Board Game of the Week- Sheriff of Nottingham

sheriff box

  • Game Title: Sheriff of Nottingham
  • Release Date: 2014
  • Number of Players: 3-5
  • Average Game Time: 45-60 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Arcane Wonders
  • Website:  http://www.arcanewonders.com/sheriff-of-nottingham
  • Game Designer: Sergio Halaban
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: Yes

I am not a good bluffer. I like to think I am, but looking at it objectively I really don’t have the best poker face. So when I opened up Sheriff of Nottingham and realized the game is based around bluffing and misdirection, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to pick it up well. Luckily enough, the game is based on so much more than bluffing and there are many different types of strategy while playing, so I was able to find a strategy that works for me without too much struggle.IMG_2835

Sheriff of Nottingham focuses on merchants trying to bring their goods into the city to sell. The basic mechanic involves drawing cards and choosing what types you want to load into your bag. Everyone then declares what foods he/she put in his/her bag (4 apples, 3 bread, etc.) either truthfully or untruthfully if IMG_2837they have extra foods or “contraband”. The added twist to this is that every round someone acts as “sheriff” who then can choose to inspect each person’s bag. If you were truthful about your goods then the Sheriff has to pay you, but if not the extra goods get confiscated and you have to pay the Sheriff. This means that you can try and smuggle contraband in for big point totals, or you can tell the truth and hope that the Sheriff tries to catch you. A number of other nuances in how you draw cards and what goods you choose to play add up to a very inventive and interesting game.

I found that this game can be a lot of fun, but how much fun depends on the company you are in. My friends and family are all very outgoing, energetic, and goofy, so when we started playing we immediately turned it intoIMG_2838 an improv show where everyone put on different accents and asked silly questions to try and get a reaction from the group. This caused everyone to be more engaged in the game and the enthusiasm built up as we went. I feel like if you were in a group of more straight-laced people that wanted to play it normally it could be less exciting, though the strategy and gameplay still appeal to the average player. The game tends to drag at times if the Sheriff takes a long time to ask questions, so 5 players can take a while. Playing with 3 players, on the other hand, adds an extra round to the game so it doesn’t exactly shorten things. I recommend the game with 4 players if possible as the best middle ground option.

Jack’s Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Advertisements

The Appeal of Two Player Board Games

I’ve written before that board games are a very social experience for me, as they are for most people. Because of this, I usually associate board games with large groups of people, and 7-wonders-duelthe board game industry looks to be agreeing with me. Games of 3-5 or 4-6 players are becoming the norm in most cases, with plenty of games even exceeding those numbers. So when I was given my blast from the past board game set from my Grandpa it reminded me that a number of older games were actually meant only for two players. Games like Battleship, Guess Who, Stratego and even Chess and Checkers all focus on the one-on-one matchup. There are a few newer games, such as 7 Wonders: Duel, which still use a two-player format, but it feels like this type of game isn’t as common anymore. If anything there are more games now that can be played by two players, but can also include 3+ players, such as Castles of Mad King Ludwig.

After recently playing board games of all types over the holidays, I was reminded of some of the benefits of two player board games. While they might not be the best fit for all situations, they can be a lot of fun and have certain benefits that board games for larger groups just don’t have. Here are my top five reasons why you should play two player board games:

1) Easier to get the number of players you need– This advantage seems pretty obvious, but it’s more a testament to how difficult finding groups to play board games with can be at times. I’m lucky enough to have groups of friends who like playing tabletop games, and even I have difficulty finding enough people on a random Tuesday night a
t times. Finding one other person to play a game with you? That tends to be easier. Whether it’s a roommate, a sibling/parent, or a significant other, there are usually people around willing to try a game out with you or open up an old classic.

2) More direct competition– This does not mean to say that games with more than two players don’t have competition. I couldn’t imagine playing a game of Monopoly or Settlers of Catan without forming a grudge match against someone, and even if I don’t there’s enough competition to beat oubattleship-board-gamet all players and take the #1 spot. Board games are all about trying to win, so there’s going to be a high level of competition in any type of board game you play. Still, there’s something different about the competitive feel of a two person board game. You are essentially using your skills, wits, and strategy to defeat a single opponent; assuming the player is around the same skill level as you the intensity of that matchup can almost feel palpable.

