Monday, 2 January 2017

New year, new games. Further reducing the Pile(s) of Shame

First off, Happy New Year all Windsor Gaming Resource readers! 2016 was an amazing year for board games and it's looking like 2017 will be just as good. I know everyone keeps saying that we are in a golden age and I have to agree. So many great games. Gaming becoming more and more mainstream (did you see Arby's latest social media campaign?). Gaming cafe's popping up all over the place (we could have 3 here in Windsor by the end of the year) and most importantly to me: more and more gamers out gaming!

Every year for New Years Eve I host a Gaming in the New Year party at my place. It's always been an awesome way to say goodbye to the previous year and welcome in the new one doing what I love the most: gaming with friends. This year was an epic event. We gamed for about 13 hours total and the last game didn't wrap up until about 7am. Personally I played a total of 10 different games, with a total of 14 plays due to playing a few of those a couple times. I think that's a NYE record for me. Then yesterday, New Years Day we got some more gaming in. A friend came over and we got in two more rounds. 

I was looking over pictures from last years Gaming In The New Year party and noticed far too many games were still in my current Pile of Shame (games I've bought but not played yet) that were there a year ago. Those are games I owned for a full year but didn't play. I can't let that happen again.

One of my goals for 2017 is to get games out of my Pile of Shame. Specifically to get all of the games that were in my Pile as of Dec 31st 2016, out of it by Dec 31st 2017. No more owning games for more than a year without actually playing them!

I started on this goal at the Gaming in the New Year party and continued working on it New Year's Day. As of this morning I was able to eliminate 7 games from my Pile of Shame. Here's a short review of each of those games.

Neuroshima Hex! 3.0 - Technically I had played this once at one of the Windsor Gaming Resource events last year. It was a bit of a mess of a game though. Someone else had bought the game, opened it at the event and read the rules. We muddled through that game and I learned that it seemed cool but I'm not sure I would count it as actually trying the full game. Plus, until NYE I hadn't played my personal copy. I liked this game more than I thought I would. It's much heavier than I though. It's a chess like game that felt a bit like The Duke advanced to me. Lots of AP but well worth it. Only played two player and looking forward to playing with more. 

Favor of the Pharaoh - Favor won the Mensa Select award in 2016, which made me assume that it would be a heavier, thinky game. It was not. It was much lighter than expected. It's one of the better Yahtzee based games that I own. This one is "Yahtzee the Engine Builder" or perhaps the dice version of a deck builder. You start with just 3d6, you roll them, each roll you have to lock at least one die. If you have dice left you can re-roll. Based on what you've locked you buy tiles. There are tiles for all kinds of combos: pairs, tripples, all odd, all even, totals of 20+, runs etc. Tiles give you more dice or ways to modify dice in future rounds. The eventual goal is to roll at least 7 identical numbers. If you do that you claim the Queen. Then everyone gets a chance roll a better of set of numbers, either more matching dice or matching dice of a higher value. The variety of tiles and set up boards really ads a ton of replay value. 

German Railroads - This is an expansion for Russian Railroads which is one of my favourite games of all times and probably my favourite worker placement game. German Railroads adds three expansions to the game which can be used in any combination. We played with the new German Railroads and the extra tiles but did not use the Coal expansion. I really loved what the German player boards added to Russian Railroads. It made the game asymmetrical which is cool. While building your rails players get to choose different sections of track which offer different bonuses. no two sections of track are the same so each player's board ends up unique by the end of the game. The extra tiles were also good additions and I don't see why you would bother playing without them. The German boards did change the game quite a bit so I can see choosing to play with or without them in the future. I'm really looking forward to adding Coal to the game next time. 

Broom Service - There a trend in reviews for this game. People pick it up because it won the Kennerspiel Des Jahres award in 2015. They look at it and read the rules and comment about how it doesn't sound that great, doesn't look like it deserves the Spiel. Then they play it, and come back with a review of: Wow that's better than it sounded. Well guess what? This review is just that. You really need to play this game to get it. It's a pick up a deliver game that sounds really simple. It even looks a bit like a kids game. The main mechanic is a bluffing version of action selection. Each round you pick 4 of 9 role cards that you will play during the turn. When you play one, you have to decide if you want to play it brave or cowardly. Brave actions give better results than cowardly ones. If you play it cowardly then you just take the action on the card. If you play it brave, you go around the table and if anyone else has chosen the same role and chooses to play it brave as well, they get to do the action and you don't. You have no idea how much fun this mechanic is until you try it. How rewarding it is to be first player and have a brave action go through or being the last player and snatching away an action at the last minute. The game includes some variant rules that add more complexity and I haven't had a chance to try those yet. 

