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Monday
Jan212019

Southeast KY Game Night Session Report  (1-17-19)

I have been playing mostly games with my family recently with the holidays and weather canceling my weekly game nights I host at my college for the Southest KY Game Club. We finally had a game night this past week, but only six of us were there to play at the peak with numbers vacillating from four to six, which makes breaking up into two groups a bit silly even though most games that serve six are not my cup of tea. I had hopes of getting some heavier game to the table in the new year, but, alas, the start was lighter than I hoped. Here is what we played:

Conspiracy. It was announced this week that Conspiracy would be the next game to getthe necromancy magic of Restoration games. It well deserves it. Really nothing else like this game of secretly controlling spies and trying to get the secrets in the briefcasedelivered to your embassy. We played two games, but I look forward to playing four or fiveback to back at some point to watch the metagame develop over a few plays. This game is not for everyone, but, for me, it is nearly perfect. 9/10

 

Megaland. One of our regulars, Brit, loves Celestia, but she requested it too late for me to have it on hand. I did have Megaland--another quick push-your-luck game with gorgeous art and we played it instead. It is great fun. I like it better than Celestia at this point, but that may be the fact that I've played dozens of games of Celestia and its predecessor, Cloud 9, over the years. 8/10

 

Pandemic the Cure x 2. Two games of this "classic?" dice-based co-op. I love it because it is fast and gives me that Pandemic feel, but the speed that things can go from "fine" to"catastrophe" is frustrating. Still, set up and play is so quick that it will remain ago-to co-op for the rare times we aren't in the mood to destroy each other at a competitivegame. 8/10

 

Three Cheers for Master. One of our group likes "take that" games a lot and given we were trying to stay at one table for the night, I got forced into way more of them than I would prefer. This one has a cute theme and plays well enough but like most "take that" games depends on the players to keep the game close by picking on the leader and otherwise playing spoiler. 6/10

 

Lost Legends. This was a pretty fun dungeonless "dungeon crawl" with characters leveling up and getting better weapons as the monsters got bigger and more deadly. It has a lot of moving parts and dragged a little in the first game, but I think I'm in for more of this one at some point. 7/10

 

Quelf. I'm not a party game snob.  I really like a lot of them (Time's Up, Wits and Wagers, Say Anything, Guesstures--the list goes on and on, but the is a really bad party game that depends too much on dice rolls and goes way too long.  We had a few laughs, and I'm not sure the other players would agree with me, but if that is the last time I play the game, I'll be happy. 3/10

 

I live in the mountains and snow can really shut down or alter our game nights, but I have hopes of getting back to multiple tables running soon, and meeting my resolution to play more game from the "heavy" side of my collection this year.  

Thursday
May312018

I'm Going to need a better game for "X"

My Collection Reduced to One Game for each Letter of the Alphabet 

My game collection at one point grew to over 1000 games.  It was huge and unmanageable--and only the tiniest percentage of the games was ever going to see the table, so i auctioned, sold, and gave away game until I was under 500--and managed to fund a trip to Disney World for the family with the proceeds.  Now, a decade or so later, I'm up to close to 1000 games again (750 or so logged on BGG, the rest kids and family games I haven't bothered adding).  I'm definitely going to have to pare down the collection again soon, so I've been trying to decide what my perfect collectio would look like.  How can I cut down the collection and keep options open for game nights?  Probably, the best thing I could do is outline the basic mechanisms of games I like and cut down to two or three games from each gaming subgenre--worker placement, deck building, route building, party games, dice games, etc.  That is something I really might do, but a recent Facebook post got me thinking about a more radical, if less practical, way of cutting the collection.  A commentor going in the other direction (trying to grow his collection) was trying to find one good game for every letter of the alphabet and was looking for suggestions.  That led me to this--what would my collection look like if I only kept one game for each letter of the alphabet?  I would have to keep some games that weren't my favorite in a certain letter just to cover more gaming bases.  In "D" for instance, I chose to keep Don't Mess with Cthulhu over Daytona 500, Dreamblade, Dominion, and Deception: Murder in Hong Kong because it is quick and newbie friendly and I needed a game like it to have a well-rounded collection for all gaming situations.  The choices just as an abstract thinking exercise were painful, so it is unlkely I could ever follow through with it, but I found the process rewarding and at least a bit helpful as I decide what games to shed this time around.  

 

A--Age of Steam 

Why I picked it.  Age of Steam is my all-time favorite game.  I love having over 100 maps to play on, with more still being released.  I love that each game is an agressively competitive puzzle to solve as I try to ramp up my income while planning for the late-game six-link routes.  This will likely never fall from my top spot, making it an easy pick here.

