.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Friday, April 29, 2005


One gaming item and some blathering.

Two words for any of you looking for a game to play with kids between the ages of 8 and 18:

HeroScape, HeroScape.

Boys and girls, kids who've only played Monopoly and Rook, to full fledged geeks, they all love HeroScape. The minis get their attention, the terrain gets them involved with game set up, gameplay draws them in, and perhaps the most underlooked aspect of the game, the special abilities of each character keep the kids on their toes as they look for situations to exploit.

I picked up 3 of the 4 expansions at Wal-Mart the other day. Those were the first characters to be chosen. The kicker is that the kids who had played the game before chose characters that they already knew, the kids who hadn't played were drawn to the new pieces without even knowing they were new.

If you are looking to form an after-school game group or some other kid based game group HeroScape is a must. It will draw in the kids who might be shy, or only marginally interested in games.

Gotta give Hasbro kudos for HeroScape. Make no mistake, when today's kids are adults HeroScape will be going for big bucks on E-Bay, or its future equivalent.

Other stuff

Been fooling around with the blog template, obviously. Never got back around to try my hand at posting pictures. Maybe next week.

Found the Sesame Street Terror Alert Level here http://www.geekandproud.net/terror/ . Had to laugh. Elmo represents the first level, Oscar the Grouch is the highest level. Ernie, Bert and Cookie Monster round out the middle three levels in that order.

Tried to find some interesting blogs from Alaska to link to. Came up empty. Every other Alaskan blogger proudly states his sexual orientation in the title or sub-title, is an extreme leftist, or just writing random thoughts and poetry.

Found a bondage blog from Anchorage. It appeared to be quite popular and it looked like it was pretty well done, certainly much more complex than most game blogs (I only glanced at it, really). Found a couple of blogs that proudly proclaimed they were from a bisexual or lesbian perspective.

Found numerous blogs about politics. Most were extremely leftist. When I say extreme I don't mean normal, run of the mill Democrats. I mean people who see every Republican as a Nazi who wants dirty air, and anyone who disagrees with them as a fascist with a Bible.

Found a blawg, a lawyer blogging about Alaskan legal issues. It was really quite interesting. I put it on my Favorites list. He has been updating it at least a couple times each week, and it was an enjoyable read. Won't link it here, though.

Forgot to add the Anchorage Miniature Gaming Club's website. I've played several boardgames with the guys in that club in the past. I will probably be hosting a board game or two at their next convention in March. Will add it as soon as I get a chance. It's not really a blog, so I forgot about it. Here it is for now http://home.gci.net/~stevepr/AMGC.html .

Just out of curiosity I looked at some blogs from my home state of Montana. Found lots of blogs about life and living in Montana, some of them quite well done. I would have proudly linked to several of them. What is wrong with my fellow Alaskans? Alaska is the most wired state in the union, per capita. More internet in more households here. Youngest average age in the union, too, that probably has something to do with it.

Your Blogging Neophyte,

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


Weather report

It's 1 am Tuesday morning. The temperature is 45 F.


Doesn't look like it will drop below freezing tonight. Yesterday was the first day that the temperature has stayed above freezing for 24 hours since the middle of October.

Fishermen are standing on the edge of the ice, as the ice in the rivers starts to break up. Pussy willows are starting to bloom. As I drove to work tonight at 10:30 I noted that it was still quite bright outside, in fact I didn't need to turn my headlights on.

Still have a ton of snow in my yard, though. Maybe I will attempt to post a picture tomorrow or Thursday, along with the fishermen dodging ice floes.

I don't care if it is snowing in Ohio. This is the time of year that I live for.

Oh, yeah. Had a great game day on Saturday. Started with 4-player Einfach Genial, switched to Puerto Rico with the expansion and 5 players, Primordial Soup with 4 players, El Grande with 5, and ended with a three player game of San Marco.

We're getting to the time of year when gaming is lean. Everyone has something better to do in the summer in Alaska. Might have been the last good game day of the season.

