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 sessions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sessions. Show all posts

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Better Late Than Never

Wow.  This has been a pretty different year.  Lots of things in my personal life have worked against my gaming, which is why I haven't posted as much.  Here's a quick recap.

So far, I am on pace with last year.  In other words, I am having another bad year in terms of number of games played.  At this point in time last year, I had played 28 games of twelve different titles.  This year, I have played 27 games of 14 different titles - though seven of those games are a special case as you will see below.  It's amazing to me that I have dropped off that much.

I have received a lot of fun by learning new games.  I have found that I learn a new game, and I am much better able to teach a new game, by playing the game through by myself with several players.  It's a sort of "multiplayer solitaire", but it's been good.  Of course, that's also kind of sad; I am getting the most gaming enjoyment from playing a game by myself.  Ugh.

The good news is that the gaming group is managing to meet every month.  The group was very hit an miss last year.  Right now, we are hitting on all cylinders, and it looks like there isn't anything to get in the way this year.  That's great, because my gaming outside of the group is down.

We also finally got the chess club started at the school.  With only a month left, there was some question as to whether or not it was worth doing, but the kids really wanted it.  We are just going to play, and not give much formal instruction.  I played seven of the kids at once this past Wednesday, which is what I was referring to above.  So instruction will be on an individual basis, as I point things out to the kids as they play. 

We are going to try something different this year.  I play a lot of chess on chess.com, which is a great site.  (My number of plays doesn't include online chess games.)  They have an associated website for kids, on which parents and coaches can control the amount of contact their kids have.  I will be introducing it to the parents, so that the kids can continue to play over the summer with each other, and with me.  I will be able to comment and keep track of their progress.  If I can keep them playing, I will.

It's their move!


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Catching Up

Well, it's been almost two months since I have posted to this blog. It's been busy around the house and at work, and I haven't gotten to play as much as I would like. That said, we did get in our February and March game group sessions. 

In February, we brought out an old favorite, Acquire, and had a blast playing it. That's one game that I will never get tired of. Since that game takes about 90 minutes, it took the majority of our time, and the only other game we were able to play was King of Tokyo.  So there's no game to review from the February session, we played good old favorites.

On St. Patrick's Day, we played medieval themed games. I actually have a game related to Ireland, Hibernia, which is also medieval. However, we didn't end up playing it. The Irish ambiance was limited to the food and drink: corned beef and cabbage with beer. We started the afternoon with Dominion, and played a couple rounds of that.  The new game was Rheinländer, an area control game like China, but Rheinländer is not quite as complicated and actually plays better with a larger number of people. We played with four players, although one of us had to leave before the game was over. We just left his pieces on the board as obstacles. Not only would the game have been better had the fourth person stayed, but it really could have used a fifth player.  

I need to catch up on reviews now; hopefully I can do that soon. In the meantime, you can check the existing reviews for some of the games we played over the last couple of months.  And you can take some time to play some great games.

It's Your Move!


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

King of Fillers: A King of Tokyo Review



We normally don’t play many fillers in our gaming group.  For the most part, we know each other well enough that we spend time catching up before we start playing.  I have been trying to curtail that, since we have plenty of time while gaming to catch up, and we are trying to limit the session to four hours.  A couple of weeks ago we had a couple of people running late, so a filler was in order.  King of Tokyo was what made it to the table, since it met the player count and wasn’t too long.  Did we like it?  Well, we finished with it too…

Promotional Image
King of Tokyo is meant to be a light game where each player takes on the role of a giant monster attacking Tokyo.  There is light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek humor which is evident from the moment players start selecting their monsters from the pool consisting of Meka-Dragon, Cyber Bunny and Alienoid.  During the course of the game, each monster will gain special powers, helping them defeat the other monsters (by doing damage) or lay waste to Tokyo (by gaining victory points).  Players win by either gaining 20 victory points or by eliminating all other monsters.

