Review: Dice Forge

It’s been a while!! But I am glad to be back, writing.  I’ve had a rough adjustment period with some new medication I’ve been taking, but I’m back in the saddle and looking forward to writing.

With that being said, let’s get on to the review!!

It’s no surprise I love Dice Games.  I don’t know what it is about them, but I really like games that involve dice, especially when they are used in a non-standard way.

I recently saw a game on Instagram that was a “Dice Builder”.  I was immediately intrigued by it, so I did some research and dove in and picked up a copy.  That game is Dice Forge, designed by Régis Bonnessée and published by Asmodee as well as others.

In Dice Forge, players are heroes trying to impress the Gods.  On a players turn, they will roll their dice to gain resources, then they can either purchase faces that upgrade their current dice with more or better rewards or they can go on adventures where they spend resources to gain either one time or every turn abilities.  There are other rules that I won’t discuss, because this is the overall idea of it.

To upgrade your dice, you physically remove the die face you wish and snap the new die face onto it.   So when they say that this is a Dice Builder, they aren’t kidding…you really get to shape your dice to fit into the strategy you wish to follow.

I have already played this game 3 times, which for me is a pretty big statement. I really, really enjoy this game.  It’s a unique mechanic and the different faces that are present can give you a different way to go about planning your path to victory.  It is not a difficult game to pick up but trying to figure out on which dice to place a face provides a little more of a thinky opportunity, especially if you are terrible at probability and math like I am :D.

I would heartily recommend Dice Forge to just about anyone, unless you don’t like luck.  The main issue you can run into is that none of your cool new die faces aren’t being rolled, but it plays quick enough (at least to me) that it isn’t an issue.

This was an impulse purchase, and it’s probably been my best impulse purchase in a long time.  If you are into dice and deck builders, I definitely suggest you pick this one up.

What are some of your favorite “outside the box” games? Let me know in the comments below!

Radio Silence!!

Sorry for the Radio Silence, all.  Been dealing with a lot of project work at my regular job that has left me wiped, along with dealing with sickness in the family (nothing serious, but we’ve been passing around a cold between all of us, which makes us not want to do much other than curl up on the couch).  On top of that I’m starting a new med for my anxiety so while I adjust I am not sure how much I will be up for gaming.

I do think my next post will be another Top 10 List or Why I Play RPGs.  Hopefully I can get it up in the next week or so.

Until then, stay tuned!

Review: Azul

Ooooooooh boy.  I had been waiting for this game for quite some time after I saw a playthrough on Heavy Cardboard’s YouTube Channel.  Unfortunately it was quite hard to find, as it was extremely popular.

Luckily for me, I noticed that it was to be back in stock at Miniature Market, so I quickly jumped over to their corner of the internet, and managed to snag a preorder.  It shipped super quick, and since Samantha and I’s game of the week was “Play a New Game” we fired it up with some friends last Friday.

Azul is a tile placement game from Plan B Games/Next Move Games.  You are creating a wall inspired by azulejos that can be found across the southern Iberia peninsula.  While the theme is nice, to me it’s not vital to the gameplay (although it did make the game more appealing to Samantha).

On your turn you can take 1 color (from 5) of tiles from either a factory space or from the center of the board.  You then have to place those tiles on a row (containing 1-5 spaces) on your player board.  When you fill up a row, 1 tile goes over to your wall and you score points based upon how many existing tiles it touches.  The game is over when someone fills up a row on their wall.  The catch is that if you take more of one color than you can fit on a row, the excess falls to the floor, causing you to lose points.  There is also end game scoring for the number of rows, columns, and complete sets of colors you have on your wall.

This is a great game.  It’s thinky, but not so much that I don’t feel like I can play it after a day of heavy programming at work.  It has enough player interaction for us in that you can really screw up someone’s turn/plans if you stick them with enough tiles (at one point during our 1st game I lost 10 points [I think] because I didn’t have anywhere to put them) but if you play completely harsh you will likely won’t win.

The components are fantastic.  The player boards are chipboard along with the factory discs, but where the components really shine are the tiles.  They aren’t glass, but they feel like a heavier plastic.  I am not sure if it’s bakelite, but they are nice to touch and hold while you are thinking about where to play, and there isn’t a seam in them.  Additionally, the patterns for the tiles are printed on seamlessly, so I’m not too concerned about it wearing off anytime soon.  You also get a nice drawstring bag to keep all the tiles in.

For replayability, there is also a back side to the player board that is just a blank grid (the front side has specific tiles printed on each space in the wall). This is a much more thinky and ‘need to be more aware of what I’m doing’ way to play the game.  We haven’t tried it yet, but I am sure we will some day.

For me, Azul is a great gateway game for people interested in more puzzle type games.  The rules are not hard to pick up on, but to learn how to play the game optimally will take a few more plays, and can change due to how the tiles are distributed.  I really think there is a place for Azul in anyone’s collection, so if you can find a copy for a reasonable price, I’d recommend you grab it!

