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Monday, January 31, 2005


On the difference between husband and wife. Gaming down south.

My cousin, whom I haven't seen in years, was recently deployed to Ft. Richardson near Anchorage, Alaska.
A co-worker and her family needed to get to the airport in Anchorage.
Hmmmm. An excuse to go to Anchorage? Hell yes.

Difference between the sexes.

The 350 mile trip to Anchorage was slow, as the roads were very icy for the first 240 miles. My gutless Kia was loaded down beyond capacity with 4 passengers and several hundred pounds in luggage.

This combination of slow speeds and ice gave me appreciation for the problem my wife has been having with the car.

Normally, I drive the speed limit plus a little. Normally, Mrs. Coldfoot drives like... well shall we just say... slower. She has been complaining about the way the car handles on the ice all winter. I noticed that it handles a little differently on ice, but is far from unsafe.

Wow. What a difference speed makes. At speeds above 60 mph the car handles fine. At speeds lower than 50 mph it jumps all over the road in icy conditions. It is rather scary. The road was so icy that speeds above 60 mph were unwise, additionally, with the heavy load speeds above 60 were only possible on downhill stretches. I had white knuckles the whole trip, with a death-grip on the wheel trying to keep it between the lines.

When I got into a cellphone service area I called my wife to tell her to get the paperwork ready, we are trading in the Kia to buy a Subaru.

Miniature Club

I contacted the Anchorage Miniature Gaming Club http://home.gci.net/~stevepr/AMGC.html prior to leaving. They meet on Saturday evening, and I was going to be in town on Saturday evening. I had been to one other meeting and found them to be a good group of guys. Lots of grey hair in the group. Lots of intelligence. Lots of good mature fun. Brought my cousin to the meeting. Might have been 12-15 guys there including us.

Not into miniatures myself. Not into painting minis. Not anxious to get involved in another money-pit hobby. I do, however, find the miniature battles interesting and would make the effort to play if I had someone to teach me the rules and supply the pieces. My once or twice yearly trip to Anchorage isn't enough to justify playing.

They had what they called a pre-Napoleonic campaign going. This is where most of the group's interest lie. A couple other guys were staging a space battle. I got to play a 3-player and a 5-player game of Puerto Rico, and one game of Honor of the Samurai.

I plan on driving back down the second weekend of March for their game convention at the Dimond Mall. My wife is excited to be going also.

While in Anchorage I hit multiple thrift stores. I made one minor find, an Avalon Hill triva game, not Facts in Five, but another that I'm not familiar with. I hit the game stores also. Bought Fearsome Floors, Buy Word and Battle Cry at the Boscos on Spenard.

My cousin was very impressed with Battle Cry. Unbeknownst to me, he is a Civil War buff. I had never played it but am very familiar with Memoir '44, a similar game set in WWII. We played a couple scenarios, he enjoyed the game. As it is out of print I let him keep it. I have Memoir '44 and never get to play it lately, I doubt I will be able to get in a game of Battle Cry before I see him again in March.

Thanks again to the Miniature Club, and good gaming.

Thursday, January 20, 2005


Doom: The Boardgame

My wife and I saw this one at the local game store several weeks ago. She looked at it and asked me if I would be getting it. I laughed and said, "Hell no." Hyped games generally turn me off. Games aimed at teenage boys with miniature figures are a double turn off.

Well, now a few weeks have gone by and I see that Thornquist, Walt Mulder, several others whose opinions I generally trust like the game so I gave it a closer look. I looked closely and it was 20% off. Good enough, I now own Doom: The Boardgame.

Initial Impression

The first thing you notice about the game is that it is heavy. The box is chalk full of bits. In fact, it is difficult to get the lid on after punching all the cardboard chits and other game pieces. There is a cardboard insert that really seems to serve no purpose and it had to get chucked before all the pieces would fit back into the box.

The chits and "floor plan" pieces are heavy cardboard. The cards are thick cardstock. The plastic miniatures are good quality. The rule and scenario books are glossy paper. All in all, the components are very good and there are lots of them.

My final pronouncement of gameplay will have to wait, though. I just bought it a couple days ago, and I only got to play one game. I brought it to the Boys and Girls club this last evening. The game really sparked a lot of interest when I brought it in, unfortunately it is only a 4-player game. There were probably 7 or 9 guys who showed interest, but only 4 could play. I had brought Bang! just in case there were more kids than usual, but Bang! Went over like a rubber crutch in the presence of Doom.

As I said, I didn't have a chance to play before bringing it to the Boys and Girls club. I really try to avoid this, as I'm expected to be the game guru and there is so much to learn on the first play. I was very familiar with the rules and the game progressed with few hitches.

