What We've Been Playing

Friday January 18, 2019 at 1:07pm board games Comments (0) »
 Cover artwork © Mayfair Games, Twogether Studios, Stonemaier Games, Plaid Hat Games, Leder Games
Cover artwork © Mayfair Games, Twogether Studios, Stonemaier Games, Plaid Hat Games, Leder Games

When not playing our tabletop rpg campaigns (see also: most of the rest of this blog currently), we've enjoy busting out some board games.  Every so often, we pick up a new one that we really like.  Here's what we've got into over the last year or so:

 

Iron Dragon

My wife loves the Ticket To Ride games.  A lot.  We own most of the iterations and have played them more times over the years than I could possibly count.  We've occasionally tried other train-themed games, but TTR had always remained king.

Then about a year ago, I got her Iron Dragon for Christmas.  Since then I think we've played TTR maybe twice.  I mean, I can remember playing it once for sure.  There might have been another time.  I dunno.

This is actually an old game from the 90s, but it was reprinted in late 2017.  The game involves connecting cities like TTR, but you also have to deliver goods from city to city based on demands, and manage your cash to build new rails.  It's everything we liked about TTR, and then some.

Iron Dragon is a train-based, empire-building game with a sort of fantasy-industrial flavor.  Each city on the board produces one or two resources, and you have cards that indicate which cities want which goods.  You build track to deliver the wanted item to the city, and you get paid - the harder it was to get the item there, the bigger the payout.  Then you draw another demand card and expand your rail lines into new territory.  You can hire different foremen to help you build in different regions, and upgrade your train to go faster and carry more.

If there's one negative to ID, it's that it's a long game.  Playing with one other player when both of you know the rules well, a game takes about 2 hours.  If you add more people or you're playing with new players, add an hour or two.

 

Illimat

It turns out that the Decemberists got into playing board games.  Back in 2016, they hired the designers at Twogether Studios to create rules for a game based on the arcane, antiquated aesthetics of a photo shoot they'd done some years earlier, and launched a Kickstarter to fund it.  When one of my favorite bands wanted to do a project with one of my favorite hobbies, I was all in.

Since I got my copy back in late 2017, I've played it quite a bit, and it's one of the games I love introducing to people.

Illimat plays like a classic card game with some modern, mechanical twists.  It has enough recognizeable elements to be extremely accessible, but enough novelty to make it interesting.  The game is played in hands, where player attempt to "harvest" cards from different areas of the playing field.  The changing "seasons" of each area affect which actions you can and cannot do, and the "luminary" cards add additional, transient rules.

My friend Rucht and I actually got to talk with designers of the game on our Table Dragon podcast a while back.  We had some issues with the audio quality, but the conversation was a blast.

 

Charterstone

I do tend to get my wife a new game for Christmas each year.  For two reasons, really.  One, she likes board games, and two, she is really difficult to shop for.

We also have this tradition of playing boardgames around the Christmas tree during the holiday season.  In fact, it's probably the season where we play the most games.

This year, I wanted to do something different.  I'd heard about "legacy" board games, but had never played one - so I did a little googling for one that was well-reviewed and looked like the kind of thing my wife would be into.  I settled on Charterstone.

Let me say that this game is awesomeIt's a fairly standard (if complex) worker-placement game, but the legacy elements are amazing.  The introduction of mechanics a little at a time is a great way to build a complex game, and the unfolding story is interesting and surprisingly....odd.  We're six games in to the 12-game campaign, and it continues to surprise us with new aspects.

If you pick up this game - which I do recommend - make sure you only read what you're supposed to, and make sure you read that very, very carefully: if you don't do something just right, you can screw stuff up.  Probably not irreparably, but enough that it will affect future games.  Also, don't overthink it: just do what it tells you to do, make sure you've got it all, and then just play with what you know.  The game will build itself from there.  Really cool.

Since picking this one up, I've been looking into other legacy games. I've heard good things about Gloomhaven and the Betrayal Legacy version.

