November Daily Game Challenge: Downforce

This is Day 17 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.

Downforce

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I recently got to play Downforce again, this time with the expansion track (the photo above is from an earlier play of the base game). While I liked the dice-chucking of Formula D, I’ve become more a fan of Downforce’s hand management mechanism. Formula D always seemed to go too long, although it was a blast for one lap with a bunch of players.

Best of all, I got to play Downforce with my buddy Oscar, who blinged out his copy with the Mario Kart characters. I’ve played that video game only a handful of times with my nephew, but it’s still fun seeing Mario and the gang out on the Downforce track.

And, yes, we listen to the Mario Kart music whenever we play Oscar’s copy of Downforce.

November Daily Game Challenge: Century: Eastern Wonders

This is Day 16 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.

Century: Eastern Wonders

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The first in the Century trilogy of games, Century: Spice Road, was a favorite of mine and my local gaming buddies. We all loved the smooth play and were all looking forward to the next game in the series.

Century: Eastern Wonders has some similarities to Spice Road, but it adds a pick-up-and-delivery mechanism to go with the engine building style of play. Like the first game, you’re trying to trade and collect spices, then deliver them to the markets for victory points.

While Eastern Wonders isn’t as elegant as Spice Road, there’s more of a game here. Along with the standard victory points, you can also uncover spots on your player board by building trading posts whenever you stop on the map. For every row that you uncover you’ll gain points and for every column you uncover you’ll gain a special ability.

I’d stick with Spice Road for new players and then introduce them to Eastern Wonders after a few plays. Interestingly enough, you can combine both games, which is what I did for my first play. I enjoyed the mash-up, but playing one without the other is probably the way to go for a more straightforward experience. I might prefer Eastern Wonders by itself, which definitely played faster without the cards of Spice Road.

I’m curious to see what the third game brings to this trilogy. So far the first two games have been solid so hopefully the final game will end the Century series on a high note.

November Daily Game Challenge: Keyforge

This is Day 15 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.

KeyForge

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The new hotness reached retail shelves today and I was fortunate to play a game tonight. KeyForge from Fantasy Flight Games comes from renowned designer Richard Garfield, who created a little game called Magic: The Gathering, which you may have heard of.

I’m not a collectible card game fan. Never have been, never will be. I’ve played Magic and enjoyed the game play and appreciated the mechanisms, but not enough to take the plunge.

KeyForge does away with the CCG business model and retains some of the, um, magic of Magic with its card play and one-on-one battles. Every deck is unique, but the basic game play is the same: open your deck, shuffle up and deal yourself six cards (first player gets seven, but can only play one to begin the game).

There are seven houses/factions that are on the various cards. On your turn, draw six cards and announce one of the houses. You may then play or discard one or all of that house during your turn. After you’re done, draw back up to six.

Simple, right? Ah, but there’s so much more. As you start laying out your creatures, you can start attacking your opponent (creatures enter the game exhausted so you won’t be able to use them until your next turn). Items, upgrades, and artifacts are available to help your attacks and other additional actions.

But you don’t win by simply beating up your foe in KeyForge. True to its name, you’re trying to be the first to forge three keys. You do this by reaping embers from certain cards. If you have six embers at the start of your turn you may forge a key and get closer to victory.

I liked the game play of KeyForge. I’m not a Magic expert by any means, but for me it felt like I was playing Magic. I’m sure it’ll be fun buying decks and seeing how they play against each other; it’s an amazing idea, having different cards in every deck, without having to chase rare cards.

While I won’t be getting into KeyForge, I can certainly see its appeal and would definitely recommend it for fans of CCG game play. Maybe I’ll buy a deck to keep on hand when another player shows up with theirs. Or maybe I’ll buy two decks so I can play the game with new players. Of course, three or four decks would be nice to keep things fresh … looks like Fantasy Flight Games has created another money-printing machine.

November Daily Game Challenge: Kingdomino: Age of Giants

This is Day 14 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.

