Archive for September, 2012

Venture funding?

September 25, 2012 Comments off

The title’s almost clever, see, because there is a city called Venture in Storm Hollow, the world of Story Realms, and the game is trying to get funding on Kickstarter at the moment, and… ahh, tough crowd!

There is lots of lovely art in Story Realms, but I know gamers, so just look at the pretty dice! (Image ripped from the Kickstarter page — I hope they don’t mind.)

Actually, I say “trying to get funded”, but they have now passed the 200% funding mark with (as I type this) 9 days to go, so we’re well away and chugging happily through the stretch goals which means that the pile of swag due to arrive next summer (yeah, that’s the biggest problem here!) is steadily getting bigger and shinier. I mean, they’re doing a colouring book, which is something that had Miss B giggling with excitement.

So sorry for mentioning this again, but we’re pretty excited around here about this project and, from an entirely mercenary point of view, would love it if our game sets arrived with extra adventures and cards, and with the books in hardcover.

Oh, and if you looked at the project page previously but haven’t done for a while, it may be worth a look. They’ve been adding more preview material and other updates every day or two, so there’s loads to feast your eyes on.

And as for the dice…

The pigs like going in and out of the stall

September 24, 2012 Comments off

I bought Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small as a game that I thought would be good to play with the missus, but I also figured Miss B may get on well with it. After all, it has little wooden animeeples and is all about building a farm full of animals. What’s not to like?

Good fences make good neighbours.

Actually, the basic mechanic of the game is very similar to the one we are familiar with for Lords of Waterdeep: take it in turns to place a worker onto an action space and then do what that space allows you to do. No problems there, and it makes for a pretty fast paced game, notwithstanding having to give many reminders to the young opponent that it is her turn!

I haven’t played the original Agricola game, although I’m sure one day I will be able to remedy that. By all accounts, though, All Creatures Big and Small takes the essence of a big and deep game and distils it into a quick and lightish game that can be played in about half an hour (or closer to an hour so far with Miss B). The original game, apparently, derives a lot of challenge from trying to keep your family fed and healthy, whereas ACBAS gets rid of that and just has you developing pastures and farm buildings in order to raise animals.

As with many worker placement games there is quite a lot to think about as you have to gather resources and then make use of them. In practice, this means that she needs some suggestions most turns as to what to do. The rulebook actually covers this and suggests that if a kid is playing, a parent sits with them and gives them a couple of decent options to choose from each turn. Nice to see that sort of thing incorporated into what definitely a fairly “grown-up” game.

Overall I like this game a great deal so far and hope to be playing it a lot in future. It ticks a lot of boxes for me as a gamer (though I do like a small random element in general, which this does not have) and, stepping away from serious gaming, there is a lot of joy to be had from playing at building a farm containing heaps of cute little wooden animals.

The verdict from Miss B (aged 5¾): “I don’t like it because the workers are just big blobs. I like it if they were meeples. I like making the buildings and adding bits to our farm. It’s a good and fun game.” I’d very much agree with that: with the awesomeness of having animeeples, it’s a shame that the workers are just wooden disks; making them meeples would make the whole thing so much cooler. Come to think of it I might get hold of some meeples to substitute in.

The game: Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small (Z-Man Games), 2, aged 13+.

Sixty four squares and fewer pieces than usual

September 18, 2012 Comments off

Miss B has just started back at school and in her first week she brought home a list of clubs that were available. Most are limited to children over a certain age, so her choices were very limited. Still, we signed her up for what we could.

One of these kings is not long for this world (with the usual apologies for poor photography).

One of the clubs she wanted to join was chess, but they only accept kids starting from the year above Miss B’s class. That’s a shame, but I guess it’s probably fair enough. She did ask if I could teach her the game, though, so that she would be able to play when she was old enough to join the club. Marvellous, that’s something I can probably do.

I’m only a passable chess player (any club player in the country would be likely to make mincemeat of me) and I’ve never taught the game to anyone before, so I wasn’t really sure where to start. The usual trick of looking on the web yielded lots of advice to spend ages making sure the child can remember the names of the pieces and where to put them, then how the pieces move, then play a game… Aww, nuts to that! I can’t remember how I learned the basics, but that sounds extremely dull. Time to think of something else…

So we got a chess set out and chatted about the pieces, their names, and how many there were of each. I got a board and showed Miss B how kings and rooks move before setting up her king and two rooks against my lone king. After a quick chat about “catching” a king, I set Miss B a challenge: see how many moves it takes her to capture my king.