 

Stuffed Fables

This was one of the many games introduced to me by one or more of my many gamer/board-gamer friends.  This one I've only played once so far, but I've got to mention it, because it's so cool.

First, the premise of Stuffed Fables is awesome: all of the players are the stuffed animals belonging to a little girl.  They protect her at night, of course.

Second, the game progression is interesting.  It plays a little like a board game, a little like an rpg, and a little like a choose-your-own-adventure book.  Basically, each page of the game book contains a bit of story and a game board with a given objective.  The players move around the board and perform actions based on their character abilities and the objective on that "page" of the story.  After completing the actions on that page/board, you flip to another one based on what happened.

The game has an interesting dice-drawing mechanic; most of the other mechanics of Stuffed Fables seem fairly standard, but well implemented.  It's a cooperative game as well, which I always enjoy.  Also, the miniatures look awesome, and I can't wait to paint them.

 

Vast

I heard cool things about this game online and encountered it in passing at our (mostly) yearly Trogland Meetup, but I didn't get to play it until more recently.  It did not disappoint.

Vast is a pretty unique game in my experience.  The premise is a group of conflicting parties all wanting something from a given situation - specifically, a situation involving a cave, a dragon, a knight, a theif, a tribe of goblins, and, of course, treasure. 

Some of the goals are mutually exclusive, but others are not.  I may not get the specifics quite right, but it's something like this: The Knight wants to kill the dragon.  The Dragon wants to wake up and leave the cave (presumably to sow chaos elsewhere), the Theif wants to steal the treasure.  The Goblins want to kill the Knight.  The Cave wants to collapse on all of these noisy intruders so that it can rest.

Each player plays one of the above roles (including the Cave!), and has their own set of actions and abilities to perform on their turn.  The first to accomplish their objective wins the game.

Now, when I say that each player has their own set of actions and abilities, I mean they each have their own unique set of mechanics.  This makes the game very interesting, but also very difficult to learn.  In most games, if you're new, after a brief overview you have someone else go first and you just kind of watch what they do to get the gist of how the thing works.  That method is utterly useless with Vast, because what the other players do has literally nothing in common with what you'll be doing.  And, unfortunately, the rulebook could be several orders of magnitude more clear on a lot of things.  I recommend google and youtube if you don't have someone handy who knows how to run your particular entity to get you going.

It definitely has a learning curve, but it's definitely worth it.

 

Honorable Mentions

There are several other games we've played a little and enjoyed as well.  Boss Monster, Smash Up, Clank, Kodama, and Rise of Tribes come to mind.  There are probably others.  That last one I only got to play a partial game of, but it seemed really neat.

Our daughter has also started getting into games a bit.  Her current favorites are Sleeping QueensSet, and Decadolo.  We got her Between Two Cities for Christmas, and I'm looking forward to trying that one - as soon as she cleans her room.

There are, of course, always a number of other games I've heard good things about that I'd love to pick up at some point.  Right now that list contains KeyForge, Terrra Mystica, Gaia Project, Scythe, Swords and Strongholds,  Also love to play Roll for the Galaxy again.

We play a fair bit of Dixit, Telestrations, and Red Dragon Inn as well - they're our current go-to's for "an easy game that fits a lot of players".

I'm sure there's something cool I've left out.  I think in the future I'll try to post these one at a time as we pick them up. 

We'll see.

 

~PS

In the case of a tie...

Monday April 1, 2013 at 2:09pm board games Comments (1) »
In the case of a tie... Image

We (Tony, Sheri and I) played two new board games over the weekend.

The first game we played was Thunderstone.  This is a game that I heard about at GenCon in 2010.  It's a lot like Dominion in terms of game play.  It's a deck-building game where the goal is to accumulate cards that give you points at the end of the game.  The primary difference is in thematics.  Instead of accumulating coins to buy Provinces and other victory cards, in Thunderstone, you fill your deck with hero and weaponry cards that will help you defeat monsters, which are worth points at the end of the game.  We had a good time with it, though we didn't actually figure out how it worked until about halfway through.

