Matt’s After Christmas Game Day

A few months ago, while lamenting the length of my unplayed list and my inability to whittle away at it (I buy games quicker than opportunities for playing present but that’s another story), I decided to organize an After Christmas Game Day.

Last Monday, I managed to secure 4 from my game group to spend about 10.5 hours at my house playing games. It was a relatively informal affair, a bring your own snacks and drinks type of gathering and as I thought would happen, we ended up with a two foot sub, chips, cookies of several types, cheese ball, beer, and wine. We broke for pizza around 6pm but needless to say, food was NOT a problem.

I’ve said it many times before but I’m always amazed at how many games we DON’T get to play in 10.5 hours. We just don’t play the same game enough times back to back so we have to spend time teaching and/or refreshing our memories of the rules so it slows down the rate at which you can play games. However, I had a blast and would do it again in a minute.

I FINALLY got to play Endeavor in addition to Flaschenteufel, Saboteur, Dominion, Hacienda, Tobago, and Dicetown.

Thanks guys for coming over, hanging out, and getting in some good game time over the holidays. Maybe I’ll make it an annual affair.

And to Summarize…

I don’t have a lot to say yet but I conducted a BGG trade, received my BGG Secret Santa gifts, and finalized my trades in the annual CABS No Ship Math Trade that Nathan Morse hosted for the CABS Annual Meeting.

Yspahan, In the Year of the Dragon, two copies of Amyitis, Piratenbucht, El Capitan, Bison, and Tempus are leaving to make room but here are the new items making their way into my collection:

Cavum, Wasabi, FITS, Flaschenteufel, Funny Friends, Louis XIV, Fiji, Zendo, Lost Cities, and Ponte del Diavolo. The last two games are second copies which I’m going to be giving away to a budding gaming family as a pseudo Christmas gift. They like abstracts and 2-player games so I think those two will be a good fit.

PowerMage54 – Review

A few weeks ago I received a copy of a game for review: PowerMage54. This time of year is a tough time to get games played for enjoyment let alone for review purposes but I did manage to squeeze in some time here and there with various numbers of players and was pleasantly surprised.

PowerMage54 is not a gamer’s game but there is a game in there. With a few simple tips and a quick trip through of the rules you can be off and running in minutes. The physical game is composed of a standard deck of cards (plus the two jokers) hence the “54” with the run of the mill artwork replaced by a super-hero/power-mage theme. The game is packaged as a standard-size deck of cards in a sturdy flip-top box with the single sheet of rules folded and tucked in.

Short and to the point, your goal is to beat the crap out of each until there is only one PowerMage left standing. From the get go you can see that the game features player elimination which may or not be your cup of tea but, in the right circumstances, it can be quite fun.

Each player is dealt and hand of 5 staring cards and is given 100 points. Play rotates around the table and during your turn you draw a card and then take an action. The action is one of the following depending on the cards you possess: attack, repair, thump, or in some circumstances pass. The three action types correspond to the three suits spades, hearts, and diamonds. Clubs are used to defend against attacks.

With only the rules described above, the game would basically be a slightly modified version of the childhood game of “war”. So to spice it up, the face cards depicting the PowerMage artwork (see above for samples) have special abilities and can be used to augment action levels. PowerMages can be played individually by discarding the cards and taking the action described on the card. However, losing the PowerMage played singly can be a risky move since you lose the PowerMage to the discard pile. The real power comes by playing multi-card combos that include the PowerMage and when played in this manner, the PowerMage goes back into your hand to come out another day.

The thump cards (diamonds) are very similar to attack cards (spades) but to play them you must show a PowerMage card. The PowerMage returns to your hand but then you take the action described on the card which might allow you to steal cards from other players, force them to discard cards etc.. PowerMage/thump combos can also be played along with an attack card in a three card combo. When this is done, the PowerMage returns to your hand but the value of the thump card acts as a multiplier for the attack card. So a lowly 6 of spades can be jazzed up to a 60 point hit with a 10 of diamonds thump card.

When attacked, clubs are played to lower the intensity of the attack and thump cards can be played in three card combos to increase the defense in the same manner as the attack. Repair cards (health/hearts) can be play (singly or along with multiplier thumps) to add points back to your health value (remember you start with an initial 100 points). If you ever go to zero…you’re dead.

The game is a knock down drag out with 2. Giant thumps, repairs, and defenses can generate wild fluctuations in points. With only one opponent, it’s an all out battle to the death. With more players the game gets much more intense/thinky. You have to be careful blowing your hand on big attacks because dumping a load of hurt on another player can leave you wide open to a chain of attacks from power hungry PowerMages bent on making into the end game.

I was a bit surprised by the game and at $7 you can’t beat the value.

Pros: Quick play, easy to learn, travel friendly, sturdy construction, nice artwork, price
Cons: Player elimination, awkward health point tracking (paper and pencil after each play)

Take a trip out to the PowerMage website and learn more: If you’re looking for a highly portable game with a Chuck Norris kick to it, you can hardly go wrong for the price.

Pharaohs and Scribes?

I made several attempts to find a copy of an out of print game called Scripts and Scribes but to no avail. I tried all avenues I could think of and eventually created a rethemed version for my own use by using the artwork from Ra and the services of This was the first time I’d used artscow and after struggling through their Silverlight UI, I managed to get all of my Paintshop Pro images composed and arranged appropriately to order two decks of cards that make up the 100+ card card game.

The image above shows (from left to right, top to bottom) a “disaster/bishop” card, a sample blue, gray, green and yellow suit card, a sample gold/money card, a sample red suit card, two cards used to set the dice on during play that determine the value of each suit at the end of the game, and the Ra graphic I used on all the card backs. You don’t get a sense of the “texture” of images and they seem a bit flat so I included some larger images below (the dice holding card and one of the blue suits).