I actually enjoyed it enough that it displaced one of my 10 x 10 games that we hadn’t started playing yet, so I’m looking forward to playing it more.

Back From A Break

It’s been a while since I’ve posted.  I started this blog as a way to write about the hobby I love, but it’s also here to serve another purpose: to be a coping mechanism with my stress and anxiety.

I’ve talked about it before, but the TL;DR version of it is that I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and games and rpgs are one of my coping mechanisms that help me get out of my head for a bit.

But what happens when the escape I use becomes a bane instead of a boon? That’s what this post is about, and why I took a break from posting and from board games for a little while.

It all started on Feb. 16.  I finally was able to start playing DnD (5th Ed.) with my normal game group after we all reorganized our schedules and shifted to a twice monthly thing instead of once a week.  I was super excited because DnD really helps with some of the feelings I have towards myself in regards to imposter syndrome and the fact that at times I feel like I’m not good enough (more on this in a later post.  It’s one I’ve wanted to write for a very long time but haven’t felt in the right headspace to do it justice).

We are playing and my character and another are faced with a decision to make regarding taking care of the baddies and saving another PC (player character).  I’m sitting there thinking about what my character would do, when the character I was with chimed in and, at the time, I felt extremely pressured as a player (not as a character) to do what they said, even if it wasn’t what my character would have done.  My heart immediately started racing, I started getting tingly in my arms and the back of my neck, all signs of an impending anxiety episode (maybe not full blown panic attack, but on high alert at every. single. thing that is said and done.  It all starts to get analyzed in my brain at superspeed, usually with a negative filter).  I failed the check to stabilize the character who needed saved, and on his turn, his character died.

At the end of the session, the player who was urging me to take action made a statement that essentially boiled down to “I hold you responsible for this death”, which totally fits in with the archetype that this player is going for.  But, at the time, I couldn’t separate that out.  I internalized it, let it fester, and it really bothered me the rest of the weekend, because it felt like that player was holding ME, personally responsible, which is silly because it’s a pretend game but anxiety makes literally 0 sense most of the time.

I was shaken up enough about this that I thought about avoiding the next session (which is this Friday).  But writing about it now, and looking back on it, I understand this isn’t a personal thing, it’s a game thing.  One that I’ll probably have to deal with in some way, shape, or form.  While I have interpersonal anxiety issues, Aldunn (my character) doesn’t (at least I don’t think he does…), so I should use this as an opportunity to roleplay and work through the personal issues I had that night.

BUUUUT anyway, that Sunday I had a few friends over to play a wargame; Liberty or Death (my first 5 x 1 game of the year).  None of us had played it before, and only two of us were really familiar with the COIN system, so it was a learning game, and I was in charge of teaching it.

My 13 month old daughter decided, at that point, that she would begin having issues with going down to take a nap.  So, as I’m trying to teach/play this new game (for my birthday, I might add), I am also dealing with the frustration/exhaustion of my daughter not sleeping, my wife being the one to have to work with her to get her to sleep, and me trying to juggle the two things.

I felt I didn’t teach the game well.  I overlooked some key parts of what my faction should be doing to win the game, which in turn affected another player’s faction and ability to score.  I’ve been reassured by one of the players that they had a good time and that I didn’t teach the game any worse than anyone else would have (since we were all new to the system) but the events of that Friday night and the goings on with my daughter really soured the experience, even with all of the players explaining to me they understood what I was going through (they all have children).  One of them did make a comment after the fact that sort of confirmed that my misplaying really did have an impact on their score, and to be honest I felt super shitty based upon that.  I was frustrated that this fun event had been tainted by my anxiety, and I even commented to one of the players that the next time I play this it will likely be solo.

These experiences really pushed me away from boardgames.  I am a huge videogamer too, so it’s not uncommon for me to go through swings where I focus on one or the other in my free time, but this time it felt different.  It felt as though because of my anxiety, I didn’t want to repeat that and taint the hobby that I love, so I pushed it away entirely.  This is why I didn’t want to write, because I didn’t feel like I had anything to contribute, so I didn’t, which I think is probably for the best.

My wife and I played some games last week which were really fun and started to get me to peek out of the hole again, so I’m sure I’ll get back in the habit of posting more regularly, and more importantly playing more regularly, but I wanted to at least talk about these experiences I had and how my anxiety colored them.  I’m working on coping mechanisms, including medication and therapy, every day.  There are good days, and bad days but I’m thankful I have this hobby, even if it gets ‘tainted from time to time’.

I know some of the people I alluded to do read my posts from time to time, so I do want to say that I am completely over everything, there is no ill will, and my feelings about it in the moment were colored by my anxiety in the moment.