Cry Havoc - This one is similar to Neroshima Hex! I have tried it once at a WGR event. but his is the first time playing my copy. Plus this play I got to read the rules which really helped me grock it. The thing that has grabbed me about this game is how short it is. It's no filler, but you expect a strategic area control dudes on a map game to last longer. This one reminds me of Kemet as it's fast and furious. You are only going to get 12-15 actions for the entire game and you have to make them worth it. This is the one of the most asymmetrical game I own. Every faction plays very differently. Trying a different race almost feels like playing a different game. The combat system is something I've never seen before and is brilliant (and a bit too complex to fully explain here). If you dig area control you have got to check this one out.

Quadropolis - This one so far is the biggest disappointment. We only tried the classic mode so there's a good chance that the game is much better in the advanced mode. I'm hoping so. I will admit I did have fun playing the classic mode. It is a good game, it just wasn't as good as I expected. This game has a lot of hype and gamers who's opinions I respect have given it a lot of praise. The game is an abstract city builder that reminds me a lot of Between Two Cities. Each round you use engineers to select tiles from a shared main board. The neat bit is that the engineer number determines which tile you take and where you have to place the tile on your board. Engineers point at a row or column and only one engineer can be in each spot. There's also a pawn that gets moved to the spot the last tile was taken from and stops players from playing engineers in that row or column. Scoring is based on different things based on tile type. Apartments need to be stacked, stores need customers, wharves need to be in a row, etc. When you get a tile you also get resources in the form of either meeple or energy. These go on the tiles to activate them. Only activated tiles score and any extra resources generate negative points. It's all very abstract and we found it really hard to tell how much we were actually scoring as we played. This is one I need to play again, and with the expert rules. I have a feeling it will get better with more plays and the advanced rules. At least I hope so. 

Keyflower: The Farmers - This is an expansion for Keyflower that adds animals and farming to the base game. I love Keyflower. I had been told that The Farmers adds breadth to the core game. It adds more options and choice to Keyflower without changing the core gameplay. That is an apt description. The new tiles give you new resources to collect and manage in the form of three types of animals and grain. Some of these additions address minor issues with the base game that have been found since it was released. For example the addition of grain mitigates the lack of transportation points that can be an issue in the core game. We played using all of the new Farmer tiles, which really changed the focus from building, upgrading and storing resources to collecting and moving animals. I'm looking forward to playing it with a mix of the expansion and core tiles, where you would get some of the new farmers tiles alongside more of the original tiles. Overall this expansion took a great game and added a cool new thing to it. It adds some new ways to score and things to think about without adding any bloat. Recommended if you like Keyflower, and how can you not like Keyflower?

So far I've got a good start on reducing my pile of shame, mainly due to our annual Gaming in the New Year Party. Do you do any gaming on New Years? If so what did you play?

Friday, 30 December 2016

Brimstone Game Nights for January (7th and 21st)

Hey Windsor area gamers, come out to Brimstone Board Game Night! Meet other gamers, play some great games and maybe even win a game to bring home.

Brimstone Board Game Nights hit on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of every month. These events run from 5pm to 10pm and are open to all ages.

Every event will feature at least one game. There will be demo copies of the game available and someone on hand willing to teach the game so you can try before you buy.

You can win games just by coming out to play. At every Brimstone Board Game Night you earn tickets that give you a chance to win free games. Every event we will be giving away a copy of the featured game and some events will feature even more. 

Players earn 1 ticket for playing games, 1 ticket for purchasing a snack or drink, and 1 ticket for bringing 1 or more board games for people to play. Earn 5 more tickets for each game you purchase. First time players will receive 5 additional tickets.

You can find Brimstone at 1421 Tecumseh Rd. E. right next to Franco's. There is parking in back and there is a municipal lot across the street that is free after 6pm.

