The Bloody Inn

We played The Bloody Inn this weekend, a card game about killing your tavern guests and getting away with it!

The theme makes it sound a bit slapsticky, but the game is *tight*. You need to be very careful with your hand management and it’s absolutely possible to kill yourself into a corner.

Intriguing little game, though I’m not sure it will still be fun once you figure out how it works exactly. It might be one of those games where the life cycle matches the learning curve.

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Essen Spiel 2015

Spiel! A bit late, but there you go 🙂

We buy a lot at Spiel but we also have a rule: if there’s an empty demo table, we should play! Thus we end up playing a lot of silly games that aren’t necessarily very good. Like Casting!

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Roborama! The best sit down game of the day, a light roborally with a fun programming mechanism!

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Siggil, which probably isn’t very good but look how happy it makes Kristina.

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You go to the biggest games fair in the world and you take that opportunity to trade a few games with other nerds from boardgamegeek.com. “No problem”, they say, “we have a set time and place for that”. And so you enter the maelstrom of nerds, waving your game or your nickname around, hoping the right people will spot you or you spot them. RPGGeek Math Trading meat grinder! It looks something like this:

And just in case you really wanted to know what the silliest game of Spiel 2015 looked like 🙂

And, of course, our haul

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And then we held hands

First prize for the most original game name!

And then we held hands is a two-player cooperative game about winning at relationships. There’s a web of emotions that you have to navigate, ring by ring, until you end up at the heart in the middle – signifying your strengthened relationship.

You navigate each ring by reaching eight emotion objectives – dots in your navigation matrix. You get to these dots by spending cards of the relevant colors. However, spending cards can put you out of balance (which means you can’t redraw cards), and moving to the left or the right of the field means you can only use the colors on the right or the left of your cards.

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So you are facing an intricate two-player balance act of moving forward, restocking cards and getting both of you to the middle. If you can’t make a move, if the deck of cards runs out, well… I guess they were never really that into you.

The final kicker: you and your partner can’t talk about the game while playing it!

This is a pretty tough game: after two players we’ve made it to the final circle but not closer. I suspect if we ever do make it, the game will lose it’s shine, so it’ll be fun to tackle the challenge a few more times. The nice thing is that it really feels you are in this weird, intricate dance together, so some of the theme actually comes through. Which, of course, makes losing all the worse. But winning so much better!

Race for the Galaxy: Alien Artifacts

Race for the Galaxy is my all time favorite game of all the universes. The game has already grown to monster size thanks to three amazing expansions. So when they announced a reboot of the game that was NOT compatible with the expansions, it caused quite a lot of controversy in the fan base. Fortunately, we could borrow a friend’s copy (Thanks, Frosty!).

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race2It’s SO hard to look at this game without graduation goggles. Basically, Alien Artifacts adds an additional saucer to keep in the air: a mini-game of artifacts exploration. While you’re building up your galactic civilization, this huge floating alien spaceship has been discovered and all of you are competing to uncover the most of it and use it to your advantage. See, you can uncover artifacts that will give your building efforts a boost: a discount on developments, a free good to sell, an easier time exploring the alien ship… So you tend to go through waves of exploring and taking advantage of what you’ve found.

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I’m not sure this reboot works as well with two people as the original game does. It feels like the Artifact exploring should be this mad scramble, and for us it’s just a leisurely walk in the park that we indulge in until our engine takes off. Then we ignore it while our tableau fires off the usual combo’s.

One design aspect really nags at me. One of the reasons Race is my favorite game is that the turns are simultaneous. I love simultaneous play, it means we play fast and furious and you always have stuff to do. But the Orb mini game… is played one person at a time. It’s not a big time drain (at least, not with two), but it does take away some of the awesome of the design, I think.

That said, it IS really cool to play our old favorite in a new version and see all the little changes. We easily play Race 10 times a year, but often we’ll be tempted more by newer games. So it’s kind of neat to be able to play our classic love in a new way.

Fidelitas

I traded this game for one of my old unloved games. I have the best of luck with trades 🙂

Fidelitas is a short, simple filler game for 2 to 4 players. It’s a bit like a more involved version of Love Letter.

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You’re seeing five location cards, with a bunch of person cards ‘visiting’ the different locations.

  • There’s a bunch of locations in the middle (Market, Warehouse, Tavern), and a bunch of person cards (Baker, Judge, Butcher) in your hand. Person cards all have an ability that will trigger as you play them. Usually their ability will let you move people around the locations in some way.
  • Also in your hand: two mission cards. The Mission cards will have stuff like “Gather four people of different guilds in the Market”, or “Make sure four locations are empty”.
  • Every turn, you play one Person card, do what the card says, and then score one of your missions if the conditions are met. Then you redraw, and the turn passes to the next person.
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Here’s your hand: two mission cards (“Gain the trust of”) and two person cards.

