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 cooperative. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cooperative. Show all posts

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!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dracula meets Frankenstein

Almost.  As it turns out, I was hoping our monthly group would get to play both Fury of Dracula and Fearsome Floors this month, but it didn’t work out.  We only managed to get in the former, which is one of my all-time favorites.  Rather than give a full review, I am going to give two mini reviews of these games.

Image by Brian (ColtsFan76)
Fury of Dracula’s storyline has its roots in the original novel.  In this game, Dracula has come back from the grave (again) some years later, seeking once again to establish his vampire brood.  He also has sought revenge against those who brought him down in the novel, turning two of them into his minions (Jonathan Harker and Quincey Morris).  The remaining members of that group have reformed to bring down the Count again: Dr. Van Helsing, Dr. John Seward, Mina Harker and Lord Godalming (aka Arthur Holmwood).  The game sets one player as Dracula, moving in secret throughout Europe as the four other characters hunt  for him, attempting to attack and kill him.  Dracula is more powerful at night than during the day, loses life when travelling by sea, and card play provides information to the hunters as well as arming them against Dracula and his accomplices.  This game is one of the most thematic games I own, and like so many other thematic games, the card play adds much to the theme by interrupting the normal flow of the game.  It is worthy to note that all five characters are in the game regardless of how many players are playing, leaving a good game for anywhere from two to five players.  (This is accomplished by players playing more than one role if necessary.)  It also means that it is a good game for someone to show up late to, or leave early from, with his or her character is picked up by another player.

That said, this is NOT a casual game.  In fact, I believe it is more complex than many of my other games.  The hunter roles are somewhat complicated, particularly with the impact of the cards, but they have each other to rely on.  Dracula is on his own, and is doing things in secret, so the potential is there for a completely screwed up game.  As it takes two to three hours to play, this can lead to a very frustrating evening.  This game is published by Fantasy Flight, and is typical of their style: very high Awesomeness Factor, but very complex.

(For those of you have been reading along, I never did paint the figures for this game.  My artistic skills are at the “paint by numbers” level, so I am incredibly nervous about trying to paint them.)

Promotional Image from publisher
I haven’t played Fearsome Floors at all, but that’s not going to stop me from reviewing it.  I have read the rules, and I slept at a Holiday Inn Express last night.  In this game, the players have been imprisoned by an evil lord while trying to rescue a damsel in distress.  Now, they are poised for a massive breakout, but must avoid the monster that guards the exit.  Players have three or four disks each which represent their characters; the number of disks depends on the number of players.  The movement mechanics are simple, and the monster moves by its own rules.  As such, kids under ten could definitely play this, although they probably won’t play well.  The art is cartoon-ish, and isn’t really scary at all.  This is a good game for all players.  The one warning I have heard repeated  is that it can bog down in analysis paralysis, since the monster's movements can be figured out with enough thought.  The key is to play this as a light race game.  This game claims to take an hour to play, and can handle up to seven players, so it will fit most families and casual groups.

Below will be links to other reviews on this topic, including these games.  Personally, I am pretty selective about horror themed games, as well as movies, so Fearsome Floors is probably one of the very few “family horror games” I would play.  Other perspectives would be good.
The monster can be configured to look like the Frankenstein Monster -- or other horrors! (Image by Jesper Amstrup)

Okay, now that you have made it this far, I am going to add a few things about the Dracula and Frankenstein novels.  Dracula is in my top five novels of all time, and Frankenstein is also well worth reading.  They can be downloaded from Amazon or B&N to an e-reader for free, as they are in the public domain; they can also be downloaded as PDFs from the Gutenberg Project.  Similarly, LibriVox, a public domain audio book source, also has them.  I am currently listening to their dramatized version of Dracula as I drive around town, and it is excellent.  Do yourself a favor and read at least Dracula if not both novels.

 It's Your Move!

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

That time of year again...

It's that time of year when things get so busy that gaming just seems to fall by the wayside.  Not that I want it to, but our family life is dominated by one thing - American football.  No, I am not one of those football fanatics who watches constantly.  (I am only a Notre Dame fanatic.  There was a lot of positive in last week's loss, but I digress...)  However, our 8th grade son plays on a team, and with practices four nights a week, we are running him around a lot.  Furthermore, with homework added on to that, I have lost my primary gaming partner.

