Gen Con 2014: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Gen Con 2014 has now passed, and my crew of volunteers and I have collapsed into tired piles.  It was a good convention, and it sounds like we broke record numbers again this year.  56,614 gamers flooded into the Indianapolis Convention Center, and played in  thousands of events, making this years Gen Con the biggest gaming convention in the world.  Overall, it was a great con but there are a few things we can highlight out as The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Gen Con.

The Good:

Cosplayers:

We saw so many wonderful cosplayers at this year’s Gen Con.  Personally, I think the Weeping Angel from Doctor Who was my favorite though.  She looked amazing, and actually made me jump.  I was taking a second look, trying to decide if she was real or not when she jumped and scared the dickens out of me.  Great job!

There were so many other great costumes at the convention, we could write for days about it.  I’m always so impressed by the dedication these individuals have to their favorite characters.  I walked around all weekend long in a t-shirt and jeans and found myself sweating from time to time, I can only imagine how the steampunk Chewbacca felt!

Dealer Hall:

As many of you know, we are a board game library, open to the public in Indianapolis all year round.  This year we were blessed by the generosity of the vendors in the dealer hall yet again.  Our library is now stocked with many of the great new releases the convention had to offer, and we were able to bring all of that fun back home to you.  We had 106 games donated at the convention, and several companies who are mailing games to us after the convention, and you will be able to find a list of the vendors who donated on our Facebook page in the coming days.  If you appreciated their donation as much as we do, please drop them an email thanking them for supporting your local game library!

Witch Hunt:

I love “Are You A Werewolf?”.  When asked, I say it’s my favorite game, gladly, which is a large part of the reason that we play it in shop so regularly.  This convention I found something even better:  Witch Hunt.

You see, I play AYAW every night during the convention.  I usually make it down to the hall to play around midnight and play until dawn (“Breakfast is coming!”).  When I got down to the hall on Saturday night, the only village that was about to open up had a big sign up that said “Witch Hunt”.  I admit that when I sat down in the village I was more than a little judgmental.  Here was just one more AYAW knockoff, but at least it was a game, and I didn’t want to wait for another village to break up.  What I found was amazing though, and has left me gushing for the days.

If you want to give Witch Hunt a try, you can check it out at Game Paradise!

The Bad and The Ugly:

While we had a great time at Gen Con, there were a few moments that tarnished our experience.  While these may not be universal to the Gen Con experience, they were true for us and worth reporting about.

Girl Magic Players Need Not Apply:

Like many small game shops all across the country, we host a lot of Magic: The Gathering events.  What might be more unique about our shop is the gender break down of players; usually women make up a pretty solid 1/3rd of our M:tG community, and some nights it’s a downright 50/50 split at the draft table.  Stepping into Gen Con’s M:tG area was a big bitter dose of reality.  Not because it was more gender skewed, but because of the reception female gamers were faced with when entering that area.

Now let me state, that we were met with kindness and politeness by the actual event staff for M:tG. It was the attendees that became an issue.  Simply walking through the M:tG area to get to other places, female members of my staff were catcalled, insulted, and talked down to.  This didn’t just happen once, but over and over again (the M:tG area was a convenient path between the exhibit hall where we were running games and the dealer hall).  One individual asked my assistant if she was lost and looking for her boyfriend because “girls don’t play magic”.  I hate to break it to them, but I am a girl and I have been playing M:tG for well over ten years, thank you very much.

Given this response, it’s not too surprising to me that the population of M:tG players is mostly male.  If that had been my first experience with the game, I know I would never have even given this game the time of day, let alone put up with such behavior in order to actually play successfully.

You can simply say “No”:

Many vendors were extremely gracious to us this weekend, but there were two that we spoke with that left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.  Now, I perfectly understand that some vendors are not interested in donating, and that’s perfectly reasonable.  It’s their product and they should decide the best way to use it.  However, these two vendors were so rude, it is worth mentioning.

We spoke with the owner of a midsized game publisher on Saturday afternoon.  We approached the booth, explained who we are, and were directed to the owner.  He had just finished demoing a game, and there wasn’t a wait at his booth, yet he told us “I don’t have time for you, you should have made an appointment”.  We were about to leave at that when he actually asked if we did have an appointment.  We had emailed their company prior to the con and let him know that.  He then proceeded to rudely berate us about how donating games to causes was a bad business decision and he thought gaming clubs were not of use to manufacturers or the gaming industry.  I tried to further explain that we weren’t a private club, but a public board game library.  Apparently that was a mistake on my part, but really a simple “no thank you” would have sufficed.

