Star Fleet Battles Recap – Dec 2013

Game Recap, 2013­12­22

We played three Star Fleet Battles games this time around:

#1: Josh and Tony

Josh and I played the introductory duel between a Klingon D7 Battlecruiser (Josh) and a Federation Heavy Cruiser using the Standard Game Rules. The ships approached each other. Josh pelted the Federation Cruiser with medium­range disruptor fire during the first turn. As the second turn progressed, the ships closed to range and opened fire. The Klingon ship lost a shield and suffered some minor internal damage. The Federation ship also took a pounding, but not enough to penetrate the shields. Turn three began, and the Klingon ship put a tractor beam on the Federation ship. The Klingon was able to hold the Federation ship at range 1, preventing it from launching its two remaining photon torpedoes. The Federation ship blasted the Klingons with all its phasers, penetrating another shield and scoring more internal damage. The Klingon ship fired its phasers, taking out the front shield on the Federation ship and removing all the phasers and two of the photon torpedo launchers. As turn four began, the Klingon ship attempted to hold the Federation ship, but was unable to outbid the Federation Cruiser, so it was released. The Federation ship sped away, launching shuttles in its wake. The Klingon ship also launched shuttles. The shuttles fired shots at the cruisers, scoring some additional damage. The Federation ship swung around and positioned itself for one last pass with the photon torpedoes. Only one of the two hit, though, only doing minor shield damage. The Klingons again launched disruptors, scoring more damage on the Federation Cruiser. The Federation ship sped away, withdrawing from the combat.

Congratulations to Josh! A well­ played first battle!

#2: Nick and James

Nick and James played a battle, with Nick playing a Klingon D7 Battlecruiser, and James playing a Kzinti ship. The Klingons launched disruptors at medium range, but were unable to do much damage, as only one out of four scored damage. As the ships closed, the Kzinti unleashed drones on the Klingons, who were unable to counter the incoming missiles.

Congratulations to James! Our condolences to Nick and his unbelievably bad dice rolls… Some incompetent Klingon disruptor crews are now floating in deep space for their inept behavior!

 

#3: Gren and Andrew

Gren and Andrew played a battle, with Gren playing the a Romulan Cruiser, and Andrew playing a Gorn Battlecruiser. This was a challenging matchup, since both sides use plasma torpedoes as their primary heavy weapons. The dance began, with exchanges of torpedoes, both real and fake (pseudo). The Romulan was placed in a tractor beam and pounded on, removing the ship’s torpedo launchers. With half of its phasers also gone, the Romulan ship withdrew.

Congratulations for Andrew for a well­ played second game!

Star Fleet Battles Recap

From the guest pen of Tony Harding, GM for Star Fleet Battles.

Star Fleet Battles Demos at Game Paradise, 2013-11-24

We played three scenarios during Sunday’s gaming:

Scenario I: Federation (Tony) vs. Klingons (Andrew)

Andrew and I played the classic introductory match-up using the Standard Game Rules. I played the Klingon D7 Battlecruiser, while Andrew played the Federation Heavy Cruiser (CA).

As the two ships approached each other, the Klingons unleashed some Disruptor fire, but all four missed their target. At the end of Turn 1, the Federation CA fired some Phasers, taking down some of the front shield reinforcement on the D7.

On Turn 2, the Klingons again fired Disruptors, this time scoring some shield hits. The Fed CA fired Photon Torpedoes and Phasers, reducing the front shield on the D7 to only a few boxes. The Klingon D7 closed and fired its Phasers, maneuvering around the target to eventually bring them all to bear. This reduced most of the shields on the CA, but did not score any internal hits. The D7 also began firing Drones to harass the Fed ship.

On Turn 3 the CA began recharging its Photons, while the Klingon ship continued to circle the CA firing weapons and Drones. Again, the hits scored shield damage, but did little else. The CA was able to penetrate the shields of the D7 and score internal hits. The D7 was finally able to take down a shield on the CA and score some minor internal hits.

On Turn 4, a second volley from the Fed ship crippled the D7. (In game terms, a ship is crippled when half of its internal systems have been destroyed.) After returning fire, the D7 turned to withdraw. During the next turn, the D7 began Disengagement by Acceleration. The crippled Klingon ship was able to escape.

Congratulations to Andrew, who did very well on his first Star Fleet Battles engagement! We hope to see him at future meetups!

Scenario II: ISC (James) vs. Hydrans (Gren)

James and Gren played a matchup, each using their favorite race. The ISC, who typically use Plasma Torpedoes and Plasmatic Pulsar Devices, was no match for the Hydrans with their Hellbores and Fusion Beams.  Congratulations to Gren and his Hydrans!

