Sunday, April 27, 2014

Push Your Luck Podcast Episode 36: Top 7 game components

Eric and Jonathan discuss their Top 7 game components from the games they have played. Not only are they functional they are also high quality and cool looking!

games covered:
Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game – Millennium Falcon Expansion Pack
Big City
Riff Raff
Ch√Ęteau Roquefort
Ca$h 'n Gun$
Mord im Arosa
Dungeon Petz
In the Year of the Dragon

direct link here

for all this and more, head on to our website www.pushurluckpodcast.com

Friday, April 25, 2014

No Wines, Much War, Wow Indians !

Last Saturday was the first time in a long time that I met the group that normally gathers at Eric's place. We haven't seen each other much since Eric left. I wonder if it's my fault or if it's Eric's. I think it's his fault. He left, not me. Haha.

Well, we ( as in myself and the host ) had wanted to play Robinson Crusoe and Dungeon Petz, but somebody's boyfriend came over uninvited. :P Haha. Totally ruined our potential thematic experience ( we ended up with 5 players ). So we had to settle for a much lesser thematic fare.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Kickstarter Preview - Cops & Robbers

Designer: Kieran Billings
No. Of Players: 2-6
Kickstarter Link: Cops & Robbers Kickstarter
Funding Ends: 18th May 2014 

Copy on display is a prototype copy without finished art
Copy was provided by the designer free of charge, but this preview is not paid for in any way

Cops & Robbers is a family/party style push your luck game where players are robbers trying to steal the most cash in a stipulated amount of time or to steal a pre agreed amount of cash. The robber that is able to accomplish this is the winner of the game.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

One Night Ultimate Werewolf: Why can't I see what the others have seen?

So I am going to go against the grain here and say that One Night Ultimate Werewolf did not hit it out of the ballpark with me and my gaming group. I have heard and read a lot of reviewers and reviews and everyone seems to be raving about it but it just did not do it for me and my groups. This is really surprising because one of the groups which consists of my cousins really loved Resistance and Avalon and I had thought this will be a hit but alas, it was not meant to be.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf, published by Bezier Games, is a super condensed version of ultimate werewolf where players now have only 1 night, discuss and then have someone eliminated. Players then see who has won and that will be the end of that game. Quick, easy and touted as a micronized version of Ultimate Werewolf. It has a free iOS application where Eric Summerer voices the narrator and will instruct players when to close their eyes and all that, thus allowing all players to play.

So why did it not work for us?
For starters, I do feel that you need the right group to appreciate the game. A group that discusses, throws accusations around and lies like there's no tomorrow should like the game a lot. I feel this is similar to my experience with Coup. Some like it a lot, others just cannot take to it.

The roles are also new to me and my groups. I have not played Ultimate Werewolf yet so perhaps these roles already exist but they create a steep learning curve, especially some of the more advanced ones. I feel its because the nature of the character and their special actions need to be first made known to everyone and then that person who has gotten the character must remember what to do when he/she is being called. Some of the actions seem counter productive and leaves us wondering how to play it properly.

Surprisingly the win conditions was also slightly convoluted and I had to explain the rules several times before we gotten it correctly. Even I missed some rules (i.e. some roles' actions are optional) so surprisingly for a short simple game it can get more complicated than necessary.

So for our play, it was over pretty quickly and quietly because we did not discuss as much and I felt most of us randomly pointed at someone at the end. We tried playing it again but it still did not click with us and we moved on after that.

I am very grateful to Ted for this review copy and I will be willing to try it again with the right group just to make sure it is what I suspected, that there is definitely a game in there but needs the right people to make it happen.

Revisiting Old Friends - a Love Letter about Mapping the Coast of Japan In the Year of the Dragon

My plan to get Mice and Mystics to the table has hit a roadblock yet again.
The first time, a new friend was invited to my place, so I didn't want to start the adventure with a group that won't be consistent throughout the campaign.
This time, my friend forgot to tell me that he had to leave after only 3 hours. So that would mean our table of 3 would become just a 2 player affair. Immediately we roped in my friend's brother for reinforcement. Yet again another try and another failure. I wonder if I will ever get down to playing Mice and Mystics.....

