Wednesday, October 31, 2007

TimothyP's Board Game Buyer's Guide - Part 2

After posting a link to my original Board Game Buyer's Guide, I received much useful feedback from gamers on the BGG forums. Some notes from that thread have been added to my original post, and I will deal with the rest here. To see which games were tested, and the results of the first post, go to the Board Game Buyer's Guide - Part 1.

It was desired by some people that I take a look at more stores than I had originally covered in my testing. My first test was based on stores that had gained my attention in one way or another and had seemed to be either popular stores, or stores with great prices. A few other stores were recommended in the thread on BGG, so I decided to add four of these to my testing. I ran the same tests with these online stores as I ran on the original post. I chose four stores that seemed to be recommended more than once. Some of these I had seen before, some I had not. The new stores on the list are:
NOTE: My tests included United States websites only.

First, let's get to the results. Then, I'll give my new notes.

I have removed the entry for "Local Game Store" and have instead changed it to "List price" since that was my original intention. When considering best and worst price, I exclude List price as a contender. These tests are about stores. List price is just for reference.

Here are the new results for the Large Order test.

Best price: Boulder Games
Runner-Up: Fair Play Games
Worst price: Funagain Games

Here are the new results for the Mid Size Order test.

Best price: Boulder Games
Runner-Up: Boards & Bits
Worst price: Funagain Games

Here are the new results for the Single Game Order test.

Best price: Time Well Spent
Runner-Up: Boards & Bits
Worst price: Funagain Games

  1. These were all calculated assuming the games must ship to southern California. Some prices might vary by a few dollars depending on where you live. Since Boulder Games is in Georgia, their shipping is quite high to California. On the other hand, they could use a simple flat shipping cost like Thought Hammer.
  2. Fair Play Games and Time Well Spent were calculated assuming these stores would be willing to price match, as is their policy. The lowest prices were always found at Boulder Games.
  3. The Large Order test for Time Well Spent was estimated because they didn't have all the games in stock. I could be off by a dollar or two in either direction. Either way, Time Well Spent is in the top 6 for this test.
  4. Neither Boulder Games nor Game Surplus carry Battleground Fantasy Warfare. At Boulder Games, I substituted Cutthroat Caverns: Deeper and Darker, and at Game Surplus I substituted 6 Nimmt. These were the same price as BGFW starters on other game sites.
On with the new notes!

First, I'll look at the four new stores I tested this time around.

Faithful Fans

By far, the store that received the most discussion in my BGG post was Boulder Games. This was a very interesting discovery for me. I didn't remember hearing about them before, but it turns out they have many faithful fans. I was surprised to find that they were the lowest on stock of all the stores. Aside from not carrying BGFW, Boulder Games was initially out of stock on 4 games I needed for my testing.

But this brings up one of Boulder Games' strengths. I talked to Jim, who manages Boulder Games, and asked him to run my tests for me since I couldn't add some items to my orders. Jim kindly agreed and ran tests for my large, mid, and single game orders. So, thanks to Jim, I got the results I needed for these tests. He also mentioned that much of the stock was on order and arriving sometime soon.

Another problem I have with Boulder Games is the web interface. It is very minimalistic. It is easy to search and find games, but there isn't a very good shopping cart system, nor a wishlist of any kind. The site is nearly devoid of images, using text for everything. I also found that I couldn't create an account on the site and have it remember my shopping cart. But again, Jim mentioned that the website will be receiving an overhaul sometime soon. It is in the works.

Jim also told me that the reason they don't stock BGFW is that they don't sell collectible-type games. So if you're buying CCGs, Boulder Games is not your store. Jim prefers to stock eurogames and wargames.

I also didn't like that I couldn't easily get shipping estimates on this site. I found that I had to get through several other more time-consuming phases of checkout first. Jim indicates that he intends to rework the whole system to make it more user-friendly.

Despite a few little flaws, the site is functional and has many dedicated users. Why? Because Jim is so good to work with. Besides the fact that Boulder Games typically has the best prices on games, Jim is very involved with his clients. He communicates on BGG, and he took the initiative to contact me about my testing. Jim wants to run a great game site, which is clear by the way he interacts with the gaming community. For many people, I think this would be the deciding factor in making Boulder Games their game store of choice.

Other nice features of Boulder Games are shipping coupons and permanent price matching. I really wish they would use a simple free shipping system instead of coupons, but hey, any discounts are nice. I think their permanent price matching system is one of the coolest things I've seen. Essentially, if Jim finds out about a lower price on the internet, he matches that price on Boulder Games - permanently. He is dedicated to always having the lowest prices.

Here are some comments from my Buyer's Guide thread on BGG regarding Boulder Games:
“Just to add - kudos to Jim and Boulder Games. They had a system problem due to the traffic they got from the sale they had. But Jim stood by the deals and is getting my full order together.” - Eric Robinson
“I would also like to add a pat on the back to Jim @ Boulder Games as he honored the order I was trying to put in. Not only did he go out of his way to email me almost immediately upon me posting I had a problem but he went far beyond what he had to as a retailer to make me as a customer happy. This was also my first order so it wasn't as though I was a long time customer of his. However he now has me as a more than loyal customer and I have made sure to let the people in our game group know to put the orders in with him and his company.

Great job Jim and Boulder Games

A very happy customer.
Jason” - Jason Wingo
Clearly, Boulder Games is in the running for the position of Ultimate Game Store.

The Other Stores

Superhero Gameland had great prices, great stock, and free shipping on orders over $99. This is the best free shipping deal among the stores tested. They also sell comic books, graphic novels, books, card supplies, and comic supplies. Even though they have the best free shipping minimum at $99, their base prices are not enough to give them an edge. All it would require is one more game to reach the $125 limit at other stores.

Troll and Toad is a very interesting store. They show up in the listings when you search on, and they have a huge stock, and their site is very good. They just have tons of stuff you can buy. They have board games, out-of-print games (for very high prices), CCG singles, action figures, miniatures, RPGs, and gaming supplies. In terms of stock, Troll and Toad is the clear leader. They also have competitive prices on everything. They have an updated front page, many payment options - almost everything you could want.

The problem with Troll and Toad is that their shipping rates are very high. After all your savings on low-priced games, you make up for it with shipping costs. If they had flat shipping rates and/or free shipping options, they would be a more of a contender with our low-price leaders. The shipping cost on the Large Order test was $21.98. Compared to Free, that's a high price.

