The Day in Gaming, September 21, 2019: For Sale

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

According to my BGG logged plays, I’m coming up on my fourth anniversary of first playing For Sale. I had just started going to a weekly game night at my local comic book store and I was eager to play anything and everything.

On an October night of 2015 I played For Sale. The other guys in the group had played it before and recommended it as a filler game before other players arrived. I immediately took to the game’s straightforward structure with its bidding rounds followed by the buying rounds. Although I’m not one for bidding games, For Sale is the one exception to the rule (okay, also Ra, so make it two exceptions to the rule).

It was an insta-buy for me after the first game. After that first play I asked the group to play it again since it was so quick and they agreed, thus confirming that I must get my own copy so I could share it with my family and friends.

I also stumbled upon a BGG solo variant which is aptly named For $olitaire. It’s a simple AI named Jessica that works surprisingly well. Tonight I solo-ed the game and lost, 89-77.

Yes, a rematch has been called. Unless I can find some human players to play For Sale soon.

The Day in Gaming, September 20, 2019: Friday

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

It’s Friday so that means it’s time for a game of Friday. This was the first solo-only game I picked up a few years ago and I still enjoy it, despite the fact that I never play it anymore. Actually, I never play the physical game anymore. I play a lot of the app version.

Friday is a solo deck-builder in which you’re Friday, good ol’ Robinson Crusoe’s sidekick. Crusoe doesn’t know what he’s doing on the island so it’s up to you to teach him how to hunt, gather, and make weapons since he’ll have to eventually fight off some pirates.

Your starting deck represents Crusoe: weak and not very smart. There are hazard cards that you’ll have to defeat and this is where the beauty of the game lies. Every hazard card is multi-use, with two halves; one half is the hazard and the other half represents Crusoe learning and improving his survival skills. If you defeat a hazard, you turn the card around and it goes into your deck as a helpful card. It’s a welcome change from the standard center row/open market of cards to add to your deck.

Like other deck builders, you’ll want to trash the weaker cards to steadily improve and streamline your deck. I love the two pirate cards at the end, which are randomly chosen from about a dozen or so. These effectively serve as boss monsters, ready to test your deck-building skills.

One thing about Friday: it’s not easy. I could never imagine scoring over 100 points when I first got the game, but tonight I scored 131. All of the games I’ve played on the app definitely helped me improve my game, since I now know the cards better and I can strategize more effectively.

For my fellow solo and deck-building fans I’d highly recommend Friday, whether it’s the analog or digital version.

The Day in Gaming, September 19, 2019: Tiny Epic Galaxies

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

Tiny Epic Galaxies was the first Tiny Epic game I played and it’s still my favorite of the series. I used to flip flop between this and Tiny Epic Quest, but Galaxies ultimately won out due to its smoother game play. And I’ll always choose a sci-fi over fantasy theme.

Galaxies was also one of the first games I played when I got into the hobby four years ago. I remember that game like yesterday. I was amazed that this small, er, tiny, game had so much going on. When I first saw it on the table I thought it looked cool, but didn’t expect much.

I had no idea what I was doing during that first game: I kept missing opportunities to follow others’ actions, I didn’t really understand how I could set myself up to get more dice or resources, and I was just generally lost while playing.

But everything about it was fun, even as I struggled to learn how to play well. I loved chucking the dice and figuring out how to use each symbol. I loved that I could use the energy resource to re-roll dice that I didn’t like.

The other day I was talking about dice and luck with a buddy of mine. He’s real big on mitigating dice rolls in games. While there are plenty of ways to mitigate bad rolls in nearly all modern board games, including Tiny Epic Galaxies, I think most gamers complain about bad luck too much.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that there are ways to change dice or other options when things don’t go your way. But I also like the challenge of having to deal with less-than-ideal situations in a game. The recent roll-and-write On Tour is a great example. I like that you can’t re-roll the dice at any point. What you roll is what you get and you have to write down the result somewhere on your map; it’s what drives the game’s action.

Thankfully, Tiny Epic Galaxies has plenty of dice mitigation. You get your first re-roll for free, then you can spend an energy resource to re-roll any of your dice. You can also convert two dice into one side of your choice and certain cards give you free actions if you land on them or colonize them.

It’s one of my favorite solo games, too, since I can knock out a game in under 20 minutes. There are different solo difficulty levels and I still haven’t beaten the Epic level yet. Tonight was my first solo game in a while so I played the medium level and easily won, thanks to some bad rolls on the AI’s part. Too bad it doesn’t have any way to mitigate those pesky dice.

