My @BoardGameGeek Challenge for 2019 – Golden Geek Edition

This is the time of the year that many in the boardgame community start their “challenges” for the coming year. The classic is the 10 x 10 – pick 10 different games and play each ten times during the year.

But I want something a bit different.

The other night I was messing around with the Advanced Search function of BoardGameGeek and sorting my collection in different ways. As I was browsing and sorting, I noticed that some of the games I own were winners the BoardGameGeek Golden Geek Award.

I have written before about the award and my mixed feelings towards it. However, after looking at my collection, I see that I own 15 Golden Geek winners. Sounds like a good challenge; play each Golden Geek winner at least once in 2019.

Thus, my 2019 Golden Geek Challenge games are:

  1. Commands & Colors: Ancients – 2007 Best 2-Player (tie)
  2. BattleLore – 2007 Best 2-Player (tie)
  3. Zooloretto – 2007 Best Family Game / Best Children’s Game
  4. Pandemic – 2009 Best Family Game
  5. Washington’s War – 2010 Best 2-Player / Best Wargame
  6. Forbidden Island – 2010 Best Children’s Game
  7. King of Tokyo – 2012 Best Family Game / Best Party Game /  Best Children’s Game
  8. Love Letter – 2013 Best Family Game / Best party Game / Best Card Game / Most Innovative Game
  9. Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures – 2013 Best 2-Player
  10. 1775: Rebellion – 2013 Best Wargame (PLAYED Sat 05 Jan)
  11. Patchwork – 2014 Best Abstract Game
  12. Codenames – 2015 Best Family Game / Best Party Game
  13. Tiny Epic Galaxies – 2015 Best Solo Game
  14. Scythe – 2016 Game of the Year / Best Strategy Game / Best Thematic / Best Artwork/Presentation / Best Solo Game
  15. 878: Vikings – Invasions of England – 2017 Best Wargame

I will keep this blog and a GeekList over on BoardGameGeek updated with my progress throughout the year.

I am running this challenge in parallel to my 2019 CSR Awards Wargame Challenge. Between the 20 games there and the 15 here I should have a fun year. Not to mention all the new games I’m sure to get this year….

So, what’s your 2019 Boardgame Challenge? 


Feature image courtesy BoardGameGeek

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RockyMountainNavy #Boardgame of the Year for 2018

This is the first in my series of 2018 “of the Year” posts. This one will cover boardgames, a second will look at wargames, the third will be expansions, and the last is my Game of the Year. Candidate games are taken from those published and which I acquired in 2018.

For my 2018 Boardgame of the Year the candidates are:

…and my winner is…

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Courtesy Stronghold Games

As I recorded in my First Impressions post, I was a bit cool to AuZtralia at first. After playing it a few more times (and especially after solo play) I have really warmed up to this title. What I initially called “schizophrenic” in the game I now see as a well-accomplished blending of sometime disparate game mechanisms into a complete game playable in about 2 hours.

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Photo by self

At the time I wrote this post, AuZtralia has nearly 900 ratings on BoardGameGeek with a rating of 7.7. It was also ranked 197th in the Thematic Game category. I personally think the Geek Rating is a bit low and the game should get more respect than it seems to be garnering. I have heard some people criticize the randomness in the game (“this game has way to much randomness, the scoring sucks”) while others don’t like the blending of mechanism, especially when the game devolves into a wargame (oh the horror!). I think designer Scott Muldoon (sdiberar on BGG) says it best, “I don’t think the work is a stroke of genius, but it’s a solid game that has staked out some new territory (“Rails to Cthulhu, Now With More Combat”).”

Other Candidates

Let me also say that Pandemic: Fall of Rome (BGG rated at 7.9) and Ticket to Ride: New York (BGG rated at 7.1) are also excellent games. My opinion of Fall of Rome may change as the RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself play it more. Ticket to Ride: New York makes an excellent gateway game or filler game. As far as Villainous; let’s just say the less said the better.

(Very) Initial Reactions to Pandemic: Fall of Rome (Z-Man Games, 2018)

Designer Matt Leacock’s Pandemic (Z-Man Games, 2008) is a popular game in the RockyMountainNavy house. This is a bit surprising because we really are more wargamers than Eurogamers. Over the years, we have played a few epic Pandemic games and we love playing the title because every game is a narrative adventure. The RockyMountainNavy Boys also like Ancient Rome; indeed Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing, 2017) is the most-played wargame in the house this year. So when I saw the match of the Pandemic-mechanics with the Rome theme, Pandemic: Fall of Rome (Z-Man Games, 2018) was an autobuy.

zgLVeSk8Tn+CXkchMq7sMwHaving arrived this week, Pandemic: Fall of Rome had to land on the table for an early Game Night. Early because the oldest RMN Boy wanted to play and he usually works Saturday nights. Our first-ever game of Pandemic: Fall of Rome was a four-player adventure with Middle RMN as Consul, Youngest RMN as Mercator, Oldest RMN as Praefectus Fabrum, and myself as Magister Militum.

