Thursday, March 31, 2005

Review - Eric Lang's The Call of Cthulhu Collectible Card Game

"That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange æons, even death may die"

Welcome my child. You seek the secrets of the Great Old Ones?

You play with fire.

But, ‘tis not my place to judge your desires, but simply to enable them. Your journey will take you into the dark depths of the shadows, where Things That Should Not Be lurk, and your very perception of reality will be challenged. Some already know of the Dwellers on the Dark, and are striving to uncover the secrets as we speak. Other have already stared at the maw of horror. There are those that have gone mad. There are those that have taken a shotgun and emptied it into that which they do not understand, with varying results.

Of course, there are those who choose to worship the Things That Should Not Be. They will oppose you at every turn, with the power granted to them by the Great Old Ones.

Should you still wish to learn of matter that will eventually drive you to the brink of insanity, follow me.

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!

There are normally two ways into the works of Howard Phillips Lovecraft. The first and most common way is through his stories, which have been published in many compendiums. The stories have also served as influences for many latter day horror fiction authors. The most famous of these works are “The Dunwich Horror,” “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” “At the Mountains of Madness,” and of course “The Call of Cthulhu.” The other entry point to Lovecraftian horror is the classic roleplaying game The Call of Cthulhu, published by Chaosium (a variation on the game was published later by Wizards of the Coast).

Since this isn’t a literary or RPG review, I’ll just try to impart the flavor of Lovecraftian horror, so that the game makes more sense a bit later on. To readers who have stronger grounding in the source material, my apologies if I gloss over facts and generalize a bit too much. There’s so much to the Cthulhu Mythos that it’s not possible to do it justice in a game review.

Earth, in the Lovecraftian universe, is not alone. Great star-spanning races exist, both far in Earth’s past and far into Earth’s future. We Earthlings are largely unaware of these beings. At some point in the past, several of these beings decided to come to Earth. They stayed a while, ruled over the planet, and eventually lost their ability to traverse space and time. Wars were waged between these beings for supremacy, until they did each other in. They weren’t all destroyed though, just put out of commission for a while.

The time is the 1920s. Strange things are happening in the fringes, the kind of things you read about in tabloids and whisper about when discussing conspiracy theories. Some people actually have to deal with these things in the course of their work. You know the types – cops and feds with weird cases on their hands, journalists chasing down a story that just feels wrong, criminals looking for an edge, scholars draws by knowledge of the strange and otherworldly and regular people who are just too nosy for their own good. These people ask too many questions which lead to answers which usually only raise more questions. Sometimes, they find an answer.

The answers can be as simple as strange cults with strange practices doing strange things. They can be musty old tomes written in spidery languages which seem to mean absolutely nothing. Or, the answers can say that there are godlike beings on earth, sleeping, and their servants are trying to wake them up so that they can take over the world.

The theme of The Call of Cthulhu is that of a shattered reality. When Occam’s Razor says that the answer is something that doesn’t mesh with what we accept to be reality, people go insane. Horror isn’t the dead rising to eat your brains, or ghosts haunting a mansion, or inhuman monsters terrorizing a town (though those can certainly be part of the big picture). Horror is realizing that what you knew to be isn’t.

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The Call of Cthulhu CCG (CoCCCG) is published by Fantasy Flight Games. As of this writing, it has a base set, called the Arkham Edition, composed of 290 cards. It also has two expansions out – Unspeakable Tales, and the new Forbidden Relics. A second edition, called the Eldritch Edition, has been announced.

The game, like most CCGs comes in starters and boosters. There are two flavors of starters, the Mythos Deck and the Investigators Deck. Each starter consists of a set of fixed cards, some of which are required to play the game, and a set of random cards. The Mythos Deck is essentially a “bad guys” deck, composed of cards loyal to two of the Lovecraftian gods, Hastur and Cthulhu himself (itself?). The Investigators Deck has cards representing the “good guys,” the scholars and mystics of the Miskatonic University, and the gun-toting members and allies of the Blackwood Detective Agency. (This being Lovecraft, “bad” and “good” is relative.) The boosters contain 11 random cards.

The art is, well, remarkable, and is what led me to investigate this game. I’ve seen a LOT of CCGs over the years, with all sorts of themes. I haven’t seen anything better than the art of CoCCCG. It’s times like this when I wish that cards had more space for art, because some of the pieces are, well, insanely fantastic. Many are Lovecraftian pieces, of course, so by and large they’re equal parts creepy, spooky, dark and gloomy. Predictably, the Mythos cards have the more memorable art. The rest of the graphic design on the cards is very good, if slightly busy. The text is readable, and some cards have quotes from HPL’s works. The cards themselves are of good quality. They’re reasonably thick, smooth and shuffle well. Still, an investment in a good set of card sleeves is a good idea if you plan to play with them. Or you can just stick them in a binder and admire the art.

The rules that come with the Starters are functional, but I’d recommend getting the latest update from the FFG website. There are some clarifications and restatements that will help you follow the game flow.

Overall, the looks of CoCCCG represent a top-notch job from the folks at Fantasy Flight.

The Game

In CoCCCG, a player represents one or more factions that are vying for control over certain stories. The first player to take control of three stories wins the game.

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There are seven “factions” in CoCCCG. Four of them are Mythos factions, representing four of the Great Old Ones – Hastur the Unspeakable, Yog-Sothoth the Keeper of the Gates, Shub-Niggurath the All-Mother, and of course Great Cthulhu. The other three factions are the humans – Miskatonic University (scholars and mystics, including some well-known Lovecraft characters), the Blackwood Detective Agency (mostly lawmen, investigators and journalists), and The Syndicate (criminals). The catch is that none of these factions need be allied one way or another. Thematically, it works. You can make a “corrupted cops” combo using Blackwood and Cthulhu, or “scholars who sold their sanity for knowledge” by putting Miskatonic into a deck with Hastur, and so on. The Mythos Deck out of the box is rather strange, since Cthulhu and Hastur aren’t the best of buddies, but I guess it’s possible for their minions to work in the same direction without actually being friendly.

The Story Cards are the object of the game. The players are trying to take control of these cards by sending their minions to “work” on the story. Stories are drawn from a shared deck of ten, and there are three in play at any time. Once a player wins a story, it is replaced by a new one. Each Story also has a game effect once claimed by a player; the player who claims it decides if the effect goes off or not. Once a player claims his third story, he wins the game. Stories have really nice art, and some of them take the titles of Lovecraft stories or settings, like The Innsmouth Threat and The Terror out of Dunwich.

CoCCCG’s resource system is interesting. A Starter comes with three Domain Cards, which each depict a third of one of the pieces of art on the Story Cards. Players take cards from their hand, flip them upside-down and stick them under the Domain Cards. For each card under a Domain, it provides one resource point. You “exhaust” the Domain, generating an amount of resources equal to the cards underneath that domain, and you can use those resources to play ONE card with a cost equal to or less than the generated resources. So, theoretically, unless you somehow create more Domains, you can only play three cards per turn. (Yes, there are ways to get more Domains.)

So, since your cards in hand are both your source of resources, and they’re the things that you play, there’s always the tough decision of putting down more resources for speed, or holding back for more options. A player only draws two cards a turn under normal circumstances, so there’s a card crunch all the time. It’s both a deck construction and a game play dilemma that players have to resolve.

There are three kinds of cards to play. Characters are the most important ones, and can be anything from a lowly filing clerk and a street thug, to the renowned Professor Armitage and Great Cthulhu. Support cards are the catch-all for things that stay on the board, and can be things that characters use (guns), places, arcane spells, curses and anything in between. Finally, Events are usually one-shot deals with all kinds of effects.

The Story Phase is where the action is. Players assign characters to engage stories. Their opponents also assign characters to oppose the active player’s minions within the story. Once the characters have been placed in the story, a set of four “struggles” is triggered. Struggles are resolved with icons; each character might have one or more of them, and support and event cards can also grant them or take them away. It’s pretty simple – the side with more of a type of icon wins that struggle. Ties indicate no winner.

I’ll go over them because I think they’re fun. The Terror Struggle is when characters meet things that challenge their sanity. The side that loses has one character go insane. Then there’s the Martial Struggle, where the sides duke it out with guns, claws and tentacles. One character on the losing side takes a wound. Most characters can only take one wound before expiring. Then, it’s on to the Arcane Struggle. The winner of the Arcane Struggle gets to untap one of his characters (characters tap when they engage a story). Finally, the Investigative Struggle occurs. The winner gets a story point. When that’s all over, the two sides add the total Skill (each character has a Skill rating) of their characters that are still active at the Story. If the active player’s Skill is equal to or higher than the defender, he gets a Story Point. If the defender has no characters left defending at this point, an additional Story Point is awarded. Five Story Points means that the story is won by that player.

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Play then passes to the other player, who untaps everything on his side, gets a character back from the loony bin if he had any insane characters, and takes his turn.

Since this is a CCG, expect that gameplay can be modified by all sorts of cards.


I won’t go into this too much since I’ve only played with a limited number of the 600+ cardset currently on the market. However, it’s clear that each faction has its strengths, and pairing different factions together creates different dynamics. The out of the box Investigator combo of Miskatonic and Blackwood produces a fast deck of lowish-skill characters with good martial skills and good investigative skills. Their out-of-the-box opponents serving Hastur and Cthulhu are heavy on the scary (terror icons out the wazoo), decent on the martial but not so hot on much else. They’re also slower, but they have some scary heavy hitting Mythos creatures that the humans will have trouble dealing with.