Game Surplus was the most uninteresting site of the new batch. Sure, they have a clean web interface, accounts and shopping carts, reasonable prices, and adequate stock. But they don't seem to shine in any area. They don't have free shipping options or discounts, they were out of stock on two games, backordered on one game, and they don't carry BGFW at all. I had a really hard time finding a substitute because their variety of games was lacking compared to other sites. I finally found 6 Nimmt to be a good sub for BGFW in the Large Order test. Game Surplus is certainly a good site to buy games from, but it can't compete with some of the other prominent stores. Some sites really sell themselves - Funagain, Time Well Spent, Troll and Toad, Boards & Bits. Game Surplus is not one of these. Their site seems to get the job done, and that's all.

Thoughts on the Large Order test

In the case of large orders, you are going to save almost $10 off any other store's price by going to Boulder Games, or going to Fair Play Games and having them match Boulder Games' prices. The main feature to consider when placing a large order is free shipping. This makes all the difference. As I mentioned earlier, Boulder Games has a coupon policy, which is still confusing to me. I would almost favor Fair Play Games for this reason alone. I like to know I'm getting an easy-to-understand free shipping deal. I'm sure Boulder Games has a good reason for doing it the way they do, but I'm speaking from the viewpoint of the consumer. As the consumer, I want low prices and ease of use.

If Fair Play Games refused to price match, Boards & Bits would be my next stop.

Keep in mind, with large orders, quantity and variety of stock are the most important factor of all. If you are purchasing 10 games, you need a store that has all of them in stock, or a store that allows pre-orders, like Thought Hammer. If my test was a reality, I would probably have purchased from Thought Hammer because they had a low price and pre-ordering. Almost every site in the test was out of stock on at least one game. Most stores were out of 2-3 games. And two stores would have been excluded simply because they don't carry BGFW.

Thoughts on Mid Size Order test

The top results were similar to the large order test. No real surprises here. One thing to note here is that Superhero Gameland made it into the top 5, pushing Time Well Spent down. You'll also notice that, even with price matching, Fair Play Games slides down a couple notches once you remove the free shipping deal. If you are ordering from Fair Play games, you really want to aim for free shipping. This is true of many stores. When you remove free shipping, there are only two stores that consistently stay low-priced: Boards & Bits and Thought Hammer. This is because of their flat shipping fees. In terms of price, Boulder Games was the top contender again.

Thoughts on Single Game Order test

This was the most surprising test to me. Time Well Spent launched to the top this time. This was the result of two factors. First, they were willing to match Boulder Games' low price. I even got an e-mail response about this. Their quote matched my calculation. Next, their shipping for a single game is pretty low, probably because they are in Colorado and I'm in California. I think this test would likely show different results for buyers in different ares of the US. But, for me, Time Well Spent had the best final cost.

Another interesting turn of events was watching Boulder Games fall down to 6th place on this test, essentially swapping positions with Time Well Spent. The killer for Boulder Games was the shipping fees. But, to keep things in perspective, we're talking about less than $2 difference here. I would confidently order from any of the top 6 here, if they had the game in stock.

The amazing thing to me was that Funagain Games actually took last place, taking the final cost $5 above list price. They were consistently at the bottom of the charts. Unfortunately, their prices don't match up to the quality of their website. The best way to buy from Funagain would be to visit one of their two stores in person and eliminate shipping costs.

My conclusion: Most important store features and my choices for best online game stores.

Important feature #1: Stock

The best stock of all stores was found at Troll and Toad.

Important feature #2: Price

The best base prices of all stores were found at Boulder Games. Jim deserves attention for his policy of always having the lowest prices. Runner-Up for lowest prices is Boards & Bits.

Important feature #3: Shipping fees

The best shipping rates of all sites were found to be Boards & Bits with free shipping over $125 and flat shipping of about $7.50 on other orders. Runner-Up was Thought Hammer with free shipping over $125 and flat shipping of $8 on other orders. Superhero Gameland had the best free shipping plan at $99, but no flat shipping rate for orders less than $99.

Important feature #4: Website design and features

The most feature-rich or well-designed sites were, in alphabetical order: Boards & Bits, Fair Play Games, Funagain Games, Superhero Gameland, Thought Hammer, Time Well Spent, and Troll and Toad. All but two stores delivered very well in this area.

Important feature #5: Involvement and communication with the community.

Of all the game stores included, the only two that communicated on BGG or with me personally were Tom from Boards & Bits, and Jim from Boulder Games. I can also testify from experience that Thought Hammer has very good support and communicative staff. One BGG user describes an opposite experience with Thought Hammer. If you would like to read it, go to the thread on BGG.

I find it very difficult to choose a best game store. I'm not sure it's possible, and it seems that it might vary depending on where you live, in some cases.

One thing I know for sure - when shopping online, any of the top 6 stores are a good choice. They consistently had the best prices. None of them have as good of stock as Troll and Toad, but if they have the games you want, you shouldn't have to look beyond these 6.

Of these 6 stores, I think you can further narrow it down to the stores which made it into the top 4 on any test. This eliminates Superhero Gameland, making the top 5 stores (alphabetical order):
  • Boards & Bits
  • Boulder Games
  • Fair Play Games
  • Thought Hammer
  • Time Well Spent
On the tests, Time Well Spent only made it into the top 4 once, and Boulder Games made it twice. If we're going for consistency, that leaves us with these games as the top 3:
  • Boards & Bits
  • Fair Play Games
  • Thought Hammer
These stores were consistently in the top 4, making them the overall best. All of them tend to have a great stock and a broad variety of games and gaming items.

Fair Play Games only beat the other two stores one time, using price matching. Despite their many qualities, Fair Play Games is not as consistently inexpensive as the others. That brings us to the top two stores:
  • Boards & Bits
  • Thought Hammer
In every test, Boards & Bits is one notch above Thought Hammer, narrowly surpassing it. With slightly lower flat shipping rates, imports, and great community involvement, my vote for the #1 overall game store goes to:

Boards & Bits

But, we can't forget that it was a different site who always had the best base prices. Even though they were out of stock on many games, and more limited in variety, among some other weaknesses, my vote for the ultimate game store in terms of low prices goes to:

Boulder Games

So here's the final word after two rounds of testing:

TimothyP's Top Game Sellers
Consistent Best Prices
Overall Best Game Seller

If you have questions or comments, please post them!

