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

FUSE

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.

 

GenCant 2016 Day 4: Pandemic: The Cure

Pandemic: The Cure

Pandemic: The Cure

Yesterday was a busy day for me, so I only played one game on GenCant Day 4. And, unfortunately, I only played three of the four games I wanted to solo for #GenCantSoloCon. Still, if I’m able to play a single game on a given day, then it’s been a good day.

Pandemic: The Cure

I love Pandemic and love teaching it to new players. Unfortunately, like other cooperative games, there’s often the problem of the Alpha Gamer, where one person dominates the game, telling others what the best strategy is and generally sucking the fun out of the group experience.

This is why I now prefer Pandemic: The Cure, especially for new gamers. It sets up and plays faster than the original and it’s easier to understand for first timers. While an Alpha Gamer can still tell others what to do, each player has their own dice and can roll or re-roll to their heart’s content. Yes, there may be a preferred play with the dice you’ve rolled, but you almost always have a chance to roll for something better. It gives back more of the decision-making to each player, while the original Pandemic often has one best play that the Alpha Gamer generally sees before everybody else and tells them about it, basically forcing them to do it.

Like Pandemic, players in Pandemic: The Cure try to cure diseases before they spread throughout the world. The diseases are represented by six-sided dice in four colors and they are located in one of six different locations. If there are ever four dice of the same color in one area, then an outbreak occurs.

Each player rolls their own player dice and performs actions based on their rolls (like Pandemic, each player has unique abilities). You can re-roll any of them, but the catch is if you roll a biohazard die, it counts against you (there are some exceptions to this that I won’t get into here). Actions include moving from one area to another, treating diseases, sharing samples with other players, and curing diseases.

Cure all four diseases before you run out of disease dice or suffer too many outbreaks or epidemics and you win.

Just like the original game, it’s a lot easier said than done.

What I Played During GenCant 2016:

  1. Ca$h ‘n Guns
  2. Rome: Rise to Power
  3. Pandemic
  4. Valley of the Kings (solo)
  5. Dead Men Tell No Tales (solo)
  6. Ca$h ‘n Guns
  7. Bohnanza
  8. Between Two Cities
  9. KLASK
  10. Splendor
  11. Pandemic: The Cure (solo)

Not a bad four days of gaming! For me, though, one of the highlights of this year’s GenCant (besides finally beating Dead Men Tell No Tales) was volunteering to manage the official GenCant Facebook page. It was a treat seeing how people responded to the idea of a digital get-together. I’m proud to be part of this terrific community of board gamers and if you weren’t able to attend, I highly recommend joining us for next year’s GenCant.

GenCant 2016 Day 1: Egypt and Rome

Valley of the Kings

Valley of the Kings

Day 1 of Gen Con was today and it looked awesome (although I have no desire to be in this). I loved seeing all of my online gaming buddies posting photos and reporting the latest and greatest from the con.

Valley of the Kings

It was also Day of GenCan’t 2016 and I participated in the #GenCantSoloCon by playing a solitaire game of Valley of the Kings. I’ve  played this deckbuilder several times solo and I enjoy it as a get-your-highest-score game. Set in ancient Egypt, it’s a deck builder with set collection, in which you only score points by putting cards in your tomb (trashing cards) and you earn more points for collecting similar items. This sets up interesting choices throughout the game: do you play your card for its money value, its action, or trash it to start accumulating points?

Valley of the Kings is one of two deck builders I recommend to Dominion fans (the other being Trains).

Rome: Rise to Power

Rome: Rise to Power

Rome: Rise to Power

After my solo game, I went to my Thursday night gaming group and I was able to get Rome: Rise to Power to the table. I’ve had the game for a few months and have been itching to play. Unfortunately, it’d been awhile since I’d gone through the rulebook (which isn’t exactly the easiest to follow), so there were a few pauses during the game to clarify some points. I’m usually pretty good at explaining games (I’m the designated rules guy during family game night), but I wasn’t at my best tonight. Thankfully, my gaming buddies are smart enough to figure out things on their own and we were able to play the game within the suggested time (45 minutes).

Rome: Rise to Power is a game that combines dice allocation, card drafting, set collection, area control game with variable player powers. Players are in ancient Rome trying to use its military to win regions throughout the Roman Empire, win influence with senators, and put on the best arena battles.

The dice allocation system is unique and it’s what appealed to me most when I’d heard about it. Yes, there’s luck involved with dice (duh), but there are several ways to mitigate the luck factor, mainly through the special powers each player earns through their combinations of senators and regions won. The third way to earn points, through the arena battles, is sort of wacky, but somehow it works: you buy cards to build a poker-like hand and play them after rounds three and five (the final round). So, three barbarians and two beasts are the “Battle Royale,” which is a full house in poker, and there other hands that score.

The overall consensus was okay. I liked it and agreed with two of my buddies; we’d like to play it again now that we have a better understanding of the game. The fourth guy didn’t care for it, but I’m thankful that they were all up for playing. I’ve got more than a few games in my collection that I haven’t played so it was good to scratch this one off the list.

Day 315: Roll for the Galaxy

Roll for the Galaxy.

Roll for the Galaxy.

My reaction upon seeing the components to Roll for the Galaxy: so many dice!

I’d heard a lot of good things about this game and it lived up to the hype. You get to roll lots of dice while trying to build the best galactic empire. You roll, you assign dice, and you add up your victory points. And so much more.

For my first time playing it tonight I was a bit lost, but my fellow gamers were patient and answered all of my frequent questions. By the time I got the hang of it, though, the game was over.

The experienced players told me that the original Race for the Galaxy had more (and different) icons, was more difficult to learn, and was not as fun to play. Looks like I’ll skip that one and give Roll another shot sometime.

Day 308: Steampunk Rally

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Steampunk Rally.

While I love science fiction I’m not the biggest steampunk fan. After playing Steampunk Rally tonight, though, I might have to take a closer look at the genre; for gaming purposes steampunk was awesome.

Steampunk Rally looks like a simple race around a track, but it’s much more than that. Each player builds a contraption to get around the track. The card drafting and dice rolling mechanics give everyone lots to do on each turn, with plenty of options to re-roll dice or play special event cards.

With all of the dice and cogs and cards it seemed a bit overwhelming, but after a few turns it was easy to get into the swing of things. I missed a few opportunities to build a better contraption and I had bad luck with my movement, but I did get to play a “ray gun” card that put a ton of damage on my opponents. Even though it had no effect on the winner (who seemed to be way ahead throughout the game), it was hilarious to play the card.

If you can’t beat ’em, might as well ray gun ’em.