Monday, February 18, 2013

Every 100 Games Series - Daytona 500

My 3,800th game played was Daytona 500, which was pretty nice timing since the Big Race is coming up here shortly. An interesting note on this game, it was designed by Wolfgang Kramer, who is one of my favorite designers of all time and has title such as El Grande, Tikal, and Mexica to his name. However, they didn't give him credit on the box or in the rules for this one.

Game Play
In Daytona 500 players will purchase 1-2 cars via auction that they will attempt to help finish better in the final standings in order to get a bigger payout and thus have the most money and win the game. Each player gets a small deck of cards dealt to them. These cars have numbers on them, often more than one, that are in colors that match the 6 cars in the game. Players will play a card on their turn, move the cars associated with that card, starting with the top number, and then play passes to the next person. To incorporate the NASCAR theme more, if a car is directly behind a car that just moved, it gets to move forward one space on the board because it was "drafting". Once all the cars have made it around the board, you give payouts for places, auction cars off again, and then race again. The person with the most money after races is the winner.

The game was made in 1991. It does okay for components. The board does it's job. The little plastic cars do their job. The paper money does its job. Nothing flashy here at all. As will all paper money, except those rare situations, I prefer to use nice poker chips.

Strategy & Tactics
There is a lot of tactics in this game and not so much strategy. Because many of the cards have multiple numbers on them representing several of the cars in the game, you often find yourself doing everything you can to play a card that allows your car to get its full movement, but making your opponent's car lose it's movement because it is being blocked by having two cars in front of it or is in one of the turns where in order to pass you have to go twice as far so you can end up in the inside lane. Also, each car comes with a single 9 movement card that is just their color on it, so trying to use that at the most opportune time is very important.

My Thoughts
Daytona 500 is a good game, however it isn't a great game. The NASCAR theme fits very well, but having only one track and playing that 3 times in a row can be a bit boring. It plays relatively fast though and does a very good job of feeling like a race. It is very possible to come back if you get a bad start, as other players also have cards with your car's movement on it. The game I played for my 3,800th one of the races both cars owned by a player were in first and second 1/3 of the way through the race. They ended up finishing 2nd and 6th, so there is variation as the race goes on.

My Recommendations
Those Wanting a Race Car Game - If you are only going to buy one race car game, of the ones I've played, there are really only three options. Daytona 500, Formula D, and Detroit/Cleveland Grand Prix. I'd go with D/C Prix. It is also designed by Kramer, has basically the exact same mechanics as Daytona 500 (except for the drafting), but has a two-sided board with non-oval tracks that make for a lot more blocking and excitement. Which means sometimes cars don't even finish the race. However, if you are like my buddy and see Daytona 500 for $2 at Goodwill, by all means, buy it!

NASCAR Fans - This is an auto-purchase...yep, I just did that. You will not be sorry you purchased this game should you find it. It will be played way more than NASCAR Monopoly, it is way better than that game or probably any other NASCAR game out there, and it will be played quickly by just about anyone.

Deep Strategy Gamer - If you would rather not play something that is lighter, something that doesn't reward extreme strategy, and something that doesn't make your brain melt from your ears, then you'll want to look elsewhere. This one is just a light game. Not so light as Uno, Yahtzee, or No Thanks, but still it is pretty light.

Boys Who Like Cars - I feel like I played this game when I was 8 or 9 with some neighbor kids. It might've been a different one, but I remember the small cars, because my brother and I had a whole collection of Hotwheels and Matchbox cars and we loved the game that let us play with similar cars. If your son (or daughter) is all about micro-machines (I hear they don't make those anymore) or matchbox cars, then this is a game they'd probably enjoy and should be one you find for them.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


So over the past few years I've taken to listening to some podcasts. Mostly they are gaming podcasts, but I do have a couple non-gaming ones thrown in there. I thought I'd write about the ones that I keep on a regular rotation now, as I've given some up as well.

The Dice Tower - When it comes to board game podcasts, this is the grand-daddy of them all. I think they've been going for something like 9 years now. They make a fun podcast, have lots of different contributors, and provide some good insight on various board games. Mostly though, I listen for their Top 10 lists. Every other week they do a Top 10 list of games for a specific category, such as games from 1998 or games you'd play with your mom. These are entertaining and also give you some good ideas for possible purchases and trades.

The Secret Cabal Gaming Podcast - This is a group of 4 guys that talk about gaming of all kinds. Video gaming, board games, RPGs, miniatures, just about everything you can think they'd discuss. Mostly it is board games, but I like it that they discuss other parts of the gaming hobby that I'm not involved in. The real reason I listen to them though is because as a listener it is like you have just been placed in their game room, after a game, and you hear 4 long time friends just shootin' the breeze. This podcast is what I imagine would be in any game room in any situation with buddies of a long time. I can see myself sitting around talking to my long time gaming buddies like Jonathan, Dave, and Ryan just recording it. This would be the Secret Cabal - just Indiana style.

Ludology - This is more of a gaming thought podcast. Goeff and Ryan, both pretty smart guys, discuss specific game topics or theories or sometimes will even go very indepth on a single game. Most interesting to me though right now is that they are live blogging, I guess that is what you'd call it, where they are doing every other episode on how their design of a game is progressing. Their thoughts, feed back, problems, just about everything about the process. This makes for some really interesting discussion and since I like designing game, I like this podcast.