The base game comes with seven different Roles. There is not easy direct translation from the classic Pandemic Roles to Fall of Rome so it takes a bit more to figure out (and remember) what all special abilities each Role has. A real starting challenge that will surely get easier as more plays build familiarity.

There are now eight different Actions to chose from. March, Sail, Plot, and Forge Alliance are easily translated from Pandemic but Fortify, Recruit Army, Battle(!) and Enlist Barbarians are much different. When taken in combination with the two or three special ability Actions each Role has this means new players must figure out how to select from a menu of 10-11 Actions each turn. Add into that each Role’s special effect in Battle. I know that at least once I could of used my special ability if I had remembered to look at it.

Another layer of complexity are the Event Cards. When played, Event Cards do not count against the player’s 4 Action limit each turn (they do count against the Hand Limit though). Each Event Card has a standard option and a corrupt option which, when used, is powerful but progresses the Decline Marker another step towards defeat. I personally liked this choice; do the standard for OK effect or risk defeat for a more powerful effect.

The rules for Revolts and Invade Cities in Fall of Rome are not difficult but the spread of the barbarians is much different than the spread of infection in classic Pandemic. Different enough that this section requires a much closer reading than I gave it.

Being a wargaming family we really were looking forward to the Battle Action in Fall of Rome. The Action turned out to not quite be what we expected. When battling, you have to be ready to lose Legions. There are several ways to build Legions (Recruit Army or Enlist Barbarians) and using these Actions will be needed to raise forces to stem the advancing hordes.

Thematically, all the game elements come together and do a good job of creating the feel of a declining Rome. Although I am a historian by education, I was pleased to see the designers making a point that Fall of Rome is not a historical game.  Amusingly, they make that point in the Historical Notes on p. 11:

Pandemic: Fall of Rome is inspired by the historical events surrounding the fall of the western Roman Empire….

Although a strong attempt has been made to pair game mechanics with some level of historical backing, the game is not attempting to be considered as a historical simulation….When a design choice was required between simulation and gameplay, gameplay received preference.

We lost our first game of Pandemic: Fall of Rome. Like really lost. Rome was sacked when we only had two of the five needed alliances. We will play again, but next time we will be much smarter because we now clearly see that although Fall of Rome is a Pandemicstyle game, it is not a Pandemic clone. Fall of Rome is a much different strategic challenge than Pandemic. Thematically, Fall of Rome also delivers on the title; there are times when one feels helpless against the never-ending invading hordes. Few boardgames really deliver on theme (Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game (Fantasy Flight Games, 2008) is the best exception) and Pandemic: Fall of Rome is one of them. For that reason alone the game will land on the table again – only next time we will all be smarter and more prepared to face the tough challenge.

Featured image courtesy thehistorynetwork.org

Blah-day Gaming

Today was a Federal Holiday to honor former President H.W. Bush and although I didn’t have to go to work the Youngest RockyMountainNavy Boy was also home. He had come down with a case of the blahs and didn’t really look healthy enough to go to school. Instead, he stayed home and we both took advantage of the day for some father-son bonding using boardgames!

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BGG.com

The first game of the day we played was Queendomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017). It was a good two-player contest with me emerging victorious 54-44. Today’s play also pushed Queendomino into my Dimes group of played games (at least 10 plays) for 2018.

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BGG.com

The second game of the day was Tiny Epic Galaxies (Gamelyn Games, 2015). My Secret Mission was Orbiter (all ships on home galaxy at game end, +2 VP) while Youngest RMN Boy was Conqueror (most planets, +3 VP). The Secret Mission 1 VP difference was the final scoring difference with Youngest RMN squeaking by with the 1VP win (24-23).

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Credit – Self

The third and last game of the day was Ticket to Ride: New York (Days of Wonder, 2018). This was another game that needed one more play to enter Dime -status for the year. Middle RMN Boy joined us for this game which in hindsight was a mistake as he totally swept us 38-31-25.

None of the games played today were “heavy” by any stretch of the imagination. In many ways playing the “lighter” games was right because the play emphasized family together time instead of being a “brain-burner.”

