Welcome to Frank's Games

This blog is where I talk about games, write gaming session reports, review my favorite Euro Games, and occasionally provide news on upcoming releases. 
I hope you enjoy it. If you're new to this kind of gaming, and are interested in learning more, I would be glad to hear from you. I encourage you to subscribe and get email notification of any additions I make to my blog.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

SO MANY YEARS - SO MANY GAMES. I haven't posted to this site since 2011. Didn't think I could (for some now forgotten reason). But today I tried to see what I could do and voila(!) it worked! So here I am catching up on all the games I have played in the past 4 years. The list is too long, and I honestly can't remember all that has happened. But the past four years have brought numerous great games to my table and to my groaning shelves. The greatest of which is TERRA MYSTICA! This has become my all-time favorite game. Others that have been a hit for me include Heroes of Normandie, Lewis & Clark, Russian Railroads, Castles of Burgundy, Istanbul, Machi Koro, Alien Frontiers, Kingdom Builder, Snowdonia, and Splendor. All of these games have had their moments in the limelight (though most have faded as the next wave of games arrived on shore). Then there are several that have arrived, but haven't been able to get to the table for various reasons - Nations, Amerigo, and Panamax to be exact. Micro-games have also been arriving and getting some attention, including: Machi Koro, Tiny Epic Kingdoms, Tiny Epic Defenders, Harbour, and Love Letter. I have only just begun. There are more - Eclipse, Kings of Israel, KeyFlower, Seasons, Navigator, Imperial 2030, Spyrium, Antics, Fleet, 8-Minute Empire: Legends & Lost Cities, expansions for numerous games, Village, A Few Acres of Snow, etc. etc., etc. So how do I rate the games that have come and gone over these years? That would be a very difficult task for me, but I could perhaps list them in categories: Top-of-the-Mountain games; Close-but-not-quite-top-of-the-mountain; Doesn't get played, etc. Top Of The Mountain: Terra Mystica - unquestioned # 1. Like Attika, from the moment I first read about it, I was in love with it. And playing it only increased my love for it. The best of the best IMO. Kingdom Builder - this game just kept growing on us. Simple, at first blush seems to be very random, but the more you play the more this game shines. Like Attika, it scratches that 'simple-to-learn-and-simple-to-play' but 'deeper-than-it-seems' itch for me. Heroes of Normandie - if you love war-games, but want something short & fun Castles of Burgundy - the best Feld game IMO. Russian Railroads - so much goodness, just not a favorite of my gaming friends Istanbul - good AND short! Splendor - This has to be one of the best quick games I've played Close-but-not-quite-top-of-the-Mountain: Machi Koro - a bit too random to rank with the above, but a fun game to play Eclipse - an excellent game, but too long to make it to the top of the mountain Snowdonia - Same as Eclipse...a bit too long for our AP prone group A Few Acres of Snow - Great, but only a 2-player, and not quite as fulfilling as Heroes of Normandie Lewis & Clark - top of the mountain for me, but not for my group. It just takes too long. Navigador - an excellent game, but somehow it doesn't quite 'grab' our group Seasons - a fun game, but you do have to play it a while to understand the various cards and what combos work best. Doesn't get played: Panamax (seems complex) Nations (group doesn't want to buckle-down-to-learn) Amerigo (just doesn't seem to be chosen by our group) KeyFlower (a great game, IMO, but I can't get our group to play) 8-Minute Empire: Legends (everyone thinks it's too simple) Well, this is just brief overview. So much, much more has happened, but these are the highlights of the past 4 years.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

February's Games

February was the month of 7 Wonders! I played it 13 times - far more than any other game. Next up was London with 3 plays and Navegador and Ivanhoe with 2 plays each. As noted last month, London was received in January, but not played. So it was the new game this month - though it got only 3 plays.

7 Wonders
This game continues to hold its interest with our group. However, I can see it slipping a bit as the novelty wears off.

London

London is Martin Wallace's latest game and I really enjoy it. Though it has a game board, it is essentially a card game. The board is important to gameplay, however, but it is more of an accessory than the main focal point of the game. Gameplay is very simple. On a player's turn he simply takes a single card, and then takes a single action. Play then passes to the left. This continues until the end of the game (when the last card is taken from the deck).




(Top Pic: The London Game Board, Card Display, and Card Deck.)
(Bottom Pic: A player's City Tableau where he "runs" his city.)

When taking a card, the player may take it from the top of the face down card deck, or from one of the face up cards in the card display.

