Thursday, 11 October 2018

Please join me at the Tabletop Bellhop

I would like to invite all fans of the Windsor Gaming Resource to check out my new project. Something I'm calling  Tabletop Bellhop.

What am I doing with Tabletop Bellhop?

Tabletop Bellhop includes a blog, a Twitch stream, a YouTube Channel and a podcast.

I get questions from our audience. I answer those questions on the blog. Then on Wednesday nights at 9:30pm Eastern we stream and record a live show on Twitch. That live show gets edited and posted on YouTube. The audio from that is further edited and released as a podcast on Tuesday mornings at 2am.

In addition, I will be posting a variety of other content on the blog, some of which will also come up on the live shows and podcast, including news, reviews, previews, weekly look backs, etc.

Why not just continue to use the Windsor Gaming Resource blog?

While I love Windsor and the amazing gamers I've met here, the WGR just isn't a good name for sharing gaming information to the wider community. It's great for local events, but there's no reason things like gaming reviews and gaming news shouldn't be shared with everyone. It's a very local brand and I needed something with a broader appeal.

So what happens to the WGR?

While the blog has sat idle for a large part of this year, The Windsor Gaming Resource facebook group continues to be active. With events and discussions continuing on a regular basis. 

Now that I have The Bellhop off the ground I do plan to continue to post local events and news here on this blog. I don't want this blog to fade, I still want it to be a valuable resource for the local gaming community.

Going forward if you want to follow any of my non-local content I will be posting over at

Saturday, 31 March 2018

#ReducingThePile December 2017 Update

Still catching up on these. 

This series is a look at the new to me games I play each month. I'm trying to reduce my piles of shame, thus the #ReducingThePile tag. Each post I will share the new to me games I played each month and some thoughts about each.

In December I logged 13 game plays, of 9 different games, 4 of which were new to me. It's those 4 that I will be looking at in more detail below.

Shadow Hunters - This one was new to me but wasn't off one of my piles of shame. This was a friends copy which I played at one of the Brimstone Games game nights.

Shadow Hunters is an anime-inspired social deduction game. One of those games where you are given a role card and need to determine which other players are on your side and which other players you have to eliminate. There's more of a game here than many of these style of games. Instead of just talking at the table you roll dice to move around to different locations on the board to let you do various things like pick up equipment, attack other players and/or ask loyalty based questions. Most of the deduction is through passing cards to other players and determining their faction based on their actions. A card could say something like "if you are loyal, heal one damage" - so if the player heals you know they are loyal. Note I can't remember the actual faction names.

This was okay. I'm not a big fan of social deduction games but I did enjoy Shadow Hunters more than games like Coup or Secret Hitler. It's not one I plan on picking up.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

#ReducingThePile November 2017 Update

Yes I know it's March 2018. At least I'm here trying to catch up. I have plenty of excuses but that's really not the point. I just hope to catch up on these and blog more in general.

This series is a look at the new to me games I play each month. I'm trying to reduce my piles of shame, thus the #ReducingThePile tag. Each post I will share the new to me games I played each month and some thoughts about each.

I got in 12 different games November, 8 of which were new to me.

Menu Masters - this game was kindly donated by Calliope games for us to play as part of the 2018 Extra Life event and that's exactly when I played it. Based on the box I wasn't expecting much from this game but it's rather solid. It's actually fairly similar to Stefan Feld's Speicherstadt. In it players are bidding to get ingredients from four different stores in order to fill recipes. The thing is that the more players who want an item the more it costs. So if three people play on the Butcher, then the last player gets the first choice but has to pay 3 coins. After they go the next player only has to play 2 coins and so on.  It's a very solid system and works well in this otherwise light filler game.

Also, Menu Masters has one of the best first player tokens ever :D

Palazzo - this is another game that was kindly donated to our Extra Life efforts. This time from Rio Grande Games. This game is number #2 in the Alea Medium Box Series. Back when I first got back into Hobby Gaming, the various Alea series' were the be all end of all good gaming. You don't hear much about them now. Which is sad as this is a very solid abstract Euro. Players are competing to build the best Palazzo through a mixture of auction, set collection and drafting. It does some neat stuff with money that reminds me of Alhambra.

Overall I enjoyed Palazzo game quite a bit but it does feel dated. It's rather dry and the theme, well there's a theme I guess. If you dig older dry Euros you will probably dig this. I know there will be fans out there.

Leaps And Ledges - this one doesn't count as getting out of my pile of shame since it wasn't mine. This was the first game I played as part of Extra Life 2018. I walked into Brimstone and saw some friends sitting in front of this rather tall very colourful tower. They were playing Leaps And Ledges.

This is a silly, quick, take that racing game with a rather impressive 'prop' for a board. Players play cards to move their collection of rubber meeple up the tower. The thing is that if you land on someone else they leap off the tower. The game ends when one player gets all their five dudes to the top of the tower.

It's fast fun and really draws a crowd.