Praying for more good game days,

Saturday, April 23, 2005


Looking to Increase the Size of My Gamut in the Great Gaming Gulag of Interior Alaska.

Sodaklady posted an article in the BGG forum concerning Reader's Digest. The thread quickly took on a life of its own and got me, and others, thinking. I have since thought some more on the subject and post my ponderings here.

A group of geese is, of course, a gaggle. Ducks on the wing are a flock, as are camels on the hoof. Ducks in the water form a paddling or raft, as do a family of sea otters. Horses form a herd or string, yet colts form a rag. A group of wild dogs is a pack, domestic dogs are a kennel. Live fish form a school, dead fish form a catch.

Humans are not immune to this confusion either. Thieves form a band, robbers a gang and a posse counters both. Groups of Christian people form congregations, witches a coven. A group of left leaning activists is a cell. People in a geographic area form a neighborhood. A group of boys is a blush, girls a bevy. Hollywood stars form a galaxy, and on and on it goes.

So, where does that leave us gamers?

Certainly we don't form packs, thunders or menageries, possibly troops or pods.

A gaggle, a swarm? They have possibilities.

A plague of Magic players at the gamestore? A stench of geeks at the game convention? A troop of gamers at the WBC? A freak of gamers at GENCON? An inept of gamers at the chess tourney? A stink, or a fatdom of gamers? They all have possibilities.

Gamesgrandpa suggested a gamut of gamers.

Gamut of gamers, I like it.

Gamut has an orderly feel to it. The alliteration works well, and the tip of the hat to Sid Sackon is somehow appropriate. It is also a reference that only true gamers would recognize.

So, with a nod to Gamesgrandpa, I hereby ask the audience (yet another definable group) what do you think? Should we petition the people at Websters (collectively known as publishers) for recognition? Does someone have a better name?

Still pondering,

Gamut from Dictionary.com

Part of Speech: noun
Definition: the full range or compass of something; a range from one extreme to the other
Etymology: Medieval Latin gamma `G' + ut `lowest note'

Thursday, April 21, 2005


Warming to Wargames

Back in the day, when I was a kid growing up in a very rural town in Montana, Monopoly, Scrabble and Sorry comprised my boardgame universe. Dungeons and Dragons, and Car Wars were played by many kids, but those two games held no appeal for me. When I got older Risk, The Farming Game, and Axis and Allies got played some.

Wargames meant hex and counter/Avalon Hill/ encyclopedic rulebooks, and generally weren't available to me. The few that I did play (don't remember any names) left me disappointed. I mostly remember being bored waiting for the guy who owned the game to search the rulebook to find reasons that I couldn't do what I had just done. I tried to read the rules several times and instantly fell asleep each and every time that I tried.

After I graduated high school I joined the Army. I participated in a few war-boardgames, but was creamed by opponents who knew the rules inside and out and made no attempt to help me learn. They just pulled rules out of their butt, knowing in advance what I was planning and failed to warn me that there was an exception to the exception to the main rule.

Needless to say, wargames pretty much sucked in my opinion.

After I discovered German games I completely and happily forgot about wargames. Simple rules, fun, and fairly immune to rules lawyers, what wasn't to like about them? Then, right when I'm starting to read good things about card driven games such as Wilderness War, and block games I meet a guy who plays a lot of wargames in addition to German games.

Since then I've played several war games, and not just the euro-ized ones like Serenissima, Mare Nostrum and such. He even talked me in to some ASL, which is starting to grow on me. (I've tried Paths of Glory, but I still haven't advanced to the level that I find it to be fun. Still too fiddley, too many units, too many exceptions to the rules.)

I looked back on some of the comments I left for wargames on BGG and it kind of surprises me how far I have come. Although I rated most of the games as average or better I left disparaging remarks. "Not bad for a historical simulation game", for example. One night, when I have some time at work I will have to go back and change some of those comments, the games are starting to grow on me.

Good gaming,

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


Oh well, it's easier to find people willing to play games in the winter anyway.

