Friday, 21 November 2014

Burgoo

Plays: 3Px1.

The Game

Burgoo is a gift from Allen, and is another microgame which he Kickstarted. Burgoo is a meat and vegetable stew (I hadn't known that). The game components of Burgoo are very simple - just a pile of tiles representing 6 different ingredient types. Everyone starts with a column of 12 ingredients, and a hand of 6 different ingredients. The objective of the game is to use up all ingredients in your column.

The ingredients of burgoo include beef, carrots, spices, celery, potatoes and and onions.

On your turn you do three things. First, you throw an ingredient from your hand into the pot (i.e. the central pile of non-player ingredients). You then announce top or bottom, and if any of the top (or bottom) ingredients in anyone's columns match this ingredient you've just throw in, everyone gets to throw them into the pot too. The second step is simply to pick one ingredient from the pot and put it in your hand. The third step is to again throw an ingredient from your hand into the pot. This time, instead of ingredients from your columns (and your opponents') tagging along, you (and only you) get to split one of your columns at a position matching that ingredient which you've just thrown in.

These are my two columns of ingredients, one with seven and the other with two. Those five ingredients in a small pile are ingredients in my hand. That big pile in the background is the pot.

On your turn you are throwing in one ingredient, then taking one, then throwing in yet another one. The net result is you are losing one ingredient every turn. However there is one special situation in which you get to collect more ingredients into your hand. If during the first step of your turn, one of your neighbours has an ingredient going into the pot (i.e. they are utilising your action) and that ingredient is the last one in its column, instead of going into the pot, the ingredient goes into your hand. Ingredients remaining on hand can be important, because it's the tiebreaker if two or more players use up their columns at the same time.

The Play

I asked my children to try this microgame with me, and they both defeated me soundly. In fact they both used up their ingredients on the same turn, and they had to determine victory by tiebreaker. The game is very short. It's an open information game. You get to configure your column at the start of the game so you can already plan how to maximise your efficiency in using up ingredients. There are not that many rounds in a game, because you only have 12 ingredients to get rid of, and you will usually get rid of at least one every round, sometimes more when you are able to have two matching ingredients at the ends of different columns, or when you are able to leech off others' turns. So the game is centred around little tactical decisions to rid yourself of ingredients as efficiently as possible.

Chen Rui has split her original column into three columns by now.

Shee Yun is organising her ingredients well. If she throws in orange and announces top, she can use up two tiles at one go. The same is true if she throws in white and announces bottom. She has also set up for the remaining ingredients.

The Thoughts

There is not much to the game. It's a short efficiency exercise, where you will find yourself analysing open information, trying to improve your efficiency without helping your opponents. Burgoo is a filler that doesn't feel very filling.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

collection snapshot Oct 2014

I haven't done one of these in quite a while. The last time was three years ago. My library hasn't really changed much. I usually don't sell or trade games. I don't buy many new games (I mean by boardgamer standards, of course). Still it's fun for me to compare how my library has changed between snapshots taken at different times. It's like browsing old photos of my children.

The growth history of my boardgame library:

This is the main area. Earlier this year I split my collection into two areas, the offshoot area being a children's area downstairs. I did this because of my daughter's birthday party. I wanted to set aside a group of games which I could teach her and her friends to play, and I wanted to put them where I could easily browse and pick a game. Doing this cleared up some space for me to buy new games. Not that I intended to buy much.

When I compare this photo with the one below from 2011, I find that many of the shelves haven't change at all. There are indeed many games which I have not played since three years ago. It's a pity.

My collection in Dec 2011.

Now let's zoom in to take a closer look.

This is a kind of a children section within my main storage area. I still keep some games here despite having a special children's area now.

That group of games which includes Hacienda and Power Grid has not changed at all for the past three years. I did play some of them, just that I have put them back in the exact same order. Clash of Cultures, Roads & Boats, Antiquity are new. New as in I didn't own them yet in Dec 2011, so what I call new here may not really be a new game.