The basic CoCCCG game is a creature battle, with the humans trying to solve stories quickly before the ugly critters appear. Once they do appear, the humans have to be sneaky and get around the scaries without going nuts. Hopefully, they’ll have gained one or two stories by then, with enough of a lead on the balance they need that a couple of snipes and stealthy plays will get them the last story points to win.

The Mythos side has to hold out long enough by interposing cannon fodder into the way of the humans until able to summon the creepy-crawlies. Once older Deep Ones, Byakhees and Shoggoths start showing up at stories to drive the humans batty, it’s only a matter of time until the Mythos wins on sheer terror.

Again, since this is a CCG, there will be all sorts of combos and deck strategies available if you’re the kind of person that’s able and willing to spend on a CCG for power or completeness. As more expansions appear, more strategies will become available.

Reviewer’s Tilt

I guess the best compliment you can give a CCG is to spend money on it. CoCCCG is the first CCG I’ve spent significant cash on since Magic: the Gathering and I’d say that that’s a pretty good compliment.

CoCCCG is not a simple game, a fast game or an elegant game. It’s got a lot of moving parts, a lot of icons, and a lot of text effects even in its simplest out-of-the-box configuration. It feels clunky when you play it. Strangely, the clunkiness feels right for a Lovecraftian game, sort of like how the Chaosium Call of Cthulhu RPG feels. Neither game is the pinnacle of engineering as far as their genre goes, but they fit their niche just right.

I would consider CoCCCG as innovative, and most importantly, flavorful. The battle over stories is a great thematic element. The individual struggles are also a great thematic element. I enjoy the order in which they occur. After all, you have to maintain your sanity in order to shoot straight, you have to survive the combat before you can cast a spell, and you only get time to breathe and investigate after everything else.

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Like many CCGs early in their card universe development, I’d expect that some balance issues would occur. CoCCCG has some of the benefit from following its older sibling, the A Game of Thrones CCG, and applying lessons learned (such as the huge “costless Events” problem). However I don’t think you’ll encounter these problems at a “casual player” investment level. You don’t even have to go by conventional deckbuilding wisdom. I’ve been enjoying playing my clunky “crazy dirty cops” deck featuring Hastur, Blackwood and the Syndicate. It’s slow, it doesn’t win a lot, but driving opposing characters nuts then blowing them away with firepower supported by dirty money is loads of fun.

If you’re a Lovecraft fan, you’ve got to at least check this game out, if only for the artwork on the cards. You can’t go wrong by getting just the two Starters; they’re playable out of the box. If you like good CCGs, then this is also a good one to look at if only for its thematic gameplay. Finally, yes, this is a collectible card game. If you dislike the concept in principle, then this isn't for you. If all you want is a fun Cthulhu Mythos game with great flavor, beautiful art and interesting gameplay, you might want to consider a couple of CoCCCG Starters.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Review - Michael Schacht's Paris Paris

If I got to take a European vacation, Paris would definitely be on my list. I’m sure it would be on the dream vacation list of many other people that don’t live in France or the nearby EU countries. Until I can save up enough cash for a month in Europe, I’ll have to visit Paris by playing games on the Parisian city map.

Successful retail operations need good locations to thrive. Businesses catering to tourists need to be along the routes where tourists travel, which mean bus stops. Michael Schacht’s game Paris Paris is about putting up businesses where tourists frequent. You can’t make money unless you’re where your market is. The more they see of you, the more they’ll be likely to walk into your premises and spend their Euros or pull out the plastic.

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Paris Paris is published by Abacus Spiele and Rio Grande Games. It’s a pretty package, with a linen-finished two-fold board depicting the city of Paris and its five bus routes. The bus stop tiles are also linen finished, and are pleasantly thick. The game even has a little stand-up bus for use as a starting player marker and a scoring guide. The package has a black cloth bag, and 80 wooden houses in four colors. The yellow and unpainted houses can be a bit difficult to differentiate under some lighting conditions; I wish they’d used brighter colors. Finally, there are five largish, oval-shaped, somewhat overproduced “secret bus route tiles”. All in all it’s a very nice product. I just wish that they’d made the board four-fold to reduce the game box’s footprint by 50%. Half the box is air, filled in with a cardboard insert. Yes, it’s a small quibble.

The Game

The players are Parisian business owners trying to grab as much profit as possible from the tourists who visit their fair city. The player who makes the most money by setting up businesses where the tourists are wins the game.

Players prepare for the game by randomly placing the 60 bus stop tiles into stacks. A stack has one more tile than there are players. Once the stacking is done, players each draw a “secret bus route tile” and keep that to themselves.

Bus stop tiles are one of five colors, the color representing the bus route that the stop lies on. Stops at intersections may appear tiles of different colors, since they lie on more than one route.

In a turn, one stack of tiles will be revealed and the tiles placed on the map points corresponding to their stop names. Beginning with the start player, each player selects one of the tiles in turn. At that stop, the player will open a business, placing one of his houses. If the location already has the maximum businesses allowed (two for intersections, one for all others), the player selects one business to displace. The displaced business goes into the cloth bag.

Once each player has claimed a tile and placed a business, one unclaimed tile will remain. At that stop, a “small tour” will occur and tourists will spend money.

If a player has a business at that stop, he earns one point. If there is no business at that stop, the closest stop with a business will be the one where the tourists go. If more than one business is of equal distance to the original stop, all of them earn a point.

Then, the tile is placed in the “grand tour display”. It will remain there until a second tile of the same color is placed in the display. The start player bus is passed to the left, and the new start player selects a new stack of tiles to place on the board.

Play continues until a second tile of the same color is placed in the grand tour display. Once that happens, a grand tour occurs on that bus route. Tourists go on a spending spree all along that line, concentrated at the intersections.

The start player takes the bus token and places it at the beginning of the line. He then drives the bus along the line, and stops at the first intersection. Any players with businesses at that stop earn one point, and an additional point for each business that they have at stops adjacent to that intersection. The bus continues the grand tour down the line, stopping at every intersection to disgorge tourists and score points for the business owners along the line.

Once the grand tour is completed, the two matching colored tiles are removed from the grand tour display and play continues. The game ends when all the stacks of tiles have been used.

At game end, two special scoring events occur. First, an additional “special grand tour” occurs on each of the lines indicated by the “secret bus route tiles” drawn by the players at the beginning of the game. These work the same way as the regular grand tour. Finally, the businesses in the cloth bag are revealed. If one player has more businesses in the bag than any other player, he gets a bonus to his score equal to the number of his houses in the bag.

The player with the most points after all of that is the most successful business owner, and wins the game!


Paris Paris is played on two fronts, the map and the tiles.

On the map, forming networks of adjacent businesses is critical. Of particular note are adjacent intersections. These positions score their businesses twice on the same tour if they are on the same line. In the same vein, it is important to break up your opponents’ networks at adjacent intersections whenever possible.

While you try to select the tiles that give you an advantage on the map, you also need to watch the tiles that lead to grand tours. Many times, you will have the decision of allowing a grand tour which is not favorable for you, but will give you an advantage in future grand tours, as against denying a grand tour now but giving up board position. You also can’t forget that the unselected tile scores the business at that point or adjacent ones if that point is empty. It’s a point here and there, but it adds up.

The bit of luck in the game comes from the secret special tour tiles. A second scoring of a strong bus route can mean victory or defeat, especially in the two and three player game where only three of the five bus routes will get a special grand tour. If it bothers you, you can dispense with the special tours, or make them public knowledge at the beginning of the game. Either way works fine in producing a luckless, heavier variant of the game.

Finally, the “ejected businesses” scoring can be significant if you’re not paying attention.

Reviewer’s Tilt

The first time I played Paris Paris on Brettspielwelt, I disliked the game. It seemed too simple, too sanguine, and quite random. Months later I got to play the game face to face with my game group, who played it viciously. That unlocked the appeal of the game for me, and now I consider it to be an excellent 30- to 45-minute light-medium weight game. There are tough decisions, especially when it comes to denying scoring to other players or building your own network for future bus tours. Despite that, the game plays quickly. I attribute it to being a very visual exercise. Tracing the bus routes with your eyes can tell you rapidly which players a grand tour along that line would benefit most.

Paris Paris plays very well with two to four players. I like the game with four because of the competition to establish the business network. There is much more control with three, but networks are easier since you can have two businesses at each intersection. The game is weakest but still pretty good with two, becoming a relaxing game of optimization (the “ejected business” scoring is dispensed with in this mode).

By the way, this isn’t an area majority game as you may have read in some places. Players generally end up with similar numbers of businesses on the map, since you all get the same number of turns. Only business displacement will change that mix. It shares more in common with Power Grid’s city connections and Taj Mahal’s political power networks than it does with any element of the vastly inferior Web of Power.

If you’re looking for a 30- to 45-minute game with tough decisions, good theme and great presentation, you could do much worse than Paris Paris.

Review - Uwe Rosenberg's Mamma Mia!

Most gamers survive on a diet of pizza and soda when on a gaming binge. Let’s face it, why waste time cooking when you can get a great meal by picking up the phone and calling the pizzeria? That time saved lets you play more games. And since you’re ordering pizza, what better game to bring to the table than a game about making pizza?

In Mamma Mia!, players are pizza chefs working with five ingredients, none of which is cheese. Since we can’t process that, we all turn the pineapple into cheese, which is fine since “real” pizza connoisseurs know that pineapple on pizza is verboten in civilized circles. (Ok, I’ll admit it, I like Hawaiian pizza.) The other ingredients are mushrooms (yum), peppers (yum), salami (yum) and olives (yuck). The chefs struggle to complete the orders being delivered by their own personal waiters while sharing one large oven. Why can’t these guys get their own ovens? We don’t know. Maybe they need their own cooking shows so the oven companies will give them complimentary ovens.

