Wednesday, September 30, 2009

This Week

I'll be a bit late in posting this week - my boss has been out of town, so I've been too tired to write and edit. And believe me when I tell you that I need the editing.

She'll be back on Wednesday, so I should be able to get my post finished on Thursday evening. I hope.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Game Overview: Magnifico

I mentioned previously that there were three new games sprung on us at GenCon - I already discussed Dice Town. The second of these games was Magnifico.

On Wednesday evening, my wife and I borrowed this game (and the third one), and took them back to the hotel room to learn the rules so that we could demo them effectively on Thursday.

This one was mine to learn. I read through the rules, but was too tired to make sense of it.

Too tired? Before GenCon even started?

Yes. You see, on Tuesday evening, the Asmodee team went out for dinner together. As we do every year. We had a great time, but we didn't get back to the hotel room until after midnight. Then we spent Wednesday setting the booth up, which is where the new games appeared. The dealer's room during setup is hot. Very hot - as in "they don't bother with air conditioning" hot. And setup is a lot of physical labor.

So after that, we were exhausted. And I couldn't make sense of the Magnifico rules. So they had to wait. After I played it, I regretted having waited.

On the face of it, Magnifico resembles Risk - moreso than any game I've played in the last few years. How does it resemble Risk? Plastic armies conquering territory. Six-sided dice for combat resolution. A colorful map. Yep, that's it.

How is it different?
1) Auction Phase. Players bid on blueprints for tanks and airplanes that they can build. Players also bid on art and unit upgrades.

2) Income. In Risk, you gain income based solely on how much territory you control, and that income is all new armies. In Magnifico, your income is based on territory held and your castles, and that income is money. Army growth is simple: Do you hold a territory? Place an additional unit there.

3) Expansion. In Magnifico, you spend money to build Tanks and Airplanes, you spend your money to develop upgrades for your units, you spend money to upgrade your fortification, and you spend money to attack.

... wait. What? You spend money to attack?

That's right. You can't just attack anyone you want to attack. You have to spend 10 Ducats to attack an unoccupied territory, and you have to spend 30 Ducats to attack an opponent.

4) Multiple unit types. There are infantry, tanks, and aircraft. Each uses their own set of rules when attacking, as well. Infantry is straightforward - each hit rolled on the die inflicts one hit on the enemy. These hits are then reduced by the fortification level of the defender, and casualties are removed. Each tank rolls multiple dice and does a certain number of hits (reduced by fortification, of course). Aircraft work similarly to tanks, but they can ignore fortification when they attack.

Didn't I mention the fortifications?

Your castles serve as factories (each castle and build one Tank or Airplane per turn), but also help protect your infantry when you are attacked. Since all casualties are taken out of the infantry, this is potentially huge. And you can upgrade your castles. Every tower increases the number of hits your castle absorbs by one.

Oh - and since the Tanks and Airplanes can be captured, they are cast in a neutral color. If I attack with three infantry and two tanks, and you kill my infantry, my tanks become your tanks.

5) Victory Conditions. Risk plays until there is a sole survivor. Magnifico plays until someone has 30 Victory Points. Victory points are scored by winning the auction at the beginning, having the most territory, having the most castles, having the most DaVinci cards in play, and so on. In practice, the game plays in about an hour.

The game has a surprising amount of depth - the unit upgrades can swing a game, and knowing what upgrades you want can make a huge difference in the auction. Aggressive players need to bid enough to get what they want, but can't bid too much or else they won't be able to afford their attacks.

This is a good game - it's a solid game, and I liked it very much - but it wasn't the best new game in the booth.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Seven Years Strong

As of tonight, the Wednesday Game Night I host has been running for seven years. In the last seven years, well over a hundred different people have attended. Somewhere, I have a list of people who had attended as of a few years ago.

We've played hundreds of games, ranging from a variety of unpublished prototypes to games that are hundreds of years old. Here is a list of the games we played in the first year.

We've had to reschedule twice (that I can recall), but we have always met at least once per week.

The crew grows and shrinks and grows and shrinks. New people move to the area, and they move away (and we do miss you), but the games go on.

We've been hosted at Phoenix Games for close to five years, now, and it's been good for us. It's increased our visibility and, at the same time, has helped sell games.

To celebrate, we're having a potluck.

Normally, we charge $5 per person to attend. Tonight, it's free if you bring food.

We'd love to see you there.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

PAX '09: How I Got A Badge

Originally uploaded by Gamethyme
I can't figure out how to scheduled a post with Flickr, so this will be up a few hours earlier than normal. In fact, it'll be up Tuesday Night instead of Wednesday Morning. Don't get used to early posts, however.

I need to write about PAX. And I still haven't given GenCon a full writeup, either.

I will do both of these in detail later. For now, the Tale of How I Got A Pass.