Anyway, what we did play instead was a slew of games that I haven't touched for a long while. Well, excluding the obligatory plays of Hanabi which I shall no longer write in detail about; in case people start to think that that is the only game that is ever played at my place. Haha. We finished off 3 games without any great success. Nothing to shout about.

What was very exciting though was our 4 player game of Kaigan.
The last time I played Kaigan was more than 1 year ago. Geez. And to think I really love the game too. It used to be in my top ten list of games, but has since fallen off. But after playing it on Saturday, I am strongly considering putting it back on the list. Every time I play it I am constantly reminded how tense and tight the game is.

Kaigan is a game about mapping the coast of Japan. The theme is very weak if you ask me, nearly meaningless.
Anyway, it is played over 5 rounds, after which the player with the most points is the winner.
The main ways to score points are by completing map tiles and by advancing on various tracks on the main board. Completing map tiles offer you immediate points, and also allow you to immediately advance your position on 1 out of the 3 tracks (art, government, travel).

Its ugly I know, but the gameplay is amazing ! I swear !

The art and government tracks will score thrice in the game, whereas the travel track only scores points at the end of the game, but with much higher returns of course. More importantly, the art and government track will give you income at the end of each round, and money is VERY tight in Kaigan. So throughout the game, players are fighting for positions on all 3 tracks and also to complete the map tiles on the board.
The map tiles may be completed cooperatively by players, with each reaping the same points benefits, so there can be some "discussion" to help each other out. But as we all know, this also means that there are multiple ways to lock a person out. And that happens often in the game as sharing points isn't the optimal way to go unless you are the one who reaps with lesser effort.

All this sounds like a typical euro game, and it is. But the beauty of Kaigan comes in how the actions available to the players are fought over and selected.
Before players get to execute any actions that aid them to complete map tiles and gain advancement on the tracks, they have to jointly fill the action selection board with action cards from their hands. Each player has a similar set of cards in their hand, and on their turn, they must place one card from their hand onto the board. After which, the player may choose to claim a row or pass. Once the player has claimed a row, he/she is out of the round.

2 out of 4 rows have been claimed !

The board is a 5x4 board with spaces for action cards. Some spaces have fixed actions printed on the board. The 4 rows are completely used in a 4 player game but gets reduced accordingly based on the number of players.
Where and when the players place the action cards on the board is the whole gameplay experience in Kaigan. Each player does not own their action card. So if it is placed in a row that is claimed by another player, that player gets to execute the action instead. This leads to a game of chicken being played where players try to sabotage certain rows or to shoot out quickly and claim actions that will be desirable to execute their plans. Because the turn order of when the cards get executed are important, you can seriously mess with the other players by playing a less useful action in the front spaces of each row (the actions are carried out from top to bottom starting from the left column).
Timing is crucial in Kaigan, so being slow to a spot could cost you the points from the successfully mapped map tile.

Just a few examples of the actions on the players' cards
1) Advance on the art track
2) Advance on the government track
3) Collect money / Pay money for points / Pay money to advance on a track
4) Place your meeple(s) on a map tile
5) Place mapping marker(s) where your meeple is

The actions aren't very varied in terms of what you can do, but each card serves its purpose well and are vital at certain points in the game depending on what your plans are.

Our game took longer than I expected, a total of 2 hours. I was the only player who has played the game before so that certainly factored into the timing. But it certainly didn't feel like 2 hours. I was completely engaged throughout.
The remarkable thing about Kaigan is that the scores are usually very close, and this time was no different. First and last was separated by 8 points. But first and second was a difference of a mere 1 point (I came in second). Second and third a difference of 3 points. It could have been anyone of the top 3 to win, the last place player was certain he was out of the running by round 3. He did play poorly but he had 3 hours of sleep. So well, what can I say. I nearly edge out with the win had I claimed the 5 points for most money. But was thwarted by the last placed player who was shooting aggressively for it since there wasn't much else he could do. Still, a hell of a fun time and everyone agreed that it was a game they would certainly play again.

