Feb 3, 2016

Stone Age Photos

Stone Age is a game that gets played fairly often, both 2 player and 4 player.  One of the things I appreciate about this game is the level of detail for the artwork on the cards, tiles and boards.  For that reason, I was having some fun taking photos while we played the other day.

My Green Team, ready to start the game
A view of the player board
All set up and ready to play

The Main Board
Hoarding Wood
A little further along

Player board at the end of a game

Feb 2, 2016

Kings Cribbage - A Review

Kings Cribbage is a game that we have had the opportunity to play with a few different groups in the past little while.  While far from my typical game choice, it was a lot of fun and the big thing for me is that it seems to have an audience with those who aren't typically into boardgames.

Kings Cribbage is essentially a combination of cribbage and scrabble.  You use tiles to create cribbage hands on the game board.  After the first turn, all of your future hands must tie into the tiles that are already laid on the board.  Each "hand" consists of up to 5 tiles, but the scoring can get quite high as you can create or add to multiple hands in a single play depending on how the board plays out; however, each tile laid must contribute to the scoring in that hand, which can sometimes limit you.  There are bonus points for laying all 5 of your tiles in a turn, or creating a 5 tile hand of the same colour (only two colours, dark and light in the version we played).  One of the more interesting twists is that the 6 and 9 are interchangeable (just turn them upside down!) making them surprisingly useful.

Board at the end of a game of Kings Cribbage
If you have played much cribbage before (ie. so you know the scoring rules) it is relatively quick to pick up, but I found it took a few games before you start to see some of the bigger scoring combinations due to the uniqueness of the 6/9 rule and being able to make multiple hands in a turn.

One of the biggest appeals for this game for me was that it can draw card players into boardgames.  My father, who always seems to be busy whenever a boardgame comes out (anything from scrabble to monopoly to anything else) got this for Christmas, and always seems willing to play.

Kings Cribbage isn't in our collection, and I am not in any particular rush to add it, but it is a game that I will be wiling to play whenever it is around.

Dec 11, 2015

Caverna, 2-Player - A Review

Caverna, the Cave Farmers, is one of the newer games in my collection.  I have been waiting to play it with more than two players before writing a review, but since I have had no luck I thought I would share what I have found so far, and update once I get to play with more players.

Caverna Box Cover

The game is for 1-7 players, and the box indicates that it will take 30 minutes per player.  For two player this seems accurate, once all players know how to play.  The time it takes to explain the rules in such are large game cannot be understated; I have only done this once (besides my wife, but she learned it along with me) and it took ~45 minutes with someone who plays a fair number of boardgames.

Caverna Box Edge, showing # of players and time it takes to play

The first think I noticed with Caverna was just how heavy the box is.  There are a lot of components, and they are of high quality.  Most of them are made of wood, and some tokens and coins are made of a relatively thick board.  All of the mats and tiles are thick and stiff.  The only disadvantage with all of the components, especially because it is set up for up to 7 players, is that it takes a long time to get everything out and organized.  Definitely a candidate for an organizer, which now on my wishlist!

Caverna Animals

Caverna "food"

Caverna resources

Caverna Player Board

Caverna Dwarves (one with weapon) and some dwellings

Gameplay is pretty familiar to anyone who has played many worker-placement games, especially Agricola or Agricola: All-Creatures Big and Small.  Each player takes turns placing one of their dwarves on an action tile on the center board and performing that action.   Some of the actions include gaining resources, digging into your mountain to make room to build, creating mines, clearing pasture or farmland, expanding your family and building rooms in your cave.  One of the features that I enjoy is that there are no cards, flipping of tiles, etc.; all of the tiles that can be built are available to anyone from the beginning of the game.  There are a huge number of tiles that can be built, so many that there is even a simpler version with about half the number of tiles that you can use in the first few games or when teaching someone new.  There is a little bit of randomization as one action is added to the board each round, and the order they appear is somewhat randomized.  After most rounds there is a harvest phase where you get to harvest your fields, you are required to feed your people and then your animals breed.  I found the feeding to be a nice balance; you are rarely at risk of starving your dwarves (which I found to be very stressful the few times I played Agricola) but it takes a little bit of planning to make sure you don't eat what you wanted to plant next round or eat down to one of a particular animal so it doesn't breed.  The game lasts 11 rounds (only for two player, 12 for more) after which you total your points.  Points are from your built tiles, animals, dwarves and some of the resources.  There are some mild penalties if you didn't fill your board or if you don't have some types of animals.