Lastly, there was a small game manufacturer near Entrepreneur Alley.  We had stopped and talked to some members of the staff on Saturday, and were informed that we should come back on Sunday near the end of the day, but that the owner would likely be thrilled to give us a donation.  What we received when we came back on Sunday was a fifteen minute lecture about how a board game library should not charge admission fees (he cited that public libraries do not, but seemed to fail to understand they are taxpayer funded institutions), that selling sodas and snacks was bad and we were unethical for doing so, and that if we were ever to trade, sell, or otherwise need to remove his game from the library we were to give him the money, what it was traded for, or ship his game back.  He then opened a copy and signed the board as a demo copy (which is fine, I understand the reasoning on this), and handed it to us.  At which point the tirade of grievances he had with our business model continued and the list of his demands continued to grow (which by the end included that we should be giving him royalties for the privilege of having his game in the library).  Ultimately, we ended up handing his game back over to him, and excused ourselves.

There was over 300 vendors in the dealer hall, we came home with 106 games as donations.  So it’s not as if these two were the only ones that declined, but it was more a matter of the rude and aggressive nature that I was taken aback by.  We support the gaming industry by bringing games to people that might not otherwise see play in our area, and we have seen sales and preorders for games we have in our library rise, which is exactly what the industry hopes for when someone provides a demo copy, so to be met with hostility dumb founded me.  Aren’t we all in this together?

Furoticon

This year featured a new game in Entrepreneur Alley: Furoticon.  The game bills itself as a “sex positive” adult game with anthropomorphized characters. Here is the description from the games website:

  “In Furoticon, you play as a well-renowned Owner (Master, Mistress, Mastress, or Dominator) dueling against one or more Owners for dominance over your opponents’ harems. Break through their harems with your own and climax your opponents! The last Owner standing is the winner!”

Why this is in our bad section is not because of the nature of the game, in and of itself, but that it was on demo in full view of children.  It wasn’t even edited for family day on Sunday.  And this game doesn’t simply feature suggestive, or seductive, art.  But rather, it has fully illustrated pornography on the cards.  This seemed like a major lack of judgement on behalf of Gen Con.

Conventions bring out the best and worst in people.  This year was certainly no exception.  We saw an outpouring of generosity, thousands of passionate gamers and cosplayers, wonderful new designers, and some of our old favorites.  We also ran into the misogyny present in the gaming community, and rude and uncouth behavior from people that should be its leaders.  It was a mixed bag, as it always is, but on the whole, I think it was a great convention and I look forward to attending Gen Con 2015.

Starfleet Battles Recap 7.13.2014

SH114­­ Old Enemies on the Rocks

This scenario pitted the Tholians vs. the Seltorians in an asteroid field. Gren and Tony played the

Tholians, while Nick and James played the Seltorians. Each side had one light cruiser and one

destroyer.

The two sides began at low speed, closing the distance between them. The first turn was nothing

but modest movement toward the enemy.

At the beginning of Turn 2, the Tholians slowed to speed 6 to navigate the asteroids, whereas the

Seltorians sped up to speed 6. The Tholians began deploying shuttles. Several impulses later, the

Seltorians did the same. The Tholians navigated through asteroid­filled hexes and turned toward

the Seltorians. The Seltorians aplha­striked the Tholian NCL (played by Gren). Their shield

crackers and particle canons tore down the shield of the light cruiser and caused some minor

internal damage. The Seltorian light cruiser took fire from the Tholians, suffering shield loss and

some very light internal damage. The Tholians laid webs using their web caster and web snares.

The Seltorians were forced to veer away to navigate around the web.

On Turn 3, the Tholians sped up to speed 16 and moved away from the asteroid hexes. The

Seltorians continued their slow movement to avoid asteroid damage. The Tholians used the turn

to gain some distance from the Seltorians particle canons and repair shields.

On Turn 4, the Tholians came back around and re­engaged the Seltorians. Again, the particle

canons tore into the Tholian NCL, ripping down another shield. The NCL threw another web with

its web caster. The Tholian DD used its web snare to block additional fire from the Seltorians. The

Seltorians in turn used their web breakers to destroy the web snare and gave pursuit.

On Turns 5 and 6, The Tholians maneuvered to present strong shields to the Seltorians and again

turned away. The Seltorians pounded the rear shields of the Tholian NCL, removing a third shield

from the ship and crippling it. The Seltorian DD hit a Transporter Bomb laid by the enemy DD,

causing moderate shield damage. Two of the Tholian shuttles maneuvered to fire through the

downed front shield on the Seltorian CL, taking out a phaser. Persistent light phaser fire from the

retreating Tholians took out all but one of the ship’s particle canons, and crippled it.

