Monday, January 30, 2006

Games to Play This Year

Related to the topic of buying fewer games, or at the very least getting better value for money from the games that you do buy, is the Pledge. There are certain games which for various reasons I have decided I must play this year.

Traders of Genoa - I own this, and have only played a 2 player games with the kid. That was unsatisfying, so I want to play it properly this year.

A Game of Thrones - I've read the books (except the latest, but that's a different story, heh heh), so there are no spoilers in the game for me. Now I'd like to see how it plays.

Goa - I also own this, having known where I could get a copy just when I heard it was going out of print. The theme really interests me. I have only played once, with the kid again being my opponent. Also, he beat me.

Pick Picknic - At the beginning of last year I asked several games stores in Australia whether they could get in a game called Hick Hack im Gackelwack. How naive I was back then! I now know that no store in Australia carries it, and few could even be bothered listening to the question. By the end of the year I bought a copy from Boards and Bits, and gave it to my nephew for Christmas. We played it a week or so ago, so this is the first must-play which I have actually satisfied. It's a very good game.

Louis XIV - My game buddy Critical Mass has this game, I would like to get a chance to play it with him. He also has Tikal, which I liked a lot the one time I played it.

Puerto Rico - Shamefully, I have not played Puerto Rico face to face. I think my education as a gamer demands it. Critical Mass also has this one, but so do some of the QUGS guys.

Illuminati - I have the deluxe edition. I played this game with some guys I met on a long distance train trip 20 years ago. It seemed like a pretty interesting game, so when I got into the hobby I decided I had to have this one. OK, it doesn't look so good any more. But my copy has never been played, and I want to fix that.

Torres - I got this for Christmas, but I hadn't researched it so well. I didn't realise it was almost as difficult as Tikal. The difficulty means that my wife won't play it, and my kid will be distracted once he realises that there's multiplication in it. I will have to bring it out at a game group. However, this Friday night, I need to play Reef Encounter before it has to go home again.

Honor of the Samurai - Another game I received as a Christmas gift when there was an FLGS that was actually local. I've had it 3 years and never completed a game, because the people I have chosen to play with weren't really that interested. Ever notice how some people aren't good at games because they like to attract attention to themselves, rather than submit to the order of the game? Yeah, I chose some of those people. I'm wiser now. Anyway, I need to play it.

Medici - The guys at one monthly game meeting play this fairly regularly. Nobody ever speaks ill of it. Must get me some of that.

Ra - Another legendary game that I need to play for my own education.

Princes of Florence - One of the top-ranked games on BGG, so I would like to know what it's about.

Attika - Always looked cool to me. The guys at QGG played this once, so I might try to arrange it with them.

6 Nimmt! - It's cheap, and as the title means nothing to me, I'll have to play it to be able to guess what it's about.

Tichu - Well, 1000 Derk Solkos can't be wrong. My wife likes card games, and we have been playing Gang of Four (with 3 players). I figure Tichu is something she'd be interested in.

Geschenkt - Apparently a filler that makes a lot of people's five and dime lists. What is so good about it?

Backgammon - My wife also likes backgammon, but last time we played I lost due to lucky dice several times in a row. I reckon I'm calm enough to face it again.

Scrabble - A favourite of mine, but it's hard to find an opponent who wants to take it seriously. I know my baby sister has a copy, but whether she'll sit down long enough to play is another matter.

What if I don't fulfil this pledge? Well, I guess I'll just make another pledge next year...

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Games That Scare My Dog

I've had this plan for a while to cash in on the trend at BoardGameGeek for people to submit photos of their cats sitting in their board game boxes. So I ripped out Hamsterrolle, put some pieces in the wheel, and tried to coax my dog to put her head through the wheel. Which she did, quite merrily, but then she knocked the wheel over and pieces went everywhere. She ran outside and is now terrified of the hamster wheel. Even treats couldn't convince her to come back near that nasty yellow thing. Oh well, there goes that plan.

