Thursday, November 30, 2006

Is It Too Much to Ask?

Please do not take this as rant, so much as a plea. I'm going to use one specific case to illustrate my point, but I don' t mean any ill will towards the publisher, the designer, nor the retailers. We live in the Age of Information. Companies have fancy web sites so you can get this information, and so they can get your money. Everything is as it should be.

I'm as excited as the next guy for new releases. If I'm hot for a game, I watch for any bit of news about its progress from the design and playtesting to the manufacturer to my door. Of course, I want it now, but I realize things take time, and that there are lots of unknowns. I want you to take as long as you need to get it right. But I would also like to know what information is available, and when that information is given, I expect it to be accurate. By this, I do not mean that if you expect a game to be ready to release in 6 months that you meet this deadline perfectly. I mean that I expect you to update your information as things change, when things change. I expect this from the publisher and the retailer. If you are going to give any information, at least make it as accurate as possible.

Case in point. I am a sucker for Martin Wallace games. Sure, I give him grief about the rules, but there is something really compelling in his heavier stuff that I can't resist. Ever since the first tidbits of information about Perikles, I have been watching it expectantly. Having read all the detailed reviews, seen the rules questions, and having talked to some who have played it, I really want this game.

Ok, so now what? Watch the updates on Gone Cardboard: Essen (November). Watch the Fantasy Flight Games upcoming products page: On the Boat. Ok, fine. It's on its way. Just a couple more weeks.

What's this? A retailer has it? Check Gone Cardboard. No change. Check FFG. No change. Maybe it's a mistake. Email the retailer. They have it, but they are not the retailer I want to use because of other games I want to order. Fair Play Games doesn't even have Perikles listed yet, not even for pre-order. I email them. They are in pre-Christmas rush; it was an oversight; website updated (expected 1-5 days). Today is 11/28!

Email FFG. The game has shipped. Check the websites. On the boat. Expected 1-5 days. Meanwhile, every other retailer that I can't use is getting it in stock. 11/30. Still 1-5 days.

Sure, I'm being impatient. But it would save the publisher, the retailer, and the customer a lot of hassle if the information was accurate. If the website said "12/1", then I would wait patiently for 12/1. Likewise, if Rio Grande Games said that El Grande and Goa were expected in August 2006, instead of "late 2005" then bumping it by a month every month, it would have saved so much hassle.

So that's my plea. I'm really looking forward to Perikles. It has even surpassed my interest in Gheos.

Perikles image by toulouse

Game Night at the Condo

This night was supposed to be 3 gamers plus 3 newbies. We started to pull out all the light games that could handle 6, including For Sale, Bang, Shadows Over Camelot, Cluzzle, and I'm the Boss. It happened that 2 more gamers showed and 1 less newbie showed, making 7 players. We decided to split into a table of 4 and a table of 3. At the A table, we played:

Maharaja: I own this, and played a few 2p games long ago. I think having read the rules a second time, a lot more sunk in. And, of course, the 4p game is superior to the 2p game. Players engaged in all sorts of strategies: going full out for the current city, setting up the next city, building a large house network, and changing the city order. The Exchange action was taken by at least 3 players per round, most commonly Exchange + Build Palace/House. There were a few instances of faulty plans, and a few plans being completely foiled by unexpected actions (taken or not taken). On turn 6, one player noticed that another player had 2 palaces left and 26 gold. The 3 of us tried to find a way to prevent the 4th player from being able to build his last 2 palaces on the current turn. Our best option was to move all of our houses from around the city with his Architect and each build a palace ourselves, leaving only 1 space for his palace. Unfortunately, the way the houses lay, he could still win with Build Palace + Build Palace/House, so we resigned. The experience was so much better than before that I raised my rating up to 8.

Robber Knights: I had had this on my want list for a while just prior to its release. It sounded interesting, but I wasn't convinced I wanted to own it. Fortunately, I finally got to play someone else's copy tonight. I do like it, but not quite enough to want to own it. It's a nice quick filler with mild spatial and tile/disc management decisions. The "luck of the draw" is mitigated by a semi-sorted stack of tiles; all the various types cannot clump together, so you can expect certain ones within each set of 5. I suspect this will be a common filler since it plays quickly and comes in a small box.

