2019 was a pretty good year for gaming in the RockyMountainNavy household. This year, I played 119 games a total of 221 times. Compared to 2018, this was fewer plays (221 vs 357) but more actual games (119 vs 105). This year I only had two ‘Dimes’ (played 10 or more times) and three ‘Nickels’ (played 5-9 times).
Dimes & Nickels
Quarriors! (WizKids, 2011) – 21 Plays
Hold the Line: The American Civil War (Worthington Publishing, 2019) – 10 Plays
The Mind (Pandasaurus Games, 2018) – 7 Plays
Scythe (Stonemaier Games, 2016) – 6 Plays (including the first three episodes of the Rise of Fenris Campaign).
Tank Duel: Enemy in the Crosshairs (GMT Games, 2019) – 5 Plays
Eight (8) other games sat at four plays during the year and another seven (7) were played three times. Basically these top 20 most -played games account for around half of the game plays during the year.
What comes in 2020?
In an upcoming blog post I’m going to dig deeper into the numbers for 2019 but suffice it to say for now that it was a good year.
How was your year? What games are you looking forward to playing next year? For myself, I have a few new Gaming Challenges I am going to reveal just after the new year.
The publisher’s blurb for Qladiatorled us to believe there would be some sort of arena combat mode but, alas, the only new rule introduced is the Lock Die. Interesting in action, but low on theme. Although it would make more thematic sense in Quest of the Qladiator, it is Quartifacts that introduces Quests. To be honest, I spent a bit too much time just unwrapping my brain around the preconceived notions the titles gave me and get past the cognitive disconnect from theme the titles created.
Once the game got to the table all was good. The new rules are seamlessly integrated into the game and easy to pick up. There were a few wrinkles, like a quartifact effect that is dependent upon an expansion we don’t own (yet, obviously).
Youngest RMN Boy is really into the game with all the different dice. Middle RMN Boy, a collector of Magic: The Gatheringcards, loves the artwork. Even with the new rules the game played relatively quickly and can still be a weeknight/after dinner game. Deck-building games have only a few places in our game collection with Trains (AEG, 2012) being the only other. I don’t think Quarriors!is going to kickoff a new game buying trend but it’s good to see the RMN Boys get into a game so seriously.
What do they say? “April showers bring spring May flowers?” Well, my gaming April was a drought.
April was also a very busy month outside of gaming. For the first time in a few years we took a family Spring Break vacation. Sorry friends, spending a week at DisneyWorld, even when not playing games, is quite the mental health break the family needed.
Not that the month was a total loss. I got three very exciting plays of Harold Buchanan’s excellent Campaigns of 1777 (Decision Games/Strategy & Tactics 316). After playing the full campaign first I went back and played the shorter scenarios. I strongly recommend that one play the shorter scenarios first and thenjump into the campaign; the locations and strategy decisions come easier and make more sense leading to a deeper game experience.
After two years of waiting (at least for me) it appears that the new edition of Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel! – Kursk 1943 (Academy Games) is getting real close (finally). According to a May 01 production update:
Production for ‘Conflict of Heroes – Storms of Steel 3rd Ed’ and ‘Conflict of Heroes – Awakening the Bear 3rd Ed’ is nearing completion! The Map Boards printed by Ludofact in Germany have arrived on the coast in Norfolk, VA and are working their way through customs. Once cleared, they will be shipped on to Ludofact USA to await the arrival of the rest of ‘Conflict of Heroes’ components being produced in China for final assembly.
The Chinese printer has completed production on the three (3!) individual Game Trayz that will be included in each game, dice, and cards. We just received final proofs for the unit counters, rule books, track sheets, etc. and have given approval for final production. We are implementing final tweaks to the SoS3 Mission book.
Our printer knows how important it is that we receive these games for early June release, so they are working diligently to get everything shipped soon. We are estimating they will be finished printing within the next two weeks for shipment to Ludofact USA for final assembly with the map boards. We are currently estimating we will receive the games for fulfillment by mid-June.
We had a lot of fun showing off the new maps and game system at Little Wars last weekend. Thanks for all of your great comments and those of you who kept coming back to play even more of the 3rd Ed Missions!
We want to thank everyone for their support, great suggestions, and feedback on the 3rd Ed Conflict of Heroes system.
This was a much different week of boardgaming than I imagined when it began.
Our weekly boardgame night was moved to Friday to accommodate a family event on Saturday. I pulled out the new Villainous: Wicked to the Core (Ravensburger, 2019) to play. Wickedis a stand-alone version of Villainouswith three new villains that is fully compatible with the original game. Youngest RockyMountainNavy Boy took Hades, Middle RMN was the Evil Queen, and I took Dr. Facilier.
I can understand why these villains were not in the original game. All three play with a bit of a more complex mechanic. Hades has to summon and move Titans, Evil Queen must find ingredients and Brew Poison while Dr. Facilier has a Fortune Deck. Not that the new mechanics are overly complex; just different and a bit harder to understand given the short villain guides.
