November Daily Game Challenge: SteamRollers

This is Day 30 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.

SteamRollers

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It’s no secret that I love roll-and-write games. Rolling dice and marking a sheet of paper reminds me of childhood games of Yahtzee and it’s great having so many designers embrace the mechanism lately. SteamRollers was actually released in 2015, but was picked up by Stronghold Games and reprinted in May of this year. It’s been on my wish list since I played my buddy Tony’s copy at our local GenCant event, and I was fortunate to pick it up via trade at Strategicon in September.

You and your opponents build a railway network on your scoresheet and attempt to deliver goods to the various cities on the main board. On your turn, roll dice and select an action: build a track, upgrade your engine, deliver a good, or take a special action card. You score points based on the goods you’ve delivered, your railways, and bonuses.

I was an insta-fan of SteamRollers; I loved the mashup of pick-up-and-deliver and roll-and-write. It’s light and quick, and there are ways to mitigate bad rolls via the special action cards. Games last anywhere between 20 and 45 minutes, depending on player count, and the solo game is a good challenge. Fans of more in-depth train games will appreciate how quickly the game plays; if you don’t have a whole day to spend building up railroads and upgrading engines, SteamRollers may be the next best thing.

November Daily Game Challenge: Alien Frontiers

This is Day 27 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.

Alien Frontiers

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Dice chucking and worker placement are two of my favorite board game mechanisms. Put them together like in Alien Frontiers and I’m an insta-fan.

In Alien Frontiers you’re trying to colonize the alien planet by sending your ships to perform actions and produce resources, while also planning how you’re going to spend your resources. It’s basically a race to place your eight colony tokens on the planet, with points awarded for the player controlling each territory, along with bonus points for having certain cards.

I love the retro-style sci-fi art of Alien Frontiers as well. It’s a good match for the game, which is now in its fifth edition since its release in 2010.

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.

Every Night Is Game Night: Sagrada

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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 busy weekend that included a graduation party, Star Wars Reads Day, and quality time with our daughter before she begins her final three weeks of college (!), which meant that my time at Gamex was limited.

Thankfully, for the few hours I was there I was able to buy, sell, and play a few games. It was great seeing two of my regular gaming buddies, Oscar and PK, as well as my friend Meeple Lady. We’d originally planned on playing Agricola (still on my Shelf of Shame), but I was feeling the effects of a long day and asked to play Sagrada instead.

There’s been a lot of hype about Sagrada and after my first play I’d say it’s well-deserved. A simple yet thinky puzzle game of dice allocation, there’s a lot to like here, from the nice-looking components to the elegant play. It’s a game that will satisfy both gamers and non-gamers.

Players are trying to build their stained glass windows through the use of colored dice. Dice are randomly pulled out of a bag and rolled, then each player takes one for their window.

(Before I continue, a word to my fellow colorblind gamers: although I did okay with Sagrada, you should try it out before buying; colors are used throughout the game and there are no unique icons for each color to make things easier. I had trouble differentiating between blue and purple. From what I read, Floodgate Games did try to do something about this, but the budget couldn’t accommodate those with colorblindness. It’s a real shame that the game’s accessibility couldn’t be improved. Perhaps in a later printing? One can only hope.)

Back to the game: there are rules of adjacency for each die, so players can’t just put them wherever they want. Additionally, there are secret goals for each player; for example, mine was the total number of pips on the yellow dice on my window so I was trying to snag those yellow dice every chance I could. There are also public goals that I basically forgot about for the first half of the game. These included pairs of certain dice and same-colored dice diagonally.

Finally, there are special game-breaker community cards that a player can pay for to help them complete their window. After all of the dice are placed, the next round begins. A game consists of 10 rounds and at the end each player counts up their points and subtracts one point for every empty spot.

I really enjoyed this game, in spite of the colorblind issues. I love chucking dice and trying to figure out puzzles, so this was a natural fit. It reminded me of The Cubist, a similar dice-chucking puzzle game, which I liked, but Sagrada felt like it had a bit more meat on its bones.