Scenario III: Federation (Gren) vs. Klingons (Josh Wright)

The game went well. Josh was able to maneuver himself behind the Federation ship twice to unleash damage. The rear arcs are vulnerable on Federation ships, whose design is consistent with a frontal assault. The Klingons emerged victorious.  Congratulations to Josh!

The venue, Game Paradise, was a nice one in which to play. The playing area is clean and well-lit, and the staff is friendly and helpful. We look forward to our next game at this location!

Want to join Tony and his group for the next Star Fleet Battle?
The next Star Fleet Battles game will be on December 22nd at 1pm at Game Paradise – 1110 E. Prospect Street, Indianapolis, IN.

 

Stranded – exactly what I don’t want to be with this game

I love abstract logic games.  They are like a private little treat for me.  I certainly have my favorites, but trying out a new one makes me a bit giddy.  So imagine my chagrin every time I try one that is anywhere near as abysmal as Stranded.

Game Information
Stranded
DesignerJames D. Muntz, Jr.
ArtistKeith A. Gardner
PublisherTalicor
Year Published2009
# of Players2 - 4
Playing Time20
Mfg Suggested Ages8 and up
CategoryAbstract Strategy
MechanicDice Rolling, Pick-up and Deliver

Info courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Info.

Stranded is a game that in theory sounds like it could be an interesting mental challenge.  Each turn players have to choose one colored piece to remove from the board, and then must move to a piece of the same color as the one they just removed in their row or column (or diagonally, but since you can’t move over the center “pit” this usually only adds one possible square to move).  If a player can’t make this move, they are officially “Stranded” and are out of the game.  However, let’s throw in one more curve ball, the player doesn’t get to choose what color they will remove and move to, that’s decided for them by a roll of the die.

I wanted to initially be ok with the die being used.  After all, this merely presses you into positions you might not desire, but are still heavily logical.  Essentially, just forcing you to make the best of the situation, right?  Wrong.  Given that you typically only have one to two options available for where to move to in any given color, this merely gives you the illusion of still having choice.  Instead what you are left with is an exercise in following rules, with no more real logic or skill than a game of Candy Land.

Review of
'Stranded'
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Instructions:      
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Overall Rating:    

And as if this insult to the logic gaming genre wasn’t enough, the components are annoying to boot.  Each space has two colored pieces stacked on top of it.  These interlock via a shallow lip.  When you move your piece to that spot, you place it on top, clicking it into place.  But take a wild guess what happens when you attempt to move your piece again?  The two colored pieces come tumbling off, leaving you futzing with getting the pieces back on for nearly as long as you actually spend playing the game.  The whole thing is made of molded colored plastic, so it seems like the least they could do would be to have molded a little more of a lip on each piece.

These kinds of games are what gives gaming a bad name in the eyes of the American public at large.  It’s not a compelling game.  It’s cheaply made.  It doesn’t even begin to live up to the hype on the box.  These are the kinds of games that drives away new gamers, who think that gaming is “boring”.  Gaming isn’t boring, this game is.  The name of the game is Stranded, but that is exactly what I wouldn’t want to be with this game.

 

ZombiePox : Save the People

ZombiePox.  *sigh*

Zombies are cool, and right now they are big business.  TV shows, movies, merchandise, and games all seem to sell well when they have the zombie theme on them.  However, I start to find it irritating when games simply have a zombie theme pasted on top of an otherwise un-zombie game.  That is exactly what you find in ZombiePox.

The game play isn’t terrible, let me say that up front.  This game is a cooperative game, with elements similar to Go.  It’s also very simple by comparison to other cooperative games.  Having an understanding of Go is only somewhat helpful though, because unlike Go where you are playing against an intelligent human being with some ideas about strategy, in ZombiePox you are playing against a deck of cards, which essentially places randomly.

Game Information
ZombiePox
DesignerZara Downs, Mary Flanagan, Max Seidman
ArtistZara Downs, Ed Flanagan
PublisherMary Flanagan LLC, Tiltfactor
Year Published2012
# of Players1 - 4
Playing Time35
Mfg Suggested Ages12 and up
CategoryAbstract Strategy, Educational, Medical, Zombies
MechanicArea Enclosure, Co-operative Play, Pattern Building

Info courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Info.

The goal of the game is to contain the zombie virus by vaccinating key people on the board.  In order for a person on the board to become a zombie, they have to be infected with the virus, and be completely surrounded by infected people.  However, if anyone around them is vaccinated, it keeps them from being effected.  The game would be far too easy if that was it though, there are six “babies” on the board that become zombies instantly if they are infected, regardless of who is vaccinated around them, and they can not be vaccinated against the virus.  Players lose the game if they surpass a given zombie threshold which is agreed upon before the start of the game.  The easiest mode is 6 zombies, the hardest is 2.  Two zombies start out on the board at the beginning of the game, so hard mode is really really hard.

