Shelf of Shame 2017

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Pictured above is part of my Shelf of Shame: games I own that I haven’t played. It’s grown since last year, thanks to the great deals I’ve scored at each of the Strategicons‘ flea markets. At the start of this year I had 49 games (I’ve included expansions) on my Shelf of Shame, which are listed below.

I’ve crossed out the ones that I’ve played this year. And to be honest, there is one that I have no intention of playing: the Yahtzee: Walking Dead Collector’s Edition that I bought on clearance at Barnes & Noble. I just wanted the cool zombie-head dice cup to store my copy of Zombie Dice.

My goal is to play all of these games by the end of the year and to write about my experiences. Wish me luck!

Shelf of Shame 2017

  1. Agricola
  2. Amerigo
  3. Cheaty Mages!
  4. Chrononauts
  5. Cypher
  6. Dice City: By Royal Decree
  7. Dice City: Crossroads
  8. Doomtown: Reloaded
  9. Dungeon Fighter
  10. Eminent Domain: Microcosm
  11. Epic Card Game
  12. Formula D
  13. Get Bit! Sharkspansion
  14. Guildhall
  15. Guildhall: Job Faire
  16. Hanafuda
  17. Harbour
  18. Imperial Settlers
  19. Lost Legacy: Flying Garden
  20. Machi Koro: Harbor
  21. Marvel Dice Masters: Age of Ultron
  22. Mottainai
  23. Munchkin Legends: Guest Artist Edition
  24. Munchkin Zombies Deluxe
  25. NBA Interactive Card Game
  26. Ophidian 2350
  27. Pack of Heroes
  28. Pandemic: On The Brink
  29. Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords Base Set + Expansions
  30. Pingo Pingo
  31. Portobello Market
  32. Quiddler Mini Round
  33. Rampage
  34. Sail to India
  35. Sans Allies
  36. Santorini: Golden Fleece
  37. Seventh Hero (Doomtown edition)
  38. Space Base Mutiny
  39. Steam Torpedo: First Contact
  40. Suburbia
  41. Sun Tzu
  42. Tiny Epic Kingdoms
  43. Travel Blog
  44. Valley of the Kings: Last Rites
  45. Viceroy
  46. Vikings on Board
  47. Viticulture Essential Edition
  48. Wok Star
  49. Yahtzee: The Walking Dead Collector’s Edition

Board Games Played: March 2017 Update

Viticulture Essential Edition. Solo campaign complete!

Viticulture Essential Edition. Solo campaign complete!

So far my 2017 has been an excellent year for board gaming. According to my Board Game Geek stats, I’ve played 65 different games for a total of 191 plays. Not bad!

I’ve solo played more this year, thanks to a binge of Viticulture Essential Edition (36 total plays). After picking up a half-priced copy of VEE last December (thanks, BGG flea market!), the game sat on my shelf for a month before I learned how to play. WOW. It’s the perfect blend of theme and mechanisms; it really feels like you have a little vineyard that you can build into a well-oiled wine-making machine.

It always takes me a game or two to really “get” any game I play and solo-ing VEE with the Automa cards helped me tremendously. When I eventually played with friends, I felt comfortable playing and teaching the game. I even played the solo campaign, scoring a 14 in the 8-game challenge.

My love of VEE led me to buy the Tuscany Essential Edition expansion. I haven’t played it yet, but I’m sure I’ll binge on that as well. And after playing Scythe, Euphoria: Build A Better Dystopia, Between Two Cities, and VEE, I consider myself a full-on Stonemaier Games fanboy.

Here are a few of the games I’ve enjoyed this year:

Santorini.The best two-player game I own. I’m writing another blog post about this wonderful game by Dr. Alan Gordon.

Imperial Settlers. Thanks to my gaming buddy Daryl for teaching me this one. It was a lot more think-y than I expected, but I like it a lot and it’s a fun solo game. Best of all, it no longer sits on my Shelf of Shame (unplayed games in my library).