Samurai Swords (first version was called Shogun, latest version is called Ikusa) and Axis & Allies (1984 Milton Bradley version) are kept because of the sentimental value. I have so many versions of Axis & Allies now.

The third row is where I put the games which I hope I will play more. The key word is "hope". New games tend to go here. The new ones in this photo include Paths of Glory, Android: Netrunner and Sekigahara.

The Great Zimbabwe, Axis & Allies: WWI 1914 and Robinson Crusoe are new. The bottom two shelves used to be for Allen's and Han's games. They have now brought home some of their games. Mykerinos, 51st State and History of the World are my games.

This section has changed very little. The left column is almost completely unchanged. The Alea series (centre column, top shelf) is unchanged. Naturally they are ordered by serial number. I don't intend to complete the series, so they have not changed since three years ago.

The bottom two layers are Han's and Allen's games, except for that square at the centre. That's actually a Hiew family history / family tree record and some books that my father asked me to buy for him. Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy is a game Han lent me recently. I've played it once with him and quite like it, and I hope to play again.

This time round, the game set slightly apart from the others due to size / shape / lack of space is no longer Planet Steam. It is these three instead. ColorMonsters (white unlabeled box on top) is the first ever review copy I received, so it has sentimental value. Sid Meier's Civilization (the one from Eagle Games) is a gift from my sister, so it has sentimental value too. I played Warhammer (a miniature game) once or twice, and didn't quite like it. I never painted the miniatures. I'm going to give this to Allen for his painting practice.

This is the new offshoot area of my library, the children's area. This is my children's toy shelf. Dixit, Escape and Hanabi are new.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Alerts via Facebook

If you are a Facebook user and want to get notifications in Facebook whenever I have a new post, follow this link: Hiew's Boardgame Blog Facebook page. I used to automatically cross post from Blogspot to Facebook, but Facebook removed this functionality some time ago. Recently I found a way to automatically post updates at Facebook whenever I have a new post, using dlvr.it. It's not a full post, but some of you may still find this small convenience useful.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Glass Road

Plays: 2Px2.

The Game

Glass Road is a medium-weight resource conversion game from Uwe Rosenberg. He has been doing many such games lately. He used to be famous for quirky card games like Bohnanza, but since Agricola and Le Havre, his design focus has switched to medium-to-heavy resource conversion games. Glass Road is another one of these, but it has a few interesting bits.

Everyone starts with a domain (player board) with 20 spaces, and initially most of it is natural terrain, like forests, lakes and quarries. You also have two factories, one producing glass and the other producing bricks. The factories not only produce. You also use them to keep track of your resources. It's quite nifty. Let's take a closer look.

These are your two factories. The top one is your glass factory, the bottom one your brick factory. The hands divide a factory into two segments, the larger one is where raw materials are tracked, and the smaller one is where the finished product is tracked. You must always turn the dials clockwise as much as possible, until one of the hands is blocked by a marker. Usually it would be one of the raw material markers, e.g. at both factories in this photo it is the white (food) marker stopping the long hand. The numbers on the dials indicate how many of each resource you have. When you gain or spend a resource, you move its marker clockwise or anti-clockwise accordingly. Whenever you have at least one unit each of all raw material types, there will be no marker blocking the long hand, and your factory will produce (must produce, in fact). This is done by simply turning the dial, until it is stopped again by one of the markers. By turning the dial, you decrease your raw materials and increase your finished products. That's how production works. It's automatic. You produce as soon as all ingredients are ready. This can sometimes cause trouble though. E.g. you are collecting wood to build a house. If you collect wood, but then find you now have the right materials to produce glass, your factory will immediately produce glass, and your collected wood is immediately depleted again.

This is a victory point game, and most VP's come from buildings you construct. Every round there will be some buildings on a common board available to be built by any player. Some buildings let you convert 1 unit of a resource to 2 units of another. Some buildings give a one-time benefit, e.g. a batch of resources, or the ability to modify terrain. Finally there are buildings which score points at game end depending on how well you meet certain criteria. Throughout the game you need to collect resources, produce glass and bricks, and constructing buildings, ultimately to score points. All these are done using a character card play mechanism.