Kingdomino - I had heard this game was good. It won a bunch of awards include the Spiel. I knew I had to check it out at some point and Extra Life proved the perfect time. I first broke this out just for my wife and I and I think we played five games in a row. it was that good. Then we recruited two more players and played four players at least three times. Since then I've played Kingdomino many times.

This is a very easy to teach tile laying game that has a surprising amount of depth. That's really the perfect filler game combination, isn't it? You can play a game in about 20 minutes, sometimes a bit longer with AP-prone players. Gameplay is drafting tiles and then using them to build a 5x5 kingdom. Each tile has one or two terrain types and you have to connect them like dominos. Points are scored for areas of the same terrain and multiplied by special crown symbols. If I had a copy in front of me I could probably teach you to play in under 10 minutes.  I can't find anything wrong with this game.

Town Center 4th Edition - I love this game. About half the people I teach this game to hate it. I've yet to show it to someone who thought it was just okay. At this point, I like teaching new people just to learn if they love it or hate it.

I first heard about this game on the Heavy Cardboard podcast where the hosts were similarly split. Town Center is a very abstract city building game. This is probably the most abstract game I've played. In it you are drafting cubes which you are placing on a grid to represent your city growing. After drafting and placing your cubes you check to see if there is growth. This is the odd, unique, hard to grasp part of this game. If residential cubes are next to enough offices they grow. Then if commercial cubes are next to enough residential cubes they grow. Now sometimes growth is good, but other times it's bad.  Urban sprawl is not a good thing in this game and you end up losing points for every cube that ends up in the suburbs. This is a game I have a hard time explaining in real life let alone here in text so I'm just going to give up now.

Town Center makes you think spatially something that is very rare in board games. Trying to figure out how things are going to grow, how to make them grow and then getting them to grow the way you want them to is rather mentally taxing. That is what I love about the game and it's what many people hate.  There is no other game that I would suggest Try before you Buy more.

Fire In The Lake - this is another one that doesn't count for my pile of shame as it was a friends copy of the game. This is my first COIN game and I have to say I'm both overwhelmed and impressed.

We played Fire in the Lake with the full four players and I played the US and I think I spent way too many of my resources helping my Vietnamese ally. This is not an easy to learn game. Even at the end of the game, I was just starting to get used to what my faction could and probably should do. I wasn't even close to figuring out what the other factions were up to or could do. 

Despite the very steep learning curve I still had a lot of trying to figure out Fire in the Lake and I'm very willing to try this one again. It seems like the kind of game that you need to play again and again to really get the full effect of what the rules are trying to do. I was very impressed by my first COIN experience and look forward to trying others in the series at some point. 

Through The Ages: A New Story of Civilization - This game has been in the top 5 on Boardgamegeek for as long as I can remember. It has taken me far too long to actually get to play it. The main reason for this is the fact that it's a long game. A very long game. Especially when you are just learning it. By long I mean five hours plus. Even once you've learned the game it doesn't get all that much quicker. I would expect an average game to take four hours.

Despite being so long Through the Ages is worth it. This is a fantastic civ building game well worthy of its spot on the BGG top list. I would say that Through the Ages is now my number one Civ game, beating out Nations and Clash of Cultures and many other games in this genre. It's not easy to teach and it takes a long time to learn but it's worth it.

Hyperborea: Light & Shadow and Promo Set - Hyperborea I have played before and enjoy quite a bit. It's a dudes on a map bag builder that's a lot more Euro than it looks. It's a hidden gem that I think many people skipped over for the very Amethrash looking theme.

Mid-November I convinced a friend to pick up the game and after one play he immediately went searching for an expansion and some promos that I did not even realize exist. It ends up they were never sold in North America and were only available right from the publisher. Well, my friend managed to get a copy and we tried it out.

This was the kind of expansion I like. It added something to the game without changing the overall feel. The addition of ruins you could explore helped reinforce the fantasy theme as did the rules for heroes. The additional tech and new cubes were okay but didn't wow me. Overall it seemed like a decent but not a required expansion. Which is a good thing since it's so hard to find and, in my opinion, overpriced for what it is.

Monday, 20 November 2017

#ReducingThePile October 2017 update

Welcome to the latest in a series of blog posts where I talk about my quest to reduce my pile of shame. You can find the other posts in this series under the hashtag: #ReducingThePile.

It's been a busy November, so it took me some time to be able to get this out there. Sorry for the delay. Due to an #ExtraLife preview event I got in lots of games in October, eight of those were new to me games and you can find a short review of each below.

Chinatown - This game has been on my wishlist for years. It was also out of print for a very long time and when it came back into print it sold out very quickly. Due to Geektropolis closing (RIP), I was finally able to get my hands on a copy and I got it to the table only two days after picking it up. 

This is a fantastic negotiation game. It is the purest negotiation game I've ever played. You can bargain with just about everything in the game. This doesn't just include your 'resources' in hand but areas of the board that you own that are already in play. The actual game is a set collection area control game and on it's would probably still be solid but, with the ability to buy, sell and trade absolutely everything, it becomes amazing. 