The other game we played was Steam.  This was a game that I got Sheri for christmas, and we've only just now gotten around to playing.  This game is somewhat involved - we only played the "base" game - and we only mostly figured it out.  It is something like a cross between Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne.  Essentially, you lay track tiles to connect cities in order to move trade goods to and from cities to gain money and points.  We didn't get all the way through the game we started, but what we played was a lot of fun.

~PS

Board Golf

Monday January 31, 2011 at 1:52pm board games Comments (3) »
Board Golf Image

So, Sheri and I were trying to save a little money this year with respect to Christmas gifts, etc.  Also, I like to think I'm a pretty creative guy.

My parents (particularly my mom) really like golf stuff.  They know me and Sheri like all kinds of games, so I decided that making a golf game for them.

The mechanics of the game went through several incarnations over the months leading up to the holidays, but there were a few things I knew I wanted from the beginning:

1) I wanted a modular course.  Something like tiles that could be combined in a large number of combinations to make different holes.

2) I wanted a dice mechanic for determining the distance/accuracy of shots.

3) I wanted a choice mechanic for choosing clubs

4) I wanted a fair degree of simulation - including mechanics for wind, hazards, fairway/rough lies etc

5) I wanted some fun chance effects and one-time-use cards that could modify shots with theme-based effects.

What I ultimately came up with did a fairly good job of capturing these things, though I'm still not 100% happy with it.

A given hole is composed of 6-inch hex tiles hex-gridded with 1/2 inch hexes.  Each tile has coterminous fairways such that the tiles can be layed out to form a hole.

Each player will have 4 clubs (a Driver, an Iron, a Wedge and a Putter) as well as a Ball.  Each of these items can indicate certain traits - a club might have a tendency to hook or slice and a ball might have a tendency to bounce and roll.  Using a given club is determined by how far away you want to aim.

Shots are taken by aiming for a given hex and rolling four dice - two pairs which represent the two axes - left/right and forward/backward.

Each player also gets a number of cards that can be played on him/herself or on other players that have a variety of effects: making lies better or worse, gusts of wind, mulligans, etc.  These cards are played once and then discarded and players can gain more cards as the game progresses.

There are, of course, a great number of nuances to the particulars of these basic mechanics - and I think there are still some things that could be streamlined - but that is the gist of it.

 

I playtested this game with Sheri a bit before we gave it to them, and the four of us played a game when they were here.  I think they liked it and, overall, I think the project went very well.

 

~PS

Up to the Holidays

Up to the Holidays Image

Well, the Blog has been neglected of late.  I guess that happens.

My job search has continued with rather sparse results.  Still looking.

Sheri & I have been trying to finish up Christmas stuff, which I think we've managed to do.  We're trying not to spend lots of money this year, but we really like giving things to our friends and family.  This has presented some challenges - some of which have been met wonderfully, some of which have been significantly more frustrating.  All in all, though, I think it's going to work out.

Apart from the more mundane aspects of my life, there have been one or two things of interest.

I've been working a bit on board game design for a couple of projects about which I may go into more detail at a later time.  Llama and I spent quite a bit of time last saturday night discussing one of these in particular and I think it has quite a bit of potential.

The two rp games I've been running have been going well.  The plot in my London 1802 game is coming to a head and I'm interested to see how it will turn out in the end.  The Sandstorm game left off for the holidays with a bit of a cliffhanger as the party exited the local wise-woman's cave to the sound of surrounding war-horns.  On a related note, I'm woefully behind in my session write-ups.  The last two sessions for each game have yet to be elaborated upon.  The synopses are really only for my benefit anyway, but I do need to take (what will now be a few hours worth of) time to flesh those out before I can no longer remember them.  I'll probably have to reference Sheri's notes as it is.