January 7th - Cry Havoc

Cry Havoc fantastic new area control game from Portal Games.

This is one of the most asymmetrical game ever made. It plays 2-4 players. Each player takes over a different faction trying to exploit the world harvest the most crystals. With 4 players one of the players is the native spices the Trog. Each faction plays very differently.

There are deck building elements, great looking miniatures, and one of the most unique and cool combat systems I've seen in a game here.

January 21st - Pandemic Iberia

Welcome to the Iberian Peninsula! Set in 1848, Pandemic Iberia asks you to take on the roles of nurse, railwayman, rural doctor, sailor, and more to find the cures to malaria, typhus, the yellow fever, and cholera.

From Barcelona to Lisboa, you will need to travel by carriage, by boat, or by train to help the Iberian populace. While doing so, distributing purified water and developing railways will help you slow the spread of diseases in this new version of Pandemic.

Discover a unique part of the world during a historically significant time period: the construction of the first railroad in the Iberian Peninsula during the Spring of Nations.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

The 16 best new (to me) games of 2016

Here is a list of the sixteen best games I tried for the first time in 2016. These games may not have come out in 2016 but rather this year was the first time I've played them so they were new to me. This list is in the order of when I discovered the games chronologically.

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar - This is the oldest game on the list. I'm not sure what took me so long to try this game. Maybe it's the fact that I hate the cover for showing an Aztec Sun Stone on what's supposed to be a game about the Mayan Calendar. Mixed themes aside this is an amazing worker placement game. It adds a resource to a game I've never seen before. Time. As in real time, not time counters. The longer you wait to remove a worker from the board the better the result. This was fascinating to me.

Keyflower - Here's another great worker placement game that does something a bit different. In this game you use your workers to bid on tiles, either to add them to your personal territory or to use the ability on the tile. The neat bit is that the meeple are coloured and once there is a bid on a tile all future bids need to be made using that colour. This adds a ton of strategy to the game. There's empire building, set collection, tile placement, pick up and deliver and even more to Keyflower. It's a heavier brain burner and I love it.

T.I.M.E. Stories - This is the most unique game on the list. It's not often a game comes out that is something completely new. T.I.M.E. Stories is one of those games. It's almost more of an experience than a game. It's a co-op puzzle game that reminds me most of games like Myst or 7th Guest on the PC. Players work together to solve a mystery in a which-way style of game. T.I.M.E, Stories really uses the time travel theme where you will need to take multiple runs to solve each mystery using the information you learned on earlier runs to guide you through the next one. The one issue with this game is that it can be played once. It's a one time experience. Personally I thought it was well worth it and look forward to purchasing some expansions and running through those.

Ashes Rise of the Phoenixborn - Magic the Gathering is still THE card game when it comes to battling wizards and I don't expect that to change any time soon. That said, I think Ashes is actually a better game. That's right a wizard battle, summon monsters and cast spells to beat up the other guy game that's better than Magic. Ashes has the added bonus (to me) of being non-collectible, Ashes uses dice to determine how much 'mana' you have each round and includes many rules that let you mitigate the randomness this causes. Spells when put into play stay in play and can be cast every round. Attacks can be made multiple times in one turn and with a mixed number of attackers. There are a number of other differences to Magic that I don't have time to get into here. I highly suggest checking it out.

Madeira - I have to thank the Heavy Cardboard podcast for this one. I love a good heavy game now and then. At local events we play a lot of shorter 1 hour games and it's very nice to sit down now and then with something longer and heavier. Madeira is just that, a nice heavy Euro that plays in about 2 - 2.5 hours. It's about the early Portuguese economy and the wood covered island of Madeira. A changing economy and randomized Crown Requests add to the replay value of this action selection and worker placement game. Unfortunately it looks like it may be out of print. Hopefully a new printing will be coming soon because if you like heavy Euro's this one is well worth checking out.

Above and Below - Yet another game that does something different. Above and Below combines a pretty standard action selection set collection game with an adventure game like Tales of The Arabian Knights or a Which Way book. In addition to collecting resources and building your city you can also send your workers to explore the dungeon below the city. There you have all kinds of adventures, find rare resources and expand the cave network allowing you to build better dungeon based buildings. I enjoyed the story elements of this game so much that I've even sat and 'run' the game like a GM in an RPG, doing all the reading from the adventure book while the other players enjoy the game.