I am thinking my next post will be either a review of a new game I hope to play on Saturday or a session report of one of my 10 x 10 games that I’ve been getting to the table.  Do you have a preference? Let me know!

Top 10 Dice Games

I love dice.  I probably have an unhealthy obsession with dice, to be honest.  For a while, in my DnD group, when we would start a new campaign or a new character, I would go out and buy a new set of polyhedral dice.

The draw from the “What Should We Play” deck was Quarriors, which got me thinking…dice are probably one of my favorite components, so what better way to come back from an unintentional hiatus than writing about my top 10 dice games.

Castles of BurgundyRavensburger

Dice Laying, Tile Placement and ‘Worker Placement’ are probably my favorite mechanics, and CoB has them both.  I have enjoyed every play of this game.  There are numerous player boards that you can play with that require you to adopt different strategies (even if I haven’t played most of them).  This is one that many, many people in my game group enjoy even if we don’t play it that often.

KingsburgFantasy Flight Games

This is probably my wife’s favorite game on this list.  This is one game that combines Dice rolling and worker placement and requires a surprising amount of planning and mitigating your plan if an opposing player takes your spot.  I think this is a game that is better if you play with the expansion, but any time we’ve played it it’s been enjoyable.

St MaloRavensburger

This is a roll and write city building game that was a bit of a surprise. I bought it on a whim at a convention and ended up playing it 2 or 3 times that weekend.  It’s quick and easy to teach and the boards are coated so you use a whiteboard style marker, which for some reason is really entertaining to me.

QuarriorsWizKids

When Quarriors first came out it seemed as though they had struck gold with a confrontational but not too confrontational “dicebuilding” game.  We had to make some adjustments to make it work for 2 players (we play to the 4 player point limit) but we enjoyed the custom dice, the art, and the way the game works: it felt to us like a dice version of Magic the Gathering.

D-Day DiceValley Games

I hesitated to put this on my list.  I was a Line for Life Kickstarter backer of the first edition which has been marred by some terrible dealings with the now defunct Valley Games, but this is actually being reprinted by Word Forge Games, who along with the designer, is going above and beyond to atone for the sins of the previous publisher.

When it was released this was a really unique mechanic along with a theme that I loved.  The D-Day landings are by far my favorite military operation to study and read about, and it’s co-op and solo capable.  Custom dice are always awesome, and this comes with tons of them.  I really need to get it to the table more.

DicemastersWizKids

I’ve talked about this in previous posts, but this really made me feel like I was playing Magic: The Dice Gathering.  With all the IPs offered, I really like the limited deck building aspect of it and the gameplay is pretty straightforward.  They took Quarriors and kept the streamlined feel of it while making it feel like you could actually get your engine going.  Just beware if you are a completionist.

SagradaFloodgate Games

I’ve given a review of Sagrada and mentioned it in previous posts, so I’ll give my abbreviated thoughts:

If you can find a copy, buy it.  You won’t be disappointed.  It’s a puzzly dice placement game that looks gorgeous.

Roll PlayerThunderworks Games

My favorite part of DnD is rolling characters, and that’s what you are doing in Roll Player.  It’s a clever dice manipulation game that is a lot deeper under the surface.  The first time I played this, I did terribly, and immediately wanted to get a copy so I could keep playing it to try to get better.  Not many games do that to me.

Elder SignFantasy Flight Games

I’ve probably played the app version of this more than the board game version, but Elder Sign is a quickish Yahtzee style game (for lack of any other way to describe it) set in the Arkham universe.  It does a good job of integrating the theme of it’s bigger brothers Arkham and Eldritch Horror and there are a good selection of expansions to integrate as well.

Carson CityEagle-Gryphon Games (my copy)

I love Westerns.  Carson City puts you in charge of developing a western city complete with gunfights, prospecting, and staking claims.  The first time I played this I was warned that it is completely possible that your opponents might be able to lock you out of doing anything, and while that didn’t happen to me it’s definitely a more in your face worker placement game than I normally play.  The dice are used to seed the board with buildings, landmarks, etc and for a few action spaces, but it’s the use of them to determine coordinates that stuck with me, as this was the first game that I had played to do so (see also Flash Point: Fire Rescue).

Well, there you have it.  A quick look at my top 10 Dice games.  Honorable mentions would probably be Dungeons and Dragons and wargames, but I’m glad I could come up with 10 game that I enjoy, some of which I think are overlooked at times.  What dice games do you enjoy? Let me know in the comments!

Remembering ML

Hey all:

This is going to be my post for the week and it’s a short one.

I started this blog as a spin off of a blog I started to help me deal with my mother’s death, which was one year ago today.  I wanted to start writing about something I enjoy, rather than something to use as a processing tool.

Anyways, I’m planning on spending the weekend with friends and family, so I figured I would post the only session review I have ever posted on BGG: Teaching my mother how to play Command and Colors: Ancients.