On Turn 7, the Tholians again slowed and began maneuvering back toward the enemy. The

Seltorians continued their slow pursuit of their enemy, keeping pace with their slow­moving flotilla

of shuttles.

At this point, time constraints forced a premature end of the scenario. The battle was a draw at

the time of our conclusion. The ships seemed evenly matched, and traded blows equally. Both of

the light cruisers were crippled, whereas the two destroyers had only suffered shield damage. The

scenario served as a reminder of the Tholian web rules, and gave us a chance to see the web

breakers, shield crackers, and particle canons in action.

Starfleet Battles Recap 3.15.2014

Game Recap, 2014-03-15

Game #1: Klingons vs. Federation

Robert and Tony each played a Federation Heavy Cruiser (CA) versus Gren and James, who each played a Klingon D7 Battlecruiser (D7).

The two sides closed. The Klingons launched disruptors against the lead Federation CA, eliminating its front shield reinforcement and causing minor damage to the #1 shield. On turn 2, the Klingons turned away, with the Federation ships in hot pursuit. The Klingons launched drones to harass the CAs. The Federation ships eliminated the drones with phaser fire, then unleashed weapons at James’ D7. The attack tore down the D7’s shield and caused a large amount of internal damage. However, due to unusual dice rolls, the attack did not strip the target ship of its weaponry, instead causing mostly hull and power system hits.

The Klingons turned in toward the Federation ships, again unleashing weapons at the lead CA, while locking it in a tractor beam to hold it. The combined attack from the two D7s tore into the CA, stripping it of almost all its weapons and leaving it with less than half its original power remaining. The supporting CA lended what aid it could, but the attack was less effective than expected. The lead CA was destroyed, and the second fled.

Congratulations to Gren and James on a battle well-played.

 

Game #2: Kzinti vs. Lyrans

Robert and Tony again teamed up, this time as a Kzinti flight group (Robert’s Light Cruiser and Tony’s War Destroyer; CL and DW). James and Gren played a Lyran War Destroyer and a Cruiser, respectively.

The groups moved to engage. The Kzinti and the Lyrans exchanged some medium-range disruptor fire, which did little more than chew away shield reinforcement.  As the range grew closer, the Lyran DW spooled up two ESG fields. The Kzinti closed to four-hex range and unleashed their alpha strike,  consisting of overloaded disruptors and phasers at the Lyran DW. The Lyran retaliated with their own strike at the lead Kzinti DW. The Kzinti drones impacted the ESGs on the Lyran lead ship. James closed to range 1 and put the Kzinti DW in a tractor beam.

At the beginning of the next turn, the Lyran DW released its tractor beam. The Kzinti DW performed an HET and unleashed another alpha strike at the Lyran DW, followed by drones. The overwhelming attack destroyed the Lyran DW. The resulting explosion eliminated the front shield of the Kzinti DW and caused minor internal damage. Meanwhile, Gren’s Cruiser gave chase to Robert’s CL, penetrating the ship’s shield and causing moderate damage. The CL began turning to assist its escort ship.

Gren turned away from the CL and moved to finish the Kzinti DW. The Cruiser moved to the front arc of the Kzinti escort and blew it away. Robert’s CL moved to give chase, but could not keep pace with the faster cruiser. The Kzinti CL turned and fled the battle.

Congratulations again to Gren and James.

 

On a personal note, I would like to *thank* NICK for his absence, which caused me to inherit his CRAPPY DICE ROLLS for the day!!!

 

Say Anything Family Edition

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Game Information

Say Anything Family Edition

DesignerDominic Crapuchettes
ArtistJacoby O'Connor
PublisherNorth Star Games, LLC
Year Published2011
# of Players3 - 6
Playing Time30
Mfg Suggested Ages8 and up
CategoryHumor, Party Game
MechanicBetting/Wagering
FamilySay Anything

Info courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Info.

by John Quiett

So I was recently asked by my mother to find a game that everyone in our family can play together, that wasn’t to silly and was not strategy based.  This was a surprisingly tall order when I got around to looking for this game.  I have two brothers, we all have wives/girlfriends respectively and then my two parents make a total of eight people who needed to sit down together.  The request that the game not be silly came from my dad and sister in-law who dislike having to act or sing or otherwise humiliate themselves in public.  Finally the strategy component is something my mom dislikes because she feels she is no good at it.  The truth is she just doesn’t have the patients to learn new games, she plays Euchre, Monopoly and Risk quite well.  We have tried to point this out to her, but she won’t admit the strategy in all those games.