To reiterate my position: I know that this is not the most comprehensive test ever. I know that there are other good game stores online. I know that there are variables which could change the results of my testing. I know that other people have had different experiences than I have with the stores tested. This test was to inform readers of my own discoveries in my personal search for the best online board game sellers. I do not claim that this is the best or more thorough and accurate test of this kind ever to be done. If you are unhappy with some aspect of my testing, you are welcome to run your own tests. This was tested and recorded for those who will gain some benefit from it. If you disagree or don't benefit from it, I can't help you. Please continue doing things the way you prefer to do them. I have spent weeks on this and do not intend to devote anymore time to it. I found the answers I wanted. I cannot meet everyone's personal needs or preferences.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Board games that look sweet, but I'll probably never play

I have done lots of research on BGG and elsewhere since I got into the board gaming hobby a few years ago. I think what drives me is the belief that maybe, some day, I'll find the perfect game for me. Perhaps there is some game I would deem worthy of a 10. I have yet to find the perfect game, but that doesn't matter because I just love gaming. There are some really crummy games out there, but the experience of sitting with other people - typically acquaintances of some type - is the real beauty of tabletop gaming. And so, I continue on my search for interesting and unique games, always hoping to find something unlike anything else in my collection, something new to stimulate the brains of those I share the game with. I desire to maintain a diverse collection of really enjoyable games for all different moods and player types.

In my searching and listening, I have discovered many very interesting games, and have played many of them. But there are some that, despite how fun they sound, or how cool they look, I know I will probably never play. That is the point of this list.

You'll find as this list goes on, that time is usually the biggest deciding factor for me. In my current state of life, I have a wife and little children. I find that chunks of time for gaming are few and far between. My wife and I typically have to work to plan 1-hour slots for gaming. In my gaming group at work, we play during the lunch hour. Between work and home, I find that I am really limited to buying and playing 1-hour games. We often have to cut games short during the lunch hour at work because some of our games would take us over the hour. In addition, I find that I actually prefer shorter games. When a game hits the 1.5 to 2 hour mark, I find that it feels too long. This is partly what eventually turned me sour toward The Settlers of Catan. Every game was going for about 2 hours, for any number of reasons, often because of players with AP. In light of the little I was getting out of the experience, this reality became less and less worth it for me. So I have consistently ordered games with a listed time of 60 minutes or less ever since I became more serious about collecting games.

I also find that most of my relatives, friends, and people in my gaming group at work, are somewhat casual players. There are probably a total of 2 people I can think of who would like sitting down for a full game of Tigris and Euphrates or other heavy eurogames. This is another limiter in my game selections - I have to make sure people will play with me. Since the most popular games in my collection are lighter fare - such as Ticket to Ride and Bohnanza - I need to keep game weight in mind. I tend to choose light to medium weight games. I was pleasantly surprised to discover how short Mykerinos was for the weight of the game. If only more games with heavier weight could be that short.

Now, whether or not I would try the games in this list is not important. I'm sure, given the right opportunity, I'd give any game a whirl. I'm trying to think here of games that I am not likely to ever play, regardless of whether or not I'd want to.

Twilight Imperium 3E

I recently went to Stephen B. Wessels' site because it was mentioned on the Dice Tower as the website of the month. The fellow who did this site is amazing. He put up an image-heavy full-game demonstration for people to read through. I hadn't taken much time to look at TI3 before, but I can tell you, these components look nice. The coolest feature, to me, was the art of the races. There were some large-looking cards which each included an image of one of the races in the game. This art was very good. I also thought the planets on the hex tiles looked sweet. Each one was unique and colorful. Then, there were lots of cool-looking spaceship bits - I'm assuming they're plastic. It looks like the theme of this game could really pull players in.

But I have heard a lot about this game and decided long ago that I would never play it. The reason: game length. Even if the game is awesome, I would never have a chunk of time to finish a game of TI3. And I'm not a very big fan of space / sci-fi, outside of the Star Wars movies. To top it off, the game looks very complicated. I know that I - or anyone in my gaming groups - wouldn't want to be the one to learn and teach it.

Descent: Journey in the Dark
Return of the Heroes

These three games fit in the category of "sweet-looking fantasy games that take way too long to play". The components look great, and I really like the fantasy genre. I still have Heroquest and have a great time whenever I get a chance to play it. But this type of game takes so long that it's hard to find a chance to play it.

Blue Moon City / Blue Moon

This is a case where I can't play the game on principle. Being a follower of Christ, I have a real concern for modesty and honor in regard to females. In my research, I discovered that these games contain disrespectful art depicting women with scant clothing and unrealistically proportioned bodies - the imaginings from the desires of a man's mind. I am discouraged to see how common this is in today's fantasy art, in general. This was one of the main reasons I got rid of the game Castle - it had inappropriate art and themes, IMO. I just can't support what I consider to be morally wrong. So, despite glowing reviews, I can't bring myself to play the Blue Moon games.

Shadows Over Camelot
Pirate's Cove
Mystery of the Abbey

These 3 games fit in the category of "Why did Days of Wonder shoot themselves in the foot?" or "Why limit your audience?" I am not saying that these games aren't fun. I am saying, I wish I could play them, but certain features keep me from playing. In the case of every game but Colosseum -
they just take too long to play. I wish they would have found a way to cut each one by at least 30 minutes. I even borrowed BattleLore from a friend once. But my wife and I never played. Reading the rules took me forever, and then, there was just never a time slot to set up the whole thing and learn to play a single battle. In the case of every game but BattleLore, the minimum number of players is 3. That seriously limits the amount of play this game can get in the average home where the kids aren't grown up. Since I play primarily with my wife, I need games to handle 2 players. I wish Days of Wonder would have found ways to build in 2-player play.

The components of these games look awesome. I love deduction, but 120 minutes for Mystery of the Abbey? I like the pirate theme, but 90 minutes and a BGG ranking of 6.8 don't make Pirate's Cove worth it.

The Traders of Genoa
Elasund: The First City of Catan

These 3 games fit in the category of "fun-sounding eurogames that are too heavy and too long to get much play". I'm certain these games would be fun if my wife and I had time to learn them, and complete them. But when you have little kids running around like wild animals while gaming, the play time gets drawn out. I have a feeling we'd never finish a game once we sat down. "Well - that was fun getting through half of a game. Oh well. Time to clear off the table and set up for dinner."


This game looks and sounds fun, and my wife and I both really like card games. But the player limit is 3-4. That reminds me of why it was so hard to find chances to play Settlers. 3-4? Couldn't they have found a way to accommodate more? I suppose not, but still....


Another piratey game that looks like it would be fun to try at least once. Short play time, nice components - but it suffers the curse of the player number. 3-5 players means no play in my house.