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Uwe Rosenberg is perhaps best known for his curious bean farming card game Bohnanza. In Mamma Mia!, Uwe again regales us with a peculiar card mechanism revolving around the communal pizza oven. Abacus Spiele and Rio Grande Games publish Mamma Mia!, giving us 105 linen-finished cards and a black-and-white rulesheet in the package. The illustrations are simple and colorful, and the pineapple really does look like cheese.

The Game

The object of the game is to finish as many pizzas as possible. This is done by getting the better of the other chefs in the communal oven. A good memory is important, and a bit of strategy helps as well.

Players have their personal waiters, each with eight pizza orders which they will deliver randomly to the chefs. The waiters are represented by the recipe deck. Players have similar, but not identical recipe decks. This is because each of the five players will have his own “signature ingredient”, which goes into every pizza he makes.

The players begin the game with a random hand of six ingredients, and one random recipe drawn from their recipe deck. The rest of the ingredients go into the draw deck aka the supply. The oven is a discard stack in the middle of the table. On his turn, a player plays at least one ingredient (he may play any number of ingredients as long as they are of the same kind) into the oven. He then may play on recipe into the oven.

When a player puts a recipe into the oven, he is hoping (or he knows) that there are enough ingredients under the recipe to complete the requirements of that pizza. Once that’s done, the player draws cards to bring his hand back up to seven. He may draw from the supply or from his waiter, but not both. If the cards run out from either deck, he makes do until he gets to draw again next turn.

There’s a Mamma Mia! card in the deck, and the player who draws it puts it aside. He will be the start player on the next turn, and he gets to check out the oven contents at round end.

Once the supply runs out, the round is over. The start player takes the whole oven pile and starts dealing from the bottom. He arranges ingredients into stacks by type. Once a recipe comes up, he checks the recipe requirements against the ingredients that have been dealt out. If there are enough to make the pizza, the pizza is completed and the successful chef keeps that recipe card face up. The ingredients used in that pizza are removed from the oven display. The remaining ingredients are left for the succeeding pizzas. If the requirements aren’t fulfilled, the player gets one last chance to complete the pizza by playing the missing ingredients from his cards in hand. If he doesn’t have the needed ingredients, the recipe is uncompleted and the card is returned to the bottom of the player’s recipe deck.

Once all the oven cards have been dealt out, any unused ingredients form a new oven stack and play begins with the player who drew the Mamma Mia! card. All the used ingredients are shuffled into a new supply.

When the supply has been exhausted for the third time, the game is over. The chef who completed the most recipes is the winner! In the case of a tie, the player with the most ingredients left in hand is the winner!


Obviously, a good memory helps. Failing that, rough estimates still help, especially if you just played enough ingredients before your recipe to fulfill most of the requirements. You can play a recipe that’s clearly one or two ingredients short; just remember to save the ingredients once you draw them so you can complete the pizza when the oven is being emptied.

Try to keep at two or three recipes in hand. If the recipes you’re holding aren’t working, dump one or two into the oven so you can draw the others from your waiter. When the supply is running down, dump as many recipes as possible into the oven so that you have five to seven ingredient cards for the oven emptying phase.

If you draw Mamma Mia!, you can usually cheese a recipe with the leftover ingredients from the previous round. This works best with the Pizza Minimale recipe, which is usually the most difficult to complete so cook it while you can.

Speak with silly Italian accents to throw off your opponents’ memories. You can burst into “Funiculi, Funicula” while tossing your ingredients into the oven. If you can’t remember anything, try to prevent your opponents from remembering more than you do. It’s only fair.

Reviewer’s Tilt

Mamma Mia! is a pretty good game to haul out for non-gamers. The theme is fun and rather silly due to the communal oven, so the game is non-threatening in most cases. The basic mechanisms are very simple, though the special pizzas (especially the Minimale) may take a bit of explaining. It’ll take a couple of oven-emptying demonstrations to get the hang of it. Learning game might take 30-45 minutes. Experienced players can get through a game in less than 30 minutes.

However, Mamma Mia! isn’t all that light. Some players may feel that trying to remember what’s gone into the oven is stressful, as has happened to us. To those players I’d sell that a bit of hand management can make up for memory deficiencies. Cheesing two or three recipes via set collection in hand prior to dumping them into the oven with the recipe helps people with poor memories compete. I should know; that’s the only way I can play Mamma Mia!.

The game is fun, mostly during the oven emptying phase when your recipe plays are validated or trashed like week-old leftover pizza. During the oven-filling phase the game is more reminiscent of heavier games; people are concentrating on remembering what’s gone into the oven. It’s a bit too quiet.

The sweet spot for the game is three players. This provides more control, allows shorter intervals between recipe plays and requires less memory work. Four is ok; five is a total crapshoot. There are so many recipes being played in a five player game that even the players with good memories will be challenged to determine what ingredients are available in the over when their turn comes along.

I consider the game ok, but it’s not a filler of choice. The memory element feels too much like work sometimes; I like my fillers light and uninvolved. I try to save my gaming brain cells for heavier fare, so a palate cleanser needs to not have this much weight. It’s not a heavy or even a medium weight game by any means, but Mamma Mia! is just a bit too involved for the niche that it should occupy.

Review - Alex Randolph & Leo Colovini's Inkognito the Card Game

Ah, the Venetian Masquerade. There’s something about the setting that inspires mystery, be it ill-advised romantic interludes or secret agent skullduggery. This is the scene of Inkognito, designed by the pairing of designers Alex Randolph and Leo Colovini.

Players take the roles of secret agents, spies, thieves or any number of mysterious appellations. These personages are in search of the combination to a safe, which supposedly unlocks the way to a mysterious personage. It could well be rubies and diamonds, or the recipe to a world-destroying weapon. It doesn’t really matter. All the agents know is that they need that code, and that they have a friend out in the darkness.

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This game, published by Fantasy Flight Games under their Silver Line, is based on the board game version of Inkognito. (I haven’t played the boardgame.) For your twenty bucks, you get 40 cards (it’s five sets of the same eight cards, with different colors) and 25 tiles (it’s five sets of the same five tiles, with different colors). You also get four small player screens in the players’ colors, and a pad of notation sheets. This is one of the sparsest packages in FFG’s Silver Line. The graphic design is excellent, and I like the portraits of the agents, but it’s just five drawings – four agents and one “safe dial” for the four combination numbers. The location tiles also seem to have nice art on them, but they’re too small to appreciate properly. The font they chose, while evocative of the game’s setting, is difficult to read. The rules to the game are on simple black and white leaf, and are easy to understand.

The Game

The object of Inkognito is to determine which player is your partner and to determine the correct code sequence. The first team to do so and meet up to enter the combination wins the game.

There are four agents in Inkognito, whose personas are assumed by the players – Lord Fiddlebottom (F), Colonel Button (B), Agent X (X) and Madame Zsa Zsa (Z). Each player takes one of the colors, and the set of eight cards of that color. Depicted on the cards are portraits of the four agents and four pictures of a safe dial each bearing a number (13, 28, 36, 47). F and B are always allied, and X and Z are the other team. (However, the players start out the game not knowing who is who.)

The fifth set of cards, colored black, are dealt out randomly to the players. Thus, each player is assigned a persona and one-fourth of the code. The correct code is expressed in a fixed order – F’s piece, then B’s, then X’s, then Z’s.

Each player also takes a set of five location tiles in his color. Again, black is left out, to be used by the non-player Ambassador (in a four-player game).

The start player begins the game by selecting one of the five locations to go to, followed by the other players. Lastly, the Ambassador’s location is determined by turning over one of the black tiles.

If exactly two agents meet at a location, and the Ambassador is not there, they may exchange information. This is done by showing each other two cards, one of which must be true. The agents must note down what they have show to who – the same pair of cards cannot be shown to an agent more than once.

If an agent meets the Ambassador alone at a location, he may question the Ambassador, who apparently knows everything. The game effect is that the agent may ask any one of the other three agents to show him one of his black cards. (Since it’s a black card, it must be true.)

Once all information has changed hands, the start player passes to the left, and each player chooses a new location tile from the four remaining, again ending with the Ambassador. Location tiles are played until all five are used, after which everyone gets all five tiles back. Play continues in this manner until one of the players feels that he has all the correct information.

When a player is ready for the reveal, he needs to meet up with his partner alone at a location. (Remember that F and B are partners, and X and Z are partners.) If more than one player wants to reveal, the agent first is turn order gets to go first if both are successful at the meet up. The revealing player names which player is his partner (fairly obvious, since they met up for the reveal), and the correct code sequence. This is verified by the players all revealing their identities, and their code pieces.

If the player is correct, his team wins the game. If he is wrong, the other team wins the game.

The five player variant has a fifth player taking the role of the Ambassador. He will need to piece together all the identities and code numbers on his own.


This is a game where being first in turn order is not an advantage, since you can’t select a location where you’ll be able to exchange information. If you go late in the order, you can choose to meet up with an agent, or try to find the Ambassador. As the location tiles are spent, it gets easier to predict where the Ambassador is going to be. Other agents can block you, but in doing so they waste their turn as well.

When revealing cards to another agent, go for the person-person and number-number pairs first, before giving up a person-number pair. On the fourth meet-up, the correct pair will be obvious. If it’s taking you that long to figure it out, you’re not going to be the one doing the reveal.

Meeting the Ambassador is very useful, but it’s risky unless there are only one or two location tiles left. Even then, you need to have the correct locations remaining.