This is the building board. There are three types of buildings. The top row displays resource conversion buildings. You can convert any time you like and as often as your like. The middle row is for buildings with one-time benefits. The bottom row is for end-game scoring buildings. When a building is constructed by a player, the board is not immediately replenished. It is only replenished at the start of the next round.

The character card mechanism reminds me of Witch's Brew. Everyone gets a same set of character cards. At the start of every round, you secretly pick five. You want to pick some which others won't pick, and also some which others will. Players take turns to play cards to take actions. You will only get three turns to play cards, which means out of the five cards that you pick, in the worst case you many only get to use three. Here's the catch - if the active player plays a card which someone else has also picked, then the passive player must immediately play his card too. Both active and passive player(s) will get to execute an action, but they only get to execute one out of the two actions on the card. If the active player plays a card which no one else can follow, he gets to execute both actions on the card. Ideally you want to pick three cards where you are the only player selecting them, and two cards which others have also selected. Then you'd get to fully utilise your five cards.

These are some of the character cards. The orange section is the fee that must be paid to use a character. The yellow section shows two actions.

One other consideration is the order of cards being played. If you intend to play one card to collect some resources, and then another one to use said resources to construct a building, you can be royally screwed if someone else plays the construct building card first before your building materials are ready.

The game is played over 4 rounds only, so in the best case you get to do 20 actions.

The Play

Allen and I played two games back to back. We were both new to Glass Road. It has been sitting on his shelf for some time. I find that the most important thing in the game is to analyse the available buildings. The factory mechanism is clever. The card play is tricky. However scoring and winning is all about getting the right mix of buildings to help you and to maximise your scoring. The game comes with many buildings so there will be much variability from game to game. There is competition in racing to construct buildings before they are claimed by others.

The card play can make or break a round for you. Both Allen and I experienced getting screwed by the order of cards getting played. We were caught without the resources needed to construct a building or to make use of another character card. Sometimes almost a whole round was wasted, with little being achieved. The card play can be brutal!

You do need to watch your opponent's board. There is much you can tell. If he doesn't have many lakes, but you do, then it is not likely he will pick the character which makes use of lakes. Well, unless he just wants to mess with you, which is definitely possible. You can also guess whether your opponent will compete with you for a particular building by looking at his board. If the building doesn't quite jive with his strategy, you can probably hold off getting the building for a little longer.

In our first game we took some time to digest the buildings and the character cards, but once we felt comfortable, the game play was very quick and smooth.

This is my player board, and this is not in mid game. This is almost at game end. I have only constructed four buildings. Not good. However this is partly because one of my scoring buildings scores points based on natural terrain that I have. So I have been preserving my natural beauty, even terraforming to regain some which was removed earlier.

The Thoughts

Well, Glass Road is yet another cube converter game. It has a few nifty mechanisms. It plays very smoothly and feels satisfying. I get a feeling that the factory production mechanism is a solution looking for a problem. I imagine Uwe Rosenberg being an enthusiastic mad scientist who had just discovered a new chemical and was eagerly looking for an application for it. Glass Road feels like a mechanism-first game. I think it does address a problem of cube converter games. Sometimes I get tired of these games because the many steps required to convert one resource type to the next, and then the next, and then yet again are just so much work. In Glass Road, production is free and automatic. You also get to use conversion buildings for free, at any time, and for as many times as you want. You don't need to wait for your next turn to do one step of the conversion, and then another turn to do the next step, and then another and another until you forget what you were trying to convert that lousy piece of wood to in the first place. Compared to Agricola and Le Havre, Glass Road is cleaner, and slick. It is a medium weight game, while the other two are heavier. I still like the older brothers more, despite them being a little clunkier. They have more story to tell. They feel more personal - begging for food for your family in Agricola, or progressing from a fish and chip restaurant to a steel business in Le Havre. But then maybe that's just nostalgia speaking.

