New Games for 2017

As always, my friends and family were extremely generous over the holidays this year. I was lucky enough to receive a number of new games for Christmas that I am looking forward to playing, some of which are particularly interesting to me. Here is a list of the games I received and how I got them:

Game I Got: BANG!

Where I Got It: Secret Santa (work)

Have I Played it Yet?: No

Any time you get a Wild West style game with English and Italian directions, you know that you have an interesting gem of a game. BANG! is a competitive game with 4-7 players that involves a number of characters (7 unique ones) and roles for each players such as Sheriff, Deputy, Outlaw, Renegade. Each player plays cards to shoot at other players, boost your stats and skills, and heal yourself after wounds. My coworker Maddy got me the game as a gift for our Secret Santa. She gave it very good reviews, and even though I haven’t gotten to play it yet I’m looking forward to trying it out on the next game night!

Game I Got: Clue, Firefly Edition

Where I Got It: Roommate Gift Exchange

Have I Played it Yet?: No

Similar to the multiple different versions of Monopoly I’ve collected, I am never against getting different versions of a classic game. My roommate Ian found a game that is a perfect fit for me- Clue with Firefly characters. The premise is the same as traditional Clue: you travel from room to room of the Serenity and accuse characters of the show by using items to aid the Alliance in kidnapping River. The items are all rather odd (Wash’s dinosaurs are an item, for example) but as someone who loved Firefly I think it’s a great addition to my collection.

Game I Got: The Oregon Trail Card Game

Where I Got It: Gift from Parents

Have I Played it Yet?: Yes

Continuing on the nostalgia train, The Oregon Trail was a staple of my childhood. Almost everyone has either played the original game or a newer version, and the Card Game equivalent definitely plays on the experiences of the computer game beloved by many. The object of the game is to travel as a group from Independence, MO to Willamette Valley, OR as a group. You move along the path by playing road cards with varying effects, and do your best to avoid the disasters that crop up on the Trail. The game is cooperative and only one player needs to reach the finish line, so I would expect to see at least a few people dying of dysentery or any other number of diseases and calamities along the way. I gave the game a shot and it is a simple concept that walked me down memory lane for a while… until I died from cholera.

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Kickstarter Campaign: Sans Allies

sans allies logo

Over the last 6 months of blogging, I have been lucky enough to connect with a number of other bloggers who share my passion for board games. Geoffrey Greer, writer of Past Go Gaming & Geeking, has been a big part of that connection. Geoff is a teacher with a passion for history and geeky topics, so he has a ton of great articles about a number of interesting subjects from Monopoly in American Culture to Howard the Duck. Going back the past few months, it’s rare to see a post I’ve made that doesn’t include a like or a comment from Geoff. I have always appreciated his activity on my blog, and the articles he writes are all very cool, so when I heard about his new game I jumped on the chance to try it out. Geoff and his wife Valerie have created a solitaire game called Sans Allies that is currently on Kickstarter. They have also added a prototype online, which I printed out and played over the weekend. Below is a brief description of the game and its rules, as well as a few important points about the game’s strengths and why I think you should back it on Kickstarter!

Sans Allies is a single player game with a very similar style to Pyramid Solitaire. The game has a 20th century war theme and revolves around fighting through enemy lines to capture the Enemy Capital before time runs out. The Enemy Capital is always at the very top of the pyramid, which means that in order to reach it you have to make your way through a number of different types of land, all while trying to build up your own forces and stop the enemy from developing their “ultimate weapon.” The game mechanics seem daunting when you first open up the instructions, but they are quick to pick up as long as you thoroughly read through the rule book before you play and then keep it on hand the first time you try the game. All in all, it only took me about 10-15 minutes to learn the “Limited War” gameplay (simplified rules) and only an additional 5-10 minutes to learn the “Total War” rules (complete rules). The first game I played took about an hour, but once I got the hang of it and was playing at a faster pace I found myself finishing a round in slightly over 45 minutes.

