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).

Showing posts with label Spiel_des_Jahres. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spiel_des_Jahres. Show all posts

Friday, May 10, 2013

3 Great, Easy-to-Find Boardgames to Play on Your Patio this Summer

Last weekend I was camping with our Boy Scout Troop, enjoying some great weather and managing to play a few games.  (I was actually undefeated in three games of chess, three games of backgammon and three games of Hive - a very rare thing indeed!)  Playing outdoors is a lot of fun, but not every game can handle it. I wrote about this after the same campout two years ago, but with a focus on games good for camping.  This time, I want to talk about three excellent family games that could be played on a lazy Sunday afternoon right on your patio; games that would be easy to find.

The difference between a game good for camping, and a game that you would play on your patio, is the weather. When you're camping, you have to be prepared for any kind of weather that might come along. That limits your selection of games to those that could get wet. However, on a patio, you can wait until the weather is dry before you go out. That opens up some additional possibilities, like having an actual board in your boardgame. Another possibility would be having some tiles. Either boards or tiles will soak up some water if the surface is wet. You can avoid that on your patio. Additionally, a lot of picnic tables at campsites are not flat, but most peoples patio tables are fine. In fact, the only real environmental issue on a patio is the wind. So now that we understand why games good for camping are not necessarily good for the patio, let's move on to the actual games:
  • ScrabbleHere's our first case in point. Scrabble is a great game: a timeless classic. It does not work well as a camping game because it has a board which would soak up water if anything dropped on it, or was it laying on the table. However, on a patio, that's not an issue. Furthermore, this game's wooden tiles won't blow away in the wind. The best part about this game is that you probably have a copy laying around. Almost everyone knows how to play, or is at least somewhat familiar with its ideas. I know some people don't like Scrabble, because they don't feel their vocabulary keeps them very competitive . However, I wrote a whole article on approaching Scrabble as a strategic game, rather than a word game, and that will make anyone a winner..

  • Qwirkle.  Qwirkle can be thought of as Scrabble with colors and shapes. It has the opposite problem than Scrabble does though; it has no board.  It is therefore susceptible to unevenness in the playing surface. Picnic tables don't work well for this game. However with chunky blocks as the playing pieces, this game isn't going anywhere. Qwirkle was the Spiel des Jahres winner a couple of years ago, and that means it's a great game. This German award is given to the best new family game each year. My full review which can be found here.
  • Blokus.  The last game is Blokus. Blokus has a plastic board, so it cant get wet. Since its plastic, it's also rigid, and therefore doesn't care what service its all. It might think that this would make it a good game for camping, but some of the pieces a rather small and could be easily lost in the grass. This will be a great games to play with the little ones, it's fairly easy to understand and very colorful. I wrote about the entire family of Blokus games several years ago. 
These are three great games for the family that will make a great afternoon or evening outdoors in the fresh air.  All of them are readily available at stores like Target, Wal-Mart and Barnes & Nobles.  None of them are terribly expensive, and the latter two are certainly playable by the under 10 crowd (probably down to about age five or six).  I've seen these games at all of those stores, as well as bigger grocery stores.  Barnes & Nobles stores are carrying more and more good games all the time.

Bonus.  This brings me to my last point.  Speaking of B&N, I can't help but mention one other game that plays really well outside: Carcassonne.  This is another game without a board; you actually build the board by laying down tiles.  This game plays very well with anywhere from two to five players, and I just can't say enough about how good this game is.  This is one of the very few games I rate a 10/10 on BoardGameGeek, and I have played more than a few games.  At one point, we actually owned three copies, so we would have one for my wife and I each at work, as well as the one we keep at home.  I don't play games at work anymore, so that copy now belongs to a neighbor who loves it.

Pick a warm night under the stars with a lantern and play.  Take an afternoon in the shade and have a blast.  In any case, everyone in the family will be a winner.

It's Your Move,

 



Related Posts:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gift Buying Guide 2012


Even though I haven't been writing this post for a while, many of you have still been reading.  I really wanted to give my perspective on gift buying before Black Friday.  This way, those family gifts and tough-to-buy-for situations have some good options.  The games on last year's guide are still available, so use that guide for additional ideas.