My birthday weekend was relaxing and cool.  On saturday night Tony & Adam came over and we played Dominion and watched a couple of the old Pink Panther movies (Peter Sellers ftw).  On sunday we had our last Rogue Trader session (Rucht's game) for the year and Stacie made me peanut butter birthday brownies which were *awesome*.  They even stopped the session and sang to me.  My friends are cool.  :-D

I spent this last monday afternoon shooting portraits for the Hippies.  This was a new and interesting experience for me, and I learned quite a bit from it.  I've been told the pictures turned out pretty well - they look good on my computer screen anyway.  One or two will get put into my Portfolio for this year at some point.  Also, I've discovered a poor-man's lighting solution: If you can't afford studio lights but you have a decent flash (with a pivot/swivel head), a 2'x3'  sheet of white foam board positioned a few feet away makes a pretty good bouncing surface for indirect lighting when you don't want to bounce from the ceiling or there is no usable ceiling.

 

At the moment, I'm taking a break.  Today we've been finishing up our christmas stuff and cleaning the house in preparation for Sheri's mom, dad & aunt who are coming to stay for the holidays.  They're supposed to get in sometime late tonight and I think our current plan is to stay up playing board games while we wait for them - probably some Dominion and Touch of Evil, which were two of Sheri's birthday presents this year.

 

~PS

Fear the (Lack of) Blog

Thursday April 29, 2010 at 11:01pm ftb, friends, gaming, board games, yard work Comments (0) »
Fear the (Lack of) Blog Image

Wow, s'been almost a month since i've keyed something into the ol' blog.

Probably not much to talk about has happened in that interim. Let's see...

I previously mentioned a podcast called Fear the Boot, but at the time it was only with respect to their interview with Matt Vancil. I'm going to bring them up again because since that mentioning, I've really become a fan of the show as a whole. I should mention again that Rucht actually told me about this podcast a while back and correctly guessed I'd enjoy it, but to this point I hadn't given it much of a try. As someone who likes to listen to amusing group commentaries on independent projects (often listening to the commentaries on the first Gamers movie as well as those for Red vs Blue) and someone who loves talking about gaming in general, this thing was indeed "right up my alley", so to speak.
Now, when I get hooked on something, I tend to go all the way - so a few weeks ago I manually downloaded all of their stuff (at the time, 8.2 days worth). Generally, when I'm doing whatever (work, mowing, driving, working on my own projects or just playing on my computer) I tend to listen to music, movies and/or (especially) commentaries as a fairly constant backdrop... ...so for the last few weeks, I've been listening to the guys at Fear the Boot. It has been quite enjoyable to my taste - and I've made it through almost 3/4 of the show's history.


Anyway, looking back...

On Monday I started my World of Darkness game, and I thought the first session went very well (as always, there's a synopsis on the gaming page). We had 4 players and a 5th is planning to come next time, so we've got a pretty full table. I'm pretty excited about this game (and the current WoD system in general). I have some interesting ideas for where this campaign might go so I hope it sticks together.
This game was started in the interest of doing something a bit more regularly than our Mouse Guard game, which has some pretty severe scheduling limitations. Still, I in no way want to abandon Mouse Guard since that game is pretty awesome too...just...sparse.

Our friend Nick is finally back from Saudi and he introduced us to a new game called Citadels last weekend. It's a pretty cool, simple & relatively quick little card game. He also has Dominion, which I've been wanting to try, but we didn't get to it last weekend.

Edit: Played Dominion tonight (May 1st). *Great* game. We'll probably pick it up at some point.

Way back on the 10th I got to playtest an RPG I previously mentioned having thought up and written in about a week. This game is called Bot. There's a (very) brief mechanics-less description of the concept and a synopsis of the session on the Gaming page. I thought it went very well, everyone seemed to catch on quickly and have fun and I was very happy with it.