The four actions available are:
1) Play as many cards from you hand as desired OR
2) Run your city OR
3) Buy land on the board OR
4) Take 3 Cards from the Card Display

There is a hand limit of 9 cards, but only at the end of your turn. You may exceed that limit during your turn.

Rather than explain the game, you can read the rules on the 'Geek if you're interested. I'll just give my impressions.

I really enjoy London, but several in our gaming group were just not anxious to learn it, thinking that it looks too hard. That generally changes, however, once it is played. I'm not sure what it is that turns people off when watching it played by others. Perhaps it's the fact that there are so many cards to learn, others think there is too much down time, and others think there is not enough interaction. I disagree on all counts! :) I love the game.

Down time is minimal when players have a game or two under their belts. Card iconology makes it easy to learn what the cards do, there is just enough interaction to suit me (races for the best spots on the board, watching what others are doing and adjusting your strategy accordingly, and setting up for the important game end and final round.

Of the new Essen releases I've played thus far (Navegador, Troyes, London, Antics), this one holds its own. I am not sure at this point which of Navegador, Troyes, or London I would rate the best - though a slight nod might go to Troyes. However, I see all three as quality games. Antics seems to be a bit less so, but it is unique in its mechanic and that makes it special as well.

Looking Ahead

March should bring key Market to my game table, and hopefully I can report on it in next month's report.

Friday, January 28, 2011

January Games

January brought two more Essen 2010 games to my game shelves - Troyes and London. I've been anxiously awaiting both games since seeing them reviewed at Essen (via BGG Video).

TROYES
I suppose Troyes was the most anticipated, and after receiving it on the 6th of January I've managed to get three games played. My take? The more I play it, the more I like it. In fact, I think it's VERY good, although it has not been as highly received by other members of our gaming group.

There's a lot going on in Troyes (by the way, it is pronounced something akin to Trr-WAH, while rolling the r's). It's a dice rolling game that doesn't feel like a dice game at all. The reason is that you can buy and use other people's dice as well as manipulate your own. And, low numbers can serve as well as high numbers. But it's not ALL about dice, nor is that even the main thing in the game. The winner is not necessarily the one with the best rolls - but the one who best utilizes everyone's dice and who makes the best decisions in the game. In fact, this game leaves me no sense that it is a game of luck.

Briefly, a turn consists of:
1. Turning over Action 3 cards (red, white, yellow), each of which give special benefits when dice of a matching color are placed on them.
2. Rolling a number of dice (red, white, yellow) depending on the matching number of "meeples" you have in the red, yellow, white buildings.
3. Turning over a Red Event color and either a White or Yellow Event card as well.
4. Resolving the Event cards (in some cases bad things happen to all or some players; in other cases black dice have to be rolled and players must "use" some of the dice they rolled in step 2 to offset the black dice 0 and by doing so they gain Influence points.
5. Take actions by using (in turn order) their own or other people's dice. Actions include:
a. placing "meeples" in buildings (red, white, yellow) as per the dice used (yours or others). If using other player's dice, you pay them depending on how many total dice you use.
b. placing a die or dice (yours or others) on action cards and taking the action allowed
c. placing a die or dice (yours or others) in the Agriculture field to earn money
d. using a die/dice (yours/others) to construct the town Cathedral
e. using a die/dice (yours/others) to resolve an Event Card.

After everyone has taken all their actions and passed, or after all dice have been used, the turn ends



Then a second turn begins. A game lasts 4, 5, or 6 turns depending on the number of players. What makes the game for me are the many choices you have each turn. In my first 3 games i have not felt that I am anywhere NEAR "solving" it or developed a winning strategy. Further, since their are 27 Action cards, and only 9 are used in each game, you will never have two games exactly alike. Further, the dice will always be different offering you many delicious choices on your turn.

Temporary rating for me? A 9. Of course, I'm aware of the "new game" effect on ratings. Thus, I will not make an "official" rating until I've played it at least 10 times.

LONDON

I did not get a copy of London until January 26 (two days before writing this), so have not had a chance to play it. I did set it up and have walked through two or three turns for 3 "players" while reading the rules. Am anxious to play, and it looks good (though I didn't get the "Essen Special Edition." Nevertheless, am anxious to play it. I will continue this review once it has been played.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

December Games



















For me, December is Christmas - so all the games I get in the 12th month I consider to be part of my Christmas! Well, that being my definition, the following games were my 2010 "Christmas games":

* Antics
* 7 Wonders
* Small World: Be Not Afraid expansion
* Navegador
* Power Grid: Russia/Japan expansion

Thus far, I've played Antics and 7 Wonders. Navegador and PG:R&J didn't arrive until Christmas eve, so they haven't had a chance at making it to the table.