Just like last year, I am writing this with a focus for those who are casually interested in the boardgaming hobby.  These games will be available through local game stores or online, and man of them should also be available through some larger, mass-market outlet.  Target and Barnes and Nobles are now devoting more shelf space to the types of games that I have written about.

Links to my reviews of these games are embedded in the text.  Now back to the show!

Type 1: “I loved playing games as a kid!”
This person has fond memories of playing Risk and Monopoly as a kid, and probably played these games at least some as a teenager.  Last year, I recommended the revised version of Risk as a good game, and this is still a great choice.  This year I will recommend Risk Legacy.  This game has a truly revolutionary game concept in it.  As the game is played, there are actions that can be taken that permanently change the rules of the game or the game board.  Some of these changes remove cards from the game permanently.  By permanently, I mean tear the card in two and throw it in the trash.  In other words, each game will be played under slightly different conditions.  My first reaction to this was, "What!  Why would I deliberately damage my game?!"  I have come to think of this as an experiential thing, and I would love to play! Furthermore, playing through all of the actions will take 15 game sessions, so there is a lot of experience to be had along the way.   A copy of Risk Legacy will probably need to be purchased online or at a local game store.

Type 2: “We love/loved Scrabble.”
I am going to repeat my recommendations from last year.  Buy Qwirkle or Bananagrams.  These are two great games, and still some of the more economical choices, too.  If you bought someone on of these games last year, buy them the other this year.  All of the mass-market outlets will have Bananagrams, and many will have Qwirkle (Target has carried it for several years now).

Type 3: “My family plays/played cards when at family functions.”
I am going to go out on a limb here and say Bohnanza.  I haven't actually played this, and it probably will need a local Barnes and Nobles or a trip online.  However, it has a great reputation within the gaming community and with friends of ours.  As a bonus, it plays well with 3-7 players, so it works well for gatherings.  Don't let the age range on the box scare you at 13+, I know younger kids love "the bean game".  The game sounds silly, but that's part of the charm.


Type 4:  The family/casual boardgamer
This starts to get tricky, because there is the chance that you will give a gift they already have.  However, Deadwood is a pretty safe bet, since it was published just last year.  This is one of the less expensive choices on the list.  It's American West theme will appeal to many.  Deadwood is published by Fantasy Flight Games, who puts a lot of care into a games presentation.  Deadwood has recently become available at Target.

Type 5: The Dedicated Chess Player
Handkerchiefs.  See last year.

Type 6: The Geek
By far and away the best game to geek-out on this year is the Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game.  This is a dogfight game pitting X-wings and TIE fighters.  And Y-wings.  And Interceptors.   And the Millennium Falcon.  Not all of this comes in the box; some are coming out in expansions.  The box includes three fighters and everything else you need to play the game.  I have played the games predecessor, Wings of Glory, which is set in WWI.  As a geek, this game has me juiced, and my son is thinking he needs to own it.  Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game is available at Target.


Type 7: Kids
Sorting through the drivel is the biggest problem.  I will go with the LEGO Ninjago Board Game.  It may not be the very best game, but hey, it's LEGO.  How far wrong can you go?  LEGO Ninjago Board Game has become generally available in the mass-market stores.






Type 8:  Families with no gaming experience
Last year I had Qwirkle and Forbidden Island here on the list.  These are still great choices. This year I will add King of Tokyo.  In this game, you play Big Monsters (think Godzilla) attacking the city of Tokyo, and each other.  Games are short and can be filled with lots of campy humor, since the monsters have such silly names as Cyberbunny and MechaDragon.  Sound effects are part of the fun.  Kids can easily play this, though the energy level might ramp up as they get into the them!  King of Tokyo is definitely going to be the toughest game to find on this list.  It might be between print runs as the holidays arive.  However, since the two choices from last year are solid options, I don't feel too badly about this one.


Type 9:  Party Gamers 
The Spiel des Jahres winner for 2010 was Dixit.  Think Apples to Apples with pictures.  One player makes up a sentence which tells a very brief story from a picture, and everyone else picks a picture from their hand to match the story.  The storyteller chooses the best match, and points are scored.  Sound a little similar.  What makes this a great choice is not only the proven style of gameplay, but also the excellent artwork.  Dixit can be found at many mass market outlets. 

