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  • The Wolfman

    Friday night we had a rare evening sans Spawn, which meant we got to go to the movies. When you only get to go to non-family movies a few times a year, picking which one to see is an extremely serious matter. You don't want to waste the opportunity on a movie that sucks. I was therefore hesitant to suggest we see The Wolfman, as it has received mostly crappy reviews. However, with some prodding and teasing, I finally confessed that I wanted to see it, despite the reviews, and was willing to suffer the endless taunting if it turned out to be awful, like that sucky movie I picked out a few summers back where the bird flew into the windshield, but we can't remember anything else about it.

    Happily, I made the right choice. I adored this movie. Maybe I just have really terrible taste in movies. I certainly can't argue with the reviewers: it is slow, it is not scary, there is really nothing much new in it, the CGI is imperfect. But it is beautiful and tragic.

    The Wolfman is an old school monster movie, and old school monster movies aren't so much scary stories as they are tragedies. I always cry when the monster comes to his terrible end, whether it be a werewolf, Oedipus, or  Rodan.

    And it is oh so beautiful. Colin Covert wrote: "A lavish coffee table book of a horror film, “The Wolfman” features visuals so beautifully planned and executed that each frame begs to be savored."That it is.

    So fortunately I won't have live with endless teasing for picking another "bird hits the windshield" movie. I have asked for a copy of the DVD when it comes out. Considering how poorly this movie has been received, I shouldn't have to wait too long.

  • The Women of Ameritrash Babes Calender

    Seeing as how uba was bewildered as to why I created a calender  of men for men, here is the ameritrash babes calender

     Ms January: Zula

    Ms February: Number 6
    Number 6

    Ms March: Princess Leia
    Princess Leia

    Ms April: Annie Smith
    Death Race 2000

    Ms May: Princess Lyssa
    Princess Lyssa

    Ms June: Flying Snow
    Flying Snow

    Ms July: Barbarella


    Ms August: Seven of Nine
    Seven of Nine

    Ms September: Zhora


    Ms October: Hudson

    Ms November:  Ripley


    Ms December: Sil


    (My favourite is Ms April, but then I have a thing about the 70's ameritrash chicks when women were real women and weren't plastic).

  • The World Cup 2010 Card Game scores a goooaaal!

    The World Cup 2010 Card Game scores a gooooooaaaaaallllll!


    The World Cup 2010 Card Game by Shaun Derrick does an admirable job of condensing The World Cup Board Game into a more portable, faster playing format. As a disclaimer I’ve only played the game twice so far, and they have both been two-player games. I don’t normally like to pass judgment on a game so early but I know there are several of you who want more details on how the Card Game compares to the Board Game.

    Where to get it

    Currently there is no place in the US to purchase The World Cup 2010 Card Game. Designer Shaun Derrick said on BGG that no US distributors were interested in stocking the game. So it won’t be at your FLGS and it won’t be at your favorite US online retailer either. Your best bet is to order it directly from publisher Games for the World website. But that’s OK because the game is cheap and the exchange rate for the British Pound is pretty good right now. The game is £5.95 with another £3 to ship to the US. That translated to less than $15 for me and the game arrived in a week. Not bad at all I say.

    What you get

    The World Cup 2010 Card Game is a small package. You get 32 team cards, 32 action cards and a small, double-sided rules sheet. Not included are the score sheets. Those you’ve got to download on the Games for the World website. The cards are light, flexible and very glossy. I like flexible cards because it makes shuffling easier, but I hope the card stand the test of time as you will be shuffling the action deck a lot every game. A lot.

    How to play it

    The game follows the format of the real World Cup. Thirty-two teams are divided into eight groups for four. This is called the Group Stage. Teams play three matches against each team in their group. Three points are awarded for a win, one for a draw and zero for a loss. The two teams with the highest points advance to the Round of 16. If any teams are tied for points ranking is determined by goal differential (the number of goals scored vs. the number of goals scored against), then total number of goals scored, then who won the match between the tied teams and finally if there is still a tie you flip a coin. That’s how they do it in real life, folks.

    The dealer shuffles the team cards and deals out all the teams to the players. Depending on your number of players the number of teams per player may not be even.


    Team cards include information pertinent to game play and fun facts so us Americans can be turned into proper hooligans. Well, no, there’s nothing in there on how to throw darts at spectators in a match or conduct yourself in a riot. But they do tell you how the team has performed in previous World Cups and its match lineup for the real Cup. Disregard this info, this is not the order in which you will play the matches.

