Every Night Is Game Night: Harbour

IMG_20170515_222242

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!


Two months ago I got Harbour off my Shelf of Shame and it’s a cool little worker placement game. Here’s what I wrote after I started playing it:

Players race to buy four buildings from a common pool first. Each building has a cost payable by one or more goods from the current player. On their turn, a player will send their worker meeple to a building and perform the action(s) listed on it; often, it’s to trade for more goods, which can then be used to buy a building. Players have a home base that they can return to for more actions, as well as travel to an opponent’s buildings to perform their actions (although this costs one good).

What makes Harbour so much fun is the economic mechanism in the game. Whenever a player buys a building, they must “ship” enough goods to pay for it. So, if the player has 5 fish and 3 lumber and the current market has fish at $5 and lumber at $3, then the player can ship those goods for $8 and buy any building up to $8. Then, after the purchase has been completed, the market shifts, with the fish and lumber being worth less, while livestock and stone go up in value.

It’s a neat part of the game, trying to time your purchase just right so that you get the most money for your goods. More often than not, an opponent will buy something and change the value of your goods. Thankfully, there are buildings with powers that allow you to adjust the market to something more to your liking.

After a dozen plays (mostly solo), I still enjoy Harbour. Tonight I played the 20-move solo variant and scored 32 points, which is on the low end of what I usually get. There’s an official solo variant included with the game, but I haven’t played it yet since it seems fiddly: you have to keep track of a dummy player.

It only takes 15-20 minutes to play this variant and just like the regular game, you’re trying to optimize the amount of goods you receive that turn. With the 20-move limit, you need to get those goods ASAP in order to buy buildings. I typically end up with four buildings at or near my 20th move and score somewhere in the 30-point range.

Harbour would be a good introduction to the worker placement mechanism for new gamers and I’d recommend it to more serious gamers as a worker placement filler.

Every Night Is Game Night: Octo Dice

IMG_20170513_224020

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!


I had a great day today: my wife’s hula performance was excellent, as always, and our daughter was back from college and was able to catch the show. Then I spent a few hours at the inaugural Comic Con Revolution in Ontario, California, and had a blast amongst all of the cosplayers and comic book fans. I even managed to find an independent game publisher hawking his wares.

Finally, after catching the main event of UFC 211, I played a solo game of Octo Dice, which I wrote about for Geek & Sundry. It’s an underrated roll-and-write game from AEG, set in the Aquasphere world of Stefan Feld’s game. While it plays nothing like the original, it offers some fun changes on the Yahtzee formula. Here’s how I summed up the game on G&S:

Like the classic Yahtzee, players roll and write on their score sheets as they collect sets of particular items. However, after each roll, a player must “lock” two dice, meaning they can no longer re-roll them and must mark them on their score sheet.

Each die has a few icons and number and color combinations. These match up with the sets that players attempt to score such as crystals, research, labs, bots, and submarines. Players must also roll at least two octopods per turn or else lose two points.

It can be played solo, even though you lose the fun follow action from the multiplayer game. Still, it’s a quick roll-and-write and offers plenty of interesting decisions, due to the push-your-luck factor. Which dice do you keep after every roll and re-roll? It seems like every time I try to focus on a particular action, the dice rolls force me to re-think my strategy. I like that.

One thing I forgot to mention in my original article was the poor production of the dice. They’re light wooden dice and the painted icons rub off easily. It’s such a bummer because the score sheets were full-colored and double-sided; outstanding in every way that the dice were not. Perhaps that’s why Octo Dice has been overlooked. Replace the dice with big, chunky, King of Tokyo-style dice and I’m sure the game would receive the attention it deserves.

Every Night Is Game Night: Friday

IMG_20170512_215109

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!


Today, of course, is the perfect day to play Friday, a superb solo deck building game. Friedemann Friese, best known for Power Grid, published Friday in 2011 and it’s frequently found on best solo games lists. I got my copy last October and I’ve played it 20 times, including tonight, and I still find it challenging.

In Friday, you’re helping Robinson Crusoe survive on the island, gathering knowledge and resources to fight incoming pirates. The game is played in three main rounds with two final rounds of pirates if Crusoe survives (a big if). There are two main decks of cards: hazard cards and fighting cards. You first draw two hazard cards and decide which one to fight, then draw the amount of fighting cards indicated on the hazard card. If your total fighting points are equal to or greater than the hazard card’s fighting card, then you win the fight and turn the hazard card around and add it to your fighting cards (each hazard card has fighting abilities that are “unlocked” if you win a fight). Many fighting cards include special abilities to help you in your battles.

