2015 International TableTop Day Recap

Another TableTop Day has come and gone and I’m reminded of why I look forward to it every year! My day started…well, at night! I went to my friendly local game store, Brap’s Magic, and got my gaming on early. It started out at midnight with a four person game of Shadows over Camelot. I, as Sir Tristan, did all I could to prevent the spread of evil throughout the land…but alas, the goodly knights were sabotaged by a traitor in our midst. I do love this game, even though others have come out which have improved on the general concept.

When we were almost finished, a few more friends showed up and we spent the rest of the night playing The Resistance. I have to admit that it was the most fun I’ve ever had with that game. My group hasn’t quite gotten into the “talk” aspect as much, and that really makes or breaks the game. Several games of this, including a few where I was an excellent (if I do say so myself!) spy, and we called it a night. Er…morning. It was almost five at that point.

Around noon people showed up at our place and we started cranking things up! At the busiest time we had 12 people playing three different games, and everyone had a wonderful time! I’ll share a few pictures from the day, but what about you? How was your TableTop Day? Let’s hear about it in the comments below!

 

King of Tokyo is always a good opener.
King of Tokyo is always a good opener.
Two-player games, like Patchwork, came out for in-between times.
Two-player games, like Patchwork, came out for in-between times.
The ladies enjoyed the theme of Rampage quite a bit!
The ladies enjoyed the theme of Rampage quite a bit!
Harbour made an appearance.
Harbour made an appearance.
Here's me teaching a game of Viticulture.
Here’s me teaching a game of Viticulture.

 

Game Day – The New and The New Old

[dropcap background=”yes” bgcolor=”#176D13″]W[/dropcap]inters in Vermont (especially this one) can be bitter cold with miserable weather. This makes you want to do nothing but curl up inside and play some games…which is what we’ve been doing! Let’s catch up on some of the titles to hit my table recently. Some were new, some were old favorites, and some were old games that were new to me.

 

The New

[divider type=”thick”]

Patchwork

PatchworkAh, Uwe Rosenberg. He’s on this little list more than once. Patchwork is a wonderful little two-player game where players use various cuts of fabric to make a quilt. The catch is that all the fabric tiles are different shapes and sizes, each costing you a certain amount of time to place on your quilt. This is quite thematic, as it is much easier to sew a square into an actual quilt than a Tetris shaped piece. Buttons are the currency here, and some of the quilt patches have buttons on them to help you build an economy to keep things moving along.

This game really threads the needle when it come to two-player games. The gameplay is simple, but the fabrics you choose can pin you down later on if you aren’t careful – you lose points for empty squares at the end. Any gamer will appreciate this game, and if you know a gamer that quilts, even better.

 

Steam Park

Steam ParkMy brother and his wife recommended this one to us, and I can see why. Steam Park is a light, fun romp where players build an amusement park…….for robots. Marie Cardouat, best known for her work on Dixit, was the illustrator for this game. The surreal style of art makes the game even more thematic – of COURSE a robot would ride a metal octopus ride!

The gameplay features real time dice rolling, a race of sorts, which is actually reminiscent of the building round in Galaxy Trucker. It adds a fun little press your luck element to the game as you try to keep rolling to get the results you want while hoping your opponents don’t finish first. It’s a light, fun game that acts as a wonderful opener to a gaming evening.

 

The New Old

[divider type=”thick”]

Airlines Europe

Airlines EuropeWhen looking at Alan Moon’s catalog of work, it’s hard to see past the behemoth that is Ticket to Ride. That game is so successful and has produced so many expansions that Moon can be mistaken for a one-hit wonder. Airlines Europe is an excellent reminder that this designer has more than one trick up his sleeve.

In what is essentially a stock game, players will purchase routes for one of several airlines, place a marker on this route, and adjust the price of that company’s stock. The game is so easy to grasp, at least from a rules standpoint. But at about turn three, when you see what is really going on, you suddenly stare at the board in wonder. Manipulating the market, knowing when it’s time to cut and run, jumping on underdeveloped airlines…it’s a lot to pack into a deceptively simple ruleset. But Moon pulls it off and this is a great game to help bridge the gap between a gateway game and the heavier games one will encounter.