So with all this in mind I began to scour the internet for something that fit.  What I found was not much.  There are a lot of family/party games out there but not many that accommodate 8 players, most stop at 6.  A lot of them also involve some kind of charades in their gameplay. Strategy was less of a problem because looking for a game involving this many people meant you were helping each other score points to some extent.

The game I found and ultimately purchased for our family game night was “Say Anything” by North Star Games.  North Star Games is a company focused on making fun party games and Say Anything is a perfect example.  Game play consists of the “Selector” grabbing a card and reading one of the five questions that always starts with “In my opinion…”. The rest of the players write down an answer to the question.  This provided for a lot of the fun when we played because no one is allowed to have the same answer, so the rule is first to write it down and place it on the table gets to use it.  Several times people would be struggling to come up with a good answer and then one of them would say one out loud and it would become a race to write it down. This probably wasn’t intended to be so much fun, but it was for us.  Next the “Selector” secretly uses the “Select-o-matic 5000” to secretly indicate their favorite answer.  Since this is opinion there is no wrong answer,  just the best, funniest, or coolest according to the “Selector”.  Once the “Select-o-matic 5000” is set the rest of the players wager two chips on what answer they believe the “selector” chose.  When all bets are made the “selector” reveals their choice and points are awarded. Points go to anyone who correctly guessed the selector’s choice, the person who came up with that answer and the selector, if any players picked their answer. Each round points are maxed at 3 total. Depending on how many players you have you go around the table and gets to be the “selector” at least once.

Sometimes the questions on the cards did get a little risque for the family group I was playing with, but we could easily skip those and choose different cards. Some of the questions were a little obvious based on how well the family already knew each other.  We have heard a million times how my brother hates going to Wal-Mart and looking for customer service. He knows it is pointless, but sometimes it can’t be helped.

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All in all we had a really good time playing this game.  It was a big hit with my mom and the rest of the family. We played three rounds total.  The only downside anyone could come up with was the proclivity for ties.  We aren’t a cuthroat group  of gamers, but we had at least one tie each round with a four way tie on the last of the three that we played. We like games where there is a definitive winner.  We could have played some more rounds involving only the players that tied, but we decided not to. The game has a lot of replay potential, there are a lot of topic questions and since each person’s personality will change the answer, it is unlikely the game will get old for quite some time.

Additionally, there is a family version of Say Anything.  I imagine that only difference is that those questions that could be uncomfortable in a family play session are removed or replaced.

I can’t recommend this game enough.  It isn’t my favorite type of game, but it really is fun

Check out more reviews from this writer at nerdsdom.com

Ebbes

Game Information
Ebbes
DesignerKlaus Geis
ArtistRonja Hähnlein
PublisherPalatia Spiele
Year Published2013
# of Players3 - 5
Playing Time45
Mfg Suggested Ages10 and up
CategoryCard Game
MechanicTrick-taking

Info courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Info.

One of the players that regularly come into my shop has a taste in games that typically runs toward the harder to acquire euro games.  He often brings in one or two that I have never heard of in order to let me have a taste, and sometimes when he does that, I just can’t help but order myself a copy.  It’s just too darn good.

A few weeks ago, this euro gamer came in with a little brown box with the title “Ebbes” on it.  He knows I enjoy trick taking games, and decided he had to show me this one.

Ebbes is a trick taking game, however, what suits are trump, positive points, minus points, etc change every round based upon a magic number.  There are five colored suits, and at the beginning of the round, the magic number is revealed.

So, lets say that three is the magic number.  The first time a three is played as part of the trick, that will set the color of the trump for the round (based upon the color of the three that you played).  The second time a three is played, it sets the positive point cards, and each card you have of that suit at the end of the round will be worth one point.  The third time a three is played it will set the “ebbes” for the round, which is a suit that you do not want to have the least or the most of, but somewhere in the middle.  The fourth three played will set which suit is worth negative points.  And the last three played will set the “Nix” which determines who will choose the starting player for the next hand.

Is your head swimming?  Don’t worry.  This company uses a small board to not only keep track of your points, but to also keep track of each suit’s properties for that turn.

So why is this game so compelling?  Given that each round the different suits abilities are set when the magic number is played, it could be some time before you know what is worth negative points, or positive points.  So it makes it dangerous to pick up tricks early on.  This leads to players attempting to flush out the magic number that they are looking for in order to make a suit positive, and attempting to throw hands for suits they suspect might end up negative.

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Growing up in Indiana, Euchre is the game of choice on college campuses around here.  If you aren’t familiar with Euchre, it’s also a trick taking game with changing trump, however, I find it to be much more complicated.  This game by comparison is simple to pick up and can play 3-5 players (so you don’t have to have exactly four like you do in Euchre).

