Games Night 8th March 2021

3 of us for this week’s virtual meet up via Board Game Arena.
The players:
Malcolm
Paul
Phil

I wanted to play Race for the Galaxy (Rio Grande Games)

so we did.
I explained the rules as I remembered them (it being over 1,400 days since I last played it) and we gave it two goes.

The first game ended when Paul played his 12th card.
The scores:
Malcolm: 23
Paul: 34
Phil: 32
So Paul ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’ won that one.

The second game ended when the VP tokens ran out, something none of us were ready for.

The scores:
Malcolm: 36
Paul: 38
Phil: 37
A much closer game where Paul ‘I still don’t know what I’m doing’ won. At least I was in the top three both times and Phil was a consistent close second.

I really enjoyed playing this one again and am beginning to feel I’m getting the hang of the symbology. I do find this a very satisfying game to play. Hoping to play it again soon.

With a little time left over we tried Draftosaurus (Ankama)

A new game to everyone which we picked up pretty quickly.
2 games again.
The end of Game 1 looked like this:

Scores:
Malcolm: 34
Paul: 31
Phil: 30
Victory at least!

The end of Game 2 looked like this:

Scores:
Malcolm: 26
Paul: 40
Phil: 31
Another win by Paul!

I think we all enjoyed this one even though the random die rolls can be a bit annoying at times. Looking forward to playing a IRL version of this game as I’m always a sucker for dinomeeples and this looks to be a very tactile game.

Player of the evening goes to Phil who managed to get second place in everything.

Games Night 1st March 2021

Four of us this week – a warm welcome to Matt.
Following the confusion of the previous week’s attempt at Terra Mystica, we thought we’d try that again.

Since the last time I took the liberty to peruse the rules and find out how to play the game.

Final scores:
Malcolm: 65
Matt: 99
Paul: 77
Phil: 73

So well done Matt! And well done me for being the only one to improve over last week’s score (albeit only by 2 points) – all that reading paid off…

Games Nights 15th & 22nd February 2021

I was a bit lax writing up last week’s event, so I thought I’d might as well do both weeks in one go.

15th February 2021

Three of us again this week for another virtual games night via Board Games Arcade.
We decided on Res Arcana (Sandcastle Games).

As I was the only one familiar with the game, I quickly instructed the others how to play it.
The game was quite a long one with much deliberating.
Eventually we did get to the end.

Final scores:
Malcolm: 5
Paul: 13
Phil: 10
Either I’m not nearly as good at this game as I thought, or I’m one hell of a teacher…
Well done Paul.

22nd February 2021
And three of us meeting up virtually again this week. The game of choice: Terra Mystica (Capstone Games

With Phil being the only one familiar with this one (sort of) he gave us a quick run down of this one and off we go. I have to confess, I didn’t have the first idea what I was doing in this game at all. It didn’t matter what I did, but I apparently didn’t have enough coins, priests or workers to do anything much. So I did lots of terraforming and placing settlements. I did score some points, but I have no idea how.

Final scores:
Malcolm (Swarmlings): 63
Paul (Auren): 77
Phil (Giants): 98
Well done Phil.
Definitely one I’d like to give another go at once I’ve taken the time to read through the rule book and watched a video on how to play. I’d like to like this one but I need to get to know it better first.

Games Night 18th January 2021

As we’re still in the Covid apocalypse, it’s another virtual games night via Board Game Arena.

Three of us again this time.

We had a slightly earlier start and so managed 4 games in total.


Rio Grande Games
This is a game I do enjoy a lot, but haven’t gotten around to picking up yet. I think this was the first ‘proper’ board game I ever played at a games night (i.e. not Monopoly, Cludo, etc.). Despite this, I generally play it really badly and stated as much at the beginning of the game.

It took a little while to find our way around the virtual game, instead of the job tiles the jobs were printed in tiny writing on the scroll in the middle. We also bemoaned not being able to place our building and plantations where we wanted to – the program placed them on our behalf.
Despite all that, I stayed true to form and didn’t do very well.
Final scores:
Malcolm: 26
Paul: 44
Phil: 40
Well done Paul!

Next up we played:

from Bombyx
A game I do own and have played quite a bit. Felt a bit more confident this time.

Phil was able to get his cards out pretty quickly, though it did get a bit close at the end of the game as to who would get the coveted green card. Phil did manage it, but Malcolm was able to play his 8th card on his final turn and take the lead.
Final scores:
Malcolm: 41
Paul: 33
Phil: 38
I won one!