As long-time readers of this blog will know, my home Game Store is Phoenix Games (at the moment, this may be a better link). Phoenix is where my weekly Wednesday gathering is held, and it's where the bulk of my boardgaming dollar goes.

You will also know that I demo games for Asmodee Editions. This is not restricted to Phoenix. One of the game stores I visit often is Uncle's Games, as it's about a mile from where I work and is a well-run game store. I spend the bulk of my role-playing dollar there.

I had been asked for feedback on whether or not Asmodee should consider a booth at PAX. My plan was to buy my pass on payday. Unfortunately, PAX sold out.

I had loaned my copy of Dixit to the Uncle's Games district manager in hopes that they would pick the game up (they did, by the way - they loved the game). When I swung by to pick my copy up on Monday, there was an employee there that I didn't know. We spent some time chatting, and I'd discussed a desire to attend PAX, as I was loaning a number of my games to the game library.

"Let me pull some strings and see what I can do," she said. I left her my name and number and e-mail address.

Thursday morning, I had voice mail. "This is Jodi from Uncle's," she said, "I have a PAX Pass for you, but you have to be willing to spend some time in the tabletop gaming area."

What? You mean I have to spend time in one of the two areas where I had planned to scout most heavily? In exchange, I am free to wander the convention for a few hours?

So, to make a long story short, I wound up at PAX, wearing a badge that said, "Uncle's Games," a very odd feeling. (If you're reading this, Jodi, thank you again!)

I took a few photos, and compiled a report for Asmodee. I even got to play a few games. Some of you will notice that this list is very similar to another list I recently compiled.

Over the next few weeks, I plan to talk about PAX and GenCon and the games I played. I think we all know how good I am at keeping to my plans, however.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

PAX Confirmed

Just a quick note to confirm: I will be at PAX this weekend, so next week's post may be late.

It will certainly include The Adventure Of Obtaining A PAX Badge.

Many thanks to Jodi from Uncles Games for making it possible.

Tale to follow.

If you happen to be at PAX, be sure to drop by Tabletop Gaming to say "Hi."

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Dice Town

I had one of my Twitter friends ask me what I thought of Dice Town. I explained that Twitter was not exactly the best stage for a full game review - that 140 character limit makes good reviews very difficult.

I promised him a more in-depth review here, "soon."

Those of you who read my Geeklist of games played at GenCon will have spotted that there were three games that were sprung on us shortly after arrival.

All three of them were great games - one of them was (in my opinion) the best new game in the booth. "New," in this case meaning "Learned since July 20, 2009." That includes everything included in my pre-GenCon prep shipment and the games I learned at GenCon.

Here is an overview of the first game of the three "surprise" games:

Dice Town
First of all, let me explain: Dice hate me. Games such as Yahtzee leave me completely cold because of this hate (and yes, I realize that there is a great deal of strategy to Yahtzee, if you look for it).

And yet, I love Dice Town. There's something oddly appealing about it.

I didn't have a chance to look at the game until late on Thursday - we had a guy in the booth who knew the game already, and that table was constantly busy, and frequently had a line of people waiting to demo it.

The game itself is simple: Roll the dice. Decide how many dice you want to keep. Pay the Stagecoach for every die you'll be keeping past the first. Set kept dice aside and roll the remaining dice.

Once someone has five kept dice, everyone else gets one last roll, when they are required to keep all dice (at no cost).

Then go through each stage on the board - do you have the most nines? Grab one Gold Nugget for each nine. Every number has a benefit associated with having the most of them. One player will get "General Store" cards, which have a variety of effects. One player will get to rob the bank. One player can steal a card from another player. One player becomes Sheriff and decides who wins ties.

The best hand gets the Deed to some property. If that hand has any aces, you will get some bonus Deeds.

Any player who didn't win anything else gets to vist Doc Badluck, for an additional benefit.

Once the Gold Nuggets or Property Deeds are all gone, players check their score. Each gold nugget is one point. Each dollar is half a point. Some of the General Store cards are worth points. Each property deed is worth points.

Most points wins.

I don't know what it is about this game that appeals to me. Maybe it's the fun of the poker dice. Maybe it's the fact that you can win the game without even once having the best hand.

The game is simple enough to teach in five minutes, and plays quickly enough to qualify as filler. My regular Wednesday group has asked for it for the last few weeks.

Was it the best game in the booth? No. Sorry. That was Dungeon Twister (Did you really expect a different answer from me?).

Was it the best New to Me game in the booth? No.

Was it the game which most surprised me? Yes, absolutely.

And the most telling question: Will I voluntarily play it again? Yes. Absolutely. I'll probably even play it tomorrow ...

Next week, I'll try to discuss one of the other two surprise games - it depends on PAX and how much time I have this weekend. Don't worry, though. I'll get to them eventually.