“Ebbes”, which according to the rulebook translates into “something”, is a German game produced by a small mom and pop shop.  According to my euro gamer friend, they only produced a couple hundred copies of the game, which I was devestated to hear.  I was really lucky and found a single copy for sale on boardgamegeek.com, and am now the proud owner of this game.  I’ve also heard whispers that a second printing might be coming, which would be phenominal.

Flower Fall – Originality is King

Game Information
Flower Fall
DesignerCarl Chudyk
ArtistCara Judd
PublisherAsmadi Games
Year Published2012
# of Players2 - 7
Playing Time10
Mfg Suggested Ages6 and up
CategoryAction / Dexterity, Card Game, Party Game
MechanicArea Control / Area Influence, Modular Board
FamilyFlowers

Info courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Info.

During Gen Con of 2013 we were given a copy of Flower Fall by the manufacturer to review.  Of course we came home with over 140 different games to review, so it didn’t really stand out in the bunch, especially with it’s unassuming small green and white box.  I didn’t even really think about it again for a while until I heard another gamer I know mention playing it kinda randomly at a game day.  I didn’t even put two and two together at the time that this was in fact the game I had been given, I just remembered that this gamer had played a game about dropping cards all over the table.  Of course I thought to myself that this was the dumbest thing I had ever heard of in my life, but the novelty of it stuck with me.  So when I was looking through my collection of games for one I hadn’t yet reviewed and needed to, Flower Fall caught my eye, and the conversation I had previously had came back to me.

Flower Fall is indeed a game about dropping cards all over the table, but it wasn’t at all what I actually envisioned.  I envisioned small children dropping and throwing cards everywhere, screaming and running, and generally being annoyances.  The result was actually four adults sitting around a table, very methodically dropping cards, one at a time, with precision and care.  This became a somewhat tense and invested game by some players.  And much to my surprise, I was even able to get the hard core euro gamer among us to join in.

In Flower Fall, you are trying to create large interconnecting gardens full of lush green flowers.  The trick is that you want the most of your kind of flower showing in that garden as well, because if you have the most, all of those green flowers will count as positive points for you. The player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner.

On your turn you take the top card of your personal deck, decide if you want to drop it face up or face down, and hold it up at at least eye height above the playing surface and then let it drop.  Hopefully it lands where you intended, covering your opponents flowers, while leaving you with large gardens full of green daisies.

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The one thing I really took issue with was the scoring, and how chaotic it is.  The examples in the rule book show five or six cards with clearly defined green garden paths.  This is not the case when you actually play the game.  Instead you end up with clusters of 30+ cards piled on each other at odd angles, and you end up with gardens that wiggle around more than one of Cthulhu’s tentacles.  It makes it very hard to accurately count who has the most flowers, because we found ourselves constantly second guessing.  “Did we count this offshoot? Because see, it’s connected right here by that two millimeter green section.”  Counting and recounting ensues.

Over all, I have to give the designers props for originality.  It’s a really silly, interesting, idea.  And he pulled it off well, without it turning into an excuse to simply play 52 card pickup.  But the difficulty in actually scoring it is what will keep me from falling in love with it.

 

Ultimate Werewolf Inquisition

I love Are You A Werewolf? and it’s sister game Ultimate Werewolf.  That’s why we host an evening of it each month in my shop.  It’s also why I stay up till dawn during conventions.  Playing werewolf is more than just a game, it’s downright a hobby all of its own.  My other half knows my love of werewolf runs deep, to the point that she begged and bargained with the kind folks over at Looney Labs for an “I am not a werewolf” t-shirt for me for our anniversary (Thanks Andy and Kristin for your kind generosity!  I love it and wear it proudly!).

Game Information
Ultimate Werewolf Inquisition
DesignerLegend Dan Hoffman
ArtistSanjana Baijnath
PublisherArclight, Bézier Games, Inc., Pegasus Spiele
Year Published2013
# of Players3 - 12
Playing Time60
Mfg Suggested Ages8 and up
CategoryDeduction, Horror, Murder/Mystery
MechanicPartnerships, Role Playing, Variable Player Powers, Voting
ExpansionUltimate Werewolf: Inquisition – Full Moon
FamilyWerewolf / Mafia
Alternate NamesWerwölfe: Inquisition, 究極の人狼 異端審問

Info courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Info.

Now that you have a complete understanding of how much I love this game, let me just say that Ultimate Werewolf Inquisition did not live up to standards.  The game tries to fit a niche: a smaller group of gamers want to play werewolf but they don’t have nearly enough people nor a moderator.  What you get is a barely functional game that is not nearly as compelling as the game it’s trying to imitate.