Type 10: Couples / Everybody Else
Many of the games here work well for two.  For this, I am going to go with my recommendation for last year:  HiveThis game is an abstract strategy game the is incredibly popular in our Scout troop, and it is easy to learn.  There is now a smaller edition called Pocket Hive.  So, you can even recycle this idea if it was a big hit last year.  I have found Hive at Barnes in Noble.

I hoped this helped!  If you would like more personal suggestions, email me at
I will be glad to answer any questions!

It’s Your Move!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Tasteless Fun: Dominion -- Great Game, Little Flavor



I have to confess that Dominion is completely out of style with the games I normally like.  In fact, I probably would never have played it except for my brother's family.  The year it was published, it was quite the rage.  Yet, its reputation as a themeless game put me off.  So did the constant card shuffling I heard about.  Then why, in the end, did I end up giving it a rating of 9 out of 10?  After all, I like games that drip with theme, telling a story as they are played.  I was just as surprised as you.

Incredible fun in 30 minutes!
That year, when my brother and his wife came back from visiting one of their kids, they raved about Dominion.  For my brother to do this, it must be a huge success as a family game.  His motto is, “If it starts to feel like work, I’d rather work.”  This game he was anxious play with us.  For Christmas they gave my son a copy.  I still wasn’t convinced.  Not until we sat down to play it a few months later was I completely won over.  We got home late the night of our first play, but still took the time to break the seal on my son’s copy and get it ready to play.  A few days later I bought a copy of Dominion: Intrigue, which is the first expansion, but is also playable as a standalone version.  This way, when Big D (he has grown taller than me since I started this blog!) goes off to college, I am sure to have a copy.

Dominion is a card game which is supposedly building up a kingdom, a dominion, by adding various places, people and features to it as the game goes on.  However, the game doesn’t really feel like you are doing any of that.  Typically, this is where I take a pass.   The game play in Dominion is so good, however, that it makes up for any lack of flavor. 

Players have a deck of cards that sits at their left hand, and are holding five cards.  At your right hand is your personal discard pile.  More cards of various types are on the table for purchase, including cards which represent money and cards that are victory points.  On your turn, you can play one card from your hand for an action and/or buy a card from the table, and then you “clean up” by discarding everything you bought, played and your hand.  Five cards are drawn from your deck for the next turn.  An action allows you to draw more cards, make more than one purchase, play more actions, attack or defend or some combination thereof.  When your deck runs out, you shuffle the discard pile and make it the deck and keep going.  When the game ends, the person who has the most victory points wins.

Some of the cards from Dominion (Image by Gary James)
 That’s not a thorough description without going into the cards, but it does go about that fast: 30 minutes for a complete game.   It’s not terribly complicated.  (Little ones will have trouble with shuffling and reading text on the cards though.)  Your deck grows as you buy cards and they eventually cycle around.  The fun is in the interaction of the cards.  I love trying to buy cards that will work in combination to allow multiple actions or buys, or more valuable buys.

The game components consist exclusively of the cards and the rules.  While available at Target and Barnes & Noble, don’t look for it on the same rack as Rook, or Monopoly Deal.  This game comes in a full size box.  That’s because it doesn’t have the usual 50 – 100 cards; there are 500 cards in the box!  The artwork is adequate, though not awe in inspiring.  As I said, the excellence of this game is in the game play.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, consider that Dominion was the 2009 Spiel des Jahres winner.  Since its publication, the game mechanism of buying the cards you will play with later in the game has appeared in a lot of games.  I haven’t played any of them, since I love this game so much.  It’s hard for me to justify another game that largely plays the same way.

I gave this game a 9 / 10.  That's pretty high praise from me; it's a rating for games I don't imagine giving up. 

It's Your Move!

 Dominion: ages 8 and up, 30 minutes, 2-4 players.
 