The only other game she has been scared by is Elfenland. We were playing once and knocked a deck of cards off the bench onto her head. Similar reaction. Poor girl. I guess she's a non-gamer.

2006: the Year of the Expansion

I've been in this hobby a little over a year now (i.e. that's when I found boardgamegeek, before that I actually had some disposable income), and already I'm starting to mature. Last year was a delicious year of discovery - finding great games, finding places to buy them, researching everything I could to bring the games that I wanted into my collection. Of course, now a great many of them are here, and the study is kinda clogged up. I am definitely having storage issues, and there's that nagging question, Do I need more games? Of course, the answer is yes, but why?

Well, games tend to get consumed a little like books around here - you play them once, then you've done that and it's time for something new. Even when I have the urge to play a game more, it's hard to find opponents - my kid has the attention span of a gnat and the compassion and tolerance of a Doberman. To be fair, whereas my thematic interests are often historical, he's into killing and... more killing. Anyway, after a few weeks of being unable to find an opponent, the game gets shelved and something new comes along and the cycle starts again. So there's definitely a demand for new games around here, but I haven't finished playing the old games yet, so I'm going to keep them. I didn't search the world for them only to dispose of them just because they don't get played.

I am trying to be somewhat more hard-nosed though, which is where the Year of the Expansion comes in. The best way to get new games played is for them to be expansions of old games which do manage to get played. Although the kid has definitely gone cold on Memoir '44, he still likes it enough to play a game if I beg. I have ordered the Runebound expansions, because I will play that solitaire in any case. In fact, it's better without anyone else, because there's no down-time and I can quietly contemplate my next move. I also got the Mystery of the Abbey expansion when I ordered direct from Days of Wonder, because the kid and the mummy and I play that together. (That's a curious thing actually - there are heaps of games that the kid will play with me and someone else, but he won't play just with me. Maybe it's not the games he hates, it's just me :-).

Also on the to-buy list for this year is the Gipf Project. My brother-in-law thought he disliked games, until I got him to play DVONN with me last year. He liked the way it stretched his brain, and I also think he appreciated the way that it wasn't clogged up with distracting theme. After that we tried YINSH (very good) and TAMSK (not as good, but the timers are cool), and just recently GIPF itself (very good, but hard work). Of course, now I have to get ZERTZ and PUNCT (and DVONN and YINSH which I don't actually own), so there is plenty of game shopping to be done there. Of course, all of the others are just expansions to GIPF, but if brother-in-law and I ever play GIPF with all the potentials it will be a massive effort, worthy of a complete session report.

On the other hand, I'm not really interested in the Bohnanza expansions. I like the basic game, but I get the feeling that adding Bohnaparte and that sort of thing would distract from the trading which I find to be the fun part.

So, here's the plan for 2006. Only buy games for which I have an opponent. Arkham Horror plays solitaire, so I think that one's coming soon. The best way to make sure you have an opponent is to use the one you've already got, and just buy an expansion. So expansions are IN. Now, if only I played Carcassonne, there'd be a reason to get a whole lot more games.

The First Man in Rome

The book I've been reading for the last few weeks is "The First Man in Rome" by Colleen McCullough. She's not my kind of author, but a guy at Brisbane Independent Gamers who was playing De Bellis Multitudinus said she did a good job of the battle descriptions, so I read it to see what he meant. It turns out she's done an awesome job of everything - I can't imagine how much research she did to try to make such a detailed book as correct as our knowledge of the period would allow. However it hasn't inspired me to play DBM nor De Bellis Antiquitatis, the smaller version, as I just can't get into those tape measure games. I don't get why they're interesting. I'm still thinking about it.

However, the descriptions of the German tribes travelling all over Europe does remind me of Vinci, and I'm keen to play that. There are solo rules, but they sound like heaps of hard work.

BTW, in Latin, 'c' is pronounced as we pronounce 'k'. So the game is "Vinky" and "caesar" was pronounce "kaiser". Don't let anyone tell you any different, tell them to argue with Colleen.