Reviewer’s Tilt

Inkognito isn’t a pure deduction game simply because luck plays a significant part in who gets information, and what kind of information. If you get unlucky and the Ambassador spoils one or two of your meet-ups, the other players will have a huge advantage. Receiving information from the Ambassador once or twice is also a huge advantage, making Inkognito a battle of luck as much as a battle of elimination and deduction.

This is the kind of game that you’d play with non-gamers. The theme is cool, the graphic design is very nice, and the luck factor will lighten the game up from being a true brain-burner. The game is also fairly simple – there are only four agents and four numbers, and you already start knowing your own information leaving just three to figure out. A game shouldn’t last more than half an hour unless people get really unlucky with their meet-ups.

If you’re looking for a deep deduction game, Inkognito isn’t it. It’s a fast-playing filler-type diversion with some deduction elements and some luck. Should that description appeal to you, look the game up.

Review - James Ernest's Give Me the Brain!

Have you even wondered what it’s like to be the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz? It would be hard to get anything done without a brain. No wonder that the Scarecrow went through so much just to try to get a brain from the Wizard. Your traditional zombies usually get along fine without a brain, though they do go around looking for some. They’d much rather eat the brains of course, since they have no use for them since they’re dead.

James Ernest has other ideas for his zombies. He uses them for manual labor. They’re not very smart, but at least they’re really cheap. So, James has this fast food place called Friedey’s, and it’s staffed with zombies. They’re able to do most of the work with just a few mishaps, but sometimes there are jobs so complex that they need a brain. So, James provided them with one to share.

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Give Me the Brain puts the players in the shoes of the Friedey’s zombies, who need to get all their work done while time-sharing a single slippery brain.

Such a silly theme can only come from the mind of James Ernest and be published by his Cheapass games. This game’s original incarnation was a black-and-white light cardstock version packaged in an envelope. After winning the Origins award, it was given the “pro treatment”. Give Me the Brain is now available in full, glorious color. The brain-pink package with the zombie on the front contains 112 smooth plastic-coated cards and a rules sheet. Most of the cards have humorous text; some of them have funny zombie illustrations by Brian Snoddy. You need a six-sided die to play Give Me the Brain, but in true Cheapass fashion, the rules say to crib one from a game you never play. I’m sure your Risk set won’t miss the die.

The Game

The zombie-players begin the game with a hand of seven cards. The objective of the zombie-player is to get rid of all his cards so he can go home. There are three kinds of cards, bid cards (30 of these), objects (8 of these) and jobs (the rest of the cards).

Each zombie-player has two hands; so on his turn a zombie-player can perform two hands’ worth of jobs. A job is rated for either one or two hands. Some jobs, colored brain-pink, are beyond the non-intellect of a zombie and thus require the brain to execute. Therefore, the player must procure the brain.

The brain, represented by the aforementioned six-sided die, begins the game on the floor. Players bid using the bid cards for possession of the brain. High bid wins the use of the brain… for the moment. Each job that requires the brain has a skill rating. Once the zombie-player performs the job, he needs to match or beat the skill rating on a roll of the die to retain possession of the brain. If he fails, the brain slips from his noggin and falls back on the floor, allowing everyone to bid for it again.

The objects tend to help the possessors. There are a couple of animal brains, which a player can use once then must pass to an adjacent player. There are also extra hands that can be used to perform more jobs in a turn.

The jobs are a huge mixed bag of chaos and silliness. As the rules say, some are good all the time, some are good in certain situations, some are good in combination with other cards but are otherwise bad, and some are bad all the time. Good thing that a player can loaf instead of working.

When a player loafs, he does nothing. While loafing, he either draws a card (usually bad) or discards his entire hand and draws the same number of cards plus one. This can be good if all you have is bad cards.

The first zombie-player to empty his hand gets to go home first and wins the game!


This is a hugely chaotic game with a lot of “take that”, especially with a lot of players, so strategy is very limited. You don’t really need the brain to perform a lot of jobs. If you have a bad set of jobs, loaf a turn and draw a new hand. High bid cards are important.

It’s happened to us that a player wins on the first turn by playing a card that drops hand size down to four, and he draws a couple of high bid cards and a couple of high skill brain jobs. Bid, win the brain, play job, drop the brain (ending that turn). Then bid again, win the brain, play job, game over.

Otherwise, there’s not much there.

Reviewer’s Tilt

My impression of Give Me the Brain is that it’s not “tight”. The game is rated for three to eight players, fifteen minutes. With the exception of the above-stated first-turn win aberration, games tend to last ten minutes per player, which is too long for a game of this weight. The huge amount of chaos and “take that” card play inherent in the system can make the game unenjoyable for some players in a large group. The turn-skipping mechanism of the brain (after the brain is dropped, play continues with the player who picked up the brain) is also a big turn-off when playing with more than four players.

Fillers, especially those relying on humor for a large part of their appeal, are expected to be fast and engaging. Give Me the Brain fails to deliver both of those elements consistently. Given that, I can’t recommend it unless you plan to play it with just three or four players. Even then, its appeal is limited, and you might be better served looking elsewhere.

Review - James Ernest's Falling

FALLING is a frenetic card game for 4-8 players. Everyone is falling, and the object is to hit the ground last. It’s not much of a goal, but it’s all you could think of on the way down. – Blurb on the box of Falling

Say what you want about the game designs of James Ernest, but you can’t say that Falling is unoriginal. The premise alone is wacky. The gameplay is just as wacky, if not even more so.

The players are, well, falling. Come up with whatever reason you want. They could be stockbrokers who just invested in stock that went bust, skydivers whose chutes failed to open, aliens whose flying saucer just blew up… the possibilities are endless. As long as all the players are falling.

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On the way down, the players try their utmost to hit the ground last. The flap their arms, they whack each other; they use every option they can find. In the end, everyone hits the ground, but the one that hits the ground last dies like everyone else, but he wins the game.

This is a James Ernest game, and it is also a Cheapass Game. While Cheapass has a reputation for using cheap components, the smooth plastic-coated cards of Falling are reasonably sturdy. For your ten bucks you get 54 cards and a rulesheet. The art by Brian Snoddy is humorous and fitting for such a silly theme. The rules are reasonably clear and well-written, but this is a game best learned from someone who already knows how to play and can act as the dealer the first few times down to the ground.

The Game

Falling requires one person to be the dealer. This person is not falling; he is not a player. He deals out the falling cards to the players, acts on the cards used by the players, and keeps the game moving (and sane). In general, the dealer is going around the table, to each player in turn, and is dealing cards to them throughout the game until the deck runs out.

Each of the players has a “stack” of cards to begin the game. The dealer deals cards onto this stack. At any time, a player may pick up the top card of his stack. This card may be used either on himself or on another player, depending on the card. A player may only have one card in hand at any time, and once a card is picked up for use it cannot be returned to the stack.

How are cards used? There are three types of cards. The first type is the “rider”. A rider is a card played in front of a player, and it tells the dealer how to deal to this player the next time he gets to the player. The three main riders are “hit” (deal an extra card to this guy), “skip” (don’t deal a card to this guy) and “split” (start another stack for this guy). There’s an “extra” card that’s played on a rider, doubling its effect. Remember, you can either play a rider on yourself, or on someone else who doesn’t already have one in front of him. Once a rider has been “used” (the dealer has followed the instructions once) the rider is discarded.

Then there are the action cards. There are three of these things: “grab” (take someone else’s rider), “push” (give someone else your current rider) and “stop” (cancel any rider, or delay the ground). Each action card is used once then discarded.

Speaking of the ground, that’s the last type of card. If you get dealt a ground card and you can’t stop it, you become a red splotch all over the pavement. The Falling deck comes with five ground cards, and these are always the bottom cards of the dealer’s deck. There’s an infinite amount of ground, so when playing with more than five players, the dealer can just point at a player and say “ground” when he runs out of cards. If everyone else hits the ground before you did, you win. Congratulations.

How does the game play? The pace is set by the dealer. For a bunch of newbies he can deal slowly, allowing the players to look at the top card of their stack, pick it up if they want to, then use it on themselves or someone else before the dealer gets back to them. As the players get more comfortable with the game, and they can assess the situation, pick up and play cards faster, the dealer can speed up. The cards fly across the table. There can be some timing issues, when two or more players try to play cards in the same place at the same time, but these can be resolved quickly by the players themselves. After all, Falling is a game which plays out in three to five minutes. You can play again.


It’s a “real-time” game! What strategy? Isn’t it stupid?

Well, sort of, but not quite. Yes, you need fast reflexes and quick eyes to play well. If you have trouble picking cards up off the table, and you fumble a lot, you’ll probably get a bit frustrated. However, Falling is a game of stack management. All the turns before the dealer gets to the bottom of his deck are for “tuning” your stack to be nothing but skips (with extra skips) and stops, with maybe an occasional grab just in case. Get rid of hits, pushes and splits as soon as you can. Splits might actually be useful early on, since the extra stacks disappear if you empty them, but as the ground approaches, you’re playing with fire if you have more than one stack. (However, if you have a bunch of skips in both stacks that might work, since skips make the dealer skip all of your stacks.)

Timing is everything. You don’t want to play your skip in front of yourself too early, so that someone steals it with a grab, but you don’t want to play it too late either so that someone has time to stick you with a hit or unwanted split. Oh, and never pick up a push unless you’ve got a rider. If someone sees you holding a push he can stop your rider, freezing the push in your hand until someone else plays a rider on you. If no one does, you’re helpless.