Mombasa - This is another one I can thank Heavy Cardboard for. I first got to try it at Origins 2016 and was immediately taken by the very unique discard mechanic. Each round you play three action cards. At the end of the round each of these cards goes into it's own discard pile. Then at the start of the next round you only get to pick up one of those three piles. This adds a level of long term strategy to the game that I found fascinating. Along with this Mombasa is a very solid worker placement economic game where you are investing in up to four different companies while also trying to collect sets of resources for yourself. This one is another brain burner and not for everyone but if you like heavier games give it a shot.

Valeria Card Kingdoms - This was the best game I played this year at Origins 2016. It was also the first game I had to buy at the Con. I grabbed it right then and there, after doing the demo. I love this game. To me it's a mix of Splendor and Thunderstone Advance. I'm told by others that it owes a lot to Machi Koro and for many it's actually replaced Machi. Start with only two heroes. Roll dice to generate resources. Use those resources to hire more heroes or kill monsters in the dungeon. Eventually save up enough resources to buy kingdoms. Score points based on monsters killed, kingdoms collected and set collection based on what character you start with. I've played this game more than any other game in 2016, I can't get enough.

Onitama - For a very long time The Duke was our two player game. Any time my wife and I went anywhere together we brought it, from hotels and restaurants to coffee shops and even the beach. Onitama has become the new The Duke for us. I don't know if it will eventually replace The Duke, but right now it's coming out to all those places we used to bring The Duke. This game is brilliant. It looks great. It's so simple to teach and it's so damn tactical. The fact that you have perfect information every turn is what really makes this one. The game is chess-like, where you are moving pieces on a grid trying to capture the opponent's sensei (or get your sensei to the opponent's starting spot). The thing is that each game only uses five different possible moves, for the entire game. When you use one of your two moves, next turn it gets passed to your opponent for them to use.

1812: The Invasion of Canada - I am not a big war gamer. I like a few of them, mostly block games, but not a lot. I'm definitely not a chit based, Squad Leader style gamer. 1812: The Invasion of Canada is my kind of wargame. It has a lot of Euro game elements. It's a card driven cubes on a map game. It reminds me a little bit of the Richard Borg Command & Color system, a little bit, not a lot. The one downfall to this game is that it really does play best with exactly five players, and that's not always easy to come by. Players split into two teams: Two American forces and Three British (The British, Canadians and Natives). Each round turn order is completely random. On a player's turn they play one card. That will let them activate a number of armies. Armies are all the cubes in one area. You can only activate an area with your cubes. Combat is dice based with quite a bit of tactics due to retreats and "command decisions". Victory is determined by owning key spots in enemy territory one the truce is called which has to be done by one of the two sides playing all of it's truce cards.

Food Chain Magnate - This was the surprise hit for me. Quite a few heavy game fans suggested Food Chain Magnate and while it sounded good, I didn't expect it to be that good. It's one of the best and heaviest games I've played in a long time. Even I admit it doesn't look like much but, the gameplay more than makes up for the lackluster graphics. This is a heavy, brain burning, unforgiving, economic game. You start your empire with just you the CEO of a new food chain. Each round you will build your corporate structure and activate each of your employees (that aren't on vacation). They will do all kinds of things like make food, pick up drinks, hire more people, train existing staff, earn you money or launch marketing campaigns. Marketing campaigns are huge and determine what is in demand each round. After marketing campaigns are run the people go out to eat. You get paid for every household eating at one of your places but they will only visit you if you not only have exactly what they want but have it at the best value (based on price and distance). 

Between Two Cities - This is proof that I don't just like heavy games. Between Two Cities is my current favourite filler game. What I really love about this one is that it's a very good game with quite a bit of depth for such a short game and it plays up to 7 players. The neat bit here is that you are building two cities at once, in a team with the players on your left and right. At the end of the game though the only one that scores you points is the one worth the least points. The actual gameplay is tile drafting and tile placement that's mostly about set collection. While drafting you cannot talk to your fellow builders but once you see what tiles everyone has picked you then work with both of them to try to build the best cities you can.