What I like about Glass Road is the variability. The factory mechanism and the card play are the execution layer. The strategic layer is the building combos. With every game you need to analyse afresh the buildings on offer. The game has a bit of a tableau game feel too, like Race for the Galaxy, San Juan.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

gamer generation

I thought of this gamer generation concept recently when Ivan came to play. He became a boardgame hobbyist in 2010. As we browsed my game shelves, there were quite many games which he had not tried before, many of which I took for granted as being evergreens and assumed everyone should have played them. Then I realised I am an old fart, and many evergreens in my mind are simply old games in others' eyes. I entered the hobby in 2004. I consider myself the class of 2004. The kind of games I started with are quite different from what a 2010-er started with. Even within the 2004 batch of gamers the games we started off with can be very different, but at least they came from the same period, and there would be overlaps. The games I played most in my early years include Carcassonne, Ra, Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper, Ticket To Ride, Lost Cities and Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation.

Carcassonne

Gamers from different batches would experience the hobby differently, because the industry does change over time. E.g. in the 1990's there were much fewer heavy Eurogames than nowadays. We also go through different stages of our boardgamer life cycles with different games. I think after some years in the hobby, people generally settle down to one or two particular types of games. Most people I play with are Eurogamers and they usually play medium to heavy Eurogames. Some people become wargamers. Some people prefer lighter games. Some people like Ameritrash games. There are card game players and CCG players. There are miniature players, RPG players. They may be from different generations. They have probably taken different paths (as in the games played) to reach the same destinations. It is interesting to see the paths that people have taken. Everyone has a personal story.

My first five years or so were mostly spent playing medium weight games, with some heavier games mixed in. Then there came a period when I played a lot of Race for the Galaxy, Agricola and Through the Ages, mostly with my wife. These three games are representative of the years 2008 - 2010 for me. Since then, although there were many games which I liked, I have not played any single game as heavily as I had played these, or the handful of games that I played a lot of in my early years. Well, one exception is Ascension (my LRT game, i.e. subway game / train game / bus game), which I only play on my phone and don't even own a physical copy. I still play it almost every day now, but I tend not to think of it as representative of the boardgames I play because I don't play it on game nights.

Through the Ages

I am quite amazed with people who still keep up with buying and playing many new games after more than 10 years in the hobby, e.g. those who do extensive research prior to the Essen game fair and buy 40 or more games at the fair. They are constantly at the forefront of boardgaming. I bought many games in my first few years of gaming. After building up a sizeable collection, my purchases gradually wound down. There are still new and interesting games, so I never quite stopped buying. Most of my gamer friends buy games too, so there are many games I still get to play even if I don't buy them.

Which batch are you from and what are the top 5 or 10 games that define your first foray into the hobby?

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Impulse

Plays: 2Px1.

The Game

Impulse is a Card Chudyk (Glory to Rome, Innovation) design. It is a 4X game built on cards.

This is your universe. Well, at least the part you will be fighting over or operating in. It is made of 19 cards arranged in a Settlers of Catan-like layout. The sector core is a special card which allows transport ships (the upright rockets) to score points by landing there, and cruisers (the reclining rockets) to score points by patrolling the paths leading to it. When you explore a face-down card (i.e. unknown space), you take it into your hand, and then pick a card from your hand to place face-up on that space (which can be the same card you just picked up). This is called exploration. Naturally you want to place a card with a planet that helps you.

Cards have three main features. The most important is the action - the written text. What you do in the game is mostly driven by such card text. In addition to that, every card also has a colour, and a value between 1 to 3 (the icons on the left). The colour is used when you perform mining, which is investing in a way to boost your future actions. The values, among other things, are used is a dice-like way to resolve battles. 50% of cards are of value 1, 30% are 2's, 20% are 3's.

You can do most of the things you do in 4X games - explore, build ships, fight, exploit the planets within reach. You can spend resources on mining, which will boost your actions in future. You can trade, which is sacrificing cards for points. Ultimately, your goal is to reach 20 victory points. This is a race. The sector core is a source of points, and everyone starts the game only one step away from it (your cruiser can reach it in one move). That's as good as having a countdown timer for the game. Players compete with a clock ticking in the background.

