GameStorm 16 2014

Lost Cities board game with two beautiful ladies

I spent last weekend GameStorm, a local convention I started going to in 2003. At that GameStorm I met KC for the first time And found my local gaming group. I think I've missed about 2 or 3 since then because it falls on spring break but I always try to go if I can. They've settled on a great location at the Vancouver Hilton and I see no reason for them to ever move.

This year was even better than most because Julie joined me for the first night on Friday. I arrived in the early afternoon on Friday and after checking in joined the Z-man Games tournament for the not-yet-released Pandemic: the Cure. They set us up into two separate 5-person teams and each team played three consecutive games with successively higher difficulty.

Pandemic: the Cure is a dice game version of the modern classic cooperative game Pandemic. It shares the theme and core concepts with the original game: the players are agents with special abilities trying to eradicate the world of diseases that will destroy civilization. The Cure differentiates the player abilities even more (in my opinion) by giving each role a different set of dice in addition to different abilities. Hence each role has its own information card along with a special set of dice. The diseases propagate through die rolls but with a simplified map showing a circular series of continents. We had time pressure with only 30 minutes to play each game which added stress but certainly reduced over-analysis. We didn't win the tournament but enjoyed the game and I look forward to its release in2014.

Pandemic with Julie at GameStorm 16

So Julie had never even played Pandemic so we checked out the copy from the library and played the base game. We played on the easiest setting and won easily but I'm sure I've converted her to a regular player. I recently bought the 1st edition copy with the On the Brink expansion so look forward to playing more at home.

After dinner at The Main Event (free truffle fries with the Yelp coupon) Julie and I joined Rita for a game of Lost Cities: the Board Game. I've enjoyed every play I've had of this (and the close cousin Keltis). It captures the original two player card game feel and adds enough new ways to score to keep things interesting.

Roll Through the Ages with Julie at GameStorm 16

Alas I only had Julie with me for a short while on Saturday, and after a 4 mile run through downtown Vancouver we played one last game: Roll Through the Ages: the Bronze Age. I've been convinced for some time that we should own this game... it looks and feels like it should be a bar game and, well, we spend a lot of time in bars. Julie edged out the win when I failed to notice that the end of the game was imminent.

GameStorm 16 2014

Peter Drake sat with us as we were finishing our game and offered to teach me his new game design Fireknife! This is a light multiplayer press-your-luck and climbing game with some similarities to KC's Havoc: the Hundred Years War that we released about 9 years ago. Players are Samoan fire knife dancers attempting to put on the most impressive dance. Players draw or exchange cards trying to collect a good set of dance move cards until someone decides to start dancing. This is where the game deviates from other climbing games: each card played by another player can only be followed (or in some cases preceded) by a specific type of card. For example, a knife toss must be followed by a knife catch. The finale must be the last card played. Players take turns playing a single card at a time (they can also opt of the dance if they want to observe) until everyone passes.

There are some special action cards that can be devastating, such as discarding your entire hand or the dance cards played so far. This pushes the game into the very light "take that" spectrum for me, which I'm sure is exactly where Peter intends for it to live. My main complaint is the lack of any reward for finishing with the second best dance in a larger multi-player game. It was frustrating achieving a very high dance score but not gaining any points when I was barely edged out a few times. I suggested he consider giving half points to the runner up when there are more than 3 players. Fun game and Peter produced a very nice looking prototype deck.

18NEB with Matt and Greg at GameStorm 16

Saturday afternoon we did our regular 18xx game, this time 18NEB with Matt and Greg. I still love 18xx but my play quality seems to be declining every year I play. Or maybe everyone else I play with is improving. As is the norm with18xx games that you only play every few years, we screwed up a few rules in a major way. Matt would have won in any case I think, so we were happy to wrap the game up around 5pm and head out to dinner.

Beer sampling will doing Drink Up in Vancouver

For dinner we explored downtown Vancouver and enjoyed the Drink This celebration on foot. We enjoyed several local breweries, including Loowit Brewing and Doomsday Brewing. The highlight for me was probably the Beat Down Beet Wheat. We then enjoyed dinner at Charlies Bistro and had some fantastic shared sides and a few cocktails.

Sekigahara with Ken at GameStorm 16

Ken and I joined up late Saturday evening for a game of Sekigahara, a two-player light block wargame not unlike the Bowen Simmons games we have been playing. I got completely destroyed by Ken but it was nice to learn the rules and finally get my copy played. I think we will return to this after we play Napoleon's Triumph and Guns of Gettysburg.