Next up Phil introduced us to

from Eagle-Gryphon Games
This was a strightforward bidding game where we bid for properties then attempted to sell them for the best price.
I must say, I didn’t care much for this one. It’s fine as a filler I suppose but games like Powergrid and Five Tribes incorporate the whole game in just a small part of the gameplay.

Final scores:
Malcolm: 52
Paul: 76
Phil: 63
Another victory for Paul!

To finish off the evening we banded together to try to beat the novice level of

from Gamewright
Despite my dislike of cooperative games I did suggest we play this one. After all, I can’t lambast a game I’ve never even played.
We quickly got the hang of the rules and proceeded to watch parts of the island disappear forever below the waves.

However we persevered, and we all managed to get off the island with the treasures.

I must say that I prefer this over Pandemic – a game I’ve played a few times now and have never enjoyed. This is a shorter, which means if it all goes wrong, then it’s over quick but also had a good feeling of suspense when the flood cards were drawn.

I great evening of playing virtual games.

So What’s Wrong With Monopoly?


Whenever I tell someone that I’m a board game enthusiast I often see that glint in the other person’s eye as they imagine me sitting down to my nth game of Monopoly clutching my money in one hand and blowing on my other as I shake the dice for a lucky double roll. If the conversation goes that far, I’ll correct that person of this mistake and mention some very popular games that have been around for over twenty years (such as Carcassonne and Catan) knowing full-well that they’ll have never heard of them. They then go through that peculiar shift of attitude from that bemused “You actually play Monopoly at every opportunity?” to “What’s wrong with Monopoly – the only game I’ve ever even heard of?”

So, what is wrong with Monopoly and why do I feel the need to correct people from thinking that I play it?

Firstly, a disclaimer. I grew up playing Monopoly. I have a limited edition Star Wars Monopoly that I’m quite please with. I will most likely play Monopoly again. Also, if you enjoy Monopoly, then this is not an attack on you or your interest. Of course you’re allowed to like Monopoly. Instead, see this as an opportunity to learn about games that should be played instead.

First up, Monopoly is a Roll-and-Move game.

Roll-and-move games have been in existence since before Snakes and Ladders and are, for the most part, not much more than that. You roll one to many dice, move your pawn the given number of spaces and perform whatever action is printed on that space. The boards may be different shapes, the actions may be anything from moving your pawn somewhere else (landing on a ladder or snake) to doing something in the real world (answering a Trivial Pursuit question). Roll-and-move games are usually printed in bright colours with big fonts because they are games designed for children to learn how to count and how to take turns. Of course there are more strategic roll and moves such as Ludo and Backgammon which are more engaging in that a player at least gets some choice as to which pieces to move but are still mired by lucky rolls of the dice.

For all its apparent complication. Monopoly is not much more than this. Roll the dice, pay the fine, read the card or buy the property. Occasionally, you may have to decide on buying houses or mortgaging a property, but these decisions usually follow either a logical inevitability or a slight push-your-luck element (I can afford to buy a couple of houses as long as I roll more than a 5 this turn.) One could also argue that there is a little bit of bartering with the swapping of properties to complete sets, but then no sensible person would ever allow another player to complete any of the sets beyond Free Parking. It’s admittedly a little more than a child’s first game but the outcome of the game has very little to do with the players’ input and more to do with the random roll of two plastic cubes with spots on.

Next up is House Rules. (See my other article on House Rules here)

Essentially, nobody plays this game the way it was designed and every deviation makes the game longer and less fun. Wherever two or more people with non-compatible house rules try and play, there’s always an argument.

It’s a Long Game


This in of itself isn’t a bad thing, Twilight Imperium, for example typically plays 6-8 hours a time (can be longer if you play an older edition), but it’s a game that keeps players engaged throughout its staggering runtime. Monopoly is a game that can start dragging very quickly and far exceed its welcome. There’s not much variety to the game play with the only interest being when you approach a side or corner stuffed with hotels and you’re just anxious now. When it’s not your turn there’s nothing to do except watch your properties like a hawk ready to claim rent before the next player rolls and you miss it. And refusing to swap your Dark Blue property for anything.

It’s a Player Elimination game

Player elimination games are usually short or played in quick rounds. That way, the eliminated player is back in after a brief wait while watching some pretty exciting action. If you go bankrupt early in Monopoly you might as well go and do something else because sitting there for another two hours is not going to be fun, even if you end up being the banker.

It’s only fun when you’re winning

This can be true for many games, but most games do address this by either concealing the points won until the end so nobody knows who’s winning or the game can be won or lost right up to the end. With Monopoly, it’s generally whoever buys three properties on their first three rolls, it just takes hours to then play out the already inevitable result. They’re sitting smug with piles of 500 notes and can’t quite fit all their properties on their bit of table calling out rent at every roll. Nobody else is happy.

