The Games of 2012

What did I play in 2012? Well, according to my log over at Boardgamegeek/RPGGeek.com, in 2012 I played:

  • Role-Playing Games
    • 36 sessions of Carrion Crown
    • 11 sessions of Skull & Shackles
    • 1 session of Fiasco
    • 2 session of Call of Cthulhu
    • 1 session of Qalidar / True 20
    • GMed 1 session of GURPS Ghostbusters
  • Board Games
    • 9 rounds of Betrayal at House on the Hill
    • 6 rounds of Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game
    • 9 rounds of Dominion — with attendant expansions I will not list
    • 4 rounds of Android: Netrunner
    • 4 rounds of Give Me the Brain!
    • 3 rounds of Pandemic
    • 2 rounds of 7 Wonders
    • 2 rounds of Arkham Horror — with attendant expansions I will not list
    • 2 rounds of Carcassonne
    • 2 rounds of Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers
    • 1 round of Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer
    • 1 round of Castellan
    • 1 round of Chrononauts
    • 1 round of Chupacabra: Survive the Night
    • 1 round of Clue: Harry Potter Edition
    • 1 round of Cthulhu Fluxx
    • 1 round of Dungeon Petz
    • 1 round of Fealty
    • 1 round of Frag
    • 1 round of Guillotine
    • 1 round of IceDice
    • 1 round of Jungle Speed
    • 1 round of King of Tokyo
    • 1 round of Ligretto
    • 1 round of The Lord of the Rings Adventure Game
    • 1 round of Lords of Waterdeep
    • 1 round of Monty Python Fluxx
    • 1 round of Nefarious
    • 1 round of Small World Underground
    • 1 round of Smash Up
    • 1 round of Star Trek Deck Building Game: The Next Generation – The Next Phase
    • 1 round of Tales of the Arabian Nights
    • 1 round of Talisman
    • 1 round of Tobago
Advertisements

[Tuesday Night Board Games] Dominion: Cornucopia

I had my first taste of the new Dominion expansion Cornucopia the other night at Quarterstaff Games. It was mostly an exercise in frustration, as Jester was in play and most of the other players at the table decided to make use of it.

Jester’s a 5 coin attack card that gives the user +2 cards, then forces everyone else to reveal the top card of their deck. If it’s a victory card, they gain a curse. If it’s anything else, the player of Jester has the option to gain a copy of that card for their own deck, or put a second copy in the other player’s deck. So everyone was gaining lots of copper and curses. Because once you get a single curse in your deck, Jester’s eventually going to turn it up. Then they really start breeding.

The smart decision would have been to pick up some Masquerades, as they were the only trashing card available, but I wasn’t smart about and opted to blunder along in my solitaire way. Another player did pick up some and I was lucky enough to trade away a couple curses to my left hand neighbor, for which I was grateful.

So that really colored my perception of Cornucopia. Sure, it was a first play and I need to give it a few more tries with other cards from the set. But that doesn’t stop me from still getting annoyed by attack cards; annoyed to the point I generally write the game off completely if there are any in play.

I can’t believe I’m typing this, but I dislike attack cards because they’re so sub-optimal. With the array of options typically available in a Dominion spread, there’s almost always something more productive for a player to do than use an attack card, as they tend to be terminal actions, in that they don’t allow the player to do more unless they’ve previously used other cards to rack up some actions and money.

I don’t want to use attack cards because they do so little for me. Or they seem to at least. Militia is useful because it scrounges up some money and I can see the use in Witch and Jester because they give more cards, but generally I feel as though I’m wasting time attacking others when I could be doing more improving my own deck.

Not that I’m terribly good at deck-improvement, mind. If it’s not a Mine, I still have not developed that killer instinct for weeding crap from a deck to get at the good stuff.

Prepare for the Coming of Geek Week Game Night

Brennan barters games for a ride back to Burlington from Langdon Street.

Once again, Langdon Street Cafe in Montpelier throws its doors open to the nerdly set for Geek Week 5.0, a five day celebration of all things geeky. The Geek Week Game Con, an fixture of the event, takes place Wednesday, April 27th.

