Thursday, November 28, 2013

Every 100 Games Series - Martian Dice

My 4,600th game played involves Martians, humans, chickens, cows, and 13 dice from Tasty Minstrel Games. Will you be interested in it? Read below to find out.

Game Play
Players are Martians coming to snag some earthlings and take them home. It is a push your luck dice game where you roll the dice and must keep any tanks you roll. You then get the option of keeping one other type of dice such as death rays, cows, humans, or chickens. By the time you end your round you need as many death rays as there are tanks, if not you bust. If you don't bust, you score 1 point per earthling you've captured and a bonus 3 points if you collected at least 1 of each. Game play continues until you reach a set score. 25 points in the rule book, usually 15 or 20 points for us.

The "box" is basically a sturdy toilet paper roll with the rules and 13 dice in it. The dice are very nice custom dice with 6 sides. Two of the sides are death rays. One each of the remaining sides is split among cows, chickens, humans, and tanks. That is it. Nothing else in the game.

There isn't a lot of strategy in this game. It is a push your luck game with a little bit of decision making. At least slightly more than say Farkle. This is one of those you should play if you don't want a bunch of brain burn.

Martian Dice is a game that has grown on me. I won it at a convention and since it doesn't take up hardly any space it has stayed on my shelves. It is a quick filler and that is it. It is only a quick filler though if you play with 3 or so people and only play to 15 or 20 rather than the rulebook's 25 points. I am glad I've kept it though, because now my 4.5 year old daughter has started playing it with me. She never knows when to stop rolling, but she has a good time, understands she needs to get the earthlings, and it gives us another game to play together. I'm all about that.

Push-Your-Luck Fans - If you love Can't Stop, Incan Gold, and Zombie Dice type games than you might find one you like here. Though personally, I'd play Can't Stop more than I'd play this for a push your luck dice game. Farkle perhaps a bit less so. Except for the name, love the name Farkle.

Dice Game Fan - Here is my favorite dice games in order real quick so you have an idea where this fits: A Fistful of Penguins, Yahtzee, Martian Dice, Farkle, Zombie Dice. It's just average.

Alien Lovers - Do you like aliens? Do you want to play the little green men? Pick up Martian Dice. It is cheap and doesn't take up a lot of space and might tide you over between big games of Invaders from Outer Space.

*Every 100 Games Series - Back in March of 2006 I began tracking each session of the various board and card games I play. I soon got the idea to write a review on every 100th game I played, one because I like writing reviews, and two because it is interesting to see what game I review next. You can find a list of all of them here: Every 100 Games Series Reviews.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Every 100 Games Series - Puerto Rico

I'm surprised I haven't reviewed this game yet. Puerto Rico (the cool 10th anniversary edition) was my 4,500th game played. I've played it well over 100 times, at least 50 times in the past 6 or 7 years, and I'll tell you right up front that this is going to be a positive review.

Game Play
Each player has their own board an island and a city to build in. Players get plantations, build buildings, get goods to ship back to the Old World. What really sets Puerto Rico up though is the role selection. Each round players select roles such as the Captain or Settler. When they select that role everyone gets to do the action, but the player who selects the role gets to do a bit more. For example, if you take the Captain you get an extra point with your first shipment.

The regular Puerto Rico game has components that are honestly pretty boring. In 2002 they were fine, but they aren't cutting it now. However, I'm lucky enough to own the 10th Anniversary game which I just found out is currently going for $179 on Amazon (I only payed a 1/3 of that price). The components in this edition are very very good, with metal coins, extremely thick cardboard, art on the buildings, and even simple explanations on the building which really helps new players. The components in the regular edition are functional. The components in the 10th Anniversary Edition are not only functional, but are more functional that the regular edition and looks way better.

This has been discussed over and over by people much smarter than me. However, because it has, you know that there is a lot of strategy in this game. The only luck in the game is what types of plantations come out. Other than that, this game is pure strategy. Everything you do and what order you do it in effects later turns for both you and all the players. This is one of those heavy hitters on the strategy categories.

