The Day in Gaming, September 3, 2019: The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game

I’m posting about a game every day in September! Here’s a link to yesterday’s post.

I love The Castles of Burgundy. It sat on my shelf for far too long unplayed until my buddy Mike brought his copy in and taught it. Castles is one of my favorite Eurogames, thanks to its straightforward game play and clever use of dice. Unfortunately, the game does bog down a bit with more players and I prefer to play it with two players these days.

But there’s an excellent alternative to getting my fix of Castles: the roll-and-write version. The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game is a clever reimplementation of the original game and can be played in a fraction of the time.

Once again, dice are used in clever ways within the game. In the original you’re placing tiles onto your estate; here, you’re using the dice rolls to write down the required numbers for each type of building. There are plenty of ways to mitigate bad dice rolls so there’s more strategy here than you might think.

I’m not gonna get into the details of the game, but if you’re a Castles of Burgundy or roll-and-write fan like me, you’ll enjoy it. If you’re a fan of both, then definitely check it out.

The Day in Gaming, September 2, 2019: Railroad Ink

I’m posting about a game every day in September! Here’s a link to yesterday’s post.

Railroad Ink was an instant hit with my main gaming group. We’re all fans of roll-and-writes, some more than others, but for the most part everyone is willing to play them. I like them because they’re usually easy to teach and take a short amount of time to play. And thanks to the recent explosion of roll-and-write games, these can be more engaging and strategic than older roll-and-writes like Yahtzee.

In Railroad Ink you roll four dice with various rails and/or roads depicted on them. It’s up to you to write them anywhere in your city grid. That’s it!

Of course, it’s not that easy. To score points you’ll try to connect your network(s) of rails and/or roads to the exits along the edges of your map. The more exits your network(s) connect to, the more points you score. You’ll also score points for any part of your network that is drawn in the center of your grid. Finally, you’ll score your longest rail route and your longest road route. Rails and roads are not required to connect to each other, but for every missing connection you’ll lose a point.

Railroad Ink is much more puzzly than I expected and it’s a fun solo challenge as well. Tonight I dusted off my copy for a quick game and after the first turn I remembered why I enjoy this game so much. The basic game play is so easy to learn: roll dice, then write down what you see. But it goes so much deeper than that, as you try to plan your perfect network of connected routes. It’s a great feeling when you roll that rail or road piece that you needed to complete a long route.

The Day In Gaming, September 1, 2019: Wingspan

It’s been too long since my last blog-every-day-for-a-month challenge. Let’s do it again! I’ll post about a game every day in September. First up: Wingspan.

I was able to teach this today during the local Sunday Funday gaming meetup. I still love this game and I enjoy teaching and playing with new players. It’s fun seeing them enjoy Wingspan as much as I do (be sure to check out Theo’s outstanding Wingspan video).

Speaking of Stonemaier Games, Tapestry is getting all the buzz with many of my gaming friends. We’re excited about a civilization game that plays in about two hours and has the high quality components that we’ve come to expect from Stonemaier.

See you tomorrow!

5×5 Solo Game Challenge Completed

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(You can listen to me read this blog post on YouTube here

Last week I completed my 5×5 solo game challenge! This was inspired by the yearly Board Game Geek 10×10 challenge in which BGGers try to play 10 different games 10 times within a calendar year. I’ve successfully done that challenge the last two years and I’m over halfway done with my 10×10 for 2018.

I added a solo challenge this year because I love playing solo board games. I’m glad that publishers have been including more solo rules in their games lately, but I still get funny looks when I tell people I love playing solo games.

Some people ask why, as if there’s something wrong enjoying a board game by yourself. I get it, though; they want the thrill of competition or the camaraderie that comes with sitting at a table with others.

Years ago my wife and I would occasionally spend an evening working on a jigsaw puzzle. In fact, it was with her that I actually completed my first 1,000-piece puzzle. It was something I’d never tried to do or thought would interest me, but it was a totally satisfying experience. We wouldn’t complete the whole thing in a night, but we’d work on it throughout the week, sometimes separately whenever we had a spare moment. Once it was done, we’d start a new one.