Kingdomino: Age of Giants

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Got to try the new Kingdomino expansion, Age of Giants, tonight. My buddy Jeff introduced me to Queendomino (basically, a more gamer-y version of Kingdomino) last year, so it seemed appropriate that he introduced me to Age of Giants at game night.

In both games you’re building your 5×5 kingdom using the domino-style tiles. The tiles are laid out in two columns so after you take one, you place your meeple on the tile of your choice in the next column. Turn order will fluctuate as you and your opponents go for different tiles.

To score points you want similar land types next to each other and you’ll need the crown icon on at least one of them to score. The crowns act as a multiplier, so if I had three forest spaces grouped together and there were a total of two crowns on them, then I’d score 3 x 2 for 6 points.

In Queendomino there’s an additional type of land where you can construct buildings from a common pool and you’ll use knights to generate income. They’re simple additions to the game, but it give it a bit more depth than Kingdomino.

The Age of Giants adds two additional types of tiles: those with giants on them and those with footprints on them. If you take one with a giant, then you have to put a giant meeple on one of your crowns, thus eliminating its scoring potential. However, you can take a tile with footprints on it and that allows you to move that giant to someone else’s kingdom. It’s fun piece of take-that that adds some player interaction.

After playing this I immediately added it to my Amazon wish list. Whether you play it with Queendomino or Kingdomino, Age of Giants is a good expansion for a great (and growing) set of games.

November Daily Game Challenge: Sagrada

This is Day 13 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.

Sagrada

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Before Azul took the board game world by storm, there was Sagrada. It was the abstract game du jour, getting rave reviews before Azul came along and started taking all of Sagrada’s thunder.

There’s space on any gamer’s shelves for both of these gems. Azul is easier to teach new players and the turns are a lot smoother, but Sagrada has a more puzzle-like feel to it. I’m a sucker for dice chucking so Sagrada’s dice-drafting mechanism was an insta-hit for me. The placement rules can be stifling at times, especially when the dice aren’t rolling your way, but there are tools that can mitigate some of that bad luck.

The solo game is pretty tough, too. There’s no AI, but you’re placing unused dice on the scoring track (each turn you pull four dice, two for you, two for the track). Play is the same as any regular game, except that you’re now playing against the total of those dice on the track. It adds another element to the puzzle and it’s not easy.

I love the challenge, though, and win or lose, solo or multiplayer, your player board always looks pretty … even if your score isn’t.

November Daily Game Challenge: Dice City

This is Day 12 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.

Dice City

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Dug up an old favorite tonight for a solo run-through and it was as fun as I’d remembered. In Dice City you’re trying to build up Rolldovia (ha!) by rolling dice and activating that spot’s ability. As you gain resources you can buy cards to upgrade the locations in your city (each player gets their own board). Each location can be upgraded to gives more resources, abilities, military strength to attack your opponents, and end-game victory points.

Play is straight-forward and there’s lots of ways to mitigate your bad rolls. It’s a solid gateway game with enough to keep more seasoned gamers engaged. I love that everyone gets their own board and can fill it up the way they want, focusing on different types of buildings for their city. It’s been awhile since I played a multi-player game so I’m hoping to get it to the table with my buddies soon.

November Daily Game Challenge: Exploding Kittens

This is Day 11 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.

Exploding Kittens

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I don’t really read The Oatmeal anymore, but I’ve always enjoyed those hilarious, off-beat, sometimes wacky, sometimes thought-provoking comics. I remember hearing about the Kickstarter for a card game based on the comics, right about the time I was getting into the board games hobby. It turned out to be an enormous success, generating nearly $9 million in funding.

Exploding Kittens is what was produced from the Kickstarter: a light card game of set collection, take that, and press-your-luck. On your turn you play a card (or not) then draw a card. If it’s an exploding kitten, then you’re out. Last person standing wins. There are plenty of cards to manipulate the deck and there’s a defuse card that gives you a chance to stay in the game.