Enjoy, and be good to one another.

Taken from https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/493100/teaching-my-mother-cc

This is my first session report, and I will be focusing more on the teaching aspect than the actual game(s) we played, so bear with me.

My Mom is always interested in the games I am bringing home from college. I have gotten her to play Carcassonne, but she never really seemed too interested in wargames. My dad fought in Vietnam, so he never was interested in games or toys that, in his opinion glorified war. I did convince him to play a game of Memoir ’44, but that is another story for another day.

Anyway, my mom saw us playing Memoir and seemed kind of interested, so when I got CC:A for Christmas, I figured I would teach it to her. Well, tonight was a rare night where I came home from the University I attend, and I packed my games and told her to prepare to learn.

I selected the scenario, The Battle of Akragas, and prepared the game. She played as the Syracusians, and I took the Carthaginians. I spent about 15 minutes explaining the rules, and the differences between units, dealt the cards out, and we began playing.

She began by advancing her light units forward and harassing with ranged fire. It took her a while to understand the difference behind the rationale with firing 1 dice for a unit who has moved, and 2 dice for a unit who has held. I explained because the archers had to pack up their equipment in order to move.

I spent my first few turns by advancing my chariots and using my light troops for ranged fire. Eventually, I would move my Auxila and my Chariots into her light units to secure the win, 5 Banners to 3.

We spent the next 30 minutes or so discussing what she could have done differently. I explained that you really want to advance Heavy Infantry, esp. in a scenario like this, and she seemed to grasp the rationale for that. She did everything else right though, whether it was evading when I attacked her lights to even isolating one of my units so it couldn’t retreat.

She asked if we could play again, and naturally I agreed. We played the same scenario, because she wanted to try out some strategies that we had talked about.

This time she was much more agressive about moving her HI forward, all the while harassing my skirmishers with bow fire (She realized that if she left them, the dice rolls would be more favorable). She even pulled a screen with two Auxila and the one Medium Cav. unit. This game, my dice were hotter than the first game we played, and I won, 5 banners to 2.

Overall, I would say that she grasped the basic concepts well. She had a hard time understanding that the only units who could use ranged fire were the Lights. I think this could be avoided by finding/making a player aid that doesn’t contain as much information as the cards that are included in the game.

She is looking forward to playing again tomorrow night as well.

*On a side note, I recently recieved Ardennes ’44 in a trade and had the maps set up as if I was starting a new game just to get a feel for it. She took one look at it and asked how long it would take me to explain that game to her. I told her that we should play through the CC:A base and expansions, and then we could tackle that one *

(Edit: Fixed some typos)

Top 10 ‘Quick’ Games for 2 Players

My wife and I welcomed our first daughter a little over a year ago.  One of the things I have learned to appreciate in that time is to appreciate the time my wife and I have to game, even if it’s short.  We usually have a couple of hours after she goes to bed to fit in chores, preparation for the next day, and any ‘fun’ things like video or board games.  Some nights, like the other night, we can get in a longer game like Charterstone.  But more frequently than not, we have the time or mental faculties for a quicker game.  While we may not have played some of these recently, this week’s list is the Top 10 (in no particular order) ‘quick’ games for 2 players, [with the publishers of the edition we own in brackets].

Tsuro [Cailliope Games]

My wife loves tile laying games, and this one is a very laid back semi-confrontational game.  As a sky dragon just travelling along paths, it’s always fun to take a different approach than I did last game; do I gun straight for the middle and try to mess with my wife’s plans, or do I take the avoidance route and skirt along the outside of the board?  Luckily the game is quick enough you can try both in one sitting.

Patchwork [Mayfair Games]

This is also a tile laying game, although it is a bit more spatial and strategic, I would argue, than Tsuro. We play this a little more cutthroat and I love the farther back you are on the time track the sooner it’s your turn mechanic.  It’s been a while since we’ve played it but this is one of our go to games when we do want something a little deeper or thought provoking.

Dice Masters [Wizkids]

I am the main gamer in our family, and while I have fallen out of the habit of playing, I love Dicemasters.  I never played it ‘competitively’ mainly because I am pretty awful at deckbuilding (this will be revisited in a later game on this list) but it’s approachable enough and we have a sizeable enough collection that every now and then we get the itch to roll some dice and pit the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles against the Avengers.

We also really like Quarriors, but the IP offering in Dice Masters is why I favor it.  I do remember discussing this with my wife one of the first time we played it and she likened this to Magic with dice, and I’d agree with that assessment.

7 Wonders: Duel [Repos Production]

Card drafting is a hit or miss mechanic with me mainly because I have a hard time focusing on one strategy.  Duel, though, is compact enough it’s fairly easy for me to keep track and get an engine going and there are multiple routes to victory.  In fact, if you aren’t paying attention to what your opponent is doing they may sneak by and win by Science or Military.  This is on our 10 x 10 list for the year, and I’m really looking forward to getting it played; no two games are the same due to the card layout and I don’t think of the games I’ve won, I’ve won with the same strategy more than a couple of times.