China: The deck seemed so small tonight. We went through it twice so fast. One region didn't get any pieces. We played with the fortification bonus. One player got 12 points for a chain of houses and 12 points for the purple region. I cashed in on 3 big alliances to make up for a poor fortification placement, but it wasn't quite enough. 3 players ended the game within 2 points of each other.

Subbuteo: A quick 15 minute "half" to end the night. Mike's 2nd shot on goal was excellent. With 2 minutes left, I could not score. I've pored over the 70-page rulebook, but I still can't figure out the back/foul conditions for all the various combinations of collisions and other infractions. Next week, an expert is supposed to be coming by. I hope to grill him on everything that isn't clear, and perhaps turn him into a gamer.

Maharaja image by dare

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Game Night at the Condo

This week's pre-Thanksgiving game night was supposed to be a little bigger and a little longer than usual. It was a little of both, but our gracious host being too sick to play anything serious, and some cancellations took some of the steam out of it. As it was, we played from about 4pm to 1am. I played 4 games, had pizza, and chatted. Nothing to complain about really.

Taj Mahal: Finally got to play this face to face. The first half took over an hour. It was my first time playing on a real board, and the first time ever for the other 3 players. The real key to the game is deciding when to withdraw. If you just keep playing cards, you often find yourself either having to withdraw at a bad time because you have nothing left to play, or being the last player, wasting cards and gaining little or nothing. We let one player win the princess special card (+2) and keep it for almost the entire game. This accounted for about 16 points of the winner's score. That, plus a huge elephant take (about 20 points in goods) won the game by double the 2nd place player. I think I came in 3rd. Fantastic game. I love the random region setup, and I have no issues with the "luck of the draw" since it's really up to you when to withdraw and grab your 2 cards.

Subbuteo: Played a quick untimed round between games while waiting for the Coloretto players to finish with the "big table". There's still a lot of subtle rules I haven't made an effort to understand. If it's my ball in my own penalty box, can the goalie "pick it up"? What circumstances dictate a "back" as opposed to a "foul"? I'm starting to think more about strategic positioning. If I have 2 guys on the ball, rather than take lots of short flicks, I try to bring a 3rd guy from farther away into the play so I have more opportunities. Similarly, when I am the defender, I'll sometimes flick a guy way down the field instead of blocking in order to beef up my general defense.

Antike: My second game--this time with 5 players. In my previous game, I tried expanding immediately, which left me more behind that I would have liked. So this time, I immediately went for marble, temple on a marble city, marble, temple on a gold city (not consecutive turns). I was the Phoenecians, and in a 5p game, this location is quite remote relative to the other players. My opening was very conservative: 5 cities, 3 temples, 2 armies--very small, but profitable civilization. I took Sailing next. No one seemed to think that was odd. Then I piled up on iron, build a huge fleet, sacked a Carthaginian temple, took Monarchy, then Navigation, occupied 7 sea zones, then sacked a final temple for the win. I think the others could have conspired in the turn before to prevent or delay my win, but once you have 12 fleets and Navigation, you have so many options, the opponents have to cover quite a bit or outright attack you to reduce your strength.

Manila: My second game, first time for everyone else. I learned from my first game how valuable the Harbor Master is, so I kept pushing the bidding up. I think the lowest it went for was 16, and the highest was 34. I got the timing wrong for the first half of the game (pilots go before final roll, not after). I had 2 rounds where I got completely hosed by the rolls or the pirates, losing everything paid and gaining nothing. I don't know if the others were ganging up on me or not, since I had played before, but I lost miserably having to encumber 2 shares. I ended with 73. The winner had 193.

Taj Mahal image by garyjames

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Game Night at the Condo

We had 8 show up, so we split into 2 groups of 4. Mike and I played a match of Subbuteo before and after, but I'll talk about that last. The heavier gamers went down to the big table...

