It’s been quite a while since I’ve done a weekend gaming recap or written pretty much anything solely board game related. In fact, the last six months have been really fruitful for board games. I’ve grown my collection quite a bit, started going to a regular local gaming meetup, met and played with lots of cool new people, and played a whole heap of fun games. Gaming phases have come and gone in the period. The world failed to end. I started recording a podcast with a couple of cool dudes. It’s been pretty great, you guys. But enough of that, for now let’s talk about some honest-to-goodness board games.
We had a brief Infiltration phase toward the end of last year. Infiltration is another game brought to us by the designer of Dominion, Mr. Donal X. Vaccarino. It’s a cute little “push your luck” style game, where each player takes on the role of an infiltration team trying to steal valuable data from a secure facility and escaping with it before the fuzz arrives. It’s interesting that Fantasy Flight chose to use the Android universe theme for this game, as I read somewhere that the initial theme for this game was a raid on a candy factory. I think it’s pretty great that Fantasy Flight is committed to pushing their own unique intellectual properties, which differentiates them from all the generic sci-fi and fantasy themes in other games. Not to say that their settings aren’t also a little derivative, but it adds a sense of cohesion and identity unique to Fantasy Flight. Furthermore, I’m just glad that one of the themes they are pushing is cyberpunk, which is woefully under-represented in board games. Also a pretty bold move to push ahead with it, since the Android board game itself isn’t as beloved as Twilight Imperium or Descent which formed the building blocks for their Space Opera and Heroic Fantasy universes. I’m very hopeful for it, since Netrunner is now set in the same Android universe and by all accounts has been a smash hit. They’ve also really done well for themselves with the Warhammer and Star Wars licenses. It’s been a pretty great year for Fantasy Flight. Now, if only they would get a product designer that skews more to my tastes…
Anyways, back to Infiltration itself. The concept behind the game is pretty solid. You have a bunch of cards that each represent a room in the facility, and in each room there are differing numbers of Data File tokens, which are the prizes you seek to liberate. Each player gets the same set of action cards (Paraphrased: Move forward, move back, collect DF tokens, interact with the room) and choose one secretly to execute during the turn. Once the actions are revealed, the players take turns executing the actions, which could result in more rooms being revealed, guards being summoned, or players being injured. At the end of the turn, a die is rolled and the alarm dial is advanced. The alarm dial represents the proximity of the security forces on their way to discuss the possibility of your no longer being alive or free, and once it reaches 99 the game is over and players who are still left in the facility immediately lose. Of the players who escaped, the one with the most valuable stolen goods wins. Pretty straightforward, but also a lot of fun. There are special cards (items) which you can use in place of the standard actions which let you do other crazy things like make the room which was supposed to be an easy exit turn out to be a hologram and strand the people further in. Yeah, that one still hurts. There’s not a lot of deep strategy but the interactions are solid and the theme is fun. Worth trying out for none-too-serious gamers.
King of Tokyo
King of Tokyo has been a staple at game nights, when we want a light game with interaction and cute aggression. Now there’s more to love with the Power Up! expansion thrown into the mix. The expansion adds unique powers for each of the kaiju menacing Tokyo in the form of separate small decks of power cards. It also adds a new monster and the potential for an additional player with Pandakai. Giant panda menacing Tokyo? I think maybe China wants some payback for World War 2… The powers add just enough to not overburden the game with complexity while providing more options and a unique flavour to each monster. We usually play with the following variant rules: Start with 3 energy and 1 randomly drawn power card. You get additional powers by rolling 3 hearts as usual and drawing randomly from your own power deck. I like what the expansion adds to the game, and like the Leaders expansion for 7 Wonders, I usually default to playing with the expansion unless I’m teaching new players. Even then, it’s simple enough that I throw the expansion in anyways. 5 giant claws up!
We managed to get in a couple of games of Eclipse during long weekends and I am very impressed. It really does feel like a 4X game in board game form. You have hex tiles that represent the space sectors you will be exploring, and it uses a similar approach to Through the Ages to keep the math in line with your production and upkeep numbers being revealed as you move cubes off your personal board. You also have three branches of technologies for research, a neutral “barbarian” faction in the form of the ancient ships and the ability to customise each of your classes of ships with ship tile technologies. The combat is pretty intuitive, with a simple roll of d6s to hit and modifiers based on your technologies. However, the combats can take a while if the dice rolls go awry and a string of misses is rolled. Or you could be Jin Wei and just roll sixes all the time. We also played a game with the different alien races, and I really like the mechanics used to differentiate the races. Furthermore, the games don’t actually take that long, with our average playtime being around 3 1/2 hours including set up and downtime for checking rules. This is a game that deserves the buzz, but might still not be for everyone. However, if you’re a fan of 4X games, don’t miss out on this one.