The only problem with Chinatown is that it requires a few plays to really figure out the value of the businesses. This also means that an experienced player is going to have a serious advantage over a new player. I personally suggest that, for your first game, toss out the AP and just buy and sell and trade to see what happens. Then go back a second time when you have a better idea of property values etc. and play a 'real game' of Chinatown.

Yokohama - The thing you hear the most about this game is how much of a table hog it is. Believe that. This game takes up a lot of room. The other thing you will hear is that it's a lot like Istanbul. I don't agree with that. Except for the fact that you are moving on rectangular tiles that change orientation and layout every game, and the fact that it's mostly a pick up and deliver game, I did not find Istanbul and Yokohama all that similar. 

The big thing in Yokohama is strategy. Planning ahead. Thinking about your next three to five turns is normal. It's the kind of game where you decide you want to do a thing. But to do the thing you need to first do this other thing. To do that other thing you need a resource. To get the resource you have to first stop on one specific spot. It's also the kind of game where you get that resource, then completely forget what you needed it for. 

Making this long term planning even more fun is the way that other players can mess with it. So in addition to having a good plan you have to be able to react and change that plan when needed. If that's not the recipe for a great Euro I don't know what is.

Kronia - This one was donated by the awesome folk at CMON for us to play at #ExtraLife. It's a rather small box with no minis in it. Kronia is a good reminder that CMON doesn't just do big thematic miniature filled games.

What we have here is a blind auction, set collection game that starts off with perfect information. Players get a set hand of cards (everyone's the same), and a set of coloured coins are put in a bag. Everyone knows what cards everyone else has and the distribution of the coins. A small number of coins are drawn (based on the number of players) and players use the cards in their hands to blind bid on them. The neat bit here is that after bidding each player has a chance to move their bid (either to the top of the pile they are on or to another pile). This happen in the reverse order that bids are placed. Highest bid gets the coin. Bonus points for winning with a low bid. Final scoring is based on collecting sets of coins of the same colour. The game includes a Hades expansion that we didn't try but it ads black coins that are worth negative points. 

There isn't much more to Kronia, but I found I really enjoyed it. There's some social deduction there, trying to figure out if your opponents are bluffing or not and whether or not they may be moving their bid. The components are top notch, including cool 3D temples to put the coins on during the bidding round. 

Gekido: Bot Battles - The first thing you will notice about Gekido: Bot Battles is how awesome the miniatures are. These are more like small toys than board game pieces. They are the quality of those Disney Infinity figures or the Nintendo Amiibo figures. Unlike Kronia Gekido points out exactly what CMON are known for: cool minis. 

Unfortunately the miniatures are the only awesome thing about the game. This one was also donated by the fine folk at CMON for #ExtraLife and I've got to admit I'm glad I didn't buy it. The game itself is just a really fancy Yahtzee based dice game. Players battle their robots by trying to roll Yahtzee sets. You have to commit to what set you are going for after the first roll. If you make your set you damage our opponent and if you fail you take damage instead. There are some neat bits where once you start taking damage you get some new powers but most of these are just ways to modify the dice. 

Overall for a game with similar theme and mechanics I much prefer King of Tokyo. It is possible that kids may dig this one, and maybe that's where the audience for Gekido is, especially with the toy like pieces. 

Baseball Highlights: 2045 - I have been meaning to try this game since Origins 2015. My wife and I spent a lot of time in the Eagle/Griffon booth that year trying out a variety of games. Until that event I paid no attention to some cyborg baseball game. The thing is that while we were there beating the designers of Fleet at their own game and learning Francis Drake, we kept seeing all these people come up and talk about Baseball Highlights. So we tried to get in a demo game but every event for the rest of the weekend was booked solid so we never got to try it. Well, during the Geektropolis Extra Life warm-up event, the first game I got to play was Baseball Highlights 2045. It was worth the wait. 

This is a deck building game that reminds me quite a bit of microgames like Love Letter or Lost Legacy. It also reminds me a lot of Millennium Blades. The reason for this is that you play each round of the game with a very small set of cards and each round is over in about 15 minutes. Actually you can just play the game that way, in a quick 15 minute, one baseball game, series. Even that is fun.

The game really shines when you play a full series. These include a three game mini season and a full world series. Here you take that tiny deck, and use those cards to make that deck better and better after each game. By the time you are in the final game of the series, your deck should be a well oiled machine. Of course your opponent is doing the same. 

The one disappointment for me was the fact that the game is for one or two players only. The fact the box says two to four is misleading. There are four teams in the box, and four people can play, but not all together. You would have to split off into two pairs. The rules also include rules for running leagues and tournaments, something I'm tempted to try at some point.

Mammoth Hunters - This one was sent to us from Rio Grande Games for us to play during Extra Life. It's an older Alea game that I will admit I had never heard of before.

As expected from a Rio Grande Alea game, Mammoth Hunters is an abstract Euro with a pretty much pasted on theme. It's designed to be more functional than pretty and that's pretty obvious. Actually I would go so far as to say this is an ugly game. It does have mammoth meeple and they are pretty cute.

