Thursday, 16 February 2017

Pile of Shame reduction Update - Mid February #ReducingThePile

A progress report on my attempts to reduce my Pile(s) of Shame. One of my goals for 2017 is to get every game that was in my pile of shame at the start of the year out of the pile by the end of the year.

I've made some great progress so far. Back in January I got in 9 new game plays (not counting New Years), you can see those reviews here:

Here's a mid month update for February. These are the games I got out of my pile by Feb 16th.

Santorini - 12 plays - This is one of the games that wasn't in the pile of shame at the start of the year. It was my first game purchase of 2017. Everyone is going nuts for this game and I needed to get on that band wagon.

There's a really good reason for the buzz. This is one of the simplest games I run, I can teach you to play in under 5 minutes, but you will be playing a lifetime  before you master it. It's one of those chess like abstracts where it's all about strategy. Even the basic game could keep you occupied for hours, and there's a reason I've gotten 9 plays of this in already: you can't eat just one. I've yet to play one game of Santorini and put it away, after the first round you always want to play more.

In addition to the core abstract game, the box comes with a ton of God cards. Each player gets one of these and they break the rules in some way. I can't properly express how much the Gods not only change but improve the game. This is what takes the game from good to great.

It doesn't hurt that this is one of the best looking games to be produced in years. Just setting it up you gather a crowd. It just looks awesome. It's also a lot of fun with three players. The game is over quickly but it's very tactical during that short time.

Heroes Wanted - 1 play - I remember when this was on kickstarter and thinking it looked cool but I didn't want to take a chance on it. Then I saw a group of friends playing it at Extra Life 2016. I watched part of the game and saw how much fun they were having and had to get myself a copy.

I really like this game but it may not be what you think. It looks like a silly Amerathrash game. Instead it's a silly medium-heavy Euro. Gameplay is all about turn optimization. Using your action cards to earn the most points each turn while hindering the other players. Yes that's right it's not a co-op. Put on top of these heavier mechanics is a hilarious theme. The game is more Mystery Men than Avengers. The one mission we played was to catch jay-walkers and litterers. The heroes and villains are created through a mix of two element cards each which gave us combinations like Meat Dude and American Knight.

One put this one over the top for me are the quirks. These add an RPG element to the game. Every character gets a quirk, something they have to do when in game triggers happen. What makes this fun is what you actually have to do. In our game, every time someone used a Super Power I had to clap, cheer and offer them encouragement. Another player, had to stand up and announce every headline that was completed. It's hilarious. It also gets everyone in the area to notice the game. By then end of our first play we had a group of 10 onlookers cheering us on.

Dungeon Lords: Happy Anniversary - 3 plays - This is another one that has been in my pile longer than most. The problem with this game is that it intimidated me. This is the only game that I own where the rulebook tries to talk you out of playing it. In the tutorial section it notes that if players don't get it by the end the game is not for them. Then later when talking about the first play it insists that this is a heavy game for heavy gamers, and that even heavy gamers should use the intro rules. So this kept me from trying this one for more than a year.

Eventually I decided that was silly and we needed to learn this game. I do have to say that the rulebook is right: This is a heavy game. It's also not for everyone. But it is for me. I loved this game. As did my wife. As did the other 3 people I've now taught it to. This is one of the best games I've played and we've only played the intro rules so far. I'm loving it and currently have a post on facebook trying to figure out when we can play again.

Quickly: this is a heavy Euro about trying to build the best dungeon. Get food, hire imps, dig tunnels, hire monsters, build rooms, set up traps and try to keep the villagers happy so that the high level adventurers and the paladin leave you alone (unless you are bad ass enough to take them out). It's like Boss Monster extreme! The them sounds light, but it is not. Definitely a try before you buy.

Villages of Valeria - 1 play - this is another 2017 purchase. It barely hit the pile of shame, I played it days after getting it. Valeria Card Kingdom was on my 16 best new (to me_ games of 2016 list. I love that game. I've been hearing that Villages of Valeria is as good if not better, so I had to check it out.

Right now, after only 1 play I can say it's good. So far I don't think it's as good as Card Kingdom but they are rather different games. For one Villages of Valeria is much shorter. The theme is kind of the opposite of Card Kingdom. In this game you are building your kingdoms trying to attract heroes, as opposed to hiring heroes which lets you found kingdoms.

