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  • .e 5:36 pm on November 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: auction, , ,   

    The Gallerist review 

    From the makers of Kanban: The Heaviest Euro comes a new extremely intimidating euro game, The Gallerist.

    Gallerist, early game, only 5 artists discovered

    Gallerist, early game, only 5 artists discovered

    First, it’s a beautiful game. Everything feels and looks perfect, which makes sense for a game about art. The art pieces are genuinely interesting, though entirely cosmetic.

    That out of the way, the rules are intimidating. Not in a sense of hardcore depth, which exactly is very nicely balanced, but in the sense of looking at a busy board and making sense of it at a glance. There’s also a bit of “surprise side effects” in the game that while documented well in multiple places are still sometimes forgettable.

    Gameplay wise it’s a variation on worker placement that’s more “worker movement”. You have just one worker and they walk around the board activating various actions. One catch is that if you use a building with someone else currently in it they get a “kick out” action as a response to you. Keeps people from super zoning out.

    Gallerist. Easiest than it looks, I swear

    Gallerist. Easiest than it looks, I swear

    The game is also almost totally luckless. About the same level as Russian Railroads and less luck driven than even Village. It really rewards awareness of others and playing to the goals that no one else is competing in. A very satisfying part of a strong euro design.

    It’s a genuinely fun game, with beautiful layout. If you’re willing to put in the time it takes to set it up each time, it’s a very streamlined and balanced worker game.

  • .e 11:29 pm on November 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: card building, , ,   

    Neuroshima Convoy (1st ed) review 

    Seeing as the second edition of the game is out now and everyone’s getting it in their BGGcon goodie bags, I figured it was time to give this one another try at work.

    It’s tempting as a work lunchtime game: 20 minute play time, no board, just cards, 2 players, how hard can it be?

    Neuroshima Convoy, 1st ed

    Neuroshima Convoy, 1st ed (Sorry for the shoddy photo, I didn’t see how glare-y it was

    Very hard. Incredibly hard. Portal hard. The rules are deceptively simple, other than list of small things you have to remember constantly which, since the game is so short, come up all the time. Example: “You win the fight, as a bonus you get to destroy a region and also a robot gets to move for free, then it’s power of enter triggers, and it gets a +1 for moving to an opposed city, and then you have to move a different robot and then that triggers as well but there’s no +1 cause that’s not a non-active city and also a different robot had a “on win” trigger so you have to do that now and then…”

    There’s also the fact that the game is 100% interaction between cards, and there’s some unique card interactions in there. You’ll reference the manual a lot while playing.

    Having said that, the game is very good once you get the rules right and come to grips that it’s not a “win battles”/”territory control” game. It’s a milling game, pure and simple, with a battle theme. Outpost is here to make Moloch mill, Moloch is here to rush through before the deck runs out. It’s incredibly tight and balanced flawlessly. Also very stressful.

    It’s definitely a game for gamers by gamers. If you want a great example of balance, combos, control, and asymmetry, look no further. Just be willing to put in a good 3 playthroughs before you get the hang of it. Though get the 2nd printing if you can. The art is nicer, and text on cards adds a lot to playability.

  • .e 4:22 pm on November 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: hex and counter, SPI, War of the Ring   

    War of the Ring, 1st ed review 

    The thrift store find finally hit the table: War of the Ring, 1977.

    I think mentioned it before, but the game is kind of special to me as the first board game I ever played was from the expansion to this called Gondor (polish: Bitwa Na Polach Pelennoru), so there was definitely a bit of nostalgia to this endeavor.

    War of the Ring, setup

    War of the Ring, setup

    We used the original rules with two tweaks: individual combat isn’t just a series of incoherent duels, and Sauron player isn’t allowed to stack Nazgul on Mount Doom until the Fellowship is spotted in Mordor.


    After a first false start (we thought the Fellowship is allowed to walk through the Misty Pass at start, realized they can’t, and had to restart) we made pretty good headway. The Fellowship split with two riding to Rohan on Shadowfax, while the rest head to Moria.

    2015-11-14 15.41.56

    Orcs chase Shadowfax and find the party in Moria. Nazgul wait outside

    In Moria the party easily kills Shelob while taking a few tiny wounds, though they lose Pippin to some orcs who set off dragging him to Mordor. Nazgul outside easily spot the Party as they’re leaving Moria, but immediately lose them as they enter Lorien. More orcs successfully identify the Rohan bound rider as Gandalf, which isn’t much a surprise: he’s trying to rally the country early.

    In response Saruman rallies and immediately tries to level Helm’s deep. Just barely fails before Rohan reinforcements start showing up. A slow siege begins there, led by the Witchking.

    2015-11-14 18.13.57

    Stupid Helm’s Deep. Stupid search parties.

    Problem is that it’s rather difficult to win a siege against a large army: you never seem to get that 100% roll, even as their numbers shrink and shrink, and even as your leadership bonus averages +6 over theirs with magic. Helm’s Deep refuses to fall, despite the deaths of Merry (the hobbit joining Gandalf on the feint), Gandalf, and the entire line of Théoden.