I just hit my first yard sale of the season hours before my last post. It looked like summer was around the corner. Sigh, ain't been nuthin' but snow since my last post. More snow in the forecast, at least through tomorrow.

Hammer of the Scots- Finally won a few games, and resoundingly I might add. I did play the English, though. Looking forward to adding the schiltrom rules to give the Scots a boost.

Mare Nostrum- Brief review

Mare Nostrum is a game of acquiring resources, expanding your influence, warfare, trading, and building your empire. Various buildings, military units, heros, wonders, etc, cost 3, 6, 9, or 12 resources or taxes to buy. There are 12 different resources available in the game in addition to taxes. In order to turn in a set of resources the set must contain no matching resources. Players gain resources by: first gaining influence in a territory, then placing a caravan marker on the resource(s) in the territory or placing a city on the city space to obtain tax cards. All unspent resources are discarded from a player's hand from round to round. Two tax cards can be held from round to round.

Markets and temples (cost 6) double the resources or tax cards collected from that territory each round. With caravan and city markers being very limited in the game it is important to build temples and markets ASAP. Without temples and markets it will be nearly impossible to obtain the cards that cost 9. The 9 cards grant your empire a certain advantage and if you manage buy three of the 9 cards you win the game. Also, if you build the Pyramids (Cost 12) you instantly win the game.

After receiving resources and taxes players trade. The player with the most caravans and markets is the commerce director. He states a number. Each player places that many resource cards in front of himself and players alternate choosing cards from other players to add to their own hand.

Is it an innovative or clumsy trading mechanic? As a born liar I must say that I prefer trading through negotiation. This system of trading must have been dreamed up by someone who got screwed too many times by people like me. There are also people who think the trading phase of a game makes it last too long. This system fixes that complaint.

After the trading phase is the building phase. The player with the most cities and temples chooses the order players build. This is an important position when there are few tokens left to buy.

After building players move their military units. The player with the most military units is the military leader, he chooses the order players move. War is an option that must be considered in Mare Nostrum, it is unlikely you will win without stepping on a few toes. For one thing, city and caravan markers are limited. The number varies slightly depending on the number of players, but there are 5 or 6 caravans per player (on average), between 2 and 3 cities for each player, just over 2 markets and 1 temple per player. If all are evenly split there is not enough for one player to gain a decisive advantage. One must go get the resources and cities he needs to win from the other players.

War units (legions and triremes) are limited also. This makes war attractive to the Greek and Roman players. Consider this; the Greek player can buy triremes for 2 and the Roman player buys legions for 2 each. With only 5 triremes at their disposal the Greek player, for example, quickly finds himself in a use it or lose it situation. Since resource cards are discarded at the end of a round it behooves each player to spend them. If the Greek player has 2 resources that he can't spend he spends them on triremes. Hence, he can lose his triremes in war and buy them back by only using extra resources. The net result is that he hurts his opponents much more than himself.

As I explained in a previous post, Carthage's special ability is +1 with legions in battle. If there is no war, Carthage's ability is moot, and civilizations must utilize their ability in order to win the game.

I had some reservations after reading the rules. I still think the trading aspect is clumsy, but Mare Nostrum shines and is easily an upper tier game. I wouldn't call it a Civ clone, it is a good game in its own right.

Good gaming,

Saturday, April 16, 2005


Entdecker, Break Up, and Soliciting Comments for "A Line in the Sand".

Entdecker (New Version)- Finally, played Entdecker a couple more times. I enjoyed it, but it lasts a little too long for what it offers. It has downtime issues. I don't see the downtime getting much shorter with more familiarity. I'd call it simply an average game. I don't foresee it hitting the table very often.

I do like the way the game handles luck within the exploration theme. Luck is usually a big, negative factor in exploration games. Luck is still a factor here, but Sir Teuber has managed to manage it by making known tiles sell for $4 and not requiring a player to place all the unknown tiles ($1 each) he had purchased.

I also like the two means of scoring, completing islands and scoring the "native huts" at the end of the game. I do wonder if the +10 point waterfall is overvalued, however.

