I haven’t written one of these for a while, but I have an excuse! Really! On Monday morning, 1/28, we decided to go on a cruise. Three hours later, we booked it for Saturday, 2/2. Most of these entries are from the cruise. The rest of the time we were packing and unpacking.
2013.8 – Escape: The Curse of the Temple – 1/24/2013
We got a chance to get away from the kids for an evening and spent some time with our friends, Brian and Shanna. We brought out Escape: The Curse of the Temple and played a couple of quick rounds. In this cooperative game, you are exploring a cursed temple that threatens to fall down around you. You move about revealing tiles, trying to find precious gems that will allow you to escape. The exit tile is somewhere at bottom of the tile stack, so you have to keep moving. Sounds easy, right? Well, you accomplish all this through some custom dice. Any action requires a certain combination of dice rolls, and guess what? Your dice can be locked, causing you to be delayed at the most inconvenient moments. Not too bad, but wait, there’s more! You only have ten minutes to get through the entire temple! The game has an actual 10 minute soundtrack, and if you can’t escape by the time it’s over, you lose. Oh, and don’t forget that twice during that ten minutes, a gong will sound, requiring everyone to return back to the middle of the temple. This game is a real-time game, meaning that no one takes turns. Each person has their own set of dice and controls their own explorer, but you have to work together if you have any hope of success.
If this game were anything but a restrictive, 10-minute game, it would be a flop. As it is though, it is always a blast to play, especially with more people. It’s quite funny to hear everyone shouting over each other trying to coordinate dice rolls. The game’s soundtrack adds to the chaos with its increasingly intense music and sound effects. We’ll probably only bring this out when we are with other people, but I can see our kids getting quite a kick out of it as they get older.
Play Rating: 10 Minutes of Madness
2013.9 – Endeavor – 1/27/2013
Endeavor is a game where you are in the early modern period, sending out ships from Europe and the Mediterranean to gain presence in and colonize new frontiers. You develop your building technologies, population generation abilities, financial backing and political prowess. It turns into a bit of a race to grab up limited spots throughout the world.
I don’t even remember who won, but it was really close. This game is actually only supposed to work with three or more people because the spots available to claim are too many for two. We play with a variant found on boardgamegeek.com where a neutral player auto claims spaces as we play. It actually works well, and it doesn’t encourage too much conflict.
We are funny about conflict in our games. It’s impossible and undesirable to eliminate conflict from board games, but with us it needs to maintain a delicate balance. This is why co-ops work for us. Endeavor walks that line really well.
Play Rating: Colonization and Conflict for Couples in the Caribbean
2013.10-13 – Yggdrasil, Ingenious, Space Hulk: Death Angel, Agricola: ACBAS – 2/3/2013
So, what do games about Norse mythology, abstract shape pairing, abandoned space vessels and farm animal cultivation have in common? Besides being fun, we played them on our first sea day on our cruise. Yggdrasil and Ingenious were on our iPad (though there are physical copies of them). We played Yggdrasil for the first time at BGG.Con, and it was fun on the iPad, though a little less so than the physical version. We won this one pretty handily, though I’m guessing the default mode is supposed to be easy. Of these four games, Yggdrasil and Space Hulk are the co-ops.
Space Hulk (above) is a small, portable, cheap game that lasts much longer than you would think (or hope). You are a group of space marines investigating a derelict vessel in, well, space. I have to assume your marines know about the hostile alien race aboard (called Genestealers) and have to fight your way through them. The game tries to make you feel like you are in cramped corridors and are actually finding rooms called the Generatorium and Teleportarium; it does so with a little success. I guess there is a bit of tension as you try to move from location to location without getting too bogged down in enemy numbers. It does seem to overstay its welcome a bit. It would benefit from more familiarity so gameplay could get faster. As is, its hard to muster up the enthusiasm to pick this one above other co-ops. We did win though!
On the non-coop side, we first have Ingenious, a theme-less abstract. Jessica beats me every time at this game, and this one was no exception. She always manages to stay a couple moves ahead of me. It is a fun little game that doesn’t last long but isn’t short on tactical depth. I told her I won’t play any more because I can never win, but she knows I can’t stay away!
Finally, we played Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small. We’ve played this one this year already, and it is a good one. I managed to get a leg up on Jessica in the animal department with a nice stable of horses though we matched on buildings. It was the opposite of that last time. This 30-minute game is just perfect for its length and scratches the worker-placement genre itch just right. Just like Endeavor, it has just enough conflict through its resource denial mechanism that you don’t feel like you are playing multi-player solitaire.
Play Rating: Yggdrasil – Norseing Around; Space Hulk – Couldn’t We Have Been an Early Snack?; Ingenious – Yes, She Is; Agricola – Horsing Around (I had to!)
2013.14-17 – nestorgames Edition – 2/6/2013
On the second sea day, we played all of our nestorgames. They come from an independent, on-demand publisher in Spain. He has a special physical format that focuses on ease of transport and small play area. His games are all abstract or lightly themed and usually very short. You can find more info on his site at nestorgames.com. We have four of his games: Isaac, Unity, Way of the Dragon, and Pilus.
Isaac has you laying thin tiles of varying lengths trying to gobble up a small amount of real estate while denying the other player. Then, you take turns removing your tiles for points based on how they intersect other tiles. It’s a bit of a brain burner, but it is my favorite of these four games.
Unity is one where each player gets some stars and circles scattered around on the board and are tasked with being the first to unify all their pieces into one connected group. You can accomplish this through piece destruction or movement, and it can be frustrating bringing your group together only to have a hole blasted through the middle of it by your opponent.
In Pilus, you lay square tiles that have four symbols/colors on each of them. You score points my making groups of symbols and can build vertically for bonus multipliers. Higher level real estate is more restricted, adding a nice level of tension in the game.
Way of the Dragon is a lighter game very similar to Yahtzee. You are trying to move along five pawns along five paths at the same time as your opponent, trying to reach the furthest while avoiding each other and other obstacles in your way. It relies a bit on luck, but it is enjoyable for what it is. Also, it has special dice, so you can’t go wrong there.
Here is a picture of Isaac:
Play Rating: Short and Sweet
2013.18 – Mage Knight – 2/15/2013
We played our second full game, and we did it in cooperative mode again. I really don’t think we’ll ever play any other way as this game can easily turn into a runaway leader situation. That is never fun for the person behind. Anyway, we played the blitz cooperative scenario which “shortens” the game length. It still took us about 4 1/2 hours, but it was enjoyable. It played very similar to previous games, but it felt a little bit more natural this time. I still had analysis paralysis, and Jessica still had a couple turns where she was left with not much to do, but we managed to find and conquer both cities! I particularly remember her in an early moment where she got really excited to see a nice combo of movement and attack in her hand that would allow her to traipse across the countryside, enter a dungeon and slay the foul beast with very little effort.
Those moments are the real joy of this game. For me, it feels like you try to build yourself up for it the entire game by recruiting a small army, fortifying your deck and building your reputation through the land. All of that seems to lead up to the final goal of laying waste to the defenders of the great cities. I felt strangely powerful marching towards a city and dispatching a dragon with a single mage. Yes, it can have its down moments or frustrating moments or “how is this even possible that I am stuck in the middle of the freaking desert with nothing to do?!?”…moments. It does seem all worth it for the big payoff, though.
Play Rating: With Great Power Comes Great Fun