    The vital info on the Team cards is how many cards the team receives in the group stage and whether or not it can play the powerful 3-Goal and 2-Goal cards.

    Since the Board Game is essential a Card Game at heart it is reasonable to expect to two to play fairly similarly. This is true, but the big difference is how the Group Stage is played.

    In the Card Game each group is resolved one match at a time before moving on to the next group. So starting with Group A, players who have Group A teams reveal them and the dealer deals Action cards to each player depending on what their Team Cards indicate (either seven cards or eight). If a player has more than one team in a group that player must keep the two hands separate. Players are limited to the cards dealt for all three of their matches. Only the owners of the teams in a match are allowed to play cards. To resolve a match each player selects one to four cards, places them face down and then reveals them when both players have made their selections. The totals are added up and the results are declared and recorded on the score sheet.


    There are eight different kinds of action cards: Attack, Defence (British spelling), 1 Goal, 2 Goals, 3 Goals, Penalty, Foul and Offsides.

    Attack cards are worth ½ a goal each. Two Attack cards are worth one goal. If a team has an odd number of Attack cards a card flip is required. If the card drawn is an Attack an additional goal is scored.

    Defence cards removes an attack card from the opposition or fills a card slot in the knockout stages.

    1,2 and 3 Goal cards score goals as you can imagine, however teams can only use them to score two and three goals if their team card allows them to. So a crappy team like North Korea can’t use the 3 Goal card to score three goals, instead it treats it like a 1 Goal card.

    Penalty cards award your team a penalty kick to be resolved via a card flip. A goal is scored if an Attack or Goal card is drawn from the deck.

    Foul cards remove a goal from the opposition or demote a 3 Goal card to two goals or a 2 Goal card to one goal.

    Offsides works like Foul and Defence. You can either remove a goal or an attack card.

    After the cards are revealed any card flips are resolved, Penalties are resolved first and then Attack cards.

    If you’ve played the Board Game this should all be pretty familiar stuff. The difference is in the Board Game you roll the dice to determine if any teams get bonus Attacks.

    The first match of the game is South Africa vs. Mexico in Group A. Play then continues working down Group A all the way through Group H.

    Once you hit the Round of 16 and beyond the Card Game plays a lot more like the Board Game. Because the Action Card deck is so small the Round of 16 is handled four matches at a time. I recommend lining up the teams across each other so you can see who is playing whom. Four cards can be played on each team. Here Defence cards can be played to cover an attack card thus negating its effect but not filling a space or you can play it to fill up one of a team’s four slots. Foul and Offsides cards can only be played to cover cards, not fill up slots. Only the top-most card played can be affected by Defence, Foul and Offsides cards. So say I have a 3 Goal card and then I play an Attack card on that team the next turn, it’s too late for you to play a Foul on it.

    Each player is dealt a hand of three cards. A player plays a card and then draws a card.

    The team with the highest score wins and advances to the next round. Ties are resolved with a penalty kick shoot-out. Taking turns, drawing one card at a time each team gets five shots. Goals are scored on Attack and Goal cards. If it is tied after five shots it goes to sudden death, but each team must have had an equal number of attempts.

    In the Quarter-Finals, Semi-Finals and 3rd Place Playoff/Championship matches a deck of 12 cards is used to draw from instead of the entire Action Card deck.

    So what’s the score on The World Cup 2010 Card Game?


    Shorter playing time: While The world Cup 2010 Card Game isn’t a short game, it is significantly shorter than the Board Game. Our two games probably clocked in 1-1.5 hours.

    Unscripted: As the Board Game and its expansions are based on real results, the designer decided not to include a color code system in the Card Game. With the color coding and dice absent the results of the game can vary widely. This is good as its likely no two tournaments will look the same.

    What a story: Like the Board Game, the World Cup 2010 Card Game creates an energetic narrative. Watching teams work their way through the tournament, watching a powerhouse Goliath fall to a little David and penalty kick shoot-outs are a riot. When you’re done you will sit back and look over the results reminiscing over some of the key matches and biggest upsets in the tournament.

    Cheap: It’s only $15. That’s a good deal for a lot of game.

    I’m so board: While I do kind of miss the board as it adds to the epic nature of the game, the Card Game is so much cleaner without all the fiddliness of sorting, drawing and placing chits. The Card Game keeps things clean.


