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: 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: Imperial Settlers

This is Day 7 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.

Imperial Settlers

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I played a two-player game of Imperial Settlers with my buddy Daryl today. It’d been a while since we played so it took us a few turns to get back into the flow of things.

Once we did, though, I remembered why I love Imperial Settlers so much. It’s an awesome tableau builder and engine builder, and it can be surprisingly think-y when you start getting your cards together. There’s even a little take-that whenever you raze an opponent’s locations, so it’s not just multi-player solitaire.

Earlier this year I played in solo league on BGG. Although my faction lost, it was a blast playing with my fellow solo gamers. The league helped me learn a lot about the game.

Today was my 10th play of Imperial Settlers this year, which meant I had completed my BGG 10×10 challenge for 2018! Woo hoo!

Here are the 10 games I played 10 times each this year:

Azul

Cities of Splendor

Dice Stars

Fear

Imperial Settlers

My Little Scythe

NMBR 9

OK Play

Sagrada

Welcome To …

Now on Kickstarter: Cat Rescue

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Ta-Te Wu seems to be designing games all the time. Just a few months after his Kung Pao Chicken was published, he’s back with Cat Rescue, his latest micro game seeking funding on Kickstarter.

Cat Rescue is a cooperative game about saving and adopting cats. The game consists of 26 cat cards, 1 double-sided delivery card, and four shelter tokens. The tokens are used to mark the corners of the shelter, which is a 4×4 playing field.

By maneuvering the cats on their turn, players will get them ready for adoption and ultimately get them out of the shelter to score points. The more points scored, the better your final ranking.

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After four random cats are dealt to the center of the playing field, two cats are dealt to each player. These represent the player’s foster home. The delivery card is placed on a cat and indicates the direction that cats cannot be moved in the shelter.

    1. On their turn, players will draw a card from the deck or choose a cat from their foster home. They place that cat next to a cat in the shelter and push the cat in any direction except the one shown on the delivery card. For example, if the direction card is pointed up, then a player can push cats left, right, or down.
    2. If three or four cats of the same color are connected in a row or column, then the middle cat(s) are flipped face down. This means they are ready to be adopted.
    3. Whenever a cat is pushed outside of the shelter (the 4×4 playing field), they are either adopted (if face down) and taken out of the game or placed in the player’s foster home.
    4. The game ends when any player has three cats in their foster home or the draw deck is empty.

    At the end of the game, score two points for every adopted cat and one point for every ready-to-adopt cat (that is, those cats flipped facedown but still in the shelter). A scoring chart will rank your effort from “Cat Got Your Tongue?” to “You’re the Cat’s Meow!”

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    Cat Rescue is a fun puzzle game highlighted by its super cute art done by artist Kaiami. The game features a simple turn (take a cat from the deck or from your foster home and place it in the shelter) and the trick is figuring out where to place your cat. You’re trying to get similar cats together so you can flip the middle one(s) over for adoption, so playing a wild cat early can help you out as you get later cats next to them. As you build up facedown cats ready for adoption, you’ll start pushing them out of the shelter to score points.

    Like other cooperative games, there can be an Alpha Gamer problem where one person takes over the game and tells others what they should do on their turn. The game works best when players can work together to find solutions, but quarterbacking can happen. It’s probably why I prefer playing Cat Rescue as a quick and quiet 15-minute solo puzzle.

    One final observation: while marking the 4×4 grid with the included shelter tokens (cubes) is fine, this game screams for a playmat. It’d be easier to keep track of the shelter’s borders this way; hopefully, a BGGer with spare time will make a playmat or Kaiami herself will offer a playmat featuring her artwork (fingers crossed).

    Thanks to Ta-Te Wu for providing a copy of Cat Rescue for review. Cat Rescue is currently funding on Kickstarter. The campaign runs until Thursday, April 19th.

    On the Tabletop: Daemon Trilogy: Subrosa

    On the Tabletop is an ongoing series of board game overviews featuring my thoughts on the latest tabletop products. 