The game feels a lot like a single-player version of Risk to me – in order to “invade” a space and move closer towards the Enemy Capital, you roll two dice and either lose or maintain troops based on the number you rolled. This means that how and when you sans allies cardsdedicate your troops to an invasion is a crucial part of the game. You gain troops each turn, but after every turn the enemy has a chance at improving their ultimate weapon, so you can’t sit around and stockpile troops for too long. Sans Allies is also similar to the game Axis and Allies because there are different types of troops that can be used; you have personnel (ground troops), vehicles (tanks), aircraft (planes), and ships. Each type of territory you try and invade has specific types of troops that can and can’t access it. For example, only aircraft and ships can invade sea territories, and only aircraft and personnel can reach mountain territories.

There are plenty of other rules and tactics to the game, but I don’t have the space to go into everything in this post. Instead, here are the main reasons why I believe that Sans Allies is well worth backing on Kickstarter:

  • Easy to pick up – I mentioned before that it took me about 20 minutes total to learn the complete rules of the game (both Limited and Total War rules). This may seem like a significant amount of time, but that is mostly because I read through the entire instruction book once and re-read specific chapters beforeSans Allies 1 trying to play the game. This meant that by the time I actually started playing the Limited War version of the game, I only had to check the rules a few times for my first play through. When I upgraded to Total War for my second play-through, I felt comfortable enough with the Limited War rules that I only checked the rules for Total War additions. Ultimately I’ve played through the game four times in total, and feel like I know pretty much everything I need to play the game moving forward.
  • Challenging (but not too challenging) Gameplay – I’ve found that game difficulty is a big part of what makes a game good or great. If a game is too simple, it’s boring, but if it’s too complicated nobody will want to play it. Sans Allies found a good balance with its combination of strategy and luck, giving it a feel of a game that isn’t easy but is certainly beatable. I won each game that I played, but there were definitely some rounds that were pretty close and I never felt like the game was “in the bag.”
  • Easy to Carry (good travel game) – Speaking of in the bag, since the game is mostly made up of cards and no boards are necessary, it is the perfect game to take on a trip. Whether it’s a family vacation or a work function, sometimes having a game you can play during your travels can be a lifesaver. Most people bring a deck of cards and play solitaire, so why not enhance your experience by bringing a more complex travel-sized game instead?
  • Cheap – Large-scale board games are getting more and more expensive as time goes by; most games nowadays cost around $50-$60, and while they are usually worth the price in my opinion it’s difficult to justify buying certain games because of the price tag. Smaller games usually register around the $30 range, so Sans Allies being $20 for this Kickstarter is a good deal in my opinion. I have enjoyed playing the prototype online, but as someone really into the aesthetics of a game I’m seriously looking forward to getting a copy of the real thing!
  • Good way to pass time – As someone who is almost constantly busy, this isn’t something that I experience very often…but I could see Sans Allies as being a great game for people with an hour to kill who want to do something different for a stretch. It’s also a game that you can leave and come back to if necessary without losing your place in the game.
  • “Scratches the Itch” – Geoff used this phrase in his video about the game (you can find it on the Kickstarter page) and I think it’s extremely accurate. Sometimes you’re just in the mood for a strategy game, and maybe you don’t have anyone around to play with or you don’t feel like getting a group together at the time. Sans Allies is the perfect game for that situation, because it’s a game that gives you what you’re looking for in a fun and engaging way.

So there you have it – I really hope you consider giving this game a shot. You can try out the prototype yourself, or just take my word for it and wait until the real game is out. Whatever you decide, I hope you know that any pledges you can make are much appreciated. If you have any questions about the game, you can contact Geoff at geoff@pastgo.net or on Twitter at @PastGoGames. And once again for good measure, here is the link to the Sans Allies Kickstarter. Thanks to anyone who is able to provide their support!

sans allies kickstarter

Board Game of the Week- King of Tokyo

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  • Game Title: King of Tokyo
  • Release Date: 2011
  • Number of Players: 2-6
  • Average Game Time: 30 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Iello
  • Website: iellogames.com/KingOfTokyo.html
  • Game Designer: Richard Garfield
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: Yes