I'm pleased to say that the gameplay is far from ugly. Mammoth Hunters is a very solid area control game. It does some things I've not seen before and that's always awesome. Most of this is based on a unique economic system where you have to pay to play cards that help you, but the only way to get the money (stones) to pay for those is to play cards that help your opponents. 

There is a really big "take that" element in Mammoth Hunters and if your group isn't into screwing each other over make sure you stay away. Our group is pretty easy going and even with us I think there were a couple hurt feelings after some particularly nasty moves.

El Caballero - Another game that was donated by Rio Grande for our Extra Life Event. I have been curious about El Caballero for a long time as I love it's big brother: El Grande. 

El Grande is probably the most well known most pure area control game out there. El Caballero is what you get if you mash that with the most well known and most pure tile laying game out there: Carcasonne. This is a tile laying area control game that has some funky ways of doing area control. 

I had a hard time explaining the rules and I'm certain I can't explain the game any better in text here, so this is going to be vague. Basically you play cards that determine your player order and how many guys you get to place. But then instead of placing actual guys (or cubes or pawns for that matter) you place tiles. One tile each turn makes the map bigger but then the other tiles you place represent your guys, your Caballeros. How these tiles connect to the land tiles shows who owns what chunk of land. You have to trust me on this, it works, it's just hard to grock at first, even while playing the game with the tiles in front of you.

El Caballero is a nasty, nasty area control game. If you thought that you could screw someone over in El Grande, you have to try this one. That leads me to what seems to be a problem with this game. You can get screwed over, really screwed over. So screwed over that you are basically out of the game. That's what happened to me. This would be cool in a quick filler game but this is no quick filler. Our first game went almost 3 hours. That's a lot of time sitting there playing a game you know you can't possibly win. 

Flick Wars - technically I've played Flick Wars before. I even did a full review of it which you can check out here: Flick Wars: a strategic dexterigy game ending soon on Kickstarter.

As you can tell from the title of that blog post, my review was of a prototype pre-production copy of Flick Wars. Sadly back in 2014 when I wrote this post, Flick Wars failed to fund. The designer, Andrew Tullsen, didn't give up and brought the game back this year and tried again. This time it funded.  This was my first play of a production copy of Flick Wars. 

I still really dig this game. The rules have changed since I played the pre-production copy, as have some of the components. The biggest thing component wise is that the game now comes with a great neoprene mat to play on and lots of scenery to place both above and below the mat. The rule changes were all good, especially in regards to how bases work. The game is just a bit tighter and better balanced now.

I've got a soft spot for dexterity games but I find most of them are very light. I think it's really cool that there's a game out there with some more strategy to it. It's not just about flicking discs, it's about managing your resources and building an army and adapting to what your opponent is doing. That said this is no Euro game, it's still a game where you try to flick your disc into your opponents. 

That's it for the new to me games that I got to the table in October. How is your Pile of Shame looking?

Sunday, 15 October 2017

#ReducingThePile - New (to me) games played in September 2017 - Part 2

Welcome to the latest in a series of blog posts where I talk about my quest to reduce my pile of shame.  You can find the other posts under the hashtag: #ReducingThePile.

This is the second part of my September update. Check out my last post to hear my thoughts on Century Spice Road, Roll Player, Stratos, and GIFP. Today I talk about three more games that were new to me that I got to the table the second half of September. 

Clank!: Sunken Treasure - This is an expansion for the amazing deck builder Clank!. Clank has quickly become my favourite deck builder. It combines the classic Games Workshop game Dungeonquest with Thunderstone Advance. You start off as a pretty unskilled thief trying to go in and raid a dragon's lair. It uses deck building to represent your increase in skill and the treasures you find. It's a fantastic merging of push your luck, gotcha, and deck building.

Sunken Treasure adds a new double-sided board, one new set monster and a bunch of new cards for the adventure deck. the theme is that parts of the dungeon are flooded and there are new mechanics for swimming, splashing and a new piece of equipment: scuba gear (for which they give some fantasy excuse). Overall there isn't a lot new, which is exactly what I want in an expansion. They make the game just a bit more interesting and introduce something new but similar to how other things work.

As an added bonus you don't have to pull out the sunken treasure stuff if you still want to play with the original boards. You just don't use the new fish monster or scuba gear. The adventure deck stays the same. Overall I think this is a great expansion that just makes a great game even better.

Mechs Vs. Minions - I'm sure you've heard the hype on this one already. It's hard not to. I have to say that so far, the game lives up to the hype. Yes, it is one of the most beautiful games ever made. Yes, it has one of best box inserts ever. Yes, the price is crazy low for what you get (not that it's cheap).

So really what's important now is how good the game is. Right now we have played the intro adventure and played the first official mission twice. Twice because we failed badly the first time. We opened up the packet for mission three and read it but have not played it. So far we've had a great time. This is programmed movement, similar to RoboRally but it's much less random. For one you draft your programming cards, and second: once cards are slotted they stay there for the entire game. So this is actually more like an actual program as you add to it each round, unlike other programmed games I've played where each round you start fresh.

