Monday, December 26, 2011

Top 11 from '11

2011 has seen 72 new-to-me games cross my table. Everything from the 4000 year old game Go, including grandaddy of miniatures Warhammer: 40,000, and finishing out with the newest of new games Dungeon Petz. Here is how I break down these games as my top 11 in 2011:

11. Twilight Struggle -  Currently the #1 game on, this game is a very good game. I only got to play it one time, so I don't know how good, but from that single play it deserves a top 11. This isn't a sunny afternoon, let's play a quick game with the kids game. This is a two player, drag out fight, that takes plenty of time and brain power. Time will tell if it makes it to my top 25 like two other Matthews' titles (1960: the Making of the President and Founding Fathers).

10. Tikal II - I really like the original Tikal and so thought I'd like this one too, which I did. In this game you are archaeologists exploring one of the temples of Tikal. You have to set yourself up to have paths around the temple so you can get to the places you want to go. The best part of the game though is the action track around the edge of the map. If you want to take a specific action, you can jump way ahead, but you can never go back which makes for some great tension.

9. Quo Vadis? - I like negotiation games, even though more often than not I lose, because I'm always the first to talk up. I only got to play this once, but the one play was great fun. Basically, the game is the opposite of Lifeboats if you've ever played that. You are voting people into the Senate and thus giving them victory points. Once the Senate is full, the player with the most victory points is the winner. I liked that this one doesn't make everyone hate each other the way that Lifeboats does, but it still gives that feeling of pure negotiation and broken promises!

8. Dominant Species - Other than Eclipse later on the list, this is probably the deepest game here. It is a game about the evolution of species and is very good. You do have to go into it, knowing that the cards are very powerful, and will cause huge amounts of player made chaos. I've played it 3 times over the course of the year and would happily play it again. Also, for some strange reason, I really like the minimalist production design of the game.

7. Nexus Ops - I've always heard about how great this game is and now that I've played it a couple times, I agree. This is the game I'd use as a gateway game for those Risk players in your life. It's got plenty of dice rolling, a modular board, great figures (especially in the old Avalon Hill edition). The best part though, it plays in about 45-90 minutes. So it plays quickly. Fantasy Flight Games is coming out with a new edition soon, so be on the look out.

6. Ninjato - How can a game about Ninjas not be in the Top 11 from '11? This is basically a quick worker placement game where players only get 21 actions throughout the 7 rounds of the game. With these actions you are stealing treasures from various houses, then using these treasures to learn about rumors or buy the loyalty of family members. The reason I enjoy the game is the 'tweener mechanic, that is sometimes used in gambling, that is used for fighting with the ninjas. Also, I might be a bit bias, because I own the first copy that was ever in existence.

5. Haggis - I really enjoy Tichu, a ladder style card game, where the goal is to be the first to go out. Haggis does what Tichu does, but it does it for 2 or 3 players, which is a real treat since Tichu is exclusively a 4-player game in my opinion. I'm very disappointed that this one is out of print, because I'd like to pick it up if it ever does come back into print. If you are a traditional card game player, I suggest you buy this one if you happen to see it available.

4. Eclipse - This is really high on the list for only being played once. I don't own the game and probably won't, due to the price and having Civilization, which scratches a similar itch. However, I really liked this game. It gives the feel of an epic space game, but in 2 or 3 hours. A few years ago I played Twilight Imperium 3 and Eclipse gives me everything that game gave, but Eclipse does it in 3 hours instead of 8 hours.

3. Jaipur - This is another gem of a game. We picked it up at GenCon this year and have been playing it ever since. Two players, cat and mouse type play, that makes you want to play another round. Also, I love winning and claiming "my bearded friend!" I think we've sold 2 or 3 copies to people of this one after playing it or telling them about the game.

2. The Castles of Burgundy - This is the #14 game in the Alea Big Box series and while theme is lacking, innovative dice mechanics and cool combos make it a great game. I'm liking it best with 2 or 3 players, as 4 players makes it take quite awhile, but it is still good. Krista and I have played two different Best of 5 series of this game, so you know it's got to be good.

1. Warhammer: Invasion - This game is just great. I haven't been into a collectible card game like this since 2005 when I was still playing the LotR: TCG. The living card game, as this version of games is called, basically allows you to know exactly what cards you are getting when you buy a new battle pack and also gives you the full amount of a single copy of  a card that you can have in your deck. The game play is great, especially how cards can be placed in three different zones or played face down as developments. This makes for some really tough decisions. I've played it over 90 times since March, two tournaments, and I'm looking forward to more!

Finally, I wanted to mention the Dust Award. I give this out to the WORST game of each year, in honor of the game Dust that I played a few years ago and was just horrible. Out of the 72 New-to-Me games this year, this not-so-much honor goes to Fossil. I played it once and really didn't like it at all. The thing was, I wasn't the only one, everyone else at the table also didn't like it. This one will be going on my trade list, perhaps it is an acquired taste, since Game Magazine did name it Game of the Year in 1999.

