zwischenzug (ZVI-shen-tsoog) — noun

A chess tactic in which a player, instead of playing the expected move, first interpolates another move, changing the situation to the player's advantage (such as gaining material or avoiding what would otherwise be a strong continuation for the opponent).

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Yearly Summary 2011

Now that Christmas is done, many of us become introspective.  The new year begs us to look over the old, and learn what we can.  So, what can I do but review my life as a gamer...

This past year has been the busiest year I have had from a gaming perspective.  Not only did I start this blog, but I have grown my collection of games more this year than ever before, adding an embarrassing 65 games and expansions in just 2011.  (I like to think of this as my own economic "stimulus package"!)  Most of these were trades, Ebay purchases or thrift store finds, so it really isn't as bad as it sounds.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Best Acquisition of the Year:  7 Wonders.  Given the number of plays and the excellent play, this is the best buy I made this year.  Star Trek: Fleet Captains still needs a few plays for me to really have a feel for it.  Overall, though, the best game related purchase of the year was the shelves my wife bought for me; I really needed those!

Since I started tracking my plays in 2008, this has been the second busiest year for game plays (just behind 2009).  I played 44 different titles this year a total of 180 games played.  A few more games will probably be played New Year's Eve.  Of these 44 titles, 26 of them were games I had never played before this year.  It didn't feel like I had as much time to play this year when compared to 2009, a year when I was playing a lot on lunch breaks.  However, between the chess club at school and Boy Scout outings, I have played more games with kids this year. 

Most Played Game of the Year:  Hive. This game is a huge hit at Scout outings, and that accounts for most of my plays of Hive.  There are now four copies amongst all of the members of our troop!  This is a great game: really a "must own" game in my opinion.

Our gaming group expanded this year as it celebrated three years of getting together.  Tastes are broader, and it can get a little crazy trying to figure out who is playing what, but it has been great fun!

Game Group Hit of the Year:  Pandemic. This year alone, I played Pandemic 19 times, and all but one or two of those plays were with the gaming group.  This was easily the most played game for the group, and is another "must own" game.

Finally, I will list my Nickles and Dimes: games played 5 and 10 times respectively.  (I won't count the 100+ games of chess I played online this year.)  Interestingly enough, most of them are games actually purchased this year, too.


Plays /Game
13No Thanks!


Plays/ Game
8    7 Wonders
6Bang! The Bullet!
6 Hey, That's My Fish!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Grandma comes through!

I am glad I waited to buy Star Trek: Expeditions!   This past weekend was Christmas with my wife's family, and my son received it as a gift.  I received the expansion for Pandemic, entitled Pandemic: On the Brink.  I've broken the seal on mine; he hasn't...

The Pandemic expansion adds some neat gameplay, including more special abilities for players to choose from, but it really adds to the Awesomeness Factor.  The expansion includes little Petri dishes to store the disease cubes in.  Totally superfluous, and totally awesome!

Image by Tony Bosca

It's Your Move!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ahead Mr. Sulu! Fun Factor 10! - Recent Star Trek Games

I have played several computer and board game versions of the Star Trek universe over the years.  I am a huge fan of all things Star Trek: in particular the original cast.  Since this is a boardgaming blog, I won't talk about the best computer game (Birth of the Federation, in case you are wondering), just my current candidate for the best board game:  Star Trek: Fleet Captains.

Promotional image

In this game, two players each have a small fleet of starships: one Federation, one Klingon.  Each ship is an actual miniature model of the ship, taking the Awsomeness Factor nearly over the top.  (Unfortunately, they don't come painted, or it would be crazy good!)  Taking turns, players move around the Alpha Quadrant exploring planets and scientific phenomena, encountering aliens, completing missions and battling one another.  This is done with crew members of the various shows actually adding abilities to the ships in play.  As one owner of the game remarked, you end up playing a season of the Star Trek show.