Losing fights, though, is the key to optimizing your deck. For every point that you lose in a fight you may spend a life point (Crusoe starts with 20 life points) and destroy (“trash” for you Dominion fans) a card. This is where Friday is tough; you need to preserve your life points while also destroying the weaker cards in your deck.

Every time you go through your fighting card deck, you’ll shuffle in an “aging” card which is always negative fighting points. For such a small game, Friday definitely packs in a lot of obstacles to your success. Even if you survive the first three main rounds (which get progressively harder, of course), your deck must be lean and mean to defeat both rounds of pirates.

Friday isn’t easy, but it is immensely satisfying when you finally break through for that first win, and every win after that; just don’t get use to doing it.

Every Night Is Game Night: Paris Connection

IMG_20170511_201904

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!


Paris Connection is an underrated train game of route building and stock ownership that is a perfect blend of gateway game simplicity with the substance of a designer game. I’d call it a filler-plus game; one that is easy to learn and quick to play yet offers interesting decisions throughout a session.

Players are trying to collect the most valuable stocks in Paris Connection, with points scored on the number of stocks you own in each color of train. Each player receives a number of trains randomly behind their screen to start the game. On their turn, a player can perform one of two actions:

  1. Trade one train from behind their shield for one or two trains of another color (these are immediately placed behind their shield).
  2. Take one to five trains from the supply and lay them down on the board (a map of France).

That’s it. Simple enough for non-gamers, but it’s this dual use of trains that makes the game stand out. The trains are used to manipulate the stock price as they are moved into cities to score various points or onto empty spaces to keep the stock price at bay. Of course, as trains are laid out on the board, they can no longer be placed behind your shield for ownership.

Tonight I played a three-player game and won a close match. All three of us were driving the yellow and purple stocks up, then when I moved black, the next player also jumped onto black and sent it around onto a bunch of empty spaces. On my next turn I traded my last black for two purple trains, which I had guessed would be the next to jump in value. It did, then another player and I soon got to using the blue trains to race to Marseilles to end the game (the game ends when a train reaches this city or if five of the six colored train supplies are depleted).

Queen Games has frequent sales on Amazon and I scored this last year for $15 and it’s gone even lower since then. The components are top-notch, as they usually are with Queen Games, and it’s an excellent value for a solid game.

Every Night Is Game Night: Dead Man’s Draw

IMG_20170510_195621

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 was another fine night of gaming with my Wednesday group, as I played Unlock!, Stone Age, Indigo, and my most recent purchase, Dead Man’s Draw.

A push-your-luck and set-collection game, Dead Man’s Draw is a fun filler for 2-4 players. The standard game consists of a deck of cards divided into 10 “suits” such as a sword, cannon, treasure chest, and other pirate-y items. Each card is numbered from 4-7 and contain a special ability that is triggered when it is revealed.

On their turn a player will reveal the first card, perform its ability, then decide whether or not to push their luck by drawing another card. If the card is the same suit (for example, a cannon has already been played and another cannon is drawn), then they bust and all cards are moved to the discard pile and their turn is over. Otherwise, the player may continue drawing cards until they decide to bank them, which will be how they score points.

The game ends when all of the cards have been drawn. Players tally up only the highest number of each suit then have in front of them; thus, if I had two cannons worth 7 and 5, I would only score the 7 (along any other suits I’d collected). Highest total wins.

I first played Dead Man’s Draw two weekends ago at Kingdom-Con with my buddy Rick. It’s my type of filler: easy to learn with some interesting decisions throughout the game. The push-your-luck mechanism is fun and should appeal to non-gamers and there are additional rules for some added depth, such as variable player powers and variant scoring.

Every Night Is Game Night: Star Realms

IMG_20170508_212149

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!


Star Realms is one of my favorite deck builders for so many reasons: it’s fast, it’s compact, it’s cheap, and, best of all, it has the kind of player interaction that other deck builders lack.

Players start with the same basic deck of spaceships: 8 Scouts (worth 1 money each) and 2 Vipers (worth 1 combat strength each). A row of five cards for purchase are laid out and any time one is bought, another card from the deck replaces it. Each player starts with 50 Authority (hit points) and any combat dealt out by a player will be assessed to their opponent.

What I love about Star Realms is how fast the action ramps up. The four factions in the game offer various abilities and bonuses when played in combinations. Better spaceships can be bought and outposts and bases can be used for additional protections from an opponent’s attack. It’s fun figuring out how each faction behaves: Blobs bring the most fire power while the Trade Federation can heal those precious Authority points.

