Broken Token: Terraforming Mars

Broken Token makes some of the most amazingly engineered, game-specific, box inserts. They’re pricey and I’ve never liked a game well enough to splurge for the insert. Especially considering it may cost as much, if not more, than the game itself.

However, after playing Terraforming Mars enough times with and without the insert I couldn’t resist the urge to lay down the cash to get the insert. The game comes with thin, individual mats that players use to track production levels and quantities of items produced. These mats are easily bumped and scraped with arms, sleeves, and cards during play which generally makes a mess of tracking your position. “Where was I again on the money track? I think it was +7…” Ugh.

I’m also transitioning into a phase of my gaming hobby in that I’m more interested in owning less games and pimping out the ones I do own. I just don’t have the space, nor the desire to just own, all of these games. So, I ordered an insert and the additional acrylic blue water tiles to pimp out my copy and I was not disappointed.

The insert arrived in a thin white box with all of the wooden bits laser cut into numerous flat sheets of very thin wood. It comes with a step-by-step instruction booklet which first requires you to punch out all of the items.

It seems a shame to toss the left overs but maybe my wife can find a use for them at the preschool where she’s a teacher.

Following the instructions, I started on the five player trays that substitute for the highly bumpable player mats from the original game. Each try is covered with a brown paper layer that has been laser-etched with information about the different sections of the tray and individual spots to securely hold the cubes that mark your production levels.

Once complete, the trays form a two-layer board much like the cardboard mats from Scythe, but much cooler. In addition, the small wings on each end provide a place to grab the tray as well provide an alignment marker when the trays are stacked on top of one another in the box.

Once everything is glued together (I used wood glue and a toothpick to apply small amounts of glue), you can stack the components back into the original box. I found it fantastic that you can load up each tray with the colored cubes removing the need for any baggies. As a bonus, the card holder (near the top of the image) has room to hold sleeved cards so you don’t need to worry about that. My only gripe is that the two trays that hold the item cubes and city/greenery tiles, along the right above,  don’t have enough room to hold the originals AND the new water tiles easily. I would have liked to split the cubes (retaining their denominations) and the tiles across the two trays but I’m still struggling with that while having room to store the original water tiles somewhere in the insert.

I’m very happy with the purchase of the insert as well as the acrylic bit upgrades. I’m still amazed at the engineering they put into making the parts while not only producing an insert that fits back into the original box but also is next to impossible to put together incorrectly. The small tabs on each part are made in such a way that if you’ve got it together incorrectly, tab “A” won’t align with slot “B” indicating a problem. I lightly sanded each piece but I’m not sure that would have been necessary. You will need to use glue and be careful where you put it so that it’s not visible when you’re done. All in all, I’m very happy with the upgrade. Very nicely done.

Views: 137

BixCON Away 2017

I met Matt Robertson (BGG: BixBy) several years ago at BGG.CON and since then we’ve kept in tough on social media. Matt is from Saskatchewan and runs a yearly con (BixCON) at his house and yearned for something a bit bigger to be held potentially in the US. A couple of years ago, Matt and his wife Kathy started searching for a location for this con and settled on Livingston Montana with a target date of May, 2017. I was so excited to receive an invitation to attend and I immediately cleared my schedule, booked a room, a flight & rental car, and settled in for the long wait.

After many emails and a phone call, I was invited to join the organizational team for the con, participated in chats about the con format, and took point on organizing a hike into the Montana wilderness. When May rolled around Tim Thorpe (BGG: Berserkly) and I had finalized that we’d be splitting room costs and although since I was flying I wouldn’t have any room to bring games, I knew we’d have an awesome library filled with great games from the mostly Canadian attendees.

When I arrived on Wednesday, Livingston was buried in a freak white-out snowstorm making it difficult for many attendees to arrive at a reasonable time but we did manage to gather a few hardcore gamers for a pre-con group dinner at a local restaurant.

The plan was to have the group hike on Thursday morning, the first official day of the con, but the weather was terrible, so we postponed until Friday morning when it was predicted to be much better. Lucky for us we had a pretty good plan B activity for a cold, snowy day.

