Thursday, September 21, 2006

Game Rules

Genesis: Many of my Geek Buddies are all over this game. I have to say, for a Knizia design, it is a huge disappointment to me. It feels like Hacienda, which I also dislike immensely. There is nothing redeeming about either game in their mechanics or their presentation.

Himalaya: I had to re-read the rules to this game to decide if I was going to buy it or not. I've been on the fence for so long. With the impending release of Taj Mahal (which triggers my next game order), I had to make a call. Himalaya is now on my buy list.

In the Shadow of the Emperor: I decided to help beta test this game on MaBi. I had to refresh the rules for myself before diving in. MaBi's implementation is up to his usual standards (ie fantastic). This may be in beta for a while; there are so many special cases and rule consistencies to work through.

Leonardo da Vinci: I have no idea what to think of this game. It's definitely deep enough and rich enough for me. Parts of it seem very well done, and other parts seem very clunky. And regardless of how dismissive I am of themes (they don't make a game for me), the mechanical man thing is just weird (they can break a game for me). I am going to wait until this comes out and gets lots of feedback from my guinea pigs Geek Buddies.

Midgard: My first pass through the rules gave me the impression this game might feel quite a bit like El Grande. But a more detailed second pass revealed that there is in fact no "map". That is, there is no movement between adjacent spaces. The board could have been drawn as 13 separate boxes. Of course, this is also true of Liberte. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The drafting mechanic seems to work. I'm still trying to decide if I like the scoring system.

Yspahan: Another potential hit from Ystari with that undeniable Ystari style: cubes, gold, buildings, move the "provost". But Caylus it is not. The action allocation/selection mechanic is very clever. Like Mykerinos, the game is for 3-4 players, yet is missing a 2p variant. I proposed one on BGG.

I am eagerly awaiting the release of Taj Mahal. I assume it is very near to being "in the pipeline". This game is my only 10 so far, but I have only played it once, and that was online. The release of Taj Mahal was supposed to trigger my last 2 game orders, but I couldn't wait that long. Let's hope it's for real this time.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Goodbye Days of Wonder

No, they are not going away. Far from it. Soon they will be selling more games to more people than ever before. The hype is just starting to pick up for their new BattleLore game system.

I bought Memoir '44 back in 2004, mostly because I had a friend who was very interested in it. We played each scenario 4 times, twice each way. And that was it. The game will never come out again.

Pirate's Cove was an impulse buy (before I got smart about my game purchases), and a complete waste of money. I was much more careful in my decision to grab Shadows Over Camelot.

And that is the end of it. BattleLore is going to be hugely successful from what I can see. I have no problem with that. Days of Wonder is a business. They can make money however they want. But for me, I see no relationship between the company and serious gamers.

Cleopatra was a step in the right direction, but it was clear from the physical design that they cared more about form than function. More about eye candy than playability.

In their defense, Days of Wonder never really wanted to be a gamers' game publisher. It's just a shame that their attention to quality (not necessarily their manifestation of quality) could not have been used in some serious games.

So I'll just give a friendly parting wave to you as you drive off to your future.

Monday, September 11, 2006

BGG Losers

BoardGameGeek is a wonderful place for discussion and information exchange. It's great to see all the different opinions and perspectives on games and other gaming-related topics. However, there are several different gamer types who seem incapable, unwilling, or uninterested in actually participating. They prefer, instead, to engage in various kinds of disruptive behavior or to show a complete lack of any kind of critical thinking.

Win at All Costs Loser

A conversation is not something to participate in; it's something that must be won. If the enemy starts to win, change the topic so you can claim victory. If the tide goes against you too heavily, simply stop posting in the thread.

I Was Just Kidding Loser

Argue until you know you cannot win, then insert a joke to deflect your shame. Pretend your entire argument was sarcasm.

Dictionary Loser

Always take every word said literally. Post definitions of words used by your enemy in order to show that he is wrong.

Out of Context Loser

Quote things said completely out of context, or clearly not in the way they were intended. Leave off critical information from the quote like a smiley indicating a joke or sarcasm. Quote something from the same poster from a different thread 3 years ago to make your point.