And that’s the entire game! Easy as pie. When you play it with two, you’re both trying to get your guys into the right places while hindering your opponent from getting his guys into places. So you fall into a kind of tugging game around this immense slidey puzzle. It’s not too strategic, but you feel in control while you’re trying to tug the puzzle your way, and so it works well.

Nice art!

Nice art!

The chaos also means that you can really try to hinder your opponent – there’s no real risk of paralysing them, and half of the time you don’t know what exactly they’re trying to accomplish anyone. With two, double bluffing or misdirection will be useful and fun as well.

So, a short, sweet, travel-size filler that’s fun and involved. A keeper!

Cocotaki @ Kayak Club

My kayak club always goes for a drink after a training. Some of the members talk about kayaking almost exclusively. I’m not that big of a kayak nerd yet and I haven’t been on any trips… so if they really go at it, I’m happy to check my phone for a while.

Because it’s a holiday tomorrow the kids could stay and have a drink too. And one of them was packing a game box! I zoned in on that fucker like a sniper on speed.

Jules: YOU HAVE A GAME! Er… I mean, you have a game.
9-year old: Yes, do you want to play?
Jules: YES!

Thanks, 9-year old! The other people thought I must have been the most social person ever, selflessly entertaining a small child like that. Little did they know it was the other way around.

The game was called Cocotaki (or Cuckoo Zoo) and was apparently a UNO variant. I wouldn’t know, I never played UNO. You could only add a card to the stack if it had a color or animal in common, and if you played an animal, you had to make that animal’s sound. Except if it’s a red card, in which case you say nothing. Except when it’s red rooster, in which case you say Cocotaki!

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So basically like a drinking game without the drinking. Not very interesting but, much like pizza and sex – even when a game is bad it’s still good! We played three or four rounds, including one mega round with a hand of twenty cards instead of 10. She forgot to say (or not say) the right word a few times, but trounced me in every round. I don’t really know how! It’s a quick kids game, and fun enough.

There’s something deliciously weird about mixing up hobbies like this. I got pretty excited about bringing new games to play with the kids, but then I realized they normally can’t come for drinks. Definite upside to future camping trips 🙂

Tabletop day! King of New York

We celebrated Tabletop day yesterday at Bart & Evelien’s gaming event. Thanks for inviting us, you guys!

We got to play one game that was new to us: King of New York. King of NY is the successor to King of Tokyo and it’s basically the same game with a few extra features taped on. The board is much bigger now and features all kinds of scenery you can destroy for more points, energy and health. Destroy too much in one location and you have a risk of retaliation. Every destroyed building becomes a tank, plane or army that can come hurt you if anyone rolls too many skulls (like in Roll through the Ages).

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Toyko has been replaced by Manhattan and it has three layers you can move up into every round. The longer you stay: the more points you get. You can also eat buildings in Manhattan, some of which will heal you. So you get a bit more staying power, basically.

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They took out the 1-2-3 numbers on the dice and replaced them with building destroying power, stars (three stars are one point, plus one for every extra star beyond that) and the aforementioned skulls you can screw people over with.

It’s still very much the same game in tone and feel – and in much of the gameplay. I wouldn’t buy this if I already had King of Tokyo because the games aren’t different enough to own them both. But they both seem equally fun.

I ended up focusing on victory points and then entered Manhattan to get to the 20 points required to win. The four claws needed to defeat me stopped at three, and so I became Queen of New York!

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We also played Tsuro, Sheriff of Nottingham (where we got thoroughly trounced by more skilled players who would yell “Worst Sheriff Ever!” after our turns. Hey!), Ugg-tect, McJohny’s, Love Letter and finally Cards against Humanity.

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Sheriff of Nottingham

Love Letter had a rather beautiful moment where I played the Baron on Jan and we compared our cards to see who had the lowest card and would be knocked out. But we were both holding princes, and just smiled awkwardly at the table as we drew our cards back, desperately hoping people wouldn’t notice. This was quite late in the game, so it was the easiest thing in the world for Freya to go “Julia, do you have a Prince?”, and have Christophe follow up with “Jan, would you by any chance also have a prince?”. Oops 🙂

I love this game – I love it to bits.

Gamesday tips!

It was fun to see a completely different gamesday to see how they run things. They ran only lighter games that lasted at most 1,5 hours: Betrayal in the House on the Hill was the most complex game I saw hit the table. This had a lot of positive benefits: it was easy to jump into games, and to switch up the player groups. If you got knocked out and had to wait for a new game to start, you knew for sure that you wouldn’t have to wait very long, and that made for a lot more relaxed gaming and hanging out experience. I’m not sure that would be popular here, we all love our big games too much, but it has a lot of advantages.

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Eleven player Cards against Humanity

Also, people who won a game also won a prize!  The prize in this case was a blank Cards against Humanity card to be used later in the night. Thus cleverly ensuring everyone would stick around for a whopping eleven player Cards against Humanity – very crafty. Though I didn’t end up using my blank cards, I loved the idea of prizes and an overarching gamesday competition. Definitely stealing this!