Tonight I played one of the solo scenarios from the Colony Wars expansion: Pirates of the Dark Star. Solo play is like a normal two-player game, but for the dummy player, you’ll trash one card and draw one card. There are set actions for each of the four factions and whichever faction is drawn will determine the action. For example, draw a Blob faction and you’re hit with damage equal to three times that card’s cost.

The solo scenario seems easy, but that damage piles up quickly. Even with the standard starting Authority of 75 vs the dummy player’s 25, it’s easy to lose and any wins are usually close. Tonight I got the better of those pirates, winning by 18, but it could’ve easily gone the other way.

 

Every Night Is Game Night: Tiny Epic Galaxies

IMG_20170507_151259

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!


(My wife and I had a full day of travel and family fun yesterday so I didn’t play a game and blog about it. I’ll post one extra time this month to make up for it.)

It’s nearly 4pm on Sunday and I’m just getting productive. I’ve got some work to finish today, but I just played a quick solo game of Tiny Epic Galaxies. It’s no secret that I’m a Scott Almes fan: I own and have enjoyed Tiny Epic Kingdoms, Harbour, and I backed Tiny Epic Galaxies: Beyond the Black and Tiny Epic Quest on Kickstarter.

Tiny Epic Galaxies is a dice rolling and area control game that is an absolute blast. Each player is trying to improve their empire while also colonizing planets. During their turn, players roll the dice and land their ships on other planets (to perform a special action), orbiting planets (in hopes of colonizing them via an economic or diplomacy track), gaining resources, or upgrading their empires. Players perform these actions via their dice rolls.

If they roll what they need, then they perform their actions, but if not, there are several ways to mitigate unlucky dice rolls. They get one free re-roll of any of their dice. They may also use two dice to convert one into any action they choose. Finally, players may spend one energy to re-roll any remaining dice.

Victory points are scored as players upgrade their empire and each colonized planet is worth points. First player to 21 triggers the game end. Players also have secret mission cards that gain extra points if the conditions are met.

What really makes the game fun is the follow action. During the active player’s turn, all other players may follow the active player’s action buy paying one culture. This is one of my favorite mechanisms because it limits the amount of downtime for everybody. If I had a few bad rolls on my turn, then I can get the actions I needed on someone else’s turn, as long as I saved up some culture.

I love the solo game: it manages to capture the feel of the real game and has various difficulty levels that range from beginner to epic. I’ve beaten the epic level only a few times and each win felt well-earned.

 

Every Night Is Game Night: Stone Age

IMG_20170505_160919

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!


Last weekend at Kingdom-Con I scored a copy of Stone Age in a trade with my friend Rick. He’s a lifelong gamer and ever since I dove into the hobby I’ve been able to hang out with him more, thanks to our shared love of board gaming. It’s fun chatting with him and learning about games.

I actually first played Stone Age with another gaming buddy also named Rick at his birthday gaming get-together. Even though I lost badly in my first attempt I knew it was my type of game: the game flowed quickly and intuitively, with not much downtime between turns, and there were multiple paths to victory.

Stone Age is a classic (are games nearly 10 years old considered classics?) worker placement game. Players are trying to grow their tribes and acquire victory points by advancing their technology, gathering artifacts, and building up their little corners of the world. The meeples represent members of a player’s tribe and on each turn they’re sent out to one of the spaces on the board.

The workers/meeples can be used to improve a player’s tools (basically, extra pips for future dice rolls), add workers (everybody starts with five and if they visit the hut, aka The Love Shack, they’ll add a meeple to their tribe), or improve their farming (used to feed your tribe). They can also go to the various areas to gather resources, including wood, brick, stone, gold, and food. The final two options are cards that are bought with resources which yield immediate and end-game benefits and/or points, and tiles (buildings) that give victory points.

Players take turns placing one or more meeples on the board, cards, and/or tiles, depending on how many open spaces are available. After everyone has placed their meeples, they take them back and perform the action; for example, if I placed one of my workers on the tools space, then I’d take my worker and a tool chit, which allows me to add a pip to future dice rolls (only allowed once per turn). Then, my opponents would take one of their actions before I take my second. This continues until all of our workers have taken their actions and have been returned to our player board.

Some people have complained about the dice in this game, but I think it fits in thematically: not every expedition for food or resources will yield something. Players receive one die per worker in an area for resources. For example, if I put two workers in the wood area, then I would roll two dice. If I rolled a lucky 12, then I would divide that by the resource’s number (wood is 3) and take that many resources. In this example, my 12 would produce 4 wood. Each resource has a different number based on its scarcity; wood is the easiest to produce while gold is the toughest.