Kingdomino [blueOrange Games]

This is one of the newer to us games, and it’s actually the one that reminded me of this list.  The other night after finishing up a game of Charterstone, we had a little bit more time and were having a great evening, so I suggested Kingdomino.  You can play either with the 5 x 5 or 7 x 7 grid/variant, but both times it goes quick and we probably could have gotten another game of it in as well.  It’s thinky, but doesn’t feel like you need to give your brain a shower afterwards.  And the art is fantastic.  I think this one probably has a place in almost every gamer’s collection.

Martian Dice [Tasty Minstrel Games]

I don’t have a ton to say about this one as there have been tons of variants/themes of the push your luck and roll some dice games, but Martian Dice has always been a hit when my wife and I need something stupid quick and we’ve introduced it to family members.

Magic The Gathering [Wizards of the Coast]

I have never played a game of ‘competitive’ MtG in my life.  But in our fraternity in college we would play for fun every now and then, and my wife eventually started playing against me.  We haven’t touched our decks in a long while (I think probably due to Dicemasters), but every now and then one of us mentions that we should play again.  I will say that this probably has the potential to run long, but our games rarely do.

Codenames Duet [Czech Games Edition]

The only cooperative game on this list, we are terrible at Codenames.  The couple of games we have tried did not go well, but we still had a really good time.  Each person has certain clues (with some overlapping) they have to get the other person to guess but there is a limited number of turns.  Stressful and probably the game that has also caused the most frustration between us, I’m looking forward to getting this to the table more.

FITS [Ravensburger]

This is Tetris the board game.   I would probably venture that this is one of my wife’s favorite games, and it’s one that can easily be paused if the baby wakes up as we are playing without derailing what you were thinking as you were taking or waiting to take your turn.  It’s simple and just a good time.

Qwixx [Gamewright]

Last but not least is a surprisingly deep roll and write game.  The first time I played this it took me a while to wrap my head around it, but once I did I knew it needed to be in our collection.  We both love dice and I loved Yahtzee growing up, and while this really isn’t anything like Yahtzee, it involves rolling dice and writing numbers in a puzzly, optimizing fashion so it’s close enough for me.

So there you have it.  My top 10 ‘Quick’ 2 Player games.  Are there any games you have that you love because they are quick?  Got a special game you always play with 2? Let me know in the comments!

Blast from the Past Review: Suburbia

For a very brief time, I ran another Boardgameblog on Boardgamegeek mostly called “The IT Gamer”.  I didn’t stick with it for very long but I did have a few reviews and so from time to time I’ll post them here, and note them as such.  This one is for Suburbia, which is still one of my favorite games even if it is a bit fiddly.

Originally posted Jan. 14, 2013

Suburbia is a tile placement, city building game for 1-4 players, designed by Ted Alspach and published by Bézier Games, Lookout Games, and uplay.it edizioni. I have played it 5 times as of this writing

Theme (1-5): This is a game about building a city, and the theme really shows. There are all sorts of buildings you can build, from an “Office of Bureaucracy” to a “Mobile Home Park” to “Domestic” and “International” Airports. But the buildings aren’t the only aspect of the theme.

You also get bonuses and penalties if you build inconsistently. For example, if you build a freeway next to a suburb, then you lose 1 Reputation. If you build a Movie Theater, Fast Food Restaurant, or Stadium next to a community area (a green tile), then you get more population or income. If you build an office supply store next to a skyscraper, that gives you a boost as well.

The final aspect of “Theme” is that some buildings affect others throughout the whole game. If you build a fancy restaurant, for example, you get a lot of income up front…but if other players decide to build other restaurants, then you start to lose income: Customers only want to come to the fancy restaurant when it’s the new, hot thing, and there aren’t cheaper offerings.

The only thing that bothers me is that the theme isn’t 100% consistent. There are a few tiles that can be next to each other that don’t quite seem to make sense, such as a power plant right next to a school. This isn’t a huge deal, but could make you take a step back the first time you encounter it and say “Huh. Interesting”

I give theme a 4.5 out of 5.

Components(1-5): The components are nice cardboard tiles and tokens. Apparently there was a problem with some misprinted tiles and money tokens; my money tokens are off-center, but I haven’t experienced any misprinted tiles, and the misprinted money doesn’t affect game-play at all. I did have a bit of a problem punching out some of the tiles without getting either a little tearing on the edge of the tiles (only 1) or with a little extra cardboard stuck to them afterward (5 or 6).