3) More streamlined game mechanics– This is not always the case, but it seems like rules and procedures for two player games are generally simpler and more streamlined than ones with 3+ players. Adding in more players creates a layer of complexity to a game, because a game designer has to take more factors into account. Sometimes additional rules are created specifically for a larger number of Strategoplayers, to ensure that the game stays fair to all parties playing. In addition, most games with larger groups of players are meant to allow for different scenarios for each party interacting with each other, so the complexity only increases. A two player game is streamlined because a designer can create the game without worrying about the 3+ player effect and can focus solely on the game mechanics of two people going head to head against each other.

4) Great way to catch up with someone– Whenever I visit my Grandpa in PA we always make a point to play a game of Djinn before the trip is over. This has become a tradition between the two of us, and we use it as a time to have some fun and catch up with each other. I tell him about my work, my girlfriend, my plans for the future, and more as he mercilessly beats me in our favorite card game. The same benefit can be found in a two player board game. Sitting down and interacting with another person and learning more about his/her life is great, and a board game can be a great way to facilitate that.

5) Faster playing time– In today’s fast-paced society, an important criteria for a board game is how long it takes to play. Faster does not always mean better of course, but if you’re looking for a game to play that won’t take up your entire evening then odds are high that a two player game will meet that criteria. This is not always true, as there are some two player games that last a long time and there are plenty of larger scale board games that are meant to be finished quickly. Still, with less people in a game to eliminate and/or less people working to achieve a goal, the average playing time for a two player tabletop game is usually less than a larger scale game.

BONUS: Good for date night– This only really works if you have a significant other who likes board games, but a good date night for any couple can be found at the board game table. Board games create interaction and discussion that you don’t get in a movie theater. They are also a cheap alternative to most standard date nights, and are a fun way to make use of your time if you’re staying home rather than going out. It’s not exactly first date material, but it’s a great idea for a nice, relaxing evening with someone you care about. I am lucky enough to have a girlfriend that also likes board games (she’s a fellow blogger, check out http://moviesandmanicures.com/ when you get a chance!) and we played three rounds of Castles of Mad King Ludwig over Christmas. We had a lot of fun and it was a great way to spend time together, so I recommend it for any lovebirds out there as well.

 

Board Game of the Week- Battleship (Salvo Rules)

  • Game Title: Battleship
  • Release Date: 1931
  • Number of Players: 2
  • Average Game Time: 30 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Milton Bradley
  • Website: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/2425/battleship
  • Game Designer: Antoine Bauza
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: Yes (newer versions only)

It’s not that often that I choose to delve into games from the 30’s for a Board Game of the Week, mostly because the assumption is that if a game has been around for over 80 years, it’s not exactly new and so it’s harder to write interesting stories. Battleship would seem to be one of those types of games; pretty much anybody from my childhood, my parents’ childhood, and even my grandparents’ childhood has played the game or at least knows of its existence. One of the games that has withstood the test of time, multiple different versions and reiterations of Battleship have been created to keep the game popular through the decades. I had an anniversary Battleship as well as a Star Wars Battleship when I was a kid, so I’ve known the basic rules for a long time and remember them to this day.

Star Wars Gaactic Battle

For a while I have felt that Battleship is one of those games that is fun, but there isn’t too much variety to it. Luckily for me, when I pulled out my classic Battleship game and played a few rounds with my sister’s fiancé I was introduced to a whole new way of playing Battleship; the Salvo rules variation.