The one thing I hate in co-op games is the Alpha Gamer/Quarterback issue that can come up. I didn't see this as a problem in this game. I think each player has enough to worry about with programming their own mech that they don't have time to try to tell the other players what to do. Sure we all discuss general strategy but there definitely wasn't one player saying: Draft this, put it here, then do this, etc.

Troyes - I have heard fantastic things about this game. It's been out of print for a long time and is selling for just silly money on the secondary market. Troyes has been a grail game for me for some time. Then Geektropolis had an auction and I was able to get a sealed copy for an amazing price.

It was worth the wait. I really dig this game. I will fully admit I don't really dig how it looks. I think it's an ugly game. That said it works. The graphic design makes it very easy to see what is going on, on the board at a glace. At least it does once you get used ot the iconography.

Troyes is basically a dice placement game though you never actually put the dice on spots. You use the dice to select actions and then place meeples or cubes to represent that you have done them. What's really fascinating in this game is how you use the dice. You build sets of 1, 2 or 3 dice that all have to be in one colour. The neat bit is you have your own dice (based on where your workers are placed), but you can buy dice off other players. Then you use these dice to do actions. There's some math here as you total your dice, divide them by some number and that's the number of times you get that action. So, for example, one spot on the board may be Get 3 money for 4 yellow. If you play 8-11 pips worth of yellow dice on this spot, you get 6 money. If you put 12 pips worth of yellow dice you would get 9 money

The actions that are available each game change with a bit part of the replayability in the game coming from this. There are 3 different versions of each card and there are 9 cards in play each game. Adding to that there is also an event system that happens each round and has players fighting brigands and dealing with foreign workers.

Really there's far too much going on here to explain in a short review. The important part is that I really dig this game. I've even ordered the expansion for it as I hear it makes the game just a bit more forgiving for everyone (one of the things it adds is a wild die that can be used to make sets with other dice). If you dig medium to heavy Euroes you owe it to yourself to check this one out.

That's it for me for September. So far October has been slow so I may not have much to talk about by the end of the month, but you never know. I did get in two brand new games last night at The CG Realm game event and there's still half a month to go.

What have you recently gotten out of your pile of shame?

On the weekend of November 4th I'm going ot be gaming for at least 24 hours in support of the Children's Miracle Network of Hospitals and I would love your support:

Monday, 9 October 2017

#ReducingThePile - new (to me) games played in September 2017 - Part 1

Welcome to the latest in a series of blog posts where I talk about my quest to reduce my pile of shame.  You can find the other posts under the hashtag: #ReducingThePile.

Today I look back at the new (to me) games I played in the month of September.

September was a much better month for gaming for me. I got in 24 game plays through the month. Of all those plays eight of them were brand new games for me. Below I take a look at four of those eight games.  You will have to wait for part 2 to see the other 4. 

Century Spice Road - I have been hearing about this game a lot this year. Many people are calling it The Splendor Killer. Having now played the game I can see why. The games are similar.

In Century Spice Road is all about collecting resources to buy cards that let you collect more resources or upgrade those resources so you can buy other cards worth points. See, very Splendor like. Each turn players either use the cards they have to either collect or upgrade resources or they purchase a new card to use later. There's also one-third option, and that's to pick up the cards you've already played. This is one of the best mechanics in the game as it's a really hard decision as to when to pick up and when to keep using the cards you have. This reminds me a bit of Concordia.

Overall I liked Century Spice Road more than Splendor. There's just a bit more going on and a bit more depth and both I found very welcome. There is one problem with the game though. The designer put out two versions of the game. The Spice Road version which I played and a Golem version. The Golem version, to me, is so much cooler but you can only get at Cons and Special events. This means I will probably never pick up this game as I would much rather have the fantasy-themed version.

Take this as a lesson designers: for some people, me being one of them, theme matters.

Roll Player - Over the years I've said many times that some of the best times I've had with RPGS is just making characters. My wife and I used to head down to a local pub just to sit there and make a slew of Traveller characters.

Well someone in the board game world realized this and decided to make a board game that's all about making an RPG character. That game is Roll Player and it's fantastic. I really like this game. It's going to be up there in my top games of 2017 for sure. I've already played 5 times and enjoyed every play.

In Roll Player, you are making a D&D style character by filling in a character sheet with six-sided dice. Like in an RPG three die sets get you stats of 3-18. Race modifies these number. Each player gets a class card which tells them what they want their stats to be when done and the points given for hitting those numbers. So you could get 4 fame for having exactly 18 STR for a fighter. In addition, players get backgrounds which determine which coloured dice should go where. Each character also has an alignment goal that awards or subtracts points based on where the character's alignment ends at the end of the game.