So, I’ll talk about the pros of the game first.  For one, it’s very quick to pick up.  The average player only needs 1-2 minutes of explanation to fully get what is going on.  Given that I teach people rules all day for a living, this is a beautiful thing.  This ease of learning makes it strongly preferred over other co-op games which typically can take 10-20 minutes to explain, and often have a ton of follow up questions.

Secondly, I liked the components.  The board is a roll out, rubber backed, mat.  So there is no slipping and sliding, which is wonderful, and the “board” behaves more like a play mat, which makes the pieces easier to pick up and manipulate.  There is also no warping, which can be a problem with some boards.  They also gave players two plastic containers to keep the pieces in.  I usually use baggies for this, but the little plastic bins were much more gamer friendly.

The cons, for me, are a little more numerous than the pros though.  Firstly, the rules are slightly lacking.  They are a very simple couple of pages, but they leave large bits of ambiguity.  Such as, what does it mean to have the virus completely contained?  You see, even if I have it completely surrounded, that doesn’t necessarily mean contained.  There are cards in the deck that let random people on the board be picked to out break the virus, and for this reason, it seems that a new outbreak can start at any minute, regardless of your defenses.  So what does contained mean?  Does it mean when the whole board is full and you haven’t lost?  When had to house rule this part.

Review of
'ZombiePox
Mechanics:        
Instructions:      
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Overall Rating:    

Secondly, the game becomes predictable in a hurry.  The first game that we played, we lost handily.  However, the second, and each subsequent game, we won without any real problem.  The board always has the same weak spots that need defending, and therefore the same strategy works in the vast majority of cases.  We started ramping up the difficulty, and it wasn’t until we were playing on the hardest level, that the game was a challenge again.  However, this challenge was not wrought via the game actually being more difficult.  Rather it was wrought via randomness in the deck that didn’t play out in our favor. Allowing four, five, or six zombies on the board was enough that skill could be applied to keep it from happening.  Two or three zombies was just too few to keep it from being strategic game, because one unlucky draw of the cards ended it, not poor game play.

So my final impression?

If you really have a desire for an abstract logic game with a zombie theme, this will suffice.  However, this is one of those games that is likely to get lost in the back of your closet, rather than broken out fondly and often.  Kudos to the designers for not skimping on components, but if they had, it would have likely lowered the price point enough to really reflect the number of plays you are likely to get out of it.  What might make the game more interesting is if you played against an intelligent zombie opponent who could control the spread of the virus.  But really, at that point, you might as well play GO instead.

Firefly – The Board Game

Burn the land and boil the sea, but you can’t take the sky from me!

Gamers and geeks alike both tend to love Joss Whedon’s short lived TV show about cowboys in space: Firefly.  This cult classic follows Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his rag tag crew of outlaws, fugitives, and respectable “Companions” on daring missions through the ‘verse, outrunning the authorities (known as the “Alliance”) and Revears (a group of men gone mad on the edge of space).

The board game mimics the TV show, you play as one of many possible captains (although sadly, Captain Mal is not an option) traveling through the ‘verse, hiring crew members at one of several possible ports, gaining jobs from some less than reputable characters, and trying to complete a daring mission.

The game uses one of several possible missions to dictate the goals and win condition for the game.  Each game, one of these missions is drawn at random, or if it’s your first game, there is a recommendation for the mission you should run.  Everything you do in the game cultivates in you being able to accomplish the three goals on the mission card.

To take the slow path through the outer edge of the verse, or to move quickly and efficiently through Alliance space… do you remember that dilemma coming up on the show?  Yep, all the time, and you’ll find yourself asking the same question of yourself.  The game did a wonderful job of mimicking this common dilemma, and many others.  Such as running out of fuel and trying to conserve what you have, deciding whether to take risky salvage jobs or stay on course, and of course giving you lots of options to turn on each other, should you wish to capitalize in that way.

Review of
'Firefly'
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Instructions:      
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Overall Rating:    

The game is fun, especially for a fan of the show.  There is nothing quite like the excitement of finding Wash at one of the border planets, or River Tam.  However, the game has one large draw back:  length.  Every mission in the box says it takes two hours, and the first time I played and it took a lot more than that, I chalked it up to learning time.  However, when the fifth game I played took the same time, I decided that maybe the box lied to me.  This is not a two hour game.  I don’t care how good you are at it.  This is a three and a half hour game, longer if you are inexperienced or find yourself fiddling around running side quests.