This is called the Impulse. It is a row of cards which every player plays cards to. On your turn, you must append one card to it. Then you may execute every action in it, in the specified order, and finally you must discard the oldest card from it. So the Impulse is constantly changing, and its composition depends on what players have collectively contributed. You want to play cards which allow you to do what you want, but you have to be careful lest they help your opponents even more. Ideally you want to play cards which are useful to you but are worthless to your opponents.

This is your player board. It lists what you do on your turn, and also the battle resolution procedure. One action in the game is to tuck a card below the left side. This is called Mining. The colours and icons showing indicate what action types you can boost, e.g. building more than one ship, moving more than one fleet, trading more than one card. One action allows you to place cards on the right side of your player board (no example in this photo I'm afraid). This is called Planning. You are basically reserving actions for a future turn. The lower section of your player board are two basic techs, or basic actions that you can always do. One of them is common for all, the other is unique depending on your faction. You can develop new techs by placing a card on top of the basic tech, like in this photo. Doing this overwrites your basic tech.

The game is all around managing cards and the actions they allow. Other than the basic techs on your player board, every action relies on the right card being available, be it in the Impulse, on the board as a planet, on the right side of your player board as a Planned action, or covering your basic techs as an advanced tech. You need to manipulate cards and try to make combos work for you. You end goal is hitting 20VP before anyone else.

The Play

Ivan taught me the game, and we did a 2P game. It was the first play for both of us, so we expected very much a learning / exploration game. Card Chudyk's designs are a little quirky and are not the sort of run-of-the-mill medium-weight games which you feel like you've already played before after hearing a 2-minute elevator pitch.

In the early game I found that I had some cards in my hand which could boost my battle strength, so I grabbed the opportunity and attacked Ivan's cruiser. The early victory gave me a small lead. However Ivan soon built more cruisers and destroyed my raider, and caught up in points.

The Impulse is the engine of the game. Every turn you get to do one basic action, and then up to four actions from the Impulse. Managing the Impulse is very important. It will drive the pace of the game. If everyone does similar things, the game can speed up because all the actions will always benefit everyone. If players go in opposite directions, the Impulse may become irregular and bumpy, with cards often being unutilised.

Our game escalated into a military one, starting with my early probe. Once the threat of war was in the air, neither of us dared to fall behind in military strength. I found a planet with a Sabotage action, and made use of it to sneak robot bombers onto Ivan's ships. Some even succeeded in their missions. That's 1VP per destroyed ship! I had two planets near my home world which allowed ship movement. That gave me much mobility. I could chain actions. When transport ships landed on these planets, they could trigger movement for other transport ships and cruisers, and those transport ships could again land on Movement planets to trigger further movement. Busy busy busy!

At this stage we had explored most of the sector.

In a nail-biting battle just a few turns before this, I defeated Ivan's fleet, and found myself having a free reign in the central area. I quickly built a bunch of cruisers and dispersed them to claim every path leading to the sector core. That's 6 points every turn! Ivan could not stop me in time from reaching 20VP to win the game, even though he tried to send a fleet of three cruisers to challenge me.

The Thoughts

With just one game, we have only partially tasted what Impulse has to offer. There is still much we have not yet explored, like how to make use of the Planning action (to seed actions for future turns), how to Trade more effectively (selling cards for points), and how to Mine more effectively (Mining boosts actions). I think there are many possibilities to take advantage of the card mechanism and to make combos from the cards. This is what I like most about the game. It's like pouring out a box of LEGO and imagining all the things you can do with the many colourful bricks. It is quite strange how the dramatic and story-heavy setting of a space opera is represented using a bunch of essentially abstract card mechanisms. It is amazing how this works.