The main problem was that the kids were so exited to play. I started the game with 3 hyperactive 10-12 year-olds and a normal-active 15 year-old. There was a lot of fooling around with the bits and I can't be sure that extra ammo and life tokens weren't added to the game. Not intentionally mind you, but... you get the picture. The older kid was playing the role of the invaders, but he had to leave after about 45 minutes of play. I took over his position. With me playing the game that made it all the harder to keep track of the other kids.

Teamwork is a requirement for the game on the part of the 3 marine players. Three hyperactive 12 year-olds, all wanting to go in different directions, made it more difficult for them than it should have been. Killing the invaders became more important than completing the task of escaping the compound, which is the goal for the marine players. I tried to keep them on task, but ammo ran short and they got killed easily. (The goal of the invaders is to kill the marines 6 times.)

Good game. Had fun.

Yes, it is a dicefest. Yes, it replicates the feeling and strategy of the video game very well. No, it wasn't worth it at full price ($55). Remember, this is initial impression only.

Good gaming,

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


Blokus, Age of Mythology with the wife, PR.


Abstract games usually have little appeal to me, but Blokus has been getting some good reviews and it is suited to multiple players. Also, it was 20% off at the local game store. :-) So, I thought I would take it for a spin.

Blokus reminds me of Tetris. Players have an assortment of pieces, most of which are comprised of 5 square segments, much the same as Tetris. Players pick a piece of their choice, and place it on the board. Each piece may only touch other pieces of the same color at the corners, and each piece placed must be placed as to touch at least one other piece of its color at a corner. Each game lasted about 30 minutes.

The first game was played wrong. We played a 3 player game with a friend of mine and her 8 year-old daughter. We failed to use all 4 colors and alternate placing the 4th color each round. The board still filled up nicely and turned into a challenging puzzle. Believe it or not, only one player was able to place all 21 pieces on the board.

The next game was played with 4 players. This time the only child to play was an 11 year-old boy. He did quite well, as did the 8 year-old girl. The 11 year-old quickly caught on and was blocking opponents from expanding into "his" territory. Blokus seems like it would have quite a bit of appeal to competitive gamers, as well as families.

I found the game to be enjoyable. It certainly lasted the right amount of time for what it offered. Good game. Not great. Buy it if you find it on sale. Good filler.

Puerto Rico

Two games of Blokus was enough for one night, so we switched to Puerto Rico. I have been playing PR quite a bit in the last couple months, but haven't played with this group in the last year. It was a 5 player game with the 11 year-old included. He is a pretty good gamer and really enjoys most games, but Puerto Rico was over his head. Not by much, but enough. Figuring future ramifications of your choices is a good skill to learn, and PR is a good game to help hone that skill, but it was a little much for him.

I ended up winning with the corn strategy. I can't ever remember being in a position to actually use the corn strategy. I had a measly 4 corn plantations and a sugar plantation. Utilizing a single small warehouse and a harbor I was able to ship corn for a lot of victory points. I got 2 quarries into the game early that helped a lot with the building phase. I was able to force the game into a quick ending by choosing the Mayor frequently, even though I didn't need the settlers. The longer the game went, the more my opponents were gaining ground on my lead.

I ended up with 27 VP chips, plus the building that gives you bonus VPs for each VP chip. Had 46 points at the end of the game.

The 11 year-old actually beat one of the other players who has played many times.

Age of Mythology

After PR one fellow and his son had to leave. My wife informed me that she could only play for 1 more hour. I thought it was a good time to introduce her to Age of Mythology. If she hated it we would be able to gracefully quit before it turned into agony.

As it turned out she liked the game. I suspected that she would, but I wasn't sure. Any game with war as an option isn't usually well received. It was the first game of AoM for the other player also, so I went easy on them. No war, I just tried to explain the game and let everyone build up their empire without going to war.

She liked it so well that we played for an hour and a half before calling it quits.

That was quite encouraging. I look forward to playing it with her again in the near future. Next time I will rain war down on her ass. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. I will report back. Hopefully, without two black eyes.

Good gaming,

Friday, January 14, 2005


More Epic Duels

Last week it was so warm that the slick roads kept the kids at home. Tonight it was the persistent cold weather that kept them away. Any way, brought some games to play with the kids tonight.

One of the regulars was there, a young, teenage boy. A younger girl wanted to play, so we played Star Wars: Epic Duels. I was kind of skeptical about how the younger girl would do with the game, but she dove right in and whooped some butt. I had to assist her quite a bit on the first game, but she quickly caught on.