Good Casual Gaming! Kid Friendly!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Game Buying Guide 2011


We have hit that time of the year when everyone is wondering what to gift to give.  I thought I would give you my two cents on what game to give as holiday gifts.  I have done this in the past in spoken word, and have already helped a few people this year, but now that I am blogging I figured I would write it down – before you spend all your gift money on Black Friday. 

First, let’s talk about where these games can be purchased.  There are a lot of websites, blogs and podcasts that will give you game gift ideas.  My approach will be a bit unusual; I expect that you, the reader, are not a “gamer”.  I am writing this as I do the rest of the articles here, with a focus for those who are casually interested in the boardgaming hobby.  Therefore, while these games will be available through local game stores or online, they should also be available through some larger, mass-market outlet.  These games are not only easier to learn and play but also easier to find.  Hey, that’s why I’m here!

Links to my reviews of these games are embedded in the text.  Now back to the show!


Type 1: “I loved playing games as a kid!”
This person has fond memories of playing Risk and Monopoly as a kid, and probably played these games at least some as a teenager.  He or she might well play them now, if they could find the time and opponents who don’t mind a four hour game.  This gift recipient will love the revised edition of Risk (or the deluxe version, Risk: Onyx Edition).  The game plays in roughly 90 minutes according to the box, and experience shows that to be accurate.  This game has all of the familiar game play and fun of the original, with different end game conditions to close out the game earlier.  A copy of the revised version of Risk can be found at nearly any mass media outlet.

Type 2: “I loved playing Clue!”
It would be natural to assume that this would be a subcategory of those above, but it’s likely this person did not like Monopoly or Risk.  There are many people, like my sister, who do not like direct confrontation in a game, and prefer the skullduggery of Clue.  Honestly, one of the best games for this person is to get them a new copy of Clue.  Of all of the mass-market games of old, this is actually one of the decent ones in the mystery genre.  However, I would first look for a copy of Scotland Yard.  I have not played this game, but it was published in the early ‘80’s and is still in print.  Furthermore, it won the Spiel des Jahres in 1983.  I am completely comfortable recommending this game.  Scotland Yard is currently being sold at Barnes and Noble.

Type 3: “We love/loved Scrabble.”
Interestingly, this is one game adults continue to play, and Scrabble has never had the reputation as something “only kids play”.  This group is at once the easiest and the hardest to buy for, since they are open to playing games but laser focused on one.  A more focused approach is called for:
Subtype 1: Families with small children.  Buy Qwirkle.  Not only is this the latest Spiel des Jahres winner, but it has been around in the United States for several years.  Qwirkle can be found many places, including stores for educators.  Target has been carrying it almost since first publication.
Subtype 2: Families older children or no children.  Find a copy of Bananagrams.  This is definitely a game for wordies, but it plays in 20 minutes.  Furthermore, it plays five and could probably play as many as six if you wanted to push it (not that I am recommending it!).  I originally blew it off, but after playing it found that I really enjoy it.  This is one of the more economical choices, too.  Furthermore, it’s actually hard to find a store that doesn’t carry Bananagrams; it’s the easiest game to find.  All of the mass-market outlets will have Bananagrams.

Type 4: “My family plays/played cards when at family functions.”
This is another tough group.  There are some great card games out there, and I will recommend something that is going to make hardcore gamers roll their eyes: Mille Bornes.  This is not a highly regarded game in the boardgaming community, but my wife and I have had a lot of fun with it and have introduced it to friends successfully.  The only warning I have is that there is a lot of “take that” in the game, so with little ones it can result in wailing and gnashing of teeth.  This game comes in a deluxe edition that is reasonably priced, and the basic version is found everywhere in the card game section of the store.  The basic version is very inexpensive, so it works as a stocking stuffer or in a $10 gift exchange as well.

Type 5:  The family/casual boardgamer
This starts to get tricky, because there is the chance that you will give a gift they already have.  However, if they have a few hobby games that they play casually, there is a decent chance they don’t have Dominion.  I realize in writing this post that I have been remiss; I have not reviewed this game.  I will correct that very soon.  In the meantime, trust me here.  This is an excellent game.  It’s a small step up in complexity from Ticket to Ride or any of the other games mentioned here, but anyone with a little experience will be able to read the rules and play.  This game works pretty well for those who used to play Magic: The Gathering, Pok√©mon or other collectible card games.  Dominion has recently become available at Target and Barnes and Noble.