I love this. This is a game I bought in 2005, one of the first few games I'd purchased once I got back into gaming, and it has been an absolute staple in my collection since. I like it enough that we've purchased the anniversary edition and actually own two copies of the game. I've taught this game to many players and have even successfully used it as a gateway game with some people, though I don't recommend doing that. It is still my Top 10 games of all time, you've read about it on this blog plenty, this is a great game.

Serious Board Gamers - If you haven't played this, you owe it to yourself. You may not even be an Euro game fan, but this game needs to be one that you've played in order to call yourself a serious board gamer.

Too Serious Board Gamers - Don't play this with me at least. This game does have such player interaction that a new player can accidentally and even unknowingly ruin a good players game. Don't get all serious about it and upset. It is a game.

Families of 3, 4, or 5 - If you have kids 12 years old or older and you have multiples of them, even up to 3, then I think this is a great game for you. Sometimes playing a new game each family game night isn't the best thing and this game rewards multiple plays. It also plays very well with 3, 4, or 5 players.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Every 100 Games Series - Chaos in the Old World

With the crazy amount of Netrurunner I've been playing, my time for blogging has waned, while my total amount of games has sprinted ahead. So please be prepared for several Every 100 Games reviews coming your way. Based upon my records, Chaos in the Old World, was my 4,300th game played. So here is what I think about it.

Game Play
The game is set in the Warhammer Fantasy universe, which is a pretty dark and violent place. Players are playing as gods trying to destroy this fictional world by sending their minions to ruin it. However, they of course also hate each other, so they fight against one another while they are at it. It is possible (I've not seen it happen yet) for the game to beat all the players. Usually however one player will reach victory by either getting the most points or racing to the end of a fancy dial.

Each player has a deck of cards that are all different than everyone else. In order for each player to advance their dial and race towards that winning condition, they have to do something different. One player has to kill another player's unit, other players need to drop corruption in various ways. Corruption is what actually ruins regions, at which point players will get points for having the most corruption in a region. You also get points by having more power (units + cards) in a region each round.

Just like any Fantasy Flight games, the components are for the most part top notch, however there are a couple issues. I have had a few of the staffs of units break. Each player has unique units, molded to fit their player, which is pretty awesome. I also own the Horned Rat expansion, which have my favorite molds of rats. There are a few typos on the cards, which is annoying, but the biggest typo is one of the player aids. This I think was fixed after the first edition, but it really messed  up our first game and made that player far too powerful. The board itself is pretty gory looking, but other than that there isn't a lot art in the game.

The game play in this game is very asymmetrical. What is good for one player isn't necessarily good for another player. You have to play to your special powers. With 2 ways to win the game, this also adds another depth to the strategy. Finally, because certain powers focus on certain areas, a lot of the strategy comes in the game from player interaction and working together to control the current leader or at least the perceived leader of the game. There is plenty of strategy in this game.

I love this game. With a full compliment of 4 players (or 5 players with the expansion). It has so much of what I like in board games. Area control, direct player interaction, unique powers for everyone, cards to change those powers, alternate win conditions. Plays in about 2 hours. I first played this game at Geekway to the West a few years ago and have been hooked ever since. When I got the chance to trade for it, I did so quickly, and am very happy that I did. Now that I've said all that, I should address the theme. This isn't a game I'd play with everyone. I think this is a game where 1 Corinthians and Romans (being as I also discuss theology on this blog) really apply. No need to force this theme down someones throats. If they aren't comfortable with it, then don't play it. There are a lot of games out there. Play those.

El Grande (or other area control games) Fans - If you want a bit more 'Trash in your game. If you want that dice rolling, smashing, super powers tweaking the game, then I suggest trying this one. I really enjoy El Grande and I find I get a lot of similar feelings out of this one, but with more luck and swings. Which is okay sometimes.

Children - The game box says 14+ and I agree. Because of the theme and because of the somewhat complex card play added to all the negotiation that can happen with this game. So if you want a family game night, then go choose something else.