Fans of the show are not going to be disappointed, although the jokes, and some mechanics meaning, may be lost on people who aren’t brown coats.  The game holds up as a game without being a fan boy, but it’s coolness factor goes down dramatically, and some cards seem down right “broken” when seen through the eyes of a non-fan.  For example, River Tam is free to pick up, and her ability is crazy powerful.  Even more so when you also have her brother, Simon, as part of your crew.  Of course this makes sense if you have seen the show, but from an outsider perspective, it seems like a major oversight.   But really, Gale Force 9 (the publisher of the game) didn’t make a game about cowboys in space, they made a Firefly game.  They were aiming squarely for the fan boy market, and they hit their mark.

I am a brown coat, and I aim to misbehave.  So I have really enjoyed playing the game.  Mechanically, it’s certainly stronger than many other TV show based games, but it doesn’t stand up next to many other meatier “gamer games”.  Folks who aren’t fans, beware.

Alhambra – a surprising Spiel De Jahres winner

Game Information
Alhambra
DesignerDirk Henn
ArtistJörg Asselborn, Jo Hartwig, Christof Tisch
PublisherQueen Games, Asterion Press, Corfix, G3, KADABRA, Kaissa Chess & Games, Piatnik, REBEL.pl, Tilsit
Year Published2003
# of Players2 - 6
Playing Time60
Mfg Suggested Ages8 and up
CategoryArabian, City Building, Medieval
MechanicCard Drafting, Hand Management, Set Collection, Tile Placement
ExpansionAlhambra: Medina Buildings, Alhambra: Power of the Sultan, Alhambra: The City Gates, Alhambra: The Falconers, Alhambra: The Magical Buildings, Alhambra: The Thief's Turn, Alhambra: The Treasure Chamber, Alhambra: The Vizier's Favor
FamilyAlhambra, Cities: Granada, Country: Spain
Alternate NamesMünster, The Palace of Alhambra, Der Palast von Alhambra, Troisdorf: Der Palast von Alhambra Sonderedition, Αλάμπρα, アルハンブラ, 알함브라

Info courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Info.

When you are walking through your friendly local game store, perusing games that you might wish to purchase, what do you look for?  One of the things that I have looked for is awards.  Awards to me are very telling, largely based upon who is giving them.  I’ve seen some games with awards proclaimed on the box, just to realize upon reading that they gave the award to themselves!  How crazy is that!?  If you have to do that to sell your game, I think I’ll pass!  However, there is one award that I give a lot of credence to: the Spiel De Jahres.  This is the German “Game of the Year” award, and it’s a really sought after thing in the gaming community.   You see, so many wonderful games are coming out of Germany, that it seems pretty proper that their game of the year award is the award to receive.  So when I see that a game has one this extremely prestigious award, I sit up and take notice.   Alhambra is the Spiel De Jahres winner for 2003, but for this reason, I was extremely surprised when my feelings on the game were lacked a lot of luster.

Alhambra is a tile laying and set collecting game.  On your turn you can do one of three possible actions:  take money, buy a tile, or rearrange your alhambra (which according to wikipedia is a palace and fortress complex).  The money comes in four possible denominations, each denomination can buy one of four possible tiles that are on the board.  If you can buy the tile with exact change, you can immediately take another action.  In this way, you are rewarded for taking small bills when you take money.

Taking money is done via an alley of possible options, similar to the train cars in Ticket to Ride.  Four possible money cards are flipped over to show different denominations of the four possible kinds of tender.  Taking small cards, like 1’s and 2’s, will help you make exact change, but of course it doesn’t give you much money to work with very fast.  Taking large denominations is handy for buying expensive tiles quick, but the likelihood of you being able to make exact change is extremely small.

Review of
'Alhambra'
Mechanics
(for Gamers):            
(for non-gamers):     

Instructions:            

Replay-ability
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Price ($39.99):   

Components:      
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Overall Rating
(for Gamers):           
(for non-gamers):    

So why didn’t this game strike me very much?  The game just wasn’t very compelling, which shocked me given the award it had achieved.  In each of the games I played, I was just happy for it to be over by the time we got there, because I was bored.  I didn’t feel particularly challenged.  The game was very much about luck of the draw.  Because often players were fighting over the same tile.  So if it flipped going into your turn, you were golden.  If it flipped earlier, the likelihood that it would still be there was extremely small.  This also meant that you couldn’t plan much in advance.  So the game really becomes “doing the best with what you are given”, if you are given good things, you’ll do well.  If you are given things that are less good than your opponents, you won’t do nearly as well.

I admit that I did something going into this review that normally I would have a near religious opposition to:  I read some other reviews.  I had to know, why in the world did this win the Spiel De Jahres?!  Surely someone else had some insight that would be favorable to this game, and sure enough I did:  this is a good “gateway” game.

