More Vanished Planet

I came upstairs to the playroom around 7pm and found Jacob setting up Vanished Planet for a solitaire playing. I offered to join him and he kindly accepted the offer. We decided to play with the expansion rules, which add some very interesting racial advantages to the game.

I went to mention first how stellar the support is for Vanished Planet. I received an email late last year indicating that they had completed an expansion to the game. The asked if I would like it sent to me for free. Well, sure! A few weeks later an envelope arrived with a rules sheet and color cards with the racial advantages. Hopefully their strong showing as the best family game of the year in the Games 100 2004 list is helping clear their inventory and, hopefully, lead to more games in the future from this company.

The racial advantages are similar to those you'd find in Cosmic Encounter; in general they break the rules in some way that provides some uniqueness to the race. One nice twist is that each race has two abilities to choose from, with the stronger ability requiring a higher victory point total to win the game. I suspect that these haven been thoroughly playtested, though, as Jacob and I had a quite easy time winning the game. I chose the Meeyat - Industrialist benefit, giving me a total of 15 tags to place instead of the usual 10. This has the affect of a much higher resource production peak. The expansion rules allow you to tag anomalies, allowing instaneous travel between those tagged by players. This allowed me to tag them without giving up substantial resource production. Jacob played the Rikae, which meant his fleet came pre-equipped with a translocator. This allows him to teleport around the board, very useful for certain types of goals that come up.

We played with 4 creature growth cards in the event deck this time. Creature growth is also handled differently - instead of it growing all 6 tentacles with each growth card, you roll 3 dice to determine three different growths (therefore, it is possible for one to grow much faster than the others).

As I said, we won fairly easily. We always find ourselves buying a Comm Relay to get new goals after the satellites have been consumed by the creature. This seems to be a must-have to win the game. Next time we'll play with more creature growth cards - a great aspect of this game is that it allows you to easily scale the difficulty.

I'm upgrading my rating on the geek for this game to an 8.

Cooperative Fridays

Perhaps a new tradition? We'll see...

Last night Jacob, Matthew and I played our two favorite cooperative games (ok, our only two): Lord of the Rings and Vanished Planet.

Lord of the Rings ranks as one of our favorite family games, and is the game responsible for getting me back into the gaming hobby. It was a gift from Julie's brother for Christmas 2002, and after doing some searching on the web for this Knizia guy I eventually found BoardGameGeek and the rest is history.

Jacob, Matthew and I work our way through Shelob's lair.

We always play on the easy setting with Sauron starting as far away as possible. This session played very quickly with the fellowship racing to Mt. Doom and destroying the ring, matching our best ever score of 79.

Jacob requested that we play Vanished Planet, the cooperative game released in 2003. This game doesn't have the best reputation, but we quite like it. My biggest complaint is the fiddly nature of the game and lack of consistency in colors and symbols. A group that plans well together can outperform those that play this as multi-player solitaire.

Jacob, Matthew, and I try and save the universe from the creature.

In this session we were victorious, saving the universe with about 1-2 creature growths to spare. We only played with a single creature growth card in the event deck; next time we'll try 2 or 3.

Oh yeah, we finally broke out The Amazing Labyrinth last weekend. This is a classic Ravensburger game, and I wanted to teach Julie so that she could play it during the school gaming program at Archer Glen elementary. Lately they've been playing Blokus and The Legend of Landlock, so this should add some nice variety.

Matthew and I wait seemingly forever for Julie to get off the phone and make her move.

I like the game, though it is a bit long. Fortunately it is easy to shorten the game by using fewer treasures. Also, Julie had a problem in class with some students peeking ahead into their treasure stacks, so she will probably have players draw from a common pile the next time she plays. Then she can easily control the time as well by choosing a smaller target like 4 treasures.

Salishan Gaming, Day 3

The weekend gaming ended with a day of mostly longer fare. Doug left around noon, the rest of us departed around 4pm.

George and Mike squared off in a game of War of the Ring. I need to play this game! Jacob and I have played a few turns but couldn't finish and had to clean up. I believe the Fellowship (George) had the upper hand in this game when they decided to call it quits.

Doug, Dave, Jacob, and I played the new Martin Wallace game Struggle of Empires. This game has potential, but man I had a rough start. You see, to move troops across open waters you need to make a single d6 roll. If a 1 comes up, you roll again. 1-2, you lose the unit to sharks, 3-4, the unit has to return, 5-6, no effect. I'm sure my memory is off here, but out of the first 10 times I tried to move units this way, I think I rolled a one 8 or 9 times. Shame on me for trying to be so bold as conquering India I suppose. There's some real game under the hood though and I look forward to playing again.

After Doug left we watched some NFL playoff football. Pick Picknic seemed like appropriately light fare. This was my second play of this game (the first was the original Hick Hack in Gackelwack) and I think it is quite fun. It is basically a silly guessing game - think of a much lighter version of Hoity Toity.

Mike, Dave, and George play El Caballero.

Jacob and I play Dracula, a solid 2 player game with a memory element that doesn't bother me too much. This needs to come out more often as it plays quickly and has some decent strategy around hand management.

One of my personal highlights of the week was watching Dave play Bop-It Extreme. Apparently the best way to score high is to get your whole body in synch with the music.