On Board Games - This is the podcast I was able to be a guest on once. These guys often have a rotating 3rd chair, which makes for a lot of variety in their shows on a lot of gaming related subjects. One thing I have noticed though, is that I usually don't agree with Donald who is one of the co-hosts, which actually is a good thing, because I know if he says he really likes a game then I'll probably not like it as much and vice-versa.

Agenda7 - This is a brand new podcast that is on Andriod: Netrunner, which I talked about the last time I blogged. I've been enjoying listening to it and have been surprised how professional they already are with their content. I tried out a couple other Netrunner podcasts, but this one was by far the best of them. I'll stick with this podcast if I stick with the game itself as a good source for playing strategies and deck building thoughts.

Winvasion - This was my first single-game specific podcast. It only has 3 episodes so far, but it is about Invasion, so it has to be in my rotation. Invasion is probably now in my Top 5 games of all time, so any podcast where they discuss it is great.

This American Life - The first of two non-game related podcasts (where my listening is really lacking I know). This was recommended to me by a friend at work and I have really liked it. It is basically a reposting of a Chicago radio show. It is a very weird show with all kinds of topics. There are stories about people who hear music in all sounds, people who map the cracks of sidewalks in the cities, tele-evangelists, abusive parents, and just about any random subject you can think about.

Mark Driscoll - Sometimes I also try and listen to Driscoll's sermons as well. Though I don't line up with him theologically in everything and I'm also not a big fan of his church model (him preaching via screens to every church), he preaches with passion and he also preaches the truth. His sermons are not only entertaining, but insightful, and give me a something more deep to think about throughout the week than games or whatever random subject This American Life happens to have.

So that is a lot of podcasts, Didn't realize I regularly listen to that many, though I just recently added Agenda7, Winvasion, and This American Life. Anyone got suggestions for another non-gaming podcast to listen to?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

On the Cusp

If you've read this blog at all, you know I'm a gamer. If you haven't read this blog at all, assuming you are a halfway intelligent person, you probably figured that out from the title. In follows my ramblings of why I'm on the cusp in a gaming decisions as far as semi-competitive play goes.

A little background. For the last two years, I've been playing and really enjoying, Warhammer: Invasion. It has become my most played game ever, I've put quite a bit of money into it, and also quite a bit of time. The game play itself is great, but the biggest problem with Invasion, is that out of all the Fantasy Flight Living Card Games, it seems to be in the bottom two as far as popularity goes. In the past two years, despite a group, announcing tournaments and Invasion nights at two different local game stores, and trying to convince friends to join me in a more competitive environment, only 4 people have actually gone so far as to purchase the cards. Twice (in 2 years), in tournaments I've run we've had 8 people play, but most nights we've only had 3 people show up (not much of a tournament there). This is all my organizing of course, because there are no other Invasion organizers in Indianapolis that I've been able to find. I've drove twice to Louisville to play in tourneys down there.

Recently, FFG released Android: Netrunner, a redo of a 1996 game made by the same designer as Magic: The Gathering. In the board game world, it has exploded to way higher levels than Invasion ever dreamed of getting to. For example, on where I prefer to go for my gaming news, there is already almost 200 forum pages for Netrunner that just released in August. Invasion has only about 120 and it released in 2009. Obviously that is just people talking about it on a single website, but it also shows the level of interest in it compared to Invasion. If you recall, I wrote a little bit about playing a Netrunner tournament in the World Championship in November, but at that point I was still holding out that Invasion was my game of choice when it came to LCGs and so never got into the game.

So what is this cusp? Well, quite simply do I drop Invasion and play Netrunner? Back in the early 2000s I played the Lord of the Rings: Trading Card Game and really enjoyed it. Partly because it was LotR, partly because the game was good, and partly because of the competition that could be had. Invasion ignited that spark again. I really like the game, the theme is ok, and the competition is great if there is competition. I have a couple friends who I get together with and play one on one, but there just aren't the great weekly or monthly tournaments that I used to enjoy with LotR:TCG and there is hardly anything that I don't have to organize myself. 

Though, at least right now, I don't enjoy Netrunner as a game more than I enjoy Invasion, I think as an organized competition I might, because I'm hoping there will actually be organized competition. The popularity of Netrunner could just be a flash and burn out quickly, but then again it could not. Also, my wife will play Invasion with me, even though it isn't her favorite, because of the short play time of 20 minutes. Netrunner, while I think she will like the theme more, does take a little longer and because of the asymmetrical style is more daunting I believe. So on the wife front, we'll see what happens. 

So what is my decision? Well, right now I've purchased some Netrunner cards and will probably get cards through the first cycle. I'll probably finish out the cycle that we're currently in for Invasion as well. Then I'll have to make up my mind. I don't have the money or time for two such games, which can easily become a hobby by themselves. However, I still want to play them, because I do enjoy them. Regardless of my decision, I'm sure I'll get my money's worth of play from them, but I'm not sure either one may end up giving me that organized competition I hope for.