In a sense solo board games are like jigsaw puzzles for me. It’s just me trying to figure out a way to win or score the most points. There’s no pressure to act quickly or watch what others are doing. And if I want to leave midway through a game, that’s perfectly fine. I can finish the game the next day or the next week or whenever I feel like it.

Other friends who aren’t into solo games always mention that they’d rather play video games by themselves instead of a board game. I always respond the same way: “Great!” If that’s your form of entertainment, more power to you. Personally, since I’m on the computer and/or checking my phone most of the day, the last thing I want to do to relax is something that requires electronics.

No, I prefer analog entertainment to wind down the day. Give me good ol’ cardboard, dice, chits, cards, pawns, etc., and I’ll enjoy an hour or two at the tabletop.

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Here’s a quick look at the five games I solo-ed five times (or more) this year:

1. Cat Rescue. I liked Ta-Te Wu’s cute cat-themed game that he successfully Kickstarted this year. It was this neat little puzzle that only required 15 minutes to play. Funny, AEG came out with Cat Lady a few months later that reminded me of his game.

2. Dice Stars. Thanks to my Board Game Twitter buddy Odin Phong I was able to score a copy of this Bruno Cathala dice game. I can knock out a solo game in under 10 minutes and I love how tough it is; I’ve only won 4 times out of the 13 games I’ve solo-ed.

3. Imperial Settlers. I joined my first online solo league and it was a blast! A bunch of us BGGers signed up for the four different base game factions and we battled it out for a few weeks until one faction was standing. I joined the Egyptians since that was the faction I had the least amount of experience with and even though we were the first to be eliminated, I learned a lot.

4. NMBR 9. I borrowed my friend’s copy for a week and my wife and I enjoyed this game a lot. It reminded me of those jigsaw puzzles we’d work on together all those years ago. It’s more dynamic than a standard puzzle, though; the tiles are randomly drawn every game, creating a new challenge every time. When my wife and I weren’t playing, I’d sneak in solo games that could be finished in about five minutes.

5. Sagrada. Until Azul came along, Sagrada was the puzzle-style game that everybody was talking about. It’s funny how the Cult of the New works; sometimes if seems like games have a shelf life of a week before something else is all the rage for the next week. While Sagrada did get a lot of love when it first came out, it seemed to lose some of its luster when Azul showed up. I still find this dice-roller to be a lot of fun at any player count and the solo game is hard. I only won once in eight tries for this challenge so it looks like I’ll be dusting off Sagrada soon to redeem myself.

Kingdom Builder: When Insomnia Pays Off

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I couldn’t fall asleep Wednesday night so I started reading my Twitter feed when I came across a link to an Amazon deal. It was for Kingdom Builder, an abstract game that I’d first played over a year ago. I remembered liking it then and for less than $9, I couldn’t resist. I bought it then fell asleep about an hour later.

When I woke up it felt like a dream. Did I really buy a Spiel des Jahres winner for less than the cost of a meal? I re-checked my account and, sure enough, it was already on its way.

Today it showed up at the front door and after punching out the bits and reviewing the rules, I was ready to play. But first, dinner with my wife at our favorite local Thai restaurant. When we got home I wanted to see if the game was as good as I remembered.

It was!

Kingdom Builder is a terrific gateway game, with excellent components and an easy-to-learn ruleset. Players are trying to build the most valuable kingdom by laying settlements throughout the land. The simple turns make for a quick game: draw a card that determines your placement, then do any additional actions you’ve unlocked during the game.

It’s not a brain burner, but it does force you to plan carefully, especially during your first few moves. Thanks to its handful of different scoring rules and extra interlocking game board pieces, there’s a lot of variability since you won’t be trying to score in the same way and the board will be different each time.