    Unscripted:This is listed on my pros, too, I know. While its great to see such variability in the results, sometimes it sucks to see the better teams go down in the Group Stage. Neither Mexico nor USA have advanced in the two games I’ve played so far. This also makes the game feel a bit too “gamey.” If your powerhouse gets dealt crappy cards there is nothing you can do about it. In our second game I had Slovenia and was dealt six 1 Goal cards. They beat England 3-1. I highly doubt were going to see that happen this summer.

  • THE WORLD CUP GAME- Best Sports Game Ever Published

  • The Worst Podcast in Gaming Turns 1!!!

    The Messy Game Room returns for season 2 and you know you want to listen to it.
    Board games we talk about include Chaos in the Old World, Jungle Speed, Hellenes, Shadows Over Camelot, Richard III, For Sale, Citadels, Lifeboats, and others.
    On the video game front we give our thoughts on Brutal Legend and New Super Mario Brothers for the Wii.

     We also discuss the miniature wargames Carnage and Glory and Command Decision Test of Battle.
    But the good stuff is when we talk about frozen Mexican delicacies from Wal-Mart, Dunkin Donuts, beer, and what to do when a guy dings your Mini in the Sheetz parking lot. Visit our guild on Board Game Geek and join up so you can enter contests and stuff.

  • The Young and the Restless: Gen Y and gamers

    Tetsuo on throne

    Now I know that this isn't exactly a place with incredibly young gamers posting, but it's something to think about when I consider my place as one of the youngest people here. In the comments, feel free to tell me Clint Eastwood style to "GET OFF MY LAWN" - but let's face it, a hobby needs kids on your lawn to survive.

    Recently, I discovered to my horror that Satoshi Kon, anime director of Paprika, and Perfect Blue, had died without me being sufficiently informed of it. Well, at first I thought the anime industry was doomed. But then I remembered anime didn't exactly die out when Tezuka died, did it? If anything it just became the polar opposite to 1990s comic books in the West - focused on cuteness and idealised fantasy of a saccharine world - the same thing Satoshi Kon rebelled against with pretty much any film he made.

    I also noted recently this post by JonJacob - who often gets confused with me because we have a similar name, gave the hint of malaise underneath the surface of the board gaming hobby. Let me explain a few things before we get carried away here.

    I don't see my gaming hobby as something that dominates my life, it's something that's there to supplement it because sometimes, a dude my age and dudes like him get bored. And there's only so many rounds of Tekken you can play before my aforementioned buddy Mr. S air-juggling me with a panda bear gets old. Board games to me are no longer about hoarding new games, it's something I do with other people when I feel absolutely lost for something to do. And I think it works well that way, because young people don't see their hobbies so much as an obsession these days as something they just DO.

    There's a lot of lamenting that young people aren't playing board games and the industry seems doomed, but really the issue seems to be that young people are more picky about the games they play. Warhammer 40,000 and Magic: The Gathering are popular with young people not because they're cash sink franchises, but because young people can relate to the product since other people like them are playing it, especially in Magic's case since in my experience it's one of the more permeating entry level games into an expandable universe. It's also more portable than most board games so it can be played on university campuses and in schools.

    There's also a tendency now for young people to not really care if they get called "gamers" or not because people who actually care about who is a true "gamer" tends to ruin the fun for everyone else. Me, I just like slinging Magic cards with my pals every now and again, or playing Barrel of Monkeys with the hipsters on campus.

    By my nature I tend towards hobbies that aren't really mainstream, but are visible enough that they're not really social outcast material. JonJacob mentions you should have something to leave behind when you die, and I think I've already started to get that covered long before old age and mortality is a large issue for me. It's because I believe writing and creating artworks through photography benefit me on a creative level - JonJacob is right in saying that games being a creative medium is somewhat suspect, since most of the creation of the game is done for you. It's a consumer's hobby, unlike say, book fandom where you might be inspired to write a book yourself, or comics/graphic novels fandom where you might try and draw a comic you might try to get published at an indie comics press - who knows. Music is another one of these passive, yet active fandoms. Gamers however, therein lies the dilemma.

    Few "gamers" will ever manage to create a game for themselves with their own two hands as compared to other artistic mediums which are more established in the eyes of the public as actual art, I mean, just look at the flak Roger Ebert gets lately from video gamers. I don't really care if board games are art or not, they certainly contain art, and a degree of craftsmanship at least. I just think on a creative level making a board or video game is something only the elite few who are talented enough or business savvy enough to manage game production will ever do, let alone PLAYTESTING.

    I'm a major fan of the book world, the comics and manga/anime world, I've even dipped my toe into appreciating cinema every now and again. There exist many films people grew up with that I've just never seen - and seeing them enables me to talk with friends outside of the internet about them for conversation's sake.