Salvo is a great example of a rules variation helping make a good game great. Salvo is actually listed as a recommended game type in the Battleship rulebook for advanced players, but the rules are fairly simple so you don’t have to be a master to play. The salvo rules are the same as regular Battleship rules, except that instead of one shot per round a
player gets one shot for every ship they have. This means that at the start of the game you have five shots, and as time goes by and you lose ships you Battleship board gameget less and less until you lose all of your ships. If on any of your shots you hit a ship, your opponent must tell you where you hit and what ship it was. This speeds up the game significantly and also provides an added layer of strategy for when you’ve hit someone. Ultimately it’s a simple change, but it provides better results in my opinion compared to the traditional version. There is an element of luck to it because if you lose a ship early and have less shots to work with you are at a big disadvantage, but from the times I have played salvo I found that it stayed pretty even no matter how the first few games started solely due to the volume of opportunities to get a hit on your opponent.
Another version of the Battleship game with an added layer of complexity is the advanced salvo variation, which includes the same rules as salvo except when a player gets a hit the opponent doesn’t say which shot hit or what ship they hit, and only says the number of times they hit in that round. This is a significantly harder style of play and requires paper and abattleship pieces pencil available because you will need to write down as much information as possible each turn to help figure out which of your shots was a hit. For example, if on your first turn you choose A2, B7, H5, G9, and A10 as your five shots and your opponent tells you that you hit twice, that’s not a lot of information to go on. If you don’t keep a record of the hits and do some experimenting to figure out where those hits came from, it will be impossible for you to keep track of everything as the game progresses. This type of game can be a lot of fun if you play it right, but can also be very frustrating if you don’t keep organized and use your shots wisely.

Ultimately Battleship was a fun game by itself, but playing the Salvo or Advanced Salvo version is a good way to try something new with an older game. For those of you who haven’t played the salvo rules, I recommend picking up your old copy or buying a new one and giving it a shot (no pun intended).

battleship-board-game

Jack’s Rating (salvo): 4/5 stars

Jack’s Rating (advanced salvo): 4.5/5 stars

Tabletop Monthly, Family Subscription

IMG_2818

With the holidays coming and going, I finally had some time to take a look at the second box I received from Tabletop Monthly. This is actually perfect timing, because it looks like Tabletop Monthly has officially begun their services as of January 1st! A quick recap for those of you who forgot, Tabletop Monthly is an up and coming company that sells subscriptions for monthly mystery boxes of games and accessories. They have two different types of subscriptions, one for more hardcore strategy games and one for lighter, family games. I’ve already reviewed my copy of the hardcore subscription, so this time I’ve taken a look at the Family subscription. Let’s get to it!

Board Game, Eat Me If You Can A smaller game with cards and tokens, this Iello game focuses on rotating rounds where players play as either the wolf, Little Red Riding Hood, the three little pigs, or the sevin young kids. When you’re the wolf you try to surprise the other players and avoid traps set by everyone else. A cute adaptation/combination of multiple children’s stories including an evil wolf, the game looks slightly more complicated than I initially anticipated, but it seems like it’s easy enough to pick up. I had heard of this game before and was interested in playing, so it’s a great addition to my collection.

IMG_2823

Card Game, Timeline: Historical Events A card game based on historical events, timeline focuses on playing historical cards in order from your hand until you use up all of your cards. If you play a card in the wrong order, you have to draw another one from the pile. Getting the correct timeline becomes more difficult as cards are played out. I’m not much of a history buff, but I’ll admit I’m intrigued with this game. I feel like depending on the cards in your hand it could be really easy or really difficult. For example, one of the cards is “Fall of the Berlin Wall” and another card is “The invention of Chinese Calligraphy”. I plan on trying this game out with some of my history buff friends soon.

Mini Game, Bus: Transit Demands ItNow this game is the most intriguing to me- the size of the game is smaller than a stack of gum,IMG_2821 but inside there are 30 road cards that create a fairly engaging game IMG_2822when spread out.  Created by a company called Perplext, Bus focused on players navigating b
us routes based on randomly laid out roads. After the road is created, each player then chooses what they think is the most efficient route to pick up passengers without driving too far to earn points. The fact that I can fit the game in my pocket is certainly appealing. I plan on taking this game on road trips in the future.

Overall I have enjoyed both boxes that I received from Tabletop Monthly. I like the games from the Family box more, but the expansions and accessories from the Hardcore box are cool value-adds to the box. I think that you can enjoy subscribing to both depending on your preferences with games. Ultimately it’s a fun way to increase your game collection without breaking the bank, as well as potentially being a good gift idea for board game enthusiast friends.

Board Game of the Week- Castles of Mad King Ludwig

Before I start my first post of 2016, a quick note to all of my followers and readers out there- thanks so much for all of your support as I’ve started my blogging adventures in 2015. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and I hope you all have too. 2016 has a lot of great stuff in store and I will continue to write and learn, so I hope even better things await in the upcoming months. For everyone reading this, I hope you have an amazing year and the future is bright for you. Now let’s get to it!