In the meantime, several of us gathered round Matt’s massive PitchCar set and built the track that would be used to hold the 16-player/2-team tournament later in the con.

On Friday, a dozen or so of us gathered in the hotel lobby and carpooled to the trailhead south of Livingston and set out on our hike to see Pine Creek Falls. The snow was still ankle deep or deeper and we were the first on the trail since the storm the day or so before. The hike was immensely beautiful and very memorable. I’m already scoping out other places to go next year.

And of course, we played a lot of games including an organized 5-tables of 5-player TerraForming Mars (!) and, later, 2 tables of Anachrony.

I had a great time meeting up with old and new friends like Lenny Scoville (BGG: LennyS) and Matt Cook (BGG: gericke) from Fort Collins, Sean Brown (BGG: King Mob) from Texas, and Kathy Lewis, Bruce (& Cindy) Gibson (BGG: amberaleman), Dana Tillusz (BGG: HeavyD), Jon Enns (BGG: jayboy), and Colin Dearborn (BGG: yendi57), just to name a few.

BixCon Away, although currently small (about 47 attendees), was a very rewarding experience. Matt and Kathy did a fantastic job making the first annual con great. We’ve got big aspirations for future years and although it will be difficult to grow and to make it better, we’re a small, focussed, and committed group. I can’t thank everyone enough for taking time out of their schedule to spend time with us and I look forward to next year.

Views: 273

Kickstarter: Morels Foray – Just Take My Money!

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Way back in 2012 I did a review of Morels and suggested an alternative to the forest layout that eventually made its way into the rules. I met the designer, Brent Povis, at Origins and we’ve kept in touch over the years. It’s with great anticipation that he’s announced an expansion to Morels and has recently launched the game on Kickstarter.

I highly encourage you to check out the game and make a pledge. I quickly pledged at the Forager Deluxe level (with handcrafted bits) plus an extra $5 for the additional cooking pans but there are lots of options still available. His modest goal of only $15k was met on the first day of the campaign and I’m so excited for him.

The artwork of the original version is simply stunning and I give Vince Dorse and Jarek Nocoń kudos capturing my memories of mushroom hunting with my dad and being able to depict that in both the day and night card artwork. Kudos, indeed.

Later in life, Pegasus Spiele picked up the original title and although I’m sure that was a great feeling for Two Lanterns Games, the new name (Fungi), the artwork, smaller cards, and more botanical/language-neutral card scheme left the game a bit dry for me. I’ve always much preferred the original artwork and I’m very happy that the Kickstarter expansion returns to its roots with Vince Dorse at the drawing board. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

If you haven’t already, jump over to Kickstart and submit your pledge. I have no doubt Brent will come through with an excellent game that you and your family will enjoy for years to come.

Views: 499

Scythe Shadows

It is a time of unrest in 1920s Europa. The ashes from the first great war still darken the snow. The capitalistic city-state known simply as “The Factory”, which fueled the war with heavily armored mechs, has closed its doors, drawing the attention of several nearby countries.

Scythe is a Worker Placement/Economic Engine board game set in an alternate-history 1920s period. It is a time of farming and war, broken hearts and rusted gears, innovation and valor. In Scythe, each player represents a character from one of five factions of Eastern Europa who are attempting to earn their fortune and claim their faction’s stake in the land around the mysterious Factory. Players conquer territory, enlist new recruits, reap resources, gain villagers, build structures, and activate monstrous mechs.

Each player begins the game with different resources (power, coins, combat acumen, and popularity), a different starting location, and a hidden goal. Starting positions are specially calibrated to contribute to each faction’s uniqueness and the asymmetrical nature of the game (each faction always starts in the same place).

Scythe gives players almost complete control over their fate. Other than each player’s individual hidden objective card, the only elements of luck or variability are “encounter” cards that players will draw as they interact with the citizens of newly explored lands. Each encounter card provides the player with several options, allowing them to mitigate the luck of the draw through their selection. Combat is also driven by choices, not luck or randomness.

