Come and Play Day in Seattle

This past weekend found me spending my time learning new games, meeting new people, and looking at the upcoming season of games at GTS’ come and play day. This is a small two-day meeting of northwest game stores and representatives of game companies (local and not).

It was really great to see my friends in the industry. It was also a wonderful opportunity to try out a few upcoming releases.

krosmasterFirst on my list was Krosmaster Arena from Japanime Games. Japanime Games is the company responsible for importing the awesome Tanto Cuore and Kanzume Goddess. These games are taking pretty traditional deck-building mechanics, and making them flirty anime fun.

Krosmaster Arena is very different for them, as it is a tactical minis game that was based off of a video game. I have never really checked out this video game. ( no surprise, I am not so good with the video gaming). The board game pits two teams in a tactical match. Each team has four characters with cool abilities and inherent fighting stats. It was adorable! Each character has unique abilities, and the team play was interesting. I liked having to maintain my own characters’ health, as well as helping out my partner.

Next we played a giant set of King of Tokyo! KoT is a silly king-of-hill game I have dubbed ‘monster yahtzee’. So, not king of tokyosomething I would play in my group, but something I’d break out when kids are around, sure. The standees were my own height. The dice were about the size of my head. This is something GTS whipped up, which will be hopping around to different conventions. I can’t recommend it enough!! We basically had to throw the cantaloupe-sized dice against the wall to roll them.

Last, but certainly not least, I had a devastatingly small round of High Command. High Command is Privateer Press’ new card game. They have created WM High Command_3Da deck builder with the personality of a skirmish game. This was fabulous! Each player chooses a faction (Warmachine factions will premiere first, with Hordes to follow soon enough). Players get an interactive game, fighting over territory. The casters are familiar, but I do not think the cards reflect their abilities in the regular game. I did love that they each had a card game equivalent of a ‘feat’ like in Warmachine.

I’m glad I’m starting to get invites to this sort of event, and I think I’ll have to plan to send myself to some of the bigger ones in the coming year!

Libertalia First Impressions

My first impression of Libertalia tonight was a mix of swarthy joy and uncertainty. Will this Imagestill be fun in two months? Can i maintain a pirate voice for more than ten minutes? Should i just play Citadels more?

Libertalia is a card game for 2-6 players designed by Paulo Mori. Players get a set of 9 identical cards. Every player will choose their card at the same time. Cards are displayed and arranged in order of rank. The lowest ranked card will activate first, moving upward. Then, the remaining cards will take turns splitting up the booty for that round.

This continues over 6 turns. Then another 6 cards are added to each players handand play begins again.(eventually there are 3 rounds)

This was fun. Trying to find neat combos, sending out a powerful card, only to have it discarded by a lower-ranking pirate. Cursed booty passed around the table and pirate jokes abound.

ImageThere was a great influence of Citadels and other role-selection games here. The quick and light nature made it feel fresh.

I’ll have to play a few more games to be sure, but i’m excited to do so. I love interactive gamer’s party games. I can see this going hand in hand with RoboRally. Just quicker to play!!

What i would want to see in a more sophisticated version is a draft to determine the opening hands…

Kickstarter!!

Kickstarter

Kickstarter has quickly made a place for itself in my little gaming world. There have been some amazing projects posted, funded and delivered into the hands of the gamers and fans first. What an idea! I have included Kickstarter projects into my own personal gaming budget(what, you don’t have a gaming budget?) I find that i kick one to two projects a month.

The first project i’m expecting is a reworking of a game, The Great Fire of London 1666. This great game first premiered with pitiable components and a less than desirable rule set. This Kickstarter project brought life back into a project they really believed in. The cost was $60, so not much more than a normal euro i’d pay for in the store. GFoL is a semi-hidden information game. Players are wealthy landowners, trying desperately to save their property from burning. They may not, however, mind if their opponents lands are burned to the ground.

The next i funded was Solforge. I don’t often play new CCGs, as Magic is grand and expensive, without needing to purchase boosters. Solforge, though, is SolforgeLogodoing something i find to be amazing. This is creating a structure which is just not possible in paper form. They are creating a competitive CCG with cards that change during the game round. It’s almost similar to the evolve technique in Pokemon, but rather than needing all the levels in your primary deck, you gain the later levels of a card as you play them. They have also committed to not doing new sets or cards in month’s long cycles. They are freed by the format being electronic. The cards can be created and implemented whenever they would like.