The game is played using a series of “hut” cards and a series of face down player cards.  During the day, players take hut cards and perform the abilities upon them, which could be looking at one or more of the face down player cards, or it could be casting a vote.  Votes are represented by little black cubes that are placed on the player cards, and players are attempting to vote out the werewolf cards that are amidst the player cards.  The player card with the most cubes at the end of the round is lynched, and it and it’s corresponding hut is removed from the game.  Then it’s night time and the werewolves cause some mischief.  One row of face down player cards is picked up and everyone closes their eyes.  The cards are passed around the circle and when they get to the werewolves, they can be rearranged.  Then everyone wakes up and the cards are dealt back out, presumably in the same order they were in before, and a new round of voting begins.   What the werewolves are hoping with this action is that they can fool the villagers into voting for the wrong card, thus lynching one of their own, rather than a werewolf.

So where does the game go wrong?  Firstly, it’s very very difficult to not be caught as the werewolf player.  When cards are passed around the circle, very small tells can give away that you are the werewolf:  how long you take, sounds of cards shuffling, the way you grab the cards.  Remember, you are theoretically playing with fans of wereworlf and we are used to looking for tells.  The rules allude to the fact that this is a problem, and say that the passing of cards is not meant to be a way to figure out who the werewolf is.  But do you realize what you are saying?  “Hey everyone!  We are going to play a game with hidden roles where you are intended to be critical of other peoples body language and actions, but this part here… can you NOT be werewolf players for a minute?”.  That’s just lazy game design and breaks the whole thing.  After roughly two rounds, there was no doubt in anybody’s mind who the werewolf was and then it’s just a matter of not falling under the werewolf’s influence, which isn’t exactly hard.

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I think it goes without saying that I am disappointed.  Given my love of werewolf, I was completely enamored with this idea that I could play it in a more intimate setting without the need for someone to it out as moderator.  I really wanted to love this game.  Luckily for me, another gamer introduced me to an alternative:  The Resistance.  It’s another hidden role game that fixed the problems present in Ultimate Werewolf Inquisition.  Give it a try instead, and I think you’ll be much happier.

 

 

Evolution : The Orgin of Species (with Time to Fly Expansion) – AKA I made a critter!

“So what do you want to play tonight?”

“Lets play critters!”

That has become the refrain when addressing this game.   So many games have names similar, Terra Evolution and Evo come to mind immediately, that saying “Lets play Evolution” becomes somewhat nondescript and meaningless.  So why “Critters”?  Because that is the affectionate term us hoosiers, with our own inestimable and particularly picayune parochial charm, seem to gravitate towards each time we played out a brand new unevolved creature.

Game Information
Evolution: The Origin of Species
DesignerDmitry Knorre, Sergey Machin
ArtistDmitry Knorre
PublisherG3, More Fun Co., Ltd., RBG, Rightgames LLC, Stolitsa Design Group, TwoPlus Games, ТРЕТЯ ПЛАНЕТА
Year Published2010
# of Players2 - 4
Playing Time60
Mfg Suggested Ages12 and up
CategoryAnimals, Card Game, Dice
MechanicDice Rolling, Hand Management
ExpansionEvolution: Continents, Evolution: Plantarum, Evolution: Time to Fly, Evolution: Variation Mini-Expansion, Ewolucja: Pochodzenie gatunków – Rozszerzenie
FamilyEvolution
Alternate NamesEvoluce: O původu druhů, Ewolucja: Pochodzenie gatunków, Еволюція, Эволюция, 演化論: 物種起源, 进化:物种起源

Info courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Info.

The goal of Evolution (or Critters) is to have the most living creatures with the most attributes on the table at the end of the game.  The game ends when the entire deck of cards has been gone through, and at the end of that round the points are tallied.  Getting points is not as simple as playing creatures, you also have to keep the most creatures alive.  This is difficult when famine and carnivores wander around, waiting to pick you off.

The round is played with each player adding one new critter to the table, or adding one new attribute to an existing creature, each turn until all players have decided to pass or are out of cards. Once all the critter playin’ has been accomplished it’s time to see how much food will exist in the world for this round, at which point players go around taking one piece of food from the supply each turn and applying it towards a creature.  Each creature needs to eat one piece of food, but they might need more than that based upon the attributes associated with them.  For example, creatures with parasites need extra food, so do carnivores.