Component-wise, it was Youngest RMN Boy who pointed out the villain “Movers” (oh, how I hate that term!) seemed a bit better quality than the original. The cards are made with the same somewhat flimsy core and the new game does not have the cheap plastic Cauldron for holding the Power Tokens. For only a few dollars less than the full game one gets half the number of villains and less components. Not sure it is really a good bargain.
The game experience was ok. We all need to play these villains again to get a better sense of how to make their decks work. Bottom line is that Villainous will land on the table again, but we are not going to be in a rush to get there.
After Ravensburger won the Toy of the Year Award for Villainous, I expected a bit of some hype to accompany the release of Wicked. The game was released Sunday, March 3 in the states. Late Sunday, I went to the local Target to find the game because it showed in stock when I checked online. I couldn’t find it on the shelves; as a matter of fact, I couldn’t even find a spot on the shelves where it was supposed to be. I asked a clerk about it and he checked the item number then said, “Oh, they’re still in the back.” They hadn’t even moved the stock to the shelves. He brought an unopened box of four out and gladly sold me one. So much for the hype!
..and the next. All through the week, as a matter of fact. Youngest RMN Boy even went so far as to declare Quarriors! amongst his new favorite games. So why the total change of heart?
Quarriors!plays fast. We are able to fit a game into a 45 min slot after dinner. The game also plays in a very balanced manner. Youngest RMN is 3-3, Middle RMN 2-4, and I am 1-5. The RMN Boys like the stories the different cards create. Some games have a nice balanced selection of creatures. In one game all the creatures were expensive to summon which really changed the dynamic of the game. Another game it was the spells that made a powerful difference.
Quarriors! has moved to the living room cabinet as a game that can be brought out after dinner for a quick play. Given the card variety, it will be a while before it grows stale. Interestingly, I asked the boys about the other Dice Masters games built around the many superhero themes. They both declined buying a new version as they like the original theming just fine!
For the weekend Game Night here at Casa RockyMountainNavy an older game landed on the table. Quarriors!(WizKids, 2011) was the 2013 Origins Award winner for Best Family, Party, or Children’s Game. So tonight, we not only got an older game to the table, but I was able to get another game of my 2019 Origins Challenge checked off.
Looking at my BGG collection, I rate Quarriors!as a 5 – Medicore – Take it or leave it. Tis actually places it in the bottom 15% of my collection. After these replays I am considering raising it to a 6 but…I’m not so sure I really want to do so.
You see, Quarriors! is not really my type of game. I never got into deck-building games and that is the core mechanic in Quarriors!. Sure, it uses dice instead of cards but the core mechanic is the same. I can see how, with familiarity, it should play fast.
The speed of play was partly why I brought the game back out. I am looking for good games to fill a 60 min or less time in the evenings with the RockyMountainNavy Boys. Quarriors!should be a perfect fit.
Before getting to the new rules it is important to point out the new cardboard in the expansion. Doors and Corners comes with a revised Game Board that clearly separates the Outer Planets sector into two movement spaces. It also contains revised ship tokens which look more like the ships seen in the TV series.
The heart of Doors and Corners is the five new rules modules:
The five modules included in this expansion are: Leaders, Expanded Technologies, Resource Tokens, Protomolecule, and Variable Setup. Leaders go with fleets and can add influence when they move with a fleet. Expanded Technologies allows variety and surprise in what powers are available. When a tech is earned you have three random choices for that tech. Resource Tokens can be spent in several ways including helping to pay CP [Control Points] costs, adding AP [Action Points] to a card (max 4), moving up the initiative track, and earning bonus points for having the most at final scoring. Protomolecule adds a new scoring opportunity. Variable Setup allows fleets and influence to be placed anywhere at the start of the game.
For our first foray we played with Expanded Technologies and Leaders. The easier of the two to grasp is the Expanded Technologies which immediately adds variability into the game. I often felt that the technology upgrades in the original game felt a bit too alike and didn’t show the asymmetric power of the different factions too well. The new technologies take the asymmetric nature of the different factions and dials each up in highly thematic ways. The fact you get three different technologies at each upgrade but only draw two and keep one also means it will be much more variable from game to game. This module is a MUST PLAY.
Leaders is an interesting module and easy to implement. Leaders act like fleets but for one AP can move AND place an influence. The more powerful action is to make a Power Play. Instead of your normal turn, one can invoke a Power Play which can score huge bonus points. The most immediate effect I can see is an increase in scores by at least 10% and probably much more as we become more familiar with using Power Play.
We haven’t used the other modules yet but I think the next one we might try is The Protomolecule. This is because we usually play a 3-player game and Protogen and the Protomolecule don’t really make an appearance. This might be a way to get some of that theme into a three-player game.