But, if you really do paint them, WOW!  (Image by Paul Paella)
The story the game tells is fantastic, though it has what some will find to be a fatal flaw. There are ships from every show in the game, and this doesn't fit a good timeline, nor does it fit having the Klingon's as adversaries in the later years.  Hey, the movies can do a reboot; I have no problems suspending reality in a science fiction game.

Now, I am not going to do an in-depth review.  Having played this a couple of times now, I will say that it is not a casual game.  This game has a lot of moving parts, both literally and figuratively.  Keeping track of the actions going on, the special abilities of the crew members and ships, which things moving through space are cloaked ships and which are echos -- it's a lot!  There are still a few situations in the game that I am not sure we've played correctly.

Promotional Image
Having said that, you are still wondering what game the Trekker should have under the tree on Christmas, there is another possibility:  Star Trek: Expeditions.  This is a cooperative game where, from the website:

You take on the roles of Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Uhura responding to an invitation from the Nibian government to open discussions about the planet joining the United Federation of Planets...  Lead your away teams made up of crew and resources from the Enterprise to solve the major story arcs plus key side missions before the Klingon Fleet arrives or the lone cloaked Klingon Battle cruiser in orbit destroys the Enterprise and her crew. Three difficulty levels, random side missions, player strategies and a unique branching mission tree ensure every game will be a unique memorable experience.

According to those who have played both, if Fleet Captains is like playing a season, Expeditions is like playing an episode.  Alas, I have not played both.  (Must..  resist... purchasing... until... after... Christmas...!)  While Expeditions doesn't receive the ratings and rave reviews of Fleet Captains, it still is a solid game, and seems to be more family friendly.  It's also designed by Reiner Knizia, one of the most respected board game designers ever.  I will get to play it one of these days, even if I don't end up with it on my shelves.

These are the latest in Star Trek games, and if your Trekker is anything like me, they will greatly appreciate the chance to live out the story.  If he or she is also a gamer, go for Fleet Captains, otherwise, Expedtions.  For me, these games would be a much better choice than say, giving me a uniform.  I don't look as good in tights as Seven of Nine...

It's Your Move!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Chess Sets for Gifts

One of my last posts was my buying guide for holiday gifts.  I suggested that the dedicated chess player is so focused that buying chess items for him or her is more likely to fail then succeed.  However, that's not true of the starting chess player.

This year's Chess Club at school has a lot of new kids in it.  I am so glad my wife is there as the librarian, so that she can use her classroom management skills to my benefit.  In the interest of crowd control, she has taken all of the new members and is walking them through a short introductory course in the game which will finish soon.  This is mandatory, even if you know how to play.  Meanwhile, I have the veterans, who are starting their chess ladder.  I will go into this another time, though I talked about it briefly in a post from last year.

With all of these new kids, I know there will be a few Christmas Lists that have chess sets on them.  Wednesday was the Feast of St. Nicholas, so jolly old St. Nick picked up all of those lists as he stopped by and dropped off tangerines and candy (at least at our house!).  So, where should Santa go if he needs a few more chess sets then he has ready?  I will give you two ideas:

The Chess House is a great place to find a chess set.  I have personally purchased from there, and the transaction was quick and easy.  I would buy their   Quality Regulation Tournament Chess Set Combo .  This set has several advantages: 1) this set (or one VERY similar) is the set used in the school, so children are used to it; 2) this set is a regulation tournament set, so it can be used in official events; 3) it transports easily; 4) it's nearly indestructible.

Similar sets can be found at the US Chess Federation's online store. Their are more options here, with different styles of bags, combinations that include chess clocks, and some that include the book How to Beat Your Dad at Chess.  Always popular.

The US Chess Federation (USCF) is the governing body for chess in the United States.  While you're there, consider getting a gift membership for your little chess player.  It will be well worth it.

I will apologize to my overseas friends; this post is very US-centric.  However, I am sure there are scholastic memberships available in your part of the world too, so the advise still holds.  Regardless of where your live, support your little chess enthusiast and your school's chess program!  There are studies that show how beneficial chess is to young minds, and there are measured results.

It's Your Move!