Stating the Obvious Loser

Inform everyone that the poster is merely stating his opinion. Tell them it's just a game.

Misleading Loser

Write reviews for games you haven't played. Discuss a game in depth that you know nothing about.

Philosophy Loser

Take all conversations outside the realm of gaming. Ponder the nature of reality and perception so you can muddy the waters and make everyone else concede your point.

Not Getting the Point Loser

Argue something that is not even being discussed in the thread. Derail the discussion. Make it seem like others are off point.

Stalker Loser

Follow others around the threads who have tested themselves against you before. Start useless fights with them again. De-value all their opinions. Bring to war to your enemy.

Flowers and Butterflies Loser

If someone can't speak lavish praise, shame them into leaving the thread and deleting their posts. No one cares about negative opinions. The idea is to make everyone think every game is perfect to fool them into buying them all. It's ok to say positive things about game with virtually no information, but it is not ok to say negative things. BGG is a place to hug and pat each other on the back, not a place for real information.

My Point

Lively discussion is wonderful. One of my favorite kinds is the Straw Man type. For example, "This game would be better with no auction." This is the kind of statement that prompts fantastic discussion. When you see something like this, do not make it your life's goal to prove the poster wrong. Discuss the point on both sides. It will make your understanding of the game in question all the more rich, and it will inform many people who do not know the game.

We probably all fall into these categories to some small degree at various points. Let's just not make it our goal to do so. Did I miss any?

Friday, September 08, 2006

I Just Finished Reading A Book

It's the first volume in a fantasy series. It's about a land with a very powerful Evil One. He has no physical form, but his power can be felt. He "lives" in a tortured land behind a great mountain range. The air and all that grows there are rotten.

The Evil One has many minions: armies of vicious and twisted brutes, dark caped man-like shadows with great power, and fierce flying creatures whose shrieks cause fear.

The Evil One wants something. To this end, he dispatches his minions to a particular place of interest. The trouble caused by this act forces some of the inhabitants of this place to leave, pulling the eye of evil away from their home.

Others join in to help the fleeing inhabitants. One is a person of great magical power who can protect them and knows much of the Evil One. Another is a man who should be a king, yet he renounced his claim so that he could learn the ways of the wild to help fight the evil.

At one point, they enter an ancient city for protection. The evil is too great there, so they must flee, but barely make it out alive.

Along their travels, one member of the party is killed, but they find out later that this is not necessarily true. They also meet a being who looks like an large animated tree.

Can you guess which book I read?

Is it this? Or this?

It was the latter. Not since this have I seen such a blatant rip-off. Granted, I did enjoy the book, but you'd think the author would have read his predecessor's work and would have avoided such obvious overlaps.

I think I'll finish my slush pile before considering continuing this series.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Kingmaking has been around as long as interactive multi-player games have. It is generally considered a bad thing, and frowned upon, especially by those on the losing end of it. Before I discuss it, I'll give my definition:
Kingmaking is when a player who cannot win a game is in a position, by his actions, to decide who does win.
Although I tend to be against implementing any measures preventing it, or even imposing taboos upon it, I am somewhat undecided in my opinion on the various issues about kingmaking.

It's not against the rules

Shouldn't it be valid for a player to do anything within the rules? Sort of, but there are clear exceptions. If a player does not care about winning and simply does anything he can within the rules to disrupt play, that is unacceptable.

Always try to win

If a player cannot win, they should still be trying to win. What does this mean? Maximize their final score? Come as close to the winner's score as possible? Not come in last? These goals can be contradictory.

Say kingmaker K has 20 points, player A has 28, and player B has 30. K plays to maximize his own score. He gets 6 points, and B wins the game with 36 points. K loses by 10 points.

Let's try it the other way. K plays to come as close to winning as possible. He chooses actions that net him only 5 points. However, this prevents B from scoring any points, and let's A score 4. K loses by 7 points.

Clearly, this is only possible if scoring is predictable in the game. But which is the proper play to avoid accusations of kingmaking? The answer is neither. Once you land in the position, you are screwed no matter what you do. Intelligent players must realize this and not take it personally.

