I rediscovered Kickstarter when the Veronica Mars folks were trying to fund their movie. I now peruse the games section regularly and put some money behind a new game every once in a while. In the past year, I’ve received four games that I’ve backed – Evolution, [redacted], Exploding Kittens, and Galaxy of Trian. I’m happy to say that three of them turned out to be pretty fun. Here is a quick review of each of them.
Evolution came about a year ago, and we’ve played it at our game nights a couple times. The game mechanics are fairly simple, and easy to remember once you play through a couple of rounds. In each round, you draw cards, then play one to the watering hole — these will be revealed later, but determine how much food is available to the herbivores. Then everyone plays at once (they recommend this for the 6-player game, but it speeds things up, so we do it for all games), playing as many cards as they want to do a variety of tasks: add a new species, add a trait to a species, grow the population a species, grow the size of a species. Then the food is revealed, and the players feed their species, going around the table starting with the start player. Herbivores eat from the watering hole, and carnivores attack other species as they can. The food is swept into a bag, and then the next round starts.
I liked this one enough to support the expansion Kickstarter this past spring – Evolution Flight. We haven’t played with the expansion, but will likely do that at our next game night this month.
Exploding Kittens is a simple card game which caught my attention because one of the co-creators is the guy behind The Oatmeal. It’s easy to learn and quick to play. The art is a lot of fun (as expected).
Game play is simple, play some cards, then draw a card and hope it isn’t an exploding kitten. If it is an exploding kitten, hopefully you have way to defuse it, otherwise you are out of the game. The last unexploded player wins.
Since it’s fairly quick and easy to explain to newcomers, this is a great game to play on game night while waiting for another table to finish their game.
[redacted] came on Kickstarter shortly after Evolution, and it looked like fun, so I backed it. I received the game late last year (December, maybe?). After reading the rulebook, I had no clue how the game play worked – it felt like the rules needed another go-through by people unfamiliar with the game and maybe some reorganization. So, the game sat on our shelves for a while.
One of my game night regulars kept asking when we would try it out, but I hesitated to play it at a normal game night, because it would take a lot of start-up to figure out the rules. We decided to try it out with just four of us last week at a small game night.
I re-read the rules ahead of time, as did my husband. The game play itself sounds relatively simple – each player is a spy working with another player, but they don’t know who their partner is until they discover each other through interrogations. Each player moves through an ambassador’s house with a specific objective in mind, depending on the scenario being played. In our game, we were two teams of trainee spies trying to activate a computer virus, requiring one of us to find the right floppy disk and discard it in the computer room while another player is in the control room. Players take turns moving through the board, stopping when they reach a room they want to use or when they encounter another agent.
Each room has a different function or ability – from the storage rooms where agents can pick up new items to the X-ray room where an agent can look at other players’ items as they pass through X-ray-enabled doors.
However, the mechanics of the player encounters was confusing, game start-up was not well explained in the rule book, and it wasn’t clear when items were to be discarded. We had to consult the rules during every player’s turn, and often couldn’t find what we were looking for.
Expect we could watch the hours of online videos about the game to figure out the answers to our questions, but the game should be completely contained in the box. I shouldn’t have to have an outside source available to determine the rules. I don’t expect to try it again.
Galaxy of Trian
Galaxy of Trian was another that came on Kickstarter shortly after Evolution, but the game itself took a bit longer than the creators projected, so I only just got it about a week ago. However, I appreciate that they took the time to get the game right – the components are well-made and the rules are clear and well-written.
The game itself is a bit reminiscent of Carcassonne in that you play tiles with the goals of closing nebulae, connecting planets, walling off empty space, and preventing your opponents from doing the same. You have the option of playing an emissary on a tile as it is played, and those emissaries can occupy a nebula (and extract minerals once its closed) or a system of planets. The trick is that you have to have the most emissaries in a region when it is closed to occupy it. And, if the non-controlling player closes a region, your emissaries are stuck there for the rest of the game…unless they are in a position where you can play a teleport or exmitter on an adjacent tile AND you haven’t upgraded them to aa research station yet.
Andrew and I played a couple times. It will be interesting to see how it plays with additional players. The Kickstarter version I bought also came with a number of expansions, however, I want to try the base game a few more times before introducing those.
Several years ago we took a board game class through our county’s community education series. One of our favorite games (as evidenced by the fact that we bought it) was Wooly Bully. In this game, each player is a farmer with a different color (black, blue, red or yellow). Your goal is to fence in as many of your sheep as you can by the end of the game. This can be done in one large enclosure or in many small enclosures — whatever sheep you have completely enclosed scattered around the full playing area count toward your score.