Warhammer Fantasy and 40K Fans - I honestly don't know. I think this might be a good game for you to get, since you are familiar with the lore, but only if you are wanting to get into board games too. It doesn't give you the same feel at all as a miniature games. So maybe my recommendation is for a board gamer to use this to hook in one of their miniature gamer friends.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Never Giving Up Always and Forever Love

This is a post I've been meaning to write for awhile. Sometimes I like to right about theology, try to wade into the deep end of thoughts about God, and see how much my brain will hurt. However this time is theology for my children. Over the past several months I've been trying to read the Bible to my children a couple times a week. Not King James, year 1611, going all Ye crazy on their heads. Rather, The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones.  We finally finished about a month or so ago and have started over again.

It's funny how sometimes as parents or teachers how we can get more out of what we are parenting or teaching than our children. Sometimes, I try to over-calculate or over-theorize about things, instead of just looking at the obvious. The past several months reading this 348 page children's Bible to my kids has done me some good. It has pointed out that despite all my theology (right or wrong), despite my selfishness, despite my anger, despite my contempt for others, despite my idolatry, despite...okay, you get the idea. There are a lot of "despites" in my life. God still loves me. It is Romans 5:8 screaming out to me: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

I want to leave you with this, a quote from the kid's Bible. This is what I want my kids to know. This is what I want you to know. This is what I want attempt to copy in my own life, even though I know the failures will be there. This is Zerchariah (John the Baptist's daddy) singing.

Because God loves us with a Never Stopping,
Never Giving Up, Unbreaking,
Always and Forever Love -
Heaven is breaking through!
He is sending us a Light from Heaven
To shine on us like the sun
To shine on those who live in darkness
And in the shadow of death
To guide our feet into the way of peace

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Best of the Alea Big Box Series

One of the first games I fell in love with was Puerto Rico. Turns out it is #7 in a series of games called the Alea Big Box Series (ABBS). When we got more serious about collecting and had played a few games from the series Krista encouraged me to collect all of them. So our quest began to get them all and so far we have all 15 of them, with the last one just becoming available here in the US in the past month. Here is how I rank them and a quick three sentence review of each.

1. Puerto Rico #7 - My Plays: 51*
Not only the best game in the ABBS, Puerto Rico is one of the best games of all time. In the game you select roles such as Settler or Builder, everyone does that action, but you get a little better benefit as the person selecting it. As you build up your island with plantations, your city grows with buildings, and you ship tobacco and indigo back to the old world. This one is so good that we bought the 10 year anniversary edition at GenCon '12 and play with that one. Which means the box with the #7 on the side just sits there looking pretty to complete my collection.

*I played dozens of games of Puerto Rico before I started tracking my plays, so I'm guessing this is actually over 100 plays. Just ask Derrick and Renee. I'm pretty sure one 4th of July we played it 4 times in a single day.

2. Ra #1 - My Plays: 29
This game is probably my favorite auction game. Players each get 3 or 4 sun tiles with numbers from 1-16 on them. It is a once around auction and once you spend a sun tile, then you are done with it until the next round, so you will only ever buy 9-12 "lots" a game. It is plays absolutely great with 3 players as you collect sets of various tiles. The best part though is forcing your opponent to take something they really don't want to take, because if they don't, then you'll get it for much too cheap with a small sun tile. Also, I have fond memories of facing the gauntlet of Ra where players push their luck trying to get the most stuff before the round ends.

3. The Castles of Burgundy #14 - My Plays: 18
Maybe the ugliest of the ABBS, this game still backs a punch in game play though. Players roll 2 dice every round, select actions with those dice, and build up their countryside. Where this game really shines though is as a 2 player game. It still gives a lot of situations there just isn't enough actions for you to get done what you want to get done, which is the mark of a great game in my mind!

4. In the Year of the Dragon #12 - My Plays: 27
This game was once described to me as "trying to hit yourself in the head with a hammer, just a bit less than everyone else". That is an accurate description of fun! I love this game. Players are trying to make it through a very tough year of bad events that keep happening to them, while keeping their buildings and people safe. You just got to come to terms with the fact that you will lose something and just brace for it. The only downside is that the Double Dragon first turn, which is a gauranteed 24 points, I feel is a bit over powered, which has taken this to #4 instead of #1.