France '40 Sickle Cut - Tripp making his German move on turn 2

My last game of the convention was a scheduled wargame with Tripp: France '40. This is the latest Mark Simonitch game and I'm finding very much like his designs. This game covers part of Case Yellow, Germany's invasion of Belgium and France in 1940. We played the Sickle Cut scenario which depicts the latter part of Gurderian's drive to the channel. I played the French and remembered enough about how Myk stopped me in Ardennes '44 to put up a good line of defense. We didn't quite finish the game but got far enough along to see that the German's were unlikely to win. I could have played faster which I'm sure will improve now that I've got two games with this system under my belt.

A want to extend a hearty thank you to the GameStorm volunteers that put on another fantastic show this year. I hope to return in 2015.

Two Player Gaming

Mage Wars with Jacob Brooks.

I've enjoyed a flurry and wide range of two player gaming since the start of the year. Here is a brief rundown.

Mage Wars

I first played a demo of this at BGG.CON and my family was nice enough to oblige me with a copy for Christmas. Jacob and I dove in while he was home over winter break and we both got hooked. I had to leave town on some emergency travel but that didn't stop Jacob from introducing the game to one of his friends. He even spent some time deck building while I was away.

Mage Wars is a two player tactical arena combat game that has elements of both Summoner Wars and Magic: the Gathering. There are different schools of magic so the different mages can have vastly different strategies (and may in fact be unbalanced, but I'm too new to the game to make that call). The big difference from most games of this sort is that each player has pre-built spellbook from which to choose cards to cast each turn as opposed to randomly drawing cards. This alleviates on big complaint from card games of the CCG/LCG ilk and gives the players much more control.

The duels can turn into a sprawling, complex mess and can last up to three hours -- and still we love this game. Matthew and I played over 5 duels in the span of two weeks and are eager to keep playing. I sold off Summoner Wars after getting this game.

Playing Bonaparte at Marengo with Ken Rude.

Bonaparte at Marengo

Ken and I are committed to exploring the three Bowen Simmons block games. These are known for their beauty and simplicity. So far we've played three games of Marengo and are not quite ready to move on to Napoleon's Triumph yet. Ken has handed my you-know-what to me in each game so far and we both feel like we wan to have a balanced, tense game before moving on. This is a game of maneuver and it is easy to make very small tactical errors that can have devastating effects. I'm hoping to play this again within the next week.

Pathfinder: Adventure Card Game

Along with Mage Wars, Matthew and I have been progressing through the Pathfinder adventure card game. It scratches our role playing game itch in short bursts of about one hour per scenario. There isn't a significant amount of player interaction or cooperation in the game which is my main complaint -- Matthew and I tend to go our own ways to different locations and fight our way through trying to find the main bad guy. We interact more after the scenario as we share loot.

Still, the game is interesting and challenging and we've had several very tense scenarios where we were on the brink of disaster before pulling out the win. Character progression is slow which which makes even small improvements exciting to obtain. The game is comparable to Castle Ravenloft in complexity but has no spatial / tactical elements but brings more emphasis on long-term character development and progressing through increasingly challenging scenarios.


Julie made some sort of resolution to play more games this year and I am the willing and gracious benefactor. I don't know how Jaipur never entered my radar when it was released, but I heard a few mentions of it on The Dice Tower and started checking local stores to see if I could find it. We scored a copy at Powell's and have greatly enjoyed it. Interestingly, Jaipur has a lot in common with the next two games. All three are set collection and trading games that involve hand limits and competition for scarce resources. Each one approaches it differently, with Jaipur being the simplest and quickest of the three.


Jambo has been in my collection for a long time but hasn't seen much play since it first came out. I've avoided selling or trading it because I had such fond memories playing it and I'm glad I kept it. Jambo is more involved than Jaipur or Morels but is also a buy and sell game with basic commodities. What makes Jambo deeper are the special cards that can lead to interesting combos and side effects.


This was a Valentine's day gift from Julie and it looks to be a fantastic game. The theme is harvesting and cooking wild mushrooms. We even enhanced our game with a couple miniature dollhouse frying pans! Morels uses a a card drafting mechanism where the cards at the front of the line (mushrooms "at your feet") are cheaper than those further away. There are multiple options on what to do in your turn to keep things interesting but not overwhelm, and the game plays very quickly (20 minutes on average I suspect). Really looking forward to playing this one some more.