Scythe uses a streamlined action-selection mechanism (no rounds or phases) to keep gameplay moving at a brisk pace and reduce downtime between turns. While there is plenty of direct conflict for players who seek it, there is no player elimination.

Every part of Scythe has an aspect of engine-building to it. Players can upgrade actions to become more efficient, build structures that improve their position on the map, enlist new recruits to enhance character abilities, activate mechs to deter opponents from invading, and expand their borders to reap greater types and quantities of resources. These engine-building aspects create a sense of momentum and progress throughout the game. The order in which players improve their engine adds to the unique feel of each game, even when playing one faction multiple times.

BGG

Scythe is one of my favorites and I just had my first go with the Togawa Shogunate faction from the “Invaders from Afar” expansion. The new faction has a cool ability to drop armed trap tokens when the leader is moved. The player starts with four trap tokens and after being dropped and armed, they force opponents to pay an extra penalty to enter the hex. In addition, armed traps count towards the players end game scoring when determining who occupies and controls the hex.

Even though it looks like battling might be the core mechanic there’s enough of a penalty to combat that it won’t happen all that often. I enjoy the asymmetric nature of factions and the quick turns and the artwork really makes it pop.

Views: 821

Kickstarter: Pests from Spontaneously Combustible Games

Spontaneously Combustible Games Launches Kickstarter for “Pests!” Board Game 
 A light strategy game for 2-6 players, “Pests!” is the first table top game from designer Michael McFarland & illustrator Todd Jakubisin
Cleveland, OH – February 21, 2017. Cleveland, Ohio’s Spontaneously Combustible Games is launching a Kickstarter campaign on February 21 for “Pests!”, a tabletop strategy game pitting exterminators against one another in a house infested with all kinds of critters.
“Pests!” features quirky art, easy-to-learn rules, and a variable game board that guarantees a fresh, fun experience every time you play. Up to 6 players choose an exterminator, each with unique pests to exterminate, and unique abilities to help them do so. Players compete to eliminate their infestation while keeping their fellow exterminators from doing the same.
The Kickstarter campaign will last 30 days, during which the aim is to raise the $9,500 dollars needed for manufacturing and fulfillment of the first production run of the game. If the campaign exceeds that goal during the campaign’s timeline, Spontaneously Combustible Games will reveal additional stretch goals: higher funding thresholds at which the manufacturing quality of included components will be upgraded to provide the best gaming experience possible. A pledge of $39 or more secures a copy of the game once manufacturing is complete, with shipping included to the US, the UK, the EU, Canada, and Australia. Pledges can be made starting February 21 on Spontaneously Combustible Games’ Kickstarter page at https://www.kickstarter.com/profile/scgames.
“The idea for the game started with an unfortunate encounter I had with a swarm of ants in my backyard,” says designer Michael McFarland. “That same night I had a nightmare of beating back wave after wave of bugs in my house, and awoke with an idea for a board game.” The creative collaboration with artist and illustrator Todd Jakubisin allowed for rapid development of a fully-realized game, which was then refined over the course of 6 months of intensive playtesting.
“Pests!” uses a modular board, allowing players to create the game’s play area at the beginning of each game, making the game board different every time. The game is very easy to learn and has a lot of opportunity for strategic depth as you get more familiar with the characters and their abilities. Victory is achieved by capturing the queen pest, sealing the nest room, exterminating all small pests, and finally emptying the trap containing the queen to end the infestation and win the game. The game is for 2-6 players, ages 14 and older, and takes 45-75 minutes to play. “Pests!” includes 25 house room tiles, 6 character cards, 2 dice (one standard 6-sided die, and one “Queen Die” that determines the actions of the queen pests), 12 standees representing the 6 exterminators and 6 queen pests, 144 chipboard pest discs, 28 toolbox cards, 7 traps, and 6 nest seal tokens.
Claim your copy of “Pests!” starting February 21 at https://www.kickstarter.com/profile/scgames.
About Spontaneously Combustible Games
Spontaneously Combustible Games is an independent tabletop game developer and publisher based out of Cleveland, Ohio. They focus on designing creative, unique games that are easy to learn but feature enough strategy and variation to stay fresh and interesting. Spontaneously Combustible Games is a member of the Indie Game Alliance (http://indiegamealliance.com/), a confederation of independent game developers and publishers with member studios on 6 continents. Learn more about Spontaneously Combustible Games at http://games.spontaneouslycombustible.com.