This looks fun. I like puzzles quite a bit. My fear is that for the cost, the replay value would quickly diminish. I had wanted to purchase this game for a while, but reading enough comments and reviews, I decided this didn't sound like the kind of game we'd be pulling out again and again for years to come. From the look of it, I can't see how you would exhaust the game's options before long.

There are probably other games that would fit this list for me. And I may have the odd chance to play one of those in this list someday. But for now, this is the list of those games that were easy to nail down.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Computerized board gaming

Normally, on Fridays, my roleplaying group has a Fate session and I write up the report on the weekend. This week, two of our players were out, so instead, you get a board gaming article.

There are two kinds of board gamers: those who like playing computerized versions of board games, and those who don't. I personally like playing computer versions of board games. Sure, I don't like it as much as gaming with other people at a real table, but I have nothing against electronic board gaming. It's still fun, even if I'm playing AI.

Today, I will share with you the sites where I play, as well as one downloadable game I've found to be worth playing.

Brettspielwelt (BSW)

Brettspielwelt is the ultimate site for real-time board gaming against human opponents all over the world. BSW is a German site, but you can play and communicate in English. Learning how to navigate can be a little daunting at first, but there are people online who will help answer questions. There are live chats when you are logged in. You can use these chats to find people to play with or ask questions. Fortunately, the interface requires nothing more than a bunch of mouse clicks.

BSW has a huge selection of games to choose from. Games I have played are Diamant, Hey! That's My Fish!, To Court the King, and Thurn and Taxis.

If you want to have an English interface, I highly recommend going here and downloading the sample prop file. Once you've downloaded it, change the name to "Brettspielwelt.prop" and put it in the program folder where the prop file is stored. It will overwrite the original one, unless you change the name of the old one first. Before opening the program, open the prop file with a text editor program (Wordpad on Windows or TextEdit on Mac OS X). Toward the top of the file you will see:

Name = Yourname
Password = Yourpassword

You need to change "Yourname" to your own BSW login name, and "Yourpassword" to your own BSW password. If you don't want to automatically log in, just delete these two lines of text and save the prop file.

Play Coloretto at

Coloretto is one of my favorite games. I might have never discovered that, had it not been for Matthew Marquand. His site was the first place I learned to play Coloretto. Soon after, I bought the game. It has been one of my top 10 games every since. This implementation is very good, and the AI is good as well. He also has implementations of Ingenious and Clans on his site.

Play Citadels at

Citadels was my second eurogame (the first was The Settlers of Catan). I found Citadels at a FLGS a few years ago and decided to pick it up. This is one of my favorite games to this day. This implementation of Citadels is very good, as is the AI. It includes every purple district from the Dark City expansion. The one downside is that you can't use any of the expansion characters.


Although I'm not the biggest fan of Carcassonne (Toulouse), I like playing it on this site. The bots think so fast that I can blast through a game quickly, the way I prefer Carc. You can also play an implementation of The Settlers of Catan (Xplorers) here.

Days of Wonder

Having already owned Ticket to Ride: Märklin Edition, I wanted to give the original Ticket to Ride a try. Days of Wonder has a few of its games available for online play. You can join other people's games for free, but to start a game, you have to be subscribed. I had the free temporary subscription which came with TTR:M, so I used it to learn TTR online. You can play TTR against humans or bots. The bot AI is quite good. Having enjoyed the original TTR online, I eventually bought it.

Play Cartagena at

My friends and I have enjoyed a few games of Cartagena on this site. This was actually where we originally tried the game. Two people have purchased the game since then. This is a play-by-email (PBEM) system.


This site has several PBEM games. I have played Samurai, Hansa, and Richelieu - all very good implementations.


I have played great implementations of Tikal and Hacienda here. My friends and I attempted to try Reef Encounter and Hoity Toity, but bailed because we couldn't figure out what the heck we were doing. I suppose we should have read the instructions more carefully before playing. Despite the popularity of Reef Encounter, trying to understand that game was misery for me. I'm sure it's fun once you figure out all the workings of it, but I still shudder to this day at the thought of it....

Those are all the sites I have frequented for online play. And here is one downloadable computer board game I have found to be very good:

Download JSanJuan

JSanJuan, by André Wichmann, is a wonderful implementation of San Juan which can run on any system with Java. The AI is very, very good. I have won maybe 20% of the games I've played.

There are many other places to play board games online. I have yet to try them. Here are a list of some other sites you might want to investigate. I have not tried them myself as of yet:

Mr. Jack: play Mr. Jack against human opponents multiple games, site is in French multiple games, English language option multiple games multiple games, site is in French Lost Cities and Schotten Totten

Monday, October 15, 2007

Thebes: What's in the Box?

I recently acquired a couple new games, one of them being Thebes. I have been looking forward to playing this game for a long time. I debated the purchase for several months and finally decided to give it a try. I have not been disappointed.

So, one thing you might wonder is: "How big is the box?" Take a look below.

The box is big. It's long and thicker (up and down) than a TTR box, but not as wide. Here's what you find inside (minus one time wheel which our 21-month-old son managed to hide very well).

You can see in the picture:
  • Box interior with slots for all the bits to easily fit. Not as form-fitted as some boxes, but good nevertheless.
  • Board depicting parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia
  • Instruction manual
  • Player reference / treasure details sheet
  • 5 cloth bags with colored trim to coordinate with their dig sites
  • Pile of multicolored excavation permission tiles
  • Deck of small cards (Thurn & Taxis or Ticket to Ride size)
  • 4 colored meeples, 4 time track markers and 1 year marker
  • 3 time wheels (the game comes with 4)
One of the features I like most about this game is the art. As I've mentioned before, I'm a big fan of Michael Menzel's artwork. Besides Jambo, this is the only Menzel game I have at this point. Check out some of the tasty artwork on this board:

Here you can see most of the cities where you do research:

Here you can see most of the excavation sites:

The design is very pleasing to the eyes. Everything is laid out tastefully.

Here's a close-up of one of the meeples. Each player has one of these to represent their archaeologist:

Here's how the table looks at the beginning of a 2-player game:

One thing I discovered that I instantly loved about the game was the collecting feature. I can't think of any other game I've played where collecting lots of stuff is such a big part of the play. Here is what a player's area looks like late in the game:

And here's how the table looks at the end of a 2-player game:

Clearly, there are lots of pretty components in this game. One thing you may not notice in these pictures is the box cover art design. The blue which paints the sky is stunning, making this box one of the most attractive I've ever seen. The picture displays some archaeologists uncovering and documenting artifacts in Egypt. I love looking at the box cover. While looking through my game collection, all stacked on shelves, Thebes really stands out with its vivid cover art - "Play me! Play me!!"