Turns out that the boy moved his characters about the board with no real strategy in mind. The girl wiped the board with his butt. Once she got the hang of it she steam-rolled him.

The boy had to leave after the first game, which lasted about 30 minutes. She was dying to play again, so I played. She loved the game. Ended up playing 3 games with her. Let her win the first one (really). I barely won the second game. And she sent me home with my tail between my legs on game 3.

She played different characters each game, as did I. I don't remember exactly what characters were played each individual game.

Quite a pleasant surprise, all in all. She did not want to quit. Guess Star Wars: Epic Duels has more appeal than I thought. Good intro game to lure kids into boardgaming geekdom.

Thursday, January 13, 2005


Might as well be in Cancun

Warmed up to -40. Went in to town, it was -30 in Fairbanks. Feels great after a few days of -55.

Might be -20 tomorrow. Woo-hoooooooo.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


Thank God for global warming.

Right now it is -50 F. Wonder how cold it would be if the climate wasn't getting dangerously warm?

Brrrrr. I shudder to think.

Monday, January 10, 2005


Age of Mythology, Explorium, Dos Rios.

Dos Rios

Had a friend of mine and his kids come over on Friday night. Played Dos Rios with him, my wife and one of the kids. Dos Rios turned out to be a pretty good short game. It has been in my local game store for many months now. I had looked at it several times and passed, I now regret waiting to play.

Basically, the rivers flow from the mountains to the sea. They always flow to the lowest adjacent tile. Dams can be built to change the course of the rivers. Players place men and buildings on tiles to claim ownership of the tile. At the end of each player's turn each tile that produces crops, and has the river flowing through it, and has a man or building on it generates income to the controlling player.

Money is spent to build buildings on the tiles. The first player to have 4 buildings on the board and have all 4 buildings in an irrigated space, wins the game, alternatively, the first player to build all 5 buildings regardless of the irrigation status wins.

My wife hated it because of the analysis paralysis. Granted there is more AP in this game than any other short game that comes to mind, however with the right players it shouldn't be much of a problem.


We then played Explorium, a game he owns and I have been dying to play for several months now. Not because it is an exceptional game, but because it is ripe for an unbiased review on Boardgamegeek. http://www.boardgamegeek.com/ and for the review http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/76054

Explorium is a game about mineral development and mining. The designer was trying to create a game that captured the uncertainty of mineral exploration. He succeeded in his endeavor by making the game over-dependent on dice rolling. We played for an hour or so, until I insisted on moving on to the Age of Mythology. Explorium reminded me a lot of The Farming Game, it probably has a lot of appeal to people familiar with the business, but not to gamers. Explorium adds a lot of flavor, in the form of "news" items, that give the game a real world feel. Lots of the "news" cards give interesting trivia bits as they alter the rules of the game slightly.

For example, the government of a third world country can encourage investment in a mine by giving a mining property away to a player, or existing mines might be made more profitable because of good union relations.

I won't be playing the game again, but the mission of writing a review of the game was accomplished. For anyone who complains that a review should not be written after only one play, let me explain: I agree. However sometimes a game is so simplistic that there is no need to ever play again. There is no subtle strategy that needs to be explored.

Age of Mythology

Played Age of Mythology with 2 kids and my friend. All three of them were very familiar with the computer game. I had never played it. None of us had played the board game.

After playing with 4, I can see how the game would shine with 3. Three seems to be the consensus from the reviews and articles I have read concerning the ideal number of players. Nevertheless I enjoyed the 4 player game. This game has great potential to be one of those rare games with combat that may appeal to the wife. I will introduce her to it as soon as possible and report back.

My initial impression was very good, although I want to play a few more times and explore some strategy before proclaiming it to be good or bad. Seems to be an empire building game that has war as an option, more than a war game. Player interaction is slight unless you make war on your opponents. Trading is not allowed, I tend to think trading between players would add to the game, both in theme and strategy.

Good gaming,

Friday, January 07, 2005


Star Wars: Epic Duels

Brought SW:ED to game night with the kids.

Weather was unseasonably warm. This causes all kinds of problems in the interior of Alaska. If things stay frozen, like they should, we do alright. As soon as it warms up and gets slick it's no different than winter in Southern Canada or the Northern tier of the lower 48.

Since it is still Christmas break, and the police were warning people to travel only if neccessary, it wasn't a busy night. Only a few kids were around, and none of the regular gamers. Two of the occasional gamers played Star Wars: Epic Duels. One kid had to leave about 20 minutes into the game, so I jumped in and took his place. Ten minutes later we were informed the place was closing down early, due to slick roads and a lack of users.