 

Ora & Labora

Ora & LaboraUwe, Uwe, Uwe. You magnificent bastard. I’ve always enjoyed Rosenberg’s games, from Agricola right down to Bohnanza. But this one eluded me for years. It was only in print for a short time, and my gaming was at a different phase back then. Finally I was able to trade for this rare gem, and I’m glad that I did.

In Ora & Labora each player is attempting to grow their plot of land into a thriving society based on work and prayer. I’d get into the gameplay, but there’s no concise way to do it and this would wind up turning into a full blown review. Suffice it to say that we fell in love with this game about halfway through our first play. It combines elements of city building, tile placement, set collecting, and worker placement (among other mechanics) to make a wonderful stew which each player will partake of using their ONE action per round. It’s really a masterpiece.

 

So there you have it…some of the notables from the past couple weeks of gaming. If you have the chance, I highly recommend checking any one of these out!

Game Day – Secret Santa and a Trip to Tokyo

Well, not REALLY a trip to Tokyo. But first? Let’s chat about Santa!

Every year BoardGameGeek has a massive Secret Santa program in which thousands of gamers from around the world send games to each other and help spread a little bit of the joy of the season. I was lucky enough to get an “active” Santa this year and received taunting emails about how much coal I was going to get and so on.

Thankfully Santa was able to shift me to the nice list…and I must have been VERY nice. My gift this year was The Castles of Mad King Ludwig and Terra Mystic: Fire and Ice. Talk about two of the most desired games of the season! I’ll have to get those to the table as soon as I can!

Sean is in town and swung by for dinner and a little gaming. First, according to the Bag of Destiny (no? maybe? I’m still not sure what to call it) we played Guilds of Cadwallon. And it was…well…just fine. Nothing exciting, just…fine. What I DID like was the conversation we had after trying to discuss the merits of the game. Laura and I both said “meh” and decided it probably didn’t have a place on our shelves. Sean thought maybe we were being a little harsh. He called it light, easy to learn, and kinda fun.

So, with that one out of the way we went back to the Satchel of Games to Come (nope, not that one) and drew out shelf ten. Which meant the next game was going to be King of Tokyo, as Sean has been dying to play this one.

After two games of this one (both of which Sean won…3-for-3 tonight…it’s like hell froze over) I sat back, looked at Sean, and said “ok, so NOW what do you think of Guilds of Cadwallon?”  This time he agreed with us. King of Tokyo is everything that he thought the first game was…except this was quite fun.

I leave you with this: take a look at the games you play. I mean a good hard look. Is it worth your time? Are the decisions meaningful? Do you enjoy interacting with the other players while you play? Can you see yourself playing again right afterwards? If you said yes to most of these, that game has a place in your collection.

But if you said no, it’s time to let go. There are other games to be played, after all.

Game Day – Shelf Shuffling and Tile Pulling

In our game room there are two Expedit shelves from IKEA, one a 5×5 and the other a 2×4. While these look amazing, it can create some interesting challenges when the collection tries to grow…like after BGG.CON. So we sat down, pulled out some games to sell/trade, and reorganized the shelving. As we were reorganizing, we also took the time to flag the games that we haven’t played yet – a number that doesn’t seem to shrink.

While we both love playing games, the “what do we play tonight” game can sometimes get a little tedious. And pulling Terra Mystica off the shelf to be learned at 8:30 on a work night just isn’t wise. So we needed a system to figure out what to play, a way to do it well ahead of time, and time to get those games to the table!

Laura looked at shelves and had a great idea: since the Expedit is basically a bunch of cubes, we should figure out a way to assign a number to each and randomly select them based on that. Two shelves, the tops of them as well…add in a couple of stray shelves, and we figured out that we have 38 locations that have games in them.

