffany edged out Alidia and Chris. Final scores were Tiffany 34, Alidia 33, Chris 32, Clarisa 17 and me in the basement with 13.

Thanks to everyone for coming. We played fourteen games in around four hours, which may be a record for this location. Well done!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Damascus 02/28/09

[posted by Bob]

This session was hosted by David and Nadine Kuijt who were very nice to invite us all into their home, which was very comfortable and exceptionally suited for gaming. Thanks!

  • Leslie Barkley
  • David and Martha Briggs
  • Noreen and Corwin Fair
  • Scott Fox
  • Bob, Ben and Carol Jones
  • David and Nadine Kuijt
  • Linda and Rick Pasquale
  • Scott and Liz Percival
With ten people ready to go, four of us decided straight away to satisfy their Tichu fix. In a very close game (which also means a very long game), Linda and Noreen bested Liz and Leslie (what’s with all the “L” names?) 1130 to 970. Not only was it a close game, but Linda and Noreen must have had a whopping good final hand.

The other six of us gathered around the big table to play one of my favorites, RailRoad Tycoon. I started out strong taking an excellent position in the Southeast and shot into the lead. Unfortunately for me, near the end I didn’t have enough long routes to stay competitive. Conversely, Rick started out very slowly, grabbing two hotels over his first two turns but came out strong in the mid-game, took the lead and never flagged, seriously pummeling the rest of us who were all very close. Final scores were Rick 67, Nadine 50, Carol 50, Scott P 49, Bob 47 and David K 44. Great game.

Ben and Corwin played a game of Tiki Topple, but the records don’t indicate who won.

Meanwhile, Scott F and the Briggs arrived so they settled down to 3-player Agricola. In a fairly low-scoring game, Scott crunched the Briggs, 27 to David B’s 21 to Martha’s 20.

After some departures, with 8 people remaining we decided to play a big ole game of Wings of War. David has many of the plane miniatures including some he made himself. We played with the rule that the first three people to die could come back into the game. This benefited the Allies as they died quick deaths; all three resurrectees were from Allied Planes. We also played that hits had to be scored on the center peg instead of anywhere on the base, which lengthened the game considerably. Alas, even with the extra lives, the Allies did poorly. Nadine, Linda and Carol all died twice while Bob died once. The Germans fared much better, with only Noreen and Rick dying, while Leslie and David K survived and won the game for the Germans.

It was a very enjoyable night for all. Thanks, David and Nadine.