A Game of Thrones: First time for two of us, including myself. Second time for the other two. As usual, I had read the rules, but that was about 20 rulebooks ago, so it was all a little fuzzy. Despite the rather heavy looking rules and busy looking game, it's quite simple. Westeros Phase (random events set the stage for the current turn, except the first), Planning Phase (negotiate and secretly allocate actions for all your units), Action Phase (execute planned actions). Do this for 10 turns, or until one player has 7 territories with cities or strongholds.

Jim (me) played Stark, Mike played Lannister, Josh played Tyrell, and Mike played Baratheon. Since it was a 4-player game, Greyjoy becomes a neutral player, which gives Stark (me) a nice break at the beginning. The first 4 turns played fairly quickly since little or no aggression occurred. Stark grabbed the north and descended into the bottleneck, leaving Greyjoy alone. Lannister expanded outward in the center. Tyrell took the southwest. Baratheon took the southeast. This was about as far as anyone could go without some form of confrontation.

Turn 5 took as long as the first 4 put together. There were many attacks, especially by Lannister. He was looking particularly focused and frustrated. It turned out he had plans for a win, but didn't realize how much support was available to his targets and played some action tokens incorrectly. He took his 6th city from Stark, but lost it immediately on Stark's next action. Being taken by surprise at just how close the rest of us came to losing, we finshed out turn 5 and some of turn 6 by picking on Lannister...a little too much.

Lannister started turn 6 with 9 power tokens. He had the Throne and the Blade. We conspired to force him to commit his tokens to one or the other. There was a miscommunication (intentional?) and Lannister retained the Throne, but Stark grabbed the Blade. We were so busy beating down the red menace that we failed to see the rise of the yellow menace. There was nothing we could do to stop Baratheon from taking his 7th city.

I think our next game will see much more negotiation. I didn't realize how quickly the game ending condition can occur if you aren't paying attention. I would have thought it a rare thing. It's probably more difficult with 5 players. A Game of Thrones is a little on the heavy side mechanically to pull out on a whim, but I'm definitely looking forward to trying it again.

Subbuteo: Two more matches of this. I've been reading specific sections of the full rules to try to flush out all the error situations. What happens when multiple moving players collide? What is the minimum distance to the ball for free flicks, flick ins, and goal flicks? I've also been trying to overcome that natural gaming tendency to let the opponent take their turn; the attacker can flick as fast as they want; the defender has to flick quickly or they lose their chance. Because of this, you can bluff either way. The defender can go for a quick flick making the attacker want to shoot sooner than they are ready, etc.

Our pre-game-night match was two 10-minute halves, and ended 0-0. We didn't play overtime because others started to show up. Our post-game-night match was two 10-minute halves ending 0-0, with a 10 minute sudden death. Mike scored the game winning goal about 2 minutes in. I really enjoy the combination of dexterity, quick thinking, and slow thinking.

A Game of Thrones image by jenoe

Monday, November 13, 2006

The End of the World

DON'T PANIC. This has nothing to do with the Apocalypse. This is about something called "the end of the world effect", which I will abbreviate as EWE. It is a phenomenon commonly applied to wargames, but is also present in euros.

EWE occurs at the end of a game. In order to achieve a winning position/condition, players will often find themselves doing something "silly" or otherwise not in keeping with the game's theme or natural flow.

In wargames it's particularly obvious because your actions are more often grounded in reality. For example, you are playing an ASL scenario which requires the Germans to occupy a set of buildings by turn 5 in order to win. You advance your units carefully, pushing back the American defenders, using the buildings and terrain to your advantage, not exposing yourself when you would be mowed down. Suddenly, it's turn 5. You didn't make as much progress as you expected during the previous couple of turns. The only way to win is to get at least 2 units across the street alive.

The chances of any given unit making it are small, but you have 10 of them. One after the other, you run each unit across the open ground, using up the defender's firing opportunities, running through residual fire, watching the Desperation Morale counters pile up on broken half squads like graves. In the end, 2 units barely make it, and you win.

Victory feels a little hollow. You just lost (or lost control of) most of your units in 2 minutes. The 2 units occupying the buildings would surely not be able to hold if the game continued for even a single additional turn. Yet this is the way of things at the end of the world.

In euros, it doesn't feel so bad. Players are implementing mechanics to achieve a victory. You aren't really doing anything realistic, are you? Yes and no.