Way, way back on the 7th our GitP friends Stacy & Tracy stopped in on us JC folk, wherein we played some games and ambushed Llama with nerf guns (this is becoming something of a tradition). It's been a while, so I don't remember what all we did, but we I know had a good time.


In terms of the less interesting, we've come upon the lawn mowing time of year again, and I've been doing a bit of that. I actually enjoy the exercise, but it just takes so long to do. We've been talking about getting a rider for some time...maybe sometime this year.


~PS

Return from AR 2010

Tuesday March 16, 2010 at 11:43am trips, family, gaming, board games Comments (1) »
Return from AR 2010 Image

I'm not sure if I'm back in the swing of things or not. I was actually kinda looking forward to work after being gone last week, but so far I don't have any fun projects. :\

Sheri's mom's surgery went as well as could be expected, I think. It wasn't nearly as bad as last time. When we left AR, she was still in some pain, but seemed to be recovering pretty well.

The week was largely uneventful. I spent a lot of time writing gaming notes for World of Darkness and playing on the lappy while they watched TV. I posted some more detailed info on my plans for this game on the gaming page.

We did play some games we brought (Settlers, Pillars of the Earth, Ticket to Ride), particularly with Ben & Brie when they were there on saturday, and we did enjoy simply spending time with her family.

I also took about 300 pictures of random stuff outside around their property, which was fun - it had been quite a while since i'd had the opportunity to got shooting. A couple are pretty good. I may post 'em somewhere.


Not much on the calendar for the next couple weeks as of now. Ginger, William and Liam are planning to come and visit on the 27th and are going to hang out with us for about a week. That will be lots of fun. Apart from that, there's the thursday evening gaming group I'm playing in... ...and that's pretty much it.


~PS

Blue Plum, etc

Blue Plum, etc Image

This weekend was Johnson City's annual Blue Plum Festival. Basically, it's a weekend event that takes over downtown JC the first weekend in June. I did, in fact, see some people selling(?) plums, but they were pretty sparse. Mostly it's a bunch of crafts/vendor booths, tons of festival food, and three stages spaced just far enough apart that they don't overlap acoustically (too much).

This was the first year that I would say we've "gone" to the festival. We went and walked around a little a couple years ago, but didn't do or see much - but that was largely ok since it was about 97 degrees. This year, we met up with some friends and enjoyed an afternoon of meandering around together - and I was having a good time taking some pictures. We also met up with some other friends of Robb & Edie's and also with Mahto and some of his buddies so that by the time we had dinner at Mid City, we were a rather sizable group (aside: we still have to get together with Steven for a game of Munchkin).

After our tasty dinner, we went back to a particular stage to see a band called Cutthroat Shamrock. They had been compared by some friends of mine to groups like Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys. They are basically an Irish-flavored punk group. I wouldn't say they were amazing, but it was a good show: they all played their instruments well and had good stage presence and personality. About the only "critique" i would give is that most of their songs had the same kind of sound. It was a *good* sound, there just wasn't much variety. Still, i think a couple of friends picked up a couple of their records, and i liked them enough to be interested in hearing some more.

Some pictures of the Blue Plum are up in the Gallery.

(kinda) Speaking of, i'm looking into possibly picking up my music hobby again sometime soon for some song writing (maybe for next year's rpm).

In gaming news: I finally got to continue my Little Fears game from RuchtCon! I love this game, and i've greatly enjoyed coming up with spooky stuff to put in it...though after i've been working on it, I find i'm a little edgy at night. I think I empathize a little too much with the children in the story. Anyway, If you've taken a look at the Gaming page recently, you've seen the novel of a session summary i've written up for it.

Still looking to start up Mouse Guard, but it probably won't happen until next month, due to scheduling.

Also, i'm working on finalizing (finally) the simple mechanics for the homebrew roleplaying system (which still needs a name) that i've been working on for the past...too long.

The 3rd Annual GitP Southeast Trogland meetup is fast approaching. We've had several people cancel on us unfortunately, but we're still expecting a decent crowd and fun times. That'll be 26th-28th of this month.