The only expansion to grace my kickstarter profile is the Eminent Domain: Escalation expansion. I feel that most companies should be able to fund expansions to successful games on their own. Tasty Minstrel Games(and others like them) are very open about their financial state. They talk a lot about their ability to stay afloat by most of their committed help keeping their day jobs. They post the financial details of their titles and are very social and open to online inquiries. I have every intention of buying up Eminent Domain’s expansions as they come out, so to fund it on the internet to help it get printed, i have no qualms.

The last kind of project that i’m happy to fund is the newcomer. Smaller, less ambitious projects are neat. I funded what looks like an art-schooler’s project called Trifecta. The game is pretty, but intentionally simple. They wanted to show off some unique art, and a neat game. What a value, hopefully funding this project will encourage the next!

I’m glad that i can affect my fellows and my industry. I wish that all kickstarters would consider funding to the point in which copies of their newly-minted games would still look comfortable in brick and mortar stores. My latest disappointment was for the game Purge:Sins of Science. A wonderfully designed game with beautiful art. Regrettably they used the worst card stock and packaging. Especially at its $40 price point.

Ladies & Gentlemen, First Impression

gentlemen What made shopping, stocks, gossip, fashion, and misogyny so fun?? Ladies & Gentlemen did. Gentlemen go to the stock exchange every morning, ladies head off to their favorite shops; After all, the ball is only a few days away!! I can’t even make this up!! The most elegantly dressed lady at the end of the game will take the victory. Men must bring enough bacon home to pay for the ladies’ fashion choices and household help.

This game makes perfect use of the Victorian Era as most Americans probably know of it. Ladies must be fashionable, though they can be a little gossipy. The men work at the stock exchange, and grimace at the credit card bill upon their arrival home. Men will find also themselves having to foot the bill for a very expensive courtesan’s wardrobe if they want to keep their reputation for class.

The gentlemen’s job is a kind of race. There are a number (equal to the number of gentlemen) of revealed contracts with needs of 2-5 specific resources. At the opening bell, the men will look at the resource tokens, one at a time, with the ability to keep three and find a number token to determine his and his ladies’ initiative for the round. In the afternoon, the gentlemen will, in initiative order, sell their resources for cash or complete contracts.

The ladies’ morning means window shopping. They choose from a number of sales to place in their favorite shop. Theladies sale is for hired help, apparel, accessories or jewelry. In the afternoon each lady decides, in secret, which shop she’ll visit. Ladies will search from among the sale items and take their choices home on credit.

Each evening the ladies will hand their dapper gentlemen the various things they’ve found during the day. The gentlemen will choose for which of these things they’re willing to foot the bill. Each garment has a number of elegance points, though they must adhere to a couple of restrictions. After five rounds the ladies & gentlemen will meet at the big ball, and the lady with the most elegant outfit will win the envy of all the town.

Last night’s two session games saw the ladies fighting over finding a dress. The gentlemen’s side ran somewhat smoothly, with huge competition over the big-money contracts. The winner eeked it out with lots of cheap jewelry/accessories. In my (triumphant) second game, it was a mix of designer-specific pieces and helpful servants that snatched up my victory!

What a fun game! It brings out the silly in everyone to whom I’ve shown it. The game begs for as much flavor and role-playing as possible. The sexist theme and dual-sided play wants for funny voices and lots of jokes.

Intro for Handcannononline

I did an online intro for a cool website, which is opening up their board game coverage:

It’s mostly a couple of my favorite games over the last year or so. I just wanted to put it here also!!

I always find an introduction to me is an introduction to the games i play:

Hello! My name is Maggi. I will begin to appear here with some game reviews and articles. I thought it might be nice for you all to get to know me a little. The best way to know me is to know games, so these are some of my favorites from last year.

When looking for a new game, I love to be surprised by innovative mechanics, new ways of presenting ideas and multiple viable strategies. The games within this list caught my eye and kept my interest this year:

Repello is an abstract strategy game from Mindtwister Games. The board is rather minimal, and the engineering used in making the player’s stacks is lovely and fun to use. The ingenious method of keeping the board constantly populated and the restricted motions that come from being surrounded by pieces really struck me. This kept a simple movement/puzzle game constantly fun. I like to compare Repello(lovingly) to a fun version of Ricochet Robots.