Kickstarter: Last Chip Standing: Devil’s Luck

If you’re looking for a quick, family-friendly, dice game take a peek at Last Chip Standing: Devil’s Luck on Kickstarter. It doesn’t look like they need much to complete their goal and you’d get some cool custom dice to boot.

Last Chip Standing: Devil’s Luck is a fiendishly simple, feather-light game of chance with a 10-minute average play time. Single-page instructions, custom 16mm resin dice, radial mini chips, and a slick tuck box that fits right in your pocket.

If we hit all our stretch goals, we’re hoping to improve all of our components and make this game the best version of itself! That means:

  • Jumbo 19mm resin dice
  • Screenprinted gold bar mini chips
  • and a premium magnetic carry box

Day Night Z – Kickstarter Project

If you’re into zombie games take a peek at Creating Games’, Day Night Z on Kickstarter. It looks like it’s fully funded and it’s got some cool minis to boot.

DAYNIGHTZ™ is a tabletop board set in a zombie-filled, post-apocalyptic world. Highly detailed miniatures add to the fully immersive, “grimdark” experience. Unlike other zombie games, DAYNIGHTZ™ focuses heavily on survival and psychology, where morality often becomes secondary to preservation in crucial decisions.

Cabin Con 2017

Cabin Con 2017 is over. We had a smaller group this year as one regular attendee is living and working mostly in California for the next couple of years and another was off to San Diego to cheer on his daughter running in her first marathon. We did, however, have a quorum for the entire time, Friday through Monday, so it turned out to be a great success.

I look forward to the long MLK Weekend every year and appreciate the commitment from my game group members to set aside time and money to enjoy it with me. Everybody does their part to bring food, games, and supplies as well as sacrifice precious vacation time away from work and I can’t thank them enough.

Here are few images taken during the con.

Cabin Con 2016 was held in a “cabin” in Apple Valley, Ohio but, due to extenuating circumstances, we couldn’t return there. Luckily, however, we were able to reserve an 8-person cabin in southern Ohio about an hour and a half from Columbus. Next year, however, the cabins in that area are set to undergo renovations so we’re on the hunt for another location that will accommodate 8-10, low-impact nerds for cheap.

Views: 432

My Second Handmade Crokinole Board

Since I made my first Crokinole board I’ve been itching to make another but I wanted to try some different techniques in hopes of making it a little more predictable with much less “hoping and praying” things would turn out. In the back of my mind I’d like to think I could make a few boards and sell them to raise a bit of cash to fund my board gaming hobby (or my desire for new backpacking equipment for that matter).

I looked around in my shop and dug out some scrap cherry plywood I had. I was only 1/8″ so I backed it with some 1/2″ birch and cut the large disc out of birch plywood. I banded the inner cherry disc to hide the plywood edge using a ripped strip of hardwood cherry I had in the shop.

banding

While that was drying I ripped several strips of maple, the exact same type I used on my first Crokinole board and boy did I run into problems with splitting. The gutter wall takes two thin strips of wood wrapped around the large disc and every time I would try to mount the first strip it would split horizontally due to the stress near the point that the two ends come together. After four attempts I finally got the first layer on successfully.

firstband

The second strip went on without issue and I clamped it all up to dry for the weekend.

clamps

discs

After that was done I decided to paint the bottom disc and gutter wall black using glossy furniture paint.

painted

I’m not satisfied with how that turned out so I think I’ll try spraying next time (if I paint anything.)

