Monday, January 31, 2011

Catan: Settlers of America

Well, although it *is* under the Catan name, it is very much it's own game, simply borrowing many game mechanics. Players of the classic Catan will definately slide right in with many of the vagarieites of the game, such as the "robber" who has a new name but identical funtion.
Also, the dice rolls and recource aquisition is performed via the same game mechanic
A major departure is the that there are NO victory Points. NONE. The game is over when the last player completes all their objectives, which I will explain in a moment.
But the largest departure is the railroads and shipping. These are not new themes in boardgames, but are very new for Catan. That there is a two-step process to acheiving each step towards winning (getting rid of all your wooden blocks, via shipping on railroads) just complicates the matter. But I do not critize the game for being a little complicated! I would even congratulate the game designers for adding another level of strategery to the game, while not making the game tedious. A balancing act, accomplished in part by the removal of score keeping.
That is an amazing accomplishment. If I have any readers, they may have noted I have a large obection to lengthy score totalling and complicated matchematics. I always feel someone may be cheating ahead in the scoring, maybe unintentionally. And I feel lost and helpless, a feeling I abhor.
So, in a manner I am grateful to see, the winner is merely made known and incontrovertably. Either they have a wooden peice still to use up, or they don't.

That's not extremely in depth as reviews go, but those were a few short comments.

Something I have noticed in all Catan-like games: a "land grab" is essential to a well-played game. In some games, taking your time so you don't overextend is vital. In these games, however, there are no attacks, and if you take your time, if you snooze, you loose. Be a sooner, as the Okies would say.

At SCARAB (a convention in SC last month) I played Catan: Struggle for Rome, which was also not at all a Catan remake, but it's own game, despite it also borrowed many of the same game mechaincs, as did Settlers of America. I see a trend, and it's not a bad one.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Gaming con: SCARAB

South Carolina Area Roleplaying and Boardgames, I think, or something like that.

It was mid January 2011, a few weeks ago, and I was really lucky to get to go. I should've posted a reveiw much sooner than now, but I am just now getting around to it.

Over three days (well, afternoon Friday thru afternoon Sunday) I played many games, but a large part of my playtime was used up in one particular up-and-coming board game, Dungeon Twister, which is two-player and has a chess-like feel. There was a tournament with the game itself as prizes, so I had added incentive, but it was a fun time by itself.

Besides Dungeon Twister, I played:
Nuclear War
Red Dragon Inn
Struggle for Rome (a Catan descendant)
Betrayal at House on the Hill
Thunderstone (a Dominion-like card game with dragons in caves)
a zombie-themed game I forget the name of (indy)
I Drank What? (indy)

I was disappointed I didn't get to play my Star Trek card game design, but I knew going in it wasn't too likely. However, there was a "yard sale" of sorts where I bought many once-valuable cards for next to nothing. Then again, the cards are worth next to nothing in the regular market, so I suppose I overpaid. Haha.

Getting to play Nuclear War was one of the highlights for me, but I think I enjoyed Red Dragon Inn the best because of the people I was playing with, most of whom I had known from my hometown. Both of these games rely very heavily on luck and also who annoys whom. If you manage to keep a low profile, you may just survive long enough to win. Yeah, I didn't, haha.

Thunderstone is pretty new. It was fairly easy to learn, because the game mechanics are not all that different than Dominion (although they are different, and incorporate needs and not just wants). But I lost handily, because I was more focused on learning the rules and playing well than winning.

The yard sale or "swap" was a really good feature.

SCARAB was really well attended, altough of a poor gender ratio (which is normal). My only other con experience was completely dead by Sunday morning, so I was pleased to see a lively Sunday.

One gripe that comes to mind: they had few or no GMs (Game Masters, people who knew the game running the game). For the most part, random people signed up a given scheduled game and just met and then figured out the rules. One was fortunate if there was an experienced player among you. There was also very little incentive for people to be GMs. At my previous con, there was a sharp employee-discount-type deal for people who ran games, becoming like staff. That was only present here is a severely abbreviated form, and thus did not encourage much volunteerism.

The "swag" was very well-done, as I was told, and the staff very friendly.
I was disappointed at less sci-fi jollies going on. Pretty much nothing in that line. No screenings, no lectures, no guests of honor. Well, that's okay, I barely had time to shower and sleep as it was.

I am going to make this a regular thing if I can, attending gaming cons. I dunno that SCARAB is within my reach each year, or my budget, but it's something I liked a lot.

what have you read by Edgar Allen Poe?

I came across something interesting recently, and I suspect it's a shame that I've missed it.

According to Wikipedia: "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838) is the only complete novel written by American writer Edgar Allan Poe. The work relates the tale of the young Arthur Gordon Pym, who stows away aboard a whaling ship called the Grampus. Various adventures and misadventures befall Pym..."

The story used the Hollow Earth aka Symmes theory, accepted as possible at that time of Victorian science. The Hollow Earth theory was also incorporated into other works of Vicorian science fiction, such as Edgar Rice Burrough's At the Earth's Core.

Also according to Wikipedia, the award-winning nonfiction book Lands Beyond is "a 1952 study of geographical myths by L. Sprague de Camp and Willy Ley" that further describes the mistaken assumptions of early science.

printable Pym?

and one of many reviews:

By the way, P-O-E is not a word in the English language when trying to play Scrabble. Zelda, you misled me!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Games: A Game of Thrones

It is curious to have the word game in the title, so that the actual description would be The game 'A Game of Thrones'. That's just one aspect of the appeal of the game, based on some fantasy books I'm not too familiar with.

I've played this twice, at the generosity of another gamer at my local game night, and I have won it both times, although I'm not sure why. I suspect because the "teaching" gamer didn't want to play too vicious, and I was one of the first newbies to catch on with how someone won.

There are two ways to win, and so far I don't even know what the "normal" winning condition is. Both my wins have been won by reaching a game stopping action, which is inserted into the rules but never (or rarely) expected to be reached.

A good game, with some good game mechaincs. Turn order is pretty varied depending on circumstances, and rarely would a player be sitting out for a while while other players took their turns.

For the completeness of my records, I also played a game called 'War on Terror' 2nd Edition on Saturday. It has a number of potential striking disadvantages, but I don't know that they can't be overcome. The game's "replayability value" is an unknown for me, although I have to wonder. It is bound to become dated, but maybe that's a virtue. Best of all of all, no players are left uninvolved after they are out of the game, but rather take on the mantle of the forces opposing the players, the terrorists, endowing the terrorists with wetware's unpredictability and craftiness. Through the terrorist activities against the players' empire building, the theme and story are done pretty well.

I have been given to understand that thse are some of a games vital factors: replayability, fun, story/theme, unpredictability, all-player-involvement, Endgame-conditions.

wow, TOS Trek Calendar 2011 has some great image captures!

wow, the TOS Trek Calendar 2011 has some great image captures!

Man, these image captures put most other memorbelia to shame. Specifically, ST:CCG cards come to mind.

The characters are at their best. I just love Bones' emotional face in one, and Scotty's determined and grim countenane in another.

I saw the real thing in the mall recently, and thought I'd post. I think the file is large enough for you to zoom in.