One thing left me a little uncomfortable - the military escalation. This seems to be a common problem with many civ games and 4X games. If one player decides to play the military game, no one else can afford to ignore military. Civilisation descends to violence. Impulse encourages players to interact because the sector core is such a lucrative source for VP's, and players are near one another. If every game becomes a wargame, then it can be rather dull. I need to explore more to see whether non-military strategies can be more efficient in scoring points, and also how well a non-military player can hinder or fend off a military one.

If you are a fan of Carl Chudyk, you must give Impulse a try.

Monday, 3 November 2014

there are no bad games

I have been thinking. I am coming to a realisation that there are no bad games, just games inappropriate for the occasion. Who are you playing with? What are the moods of the players? Their energy level? Their tastes in gaming? How many people are playing? Are you looking for something silly or something serious? Do you want to play competitively or casually? Even brainless games like LCR can be appropriate under certain situations, and I don't mean only "when stupid people play boardgames" (although that's one of the possible situations). When I write about games, I try not to condemn them. I try to think of the situations where they will find good use. Some games don't work for me, and I try to articulate why. Maybe others will like them because their likes and dislikes are different from mine.

I always feel a little uneasy about rating games. Take the BGG rating of a game, say a 7. A 7 is probably a curse. It's not high enough to stand out. It's not low enough to be controversial. It's just average and ignored. Associating a game to one number is bad. The number is technically correct. It's a Bayesian average. However it tells you very little about the game. I certainly had a lot of great moments with games which are 6's or 7's. I had one very funny session of Bremerhaven. After the session, I knew I didn't quite like the game, but we laughed so much that it turned out to be quite a memorable event. By now I don't remember a lot about Bremerhaven itself, but I remember we had a hoot playing it. Playing games is not just about playing "good" games, it is about having fun, laughing, scheming, and even screaming at your friends.

Our crazy game of Bremerhaven.

When we buy games, I think the first instinct is to evaluate whether the game we are considering is a "good" game. Good games go to the wish list or watch list, average games go to the dismiss pile. However, the intrinsic "goodness" of a game may not be all that important after all. I think it's more important to consider who you usually play with, and whether the game you plan to buy will be enjoyed in your group.

I'm mostly rambling and I'm not sure what conclusion I'm heading towards. I guess what I'm saying is there are no definitely bad games and what is important is identifying the right game for the occasion. Having a multi-faceted game library with many options certainly helps.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy (a.k.a. the family tree game)

Plays: 2Px1.

My long-time gaming buddy Han is now settled down in Johor Bahru and has established a new circle of gamer friends there. When he visits Kuala Lumpur he still looks up Allen and I for a game or two. On his recent trip he brought Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy, a game I have been interested to try for some time, because of the family tree idea.

The Game

You start the game with just yourself at the head of the family tree. There are a few characters to choose from, including both male and female, each giving you different starting conditions. During the game, you get married, have children, and you arrange marriages for your children, then your grandchildren, even your great-grandchildren. You manage your family tree via marriages and births. The most important aspect in the game is the husbands and wives you pick for your descendants. These come from your circle of family friends, which is basically your hand of cards. Every friend that becomes a family member (i.e. marries your descendant) grants some benefits, and these benefits are the key to building a successful dynasty.

The base mechanism is worker placement. I hesitate to use this term because it has a slightly negative connotation to me. Every game round you only have two action pawns, and this never increases (like in Agricola, Stone Age). Sometimes you gain some extra action pawns, but they are single-use pawns. There are two types of actions - private and public. Private ones are executed on your own player board and are not restricted by actions of your opponents. You can even do them more than once. E.g. marrying, having children, makings friends, borrowing money from friends. Public actions are limited to only one player per round, i.e. the more conventional type of worker placement restriction. So you need to watch out for competition. Once a player has gained a title, started a business venture, bought a mansion or organised a charity event in the current round, nobody else can do the same action until the next round.

This is the main game board. The timeline in the middle shows the three stages of the game and what happens when. We are now in the second stage (see the green cube). There are six different public actions shown here - those six colourful labels along the bottom. You may acquire a title, consult a fertility doctor (to birth twins), buy a mansion, start a business, take a secret mission, or contribute to the community. The cards below the board are the currently available friends.