The manual at first seemed confusing. The rules seemed much heavier than they are in practice, and I think this is a result of poor manual layout design. The rules make the game sound daunting, but once you play, you realize just how easy the game is. My wife and I felt comfortable with the game very soon into our first play. It flows well, and the theme touches every aspect of the game. You travel around researching. Then, when you feel like you've gathered enough information, you go and dig. Every once in a while, certain cities will put on exhibitions, and if you have the right types of artifacts to show, you can gain points from those exhibitions. But the exhibitions come and go, so you have to time them just right.

Everything in the game is time-based. It's like an action point system. You can do as much stuff as you want, as long as you're last on the time track (which looks like a scoring track around the edge of the board). Everything you do costs time. The game lasts either 2 or 3 "years", depending on the number of players.

You gain points for artifacts you dig up, for knowledge you acquire in your research, for congress meetings, and for exhibitions. So there are a few ways to strategize when storing up your victory points. But I think that you certainly have to dig a lot if you want to win. Artifacts are very important.

Thebes plays quickly with 2 players. My wife and I have thoroughly enjoyed it so far. The biggest complaint gamers make about Thebes is that there is too much luck. I agree that there is a lot of luck, but it fits the theme. Sometimes, when you dig, you don't find anything. But pulling from the bag, hoping for the best treasures, is quite fun. It's also fun to watch other players pull from the bag - and at the same time agonizing to watch them draw the artifacts you wanted.

The game is similar to Ticket to Ride in terms of weight. As in TTR, I can see a first-timer winning the game. There is luck, and there is strategy. The overall flow is very comfortable. This should sit well with non-gamers and families.

I am really looking forward to playing more Thebes in the coming weeks.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Fate: Dark and Stormy report #8

With pockets full of gold pebbles, the party left the zombie's burial chamber behind, heading down another narrow hallway they had passed earlier.

Rwake crept cautiously down the hall, torch in hand. Elros and Leo followed closely behind, ready for anything. At the end of the hall, Rwake held up a hand for the others to stop. They had come to a new room. Through the doorway, they could see the forms of various sized bodies. They appeared as cocoons, wrapped in gray, silky threads. With keen awareness, Rwake noticed fine nearly-invisible strands crossing every which way over the open door. He moved his torch forward and watched as it snapped and melted the strands away. "It is as I thought," he said. "Spiderweb."


A huge stream of web gripped Rwake and pulled him into the room where the PCs could see the form of a monstrous black spider. Rwake quickly tried to cut through the strand of webbing connecting him to the spider, but his blade only stuck fast to the web. He began burning through the web with his torch, but the spider was only shooting more webbing, entwining him from the waist down.

Meanwhile, Elros readied himself in the doorway while Leo ran around to the left, flanking the spider. The spider lunged its hideous head forward to chomp on Rwake, but Rwake, quick and strong, reached out and grabbed a hold of the pincers, holding back the spider's bite. He took this window to use his "sqeak, squeaker, sqeakin" skill in an attempt to calm the massive creature. The spider's resolve roll was not enough. Rwake achieved 4 shifts. I decided to give the spider 4 composure stress. We agree that was the best way to play this out. After all, the spider's nature is to kill and eat, so being sidetracked from that seemed, in a way, detrimental to its mind.

Elros took action from the doorway, casting Energy magic, which succeeded against my set difficulty of +2. His spell grabbed Rwake with magical energy and pulled his body against the tension of the web. Rwake went floating back, stopping just in front of Elros, hovering in midair, the spiders web still connected, but pulled taut. It was a struggle of magical power against the physical sturdiness of the spider's web.

J and AC decided that it would be better for Leo to have the Mastercraft Shortsword that Elros had carried off from the knight's tomb. J paid a fate point and explained, "Hey! As it turns out, Leo's the one who took the sword!" This was a very good use of a fate point - an example of exactly what they can be utilized for. Wielding the sword, Leo discovered that this amazing weapon was surprisingly light and easy for him to grip and swing.

Leo leaped forward and sliced downward with the shortsword, attempting to sever the stretched web still gripping Rwake's floating form. His roll came out at -1. J used Leo's "Make me proud, son" aspect to reroll, drawing on Leo's need to live up to his father's expectations. The reroll came up Mediocre (0) - only a slight improvement. Spending another fate point, he added a +1 to his roll - bumping it up to Average (+1). I decided this would be reasonable for such a special weapon, especially since the web was already pulled tight. The sword severed the web, and to the astonishment of all, did not stick to the web. It sliced clean through.

This moment brought up a discussion. In SotC, players can take a Weapons skill. I didn't like the idea of each player taking a generic skill that made them good at all weapons, so I asked them to specialize. Leo's specialty is thrown weapons, as we've all seen. So when he decided to use a close range melee attack, the question arose - "How good is Leo at sword use?" I offered this option to J: how about you use the sword for the rest of this adventure, and say that when you have time, Elros is training you to use it. Then, when we start the next adventure, you can add shortsword to your weapons skill. J and the others liked this idea and agreed to proceed that way.

As soon as the web was cut, the released pressure launched Rwake back into Elros, tumbling them both to the hallway floor. The spider reared back in frustration, screaming a spider's vile chirping scream. Spotting Leo as the closest opponent, the spider swung a long front leg into Leo, collapsing him back several feet into the wall, causing 3 health stress to the little Lufan.

Rwake, still entwined from the waist down, sat up as well as he could and shot a blow dart at the spider, piercing one eye and causing 4 health stress. Since the dart was poisoned, the spider is required to roll for endurance every subsequent turn.

In the mean time, Elros jumped up (supplemental action = -1 to roll), crossed a zone (-1) and launched a direct attack with his sword. He rolled a -3, giving him -5. Invoking his "Death defying" aspect, he rerolled, totaling +3 this time. The spider rolled a +4 total on his defense. Elros' attack turned out to be valiant, but not enough.

During this action, it was requested by one player that maybe I should compel Elros' "Death defying" aspect to force him to go after the spider. I felt that this wasn't a situation where that would really be useful because the situation didn't really call for a death defying action, and because Elros' intent was already to attack the spider, so using the aspect would actually be beneficial for him. So that's how we played it out. It was a good chance, anyway, to discuss when compels would be appropriate. We're all still trying to understand these new features in Fate 3.0.

Next week, Leo's up!