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Credit – Self

As excited as Little RMN was to play with Dad on this Holiday/Sick Day, he got more excited when a certain box arrived. Pandemic: Fall of Rome (Z-Man Games, 2018) is now in the house and will almost certainly land on the gaming table this weekend for a 4-player session. Given the theme, even the Oldest RMN Boy wants to play. Which goes again to show how gaming can bring family and friends together and make even a dreary day so much better.

Featured image courtesy Z-Man Games.

Tough Game Night Moments – thoughts on rules, factions, and “take that”

After missing the RockyMountainNavy Game Night for two weeks the boardgame Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing, 2017) landed on the table. Although there are other games unplayed waiting for a slot at the table, like AuZtralia (Stronghold Games, 2018) we pulled Enemies of Rome out at the request of the youngest RMN Boy as it matches what he is studying in history at school.

It did not go so well.

I have said before that Enemies of Rome is not the game it appears to be. What looks like an area control game is actually a Battle Royale. Glory Points are scored by winning battles which means one must think very offensively. Although the RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself have played Enemies of Rome ten times now, and even discussed the victory demands, it has yet to fully sink in to the Middle RMN Boy. In tonights game, like the last one, he “turtled” early and fell far behind in points as he built up his forces without attacking any of the enemies of Rome. Unfortunately, the enemies of Rome also were building up their forces right in his neighborhood. It also did not help that the Youngest RMN Boy chose to lash out at his brothers outposts and seized several provinces. As a result, Middle RMN fell far behind in points and was very sullen and not fully into the game.

It would be very easy for me to blame this on his Autism Spectrum condition but that’s too easy. Tonight was a good reminder that, no matter how familiar one is with a game, it behooves players to review some of the basic rules and mechanics of a game. In this case, a gentle reminder to all that Glory Points are earned by attacking is only part of it. A review of the die odds is also helpful. If one waits for overwhelming odds in their favor they will fall behind. I know that I often gamble with 2:1 or 3:2 attacks because I recognize the need to generate Glory Points. I save the 3:1 or 4:1 attacks for battles against other Legions because the penalty for losing those battles is loss of Glory Points.

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Courtesy Z-Man Games

I think Enemies of Rome will sit on the shelf for a bit and cool off. This doesn’t mean we will be hurting for games; indeed, it clears the way (and maybe even creates a demand) to get the semi-cooperative AuZtralia to the table. All the RMN Boys are also excited that the cooperative Pandemic: Fall of Rome (Z-Man Games, 2018) has been shipped. As a family, we really enjoy Pandemic and the Middle RMN Boy has proven to be a bit of a whiz at playing. I hope that these games in particular bring joy to the gaming table.

Dk_yqCEWsAki4_HIn the same vein, this weekends events have forced me to reconsider introducing Root (Leder Games, 2018) to the RMN Boys. The asymmetric nature of the different player factions in Root demands that each player play a bit differently. For the Middle RMN Boy this may be challenging. I remember the first time we played with the Invaders from Afar Expansion to Scythe (Stonemaier Games, 2016) and the Middle RMN Boy got a whole new faction. He struggled mightily to figure out how the faction worked. When he tried to watch his brother and I play our factions it was of little help because every faction plays differently. Root may work if I can convince him to play the first time the using the Marquis de Cat as I think that faction is mechanically the most straight forward.

As a wargamer, a game with a “take that” mechanic doesn’t offend me. However, events like this weekend’s game reminds me that not all players are like me. I don’t think I will ever fully turn into a Eurogamer with their “let’s just all get along and make a farm” attitude but bringing out more games with less “take that” for the Family Game Night probably won’t hurt.

Featured image courtesy Worthington Publishing.

The holiday season is upon us – Limited November gaming but still lots of joy.

November was a VERY slow gaming month. Lots of moving parts conspired to reduce the number of games played this past month. The RockyMountainNavy tribe missed two (2!) weekends of game nights. This is the first time since August 2016 that we missed  more than one week at a time. It also doesn’t help that the Youngest RMN Boy started Indoor Track season which digs into my weeknight game time. It also doesn’t help that my gaming space has been overtaken by the gift wrap station….

So how did the month look?