Played the zombie-killing board game Last Night On Earth for the first time on friday. Despite dying in the first 5 minutes, it was pretty fun. It seems pretty much straight-up die rolling players-vs-zombies though, as, apart from trying to get some 'hero cards' (w/ items or special actions) to play, there really isn't much else you can do - and strategy seems to generally boil down to "do we want to be together, or separate?" Answer: together.
Anyway, post-game thoughts: 1) The Sheriff sucks. Yes, i know he's the only character that gets to start with a gun. You know what? He sucks with that gun. He forgets to load it and, even if he has some, he can't hit the broad side of a zombie. 2) If you are the priest, do whatever you can to get the pitchfork. Yes, I know that doesn't make sense, but the priest can't use guns. I (somehow) killed like 8 zombies with the pitchfork. It felt ridiculous, though awesome. 3) In theory (statistically), it's much easier to kill a zombie with a gun than with something like the pitchfork. In practice: yeah right.

As for the Wii, i'm currently addicted to Excite Truck - a stunt-racing game Rucht gave us for christmas. It has a bunch of unlockable stuff, and it's capable of some pretty impressive crashes. Sheri's kind of good at this game, but mostly she just sucks really, really well.

Wanting to go ride our bikes, but we're waiting for Sheri's ankle (which she hurt a while back) to be (more) fully recovered.

~PS

Board Game News

Sunday March 29, 2009 at 5:29pm board games Comments (0) »

A brief mention of some recent board games:

A group of us played Talisman again last night. It was much faster and smoother the second time through and we opted to play with some of the 'alternate rules' for faster play. Even so, it took nearly 3 hours, but that could largely be due to the fact that we had 6 players. It was an amusing and enjoyable game. However, i've decided the game is a good 50% luck - as poor Robb and Llama couldn't get a break, yet i somehow managed to defeat ogres and dragons as a lowly thief (I think i used up all my board game luck for the next 3 years in that game. Seriously.). Oh yeah - it should also be noted that we've played this game twice, and Robb has been turned into a frog 3 times. Hehe.

Sheri and I spent some time this afternoon learning to play Pillars of the Earth - a game that my sister got us a *long* time ago and we'd yet to pull out. In this game, you play master builders each trying to contribute most to the grand cathedral being built. To do this, you send workers to gather wood, sand and stone and hire skilled craftsmen to make the most of your resources. Some other elements in the game (some predictable, some not) make these tasks easier or harder. We've only played it half a time (we only made it to round 3/6), but it was cool and i look forward to playing it again.

In other news, I saw a game called Agricola at Hobbytown a while back. I've not played it yet, but as i understand it, you basically start out with a family of two on a small homestead, and as you produce resources, you're able to expand your population, capacity, etc. I'd not heard of it, but i thought it looked really cool. I've since heard from some others that it's been very highly rated and some people i know who have played it say it is indeed most enjoyable. This is on my list of games to play.

~PS

JC Christmas 2007

Thursday December 20, 2007 at 11:23am christmas, friends, cameras, board games Comments (0) »

Last night's christmas party was fun. Ginger, Tony, Rucht, McKenna and Finn came over for spaghetti, presents and hanging out. McKenna had to leave early, but Rucht stayed around until Finn got too cranky to be up.

After he left, Tony, Ginger, Sheri and I played a game of uber Carcassonne - as of last night, we have all but one tiny expansion. The game is now massive and barely fits in its box.

I played with my new toy (camera) a bit. I'm still learning it, but it's very nice. Took some pictures of Finn and some of our game-playing. At Tony's request, I got one of Optimash Prime joining our Carcassonne game. I'll start posting these at some point.

Rucht & McKenna gave us Settlers of Catan - a game that I've heard lots of good things about, but never got to play. In addition to that and the Carcassonne expansions, I got my own memory card for Ginger's game cube (hehe) and Sheri got a pair of yoshi slippers(!).

~PS