Post game feedback was interesting. One player, used to Fate 2e reported that the new system feels like it is taking away from the fun because it feels so rules heavy compared to the freeform nature of Fate 2e. This player felt that our discussions and decision-making and ruling and joking during our sessions was wasting too much time which could have been used enjoying the imagination experience.

Another player, also accustomed to Fate 2e, felt that the tedious discussions and struggles of learning the new system were worth it. He seemed glad to discuss them.

The last player, used to several systems other than Fate, seemed completely content, very much enjoying learning the workings of a new system. This player loves reading RPG books and studying new systems. He explained that Fate 3.0 is a far cry from his heavy d20 experience, but he is thoroughly enjoying it all the same.

This spectrum of feedback raises a common issue for me as the GM. How do I keep all the players happy? My encouragement to the first player was to continue making the system work the way he wanted it to. That very approach is, in fact, encouraged by the Fate designers. Color should be prevalent above all. The system should be made to conform to our style of play and our idea of fun. So the goal is now to encourage every player to communicate well with the rest of us on their preferences and ideas, and to each contribute to making the game play out the way they each find to be fun. It's certainly a group effort, with a few complications, but I think this group can work it out. I reminded the players that this short adventure was our chance to break ourselves in to the new system, to struggle through the new mechanics in a throw-away type of generic hack-n-slash adventure. The next adventure, of my own creation, will hopefully suit everyone's RPing needs much more. It's the classic balance between mechanics / rules and cinematics / acting. Both must be carefully employed to maximize the fun. That is really the challenge of a roleplaying group as a whole.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

TimothyP's Board Game Buyer's Guide

I have ordered a lot of board games in the last couple years. I personally don't spend time in “friendly local game stores” (FLGS) because there are none in my area, and because I wouldn't have time to hang out there anyway. So I order all my games online. Most sites reward large orders, so here's how my gaming group does it:

At any point in time, I accept requests from the people in my gaming group, and any other family and friends they might have. As these requests come in, I add them to our buy list. Once we have enough for free shipping, we order. Every so often, I will ask around to see if anyone wants anything, just to remind them that we're always building an order.

I have ordered from 3 different game stores myself. But I eventually chose one that always seemed to be cheaper, in every comparison I did - Thought Hammer. Here is what I value most in a game store, by order of importance, assuming all stores are established, professional sellers:

1. Low price
2. Diverse and constant inventory
3. Good support and quick response

Every store I've had experience with nails #3 very well. #2 is an ever shifting tide across the board. The stores are often at the mercy of publishers, and so some games will inevitably be out of stock or on pre-order. But in terms of variety - not all stores are equal. And finally, the biggest issue of all - price. This is the reason for today's post: I wanted to find out for myself which store really is the cheapest of them all. I need to look out for the budgets of all the people in my group, as well as my own. I figured this test would be valuable for many gamers, and so I'm recording all my results here for you.

The Test

First, I decided on 5 online stores, and then added “Local game store” as a generic 6th option, since some people shop there. The online stores are the ones I believe to be most prominent in my own research and experience.

Next, I came up with three types of game orders:

1. single game
2. medium size order (less than $100)
3. large order ( $130 or higher)

My goal was to compare all 6 stores in these three tests to see which was the best option for buyers in each case. I'll show you the results first, then add comments after. So here you go!

The Stores

First, I'll mention each of the 6 stores and briefly note relevant information in terms of prices, shipping, benefits, and downsides. In no particular order:

1. Thought Hammer


30% - 40% off
Discounts for damaged box games
Sales tax for Texas


$8 flat Fedex
Free for orders $125 or more


Personal wishlist, can email to a friend


No imports, no used games
No price matching

2. Fair Play Games


Approximately 30% - 35% off
Discount codes for orders over $75 and orders over $150
Clearance items
Discounts for damaged box games
Sales tax for Michigan


UPS ground (base price of $7.50)
Free for orders $125 or more
Free for orders of 3 or more damaged box games totaling at least $85


They have imports and used games
Price matching

3. Boards & Bits


Approximately 30% - 40% off
Discounts for damaged box games
Sales tax for Washington (I'm assuming)


Flat rate determined by ZIP code - Fedex ground
Free shipping for orders $125 or more


They have imports and hard-to-find games


They might not always have the free shipping offer

4. Time Well Spent


Discounts for damaged box games
Sales tax for Colorado


UPS ground
$5.00 off shipping for orders over $100
$7.50 off shipping for orders over $150
$10.00 off shipping for orders over $200
Sometimes offer free shipping for orders $150 or more


They have imports and used games
They accept special order requests
Price matching
They show how many are left in stock

5. Funagain Games


10% - 20% off
Discounts for damaged box games
Sales tax for Oregon (I'm assuming)


FedEx Ground
USPS Priority Mail for shipments under 2 lbs.
Free shipping for orders $150 or more


They have imports and used games
Lots of customer games reviews
Rewards program called “Funagain Points”
Exclusive games sold only by their site (also a potential downside)
Public wishlists

6. Local game store


List price


None. You go over and pick it up with your own hands.


Interact with other players onsite


Costs much more than online stores

Large Order

The goal of this first test was to see which store was cheapest when you are ordering enough games to qualify for free shipping on sites that offer it. For all three tests, I created a virtual shopping cart on each site and ran through the process far enough to find out the total with shipping costs. Here are the games included in the Large Order test:
  1. Battleground Fantasy Warfare starter deck
  2. Bohnanza
  3. Caylus Magna Carta
  4. Lost Cities
  5. Thebes
  6. Ticket to Ride
  7. Zooloretto
Rather than list the detailed cost line-up for each game from each store, I'll just give you the totals. Here's what I found:

*They were out of stock on 2 games, so this is an estimate. Actual cost would probably be another $7-10 for shipping.

Single Game Order

The next test was run to find out: what if I was just buying a single game for someone? How much would that cost me? For my test, I used Ticket to Ride, simply because it's a game that many people buy. So, here are the costs, by the time all shipping and discounts are considered:

Medium Order

The last test was run to answer: What happens if someone orders multiple games, but doesn't qualify for free shipping? The games: BattleLore, Citadels, Thurn and Taxis, No Thanks!


Well, having completed the test, it was interesting to see that Boards & Bits has slowly raised themselves up to the king of game stores. The one thing that worries me is that, at the time of writing, their free shipping offer is marked as “For a limited time only!” That's one advantage of Thought Hammer - you always know that you have guaranteed free shipping over $125. Fair Play Games shares this benefit.