Gameplay consists of drafting dice then placing them. Where you place dice gives you a way to modify your existing stats. For example placing a die in STR lets you flip one of your dice to the opposite side. DEX lets you swap two dice and so on. After drafting players go to the shop and spend gold to buy traits, skills, weapons, and armour. Traits give alignment modifiers and end of game scoring. Skills modify alignment as well and are abilities you can use mainly one per round. Weapons give continual abilities and armour adds a set collection element to this game.

If you are a fan of both RPGs and board games you really need to pick this one up.

Stratos - It's not often you find board games made right here in Canada. Earlier this year I was approached by Board and Table games out of Guelph Ontario asking if I would be willing to review their game, Stratos. It was sold to me as a mix of Dungeons & Dragons and Catan. I finally got to try the game for the first time in September.

While I wouldn't say it's D&D meets Catan I can see where that comes from. In Stratos, each player starts with just a couple of Peasants on a very abstract but well-made world map that is created through sets of 4x4 tile grids. Each tile representing a different type of terrain. Players take those peasants and use them in a race to get 10 victory points.

The peasants themselves can harvest resources. Resources can be used to upgrade character, buy new characters, purchase spells (used by the Mage character) or traded in, in full sets for points. New characters bought can be more peasants or other fantasy character types. Mages can cast spells which break the rules in some way (with each new spell cast giving one victory point). Archers can attack other characters at a distance (with kills giving victory points). Fighters can attack adjacent characters (also earning victory points for kills). Explorers can explore the various terrain tiles on the board which leads to a somewhat Talisman like feel as you draw cards and have an encounter from an exploration deck which can be either good or bad). Every character action involves rolling dice with a chance of failure, upgrading your characters removes this chance.

Really it's all far too much to get into in this short review. Overall all the various characters and options mean that there are a ton of different ways to get those 10 points. Some victory points are temporary as well which means there can be some nice back and forth. The components are a real mixed bag and the huge amount of options makes the game a bit finicky. Overal, at this point, I would say it's neat and that I need to play it a few more times before I have a solid idea of what I think.

GIPF - I recently hosted an auction in support of a good gamer friend passing away. I picked up this game at that auction. I've been curious about the games in this series for a long time. DVONN, YINSH, TZAAR, etc. I have heard really positing things about all of them over the years but never actually gotten to play any.

What I didn't know is that all of the games are part of the GIPF project. A rather ambitious deal where all of these games, which are all stand-alone abstract games can all also be used to improve and expand the base game: GIPF. A rather neat idea. At this point, I only have GIPF though, so I can't talk about how well that project went. I did think it was neat that the first game in the series I bought was the 'base' game.

GIPF itself is a very solid two-player abstract strategy game. It's a perfect game for one of those: If you like Connect Four (or Tic Tac Toe, or insert X in a Row Game Here) you will love ... lists. In GIPF you have a big hexagonal grid of lines. Players are placing checker like discs onto this grid from the edges. Pieces follow the lines and stop at intersections. What's neat is that you place from the edge and when a piece moves onto the board it slides all of the adjacent pieces in that line down as it moves on. The goal is to make a set of four of the same colour. Another neat bit is that a set of four doesn't win you the game, instead, it has you remove that entire row from the board. The set of four is returned to its owner but the other pieces in the row are captured.  This bit takes a while to wrap your head around as it's a bit counter-intuitive and it's what makes the game great.

There are two sets of rules included in the game, both a basic and an advanced game. The only real change in the advanced game is that you now have GIPF pieces that start on the board, these are just two standard pieces stacked. When these should be removed from the board the players who own them can instead choose to have them stay instead of removing them. It's surprising how much such a simple rule change like this changes the game.

Check back here for Part 2

Saturday, 7 October 2017

#ReducingThePile August Update

Yep, still behind on this, but slowly catching up.

This series is all about getting games off my piles of shame and new to me games. You can find the other posts under #ReducingThePile.

Today I talk about the new to me games I got played back in August 2017 including a short review of each. August was a busy month and I didn't get out to many gaming events so this is going to be a very short list. I only actually got in 6 plays of 3 different games in August. Not as bad as June but still not a good month for gaming. 

The Dragon & Flagon - Not sure if you have noticed or not but I love programmed movement games. Robo Rally is one of my top games of all time. I also really dig Lords of Xidit, Volt Robot Battle Arena, Colt Express and probably a few more I'm forgetting right now. It's one of my favourite mechanics.

Seeing that mechanic used to represent a fantasy RPG style tavern brawl was interesting. That's exactly what The Dragon & Flagon is: a D&D style tavern brawl that's resolved using programmed movement. Each round players plan out their actions and then they resolve them. There's a neat initiative system here where, depending on what you do, it will take longer for you to get your next action. So a simple move is quick and you get to go in the next segment, but dashing across the room lunging may take you three segments. 

The game looks awesome. It comes with 3d cardboard scenery and wooden components for tables, chairs, tankards, and barrels. The characters are just standees and I think it would have been extra cool if they were miniatures. I plan on stealing components from Dragon & Flagon for use in my RPG games.