At the beginning of the game, only you know what color sheep you have. You lay tiles, matching sheep colors and/or terrain (there are “village” sections and forest sections — see the detail picture showing a few tiles). When you lay a tile, you replace that tile but you also get to pick additional tiles if you match more than one side of the tile you laid — this way you can get more tiles in your had to choose from.
The village and forest tiles count as “fences” to completely fence in your sheep. However, you need to beware the forest — there are a four wolf tiles that can be played at any time. These wolves in the forest nullify any sheep enclosures that use that forest to close them. If you are lucky, you might have a hunter in your hand that can also be played at any time. The hunter kills the wolf, thereby making your sheep safe again.
To make the game a bit more complicated, each tile is double-sided, so you can play the reverse side of the wolf or hunter to get four additional sheep of a single color — this is a bonus if you happen to get the hunter or wolf with your color of sheep. But, of course, there’s some strategy to how and when you play that tile!
We’ve found that this game isn’t quite as fun with just two players, but works quite well for 3 or 4 players. The rules are very simple, so it’s also the perfect game when you don’t have a lot of time to explain the rules of a complicated game or you just want to get right into a game. The strategy shifts from game to game as you try to figure out whether to make a lot of small enclosures to to go for a ginormous, rambling pasture.
Andrew and I have gotten back into board games. We first got into them a few years ago when we took a couple board gaming classes through our county’s community education program. We’ve played on and off over the last few years, but not with any regularity.
For 2014, we’ve committed to two things that will help us reconnect with our gaming-selves. First, we are hosting a gaming event at our house once a month for a small group of gamers (at least a small group to start). Second, we’ve committed to playing games together at least once each week or every-other week (if we’re busy on gaming night).
Our first game of the year was All Creatures Great and Small, which is a 2-player version of the game Agricola. I’ve never played either, so I can’t say how the 2-player version relates to the full version.
Each player has a farm, and the game is played in eight rounds, with three turns for each player in each round. There are several actions a player can do with their turn, from building fences for their animals, collecting resources, taking in animals, building stables or a new cottage. At the end of the game, players get points for the number of animals of each type and certain buildings. Once an action is taken by one person, it can’t be done by the other. (At least, not in the exact same way.) At the end of each round, pairs of animals have babies (as long as you have enough room for them).
I kept finding that I wanted one more turn each round, which, of course, is the point of limiting the rounds. There was a balance to how early to obtain animals, when to build a structure and when to enclose a pasture. We played two games, and I certainly didn’t feel like I figured out the strategy in that time. I suspect, as with any good strategy game, the strategy changes each time, depending on what your opponent does.
I’m looking forward to playing this one again, and might even look into the full game for our gaming parties.
I’m feeling a little nostalgic for the Socorro days. For those of you who have no clue what the title means, the last year that I lived at the House ‘o Bob, he set up a Commodore 64. A favorite game for all of us residents was M.U.L.E.
In particular, I remember one day when Mushi and Matt were setting up a game of M.U.L.E. I’m pretty sure I had a pile of homework, but they talked me into taking an hour out of the day to play a game. We sat with the front door open, a spring breeze cooling us, and a pile of pistachios in front of us.
The twinge of nostalgia came with a small bowl of pistachios and the scary amount of work I need to get done by yesterday. I can’t help but think that a good game of M.U.L.E. right now would make this thesis-thing better.
After the hellish week I had, we decided to have a quiet weekend at home. We rented a couple of PS2 games (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and X-Files: Resist or Serve), and I gamed much of Friday, since I’d already put in more than my 30 hours.
Harry Potter was quite fun, though we came close to defeating the game by the end of Saturday. (We had gotten to Voldemort, but didn’t quite defeat him we didn’t try again, but most of the fun of the game was done.) Goblet of Fire can be played by two players simultaneously for many of the levels not the Tri-Wizard challenges or final fight with Voldemort, but all other levels. So, Andrew and I were able to play together, which I think is the first time we’ve done that. I can hardly wait to pull out Tak and Lok and play that with Andrew.
The rest of the weekend I spent scrapbooking. I finished up the “Wedding Odds ‘n’ Ends” book that I’d been working on. Here are a few of the spreads I did:
Andrew and I wanted to do as much of nothing this weekend as possible, so we rented a couple Playstation 2 games, bought bad-for-us food, and played video games for much of Saturday and Sunday.