Another unique aspect of the components is the dual sided player board. Each player gets a player board from which to build his suburbs, and you can either build ‘up’ (towards the center of the table) or ‘down’ (towards the edge of the table). This is a nice touch for those gamers who have space limitations.

The components are functional, decent quality, but do have some minor issues.

I give components a 3.5 out of 5.

Gameplay (1-5): The gameplay is pretty straight forward. There are 3 stacks of tiles (A, B, C) . When the A stack is exhausted, you begin placing tiles from the B stack in the market. There is a variable end game tile that is mixed in with some of the C tiles. This means you will never quite know how many more rounds you get to play, even if you do have a general idea.

Each turn, you buy a tile or place an investment token (which doubles the effect of one of your tiles).
The tiles you buy can be placed in your suburb or flipped over to create a lake. When you place a tile, you run through a plethora of steps to add Income, Population, and Reputation to your board. These steps include checking the tile itself, checking the adjacent tiles, checking other tiles in your suburb, and checking other player’s tiles. It may seem like a lot, but after a few plays you get the hang of it. Also (and this ties in with theme), as you score points, you will pass red lines on the scoring track. As you pass these red lines, you must decrease your income and reputation (which you have been building by playing tiles). This reflects the difficulty in expanding a city and providing it the infrastructre and other needs; as your suburb gets bigger, it’s going to take more money and you will need a higher reputation to bring residents to your suburb.

Another aspect of gameplay is the goals, which require a player to usually get the most or the least of something, whether it be a type of building, income, reputation, or even congruent lakes. The goals are cleverly titled (the Libertarian goal gives the player with the fewest Government buildings). Each player gets a secret goal which is only for them to try to achieve, and there are also “global goals” that all players can try to achieve.
The problem with the goals is that sometimes the secret goals of a player and the global goals can be incompatible: You, as a player, could get the “Least amount of Lakes” goal, while one of the global goals is “Most Lakes.” This hasn’t been a big issue in the games I’ve played, but I do see the potential. There have been a few fixes or variants suggested on BGG, and I have yet to try them. One idea a few players and I did come up with was the possibility of themed scenarios or sets of goals that players draw from, that could possibly be themed with actual cities?

Finally, play time. Play takes 90 minutes, according to the official BGG play time, and I have to agree, although this could be a little high once all players know what they are doing.

The game-play is pretty simple when you get the hang of it, and it’s a different take on the Tile Laying that I normally play. While the goals can give some wonky outcomes, this is a solid game.

I give game-play 4 out of 5.

Replayability (1-5): This game has a lot of replayability. There are a ton of tiles, and not all of them are used each game. While there are some repeat tiles, the different goals and tiles that could come up each game means not two games will be the same.

I give Replayability 4 out of 5.

Soloability (1-5): Soloability is very, very important to me. I started gaming as a solitaire wargamer, and there aren’t always people around. Fortunately, Suburbia provides not one, but two different solitaire modes. The first is more of an optimization style game: It’s just you, but you have to be able to get rid of 2 tiles a turn (one that you buy/place and the other to keep the game moving). The second is with a dummy player. I haven’t played the second mode yet, but the first is a great way to get the core mechanics of the game and see what buildings are available. While many designers may not have solo rules in mind, this designer provided two ways for us lonely gamers to play.

I give soloability 5 out of 5.

Difficulty (Scale of 1-5, with 1 being easy): I would rate this at a 2, simply because there is a lot to check each turn to make sure you are getting the most out of your tiles.

Expansions/Promos? There is one set of Promos which feature buildings from Essen. I have not yet played with these promos.

My Overall Score(1-5): Overall, Suburbia is an excellent City development game that is light, fast, and fun. This could even be a [heavier] gateway game for new gamers who may have played one or two style Euro Games prior.

I give Suburbia a 4 out of 5.

thumbsup Best Thing about the game: The theme; It permeates throughout the game (Tile interaction, scoring track, goals).

thumbsdownWorst thing about the game: The ability for the goals to really affect the outcome of the game.

No Post This Weekend

Sorry all, my wife, baby girl and I are all sick, so I’m not feeling up to a write up this weekend.

I did get my first mission of my Sherman Leader campaign played, as well as watched some excellent video wakthroughs of a few games I’ve been trying to wrap my head around, so I’m excited for a few of these games to hit the table.

Top 10 Wargames

I was introduced into the board gaming hobby at large by hex and counter-esque Wargames.  I got my first Bachelor’s Degree in history, so seeing battles take place on the table in front of me always was a selling point (which is why I probably have too many Normandy wargames).

