Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Not a whole lot of gaming....

Two years ago, when I first began writing Games on the Table, it was a time in my life when I played lots of board games and spent a ton of time researching games and using Board Game Geek. I did those things because it was possible at that time. I had lots of time to think about tabletop gaming, and I had so many thoughts about games that I finally decided to start writing this blog. My life was full of gaming, and this was an outlet.

Back then, I had two children, and now I have three. Back then, I didn't have nearly the amount of music to compose that I do now. Now that I'm composing music for Children of the Gods, I always have work to do in my free time - the same time slot I use for blogging. And I expect that my music workflow will only increase. Back then, my wife and I regularly had time for board gaming. Now, we rarely have a time slot long enough to sit down for a game, except for the occasional weekend slot or the rare week night.

We love board gaming, but lack the time for it. I still play board games once a week with my gaming group at work, and we sit down at the roleplaying table once or twice a week with members of that same group (we're currently playing Questers of the Middle Realms for the first time).

I had a great time making the Brief Overview video series. I appreciate all of the encouraging feedback you all sent via this site or Board Game Geek. I wish I could make more of those vids.

Since my wife and I only have short chunks of free time here and there, and most of our time includes our little halflings, we've found casual computer games to be a nice diversion. I've been keeping a little blog about casual games. If you like, you can follow my casual gaming news and reviews there.

As things are, I am effectively "shutting down" Games on the Table. I'm going to leave the blog here just in case someone remembers something they read at one time and want to access it again. I may even post in the future - who knows? But, those of you faithful followers who access the site frequently, don't expect updates anymore.

You know how it is. You can only handle so much on your plate in life. Once the plate is full, you have to start setting aside the less important portions to make room for the more important bits. At this point, Games on the Table has fallen into the "less important" category.

If, for some reason, you desire to follow the goings of my life and work, you can track me here. You can find my twitter info there. You are also welcome to email me anytime at the email address listed on the right-hand side of this blog. And, of course, I'll be hanging around Board Game Geek (eventually geekdo), so you can message me there too.

I wish I could keep up on all of my hobbies, but I am having to give many of them up as my family grows up. And so, I bid you all farewell from the game table, with a hearty thanks to everyone who followed the blog, subscribed to the blog, and especially those who took time to comment on the blog.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dominion expansion trial run and Geekdo

Dominion: Intrigue on trial

Last week my gaming group sat down at lunch, eagerly anticipating our first play of Dominion: Intrigue (I had played it only once at home with my wife before then). Everyone quickly got busy reading the text on each card as we laid out the randomly chosen set of 10 kingdom cards. There was brief commentary on artwork, questions about specific card rules, and we dove in.

As would be expected, we started playing with fascination at the new combos and possibilities, reminding ourselves frequently what this or that card allowed us to do.

Before long, though, Swindler was on the loose, and not long after, Saboteur showed up in a couple of people's decks. Expressions became more and more grim as card after card was added to the trash pile. There goes one guy's Harem. Ouch - that guy lost another Gold card. Hey, the Saboteur got another one of my Duchies!

It took about half the game to realize we weren't in familiar territory anymore. Our old comfortable strategies were useless. With the kingdom card set we were using, there was simply no way to afford a Province (although one lucky chump managed to buy a single province). I saw this trend and started focusing on Silver - low cost and valuable.

Gripes were only half-jokingly tossed about as people questioned the fun of the new set, leaving me wondering, "Will anyone ever want to play this again?"

Though decks were small and the trash pile large, I enjoyed it personally. I like having to readjust my strategy to each new combination of kingdom cards. I just hope I can convince the rest of the crew that this is a feature of the game, not a flaw. My silver plan almost worked (I ended up with only 2 kingdom cards in my deck), but the guy who got a Province beat me by one point....


With much gladness, I have been participating in the beta test of the new RPG Geek, which will actually just be a part of the new comprehensive Geek site known as Geekdo - The Way of the Geek. BGG and RPGG will be combined into this one site. So far, it's a bit complicated, but it seems to be working well. RPGs are definitely trickier to catalog, and I've been frustrated at the limitations placed on non-admin users when adding various RPG-related data to the database.

I know that once everyone sees the new system they'll be calling out, "Okay, now what about Video Game Geek? Book geek?! Movie geek?!" It's staggering how much work the admins must have put into just getting the RPG element scripted. Yow.

RPG fans, look forward to Geekdo.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dominion expansion in my hands!

Dominion: Intrigue is now mine. I've sleeved the nearly 500 cards. I've read through most of the manual. Now I just need to play it.

This time around, the art seems a smidgen better than the first Dominion set (which seemed weak artistically to me). Franz Vohwinkel participated in some of the card art this time. It's always a delight to see such excellent artwork as his. Unfortunately, there's still some really bland, uninteresting art.

One thing that mattered to me was the kingdom card balance. Here are the stats on the new kingdom card types:

16 x Action
4 x Action - Attack
2 x Action - Victory
1 x Action - Reaction
1 x Treasure - Victory
1 x Victory

One cool thing I learned from the manual is that when you are attacked, you can play as many reaction cards as you have. So, if you had both, you could play a Moat and a Secret Chamber, gaining both benefits.