    Meanwhile the Fellowship happily traipses along avoiding every Nazgul block and completely ignoring all my search attempts.

    Sauron rallies, Aragorn calls him out using the Palantir

    Sauron rallies, Aragorn calls him out using the Palantir then takes off for the Black Gate. Helm’s Deep *STILL* holding.

    They soon arrive in Gondor and rally it just as Sauron rallies himself and Gandalf is reborn as Gandalf the White. And they have the Black Gate card, meaning they can simply walk in to Mordor. Anytime they want to. And even avoid Minas Morgul at that.

    Which they do, casually slaughtering the Troll guarding the gate.

    It's all ogre!

    They simply walked into Mordor

    The Fellowship drops the ring in, Sauron didn’t even have the action points to properly lay siege to Minas Tirith.

    It’s a cute game, but basically unplayable if you’re looking for a balanced proper gaming experience. Glad I got to play through it at least once though, a perfectly pleasant way to kill a Saturday afternoon.

  • .e 8:49 pm on November 12, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , card builder, mayday   

    Viceroy review 

    We ran through Joe’s fancy kickstarter version of Viceroy from Mayday Games. It’s a card builder apparently based on a Russian CCG called Berserk.

    Viceroy, one person's pyramid

    Viceroy, one person’s pyramid

    The only thing I knew about the game going in is that it has a gem building mechanic. I was assuming this would end up being very important, but it turns out it was at most a detail (though a fun one). The real gut of the game was the bidding and adjusting your strategy based on the bidding of others.

    Every turn, 4 new character cards become available, each randomly tied to a color. The players blind bid for which one they want, then resolve their bids simultaneously. If your claim is unique, you take it, otherwise you lose your bid and a second card is added to that row and you bid again. In case of ties between 2 players in a color with two cards, you take one of the two cards based on the initiative of the pyramid.

    This is the mechanic that drives the game. You end up not only picking for yourself (“Oh, another Scroll character would go nicely with my high scroll scores”) but also bidding to block others (“But man, if he gets another gear that will let him complete a 2nd set so maybe I should block him on that”).

    Another nice small thing about the game is it just looks nice on the table with all the pyramids going up:

    Viceroy, the whole table hogging 4 player thing

    Viceroy, the whole table hogging 4 player thing

    The scoring is a hair confusing at first with lots of steps and ways to earn points, making this a game that gets better on repeat play. Especially since at first play you have little grip of when to build for more resources, and when to start building for points. Overall a good mid-to-light card builder.

  • .e 1:21 am on November 8, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Tragedy Looper from ZMan, last of the Halloween games review 

    One last horror game for this season: a run-through of Tragedy Looper.

    Mid Game

    Mid Game

    A fairly unique puzzle/deduction game that pits the 3 players against a single GM-like “mastermind”. The mastermind needs to bring about a calamitous event of some sort, the nature of which is written down in that particular scenario. The players need figure out what the roles of all the NPCs are in this scenario then prevent the disaster from occurring.

    There’s two hooks to the game: first, the heroes don’t know what the disaster is. Just that it will happen. They also don’t know what roles are in play. Their power is in the second hook: they can rewind time in order to try the scenario over again up to a certain number of times (4-ish). This lets them experiment with things like “Did the murder happen the Office Worker was left alone with the Patient? Ok, that narrows down what’s going on to these possible scenarios…”

    A sample Tragedy Looper board state

    A sample Tragedy Looper board state after the mastermind played 3 cards

    The actual gameplay is done by playing cards face down. The mastermind plays 3, then each player plays 1 (without consulting with each other). Each card either moves an NPC or alters the number of tokens on them. The tokens then let players activate their powers, or in case of negative tokens, bring out about disasters and “incidents”.

    It’s a genuinely good game, if very stressful to run as a mastermind as you need to strike a very good balance between bluffing enough to trick the players into guessing wrong solutions, and playing aggressively enough that you don’t let them win by default.

    Also, while the players need to be able to deduce the nature of roles from what’s happening on the board, the mastermind needs to make sure that he or she never makes a single mistake with the rules. A single screw up like forgetting an mandatory behavior for an NPC with an offbeat role would make the game logically unsolvable for the players. No pressure.

    Here’s, incidentally, what the player notes looked like for the three protagonists in our game:

    The player notes

    The player notes

    They successfully stopped the cult and kept the doctor from dying in both the attack on the hospital, and at the hands of a paranoid patient.

    So Halloween is finished and I suppose this means we should put away our horror themes and move to our autumn / harvest games. Village I suppose? We sorta hate Agricola here.

  • .e 7:36 pm on November 5, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , audio, little kid stories, preteen   

    little kid stories 

    In 2004-2005 I helped organize an art project in the shape of a book of children’s stories. The book was then read by people who were asked to read them unprepared, as if a bedtime story in a book they’ve never read before. Those readings were then set to music written custom for each one. The final result, called “little kid stories” was released as a pdf+mp3s set, and as a webpage that unfortunately did not survive into the modern era of browsers.