Every Night Is Game Night: Tiny Epic Galaxies

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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: Rolling America

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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 my weekly game night and four of us had just started a game when I had to leave due to a family emergency. Thankfully, everything worked out and a few hours later I was back at home so I decided to play a solo game of Rolling America. I wrote about this roll-and-write game for Geek & Sundry recently:

Everybody receives a multi-colored map of the United States, then seven different colored dice are placed in a bag then drawn and rolled one at a time. For each die rolled, all players must write that number in the corresponding colored region of their map. After six of the seven dice are used, the dice are put back in the bag and the next player starts a new round. 

Placing the numbers is where the tension lies in Rolling America since numbers cannot be more than 1 above or below an adjacent number. So, if a player rolls a yellow 3, they must write it in a yellow state and it must be next to a 2, 3, or 4. If there are no available spots, then the player marks an X in that state. After 8 rounds, players tally their Xs and the lowest amount of Xs wins the game.

Each player also receives three special powers that allow them to protect a number (thus allowing it to be adjacent to a non-conforming number), duplicate a number, and use a number in a different region.

I’m not much of a sodoku fan, but I like figuring out the right spot to place the numbers in Rolling America. It’s fun with multiple players and makes for a nice, mellow solitaire affair: it was the perfect respite from the earlier events of the day.

King of Tokyo

King of Tokyo

King of Tokyo

Last year our local library sponsored a game night that my wife and I really enjoyed. One of the games we played was King of Tokyo, which was a first for us.

We took to it right away. The theme was a throwback to my childhood, when KTLA (or was it KCOP?) would show Japanese monster movies every Saturday (I’m not sure when Kung Fu theater became a thing, but let’s say that monster and martial arts movies were a huge part of my childhood).

For our first game I picked Gigazaur, the generic, non-copyright-infringing version of my favorite movie monster, Godzilla. In the base game of KoT, all of the monsters are the same, with no special abilities except the ones you buy during your turn, so you’re just looking to grab the coolest monster for the match.

Play is basically Yahtzee with fighting, which explains its great appeal. The roll-up-to-three-times mechanism is familiar, even if all of the symbols on the dice are not. If you roll a set of three numbers, you can score those points (three 2s, for example, scores 2 points). Roll the claw and deal damage to your opponent(s). Roll a heart and restore one of your hit points. Roll a lightning bolt and take an energy cube, which is required to buy the special abilities cards.

If you’re in Tokyo, then any damage you deal goes to all of your opponents and you’re not allowed to heal; that’s the price you pay to be king. Players outside of Tokyo only deal damage to the monster in Tokyo and they can heal themselves. However, after being attacked, the Tokyo occupant can yield their spot to their attacking opponent.

Special abilities like bonus energy cubes, extra damage, extra healing, and more keep the game from being a monotonous dice roll fest. It’s fun teaching this game because almost everybody has played Yahtzee so it’s not difficult to learn. I’ve taught this to young and old alike and after a turn or two they know exactly how to play.

This isn’t the most complex game, obviously, but is it fun? Of course it is! Roll those big chunky dice, smash your opponents, and earn those victory points. Last monster standing (or the first to 20 points) wins. King of Tokyo flies when it’s only two players and even though the interaction is better with more players, it slows the game down so we usually play to 15 points or the last monster standing.

Marvel Dice Masters: Age of Ultron

Dice Masters: Age of Ultron

Dice Masters: Age of Ultron

I’ve never played Marvel Dice Masters, but I’m the proud owner of the copy pictured above. How? Read on …

This summer my wife and I hosted our second annual Gaviola Game Night for our daughter and her friends. We have plenty of game nights throughout the year, but this one is special because it’s for our daughter’s close friends. They had such a good time last that one of the first things our daughter requested after studying abroad was another game night for her crew.

