Another Game Day in Honor of St. Patrick

April 8, 2012

Two years after our first St. Patrick’s game day and party evening, we did it all over again…and it was good. The number of adults playing dropped substantially, but the number of kids on the scene increased dramatically (hmm, funny how that works out). And the beautiful weather outside–78 F on a Saturday in March in Minnesota–definitely meant folks had lots of early spring choices outdoors. But we had a blast regardless.

First up, a four player game of Cuba around 11 AM. My wife and I had never played before, but Rick was happy to teach us. The board was beautiful, there were a lot of wooden playing pieces being grown/produced/shipped/sold, and, unlike some Euro style games where I cannot figure out what the heck is going on, this game clicked after about one turn of play. I love that there is a “legislature” and that I got to spend all game happily making cigars and shipping them to wealthy Americanos. Rick won, I took second place just two points behind him.

Homemade pretzels and board games. Nom nom nom.

Next up, lunch. Feasting took place. Hurray! I put on a green shirt finally to celebrate the day. After lunch, Rick, my wife, and I sat down to play a game that recently arrived on my doorstep, Cosmic Karma. We quickly read through the rules and began playing. After a turn or two of looking up rules interactions, things began to click and we had a good time. While this is not normally my style of game (“roll and move” mechanic) we enjoyed ourselves and it was light enough that we could hold a conversation and play.

Oooh, pretty mandala board. 

Our third game of the day was Hare and Tortoise. Our friends Russ and Lily joined in for this one. This was also brand new (to me, anyway!) and I really liked how the presence of other rabbit racing players near my token limited my choices. You can’t plan too far ahead, but you also have to be aware of who is in what position on the board. And apparently, unlike in the animal kingdom, you get penalized for hoarding because you can’t cross the finish line with too many carrots. (This led to my demise.) Lily cruised to a first place finish while I had to sit on the last space and “munch carrots.”

High five for theme-appropriate snacks!

We finished our afternoon with a few rounds of 7 Wonders and a full table of players. And man, did the dining room table fill up fast with cards! I won the first round with the Colossus of Rhodes (A side), but took last place using the Statue of Zeus in Olympia (A side) in the second game. I always enjoy the good-natured griping that occurs in this game. It’s fun hearing, “Who shuffled the deck?” and the like.

Rick is the most accusatory of the Margineers.

After this, folks arrived for dinner and the games were put away in favor of other pursuits. And while it was a smaller game day than two years ago, we still had a lot of fun and will likely do it again! Thanks to all who came.

When It Rains It Pours

February 13, 2012

Much like John, I was also clamoring to get back into some gaming over the holidays. I thought I would get a great day of gaming in on Black Friday as my wife and I were hosting a game day for all those people who didn’t go shopping. Unfortunately a stomach flu affected me, my wife and my oldest daughter so the gaming plans were scrapped. This lead to a drought of gaming in the early part of winter due to my #1 gaming partner, my wife, busy baking and crafting various things for Christmas.

But the long holiday weekends over Christmas and New Years started a gaming binge that lasted a couple of months! Below are some of the highlights:

Blokus: I gave my parents a copy of this game so now when I visit we usually get a game of this in. My sister’s family was in state to celebrate Christmas and I was able to get a few games in with of my nieces and nephew. After our first game, which I won, I made the mistake of letting them know I had never lost a game of Blokus before. I was immediately destroyed in the next game… and the next game after that. That will teach me to keep my mouth shut.

7 Wonders: My 4 siblings and I draw names for buying Christmas gifts for each other each year. This year I drew my younger sister’s name. She’s been getting into board gaming and I thought she would enjoy 7 Wonders. We let her open this gift the night before the others so that I could teach her (and other family members) how to play the game. I think I lost some people while explaining the rules, but I assured them that once you start playing it’s actually a simple game. After the first game we played again and it was a hit. I played several more games of this over New Years when my sister stayed at our place for a few days. I find myself really liking this game: quick playing, always involved and you get to create a civilization in just 18 card plays.

Zooloretto: As Jon mentioned, my wife and I were finally able to host that game day. We were rescheduled for Martin Luther King Jr Day since I had the day off from work. Our Priest was able to make the game day and my daughters and I were able to get in a couple of games of Zooloretto with him. It was nice to hang out with Fr. Mike outside of church – I think the girls especially enjoyed that. I don’t remember the scores, but we all had a great time creating our zoos.

Age of Conan: Later in the month Joe, Russ and I sat down to capture treasure and women and slay some monsters. Russ and I spread our armies across the board and were scoring points for the first age. Joe didn’t score a single point, but his emissarries were out filling his coffers. After the second age Joe got on the board, but still lagged in points. However, he was moving Conan effectively and was able to crown him king. That swing in points along with some military progress in the third age catapulted him into first place by the end.

The gaming binge culminated this past weekend with another game day. This time it was the Minnepolis Board Game Madness on Saturday. This is a monthly meet-up of local gamers to spend a weekend doing what we love. With the kids at my parents house it gave my wife Jess, and I the opporunity to play.

St. Petersburg: Our first game of that day was St. Petersburg with Greg and Trish. Greg was new to the game so I was explaining the rules. After hitting all the points, I finished by telling him how the game ends: when one of the decks runs out the game ends after that phase. Trish stopped me and told me differently – we finish all of the phases of that round. She was certain and after a rules check I realized she was right! Jess glared at me. I’m pretty sure a few of the recent games where I had bested her would have been different had we been playing it right… I think we’ll be getting this to the table again soon to play it correctly. The game finished with Trish scoring huge bonus points with 9 aristocrats to give her the win.

