So Frankly...

So Frankly...

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Then This Happened...

It happened last Sunday at our monthly game day. After taking a major setback in a long game, a player (we'll call him Al) said "I'm done", and got up from the table. Amongst most people, there is a general feeling that there is a social contract to finish a game. According to that norm, the social contract had been violated. But before we judge too harshly in these kinds of situations, we need to take a complete look at what transpired.

The game was Merchants and Marauders, a game which has roughly a three-hour play time. Players can either be a seafaring merchant, or a pirate praying on  merchants.  Or maybe a little of both.  Neutral pirates show up, national Navies show up; this is a game with a lot going on. This is also a game with a whole lot of options that the player can perform, though none of those action are terribly complicated. As a result, the game explainer - that would be me - decided it would just be easier for everyone to play off their player aid, rather than go through a lengthy and convoluted rule explanation. In short, I was pressed for time, and rather than be smart and say we're not going to push and play this game, I tried too hard to get it to the table. I did a poor job explaining the game.

At the same time, there was a person (we will call him Bob) had a pretty good idea of what was going on. Bob had played a computer game in which the player had the same options. As a result, he had an idea of what direction he should take. So while the rest of us were trying to figure out what the rules were, Bob was busy making smart strategic decisions. In fact, the last strategic decision of the game was when Bob attacked Al, dealing a crushing blow. Granted, Al had put himself in a bad position by previously attacking a pirate ship and defeating it, taking damage along the way. There was no way for Al to know that he was making himself easy prey. Bob had already gotten the most powerful ship in the game. Everybody else was still poking along their original ship, not knowing what they should be doing. If our gaming group was the kind of group that values the win above everything else, it would have been okay. However, we really focus on making sure everyone has a good time. So in a sense, Bob broke another social contract; one that is more important in our group.

I have to say I have been in Al's situation. About a year ago, I played a game for the first time in which someone who was much more familiar with the game effectively eliminated me in one fell swoop. I can't say I handled it well.

Just as happens so often in life, there were plenty of mistakes to go around. Al and I talked the next day, and he apologized for being upset. He had been a little out of sorts all day. I apologized for doing a poor job with the rules. And honestly, the game is not my type of game, nor Al's. 

So it was kind of a perfect storm; maybe appropriate for a game that takes place at sea.

It's Your Move...


Saturday, June 3, 2017

New Adventures in Star Wars

Fantasy Flight Games recently released the first expansion for it's epic Star Wars Rebellion game. For a while I haven't been blogging as actively, and since then two games have come out related to Star Wars that I think really need to be discussed. If you are a fan of the films, you'll be happy to know they really bring things to life.

Image from Hasbro
The first game is Risk: Star Wars Edition. This game reenacts Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi.. With one player acting as the Empire and one as the Rebellion, they are competing in three different arenas: the surface battle to shut down the Empire's shield, the space battle to destroy the new Death Star being built, and the fight between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. All of these are happening simultaneously. The basic mechanism is hand management and card play, with some dice rolling to resolve combat. It is not at all a true Risk game, but seems to just borrow the title for marketing reasons. It is amazingly good, and fairly simple gameplay. It plays in about an hour, so it can be played by kids of all ages. Being from Hasbro, it is still relatively easy to find even though it has been out for about a year and a half. At one time they were being sold in Target, and might still be, I have not been in a Target in a long time. Certainly they are available on Amazon.

The other game is Star Wars Rebellion, from Fantasy Flight Games. If you are at all familiar with Fantasy Flight, you know that they tend to produce licensed games with a lot of awsomeness. There is card play and dice rolling in this one too, but the main mechanism is taking the story's heroes and villains and sending them out on missions to complete. Where as the first game I discussed is a battle game, this one is also about diplomacy, resource management, and politics. This is also a much longer game. Risk: Star Wars takes about an hour, Star Wars Rebellion takes about four. It is definitely more of a gamer's game, and takes a bit of a commitment. It also covers Episodes IV through VI, which makes the time to play understandable. The new expansion just released for it introduces the latest set of characters in the saga.

Image from Fantasy Flight Games

Both of these are wonderful game.  Risk: Star Wars Edition is the kind of game I would normally cover in this blog. It is excellent but won't feel like work. It's a great game for casual play. The second is more complex, and won't be for everyone.  I love them both.

It's Your Move!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

What's Wrong with this Blog

When I started this blog years ago, I was all gung-ho. I recognize that there were a lot of people who were unfamiliar with the board game hobby, and were missing out on the fun. I wrote a lot; roughly two posts a week. Overtime I tailed off as my readership didn't really grow.

Why did my writing slow down? I began to wonder about the basic premise of this blog. I was writing for the Casual Gamer. Does the Casual Gamer actually exist for any length of time? Do people either drop away from games after a brief flirtation, or convert themselves into hobbyists? I began to suspect that anyone reading my blog would quickly either drop it or move on to other resources covering gaming. Coincidentally, the makeup of my gaming group was changing, and more complex games we're hitting the table. In some ways, this confirmed my perception.

As time got to be a more precious commodity, I started making an effort to play more games rather than write about them. And as I had more plays of complex games, I had a smaller selection of topics to discuss.

Where does this leave me? I don't know. I won't promise that I will write more. I have intended to do that in the past, and it hasn't happened. This may become more of a stream-of-consciousness thing. It may become more of a microblog thing. I'm open for input.

It's Your Move!


Sunday, January 29, 2017

2016 in Review

I started this a few weeks ago, but life has been crazy.  I am only finishing it now...

In some ways, 2016 was the one of the worst years I have had gaming.  Since I started getting back into gaming in 2008, only 2012 was worse.  In 2016 I had a total of 76 plays on 42 separate days.  That said, I had a good variety of games, having played a total of 41 different game titles.  I did play 19 games that I have never played before, which is actually on par with the past few years.  

I am making a concerted effort of not letting any games sit on my shelf more than five years.  I am not quite there, but I am getting there.  I am also much more diligent about getting rid of games that I don't really have a desire to play, even if I haven't played them yet.  I acquired 16 games this year, but since I am getting rid of games at roughly the same rate, my collection of about the same size.  Only a very few of those were purchases (and at least one of them was a Kickstarter project from before this year).  Others were trades, and of course a few gifts. 

The game highlights of the year were playing Star Wars: Rebellion, Mission: Red Planet and Power Grid.  These are all excellent games.  I actually don't recall playing any bad games this year.  The surprise of the year was Russian Railroads, which I received a couple of years ago as a very surprising Christmas gift.  I had only started considering it when I was given it, but it proved to be another worker placement game that I love.  

Great neighbors who moved away gave us a table they couldn't take with them, so I added another gaming table to the gaming area.  That was great, and it gets used a lot. 

So, unlike 2012, this past year felt as though it was a full and satisfying year.  Now, I need to start thinking about what to accomplish this year...

It's Your Move!