Ca$h ‘n Guns. One of my favorites for an impromptu game night. My wife and I recently visited our daughter at college and played this with her and her roommates. It was a welcome study break for them and a fun way for us to spend time with everybody. Nothing says fun like pointing fake guns at your friends and family.

Baseball Highlights: 2045. Now that baseball season is about to start, I’m getting back into this fantastic deck builder. It never ceases to amaze me how Mike Fitzgerald managed to capture the feel of a baseball game with only six cards. Only six! It’s also a tremendous solo game.

Nexus Ops. In the context of most gamers’ Cult of the New obsession Nexus Ops is an ancient game, having been released in 2005. But it still holds up today and it’s interesting to see its influence on modern area control games like Blood Rage or Cry Havoc. Resolving combat can be frustrating or exhilarating, depending on your dice rolls, but it’s an excellent introductory war game. Best of all, it was a big hit at the weekly board games club I host at a local high school.

Solo Board Gaming

Viticulture Essential Edition

Viticulture Essential Edition

I get my love for solo games from my mom. She loves playing solitaire (almost exclusively Klondike) and doing jigsaw puzzles. As far as I can tell, she was never into the competitive aspect of card or game playing (unlike my dad, whose love of cards and poker was passed down to me and my brothers).

Within my circle of gaming buddies, I’m one of the few that enjoys playing board games by myself.  Whenever I mention my love of solo gaming, I usually get one of two responses:

  1. “Oh, I prefer interacting with others during a game.”
  2. “If I’m going to play a game by myself, then it’ll be a video game.”

Sometimes I want to be snarky in my reply: “Well, I like playing games with others, too. It’s why I’m at game night. Duh.”

As for opting to play a video game: yes, it’s easier and faster to play games on my smartphone or laptop, but I find it more enjoyable to be at the tabletop with an actual board with real physical bits and pieces.

Much like doing a jigsaw puzzle, playing a board game by myself is a form of meditation and relaxation. I like quietly taking turns and trying to find a way to win or post the highest score possible. I like being away from my phone and computer while I’m at the tabletop. I like the feel of those dice, cards, and tokens as I pass the time before my next “real” game with others. And I like not feeling rushed to do anything during a solo game. Everything is done at my pace: win, lose, or draw.

 

Happy New Year!

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Nayarit, Mexico

I don’t have an official New Year’s Resolutions list for 2017, but one of my goals is to blog more often. After blogging every day in 2015, I only posted a handful of blogs in 2016. I did blog about board games every day in August, but that was the last time I wrote anything here (I do post twice each week about board game news for iSlaytheDragon.com).

I had a few posts in the queue that I never completed so I’m condensing them into this one post. The TL;DR version: Besides my trip to the Philippines a few years ago, 2016 was the best travel year of my life.

My wife and I began the year in Nayarit, Mexico, where we stayed at one of those all-inclusive beach resorts. It was the first time we’d done an all-you-can-eat-and-drink trip and we loved it. We spent a few days at our resort just soaking up the sun and enjoying the non-stop flow of pina coladas. I’ve never been a fan of pina coladas, but this trip changed my mind.

Of course, I’d enjoy almost any drink with this daily view:

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Wake up, eat, stroll down to the beach, sip pina coladas while reading a book, then take a dip in the ocean: not a bad schedule for a few days while back at home it was raining.

We ended our stay with a couples massage next to the beach:

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We nearly melted into those massage tables. Neither of us wanted to leave after doing some major chillaxing.

A few months later we went to visit our daughter in Tokyo. She was finishing up her study abroad program so we flew out to spend almost two weeks with her, which was beyond awesome. My wife and I had never been to Japan and having our daughter show us around was the best.

Now, I appreciated our all-inclusive vacation to Mexico, but typically when I travel I prefer to soak up the local culture. Our time in Tokyo was exactly that: we were staying at our daughter’s rental which was a bike ride away from her school. We did not see any fellow tourists or travelers anywhere, except at the school or when we ventured into the busier parts of Tokyo. It was fun to see the local residents go about their day. Sure, it wasn’t as relaxing as sipping pina coladas on the beach, but it was much more real.

