Every Night Is Game Night: Formula D

IMG_20170524_190925

I’m playing a board game every day this month and blogging about it (I did a similar challenge last year)Feel free to join me during my Every Night Is Game Night: My Daily Play & Blog Challenge. And tweet me with what you’re playing these days!


Tonight I was part of a six-player game of Formula D, a dice-chucking fest wrapped up in a racing theme. The familiarity of cars racing makes the game’s rules easy to grasp, especially for non-gamers.

Players are trying to race around the track and finish first. Each player gets a car and a board that keeps track of their gear shifting as well as any damage done to their car (the advanced game adds more, from more detailed damage trackers and special abilities), but both times I’ve played Formula D, the basic version was just fine.

One other rules tweak that I prefer: going around the racetrack once. I’ve only played for one lap and it seems like the three-lap rule would definitely feel like Formula D was overstaying its welcome.

Each turn, players roll a die corresponding to their current gear. First gear gets a d4, second gear a d6, etc. The bigger dice allow you to move more spaces, but the challenge is figuring out when to downshift before you hit one of the turns. This is what I like about Formula D: players are required to stop in the turns throughout the board, sometimes more than one time. If you don’t slow down, then your car is taking damage.

My gaming group had a great time playing tonight, thanks to my buddy Oscar, who brought in the game. We each had our lucky and unlucky dice rolls, and there were plenty of groans and shouts of joy. It’s a terrific party game and hopefully one day I’ll try the advanced rules that add layers of strategy.

Timeline

Timeline: Diversity

Timeline: Diversity

Timeline is a favorite among my gamer and non-gamer friends. It’s a light trivia game that can be played as a filler or as an introduction to the wonderful world of gaming.

The object of Timeline is to be the player with no cards remaining in front of you. Each player will receive four cards and all players must keep their cards in front of them with the date side down.

Each two-sided card contains one event; for example, one side might be “The Discovery of Machu Pichu” and the other side will again be “The Discovery of Machu Pichu” but will contain the year of the event. Before play begins it’s important to make sure all of the cards do not show the date.

The first card from the deck is flipped over so that its date side is shown. This is the beginning of the Timeline. The starting player will choose one of their cards and place it to the left or right of the Timeline card, signifying whether they believe their card occurred before or after the event. They will then flip over their card. If the year on their card has been correctly placed on the Timeline, then the player’s turn is over. However, if they are wrong, then the card is returned to the box and the player draws another card. Now, it’s the next player’s turn.

The Timeline will expand as correct answers are played and this is where things get interesting. It’s easier to place an event before or after one other event, but when there are several cards in the Timeline it can be tough to pinpoint exactly when an event happened.  What year was the toaster invented? Was that before or after the invention of the camera? And did it happen before or after Cinderella was written?

While I’ve never been good at memorizing dates, Timeline allows you to guesstimate when things happen. You can generally figure things out based on historical context, but when you’re off it can be hilarious. Almost every game I’ve played has resulted in at least one “Wow, I had no idea that happened then!” comment.

Obviously, like other trivia games, there can be limited replayability if you play enough and begin memorizing dates. Thankfully, there are several expansions and they’re all reasonably priced (MSRP $14.99; I’ve picked up copies on Amazon for as low as $8). It’s a much more fun and rewarding experience than Trivial Pursuit and other trivia games.

 

 

Splendor

Spendor

Spendor

Earlier this year my wife and I visited Tokyo for the first time. We were there to see our daughter, who was completing her study abroad program. Our 10 days in Tokyo were nothing short of amazing and I’m forever spoiled in terms of sushi and ramen; anything I eat here in the U.S. simply won’t compare to the food we had in Japan.

One pleasant surprise we experienced in Japan was finding a board games cafe. I’d read about Dear Spiele on the boardgamegeek.com Japan forum, but had no idea if we were anywhere near it or if we could find time to visit. After a quick consult with Google Maps, we discovered it was a short train ride away from where we were staying.

It’s not the easiest place to find, but we soon found ourselves walking a few flights of stairs in a nondescript building before opening the door to a wonderful space full of games and gamers. The language may have been different, but the scene was just like any American game store or cafe: groups of players huddled at their tables, some contemplating moves, others pulling off winning maneuvers as their opponents groaned.

Dear Spiele

One of two walls of games at Dear Spiele

Since we hadn’t seen our daughter in such a long time, what better place to replicate our family game night than Dear Spiele? Of course, it seemed like the perfect place to play King of Tokyo; unfortunately, all of the power cards were in Japanese and we didn’t want to force our daughter to try to translate every one as we played. There were hundreds of games to choose from, though, so I picked a few that were not language dependent. Our favorite, by far, was Splendor.

Splendor is a card game with card drafting and set collection, and it also features a neat little engine-building mechanism that is easily learned by new players. The object of the game is to score 15 (or more) victory points. There is a tableau of 16 cards in three rows; these cards are used to score points, but not all of them have points on them. To take a card, a player must have the correct number of tokens matching the gem icons on that card. These tokens are poker chips with a specific gem icon and color printed on them. For example, if somebody wanted a 1-point card that costs four red gem icons, then they must have four of those gems in their hand.

Each turn, players may take three gem tokens of different colors or they may take two of the same color (but only if that stack of tokens has at least four). 

There is a limited number of gem tokens available and each player can only have a maximum of 10 in their hand, so they will have to buy “development” cards. These development cards cost a certain number of gems, but once they are bought, they are a permanent gem in front of that player. So, if you have a blue gem card in front of you and you want to buy a card that costs two blue gems, then you can buy it if you have a blue gem token, which, along with your blue gem card, equals two blue gems.

Cards that are worth more victory points cost more gems, so players must buy many development cards so they can afford these higher-priced cards (note: cards with victory points also have a gem on them that will become part of the player’s resources). Players can also gain additional points from the noble tiles. A noble tile can only be earned by having the appropriate number of gem cards; players cannot use gem tokens to purchase these. So, if a noble tile has a price of 3 black, 3 white, and 3 red gems, then a player will only receive it if they have 3 black, 3 white, and 3 red gem cards in front of them.

I remember reading an article (or was it listening to a podcast?) about how Splendor is a good “next step” for the new gamer, especially after they’ve played Ticket to Ride. There are some similarities like collecting sets of something for points (gems in Splendor, trains in TTR) and there’s the tension of trying to get the right amount of items to score points before your opponents (getting the right combo of gems versus timing your rail-laying just right). The elegant gameplay is here, too, as players can do one of two actions per turn: take tokens or buy cards. 

However, Splendor has more replayability and it plays well with 2-4 players, with games typically finished in half an hour. I’ve played it with hardcore gamers and casual gamers and I have yet to meet somebody who doesn’t like it. It should be a part of any gamer’s library.

Postscript: after returning from Japan, I surprised my wife with a copy of Splendor. It continues to be a favorite with us and our friends.