Even in euros, there's a sense of flow. There's an economy of resources, supply and demand, ebb and flow, etc. And there's often a theme of some kind which attempts to match up the mechanics with some real-world or fake-world activity. Even in these cases, EWE rears its head.

In Power Grid, you won't buy extra fuel on the final turn unless you are trying to screw another player out of it cheaply. Once you have sufficient power plants to power 17 (or whatever) cities, you will not buy new ones.

In St. Petersburg, players will use up all their remaining cash to buy Nobles and Noble Upgrades to squeeze out a few (!) extra VP.

I suppose EWE is generally considered a bad thing. One of the only solutions is for a given game to be part of some larger "campaign" so that the left-overs get carried over. This provides incentive to not do silly things. Of course, in euros this does not work.

What euro games have the worst EWE?

What euro games that could have bad EWE mitigate it best?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Game Night at the Condo

Saturday night is not the usual time for Condo gaming, but since we missed playing this Wednesday, I anticipated an "unexpected" session. And, lo and behold, it happened. Not knowing who and how many would show, I brought 6 new-ish games with me, and was prepared to teach any of them.

Oasis: We had 4 players and were still waiting for 2 more. I was keen to try out this game, which no one had played before. Since I was the only one to even skim the rules before, I was the 'splainer. I like the mechanism of creating the offer of 1, 2, or 3 cards (similar to Medici), and the fact that each offer has a different value for each player. It has tile laying and blocking like Through the Desert or maybe Hacienda. The one down-side is that all scoring happens at the end (like Santiago), and although you can figure out who is winning at any given time, no one really wanted to make the effort. The game ended very close: 110-107-103-98. Good game, but not great.

Antike: Once we had 6 players, Antike was an easy choice. Two had played their first game at LobsterTrap the week before, but were underwhelmed with the 4-player game. Even with 4 first-timers the turns were quick. Once we each had about 5 cities, everyone was eyeing their neighbors carefully. There were lots of different strategies in effect: build up and defend, go all out for know-how, build units and spread fast, build lots of temples, and some combinations. I was amazed that at one point the scores were something like 6-5-5-4-3-3. While we were all watching the 6 player's options, one of the 5 players caught up and got their 7th VP. I think the final scores were 7-6-6-5-4-4. I really enjoyed how you get several turns to start you civilization relatively untouched, then as you start to fill up the space, the tension builds up. Very good game.

Subbuteo: Mike finally got his table built and setup. Lance and I were chomping at the bit to play, so we let the other 4 play Ra while we got our game on. We are still both learning, and playing by the basic rules (ie not the 80-page rules). We played two 15-minute halves. It didn't take long to really get into the tactics of offense and defense. It is a dexterity game for sure, but the varied pacing allows for some interest tactics, even bluffing. Sometimes, both players are moving quickly, reacting to each other or simply preparing a possible block. Other times, the game slows and players make adjustments. After 30 minutes of playing, I felt like I had been doing aerobics. I scored a goal in the first half, and Lance scored a goal in the last minute of the game. Addictive as hell.

Tichu: I've played many, many games of Tichu on BSW, but never face-to-face. It's amazing how little you know about a game when you let the computer do everything. We made a valiant effort, but allowed too many team win and lost too many tichus: 1050-705. Much better in person.

I brought along Taj Mahal, but did not get to play it yet. I also got to meet another BGG'er, Mark Christopher of the excellent animated Bonaparte at Marengo avatar. My inner geek was put to shame when Mark pulled out his cellphone/pda/tri-corder thingy, grabbed his stylus, checked the time, and entered games played. I'm not worthy!