We rented Ribbit King, a silly game where you play rounds of frolf (frog golf) on different courses on different worlds. The game can be played either in “story mode” where you’re trying to get ribbinite by playing rounds of frolf against various computer-players. The game can also be played with two players playing rounds of frolf against each other; however, unless you also play in story mode, the number of worlds/courses are limited. Andrew and I both had fun playing, which is difficult given that I’ve played a lot more video games that him, and am generally better at the games, and look for more challenging games.
We also rented Tak 3: The Great Juju Challenge (warning: the web page has music, but it can be turned off), which promised 2-player simlutaneous mode. Unfortuantely, we were unable to figure out how to invoke the 2-player mode until late yesterday. By then, we were mostly gamed out (and Andrew wasn’t feeling particularly well), and the Oscars were close to starting (which I always watch). It’s too bad we didn’t get to play much, because the little bit we did play was pretty fun. It feels a lot like Sypro, my favorite series of games, so the fact that Andrew and I could play Tak 3 together could make it a good game for us to own.
In between playing games, we also did a bit of shopping. The cruise is coming up quickly (two weeks from today we leave for Italy!!!), so we went out to get a few things for that: new walking shoes (which we both found at Timberland – they have an awesome shoe with soles that feel really, really comfy right out of the box – I highly recommend these for anyone looking for good walking shoes), money belts for each of us, a document wallet, a watch for me, and a new memory card for my camera. We also looked for jeans for me, but the only thing I could find were “stretch, flared” jeans – ick – so I made a quick Eddie Bauer order.
We’ve consulted a few web pages on what to pack for a cruise, like this one; but, if there’s anyone out there with some suggestions that either might not be on the list or that you can’t understress the importance of, please leave those in the comments.
So, a productive and relaxing weekend. (Not a usual combination!).
We had a few friends over tonight for games and dinner. We’d been talking about it for over a year, but with the wedding plans, we just never got around to it. Too bad, because it was a lot of fun, and I hope we make it a regular feature at our place.
Neil arrived first, so Andrew, Neil and I started with a game of “La Strada” — a road building game that we played during the games class we took this summer. Andrew and I had brushed up on it last week, and found that it’s a lot of fun for two players along with being great for more players.
After Stef and Doug arrived, we set up “Carcasonne“, a game we had heard about from the teacher of the games class, but had only played a couple times ourselves. It is a tile-laying game where you build up cities, plains and roads to get points. It, too, is fun for any number of players. Andrew bowed out just before we started because Kendall and Kate arrived. I found that Carcasonne took on a different feel with more players. In the first game we played, the farmers were the most important point-gatherers; however, in a second game with five players, completing a key 17-tile city was the key to the winning score. We haven’t figured out the best strategy for the game, and perhaps there is no “best strategy”.
Finally we played a game of “Munchkin“. We had played last Thanksgiving with Mushi and Jeff, but couldn’t remember the rules, so we muddled through the poorly written instructions. It wasn’t as fun as the others, perhaps because of the myriad exceptions to the rules and confused instructions. We think it might be more fun in subsequent games when we have the game play down.
It has been months, maybe even over a year, since I’ve had the time and energy to play any of my computer or PlayStation games. Since the wedding planning is going so well, and I have the next two weeks off from work, I’ve been playing Tropico every night for the past three nights.
Tropico is a game where you play the dictator of a small tropical island. The game starts in 1960 and goes for 10-60 years, depending on how you set up the game. The goal is to develop the island for one of several goals: capitalism, military strength, the size of your own Swiss bank account, the overall happiness of the citizens, or some combination of these.
In the past when I played, I never reached the end of the game — I usually got frustrated after about 20 years when I was getting very far into debt. These games, however, I seem to have gotten the hang of the first 30 years now. However, once again, the economy goes south after 35-40 years. At that time, the people start to rebel, and I’ve been ousted through a coup in each of these games (but I’ve lasted several extra years each successive game).
I’ll probably play again tomorrow. Here’s hoping I make it through my entire 50 years of rule!
Another puzzle finished. This was one of those where all the pieces are shaped the same (except the edge pieces, but all the edge pieces were shaped the same), and there’s no picture on the cover of the puzzle box. You have to assemble 60 mini-scenes using 9 pieces each, and then figure out how they go together using clues in the scenes. It was actually quite fun.
I haven’t actually had much time to work on puzzles in the past 6 months, so this one has been on the puzzle caddy for a long time. But I finally sat down and worked on it for nearly two days straight, and finished it. I think this is the first puzzle that I’ve done where I didn’t complete the frame first — that’s because this was one of those puzzles where it’s way too easy to connect the wrong two pieces without realizing it.