This past weekend was a holiday weekend here in the US - Labor Day.  There certainly was labor (which seems to defeat the whole purpose of a holiday!), but there was picnicking and fishing too.  As a result, I missed my normal Tuesday post.  This day-late and dollar-short post will have to do.

Onirim (image by Shadi Torbey)
I did manage to play more games of Onirim this past weekend.  This is a solitaire card game (though it does have 2-player cooperative rules) with a dream-walking theme.  It sounds strange, and it took a couple of games to get into it, but there are definitely some interesting decisions to be made.  I'd have to say it has grown on me, and is my favorite solitaire game at the moment.  While it isn't played with standard playing cards, the game isn't too expensive.  Z-man Games makes a lot of good card games, and this is one.

(For those of you who are curious, Daniel's football team is 2-0.  They beat their rivals 15-14 in a nail-biter, and won last night 33-0.  If they win Saturday they will have had the highest number of wins they have had in four years.  You do the math - they haven't been good in prior years!)

It's Your Move!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Educational Games – An Incomplete Grade!

This past Sunday was the monthly meeting of our gaming group, 3rd Sunday Gamers.  Several of the members teach at my son’s school.  One of them brought a new game, Numero, and we played 10 Days in the USA.  I realized that I missed a few great games that really need to be mentioned when talking about educational games.

Photo by Tony Archer
Numero was very interesting and very good.  Essentially, players are attempting to lay down numbered cards into multiple piles from their hand to make matches.  Once a match is made, the matching player takes that pile and set it before them, sort of like taking a trick.  Rather than create a new pile, players can change the value of the pile by adding numbers to it.  There are also “wild” cards that allow you to perform other arithmetic operations to a pile.  In this way, the value of the pile can be matched and taken.  Not only were there the basic operations (adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing), but with percentages and a cube root thrown in, this game was a math refresher in a box, yet actually was a lot of fun.  It could be tuned to younger players by taking out some or all of the wild cards.  I had never seen it before, but it definitely bridges the “educational” vs. “fun” divide.

Photo by Nathan Morse
To start things off, though, we played 10 Days in the USA, which is part of a larger series of games that I should probably write about.  I actually gave this game to my wife for Christmas a few years ago because it reinforces United States geography, so I really had no excuse for missing it.  In this game, you are attempting to create a trip throughout the states by walking, driving or flying.  Walking and driving requires you to know which states touch or are close together.  A map board is provided.  This game not only bridges the gap, but builds a autobahn between “educational” and “fun”!

Photo by Z-Man Games

We closed the night with Pandemic, which thinking about it, also has a map board as part of play.  It shows the major cities around the world, and therefore would also be educational to some extent.  I miss that because this game is so much fun!!  Honestly, this is one of my favorite games.  It is also a big hit in our group, with roughly 20 plays in the group.  Beyond geography, it really teaches teamwork.  I won’t go into it more; I will put a link to my previous review.

We also played 7 Wonders.  While thematically based on history, game play really doesn’t teach history.  There might be some background on the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World somewhere in the box, but then I missed it.  It was a very good game; everyone liked it.  I had prepared much more than the last time I tried to teach it, which was a disaster due to lack of preparation.  We managed to get in two plays, a learning game and a real play.  I will review it in the future.

Playing four games, and one of them twice, made for a great day.  Any of these games would be great in a family or casual setting.  I’d love to be able to tell you who won what, but we really don’t care that much.  Hey, we have enough trouble keeping track of who’s turn it is!  But now,

It’s Your Move!

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Powerful Magic of the Lord of the Rings: The Card Game

I might as well follow up last week’s post about Fantasy Flight games with a review of one of their new offerings, entitled Lord of the Rings: The Card Game.  As I mentioned before, I had to read the rules a few times to understand how this would work.  My son and I finally managed to play it this weekend, and it is not only a lot of fun but tells a good story.  The components are modular, so the story can change and the game should provide a lot of variety.  A quick rereading of the rules showed that we had done only a few minor things wrong, which would have actually made the game easier, so I can’t wait to play it again.