Fans of The Oatmeal will recognize the familiar style of drawing and unique sense of humor throughout all of the cards. I finally got to play it tonight and, while it’s not something I’d seek out for another play, I wouldn’t turn down a game. It’s a light card game that makes me want to start reading The Oatmeal again.

November Daily Game Challenge: Lost Cities

This is Day 10 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.

Lost Cities

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Confession: I didn’t play any games today. I worked, took a nap, then my wife and I went to the amazing Philippine Expressions Bookshop, where we were thrilled to attend a presentation and book signing by Jose Antonio Vargas.

I did play a game of Lost Cities yesterday, though. Lost Cities is a two-player card game by Reiner Knizia that takes just a few minutes to play a round. It’s an Indiana Jones-style theme about going to explore, but it’s just a pasted-on theme. Basically, there are five suits of cards numbered 1-10 with a few special cards mixed in. You’re trying to play them in ascending order in your tableau, scoring points at the end of the round. The more cards you have, the better you’ll score.

Like other Knizia games, there’s a twist to the seemingly simple game play. Here, you’re forced to play a card every turn. So, you can’t just hold the best cards, hoping that you’ll be able to play them later when you’ve built up your tableau. You’re also forced to draw a card every turn, which acts as a timer; once the deck runs out, the round is over.

I love the constant tension during each turn, as you try to figure out when to start a new column in your tableau. Why? Because any time you start a new column, you get -20 points, which you’re trying to make up when you play your cards. You may also play a card into the center row, which doesn’t hurt you, but it’s now available to your opponent to draw after they’ve placed a card. It’s always funny when they do because suddenly you’re thinking about why they wanted that card.

Best of all, you can play the “handshake” card which is a way to double your point total for a particular column. Of course, it can also double your negative points, so it’s a risky play.

Lost Cities is yet another one of Knizia’s games that packs a lot more play than appears on the box. The scoring explanation is always a bit funky, but once you’ve learned about the negative scoring and the handshake scoring, it’s pretty straightforward.

November Daily Game Challenge: 7 Wonders Duel

This is Day 9 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.

7 Wonders Duel

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I love the original 7 Wonders game and I thought I’d love 7 Wonders Duel when I played it a few years ago. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the best experience.

Still, I bought a copy when it was on sale, based on its stellar reputation alone. Perhaps I’d mis-judged it during that initial play. It sat unplayed for over year, though; it seemed like I’d always find different two-player games to play with my buddies.

Thankfully, my friend Marlon re-taught the game to me and I’m glad I never got rid of my copy. It’s a fantastic game for two and deserving of its high ranking on BGG. I’ve seen the light!

Just like the original, you’re trying to build your wonders while also improving your resource production, military strength, and advance in science and technology. I liked how Duel reimplemented military as a tug-of-war, while science was now straight set collection without the funky multipliers.

Right now Akrotiri, Sun-Tzu, The Castles of Burgundy, and Baseball Highlights: 2045 are my go-to games for two players, but this one’s being dusted off and becoming a regular part of my two-player rotation.

November Daily Game Challenge: Nexus Ops

This is Day 8 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.

Nexus Ops

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Got to play one of my favorite Ameritrash games today, Nexus Ops. It’s a sci-fi war game that’s been out since 2005 and I always have fun whenever it hits the table.

Fantasy Flight took over the original from Avalon Hill, but it’s been years since they’ve printed a batch. There are still some copies out there, but most don’t go cheap.

In Nexus Ops you and your opponent control factions vying for world domination. There are also secret missions that you fulfill throughout a game that score you victory points. Turns consist of deploying then moving your army into adjacent hexes. If you land on a space with an enemy, it’s time to battle. Score 10 victory points and you’re the winner.

Although an older design, there’s so much to like about Nexus Ops, from its relatively straight-forward turns to those cool miniatures. I’ve never NOT had fun playing this game. It’s a solid design and more people should be playing it.