Here’s a shot of the upper disc (with a few coats of poly) sitting inside just to get a feel for how it was going to look.

lookinggood

Now that the first few coats of poly was dry on the upper disc, I turned my attention to the lines and reused my homemade Erector Set compass and Sharpie since that worked out so well last time.

compass

lines

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After a few more coats of poly to protect the lines, I used my hole drilling template to mark and drill the eight holes plus the center hole.

holetemplate

holes

I then mounted the center disc permanently to the lower disc, added three more coats of poly and installed the painted and poly’d pins and the 1/2″ clear plastic tubing.

done

Overall, I’m happy with the look of the board but there’s a lot that I’d like to improve on when I make my next board. The bottom board is a bit uneven and there was initially a rocking motion when you set it on a flat surface. I’ve fixed that with some felt pads but that bothers me and I should have noticed that earlier. I’m not happy with the paint and I fear that every chip and dent will be visible in the surface detracting from the overall presentation of the board. And finally, I’m not happy with the smoothness of the paint. I can see brush lines when light reflects off the surface and I can feel it when I rub my hand down the side of the gutter wall. However, there’s always next time.

So what do I want to try on my next board? Veneer! I’d like to use different veneers to create a windrose of pattern of some sort. I’m not sure when I’ll find the time to try but stay tuned. Oh…and steam bending the gutter walls, but first I’m thinking of building my own steamer that will accept 8′ strips of wood 🙂

Views: 3042

Great Lakes Games 14 – GLG 2016

Great Lakes Games 2016 has come and gone and I’m once again energized to crack open the boxes in my collection, Kickstart some new titles, and catch up on my research on BGG. Gaming has been pretty thin recently but having the opportunity to play games multiple days in a row really helps me recalibrate and get back to my happy place.

This year’s GLG was a bit different for me. I focused on the social aspect of playing games and didn’t think much about taking pictures and notes so that I could blog about them. I apologize for the lack of pictures but I will include one I took while playing my first ever round of disc golf with a small group of gamers a short distance away from the con. What a beautiful day.

discgolf

I did get a chance to play a few titles new to me this year:

  • First Class: Unterwegs im Orient Express – A sort-of Russian Railroads the Card Game. I liked it but would need to play some of the other modules to know if it would feel a bit samey after a few plays.
  • Clank! – A mediocre, push-your-luck dungeon crawl with one redeeming quality of the dragon distributing health hits by grabbing cubes from a bag. Meh.
  • Istanbul: Mocha & Baksheesh – I liked the expansion quite a bit. The expanded board gives everyone more space to move around and the Guild Cards are very powerful. Several of the common tiles from the base game were NEVER touched. No Post Office visits in our game…wow!
  • Junk Art – A fun dexterity game for those late con nights. Fun stuff.
  • World’s Fair 1893 – A simple set collection game with some interesting choices but feels a bit mechanical. The relationship between placing your tokens, taking cards, and using the “people” cards to introduce a bit more control is wonky and at times hard to wrap your head around. There’s not much sense in planning for your turn as the board can change dramatically from one turn to the next.
  • Imhotep – A nasty, take-that but easy to learn game of building pyramids and structures with wonderfully chunky wooden bits.
  • Orbital Architects (Prototype) – A fun work in progress
  • Council of Blackthorn – An odd game of playing action cards in one of 4 suits to advance on tracks to earn points. The card play is really confusing at first and I’m not sure it really sunk in by game end. Dice interact with cards in one of three ways and determining how a card will behave when you play it was just damned difficult for me to grasp.
  • Team Play – A fun little card game for four. Collect sets and runs to meet goals, pass cards to your partner to help them meet their goal, earn points. Easy peasy and a fun activity to do with friends while you talk.

The prize table was kind to me this year. My copy of Terraforming Mars (1 of 4 I think) went quickly and I snagged a NIS copy of Food Chain Magnate. I don’t really have a desire to own a copy but I’ve got it listed in the BGG Market so if you’re looking for a Dutch/English 2015 copy, go for it.

I always enjoy GLG and can’t imagine missing it. It’s going to be a long slog to get back around to next year’s con but the only consolation is that as I get older, the time passes more quickly.

Views: 595