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Saturday
Feb192011

What'd You Know? Somebody Else Liked Branagh's Frankenstein Too!

I saw Kenneth Branagh’s Frankenstein on the big screen back in 1994.  I liked it.  I felt bad, however, when Roger Ebert gave it a bad review because we generally agreed on most movies.   (No, I’ve never actually met the guy, but he was always the one I cheered for in the heated debates on Siskel and Ebert!)  I thought that Branagh brought a whole new Shakespeareanesque-tragi-brooding thing to the good (?) Doctor.  And De Niro definitely brought the Monster to life.  (If I remember correctly, De Niro’s performance was the one thing Ebert liked about the movie.)  Seriously, I felt this version delved more into the moral ambiguities that make Shelley’s novel what it is.  It was never a monster story; it was a story about what makes one a monster.  For that reason alone, I prefer Branagh’s vision to all the others I’ve seen. 

FINALLY, someone agrees with me!  What makes me happier still is that I found this article on Roger Ebert’s website.  You can read it here.      

Who knows?  Maybe Ebert will even change his mind about it.                       

Monday
Feb142011

Strat-O-Matic Turns 50

Strat-O-Matic turns 50 this year.  The quintessential baseball board game, Strat-O-Matic sucked up a lot of my time over the years, though, because of a lack of face-to-face opponents, I played most of my games solo with both the physical board game and, later, the computer version.  The game is a great time-killer for a baseball fan, but it really shines head-to-head.  Some of my favorite moments from gaming come from the two years I played in a Strat-O-Matic league.  The ability to play an entire series in less than an hour (much less really) and an entire season in a few months of weekly game nights just makes the game a marvelous collection of stories.  I have little hope that I'll be able to get my daughter to play the game, but I can't wait until my son gets old enough to understand the game.  I forsee number of games in my future.

Anyway, enough about me.  Here is a great New York Times article on the 50th anniversary celebration.

Sunday
Feb062011

The Spiel des Jahres committee announces a third award.

 

According to the Spiel Des Jahres website, they will be giving out a new Game of the Year award.  This one is for the best game for experienced gamers, one that challenges the novice players in different ways than they are used to.  The new award has been added due to the change in climate in the gaming market where there is now an increasing demand for more challenging games.  The main award will remain just that, the Game of the Year for "all".

This change comes after a few years of special recognition for "gamer's" games that made a splash during the year but didn't have the accessability to be a SDJ winner.  Gamers have been increasingly frustrated with the award which is designed to grow the hobby in Germany by getting the winner into as many homes as possible.  Will this change be enough to restore the awards to their former luster?  Time will tell, but I, for one, am glad to see a more formal recognition of the kinds of games I play.

 

Friday
Feb042011

AEG Giving away free Thunderstone promos!

If you haven't played Thunderstone yet, you need to.  You can find our review here.  Everything about AEG's handling of the game and its expansions has been perfect, from the awesome storage option provided by the first expansion box to the free (ish) Dwarf hero promo card distributed through Boardgamegeek.com.  Now, they are offering a cool promo set which includes a full play-set of eight different cards!  That is going above and beyond as far as fan service goes, and good on 'em for it.  Apparently, not many of the 4000 sets they printed are left, so get over there soon.  But, catch this, AEG has already decided to keep taking orders for the free cards and to order a new  printing as soon as they have enough orders.  Thunderstone is currently the only AEG game I have in my collection, but given the way they treat their customers, I think I'll be adding a game or two of theirs to the next NB game order.

Tuesday
Feb012011

Review: Take it Easy! by Peter Burley (Gryphon Games Edition)

Take it Easy!


Peter Burley

Gryphon Games

When my interest in games shifted to “German” games back in the early 90’s, I read everything I could get my hands on, not that there were many options.  One game that kept coming up in session reports and the new-to-me Five and Dime lists (these are games that gamers note they have played 5 or 10 times in a given year) was Take it Easy!  Nearly 20 years later, I finally picked up a copy of the game and I now regret that I didn’t pick it up back then.  It would have likely been played hundreds of times over that time.

Modern Euro games often get labeled as multi-player solitaire by fans of classic American and British hobby games.  Take it Easy!  is certainly a game that could be held as an example to prove that point.  Each player gets his or her own board and set of pieces.  All game play is done on those boards and there is zero interaction between players.  In fact, the game plays solitaire fine with no adjustment to the rules needed.

Here, however, multi-player solitaire isn’t much of a criticism.  Take it Easy! is basically a completive puzzle game.  Players are competing to score the most points while placing an identical set of hexagonal playing pieces on to their boards.  The pieces have color lines crossing from side to side so that they can potentially matched up in six different ways.  The goal of the game is to form lines on your board (think  a Bingo board with hexagons instead of squares) that reach from one edge of the large hexagon to another edge. 

The game could not be easier to learn or teach.  One player turns his tiles face down and mixes them up.  The other player s leave their pieces face up and organize them so they can find the piece they need easily.  The “caller” then turns over one of his pieces, describes it to the rest of the players.  All the players then decide where to place that piece.  When enough pieces have been flipped up to fill the board (which uses 19 of the possible 27 tiles, so the game is different every time), the game is over.  Players score for any line they formed that goes from one side to another.  Highest score wins. 

I’ve really enjoyed my plays of the game so far.  I think it will make a great lunch time game for the office, and I’m already regretting not picking up an extra copy when it was on sale because there is no limit to how many people can play the game together.  The best part is that the game plays as fast with twelve as it does with three, though every player added increases the odds of hitting a player who suffers from analysis paralysis.

For what it is, Take it Easy! is a complete success.  It even contains a rubric akin to those wood puzzles at Cracker Barrel restaurants to rate you performance when played solo or with others. 

Take it Easy! plays in about ten minutes (the box says 10 to 20) and is great for a wide range of ages.    

 

Score: 7.5/10