Image by Surya Van Lierde
Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is a “living card game” (LCG), a concept that has been pioneered by Fantasy Flight recently.  If you have played Magic: The Gathering, or even watched your kids play Yu-Gi-Oh!, you have seen a similar concept that has been around for a while – the collectable card game (CCG).  The difference between the two is in the expansions.  A CCG has expansions, aka “booster packs”, which have a randomized set of cards in them, so the player buying the booster pack has no idea what they will be getting.  Those cards are then used to build a customized deck of a certain number of cards to play with.  Very powerful cards are more rare, so one might have to buy quite a few booster packs to assemble a good deck to play with, particularly if the goal is to play competitively.  Add to this the fact that new cards come out every year, and you will understand while your child has a ton of Yu-Gi-Oh! cards and empty pockets!

In contrast, the booster packs for an LCG have titles, and every deck with the same title will have the exact same cards in it.  The player knows what they are buying beforehand.  This makes it easier to keep away from the arms race a CCG can turn into.  The market is that group of gamers, many of them ex-CCG players, that want the same game play experience but no longer have the means or desire to spend a lot of money.

This particular game has one more unique element to it; it is a cooperative game.  The players all play together to complete quests.  The events happen in Middle Earth, the world of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.  For you Tolkien fans, I will add that the timeframe of the game is those years between the defeat of Smaug and Bilbo’s eleventy-first (111th) birthday.  This allows the game broader artistic license for storytelling.

Lord of the Rings: The Card Game comes in a very oversized large box for what’s inside: 228 cards, two accessories for tracking a player’s “threat level”, some counters and a set of rules.  At first I wasn’t thrilled with this, since my shelf space is at a premium.  Then I realized the boosters will fit in the box too, so in the end it will probably be a good thing.  A breakdown of the cards shows that there are two broad categories: player cards, further broken down into heroes, attachments (weapons and such), events (special actions) and allies; and non-player cards which are quests and encounters.  Quests make up the objective of the game, while encounters are the creatures, places and events that work against the players.  Heroes are placed in front of the players, and each player has a hand of cards that will strengthen the abilities of the heroes to complete the quest.  This is done in a sequence of actions, which include flipping over encounter cards, to see what befalls the heroes in fulfilling the quest.
Gandalf is a major ally, though he doesn't really change up the rules as some other cards do.  Image by Chris Norwood

While this sounds pretty straightforward, it’s not.  First, the game play sequence has seven stages to it, and so is a little involved.  Secondly, one of the characteristics of this type of game is a lot of text on the cards.  This text actually modifies or suspends game rules during the course of the game, so the game play is always in flux.  Lastly, the cards are designed to work in various combinations with each other, so that understand the optimum sequence of card plays takes some experience.  Sorting out the results of conflicting cards takes some getting used to, and actually is benefitted by prior experience with other games.  Anyone can learn it, that is certain, but the amount of time required to be proficient is more than casual.

From the storytelling perspective, the cards were excellently designed.  In a game where you are travelling through the mysterious Mirkwood Forest, there three smaller decks of enemies and locations  that are combined to form the encounter deck.  A few similar small decks stay in the box.  For a different quest, the encounter deck will be created from a different combination of these small decks, and this keep the enemies and locations appropriate to the quest.  The result is excellent, and combined with very good artwork the story really comes through.

All of this combines to make Lord of the Rings: The Card Game a really great game, but one that is not suitable to a casual evening with some friends or a game night with the family.  (If you are thinking, “Maybe, but I bet I would have fun with so-and-so”, I submit that you may be transmogrifying into that creature known as a gamer, and are beginning to fade from the world of casual gaming.)  As a result, while I am really looking forward to exploring this game further, I can already give it a thumbs down for the purposes of this blog.

It's Your Move!

Related Posts:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Games of Grief: How many players does this support?

Most of us have been caught in a game that we cannot win, cannot end, and cannot leave.  It’s the Triangle of Torment, and it’s too late!  Sometimes, we can avoid this because we know the game lends itself to this particular type of torture. Risk and Monopoly are the best known perpetrators, but there are far more.  At other times, it happens because a game is outside its “sweet spot”.  This is the number of players the game really supports, really produces a great experience, not what is on the box.  Sure, you can play Monopoly with six, but do you really want to?  Every game is lengthened by adding players.  At a minimum, more decisions are being made, and that will slow things down.  Yet, some games are relatively unaffected by the number of players.  They scale well.  This post will identify some of the signs of a game stretched too thin, or a game that can tolerate a wider range in the number of players. 