Tile bagStep one? Assign numbers to those locations. Easy enough. There’s a “main” shelf, so that was our starting point. Step two? Figure out how to determine the number. Dice won’t work the way we wanted – we’ll wind up with a lot from the center as time goes by. Our next thought was just slips of paper pulled out of a hat. This would be fine, but not really elegant. And the paper will get worn out eventually.

Then we had it – there was a big box of spare parts in the corner, some of which were extra wood tiles from a block wargame. A LOT of them. So we took a marker, wrote the numbers 1 – 38 on them, and popped them in a small drawstring bag. Viola! Problem solved. Now we’ll draw a tile, find that cube, and figure out which games need to be played in it. If there’s nothing there that we need to play, we move to a different one. We will do our best to pull these tiles in the morning so that if a heavier game is pulled we can have the day to read rules or watch videos on the game.

In the first test of the tile bag (we need a clever name for that) we pulled shelf 27, which is where most of our Uwe Rosenberg games live. I had set up Merkator two nights before and ran through the rules, so I was confident that we could squeeze the game in fairly quickly. This game is often overlooked in the body of Uwe’s work, and I think that’s a shame. The mechanics certainly feel different from most of his games, so I can see why some would be turned off. But Laura and I loved it and found that even with two we had some very interesting decisions to make. She absolutely demolished me in this one, and I can’t wait to get a rematch in!

Game Day – Christmas Sales Strike Back!

As a board gamer, I’ve come to love Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. As an Amazon Prime member, it’s also come to be a very dangerous time of year. When ordering from an online game store, you tend to be a lot more selective about sales. Most of them have a free shipping threshold of $100 or more – which is great when you’re placing a big order. For impulse buys? Well, $15 in shipping tends to sober you up as to the value of the deal quite quickly.

But Amazon just throws the deals at you, and with Prime you’ve got in in two days. For FREE. That, my friends, is how money seeps out of your wallet like a sieve. If Nations goes on sale one more time this holiday season I’m not sure I can resist.

Tsuro of the Seas
“You go first.” “No, YOU go first!”

Well, on Monday Amazon had a couple of deals that Laura and I decided to snatch up. The first was Steam Park, a game that my brother and sister-in-law both highly recommend. The second was a sequel to a game that we already own: Tsuro of the Seas.

Tsuro has long been one of our favorite games to play with a large group. It’s a simple little tile placement game that is easy for gamers and non-gamers alike to grasp and enjoy. Add in the invariable table talk and laughter that go along with being forced to play the one piece that will kill half the players and you’ve got a fun little game.

So when I chatted with the guys at Calliope Games about this new version at BGG.CON, I was intrigued. Where Tsuro is a game that will reward skillful play and caution, Tsuro of the Seas will reward your caution with a sea monster munching on your boat. I think the most interesting thing about this game is that it take a known product, modifies in such a way that it barely resembles its original form, and still keeps you interested.

I’ll touch more on all of this in a review, but Laura and I enjoyed this new take on an old favorite. Well played, Amazon. Well played.

Game Day – Revisiting Notre Dame

When we returned from BGG.CON, Laura and I decided to take a hard look at our collection (I guess as we’re getting married next year it is truly OURS now) and trim some of the fat, if you will. Now with a collection my our size, you can imagine that there are a number that haven’t been played. To help determine what should stay and what should we go we’ve flagged the games that haven’t been played since we’ve been together and started working on those.

Tonight we decided to play a game that had been marked. Normally this will help determine if we want to keep a game or not, but this one was in no danger of leaving (hey, baby steps, right?) – Notre Dame by Stefan Feld.

A yellow message waiting to be claimed
A yellow message waiting to be claimed

It’s been quite a while since I’ve played this one…and it still holds up quite well. Some games that are seven years old have started to show some clunkiness and age, where this one shows that it was on the cutting edge of game mechanics that are now widely used.

Laura enjoyed the game and we can see this being a good opening game on a game night. Not too heavy, but not exactly fluff. We played in about an hour, and it would probably be almost half that if we played it again immediately.

I think I’ll have to review this one soon…