Runners Up.  Agricola (sigh), Africa, Ave Caesar

 

B--Baseball Highlights 2045

Why I picked it.  Baseballl Highlights 2045 is an amazing two-player deck builder.  If features on of my favorite themes and an absolutely unique mechanism to handle the back-and-forth between offence and defence.  Like Age of Steam, the game has an abundant array of expansions to keep it fresh.  I haven't even shuffled in the last three I purchased and probably won't for another dozen games or so. Haven't played the multi-player rules yet, but having that option helps the collection, ahem, cover more bases.

Runners Up.  Basketboss, Basari, Blokus (that I lack abstract games now occurs to me)

C--Chicago Express

Why I Picked it.  Chicago Express is a vicious, tight route-building game that plays quickly but offers meaty decisions, temporary alliances, and the opportunity to take out an opponent with a simple null action.  I love games that are all about managing money better than the opponent.  This game often comes down to a few dollars between 1st and 4th, making every decision seem important.  

Runners Up. Chicago and Northwestern, Can't Stop, Champions of Midgard

D--Don't Mess With Cthulhu 

E--Ethnos

F--Fairy Tale

G--Glory to Rome

H--Hansa Teutonica

I--Isle of Skye

J--Jump Drive

K--Kingdoms

L--Liar's Dice

M--Millenneum Blades

N--Nuclear War

O--Orleans

P--Power Grid

Q--Quandary

R--Race for the Galaxy

S--Space Hulk

T--Terra Mystica

U--Union Pacific

V--Viticulture

W--Web of Power

X--Xena: Warrior Princes TCG

Y--Yspahan

z--Zendo

 

 

 

Friday
May252018

If you are a fan of euro-style board games, this is definitely the Golden Age

Back in the 90s and early 2000s, lots of games that were released in Germany never came out here and there weren't really any game stores that shipped internationally. We used to collect, over Usenet, a regional order for Adam Spielt, the biggest German source for games that would shop to the US. I'd collect the money to get to the minimum order (400 USD, I think) and cheaper shipping and, when the packages came in from Germany, I would repackage them and send them out to the other buyers. It was a long, expensive, and often frustrating process, but getting those games from Germany that we had been drooling over and would likely never be released in the US was worth it. I still think of those days as the glory days of this hobby of mine. Still, I just got the following games in from Germany through Amazon.de. It was 40 buck order with around 7 dollar shipping and it arrived in less than ten days. Though I sometimes miss being part of a tiny enthusiast community, it is hard to argue with the idea that this is the best time ever to be a board game collector.

 

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Friday
Sep222017

Is IT about to pass The Exorcist as highest grossing horror film of all time? No.

Here is some fake news that really annoys me. Headlines abound that It is about to pass The Exorcist as the highest-grossing horror film of all time. It is a good movie and is certainly a huge success, but one can't compare 1970's dollars to this year's dollars. Adjusted for inflation, The Exorcist made almost 1 billion dollars at the US box office. It won't get to half that number, nor will it approach being the cultural phenomenon The Exorcist was both as a novel and a film.

For the record, here are the top 10 horror films of all time, US box office, adjusted for inflation (reflecting actual ticket sells, not cost of ticket, and excluding films that some might consider horror, but I did not--Ghost, the Jurassic movies, and Passion of the Christ). As I write this, It is at 215 million, IT should pass Alien, Amityville and maybe Psycho (which would be amazing in itself), but isn't tracking to pass Gremlins, which would make it the eighth highest grossing horror movie at the end of the run. I would say the cieling is just over 500 million, maybe passing The Sixth Sense, which would put it at an amazing fourth all-time, but still well behind Jaws and The Exorcist.  If anyone was wondering about foreign gross, the ranking would be about the same, just add around 50% to all of the numbers. It is very difficult to adjust the worldwide gross for inflation since a lot of the money from Europe and the rest of the world went into one big bucket back in the day. We just didn't get the kind of granular reporting we get now.

The Top Ten

Jaws (which is ahead of The Exorcist at 1.1 billion)
The Exorcist--983 million
Ghostbusters--632 million
The Sixth Sense--511 million
House of Wax--449 million
Young Frankenstein--405 million
Gremlins--404 million
Psycho--379 million
The Amityville Horror ('79)--306 million
Alien--279 million

Friday
Aug112017

Preview: Visitor in Blackwood Grove

(Note: Like all Nerdbloggers Kickstarter or early-access previews, we received no compensation for this preview.  In the case of Visitor in Blackwood Grove, my preview is based on an early prototype that was desktop printed.  The images in the preview are from a later revision, but still not finalized assets.)