Antics - has 3 plays and went on hold when 7 Wonders arrived a week or so later. I really enjoy this game and find it to be free of luck, but with a bit of chaos in that other players can really mess up your plans.

7 Wonders - After 4 plays it seems to live up to the hype. Not a deep game, but one that plays quickly (after a slower first game), and accommodates up to 7 players. More than a filler, but neither is it the "main game of the night" IMO, unless you plan to play 7 Wonders about 2-3 times back-to-back (and I find that a satisfying evening).

I highly recommend both games and look forward to getting Navigador played.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Post Essen 2010 Thoughts

Well, Essen 2010 just ended. No, I didn't get to go, but thanks to our electronic age (and age of digital communication), I was able to sit in on a bit of it via Board Game Geek's live video. Of course, I also read the daily reports from Patrick Korner, Frank Kulkman, and Dale Yu. I also kept up with the gaming "polls" issued both by Fairplay magazine and by the 'geek.

It seems that the main "hits" of the show this year centered around two games - 7 Wonders and Troyes. 7 Wonders was expected, it had received by far the most buzz before the convention and I had already pre-ordered it weeks ago. However, Troyes was a surprise. It came out of nowhere from a small publisher - Pearl. More about the game later.

Here were the final polls - first from Fairplay:

7 Wonders Repos Production 1,84 126

Troyes Pearl Games 1,98 64

Navegador PD-Verlag 2,04 79

Age of Industry Treefrog 2,05 39

Olympus Stratelibri 2,11 47

First Train to N├╝rnberg Argentum 2,12 34

Key West Spiele-Idee 2,13 31

Vinhos Whats Your Game 2,18 40

Florenza Placentia 2,23 30

Habemus Papam 1655 DDD Verlag 2,26 61


The above shows the name of the game, the publisher, then the average rating (1 is best to 6 as worst). The fourth column lists the number of votes given to the game.
The Germans use a comma where we would use a decimal point. So 7 Wonders, produced by Repos, averaged 1.84 per vote, with 126 people voting.

Looking at that list the ones I'm most interested in besides 7 Wonders and Troyes are the next 3 (Navagador, Age of Industry, and Olympus).

The surprise is that London did not make the list. But this is due to the lack of votes. Not enough vote were cast for it to get listed. However, every copy brought to Essen sold! It will be a while before it gets released for the rest of us.

Here were the final totals for the 'Geek:

Junta: Viva El Presidente 4.3 23

Survive! 3.9 28

Phantom League 3.9 22

7 Wonders 3.8 191

Genesis 3.8 92

Troyes 3.8 78

Navegador 3.8 94

Fresco 3.8 145

Dixit 2 3.8 74

Escape from Aliens… 3.8 21

This poll was something of a surprise. Note the total number of votes. Junta got only 23 while 7 Wonders was rated by nearly 200! I put more weight on the games with the higher number of ratings. Survive is an old game being republished. Junta is a dice game similar to Roll Through the Ages. I'm interested in neither. Again you notice that 7 Wonders and Troyes are high as is Navegador, Fresco, and Genesis.

Genesis was another huge surprise. It is actually a game about the 7 days of creation! There is even a clear plastic figure in the game that represents "God." :) The game last for 21 turns - morning, noon, night for each of the 7 days. The players are "angels" carrying out God's creative commands and acts (not exactly theologically correct, but makes for a better game). I would be interested in trying it. And it got a lot of good 'vibes during the week.

As Chuck Parrot accurately pointed out, Navegador (Navigator) is the latest Mac Gertz design using the Rondel (as in Antike, Imperial, Imperial 2030, Hamburgum, etc). That alone got my interest.

Finally, a word about TROYES.

It is designed by the same guy who did Carson City: Xavier Georges, along with a couple of other guys, and is produced by Pearl Games (small publisher). It will hopefully get published for US consumption - but it probably won't show up here until next year. :(

It is a dice rolling game, but with a wrinkle. It requires some unique thinking and planning and the mechanics allow you to "buy" and use the other players' dice rolls! There are three types of dice - Red (Military), White (Religious), Yellow (Civil). Each person has a "character" card that gives them propensities in these three areas (military, religion, civic), which also will influence the type of dice you want to roll. Further, there are events and actions that you will want to achieve that require certain types of dice (both color and total number). Decisions are interesting and affect all other players. When you buy someone's die roll, they have to accept the purchase - but can then use the money made to further their own ambitions. The board looks nice and having read the rules I know it is one I will be interested in purchasing.