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According to BGStats, I played 18 games in November. Once again, the way BGG Stats tracks plays is off as I actually played 16 games and two expansions. The multi-game play was Terraforming Mars (Stronghold Games, 2016) using both the Prelude and new Colonies expansion.

box-heroThe game of the month was definitely AuZtralia (Stronghold Games). All my plays to date are solo play as this game has yet to reach the RMN Game Night table. My initial impression was a bit weak, but as time has passed the game has grown on me more. I really want to get this one to Game Night and see what the RMN Boys say!

pic360048My Grognard Game of the Month was Tokyo Express (Victory Games, 1988). It was a real treat to play it again after so many years. A solid design with alot to teach about what a real solitaire wargame can be.

It was also Black Friday in the States with many sales. Actually, the entire month of November featured many sales, a few of which I took advantage of. That is how I welcomed Brian Train’s Finnish Civil War (Paper Wars, Compass Games 2017) to my collection.

pic23647501The biggest surprise of the month was the Kickstarter fulfillment of Squadron Strike: Traveller (Ad Astra Games) after a delay of over two years. I will have many more thoughts on this game coming at you in the future. Actually, there are several Kickstarter and pre-order fulfillments coming that I did not expect as recently as two weeks ago. My preorder copy of Pandemic: Fall of Rome (Z-Man Games) is enroute, and Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel, Kursk, 1943 (Academy Games) may be in hand before the end of the year! I will also likely add several more games to my order list as Hollandspiele is having their Hollandays sale starting the day this posts.

December will continue to be gaming challenge as we are busy and my gaming space is preempted. On the plus side, I earned a generous amount of vacation time and I plan on using it at the end of the year (after Christmas). I feel that the last week of December may see an explosion of gaming as I make up for lost time.

Here’s wishing all of you a Happy Holiday. May you spend it gaming with family and making memories for a lifetime.

 

Playing ‘Four Solo’ wherein the President is a Cylon, the Admiral gets brigged, & Starbuck declares Martial Law – Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game (@FFGames, 2008)

To me, Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game (Fantasy Flight Games, 2008) is a near-perfect example of theming in a boardgame. This cooperative, hidden traitor game captures the tension of the reimagined series pitch-perfectly. Unfortunately for me, it entered my collection at a time the RockyMountainNavy Kids were a bit too young to learn the game. As a result it has sat on my shelf, underplayed, for way too long. I have thought about introducing it to the RMN Boys now that they are older and more experienced gamers but I hesitate because I remember it most for having a long playtime. Sometime in the past few months, I downloaded the ‘Four Solo’ variant from the BoardGameGeek files. This rainy weekend while the Boys were watching their football game I pulled the game box out and gave the rules a try.

It was glorious…

…and I lost.

Characters in play were Admiral Adama, President Roslin, Boomer and Starbuck. In retrospect, I should have taken the Chief for Support but, oh well.

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Early game…that’s alot of raiders….

The first two Crisis Cards were Cylon Swarm and Ambush. The Fleet eventually jumped, but not before losing too much Population and Food. Not helping, the Jump Distance was only +1.

Trying to take advantage of the clear space around Galactica and advancing the Jump Track didn’t work out too well as a Crisis Card revealed President Roslin to be a Cylon! Several more crisis’ followed; a Crisis Card Event landed Adama in the Brig and Starbuck, now Admiral, declared Marital Law. Though Starbuck and Boomer valiantly fought back the Raider swarms, in the end too many Cylons showed up while the Jump Track mostly worked in reverse. The Fleet eventually ran out of Food and perished.

The ‘Four Solo’ variant is generally easy to execute and preserves the core essence of the game. The rules are written in a very clipped, bulleted (very abbreviated) fashion and can be difficult to interpret at times. Most importantly, the solo mechanisms don’t totally replace or even disrupt the most important game mechanics. This makes the ‘Four Solo’ useful for learning the rules. Playtime is maybe a bit quicker than a normal game once you learn the “system routine” and understand the rules exceptions.

After rereading the rules and playing Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game using the ‘Four Solo’ variant I think I can teach this game to the RMN Boys. More importantly, I think they are mature enough to handle the game too. The Boys are not huge fans of cooperative games though we all love the occasional play of Pandemic*. They also can play ‘take-that’ games like Survive: Escape from Atlantis so the hidden traitor mechanic could work. The playtime actually doesn’t look as bad as I remember; BGG rates it at 120-300 minutes (my ‘Four Solo’ game clocked in right around 120 minutes…but I died early). A game this rich in theme supported by a game system that reinforces that theme so well deserves to land on game table…and soon!

* We are impatiently awaiting the release of Pandemic: Fall of Rome which mixes the cooperative game mechanic with an Ancient Rome theme which is a very popular theme in the RMN house.

Featured image courtesy BoardGameGeek.