IMG_2810

Game Title: Castles of Mad King Ludwig

  • Release Date: 2014
  • Number of Players: 1-4
  • Average Game Time: 45-90 minutes (my games all lasted about 45 minutes)
  • Game Publisher: Bezier Games
  • Website: http://beziergames.com/collections/all-games/products/castles
  • Game Designer: Ted Alspach
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: No (available online)

I was lucky enough to receive a number of board games over the holidays, so I have a lot of great material to write about over the next few weeks. One of the gems of my new board game collection is the Bezier Games castle-building game Castles of Mad King Ludwig. For those of you who enjoy random historical tidbits, King Ludwig was actually a real king of Bavaria in the 1800’s who was known for spending ridiculous amounts of money on extravagant castles and construction projects. His penchant for spending money ultimately was used as justification for declaring him insane by his cabinet in an effort to depose him. In Castles of Mad King Ludwig, you channel your inner architect and try to appease the Mad King by building the most impressive castle possible.

King Ludwig

Looks pretty mad to me…

The object of the game is to score as many points as possible based on the rooms you play, along with special bonus points from completing certain tasks and gaining the King’s favor. The game setup is that every round, cards from the Room Deck are drawn to determine what size rooms will be played for the round. These room tiles, with varying points and effects for each, are placed in a “bidding” area with different cash values associated with them. One player in the round is the “Master Builder”, who chooses where each room goes in the bidding area which determines how much it will cost for that round. Next, the player to the Master Builder’s left buys IMG_2817any of the rooms he/she wants and pays the Master Builder for the cost, then plays the rooms in his/her castle area. Each room has a different effect after it is played, which can get you more money, points, or bonus cards that have different effects. Play continues to the next player on the left, until it is the Master Builder’s turn. The Master Builder then can buy whatever rooms are left (if there are any) by paying the bank. Once the Master Builder finishes his/her turn, the person to the left becomes Master Builder for the next round. Once all of the Room Deck cards have been used up, the game is over and points are calculated.

I must admit that when I first opened the box to this game, I was fairly overwhelmed at the sheer amount of pieces involved. In addition to all of the different rooms that are available, there are two sets of cards, 24 favor tiles, a Master Builder token, player aids and markers, 4 separate pieces to form the board, and 4 foyers whiIMG_2814ch act as the starting point to your rooms. The first time you play the game, expect to take a very long time organizing and setting everything up (once you’ve played the game a few times it gets a lot faster). Because of how many pieces are involved, make sure that you have a lot of space available to play, especially if you have four players.

The rules of the game are fairly straightforward, though it does take a few rounds to understand the strategy of playing certain rooms in certain areas. Ultimately you can play any room pretty much anywhere you want as long as there is an entrance from another room and no rooms overlap, but you get added bonuses for having certain types of rooms adjacent to other types (bedrooms next to a hallway, living rooms next to food rooms, etc.). I once had a castle which had a Sauna attached to the Master Bedroom, while my girlfriend’s castle didn’t have a single place to sleep by the end of the game. Ultimately the structure of the castle doesn’t really have to make sense, though the more you follow a straightforward placement of rooms the easier it is to add on to your castle in the later rounds.

IMG_2813

I thoroughly enjoyed playing this game- the style feels like a mesh of games like Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, and 7 Wonders, while also adding in new elements to it. I’ve played the game three times with two players and once with three, and there were major differences between those two game types and the strategy you need to use to win. I would like to try it with four players soon, as I’ve heard that it is the recommended way to play. Every game you play will end up differently, since there are more room tiles than room cards so you will have a different set of rooms available to you at different times each game. The types of rooms available are fun to look at, and seeing what you’ve built when the game is over is a lot of fun (my sister and her fiancé actually recommended we use it as a D&D Dungeon randomizer). The complexity of the setup and initial mastery of the rules does take some time, but once you get the hang of it games go by quickly and are great to play. I would recommend the game to more advanced board game enthusiasts as opposed to the casual player, but all types of people will enjoy the thrill of the game’s mechanics and theme.

Jack’s Rating: 4/5 stars