It is a fun game, kind of a card-fest. (As opposed to a dice-fest.) Lots of luck depending upon the cards drawn. Good game for kids, I'll have to bring it back. Might play well with 2 teams of 2.

Card-fest. Good word, if I do say so myself.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


Holiday Games II

Advanced Civ

On the Tuesday before Christmas I was lucky enough to participate in a game of Advanced Civilization. There were only 6 of us so the board was pretty much wide open. Six is the smallest number of players where the whole board is open for settlement. I had been wanting to try Cavedog's strategy ideas for some time now http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/46874 . But when it came down to it, I forgot to read the article again before playing. So I went with my usual strategy of losing.

I hadn't played for a year or so. Before that it had probably been 2 years. As I grow older there just aren't many opportunities to play 12 hour games.

We had a good group assembled to play. The game was over in about 8 hours. That is remarkably fast. Trading went fast each round. There were 2 guys who fought quite a bit the last half of the game, once they started to lose they drug their other neighbors into the fray. That caused the movement phase to go rather slowly at times, but it was still the fastest game of Civilization that I have ever encountered.

The winner was able to collect every civilization card. I had never seen that happen before. He was able to use the mining card to a very good advantage. I came in second. I was plagued by catastrophes the whole game. I never really had a full compliment of 9 cities for most of the game. We were the only two that managed to avoid most of the conflict. Civilization was never designed to be a game that rewarded aggressive, war-like behavior. It rarely pays to attack a neighbor. Let that be a lesson to ya'.


Brought Heroscape to play with the kids on the Thursday after Christmas. I am here to tell ya, young teenage boys and girls love that game. I had brought it with me a couple weeks before. Since introducing the kids to the game 2 weeks previously two of the kids had acquired it for themselves. (I think they talked their parents into getting it for Christmas.)

Heroscape is a good game for kids. There aren't any nit-picky rules. Play is intuitive and straight forward. But best of all the characters are cool and a couple are big. Big game pieces always impress kids. The terrain is nifty also. Players construct terrain with interlocking pieces that fit together in Lego-esque fashion.

We played two games in 2 hours. I stayed out of each of the games initially, but as kids left I was lucky enough to be able to take their spot. The first game was 2 teams of 2. I don't remember who won, but it was fun. The second game was a three player free for all. I ended up taking this one kid's spot when he left. Then myself and another kid ganged up on the kid who had acquired the game for Christmas. If we didn't he would have steam-rolled us. He had been playing quite a bit and had his tactics down.

I am really looking forward to the promised expansions. It is simply a fun, quick, war-game, dice-fest.

Chinatown, Bootleggers

Hadn't planned on staying up late for New Year's Eve. Thought we would have a couple friends over and hit the hay before midnight. We ended up playing games until 2 am.

First to hit the table was Chinatown. This is a game I have had for some time and have been looking forward to playing. So far it has only been published in German, so an English rule translation is a must.

Chinatown is a pure negotiation/trading game. The board is a birds-eye-view of Chinatown, New York City. Players acquire property and businesses, trade them, build, and then collect money depending on how large each business is. The winner is the person with the most money at the end of 6 rounds.

It wasn't a bad game, nor was it as good as I had expected. Granted, I played with a pretty stingy group, and it was a learning game for all of us. I will try it again with a group that has a better grasp of the value of a trade. (What? You want $10,000 for that property, forget it. Wellllll, it will allow you to build your 6 business and give you $14,000 income for each of the next 3 rounds. How about $2000, and a bag of Cheetos? How about $10,000? No deal. I ain't gonna let you rip me off.)

Didn't care for Chinatown. But it has a lot of potential. Played it one more time that evening, after Bootleggers, it simply reinforced my initial impression that I was playing with the wrong group. Do note that they, all 4 of them, liked it. I was the odd man out.

Bootleggers is the latest offering from Eagle Games. Players take on the role of a mobster during the Prohibition era. Players control the production, transportation and sales of illegal booze, and try to end the game with the most money.

I found the game to be full of theme and mildly interesting. It lasts about 1-1.5 hours longer than the fun it provides. Bootleggers is just too long for what it is. Our learning game clocked in at more than 3 hours, possibly 4.

Strategic depth is slight to nonexistent. The only real strategy is to get enough influence markers on a speakeasy to become the controlling mobster. This allows you to get extra money in your pocket. The strategy is easily blocked by other players on the larger speakeasys, and if you do succeed "thug cards" can be played to take out some of your influence markers.

We played with 5 players. I suspect the 6 player game is slightly better, because the extra and largest speakeasy becomes available for play. I do wonder if one of the medium speakeasys should be eliminated in a 5 player game, instead of the large one. It seems as though there would be more options if that were the case. As it was, we had influence markers sitting in our back rooms that we were unable to place for the last 2 or 3 rounds.