Salishan Gaming, Day 2

All right folks, this one's coming at you photo-blog style. On Saturday Eric was able to join us for most of the day - proving that you can get in a solid day of gaming on the coast and still be home in time for SNL!

Jacob and I started the day with a game of StreetSoccer. This is a fine game - even better in real time I was to realize, having only played it before on LittleGolem.

Mike, Dave, George, and Doug playing Einfach Genial. I've heard this can be a good 2x2 team game as well.

Jacob teaches George and Eric how to play StreetSoccer.

I've played Bohnanza the card game exactly once before. There have been a number of expansions to this game, and this day we tried Bohnaparte. This is a wargame variant that adds direct conflict between the players in addition to the traditional trading. I like the original better.

Jacob takes over as the GM and teaches George and Doug how to play Doom: the Boardgame. They played through the first scenario victoriously.

Eric and Mike try out Tortuga, a pirate-themed card game. Opinions were unfavorable on this one, but the cards sure looked nice.

Next out was Santa Fe Rails, another Alan Moon train game (this one is pretty popular this year). I believe Dave pulled out the victory in this one with me a close second; maybe it was the other way around. The key to this game is certainly collecting enough city cards to score; if you focus too much on scoring via connections you may end up wasting opportunities to collect cards.

Time for Mall World. I wasn't sure what to expect in this game - it is fairly complex and I didn't quite get what was going on until about halfway through the game. Dave spent most of his time trailing but surged ahead at the end. There's something in this game that I liked and I do want to play again - it has some interesting mechanics and the theme is solid.

George and Doug playing Carcassonne: the City. More on this game later.

We wanted to do at least one game with everyone, so that of course meant Bang!. I, the loyal deputy, was shot down by my very own sheriff. I believe Mike was the renegade and won the game.

Player elimination begets side games, so Eric and Jacob take each other on in Yinsh. This was a first play for Eric and Jacob squeaked out a victory.

Once I was eliminated from the Bang! game, Eric, Jacob, and I played a game of Carcassonne: the City. This is my favorite Carc game yet - much more strategic and with the coolest bits I've seen in a while.

The bits look nice enough on their own, but as the walls get built out around the city you feel like you are playing with blocks.

Mike and Dave challenge each other in Blue Moon.

Some folks in the group had expressed some interest in some RPG action, so I volunteered to DM a game of Dungeons & Dragons, 3.5e. We played for about 3 hours total, which is hardly enough time to get very far. We had some fun roleplaying action and plenty of laughs.

To close out the evening we played Buy Word. I didn't think it was nearly as bad as Doug is indicating.

Salishan Gaming, Day 1.5

Let's see, where was I...

Have I mentioned that work has been pretty busy lately? I'm at the point where I almost feel guilty taking any time to write entries even when I do have a moment to relax and take a breath. It is therapeutic though and I really should make the time.

Getting back to the gaming weekend out at Salishan, I was last talking about the gaming up until Doug arrived on Friday afternoon. I wasn't expecting him until the evening and it was a pleasant surprise to see an email from him Friday morning that he would arrive early.

Dave and I were playing the Game of Thrones CCG when Doug arrived (Jacob was reading). Doug talked Jacob into a game of Yinsh (or vice versa), a game my kids have been playing quite a bit lately.

Doug, Jacob, Yinsh.

For those of you not familiar with Yinsh, it is part of the Gipf series of two player abstract games. I own Yinsh but haven't even played it yet. I have played Dvonn quite a bit and love it; Yinsh looks even more interesting to me. All of the games of Yinsh I've seen tend to be close with quite a bit of tension - it seems like a game where you can come from behind and win. Dvonn, on the other hand, often feels like it is over halfway through the game.

Time for a four-player game. Doug and I were very interested in breaking out another scenario from the Settlers of Catan Book; we opted for a rematch of The Great Race, a scenario we played out at Sun River last year.

Setting up the board for Das Grosse Renen.

The only goal in the game is to be the first to cross the board and build a city near one of the gold mines - victory points are for sissies! The exploration process was quite humorous, with Doug and I discovering most of the unknown territories. Doug had a knack for discovering more seas, while the first two lands I discovered were (1) redundant with lands on which I already had settlements, and (2) well equipped with the number 12 for my resource-producing pleasure.

Hey, 12s may be uncommon but I'll be rolling in it when they do come up!

I made Doug, Dave, and Jacob promise to do the chicken dance each time a 12 came up thereafter. They got to entertain me just once the rest of the game. I shouldn't be too bitter though, as I managed to win the game due to an excessive production of sheep at the end of the game (plus a sheep port).

At this point Mike and George arrived, and Dave brought out Dawn Under, a purchase he made during a stop at Rainy Day Games on our way out to the coast. This is, ugh, a memory game that has something to do with vampires, coffins, graves. It is a nice looking game that would probably appeal to families if it weren't for the theme (though the vampires are quite cutsie).

Yes, Doug, I too wanted to drive a stake through this game.

George was then eager to try a new dice game he picked up called Sharp Shooters. We were all a bit skeptical on this one and gave him a hard time, but in the end I think it was better than any of us expected. Think of it like a game of Yahtzee where players share dice. There's some strategy in timing as you want to avoid setting up your opponents for scoring opportunities, but you still need to push your luck a bit to score. I'd play it again and I'm certain my kids would like it.

George getting the dice and chips ready for Sharp Shooters.