So yes, there’s a bit of strategy. Seriously!

Reviewer’s Tilt

And yes, it’s a stupid game, but I think that’s the point. If you don’t take it seriously, you can have a good time with Falling. I don’t recommend playing with more than four players (excluding the dealer) with one deck, since it’ll be over too quickly. You can shuffle two Falling decks together when playing with five to eight players. If you’re new to the game and don’t have an experienced dealer, take it slow. Once everyone gets it, you can speed up. Of course, this is a game best played fast. I have to admit that Falling is lots of fun when you’re with the right crowd and in the right mood, filled with flying cards, cursing and yelling. You might even call it a party game.

There will be some people who will hate the game just because it’s stupid, or because it’s in “real time”. It’s surprising though that many people initially find the game disorienting, but once they give it a chance, they find that they’re played twenty games in a row.

Do I like the game? Yes, I like it for what it is – a different kind of filler for when no one really wants to do any mental lifting. That was unexpected, since I was fully prepared to hate Falling. It’s not going to substitute for meatier fillers, but if Falling is what the group wants to play, I’ll happily grab a spot at the table. Heck, I’ll even deal.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Gaming bullets 24-25 March

Before my memory faddes like smoke in the wind...

24 March, Monchot's birthday bash

Played before I arrived:
Puerto Rico [5P] (Javy, Greg, Monchot, Eileen, Frank) - won by Greg

After I arrived:
Modern Art [4P] (Erik, Frank, Monchot, Greg) - Won by ?
Bluff [5P] (Titus, George, Annie, Cyndi, Rick) - Two games, both won by Cyndi
Modern Art [5P] (Same crew plus Tala) - Won by ?
Paris Paris [4P] (George, Annie, Cyndi, Rick) - Won by Annie
Call of Cthulhu CCG [2P] (Rick, Frog) - Won by Frog

After I left:
Puerto Rico [5P] (Greg, Frog, George, Nix, Monchot) - Won by Nix

25 March

The Princes of Florence [5P] (Martin, Nix, Frog, Frank, Rick) - Won by Martin
The Princes of Florence [4P] (Same crew less Martin) - Won by Frog
Pirate's Cove [4P] (Annie, Erik, Jay John, George) - Won by ?
Bluff [5P] (Pirate's Cove crew + Monchot) x 2 - Won by ?
Give Me the Brain [5P] (Bluff crew) - Won by?
Mamma Mia [4P] (Rick, Frog, George, Nix) - Won by Rick
Paris Paris [4P] (Annie, Jay John, Frank, Rick) - Won by Rick
Modern Art [4P] (George, Erik, Monchot, Nix) - Won by ?
Inkognito [5P] (Titus, Jay John, Rick, Frank, Annie) - Won by Rick and Annie
Modern Art [5P] (Annie, Rick, Frank, George, Jay John) - Won by Rick
Dragon Delta [6P] (Deej, Erik, Titus, Annie, Rick, Monchot) - Game called on account of stupidity
Torres [4P] (Rick, Annie, Deej, Titus) - Won by Deej
Puerto Rico [5P] (Frog, Nix, George, Erik, Jay John) - Won by Frog
Falling [4P] (Titus, Deej, Annie, Rick) 3x - Won by Rick (2x) and Annie
Pueblo [3P] with Sacred Burial Grounds (Annie, Deej, Rick) - Won by Rick

Corrections and details later...

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Modern Art-induced Madness

When we play Modern Art, it brings out very strange behaviour in some people...

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Game afternoon/evening - 19 March 2005

Europe Engulfed – July 1942 One-map Scenario [2P]

I arrived at Mark’s to find no one else in attendance. We took the opportunity to give Rick Young’s July 1942 Tournament Scenario for Europe Engulfed another go, since I hadn’t gotten around to finishing the rules to Rommel in the Desert or Eurofront.

I took the Russkies this time, so Mark had a chance to play the Germans and their friends. I suppose defending comes a lot easier to me. Anyway, all we had to do was keep the Germans out of our key cities – Stalingrad, Leningrad, Moscow, and the oilfields.

Mark massed his forces at the line, and immediately thrust down the middle. I knew that I was eventually going to have to give ground, and hoped that I’d at least whittle down the superior German units. I’d spread my forces a bit too thin down the middle, having a bias towards protecting Moscow and making sure that there was support in case Leningrad was besieged. I’d left too few forces in the vicinity of Stalingrad and the oilfields, though Mark didn’t know that.

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The Germans took possession of the center of Russia, in between Moscow and Stalingrad. Now Mark had a decision – should he blow his Special Actions assaulting Moscow or Stalingrad. After a while, he threw everything in the area against Moscow. I used my lone Special Action to reinforce Moscow, and we rolled the dice. Moscow held, and we inflicted a decent amount of damage thanks to the fortifications.

I made another mistake on my turn, just spending my WERPs but not really doing anything. Turtling in a wargame, as usual. I should be playing France. Anyway, I reinforced Moscow and Stalingrad with cheap Russian cadres, still making the mistake of lightly guarding the oilfields. On his turn, Mark took advantage and thrusted into the corer, taking the oil with Special Actions. That cost me six WERPs on my turn. Another turn of cheap Russian infantry cadres allowed me to have enough to take back my oilfields and decimate the eastern German forces. We attacked along the line, kicking the Germans out of a couple of provinces and generally causing a decent amount of damage.

It started raining, and the terrain turned to mud. The Germans and their allies brought in more forces, but there was no combat. Three hours into the game, we called it a day.

This is a neat little scenario that uses the most basic EE rules. We may be ready to step up to more rules soon, but it would be nice to have the time to play through the whole thing to see how the weather really affects things. Have to remember to buy all the Russian cadres next time, since the costs double after the third turn.

Over to Frog’s for dinner and evening socialization. I’d acquired more A Game of Thrones CCG cards for Frog, and in the process gotten myself into trouble with the Call of Cthulhu CCG. I thought it would be a nice pastime to play with the two starter decks, just because I like Lovecraft and CoC, but the game turned out to be pretty good. Whereas I’m just lukewarm on AGoTCCG, I picked up a bunch of boosters for CoCCCG.

For this evening, I’d also packed mostly lighter games. Dunno, I guess it was the mood. Amun-Re and Tigris & Euphrates were in the bag, but I didn’t think we’d play them.

After dinner, the first game on the table was Kuhhandel.

Kuhhandel [5P]

I used a start variant were each player began the game with two animals, except for player 5 who had one 90-point cat. That wasn’t all that hot. Kuhhandel should top out at four players. The other variant was that we auctioned two cards at a time. All this probably cut the game time in half. It still took just under an hour, but next time I’ll have a better idea on how to use the variants.

Erik won the game after I goofed and gave up a quartet of 40-point geese to secure my 1,000-point horses. The third multiplier gave Erik the win, since he also had the pigs and the goats.

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It’s important to win a least a couple of auctions in Kuhhandel, because if you don’t have a variety of animals, you won’t be able to initiate horse trades for them. Frog ended up with just one set because he overspent early in the game and didn’t have enough seed for more quartets. That it was a five player game certainly didn’t help.

Titus arrived during the game, and while he and Frog talked about AGOTCCG, we finally got Annie into a game of Royal Turf which she’d been wanting to try.

Royal Turf [4P]

Erik and I found ourselves allied on a few bets, and George and Annie also found themselves betting on the same horses. The most memorable race was the second one, where Annie and George had bet on both Albino and Earl Grey. This allowed Erik and I to advance the two sprinters for short distances with our die rolls, handicapping them and making them finish sixth and seventh.

Erik secured the victory in the third race, where he had a solo bid riding on Carmello, who finished third for a nice solo double-payout.

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Royal Turf – Final Scores:
Erik – 3,300
Rick – 2,200
George – 1,250
Annie – 650

Nix had arrived by the time the races were over, so we decided to try to get everyone into a game. Luckily Titus had brought Squint.

Squint x 2 [7P]

This cute Pictionary variant has players forming pictures by using tiles with shapes and symbols on them instead of drawing with pen and paper. It’s pretty fast, and is a decent party game. I’m not too happy with the “roll a die for the difficulty level which affects the scoring,” but it’s a party game so what the heck.

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We played two games. Annie won the first one by a landslide, and Titus won the second one.

Nix needed to pick up Tala in a few minutes, so I pulled out a fast game.

High Society [5P]

Annie is unusually unlucky at this game, always ending up as the player with the least money. Bidding isn’t Nix’s favorite genre either, but he was willing to give this a try. At least it would be over quickly. J

I got the 4-point car rather cheap, but also took the -5 gambling debts tile so that didn’t matter. Erik didn’t have much going, while Annie managed to win the 10-point personal island and one of the 2x tiles. George got into early trouble and the thief made off with her yacht. In the end, Nix had the least cash, leaving Annie as the winner. Finally.

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Nix and I went to pick up Tala from Greenbelt. When we got back, Erik, Annie and George were off to the Royal Turf races again, while Frog and Titus were configuring their AGoTCCG decks.

While waiting for the races to conclude, I introduced Nix and Tala to Carcassonne.

Carcassonne [3P]

I used the “personal 3-tile hand” variant to provide more options. We played with the Inns & Cathedrals expansion. Tala sprinted to a nice lead via a couple of sizable early castles. However, the game was sorta boring, and when the race at the other table ended, we decided to call it so we could play a better game.

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Modern Art [5P]

Tala wanted to learn the AGoTCCG game which Frog and Titus had been playing, so she sat out while we were off to the art galleries.