The Day in Gaming, September 18, 2019: Tal der Wikinger

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

Thanks to the good people at HABA, I received a copy of Tal der Wikinger recently. I’d seen T. Caires preview it in a video a few months ago and it looked like something my gaming group would get a kick out of.

The game’s title translates to Valley of the Vikings, but I like to call it what it is: Viking Bowling. This is a hilarious dexterity game where you’re setting up these Donkey-Kong-looking barrels then bowling a Raiders-of-the-Lost-Ark-style boulder, er, ball at them. Knock them over and you get to move the matching color’s Viking closer to the end of the pier.

Once a Viking goes into the water, you gain coins where your Viking is along the pier, either from the general supply or from one or more of your opponents. The wet Viking gets nothing, but goes back to the end of the line to try again. This is a clever catch-up mechanism and ensures that everyone will eventually fall into the water and allow others to score.

I love the HABA games I’ve played; they’re marketed to kids, but we adults enjoy them just as much, if not more, than the younger gaming crowd.

The Day in Gaming, September 17, 2019: Valley of the Kings

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

I don’t have many deck builders in my game library these days. I traded/sold/donated my copies of Dominion, Ascension, and a bunch of expansions. These are fine — and arguably the best — deck-building titles around, but I find myself gravitating toward games that use deck-building as one, and not the only, mechanism, of a game. Given a choice, I’d much rather a deck-builder with a board. I love the route-building in Trains, the area control of Tyrants of the Underdark, the dungeon crawl and push-your-luck in Clank!, and the baseball simulation in Baseball Highlights: 2045.

Of course, there are exceptions.

I keep my copy of Star Realms for nostalgia’s sake. Although I now prefer Shards of Infinity for quick one-on-one deck-building action, my nephew and I used to battle each other in Star Realms when he’d visit years ago. He’s growing up so fast and I treasure those times when we’d play board games for hours before going out to eat or watching a movie. One day I hope we can play a long-awaited rematch and he’ll let his Uncle Ruel win a game.

Valley of the Kings is a small-box deck-builder with a clever deck-building twist. Normally, you want to strip your deck of certain cards, trashing your weaker cards to leave yourself with a streamlined and powerful deck that’ll earn you those bigger victory point cards.

In Valley of the Kings, however, you’re actually trashing cards (“entombing”) to score points. It’s a cool way to score, since it’s more about timing now: you can score a big-point card right away by entombing it, but it’ll be gone from your deck. Or you can keep it for its powerful ability as you watch your opponent entomb card after card for more points.

I dig how the entombing mechanism works here and wish more games used it. I felt like Valley of the Kings was an underrated deck-builder (sorta like Tyrants of the Underdark is, too) and apparently I wasn’t the only one. AEG recently Kickstarted a big-box deluxe edition of the game.

And, yes, I’m kicking myself for not backing it. Thankfully, I can still play the occasional solo game of Valley of the Kings when I’m in the mood like tonight. Besides, I’ve gotta keep up my deck-building skills for the next time I hang out with my nephew.

The Day in Gaming, September 16, 2019: Tiny Towns

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

Earlier this year at Dice Tower West there was a buzz around Tiny Towns, from the con lanyard given to attendees to the non-stop demos running at the AEG booth. Unfortunately, I hadn’t scheduled a meeting with AEG and didn’t want to wait for a demo so I decided to pass up the opportunity to play what would become one of my favorite games of this year.

The next month (April) I was asked to be a guest on Geek & Sundry’s Game the Game to play Tiny Towns. I love being on the show — Becca Scott is an amazing, super-talented host, the crew is awesome, and I always have a fun time.

When I dove into the hobby four years ago, there was no way I would’ve believed you if you said that I’d be playing games on G&S. It was surreal the first time I was on the set, learning a game then playing it with Becca and her guests. Now that I’ve been on a few times, I feel a lot more comfortable and relaxed.

The shoot for Tiny Towns was a blast. Becca, Aliza Pearl, and Gina DeVivo were absolutely hilarious during the game and everything went smoothly. Like other episodes I’ve been on, we had to re-shoot a few things for clarity or for technical reasons, but for the most part what you see is what you get.

After we finished the episode I contacted my buddy Richard, who’s a board game retailer and ordered a copy of Tiny Towns. With over 20 plays this year, it’s been well-received by everyone I’ve played with.

Tonight I played a solo game, which generally lasts about 15-20 minutes. I love Tiny Towns’ puzzle-style play and I can’t wait to see what the expansion does to the game. Check out the Game the Game episode below:

The American Tabletop Awards 2019

Friends, I’m excited to announce the winners of the first-ever American Tabletop Awards!