This was a tough list to make, specifically because other than Warhammer: Invasion, all the other games I rate an 8/10, so deciding which should be 4th instead of 6th was tough. There are several other games from 2011 that I rate 8/10 that didn't end up making the list, but probably easily could when I get a chance to play them more.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Hobbit Trailer - My Reaction

If you didn't already know, I love all things Middle-earth! I've read The Lord of the Rings (all three books) about 10 times. I've read The Hobbit probably 5 or 6 times. I went to watch the Fellowship of the Ring in theatres 8 times. I have several video and board games based in Middle-earth. I'm currently painting LotR miniatures. I have a complete basement decorated in Lord of the Rings memorabilia, including swords and axes. I say all this so you know where I'm coming from when I discuss the first Hobbit trailer:

I'll start with a couple things that I'm a bit unsure about.

 First, which I might have mentioned in a blog a long time ago, what is up with Thorin's wimpy beard? I mean, this is the King of the Dwarves! Give him a beard worth a dwarf. Weta did a great job on Gimli, I was hoping for similar greatness in looks from Thorin. No Salsa Dancing Dwarf beard. Okay, I'm done ranting on that, I'll still like him I'm sure. 

Second, what was Galadriel doing with Gandalf's hair exactly? There doesn't need to be romance in these movies, but if Jackson wants to take some real "creative liberties" than he should do so with maybe Bard. Gandalf is a Maia (basically an angel) and wouldn't be worried about romantic love affairs. 

Okay, now on to the awesome parts of the trailer. 

First, other than a few of the dwarves beards, I love them! Their armor is awesome and I'm excited to see some dwarves get some love this time around, rather than all the elf love that was going on in Lord of the Rings. Dwarves have always been my favorite fantasy creatures, mostly because they build awesome underground kingdoms and the beards.

Second, the song is great! Tolkien uses songs in his writings quite often, which I know is difficult to translate into a more adult, non-musical, blockbuster. However, if the trailer is any preview, Jackson will incorporate whenever he can. There is nothing silly about the song and it makes the 2 minute trailer feel epic.

Third, we briefly see the lower parts of the Trolls in Trollshaw forest, but that brief image makes me really wonder how this will be handled. The trolls didn't do any talking in LotR, but they do a lot of talking in the Hobbit. I'm curious whether Jackson will just make it a small battle or be more appropriate to the book and have the dwarves all be captured by the Trolls.

Fourth, it is so great that many of the previous actors are back! Specifically Ian McKellan and Cate Blanchett! Nothing like seeing the continuation of the story, well pre-continuation by having the same actors. Cate Blanchett, specifically in the Fellowship of the Ring, is powerful!

Fifth, I just got done watching Sherlock Holmes BBC Series with Martin Freeman in it. He is the perfect casting for Bilbo. Better than Elijah Woods for Frodo in LotR, because he is actually closer to Bilbo's real age. 

So to finish up, if you can't tell, I'm looking forward to the Hobbit. Sure it is just 2:30 seconds of footage, that may or may not even be in the movie, but yahoo!  I'll be there at 12:01am on December 14, 2012 to start the journey! In the mean time, go out, read a good book (I'm talking about the Hobbit and LotR here) and have a Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Love of a Father

Music is a powerful thing. The lyrics with that music are also powerful. So I just thought I'd share some song lyrics that I've been thinking on since Sunday. Occasionally, I'll write about theological things on this blog, after all its in the name, but to me How Deep A Father's Love by Stuart Townend is better than any article or discussion I could ever have. So here are the words:

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Painting Some Trolls

I was going to write about email quotes I've received over the past few years, but I'll write about that later. My buddy Juan showed me how to paint miniatures a bit last month and so I painted some trolls last night to add to the orcs that he and I had painted. My Sauron army is done and now I got 6 other armies to go before I'm finished with my War of the Ring game.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sherlock - A BBC TV Series

I remember what my Grandma Daulton got me for my 12th birthday over 14 years ago. I remember like it was yesterday, going into Half Price books after a meal at Ponderosa, and purchasing the combined collection of Sherlock Holmes short stories. I still have that huge book and have read it probably 10 times over the last 14 years. So you know I'm a big fan when it comes to Sherlock Holmes.

Last night we finished watching the BBC series "Sherlock" on Netflix and it is awesome. I've been bugging people around me that they need to watch it, which I think they do, but I'd thought I'd write a blog about it too. Sherlock Holmes has been done many times in movies, the worse interpretation in my opinion being the current American movie series with Robert Downey Jr. playing the great detective. But everything that the American movie does wrong, the BBC series does right. It modernizes Sherlock Holmes, with all his quirks and social issues, and puts him in our modern world of internet and smart phones. He behaves exactly as I'd expect him to behave, even having a "three patch problem" which refers to using nicotine patches instead of smoking the pipes he would've smoked in Doyle's classic literature. He is arrogant and bored without a crime being committed, just as he should be, but just as he should be he is also a great actor when needed to get the information he wants. The series is determined, dramatic, funny, and a great mystery series that I would recommend to everyone and especially Sherlock Holmes fans.

The series is currently only 3 episodes, that are 88 minutes long each, so I'm really looking forward to season 2 which is coming out in the first quarter of 2012. I was reading a review the other day and there were hints of Adler, Hound, and Reichenbach! So will we see the only woman that ever bested Holmes? Will that hellish hound take the life of the man with the butterfly net? Will Moriarty and Holmes fall to their deaths near the rushing river? I don't know, but I will be waiting anxiously to find out!