This was a strange game with an unusual pace. I fell behind early, auctioning off relatively cheap stuff and not being able to buy anything until the fourth season. I didn’t get any usable double auction cards. In the fourth season, I double-auctioned off some Krypto that no one else though much of so I bought them for myself. Then I got a fixed-price double Karl Gitter from Annie that I could afford. That gave me a $300,000 sale at the end of the game, with about half that in profits, and it was just enough to win the game.

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Final Scores – Modern Art
Rick - $422,000
Erik - $384,000
Nix - $381,000
Annie - $302,000
George - $212,000

Erik and Annie headed out, so I took the opportunity to test drive CoCCCG with Nix. I took the good guy “Investigators” deck with Miskatonic University and the Blackwood Agency, while Nix had the cults of Cthulhu and Hastur.

Call of Cthulhu CCG [2P]

The Investigator deck is faster than the Mythos deck, but when the creatures start appearing, they come in droves. Nix won the first story, but I took the next two. Then Hastur appeared, and it was a race to take the third while avoiding the King in Yellow. I managed to do it before Hastur took his first story.

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Hey, it’s a new CCG so it’ll take time to familiarize with the various powers and strategies inherent in the factions and cards. I like the game system though; it provides a different feel from your typical “kill me before I kill you” CCG. I won’t sink a lot of cash into this, but I’d like to have enough cards to play a varied number of casual games. Stay tuned.

A Game of Thrones CCG [2P]

When I left with Nix and Tala, Frog and Titus were still struggling for domination of Westeros.

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Friday, March 18, 2005

Torres 2000 vs Torres 2004, Part 2

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Torres 2005

Well, this was unexpected. The new edition of Torres has these nice tower pieces. The color isn't great, but they're taller and have fluted tops, which is really nice. Now I'm thinking about double-dipping. Damn, that's a good game. :-)

You can also see a bit of the board. So far, it looks rather plain, unlike the nice ground-colored board. Won't pass judgment until we see the whole thing though. It's looking like a nice reprint.

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Torres 2000

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Boardgamegeek Blues

It's an unhappy thing when you experience the growing pains of a community. The WWW is a fascinating place where we can become members of an online community that meets only through words on a screen. Still it's no less distressing when the peace of that community is inevitably disrupted when its popularity increases and causes an influx of new people. Some people aren't as interested in preserving the community, instead being more interested in proving superiority over the other participants in the online community.

Arguments have been standard on the WWW as long as I can remember. They're also most worthless when executed without tact or restraint or focus. Boardgamegeek's front page is pretty much a bad place to be these days, due to this. That's too fucking bad, it was a nice place while it lasted.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Game afternoon/night – 12 March 2005

I had another free afternoon, an occurrence that doesn’t happen often enough, so I got to drop by Mark’s place on very short notice. I arrived to find Manuel and Mark going through the rules to Europe Engulfed. I knew Mark and Titus had been exploring the game, but luckily Manuel was new to the game so I was able to join in for the rules explanation and the learning game. For this exercise, the scenario was 1942 to 1943, with the Russians attempting to hold off the Germans and their allies. Mark took the Russians, Manuel and I collaborated on the side of the Germans. (Actually, I mostly kibitzed and rolled the dice!)

Europe Engulfed (learning game) [2+1P]

I’d been slogging through the rules of EE on and off and found them to be a bit difficult to read through. Playing through a couple of turns made the base rules easier to understand. Granted we weren’t using the whole ruleset, but the basic flow of the game was clearer when actually playing it out with Mark’s guidance.

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So, each side got a beginning set of forces. We got most of the German units, plus a single Italian unit and s few minor Axis units which had placement restrictions. The Russians started with a lot of Russians. The game setup gave the Russians a front cutting through the middle of the half-map that the scenario used. In this scenario the Germans had already penetrated halfway through the center of Russia, but were yet to take Leningrad and the adjacent swamp area (annoying because that meant that Leningrad was still in supply, and that fortress is a very tough nut to crack due to the stacking limit).

The Germans moved first, and had 28 WERPs (wartime economic resource points IIRC) to buy stuff, primarily units and special actions. The special actions are the interesting part of EE. These cost a painful 5 WERPs each, but allow the side to do things like attack a second time, add units where they couldn’t normally be added, move an extra time, put out-of-supply units into supply, and so on. The Germans had up to four SAs available for purchase, while the Russians only had one. Of course, the Russians had their own little ability, which was they paid half price (or just one WERP) for the first step of a newly-built unit. The Germans had to pay two. Yikes.

So, Manuel and I decided to buy three SAs and a couple of extra units, and move into three of the front provinces of the Reds. This included an assault on Leningrad using four four-step infantry and the single allowable ground support airborne unit. Why just four? That was the max we could send in because Leningrad was a fortress, and you can only attack a Fortress with double the stacking limit worth of units. Russia had two units defending the fortress, both four-step infantry. Another problem – the Russians had a +2 modifier to hit while in the fortress. Since the defender attacks first in EE, this would prove to be very painful.

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To cut a long story short, despite burning all three of our SAs to attack twice in Leningrad and the other two front provinces, we failed to clear out the Russians on any place in the first turn. We weren’t rolling all that poorly either. Our units in Leningrad were heavily damaged, while the Russians were just scratched. It’s tough rolling sixes to hit when the other guy hits 50% of the time, and you lose a die for every step of damage that you take, and he attacks first. We also decided just to stick to regular attacks rather than assaults, in a bout of conservatism. Need to try being more aggressive the next time out and see if the results would be different.

Anyway, on the Russians’ turn Mark bought a whole load of units and reinforced the whole Russian front. Most were probably just single-step units, but the number of blocks was impressive. Besides, all he had to do was hold out until the weather produced snow or mud, and he’d have a decided advantage.

On our second turn, we decided to just buy a single SA and spend the rest on units. We relied on strategic movement to get the units to the front, and resumed attacking the same three provinces we had hurt earlier. When the smoke cleared, we weren’t much closer to taking Leningrad, but the other two provinces finally fell.

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After some small talk, I had to leave to run a couple of errands. I promised to read up both on the rules of EE and those of Rommel in the Desert for the next opportunity to play the block games. Mark also kindly lent me his for-trade copy of the first edition Paths of Glory for me to look at. (Mark isn’t fond of the card-driven games.)

I ran around town a bit doing the errands, then headed for Frog and George’s place for dinner and possibly some gaming.

One of the errands I ran was for Frog and myself! In anticipation of the long-delayed release of the fourth volume of George Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novels, Frog had been rereading A Game of Thrones and wanted to play a game set in Westeros. We briefly discussed the boardgame, which Frog hadn’t played, but due to expected difficulty in finding three other players that would be interested in playing (unlikely) we decided to get a couple of starter decks of the Game of Thrones CCG.

Titus had written briefly on his blog that he was playing the game, and that it played best with three. Since Titus was scheduled to join us that evening it seemed to be a good opportunity to give the game a try. I stopped by Neutral Grounds, the local Fantasy Flight Games distributor, and given the available selection I settled on the Premium Ice & Fire starter which had two preconstructed decks ready to go – House Targaryen (Frog likes Denerys’s story arc) and House Greyjoy (which I enjoy playing in the boardgame). Hey, I also like their silly slogan “We Do Not Sow”. (Yeah, it makes no sense if you don’t know anything about the story. House Greyjoy is a noble family in the land of Westeros based on a bunch of islands in the middle of the sea. This sea is rather salty, and the land of the islands is very ferrous, so they can’t plant crops or anything out there. Thus, We Do Not Sow. Yeah, it’s pretty stupid. The standard of Greyjoy is a big squid. Fine, it’s called a Kraken.)

Conversely, Targaryen is the cool exiled ex-ruling House of the land. Their standard is the Dragon, and they’ve got magic and stuff. Oh yeah, and real dragons. At least Greyjoy isn’t a clich√©. :)

So I show up at Frog’s place, say hello to the hosts, and we settle down to try out the new game.

A Game of Thrones CCG [2P]

Ooh, this was brutal. We played our “name” characters early, Asha Greyjoy and Denerys Targaryen. Both characters are cool and strong and female, but Dany got her hubby Khal Drogo to join her soon after. Khal Drogo is really annoying, he kills a 2 strength character outright each turn. Okay, we could deal with that. Greyjoy seemed to be a tappy tappy pumpy pumpy combo kind of deal, which I could handle. Then, Frog played the Dragon, a 6 strength beast that tapped all the characters in the turn that he entered play. Ooookay. There was one card in the Greyjoy deck that might deal with the dragon, but since we were drawing two cards a turn and the deck was, like, 50 cards, chances are I’d be far behind (if not dead) before I saw it.

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Erik arrived while my squidheads were being pounded by Frog’s Royal Assassin/Shivan Dragon combo. Frog was ahead 10-0 (he had won all three challenges the turn previous) when Nix arrived and I conceded the game. That was tres ugly; when I conceded I had one character in play (I forced Frog to kill two of his five characters using a plot card, but he still had Dany, Khal D. and the dragon) and had five locations in hand. Ouch.

I got Erik into a quick game of The Confrontation.

The Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation [2P]

As usual had Pippin up front sniffing around. The hairfoot located the Troll standing in Moria! Ha! Retreated Pip, and the Troll followed him in. Good thing Pip had a partner, and Erik picked… Aragorn. Traded pieces. Boromir took Shelob to the Abyss with him. Erik then made a strike with the Nazgul into the piece I had lagging in the back… and ran into Gandalf. Another attack by Dark had the Witch King running right into Merry. Gandalf advanced and cut a swath down the middle of the board. Saruman attacked my left flank, and the two pieces there were Frodo and Sam. Sam stepped up, so the old guy had to play cards. I played Elven Cloak to take out Saruman. With that streak of losses, Erik didn’t have enough pieces to stop Frodo and he conceded.