Eminent Domain: So now we’re talking kickstarter. This game is one part deckbuilder, one part tech-tree and one part political dance. Taking a note from Glory to Rome, players can easily piggy-back on the decisions of others. Otherwise they are powered up by extra cards that can be used on their own turn. A deckbuilder where all cards have an equal cost and goods an equal value? brilliant.

Core Worlds: Uh oh, another deck builder in space?? No, no. Core Worlds is not like the rest. Core Worlds has a progressive feel, deeper strategy and an epic end-game. Players purchase increasingly powerful cards from a central pool, laying out troops and conquering worlds. At the end of the game players will attempt to control 1 or more of the “core worlds”. Each core world has a multiplier(known for the length of the game) that will encourage the shape and scope of your deck’s design.

Trajan was my introduction to notable game designer Stefan Feld. Trajan can bring the math-geek out of anyone. Each player is contending for prestige in peaceful Rome, circa 110 AD. This(or any theme, really) is of no consequence. Each player is given charge of their own mancala. Small, colored stones fill six wells, all connected to a specific game action. On a turn, a player will pick up the stones from one well, and drop them one at a time clockwise until they run out. The well in which one finishes will determine your action for the turn. The colors of stones can activate bonus actions. Best of all, the number of stones you choose to move will determine how fast a round can go!! By the end of the first round your brain will be on fire with the possibilities in eeking out extra actions at every opportunity.

I could continue writing about games for ages, but these are the ones that have really affected me this last year. If you’d like to hear some more about the games listed, please send an e-mail to Maggi@maggibot.com.  You can also find me on facebook, twitter and my new boardgamegeek profile.

Thanks for reading and it’s nice to meet you!!

Game Length– examined

Today there was an interesting article over at thegamewire.com. Sally asked whether playtime affects a game being good, or well made. She says that games going long are a mark of competitive nature of the players involved.

Is this true of games designed to be long? Games that stick to the golden 60 minute playtime will appear on parent blogs and The Wil Wheaton will profile them for the masses, but does that mean that designs which stretch our attention spans are just not being efficient?

Agricola- setup

Agricola- setup (Photo credit: Phil Romans)

Simply, no. Every length of game has an appropriate audience. And in my heart of hearts? The longer a game is, the more potential for awe it might hold.

It has been my experience when bringing new players into the hobby that the length of a game is almost always their first concern. A game taking more than an hour seems tedious to play. They have decided to play a game to relax, and associations with the sessions of Risk they played in their parent’s garage are hard to break.

There are lots of games which take an hour. Do they allow players time to fully express a strategy? A singular mechanic can be fleshed out very well in a short period of time. For this I look to 7 Wonders, Carcassonne and Dominion. Games like Quarto have a severely limited number of possible moves in a given turn. This keeps the time short while still allowing a game to breathe.

The other major tradition in keeping a game speedy is in the use of finite resources. Whether this be numbers of turns, rounds, or some amount of corn. Small World made Risk fun once again, 8 turns was all you’d get and the dice could sit out for this one.  Agricola took a game which could have been days long and made it 14 rounds!! 14 rounds and by the 10th players are clawing at the table trying to fill out their final pastures!

Why are the hours-long best-sellers the exceptions to this rule? What about Arkham Horror, Twilight Struggle or even Dominant Species keeps them flying off of shelves years later? I put it down to innovation, there’s something special in being different.

Arkham Horror

Arkham Horror (Photo credit: MeoplesMagazine)

Arkham came on to the market at the perfect time to introduce the power of cooperative play to the world. The vastness of the setup and playtime only led to the awe that Arkham causes in players.

Twilight Struggle’s innovation was in mechanics unlike anything seen before. Using a historical outline as a basis for a competitive game, letting players control the whole of the cold war. I had to wiki a lot of events from twilight struggle cards… that first game made me feel like going back to history class.

Dominant Species benefits from a vastly controllable and changing world. It’s a political game with a truly dynamic board and millions of successful strategies, the best of which is all in the mind. Diplomacy is only made better with adorable animals!! (okay okay, not every post here will mention this game)

An open mind seems to be the trick here, as in most parts of life. So it seems that playtime is but one aspect of lots of things that capture us and keep us in the hobby.