Now, I'll just mention a couple cards that caught my attention while I was browsing and sleeving (which reminds me of the movie Roxanne - the scene where Roxanne says to Charlie: "I thought you said 'earn more sessions by sleeving.' " What a classic scene.)

To begin with, we have this nasty masked fellow who calls himself the "Torturer."

The ability text reads:
Each other player chooses one: he discards 2 cards; or he gains a Curse card, putting it in his hand.
This is the Witch of the new set, in that he's the one guy who can give you Curse cards. You'll notice that, like the Witch, he costs 5 money to buy, but whereas the Witch allows you to draw 2 cards, this fiend allows you to draw 3 cards. The only other difference between this card and the Witch is that this guy allows attacked players to choose their poison - discard 2 cards, or pick up a Curse (which goes to the hand rather than the discard pile, so it doesn't sting quite as much as the Witch. Heck, the other player might have a Chapel or Remodel in his hand to deal with that Curse on his very next turn). So, this card seems to be similar to the Witch, but it's better for all parties involved.

Next, we join the blacksmiths in their sweet-looking metal shop.

The ability text reads:
Gain a card costing up to 4. If it is an...
Action card, +1 Action
Treasure card, +1 money
Victory card, +1 Card
Admittedly, the main thing that drew my attention to this card was the art. The only light illuminating the work of these sweaty brutes is the light of their molten swords. It's just a cool-looking picture.

Still, the ability is interesting. This 4-cost card, when played, gains you a free 4-cost card and a choice between three other benefits. This could come in handy as a wild card of sorts. Sometimes you need one ability, but all you have is the wrong ones. This card allows you to choose which benefit you need.

There are a batch of other interesting cards from what I've seen so far, but I'll let you discover them for yourself.

By the way, I must have been out of the loop because I only found out yesterday that Dominion won the 2009 Spiel des Jahres award. I'm glad the judges didn't find the game to be too complicated. I mean, really, the game deserved it. Nice work, Mr. Vaccarino!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

New blog

You'll notice that I've removed all of the casual game posts I had made. I realized that there were just too many. That's what I was playing, so that's what I was posting about, but I realized it was starting to go against the theme of this very blog.

So, to keep things organized properly, I've created a new blog.

If you are interested in casual computer games, head over to my new blog: A Game For Everyone.

You can read about good deals there, as well as reviews and news.

In other news, my game order has shipped from Boards and Bits, so expect to hear about the Dominion expansion soon!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Happy anniversary to my wife!

Today marks my 9-year wedding anniversary, and my wife continues to be the woman of my dreams. "The Queen" is my nickname for her, and she is still my royal treasure after 9 easy years of marriage bliss. In honor of my dear wife, I'm going to highlight her favorite games today. So, if you're interested in wife games, you might want to pay attention!

My wife's top pick:

Race for the Galaxy

Image by kilroy_locke at BGG

My wife's favorite game mechanics seem to be:
  • hand management
  • set collection
  • card drafting
She also likes colored groups of things, cards, and low-conflict (multiplayer solitaire).

Almost all of these features are present in Race for the Galaxy in some measure, but especially hand management. My wife really likes being able to control the constantly changing hand of cards, and then using those cards to control her tableau (play area) for maximum benefit. I agree that these features make RftG an outstanding game, and it still holds slot #2 on my personal top 10 list. This is one of the few games that my wife and I enjoy equally. My only complaint about this game is that a lucky set of early card draws can set you up for the win. There are killer combos, and it rocks to be the person who draws them.

Somehow, my wife almost always gets lots of Alien combos, and frequently has military power to boost her Alien strategy. It's uncanny. I probably win about 1 out of 7 or 8 plays.

My wife's other favorites:

Wyatt Earp

Image by Geosmores at BGG

This game has hand management, set collection, and colored groups, which explains why my wife picks Wyatt Earp so often when it's her turn to choose the game.

We always cringe when one of us finally plays the Hideout card instead of just discarding it. The feared Hideout card is the one attack in the game that really hurts. Fortunately, it doesn't get played very often, unless it's a desperate situation.

We both like the Western theme to the game. My wife is always willing to play this one.

Thurn and Taxis

Image by swiftcorp at BGG

I think my wife really likes that there is no way to directly attack others in Thurn and Taxis. I agree with her - I typically prefer games where you can safely work on your own position without worrying about being targeted.

This game has colors, cards, and a unique mechanic for building postal routes. It's very simple to learn and play. All these features, I think, make this one of my wife's top picks.

Lost Cities

Image by Araneuz at BGG

Lost Cities is an example of a game I am glad to not play, but which my wife loves. You can see why - cards, colored sets, and a bit of hand management as you decide what to hold, play, and discard. Also, you're mostly just building your own position, even though it is easy to manipulate each other's options. I see this game as just another Reiner Knizia numbers game. The theme is cool, but doesn't factor into gameplay in any way. I think my wife likes the simplicity of designs like this. If you're looking for wife games, you've probably heard about this one. As much as I don't like this game, I actually would recommend it as a wife game because so many wives are reported to like it.