There are a lot of people who think Wargames are super involved and detailed and the rules take forever to learn and twice as long to play.  And they are partially right.  There are definitely wargames that I have tried to read the rules for, was unable to understand them remotely, and (at the time) didn’t have YouTube tutorials to look up, so I passed on them.  But there are also very accessible wargames as well.  The games on this list present both a wide range of complex options and entry points into the wargaming hobby.  I think I’ll probably do a “wargaming primer” post for people who are interested but don’t have any idea what ZOC means (zone of control) and what the difference between tactical and operational level games are.  For now, I’ll try to keep the jargon limited or explain if I use a term that doesn’t translate well to overall gaming.  Also, some of these games are solitaire only, where you play against the game system itself.  A lot of them are, actually, because most of my gaming group aren’t that into wargames.  I’ll note those as well.

One final point before we get to the important stuff:  These all fall in to my definition of a wargame (which is I know it when I see it).  These may not fall in to your definition, and that’s okay.  We can disagree on things.  What I absolutely hate is people using a game like Memoir ’44 or Twilight Struggle as a litmus test for people who want to enter into wargaming and having people say “Oh, that’s not a wargame, you aren’t a real wargamer”.  I’ve had it happen to me, it sucks and it’s not a good way to introduce and grow the hobby.

If you are new to wargames, check out this helpful geeklist on Boardgamegeek: Wargames??? YES YOU CAN!

With that out of the way, here are my top 10 Wargames, [with the publishers in brackets]

Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear (2nd Edition) [Academy Games]

This is a 2 player World War II tactical game (rough idea is that it’s a very focused scale; usually a small part of one battle or one battle, depending on the time).  It uses an action point system, where each player gets a certain pool of points that they can use to do various things like move, fire, assault (moving into a hex with an enemy unit and fighting).  It also includes cards that allow you to do various things.

I have really enjoyed my few plays of this system.  There is also a solo expansion that lets you play against the game, and while I own it, I haven’t had the chance to sit down and digest the rules for it.

I like it because it’s simple and the narrative that can develop really gets me into the action.  I feel it’s rules light and the rules start simple and gradually add complexity with each new scenario, so you can take your time with it if you are just starting out.

Silent Victory [Consim Press]

Silent Victory is a solitaire WWII game where you control a submarine crew.  This game doesn’t look like what many people think of when they think of wargames.  There isn’t really a map, and there are a lot of charts.  Some people argue that there aren’t many meaningful decisions to be made in this game because you are left to the die rolls on the charts and that’s about it, but there are some decisions you can make:  how to load out your sub, at what range to fire, what targets to fire on and what ones to leave alone.

This game is in my top 10 because it is quick to play a patrol or two and the story that develops is absolutely phenomenal.  You get attached to your submariners and your commander, and it always leaves you wondering “maybe I should have taken a shot at that last convoy when I had a chance”.

The level of detail is also astounding; there is an entire chart of Japanese capital and warships that you can sink, as well as tons of charts with various smaller ships.

Memoir ’44 [Days of Wonder]

This was my first wargame.  This is a 2 player variable scale WWII game.  It’s primary mechanic is that it’s card driven, and each card allows you to activate certain sectors of the game board.  There are certain scenarios that have objectives you can hold, but usually you are just trying to eliminate a certain number of enemy forces to win.

There are tons of expansions for this, and I own just about all of them.  I don’t get this played nearly at all, but you can play everything from one battle on one map to a campaign over a series of battles, to the D-Day landings over 6 maps that when put together don’t fit in my game room (Seriously…I haven’t done it yet but I will one day).

There are minis for each unit and each nation has a different color.  Seriously, the amount of content that has been released for this system is astounding….dang, I really need to get this to the table again.

The Greatest Day: Sword, Juno, and Gold Beaches [Multi-Man Publishing]

This is the first game I haven’t actually ‘played’ on this list.  I have set it up on a computer program called VASSAL because this thing is huge.  It is part of the Grand Tactical Series and it’s a bit of a zoomed out tactical look at the D-Day landings on the British and Canadian beaches.

This is what’s known as a monster wargame because there are a lot of counters and a lot of map space.  You can play a single map scenario, or you can combine them to play the whole enchilada.

This is probably the most ‘traditional’ hex and counter wargame on my list.  I have two other games in the GTS series, and every time I see them on the shelf, I go onto YouTube, look up a play list on how to play the system and get excited…then don’t commit.  Maybe this year is the year I actually play a scenario of this.

Ambush! [Victory Games]

This was my first solitaire wargame, and it’s one of the few games I’ve purchased twice.  Ambush! was published in 1983 and was designed by one of the highest regarded solo wargame designers, John Butterfield.

Ambush! is a tactical WWII (do you see a theme here?) solitaire game where you control a squad of American soldiers in different scenarios in Europe.  The counters each are an individual soldier, and much like an RPG, they each have different skills and weapons that you can roll on tables to create.

Ambush! is similar to a choose your own adventure book.  You have a paragraph book that you consult whenever your squad does something (outside of combat) that drives the action forward; you might hear a bullet whiz by your head, you might see a plane going down in the distance, who knows?