Gameplay is very San Juan like. Each round the active player chooses to lead an action. Then everyone else can follow and take the same action but it's not quite as good for them as it is for the leader. Players use cards to build a tableau and the end game condition is the same: once a player has X cards in their tableau the game ends. Buildings added to the tableau modify the basic actions, in general making them better for you. Most of this we have seen before in other games. The neat new thing is a unique card draw and discard system where there are 5 face up piles on the board and when you discard you choose which pile to discard into, when drawing you have to take from the top of the pile.

I did enjoy my play of Villages of Valeria but I think it will take a few more plays before I've firmed up my opinion on it.

CO2 - 1 play - this is another one that sat in my pile of shame for far too long. It was there for a similar reason to Dungeon Lords. This is a heavy Euro and I was not looking forward to trying to teach it. The rules, while not horrible, just weren't very easy to read and grasp. In addition, for some reason, my copy of the game came with all of the player aids in French.

It took going online and watching a few different gameplay videos for me to really grock this game. At least to a point where I could explain it to other players. Finally got to play it at one of the CG Realm game nights and while teaching didn't go very smooth we all really enjoyed the game.

This is one of those games where you can never do everything you want to do. You only get one action a turn and you will find you want 5. It's also one of those games where other players can benefit from your actions. In this game you don't own most of what you do. You propose a project, but then someone else may come in an add infrastructure for that project, then a third player may be the one to actually build the power plant for that project. This can lead to a lot of AP and some really hard decisions.

CO2 really needs a full review. There's a ton going on here. The world is having an energy crisis. The goal is to stop the increase of pollution, while meeting rising demand for sustainable energy - and of course profiting from doing so. Players need money and resources to build clean plants. They will need to research and attend energy summits, improving their expertise int he various sources of clean energy. They will need to learn to manage Carbon Emission Permits. Managing government grants and getting UN sanctions can help keep your energy empire on top.

I really enjoyed this game. I was pleased to see that there is a new printing coming out in 2017 as well, as this one is currently going for stupid prices on the secondary market right now.

Sons of Anarchy: Men of Mayhem - 1 play - This is a game I had no interest in. I've never seen the show, most licenced games are not very good and Gale Force 9 isn't know for amazing games. Then suddenly it was dirt cheap, like $13 cheap, and all of a sudden there was buzz. The thing is that the buzz wasn't just over the price, it was also about how good this game is. So I picked it up, can't go wrong for under $15.

This game is totally not what I would expect from a game about biker gangs. I would have guessed a dice filled Ameritrash game. Instead I got a medium weight Euro. Mostly area control with some resource management and a rather well done auction mechanic. Components are great. There's a ton of extra cardboard in here that ads to replayability. This is a decent game. I'm thinking that being a fan of the show would make it even better.

There is one problem. The first printing, which seems to be the one that's so cheap, has a printing issue. There's no contraband card included in the game. Now there's a copy shown in the rulebook but it's the 4 player side. So if you play 3 players the game is unplayable out of the box. Now it's very easy to find a copy of the missing info online but it is annoying.

Shakespeare - 2 plays - I admit I knew nothing about this game. Then it was part of a buy 2 get 1 free sale and I looked it up on It seemed to review pretty well so I picked it up. I'm glad I did. I rather like this game.  

Now I say that, but in fact I hate it while I'm playing it. We started calling it Misery Theater as there are so many agonizing decisions and you cannot possibly do everything you want. Then when you figure out your best possible move, the player before you takes the costume you needed, or hires the actor you wanted, or messed up your plans in some other way. It's so frustrating! It's awesome! 

The game is an interesting mix of very thematic and completely abstract. You are a play-write and you hire actors and seamstresses and set makers. At the end of the game you need to pay all these people. Each round you pick a group of them to work with you and after the round most of them will need to rest and can't be used again. If your actors are in full costume they help you during the dress rehearsals. All very thematic, but then set building is just coloured tiles, piled up, that have to be symetrical, unless they are gold. If you build on the right spot you get points, because, well you built there: good for you. Costumes are just colored chits, and the value of these gives you money or points. The actual play is in three acts but is just three progress tracks, which no player will probably complete, they are just there to give more money and points. The art on the troup cards is fantastic, the art on the clothes and set tiles is non-existent. It's an odd mix.

Overally if you dig tight unforgiving Euro's, with quite a bit of screw your neighbor this one is for you, Just don't believe the potential 20 minute play time on the box. This one can be very AP prone. Our shortest game was an hour and a half. One last note: this plays just as well with 2 players as with more. It scales perfectly.

So that's another 7 games out of my pile of shame. Well technically 5 of them were part of my goal to play everything that was in there at the start of the year. Two of these were bought this year. I'm still pretty happy with my progress on this so far. I think this is definitely doable.

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