There will be a board game library, of course. As Ben Matchstick tells us over at Green Mountain Gamers: “There will be a lot of goodies for RPGs and board gamers. Dominion, Catan, Bananagrams, Agricola, and tons of others. You got it, bring it! There’s also an arcade machine emulator that will play over 4000 old school arcade games, just for that throw-back feel.”

As for role-playing games, Ben himself is planning a Gamma World adventure. I’m going down with Fiasco and InSpectres in hand. I don’t know if we can gin up characters and finish a game in three or so hours, but I’d like to give a shot. I know enough role-playing-friendly folks in Montpelier that we should be able to reach critical mass easily enough.

What a Wearying Wonderful Winter Weirdness Whirlwind

Nicole and John (left and right) explore the irradiated splendor of Gamma World while Mariah (center) observes.

All the ramp-up and preparation came to a head on Saturday, as we hosted our first Winter Weirdness game day in a church undercroft in Barre. It was, by any metric, a smash hit. Forty-odd people came in out of the cold and snow to spend their day playing games and making new acquaintances — I love watching the activity stream over at Green Mountain Gamers and on Facebook as people who meet up at these game days connect there.

My day consisted of getting to Barre early enough to set the room up, stashing soda and supplies in the kitchen and greeting the first arrivals until there was critical mass to play something and realizing that the way into the church basement wasn’t as clearly marked as it might have been. In the rush, the big friendly meeples that usually adorn sidewalks and doors to signal the location of a game day didn’t make the trip down the interstate.

As the day got underway and more people rolled in, a couple people came to me wanting to play Gamma World, which was pretty cool. I’d had the opportunity to try out the adventure in the back of the book previously with a different group of people, so I had an idea of how it might go. However, I’d forgotten there’s a critter in the second encounter that can easily lay waste to the entire party. The first time, I fudged it to keep the adventure moving forward. This time, however, I played it straight, mostly because it was a game day and I don’t think anyone wanted to spend the rest of the day playing through even an abbreviated version; that first run through took five hours to get through four encounters with fudging, as I was very aware of how much time would be involved in playing all the way through to the end, even if I skipped portions of the scenario.

By then it was 2:00 in the afternoon, so a group of us trooped over to Ladder 1 Grill, which is maybe fifty feet from the back door of the church, where I had an awesome turkey and bacon melt sandwich. Unlike the last two venues for the Green Mountain Game Days, downtown Barre has ample opportunities for sit-down and take-out food; Montpelier has even more, fancier options if you’re willing to take the drive and lose time at the tables.

After lunch, I wound up in games of Betrayal at House on the Hill and Dominion. My rule of thumb has become play new stuff at game days and conventions or play old games with new people. Plus the copy of Betrayal at House on the Hill belonged to Joe and it needed breaking in. Really, it pined for its dice to be torn out of their packaging and rolled. So we obliged. Dominion I got to play with my friend Kaye, Rick from the Book Garden and two old time gamers who were encountering the game for the first time that day. That was a cool experience to watch them pick up the mechanics.

Later, I tried out Elasund: The First City with Sarah, Andrew and Rod. It’s very Eurogamey. That’s all I want to say on the topic.

Accusations fly hot and heavy in Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game.

Elsewhere, Carlo, Munk and Rachel played Battlestar Galactica for what must have been ten or eleven hours. Not all in one game, but two with other players. I am deeply impressed by their commitment to fostering uncertainty, mistrust and paranoia.

In short, it was a huge day of gaming with people playing their brains out. I don’t know if the lousy morning weather worked for us — making people stircrazy and antsy to play games or against us — by penning them in their homes — but overall Winter Weirdness was an absolute success. And I think we found a great venue in the Church of the Good Shepherd’s basement. It’s cozy, has an very well equipped kitchen, a secondary space upstairs that’s idea for quieter role-playing games and is in easy walking distance to plenty of places to eat. Plus Barre is marginally central to three population centers: Burlington, the capitol district and the Upper Valley; sadly, when it comes to the Northeast Kingdom and southwestern Vermont, there’s still no way to get ther from here. Regardless, I think Green Mountain Gamers has found a second home in Barre.