We had an amazing time, especially since we were fortunate to book our trip during cherry blossom season:

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My picture on a cloudy day doesn’t do justice to the beauty of the cherry blossoms.

Another thing that photos can’t capture is the deliciousness of the food we ate in Tokyo. From the local ramen shops to the restaurants we tried in the heart of Tokyo, there is NOTHING that compares in the U.S. Yes, I’m a full-on Japanese food snob now. Sushi and ramen have been forever ruined for me.

This lunch special was at a quiet little spot near the famous Tsujiti Fish Market:

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The sushi master served us these meals and we gobbled them down, keeping our voices low as we raved about each piece.

This was the most interesting thing about Tokyo: for such a densely populated city, it wasn’t nearly as loud and overwhelming as I thought it would be, especially inside all of the packed restaurants we visited. It was noisy at the train stations, but it wasn’t anything worse than the U.S. But in the restaurants it was so nice being able to enjoy our meals in library-like quiet. When we got back home that was the first thing we noticed: the volume level.

However, we found one place that was not as quiet or reserved as the rest of Tokyo: Dear Spiele, a cool board game cafe located upstairs in a nondescript building. Thankfully, our daughter is a pro with Google Maps because I would’ve gotten lost a few times trying to find it.

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The photo above is of one of the walls filled with games. We played Timeline, Camel Up, and Splendor (I wanted to play King of Tokyo, of course, but the cards were all in Japanese). There were two groups of young people while we were there; one of the groups was in deep thought playing a strategy board game while the other group was playing a party game, based on their laughter. It was almost shocking to hear such loud outbursts after we’d experienced nothing but quiet throughout our trip. I had a big smile on my face, though: it was the sound of gamers having fun.

People really are alike, no matter where you go.

 

Mission Accomplished

Takenoko

Takenoko

Well, Dear Reader, here we are: the final post of my Blog Every Day in August Challenge.

Just like when I finished my Blog Every Day in 2015 Challenge, I may not have written the greatest blog posts known to mankind, but I set out to write every day in August and I did it. It was a lot of fun because it was a topic that is near and dear to my heart: board games.

I find it fitting that the final post of August is on Wednesday, which is one of my regular gaming nights. I’ve been in this group for nearly a year and have played all kinds of amazing games. I’ve added many of these to my own library and have been able to share these with my family and non-gamer friends.

And in that sharing spirit, I’d like to give away some games!

To enter this giveaway, just share this post on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and tag me in your post so I know it’s been shared. I’ll choose one winner at random this Friday.

The winner will be surprised by a game or two of my choosing. This contest is open to residents in the continental United States only (sorry, but shipping is expensive!).

Thanks again to all of you who’ve connected with me during this last month. I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog.

Now go play some games!

Diamonds

Diamonds. Image from strongholdgames.com

Diamonds. Image from strongholdgames.com

I can’t believe my Blog Every Day in August Challenge is nearly over. This month has gone by FAST.

I’ve had a lot of fun writing about board games for the last 29 days. Of course, it’s not as fun as actually playing games themselves, but it’s given me a chance to connect with other gamers on Twitter. Thanks to all of you who have tweeted at me and re-tweeted me.

Today I’m writing about a game I’ve never played and don’t own, but that will change this Saturday.

This weekend is the third Strategicon event of the year, Gateway. Strategicon hosts three gaming conventions in Los Angeles each year on a three-day weekend (Orccon on President’s Day, Gamex on Memorial Day, and Gateway on Labor Day). One day I’d love to do an entire weekend, but for now I can only manage a day or two at each, which is fine by me.

As the saying goes, some gaming is better than no gaming at all (Is this an actual saying? If not, it should be).

Yesterday I shared my love of finding a good deal and every Strategicon has a flea market and math trade that are chock full of board game bargains. This Saturday I’m picking up a few games at Gateway via the flea market and one of them is Diamonds.