Rule 1:  If the number of players supported has a wide range, the game probably doesn’t play well at the upper limit.  The most obvious hint for how many players can play a game is the number of players listed on the box.  That’s useful information, just not perfect.  Generally, a game cannot be stretched past the top number of players due to the components included.  The number of pawns, player mats or something other piece is the limiting factor.  If someone wants to play Scrabble with five, there aren’t enough tile racks.  It would probably be a good idea to politely say “no”.  After all, there is a reason the game says 2-4 players.  Beyond that, many games are not great when played at the upper limit of their player count.  If the box says it plays 2-6 players, there is a pretty good chance it isn’t very good at six players.  This is particularly true when the spread of players supported is four or more.  Games where the spread is one are generally safe; Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries says 2-3 players, and that’s accurate.

Rule 2:  Sometimes a game has a number of roles that define the best number of players.  War of the Ring is a 2-4 player game where victory is achieved by good overcoming evil or vice versa.  There are two sides: good and evil.  Only two people need play.  In fact, unless you like the role of Igor, it is going to be a bad game with more than two.  This is true in so many games, which can be generalized this way: don’t count the number of players, count the number of roles.  Most historical wargames have two sides: North vs. South, Axis vs. Allies,  Romans vs. Carthaginians.  An exception is Diplomacy, which, like Risk, has multiple roles.  This is exactly the reason why Axis and Allies is great with two or five, but not with three or four.  The game is either played with two roles (Axis / Allies), or five roles (Germany / Japan / United States / Soviet Union / Great Britain).

Rule 3:  The conditions that determine the end of the game indicate how additional players impact the play.  Many end game conditions are actually similarly structured, with a few defining characteristics.  The first thing to look for is whether or not the game uses a common pool of resources that directly impact the endgame, or if resources are separate or immaterial to the end game.  Take Scrabble for instance.  The game essentially ends when the 100 tiles run out, plus a turn or two.  It is a common pool of tiles, so whether two people or four people are playing, they have to play 100 tiles.  Game length doesn’t overly suffer.  In Pandemic, there are three ways to lose: run out of disease cubes in any one of the four colors, run out of player cards, or have too many outbreaks.  The number of each is fixed, regardless of the number of players.  The game will end in roughly the same period of time – sooner if you manage a win!   On the other hand, resources have nothing to do with the end game in Monopoly or Risk, they are essentially infinite, and therefore more players will definitely increase the game length.

Rule 4:  How much confrontation a game has, along with how it is structured, have a big impact on game length with respect to the number of players.  Non-cooperative games without confrontation tend to last longer in direct proportion to the number of players involved.  If each person is trying to get to ten points, and the score of an average loser is 8, then a game with an extra player will have 8 extra points scored – more time.  If there is confrontation, the next question is does the game play with replacement or without replacement.  If I am playing a game where my ninja heals if not killed, then each attack, no matter how many players, has to kill me from full strength. (This game could go on forever!)  However, if there is no replacement, each attack weakens me, regardless of the source of the attack.  If I am playing 4-way chess, with the goal of eliminating everyone else, there are more pieces playing, but Player A taking a rook benefits Players B and C just as much, and the damage is cumulative.  The game is less impacted by the number of players.

Armed with this, you can avoid that never-ending game – you will see it coming.  Maybe you can redirect to a game that is better suited to the number of people sitting around.  After all,

It’s Your Move!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day Gaming - Aliens vs GameGeeks!

I was all set to do a series of reviews covering the games we played over the Memorial Day weekend.  There were new (well, new to us) games we were going to try as preparation for our gaming group.  It never happened.

As it turns out, work around the house on Saturday meant travelling late to see my wife’s family on Sunday.  By the time that gathering was over, about the time the games come out, I was falling asleep.  Watching Pirates of the Caribbean was all I could muster up.  I was prepared for a shut-out when we finally managed to get in a game early yesterday afternoon.  Funny though – I doubt it’s a good game for the group.