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We had dinner and decided that we’d play Amun-Re after if Titus didn’t appear. After finishing off some Aristocrat Chicken Barbecue and talking extensively about the NBA and our fantasy league, we cleared the table and were just about to set up for some Egyptian pyramid-building when the doorbell dinged. Titus and Mikko walked in, and we changed plans.

Mikko was going to have dinner first, so we decided to break out a six-player game. We had never played six-player Elfenland, so that became the main game of the evening.

Elfenland [6P]

I’m still not enamored with the board of Elfenland. I know some people think it’s the nicest board ever, but it seems to be busy and cluttered to me. Never mind the art, this is supposed to be a family game so that’s ok. And what’s with the unpronounceable city names? And the rolling cylinders? Later editions could have replaced them with something more practical, like the Tikal or PR style hex barrels. The big boots are still cute, even if they’re not very elfin. You’d think they’d have tassels or bells or something like that.

Anyway, we draft transport tiles and are off to visit the queens. (The theme of this game might be cooler if we had each of the elves with a girl in each city, and they were off to visit each city and have relations with each of the elven wenches. Think about it, you could then characterize the cylinders as… I still don’t know what they are. We play nice with the initial transport placements, and Frog takes off to the northwest, towards the mountains. George takes a southern route. I follow Frog’s direction and end up in the exact same place, but with one cylinder less. Ow, not good. Nix goes fourth and ends up in the same city as me and Frog! Erik heads south as well, and Titus has the final turn. He ends up in the same city as Nix, Frog and me. Heh. Titus is ahead by one cylinder at this point.

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With four elves in the same city, there was opportunity to be nasty since I’d be the first player of the four to take my turn. After drafting tiles, I knew I’d have to take a miss on the northwestern-most city and take the raft heading south. I ended up playing my obstacle down that route, and playing it last, hoping that I screwed up a plan or two.

So we each head our separate ways. There’s a lot of dragon play in the desert, the most annoying part of the board. I end up right in the middle of the sand dunes, hoping that as the start player in the third turn I’ll get dealt a dragon (there was a dragon tile in the opening draft) and be able to get out of there. Titus is still ahead by one cylinder after the second turn.

I get two dragons in the deal, but I know that I’m going to need them both because screwage starts happening around this time. I play my dragon exit from the oasis, and jam the entrance to the annoying dead-end city with a second dragon. Frog jams my southeastern route with an ill-placed (for me) dragon, and completes the screwage by sticking his obstacle on my desert exit route. Hey, I’m NOT ahead here!

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Three of us end up in the northeastern corner of the kingdom. Titus has seventeen at the end of the turn, and seems to be comfortably ahead. All he has to do is take one step, save his cards, and screw the rest of us will crummy transport. Well, we all try to perform great acts of screwage, with the four remaining obstacle being placed in the northern reaches. In the end, we missed one.

Elfenland – Final Scores
Nix – 19
Titus – 18
Frog -17
George – 17
Erik – 17
Rick -17

Nix found a route that crossed diagonally through the desert from northeast to southwest, collecting three cylinders through all the crummy transport and fallen logs and earning the win. Titus had to blow four cards just to get his last cylinder and was stuck in the east. George made a furious comeback from behind the field to finish in the pack. I finished last, having to blow all my cards just to get my 17th cylinder.

Elfenland is only really interesting with five to six players, but then it just takes too darn long and has too much downtime for its weight. Sure it’ll play a lot faster with four, but then it won’t be as tight with less competition in placing the transport tiles and wth correspondingly less screwage. For that amount of time investment (120+ minutes) I’d rather play something meatier. Elfenland isn’t a bad game, but it’s best produced for newbies that need an intro to German games. I’d easily pull Elfenland out before Settlers.

You can also see the roots of Ticket to Ride here. The drafting mechanism is present, the “claiming of routes” is present, the luck of the draw is present, and the potential for a bit of blocking is present. The main improvement is in the rapid action-taking and corresponding decrease in downtime. Two Spiel des Jahres awards for the same core of mechanisms? Hey, not bad Mr. Moon.

We brought Mikko back into the fold. Erik was ready to call it a night, but wanted one more game. He’d never played Liar’s Dice before, so luckily Titus had brought along my copy of Bluff.

Bluff [6P]

After the usual compliments on the really nice Ravensburger components, especially the cups built for slamming, we were off. Frog was the first one out, followed by Nix, then me. Erik followed us out, leaving Mikko and George. Mikko was up five dice to one, an overwhelming advantage. Through judicious betting, George won two bids in a row with exact bids, cutting Mikko’s lead to 3-1. The streak ended there though as Mikko won the next bid, leaving him with the win.

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Bluff (1st game):
Winner - Mikko

Erik liked it so much he asked for a second game. Titus joined us as Frog was off looking at all the Game of Thrones cards Titus and Mikko had brought along. Nix crashed out spectacularly in the first bid, taking my bait by raising a bid of 12 that I had made. Sorry Nix. :) Turnabout is fair play though as I went out next, losing three dice in one bid, then getting hosed by two exact bids by other people. George was the third elimination, leaving Titus, Erik and Mikko in. Titus had a three dice lead over Mikko and Erik, who had just one each. In a stunning upset, Titus was the fourth person out, losing all three dice to Mikko and Erik. In the final showdown, Mikko prevailed again.

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Bluff (2nd game):
Winner – Mikko

Erik said his good-nights, leaving the six of us to mop up. Frog and Nix had started a Game of Thrones match while we were rolling dice, so the four of us decided on a Colossal Arena game to close the night out.

Colossal Arena [4P]

Four is a nice number of Arena. I like it with three, but with four there’s just a little more turn angst especially as the number of combatants declines and the timing of the game changes. Sitting out this staging of the Arena: Daimon, Ettin, Colossus, Seraphim.

Everyone placed a secret bid. The first elimination was the unsupported Cyclops. Ugly beast. The next elimination was the similarly unsupported Gorgon. I had control of the Wyrm and was making good use of it ability, while Mikko was abusing the Amazon. Titus joined me in supporting the Wyrm, so that was a good situation. Mikko and George were heavily invested in the Unicorn and the Troll. I placed my last bid on the Titan, taking over as backer from Titus. Before I could do anything with it, the Titan bit the dust because Titus and I misjudged the turn timing. Eh, that’s two of my bids gone. George played a Referee, forcing the Wyrm’s secret bids to reveal themselves. Turns out both Titus and I placed our secrets on Ol’ Green Scales. I retained my Wyrm backership, and combined it with the abilities of my Magus to leave just five cards, all high Magus cards and a high Spectator. The Troll bit the dust. The deck then ran out, and we were in the endgame. The Unicorn ultimately met its demise, leaving the Wyrm, the Magus and the Amazon as the survivors before anyone ran out of cards in hand.

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Colossal Arena – Final Scores:
Rick -12
Titus – 8
George – 4
Mikko - 4

That was a nice game. I really like the way the tempo of the game changes as the number of creatures dwindles. It’s a nice feel for the field of combatants decreasing, and each creature no longer being able to get any breathing room before one of the remaining opponents is on them. Arena should always be played until three critters are left. The endgame condition with the deck running out is unsatisfactory. In this case, it would have left four creatures on the board, and a bunch of cards unplayed. That’s not as good as the game being completed with all the required carnage.

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It was 2am, so we all said good night except for Nix, who continued to battle Frog for domination of Westeros.

Review - Alan Moon's Elfenland

The story of Elfenland is well-chronicled in the Alan Moon episode of Geekspeak. This was the game that made Moon as a designer, won him his first Spiel des Jahres, and formed the foundation for many later successful games that used variations on Elfenland’s drafting and route claiming mechanisms.

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Players take the role of young elves that embark on a coming-of-age ritual. They are to visit as many cities in the Elven kingdom as possible in four seasons, using a variety of transport available to them. The elf that visits the most cities at the end of the game wins.

As I understand it, Elfenland is a simplification of the original Alan Moon design Elfenroads, which had a whole economic system attached to the game. Perhaps the theme made more sense in that context. This component can be restored with the Elfengold expansion, which is out of print and is fairly expensive on the secondary market as of this writing.

Anyway, Elfenland is packaged as a family game, so it has bright graphics and storybook-style illustrations that appeal to children. They’re pretty enough, and many people think the Elfenland board is one of the best ever. (I don’t share that view – the graphic design of Elfenland is ok, but it’s not exceptional.) The components are very nice, as is typical of an Amigo Spiel production. The box is large and linen-finished, with a custom plastic insert with a place for everything. The board is of the large, four fold linen-finished variety. The city markers are small wooden cylinders on six bright colors. The cards are large and linen-finished, always a huge plus in my book. These cards hold up well under heavy use. The tiles are small and thick cardboard markers. Finally, the players’ tokens are large boots, a nice creative touch that’s just marred a bit by the propensity of the boots to fall over once in a while. It’s not really a huge problem though. The rules come in a large-type, full color booklet, and are very clear with illustrated examples. All in all, it’s a superlative package especially if you like the graphics.

The Game

The players begin the in the large castle towards the eastern section of the board. From here, they need to visit as many of the twenty cities on the board as possible in four seasons. Cities are connected by roads through various terrains, and by rivers or lakes.

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There are six different types of transportation available. These are depicted on transportation cards, which are shuffled and dealt out to the players randomly to begin the turn. The types of transport are amusing, ranging from a pig, to a troll-drawn wagon, to traditional fantasy steeds like the Unicorn and the Dragon.