Instead of taking food from the supply during the feeding phase, creatures who have evolved to be carnivores can instead eat another creature at the table.  This is a great way to feed your creatures and deny your opponent of points, but it’s tricky to accomplish.  Some attributes protect creatures from being eaten, and others simply limit who a carnivore is allowed to eat.  For example, a swimming carnivore can only eat a creature with swimming.

One thing that we loved, and hated, about the game was the ability to chain creatures together using “cooperation” and “communication”.  Once again, our colorful vocabularly often simply referred to this as having created a hippy-creature-love-commune, but in game terms whenever a creature with one of these abilities received some food, the creature it cooperated/communicated with also received a food.  This isn’t so bad when it was just one or two creatures, but some games, long strings of creatures would be created, so that a single food would feed six or seven creatures.  This personally seemed like it needed some limits placed on it.

Review of
'Evolution: The Origin of Species'
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We were lucky enough to also have the expansion pack for this game:  Time to Fly.  The expansion added a lot of interesting abilities to the game that I really enjoyed, however the one thing that it added that I wish it wouldn’t have was time.  It adds a goodly number of cards to the deck, and given that going through the deck is the timing mechanic for the end game condition, this also made the game run significantly longer.  However, it certainly spiced up the game, and is worth giving a try once the base game has lost some of it’s zing.

In the end, I would give this little game a thumbs up.  It would certainly never be the main course at my gaming table, but as an appetizer, this game is solid and worth a look over.

Telestrations Against Humanity

My gaming group fell upon two new favorite party games over the past few years:  Telestrations and Cards Against Humanity.  Telestrations is a hybrid between Pictionary and Telephone, while Cards Against Humanity (CAH) is a politically incorrect re-imagining of Apples to Apples.  CAH is always raunchy, dirty, and all around in bad taste.  It’s what makes the game such a riot.  In contrast, Telestrations doesn’t necessarily have to be dirty, however, with my group of gamers, it certainly always seems to turn out that way.

Before you go any further, you have to understand that we are a group of adults, all in our late 20’s to early 40’s.  And our game nights have a way of periodically leaning a little more on the adult side.  This is our time to let our hair down and have fun.  That being said, if you are not an adult who appreciates bawdy humor, go ahead and skip this article.  

So one day, one of my gamers had a brilliant idea: let’s combine our two favorite party games.  We would swap out the cards originally in Telestrations for the cards in Cards Against Humanity.  We always tend to get a good laugh when Telestrations turns dirty, so why not start there and see where it goes.  After all, who wouldn’t want their secret word to be “jerking off into a pool of children’s tears”, “historically black colleges”, or “Michael Jackson”.  These are great places to start!

We recognized right off the bat that some of the Cards Against Humanity cards simply can not be drawn.  Such as, one of the cards that were drawn last night was “Words, words, words”.  How can you draw that?  So we decided that each round, players would start with a hand of five cards, and they could pick any word they liked to start with as their “Secret Word”.  This seemed to work really well, as there was always at least one in your hand that you could draw.

Over the course of the game, we noticed a few things.  The typical refrains of “I’m sorry…” as you passed your book seemed to triple in volume.  While a book would occasionally go off the track into weird places in a normal game, nearly every book took a left turn at Albuquerque at one point or another.  It was simply bound to happen.  What was new was the instances of unintelligent mumbling that replaced the “I’m sorry…”s at some points.  You really knew you were in trouble when you were passed a book like that.

This past year our group ran this game as an event at Gen Con.  We did a “Win the Game” event where people could walk away with both a copy of CAH and a copy of Telestrations if they won.   We instituted one new house rule that I love for Telestrations, the blind pick.  Rather than the scoring normally associated with Telestrations, at the end of the round one person counted to three, at which point everyone would pick the book they liked the best, and the person who owned that book would receive one point. Person with the most points was the winner.  Everyone had a great time, and a winner was clear and easy to declare, without all of the scoring in Telestrations that we normally left out.

Want to give Telestrations Against Humanity a try?  Swing on in to Game Paradise, where both games are available and the staff is happy to help teach the game to you and your friends. 

 

Boss Monster – not all pixelated games are created equal

I was really excited to get this game in.  It came in on the heels of Pixel Lincoln, and having another pixelated game in shop, especially one that allowed you to play as the antagonist, really intrigued me.