This really didn’t take very long, so we swapped the rooks for bishops.  Quite a few moves later my king was still evading capture, so I gave Miss B a queen to play with too, allowing her to finish the job quite rapidly from there.

After that, Miss B wanted to know about knights, so we tried something different.  This time I set up a row of pawns across the board and challenged her to capture them all with a single knight.  This took quite a few hints but eventually this was done.  Miss B quite enjoyed this, so she set herself another puzzle with pawns distributed around the board which she steadily managed to hunt down with her knight.

Then it was time for dinner, so we had to stop.

I think we might continue in this vein for a bit, gradually adding pieces on both sides.  We’ll have to learn about pawns soon, too, and I have a few ideas about asymmetric games we can play to learn about them.  If you have any experience of teaching chess to a young’un I’d love to hear it.


Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

I am a leaf on the wind…

September 16, 2012 2 comments

I first came across Tsuro only recently, thanks to Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop show.  This looked a lovely game, but unfortunately I couldn’t find it available in this country at anything like a reasonable price, so it just went onto the wish list. Then, whaddya know?  Tsuro gets a reprint, I spot a copy in a game shop, and so we now have one.  Yay!

Aha! Our paths have crossed. Now things get interesting…

Before talking about our experience of the game, I must comment about the presentation.  This game is beautiful.  The box art is lovely, and when we opened it up the first thing we saw was a sheet of tracing paper with oriental calligraphy on it (I don’t know if this is Chinese or Japanese: either way, it looks great).  The board has a lovely illustration of a phoenix on it, and the player pieces and the tiles just have elegant beauty to them.

And as for the rules: well, they couldn’t be simpler.  This may be the most intuitive game I have ever played.  It just works.  The only thing to worry about is what happens when you run out of tiles, and even that is straightforward.  Miss B was happily making her first move before I had even finished explaining the rules (which doesn’t take long).

We’ve played a few games so far, including a couple with Mummy playing too.  They have all gone quickly and been lots of fun, though the first game Miss B was a bit disappointed with being knocked out first. Still, she was very much up for playing again and she did far better from then on.

The game has quite a bit of luck in it, but also requires some thinking and planning. With just two or three players there is a lot of space on the board and it is several turns before you need to start thinking seriously about your choices, but when the paths start getting close to each other things can get crazy pretty quickly. This is a game I would really like to play with a heap more players: it can handle up to eight, which I imagine would be glorious carnage! Even without the extra players, this is now well on the way to becoming a firm family favourite. I’m delighted with this purchase.

The verdict from Miss B (aged 5¾): “It was really, really, really good.  I like it because it’s a short game and if I want to play a game and there’s not much time I could ask for Tsuro.  I like the dragons following the lines and there’s a board that you have to make a board on it because the board underneath doesn’t have lines on.”

The game: Tsuro (Calliope Games), 2 to 8 players, aged 8+.

But penguins can swim. Why don’t they just swim?

September 11, 2012 Comments off

A cute little game is Hey, That’s My Fish!, with tiles depicting fish piled up on ice floes, and little model penguins who run and slide around the place collecting the fish. Who could resist that? Not me, anyway.

The blue penguins seem to have more space but it’s slippery stuff, this ice.

So the big thing in the game is as you collect fish, you remove the tiles (and add them to your score pile), so the playing area gets steadily eaten away and the options for each penguin get reduced. You have four penguins each in a two player game (this goes down to three or two in three and four player games respectively). So you can get them to team up to gather the most fish while trying to isolate the opponents.

We played this for a few turns, then realised that (a) Miss B hadn’t initially understood what she was doing and had got herself into a tight spot (not a fun place to be on your first game), and (b) that I had forgotten that penguins could move more than one space at a time. I’m quite happy to call a do-over after a few turns of learning a game, so we reset the tiles and started again and had a pretty decent game of it.