    It’s now a bit past the 10 year anniversary of this project, and for the occasion I went ahead and converted the book and audio into videos using the original pdfs of the text and illustrations. They’re now available for easy watching on youtube.

    the crow

    the crow


    I want to say thank you to Tanya Bjork who did an absolutely incredible job creating illustrations from the text. Her digital etchings fit the mood of the stories perfectly, both in what they portray, but also in their stark raw contrast of black and white. I also want to thank all the readers who had the very difficult task of being recorded as they read a foreign text for the first time in their life, everyone who helped shape the stories by editing, and everyone who contributed seeds of the stories to me through conversations or other communication fragments.

    It’s not a perfect piece, and it’s at times difficult for me to listen either cause of imperfections of production, or simply because I’m not the same person I was 10 years ago, but it’s still a very beautiful one, and one deserves to not disappear completely.

    I also realize the inherent rudeness of asking people to experience a long form piece of video in the age of 5-second entertainment, so thank you to everyone who can take the time to experience the piece.

    The videos are available here:

    I hope that you can view it in a positive light.

  • .e 6:14 pm on November 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , historical   

    Magnates: A Game of Power (mini-review) 

    My copy of Phalanx Games’ “Magnates: A Game Of Power” arrived and we gave it its first test run. It’s a medium weight euro based on the famous Polish history book “God’s Playground” that plays quite a lot like a semi-coöperative El Grande.

    Magnates: A Game Of Power

    Magnates: A Game Of Power

    The essential mechanic is first bidding on cards that give powers and allow placement of units, then using the leftover cards to try and fight the constant flow of invaders. Bid too low in the first part and you won’t win any estates or power cards, bid too high and you won’t be able to stop the invaders and the countryside will burn. If enough of the invaders get through the country becomes partitioned and everyone loses.

    We played the game with 2 players, and a blind-bidding bluff game with 2 players is probably a subpar way to judge the full gameplay. I can say that it’s definitely a very well made game and one where you constantly balance the need of the country against the personal profit of your family, usually ending in the collapse of said country. So basically a surprisingly good simulation of that era of Poland.

  • .e 6:52 pm on November 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Betrayal at House on the Hill review 

    We went to a Halloween party where some thematic board games got played including Buffy, Tajemnicze Domostwo, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, and the remake a Halloween party classic: Betrayal at House on the Hill

    Betrayal In The House On The Hill

    Betrayal At House On The Hill

    It’s a very american style game: party explores house one tile at a time, resolve cards as needed, power up as needed. With each explored room the chances of one person becoming a traitor increase until it’s triggered, then everyone reads the new rules and the second half of the game is played. Sometimes aliens show up, sometimes a green ooze starts spreading, this time a group of cannibals burst from the kitchen and their victims started running for it from the attic.

    This was my first time playing the remake, and it was a pretty quick game since the betrayal happened in the 3rd omen and 2nd turn. This meant that the final part was very dice driven as there were almost no items in play, though it did end in a dramatic showdown between the last living party member and the traitor.

    It’s been a long while since I played the original, but I recall thinking that the components in the original weren’t quite as nice. I also never owned either version of the game so I can’t speak to the quality of the scenarios. Every one I played so far, from either side, seemed a fine luck heavy challange.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with relying on dice in a party game. The game is supposed to be a lightweight horror with a fun one-against-all twist and it definitely delivers in that. It’s not something which rewards multiple playthroughs as a means to improve strategically, but it really shouldn’t. No one likes “The guy who brought it wins” type games at a party.

  • .e 5:59 pm on October 31, 2015 Permalink

    Quick perl tip: 

    Quick perl tip, don’t confuse

    if( $a >= 3 ) {


    if( $a => 3 ) {

    the first one is “Greater than or equal to”. The second is “set it equal to 1 or 0 depending on whether it’s greater than”. You don’t want that. If you do want that, you shouldn’t want that.

    Yes that just cost me like 10 minutes.

  • .e 4:29 pm on October 28, 2015 Permalink
    Tags: , , unit movement   

    Theseus, the Dark Orbit review 

    This is definitely in my top 5 games, and quite possibly my #1. Essentially a base builder where you place faction powers on the board, upgrade them, and move around to trigger them using a Euro methodology

    Theseus, the Dark Orbit

    Theseus, the Dark Orbit

    As a small tangent, we have the Polish print of this game so we play with a translation sheet on the side, visible in corner of the photo.

    Like other Portal games, this one is very asymmetric. Not only are the faction powers and play styles very different, they also have different winning conditions. Some factions use hit points to win, some instead totally ignore those and win by doing research on other factions, while one does both and then wins if it hits 20 points in one or the other.

    A common criticism of the game is that for something that’s as simple as it is, it has an oddly vertical learning curve, and that’s not really wrong. It takes a bit to make your first move, but after you get going it really feels like a light euro with a dark sci-fi theme. The slightly obtuse manual doesn’t really help in that regard.

    Also, the game allows for a particularly obtuse Polish 80’s reference:

    Life is brutal and full of zasadzkas

    “Life is brutal and full of zasadzkas”

    The above room would be worth 18 points btw, almost enough to win the game by itself.

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