Next up was a 3 player In the Year of the Dragon.
A Feld oldie that I enjoyed quite a bit when I had played it previously.
It is a worker placement engine building game where players are trying to successfully survive the year of the dragon that opens up with 2 months/rounds of peace and follows that up with10 months/rounds of great perils. To stave off the perils, players will be trying to build up an army, harvest rice, research medicine, and store up money to pay tributes to the emperor. I will actually come out and say that the game has somewhat of a theme, which is a shocker for a Feld game. You are actually trying to achieve certain conditions to overcome the perils which are realistic and fits into the theme of what may happen in a year. Yes its not a great thematic connection but its definitely one of his more thematic games (which isn't really saying much). Haha

Anyway, each round proceeds with an action selection via worker placement where players may gain resources such as money, or rice, or to build fireworks. After which, each player has a chance to play a card to hire a worker into his/her palaces. These workers give each player benefits when they perform certain actions. This is the engine building portion of the game. If you hired say many "accountants", instead of getting 2 coins from the take money action, you may get 3 additional coins per accountant you have. And likewise for obtaining rice, the more farmers you have, the more rice you get.

Once the action is done and a new character is hired, the event for the month is executed. For whatever resources the players cannot surrender to fight the perils, they will lose a character from their palace. Points are then tabulated for the round; players score for having multiple palaces and some characters give outright points per round. That is the gist of how a round plays out. This happens twelve times and at the end of the game, players score 2 points per character still alive, and any end game bonuses to determine who is the best magistrate for the year of the dragon.

Overall, I very much enjoy my plays of the game. I love balancing out how to avoid the perils or to tank it and still carry on with my plans. Some characters are only useful for certain events and once it has passed, you may sacrifice them like sheep for your cause. Trying to survive every event is possible, but never a winning strategy.
I highlighted that from the start and 1 of my friends wanted to prove me wrong. But well, he finished dead last. Quite a bit back from the 2 of us. :P

Now, one (slight?) problem with the game.
There is an action that allows you to buy a privilege tile that scores you points at the end of every round. You can pay 2 dollars for the single privilege tile which gives one point per round (so max is 12 points), or you can pay 6 dollars for the double privilege tile which gives two points per round (so max is 24 points).
Before I purchased the game, I had heard about the double dragon play that breaks the game. This is when a player uses his/her first action to buy the double privilege. Apparently, that leads to automatic victory in the game (as long as you don't do anything foolish along the way). Now, that is 24 points, surely not game changing right? Winning scores are about the range of 85-100.

A 5 point win. End game palaces with my surviving characters (the extreme left palace should have been removed)

Well, I have played 3 games now where the first player bought the double privilege. None of them knew of this so-called break in the game as they have never even heard of the game before I took it out to introduce it to them. So it was just simple innocent plays on their part.
Results? 2 of the 3 games were won by that player.
The first was rather unfortunate as I was trying to beat the break but failed because I made a big boo boo in the game that set me back forever. I mistook paying 4 coins as needing 4 rice so I lost all my people for the remainder of the game. The first game was won by the double privilege player - she is what I would say a rather total newbie.
The second game I tried very hard again to beat the double privilege player again. He won nonetheless and I would say by about 10 points or so. He is probably best described as a middle level gamer. And he didn't make any mistakes during the game.
The third game occurred on Saturday. I finally managed to beat the double privilege player. I squeak a win by a mere 5 points. But, he is definitely a newbie. My friend's brother who has only played the likes of Citadels and Last Night on Earth.
I must mention, the first two times that I was trying to beat the double privilege, I did not buy any privilege tokens myself. This third time, I waited until the 7th round or so before I bought my own double privilege token. That was for 3 reasons. I didn't feel confident that I could overtake him without buying the token, I had much excess of money, and I waited till past the midway point of the game so that I would have been somewhat behind for a great portion of the game so as not to take away the advantage that the double privilege would have given the first player.