Who chose the winner?

In the above two examples, K either allowed B to get 6 points or A to get 4. So what? Every turn you take, you are making choices to give opportunities to and to block opportunities from the other players. Perhaps A allowed B to get 10 points earlier in the game. Why is it that only the player who makes the final call is the bad guy? If I made a play on turn 1 that cost you 4 points and you lost by 2, was I a kingmaker?


Ok, so you've accepted that kingmaking isn't going to go away, and that it's not evil. How are you going to make the final stab? Is it going to based on who screwed you the most during the game, who won last time, or where you'll have to sleep tonight?

I really don't care. Games with human interaction are going to be driven by human emotions. If you ruined a player's plans, expect them to remember it. If you win often, expect to be a target.


If gaming is all about winning for you, then you might have the wrong hobby. Play as hard as you can to win, but enjoy the process not the victory. Congratulate the winner, and hold no grudges against the kingmaker...except perhaps next time when you are in his seat.

Kingmaker image by chrisinengland

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Recent Interest

These games are ones that I have taken an interest in lately. They aren't necessarily on my want list; they just caught my eye for one reason or another. If the rules are available, I have read them. I'll appreciate any comments from my readers, good or bad. When I am on the fence about a game, a well-formed comment can push me one way or the other.

Skybridge: I'm a sucker for beautiful wooden games. We already own Quarto, but haven't played it in forever. From the rules, this one sounds like a winner. Not immensely deep, but some interesting decisions. Like its distant cousin Medina, it has some elements of the game of "chicken". Seems to work nicely with 2, 3, and 4 players.

Succession: Intrigue in the Royal Court: I used to play quite a bit of Kremlin back in the 90's. This game seems to have the potential for the same kind of tongue-in-cheek humor that made Kremlin so fun. In fact, from its blurb on BGG, it may have even more going on. I cannot find the rules anywhere. If you know where I can find them, please tell me.

Viktory II: Moderately pretty multi-player wargame. It's got plastic pieces--which I generally do not like--but the overall look of the game is quite pleasant. The rules are very simple, but with 6 unit types (infantry, cavalry, artillery, frigate, towns, and city) and 5 terrain types (mountain, forest, plains, grassland, and water), there's lots of room for tactics. The publisher's site has video examples of movement, combat, and an entire game. The randomized (and hidden) board makes for a good amount of replayability. There's a 2-4 player set, and a larger one that allows for 5 and 6 players.

King Me!: Another game somewhat along the lines of Succession, but much lighter. Each player is trying to maximize his score by getting as many of his 6 secret characters as far up the royal hierarchy as possible. If a player moves a character to the throne, all players vote. "No" votes are limited, and must be used wisely. But players may bluff by sending a character to the throne that they do not want to get you to waste your "No" votes. Ultimately, a character will become king, which ends the round and invokes a scoring phase. The game lasts for three such rounds. Sounds like a fun light filler.

Tal der Konige: Another beautiful wooden game. It's largely unavailable. The rules didn't blow me away, but there were some very unique mechanisms here. This is one that I would appreciate the most feedback on. In order to obtain this game, I would surely have to trade or buy from a gamer directly. Ugh.

Himalaya: This game has been on and off my radar for a long time. Now that it's available again, I am unsure. The programmed moves sound fun. The fact that both the "lines and spaces" have meaning (Taj Mahal-esque) is interesting.

Dune: The D&D player in me wants this long-out-of-print game. The image is of a home-made copy that looks far better than the original. In Dune, up to 6 players, who each have significantly different powers, vie for control of territory on the spice planet and for powerful alliances. Each player controls a number of characters, some of which can be traitors. The game sounds fascinating with the right group. I'm guessing people that like Struggle of Empires might also like Dune.

Medieval Merchant: Another pretty game. It just sounds a little too mathematical and dry. I don't even find Go to be dry. My GeekBuddy list is rather flat on this game. Still, I like to look at it.

Skybridge image by MattSim
Viktory II image by VIKTORY
Tal der Konige image by hinj

Medieval Merchant image by alkis21
Dune image by Davestar2