Of course, we couldn’t resist.

I planned on barbecuing and trying out some new recipes, but the thought of sweating outdoors next to a hot grill didn’t appeal to me, so I bought pre-marinated chicken and beef fajitas from our local Mexican market. All I had to do was cook the meat on the stovetop, serve it with fresh tortillas, salsa, and guacamole and everyone would be well-fed for a night of gaming.

Our daughter and her friends played games and chatted throughout the Saturday night. They’ve all been friends since high school and it’s great to see them continue their friendships as they go to college. Most have stayed in state, but some are studying in other parts of the country. Most have travelled or studied abroad and they’re all intelligent young people.

As my wife and I say, smart people who like to play board games are always welcome in our home.

Games played that night included Word on the Street, King of Tokyo, Codenames, Escape: The Curse of the Temple, Dr. Eureka, For Sale, Timeline, Zombie Dice, and Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.

My wife and I were content to sit back and let them enjoy the night, but did manage to play a few games with them (our favorite as a group was Escape: The Curse of the Temple). There was plenty of laughter and they stuffed themselves silly all through the evening.

A few weeks later and our mailbox had a thank-you note from one of our guests, along with a copy of Dice Masters: Age of Ultron. What a sweet and thoughtful gesture!

Dice Masters is one of those games that’s been on my must-play list for some time. I love rolling dice, I love the Marvel Universe, and I love games by Eric Lang; why have I not played this yet?!

Thanks to the kindness of our daughter’s friend, I’ll be able to finally play it. We’ll see if this is the only Dice Masters title in our game library by the time we all get together again. I doubt it.

GenCant 2016 Haul: FUSE

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FUSE

A lot of people post photos of the games they’ve bought during Gen Con. Thankfully, for those of us doing GenCant, we could also participate as good consumers, thanks to the annual Gen Con amazon.com sale. (Note: I’m sure that Cool Stuff Inc. and Miniatures Market also had sales, but since I’m an Amazon Prime member, that’s where I do most of my game shopping.)

FUSE

There were plenty of good games on sale at Amazon on Saturday, but there wasn’t plenty of money in my wallet. I’m a sucker for a good deal, though, so I went with a game I’ve had my eye on, FUSE. (By the way, here’s the link to the games that were on sale.)

FUSE is a real-time dice game by designer Kane Klenko, who created one of my favorite cooperative games, Dead Men Tell No Tales. In FUSE, players are trying to defuse bombs on their spaceship. One player reaches into a bag of different-colored six-sided dice, pulls out dice equal to the number of players and each player tries to use a die on one of their two bomb cards. The cards have icons that indicate what dice are needed to defuse the bomb; for example, there might be several icons for a certain number or color to be placed on the card, or there could be conditions such as the dice must equal a certain sum or be larger than the preceding dice on the card, etc. Any unused dice that turn are re-rolled and players must take a die matching the number or color of the re-rolled die off their bomb cards and place it into the bag.

Once the correct dice are placed on a card, the bomb is defused and the card is placed away from the player, who draws another bomb card. Players have 10 minutes to defuse all of the bombs in the deck (16-29 cards, depending on number of players and difficulty level).

So it’s rolling dice and set collection, right? Well, this is what turned me into a fan of FUSE: it also contains a dexterity element. Some of the bombs must be defused by placing dice in a tower or a pyramid. If a die happens to fall off your soon-to-be-completed tower or pyramid, then you take all of your dice on that card and put them back in the bad. Bummer! As the rule book states, bomb defusing is a delicate business.

I solo played it twice tonight to learn how to play. It’s tough! I was in training/easy mode and only cleared 13 the 16 bomb cards necessary to win, but this is one of the games that I know will be a hit during family game night. We love Escape: The Curse of the Temple and this has a similar feel with its fast dice-rolling and cool soundtrack, which in this case is a hilarious robot voice that counts down the time remaining until your spaceship is blown to smithereens.