I seem to remember a game of Settlers of Catan and Dune in there somewhere, also. I can't remember when or how exactly, but I think I won Settlers. It was my first experience with Dune, a game that I have looked forward to playing ever since I found out that my friend owned it. As I recall, I lost my ass, but it was a very good game. I am looking forward to this one again.

Not bad for a couple weeks worth of gaming.

And before you click out of here, say a short prayer for the victims of the Southeast Asia tidal wave.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


Holiday games

Holiday Gaming I.

Had a couple good game days over the Holidays. It all started the weekend before Christmas.

A Game of Thrones

Got to play "A Game of Thrones" with my wife and 3 other friends. I was the only person who had played the game, so I was in the role of teacher. I had originally intended to play with 4 friends and exclude my lovely wife, alas one of them showed up late, so we started without him and included my wife.

I was skeptical of including my wife in the game, "AGoT" is not a game she would normally like. She hated it.We got in 4 or 5 rounds and called the game when the fourth friend arrived. We decided to start something else and include him. It was apparent not everyone was enjoying "AGoT".

I bought the game when I first saw it because I knew she had read the book "A Game of Thrones" that the game is based on. I figured the theme would draw her in. It did, she just didn't like it after her initial enthusiasm. I played the game once with the Anchorage Miniature Club http://home.gci.net/~stevepr/AMGC.html several months ago. After playing with them (I had already bought the game) I realized the game wouldn't appeal to my wife, so it sat unplayed for several months.

"A Game of Thrones" does a good job of capturing the intrigue in the book of the same name. It is very much like "Diplomacy", Christian T. Peterson, the designer, credits "Diplomacy" as an inspiration when he designed the game. Players are crowded into a rather limited playing area, and are limited as to the size of their armies. It is impossible to field an army of more than 4 units in a single territory, and that is even rare. More than likely players will be limited to 3 or 4 armies of no more than 3 units. This forces players into treaties and alliances, much the same as in "Diplomacy".

I won't get into mechanics here. I have a lot more to write in this initial entry. Let it suffice to say that I enjoyed the game. I got a chance to play again a couple days later. More on that in a while.

Goa and AGoT, again

Played a game of Goa on the Monday afternoon. Several of my friends had light or nonexistent work schedules that week, so it was a good gaming week.

I like Goa. I really liked it after I first played it, but I have found a couple problems with the game over time. The first is simply flow. The game doesn't flow well from auction round to action round. Number 2: Apart from the auction rounds Goa is more of a one player puzzle than an interactive game.

Two clues about the game. Ships are more important than you would think. Ships may be the most important track to move on. Taxation is not important. You should be able to manage your income by proper placement of the auction chits, this is a learned art, but your game will improve dramatically if you don't tax more than once, possibly twice each game.

I have read articles on the game where people claim the game is broken. They tend to claim that you can win hands down if you run up the Exploration track, or the Taxation track. I agree that new players don't utilize the Exploration track nearly enough, but I am certain that you should lose your shirt if you use the taxation method and are playing against competent opponents.

As a rule of thumb, I like to draw exploration cards on my last action each round if there is nothing better to do, many people tax if there is nothing better to do. I don't like to draw ships as the last action, because you could win some in the auction. Likewise filling up the plantations/colonies with spice is risky, because you could win some in the auction. If you win a plantation in the auction, and you just filled that type of spice it was a wasted move. It is always more efficient to win items in auction (for a reasonable price) than using an action to acquire it.

I came in second, one point behind the winner. Third place was one point behind me. The winner bought a bunch of exploration cards on the last turn, and got lucky. I think he ended up with 4 matching symbols. This stroke of luck does give me pause, however. If not broken, maybe the game is "bent".

After "Goa" we switched to "A Game of Thrones". We had 6 players, so we had one guy run to the store and pick up the expansion while the rest of us played Goa.To make a long story short, one guy got pissed and quit after 5 or 6 rounds. It was very reminiscent of someone getting pissed and quitting a game of "Diplomacy". Different players saw the incident differently, but we generally agree that it involved some breaking-of-agreements, and suicidal runs against the guy who broke the treaty.We tried to play a couple rounds with his units as neutral units. One player grabbed a quick victory because of this. No one complained much. After the one guy stormed off it was kind of uncomfortable for everyone.

All in all it wasn't a bad couple days.


It's cold. The snow is deep. The car is stuck in the driveway...

I thought I would start a blog. Welcome to winter in Alaska.

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