5. Taj Mahal #3 - My Plays: 16
Taj Mahal is essentially an auction game. Players are building palaces in Victorian India (is that even real?). What is so great about it though people can get into a pride race. What I mean by that is very often players will just go all out in a single round, spend a lot of their cards, and then still don't get the item they are trying to bid on. This is an excellent game and one that plays well with 3,4, or 5 players. However, I think my favorite spot is 4 players.

6. Macao #13 - My Plays: 18
There is essentially zero theme here, but it you want some fun and unique decisions with dice, this is a good place to go. The real draw for me in this game is the wheel that turns. You need a lot of dice, but if you take a lot of dice, you have to put them further down the wheel, so you won't get to use them for several turns. Manipulating your dice, using your cards to get a system going, and fighting for position on the wall and to be the first deliver goods makes this a solid game. It is also plays well with 2 players, so you can't go wrong there.

7. Notre Dame #11 - My Plays: 23
There are rats in this game! The plague keeps coming at you, you have to keep defending it off. The board design is really cool looking and looks different (plays exact same) for the different player counts. I like the quick play of the game, with the ever present rat threat. One faster playing games in the series.

8. Princes of Florence #4 - My Plays: 11
Players build neat little buildings in their courtyard to try and get cool artists, mathematicians, etc to visit them. In order for this game to shine, I think you have to have all experienced players and you need 4 or 5 people. Probably 5 people. The problem with the game is that those conditions don't often happen, which has lowered this on my list. It probably would've been a couple levels up a few years ago.

9. Bora Bora #15 - My Plays: 3
The newest edition to the series. Players are doing things in Bora Bora, just not sure what exactly. You have to balance the men and women you get, buy shells, jewelry, get tatoos, all kinds of things going on. Which is why I have it ranked so low right now. There is an absolute ton of stuff in the box though and I can see liking it more as I play it, but right now, it ends in the middle of the pack.

10. Mammoth Hunters #8 - My Plays: 5
I really like the theme, but it doesn't play out as well as it should. I'm one of the few people that I think enjoys this game. There can be plenty of luck in it, but also some good screwage too. When it comes to area control games though, there are plenty out there, which means this one doesn't often see play time.

11. Traders of Genoa #6 - My Plays: 4
This is one that takes the longest in the ABBS. Usually clocking in at 2.5 to 3.5 hours, which is why it doesn't see the table. It has really unique negotiations as players encourage the person who is currently in control of the "cookie crumbs" as I call them to go to the various stores they need to be at. I've had good success playing this game, only losing once I believe out of my 4 plays, but I've owned the game for 4 or 5 years and only played it 4 times, so it is not exactly on the table a lot.

12. Rum & Pirates #10 - My Plays: 5
This game is lightest game on the list in my opinion. Players are pirates going about and trying to collect sets of various things for points. The problem is the game takes about 2 hours, when it should take about 1 hour. I really do like the pirate captain mechanic where each person can spend pirates to get to spots on the board, but it is about the only redeeming quality. I'll play it, but not often.

13. Chinatown #2 - My Plays: 9
This one is set in the 1930s or 1940s Chinatown New York City. It is a negotiation game where you are trying to get different stores built like a jewelry store or laundry mat. My wife used to really like this one and probably at one point called it her favorite game, but I don't like that you know exactly how much a tile is worth. Which takes away the negotiating portion of the game for me and thus drops it so far down on this list.

14. Adel Verplicht #5 - My Plays: 3
I just don't get this game. It is sorta like rock, paper, scissors it seems. Perhaps it could be fun with a full amount of players, but my plays haven't made me want to go back to it. Mostly you are just racing around the board and trying to be the first to get to the end.

15. Fifth Avenue #9 - My Plays: 5
This game is horrible. I would absolutely not own it if it wasn't in the ABBS. The game is boring, doesn't seem to have flow, and even though I like the theme, I wouldn't suggest it to anyone. I can't believe I've actually played it 5 times. I doubt if I'll ever play it again, unless I once again do a quest to play all the ABBS games or all my games in general.