To members outside of the gaming community, you may only be familiar with the term in reference to drugs, and here that analogy holds true as well.  A gateway game is one that gets non-gamers to game, and sucks you in, making you want to play more board games.  Gateway games are usually very compelling, but have pretty simple rules.  Settlers of Catan was my gateway game, others have named Ticket to Ride as theirs.  Apparently, this game is a great gateway game, which I could see.  The game has very simple decisions to make.  The rules never get particularly complicated, and are built upon mechanics that non-gamers are often familiar with such as set collecting.  When seen in that light, this game does shine a bit more.

I do have one major complaint with the components of the game: the colors.  You see, their are four different types of money (blue, green, orange, and yellow).  And there are several different colors of buildings (blue, green, yellow, brown, purple, etc).  Everyone has the same problem.  Yellow money does not buy the yellow tile, yellow money buys whatever tile is on the yellow buy spot on the board, regardless of that tiles color.  However, the amount of money required to purchase that tile is written on the tile in the color of the tile.  So you can look at a green tile that costs 6 and is on the yellow buy space.  It requires yellow money to buy it, but all your brain can think is GREEN!  This seems like one of those facebook quizzes where you are suppose to try to say the color written, not what color it’s written in.  Our brains just are meant to do that.  So what did this cause?  Slow turns where people thought they figured out what they wanted to do, only to find that they had to rethink their whole turn, because they were trying to buy something in the wrong color!  Madness! Would it have been so hard to make the money in colors that were simply not present on the tiles?

So for gamers who enjoy meaty mechanics, I’m not sure that you’ll have the good time that the award usually means.  However, if you are looking for something to play with your grandma/mother-in-law/younger cousin, then go for it.  This might be a fun fit for them, and it’s certainly better than playing another game of scrabble with Aunt Martha.

Via Appia – A gimmicky stone pushing game with a lot of heart.

Game Information
Via Appia
DesignerMichael Feldkötter
ArtistMarko Fiedler, Claus Stephan
PublisherQueen Games
Year Published2013
# of Players2 - 4
Playing Time45
Mfg Suggested Ages8 and up
CategoryAction / Dexterity, Ancient
MechanicPress Your Luck, Tile Placement
FamilyAncient Rome, Queen Yellow Wave Box Series

Info courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Info.

When I had the game described to me, the first thing that was mentioned was this mechanic where you shove rocks through a “grinder” in a fashion very similar to the quarter pusher machines you see at the fair or arcades.  I was sold, lets play!  You see, I love it when a game incorporates such a “gimmick”.  I admit that they are often cheesy, and do nothing for the game play, but when they are done well, it’s amazing.

Via Appia is a game about building a road between cities.  There are three sections of road to be built, and each requires stones of different shapes and sizes to complete.  The person to most efficiently build the road, and move along it the quickest to the next place, will receive victory points for their efforts.  And, just like with most resource management games, the person with the most victory points is the winner.

On a turn, each player takes one of several possible actions: you can take money or raw materials, you can move along the road, you can place rock tiles on the road, or you can send rocks through the crusher.  The crusher is really the fun part of the game.  It’s a card board pedestal with a lip on both sides to keep all of the “stones” in.  However, both ends of the pedestal have no lip and thus you can force stones out.  If you choose the crusher option on your turn, you put one of your raw stones at the edge of the track, and push it in using the “pusher” tool, this forces the stones to move, and hopefully fall out the other end.  The different sizes of stones corresponds to the different possible stone tiles that you can use to build the road.

The game play feels like a big game of chicken.  I find this to be an interesting thing, but some of my players found it down right disheartening.  You see, each action that you do benefits the next person.  If you crush stones, you can end up packing the stones tighter, which will make them more likely to fall for the next person.  If you move from one city to the next, it becomes cheaper for your opponents to move along the road.  If you play road pieces, it can allow you opponents to zoom ahead of you.  If you take raw materials, the benefit for doing so becomes greater for the next person.  So every action you take has to be weighed, will it help you more than it can potentially help your opponents?

Besides some players not enjoying the game of chicken, one downfall of the pusher mechanic (which I enjoyed), is that it’s significantly easier to manipulate from one side of the table than the other.  This either forces players to get up and move around the table each time, or be at a disadvantage.  You might think that “a push is a push”, but you do have an ability to affect the outcome through careful, skillful pushes, because unlike the pusher machines in the arcade, you can angle the pusher slightly to get the maximum outcome.

Review of
'Via Appia'
Mechanics:         (although, I love the pusher)
Instructions:      
Replay-ability:    
Price ($47.99):   
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Overall Rating:    
(Middle of the road, not bad, not great)

After having played the game a few times now, I would play it again, which says something quite positive about its mechanics, but I’m not dying to play it again, which is also telling.  The game has a pretty uniform strategy for winning, and while you can vary it up slightly, you can’t deviate very far.  This lack of variable paths to victory make it less than appealing for a lot of repeat play.  But I do love that pusher… so you can probably talk me into another game or five.

