Sunday, 12 February 2017

Pile of Shame reduction update - End of January #ReducingThePile

Back on January 2nd I talked about how one of my goals for this year is to get games out of my Pile(s) of Shame.  The actual goal is to have played every game that was in the pile of shame at the start of the year, at least once, before the end of the year. 

I realize that getting the pile to 0 is probably an unrealistic goal as I'm not going to stop buying games until I finish this challenge. I'm sure there will be some new hotness that I must play right away and will get to the table long before some other games in the piles. 

I'm going to try to document my progress on getting through the piles. I won't promise these updates will be regular but I will try to do them when I find some spare time. In each post I will list the new games I played with my initial thoughts. In some cases I may have only gotten one play in, in others I may have gotten more. I want people to be aware that, in many cases, these will just be initial impressions.

For those following along at home I'm going to use hashtag #ReducingThePile for these posts.

Black Gold - 1 play - This was a surprise. A hidden gem if you will. It's an older Fantasy Flight game from 2010 that I don't remember hearing much about. It was both on sale and part of a buy 2 get 1 free deal so I decided to give it a try and I'm very happy I did.

Black Gold is a very neat economic game where players are trying to prospect for oil, set up oil derricks, deliver oil to one of three companies and then sell the delivered oil at a profit.

This one really deserves a full review as there are some really neat mechanisms. It has one of the best auction phases I've seen in a game and the way the market fluctuates is very well done. Added to the excellent gameplay are some of the nicest components out there. They way you add plastic oil spouts to derricks is very neat, and the fact those same spouts flip over to show stored oil also works really well. I'm hoping to get a few more plays out of this one and was happy to add it to the collection.

Dreamwell - 2 plays - I won this game at one of the Brimstone Games board game nights. I had never heard of the game before that game night. 
I will say one thing: this game has some of the most unique art I've ever seen. All of it is by Tara McPherson and really fits the theme of the game which is wandering around a dream land looking for friends. 

Gameplay is solid. You lay out a grid of tiles, you have two pawns, you use actions to move around the board trying to get your pawns on two tiles that match cards in your hands. You can get more cards and you can manipulate the tiles that form the board (rotating and flipping). There's more game here than at first glance especially once you add flipping tiles. Overall it was a fun enough game but not great and I don't plan on keeping it in my collection.

Medieval Academy - 2 plays - I've owned this one for quite some time. There was a lot of buzz when it first came out. I picked it up and tried to play it at 3am during an Extra Life event.  It didn't go well. I'm guessing due to the fact it was 3am. I had it in my head I didn't really like this game because of that. I was wrong. I finally got in a full play of the game at the beginning of January and found it to be an excellent game.

It's a very simple to teach drafting game that has a surprising level of tactics and strategy. Very seldom do you get a handful of cards and know instantly what card you should take. It's all about trying to guess what the other players are going to do and constantly checking the boards for player position. This is up there with 7 Wonders and Among the Stars for me.

Worlds Fair 1893 - 1 play - The fact this still only has 1 play is a shame. That first game was really good. Near fantastic. I really enjoyed this game. I had heard good things and I know at least one person who says it's the best game of 2016. I'm not sure I would go that far but it's up there. 

Amazing looking game. I love the theme. I love the way the theme is represented on the cards. It's solid mix of area control and set collection. Lots of hard decision points. Can lead to some AP but it's still a fairly light game. It's has that magical combination of simple rules and complex strategy and tactics. I really need to play this one a few more times. It felt like the kind of game that would reward system mastery.

Dungeons & Dragons Attack Wing - 2 plays - this was one of the most shameful games on my pile of shame. I've had this game over 3 years. I received it as a gift for my Birthday back in 2014. At the time I was heavy into X-Wing and just wasn't interested in trying the D&D version. 

I was very surprised to find just how solid this game seems. I say seems because all I own for it is the starter set, which, for this style of game, doesn't really give you the full experience. This is even more true for D&D Attack Wing as there are both ground and flying troops and the core set only gives you flying troops. So really I've only experienced half the game, if not less.

The minis may not be the best painted, but they are pretty cool. Gameplay has some significant changes from X-wing but all of them make sense for the setting. Force building seems to have a lot of variety with spells and skills. I admit it: I'm impressed.