The Arguments

This can be a reflection of who you are playing with anyway, regardless of the catalyst, but due to the nature of the game’s longevity and ruthlessness, the temptation of “let granny off this one time” or “I’ll pay you after my roll” to creep into the game to keep everyone playing and ‘happy’ can cause some interesting emotional explosions with lasting repercussions.

So what?

The question really is why are you playing Monopoly in the first place? Generally, you’re on holiday, there is no WIFI, there’s nothing on TV or the next meal is still hours away. You’re stuck together as a family and you need something to do together. Through some unwritten law, every house has to have a copy of Monopoly somewhere, and this inevitably gets dragged out with “Why don’t we play a game?”

The answer is simple, get a better game.
For the same price as a game of Monopoly (about £20) you can buy a much more engaging game that doesn’t have all the baggage I’ve just mentioned.

Here are some examples, all for £20 or less (as at the time of writing).

Ticket to Ride: New York or Ticket to Ride: London (Days Of Wonder)

These play in less than an hour and is one of the easiest games to learn to play for the uninitiated. It can be stressful and frustrating, but so very satisfying as players try to link locations together in the city while blocking everyone else.

Forbidden Island (Gamewright)

Get your family working together in this cooperative game where you play as a team to beat the game. Tough and unforgiving this can keep the family occupied until the dinner bell rings.

Just One (Repos Production)

For four or more players, this guess-the-word party game takes an interesting new spin on the theme. One player shows the word they have to guess to the other players who all write down a clue on that word. Before revealing their words, they are compared with each other and any duplicate words are removed. Only what’s left is shown to the guessing player.

Of course, if you’re willing to spend a little more, there are so many great games out there to try.

Cards Against Humanity: Family Edition – Board Game Review

For #Blogmas 2020 day 30.

Cards Against Humanity is a card-driven party game that is very adult in content which can cause just about anyone to blush at some point. The Family Edition is designed to be played with children.

The game comes with a bunch of cards, most are white ‘answer’ cards with the rest being black ‘question’ cards. The question cards are either a literal question or a sentence with a missing word. Each player (as many as you can fit in a room) gets 10 white cards each and the starting player gets a black card. This is read aloud and all the other players choose one of their 10 cards to either answer the question or fill in the missing word. These offerings are then read out by the starting player prefixing each with the original question and the player who submitted the funniest response wins the black question card. Everyone who submitted a white card gets a new one and the next player gets the next black card. Play continues until it is decided to stop. The player with the most won black cards is the winner.

The overwhelming subject matter of the Family Edition is undeniably fecal in content. So many words for poo. There are other topics as well, but mostly poo, vomit or farting. However, having played this with an 11 and 12 year old, I can safely say they have levelled their subject matter appropriately. Both boys found this game absolutely hilarious and the adults were not all that far behind, to be honest. This isn’t a game about winning, it very much is the taking part that this is all about. With a hand of ten cards there are almost always good responses at hand for any black card. My main issue is the American content. The adult version of the game proudly boasts on the box cover that it is tailored for a British audience, it’s a shame they didn’t do the same for the family edition. There are some terms that we just don’t use here and some celebrity names we had to look up – a basketball player, some rapper and a dancer. Granted, had these been changed for a British football player, rapper and dancer I would probably still not know who they were, but at least I might have heard of them. There are also references to the Republicans and Democrats. It wouldn’t have been had to have either switched these our for British alternatives or provided some blank cards to make our own corrections.

I think I prefer this to the adult version, for one, I can play it with my children and also I can play it with just about anybody else without fear of offence being caused (the adult one goes to every ‘there’ there is).

Final score: Buy it!

Minecraft: Builders & Biomes – Board Game Review

For #Blogmas 2020 day 29.

Minecraft: Builders & Biomes by Ravensburger is a game loosely based on the hit computer game Minecraft. It is a 2-4 payer game that take about 20-30 minutes to play.

The game itself is comprised of 64 tiles, 64 wooden blocks in 4 colours and 16 white weapon tokens. Each player gets 5 weapon tiles a score counter a player board and a Minecraft character and standee. There is also a cardboard structure that is used to quickly assemble the 64 wooden cubes into one big cube.
The 64 tiles are shuffled and laid out in a 4×4 grid with each space containing 4 tiles. Space is left between the piles of cards with the corner spaces acting as the spaces where the players characters can stand. Around the outside of this 4×4 grid are the white weapon tokens (not including the corners).