Game Information
Boss Monster
DesignerJohnny O'Neal, Chris O'Neal
ArtistBeau Buckley, Francisco Coda, Katrina Guillermo, Kyle Merritt, David Nyari, Alexander Olsen, Andres Sanabria
PublisherBrotherwise Games, Edge Entertainment, Fever Games, Pegasus Spiele, Redbox, Trefl Joker Line
Year Published2013
# of Players2 - 4
Playing Time20
Mfg Suggested Ages13 and up
CategoryCard Game, Fantasy, Video Game Theme
MechanicAuction/Bidding, Hand Management, Player Elimination, Take That, Variable Player Powers
ExpansionBoss Monster: Final Form! Promo Card, Boss Monster: Bast Promo Card, Boss Monster: Bastas Promo Card, Boss Monster: Bom-Boy Factory Promo Card, Boss Monster: Collector Box, Boss Monster: Crash Landing, Boss Monster: Creator Pack, Boss Monster: Epic Multi Heroes, Boss Monster: Get Over Here! Promo Card, Boss Monster: Hidden Secrets, Boss Monster: Implements of Destruction, Boss Monster: Killa, Man Eating Gorilla Promo, Boss Monster: Klonos Promo Card, Boss Monster: König Croak Promo Card, Boss Monster: Malakill Promo Card, Boss Monster: Mirrax Promo Card, Boss Monster: Paper & Pixels, Boss Monster: Portable Pack, Boss Monster: Power-Up Pack, Boss Monster: Quothe Promo Card, Boss Monster: Reactor Core, Boss Monster: The Golden Dragon, Boss Monster: The Lost Levels, Boss Monster: Tools of Hero-Kind
FamilyBoss Monster, Crowdfunding: Kickstarter
Alternate NamesBoss Monster: Baue deinen Dungeon!, Boss Monster: Costruisci il tuo dungeon, Boss Monster: gra karciana o budowaniu podziemi, Boss Monster: Le jeu de cartes de création de donjon, Boss Monster: Master of the Dungeon, Monstruo Final

Info courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Info.

When it arrived it was in a small box that looked extremely reminiscent of an old NES game: black, with the title stripe and pixelated characters above the name.  This choice of a small box really pleases me in two major ways.  Firstly, it’s an artistic nod back to the video games of yore.  Secondly, it’s not much bigger than what the game actually requires.  All that comes in the box is cards, four decks to be precise, and an instruction book.  That doesn’t exactly take up a ton of space, and I think it was very good of them to go with a small, practically sized, box rather than a huge one to simply gain more shelf presence.

The rule book was a small chore to read through, but on the whole wasn’t too daunting.  Although, now that I’ve had this game as part of my collection for a while, there are portions of this rule book I have to gripe about.  Primarily the fact that there is no quick reference.  What is the one thing that people often have to reference when pulling out a game they have played a few times?  That’s right: the starting set up.  I can never remember how many cards you have to draw, and instead of being on page one, it’s on approximately page eight or nine.  This means it always takes me several minutes to re-find this information, which is something that could have been fixed quickly with a reference sheet.

The game is a tableau building game played over a series of rounds, each of which is comprised of three distinct segments.  Firstly, new heroes wander into the town each turn, seeking adventure.  It’s at this point that each of the bosses (players) build onto their dungeon by playing a card.  This action is chosen simultaneously, and will help decide which dungeon each hero is attracted to.  Once players have built on to their dungeon, the heroes are evaluated and go to the dungeon of their choice, and progress through the dungeon (hopefully) to their doom.  If they die, you’ll receive their soul as a point.  If they survive, they damage you, bringing you one step closer to defeat.

Dungeon rooms each do something special, in addition to applying damage to the heroes, allowing players to build dungeons that will be more evil and deadly.  Some rooms will send heroes back to the start to do it all over again, other rooms will give you bonuses if a hero dies there.  For this reason, the layout of the dungeon is crucial to your success.

In addition to dungeon rooms having abilities, each one has “loot” associated with it.  This loot is what attracts the heroes to your dungeon rather than to your opponents.  Each room shows a series of symbols.  Ankhs attract clerics, books attract mages, swords attract fighters, and bags of money attract thieves.  The person with the most of the given hero’s symbol will attract that hero to their dungeon.  However, if there is a tie, the hero stays put in town as he doesn’t find either dungeon particularly tempting.

Review of
'Boss Monster'
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On the whole, the game takes about 30-45 minutes to play, but honestly for me, that was about 30 minutes too long.  Everything I’ve described makes this sound like a game that I would like to play, but the reality of it is much different.  In the early rounds of the game, players either try desperately to not attract the attention of the heroes, or often suffer huge amounts of early damage from letting them make it through without dying.  If all the players can manage to stave off getting the heroes attention in the early game, by the late game it’s an avalanche of heroes all going through the dungeon at the same time, when someone finally manages to stand out, and thus having an insurmountable lead.  Tack that onto a tableau building game that has little to no actual synergy, and it’s just random dumb luck of the draw disguised as a meaningful decision.