I’d never heard of Diamonds before, but I’m familiar with classic trick-taking games Hearts and Spades. While trick-taking games might not be my favorites, I’ve always wanted to add one to my collection (I liked Nyet!) and at a bargain price I couldn’t resist.

In Diamonds, each player is dealt 10 cards (or more, depending on player count). The cards are in the familiar four suits (diamonds, spades, hearts, and clubs) and instead of 13, there are 15 of each suit. Each player also receives a screen to represent their vault and three diamonds crystals (actual pieces, not cards) placed in front of their vault, aka their showroom. As the game progresses, they will be able to move diamond crystals behind the screen/into their vault.

To begin play, the first player plays a card face up to the middle. This is the current trick. The next player, if possible, must play a card of the same suit. All of the players do this and the player with the highest number in the current trick’s suit wins the trick. They take the cards played and place them in front of them.

What happens if a player cannot follow suit? This is what sets Diamonds apart from other trick-taking games and it’s what sold me on it. A player that cannot follow suit can play any card in their hand and take a special suit action. The suit actions are:

  1. Diamonds: Take a diamond crystal from the general supply and place it in your vault. Once a diamond crystal is in your vault, it cannot be taken away.
  2. Spades: Take a diamond crystal from your showroom and place it in your vault.
  3. Hearts: Take a diamond crystal from the general supply and place it in your showroom.
  4. Clubs: Take a diamond crystal from any other player’s showroom and place it in your showroom.

Also, after a player has won a trick, they get to take a suit action. For example, if I led with the 15 of hearts (the highest rank of any suit), I would then take a diamond crystal from the general supply and place it in my showroom.

Play continues in these tricks, with the winner getting a suit action, as well as anyone breaking suit receiving a suit action. When players are out of cards, the round is over. The player who has won the most cards in each suit receives the corresponding suit action. If a player has taken no tricks, then they get to do the diamond suit action twice.

The cards are shuffled together, dealt out, and the next round begins. Different player counts play a different number of rounds before the game ends. Players count up their diamond crystals and score points: 2x points for each diamond crystal in their vault (behind their screen), and 1x points for each diamond crystal in their showroom.

I love how the diamond crystals and the vault screen are integrated into play, with the theme being perfect for the game. Normally I wouldn’t be this fired up about a new take on a classic card game, but Diamonds takes well-known mechanisms and injects life into them with a few nifty actions. I can’t wait to play it.

My Growing Library

Games I Bought This Weekend

Games I Bought This Weekend

On the way to my fantasy football draft I picked up two used board games I won on a recent boardgamegeek.com auction: Takenoko and Imperial Settlers. I was pleasantly surprised when I opened Takenoko: although it was no longer in its shrink wrap, the cards were still in shrink wrap and the tiles were still unpunched. It was a great deal, paying less than half the MSRP ($50) for a brand new game. Imperial Settlers had a slight ding on its corner and two of the meeples were broken, but the meeples were the extras and I’m not worried about the box. Again, I paid less than half the MSRP ($50).

Yesterday I was in Orange County, which was excellent timing since I could pick up two games that I’ve been dying to get into my games library: Roll for the Galaxy and Star Trek Catan.

Roll for the Galaxy is awesome and it was the iSlaytheDragon.com Game of the Year for 2015, but I’m not very good at it. I always seem to be a step behind my opponents and haven’t gotten better than second place. Hence, my desire to own a copy: I need to learn the ins and outs of the game, the dice, the tiles, everything. I was close to pulling the trigger a few times on amazon.com whenever it dipped to $40, but I’m glad I waited. I managed to pay less than half the MSRP ($60) and I can’t wait to start rolling all of those dice.

Finally, Star Trek Catan was one of those on my Must Buy List, but it was never a priority until I found it for exactly half off MSRP ($50) in a boardgamegeek.com virtual flea market. I love the original series characters and their special powers in this version of Catan, which is definitely my favorite.

So for about the price of one brand new copy of Scythe, I was able to add four outstanding games to my growing library. I hope to add Scythe one day, but I’ll wait until someone’s tired of playing their copy so I can land another great deal. My bank account is thankful that I don’t follow the Cult of the New.