So, do I think that move breaks the game?
Well, a small yes. I think if each player is equal in their experience with the game, the double privilege at the start is a huge advantage. It can be disastrous if the tribute event is early in the game, then the player who buys the double privilege will be in some trouble as he/she will likely have no money left to overcome that tribute event. But otherwise, it is quite a handsome and easy 24 points that doesn't require any upkeep. Points in In the Year of the Dragon is hard to come by. You mostly find yourself having to work for it. And working for it means maintaining happiness and balance in your palace. But the double privilege gives you one quarter the points you need to win the game, and with no cost beyond the initial payment cost.
I still am eager to play the game again, especially now that I have bested it once. I am just starting to feel like I need to house rule it or to remove the privilege action and replace it with the expansion action which I have yet to play. I'll have a look on my next play what I deem best.

Pigs and Goats are secret best friends

From palaces to Castles....
I got them to play Castles with me, haha. Its my favorite game! What can I say? If they are willing, I am table-ing it. No question about it. :P
From my previous crushing experience with 3 newbies, I decided not to be cocky and put on my "I'm gonna crush you" hat.
This time, I decided to try a new strategy that involved no mines. I used an early knowledge tile to get money from exchanging a die for workers. This was to be my main source of income. And it worked ! I would have liked to have my regular source of steady income but the tile allowed me to be more flexible in my choices and I think it made a whole lot of difference. More than I had anticipated.
Well, crushed them I did. I think it was 242-200-189. They loved it though. That's a good sign for me to take it out again in the future. :)

To round up the day, we played 2 games of Love Letter.
For quite some time last year, this was the most played game in my house. Well, it has now been overtaken by Hanabi - quite significantly. Love Letter used to be 20-7 against Hanabi in terms of number of plays. And checking on it now, it is 28-50, in favor of Hanabi. Explosion indeed.

Anyway, my copy of Love Letter is a self made one. I had wanted to buy it but it was constantly sold out when it first released. I rethemed mine to the theme of the avengers (plus wolverine and spiderman). I thought I did a good job linking the abilities to their powers, making the game as thematic as possible. *self pat on the back* Haha

For some strange reason, plays of Love Letter in my house usually come down to the last and final game. Why is this strange light filler so "balanced"? Haha. It comes to the point when a game of it would take 20-30mins cos we play all the way to the final game. I'm not complaining but for a pretty random game, it never fails to amuse me how close we make the game feel. Anyway, the avengers theme is always a hit with everyone and I think it makes the game more fun than it normally is. Everytime we play it, people are shouting (literally) Spiderman! Black Widow! when using Wolverine for the kill. Hilarious.

A fantastic way to end the night and maybe (just maybe) the next time, I will have a Mice and Mystics report to post. Fingers crossed. 


Monday, April 14, 2014

Games that made me buy them - in Japan #2

Games keep making me buy them, it's horrible I know.  Do you also share my dilemma?

Games I bought after 0 plays - Dobutsu Shogi (Catch the Lion)

I grew up playing games like backgammon (probably with the wrong rules) and later when I was a teen I somehow fell into the role of a chess captain at an all girls high school.  I wasn't a very good chess player, as I could only see the options available to me after my opponent had moved, and lost pretty much all the games.  Losing competition after competition my chess love slowly went into hibernation :)  It's such a great game, but unfortunately I wasn't any good at it.  But I still loved other abstract games, especially checkers.

Then when I came to Japan I saw shogi and thought oooooh this looks like a lot of fun, but wasn't game to try it because I wasn't sure I could play it.  After 9? years in Japan, my fantastic students tried to teach me it in mixed Japanese English and it was so much fun even though I couldn't read the kanji or understand all the rules (I think they let me win hehe).  Another time a kind older gentleman in the Shogi club at my community center tried to teach it me also.  Then just as my world into tabletop board games grew, I started seeing Dobutsu Shogi on the store shelves.  

Not just game store shelves but in big department? stores like Tokyu Hands (a store that sells a lot of arts & craft/hobby goods, one of my favourite souviner shops in Japan). It took me about a year before I ordered the game.  The turning point was in 2013 a Board Game Geek friend overseas asked me to get a copy of it for him, then another gamer asked me.  Then there was no turning back :)  I knew I had to get a copy.  