Here’s the thumbnail version of the rules.  On their turn, each player picks up a handful of dice and rolls them Yahtzee-style.  Each die has six sides with the same faces: the numbers 1, 2 and 3 as well as a claw, a heart and a lightning bolt.  The dice are rolled up to three times, with the player selecting which dice to keep and which to re-roll each time.   Rolling three numbers of a kind awards that many victory points.  In other words, rolling three 1’s gives 1 victory point; rolling three 2’s gives 2 victory points.  Rolling a claw is an attack, rolling a heart heals, and rolling a lightning bolt awards the player with an energy cube.  Energy cubes are the currency of the game, and are used to buy cards that give the special abilities mentioned before.  Players outside of Tokyo damage the one player inside the city (two in a five or six player game), and vice versa.  I won’t go into details on how one gets to Tokyo.  Suffice it to say that being in the city is a higher risk / higher reward position, and there are ways to force people into Tokyo.

I won with Alienoid in the first game, but he let me down
in the second! (Image by Raiko Puust)
This is a GREAT game!  In the first game, I won by being the last monster standing.  I had the chance to move into Tokyo on a turn late in the game.  On my next turn, I played an “Air Strike” card which dealt everyone – including me – three points of damage.  I then rolled four claws, doing damage to everyone outside the city and eliminating them all!  Since it was a six player game, it was just between myself and the other player inside Tokyo.  A couple of turns later there was a showdown and I barely won.

The second game lasted a little longer, and resulted in a victory point win for one of the other members of the group.  On one hand, this was a little less climactic, since only two people were eliminated (including me).  On the other hand, a longer game allowed more special powers to be put in play, and there’s some drama and humor to be gained that way, so it was just as fun!  Cards with titles such as, “We’re Only Making It STRONGER!”, this game begs to be played in your best B-grade creature feature voice.  In fact, part of the fun (at least for me) is going over the top with this.

The cards add special powers to the monsters, not to mention some corny humor!  (Image by Raiko Puust)
  At a half hour play time, this game has that in-between playing time that is a little long for a filler, and a little short for a full experience.  It’s kind of like getting loaded baked potatoes for an appetizer; should I stop here or order more food?  I am also not sure how well this will do with kids.  The theme is perfect for them, and they will easily be taught the rules.  However, being forced into Tokyo and then having everyone whomp on you just might be a little traumatic for some younger children.  I’ll still call it a good kids’ game, because I believe a typical 8 – 10 year old will be past that point.

The only other issue with this game might be finding a copy!  You will either have to go online or find a local gaming store to purchase it.  Do yourself a favor and find a way to get it!  When I recommended this on my 2012 Gift Buying Guide, I hadn't played it.  I based the recommendation on the games reputation, and it has more than lived up to it!  This is a great game that will be fun for many gatherings.  It will play well in both casual groups and in family groups across generations.  I plan to make it available at all of our game group sessions for quite a while, since it was a big hit with nearly everyone. 


King of Tokyo
                Ages:                    8 and up
                Time:                     30 minutes
                Players:                 2-6 (but I think it really needs at least three)






It’s Your Move






Related Links:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Teaching Lessons




Yesterday, I got in the car and started listening to one of my favorite gaming podcasts, On Board Games.   In this particular episode, the hosts, Donald Dennis and Erik Dewey, were talking about teaching games with their guest, Giles Pritchard.  It was a pretty amazing coincidence to me, since I had an interesting teaching challenge this weekend at our gaming group.  Back in April 2011, I wrote about not being prepared to teach 7 Wonders, and I actually put it away rather than ruin the initial play experience for my gaming group.  I was teaching a new game at our monthly meeting on Sunday and once again wasn’t prepared, but in a way that caught me completely off guard.  Playing the game is one thing; scoring is another.

[As a complete aside, I really have to endorse not only the On Board Games podcast, but also Giles’ blog, Castle by Moonlight.  These are great resources for those interested in gaming at any level.]


