Birthday Board Game Gifts

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This past Monday I was reminded of how truly lucky I am. I celebrated my 25th Birthday and was overwhelmed with love and support from my friends and family. Well wishes, cards, phone calls, everyone who reached out in some way made me feel thankful. One of the ways people made me feel particularly appreciated was by giving me board games. I received 6 board games this year, all valuable additions to my collection that I look forward to playing. Here is a list of the games I received, along with some additional detail on each game and the people who gave them to me:

From my Parents:

Doctor Who Yahtzee- My folks are very supportivIMG_2862e of my passion for board games. The vast majority of my board game collection has come from my family, and since I played so many games with them when I was younger they have a good eye for what I like. They definitely knew what they were doing this time too, as they combined two of my favorite things in this gift. Yahtzee is a game that is pretty unpopular in some gaming circles, but it holds a special place in my heart because I remember playing it with my Gran whenever I visited my Dad’s family. Board games were always popular in the Dixon household, and Yahtzee was one of Gran’s favorites. In addition, Doctor Who is one of my favorite TV shows, so it has added value in comparison to the regular Yahtzee game.

From my friend Annie:

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Doctor Who Monopoly- Once again combining my love of board games with British TV
shows, my friend and neighbor Annie was kind enough to get me a gift for my Birthday. I haven’t known her that long but she’s a really sweet person and I appreciate the gift immensely. I’ve written about Monopoly numerous times so it’s well documented how much I enjoy collecting these boards, so this fits perfectly into my interests with board games.

From my Girlfriend Mary:

I’ve mentioned my girlfriend, Mary, before on this blog, but just to give you some perspective: Mary is into superheroes, board games, video games, is a movie buff, and overall is probably as big a nerd as I am. Basically she’s awesome, and so the fact that she got me 4 board games is just another sign that I’m with someone who really gets me. Here’s the full list of games:

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Zombiecide –The first game on the list is Zombiecide, which we’ve both heard great things about, but have never played personally. It is supposedly a pretty intense cooperative game with ten different levels with varying difficulty for each. I’m seriously looking forward to trying this game out- be on the lookout for a post on it sometime in the next few weeks!

The Resistance – I admittedly haven’t heard or seenIMG_2860 much about this game before, but from what I can tell The Resistance is a tabletop party game based around a dystopian universe where a group is trying to overcome a corrupt government. I love dystopian novels and themes, so that immediately stands out to me. Apparently the game relies on deception and misleading the other players, so it could be a Sheriff of Nottingham-esque game style. I’ll be sure to see what it’s like soon enough!

One Night Ultimate Werewolf- Known to my girlfriend as “The IMG_2859Werewolf Game”, I’ve been hearing good things about this for a while so it wasn’t surprising when I unwrapped it. A fast-paced game (only allowing for ten minutes of play), the game apparently has an app that links to it and the board game is an expansion of that. Everyone playing gets a specific role and then… something happens. I honestly don’t know yet, but I know it’s a lot of fun and I have a group of friends lining up to play!

Space Sheep- By far the best gift I got for my birthday this year, I saw this game at the IMG_2863board game store Games Unlimited in Pittsburgh and was immediately drawn to it. Unfortunately I had already decided on the game I wanted to buy, so in order to avoid spending too much money I didn’t get it. Luckily enough Mary was there, and she was kind enough to buy the game for me. Now, for those of you with a keen eye, you will notice that this game is a parody of Star Wars… that involves Sheep. Here is a basic description of the game: “You are a Sheep. You are a Defender in the Strategic Sheep Command. You have trained all of your career for this moment in history. You know how to defeat Wolf – Ewe’s The Force…” Another cooperative game with some obvious wit and humor, I can already tell that I’m going to have a ton of fun trying this one out.

 

Once again, thanks so much to everyone who reached out for my Birthday. I can’t wait to try some of these games out, and rest assured I will be keeping my blog updated with my experiences along the way!