One thing I don't wonder about, is that you don't want the be the guy who always rolls the dice. It can be a difficult position to get out of if you roll more than 2 or 3 times in a row. Every time you roll every other player gets extra money, and you stay broke.

7 Ages- Score. Now I just need a weekend to play.

A Line in the Sand- Anyone familiar with it? Looks good to me, but seems to be held in low esteem by the few users who've rated it on BGG.

Scored this 14 year-old TSR game at a garage sale. It is a diplomacy/war game based up on Desert Storm. (Sheesh, was it really 14 years ago I was over there? Seems more like 4.) The kid who took my money said it had never been played, indeed, that looks to be the case.

I think it looks intriguing. I am pretty sure the game needs a full compliment of 6 players to be worth playing. Each player has unique diplomatic options, and goals. It is possible for multiple players to win. Players choose their victory conditions at the start of the game and keep them secret. For example, Iran may choose Islamic Jihad as a goal and wins if 10 western units are destroyed. Reconciliation with the west may be the goal, in which case Iran wins if the US makes its secret goal and Iran controls any portion of Iraq. Revenge against Iraq is the third and last possible goal. Holding Basra and Baghdad at the end of the game are the requirements for that.

There are a couple tracks, the US can only go to war if a certain level is reached, but Jihad can be declared at a lesser number. Dice are rolled to calculate the effect of certain actions, such as how well a speech was received. A poor speech may cause jihad to increase or war fever to decrease.

I haven't had a chance to look closely at the rules, so I may have some of the particulars wrong in my description. I don't think it is a game that will hit the table in the foreseeable future and probably never. If I ever get 6 war gamers together we will play TI3, Civilization, Struggle of Empires or 7 Ages. Still, I am looking forward to yard sale season. It starts about the time the snow melts.

The snow is still quite deep here, yard sales won't start popping up for several more weeks. I've heard reports that the bears are coming out of hibernation in the Anchorage area, but it is still too cold here.

We really don't have a spring here like you do in warmer climates. Instead we have "break-up". For about 1 month starting in the latter portion of April we are up to our armpits in mud, and the ice on the rivers starts to break up, hence the name. By the first or second week in May you will be driving home at midnight and you notice how bright it is. (The sun is set, but it is too bright to see the stars, much too bright.)

Then one day in late May you notice that there is a tinge of green in the trees and you see a couple dandelions on a south facing slope. In most places that would be a sure sign of spring. Here we call it the first sign of summer.

Still waiting patiently for the mud,

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


War of the Rings, Extra Credit Assignment (Warning: If you read this, don't waste your leisure time, read it when you would otherwise be working).

(Subtitle: A textbook case of bloviation.)

I want to address the notion that War of the Ring boardgame is only a Risk variant with a corruption track taken from Knizia's Lord of the Rings. I have heard this argument since WotR first hit the market 9 months or so ago. I, myself, hesitated to buy the game because this accusation was being thrown around. Not only do I not see the resemblance to Risk, my contention is that WotR is much closer in play to a well-done, card-driven wargame, and furthermore I will argue that the action dice mechanic is a good idea that works well for this game.

I am not trying to make the case that WotR is the same as a card-driven game, just that the comparison is much more realistic. Comments implying that I say WotR is the same as a card driven game will be either ignored or mocked.

2 disclaimers

I don't hate Risk, it is an alright game to play with people who aren't familiar with good games, if you don't have to play it more than a couple times each year.

In the interest of full disclosure I will admit that I do not like Knizia's Lord of the Ring game. Furthermore, I dislike the Knizia game more with each expansion that is added. Furthermore, I won't make the case that the aspect of the game in question wasn't lifted from the Knizia game, it probably was. Knizia had a good idea. Keeping track of "corruption" works well for both games, it is a central theme of the story.

Don't reinvent the wheel, go with what works, and if you're going to steal an idea, steal a proven idea.