I'm now keeping my eyes open for deals on more units for Dungeons & Dragons Attack Wing. The game has been out long enough that I'm hoping to find a good deal or a lot of figures for a good price. I'm interested to see just how good this can be with the more units and more options and combing ground a aerial combat. 

World of Yo-Ho - 1 play - this one is unique. Very unique. It's a mix of a video game and a board game. Every player needs a mobile device of some sort in order to play. You also have to download the app, and that app takes up a lot of room. Once you have the app and launch it, each player uses their device as their playing piece on the board. 

The actual game is a rather interesting pirate based sandbox game. I've heard it compared to Merchants and Marauders. You start in port and usually start off looking for missions. There's pick up and deliver, discovery, find the missing thing, defeat the monster or even attack the other players. Going to a port where another player has been ads player vs. player missions. All of this tracked by the app. Movement is done by physically moving your mobile device around the board. Combat has a bit of a rock paper scissors feel but that's selling it short. There's actually quite a bit going on here but it's all managed by the app so pretty much invisible to the players. 

I have to say it's definitely neat. I think it's well worth trying. There are a few interface issues (the lack of an undo button being a big one) and there was an issue with people's devices running out of power before the game was done (bring a charger), but I did have fun and will be willing to try again. 

Keyflower: The Merchants - 1 play - I finally got to play Keyflower with all the expansions! I got to try The Farmers back on new years and then played with The Merchants a couple weeks later. Whereas The Farmers seemed to do some work to fix issues in the core game, The Merchants seemed to be about adding more to it. 

Like The Farmers, what I liked most about this expansion, is that it didn't really change the base game all that much. It added more to it without changing the overall feel of the game. Players can now collect orders which are a new method of end of game scoring. There are a new set of boats that you randomize with the originals at the start of the game, adding a huge amount of variety to the game. There are new upgrade tiles which double the score of a tile at the end of the game.Then there are a bunch of new season tiles to go with these new elements. Overall more options and more ways to score. 

The only problem I have with this expansion is that explaining the game just got quite a bit harder and longer. Keyflower was never the easiest game to explain. There isn't really anything out there that does worker placement quite like it. Now in addition to getting that concept across you have animals, and farms, and upgrade tiles and contracts, etc. On a positive note, for players who already know the base game, this new material isn't hard to learn at all. The rules additions are only like a page and a half with some more details on special tiles. For someone learning from scratch though this is going to be a hard sell. 

Chicago Express - 1 play - This one wasn't on my radar at all. Over the holidays there was a huge Queen game sale on Amazon. Many games under $15. When this one dropped that low a small group of gamers went nuts. It was from this buzz that I learned that Chicago Express is kind of like a filler 18XX game. For those that don't know them 18XX games are big, heavy, economic train games, that are as much about building routes as buying and selling shares in train companies. At every major con you will find an area dedicated to 18XX games. 18XX is hobby of it's own and some people only play 18XX games. It's a sub-genre of board gaming like Chit Wargaming. 

Chicago Express focuses on the economic side of the 18XX genre. Track building is simplified as much as possible (if a company has a train token in a hex, they have rails there) all that matters is connections. What's amazing is that they managed to create a very solid economic game and keep the play time down to about an hour and  a half. Probably less with experienced players. All five of us that played this one were really surprised by how solid it was.

Friday - 3 plays - I lost this game for like a year. I was online and someone was talking about solo games and Friday came up. That reminded me that I owned this game. I also realized that I had no idea where it was. After a bit of searching I found it behind the chair that holds part of my pile of shame. Since I had found it I figured I might as well play it.

I'm not one to play solo games. Normally if it's just me, and I feel like gaming, I'll turn on the Playstation or Xbox. The thought to play a board game solo doesn't usually even enter my mind. It's just not really my thing. That said, Friday is a very good game. Lots of agonizing decisions. Very solid gameplay. Very thematic. I would even call it brilliant. Despite this (or maybe because of it) I couldn't help but think it would be even better as an app. Let the app handle shuffling and tracking of life points. 

If you do enjoy solo board/card gaming this one is well worth picking up. Definitely beats a standard deck of cards and playing solitaire.

How big is your pile of shame? Have you done anything to make it smaller this year?

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