National Gaming Day 2010 at the Fletcher Free Library

The eternal question of National Gaming Day: "What shall we play next?"

Saturday was National Gaming Day 2010. In observation of the day, the Fletcher Free Library here in Burlington hosted an afternoon of board games. I didn’t get to stay for the whole afternoon, having agreed to run demos as a Man in Black down at the Gathering of the Gamers in Middlebury, which just happened to fall on the same date as National Gaming Day this year.

Along with a pair of plastic bins full of board games, Brennan brought fresh baked bread still warm from the oven, which was a great snack paired with Cabot cheddar and/or raspberry preserves. So we had something to nibble on while we played Pirate’s Cove, one of a pair of a games I’d set up in anticipation of potential players arriving. As it happened, it was mostly the gang from Tuesday nights, plus one young newcomer, Max. Meanwhile, a second group formed to play Dominion with a healthy helping of Duration cards from Seaside.

Pirate’s Cove went okay. It’d been long enough since I last played that I had to keep reminding myself how the game went. Max turned out to fit the model of a young player, to be honest, which has led me to wonder if I’m courteous or excessively picky about other people’s behavior while playing a game. After Pirate’s Cove, we kept up the piratical theme with a round of Liar’s Dice. By then, I had to head south to Middlebury. From what I’ve heard, the rest of the afternoon was given over to Age of Empires III, Citadels and more Dominion.

Saturday was gloriously sunny, abnormal for mid-November in Vermont. I’m thinking that had something to do with the turnout for National Gaming Day — it was good in terms of spending time with friends, but as a way to get more people playing board games, it was pretty weak. While we’ve gotten good at spreading the word within the existing social circle of Burlington gamers, I think we still need to work on reaching people who aren’t necessarily connected via social networking or other means. That and the Fletcher Free’s involvement came relatively late in the ramp-up to National Gaming Day. Hopefully, next year they’ll get on board sooner and take a more active role in promoting it to interested patrons.

Meanwhile, over in the Northeast Kingdom, Border Board Games hosted the gaming at the Goodrich Memorial Library. They had a pretty excellent turnout, with lots of new faces. Kudos to Bethany and Richard for being such great game hosts!

Continue reading

Dominion Storage Just Got a Lot Hotter

Oh, you sexy thing.

Trawling Boardgamegeek, I came across a link to this, an amazingly clever box design for storing Dominion — and really any game with lots of different types of cards that don’t get shuffled together. I’d love to include a picture here, but the author appears to be Korean, so I don’t have high hopes of getting permission. So you’ll just have to click through.

The really nice thing about this box design is it’s expandable. You can pull on the two long sides double the box’s width. This gives your fingers plenty of room to pull the decks out, in contrast to other homebrew box designs, where the decks are tightly packed together. The ability to expand the box works because each deck has its own sleeve, which is anchored to one side or the other of the box. Which side the sleeve is anchored to alternates with each deck, creating that space in the middle to properly grip the top and bottom of a deck when the sides of the box are pulled apart.

I’ll cop to snickering a bit on seeing the lengths some people have gone to perfect a storage solution for this game or that. A box is a box in most cases and the packaged Dominion tray is really pretty great, particularly in contrast to what you see other game manufacturers put in their boxes. But this design . . . this design has me thinking about making it my winter project. It’s just that sexy.

[Games Unplugged] Prosperous Evil Touching

Main Street, Montpelier, Vermont showing the s...

See that corner shop on the left, Rivendell Books? That's on the corner of Langdon Street, at the other end of which is the eponymous cafe. Image via Wikipedia

Last Wednesday, Langdon Street Cafe in Montpelier hosted their monthly Games Unplugged night. It’d been a while, probably since June, that I’d been down for Games Unplugged, so I wanted to check it out. Between traffic, weather and finding something to eat in downtown Montpelier, it was about 7:00 that Alex and I walked in the cafe door, to find a game of Tsuro wrapping up. Game night and bartender Ben revealed the Gen Con prerelease copy of Dominion: Prosperity that a certain area gamer had kindly loaned out for the evening. We fell on that almost immediately.