    Yes, board gaming is a very small hobby, but it has its place. However in my life, and for a lot of young people, I don't think board games development lists very high on their priorities. They'd rather play a pre-made board game, but those same people wouldn't probably turn their nose up at other creative endeavours. After all, sometimes board games CONTAIN art that inspires them to create something entirely different, but pretty neat.

  • Their Satanic Majesties Request- SOLIUM INFERNUM review

    baphomet_star Things are slowly returning to normal at stately Barnes Manor now that Young Master Barnes, River Atticus, is here. And of course, I can't stand to miss a deadline so here's this week's Cracked LCD- a review of Cryptic Comet's new PC game SOLIUM INFERNUM. It's a pretty good game- if you're playing it with other people. The solo game sucks. Read the review to find out why. In all, I'm, not nearly as impressed with it as I was with ARMAGEDDON EMPIRES, but there are some really great _tabletop_ game ideas in there.

    Gotta run...HE FEEDS.

  • Them Magical D6s

    I've played quite a few games, and I especially love games that come with dice. Before I got into boardgaming for real, D6s were all I knew, mostly from Monopoly and Snakes and Ladders, and then I got into boardgaming and my first few games with dice were "custom" dice, Battlelore, Heroscape and Descent (though the first two technically are just D6s with different symbols on them).

    I've come to realize though that of the games with dice that I do enjoy playing, there is nothing that comes close to generating tension than the plain old simple D6. There's something visceral about rolling 6s that appeals to me. Sure custom dice may be cool, but sometimes they just slow the game down.

    Descent - though the dice are 6-sided, the dice have been customized to a point that it's pretty much unrecognizable. still, you can feel the essence of the D6 there, as there is an X/blank value (1s) a high value/surge (6s) and other results in between the two. I guess they had to make the dice customized to support the combat of the game, but to be honest, this is one of the most dragging parts of the game. Combat slows down because you have to do so much calculation after the dice are rolled. Rolling Xs are awesome (for your enemy at least), why? There's instant recognition. "Haha, you rolled an X, you are fucked." The rest of the time, you have to count range, then count damage, convert surges to damage/effects, then subtract armor and then figure out if the target is dead yet. Zzzzz. I honestly believe it could've been done better with just a whole bunch of D6. Better weapons let you roll more D6s, then just add special effects on the weapons themselves, or have a few customized dice.

    Heroscape - on attack, hits on 4+, on defense blocks on 5+ The thing with Heroscape is that it actually makes it work with the symbols. It makes it faster for people to figure out combat, and the symbols help make the pace of the game faster -- the opposite of what Descent does. the result? The combat here flows much much better, and it's more satisfying.

    Tide of Iron - this one is kinda like Heroscape, in that you have attack dice and defense (armor/cover) dice. I like how the attacker rolls both dice and just cancels them out one for one. for some reason the combat is unsatisfying though

    Nexus Ops - simple, and fast. the simple D6s manage to model the different firepower strength of the different units and coupled with the initiative order in combat, makes some units incredibly more powerful in combat 

    Summoner Wars - having the units hit at 3+ makes this game less about luck and more about tactical positioning. I like that. knowing that when you attack you have a good chance of killing your enemy, while not being 100% sure about the result allows you to carry out a battle plan, and still makes you think about a back-up plan in case the attack fails. uncertainty is an important part of combat, as it makes you adjust and go with the flow and how to make the most out of a messed up situation (rolling all 1s and 2s)

    Space Hulk - those long corridors with genestealers bearing down on you. knowing that your space marines are pretty much dead when the genestealers get to them makes dice rolling in this game very very exciting. overwatch is fucking awesome, and every shot you take that doesnt hit amps up the tension. there is nothing like killing a genestealer that just stepped on that square adjacent to your terminator. i've heard a lot of "fuck. fuck. fuck. fuck. YEEEESSSS!" during our games of Space Hulk, and that's awesome. the chance of getting doubles and locking up your gun just adds to the excitement. Melee combat is pretty intense too, as it's pretty much over for your terminator, but he's being given one last chance to live, and sometimes he'll pull it off, and actually beat that genestealer to a bloody pulp 

    Chaos in the Old World - Ulric's Fury. Rolling 6s in this game is pretty much Ulric's Fury from WFRP, rolling for additional hits is crazy good, and allows a player, usually khorne, to just rampage across the board. Every single unit you have on the board in this game is important. This makes the combat very exciting, as one death could spell the difference between getting the VP or not getting the VP (zzzzzzz). pretty good use of dice... for a eurogame.