Image by Jesus Perez
My wife’s brother, who is my most regular gaming partner, joined my son and me in a game of Space Hulk: Death Angel - The Card Game.  This is a spin-off of the classic Space Hulk, but done as a multi-player cooperative game rather than a head-to-head match.  Think of the movie Aliens played out as a game, and you have the theme down.  It’s an American style game in a co-op format, which I have not seen before.  The first and only game we played was a little rough.  I did follow my rules for learning/teaching a game outlined about a month ago in a previous post.  Nonetheless, the first time was definitely a learning game.  It nearly always pays off to play a first game with a few willing test subjects even after being fully prepared.  Lesson re-learned.  Death Angel had enough special character powers and rules exceptions that even my first solo play through did not hit everything.

I am not ready to give a verdict on this game.  My 13yo son has given it a thumbs-up, and I am leaning that way for casual adult gamers, but I am not sure about families.  While it will certainly appeal to testosterone-laden boys, those with less aggressive tendencies may not like it.  I really need a couple of smooth plays to decide this.  I will let you know.

In the meantime,

It’s Your Move!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Saving Humankind from Death and Disease: Pandemic
Pandemic (image from Z-man Games)
Our gaming group, which will meet this Sunday, is regularly beaten by the game, Pandemic.  That’s right, the game beats us.  As I mentioned in the session report after last month’s game day, Pandemic is a cooperative game, where everyone is playing as a team against the game mechanisms, trying to cure the world of diseases that are threatening to wipe out the human race.  For each of the past several months, we have played this game once the group has whittled down to four players, which is the most that the game can support.  In over 25 plays, I have only been part of a winning team a handful of times.  However, in nearly every loss we have been incredibly close to winning, which is what keeps us coming back.  (Well, there was one game that went very, very badly and very, very quickly, ending with a crushing defeat in about 10 minutes.)

This game is widely regarded as a fantastic game.  On BoardGameGeek, it is ranked #4 in family games, and ranked in the top 50 for strategy games (“thinky” games) and in the overall ranking.  Everyone I personally have played it with loves it.  There are several reasons why I think this should be one of the first games anyone should own: it’s almost universally appealing theme, the ease of play, and the fact that it is a co-op.

The Roles (Photo by Richard van Vugt)
Many people enjoy having some theme, some plot line, to the game they are playing.  However, not everyone likes to play a ruthless tycoon trying to make money at the expense of others.  I understand that.  Not everyone wants to play the heroic leader of the forces of good defending against the evil horde of malicious creatures that I, AND I ALONE, COMMAND!  Yeah… this one I have trouble understanding.  But it is what it is.  Nearly everyone loves the idea of saving world, the real world, from the brink of disaster, and Pandemic allows the players to do just that.  The theme is reinforced by the different role each player has, which allow him or her to contribute to the team in different ways.  For instance, the Scientist role allows a player to find cures for diseases more easily and quickly.  The Medic, on the other hand, can treat diseases more easily.  It’s easy to see how these two can play off of one another, and the other roles similarly give each player a different way to help.  There are five roles, but a maximum of four players.  As a result, there are five different combinations of roles in a four player game, and many more combinations when the game is played with fewer players.  The game plays well with any number of players up to four; it even makes a pretty good solo game.

It's the end of the world as we know it! (Photo by Chris Norword)
The game is very easy to play.  Each player gets four actions per turn, which include moving in various ways, curing a disease if they have the right hand of cards, treating diseases, exchanging information (cards), and building research stations.  After playing their four actions, the player draws two cards.  Lastly, the player acts as “the infector” spreading the diseases a little bit.  Sounds simple enough, but there are terribly bad things that can happen.  First of all, whenever a disease reaches a certain level in a city, there is an outbreak, which infects surrounding cities.  If those cities then are above the threshold, they outbreak in a chain reaction.  Furthermore, when drawing new cards, a player can draw an “Epidemic” card, which puts infected cities at additional risk, making outbreaks more likely.  The net result is that once bad things start to happen, they tend to accelerate, which keeps the team of players on edge and forces a coordinated effort to win!