So as I mentioned earlier, a good gimmick can make a game outstanding.  I personally really like the gimmick, and if they substituted it out for something more standard (a die roll perhaps), I would have a very different opinion of this game.  The gimmick is the selling point, and it was executed as well as I think can be expected given the nature of the beast, but without it the game would feel very dry and simply an exercise in patience.

Flash Point : Fire Rescue

“Oooo… It’s a co-op game!”

I’ve really grown to love cooperative games, ever since I played Pandemic and learned that there were good cooperatives out there, and that they weren’t all like Arkham Horror (i.e. five hour lessons in how to cope with boredom).  Co-ops tend to be tense, with a built in “on the edge of your seat” feeling, that really makes me excited to play.  And when you add in the fact that no one is eliminated and thus no one leaves the table in a foul mood… well, I’m sold.

Game Information
Flash Point: Fire Rescue
DesignerKevin Lanzing
ArtistLuis Francisco, George Patsouras
PublisherIndie Boards & Cards, 999 Games, Asmodee, Bard Centrum Gier, Devir, FunBox Jogos, Heidelberger Spieleverlag, Hobby Japan, Magellan, MINDOK
Year Published2011
# of Players1 - 6
Playing Time45
Mfg Suggested Ages10 and up
CategoryAdventure
MechanicAction Point Allowance System, Co-operative Play, Dice Rolling, Grid Movement, Pick-up and Deliver, Simulation, Variable Player Powers
ExpansionFlash Point: Fire Rescue - Fire Prevention Specialist, Flash Point: Fire Rescue – 2nd Story, Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Critically Wounded Victims, Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Dangerous Waters, Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Explosive Objects, Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Extreme Danger, Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Extreme Danger Kickstarter Bonus Pack, Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Fire Academy Challenge, Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Hazmat POI, Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Heavy Victim, Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Honor & Duty, Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Lightly Wounded Victims, Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Locked Doors, Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Urban Structures, Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Veteran and Rescue Dog, Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Victim with Oxygen Tank
FamilyCrowdfunding: Kickstarter, Firefighting, Flash Point: Fire Rescue, Solitaire Games
Alternate Names01: Большой пожар, 18 Soldats du feu, 911 to the Rescue, Au Feu! 911 Pompiers, Flash Point: Ao Resgate, Flash Point: Flammendes Inferno, Flash Point: Met en voor elkaar door het vuur!, Ognisty Podmuch, ¡Rescate!, Záchranáři: Boj s ohněm, フラッシュポイント:火災救助隊

Info courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Info.

When I and my fellow team mates sat down to explore this co-op game for the first time, we had a customer who wandered in from a wedding reception across the street and recognized the game.  She was excited, but when we told her it was our first game, there was a near instantaneous change in demeanor, it went from “Awesome!  Flashpoint!” to “Awww… those poor suckers aren’t going to know what hit them…”.   So when we won our first game, I was really proud of my little team.

You see, we were playing on the “Family Mode”.  It’s the set of rules that you follow if you are a family of non-gamers, or have very small children that you want to help get involved in gaming.  However, the difficulty rating wasn’t properly placed for gamers of our skill level.  So we upped the anti to the “Veteran level” of the “Experienced Game” rules.

In the Experienced Game, each player plays a different kind of firefighter attempting to put out the blaze and rescue the family and pets inside.  Each firefighter type has different specialty skills which will help hem perform different tasks.  For example, one player can play as the paramedic.  The paramedic heals family members and pets found inside the home, which makes them easier to save, however, that character can’t actually fight the fire very well.

Turns, and the actions you can perform on them, are dictated through a clever “Action Point” system.  Different actions take different amounts of AP, but a simple cheat sheet makes this all easy to manage, and makes the game very interesting.  By having the different actions require different amounts of AP to accomplish them, it really properly shows the difficulty of each action.  For example, moving one space on the board only requires 1 AP, unless of course you are trying to move through a space that is on fire, then it requires 2 AP.  Because, wouldn’t you think it’s more difficult to move through an area that is on fire?

 

After a player completes the actions they want, then the fire spreads.  This is simulated by rolling two dice (a D8 and a D6) and locating the board space that this references.  If there is no fire or smoke in this spot, then smoke now appears there.  However, if there is smoke in that location, or fire adjacent to that location, the fire now spreads to this new spot.  And what happens if there is already fire in this spot?  An explosion wracks the house!

Explosions are what killed us 9 times out of 10.  You see, when an explosion goes off, it damages walls, blows out doors, and spreads the fire even more.  To demonstrate that a wall is damaged, you place a black cube on the wall.  The game comes with a finite number of black cubes, and when they run out, the house collapses in and kills all the remaining people:  Game Over.