IceCool - When I first heard about this one it didn't sound like something for me. It was huge at GenCon and every podcast and reviewer was going on about IceCool. A flicking dexterity game with penguins? I already have PitchCar, do I need another flicking game? Well it ends up that yes, I did. IceCool is fantastic. Don't get me wrong, it's uber light, there's not a lot to it, but it's just so much fun. It's the way the penguins are weighted that makes this one so much fun. You can pull off really cool curved shots and even make the penguins jump. 

Star Wars Rebellion - Many people are calling this one "the original Star Wars Trilogy in a box" and I'm inclined to agree. This is Star Wars on an epic scale. A small band of Rebels is striking out from a hidden base and the evil Galactic Empire is trying to find them. This is a huge game with a huge board that takes a long time to play. Designed for only two players it can be played with three or four in an interesting team based variant. Gameplay is a mix of worker placement and dudes on a map where players use Heroes to complete missions or move units on the board. What really makes this game is how well it sticks to the Star Wars theme. Rebels can move their base, they can build shield generators on Hoth (or any other planet), they can steal the plans and blow up the Death Star. The Empire can capture the heroes, they can build a second (or even third) Death Star, and they can blow up systems. If it's in the Star Wars trilogy it's probably represented here somewhere. 

Orleans - There was a ton of buzz about this game last year and for very good reasons. I personally didn't get to try this amazing game until 2016 but after only one play I fell in love. I've played more games of this in the last couple months after discovering it than any other game. I can't remember the last WGR event I didn't bring it out to and it's been played every time. A worker placement bag builder, Orleans is just a very solid medium weight Euro. It's almost Feld-like in the variety of viable strategies. Engine building, set collection, bag building, it's all here and expertly balanced. I am looking forward to adding expansions to my copy soon.

Thunder Alley - If you had told me at any time in the past, that I would be putting a NASCAR based game on a best of list I would have assumed you were making a joke. I am not a NASCAR fan. I'm not even a racing fan. It's a sport that I care pretty much nothing about. Yet I really enjoyed Thunder Alley. This is by far the best racing game I've played. I used to think Formula D was the pinnacle of racing games. No longer. Not even close. Formula D is a push your luck dice game, where as this is a real game. Instead of just racing one car you race an entire team. Actions are card based, determining how far and what type of movement you will use each turn. It's the movement system that's brilliant. Using drafting, leader and chase movement you often end up moving an entire pack of cars at once, not just the one vehicle you activated. Added to this is a very well done "component wear system" combined with a brilliantly simple pit system that constantly has you weighing your options. I never though I would like a race game this much, especially one about tuning left over and over :D

So there you have it. The best new (to me) games of 2016. There are so many more games I was tempted to have on this list. When I first sat down to work on it I had thirty-five amazing games on it. It took quite a bit of thinking to get that list down to sixteen. What were your top games of 2016?

Friday, 11 November 2016

Extra Life 2016 wrap up

Extra Life 2016 happened this past weekend (November 5th and 6th). For this year Windsor gamers returned to Brimstone games for 24 hours of gaming. I thought I would take some time today to re-cap the event.

This year the awesome gamers of Windsor Ontario raised $2819 USD for The Children's Miracle Network of Hospitals. This money went to the Children's Health Foundation in London and Sick Kids in Toronto. This brings us to a grand total of over $11,000 USD raised for Extra Life by members of the Windsor Gaming Resource since we started participating four years ago. 

A large chunk of the money raised this year came from the live gaming and geekery auction which was held at 8pm on November 5th. The auction alone raised $1419 CAD and I would like to personally thank everyone who donated items to this auction. Also eight local gamers joined the online Windsor Gaming Resource team and the highest earner from this group was David Hutchinson who raised just over $500 USD. Congratulations on your first Extra Life silver metal David! The rest of the money was raised through the sale of baked goods and The Cheat Box.

The Cheat Box is something I encourage anyone hosting an Extra Life event to have. For a $1 donation to the Cheat Box, a game player can cheat in their current game once. Discard and draw an extra card. Re-roll a die. Ignore an event for one round. Etc. All players playing have to agree to this when it's done but remember it's all about having fun and helping kids.