We weren’t far into the game when Miss B pointed out the thematic slip from the designer of the game: penguins are very fine swimmers and can jump out of the water, so if they get stuck on an ice floe, why don’t they just swim to another one. The only answer I could think of was that perhaps the penguins have agreed that these are the rules of the game and they don’t mind. Either that or there’s an orca ready to nab any penguin on a small enough bit of ice — though that doesn’t really work with the fact that you keep the fish you have gathered to that point. Still, this is an issue that Miss B hasn’t quite been able to let go of, so it just goes to show that even a fun game (and this is a good, fun game) can really come a-cropper if there is a thematic howler in there.

We’ve had a couple of games now and our latest one was a nice, narrow win for Miss B. That’s always good for morale.

The verdict from Miss B (aged 5¾): “Hey,that’s my fish!was 10 out of was beter when we foundout that we could was really good.missb wrote this”

The game: Hey, That’s My Fish! (Fantasy Flight), 2 to 4 games aged 8+.

The latest from Storm Hollow

September 5, 2012 Comments off

You may remember we previously had a go at a playtest version of a game called Story Realms and I said I’d provide updates. Well, here’s an update.

A few days ago, Story Realms got launched on Kickstarter with a juicy range of products you can get for your pledges. Please go and take a look and see if it seems to be something you’d like to support. I’m certainly impressed and want one.  And at the rate they are going it looks like they’ll meet their funding target within the next couple of days, so fingers crossed for those stretch goals.  🙂

The biggest disappointment has to be that we’ll have to wait until next summer to get our grubby hands on the finished product but I guess that means they aren’t rushing this out. Plus in the meantime, we have a couple more playtest scenarios to play through. Time for me to get cutting those cards out…

Categories: Stuff on the Web

2012 Golden Thingummy Award: The Final

September 4, 2012 Comments off

I feel there ought to be some sort of fanfare as we approach the culmination of this year’s Golden Thingummy award, this time mere weeks after the beginning of the process (unlike last time!). So, in the red corner we have the delightfully devious deck-builder, Dominion, weighing in at an impressing 500-ish cards. And in the blue corner we have the rollocking and rambunctious Robo Rally, weighing in at six play boards, eight metal miniatures and a heap of cards and counters.

A moat *inside* the throne room? Who’d have thought?

So, seconds out for the gold medal bout…

Our first game of the day was Dominion. Miss B selected the kingdom cards while I made tea. The tableau was layed out, we drew our initial hands and off we went.

This was again a pretty good game. I decided to experiment with just using a couple of kingdom cards (Bureaucrat and Remodel, if you are interested) though I did pick up a couple of other cards later to help cycle through the deck. Miss B was doing nicely largely with Throne Rooms and spies plus some other card drawing actions. Scoring was fairly even through most of the game until the last couple of rounds when I had some good draws while Miss B floundered a bit and I think the game was actually a lot closer than the 16 point gap would have suggested.

Miss B was a bit down over the final scores (our previous game had been much closer) and said it was a bad game this time even though she still thinks it is usually good.

Maybe if we back up here…

The cards all sorted and put away we had a short break with drinks and snacks before getting our next game out.

I suggested we used two boards again for Robo Rally, which Miss B readily agreed with and chose the two we would use and fitted them together in the middle of the table. She also decided that this should be a three flag race in order to make the game a bit longer, so she set up the flags too (with me suggesting general vicinities for their location).

The game went reasonably well. I took a “pretty route”, partly because I fancied surfing conveyor belts and partly because of the cards I had. The rules we were playing were massively cut down: no lasers, no options and Miss B was allowed to program as many (or as few) register phases at a time as she liked, and could change them when the phase came up. To her credit, Miss B usually programmed at least four of the five phases each turn (wanting to reserve her last card until later) and quite often stuck to her choices — though there were a few panics and quick swaps of cards. She was doing well until she got snarled up in a corner somehow which meant that I won this game by a fair way too.

The shared gold medal. (Picture taken by Miss B.)

Here is Miss B’s assessment, typed by her own fair hands with a little advice over spelling: “Dominion was 10 out of 20 marks so was robo rally in this years competition but was not as good as last time 🙂 They both won the medal.what game do you think is going to win next year? Missb wrote this.

So there we have it: the 2012 Golden Thingummy Award is a draw between Robo Rally and Dominion. I hadn’t expected that. Righto then, I expect we’ll try this again next year.

Categories: TaG Awards Tags: , ,