Antike image by garyjames

Friday, November 10, 2006

Euphrates & Tigris: The Insert

This will be my last boardgame surgery for a while. I thought Euphrates & Tigris would be easier than the others, but the board is just small enough compared to the box that making a standard insert (with the risers on the short edges) would leave too little space for the contents:

So I opted to put thinner inserts along the long edges. Step 1: cut out a single rectangle of cardboard 11.25" x 23.5" and fold it like so:

This forms the complete insert, and looks like this in the box:

Step 2: cut the shelves and fold the other direction, leaving a 5/8" shelf that just fits the board:

Everything fits underneath, and there's a tiny bit of space above the board for the rules and player screens:

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Mission: Red Planet: The Insert

Mission: Red Planet has the only insert that I have ever discarded. I'm not sure what game it was made for. This game is much better suited for an Alhambra-sized box, or perhaps even smaller. So now you have a box with a bunch of stuff floating all around inside. Yuck:

This is especially bad for the boards since they are so tiny:

Step 1: create 4 rectangular cardboard tubes--2 long, and 2 shorter with flaps sticking out:

Arrange them into the box like so. Notice how the 2 ends with flaps make it so that none of these can move:

Step 2: cut triangular shapes into each side a half inch down, forming shelves. Note how everything still fits in the smaller space with room to burn:

The boards now fit onto these shelves and are flush with the top of the box. Very little movement is possible:

I'm on a roll. I may try to fix my copy of Euphrates & Tigris tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Gloria Mundi: The Insert

Gloria Mundi is one of those games that comes in a box too big for the contents. You could almost get everything, including the board, into a YINSH box, yet they chose to publish it in a box the size of Power Grid. The main issue is that the board can slide into a position such that it is not supported on one end. Over time this could lead to serious warping:

The solution was pretty simple. Create a rectangular cardboard tube with beveled ends that fits into the box as an extra support. This has the added benefit of reducing the extra space so the contents don't thrash around as much:

The board still floats around in the box, but now it will always lie flat:

Colossal Arena: The Insert

Since I had played someone else's copy of Colossal Arena before buying it, I knew exactly what I was getting. But I didn't know until today that I would be setting out on a quest to solve the problems with the box/insert design.

There are two main issues with this game. One, the cards barely fit into the 3 compartments for them. In fact, you have to split the cards up in unnatural ways to do so. Two, there's a lot of space between the top of the insert and the top of the box. These two problems combined mean that if you ever carry the box on its side, all the cards are guaranteed to go everywhere. You can see both of these problems here:

The first step was to make a gizmo that fits over the cards. The pictured piece of cardboard is a rectangle about 3" x 13" with some cuts and folds:

You can see the gizmo in place here. The cardboard goes over both ends as well as between each section. This helps to keep it in place:

The flaps that stick up create a slight spring mechanism. A piece of foam core goes on top of it. If the box cover loosens a bit during travel, the spring of the cardboard will keep it snug over the cards. Voila:

I've got at least 2 more game insert problems to fix. More later.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Game Order Arrived

The games arrived today. I have opened them all, punched counters, counted bits, and inspected boards. Once again, I am happy to report that there was not a single piece missing. But, as usual, I have a few things to say about the components...

Colossal Arena: Standard small FFG Silver Line box. The cards are nice but completely uncoated. The betting markers are much nicer than they could have been. Rating: C

Gloria Mundi: The box and insert are ridiculous. The board and cards are very nice. The wooden bits are miniscule. I am surprised a RGG game uses hollow plastic pawns. Shame on you. Rating: B

Himalaya: Thick cardboard counters, nicely punched. The wooden cubes are a slight step down from normal painted cubes. A reasonable board. Two small cloth bags and a bunch of plastic ones. It's going to take some work to get all the plastic bits off the frames. Rating: B+

Mission: Red Planet: There was a lot of fuss on BGG over the quality of this one. All of the complaints are manifest in the game, but not to the degree I expected. The one real bummer is the insert; I hate throwing them away, but there's no saving this one; there's just too much stuff to fit into the ridiculously designed compartment. I think the boards are going to rip apart some day soon. The wooden discs are the same size as those in Gloria Mundi: miniscule. Rating: B-

Taj Mahal: Fortunately, the one game I've been waiting for for over 2 years is the best. The only criticism I have is that the space for the octagonal numbered tiles (1-12) is too shallow to fit all 12. The insert was custom made for the game, so I can only assume the cardboard ended up being thicker than they expected. Rating: A

Taj Mahal image by garyjames

Qualities of Great Games

What is a great game? For me, it's a game that I enjoy from beginning to end, that I am immersed in from beginning to end with very little conscious knowledge of the passage of time, that I think about after playing, and that I can't wait to play again. While we may not all have the same games that we would call great, I think these criteria for the most part are universal.