Happy Salmon

Happy Salmon

Happy Salmon

Best. Game. Ever.

I’m a sucker for simple, quick-playing games and Happy Salmon is one of the best. I gave this silly little card game to my wife for her birthday after we watched this video and we gave it a test-run tonight with our daughter. Even though the rules say it can play three, it’s the type of game that will work better at higher player counts (six being the max). We’re excited to add this to our game night rotation.

The goal of the game is to play all of the cards in your hand. Each player starts with 12 cards, which are 3 sets of 4 cards: Happy Salmon, Pound It, Switcheroo, and High 5. Shuffle the cards, then yell “Go!” To play a card, you say what you’re trying to play and if another player has the same card, then you complete the action and discard the card in front of you.

The actions are hilarious:

  1. High 5. Give another player a high five.
  2. Switcheroo. Exchange places with another player (if mobility is an issue, then switch cards with another player).
  3. Pound it. Give another player a fist bump.
  4. Happy Salmon. Tap another player’s forearm three times.

The first player to play all of their cards wins the game. It’s an absolute riot and what’s even better is playing it in Silent Mode, where nobody is allowed to talk so everyone must act out the actions they’re trying to complete.

Happy Salmon is a must-have for any gamer’s library. It’s the perfect way to start or finish a game night. It’s an icebreaker for newbies or a pick-me-up for grizzled veteran gamers. It’s a game to play with kids and it’s a game to play with adults. No matter how when, where, why, or how you play it, the Happy Salmon is sure to become your group’s default handshake.

Fantasy Football

No Limit Texas Hold Em

No Limit Texas Hold Em

My annual fantasy football draft was today, so there is no board gaming to talk about. Actually, I did score used copies of Takenoko and Imperial Settlers for over half off MSRP, thanks to a boardgamegeek.com auction. I picked up the games on the way to the draft, so that was nice.

It was all about football today, though. My league held its 17th annual draft and there were plenty of jokes about old age. Every year we tell the same types of jokes about players and we still laugh every time. We also joke about each others’ teams and how bad they are, or we praise others’ teams before trashing it. And every year there are more and more jokes about old age.

We don’t do board games, but we do poker. It’s not as much as our younger years (before everybody started getting married and having children), but when we do it’s like the fantasy football draft itself: we laugh at the same jokes and enjoy each others’ company.

While the poker sessions no longer rage all night and into the morning, it’s still the best time with this group of guys. I can’t wait to do the same thing next year.

Istanbul

Istanbul

Istanbul

I missed my weekly gaming group last night, but thankfully my wife made sure I got my board gaming fix. We played our first game of Istanbul together and she enjoyed it.

Istanbul was the Kennerspiel 2014 winner, an award given to more “gamier” games. It’s easy to see why it won: turns are simple and elegant, with interesting decisions as the game progresses. The components are all top-notch and the rulebook is clearly written.

Players are in the busy bazaar district of Istanbul and are trying to accumulate 5 rubies (6 for two players) to win the game. Of course, these gems are scarce, so players must gather, sell, and trade resources to score one of the precious rubies.

Each turn players will do one thing: move. It’s that simple; you move horizontally or vertically one or two spaces.

Of course, that wouldn’t be much of a game, so players also have the option of performing the action depicted on their space: filling up their wheelbarrow with a particular resource, upgrading their wheelbarrow to carry more resources, selling goods from their wheelbarrow, gaining action cards, gambling for more money (lire), and more.

There’s one requirement, though, for performing the action: you must have an assistant with you. Either you use of the assistants you brought with you on your move or you use an assistant you previously left on the space. Players can find efficient paths on the game board (a 4×4 grid of separate tiles; these can be changed from game to game) and there can be several paths to victory.

I love Istanbul and I’m glad my wife liked it, too. We’ll be adding it to our growing rotation of game night titles.

By the way, it’s National Dog Day! Here’s our buddy Bruno wondering why I’m sticking my phone in his face.

Bruno is not amused.

Bruno is not amused.