Prosperity‘s supposed to be all about lots of buying power and high victory point totals. I don’t disagree with that. Workers’ Village is Village with +1 Buy for an extra coin’s cost. Goons is a snazzy little six cost card that not only behaves like Militia, but gives +1 Buy, and then rewards 1 victory point for every buy you make that turn. That victory point is a token that goes on a little mat each player gets, kinda like treasure that a Pirate Ship in Seaside accumulates. My reasoned reaction to Goons is it’s overpriced for something whose main effect is Militia, but I think it’s what let me win the game; by keeping the other players down to three cards several turns in a row, they weren’t buying victory points as often as I was. The game ended when I scooped up the last two Duchies, recognizing it was probably best to end it then before either Alex or Bob had the opportunity to do so themselves.

After that we got into a probably ill-advised game of A Touch of Evil. It was nearly 9:00 by the time we started, which was much too late considering four of the five players had a commute home on their to do list. In this game against the spectral horseman, we jumped straight into the advanced game in cooperative mode, a bit because Alex had read the rules on his own, but mostly because we’re gamers in that way. Thoughtful? Sensible? Not we!

This one went a lot longer than the game at Quarterstaff. Partly because there were five of us at the table, but also because we were using more rules and probably being more conservative than we needed to — or maybe not conservative enough. My character, Inspector Cooke, was knocked down to one wound at least three times, which meant he spent a fair bit of time at the doctor’s office. Otherwise, he was often trapped in the blacksmith’s shop by roving barghest hounds.

Once the cafe cleared out for the evening, Ben kindly put the soundtrack included in the game on the sound system. It was . . . not great. More amusing in its cheesy synthesizer effects than anything. It added a different sort of flavor of horror to the graphic design of A Touch of Evil, which is fairly dark. The illustrating photographs up the cheese factor, admittedly, but the music just put it over the top. So if that was the intended effect, kudos to the composer. During this power, however, the music mostly provoked groans and took us out of the game for a couple minutes.

After an hour of battling hounds and ghost soldiers, we decided to skip to the showdown, when the heroes attempt to vanquish the villain once and for all. We stumbled through assembling the hunting party, figured out the thought-dead reverend was actually helping the horseman all this time and commenced to rolling dice. The victory was not without its toll. At least three of the five heroes fell to the horseman, maybe four. My character certainly died, though he managed to take the horseman with him, which prompted some speculation as to how he ran through the ghostly rider in the midst of being tramped beneath the hellish mount’s hooves.

Langdon Street Cafe’s a funky little place to play board games. It was pretty laid back Wednesday night, which was good for gaming in peace. Their Geek Week last spring was a lot noisier and crowded, although that was certainly better for the cafe, I’m sure. I’d like to visit for Games Unplugged more often, but an hourish drive keeps it as an occasional trip for me. Having a co-pilot along certainly helps with the drive home, so thanks to Alex for performing that duty.

I have a little dream that some day in the future, there will be an open board game event every night of the week all over the state. Right now, there’s Tuesdays in Burlington and Wednesdays in Lebanon, New Hampshire, which is practically Vermont for the people living in the Upper Valley. Gamers Grotto in Bennington doesn’t seem to have a set board game night yet. Hopefully Langdon Street Cafe will build a long-standing weekly board game institution. Montpelier certainly deserves one.

[Fletcher Free Library Gaming] Prisoners in the Tower of Carcassonne

I made my way to the Fletcher Free Library for some Saturday board games for the first time in quite a while. As the weather in Vermont becomes more clement, I and many other sensible people want to spend less time indoors, particularly on sunny afternoons. However, we’ve been going through a bout of heat and humidity lately, so I thought the air-conditioned library would be a good place to hide out for an afternoon. As it turns out, the room reserved that day for board games has a skylight, which is not conducive to staying cool on warm days. Still, we did get some games in before the heat and stuffiness drove us out.