Each turn, a player may perform two actions:
Move 0-2 spaces and reveal the four tiles surrounding that space,
Take a weapon
Fight a Mob
Take 2 blocks from the cube
Build a building

Each tile may reveal a Mob or building. Mobs can be fought using three random weapons pulled from a player’s weapon pile. If enough damage is pulled from the pile, the Mob is destroyed and VPs are gained. The Mob tile is then claimed and may add extra points or abilities later. Taking extra weapons from the perimeter will increase the chances of success. There is no negative result if the combat is unsuccessful apart from a failed use of an action.

Buildings require the expenditure of particular cubes and are then placed on the player’s board. Each board has 9 pre-printed Biomes in a 3×3 grid and each building must cover either one of these Biomes or a previously placed building. Each building has a Biome type, building material and building type. More expensive buildings will generate points when built.

There are three scoring events during the game, each one activated by the removal of the final block from each of the top three layers of the cube. The first round of scoring scores for a contiguous single Biome on the board. The scoreing tiles provided give further detail as to how much each Biome type is worth. Round two ignores the Biomes and focusses entirely on the building material. The final round of scoring focuses on the building type. Final points from any defeated Mobs are scored and the game ends.

Those familiar with the computer game, may find this board game not very much like Minecraft on the table. The wonderful wooden building blocks (which were much bigger than I expected) are used purely as currency, with the resultant buildings being cardboard tiles. The Mobs are printed on cardboard but are instantly recognisable and most of the traditional Mobs are featured. Forgetting for a second that this is a Minecraft game, this was actually a lot of fun. The turns were easy to execute with plenty of options each turn but I was never overburdened by too much choice. Fighting Mobs had a good level of excitement, particularly as a player’s starting weapon stash is mainly comprised of useless poisoned potatoes. The extra weapons not only added extra damage but also other abilities as well such as the pickaxe providing a free block.

I can’t not address the theme of this game, however. There is no crafting, though one could argue the nature of mining the big cube. I played this with my kids and their exclamation of “an Enderman!” near the end of the game when one popped up was certainly good, but if you have no knowledge of Minecraft, this game could be given a generic fantasy, space, robot or dinosaur, etc. face-lift and be exactly the same game.

I must stress though, that this is indeed a fun and entertaining game and not some generic trash hiding behind a popular franchise mask. The blocks have a good solid feel to them and the player boards do look nice. I think a separate board for the score trackers would have been better than having individual trackers around each player’s board. The markers feel very much like an afterthought and are too big to fit on any single space on the tracker and, due to the nature of adding stuff to the board, easy to get knocked.

Final score: Worth playing or for fans of Minecraft Buy it (but knowing it’s not Minecraft on the table).

Everdell: Spirecrest- Board Game Review

This is for #Blogmas 2020 day 28.

For this review, I’m going to assume you already know about how the main game works.

Spirecrest from Starling Games is the second main expansion to Everdell. This one adds yet another extension to the main game board, this time at the bottom, a bunch of new cards to go on this board (none for the main deck), five of large animal creatures, saddles, journey tokens, fox workers as another option to play as and a bunch of walking rabbits, one for every worker animal type there has ever been including all the expansions and extras.
The cards are small and normal sized and split into the four seasons. The small cards are weather cards and each game, one weather card will define what the weather is doing for that season. These cards generally limit what can be done during that season such as much certain actions cost more or even banned outright so new strategies need to be employed. There are only three weather cards per season, but this does give a fair amount of variation. The normal-sized cards are discovery cards, three of which are made available to each player when they end each season, but only one can be claimed each time. These can give certain benefits or rewards and may include one of the new large wooden animals that replaces a player’s worker (who can ride it with the help of the saddle). At the end of each season players also claim one of the journey tokens to keep until the end of the game. Once a player has completed their game, they then send their rabbit along their constructed journey, paying the required costs to score some extra points if they can.

I liked this expansion a lot. The look really compliments an already gorgeous game, the large animals, even if they never get used, look amazing standing on the board. I love how the introduction of the weather can make for a much more varied gaming experience and am looking forward to experiencing there different weather combinations. The discovery cards added a nice little incentive or benefit to the game play and I also appreciated that there were no more cards to add to the main deck, which I feel has enough in it as it is. I did find it a little tough to get the saddles on the big animals and get the worker animals in, but they looked great once done. This game with this expansion takes up quite a bit of table space now, leaving not all that much room left for the players’s cities. This is an even bigger problem if coupled with the other expansion(s). We played on a big table with just this expansion, and space was tight.

This didn’t make the game any more complicated, nor did it add much extra time to the game play. It simply slots in an extra thing each time a player changes season and gives a few extra abilities and scoring opportunities. I can see this being a standard inclusion in all my future Everdell plays.

Final score: Gametastic!