In addition to the special roles, the “Experienced Game” comes with two special tokens that are designed to help the game kill you faster.  Firstly there are hazardous materials that will explode if the fire spreads to their location.  More explosions are always a bad thing.  However, even worse than an explosion is a hot spot.  Hot spots are marked by tiny flame markers on the board.  Whenever you roll a hot spot location, you perform whatever is necessary for that spot (smoke, fire, or explosion) and then you roll again, causing more smoke, fire and explosions.  Is the second role a hot spot as well?  If so, keep rolling.  If not, this spot will become a hot spot for future turns.

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'Flash Point: Fire Rescue
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This game does suffer from one major problem to me: the ability for “leader-itis”.  Granted, most co-ops game have this problem, but this one has it bad.  If you have never experienced leader-itis, you might be wondering what I’m talking about, but once it happens once or twice, you’ll be certain to recognize it in the future.  Leader-itis is when one person decides they are going to be the leader of the group, barking orders as it becomes each persons turn.  Yes, it’s a co-op and thus you want to work together and discuss.  However, “Ok, so it’s your turn, you should put out that fire, and then move that way, and open that door.  Ok, lets roll for smoke… ok, smoke is placed.  Now it’s your turn, you should move up and check that point of interest, and then put out that fire and move to that door… ” After a round or two of that, I just want to smack them around and say “Stop it!  Let them actually PLAY the game too!”

So, if you can avoid leader-itis, I think this is a fabulous co-op game.  It’s different than any other on the market that I have played, and that change up in flavor is quite welcome within this small genre.  I’ve played roughly six experienced games of Flash Point now, and have only won one of them.  Personally, I really like that.  I like a challenge, and this game has certainly proved to be just that.

 

Corporate America

Corporate America comes in a pretty bland box.  Initially that’s all I really thought about it,  a member of my staff looked at the rules long enough to inventory the game in the “theme” section of the shop, and that’s where it sat for a couple of weeks.  I played some other new games that came in, but this one sat there lonely and dejected.  Part of the problem was that it required three players, and for some reason, that magical number is hard for me to reach.  If it had asked for 2 or 8 that would have been much easier, oddly enough.  But it needed three, and so it just wasn’t real conducive.

Game Information
Corporate America
DesignerTeale Fristoe
ArtistChrissy Fellmeth, Karen Siebald
PublisherNothing Sacred Games
Year Published2013
# of Players3 - 6
Playing Time120
Mfg Suggested Ages13 and up
CategoryEconomic, Humor, Negotiation, Political
MechanicAuction/Bidding, Set Collection
FamilyCountry: USA, Crowdfunding: Kickstarter

Info courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Info.

The night that I decided to give this game the fair shot that it deserved, a friend of mine was in the shop.  She is what I would very affectionately refer to as a “hippie”.  Thus, when I pulled out a game called “Corporate America” her nose was immediately upturned to the idea.  But when I started to explain that it was a satire game, her opinion of it softened and she agreed to game with us.

Corporate America is a game where having the most money in the end is the ultimate goal.  How do you accomplish that?  By starting businesses, influencing consumer habits, becoming president, and enacting favorable legislation.  That sounds pretty boring, until you start to read the cards, and then the flavor of the game starts to ring through and it’s hilarious.

The game is broken down into four phases: Wall Street, Main Street, Campaign Trail, and Capital Hill.  During the Wall Street phase players will start one business.  The business they begin has a start up cost but also has a pay out if it’s given type is chosen later in the Main Street phase.  But take a look at the kinds of businesses you are starting:  “Big Journey SUVs:  Prove how big your journey is.” If you don’t find the humor in that, I am going to decline the opportunity to explain.  All of the cards in the Wall Street phase are very tongue and cheek like this.

The Main Street phase is where you spend the bulk of the game.  Each person flips over the top card of the consumer deck to see what kind of good the public is buying.  If the flipper doesn’t like that answer, they can flip again, by paying a little bit of money.  Ultimately they will choose one of their flipped cards, and that will be the one they choose to play, and the businesses of that type will gain money.  However, in this phase, players can barter and bribe one another.  “How about I just pay for you to see the flip?  You don’t have to pick it buddy…”  or “Come on pal, you know you want to pick Transportation over Technology…. do you really want to let Bill Gates win?  Of course not!  And here, here is a little cash to help swallow that.”

Got all of that hard earned cash?  Good!  Because you are going to need it out on the campaign trail.  A series of legislation cards are flipped and each “candidate” tells which pieces of legislation make up their platform.  Of course you don’t have to keep to those campaign promises, after all, the real life candidates don’t.  But remember, that you might not be voted for the next time around if you screw someone over today.  Much like the business cards, the legislation cards are full of tongue in cheek phrases and names.