We started off playing a couple of filler games until everyone arrived.  Afterwards I announced that I was teaching China (a fantastic game I will review soon).  I have never played the game, but I often end up teaching games that I have never played before.  It’s unavoidable, since I don’t get to other groups or conventions to play games with experienced players.  The game play is straightforward in China, literally taking only a few sentences to explain.  Normally, explaining the game play is the hard part; it can be very difficult to explain the various phases and options the player has on their turn.  Let’s use Monopoly as an example.  If you are playing strictly according to the rules, the player rolls the dice and moves their token.  From that point, they either: a) pay the owner of the property; b) buy the property; or c) do nothing.  Option a) is dictated if the property is owned.  If the player chooses option c), the property is put on auction, and there is a set of rules for that.  Of course, all of this goes out the window if the player lands on Chance, Free Parking or one of the other places on the board that have their own set of rules, too.

The scoring for Monopoly, however, is simple; there isn’t any scoring.  The winning player is the last person standing when everyone else has been eliminated.  Many games, and nearly all of the games our gaming group has played, have relatively straightforward scoring systems.  A few others are an exception, like Carcassonne, having a relative scoring element as one part of the whole score.  In Carcassonne, scoring farms is relative to how many completed cities touch that farm.  In China, nearly all of the scoring is relative.  That’s the difficulty in explaining the rules.  That’s what I wasn’t prepared for.  How much you score in a given province in China is relative to how many pieces other players put in the province.  That tension between gaining points and possibly giving away points forms the strategy.

I probably should have seen this coming.  I have trouble teaching Carcassonne precisely because of the farm scoring.  Instead, I fumbled around with an explanation of scoring on Sunday.  Fortunately, the other players were willing to play anyway, and after a first “learning game” we played a game with everyone understanding all of the rules: both game play and scoring.  It’s not that the scoring is hard to understand; it’s just hard to put into words.

In teaching the game I learned a lesson.  In the past, I would teach a game by first introducing the game’s theme or story, giving the game objective in story terms, giving the game objective in terms of the rules, and then explain what a player did on his or her turn.  Along the way, I would explain the various game components.  Explaining the scoring was simple enough that it just worked out in explaining everything else.  In China, that’s just not going to happen.  Explaining the scoring will need its own focus, and will probably need to include examples as I teach.  I will need to work a little more on my teaching technique.

It's Your Move!




  
Related Posts: 


 

 

 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year 2013!

Our normal New Year's Eve, which normally sees a few games played, really didn't happen this year.  Instead, the year passed with great conversation.  I hope you got in a few more games than we did.

Over the holidays, our family received two games.  My son received 7 Wonders, which I already have.  While he is only 15, he is starting to collect the games he plans to take to college.  He actually has a pretty good collection started, and will take quite a few great games with him.

I received The Castles of Burgundy, which is a little more complex than the majority of my games.  We may play that in the gaming group in March, but probably not sooner than that.  It supposedly excels as just a two-player game, so that I may get to play it sooner.

Hope everyone has a great year. 

It's Your Move!

 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Yearly Summary 2012

Last year I posted a sort of "year in the life" post that summarized my gaming.  Now, with the theme from Rent running through my brain, I will do that again for 2012.

The busiest year in gaming gave way to the slowest year.  I stopped this blog in February, moving over to the Father Geek website to blog.  What a great group of gentlemen, but I found that I was missing half my audience.  The guys at Father Geek are focused on family gaming, but I am trying to reach the casual gamer also.  As a result, and also probably because I was one of many writers, I really didn't write much at all.

Another factor in writing: this year was a slow year for actually playing games, both favorites and new games.   It was a very busy year outside of gaming.  Over the course of the year I have played 21 different titles for a total of 59 plays to date.  I am sure I will play a few more times this year.  It will most likely be the same titles, so the count will end up around 21/62.  Of the 21 titles I played, seven were new titles.  All of these numbers are about a third of last year's numbers. 