Common ground

For the purposes of this discussion, can we broadly agree that Axis and Allies, Samurai Swords, Attack! and similar games are generally considered to be a step up in complexity from Risk, as well as variants? Can we agree that card driven games are not Risk variants, despite the fact that they use a map, dice and have military units?

Can we agree that card driven games use cards to limit a player's options in order to make the game more realistic? Fog of war, political uncertainty, civil concerns, reluctant/lazy/incompetent underlings, even weather are elements addressed by the card system. Can we further agree that Risk makes no attempt to recreate history nor to follow a storyline, neither do the variants?

Lastly, Backgammon and Monopoly, Scrabble and Tigris & Euphrates, Bridge and Go Fish are 3 pairs of games that each have several elements in common. Can we agree that the first is not a variant of the second?

The similarities

The WotR board is divided into territories that are all equal. There is no terrain bonus, nor political bonus. Except for impassable terrain between mountains all spaces are equal (strongholds excepted, which are spaces within spaces, and afford only a small advantage), there is no forest, nor mountain defensive bonus. Holding the Shire has no more significance than holding Ukraine in Risk.

Armies have no special abilities. Easily distinguishable Risk armies could be substituted for the armies provided with WotR (which might be the kernel of a good idea). Armies don't get "flipped" if they are hit, they are simply removed from the game, the same as Risk. The "elite" units simply get reduced to a regular unit if hit, there is no attack bonus by using "elite" units.

Armies move one space at a time. Armies attack adjacent territories and only advance into the territory after the defender has been defeated.

That is about it. Add a comment if you think I am overlooking other similarities.

Both games use dice to resolve combat. However, combat is handled very differently. Most wargames do use dice. I will not accept this passing resemblance as a similarity unless you have a strong argument.

Are these 3 similarities enough to call the game a Risk clone? Perhaps, if that was about all the game consisted of. But War of the Ring is a much richer game than simply moving armies one space and attacking, even if you play the dark forces.

The differences

There are far too many differences to denote individually. So here are a couple, mostly based upon the way Risk works. To take the other track and describe the features of WotR that Risk doesn't have would take many pages.

In Risk you can (mostly) only move armies if you move into enemy territories, maneuver planning has to be done well in advance of the attack, because it is hard to rearrange units within your own territories. It is much easier to maneuver armies in War of the Ring.

Cards serve entirely different purposes in the two games. Risk cards are used to gain extra armies, and are based upon a "set collection" mechanic. WotR cards are used in a manner much more reminiscent of a card-driven war game even though they don't drive the game, the dice do.

Risk grants an advantage (extra units) to players who are able to control all the territories in a defined region. Nothing similar in WotR.

In Risk ownership of territory is all important. Armies must be left behind in every territory you control. This army serves mainly as a control token. New armies are based upon how much territory you control. There is nothing even close in WotR, except that control of a certain number of territories containing cities and strongholds will win you the game.

Unlimited units in Risk. (Remember using Legos to represent 50 and 100 armies? Those were the days... What were we thinking?) Available units are limited in WotR (very limited for the free peoples player), and there is a stacking limit of 10 units per territory.

Making the case

It should be pretty obvious to anyone reading this far where this is all going, and you are either already on board, or you aren't and won't be persuaded otherwise, so I won't add a lot of minutiae.

Most people are familiar with Risk. I will be brief describing play, not because most people are familiar with it, but because it is simplistic.

With Risk players have a few "either/or" options. First, either turn in a set of cards or not if you have a set. Next, place armies where you choose. Next, either attack or not. Lastly, either move one group of armies or not. If you attack, you attack as many times against as many territories as you choose within the rules.

Simple. No political events, no generals to give increased effectiveness in battle, no realistic movement limitations (an army can move from Iceland to Africa to South America to North America to Asia to Europe, for example, over the coarse of a single turn), all territories can manufacture unlimited units, no 10 army per territory stacking limits, no historical correctness to worry about, and no way to win other than controlling territory, ie. no ring to destroy as the primary goal.

Card-driven wargames deal with many of these issues in varying degrees and are much more suited to historical simulation, or to follow a story line such as "Star Wars" or "Lord of the Rings".

Cards give game designers the ability to give players options within the historical limitations. For example, a card when played may bring historically allied forces into the game. By playing the card the owner has used his turn to activate an ally at the expense of maneuvering his own units, thus re-creating political decisions made during the historical era. (Ie. spend time and energy to bring allies in, or spend that time on battle planning.) By not playing the card to activate the ally, or using it for other things the card is recycled, leaving uncertainty as to when he will get another chance to activate the ally. Again, political realities.

In one way cards limit a player's options, but in another way they expand a player's options by introducing politics and civil matters into the game in a very uncomplicated and workable manner.

By having a limited hand of cards from which to choose the game is further made realistic by forcing the player to choose what his priorities are among his available options and in what order they should be played out. (Ie. should he take the offensive or wait for the other player to make a move? Should he play the card for its primary effect or use it to activate a unit(s) to plug a hole in his formation, and take the chance it will be drawn again?)

Action dice comparison

The action dice create similar conundrums as card management for the controlling player. However, the dice dictate what the political/ weather/ civil/ leadership realities are and give players options to choose actions within those dictates. Cards give the player options of choosing whether various political/ weather/ civil/ leadership events occur. (Understand the difference? There will be a test at the end.)

Dice don't state, "The Maine was Sunk, move 3 spaces on the war track and discard this card or move one unit" as cards do. Dice essentially say "An event occurred, you have these options because of it". Because each die outcome has different options players can choose courses of actions within the dictates of the outcome.

Each die has 6 possible outcomes with a couple possible ways to use each outcome.

A. Move 2 armies or attack with one, or play a card with the same symbol on it.
B. Muster 2 units onto the board, move one political marker one space, or play a card with the same symbol on it.
C. Choose A or B.
D. Move all characters, move an army by activating a character in the same space, play a card with the same symbol on it, or (free people only) move the fellowship.
E. Play a card or draw a card.
F. Commit the die to the hunt box (Shadow player) or wild card (free people).

If the muster option doesn't come up, that represents the unwillingness of nations to go to war (a important theme of the books). If the muster option does come up, that represents a narrow opportunity for a player to take steps to influence one nation in a small way. Which nation should he take the opportunity to influence? That recreates the fact that players have limited resources and must choose wisely.

Other results represent other major themes of the book and choices that needed to be made by both the free and shadow sides.

By rolling several dice and using one at a time, prioritizing available options is addressed as discussed earlier with the card driven games.

Because each result can be used for a couple different actions, players still have options within the limitations of uncertainty as afforded by card-driven games.

But, as opposed to cards, by rolling dice the options available are revealed to his opponent. Does this make a difference? Yes, but not as much as it might seem. I would liken it to players who are familiar with a card-driven game knowing which cards are available in the opponent's deck, even if he doesn't know exactly when the opponent's card will be played.

So... A Risk variant? Or 2 different games that have three elements in common?

Monday, April 11, 2005


Mare Nostrum

Played my first game of Mare Nostrum over the weekend. Must say that I was intrigued. I did enjoy it. Although I had the strategy all wrong, it was a very good learning game. I do think that if the game weren't set in the Mediterranean it would not be compared to Civilization. It would be considered an area influence game along the lines of El Grande, with set-collection and building elements similar to Settlers of Catan.

Like I said, I got the strategy all wrong. I didn't realize just how limited new city and caravan tokens were. I also didn't realize just how important your civilization's special ability is. I played Carthage. Carthage's ability is +1 during combat with legions. As it was a learning game I assumed there would be few battles as the game progressed, partly because Mare Nostrum has a reputation as being a Civ clone and war rarely pays off in Civ, and partly because my group usually cuts each other quite a bit of slack when we play a game for the first time.

If there is no war Carthage's ability is moot. The other civilization's abilities mostly allow them to buy units/items at a decreased cost, and that gives each a huge advantage. By the time I figured this out it was too late. Carthage was stuck buying one 3 cost item each round, and discarding 2 resources. I made some headway into Sicily in the middle stages of the game, but was quickly beat back by the Greeks and Romans who had utilized their advantages and had more legions and triremes than me, respectively.

I did find the trading element of the game to be clumsy. Players all place the same number of cards in front of themselves, face-up. Then players choose from all the face-up cards, picking one for themselves, one at a time. I need more experience with this mechanic to see if it works or not, but it is rather disappointing at this time.

I am looking forward to playing Mare Nostrum again. The trading part of the game could be better, a lot better. But, as a whole it seems like a fair game that flows smoothly with clean rules.

One more quick note.

(Looking nervously back over my shoulder.)

Keep this quiet. My wife doesn't need to know, but (nervous glance over shoulder) (whispering) the local gamestore got 7 Ages into stock. Oooooooooooh. Been fighting the urge to order this one for some time now. Maybe soon, now.

(Rubbing hands together, low voice). He, he, he, Bwaaa ha.

Good gaming,

Nothing dear, I was just talking to myself.

No, I wasn't laughing at you.

Saturday, April 09, 2005


Chinatown, War of the Ring, more YINSH

Just when I thought I was getting a handle on YINSH I got creamed badly by a friend of mine who was playing for the first time. Lost 3-0, and 3-1, then found an excuse to change games. She fancies herself as quite an Othello master, indeed she is pretty good. She was able to apply her knack at Othello to YINSH and sent me home with my tail between my legs.

When I first encountered YINSH I thought about the resemblance to Othello, and quickly dismissed it as an entirely different game with only a passing similarity in mechanics. Guess not.


The game we switched to was Chinatown. I had misplaced this game several months ago and thought it was gone forever. Luckily we found it tucked between the couch and the wall.

Played with 4 players. After the last outing I had thought it would be better with fewer than 6 players, because each player would have more property and that would encourage more trades. I had been looking forward to replaying it with 4 or 5 players since the Christmas holidays.

I had been skeptical. I didn't really find the game to be fun on the first outing, but I could see how the game has earned its reputation as "the" trading game. My skepticism seems to have been warranted. Again, the game just didn't strike me as being fun. My feeling was solidified that it is too luck dependent. The winner (Othello girl) got quite lucky and was able to get a "6" business up and running by the second round. Not only that, but every bonus card that gave extra money to "6" tiles came up before the end of the game.

Trading games tend to be very group dependent in general. My regular group tosses small denomination bills around like they are manhole covers. Asking for $1000 (the smallest denomination in the game) was met with groans and eye rolls. Likewise, outrageous cash demands were asked for 1 or 2 business tiles. I may give it one more chance with a group that has fewer ties to each other. Seems to me that groups that know each other well are less apt to trade, or more likely to hold out for unreasonable demands. This holds true for Settlers and all its variants, Traders of Genoa, Civilization, Monopoly, Bohnanza and any other trading game. I find that people who wouldn't even consider a trade with a person from the regular group would make the same trade with a person they don't know very well. Until I get that group together Chinatown will go onto the inactive pile.


Got to play some more Doom with the kids at the Boys and Girls Club, and again with an adult friend of mine and his kid. The game has limited replayability, due to a limit of scenarios, but it is really a pretty good shoot-em-up game. More scenarios are supposed to be available on-line, but I haven't checked because we haven't used all the scenarios in the scenario book.

The scenarios in Doom aren't like the reusable Memoir '44 or Seafarers of Catan scenarios. The marine players aren't supposed to know what lies ahead of them in the corridors of the base. Once you know how a scenario plays out you can't be a marine again. You could play the invaders, the invaders have the scenario guide and direct the game.

The designers incorporated a number of ideas to make the game similar to the Doom video game and did remarkably well. Ammo symbols on the dice indicate ammo consumption, accuracy and damage are also indicated by dice. Different weapons use different combinations of dice. Lives, armor, ammo, and other equipment can be picked up as the marines travel through the scenario. Marines regenerate themselves after dying, new invaders are able to come into play outside of the marines line of sight. And above all, it is much more important to get through the scenario than it is to kill invaders. You will lose if you spend time killing invaders that you could sprint past.