At the end of each round players must feed their tribes. One food per meeple is required; however, if you’ve been building up your farm, then you won’t have to use as much food to feed your tribe. However, if you do run out of food, then you can use any one resource to feed them (no, your people aren’t eating wood; you’ve used that wood to trade for something more edible). If you don’t have enough food or resources, then they’ll starve this round and cause you to lose 10 points.

There’s more to Stone Age than this, but that’s the basic gist of the game. The civilization cards are a clever addition to Stone Age: they bring the set collection mechanism to the game as players try to collect the most different icons for an increasing end-game bonus. There are also cards that give bonuses based on the number of meeples, farms, and buildings each player ends the game with.

Today I broke in my copy of Stone Age with my friend Daryl. It was his first time playing it and he enjoyed it as much as I do. It scales down nicely with two, but I think it’s best with three or four. It’s currently out of print, but the rumors are that Z-Man Games will be bringing it back soon. I hope so: being a caveman or cavewoman has never been so much fun.

 

 

Every Night Is Game Night: Indigo

IMG_20170501_190158

I’m playing a board game and blogging about it every day this month (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!


Indigo

Tonight my wife and I played Indigo, which I bought last week during Amazon’s yearly International Tabletop Day Sale. Like most gamers I’m a Reiner Knizia fan and when I read the reviews of his Tsuro-killer game, I knew I had to buy it, especially when it was only 16 bucks and change (MSRP $39.99).

Indigo is an abstract tile-laying game for 2-4 players. There are six tiles with different colored gems on them placed onto designated spots on the board. Player “gates” are also laid down along the edges of the board and each player starts with a tile and a player shield.

On their turn a player places their tile anywhere on the board and if a gem connects to it, then they move it onto that tile. If the gem leaves the board between one of their gates, then they receive it; if a gate is shared, then both players get the gem (extras are included). Gems are placed behind a player’s shield. After their turn the player draws a tile.

Play continues until all gems are claimed. Each gem is worth points according to their color (blue 3, green 2, and yellow 1). Most points wins.

Indigo is an excellent filler game, probably best described as Tsuro for gamers. The draw one, play one mechanism is easy to learn for new or casual gamers, while the network building to claim the gems will appeal to players who want a bit more strategy than Tsuro. It’s a terrific addition to anybody’s game night.

Epilogue

My wife and I have a running joke whenever we lose to each other in a game. “This game is obviously defective,” we laugh. “Better return it.”

I won tonight, 10-9, so it was my wife’s turn to recite our joke. I’m sure I’ll say it more than a few times myself over the next month.

 

Harbour

IMG_20170323_182415

I’m an unabashed fan of Scott Almes’ games, especially his Tiny Epic Series (I own and enjoy Kingdoms, Galaxies, and Western; I Kickstarted the Galaxies expansion and Tiny Epic Quest). I appreciate how he uses some of my favorite game mechanisms in games that play in less than an hour, like worker placement in Western, dice allocation in Galaxies, or 4X in Kingdoms. It’s also cool how he includes solo rules for most of his games.

I bought Harbour from my buddy Oscar last year and it sat on my Shelf of Shame until recently, when I solo-ed it using the 20-move solo variant rules on BGG. It was an easy way to learn and play the game.

A few of the reviews of Harbour have called it Le Havre Lite or Tiny Epic Le Havre since it has similar worker placement and resource management mechanisms, but in a smaller package. Players race to buy four buildings from a common pool first. Each building has a cost payable by one or more goods from the current player. On their turn, a player will send their worker meeple to a building and perform the action(s) listed on it; often, it’s to trade for more goods, which can then be used to buy a building. Players have a home base that they can return to for more actions, as well as travel to an opponent’s buildings to perform their actions (although this costs one good).

IMG_20170314_203234

What makes Harbour so much fun is the economic mechanism in the game. Whenever a player buys a building, they must “ship” enough goods to pay for it. So, if the player has 5 fish and 3 lumber and the current market has fish at $5 and lumber at $3, then the player can ship those goods for $8 and buy any building up to $8. Then, after the purchase has been completed, the market shifts, with the fish and lumber being worth less, while livestock and stone go up in value.

It’s a neat part of the game, trying to time your purchase just right so that you get the most money for your goods. More often than not, an opponent will buy something and change the value of your goods. Thankfully, there are buildings with powers that allow you to adjust the market to something more to your liking.

I enjoy Harbour, even if it usually ends more quickly than I prefer. It’s a great warm-up game, a filler with a bit more meat on the bones.

I’ve now played 8 of the 49 games on my Shelf of Shame!

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