    In Daemon Trilogy: Subrosa players are leaders of the five noble houses trying to recruit mercenaries to complete various contracts. The game is card drafting and set collection game at its heart, with a fair amount of player interaction based on the cards being played, and players score points based on their completed contracts.

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    Players begin with a hand of 15 cards and 1-3 contracts.  Each round of play consists of five phases.

    1. Recruitment Phase: each player places two cards facedown in front of them. This is their “crew.”
    2. Action Phase: players may select one crew member to to activate by pushing it forward. Optionally, a player may instead take two contracts, discarding any one contract.
    3. Resolution Phase: players resolve their activated characters in turn order. Even if a character is wounded, their ability will resolve before they’re removed from the game.
    4. Scoring Phase: players may complete any contracts by revealing the required crew members (cards in hand do not count towards contracts). Completed contracts and the cards used to complete them are removed from the game.
    5. Passing Phase: all players pass their hand of cards to the left.

    The game ends immediately when at least one player has zero or one cards in their hand at the end of a round. Players add the total of their completed contracts, then subtract half the value of their incomplete contracts. For example, if a player has one incomplete contract worth 400 points, then they would subtract 200 points. The player with the most points wins.

    Daemon Trilogy: Subrosa

    Daemon Trilogy: Subrosa

    Daemon Trilogy: Subrosa is a top-notch production, from the terrific artwork to the linen-finish cards. It’s a good filler game, with tactical decisions made every round. Since you’re passing your hand each round, you can’t just hoard the cards you need for your contracts. You’ll have to be flexible in your strategy and will need to adapt as you activate your cards and react to your opponents’ activations. Do you try to complete a smaller contract as soon as possible or do you go for the big points while possibly passing cards that your opponents need?

    There’s a backstory to the game as given in the rulebook, but it doesn’t affect gameplay at all. I am curious, though, to see what the next games are in the Daemon Trilogy and see if/how it expands on Subrosa.

    Final note: there’s an app for the game that’s supposed to enhance game play, but it was buggy when I gave it a test run and I didn’t bother to include it when actually playing the game. Hopefully, they’ll update it soon for a smoother experience.

    Thanks to IDW Games for providing this copy of Daemon Trilogy: Subrosa.  

    Shelf of Shame: Guildhall

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    This is my continuing series on clearing games off my Shelf of Shame (games I own that I’ve never played). 


    I’d heard that Guildhall had excellent card play in spite of its bland artwork. After I scored a copy of it and its expansion Job Faire, they went unplayed as other games grabbed my attention. Then my buddy Daryl demo-ed the Guildhall: Fantasy re-theme and it inspired me to get my copy off my Shelf of Shame.

    Guildhall is a card game of set collection with a bit of “take that” that’s easy to play once you figure out the iconography, which is the biggest obstacle to learning the game. Some of the icons are not intuitive and I find myself referring to the rulebook more than I like to.

    Each card represents a worker (Historian, Dancer, Assassin, Farmer, etc.) and has a special ability. Players are trying to reach 20 victory points first by playing cards for their special abilities before moving them into their guildhall. Each worker from each profession is moved into a guildhall as players try to collect a set of five different colors. These are converted into victory point cards, which sometimes have additional abilities.

    Like other card games, it’s interesting to see how to use the cards’ abilities in different combinations. Since each player is limited to two actions per turns and a few other restrictions, you’re constantly trying to maximize your turn to get as many workers into your guildhall while preventing your opponent from doing the same.

    There are “take that” cards that allow you to discard single or whole sets of cards from your opponent’s guildhall and this certainly won’t appeal to those who don’t like to see their hard work destroyed thanks to a lucky draw from their opponent.

    AEG did the right thing with The Guildhall: Fantasy re-theme; not only does it look better, but the icons are a bit easier to understand (or maybe I’m used to them after a few more plays?).

    Overall, I liked, but didn’t love Guildhall. I’ll play the Job Faire expansion and see if it’s enough for me to keep the game, but probably not.

    I’ve now played 9 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

    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.

    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.

    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.