Looking at the last two modules, I feel that Resource Tokens and Variable Setup go hand-in-hand. Resource Tokens get you away from the scoring bonuses on the cards and allows a bit more freedom in strategy. The Variable Setup seems needed to avoid getting locked into “an outdated policy” and enable the players to flex to the new scoring Resource Tokens introduces.
The new expansions is not without its problems. The new rule book warns that game length may increase “significantly” as players learn new abilities and options. Personally, I feel the use of “significantly” is a bit overblown and after very few games the time of play will be close to the original. Many folks demanded a new board and complained about the blandness of the original. Uh…did any of you watch the series and note the very bland color palette used? I also found it sad that the the Initiative track on the revised board is too small for the original tokens [Sigh]. Personally, I had little trouble with the old board and it was easy to remember that going from Jupiter to Saturn was an extra AP. Further, the colors on the new board actually don’t help me; when I look at the blue UN cubes on the board they “blend” a bit under anything less than bright light.
The Expanse, a board game based on the Syfy television series of the same name, focuses on politics, conquest and intrigue similar to the board game Twilight Struggle, although with a shorter playing time. The card-driven game uses key images from the show, along with action points and events that allow players to move and place “Fleets” and “Influence”. (BGG)
It is not often that a publisher’s blurb captures a game so completely as WizKids has done for The Expanse Board Game (TEBG). After purchasing the game and playing it a bit, I am torn in my feelings for the game. To me, TEBG feels very much like a “classic” Eurogame – in a negative connotation of the definition; great mechanics with a pasted on theme.
“Eurogames (or alternatively, Designer Board Games or German-Style Board Games) are a classification of board games that are very popular on Board Game Geek (BGG). Though not all eurogames are European and not all of them are board games, they share a set of similar characteristics. A game need not fit ALL the criteria to be considered a Eurogame.
Most Eurogames share the following elements:
Player conflict is indirect and usually involves competition over resources or points. Combat is extremely rare.
Players are never eliminated from the game (All players are still playing when the game ends.)
There is very little randomness or luck. Randomness that is there is mitigated by having the player decide what to do after a random event happens rather than before. Dice are rare, but not unheard of, in a Euro.
The Designer of the game is listed on the game’s box cover. Though this is not particular to Euros, the Eurogame movement seems to have started this trend. This is why some gamers and designers call this genre of games Designer Games.
Much attention is paid to the artwork and components. Plastic and metal are rare, more often pieces are made of wood.
Eurogames have a definite theme, however, the theme most often has very little to do with the gameplay. The focus instead is on the mechanics; for example, a game about space may play the same as a game about ancient Rome.”
TEBGhits all of these points, but with mixed results.
TEBG does a good job of capturing the feel (theme) of The Expanse TV series. Using Eurogame mechanics the players place influence (tracked using small wooden cubes) on various bases throughout the Solar System. To place influence usually requires a fleet in the orbital above the base. Although the game mechanics are simple, each player/faction has unique asymmetric abilities which allow them to “break the rules” in thematically appropriate ways. For instance, while is usually cost 1 Control Point (CP) to take the second action card, the United Nations (UN) player has Planning as their initial Technology which means the first two action card slots cost 0 CP. As the game progresses, more thematically-appropriate technologies are gained by each faction.
“Combat” in TEBG consists of removing influence or fleets (which can be rebuilt). This is not a cooperative game; ruthlessly building your influence while reducing your opponents is the real core mechanic.
TEBG uses much artwork from The Expanse TV Series. Although this makes the game appear like The Expanse, some of the artwork does not have a clear connection to gameplay. For instance, the action card Scopuli can be used for 2 Action Points or as an Event by the Martian Congressional Republic (MCR) or UN. The Event states, “Place 1 influence on each Saturn Base where you do not have influence.” I do not see how this is related to the Scopuli in the TV series which is [SPOILER ALERT]:
To me this is a thematic disconnect. I think Scopuli should be used as an Event to the advantage of the Outer Planets Alliance (OPA) or ProtoGen. Granted, most of the action cards have a picture that ties well to the event described, but I think to make the connection one must be a real fanboy. If a player is not knowledgeable of The Expansethe immersion into the game will not be served by the graphics.
The full impact of all these design and graphics decisions is an area control game that looks like The Expanse. The game comes across as very functional; simple game mechanics with some asymmetric differences in a kinda staid, plain package.
Finally, I have an issue with the component quality in TEBG. The board uses a non-glossy finish that, while good for pictures, has already shown rubs and scratches after just two plays. I also have a major problem with the Quick Start Rules which use white text on a semi-transparent background over a starscape page. The font, smaller than that used in the main rule book and the third layer of printing has lost all its edges and is nearly impossible to read.
It is going to be interesting when The Expanse Board Game lands on the Family Game Night table. All of the RockyMountainNavy Boys know a bit about The Expanse, but none are fanboys, Thus, the success of this game will stand not on theme alone (which appears to be much of the buzz around the game) but on its ability to blend graphics and gameplay into a enjoyable gaming experience.