One more thing. I'm t-h-i-n-k-i-n-g about going to Essen next year. James indicated he would like to go as well. Anyone else interested? I can do some checking around to get an idea of pricing, etc. The convention itself costs very little (maybe $20 for the week). The main costs would be the flight over, the hotel, and food. I would probably fly over on Monday, October 17, 2011 and return Monday, October 24, 2011. Airline ticket alone currently show about $1500 including all taxes and fees for June 2011 flight - so it isn't cheap. (I currently can't get a quote for an October 2011 flight). I think you can figure another $500-$1000 more for food, hotel, and games you will undoubtedly purchase! I'm not sure I can swing it - but it might be that we can find some cheaper tickets over the course of the year, and I have friends there that could direct us to cheaper hotels that might be within walking distance of the Messe.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New Games Played Lately

The new "to me" games that I've had the privilege of playing in the past month include...
Hansa Teutonica, Wars of the Roses, Through the Ages, and Dominion: Prosperity (well, this is not new, in a way).

HANSA TEUTONICA
I enjoyed my two plays of this one at That Board Game Thing - enough to order my own copy.
Designer - Andreas Steding
Mechanic - Worker placement.
In some ways it's like a lot of other worker placement games, but it has enough really good choices and balancing acts that it keeps my interest. Looking forward to the expansion. It actually plays in a relatively short time (about an hour) when everyone knows the game. The main idea is to connect to cities through a road network, and either take a privilege offered by the city (in the case of 6 of the cities), or take an empty office in the city if one is available and you qualify. The privileges/rewards of connecting to the cities grant numerous benefits, depending on the city connected to - a) more actions per turn, b) qualification/privilegiums to serve in higher office positions in towns, c) the ability to pick up your pieces and move them to another spot on the board (I call it "flying"), d) Money bags (an increased number of workers to place), and e) town keys, which is an end game bonus (actually a multiplier for all the offices they hold in their longest chain of cities), f) special bonus points at the end of the game.
The game lasts until someone has scored 20 points and then there is an end-game scoring. There are lots of other things going on (special pieces that give bonuses for traveling down certain roads, merchants who score more than traders, but are more difficult to get on the board, the ability to displace other players from roads, or to force them to displace you from a road (you get a bonus when they do, so it becomes a strategy to get in someone else's way).
Eleven pages of rules - but lots of illustrations make it easy to learn. And wonderful bits. I give it an 8 currently.

WARS OF THE ROSES
Played this one at our latest Marathon Game Day, with Chuck & Jill, and Scott Brooks.
Designer - Peter Hawes
Mechanic - Secret pre-planning ("Blind" Worker Placement), War Game light

This one was really fun. Chuck taught it to Scott and me. We played the 4-player which allows for two teams: Lancaster & York. Scott and I were York and Jill & Chuck, Lancaster.
This is a game with huge (and beautiful playing bits). And...you play on a map of England! Each turn you plan your moves behind your castle walls (huge castle walls that shield your plan from your opponents). A planning board lies behind the individual castle walls on which you secretly move your Lords; plan your bribes of other people's nobles, bishops, and ship captains; plan your troop & attack movements; and move your ships. Once all are through with their plans, the huge Castle Wall shields are removed. First, bribes are carried out (you can bribe other player's "personalities" to switch loyalties unless their current Lord bribes them to stay). After bribes are resolved and paid for, nobles, ships, and troops are moved as per the planning boards and battles are resolved. (All of this takes but a moment or two - generally less than a minute to resolve). There is hardly ever any down-time.
Next, victory points are awarded for holding majorities of the towns, castles, ports, and cathedral cities in each of the 6 areas of England/Wales. Finally, an election is quickly resolved to see which King (Lancaster or York) is elected to sit on the throne. The "side" whose King is elected gains another 5 VPs. End of Turn One.
Game lasts 5 turns and the person with the most VPs is the winner.

I really enjoyed this one (perhaps it helped that I won the game). The game is very fluid with little wildfire battles all over the map, so there is no "Risk-like" gradual take-over of a nation or area. The more you can adjust to the fluid nature of the game the better you will be. You must be willing to take advantage of opportunities as they are presented rather than having some grand strategy. This one left me think "what could i have done better" - sign of a good game IMO.