This is the part that doesn’t really work for me. What is this, some kind of random ticket-issuing machine? It jolts the game out of theme and emphasizes that this part of the game is random.

Once the cards are dealt, the players draft transport tiles. These tiles depict the same modes of transport as the cards. All the tiles are mixed up face down, then five tiles are turned up to serve as the draft row. First, players each take a random face down tile each, to serve as their “secret tile”. These are not revealed until played. Then, players draft tiles from the drafting row (new tiles are turned up as open ones are drafted, so each player always has a choice from five) until each has three open tiles. (Players may opt to take a face down tile, but must turn it up as it is drafted.) In addition, each player is given on “obstacle tile” – it’s the only one each player gets for the whole game.

Again, this part of the game doesn’t work for me. If the players are the elves, what are they doing determining what sort of transport is available all over the kingdom? It’s really gamey, and again jolts the players out of the theme.

Once each player has four transport tiles (one hidden and three open), these tiles are then played onto the board. In turn order, each player places a transport tile onto a route on the board. Each route may only accommodate one transport tile, which will determine what cards are necessary to traverse that route this turn. Thus, players should draft and play tiles based on what cards they were dealt. Players may play as few or as many tiles as they like, but they may only carry over a single tile into the next turn. Any excess tiles kept are discarded.

This part of the game is the major part of the turn angst. Will you be able to put your transport tiles on the route that you picked out? Will some other player gum up your plans by playing another type or transport that he has because he’s also heading that way? Or even worse, another player could actively block you by playing a non-optimal (two card) transport type right on your route, probably forcing you to an alternative route. This is the best part of the game, but again it’s gamey and out of theme.

When all the players have passed on playing tiles in succession, the elves begin traveling. In turn order, players play their travel cards to move across the map. The travel guide card indicates how many cards of each mode of transport are needed to move your elf down that route (from one to two cards). If a player does not have a card of cards matching the required transport, he may play any three cards to form a “caravan” to take him down that route. Needless to say, this is a huge bite out of a player’s eight-card hand. An obstacle adds one identical card to the travel requirement. Caravan travel over a route with an obstacle requires four cards of any kind.

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In each city, a cylinder of the player’s color is placed at the beginning of the game. As players visit each city, they collect the cylinder of their color to indicate that they have visited that city. Visiting a city a second time has no further benefit.

It’s too bad that this part of the game, the heart of the theme, is an afterthought to the placement of the transport tiles. Sure, there’s some emotion here if your plans were wrecked, or satisfaction at being able to visit seven cities in one turn, but it’s all anticlimactic. You already knew what you’d be able to do when the transport tiles were placed.

The elves move from city to city until they are unable or unwilling to move any further. Each player takes his whole movement in one go. Once all players have moved, the starting player card is passed to the left and a new turn begins. Any leftover travel cards are carried over into the next turn. To start the new turn, players’ hands are refreshed back up to eight cards, the transport tiles are all removed from the board and returned to the face down pool, and players draft one secret tile and three open tiles again.

Four turns are played. At the end of the four turns, the player who had visited the most cities wins! In the event of a tie, the player with the most travel cards remaining in hand wins!


Elfenland is a simple game of route planning, tile drafting and route claiming. It’s got a bit of randomness in the card and tile draws, and it has a touch of chaos in the route claiming. However, it’s a pretty good introductory game for players new to German games.

Most groups would start out playing Elfenland as a game of optimization. Try to draft tiles that match the cards you get, then try to put the tiles on the route that you plan to take. Ensure that you have a plan B since another player may put a travel tile different from what you planned on the route you planned to take. Played this way, it’s a relaxing game or activity, especially when played with just three or four players. The obstacle tiles may be dispensed with in a game with this mood.

More advanced players will add the element of blocking. In addition to claiming a route with the mode of transport you want, more discerning players will also sniff out the likely routes their opponents will take and play sub-optimal tiles (the ones that require two cards) into those routes. The obstacles are important in thwarting attempts to visit up to seven cities per turn. Finally, it would be rather boring to play with anything less than five players. Elfenland with six players is best, since it ensures maximum competition for routes, and also maximizes the blocking factor of the whole game.

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Reviewer’s Tilt

Elfenland is an ok game to bring out for new German game players. It’s a good introduction to resource drafting and planning in general. It’s also attractive, and that’s always a plus when recruiting newbies. Don’t play with more than four players in this mode, and dispense with the obstacles. These kinds of games should be around the 60 to 90 minute range.

With regular gamers, six players is the only way to play Elfenland. However, that also stretches the game time to 120+ minutes, which is pretty long for a game without much meat on it. The game also gets repetitive after a couple of plays, and the randomness of the cards and tiles can take a lot of fun out of the game.

I find it disappointing that such a nice looking package fails so badly in the theme department. I was expecting a fun theme where players can get into the traveling elf mood. Unfortunately, the game is more about providing the transportation for the elves, rather than the elves’ journey. The theme, sadly, does not work.

If you play with a lot of casual gamers, then Elfenland is definitely a game that you should consider. Despite the head-scratcher of a theme, it’s light and pretty and plays at a fairly good clip with up to four players. If you like your games to have some depth and strategy to them, then Elfenland isn’t going to do that for you, so you should look elsewhere.

Boardgame article in Newsweek

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

UberGames sale still ongoing

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If you're from my neck of the woods (Manila, the Philippines to be exact) then you should check up on the UberGames sale. Contact Titus at the number listed on the UberGames website to see what you can get! Great games like Pueblo, Royal Turf, Mexica, Ticket to Ride, Wings of War and Elfenland can be had at prices approximating US online store prices or even less (Royal Turf is priced at around $9 at current exchange rates), which isn't something you see everyday around here.

No I don't get anything out of this, I just want to see good games find good homes. :)

Review - Alan Moon & Aaron Weissblum's King Lui (King's Breakfast)

Eat all you can buffet tables are evil things. They could be one of the causes of an escalating incidence of obesity in people. What’s the attraction in eating as much as possible until you’re stuffed to the gills? It’s not like the people who partake of buffets aren’t going to see another meal in days.

If we go by the premise of Alan Moon and Aaron Weissblum’s King’s Breakfast it might be good to have a King at every buffet. It’d be better to have a scrawny King, but I guess even a perpetually hungry King like ol’ King Lui will do. At the very least, it’ll regulate how much each person is likely to eat.

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The players are sitting down to breakfast with the King. There are seven kinds of food being served. The players get to eat as much as they want, as long as they don’t eat more than the King. That would be rude!

King’s Breakfast is published by Abacus Spiele and Rio Grande Games. The 110 cards are regular sized and beautifully linen-finished, providing an excellent feel. I wish all cards in all games got the same treatment. The cards come in a double-wide tuck box. The box even plays a role in the game! The art is simple, but appropriate for a humorous game like this one. I still wonder about the dragon – couldn’t they have used a big dog instead? And they passed up a chance to be funny by naming the dragon “Emerald”. Oh well. Overall, a good, high quality yet compact treatment was given to this nice little filler.

The Game

There are seven kinds of food, appearing on 15 cards each. The King’s pet dragon Emerald appears on the other five cards. All the cards are shuffled together into a draw pile.

A randomly-determined starting player (aka the course server) deals out cards equal to twice the number of players. Then, the server gets to take all the cards of a single type of food. Alternatively, if there’s nothing on the table that the player wants, he can choose to call to the kitchen for a mystery dish. (That means he just draws the top card of the draw deck.) The rest of the players follow suit, clockwise. The claimed cards are taken into hand so no one sees what everyone else has taken.

Any leftover food not taken by the players is given to the King, and laid out in front of the box for everyone to see. The role of course server passes clockwise, and the process is repeated.

If the Emerald is dealt out by the course server, the bugger is available to be selected by any player in lieu of taking food cards or calling to the kitchen. When selected, the dragon eats exactly two of the King’s food items, chosen by the player. The dragon then leaves the game to digest the meal. Emerald stays until selected (even multiple instances of him, which are taken one at a time unlike food) or until the game ends.

The game ends when there aren’t enough cards for the server to lay out a full course.

Scoring is simple, if a bit multiplication and addition intensive. Each food card of a player has a value equal to the number of food items of that type given to the King. However, if the player has more of an item than the King, he gets nothing for that food type. The player with the highest total points wins!

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We’re really not supposed to play with our food. We’ll make an exception here though. Since there’s fifteen of each food type, divide that by the number of players plus one (for the King) to get a rough estimation of how many cards the King might end up with. Three or four is usually reasonable depending on the number of players. When you’re in trouble and any selection will take you over what the King’s got in any item, pick one “bust” item (preferably one where the King has just one or two cards) and try to dump any overages there. That way, you don’t lose too much. I wouldn’t bother with the dragon unless you’re in a bust situation. Finally, never send out to the kitchen since that could really ruin your day if it busts your highest food type.

That’s it! This isn’t very complicated.

Reviewer’s Tilt

I kinda like King’s Breakfast. It’s a fast little 10 to 15 minute game that you can pull out and teach in two minutes. It works with kids or adults, and it’s got a goofy theme that you can all rag on. (Quit taking the pastries! You wanna get fatter than you already are? The chicken’s bad for your cholesterol man, lay off!) Sure it’s got a memory element, but why would you even bother? It’s over before you can finish one Krispy Kreme. Some people complain about the scoring, but it’s really not complicated.

King’s Breakfast is really cheap, and can handle a nice range of players. If you’re looking for a simple and quick filler, then give it a look.