Type 6: The Dedicated Chess Player
Handkerchiefs.   Seriously, this person is not hard to buy a game for; they are impossible.  The dedicated chess player has already ruled out any other games from their life.  Furthermore, they probably play a particular opening, prefer certain styles of pieces, and even have a favorite chess author.  No kidding.  I don’t consider myself “dedicated”, yet I have all of those things.  You are more likely to buy them something they don’t want.  If you live in New York City, there are brick and mortar stores specializing in chess items, so you could get a gift certificate.  My guess would be that’s true in London and Moscow (I’m talking Europe here) also.  If you live anywhere else in the world, buy handkerchiefs.  If you are worried about that taking all of the challenge out of gift buying, get 100% cotton handkerchiefs.  At least where I live, they are nearly impossible to find.  And then buy yourself a game, since clearly gift buying is a game you play already!

Type 7: The Gamer
Here’s another tough one, since you are more likely to get it wrong than get it right.  You have a few other options, though, that makes this person easier to buy for than the Dedicated Chess Player.  If they are looking for a specific game, you can find a local store or order online.  If you don’t know of a particular game, get a gift certificate.  If you prefer to do business locally, and game stores aren’t convenient, buy a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble that can be redeemed online.  Both B&N and Amazon carry games now.

Type 8: Kids
This is actually tougher than one might think, since there is so much out there that is just garbage.  I will suggest Blokus, which is not specifically a children’s game, but is kid-friendly and is colorfully eye-catching.  This game should be easy to find.  It was bought from the original publisher by Hasbro a while back, and since then Blokus has become available in the mass-market stores.

Type 9:  Families with no gaming experience
Subtype 1: Competition encouraged.  For this group, either Blokus or Qwirkle is a good choice.  Qwirkle is a little more flexible when it comes to number of players (we’ve pushed it to six players and it worked), but Blokus is a little less expensive.  Your pick.
Subtype 2:  Cooperation encouraged.  I will go with the game I was widely recommendung last year: Forbidden Island.  All players work together trying to take treasures off a mysterious island.  In the meantime, the island is sinking, threatening to take the treasures and players down to the depths below.  This is a great game!   Since everyone is working together, little players can be freely helped, making this a fantastic family adventure.  This game is also a great value, yet comes with very nice components packaged in a tin.  Barnes and Noble has carried Forbidden Island ever since it came out last year.

Type 10: Couples / Everybody Else
Seriously, you can buy anything discussed in this post and it will be a great choice!  However, I will make one more suggestion, and that is HiveThis game is an abstract strategy game the is incredibly popular in our Scout troop, and it is easy to learn.  Furthermore, it comes with a travel bag, so it is easy to pack and nearly indestructible.  I recently found Hive at Barnes in Noble.
It’s worth noting that every one of these games is available at Barnes and Noble.  (Just to be clear, I have no affiliation with B&N.  It’s not even my favorite bookstore.)

I hoped this helped!  If you would like more personal suggestions, email me at
I will be glad to answer any questions!

It’s Your Move!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Carcassonne


Earlier this week I discussed Rio Grande Games.  At the end, I mentioned Carcassonne, which is a “must have” game for everyone.  Realizing I have never reviewed it, I thought I would correct that problem today.

(Image by Big Woo)
My wife would tell you that Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride are the two games that everyone joining my gaming group should play before playing any deeper games.  They show new players who are generally used to Monopoly, Risk and probably their kids’ roll-and-move games something entirely different; games that have a lot more going on and are incredibly fun.  I am not so exclusive.  However, Carcassonne scratches the strategic itch in a way that many games do not.  There are a lot of reasons why you should by this game.

(Just to clarify – I am not one of those that believes a game must be strategic to be a good game.  Many games, like Bananagrams for example, are primarily tactical, and are very fun.  However, there are times when I want to play something more strategic.  Hmm, maybe I need to talk a little bit about strategy vs. tactics in an upcoming blog.)