THROUGH THE AGES

This one has definitely been the BEST of the games I've seen lately. Certainly it's not a new game - but it was new to me. First, on Friday afternoon Scott Brooks, Mark Qualls, and I played a "learning game" (Simple version) as we read the rules and stumbled our way through. Then, Saturday afternoon, Chuck Parrot taught us the Advanced Game. Both games were fascinating! I won the first, but came in dead last in the Advanced Game. But i loved it and am ready to play again despite the 5 hour playing time!

Designer - Vlaada Chvatil
Mechanic - Card Drafting, Action Point Allowance System
Type of Game - Civilization building!! (Yeah. My favorite type)

First, my greatest disappointment - no map board!! However, this was overcome by the fascinating way the game played and feeling you get of seeing your civilization grow. Game-play looks like a bear to learn, but once you start playing, it all makes sense and plays easily. I was always turned off by the myriads of tiny bits I saw (from afar seeing others play it) and didn't want to get involved in all the minutia and trivia. But found that to be a wrong conclusion once I read the rules and started playing. The game is fascinating to me.

Each player starts the game with an ancient civilization consisting of a single lab, two small farms, 2 bronze mines, and a single warrior. Your government is Despotism - allowing you four Civil Actions and two Military Actions per turn. As the game progresses it is your job to a) increase your population, produces resources (bronze and food), develop your philosophy and religion, and add increasing technological advances to your people - all the while building a reputable military and advancing your Government! You can't do it all in a single turn - but you must plan carefully and balance your advances in each area carefully. In the Simple game you play through the Ancient age and Age I. In the Advanced Game you play through Age II (introduces new technologies). In the Full Game you play through Age III (by now you will have Tanks, Rockets, Planes; you will have Democracy, Communism, or Fundamentalism as your Government; you will have access to leaders such as Einstein, Churchill, Nicola Tesla; and technologies such as Oil, Mechanized Ag, Satellites, Computers, multi-media, professional sports, fast food chains(!), space flight, and the internet!! (if you are fortunate).

On a player's turn they Re-arrange the Card row and spend actions to select cards they want; perform a single Political Action (costs no action points); then take Civil and Military Actions. Finally, the next person begins their turn while you produce and maintain your stock of resources, food, etc.

The game is played using small sets of cards which you choose from a row of 13 cards, then you place cards on your playing mat and move resources and population markers to & from cards to represent your buildings, farms, technologies, etc.

I can't begin to explain this one in a few short words - but I can say that it is a fascinating game to play even if you don't win! I heard that said more than once as we played. Three of us were new to the game and we were all extremely excited about it and ready to play again.

DOMINION: PROSPERITY

I won't say much about this one - it's another Dominion expansion. But I will say that I like it better than any of the other expansions or Dominion stand-alones. There is plenty of money (after all, it's an age of inflation)! But, things also cost more. Colonies (10 victory points!), and Platinum (5 Treasure) is added along with some great new action cards that both cost more and provide more money. It's especially fun to play in time of USA recession! Now you can spend that money!!

CONCLUSION:
All of these games are great additions to my gaming library. I will have to say that Through the Ages is now at the top of my list - though the length of play will keep me from playing it as often as I would like.


Friday, September 17, 2010

I Own. I Haven't Yet Played

I now have a collection of some 350+ games, but a number of them have yet to be played! In recent times I have added four new games and numerous expansions to older games that have yet to hit the table.

The new unplayed games...
* After the Flood - a 3-player only now approaching two years without playing
* Chainmail - a 2 player that I've now owned for nearly a year without playing.
* Pocket Battles: Celts vs. Romans - a quick, simple little game - but not one play in 5 months of ownership!
* Imperial 2030 - had for several months. Highly rated, but no chance to play.
* Washington's War - received this one complimentary from the designer himself (who is a good friend). A Two player, but so far, haven't played after owning for several months. This is a great one. I'm ashamed.

Expansions to older games, I still haven't used...

* Race for the Galaxy - The Brink of War
* Small World - Tales and Legends
* BattleLore - numerous add-ons and expansions - but none get played
* New Power Grid boards - Brazil, China.

Meanwhile - on pre-order: 7 Wonders.

What am I playing lately?
* Through the Ages
* Egizia
* Settlers of America: Trails to Rails
* Cyclades

It's my goal to get the "unplayed" to the table over the next two months. We'll see.