Boardgame shorts

We are having busy times! A lot of games and not a lot of time to write about them. I’ll have to settle for writing up a few blurbs as they happen for now. Here’s our latest play experiences.

Alchemists

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A logic puzzle combined with a worker placement game with the use of an app. Woah! No one can blame Czech games for not being original. One play is not enough to be able to say much about the game yet. With four players we had cracked the code fairly quickly, and I was disappointed the logic part of the game was over so soon. I’d focused on the buying and selling of artefacts and potions and the publishing part of the game didn’t really click for me yet on this first play. I’d happily play it again, but I’m not as excited about it as other people are so far (then again, that’s the case for most Czech Games worker placements for me).

Mysterium

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They call it ‘Dixit with a purpose’, but the play experience is utterly different. In Mysterium one of the players is a ghost and the others are investigators trying to figure out how she died. She gives people hints that point towards certain people, locations and objects (hello, clue!). The hints are in the form of Dixit-like cards. The cards are richly illustrated with lots of little details. There is far less associating and far more “Oh, there’s a chair on this card and a hairdresser sits in a chair so it must be that one!”. More puzzly and analytical. It also plays quite quickly. It’s a neat concept, but I’m not sure it’ll be fun to play for long.

CV

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A card game about building up a successful life. What a cool theme! It instantly reminded me of all the fun I had with Alter Ego and Keeping up with the Joneses. Unfortunately, this resource building and card buying game turned slow and tedious with four. We tried to put some storytelling or roleplaying into it, but it couldn’t keep up the spirits for this game. Alas!

Spyfall

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The only hidden traitor game I like! I hate hidden traitor games with a passion. They make me nervous and I just generally get no enjoyment out of them, regardless if I win or lose. But I have no problem playing a traitor in a roleplay game. The idea behind this game seemed to be much more of the latter variety.

Every player gets the a card that has the same location on it, everyone is in that same location. One person, however, only receives a card that says SPY on it. Then the players ask each other questions to uncover the spy. They have to walk a fine line, though, because if they are too overt about where they are, the spy will catch on and guess the location. Everyone also has a role on their card (eg. Nightguard, caterer) that they should adhere to. This makes it even harder to catch the spy.

It’s really hard. It’s such a challenge to come up with good questions and good answers, that everyone is sweating: not just the spy!

The fact that it’s so hard and tense will probably also mean it won’t get played a lot. After all, most of these type of games are party games and they tend to go with a bit more of a relaxed atmosphere. Happy I bought it, though!

Deus

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We played Deus at Peter and Jen’s last night. It’s a hand management game with some light area control and a lot of combo potential. I’m not sure what to think of it yet. The combo’s were powerful but… I don’t know, not exactly satisfying? I finished last in the game, so perhaps it just didn’t click with me. Jan and Rob had a great time with it, so perhaps it could just need a few more plays.

Game night with Stelio

RPGgeek friend Stelio was in Brussels for his work, so we invited him over for a night of food, drink and games. It turned out Stelio hadn’t played a lot of the standard boardgames, so we had some introductions to do. We showed him Race for the Galaxy and he didn’t immediately recoil in horror as so many of our friends have before.

We took that as a good sign and started explaining all the icons, rules and exceptions in this sprawling galaxy game. We played a quick game where Jan trounced us both but we got the game across well. Though Jan was the moral loser, since his score (52) was not symmetrical like ours (22 and 33).

A second game might have been more competitive, but we had more games to get to! Which we set up as Stelio tried the original pick up lines out of his phrasebook on us.

Like Love Letter! This turned into a hilarious game where getting an early princess screwed me over again and again. Other people’s princesses also joined the fun to screw me over as well! We zoomed through a lot of funny game confrontations until Jan finally eeked out a narrow win. The bluffing and deduction seemed to be big favorites and this was perhaps the most exciting and fun game we played.

Next up we tried King of Tokyo, because everyone needs to play it at least once in their lives and also, it was late and we needed a quick finisher. We need to get the Power Up! expansion for this game so we can finally use those mutations. I got knocked out early and watched the guys have a tense battle. Either Stelio would win on his final victory point, or Jan would take Stelio’s final life point.

Finally we ran out of good small finishers, so I put an okay finisher on the table: Concept. We had fun with a few hard concepts and I was the only one who failed to get my thing guessed. Du-hudes! Of course Man-violence-government-country-stick-figure-idea-money-people-violent means Fidel Castro! Doh.

Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy

We played a game of Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy on the weekend. It’s a euro game all about building up your family through four generations. You get a bunch of hidden bonus points for all manner of quests: building up an international family, allying with the British, preparing for the revolution, all sorts of stuff.

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I played this game once before and really sucked at it. Marrying a handsome but useless scallywag really messed up my shot at a decent family line. This time I resolved to do better this time, haunted combo’s like a boss, and eeked out a tight win. Whoo!

I like the game. It’s a nice gentle euro that allows you to make fun combo’s and maximize incomes. The game also makes you talk like the coldest match-maker grandmother ever.