Image by Martin Ralya at BGG

Just look at the picture above. It's a deck of cards in 4 colors and a bunch of tiles in six colors. You manage a hand of money cards, you pay for colored tiles, and you build your own nice little city. My wife has chosen this game many times. We find that it works best with two players, which is great since most of our plays are at home, with just the two of us. We actually haven't played this one for a while. I'm sure my wife will want to pull it out again once she's played a few more games of RftG. If you're looking for a good 2P game to play with your spouse, you might want to give Alhambra some attention.

Thanks for reading, as always. Happy anniversary, my Queen!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Vacation gaming and more!

I'm on vacation this week. Every year at this time we spend a week with my wife's family for the 4th of July. Vacation time means gaming time.

Games ON the table

So far, only one game has been played, and that game is Dominion. I introduced the game to my brother-in-law on Monday, and that's all he's wanted to play since (and I'm not arguing). So far, we've logged 11 plays of Dominion. Our 7th play ended in a clean tie. We had had an equal number of turns, so there was no tiebreaker. As I've mentioned before, I love when games in in ties. I like when different strategies lead to the same result and players can share in the victory. My brother-in-law finally won a few plays today and he was very glad. I got his computer all set up with BrettSpielWelt so that he can play online if he wants to. He loves Dominion.

I also noticed that BrettSpielWelt has already incorporated new Dominion expansion cards. I played against someone yesterday morning and had the pleasure of trying out a couple of these new cards for the first time. One of these, the Baron, I found to be a welcome addition to the game because it gives you something interesting to do with Estate cards. The Baron (as I remember it) allows you to trash an Estate to gain +4 money for the turn. If you don't do that, you may choose to gain an Estate card.

I keep checking Boards & Bits to see if the Dominion expansion has arrived yet because once it does, my game order ships.

You like wine?

If you've read (or skimmed) this far, thank you. To close the Games on the Table vacation post, I'm going to leave you with some wine recommendations. My father-in-law always has a stash of great wines on hand, and we taste many of them during the week, often side by side and with cheeses and foods. Below, I'll give some feedback on the wines I enjoyed this week. All are highly recommended by yours truly.

Castoro Cellars 2008 Fume Blanc
- My top pick of the week!

This white wine is just excellent. It manages the sourness of a pinot grigio alongside the sweetness of a riesling. The complexity and flavor through and through make this wine one that I would enjoy at pretty much any meal. My father-in-law reports that you can pick this wine up for a great price at Trader Joe's (which is where you will find all the good wines for great prices in my experience). I'd say this was the favorite of the menfolk this week.

Peachy Canyon 2006 Para Siempre

While the $40 price on this wine doesn't make it that much better than many cheaper wines, this rich and complex red is very tasty. I didn't sense many obvious distinct flavors here, but the overall experience was very good, which explains the high price. All three of us who tasted it agreed that it had a silky thickness to it that made it smooth and complex from start to finish. When it first touches the tongue, you can tell this is a well-balanced wine. As it moves back, the flavor spreads into the rest of the mouth, and finishes with very little warmth and no sting. We were all pleased with this selection.

Castoro Cellars 2007 Muscat Canelli

When you want a dessert wine, you can't go wrong with Muscat. The apricot/peach flavor is here, as it is with Barefoot's Moscato, although, I still can't tell whether or not I like this more than Barefoot's. It's not quite as simple and light as the Barefoot Moscato, which could be a good thing. This was the favorite of the ladies this week.

Happy 4th of July to all of you American readers! Thank you for reading, and may you have good summer gaming!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dominion strategies

(This is written for those who know the game Dominion - otherwise it will probably just sound confusing.)

I've played Dominion a lot of times now - 20-something in person, and a bunch on BrettSpielWelt. So much of the time, players (including me) have thought the Remodel card to not be a whole lot of use, but yesterday one of the players put it to good use.

Early in the game, he drew a Thief. I didn't want to get hosed by the Thief, so I decided to avoid collecting money and instead draw a bunch of Festivals. From turn to turn, I seemed to keep having enough money to buy Festivals. But as I went, he was starting to remodel one thing after another and was soon drawing Provinces. This had me nervous - I had never seen someone do that before. I knew I needed to hurry.

By now I had a small deck loaded with Festivals. I knew that I needed more card-drawing if I was going to have large enough sums of money each turn to buy Provinces. So I started buying up Council Rooms. On the last few rounds, I was able to lay down sets of Festivals and Council Rooms which gave me enough money and buys to purchase two items per turn. This turned out to secure my comeback. At scoring time, we were both sure he had won, but upon counting and recounting, I had pulled in 32 points to his 28, thanks to my Festival/Council Room combo. Still, on the next game, Remodel was available again, and my buddy was back to his Remodel strategy, sure it would work this time....