The first gotcha for new players is the fact that there is no board, just a blank table and a bag of tiles.  The board is built during the course of the game!  On their turn, each player lays a square tile with several possible terrain features on it: city, monastery, road or field.  Tiles must be place so that they touch a tile already  on the table, and each side must match the features of adjacent tiles.  The player may then place a token (meeple) on the tile just placed to claim it.  Once enough tiles have been place to build a complete road, monastery or city, they score points.  Farms are scored at the end of the game.  As you might guess, with a somewhat abstract theme and both ongoing and end game scoring, this game classifies as a “Euro”, a European style game.

 
Carcassonne in play  (Image by Aaron Tubb)
 First of all, Carcassonne plays 2-5 people, and six with the Inns and Cathedrals expansion.  Many games claim to do this, but few actually are a good game with the full range of players listed on the box.  I’ve talked about this before, so I won’t dwell on it.  Suffice it to say that Carcassonne works really well for 2-4 players, and is still a good game with 5 or 6.  Regardless of whether it’s two people alone after the kids are in bed, two couples getting together, or a fairly large family, this game will work for any number.

For the amount of strategy in this game, it is accessible to new players.  This game is easy to teach, and is one of those uncommon games that can be taught in stages.   Cover the basics of tile placement in a few minutes, then after a turn or two explain in more detail how scoring is done.  As the game rolls along, the game explainer can show how players interact in the game.  At the same time, there are many experienced hobby gamers that are completely willing to play this – including me!  Once again, it covers the range of players.

Lastly, this game accomplishes all of this in an hour.  With some experience, the games will move quickly.  A few years ago and another job ago, I played at lunch with a couple of others.  Once everyone knew the game, it was not uncommon to get in two games within our hour lunch.  The three of us even managed to play three games in an hour one day!  The game length is just about perfect for any evening.

This is the one expansion to get! (Image: Surya Van Lierde)
Carcassonne has a lot of expansions.  A lot.  Some are very good, and some are downright silly.  Personally, I think there is only one worth getting:  Inns and Cathedrals.  This expansion adds one more player (the sixth player) and several more tiles.  Two tiles have cathedrals on them, and several have inns on them.  Cathedrals make cities high risk, high reward propositions; inns do the same for roads.  They can be played for yourself to increase your score, or played late in the game to foul up your opponents big plan.  Of course, it may not work out as planned!  I would leave the other expansions alone.  While Carcassonne can be bought in a “Big Box” version that includes several expansions, I would save my money (and my shelf space) and just by the base game and Inns and Cathedrals.

I guess the biggest endorsement of this game is that we own 3 copies.  Yes, I said three.  Three copies of Inns and Cathedrals, too.  One set is at home (and it has a few more expansions which largely just sit in the box).  One set is at my wife’s place of work, and one is at her mother’s house out of town.  This is a game that we all enjoy, which can be a trick in our household!  It hasn’t made it to the discount stores yet, but I have seen it at Barnes and Noble as well as game stores. 

It’s Your Move!










Related Posts:   


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Publisher Profile: Rio Grande Games


Our third stop for publishers is Rio Grande Games (RGG).  A look at this company in comparison to the other publishers profiled reveals that RGG is the most prolific of the three.  RGG takes a different strategy when it comes to publishing games; they primarily bring established games from Europe to the United States rather than bring a new game to market.  This approach has shown itself in the number of Spiel des Jahres (SdJ) winners that RGG has published, including Dominion, Carcassonne, Zooloretto, Thurn and Taxis and Niagara to name a few.  Of BoardGameGeek’s (BGG) Top 100, Rio Grande Games has 25 titles!

The number of (SdJ) winners makes sense when you think about RGG’s focus on family games.  The first few sentences on their website say it all:

Rio Grande Games is dedicated to bringing you the best in family entertainment. We offer the best family strategy games available! We have games for younger children to play with their older siblings and parents, games for their older siblings to play with their friends, and games for teens and parents to play with each other or when they get together for social occasions.