The mechanics make this one a lot more fiddly than you would expect for such a light theme.  I've played RPGs with easier combat systems. That said; it's quite fun.  Just be aware getting into it that it's got a learning curve and it is not as light as it appears.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past - my daughters love The Turtles. I have no idea exactly why. No clue where they even learned of them. There must be some kind of universal appeal to them. I already play TMNT heroclix with the oldest and picked this up after hearing it's a much better game. Having now played I have to agree, mostly. 

This is a one vs. many co-op games in the veins of Descent or Imperial Assault. It's a campaign game with one multi-scenario campaign included in the base box and the promise of more to come. The actual gameplay is an action point based miniature skirmish game with The Turtles facing off against many mooks and named villains from the comic book series. That's worth noting, this is based on the most recent IDW comics which are a bit different from the old TV Series or comics I remember as a kid. 

The really neat bit here is how co-operation is built into the game. Each Turtle player has a set of dice they roll at the beginning of each round. They have symbols on them that represent the various actions in the game (swords for melee attacks, throwing stars for ranged, skateboards for movement, etc). Once a player rolls his dice he has to arrange them in a row. This order matters as the two dice on the end are shared with the players on each side of that player. Note there's one very thematic exception to this: Raphael refuses to use anyone else's dice, instead he rolls more dice than anyone else. 

It's a very cool game but there are rules issues. We found an infinite loop problem where the bad guys couldn't lose in our second game. There are rules updates and the designer is really good about answering questions on BGG but I find you do need to do that research before you can really enjoy the game.

Eclipse: Ship Pack One - This is the second expansion that was released for the Sci-Fi 4x game Eclipse. The main thing this includes is new plastic ships for all of the factions in the base game (oddly omitting the factions in the first expansion). It also includes plastic counters for starbases which were originally represented by counters in the core game. There are also a few new rules including some new technologies. The best of these new rules is a new initative system, where the first player to pass becomes the first player next turn, the second player to pass the second player and so on. This expansion comes with some boards and counters for tracking this in a rather elegant way.

I hadn't played Eclipse in a long time and I have no idea why. I remember really liking the game, but man, it's even better than I remembered. We had a fantastic time during our last play. The new ships are cool. The new initiative system is fantastic and overall Eclipse is still one of the best 4x games out there.  I saw nothing to complain about with this expansion. Everything in there was a welcome addition and now my game looks so much cooler.

So that was it for new games for me in August. I realize it's going back a bit, but do you remember what was new to you this past Summer?

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Reducing the Pile of Shame - July update

Yes, I realize it's September.  Life has been interesting this year. For those following along, you may have noticed that I didn't do a post for June. There's a reason for that: I didn't play a single board game the entire month of June. As I said life has been interesting this year.

This series of threads are all about getting games off my piles of shame and new to me games. You can find the other posts under #ReducingThePile.

This post is about the new to me games I got played back in July 2017 including a short review of each.

Star Trek: Ascendancy  - I was really looking forward to this game. It looked like "Star Trek in a box." Did it live up to this hype? Maybe not, but it was still really good. The rules a quite fiddly though and I'm certain we messed some stuff up this game. It's also very asymmetric and a lot of this first game was figuring out exactly what you are supposed to do with each faction in the game. Overall I think that the game shows a lot of promise. I think I will really enjoy it given more plays. I must have liked it enough since I went online and bought the game mat after our play.

Millennium Blades - this is a game I wouldn't have touched with a 10 foot pole. A board game based on the CCG (collectible card game) tournament scene. I remember the CCG scene, it's something I've left behind and I'm not interested in getting back into. Why would I want a board game about that? But the reviews were pouring in and most were positive. Most of these positive reviews came from reviewers who dig heavier games. Reviewers who share some of my gaming tastes. So I picked it up. I was not disappointed. This is an excellent game. Very unique. It really does capture some of the feel of CCG collecting and tournaments. I really want to play more of this one but just haven't had time. It's got a bit of a learning curve that really makes me want to play it with people who know it rather than teach it repetitively which has been keeping me from bringing it to WGR events. 

Clank!: A Deck Building Adventure - Here's another one where there's a ton of hype. Game of the Year level of hype. And you know what? It's deserved.  This is a fantastic deck builder. It reminds me of the classic Games Workshop game Dungeonquest, except it's better in pretty much every way but theme. I don't even know exactly why it's so much fun. The balance of the cards or something. It's just more fun than similar fantasy deck builders like Thunderstone. This has become one of my most played games of the year since our first play in July. I played it last Saturday, twice. I can't seem to get enough. This was a game where after just one play my wife said: "Is there an expansion?" This is unheard of from her. Of course, I had to go buy the expansion. 

Indonesia - I have to thank the Heavy Cardboard Podcast for introducing me to Splotter Spellen a company that makes heavy brain burning games. My first 'splotter' was Food Chain Magnate a game I absolutely love, even though I don't get it to the table all that often (Heavy games are definitely not for everyone). Even when I bought Food Chain Magnate I had my eyes on Indonesia. Quite a few people are of the opinion that it's the best game from Splotter Spellen. I finally found a copy of the 2nd edition for a good price and picked it up and have gotten one play in. That play was good. I was expecting fantastic but it was good. The reason for that is the production quality of the game. The game has components that don't actually fit on the board. It also has a typo that has existed for three printings. This is highly disappointing. Even more so since the actual game play is great. Better than great. Really damn good. What's even odder is that this is the new 'deluxe' second edition. How do you mess up a production that much? All that said I still really dug this game. 