I did slow down my game acquisition this year - just 47 new games.  One group of games I received were from our neighbors cleaning out their closet.  Quite a few of my new games were acquired in trades, as I realized that those four hour marathon games, no matter how good, just weren't going to be played.  Neither were those extremely complicated games, as they generally don't appeal to my gaming group.  My group falls somewhere between "casual gamers" and "hard-core". 


Best Acquisition of the Year:  Werewolves of Miller's Hollow.  I will review this game at some point, since this is my favorite group game.  All but one of the plays of this game were on my son's 8th Grade trip to Washington DC.  In fact, all of those plays were in five hours on the way home!

Most Played Game of the Year:  Werewolves of Miller's Hollow. Same story.  See how limited my game playing was?

Our gaming group celebrated four years of getting together.  However, we also had our first missed months.  After 3 1/2 years of meeting, we missed roughly four of the next six, for both good and bad reasons.  We really started pulling back together in the fall, after school started back up.

Since there really wasn't a group hit of the year, so I will go with:

Game Group Flop of the Year:  Small World.  After exactly one play, the gaming group suggested I trade it away.  There was no interest in trying it again.  I haven't reviewed it.  I didn't see the magic, but there are so many people who love the game that I figure I must be missing it.  Oh, and I did trade it away in a multi-game trade which netted me Notre Dame and YINSH.

A close runner up to Small World would be Warrior Knights, which is a complicated marathon game that I will keep.  It's a medieval multi-player wargame that is just the kind of thing I love!  I think we played our one and only play of that in the group, too.  But maybe I can sneak it in sometime this coming summer...

What's really remarkable this year are my favorite games that I didn't play, most notably Acquire.  That will certainly be played early in the year in 2013.

Finally, just like last year, I will list my Nickles and Dimes: games played 5 and 10 times respectively.  (Once more I won't count the 100+ games of chess I played online this year.)


Dimes

Plays / Game
10       Werewolves of Miller's Hollow

Nickles

Plays / Game
7         Hive
6         Bananagrams
5         Chess (over the board)

Both Pandemic and Carcassonne are likely games to hit the table in the last few days of the year, so I may have a few more nickles yet. 

Here's hoping that 2013 is a better year of gaming - for all of us!

It's Your Move!






Related posts and links:
Yearly Summary 2011 
In the Company of Teen Werewolves (Father Geek)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year!

Image by Chris Norwood
Well, the disappointment of Christmas gaming gave way to starting the New Year right.  I played exactly ONE game in December prior to December 31st, but a good friend of ours came over for New Year's Eve and we broke out Pandemic and it's expansion, Pandemic: On the Brink.  This expansion is really several expansions in one, so I will need to play all of the different variants before I review it.  We were able to play standard Pandemic with new roles, and got in one game with the Bio-terrorist role, played against the other players by my son. He won, but in a sense the good guys have to beat two opponents, the Bio-terrorist and,  as usual, the game.  We were beaten more by the game than by the bad guy.  In the end, we won one game out of four, which isn't bad for us.  That makes a total of 42 games of Pandemic for me; this is just one of my favorite games.

And the new petri dishes are awesome!

Happy New Year!


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.

Dimes


Plays /Game
22Hive
19Pandemic
16Chess
15Bananagrams
13No Thanks!
11Onirim

Nickels


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

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving for Games! (Plus a Review of 7 Wonders)


But not so much for actually playing them.  At least not this year.

Normally games hit the table more at Thanksgiving.  We did spend Sunday with my brother and his wife, playing two games of 7 Wonders.  My son and I also managed to get in our first game of Star Trek: Fleet Captains.  The jury is still out on Fleet Captains, since it took about four times as long to play as advertised.  The game does have a lot of moving parts, but most of that was “first play delay” issues.  I have since made a player aid that will help, and we will go at it again and hopefully soon.