I once read an article that discussed the idea that a number of successful games are usually centered on themes that aren’t particularly interesting in real life. There is some truth to that: games like Settlers of Catan, Monopoly, etc. all have fairly straightforward concepts based around tasks or stories that are mundane and unimpressive outside of the board game realm. King of Tokyo takes this idea, smashes it into the ground, and sets it on fire while laughing gleefully.
The theme of King of Tokyo is this: you are a giant monster trying your best to infiltrate and destroy Tokyo all while undermining the other monsters trying to do the same thing, ultimately powering your way to the top and earning the title of the King of Tokyo.  Sounds simple enough right? In reality, the game is a predominately dice-rolling game with inIMG_2756tense amounts of strategy and some power-up cards sprinkled in for extra fun. The game starts off with everyone at 0 victory points and 10 health. The object of the game is to gain 20 victory points all while keeping your health from dropping to 0. You can victory points by rolling the dice, paying for victory point cards, and surviving inside Tokyo where you’re more likely to be attacked.

The dice rolling mechanic is very similar to Yahtzee- you have 6 custom dice which you roll all at one time, then geIMG_2755t two additional dice rolls where you can choose to pick up and roll any of the dice you had thrown previously. After you’re done with your three rolls, you immediately “resolve the dice” by taking any necessary actions that come about from the dice you’v
e rolled. Each die has 6 numbers/markings on it, and the goal of your dice rolls is to either match up the same number together to earn victory points, stockpile health/energy, or attack your opponents. After the dice have been resolved, you can buy any of the face-up cards to power up your monster and then use any effects from cards you want, and then your turn ends.

Ultimately this game is a lot of fun- there is a lot of strategy revolving around spending your time in or outside of Tokyo. Staying in Tokyo gets you victory points, but also means yKingOfTokyo_3Dboxou are a target for opponents to attack you. You can only stay in Tokyo when you have 5 health, so stockpiling health and energy is important. The cards bring an additional layer to it, and while the game can take some time getting the hang of it’s a lot less complicated than it originally looks. I particularly like the strategy of the dice roll, where you have to decide what to focus on during a particular turn. Choosing between victory points, health, energy, and hurting your opponents can be the difference between progress and defeat. Artistically the game is also very appealing, with six individual monsters that all look really cool (they somehow find a way to make mecha-bunny particularly impressive) and the cards each have a unique cartoon picture that makes the game engaging to the eye. I would have liked to see each monster have their own special ability to make your choice of character more important to the overall strategy, but even without that there are plenty of different paths you can take to claim the title of King.

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This game is suited for people of all ages and groups of all sizes- Iello really knocked it out of the park on this one. Plus, giant fictional monsters fighting each other in a large populated city should always be enjoyed no matter what the context.

Jack’s Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Board Game of the Week- 7 Wonders

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  • Game Title: 7 Wonders
  • Release Date: 2010
  • Number of Players: 2-7
  • Average Game Time: 20-30 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Repos Production
  • Website: http://rprod.com/index.php?page=description-22
  • Game Designer: Antoine Bauza
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: Yes

Some board games have a simple style that you learn quickly and then play, without any additional strategy involved. In contrast, there are games that take a lot longer to learn and even once you’ve learned, there is still an opportunity to learn and improve because of the strategy involved in mastering the game. 7 Wonders definitely falls into the latter type of game. I’ve tried to explain the game multiple times to new players and have always received looks of confusion and frustration right away. However, once they start to play and get the experience of “learning by doing”, it all starts to make sense.

I’m not going to go into all of the details of how to play the game (I would be writing a 10 page essay), but the basic premise and rules I can try to explain. To start, each player randomly chooses an individual board with one of the 7 wonders of the world: Babylon, Gizah, Rhodes, Alexandria, Halikarnossos, Olympia, and Ephesos. These boards each have different resources that they provide as well as different “wonders” that have additional benefits as the game goes on. Gameplay is completed through a series of cards that are distributed evenly through three “ages”. There are multiple different types of cards, such as resource cards, science cards, army cards, and more. Using the cards that fit with your Wonder and your overall strategy is the key to win.

To play the game, each player takes his/her cards, chooses a card to play, and plays it at the same time as the other players. The hands are then given to the player directly to the left, which becomes the hand used to play the next card. This process continues until each player has two cards left, when the players each choose one card to play then discard the other. Finally to end the age, each player goes to war with the players directly to their left and right, providing points to whomever has the most army cards. The second age follows the same process except the players hand their cards off to the right, and then the third age switches back to the left. After all three ages are completed, points are calculated based on the cards played, along with war points and points from Wonders. The player with the most total points from all of these factors wins.image2

Reading my explanation of how the game works probably doesn’t do it justice, but I hope that it gets across the vast number of strategies and cards that are involved in every game. That’s the biggest benefit of 7 Wonders by far, is that you can use countless different strategies to succeed. You can build up armies, improve your sciences, create more culture through monuments, or build your wonders to gain points, and any mix or combination and more will lead to your total score. Another advantage of the game is that once you get the hang of it, it isn’t a particularly long game. You can feasibly play the game 3 or 4 times within a two hour period, which gives you the chance to try out new Wonders and strategies and keep things fresh.

Ultimately the downsides of the game are focused around the steep learning curve. I’ve had friends who tried to get into the game but didn’t have the patience to learn the rules and ended up losing interest before they got the hang of it. It’s also a game where you will be constantly checking the rulebook because the card descriptions are extremely vague. I’ve played the game dozens of times and still don’t remember what certain cards or wonders do. Finally, the game is fun with any number of players but when you get to 5+ it gets harder to keep your area organized because so much space is taken up with your board, cards, coins, etc.

While the game may not be for everyone, 7 Wonders is a great game to play in the right setting. It’s also a good game to have as a staple in your game nights. I also recommend taking a look at the expansions out there, because once you expert the game it’s fun to add in additional layers to it.

Jack’s Rating: 3/5 stars

Old School versus New School board games

Old School vs. New School comment below

As a 24-year-old, many people have told me that I’m now considered a “responsible adult.” What this means to me is that I pay my own bills, do my own laundry, deal with any issues that come up in my life, and, most importantly, talk about how older stuff is way better than newer stuff. While I begrudgingly deal with the first three parts of adulthood, there is something to be said about the era so eloquently dubbed as “the old school”; it’s got some pretty cool stuff. Board games are a great example of that. Classic games like Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, and Yahtzee are some of the most fun games you can play. Families in particular like playing older games because it’s a good way to bond with older relatives and spend a brief moment in time learning about and understanding the past. Nostalgia runs rampant for me whenever I pull out the Game of Life, which my Dad emphatically dubbed “The Game of Death” after losing to me time and time again. These games were extremely important to my development as a child, so they will always hold a special place in my heart.

All that being said, older games aren’t the only ones with merit. As amazing as the classics are to play, there really is something special about trying out a new board game for the first time. It’s youth personified: the joy of unwrapping the game, learning the rules, and trying to get every advantage you can to win against your friends. And there’s no doubt about it, popular new games are extremely inventive and have an extremely high replay value. I’m confident that in 50+ years, games like Kings of New York and Quirkle will be just as engaging as they are now. The reason that board games are being revitalized isn’t just about the people, or the era we live in; it’s also the new board games and how impressive they have become. Ultimately I have to credit this blog to new board games, because if they didn’t hit the scene I honestly believe that there would significantly less interest in these types of games.

So do I prefer the old school or the new school? My best response to that is “ask me when I’m older.” Because right now, I can’t consider myself a true board game enthusiast without having both types of games at my disposal. Is that a cop out? Probably. Do I expect this opinion to change any time soon? Probably not. But it’s pointless for me to sit here and say that I like one game type more than the other because I like all of them so much. So when you’re sitting down for board game night with whomever you spend your evenings, whether you’re playing Risk or Myth, Sorry or Munchkin, Scrabble or Bananagrams, the year the game was made doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you enjoy it in the present.

So because I’m stuck on the fence, I’m going to let you all decide! Leave a comment below about which types of board game you prefer.

The start of it all- Settlers of Catan

yes we catan

I remember the first time I played the game Settlers of Catan. I was at my neighbor’s house and I sat down with my friend Kristina and her family to play. They proceeded to explain the rules of the game for the next 15 minutes and I nodded politely while not understanding anything they said. It took a while to get the hang of it, and even when I was playing the game I felt like I didn’t fully get all of the rules and strategy, but I ended up winning the game and then immediately going home and telling my parents we needed to buy a copy. Looking back on it, part of me has to wonder why the game caught my attention the way it did.

What is it about Settlers of Catan that makes people excited about board games? At first glance, this instant classic isn’t the type of game you would expect to completely revitalize the board game industry. Now I’m definitely not saying that Settlers is a bad game; it’s one of my all-time favorite board games, and I’ve taught many of my friends how to play with great success. But Settlers isn’t exactly the simplest game to pick up. It can be difficult to learn and the game starts off slowly while you build up resources, so in today’s fast-paced society the assumption is that nobody would have the time or attention span to learn something so complex. This game defies the stereotype of what we’re supposed to want, and yet against all odds it’s brought about a youth movement for tabletop gaming.

Personally I believe that Settlers is the type of game that is built for longevity. It has a compelling style and look that pulls you in, excellent gameplay and a strong social factor to keep you engaged, and an ever-changing layout to keep you coming back for more. Games last about an hour so you have enough time to learn the game and still get engrossed in fields of wheat and mountains of ore while you try and outmaneuver your opponents. Pretty soon you are buying the game (and its many expansions) and teaching your friends how to play, and the cycle continues.

Back in 1995, Klaus Teuber created a game that would change everything. Before Settlers, the only well known board games were older games like Clue and Monopoly that, while fun, have become more classic than groundbreaking. Settlers changed that. The game is complex, colorful and different every single time, and it spurred a new renaissance of board games that ultimately led to more popularity than ever before. The board game industry has begun to thrive, and a large part of that is thanks to Settlers of Catan. Sometimes it’s hard to see, but change can come from anywhere, including from the simple act of sitting down with your neighbors to try something new.

For more information on Settlers of Catan and all the different games and expansions, go to http://www.catan.com

Say Yes to Board Games

Hi – my name is Jack Dixon. I’m 24 years old, I live in Northern Virginia, and I love board games.

I’ve been a fan of board games ever since I was a kid. I played Monopoly and Clue with my family as far back as I can remember. I watched my parents play Scrabble when I was a toddler, and I was obsessed with this cult classic called The a MAZE ing Labyrinth. Whenever I visited extended family, we spent our evenings playing Yahtzee and laughing with my Grandparents. When I wasn’t outside playing capture the flag or kickball, I was usually sitting around a table playing some tabletop classic or exciting new game my parents found for me.

And then I got older, and fell into an age where board games weren’t as “cool.” I switched my primary indoor activity to video games, exchanging Connect 4 with N64 and hanging out with Mario instead of my folks. But here’s the thing – I never completely ignored my penchant for board games either. I always secretly wished that when my friends came over we could all sit around a table and play a game of Risk, and while that would happen every once in a while it was always the exception rather than the norm.

Then, the craziest and most unexpected thing happened: board games became cool again. Games like Settlers of Catan, Apples to Apples (or Cards Against Humanity for the adult-minded), and Pandemic hit stores, and suddenly high school and college kids everywhere started going back to their roots. Now I am able to proudly display my board games in my apartment, and when people ask me how many Monopoly boards I currently own (the answer is 12) it starts up a conversation about all the cool new games out there and how well they are tailored towards the 20-somethings of the world. I’m part of three separate groups of friends that have “board game night” once a week. Last week I taught my roommates how to play Ticket to Ride (a game which I will talk about more in my next post) and we sat around our family room drinking a few beers and chatting while we played well into the night. Board games becoming popular again has completely changed how the youth of the world interact, and it’s a beautiful thing.

My name is Jack Dixon, and I’m a board game enthusiast. And saying yes to board games has provided me with endless joy and excitement. I hope that you get a chance do the same.