One of the great benefits of Fair Play Games and Time Well Spent are their price matching. That alone brought their base prices down to the level of Boards & Bits. The shipping was another story. In the case of Fair Play Games, as long as you qualify for their free shipping, you have the chance of getting the same great deal as you would have gotten on Boards & Bits. There's just one caveat - the price matching sites are not required to match the prices you find. They have the right turn you down if they think they will lose money on the deal.

So, one thing I'm certain of: for any online game order I would only ever shop at Boards & Bits, Thought Hammer, Fair Play Games, or Time Well Spent. Who I bought from would be determined by who had all the games I wanted in stock for the lowest price. I can tell you from experience: pre-ordering and waiting for ages for your order to ship can be mental misery. In my case, an entire large game order was stalled for weeks waiting for - get this - the Ticket to Ride 1910 expansion. Sure, I realized this possibility when I put in the order, but I certainly didn't expect the game to never come into stock. So, on behalf of the people participating in the order, I cancelled and switched to a different seller. The order was shipped next day for a better price.

The only reason I would ever order from Funagain Games would be if they had a Funagain exclusive that I was really interested in. It hasn't happened yet.

I would never buy from a local game store unless the price was lower than I could get it online. I don't think this is ever going to happen to me. The one benefit of a local game store is that you might find people to play with right there in the shop. As I mentioned before, I don't have time to spend in stores, so this is not a benefit in my case.

At the end of the day, Boards & Bits turned out to be the champion of all game stores (by cents, mind you). They are always slightly cheaper than Thought Hammer. I would have no hesitation buying from Thought Hammer if Boards & Bits was out of stock on an item though. That was the one downside I found in my testing - Boards & Bits was out of stock on several games. Common games like Coloretto and No Thanks weren't even showing up in my searches! I know they must sell those games, but they could at least mark the games as “Back Order” or something. Thought Hammer tends to have a better stock of standard games.

On the other hand, Thought Hammer, despite their many strengths, lacks imports. I have searched for many games on their site only to find that they aren't in stock because they are imports. I asked Thought Hammer support about such a game and they mentioned that selling imports would not be good for their business, which I think is fair. I don't know how other sites can afford it.

One other cool feature of Thought Hammer is that they also sell a bunch of roleplaying books and accessories. That expands their field of usefulness in a way that other stores don't offer.

The two features no sites offer, which would be great, are registries and rewards programs. It would be great to be able to publish a wishlist to which you could direct friends and family. They could order games for you, essentially crossing it off the list so no one else could get it. So when Christmas time came, you could link your wishlist to everyone for easy buying without having to worry about duplicates.

I have seen online stores which offer some form of rewards for frequent and dedicated buyers. Back in the day, I bought enough
Pirates CSG items to gain rewards from CoolStuffInc. That really adds buyer incentive to stick around. As far as I can tell, none of the tested board game stores offer any sort of frequent buyer rewards.

So there you go. Hopefully this research has aided you in thinking through which seller to buy from in your future game orders!


After posting this article, I have had more thoughts on the subject. As I continue to come by them, I think I'll add them here, unless someone proposes a better way to track updates.

1. Today I looked for Winner's Circle on Boards & Bits and it didn't show up. That's the 3rd or 4th game like that. I mentioned this downside in the article. Fair Play, Thought Hammer, and Time Well Spent all had Winner's Circle in stock.

2. Since B&B's free shipping seems temporary, I decided that the best overall way to order games would be through Fair Play Games, as long as all games are in stock. Get all the best prices from B&B, Thought Hammer. Have Fair Play Games price match. Then, just order enough for free shipping ($125). As of now, this is what I consider the best long-term surefire method of ordering games for the best price.

UPDATE: 10-13-2007
This topic has been receiving discussion on Board Game Geek. Read the discussion here.

Tom from Boards & Bits has spread the news that their free shipping over $125 is now permanent! This is good news. Tom has also mentioned that they are working hard to keep their stock up. His involvement in the BGG community is all the more reason to order from B&B - he's listening to the community and working to make B&B offer the best buying experience for board gamers.

It has also been brought to my attention that Superhero Gameland and Boulder Games have very competitive prices and should have been part of my testing. I don't recall ever hearing about Boulder Games before, and I didn't realize that Superhero Gameland sold so many board games. Thanks to those who informed me of these points. Even besides these sites, I know there are more. I couldn't list them all, so I chose to test the ones I had encountered in my own quest for good prices.

In addition, I was reminded that Board Game is a useful resource when looking for good prices. I haven't checked the site for a long time. When I last looked, their site didn't give me the answers I was after. I think they weren't searching all the stores Maybe they have improved. I don't know well enough to give an opinion. I looked up a few games quickly on Boards & Bits didn't show up for any of my searches, even though I have verified them to have the best prices for most games.

I ran a couple tests on Boulder Games, just to see what my immediate impression would be. First of all, they have great prices. The counterbalance is that their shipping is a bit higher than some other sites, similar in cost to Time Well Spent. I also found that some games didn't appear when searched. I'm not saying that this is the rule for Boulder Games. It's just my notes after some basic testing.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Fate: Dark and Stormy report #7

At the beginning of this session, we were reminded of what a step it can be to transition from the very freeform Fate 2e to the more defined and detailed Fate 3.0. We began by taking several minutes to discuss the difference between declaring aspects and guessing aspects. Declaring involves a knowledge skill and requires no time (which distinguishes it from making assessments). Guessing aspects is a form of spending a fate point to tag an aspect you suspect to exist, known only to the GM. Declaring introduces a new aspect, guessing tags an already existing aspect. I also took this time to remind everyone that aspects are not just any feature of a person or scene. They are something that has been pre-determined by the GM or introduced during play by GM or players. They exist for the purpose of potential utilization. So, you can't just say, "I tag that guy's Black Hair aspect to get a +2 on my roll!!" Just because he has black hair doesn't mean it's an aspect.

Soon we kicked into action and Leo started us off by throwing a hammer using his thrown weapons skill and adding a +1 from Elros' defensive Overflow at the end of last session. He and the dagwir both totalled 3s - the dagwir dodged the thrown hammer.

attempt to thrust a stab was deflected by the haft of the dagwir's mace. Elros, watching all of this, stepped in with an attack of his own. His sword went into the zombie's head and was pulled back out. Elros achieved a +4, which rolled up to the next empty box - box 9 of the dagwir's stress track.

The dagwir knight, still fighting, jabbed his mace at Elros who ducked, throwing the dagwir off balance, giving another +1 to Leo (defensive Overflow). Thoroughly frustrated by this resilient zombie, Leo launched a frenzy of small metal objects at the dagwir, which stick into him, causing him 3 shifts of damage, which rolled up to box 10.