My last reason for whole-heartedly recommending Pandemic is the nature of cooperative games themselves.  As a style of play, co-op games are still relatively uncommon, and offer new players a fresh look at gaming.  Because co-ops are a team effort, the game lends itself to bringing along both new players and younger players.  Discussion amongst players is allowed, and even necessary.  Furthermore, since everyone wins or loses as a team, children tend to be less heartbroken, and can learn as the adults around the table (hopefully!) deal with the loss gracefully.  In fact, there are lots of lessons about healthy interplay that can be learned in this style of game.  That said, I have to admit the nature of co-op games makes them difficult games to play with very controlling or very passive people.  Neither person contributes equally with the rest of the team.  Either can make for a bad situation; control freaks can absolutely destroy the game experience.  This is the one drawback, though even this can also provide a lesson to a controlling or demanding child.

Pandemic is a great game.  It is right up there with my top games, both in how I rate it and in number of plays.  Your family and friends can save the world together in an easy to play game in about an hour; I am confident this will make it one of your favorite games.  Our local Barnes and Nobles are now carrying it for roughly $35.00 (USD), so it is getting easier to find.  Even at full price, the high number of plays for me means the game has yielded an entertainment value of $1.25/hr, and I am ready for more plays!  I cannot recommend this game enough!

Vital Statistics:

                Ages:                     10 and up (perhaps as low as 7 due to the co-op nature)
                Time:                     60 minutes
                Players:                  1-4 


It's Your Move!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Gaming – Opening Moves

My re-acquaintance with boardgaming came about four years ago when my son received a copy of Ticket to Ride for Christmas. I had received a copy of Lord of the Rings before that, when the movies were in the theatres, but my own prejudices had kept me from playing it. With Ticket to Ride, I started down the path into the gaming hobby.
We had our share of mass-market games on our shelves: Monopoly, Balderdash, Taboo and Uno. There were also children’s games like Hi, Ho Cherry-O! After playing Ticket to Ride and then Settlers of Catan, I started looking for other games, and stumbled upon the BoardGameGeek website. This website supports an online community of gamers around the globe. With around 50,000 games in the database, it opens up the boardgaming world. After joining in January 2008, I have used this site to find games I love, received answers to questions on rules, and thoroughly enjoyed the hobby beyond just playing games.
Most of my friends and family, though, do not share this passion. Many of them play casually, socially, and it is for them (and you!) that I write this blog. The question many ask is, “What would be a good game for my family and friends to play now and then?”
The first step is to figure out what you have and start playing! Monopoly, Risk and Trivial Pursuit, amongst other commonly found games, can make for memorable evenings even if they are not everyone’s favorite game. (Did you know that stealing is not against the rules in Monopoly? I found out the hard way, and we still tell the story in our family!) As you play, you will start to see what types of games are better for you family. Are there little ones in the family? How much confrontation can the game have before tempers flare? How long can the game be and still keep everyone interested? How complex can it be?
It sounds complicated, but that’s why I am here. In fact, I am going to open up this topic with my first, all-purpose, suggestion: Forbidden Island. It is a cooperative game, which means all players are team up against the workings of the game. For most people, this is a completely new concept, but it is becoming more popular in the gaming world. Players form a team of adventurers, looking to recover ancient artifacts. A long-dead civilization placed these mystical items on the island to keep them from falling into the hands of enemies, and with safeguards in place to keep the artifacts from being taken. Once someone sets foot upon Forbidden Island, it begins to sink into the sea. The players must recover the artifacts and fly off the island before it sinks to win the game. Each player has a unique role on the team, and a corresponding ability, which will help the group in its efforts. Using these different abilities effectively is critical to win, and keeps the game fresh.
This game plays in 30 minutes with up to four players of nearly any age. Because everyone is playing as a team, children can be coached by parents within the spirit and rules of the game. Kids don’t feel like “the loser”, since everyone wins or loses together. It is certainly not a “kid’s game” though; adults will find themselves challenged to win. Forbidden Island will certainly promote a lot of group interaction without confrontation (though there might be some passionate debates!). The artwork and game pieces are wonderful, and it comes in a nice tin box. It is priced very reasonably, and shouldn’t be too hard to find. Bookstore chains were carrying it at Christmas, and online gaming stores will have it in stock.
Good Casual Gaming! Kid Friendly!
In upcoming posts I will discuss Ticket to Ride and other good games to start your play.
Roll On!