This was Donald X. Vaccarino’s follow-up to Dominion and while Kingdom Builder didn’t set the gaming world on fire like Dominion, it’s still worthy of being on any gamer’s shelf. Especially when its price is a single digit.

Challenge Completed

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Over on boardgamegeek.com they run a 10×10 challenge, in which participants attempt to play 10 different games at least 10 times each during the year. I did it last year and like the Lakers winning championships back in the day, I repeated the feat this year.

Here’s are quick thoughts on the 10 games on my list. Thanks to my wife, nephew and niece, and regular gaming buddies (two on Twitter: Daryl and Oscar) for helping me finish my list.

Santorini. One of my favorite abstract games ever. The game is ridiculously easy to learn: on your turn you move to any adjacent square, then you build on any adjacent square; to win, you must move up to the third level of any building. That’s it. It has surprising depth and lots of replayability due to its God Power cards, which add new moves, abilities, and/or win conditions for each player. Simply brilliant. (25 plays)

Mint Works. Everyone I’ve played Mint Works with has loved it. It’s a stripped-down-to-basics worker placement game that fits inside an Altoids tin. Games take no longer than 15 minutes, but it always manages to satisfy that worker placement itch. (10 plays)

Karuba. This was an insta-hit with my wife and our extended family of gamers. The tile call-outs reminds me of bingo, while the puzzle-like game play is always a blast, as each player tries to guide their adventurer to their temples while scooping up gems. (10 plays)

Onitama. Another abstract that gets bonus points for its terrific, road-trip-friendly packaging. While Santorini provides more depth and replayability, Onitama is even easier to learn: play a card and move any of your pieces according to the card’s directions while trying to capture your opponent’s master pawn or moving your master pawn to your opponent’s side. It plays faster than Santorini and I’m happy that both are in the Gaviola Game Library. (18 plays)

Red7. Any fan of card games should give Red7 a try. It’s a quick filler-type game, but has lots of interesting decisions throughout a game, thanks to its unique card play. Each card can be used in multiple ways so you’re always trying to find just the right card to play on your turn. The win condition is simple: be the last person standing. (17 plays)

Tiny Epic Quest. I love the Tiny Epic series of games. Scott Almes and Gamelyn Games manage to pack a lot of game into small boxes and Tiny Epic Quest is the best of the lot. I enjoy the puzzle-like nature of the Day Phase as you try to complete Movement Quests, but it’s the dice-chucking, push-your-luck Night Phase to complete Treasure Quests that’s an absolute blast. (28 plays)

Guess Who? My wife and I took a weekend cruise to Mexico earlier this year and the ship had a lounge that had a few shelves of board games. Unfortunately, it was multiple copies of chess, checkers, Connect Four, and Guess Who?. Thankfully, we were too busy chillaxing and enjoying the trip to care about how shoddy the selection was. We did, however, play 10 straight games of Guess Who?, so at least I was able to get my board game fix. (10 plays)

Tiny Epic Galaxies. No surprise here: I played another Tiny Epic game 10 times this year. This was my favorite in the series until I got Tiny Epic Quest. Galaxies is a lot of dice chucking, which always makes me happy. The solo game is fun (although TEQ has also supplanted it as my favorite of the series) and the Beyond the Black expansion added some nice touches to it, including new ships and abilities, and set collection and push-your-luck mechanisms. (14 plays)

Imperial Settlers. I’m not sure what I expected with Imperial Settlers, but I heard a lot of good things about it and won an auction for it last year. I like the civilization building aspect, along with card drafting. As the game progresses it becomes a good brain-burning exercise as you try to squeeze as much as you can out of each of your cards. (16 plays)

Viticulture Essential Edition. I lucked out last year and found a BGG user who had a brand new copy for half price. Not sure why I waited until this year to play it, but it was love at first play; the theme and mechanisms blend in so well together. It’s a classic of the worker placement genre and easily makes it into my Top Five Games Ever. When I added the Tuscany Essential expansion a few months later, it took the game to a whole new level. (36 plays)