Cuba: After lunch Jess and I were joined by Brian and Nadine for a few games. One that I taught was Cuba – I kept the rules close just in case! I got off to a good start using my Large Branch Office to ship plenty of products. But my wife was able to get a Distillery and Rum Cafe together to churn out VP. Brian and Nadine got their little plantation engines going as well. At the end of the final turn we paid our final taxes and duties and awarded the bonus points for buildings. The final score was 71VP to Nadine, Brian and Jess finished with 72VP and I eeked out a victory with 73VP. A very exciting finish to a close game.

I’m sure I’ve averged at least a game per day over the last couple of months and it’s been a blast. I’ve learned new games and played some old favorites. I played with family, friends and complete strangers and had fun the entire time. Hopefully I can keep up a steady number of plays through out 2012.

Now I need to get back to the Kremlin to plot my next move…

The (Missed) Games of the Year

January 18, 2012

Is 2011 done? What happened? Where’d it go? I feel like I’ve been so busy I didn’t even pay attention to what happened in the board gaming world this last year. So, you won’t be getting a game of the year nomination from me. Instead, here’s a list of all the games I meant to check out this year, but never got around to.

Super Dungeon Explore

This mash-up of board gaming, the Gauntlet video game, and excellent visual design make it a very attractive option. Of course, I don’t even have enough time to get around to check out the game, so I doubt I’m going to have the time to assemble, prime, and paint all the lovely minis. Sorry Super Dungeon Explore, maybe we’ll meet in 2012.

Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game

To illustrate just how far behind I am, this game came out in 2010. I enjoyed the mechanics of 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons when it first came out and thought a slimmed down version could make a for a fine board game. Well, apparently Wizards of the Coast have mind reading spells, because they too that thought and acted on it. And did it again and again. Of course, I have a spot for Ravenloft’s Gothic horror ever since fighting off worgs and dealing with gypsies as a youth at the computer in Strahd’s Possession so there’s only one option of the three games for me.

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

There’s just something about the feel of a deck of cards that I love, so I’m a sucker for card games. Whether it is the trying not to be sucked too deeply into Magic: The Gathering or shuffling Dominion expansions (which despite claiming to be not collectible game nearly is now), I’m always looking for something new to give a try. The LotR’s game is cooperative, which gives in an interesting twists compared to the other card game I play (although, when I first heard of it I was hoping to run a Sauran’s army deck and crush my enemies with a burning eye). I got a chance to play a few turns of the game once and it was enough to make me interested.


This looks like a light fun game to pull out and play with friends between other games or as a warm up. With all the different colored dice and rolling, it’s probably not to bad for kids either.

Mansions of Madness

With about 50,000 Fantasy Flight Games quality parts, this box probably weighs 1.2 metric tons. In a lot ways, this is the game I want Arkham Horror to be, a focus on a single mystery and location, a touch of roleplaying (done in the right way), and some clever puzzles. A two (maybe more?) hour play time makes it a little on the long side for what it delivers and has kept me from jumping at it.

7 Wonders

John’s been raving about this game and I finally got a chance to play it over the holidays. My little sister received it as a Christmas gift and after one play, I loved it. The drafting mechanic is a whole lot of fun and being able to score victory points in a variety of ways makes for a number of different strategies. It’s a game I’d really like to dig into more and try to do some analysis to see if science is overpowered or if the wonders are really balanced.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Losing

September 7, 2011

With Labor Day weekend over, it is time to regretfully close the book on summer. Camping, grilling, brewing, mowing the lawn: Every day was filled with joy. That is, until I sat down in the evening to play a board game with my wife, friends, or family.

And then I lost. And lost again. And then lost some more.

Like my beloved but hapless Minnesota Twins, I spent most of the summer getting thrashed by the opposition. If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you’ll know that every Memorial Day I declare a “summer of victory.” You may also remember that last year, the Summer of Victory III, didn’t go so well. However, it was nothing compared to the utter debacle that was the Summer of Victory IV: Actually, the Summer of Defeat, Don’tcha Know.

The overall number of games played went up slightly this summer, 43 compared to last year’s 38. Of these 43, I went 14-29, a .325 win average. This is a huge drop compared to last year (.447 average). In two player games, 26 in all, I went 14-12, again a huge drop off from last year, when I was 15-1-2. I attribute this to the fact that I was playing my wife a lot more, and she has proved stiff competition this summer, winning 8 of our 14 games.

The most popular games of the summer of loss were Hive (11 games played) and 7 Wonders (7 games played, no lie!). These are also the two games that Sara and I purchased together this summer, and we played them a lot. And it seems 7 Wonders is the new Carcassonne for me, as I have not yet won a single game of it. On the other hand, I finally snapped my 17 game losing streak in Carcassonne, winning for the very first time in the two years I’ve owned the game! That was a small bright spot.

In the end, I think this was a summer during which I learned to “stop worrying and love losing.” I don’t mean that I’m trying to lose, but that it doesn’t bother me like it used to. I’m much more focused on playing games that provide a bit of fun and some tough decisions as well, but even more importantly, I am enjoying the company of those with whom I’m playing.

A warmer, fuzzier John? Perhaps. But I’m still declaring a Summer of Victory V next Memorial Day!