Wednesday, May 27, 2009

No Post This Week

I'm taking a week off for Memorial Day.

I'll be back next week with another post.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Gateway Games Part II

This week, two more Gateway Games: Ticket to Ride and Blokus

Ticket To Ride

Ticket to Ride has become another darling of the Gateway Geeklists. It's a train-themed game in which players score points by claiming routes on the map using brightly-colored trains. Players have specific cities (printed on "Destination" cards) which need to be connected - succeed, and you'll score points; fail, and you'll lose that many points.

The game is complicated slightly by the other players. A number of linkages on the map are only available to one player, so if I grab Los Angeles to Phoenix and you need to get into Phoenix to complete one of your destination tickets, then you'll need to find another way through.

It's playable on Xbox Live and on Days of Wonder's website. There is also a standalone version of the game which interfaces with the web version.

The rules are fairly simple - on your turn, you have three actions from which to choose:
1) Draw cards from the deck
2) Play sets of matching cards (and wild cards) to claim a route between two cities
3) Draw more "destination" tickets.

You need to draw cards to complete tickets, but if you spend too much time drawing, your opponents will claim the tracks you need. At the same time, if you claim too fast, you will telegraph your moves and experienced opponents will cut you off.

Destination tickets have the potential to score a lot of points - but if you can't complete them, they count against you.

There are now four standalone versions of the game, too, each with its own unique wrinkles. There are also a couple of expansions, some of which require the original (USA) map, some of which work with any of the standalone versions.

There aren't a lot of trouble spots in the rules, either. Beginning players frequently try to claim routes one train at a time - LA to Phoenix requires three cars at one time, rather than one train per turn for three turns.

There are no gray train cars, either - a gray route on the board can be claimed with any color cars. They still all have to be the same color, mind you.


Blokus is an excellent spatial-recognition game. It's colorful and eye-catching, and very easy to learn. It's playable on the official website. It holds between two and four players, but I do not suggest playing it with three.

Each player is given a set of tiles - they remind me a great deal of Tetris tiles, but have between one and five squares, rather than the four squares used in Tetris. The goal is simple: Place all of your tiles.

The first tile is placed in the corner. Each successive tile must be diagonally adjacent to at least one of your other tiles, and cannot be orthagonally adjacent. The rules are that simple.

There are four versions of this game, as well. In my opinion, Blokus Trigon is the best of the four, as it scales to three without trouble. I do suggest playing the basic game first, however.

If your visual and spatial perception are good, you will do well at this game. If they are not, then you will not. I love this game, but it frustrates my wife. Not enough that she won't play, mind you, but she will usually only play a few games before growing frustrated.

Rules-wise, there aren't any sticky spots. There is a small issue, however, if one member of your group is colorblind. It's (admittedly) an issue with many games, but most games can add a small symbol or emblem to each color to help colorblind players. This one does not compensate in any way for colorblindness. If you do have colorblind players, it's best to have them play either blue or yellow, as those are noticably different shades from the red and green pieces.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


So ... I told you news was due to break?

I was scooped by Chris himself!

He sent an e-mail (in French) to the unofficial Dungeon Twister mailing list (there isn't an official one, and, with Chris on this one, who needs one?).

Yahoo! groups stripped the included image, but Phil Goude (President of the LIDT) uploaded the image to BoardGameGeek:

Looks pretty sweet, no? Six out of the eight included characters are pictured. The Mechanork and Wizard are obvious. The Colossus is the big muscled guy front-and-center. The "human-snake" appears to be a Nāga. The Cleric is not pictured. There is another undead character behind the Wizard, and a female character is behind the Colossus.

The news from Chris is found here (it'll probably show up in French for you - but if you click on the little British flag at the top, an English translation will appear).

As I am given more information, I will certainly share it with you.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Normal Post Delayed: Possible Breaking News To Follow

As you may or may not know, I tend to write my posts for this blog a week or more in advance. It means I don't have to stress out when working on a post, as I have an extra week to prepare a new post.

It works to my advantage. Usually.

Gateway Games Part II is ready to go, and I had it scheduled for Wednesday the 13th at 8:05 AM PDT - I usually schedule my posts to go live at that time.