Next, Rwake took a long-shot guess that the zombie had the aspect "scared of fire" and thrusted a torch in his face, paying a fate point to tag it. I told him that the zombie didn't have that aspect and that undead succeed on all resolve rolls. I didn't take his fate point, although, looking back, I think I should have. But, in this case, he was so far off, and this was the first attempt anyone had made at guessing an aspect - I figured, let him keep it.

Elros, creative magician that he is, decided that maybe he could confuse the dagwir by casting an illusion on his body that made him look like he was alive again. I determined the roll for the spell to succeed on the dagwir's whole body would be Good (+3). Elros rolled a -3, but used his "Educated at Prestigious Highcloud Tower" aspect to reason that, with his training, he can't fail at this kind of spell. He handed over the fate point and rerolled. This time his total was +2. He paid another fate point to invoke his "Never Good Enough" aspect, drawing on the power of his issues. The illusion was successful! But alas, the dagwir took no notice. He is undead after all. AC laughed it off though. He knew it was a stretch. But to the PCs now, their opponent looked like a fully living dagwir with non-corroded armor.

The dagwir took a sweeping mace attack at Elros who parried and used his riposte stunt, causing 1 stress to the dagwir, checking of the dagwir's last normal box. Elros rolled a +8, giving him 4 shifts - another +1 to Leo!

Next, our little Lufan friend, Leo, jumped up on the table (represented by 4 Fudge dice) as a supplemental action. From there, he proceeded to fling sharp metal objects at the dagwir's head - metal balls, small gears, clock hands - earning 3 shifts of stress. Since the dagwir's normal boxes were all checked off, this rolled up to a minor consequence (known to me to be his only consequence). I asked J to describe the consequence. J explained that the sharp objects stuck all in and around the zombie's eyes, rendering him "blinded", which became the name of his consequence. Here you can see Leo on the table (J's LEGO guy was back in action!):

At this point, I had a bit of information to give them. I had them all roll for Knowledge of Undead. Leo got a +3. I explained that Leo learned from his extensive reading that undead can only be destroyed by severing the spine. It was also decided that Rwake would have this knowledge from his +1 roll.

So, Rwake used his Vital Spot stunt to locate the weakest spot on the dagwir's spine. The tribesman was having to guess a bit because Elros' illusion was still in place, obscuring the reality of the dagwir's being. Elros thus decided to unravel the illusion as a supplemental action, then swung his sword in a attempt to slice of the dagwir's head. We took this opportunity to joke with AC that at last Elros was doing something other than stab. He finally slashed! Elros spent a fate point to tag the zombie knight's Blinded aspect, gaining a +2 - giving him a total of 5. The dagwir rolled an unfortunate +2. These 3 shifts in Elros' favor rolled up to mark of the dagwir's Taken Out box. That was it for the zombie knight, after which the adventure is named.

The zombie's head flew from the body, landing on the floor and spewing acid from the neck, as the body fell to the knees and slumped forward onto the floor, puffing up ancient dust.

On searching the body, Elros discovered the dagwir was carrying something very attractive on his belt: an ancient Mastercraft Shortsword of Shock (an item I created that gives him a few benefits when used). Now that the undead fiend was no longer a threat, the party had time to collect the gold pebbles strewn about the ground, which they did - 6 gold worth (which is a lot in our game world).

Monday, October 1, 2007

Spree: strategizing within a luckfest

One of the guys in our gaming group at work has a collection of games from the Cheapass company. These games tend to be inexpensive, with minimal components. The point is to have a cheap game to which you add your own bits.

Once such game I recently played with a couple guys was Spree!

When I have the chance, I like to write about these games you are less likely to have played, just so you can see what's out there.

One thing that is immediately apparent when playing Spree is that it is heavy on luck. The game feels scripted much of the time. What I mean is, it's easy to feel like you are just a pawn helping the game to play itself out. My goal here is to explain what I've discovered to be the strategic features of the game that will allow you to have more control over the outcome. Understanding how to use these features will greatly increase any fun you may experience when playing Spree.

The game does have a theme, even if the components don't represent it well. Each player is a criminal breaking into the lowest-security mall in town. Everyone's simultaneously running around trying to steal goods from shops. In the process you can steal from other players or shoot them (shooting doesn't kill, it just stalls). As you collect merchandise, you run back to your car to drop them off, earning you points. The first person to reach the set point goal wins.

So, here are the control features built into the game that I think are important to utilize to your advantage. I have put them somewhat in order of importance (in my very limited opinion):

1. Shooting and stealing

Shooting is the best trick you can use. It's relatively easy to do because other players tend to be running around somewhere nearby. Since shooting gives you an extra action, I can't think of a better trick to utilize. Stealing is also good, especially if you have a joker (wild card) and someone else has more than one of a number (3 jacks, for example). Jokers are good for stealing because that way you don't have to waste that valuable Ace (which would otherwise count as 15 points when scored).

2. Timing drop-offs

Do you make the trip back to the car now? Or do you wait until you have more loot in your pockets? Choosing the timing of drop-offs wisely can win you the game.

3. Movement path

Because there is no backtracking, you want to plan your route carefully. Maximizing movement is key. Often you can tackle multiple cards with one movement. You also need to keep an eye on other players' tokens so that you can plan shots and stealing, and to also avoid getting shot yourself.

4. Aces and movement cards

If you have an Ace, you can use it either to score 15 points, playing it like any other card, but you can also use it to prevent another player from doing something against you, like stealing or shooting. Hanging onto those aces can be a great way to protect yourself from getting hosed.

2s and 10s act only as bonus movement cards. Timing their use plays a part in your strategy. Those 10s will get you a LOT of movement spaces when added to your base roll, and might be just the trick to get you back to your car before the other players!

5. Car location

If your car is parked too far away, you are going to suffer when trying to run back with an armful of stolen merchandise. It is often worth it to use up a turn getting your car in the best position, planning ahead based on the cards in your hand.

Having mentioned these 5 features, it sounds like there is quite a bit of strategy in the game. In reality, the game still feels scripted. You are at the mercy of dice and card draws all game long. The 5 control options I mentioned are the tools you have to turn the luck in your favor, even if it's only a little.

The game is what you would expect from this publisher. Simple, sort of fun, nothing to hit the table again and again. But hey, every so often, I wouldn't mind playing Spree! if we didn't have anything else on hand. It's still a game, and gaming with buddies is fun.

Want a look at another Cheapass game? I wrote about Captain Treasure Boots a few weeks ago.