My board after a game

My wife's board after a game

I have really enjoyed this game so far, my wife not as much.  It really comes down to what type of games you like to play.  I love the amount of depth and the variety of ways in which to score points; I don't think I have played the same way twice yet.  My wife enjoys the fact that there is relatively little interaction between players; really it is only if you "take" the spot the other person was planning to use.  There is no stealing of resources, etc.  She just doesn't enjoy the amount of time it takes to set up and the amount of time it take to play.

The components, the artwork and the theme all seem to work really well.  I think that the gameplay is awesome as well, every single game I am wishing I had just a few more actions left, oh the points I could get if I did!  I would highly recommend this game, but from what other spaces get added with more players, I am thinking that this is where the game will shine.

Jun 17, 2015

Getting back into Boardgames

This post has been a long time coming.  Every once in a while, life just gets really busy, and in this case the "free" time my wife and I had together suffered, which meant that less board games got played.  A couple of weeks ago we found some time to play again, and some thoughts on that are below.  However, ironically enough, this post then got delayed because we got busy again!

We have a couple of groups of friends that we play board games with, but the majority we play are with just my wife and I.  When the opportunity arises, playing a game is usually my preference, where as my wife will prefer to watch a show together.  Now that things have settled down a bit I am sure we will play more often, but with a couple of new seasons of some of our favourite shows on Netflix, I am sure the TV option will happen more often too.

What really struck me when we went to play again was our choice of games.  It probably doesn't take a genius to figure out that they are among our favourite games, but I really noticed that it was a combination of each of our preferences, plus which games are decent 2-Player games.  What also struck me is which game we didn't chose; Dominion.  I would still rank it as one of my top games, and is also likely still our most played game (the only possible competitor would be 7 Wonders).  My wife has commented a few times that it is no longer high on her list, primarily because she finds the large library of cards (we have a bunch of expansions) adds confusion and adds to the setup time.  Despite a few of our friends having copies of this, it rarely gets played in a group setting, so it has been a while since I last played it.

The first choice wasn't a surprise at all - 7 Wonders.  It is a top pick always, both 2-Player and in groups.  Despite having played it enough times to have the majority of the 3-player basic cards memorized, I find that the variety from the wonders, the guilds, the leaders and the black cards (when we play with the expansions) is enough to keep it fresh each game.  I also really like the "dummy" player concept this game uses.  The "dummy" has a hand of cards, one of which is added to one particular hand (which is passed each turn, so it evens out) which means that when you have that hand there is at least one new card, and possibly two (if the other player didn't use it last turn).  You then play your card and one for the "dummy" allowing some ability to block the other player or combat their strategy (e.g. not allowing them to have an easy military win).  It also means that there is one card at the bottom of the dummy pile that isn't seen by either player, stopping you from building your strategy around any particular card.  In the game below we played with all our expansions (cities, leaders & wonders).

7 Wonders - Completed game (my wife's area at the bottom and me at the top)
Something that has really struck me with the cities expansion is that the addition of diplomacy tokens in 2-Player (and likely also in 3-player) significantly reduces the value of military and victory token related leaders/guilds.  As soon as a diplomacy token is played the three combats that would of normally taken place is reduced to a single combat.  Depending on the combination of black cards, wonders and leaders it is not uncommon to have this happen in both the 2nd and 3rd rounds, greatly reducing the number of points from military.  I have yet to find a good way to balance this, so please feel free to share any ideas!

The next game to come out was a little bit of a surprise - Stone Age.  This is a game that has been getting more and more play time.  The 2-Player version (compared to playing with more) simply limits you to only one player on each resource each turn, and only two of the three "prime" spots (extra person, agricultural track or tools) can be used.  We seem to think that this works well, it keeps the game very similar to more players, but also creates some necessity to take what you need when you can so that the other player doesn't block you.  I think it also gets played a lot because while you end up fighting for resources, there isn't a lot of other direct interaction, so you get to see your area get built up as the game goes on.  Its also relatively easy to set up!

Stone Age - During scoring (from my wife's side)

There are also a few new games in our collection, but those will be the subject of some later posts.