I was flattered and honored when Eric Yurko asked me to join the American Tabletop Awards committee earlier this year. The committee is made up of content creators I have the utmost respect and admiration for, including Eric, Brittanie Boe, Becca Scott, Theo Strempel, Suzanne Sheldon, Amber Cook, Jonathan Liu, Annette Villa, and Nicole Brady.

The ATTAs are given to games in four categories: Early Gamers, Casual Games, Strategy Games, and Complex Games. The committee voted for one Winner, two Recommended, and two Nominated games in each category.

Be sure to check out the ATTA website here and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Without further ado, here are the 2019 American Tabletop Award winners:

For the list of Recommended and Nominated games in each category, go to the ATTA website. Congratulations to all! What a year of gaming!

Have you played any of these games? What did you think of them? Hit me up on Twitter and let’s talk!

The Day in Gaming, September 15, 2019: Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra

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

Every time I read the title of Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra, I can’t help but think of the Chairman of the Board, Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra. This is the standalone sequel to the monster hit and award winner Azul and it’s more of a gamer’s game.

My friends Sangwon and April taught the game today and I liked it, but it didn’t wow me like the Azul did after the first play. Stained Glass of Sintra is a more gamer-fied version of Azul, with variable player boards, trickier scoring rules, and even harsher penalties. The same main mechanism from Azul is here: different color tiles are on the coasters/factories and you select one color and push the others into the center.

You’re still collecting sets of tiles to complete lines on your board, but it’s not as easy as Azul. Here, you’re trying to complete columns and you’ll score based on the column, any previously completed columns to your right, and any bonuses based on the current round.

I liked that this game only lasts six rounds and the more intricate scoring rules are a nice twist. I still prefer Azul’s more streamlined game play, but Stained Glass of Sintra is one that I’ll happily play again when I’m for more of a challenge. And I’ll always think of that classic crooner.

The Day in Gaming, September 14, 2019: NMBR 9

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

NMBR 9 was an instant favorite last year with my gaming buddies, non-gaming friends, and family. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle with a little math thrown in for scoring.

The numbers 0-9 are represented by funky shapes and there’s a deck of cards with two copies of each number. Each turn a random number is drawn and you have to place it in your playing area. You want to build your puzzle as high as possible since you’ll get more points the higher a number is.

In tonight’s solo game picture above, the number 9 is on the third level, so I scored 27 points since you multiply the level times the number you placed (the first level of numbers is worth nothing, the second level is multiplied by 1, the third level is multiplied by 2, etc.).

The only rules of placement are any piece you place must be adjacent to a piece already placed, and when you build anything on level two and above, your piece must rest on at least two different numbers. This is tricky since the numbers are so oddly shaped that you’ll often have spaces in between some and you can’t have any empty spaces below your pieces. When you go place the current number you’ll find yourself trying desperately to follow the placement rules, then grumbling when you have to place it one level lower than you wanted and then scoring fewer points.

So, it’s basically multi-player solitaire, but that’s fine by me. I love the challenge of trying to score optimally based on what tiles are randomly called out. It’s like bingo, but with far more satisying game play.

The Day in Gaming, September 13, 2019: Azul

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

Almost two years ago I played Azul for the first time. It was insta-love: Azul was an abstract game with simple rules, a quick play time, and more strategy than expected. According to BG Stats, I’d played the game 55 times before today.

In Azul you’re a tile layer decorating the king’s palace walls. The theme isn’t relevant to the game play, though. Just know that those solid plastic pieces that look like Starburst aren’t meant to be eaten and you’ll be okay.

On your turn, select a single color of tiles from one of the coasters (aka “factories”) and add them to your board. You and your opponents repeat this until there are no more tiles, then you’ll move to the scoring round. If you’ve completed a row, then slide one Starburst, er, piece, to the right on its designated spot on your wall. Discard the other tiles.

You’ll score one point per tile you’ve added to your wall, gaining more points if they’re adjacent to previously placed tiles. Continue playing rounds until someone finishes a horizontal row. At the end of the game you’ll gain bonuses for collecting a complete set of one color and any rows or columns you’ve completed.

The best part of Azul is its simple turn structure and depth of strategy. At first you’re simply gathering tiles, hoping to line them up and/or collect enough for bonuses. But then you realize you can hate draft against your opponents, taking tiles that help you, but also hinder their own walls. You’ll also start figuring out ways to connect rows and columns that’ll earn you more points.

Until today I hadn’t played a solo game, but thanks to this solo variant I found via BGG, I was able to knock out a game by myself in 15 minutes. The dummy player uses a simple set of rules that neatly mimics a human opponent. And since the game lasts only five rounds, you’re hard-pressed to maximize your scoring opportunities during each turn.

Do you play solo variants of board games? Let’s talk about them on my Twitter feed!