Honshu - again it was a podcast that got me looking at Honshu. I don't remember which one as multiple shows were talking about this rather fascinating card game. The cool bit in this game is that you build a city by playing cards onto the table under a very cool restriction. Each card placed has to cover up or be covered up by part of another card already in play. Added to that it's got a pretty solid auction based turn order system. This is a very cool filller game that does something new. Something that none of the other games in my collection do. That alone is enough of a selling point for me. My only concern with this one is replayability but they even addressed that by adding variable goal cards that I haven't even tried using yet. 

Terraforming Mars - I finally got to play Terraforming Mars. Technically I have played this once before, a friends copy, but we messed up the rules so badly that I don't even count it as a play. This one has been covered by pretty much every board game reviewer out there so I don't think I need to go into any detail here. I will just say that my wife and I both love this game. It has gotten played every WGR game night I've been at since getting the game. Many people I've taught it to have gone onto buying their own copies. Due to the fact that I'm almost always teaching the game, I still haven't even gotten to try the "corporate wars' cards, and I'm perfectly fine with that. We will get to them eventually. I'll be picking up the expansion maps for this one sometime soon. 

Key To The City London - I really dig Keyflower. I've not sat down and ranked all my games (yet) but I expect it's in my top 20 if not my top 10. I really like it. When I heard that Key to the City: London was an easier to teach a quicker version of Keyflower I had to pick it up. This game is exactly that, a simplified Keyflower. It's easier to teach, easier to play and easier to score and I'm not sure that's a good thing. While I had fun playing it I just kept thinking that I could be playing Keyflower. Actually, I should have been playing Keyflower. Don't get me wrong, this is a good game, but I can't see getting it to the table again. Keyflower isn't that complex. It's not that hard to teach. Anytime I get an urge to play that style of game I'm going to end up grabbing Keyflower and leaving Key to the City on my shelf. 

So that's it. 7 new to me games played in July. Not a bad month after the mess that was June. 

Sunday, 27 August 2017

#RPGaDAY 2017 - Day 27 - Essential tools for gaming

Day 27 of #RPGaDay 2017. 

What are your essential tools for good gaming?

Am I the only one that's starting to think these questions jumped the shark?

I only have one answer for this one: players. 

The only thing we need at the table to have a good game or even a great game is players. All the rest is optional. Sure you may have a better chance to have a good game with a good ruleset. Yes, you probably up the odds of an epic session of D&D if you set up a Dwarven Forge Dungeon and toss down a 1' tall Orcus miniature in the middle. But you don't need any of that. 

I once ran a game at the Windsor Gaming Society called: Pirates of THE Spanish Highlands. There was a group of gamers there, this was when Magic was a plague taking over all the local RPG tables. Even I had magic cards with me, but there were people there that didn't want to play magic. They wanted to play an RPG. So I made up a game on the spot. I came up with a really simple system and we made notes as we went so there was some form of consistency. It was over the top, it was ridiculous and it was in no way a good system, but to this day it was one of the most fun gaming experiences I've ever had. Ever. 

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel free to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

#RPGaDAY 2017 - day 26 - useful resources from an RPG

Day 26 of #RPGaDay 2017. 

Which RPG provides the most useful resources?

I don't understand what this means. What kinds of resources?

Are we talking about supplementary products? If that's the case then my answer is the same as day 14, AD&D 2nd Edition. AD&D 2nd edition had so many awesome off shoot products that were awesome for improving your games.

Does resources mean the most useful resources through adventure modules? Then my answer is the same as Day 19, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. At least the Enemy Within Modules. Each of those started with a bunch of cool new rules and ways to make your game better. Usually taking up about half the book.

Maybe a mix of both?

If that's the case then I have to say Cyberpunk 2020. The reason I say this is due to the variety of the types of sourcebooks and modules that R. Talsorian Released.

There were books featuring awesome new gear; the Cromebooks. There was an amazing book that took the fictional city the game was set in and mapped it street by street; Night City. There was a book all about cyberpunk in space, with rules for things like space ships and zero-G fighting; Near Orbit. There was even a book that added mecha to the game; Maximum Metal. You want information about the Net? Rache Bartmoss' Guide to the Net. Heck, they even put out a book about how most GMs were running the game wrong and how to make your game better fit the design intent of the game; Listen Up You Primitive Screwheads.

Maybe this isn't exactly what the question was asking but I have to rate the variety of the Cyberpunk support material as some of the best out there for any game.

For those wishing to play along at home, here are the topics for this years #RPGaDay. Feel free to use these cues in your tweets, facebook posts, g+ threads, blog posts and more.