Legacy is a victory point game. There are many ways to score. Throughout the three generations which you will play, every child born scores points. Your family prestige level scores at the end of every generation. Actions like gaining titles, running charity events also score points. Many family members give points as part of the benefits they bring to the family. There is one secret mission assigned at the start of the game. If you achieve it, you are rewarded points too. It sets a direction for your game.

Players need to manage two types of resources - money, and friends. Yes, friends are but a resource type. They are either marriage material, or unfriend material. Many actions that you do cause jealousy, so you will lose friends. When performing such actions, you need to make sure you have enough friend cards to discard. E.g. you'll lose a friend when you buy a new mansion or hire a fertility doctor, in the former case because you have jealous friends, and in the latter because you embarrass your friends.

The game progresses along a fixed timeline with an irregular structure, and ends after you complete three generations.

The Play

That handsome fellow at the top is me. I'm French. My timid-looking wife is French too, and is an academic (microscope icon). We have three children, two daughters and one youngest son. The children cards have two halves representing child and adult. Currently they are still kids so the child halves are pointing upwards. They will turn 180 degrees, i.e. become grown-ups, at the end of the current stage (i.e. current generation). Although my son is still a boy, I have already arranged a marriage for him to a rather sneaky-looking British girl. Sorry son, you have to take one for the team. It's for the good of the family.

Now my children are all grown up. How fast they grow! My eldest daughter is married now and has a son. Her British husband is an academic just like my wife. My son is an adult now and is marrying Sneaky Ann (you can't back out of arranged marriages). He will be producing offspring soon. I think he found Ann to be a very nice girl after he got to know her better.

My hand of friend cards. The Charles guy (rightmost) is a British diplomat, and I need to pay $8 to have a daughter marry him. He's a big shot. He does bring good benefits though. He will increase my family income by one (money bag icon), and my prestige by three (shield icons). If I have other Brits in my family tree, he will increase my family income even more.

My complete family tree at game end - four generations in all. I have three children, eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

I have had two tragedies. My eldest daughter (top left, rotated 90 degrees) died when giving birth. When birth complications occur, you must choose to have either the mother or the baby live. Disaster struck again in the next generation, when my grandson's wife died when giving birth too. Well, actually that's a reflection that I always choose to save the baby over the mother. How horrible!

The Thoughts

The family tree mechanism is novel and fun. My favourite part of the game is the very colourful characters and the excellent drawings. Despite this being a worker placement game, it didn't feel like one very much. It may be because there are private actions which are not subject to the typical worker placement restrictions. It may also be because the game I played was a 2-player game. With more players, there should be more competition at the main board. The game feels more like a tableau building game to me, i.e. like San Juan, 7 Wonders and Race for the Galaxy. You need to plan to play cards which work well with one another. Often it is good if you have many sons- and daughters-in-law of the same profession or nationality. You do need to compete in grabbing the right friend cards, and in denying your opponents.

Actions are very limited - only two basic actions per round. Bonus action pawns, if you obtain them, are single-use. By mid game or two thirds of the way through, you more or less have to plan out all your remaining actions for the game. This reminds me of The Princes of Florence - an early game of exploring options, a mid game of gradually committing to how you are going to compete, and a late game of mostly just execution of what you have already planned.

Other than the family tree and the friends management, the other bits of the game like buying mansions, earning titles and investing in businesses are a little dull. They are there just to flesh out the system and to give the game a coherent backdrop. Overall, Legacy is a medium weight Euro that is quite pleasant to play.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

boardgaming in photos

3 Oct 2014. The theme at Boardgamecafe.net that day was dice versions of boardgames. Las Vegas was not one, but at least it was a dice game.

The last time I played this was in Kota Kinabalu, and it was a 3-player game. This time I played with five, and I found out that with five, you don't play the neutral dice (the white ones). In fact the fifth player uses the white dice. The game is still fun and competitive without the neutral dice. I wonder whether the game was designed with the neutral dice in mind, and they were removed for the highest player count, or it was designed without the neutral dice, and they were added for the lower player counts. I have previously assumed the former. Now I realise there are two possibilities.