The campaign continues! We managed to get another two games of Risk Legacy in the bag. These were our first games using the draft mechanic. I really, really like what the draft adds to the game. Enclave of the Bear and Khan Industries have been performing well in our games and they’re usually high picks. The troop number and placement position picks have also been highly drafted. I like that there’s a potential for self balancing through the draft by gimping the players with the more powerful abilities with potentially less troops or less favourable placement orders. I’ve been pretty crap the past two games though. In our last game, I managed to get eliminated twice. We haven’t opened any additional packets, but we should be close now as we have more winning players. The games area still going at a pretty brisk pace, but somehow we haven’t had the urge to play back to back games. Too many other games to play, I guess.
Cash and Guns
Another game that has been quite a hit is Cash and Guns. I bought a whole batch of party games or lighter games since that category was pretty lacking previously, and it was also good for the end of year party season. Cash and Guns is a really fun game about gangsters that threaten each other with guns while trying to divvy up their ill-gotten gains. At the start of each round, money is added to the center of the table, and each player secretly chooses one of their cards to play face down. Each player gets 8 cards, only 3 of which are shots. Once the cards are chosen, you can then point your cute little foam gun at another player to threaten them to step away from the table and forfeit their share of the money. If they think you are bluffing and refuse to step down, the cards are revealed and if a shot (BANG! or BANG! BANG! BANG!) card was used, the recipient takes a wound and drops to the ground sobbing like a spoiled little boy and the remaining gangsters divide the money as evenly as possible. If you accumulate 3 wounds, you are dead and permanently out of the game. The basic game can further be enhanced with special powers and roles. Jeannie also got me the Yakuzas expansion which allows up to 9 players to play simultaneously and adds a team mechanic and different powers for the yakuza who use tantos and shuriken instead of guns. Cash and Guns has been a hit with almost every group I’ve brought it our for. You can see the glee in everyone’s faces as they wave the foam guns around and threaten to shoot anyone who crosses them. It’s a really great light game for the start or end of a games night or just for parties. Everyone loves threatening to shoot friends for cash rewards. It’s a fact of life.
Party Games: The Big Bang Theory Party Game and Snake Oil
I also snagged a few Apples to Apples clones which have been great fun. If you don’t know, the basic mechanic behind Apples to Apples is that each player takes turns to judge a round, and the judge selects or gets a category while all the other players submit a card that arguably best matches that category. The judge then picks the cards which they think best fits the category. It’s a very simple mechanic and there is a whole subgenre of games that use a similar core mechanic while adding some tweaks, such as Cards Against Humanity, Story War and the two games I discuss here. The Big Bang Theory Party Game doesn’t have that much to do with the series, and essentially follows the Cards Against Humanity model of having certain categories that allow a combination of two cards. The actual cards and categories are skewed towards geek and pop culture and there are some references to things in the show but they are general enough that even a non-fan would have no problem with this game. It also adds ranking of the answers, so you can actually play for points. Snake Oil is similar, but always requires the submission of two cards that form the answer. The theme of the game is that you are trying to sell a poorly conceived product to a gullible customer, and the cards are all single words that can be combined together for (hopefully) hilarious effect. One thing I thought was cute with Snake Oil is that the rules are printed on the sides of the box, so you never need to worry about losing the rulebook as long as you have the box. I think these two games are great variants on the classic Apples to Apples and are usually good value for some laughs. I’m still hoping to get Cards Against Humanity, as I do so relish shock humour.
Tsuro of the Seas
Daniel got me Tsuro of the Seas, a variant of Tsuro, as a gift and it has been another good addition in the light game category. It’s a tile laying game where the aim is to be the last surviving player on the board. The tiles represent routes traveled by your ships and your ship follows the lines printed on the tiles and if the tiles are connected in such a way as to lead your ship off the board, you’re out of the game. Tsuro of the Seas makes your seafaring life even harder by adding sea monsters that can gobble up your ships. You lose if a monster moves onto your tile or you have to move onto a tile containing a sea monster. It’s a really fun, light game that can play lots of people. It’s a good game to start the night as you can start it while waiting for other people to show up, and as people get eliminated they can set up games with the latecomers. You do have to be aware that there is player elimination and it can happen very suddenly and quickly. However, it’s light enough a game that you can just roll with it.
We also played some old favourites like Power Grid, Wits & Wagers, Lords of Waterdeep, Agricola, Kingsburg, Balderdash, Grass (on 420, no less) RoboRally and Alien Frontiers. (with the Factions expansion). I also went to the pre-release for Gatecrash and Dragon’s Maze for Magic: the Gathering. We also got back into playing Dungeons & Dragons, with a few one-shot sessions with some new players, and now in the early stages of a new ongoing campaign. Other new games that I got but don’t have much to say about at this point (or saving up for a proper review later or I’ve spoken about on the podcast): Village, Seasons, Legendary: A Marvel Deckbuilding Game, Puzzle Strike, Myrmes, Survive: Escape from Atlantis and a whole lot more. And there’s still a lot more games to come! There’s a whole bunch of expansions set to come out this year, and I’m looking forward to discovering other new games as well. And Kickstarter! I’m also waiting on delivery of some Kickstarter games that have recently been funded. What games are you guys excited about? I’ve said this many times, but it truly is a great time to be a gamer. We have such a variety of fun, smart games with different themes and great new innovative ideas. I just hope my wallet can keep up… Until next time then, happy gaming!