Over and over, as I evaluate what it is I like about my favorite games, I find the same set of factors. Each contributes to the enjoyment of the game in different ways. Not every great game has all of these.

Meaningful Choices

I use the word meaningful very deliberately here. If you are presented with 5 choices in a particular moment, but a survey of 100 gamers shows only 1 of them to be attractive, then you have only one real choice, hence none. Meaningful choices are all valid choices. There may be short-term or long-term goals in mind. A choice may be geared more towards thwarting opponents, or exchanging one advantage for another.


I've discussed forces before. Forces are what make your choices difficult. Forces are what make you want something and not want something at the same time. Every choice has reasons for and against. Well-designed games--no matter how light--have forces applied to every choice.


Tactics are short-term goals often confined to your current turn. Games with high levels of chaos and volatility end up being mostly tactical.

Do you go for a few quick victory points at the expense of position? Do you use up your extra action points to block? Do you go into debt in order to purchase something before someone else does? Do you play more cards now and have fewer for later?


Strategy is the actions you take to accomplish the main goal of the game. When you make a choice to do something that might hurt you in the short-term but helps you in the long-term, you are using strategy.

Games with strategy almost always have tactics as well (the reverse is not true). This combination is also a force unto itself. You may need to balance grabbing victory points while you can with setting up the conditions for larger scores.

Matching Weight and Substance

As I stated here, I feel there needs to be a correlation between the weight of a game and the feeling of the game. This topic is particularly difficult for me to quantify. I'll simply say that there needs to be roughly equal amounts of complexity and choices, and a matching degree of seriousness or silliness.

Rich Player Interaction

I enjoy the occasional multi-player-solitaire game, but they will never be great. In great games, everything you do affects every other player to some degree. You should always feel like you are playing against the opponents and not against the game++.

Sometimes you can go after a specific player, or a specific resource. Sometimes you can make alliances, make threats, or bluff. Sometimes you can create situations that force opponents to do things sub-optimally for themselves so they don't give you a huge advantage.

A Touch of Randomness

I play Go, and rate it 9.5. It is a great game, but it's a rare exception to my feeling that great games need a tiny amount of randomness. Whether it's random setup, drawing from a deck of cards, or die roll resolutions, a certain degree of change of flow or uncertainty in a game gives it texture and keeps it fresh.

The worst feeling in a game is when it's your turn and you know what everyone expects you to do...because you all do it the same way every time. If you deviate, you somehow disappoint or disrupt the "system".


Some games do not work unless people are laughing. Humor in great games results from players' creativity or sometimes from unexpected/extreme results. These games tend to be lighter.


I don't put much stock in the notion that the theme is the game. I see mechanics. However, a well applied theme can help players remember the mechanics or at least give them a sense of realism.

I believe theme is a wonderful thing upon which to base a design. It helps to find mechanics that fit together, as well as invent new ones. I think it's rare that a game is designed in a void with a theme added on later, regardless of how thin the theme ultimately feels.

Theme is also the factor in the physical design of the board and bits...


The greatest game in the world would cease to be great if the physical design was unsatisfactory. Games that have no physical or visual consistency of theme and function, games where the physical design gets in the way of play, and games that are simply over-designed lose points with me. Notable examples of presentation failures are: Die Macher (Valley Games), Rheinlander (Face2Face), Cleopatra (Days of Wonder), Lord of the Rings: Confrontation Deluxe (Fantasy Flight).

++Shadows Over Camelot is a rare exception. Everyone is playing against the game, but you are constantly evaluating everyone's choices because of the traitor mechanism.

Goa image by s.pauchon

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Is the title a typo? No. Is the image above a mistake? No. If you know me well, you know that I dislike all spectator sports and the kind of mindless behavior that seems to follow them.

In this case, however, I am discussing a table-top tactical/dexterity boardgame. But Subbuteo is not what you might think. It plays like football (American soccer) amazingly well for such a simple set of basic rules. Here's the Wikipedia entry for it.