On Order

Don't you love it when you discover an interesting site, and there's heaps of content to catch up on? Yeah, me too. This is not one of those sites... yet. OK, so I've been planning since late last year to do a big order from one of the U.S. on-line stores, for games that I can't get in Australia or cost outrageous amounts if you can. I've also been thinking about that Settlers of Catan 3D Anniversary edition, which looks *absolutely beautiful*. I mentioned it to my wife, and she said "you should get it if you want it". Well yeah, I want lots of things. Of course, asking if we could afford it got me nowhere, as her answer always seems to be based on whether we will starve tonight if we buy it, whereas I always like to think a couple of weeks ahead, to be on the safe side.

Anyway, then my poor old Grandma died last year. She was 83 and it was winter, and the oil column heater was jutting out too far and she stacked the walker when she got the wheel stuck on the heater. She crawled over to the phone and rang her neighbour and he took her to hospital. I went and saw her a few days later and she looked fine to me, and asked me to ring a friend of hers and could recite the phone number off the top of her head. She had some broken ribs and bruising, but she seemed destined to get better. Then the hospital started taking care of her.

It seems she had internal bleeding, and had to have a transfusion, but it was all downhill from there. She was anaemic and became very vague and tired all the time. But for some reason, the hospital moved her into a section for people who were almost well enough to go home. That was where she died. All of my experiences with hospitals suggest that you're much more likely to get well being ANYWHERE else. In case you're interested in this part of the story, one of the last things she said that made much sense was "I'm not scared you know, not one little bit." So that was good to know. If there is an after-life of any sort, I'm sure she's arguing with Grandpa in it, and all the other dead people are well and truly sick of them.

How is this relevant? Grandma left some money, of which Dad got a share, and he passed some onto us. Not much in the grand scheme of things, but enough to buy a PS2 for the kid for Christmas (and hasn't THAT interfered with my gaming!) and enough so that I really could afford the nice Catan if I wanted. So I did some research, and on Thursday I ordered it from Boulder Games.

The order stresses me a little. Because the Catan weighs so much, if I add more games to the order I soon reach some internal weight limit, maybe related to the USPS web site, and it tells me I'm not allowed to ship the order. So I have placed two orders, with the intention that I pay the postage for one. They say I'll get refunded any postage I paid too much, which is an encouraging thought, but the fact remains that they have too much of my money and I am at their mercy with regards to getting it back.

In addition to the Catan 3D, I also got ALL the Runebound expansions (B&B only had 3 in stock); Polarity, because it so damn cool and my kid won't be able to resist at least one game; Dogville = A Dog's Life, because the kid and the nephew and the niece will like it (they love my dog); and The Adventures of Harley, because that's my kids' name. The Harley game is for little kids, but we do get a lot of little kids through here, and maybe Harley can teach them how to play. Whatever happens, it's a pretty cheap game.

Still waiting to hear that my Boulder order has shipped (they made a mistake, and Dogville is out of stock), but when I get it we'll have a game of Settlers in honour of Grandma.

why can't anyone play Memoir '44?

I just got the Memoir '44 expansions last week, and I've been itching for a game. This weekend I've had the bits all over the lounge room trying to figure out the best way to store them all in minimum space. I set up a scenario with the Terrain Pack bits to take a photo for BGG, and this morning got the kid to play it with me. First few times we played Memoir (when he was 8) he won, and once he even beat me on both sides of one scenario. However he seems to have gone off, and all I have to do is wait till his infantry run out into the open, and then bring some firepower to bear on them, and hey presto there's another medal. Anyway, in this scenario (Nijmegen Bridges?) he was solidly fortified in towns and fortresses, and I had mostly tanks, which are pretty bad against towns and fortresses, so I was thinking hard about what I was going to do. But then his guys abandoned the fortresses and ran out in the open and I completely conquered the left flank. 6 medals to 1. All I ask is a decent game of Memoir... I have mentioned to him that that's probably not the best strategy, but he just doesn't seem to like the game so much any more. I couldn't even talk him into a winter scenario.