There are quite a few expansions for this, and since the game is out of print, they can be hard to find.  Luckily, I own them all, as well as the Battle Hymn game (which is Ambush! set in WWII Pacific theatre) and it’s expansion.

Since it’s paragraph driven, there can be limited replayability since you know what will happen each mission, but if you are like me and take your time between scenarios, that shouldn’t be an issue.

I normally don’t rank games, but Ambush! is without a doubt my number one Solitaire wargame.

Thunderbolt/Apache Leader (TAL) [Dan Verssen Games]

TAL is a solitaire game where you control a squadron of close air support aircraft.  There are tons of campaigns to choose from, and each campaign has a bunch of different situations you can play.

There are two parts to this game.  The first is actually choosing your squadron.  You get to choose both the aircraft that comprise your group and the pilots who actually pilot the craft.  Each pilot has different skill levels and at each of those levels, they have different ratings for different ways to fire weapons, removing stress, and they can gain XP to level up to get better stats.

Once you’ve done that, you actually fly missions where you are taking out enemy battalions that may have special abilities that hinder you in the earlier mentioned portion of the game.  You load out each aircraft with specific weapons for the enemies you’ll face, and then you fly the battle out on a map comprised of various hexes with varying degrees of cover that you and your enemies can use.

The RPG/campaign type elements and the story that evolves as you play this game make it replayable time and time again

Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection [GMT Games]

Liberty or Death is a COIN game set in the Revolutionary War period.  COIN games are relatively new in the hobby, but COIN is an overall system that focuses on “guerrilla warfare, asymmetric warfare, and COunterINsurgencies around the world – in both historical and contemporary conflicts” (taken from http://www.gmtgames.com/c-36-coin-series.aspx).

There are tons of settings currently, from Cuba in the 1958 revolution to present day Afghanistan to Roman Britain.  The thing about COIN games is that there are usually 4 sides, and while they may work together they each have their own specific goals on how to win the game.  You can also play these solo as GMT provides flowcharts for each side that you can use as AI players.

The first game I tried in the COIN series really didn’t click for me, but Liberty or Death came strongly recommended by a few wargamers I follow on Twitter.  I ordered it on a whim, set it up, went through the example of play and I was hooked.  For some reason, it just clicked.  I am looking forward to my first 4 player playthrough of this next month; it’s how I’m celebrating my birthday this year!

Commands and Colors: Ancients (CC:A) [GMT Games]

Commands and Colors: Ancients is in the same system as Memoir ’44, but instead of WWII you get a wide swath of ancient history, mainly focusing on the Mediterranean.  It doesn’t have miniatures, but stickered blocks (that the buyer has to sticker themselves) that represent various units.  There are tons of expansions that have art that reflects the timeframe for each expansion (for example, Republican Roman blocks are grey, while Imperial Roman blocks are Red).  It’s also a bit more complex than Memoir ’44 because the different unit types can do ranged fire or close combat and have some other special rules.

When I want something quick to play, but want it to have a bit of oomph to it, CC:A is pretty much my go to.

D-Day at Omaha Beach [Decision Games]

D-Day at Omaha Beach is a tactical (there’s that word again..) solitaire game of storming Omaha Beach during the D-Day landings in Normandy.  This one is also designed by John Butterfield, and it’s probably the oddest looking map of the bunch.  The reason for this is the game system uses different color coded dots to determine who can fire at you and how deadly it is, and so there are different dots in each hex.  This is a game where cards drive a lot of the action, and so even though it focuses on one segment of one battle, I haven’t had two games that have played out the same way.  This too generates a great narrative, and was successful enough that they published two more games in the series for the landings at Tarawa and Peleliu.  I would say it’s a step up from entry level, but there are plenty of playthroughs and player aids online that help get the flow of the game down.

Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations (HL: CAO) [Dan Verssen Games]

Last and certainly not least is Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations.  This game is in the same ‘Leader’ series as Thunderbolt/Apache leader, but instead of close air support you are flying fighters and bombers off of air carriers.  This is my favorite Leader game, and I don’t think anything will come along to unseat it (unless someone happens to buy me a pledge level of the Corsair Leader Kickstarter that’s running at the time of this writing).  Growing up I was enamored with the F-14 Tomcat, and in this game that is one of the major planes you can take on missions.

The game is structured much like TAL, so it would be pretty repetitive to dive into that again, but the aircraft and armaments are different, and the way you play the battles out are different as well; in HL:CAO you are focusing on one target and the anti-air emplacements around it.  There is even a Cthullu expansion which I own, but haven’t had a chance to play ( I want to get through the base game campaigns, and since it was released in 2010 I have some work to do).

 

Well, there you have it.  My Top 10 Wargames.  Are you a wargamer? What’s your favorite game or system to play?  If you aren’t, do you have any interest in trying out a wargame? Leave me a comment and let me know!