    WotR - limiting the number of dice to a maximum of 5 dice with rerolls sets the dynamics of the game, and helps make the game more thematic while at the same time helping with the balance. bigger armies are harder to coordinate, so bringing in 10 units does not translate to 10 dice, you just want bigger armies for the HP. With leaders/Nazghul though, you are able to utilize your armies more efficiently, giving you re-rolls, which are basically more dice to be rolled. Forts/Strongholds/Cities give you a defensive bonus, and card effects and siege engines also help. One of my favorite combat systems. Such a deep system, but at the same time, it's pretty simple and it doesnt get bogged down with calculations. in the end, it's still a matter of rolling more dice than your opponent and counting 5s and 6s.

    Counting 5s and 6s. That's what dice combat systems should revolve around, everything else is just added chrome.

  • There is something I have been forgetting

    I just picked up a copy of Brood War. I got it home, tore of the shrink wrap and then I stopped. Normally, I'd be straight in there, sorting through the cards, punching the tokens but this time I stopped. I stopped and looked at the cover. I looked at the cover and thought, "Hell, yes." This is it. This is what it is about. This is what first got me gaming.


    Starcraft - Brood War


    In gaming there are many great artists who can take you straight into the world of a game. Games Workshop were the company who made me a gamer. The Warhammer world was and still is so alive through their artists and background writers. The inventiveness and creativity of these individuals is incredible.


    Warhammer 40K


    The game I have played most of all must be Magic the Gathering. There is no doubting the genius of its creator Richard Garfield. The mechanics of the game are superb. However, the design of the individual cards opens the game up so much: the incredible and varied artwork, the evocative flavour text. Even the card names with their vast vocabulary and poetic and bibilical references. They all combine to create such a rich experience. Eventhough the world defies definition in its variety, it still feels cohesive.


    Priest of Titania


    When we talk about loving to push dudes around a map, it is often because they are such wonderful pieces in their own right. They aren't just markers. Someone has thought out and created a something we haven't seen before.


    Warmachine - Harbinger of Menoth


    It is easy to forget the importance of the creative individuals who build game worlds. The richness of these creations are often what insire great game designs. I don't think it can be chance that so many great games are based on stories and worlds that were built with great depth and feeling.


    Dune - Avalon Hill


    I guess this is just something so fundamental to the gaming experience that I had been taking it for granted.

  • There might be sunshine...

    We might finally be reaching the tipping point in our business.  Most recent, hopeful sign - a distributor approaching us about becoming a customer.

     Considering how hard it was getting distributors when we first started up, I think it's a great sign.

     Of course it could be read the other way and the fact that people are struggling through this economy and are looking for any source of revenue they can get.

     Pessimistic? Me? No.....

  • There Will Be Games IX: Police and Thieves

    OK, so I served a "celebrity sentence" but let me tell you, jail sucks.  It's like walking into a gigantic, festering staph infection that smells like pee and you can't even stand up without being told by a man with a gun to sit down.  There's a harsh psychological element to every aspect of incarceration, and even just a taste of it is plenty for me, thanks.

  • There's Gotta Be A Better Way - 7 Wonders Review

    For more "happy place" reviews, check out my blog, The Rumpus Room.

    You know those infomercials you see on basic cable at 2 in the morning? I’m not sure what it is about the wee hours of the night, but suddenly you realize that you’ve always wanted a machine that can dehydrate all your food. To drive the need home, they will have footage of someone doing things THE OLD WAY. These old-fashioned people are suffering for not realizing that there’s a better way to dry food than what they’ve always known. Yeah! That’s right! How did we survive before the Jerky-Matic 5000 anyway? After you wake up in a puddle of your own drool on the couch, and you take that first cup of coffee, you realize something: at no point in your life have you ever needed to dehydrate food. In fact, until you heard of the Jerky-Matic, you never once considered that the need existed. The company first had to establish that this was a vacuum in your life, and then they had to sell you something that filled that void.

    That’s pretty much what 7 Wonders does. It fills a need that it had to create. It’s a card-drafting game that can be played with up the seven players, and it reliably clocks in at around 30 minutes. Every positive thing I read and hear about this game boils down to this simple fact: there aren’t many 30-minute games that can hold seven people easily. And that’s true. But the fact is, that’s not a niche that I need to fill.

    In three rounds, players are each dealt a hand of cards. You take one card from the hand you are dealt and pass the rest one way or the other. You then play the card you have, and select another card. The cards that you play form a tableau over the course of the game, apparently about a civilization. You gather resources, make advancements in science, create a military to hassle your neighbors, all the normal civ game trappings. If 7 Wonders has any strength, it’s that it’s a ridiculously simple concept. It functions a little like a sealed draft in a CCG, a  mechanic that was already utilized (to much better effect) in Fairy Tale.

    The frustrating thing is that there are elements of a good game there. The drafting mechanic at least makes it feel like you are doing something like building a civilization. It’s abstracted to a huge level, but I’m fine with that. If I can handle abstraction in Dominion, I can handle it here. And heaven knows that it’s nice to have a thoughtful game that plays quickly. The problems arise because 7 Wonders is complicated in all the wrong places. The decisions and thought involved in the game is almost nothing, but then it turns to needless obfuscation when explaining the most basic aspect of the game, the scoring.

    I’m not going to venture to say that 7 Wonders has no meaningful decisions, though that is my inclination. But I will say that the decisions FEEL small, which is in a way a much bigger crime. The stakes never feel high, and that’s a crippling blow in a civ-building game. It’s entirely without drama or tension, and the decisions are, on their own, not interesting enough to prop up the rest of the game. It’s very common to be passed a hand of cards with which you can do nothing. Oh sure, you can burn one for some money. But that’s basically being forced to bunt, not a strategic choice. And it’s certainly not a decision that you were forced to make because of your own poor choices in previous rounds. It’s something you just deal with because factors beyond your control forced them on you. Why anyone could complain about randomness in games and be okay with this is beyond me. For my part, I LOVE randomness in games, but 7 Wonders has been drained of anything resembling excitement. It’s just making another tiny decision in a game of tiny decisions.

    And when you get to the end, you suddenly are thrown into one of the more arcane scoring systems I have ever had to wrangle with. There are about 2 or 3 separate scoring systems at work, but the guilty party is that of the science buildings. These need to be added and multiplied and squared and SOCATOA’d and everything. It’s not like it can’t  be figured out, but it was clearly designed for balance instead of usefulness. I’m sure it’s very well-designed in the sense that it makes those types of buildings a good strategic choice, but it sacrifices a huge chunk of usability. It’s this scoring system that effectively puts the game out of the “casual” sphere, which was about the only sphere it was good for in the first place.

    But maybe I’m wrong about the strategy. It’s a losing battle to discuss how empty a game can feel strategically, because there’s always someone who has studied the game and knows it better than you. I don’t know many of these people, since the game has effectively died out in our own group. But usually when people defend 7 Wonders, they say something like this: “At least it plays a lot of people quickly.”

    That is technically true. But it’s even more true that 7 Wonders sucks for big groups.

    First off, it has to be said that seven players is a stupid number of people to have to play one game. There are numerous options for six people, and even more for less than that.You’re usually just better off splitting into two groups if you have seven people. But wait, you may say! We don’t want anyone to feel left out! Well, you’re in luck. There’s already an entire genre of games that deals with large groups who don’t have a lot of time. They’re called “party games,” and they are designed to be played quickly and taught easily. 7 Wonders fails largely because, while it allows a lot of people to play, it has no idea why it actually wants that many people around the table.

    Why do people not want to split up their big group in the first place? Because we want to have fun. There’s a special dynamic that comes with large groups. When you get a ton of people around the table, it’s like conversation begins to open up. People are more likely to cut up, to laugh, to just enjoy the social aspect of gaming. Of course the big trade-off is that it can be very tough to wrangle that many people to listen to a game explanation. Party games work well because they are very simple, and great for promoting the special social interaction that comes from large groups. But you will never see that around a game of 7 Wonders. It insists on only ever embracing secondary interaction, and the goofy scoring guarantees that the game will be a headache to explain. You only ever have ANYTHING to do with your immediate neighbors, in game terms. The other players are basically a way to remove cards from the deck. It’s a big group game for people who don’t want to have to talk to others.

    Nothing about 7 Wonders serves any reasonable game function. Instead of a fun social experience, it offers a way to sit around a table of seven people and never have to speak to them. I can live with that in a game with fewer people, or a game that just felt more satisfying. But this? This is like gas station coffee. It’ll keep you awake, but you’re probably better off falling asleep at the wheel.

  • These are dark times....


  • They Call it Shipping for a Reason

    If you've read previous posts and entries of mine, you will know that an elusive goal of mine is a game that captures the essence of airlines.  Air Baron is a pretty decent game but it doesn't feel like I'm running an Airline.  Airline might be that game, but it sucks ass.  You guys gave me a link to an Airline game that was on the Nintendo and that was pretty close to what I was looking for.   If someone would translate that into a boardgame, I would be a happy camper.  I've been thinking of some mechanics for it but....

     Anyways, another elusive goal of mine is a game that deals with shipping.  Second to planes in my books are ships (especially warships...but that is a different story).  I have a game called "Distant Seas", it is actually a pretty decent game.  You can buy different ships and get different loads based on those ships.  There is an event deck where either shit can happen or you could end up getting a bonus on the next delivery.   The loads are varied and the game actually feels like you are running a shipping company.  The components aren't the greatest (counters for ships and the cards are kind of flimsy).

    I also played "Container" but I did not like that game.  It seemed like we were fighting the economy more than running ships.  Maybe with the right people, it would be a nice game (the components were nice though).

    I think something like "distant seas" set in the Great Lakes would be cool.  combine it with a train game, and you have something.

  • They Don't Make Them Like They Used To

    Bashing Catan has become a pastime among self-proclaimed gamers. They liken its market saturation and endless expansions to Monopoly’s vice grip on America’s store shelves. They grumble that friends and family who whet their appetite on Settlers want to keep playing it instead of sinking their teeth into real games. These people are wrong. Settlers of Catan continues to be one of the best designed European board games on the market, and it all starts with how easy it is to teach.

    I first tell everyone that this game is like a socialist version of Monopoly. Everything works on the barter system. Nobody loses, but somebody wins. “How do you win?” someone asks. “By settling Catan. The main way to get points is by building more settlements and cities. Here’s how you do that.” I hand everyone the clear reference sheet. “See, each of those symbols represents a resource needed to build that thing.” Then someone asks how you get resources, and by this time I’m already placing tiles, creating the modular board. I show them that the color on the terrain corresponds to the color of the resource cards, which have the same symbol and color as the smaller symbols on their reference sheet. I then explain how on each player’s turn they’ll roll the dice, and anyone who is adjacent to the number rolled gains the appropriate resource as shown on the board.

    Then people jump right in to playing the game. The placement phase is a good time to explain some of the finer rules, and as the Longest Road and Largest Army card are laid out, things start to click. Players do their best to gain more settlements or upgrade to cities. They’re invested in every player’s turn thanks to the dice. They trade. They talk to each other. They block each other off. They form informal alliances. They break these alliances. They don’t spend any time deciphering the game, but rather the motives and positioning of everyone else at the table.

    Unlike a lot of games about trading in a historic setting, Settlers actually allows the players to trade… With each other! How innovative! Thanks to the ability to trade with other players and the bank, players (and the dice) set the relative prices on goods. The value of goods fluctuates with scarcity and demand as the game progresses. If one player gets ahead or behind, the other players at the table can adjust their trading practices accordingly. Much like Monopoly, it’s often the best move to trade with the person in last place, providing a natural catch-up mechanism.

    Unlike a lot of board games these days, the board actually matters. It isn’t a series of taupe holding cells for cubes; the resource cards handle that. There isn’t a rectangular victory fence along the perimeter reminding everyone of the real reason they’re trapped in this game for ninety minutes; scanning the number of settlements and cities handles the scores just fine. It isn’t a series of cranks and wheels and spreadsheets designed to obfuscate the players’ interpersonal relationships. It isn’t divided into multiple boards so each player can build their own little castle separate from everyone else. Nope. You’re all on the same island of Catan, fighting for every last scrap of terrain on the map.

    Despite how intuitive and friendly the game appears, Settlers can actually be a pretty cutthroat and nasty game. I like that. Vying for the longest road or largest army becomes an arms race. The player who gets to eight victory points first might paint a target on his back by doing so, while the player who had a strong plan to actually make it to ten will sneak by. Negotiating with the other players is as important as managing your own negocios. 

    I said that Settlers’ success starts with how easy it is to teach, but it thrives because it encourages player interaction. It’s not as monotonously disruptive as a ‘take that’ card game, nor as isolated as [insert Euro from the last decade here]. Its board matters, and it’s a game played with others where the others matter. That’s more than I can say for a lot of games released today, and why they won’t ever sit on the shelf at Target.

  • They Expect Too Much of Me

  • Thieving Vampire Knights from Hell

    I had a great time at my game group last night - I got drunk and had lots of fun talking to my friends. But unfortunately the gaming side of things sucked.


    I bought Fury of Dracula (the GW edition). There were four people playing, including me and I'd played it against all of them before but only in 2-player games. Two of those games had been great, really showcasing the games' strength. But the other player got an abortive 20-minute game in which hew drew an early stake, caught Dracula during the day, won initiative and with it, the game.  So afterward I apologised and explained it really was a great game and that what happened was pretty unusual and  we should play again sometime. That "sometime" turned out to be last night - and guess what happened? That's right - an abortive 20 minute game ending in a hunter stake-day-initiative combo win. Unfortunatey it was so crap that it soured everyone else on the game as well, including me. I'm really going to have to get the FFG edition and give it another try. The GW edition is going in the closet until then.


    See,  I'm doubly-pissed at Dracula because the early end meant we had lots of time to play another game. And that game was Robber Knights.


    Robber Knights  is an unholy marriage between Carcassonne, Othello and the tower mechanic from Genoa. Basically you lay tiles and sometimes you get to march a tower of wooden disks over them, leaving one or more behind in each tile.  There can be a maximum of four discs to a tile and the topmost colour (i.e. the one last placed) owns the tile. Tiles are worth different points depending on what's on them.  So it's actually quite a mean little game in which other players are constantly striving to walk all over your territory. Sounds great!


    Well, you may recall me complaining about Analysis Paralysis in Tikalrecently?Tikal has nothing on this. Turns in Robber Knights are like getting slowly sucked down into a tar pit because you can't plan in advance at all - each play makes the board completely different.  I also found it a complete headfuck game in which the "agonising" decision making really was "agonising" rather than the more usual use of the phrase to denote a fun challenge.  A couple of turns in the feeling crept over me that this was a game I could play for a hundred years and still not be any good at it. 


    So I blame the shortcomings of Fury for making me play it. I'm off to see what it's worth in trade.

  • Things That Are Evil: Zuma

    Bane of my existence

    I've got the day off, and there's a long list of things I should get done.  Write a few remaining Thank You notes for wedding gifts, practice playing songs for a show I've got coming up, returning rental movies that are already a week late, paint my Space Hulk figures, paint my Warmachine figures...the list goes on and on.  But guess what?  None of it is going to get done.  Why?  Because I have a new sworn enemy:  Zuma, a puzzle game by PopCap.   (My usual sworn enemy, John Mayer, is temporarily off the hook...only temporarily.  Our rivalry will resume, and will only end with me sending him back to whatever hell he came from.)

    In Zuma, you control a little frog who shoots colored balls out of his mouth.  You shoot the colored balls at an incoming string of colored balls, trying to get at least three of the same color.  Doing so makes them disappear.   If the two balls on each end of the gap match, they attract...which is good since the thing you're trying to avoid is the string of colored balls advancing their way up to a hole which causes you to lose.  Sounds confusing (and a little dirty), but it's rather simple.  I'd say go take a look, but I don't think I know any of you enough to wish that upon you.

    The thing that attracted me to Zuma was that I had read that over 17 million people have played it.  I thought to myself, "I haven't played it," and proceeded to download the demo off of Steam.  The demo lead to the purchase of the game, which then lead to a huge lack of productivity on my part, not to mention many lonely hours for my wife, friends, and family, as well as lateness for events involving them...I guess that's what I get for following the herd.

    While Zuma may actually be a small part in the plans of the New World Order, I can't actually call it a bad game.  Far from it.  I'd be willing to call it the best puzzle game I've ever played (which, with the exception of Tetris and any game I've played by PopCap, isn't a genre I'm usually fond of).  I just don't think I've ever had this hard of a time recommending a game after having seen just how addicted I was to it.  Instead, I've been using my recommendation of it as a weapon.  My brother absolutely destroyed me in a game of Warmachine, so I told him about Zuma.  A co-worker and I both put in for the same day off...he got it, I did not.  So I told him about Zuma.  My mother likes Coldplay, so I told her about Zuma.

    Well, I've got to cut this short...I've, uh, do.  Give Zuma a try, but be careful.  This game will soak up your time like Brawny on steroids, not to mention the later levels can be a bitch.  It's demonic in every sense of the word.  Shit, I'd be willing to bet John Mayer invented fucking thing.

  • This Glaive Kills "Discerning Gamers"

    Yes, it's the Glaive from the film KRULL. Hop over to Gameshark to read about KRULL and a little game called...TALISMAN.

  • This is a test of the ninja submit e-mail notification system

    This is only a test. In the case of an actual submission you would have to publish it if it didn't suck. In this case, just let me know that you got the e-mail.