The site has been on a long break recently as our personal lives and careers have limited the time that we can spend on nerdy stuff (and I think all of us have opted to play games, read books and comics, and keep up with movies with the time we have rather than write about those things).  Things are getting a bit more settled, for me at least, and I’ve got a ton of content in various stages of completion rolling out soon.  To start that off, here is a quick look at a new deductive/inductive logic game from Tiltfactor and designers Mary Flanagan and Max Seidman : VISITOR in Blackwood Grove.   

The Pitch:  An alien craft has crashed in the woods.  Government agents arrive to dissect it at the same time a kid who has seen the crash arrives to investigate.  A “shimmering semi-permeable” barrier surrounds the alien ship.  The kid and the agent(s) will compete to figure out just what types of objects can penetrate the barrier. If an agent does so first, he or she wins.  If the kid is successful, he or she joins the alien player in victory.

The Play:  The game begins with the alien player secretly constructing a rule about what can get through the barrier.  This could be something like (“things you can buy at Wal-mart” ) or (“Things that would fit in a backpack”).  The alien then sorts two face up cards by placing them either inside or outside the barrier.  One player plays the kid.  Up to three other players can play agents.  All players are dealt a hand of cards and take similar, but slightly asymmetrical turns.  The agents (who are playing as individuals) slide a card to the alien on their turn.  The alien then places the card either inside or outside the barrier, oriented in a way that only that agent can see it.  The kid player up to three cards while predicting whether they would make it through the barrier or not.  When the alien’s turn comes around, he places one of the cards in his hand face up based on the rule.  Either player can instead try to guess the rule by correctly sorting four random cards from the deck (the agents can do this from the start; the kid has to build trust first by correctly predicting cards).  If the agents or kid correctly sort the four cards before the alien plays his last card, the game ends with either an agent win or a kid plus alien win.  If the alien plays his last card, the agents win.

   Sample Play:

Let’s say as an alien, you flip over these two starting cards (a pennant and a cell phone):

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You then look at your hand and the two cards and decide on a rule.  For these two you might concoct something like “objects that often have buttons” or “things that you use to communicate.”  Having done that, you would then sort the two cards, placing the one that passes the rule inside the barrier and the one that doesn’t outside the barrier (the rule could also be one that leaves both items outside or inside the barrier instead).  Let’s say you chose “objects that usually have buttons” and sorted the phone in and the pennant out, for this example.

The agents turn would be next, and he would likely slide a card over to you for analysis.  Maybe this one:

Since a car usually have buttons, you would place the card in a stand inside the barrier and orient it in a way only that agent could see.

After each agent has done the same, the kid player would then get a chance to predict.  He does so openly at the start of the game, so the agents will get all of the information the kid does, though that will change as the trust between the alien and the kid goes up on a rewards track with each correct prediction. 

This would continue with the alien placing new objects from his hand on the alien turn until one of the players is able to correctly sort four random cards or until the alien runs out of cards. 

 

My Thoughts: I am a big fan of Zendo, a game from Looney Labs that has one player creating a rule about the way pyramid groups are composed and the other players trying to construct groups that match the rules in order to eventually guess the rule.  Visitor in Blackwood Grove provides a similar experience in a very portable package.  Games are short (ten minutes on average) and it works with everyone from young kids to adults.  It is very non-gamer friendly.  Given the reasonable price and broad range of gaming situations this game is good for, I have no problem recommending giving it a look and backing it if you like quick, light deduction games with flexibility to make become heavier and more thinky for groups that want that.

 

What I liked: Fast, easy to teach and understand, fun theme, just thinky enough to keep gamers attention but not cause non-gamers to zone out. This is a wonderful entry into the deductive/inductive logic game arena and one of the best I've played that could be called a family game.  

What I didn’t like: the game is heavily reliant on the alien player coming up with a good rule, and unlike Zendo, the rule-making here is kind of wide open. I saw some analysis paralysis and some bad rules-- making the game a bit fragile for a family, non-gamer* setting (I think gamers will mostly do well from the start).  This gripe is somewhat invalidated by the fact that someone can win without actually guessing the correct rule as long as they sort the cards correctly, but I still hope that the final production will includes a good list of suggestions that players could use while learning to create their own. 

 

*Yes, I know, non-gamer is a dumb term to use to refer to people who aren’t deeply rooted in gaming as a hobby, but it seems to have worked its way into the gamer lexicon. 

 

 

Note:  If this game sounds good to you, go check out the Kickstarter.  It is reasonably priced and has already made its publication goal, but there are a few stretch goals you can help them out with.  With the current cost and contents, this is shaping up to be a real bargain.