Once everyone has made their promises, it’s time to vote!  Oh, you think each player gets one vote?  Like in a democracy?  Isn’t that cute!  Nope, we vote using our money… like a real election!  Players take turns secretly donating to the campaign of their choice.  The player with the most money is the winner of the election and will become president for the round.  They will also get a handy-dandy “Executive Privilege” card which will give them a nifty one time ability.   Once a president is elected, it’s back to Wall Street to make some more money!

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But is the game any good… yes, on the whole.  It was really funny, and we all got a good giggle.  Even my hippie friend had a great time, and said she might want to buy the game, which is practically unheard of for her.  My largest complaint with the game is that it runs too long.  About 30-45 minutes too long.  It’s a cute game, with some fun mechanics, but 2+ hours is far too long for a game of it’s style.  Th funny wears off by the end, and in the last round I just found myself wanting to wring the neck of anyone who was trying to barter.  “It’s the last turn!  Come one!  Is that $2 really going to make that big of a difference!”.  I suppose I get a bit testy in these situations.

Ultimately, we found the game to be good.  It’s humor is, admittedly, the crutch it stands on but there are solid mechanics as well.  The different consumer types and legislation abilities are robust, but easy to understand and quickly pick up on.  My complaint of the game going on for two long, is also an easy one to rectify, simply play for one to two rounds less.  Most of the games I played had four rounds (which is dictated by the number of players involved) but if you shortened it to three, I think you would have a much more enjoyable game.

Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule – Rhyming and Reason

This cutesy little game showed up on my door step along with a few others and while the title gave me some pause and made me giggle, I otherwise dismissed it.  Surely nothing good comes in a package so small, and with such cutesy art.  You would think that I would learn to stop judging books (or games) by their cover by now, but it’s hard to beat old habits out of a person some times.  However, after it sitting on my shelf for a day or two, curiosity got the better of me, and I had to know what this cute little game was all about.

What I was greeted with was a rhyming card game with a bit of strategy and a lot of whimsy.  The box contains a mere 20 cards, which are double sided and covered in whimsical art and cutesy rhyming titles, and a rule book with some pretty straight forward instructions.  After a quick read through, we were up and running in no time.

The game is all about getting rid of your goblins and gaining faeries.  This is done through an ingenious rhyming mechanic.  Each turn you play one of your cards into the “Faerie Ring” and all cards in the ring that rhyme with it flip.   After the flip, you claim any cards that are in the “Faerie Ring” that are of the same suit as the card you played.  This allows for a bit of skill and guile because the other side of the card always has the opposite suit on it.  So if a moon is the suit of one side, you know the flipped side will be a sun.  In this way you can anticipate what suits will be available after the flip.

Game Information
Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule
DesignerDavid Luis Sanhueza
ArtistMike Maihack, David Luis Sanhueza
PublisherGame Salute, GAME-O-GAMI, Golden Games
Year Published2013
# of Players1 - 4
Playing Time15
Mfg Suggested Ages7 and up
CategoryCard Game, Children's Game, Educational, Fantasy, Humor
MechanicHand Management, Memory, Set Collection
FamilyCrowdfunding: Kickstarter, Goblins

Info courtesy of boardgamegeek.com. More Info.

The average play time of the game is only about 10-15 minutes, so its a very fast paced game that is easy to play several rounds of in a single sitting.  It’s also a great game for kids who have learned how to read, or who are currently practicing that skill.  Part of why this is so good for this demographic is because the cards are left face up on the table, meaning that an adult could help a new reader along without it affecting the game play.

However, don’t just think this is a game for little ones.  There is enough strategy involved in the plays that us adults had a good time and were competitive with the game.  Being able to anticipate what the best play will be due to what will rhyme and flip and what suit that will then show is a hard skill to master, and some of us were clearly better at it than others.

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I have two small negative notes about the game, and the first one is about the price.  This game retails for $15.00 which is expensive for a box with only 20 cards in it.  Yes, they are beautiful cards.  Yes, they are printed on nice card stock.  But $15?  I would expect this to be in the $8-$10 price range.

My second small negative is about the thoroughness of the instructions.  The rules seem really straight forward, but we found a loop hole that the rules didn’t explicitly cover, and seems like it shouldn’t be allowed, but the rules don’t say otherwise… you see, you toss a card into the faerie ring, flip all of the rhyming cards, and then take the matching suits… but what if you toss in a card that doesn’t rhyme with anything?  This would let you get rid of cards and possibly not taking any in return.  The implication to me seems like you shouldn’t be allowed to play a card into the ring if it doesn’t rhyme with something, but the rules don’t say that.

Overall, I think this game is very cute and worth giving a try.  It’s whimsical nature and unique mechanics makes up for its short falls.  Personally, I’m very curious what other games will adopt this cute little mechanic.  Because, as most avid gamers know, where there is a game with cool mechanics there is at least three or four copy cats in the works.