 

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Board Game Expansions/Alternates

At the risk of sounding like an old man, I’ve always preferred the good old days with games where it was a one-time purchase for the product and that was it. There might have been a few alternative versions to games, but they were separate from the main game and had their own style/content to offer. More recently, it feels like alternates and expansions are being made en masse as a way of capitalizing on a game’s popularity. Most of these expansions or alternates provide some additional perk or benefit, but if you really look closely it can sometimes feel like you’re paying just as much if not more to expand on a game when you’d rather it simply come with the original. This is especially true with video games; my N64 games had hours upon hours of content with no additional purchases associated with them. However, now when I’m playing on my PS4 it feels like every game is somewhat incomplete due to all of the DLC that you have to pay money for. Now, if an expansion is more than just a new outfit or weapon and actually significantly enhances the story then I will be much more likely to give it a shot, but I will always be slightly skeptical until proven otherwise.

Board game expansions usually have a different feel to them. Sure, they aren’t necessarily needed to play the game, but they always add a new layer, a new strategy, and sometimes even allows for more players. Alternate versions of games can also have a lot of cool new differences to their originals, adding different gameplay and new themes. These kinds of games are the reason why I try to keep an open mind when an expansion to a board game I love comes out, or there’s a new game based on one I’ve played before. So as a tribute to the games that keep on giving, here is my list of 5 great board game expansions/alternates:

1) Settlers of Catan: All of Them-This might be a bit of a cop out, but there are so many expansions and changes to Settlers of Catan thaSeafarer'st it’s impossible to choose just one. Other than the most basic expansion which bumps up the number of players from 4 to 6, you also have the Seafarer’s Expansion, then Cities and Knights, Traders and Barbarians, etc. Then on top of that there are alternate games that are separate from the original. As one of the premier board games of our generation, it’s no surprise that Settlers has found ways to grow on its success through expansions. If you haven’t tried any of the cool additions to the game, I definitely recommend them, especially the Seafarer’s expansion.

2) 7 Wonders: Leaders- An add-on that is actually less known than t7 Wonders Leadershe 7 Wonders: Cities expansion, Leaders adds additional regular cards and also brings in 42 historical leader cards, which you play at the beginning of each age. It also adds another Wonder so that 8 people can play rather than 7. Overall if you like 7 Wonders, the Leaders expansion does a great job of adding additional layers to it and also giving an extra person a chance to play.

 

3) Munchkin Card Expansions- One of the best parts about the game Munchkin is all of the hilarious cards that can be played. From monsters to power-ups toMunchkin Clerical Errors curses, each card has its own personality and is a great way to make you laugh. While the expansion packs don’t create any major changes to the
game, the added cards are a great way to keep the game fresh and add to the laughs. Expansion 3: Clerical Errors is my personal favorite of these expansions. The game also has a number of sequels (Zombies, Apocalypse, etc.) for anyone who wants to try out a different theme other than the original D&D spoof.

4) King of New York-When Iello created King of Tokyo, they made a game that is immersive and clever and yet somehow straightforward to play. The concerns I hKing of New Yorkad with King of New York went two separate ways: either they would make the game exactly like the original, or they would completely abandon the style and make a completely unimpressive game instead. Luckily enough neither of those things happened, and the game King of New York found a way to take the same principles of King of Tokyo and expand/revise them to make something different, but with the same feel as the original. Having both games in your board game collection is definitely worthwhile.

5) Ticket to Ride: Europe- Ticket to Ride is one of my all-time favorite gamesTicket to Ride Europe, so when I tried out Europe I was surprised at the subtle yet powerful differences between the two. It took some time to get used to the different geography, but the addition of ferries and tunnels plus the additional railroad markers made the game subtly more challenging. While this version might not be able to replace the original for me, it was a lot of fun and I plan on adding it to my collection soon.