PR was #1 on BGG for years! (Promo image)
With this focus and with the focus of this blog being so similar, it would be easy to think that RGG is the publisher most commonly found in our family’s game collection.  We do have nine of their games.  Even if we throw out Hasbro, who makes a lot of the kid’s games we own, there are a couple of other companies that are represented more on our shelves.  Fantasy Flight Games, which I mentioned a few weeks ago, is one of them.  Z-man Games is the other.  Fantasy Flight has more theme, which my boy and I love, and Z-man produces a lot of inexpensive card games, which skews things in their direction.  However, I enjoy every Rio Grande Game that we own and have played; I can’t say that about every company!

As one thinks about it, this all makes sense.  RGG has focused on publishing European (largely German) boardgames for the US market, which makes the games very family friendly.  This style of game, often called a Eurogame within hobby circles, tends to be a little less thematic, with a focus on keeping everyone in the game until the end, and with both mid-game and end of game scoring.  Great stuff for casual gaming as we discuss here at Zwischenzug.

The games are all made with excellent components.  The artwork is pleasing to the eye, if not eye popping.  RGG publishes very few games that last more than 90 minutes and most play in an hour or less.  All of these are great games for a casual night of play.

In fact, buying a Rio Grande game is nearly guaranteed to give you a game that is designed around a family.  However, it is not a guarantee of a great game.  It’s true that buying an SdJ winner will give you a great game.  Nonetheless, with as prolific as RGG is, they have published a few stinkers too.  It’s just the law of averages; no one “bats a thousand” as they say in baseball.

This is a MUST HAVE game!
What does this mean to the casual and family game player?  Beyond the SdJ winners, which are all excellent, the key issue to buying a good Rio Grande game is where you buy your games from.  If you buy from a brick and mortar game store, just ask.  As much as I find many store employees lacking in knowledge, they will probably be able to help here.  If you buy at a store like Barnes and Noble, they will only have the better Rio Grande games physically in the store.  If you buy online, things are a little more dicey, but you will be fine if you buy the most popular RGG games at Amazon or the like.  This is a publisher that has enough sales for those to be meaningful statistics. 

Personally, I would have to recommend Carcassonne.  Everyone I have ever introduced the game to has loved it.  It is one of my personal favorites.  After chess, it is the game which I have played the most.  It’s probably due for a full review, so I will stop at that.  Ah, the list of games for me grows longer.  For you, well…

It’s Your Move!




Friday, August 19, 2011

Publisher Profile: Days of Wonder


Days of Wonder is a board game publisher based out of both the United States and France.  They focus on family friendly games that vary from easy to moderately complex, have high quality components, and excellent art work.  Of the BoardGameGeek Top 100 games, there are six published by Days of Wonder.  Three of them are Ticket to Ride games, one is Small World, and the other two are BattleLore and Memior ’44.  These last two games are light wargames (light being a relative term for wargames) that use a common rule structure, based in fantasy and World War II respectively.  Small World is a fantasy themed, world conquering game that loosely has the same feel as Risk.

I actually have all of these games except for BattleLore, and while I haven’t played them all, I have been extremely happy with what I have.

Days of Wonder games generally are ones where the rules do not take a lot of gaming experience to understand.  Rules are actually one of their strong points.  Days of Wonder stays away from “gamer jargon”, uses a lot of illustrations to explain the rules, and the rules are well laid out overall.  The games do have either small figurines or illustrated tokens, and depending on the game the Awesomeness Factor is at least better than average.  These games will generally appeal to young and old alike, with nearly everyone being able to play – including the wargames.

Memoir '44 in play (image by Rollo Tommasi)
I would love to come back and say that there is some big issue, but there really isn’t.  Days of Wonder produces excellent games that are enjoyed by many people.  The only caution that might be offered is dependent on what type of games you prefer.  With the exception of the wargames and a few games such as Small World, Days of Wonder tends to produce what would be referred to as Eurogames: games that have a fairly tight rules structure, with abstractions to ease game flow, less direct confrontation, and points awarded both during game play and again after the end of the game.  Eurogames are very appealing to some, and less to others, and some people are game junkies and will play it all (that would be me).

For the family or casual gamer, I would say that the odds of getting a good game for your family and friends is pretty high when purchasing a Days of Wonder game.  Of course, it is always better to try before  you buy, but in a pinch I personally would take the risk. 

It’s Your Move