The playing surface is about 4x3 feet with standard football lines laid out on it. Quality ones feel like a plush but smooth felt. This is mounted on a hard flat surface with short walls all around, except for the areas behind the 2 goals.

Each player has a team of 10 players plus 2 different goalies. Standard players are plastic men mounted on a weighted and cupped base. The main goalie is mounted on a rod that the player can use to move it around. The secondary goalie piece is similar to a normal player. It is used in situations where a goalie would kick the ball like a normal player would.

The ball is half the height of the players, made of hollow plastic, and is very light.


The basic play is very simple. To flick a player, you use your index or middle fingernail. You can use the table top, but not your thumb, to give you power.

At any given time, one player has possession and is called the attacker. The other player is the defender. The attacker flicks a player so that it contacts the ball. The same player may be used up to 3 times in a row. The attacker may switch players any time. As long as the ball stays in bounds, and it does not touch a defending player, possession is maintained (there are many complex rules to cover offsides and other fouls).

After each attacking flick, the defender may make a defensive flick to move a player into a position to force a turnover of possession. The flicked player may not touch the ball or another player. The attacker does not have to wait for the defender to make a defensive flick before going again.

In this way, the attacker can take his time, while the defender must react quickly. Of course, the attacker might also want to flick quickly before the defender has a chance to think or flick.

These are the quick rules. These are the long rules.


The only way to really get an appreciation for this game is to see it in action. Here's a video of the game in progress.

If I had the space, I'd probably be all over this. Fortunately, someone in my gaming group just bought himself a set and is currently building a fancy table for it.

Subbuteo image by Bob3K

Game Night at the Condo

The evening started early with some people coming from away. We had a total of 9, but because of a Thai takeout problem, general game selection indecision, and people leaving early, it was rather short. Still, a short evening of games is better than a long night of just about anything else.

Wits & Wagers: I was keen to try this since I'd heard good things from others. It was ok, but fell short of that party game feeling I had hoped for. With only 7 rounds, there's too few questions to smooth out the randomness of knowledge and the guesses. Often, I would have no idea what the answer was, or even who might know better than I, so betting was random. In the end, 5 of us went all in, again on a guess. It just never felt that I was doing (or could be doing) anything to help myself.

I'm the Boss: The board design seriously hinders play, but I did enjoy this one. By the time the game ended, I had figured out a bunch of things I should have been doing. For example, if another player is offering a card from their hand and you have the character in front of you, almost always underbid them; free money. Our game got nasty very quickly: "Give me $2,000 or I'll play this." We had one deal get stolen 5 times in the same round. I'll definitely approach this game differently next time.

Santiago: I haven't played this one too often, but this was the most intense game yet. Players bribed high to place canals in terrible places just to make the overseer pay more. Players not supporting each other for obvious shared canals so that the player with the extra canal had to use theirs. If I play another game this good, I may have to bump it up a bit.

At the other table, I believe they were playing Citadels, Alhambra, and Ra.

I'm the Boss image by CaptainCaveman

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Game Order

My holy grail game, Taj Mahal has finally been released. With that, I placed an order with Fair Play Games for everything on my want list that is available. There are actually quite a few games coming for November and perhaps December, but now that I have a real chance of getting lots of new games on the table almost immediately, why wait?

Colossal Arena: Played this once at game night a few weeks ago. I had a blast. Like Through the Desert, reading the rules left me unimpressed, but playing it changed my mind.

Gloria Mundi: I am not 100% on this game, but I cannot convince myself to wait. A recent ruling by Jay (that wasn't at all clear to me) pushed this game up a notch.

Himalaya: Some games put simultaneous action selection to good use without making a chaotic mess. This is one of them.

Mission: Red Planet: Another simultaneous action selection game that just sounds like a good time. I picture this game playing almost like a party game. There have been differing reports of quality on BGG. I am aware of the 2 cards with missing letters. I have my fingers crossed on the rest.

Taj Mahal: This was the first game I ever rated a 10. I knew it had a certain magic for me as soon as I started into the rules. To date, I have only played it once, and that was online. I have been waiting not-so-patiently for this release for over a year. Thanks to Jay Tummelson of Rio Grande Games for the reprint.

Taj Mahal image by garyjames