 

Board Game of The Week- Hanabi

  • Game Title: Hanabi
  • Release Date: 2010
  • Number of Players: 2-5
  • Average Game Time: 25 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Cocktail Games
  • Website:  http://cocktailgames.com/en/cocktailgames/produit/hanabi
  • Game Designer: Antoine Bauza
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: Uncommon but Yes

Hanabi LogoCooperative board/card games have been becoming more popular over the past few years, with games such as Pandemic becoming more common for mass consumption. Cooperative games can have varying types and nuances to how they’re played, but the major theme is that rather than playing against each other, you play together against the game as a common enemy. Usually this involves completing some type of objective in order to win, while not meeting the objective will cause you to lose. Hanabi is a cooperative card game that actually goes by a different objective- work together to earn as many points as possible, with a point scale giving your group a grade at the end of the game. There aren’t any official winners or losers, but the competitive nature of the game is still tough to beat as you attempt to get a perfect score.

The games’ theme is preparing for a fireworks performance- in order to create the best fireworks display possible, the players are trying to play cards in order based on color. There are five cHanabi 1-5olors of fireworks, all with numbered cards of 1-5, and the objective is to play all five of each color before the time runs out. The big catch in this game is that instead of players looking at their own cards, they face the cards outwards so that all players can see the cards except for the person holding them. Rather than simply telling a player which card to play, the other players have to provide hints about how many of a certain color or number is in the player’s hand. A player can also choose to play one of the cards in his/her hand; if they chose a card that chronologically matches what’s already been played, the card is added to the stack of the card’s color. Otherwise, the card is discarded. You also have a certain number of clues that you can give, which can be increased by a player intentionally discarding a card. The game ends when there are no more cards to use, and then points are tallied based on what cards were played by the end of the game.

Hanabi has a surprising amount of strategy involved considering how few pieces it includes and how the game is structured. Each player has to use his/her turn wisely in order for the team to succeed, and the way clues are used will drastically effeHanabi Rowsct a player’s choice to play or discard cards. Memorization is also a key factor in the game, because you need to remember where each card is based on the clues you are given. The game is a lot of fun right off the bat as you are gathering information about your hand, and as more cards are played it is more difficult to play the cards in the correct order. There are also fewer of the higher value cards in the deck, so if you accidentally discard a 5 you can’t get a perfect score because there is only 5 card for each color available. All of this combines strategy combines into a game of subtle hints, careful decision making, and surprising amounts of tension whenever a card is played.

The biggest advantage of the game to me was that it wasn’t just a cooperative game, but individual play also was a heavy factor in success. In games like Pandemic, the most experienced player will sometimes take control of the game and tell others what to do in order to have a cohesive strategy throughout the game. The downside to this type of play is that players who are newer and aren’t a part of the strategy will be excluded and will most likely not have any fun. Hanabi doesn’t have this issue, because no matter what clues are given in the game ultimately the player who holds the cards is responsible for how they are played. A perfect combination of teamwork and individual merit, Hanabi allows for both working with others and making individual decisions in the same atmosphere. The game also has a great aesthetic appeal, as well a simple yet elegant design that is easy to travel with and use in most settings.

I didn’t find many downsides to this game, but one thing I did see a lot of was players trying to influence the game with facial expressions. A lot of the time when giving a clue, a player would talk really slowly or give a particular look in order to try and influence the other player’s actions.

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YOU HAVE ONE THREE! I REPEAT: ONE. THREE!!!

I found myself doing this a lot myself, mostly because it is easy to misconstrue someone’s intent when they are giving a clue and sometimes a player will accidentally discard a card he/she should have played, or vice versa. I felt like using this advantage, while entertaining in a way, took away some of the challenge. I think that in order to get the full experience, clues should be given in a straightforward manner and the player getting the clue should interpret its meaning without outside help.

If you like card games that involve a lot of strategy, I recommend this game as a good one to add to your collection. I also think it is a good option for younger audiences as a way of building memorization and teamwork skills.

Jack’s Rating: 4/5 Stars