The cards finally arrived today after more than 3 weeks post email shipping notification. It’s not a wonder it took so long given it came from Hong Kong. The cards are thinner than I was expecting but the printing is quite vibrant. Unfortunately the hue seem to vary a bit on some of the cards but oddly only in some areas. For example, on some of the “money/gold” cards, the yellow tablet that indicates the value of the card isn’t the same color on all the cards. Some are a bit darker.

I was also expecting a bit more “edge”. My uploaded images contained a white border (seen in the images above) and I was hoping the full-bleed presentation would leave some portion of the white border on each card. As it turns out, the cards printed with no white border and luckily the iconography in the corners wasn’t cropped but it was a pretty darned close call.

It took a lot of work to make the decks and was quite costly to print but I now have a copy of an out of print game. Unfortunately, during the wait for shipment to arrive, I ran across a posting on BGG that announced that a French company has picked up the rights to the game and will be producing a version some time next year. Live and learn I suppose…

Analog Game Night – December 2009

We met for December’s installment of AGN at Jared’s house (thanks for hosting Jared). A couple of people were going to be a bit late so we set up for a 4 player Dominion/Dominion Intrigue and just as we were about to play the first hand, a fifth showed up. Given that we could support five with the “expansion” we dealt in a fifth and got started.

We’d started the game with a variant that I like where you select some number of decks from each game and then you each take turns going around the table throwing out a deck of your choice until you get down to the requisite 10. We’d chosen 10 decks from the base game and 6 from Intrigue (at random using the “blue” cards) and got down to a painful deck that included the Thief AND the Torturer and no Moat. We should have chosen 8 from Intrigue to give everyone two chances at removing decks but it didn’t occur to me at the time so…my fault. I’m used to playing with that approach with two players where that number is more appropriate. Since we chose decks with only 4 players yet played with 5…well I guess it was pretty screwed up anyway.

The Thief was one of the first decks to go and boy was he hitting hard. There were huge swings of money (10+ bucks!) being swiped from people and going into the discards piles only to be stolen again a few turns later. The killer was that it wasn’t accomplishing much since the money in hand was relatively light. Torturers were relatively popular as well (Markets a close second) to try to get more cards in hand. Unfortunately, multiple Torturers would be played in a round so some people would go into a turn with very few cards (sometimes zero!). With little money the 6 point Provinces were going very slowly so I started buying 3 point cards to just try to get some victory points. In the end, the most prolific Thief and I tied for the win but wow, what a slugfest. I’d sorted my money into the piles thinking I’d lost when we determined the tie and we didn’t even look up the tie-breaker rules.

Next up was Long Shot with 6 players. I was the only one that had played so after a quick run through the rules the gates opened and we were off and running. I bought horse 6 (black) and probably shouldn’t have with only 6 players. With the crappy cards I had (no chance of getting any money), I’d shot my bankroll on buying a horse and little I could do but watch others buy up other horses. Horses 3 and 9 made an unnatural beeline for the finish line helped by my uncanny ability to roll 0 on the movement die a good 75% of my turns which included rolling my own 6 horse simultaneously several times.

I did manage to get several bets down and pick up some money near the end game but finished in the latter part of the money pack by game end. I like Long Shot better than Winner’s Circle. I’m probably in the minority there but I don’t really see a need to own both games. I like Long Shot’s single race approach rather than Winner’s Circle’s three and, although non-thematic, I like the fact that you can bet on horses during the race until the last quarter of the race when individual horses cannot be bet on due to entering the “no bets” zone. I think choosing a horse based on the payout odds is more more thematic and I’m not all that fond of Winner’s Circle’s betting chip model especially since you’re not allowed to bet on more than one horse. Winner’s Circle also has some weird rules (to increase tension) about not allowing horses to share the same spot on the track. It just feels weird and makes it readily apparent that Knizia’s Winner’s Circle is really a mathematical model with the theme pasted on. Long Shot, although chaotic given the weird card play, does feel like a horse race.

After Long Shot, we lost one player and we needed to play something light to end the night so we played TransAmerica – Vexation. TransAmerica is a VERY light game but the “vexation” variant/expansion “games” it up a bit. I’d never played with the expansion but it is a welcome addition to an otherwise dirt simple game. If you’re looking for a game to play or buy and something as relatively simple as Ticket to Ride feels too complicated, then maybe TransAmerica would fit the bill. Still a great family game or a game for new or light gamers but definitely a game that shows its age once you get into the hobby.

BGG Hall of Fame

I’m a Hall of Famer! Well, in the geek sense. And we’re talking the hard core nooks and crannies of geekdom…yes, board game photography. My submission to the October 2009 BGG Image Contest grabbed 1st place with 207 thumbs and gave me just enough points to elevate me as the 2nd member of the BGG Photographer Hall of Fame. It’s been a long haul over the last two and a half years. I don’t take that many photos but I try hard to compose each one specifically for the image contest. Weird yes but oddly satisfying.

Here are the images that I uploaded to the image contest on my quest for the Hall of Fame.

February 2007 – Taluva (pre Hall of Fame point system)

February 2008 – El Grande

July 2008 – Inkognito

August 2008 – My homemade cherry dice tower

September 2008 – Lexio

May 2009 – Dos Rios

October 2009 – Endeavor

Thanks for all the thumbs over the years and I hope the quality of the submissions keeps going up. If the latest contest is any indication, the remaining contestants are in for some stiff competition. I’m not allowed to participate any more but I look forward to thumbing those images. Keep up the good work.