Promotional Image
This post I will talk about 7 Wonders.  Not only did we play it this past weekend, but it’s also in my Top 10 lists, so I thought a review was in order.  The game was published last year and was immediately a hot seller; my copy was back ordered for four months.  This is due to a combination of rare attributes that came together in this game:  a civilization building game that plays in under an hour and the wide range of players supported.

In 7 Wonders, each player is attempting to build the most advanced civilization, choosing from among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World as the centerpiece:  the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes and the Lighthouse of Alexandria.  Players lay down cards from their hand to represent building they construct, or alternatively construct a stage of their Wonder.  The structures built provide either victory points or more capability for construction later.  Players then pass their hand to their neighbor, and do it again.  There are three ages to build in, and six turns to build in during each age.  Each successive age has more advanced structures which are worth correspondingly more victory points.  The person with the most victory points is the winner.

A civilization on the rise (Photo by Igor Mustac)
 Games with this theme have a reputation of being long games; over four hours in play time is not unheard of.   As boardgaming becomes a more popular hobby, the demand to better fit games into a busy lifestyle has grown.  Games in general have shortened in playing time, and seem to be targeting that 60-90 minute playing time range, which seems to be a sweet spot.  This is also true of civilization games; only a handful of truly good games managed to get this down to that time frame.  7 Wonders is one of two or three civilization games that actually reduced it further: 30 minutes.  This always gets gamers skeptical attention.

The second promise7 Wonders made was to cover anywhere from two to seven players.  Really?  Many games of this type cover three or four, and occasionally five.  Two is particularly complicated for a civilization game, since there is normally some type of game mechanism, like negotiation, that needs three people to work well.  More players normally means more time, particularly in a civilization game, since the interaction amongst many players is so much higher.  To play seven players and keep the playing time at under an hour seemed like an impossible combination.

Since 7 Wonders is in my Top 10, it’s pretty easy to guess that it delivers.  There are three things that contribute to this.  The first is that it is a card game, which tends to shorten games to begin with.  Secondly, all actions are resolved simultaneously.  The third characteristic is truly innovative.  Regardless of the number of players, each player only interacts with their immediate neighbors to the left and right.  Limiting interaction and simultaneous resolution means that the play time of each round is completely independent of the number of players.  7 Wonders does work incredibly well from three to seven players.  Due to the lack of full interaction with two players, there are special rules for this situation, which I haven’t played.  (Honestly, there are so many great two player games that I probably never will play this game with only two.) 

A game that plays in 30 minutes can’t be too involved.  Playing time and complexity tend to go hand-in-hand.  However, civilization games are notoriously complicated as players work out the societal, commercial, martial and technological growth of their empire.  Packing all of those factors into a short game seems too good to be true.  7 Wonders does this by having different colors of cards, suits if you will, which correspond to different aspects of the society.  Brown cards are raw resources, gray cards are manufactured goods, yellow cards correspond to commerce, blue are cultural items, red represents military structures, green are scientific achievements and purple cards are guilds.  Seven suits of cards, coupled with the plethora of icons on the cards, are where this game does get somewhat complicated.  One or two plays, however will sort things out, since the colors aren’t as important as the icons, and there is a system to the icons that quickly becomes apparent.

A couple of the cards used in 7 Wonders (Images by Julien Kirsch)

Since my son is now 14 and an experienced gamer, he isn’t a good gauge on how kid-friendly this game is.  My wife, who as an educator really understands children, hasn’t played it.  It certainly wouldn’t be for every child.  I can’t give it a kid-friendly vote due to the above complexity.

For older kids and adults, 7 Wonders is a great game that has multiple paths to victory.  Part of the fun is that “look what I built – how cool is that!” feeling you get at the end of the game.  This is definitely a great family or casual game that can be pulled out nearly anytime.  While it would be best to have the game taught by an experienced player, a little time with the rules and patience in playing the first couple of games will quickly make this a family favorite.  At seven players, it almost covers those party game situations for those who (like me) aren’t the biggest fans of party games.  It’s not quite a must-buy, but is pretty close.





It's Your Move!




Related Posts: