New Blogging Host

After nearly 7 years of hosting my own DasBlog instance I’ve moved to a new blogging host. No more manually purging logs, worrying about .NET upgrades, etc. I’m still working on permalink redirects from old posts. RSS feeds should already be getting proper 301 redirects.

Recent Gaming

Life is a bit less hectic these days, which means gaming activity has picked up. I’ve managed to host a few different gaming sessions and even attended one at Mike’s last week. Let’s recap:

Dominant Species

Jacob and I played a two player game of this after Thanksgiving, playing one species each. As many have said, the rules are clear and concise, components are outstanding, and I think there’s a good game in there. Unfortunately I suspect it isn’t optimized for two players, two species. If we try it again with two, we’ll each play two species to introduce more competition and flavor.

The mechanics remind me a bit of the Splotter game Bus – plot your moves out for the turn, and pay close attention to the sequencing and what your opponents are choosing. I supposed you could say the same about Agricola, Pillars of the Earth, and Caylus, but it felt like Bus to me. Jacob ran away with tundras as I underestimated the value of controlling and scoring those each turn. Excited to try this with 3 or 4 players.

London

Played this at Mike’s last weekend. Somewhat dry game but there’s depth there, though I’ll need a few more plays to rule on this one. I had a hard time seeing card combos and strategies emerge – probably not surprising in a first learning game but I usually latch on a bit faster to at least a few concepts. Will be interesting to see strategies emerge on this one.

1850

1850 with Matt, Mike, Eric, and Chris

I hosted a wonderful 18xx session two weekends ago, playing 1850 with five players in about six hours. Great study in contrasting approaches – Chris S was a great operator and engineer (he’s a very skilled and experienced 18xx player) while Mike played the role of investor playing a minimal operating role in the game. They both finished within spitting distance of each other (a virtual tie given the likely banking errors throughout the game) while I pulled up the rear. I missed an opportunity to shift an engine and dump a company about 2/3 through the game and had to make some difficult choices to keep myself in the game (meaning – I still finished last, but could have ended up much worse without some financial engineering). The great thing in my opinion about 18xx is that I generally have as much fun losing in 6 hours as I do winning. Not as much, but just about as much.

7 Wonders

Doug brought over his unplayed copy of 7 Wonders last night as I hosted a regular Tuesday night gaming session. This game is very easy to learn, plays in about 40 minutes, and looks to be a keeper in the mid-filler range. We played twice and in both games scores were close but the player collecting the sets of technologies managed to win. We deduced that even if you aren’t going after that as a primary strategy, you need to be in the technology game or else you’ll cede too many of those cards to your opponents. Mike and I even tried to bury several of them in the second game but Doug still managed to win by focusing on them. Not sure I need to get this game but I do look forward to playing again soon.

BGG.CON 2010 Report

I thrust myself back into the world of gaming this weekend with my return to BGG.CON 2010. This convention keeps me coming back largely because of it’s simplicity. It is a relatively short direct flight away and a short free shuttle ride away from the DFW airport. There are special events that I mostly ignore, and any more I don’t even bring games with me. The game library is simply too vast and convenient and often leads to surprising and delightful choices. And, as you’ll see, it often leads to replaying classics that otherwise might be neglected.

I applaud Aldie, Derk, and the rest of the BoardGameGeek crowded for having the vision and tenacity to start, grow, and sustain BGG.CON. They listen to feedback and make adjustments every year, but are not shy about sticking to what they feel is the right recipe for a boardgame oriented convention.

The accommodations were good and could even be great if the restaurant and bar service were better. The food and beer served are first rate for hotel fare but they always seem to be understaffed for the volume. They must lose a lot of revenue as people leave before ordering a second drink, or because the wait staff feels compelled to comp the second drink because service is slow (happened to us twice). Still, the menu is good and we always enjoyed our food.

Let’s get to the gaming. Once again my gaming activity was all with Jim, and also mostly with his friend and co-worker Bob who is also from Indianapolis. I played a mix of classics and new-to-me games, many from my hope to play list that I posted last week. Sadly I did not get to try 7 Wonders – there were very few copies available and I never felt like waiting for a turn in the “hot games” arena. Same for Civilization, but I’m sure I’ll here a report from my group soon.

New (to me) games

Carson City

Someone commented on my post from earlier this year that I need to try Carson City and I so I did. Liked it enough to purchase the game (arrived yesterday!) and I look forward to trying it with two or three players. Good mix of worker placement, geometric placement, and direct player interaction.

Macao

Jeff was eager to to teach us a game that I had overlooked (surprisingly – it is the 13th game in the Alea big box series). Glad I tried this – surprisingly good Euro with dice, plenty of forecasting and planning, and very simple rules. Purchased!

Claustrophobia

This game wasn’t even on my radar going into the convention but Jim mentioned that it was a new entry in the short duration dungeon crawl genre (like the next game on my list, Castle Ravenloft). This is quite different as it is a two player “heroes vs monsters” game and we loved it. My only concern is the lack of depth and variety in the heros and monstors, but the game is begging for expansion which I suspect will come next year. Very quick to play and easy to learn and it has surprising tactical depth.

Castle Ravenloft

This is a cooperative dungeon crawl game that is modeled after D&D 4th edition (many of the player powers are derivatives of D&D powers) and while we got crushed in our only try it was quite fun. Descent, while a great game, can be a burden to setup and play (3-4 hours is a minimum IMO) so if you are looking for a comparable experience in a 1-2 hour package this might fit.

Cyclades

I’m glad I tried this one before buying as I’m not sure there’s much of a game here. Multi-player wargames require a certain finesse and constraint and I’m not sure this game has either – I think I’d find myself wishing I was getting out Nexus Ops or Small World each time I played this. The cards are fun but can create some crazy combos and chains that can add quite a bit of chaos to the game.

1861

We set aside Saturday for our big 18xx play and with Nate Sandall willing to teach and the game conveniently in the library, 1861 was our choice. This one reminds me a bit of 18EU – major public companies primarily form from minor companies merging. The game ramps slowly with plenty of opportunity to develop route synergy for mergers. While on the long side, I think this is a decent intro 18xx game as it doesn’t throw too much at you too quickly.

Ra: the Dice Game

This was a late night grab from the library and while a decent game, I can’t imagine wanting to play this over Ra itself. It doesn’t seem any shorter and lacks the elegance of its ancestor.

Classics and Replays

Thunderstone

I finally picked up a copy of Thunderstone plus the expansion Wrath of the Elements (highly recommended as you can consolidate all of your cards into the expansion box) and taught Jim how to play (incorrectly, it seems) before the library closed on Sunday. Matthew has already taken to this game and I think this will hit the table much more than Dominion in the coming months.

Pillars of the Earth

This seems to be our new tradition at BGG.CON. Odd because I don’t seem to enjoy the game enough to own it, but I’m always attracted enough to play it at least once a year.

Power Grid

Could this be the best game ever designed? In my book it is a close race between Power Grid and the next game on my list here (Agricola). This game is just about perfect and the expansions keep the game lively and provide a bit of an even playing field by introducing new geographies.

Agricola

Bob, Jim, and I played this twice with the interactive deck. Love it, love it, love it. Must play more two player at home.

Steam

Jim and I taught Bob how to play (or rather, we both taught the rules but Jim taught Bob how to play well). I generally stink at this game and need to better understand some core principles if I want to improve. My biggest mistake is always being too short-sighted with routes and engine development and I tend to fall off by mid game. Classic Martin Wallace game that I’ll play any time.