A shout out to our awesome sponsors:

The biggest thanks goes to Brimstone games which hosted the event for the fourth year in a row. Special thanks for letting our auction winners use your debit machine :D 

This year I approached and was approached by a variety of local companies to be sponsors. This was fantastic to see The Cheese Bar, Robbie's Gourmet Sausage Co, Little Foot Foods, Rogues Gallery Comics, The Walkerville Tavern, Villains Beastro, The Coffee Exchange and Hidden Trail Escape Rooms as sponsors. All of these great Windsor small businesses stepped up and offered their support in the form of cash donations or gift cards which we used to reward participants who raised money for the event. 

We also had the support of some fantastic game companies who provided us with cash donations, games to play and games for our auction. Big thanks to CMON (Cool Mini or Not), Stronghold Games, AEG (Alerac Entertainment Group), Rio Grande Games and USAopoly

It's not too late to show your support!

If you couldn't attend the event or didn't hear about it in time, it's not too late to show your support through an online donation. Donations for this year's event are open until December 31st 2016. To donate click here and choose one of our team members to donate to:

Next year I hope to see even more local support, even more gamers out gaming for this great cause and even more money raised, For The Kids!

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Extra Life 2016 - gaming for a great cause on November 5th and 6th

November 5th and 6th 2016 members of the Windsor Gaming Resource will be gathering at Brimstone Games to play games for 24 hours in support of Extra Life. 

This is our fourth year in a row supporting Extra Life as a group (some individual members have been doing it longer). Over the last three years we have raised over $8700 U.S. for the Children's Miracle Network of Hospitals. This year we are striving to break the $10,000 mark!

What is Extra Life?

Extra Life was started in 2008 by the Sarcastic Gamer Community as a tribute to one specific leukemia victim: Victoria Enmon. The group created a 24-hour long video game marathon to raise money for the hospital that treated and fought beside Tori. 100% of the funds raised went to the local Children's Miracle Network. 

Now thousands of gamers have joined in this annual event. In 2009 the event spread allowing participants to donate to the Hospital of their choice and now hundreds of websites and tens of thousands of gamers will take part in this charity event this year.

What is the WGR doing for Extra Life?

As many members as possible are going to head to Brimstone Games at 10:00am on Saturday November 5th. Once there it's simple: we game, and we game for 12 hours straight. Then we repeat the same thing on Sunday November the 6th, at 10am, gaming for another 12 hours straight. That's 24 hours of gaming total! We will be playing board games, miniature games and maybe even some pen and paper roleplaying games.

In addition to all the gaming, at 8:00pm on Saturday night we will also be hosting a live game auction. Anyone is welcome to attend this portion of the event. We've got a great selection of games to auction off and 100% of the proceeds will be going to Extra Life.

You can find Brimstone at 1421 Tecumseh Rd E, Windsor, ON N8W 1C2. Parking is available in back.

What can you do to support us?

Come play games: You should come join us on the day of the event and play some games! Even if you can't come out for all 24 hours it would be awesome if you could stop in and show your support. While there play a game or two. We would love the support and encouragement. You can show up at any time during the event. Stop in after work, say hi at lunch, whenever. 

Join our team: Extra Life lets groups of participants make a team page and we have one for the Windsor Gaming Resource. Even if you aren't going to actually come out to Brimstone and play with us, if you are going to participate at home or at your own FLGS we would love to have you on our team. Click here to join up!

Sponsor a Windsor Gaming Resource member: Any amount helps, even a buck, and the Extra Life site has a wide variety of payment options even including a monthly donation deal. They also offer charity receipts.

Participate in the live auction: The auction will be held at 8pm on Saturday November 5th and there will be a wide variety of new and used games and other geeky items on the auction block. All money raised will be donated to Extra Life through the group page.

Donate games: Are you a game publisher? Do you have too many games and don't know what to do with them? How about donating your games to the cause. You can either give them to us to play during the event or you can donate them to be sold at the live auction. Any donations can be dropped off at Brimstone Games up to and including the day of the event or contact gilvanblight(at) to make arrangement before then.

Thanks to our sponsors:

While organizing this event I sent out emails to a variety of game companies asking if they would be willing to support the WGR in this effort.

Huge thanks to Stronghold Games for supporting us four years in a row!

Thanks to Mantic GamesAlderac Entertainment GroupRio Grande Games and Hidden Trail Escape Rooms for supporting us again this year.