27 Sep 2014. Shee Yun (9) and I continued playing Escape: The Curse of the Temple. This game is well worth what I paid for it by now. We have played quite many games and we have tried all the expansions. This tile at the lower right is a quest tile from the Quests expansion module. The module comes with five different quest tiles, and you can decide to use between one to three in your game. You draw the quest tiles randomly and shuffle them into the deck of tiles. You won't know which quests they are until you draw them, and you won't know when you are going to draw them. To escape the temple, you must complete all quests.

This particular tomb quest in this photo is about bringing the lost ghost back to his coffin. When you discover the tomb tile, you place the grey ghost at the start tile (the grey room with a huge golden disc). You need to lead the ghost (by rolling an extra torch icon for each step) to its coffin in order to complete this quest. In this particular game this turned out to be very easy, since we found the coffin only two steps away from the start tile. The ghost was now back where it belonged, and golden coin next to the coffin was the marker to indicate that we had completed our quest.

This pyramid tile at the centre is yet another quest tile. When you discover it, you may immediately place the quest completion coin on it. You are considered to have already completed it. The twist is you also add three long gems onto the gem tile, which makes exiting the temple harder by three more key icons to be rolled. That is crazy hard. In order to reduce this additional requirement, you need to discover the rooms adjacent to this quest tile. For each that you discover, you get to place one long gem onto this tile. In this photo the rooms on the left and right have been discovered, so two long gems have been placed onto this quest tile.

These two cards on the left are the character cards, from the Characters module. Character cards give you special abilities, so they help you instead of making the game harder. They can be used to fine-tune the balance against other modules which make the game harder. The card on the left means that if all your dice show the black mask, you may teleport to where another player is located to use up all the dice, which means you are unlocking them all. The card on the right means when you get three black masks, you may treat them as three key icons or three torch icons, but only for the purpose of claiming gems from the gem tile. If you are the unlucky type who rolls black masks all the time, this is a must-have. :-)

5 Oct 2014. I brought out Citadels to play with the children. That was the game that made Bruno Faidutti famous. I bought it in the early days I entered the hobby. I never was a big fan of the game (I prefer Castle), but I thought this game would work with the children.

Aaah... the memories. I used to play this with my Taiwanese friends. We had a big group then and we played quite frequently.

The part I dread about this game is sometimes players take a very long time to pick a character card, and everyone else has to wait and twiddle fingers. People really should focus and do the card counting up front, instead of trying to work out all the possibilities only when they get the hand of character cards.

17 Oct 2014. Ivan came to play, and I taught him this slightly older game Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation. The Dark Side was generally easier to play, so I let him play Sauron while I controlled the hobbits and the fellowship.

Gandalf vs Witch King. They are equally strong (and will kill each other off simultaneously if tied in strength), but because of Gandalf's special ability, the Witch King must play his card first. Gandalf can then decide which card to play.

19 Oct 2014. Chen Rui (7) said she wanted to play Ingenious. I don't remember whether she had played before. If she had, she had already forgotten how to play and I had to teach her again.

Ingenious is one of Reiner Knizia's many many designs. It is not his best, not what made him famous, not his magnum opus, but it is what got him the prestigious Spiel des Jahres - the German Game of the Year.

While playing, I also taught Chen Rui tactics - how to block me, how to deny me the points for the colours I needed.

24 Oct 2014. Shee Yun (9) wanted to play At the Gates of Loyang. When she was younger I invented simplified rules in order to be able to play with her. She liked the beautiful components. Now we use the proper rules. She needs time to read and digest the text on the helper cards. In the simplified game I removed all helper cards.

This game is all about logistics and supply chain management. You need to match what you produce with customers who demand them, and you need to line up the production schedule with the demand schedule.

The three of us played Halli Galli. Shee Yun dealt cards while Chen Rui inspected the bell.