 Having played the fun game RRR by Seiji Kanai, Dobutsu Shogi's dots on the pieces reminded me of that.  Since I enjoyed RRR quite a bit, I thought Dobutsu Shogi might also fill that abstract niche I like.  It's a lot shorter than chess, not as complicated, and the components make it easy to teach.  The cute pastel animals also helped.  The simplification of this game made it a lot more accessible for me, and to the public.  It meant any one could play, those new to board games, those that played a lot of board games, families, children, pretty much everyone.  What also sold me on it was that I had a chance of getting this played with other gamers in my group who didn't play a lot of abstract games.  

The Japanese version consists of a fold out board, and great looking wooden pieces.  The box and everything shouts highly marketable.  They did everything right in making this game, and somehow they got it onto the mainsteam market shelves.  

This game has now been republished in multiple countries around the world.  

If you ever visit Japan you should be able to still get the Japanese version of Dobutsu Shogi in game stores, and Tokyu Hands, and possibly Yamada Denki.  

There's now even 2 more versions, I want to get them all!  I think definitely I might get Purring Dobtsu Shogi.
"Goro Goro Dobutsu Shogi" (Purr Purr, Let's Catch the Lion)
    that features cats and dogs in a 5 x 6 grid.  
"Ooki na mori dobutsu Shogi" (Let's Catch the Lion in a giant forest)
    which is a 9 x 9 grid sized board.

Ooh, you can even buy Dobutsu Shogi bubble gum which look too cute to eat.  I'll try to get some of the other Dobutsu Shogi's to show you.

Games I bought after 1 play - Mythe! (pronunciation = mice)

This was another game I bypassed during the Tokyo Game Market it was released.  Possibly back in 2012?  Pre-Game Market, I had highlighted this game in the Game Market catalog because of its popup board.  But on the day due to the price I thought I'd give it a miss and buy another game.  At that time I didn't realize a lot of self published Japanese games would cost about that amount.  Remind me never to bypass a game at the Game Market again :)   

 Look how awesome this looks!!

A couple of months later my friend Dano brought the game to a gaming event he was hosting, and we got to give it a go, and what a blast.  Plus the art was amazing!  Amazingly cute and beautifully drawn.  That was it - my mind was occupied the rest of the day thinking about where I could get the game, and if it was possible for me to get the game on the way home (it was impossible hehe).  That game made me buy it after 1 play.

I bought it...and then ended up buying about 8 more copies to share with other gamer friends around the world.  The way they designed the board was awesome.  I wonder who printed the board...or maybe they got a card designer to print the popup section, and they glued it onto the board...or...hehe, these are the thoughts that pop into my head when I see something like this.  It's such a fascinating game board.  Plus how cute is the dragon that you're meant to be slaying...awh...  it reminds me a lot of Mario Brothers.  Save the princess from Bowser!

I still like this game a lot.  It's great with new gamers, and it's something I think I could bring out to play with my hubby (who doesn't play board games unless I beg him hehe) and his friends.  This is one of those games I'm keeping in my collection, it's in a small box, is beautiful, and fun.  Ooh, if you were creative enough you might be able to give this as someone's gift, and instead of a popup card, you could put a piece of paper/cardboard with a message in the board (not glued in or anything, just loose) so when the person opens the board for the first time..."surprise! Happy Birthday! You get a game and a card!"

Mythe is published by Sugorokuya and designed by Koji Malta.  Definitely, go try and pick this up if you get to visit their game store in Koenji Tokyo.  


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Push Your Luck Podcast Episode 35: How our gaming habits changed over the years

Grace joins Eric and Jonathan as we talk about our gaming habits and how they have changed over the years. There are some random ramblings and some how a strawberry is involved?!?  :D

The URL for the episode is here http://s3.amazonaws.com/PushUrLuckPodcast/PYLP+Ep+35.mp3

as usual, join our guild and participate in our discussions. Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes and rate and review us! We are always glad to hear from you.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Are Games looking Less Interesting or Am I getting Less Interested in Games ?

Well, we are one quarter into the year 2014 and I'm sitting in front of my office computer realizing that there are no new games that I am truly excited about or frantically doing any research on. And that, is a strangely curious thing. Coupled with my slowed down purchase rate of games for 2014, and I start to wonder to myself if I am getting burnt out with games or if its simply a case of many new releases being mediocre or extremely unappealing.