Doom is some good stuff. It is not more thought provoking than you would expect it to be, yet is much better than you would expect it to be. It is a very good game to play if you have one adult and 2-3 teenage boys. The adult can direct the game by playing the invaders and no one will feel left out. There is lots of action for both the invaders and the marines.

War of the Ring

WotR is a game that needs to be played several times in succession to be appreciated. It is a game of contradictions. It is a fairly simple game that does not lend itself to ease of play. It is a game with some brilliant ideas that fall flat.

Some problems.

Set up time is unnecessarily long, and made worse by the close resemblance of all the units.

Black borders, which are impassable, are also unnoticable until you try to make an attack over one.

The art on the board is beautiful, yet cities and towns and fortifications look so much alike that mistakes are easy to make.

Small spaces that can only hold a couple units exist in the heart of Middle Earth, where huge armies collide.

Large spaces are placed around the perimeter of the board where there will never be more than a few units.

The rule book is arranged randomly. Yes, randomly.

Simple rules and concepts take pages to explain and are made unnecessarily difficult.

The tokens representing all the races of Middle Earth are beautifully illustrated, but have no name on them. There are what? Eight or nine tokens to keep straight. That is not a huge number, but players find themselves referring to the rulebook all the time to refresh their memory.

Some good things

The game recreates and follows the spirit of the book very well, yet there is nothing requiring the game to play out like the book.

Characters are handled very well with broad rules that apply to all characters in the game, both good and evil (although you have to pick out a rule here and a rule there when looking for guidance in the rulebook) .

The way event dice force the flow of the game is ingenious. Yes, ingenious.

The way the fellowship moves and is hunted is ingenious. Yes, ingenious.

Too bad it doesn't all come together into a truly great package.

All in all War of the Ring is a good game made less so by component problems. It is a beautiful game, but the artwork is generally a detriment and causes confusion. It is a simple game made maddeningly difficult because of the poor rule book.

If you haven't purchased it yet, hold out for the second edition. There will undoubtedly be a second edition, and there is a lot of room for improvement.

Good gaming,

Monday, April 04, 2005


Ruminating Inconsequentially

How did we ever make it through the last month without any Terri Schiavo tirades on Boardgamegeek? Can't say I missed the discussion. Can say I was kind of surprised that no one said anything. There are way too many people ready to speak on this issue based upon emotion and events in their own lives with little or no understanding of why this case was so different. Or did I miss a thread? Did they get deleted as soon as they were posted? Is everyone on BGG still sick of politics a mere 5 months after the Presidential election?

It has been a slow game week for me. Got in several games of Memoir '44, GIPF and YINSH, but nothing new. Must say that I like all 3 of these games more as I play them more. Played quite a bit of Connect Four with my 5 year old, also.

Have been reading the rules for Manifest Destiny the latest game from GMT. I'm not sure what I found so appealing about this game that I pre-ordered it, looks kind of silly after reading the directions (telegraph and railroad advances, yes, but story-telling and rock-and-roll advances?). A friend of mine ordered it also, so it will probably get played before too long. That is the same friend who owns Europe Engulfed, another game I have been looking forward to playing.

Have also been reading the rules for TI3. OOOOOOOOOOOHHHHhhh. Can't wait to get a chance to play it. I bought it as soon as it was released, I don't regret that decision, but I still haven't had a chance to take it for a spin.

Keythedral sits on my game shelf, unplayed. I really want to play some more War of the Ring,and Entdecker but that may be a pipe-dream. And, for some reason 1830 has been beckoning me. I haven't played a game of this railroad building classic in years. Mallworld and Settlers of Nurnburg sit unplayed also, as does Die Macher, McMulti and Kings and Things but those three are on the perpetual wait-list.

Too bad we didn't gain an hour each day with this Daylight Saving Time, (ie 25 hour days). With some planning there might be enough extra hours in the week to get in some good gaming.

Game on, Dudes.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?