Space Base – Board Games Review

For #Blogmas 2020 day 27.

Space Base from AEG is a competitive 2-5 player game and takes about an hour to play.

Each player is given a board with 12 spaces and a deck of 12 narrow cards numbered 1-12 which go in the respective spaces on the board. 18 extra cards are placed in the center of the table which can be purchased by players and added to their board during the game. The first act of the game is for each player to take a random card from the deck and adding it to their board. Each added card replaces the existing card in that space and that replaced card is turned upside down and under the top of the board with only the red section in view.
A player’s turn comprises of rolling two dice and can either take the reward from the corresponding blue section of the card that matches the total of the two dice, or the two cards matching the two individual dice.
The main rewards can be gold which can be used to buy extra cards, income which increases the minimum gold a player can be left with and Victory Points. There are also some other rewards that do other things too.

While the main player is gaining the rewards for themselves, the other players may also gain rewards from red sections of their deployed cards. There can be multiple deployed cards for any space.
There are also some special Base cards, one for each of the twelve spaces that give instant points, but blocks that space for any further cards for that space.
Play continues until a player reaches 40 VPs.

The components themselves are very nicely made, the cubes that keep track of the scores are particularly nice looking, though a dual-layered board would help to keep the cubes in place. Thin narrow cards are a little tricky to handle but makes sense in order to fit twelve across a player’s playing area. Placing the cards under the board is a neat idea, but it’s easy to lose already deployed cards by pushing them all the way under the board. Towards the end of the game when there are many deployed cards, it does get a little fiddly getting those cards in place without knocking everything out of place.

The artwork and theme is nice to look at, but pretty generic and could be themed on anything to be honest. Why there needs to be a complete list of all the ships and their classifications in the back of the rule book when none of that has any relevance to the game, I don’t know. Many of the ships all look the same anyway.

The game play is very easy to pick up, though it does take a little while to remember to use the blue rewards on your turn and the red rewards when it’s not.
A fun game with a relatively short play time meaning that a few games can be played in a gaming session.
Final score: Buy it!

Gaming Terms

For day 25 of #Blogmas 2020. Happy Christmas!!!

Did you ever read an article or the back of a box to find out about a game and all you get are some ‘gaming buzzwords’ that mean not a lot to you. Here’s a handy glossary of some terms to save you the thirty seconds to look it up on google.

Worker Placement: Where players take turns placing their counters on a shared board to perform a certain action or to block other players from doing so. Stone Age and Agricola have little more to it that this and Five Tribes introduces an interesting spin to the idea.

Card Drafting: Players are dealt cards then choose one card each. Keeping it, the rest are passed on to the next player and receive the cards from the player on the other side. Repeat until all cards have been picked out. Sushi Go and 7 Wonders do this as the entirety of the game whereas Terraforming Mars and Seasons use it as only part of the main game.

Deck Builder: Where players start with a small deck of basic cards. Each turn they draw a hand and use the cards they hold to ‘buy’ better cards from the middle of the table. All cards ‘purchased’ and ‘spent’ go into a player’s discard pile. Once they’re out of cards, they shuffle their discard pile, and start again, with a bigger deck with potentially better cards. Dominion sees players trying to fill their decks with point cards, Star Reams adds combat cards in order to reduce an opponent’s health, Legendary has players playing cooperatively against the game and Quarriors uses dice instead.

Push Your Luck: Where dice are rolled or cards are drawn resulting in bigger and bigger rewards – unless there’s one draw or roll too many and the wrong thing comes up and all is lost! Zombie Dice is very travel friendly, Jungle Temple is a handy filler and Abyss uses it as only one of its many elements.

Bluffing: Honesty will only get you so far, which is why we invented lying. Perudo (Liar’s Dice) and Sheriff of Nottingham see players trying to catch each other out and getting stumped by the occasional bit of honesty.

Dungeon Crawler: Corridors, doors, battling monsters, upping stats and gaining loot, the battle mechanics may be anything from die rolls to holding more cards. These games are about gaining more stuff and killing more things than anyone else. They range from epics like Mice and Mystics to not even bothering with a board in Munchkins.

Tile Placement: It is most likely you have played the game of Dominoes where players take turns placing their tiles according to the game rules. Carcassonne, Gingerbread House and Patchwork do this in different ways.

Point Salad: Where everything done gives points but the trick is to do enough of everything or a lot of the right thing to gain the advantage. Pulsar 2849 and Dinosaur Island are good examples of this.

Betrayal: A cooperative game where one or more players are secretly playing against the rest.

Dice chucker: Games where you roll dice a lot.

Of course games may only utilise one gaming mechanic or many.