This morning, however, I had an e-mail from Chris. I'll summarize what it said for you:
More information regarding Dungeon Twister 2: Prison will be enroute to you within a day or so. Please feel free to share this information once it arrives.
There will also be some information I cannot share, of course, but that's par for the course.

So stay tuned! Breaking news may follow!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Gateway Games

There are hundreds and hundreds of GeekLists over on BoardGameGeek about so-called "Gateway Games."  That is, "games which can draw more non-gamers into the hobby."

These are all German-style board games, because that is what I tend to prefer.  If there are questions, I can discuss Eurogames vs. American-style boardgames at some point in the future.

There are a few games which appear on nearly all of these lists, and with good reason.  There are games which regularly appear and probably shouldn't.  And then there are the games which are not regularly on these lists, but probably should be.

This week, I'm going to talk about two of the old standbys - games that appear on nearly all of these lists.

For each game below, I'll list the game, say a bit about it, give a brief overview of the rules, why it's a good gateway game, and what issues new players seem to have with the rules.

Settlers of Catan

For many eurogamers, Settlers of Catan was our gateway game.  It wasn't the first German import game to hit the US, but it was the first to hit big.  It is or has been available online via BSW, Xbox Live (under the name Catan), and is coming for the Nintendo DS.

The game itself is pretty simple - three or four players earn victory points by building settlements and upgrading those settlements into cities.  Each turn, the dice are rolled.  The results of the dice cause spaces on the board to generate resources.  Then the player whose turn it is can trade resources with other players and spend those resources to build more roads and settlements.  You can also spend resources to buy special cards (which do a variety of things) or upgrade your settlements to cities.

There are bonus points available for having the longest continuous road and for having the largest army.

The first player to ten points wins the game.

It's a good gateway game because it's very simple to learn, encourages player interaction, and is easy to find an opponent for. 

Non-gamers who are curious about this game can visit nearly any game store and find a store copy which is used for demoing the game. Ask the person behind the counter if they can give you a demo - the same goes for many other games as well.

The game is also expandable - there is an expansion which allows up to six players to play.

There are only a few rules points which tend to cause confusion, too. Ports are a bit troublesome, as is the bandit.


Carcassonne is another regular on the lists. Aside from one of the scoring details, it's a very clear game of tile-laying, and its worker figures ("meeples") have become emblematic of eurogaming in general. It's also available on XBox Live.

Every turn, you draw a tile from the bag. Tiles have roads, cities, fields, and a few other elements on them. You just need to match tile edges - roads have to match roads, and so on. After playing a tile, you may place one of your workers on that tile (with a few restrictions).

The basic rules are simple and very clear, and the game has a number of expansions of varying quality. I do highly recommend the first expansion, which allows for a sixth player and introduces a larger meeple.

The only trouble spot rules-wise is scoring the fields - even the publisher(s) haven't entirely made up their minds on that one, as the rules keep changing. It seems like every printing includes a new method of scoring the fields.

In a few weeks, I'll be talking about games that I think are good gateway games - games which don't appear on as many of the geeklists as, perhaps, they should.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Smitefest II: The Wrapup

Smitefest II
Originally uploaded by Gamethyme
It's not a great pic, but these are the games I took to Smitefest II today.

I uploaded a few photos. I should have taken more.

I also put together a Geeklist of games played today.

Attendance was about 20 - a few more than we usually get at our usual Wednesday gathering, but spread out, so we had fewer at a time than we get on Wednesdays.

Thanks to Wade for making today possible, and thanks to some of the rest of you for attending.

Friday, May 01, 2009

This Week's Post

I haven't forgotten about you! This week's post will be a review of Smitefest, and I'll be posting it over the weekend.

I'll have some photos, too. And I'll probably be creating a GeekList on BoardGameGeek during the event to keep track of what games are played.

Wade and I will apparently be on KOMO AM 1000 with Charlie Harger for a few minutes tomorrow morning doing some last-minute Smitefest PR. if you're local, tune in at ... um ... eight-something in the morning.

I'm very excited about Smitefest (as if you couldn't tell).

Even if you didn't RSVP, feel free to show up. We'd love to have you there.