When I got there, Andrew and his friend were checking out the library’s graphic novel collection. I think I witnessed someone’s first time reading Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, which was a funny thing to realize. Once Sarah and Alex came along, we played a couple rounds of Dominion; the first round, we randomly mixed cards from Intrigue with Seaside, which was fun, albeit unmemorable. I can’t remember coming up with or observing any really dynamite combinations.

The second game sticks out in my memory much more clearly. It was straight-up Intrigue — still maximizing my purchase, y’see — and we played the Victory Dance setup, which includes the Saboteur. Now, I’d dealt with the Saboteur before last week at Quarterstaff, but it didn’t do a whole lot. This time, however, it got my damn Province, which was heart-breaking and irritating all at once. If I play that setup again, I’ll try spreading out my victory points more by going for Duchies and Dukes. I opted to stay out of the struggle, thinking that everyone else would descend upon them and I could snaffle up Provinces like usual. And by the way, Upgrading Estates into Great Halls is a wonderful thing.

After that, we brought Chuck into the action with Carcassonne. For this, we used Sarah’s Carcassonne set, which is over-stuffed with a plethora of expansions: Inns & Cathedrals, Builders & Traders, Abbey & Mayor, The River II and, for the first time ever, The Tower and Cult, Siege & Creativity. The latter one was easy, being a pair of magazine promotions and some blank “design your own” tiles. The Tower, however, I was much more leery about.

I have a habit of adopting received wisdom as my own opinion when lacking personal experience. In this case, I accepted that The Tower‘s central mechanic of capturing other people’s meeples is mean and counter to the traditional Carcassonne style of passive-aggressive parasitism. And frankly, they’re right. One player took advantage of the towers as they were intended. The rest of us typically used them just to get our meeples back. And none of us bothered to cap a tower. I think we just became more cagey about placing new meeples relative to existing towers.

This particular session gave me a valuable experience in expansion bloat, when there are just too many rules elements flying around for the game to feel fun anymore. My ideal Carcassonne uses all the tiles, the mega-meeple, the builder, and the abbey tile because it’s useful in completing seemingly impossible to finish features. Well, I found it useful on Saturday.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Some people scoff at brick and mortar game stores. “Why pay retail when I can get it cheaper from an online retailer?” I’ll tell you why: instant gratification.

There is no greater pleasure than being able to stroll into the store, grab that game you’ve eyed for months now and start unwrapping it before the clerk’s even finished swiping your card. With an in-store game night, you can be playing the game — because certainly you wouldn’t buy a game you haven’t already tested and know you’ll like, just as I wouldn’t — in minutes, as sometimes happens at Tuesday night board games.

Unless, of course, the store doesn’t have the game in stock. Then the whole thing falls down. That’s where I found myself last week. I finally decided to throw down for Dominion: Intrigue, only to find Quarterstaff Games was out of stock. Not only were they, but so was the distributor. Intrigue seems to be out of print for the moment. The only copies to be had are those already in the supply chain, which probably aren’t all that few, given the line’s surging popularity.

With instant gratification out of the way, I found myself with two options: wait for the store to get the game in stock or buy it online. Either way, I’d have to wait. Buying online seemed like the quicker option. So that’s why I find myself drumming my fingers tonight, because a silly eBay seller couldn’t mention the fact they ship via FedEx, a service which does not play nice with my current abode. If I’d known, I’d’ve shipped the package elsewhere, but here we are.

Later today, I’ll head out to the FedEx station to pick up Intrigue after what seems like much too long a wait, when really it’s only been about seven or eight calendar days. That’s quicker than waiting for the local game store to restock, but being thwarted by FedEx has still made me cranky about online retail in general.

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Sarah really likes her prize.

Way back in February, we had a Dominion tournament at Quarterstaff Games. Rio Grande Games very kindly donated a prize that, unfortunately, didn’t make its way into our hands in time to be awarded on the night of the event.

This past Tuesday, though, we did receive it. Conveniently, the winner of the tournament was on hand to accept her prize and express her happiness on doing so.