Sunday, June 5, 2011

Forbidden Island

My daughter LOVES Gamewright games! She is constantly asking to play Order's Up, Duck Duck Bruce, Feed the Kitty, Go Away Monster, and many others. The quality of Gamewright games is always top notch and the themes of the games appeal to kids and adults alike. When I first heard that Gamewright was publishing a game by the Matt Leacock I was intrigued. I had played Pandemic and Roll Through the Ages (two of Matt's other games) and really like both of them. I was looking forward to what he could bring to the Gamewright lineup with Forbidden Island.

This post isn't going to contain a lengthy rules explanation. For those interested the rules are posted online on the Gamewright website. Instead I'm going to go over a few of the reasons why I enjoy Forbidden Island and why I think you should check it out.

Cooperative games rule! I'm a big fan of cooperative games. The first co-op that I played was Shadow's over Camelot. Shadow's is still one of my favorites to this day. Forbidden Island is also a cooperative game. A cooperative game, for those who don't know, is a game where all players are on the same team trying to beat the game. It's either everyone wins, or everyone looses. In a good co-op there is almost always a lot of tension that builds up during the game. In Forbidden Island you are trying to collect treasures on an Island and fly off of that Island before it sinks underneath you. As the game goes on more and more of the Island disappears and the tension builds. You usually don't know if you're going to win until the very end.

Variable Player Abilities: In Forbidden Island everyone has a special ability. You can be an Explorer, Pilot, Navigator, Diver, or an Engineer. Your character lets you do something that "breaks" the normal rules. The Diver for example will let you swim to another tile where this is not allowed for all of the other players. It's fun to see how everyones special abilities work with each other in figuring out how to beat the game.

Difficulty Levels: Forbidden Island allows you to vary the difficulty level of the game. The game comes with a Water Meter. As soon as the Water Meter gets to the skull and crossbones everyone dies and you loose the game. This is one of the four ways that you can loose. You can start the game at different levels on the Water Meter. Beginners should probably start at Novice, but the daring can jump all of the way up to legendary. The ability to vary the difficulty allows families to play with younger kids and also makes it a little easier to introduce the game to new players. It also helps add longevity to the game by making it more challenging as you get better at playing.

Modular Board: Modular board games allow you to play on a new board each game because the board is built fresh every time you play. Forbidden Island comes with 24 tiles and they are randomly placed in order to create your board. You never quite know what you are going to get. This affects the kind of strategy that you are going to play and dramatically adds to the re playability of the game. Every time you play it's fun to see how your Island gets set up and this always leads to discussion on how to best attack the game.

Forbidden Island is a lot of fun. It would be a welcome additional to anyones game collection. It has been nominated for the game of the year in Germany this year, The Spiel Des Jahres. I think it's definitely worthy of the nomination and gets my vote to win. Thanks for reading and happy gaming!

Anyone interested in purchasing Forbidden Island can find out more about it here.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Random Thoughs on Agricola

I was pretty late jumping on the Agricola bandwagon. I had seen it for years on boardgamegeek on or near the top of the highest rated game list. It had always kind of intrigued me but, I mean, how fun could a game be that was about farming? About a year ago I was able to get a copy of the game. After reading through the rules a couple of times I was ready to play. The problem was that nobody else was ready to play. This happens to me quite a bit. I get a new game. I read through the rules a few times. I don't get a chance to play the game for a while and I forget the rules. This doesn't bother me too much though. I'm one of those weird ones that actually enjoys reading rules. About six months ago I suggested the game at one of our game nights. Luckily, a few of the people had played and they were willing to teach the game. I'm not going to lie, I wasn't a big fan of the game the first time I played. There's A LOT of stuff going on and it made my brain hurt. I did see though that there was some definite potential to the game and I wanted to play again to explore. I now have played a dozen or so times and I can now say that Agricola is one of my favorite games. Once you get through the initial learning curve you find a fantastic medium to heavy weight strategy game. I'm not going to explain the rules in this post. I'm not really in the mood to wright for the next two hours, and I don't think many of you would want to read them. I will go into some of the reasons why I love the game though, and why I think you should check it out.

Choices, Choices, and more Choices! Did I mention choices? There's a lot of decisions to be made in this game. This allows multiple paths to victory. Many games have one dominant strategy that everyone uses because if you don't you probably won't win. This is definitely not the case with Agricola. This adds to the replayability and total enjoyment of the game.

Goodies! There's a recent expansion to the game that came out called The Goodies. This adds little wooden pieces that actually look like the things they are supposed to look like. The grain looks like a bundle of grain, the sheep are little wooden sheep, and the cows actually look like cows! The expansion doesn't add a whole lot to the actual game play, but it does add a lot to the theme. It's pretty fun to see your farm after the game is over with little pigs and sheep running around. My wife likes the goodies so much that she refused to play until I was able to order one.

The Cards. You can play Agricola with or without most of the cards. I definitely prefer playing with the cards. They add a little complexity to the game, but also allow for deeper strategy. You are dealt 7 occupation cards as well as 7 minor improvement cards when you begin the game. It's a lot of fun studying your cards and figuring out which ones to play and how they are going to interact with each other. The game comes with a ton of cards. You'll have to play a lot of Agricola before you see all of them.

Balanced: As with most good strategy games the person with the best strategy is usually the winner. With that said, most games are really pretty close and come right down to the end. The person who can squeeze out the most victory points in the last round could very well be the winner. I've had quite a few games that are decided by one point. This can make for a very exciting finish.

Passes "the wife test": My wife really enjoys Agricola. She like a lot of games, but usually shies away from the more complex and heavier strategy games. This one is an exception to the rule. Any game that can take over two hours to play and still passes "the wife test" is a winner in my book. It's also a great two player game. A lot of my game playing is with my wife, so I'm always looking for game that play well with two.

These are a few of the reasons why I love Agricola. The more I play the game the more I find reasons that I enjoy it. I'm looking forward to getting The Farmers of the Moor expansion in the future. There's still a lot that I need to explore in the base game before then though. If you haven't checked out Agricola yet I would highly recommend that you do. Thanks for reading and happy gaming!

Monday, April 25, 2011

To log or not log...

In January of 2009 I ran into a site called boardgamegeek. Since then many hours have been spent on the site researching games and reading anything and everything board game related. Shortly after finding the site I found that you could log all of the games that you have played. You can go into as much detail logging games as you like, including: where you played, number of players, who played, who won, what the scores were, comments on the game, and even if you want to post it to twitter. I usually just log the game, date, and where I played the game at. It's been kind of fun going back a seeing what I've been playing for the past two years. I thought I would post some useless stats on my game playing for the past two years in case anyone was interested. Who knows, it might inspire someone else to log their game plays as well. :)

Where I've played: Over the past two years I have played games in 26 different places. The majority of my game playing has been done at my home, but I've also played in some pretty unique places. I've played games high in the Sawtooth mountains and in Canyonlands in southern Utah. I've played games at a coffee house, conventions, hotels, and at many friends and family homes. No matter where I've played it's always been fun.

Different games played: Over the past two years I've played 143 different games. One of my favorite things is getting a new game, reading through the rules a few times, and jumping into a new board game experience. My board game collection has grown dramatically in the past few years and I don't see it slowing down much.

Most played game: For those who know me this won't come as a surprise. My most played board game the past two years is Dominion. I have played Dominion and it's many expansions 148 times. Despite all of my Dominion playing it hasn't gotten old. I'm always up for a game. My second most played game is No Thanks! with 51 plays. That's mostly due to over 30 plays on a backpacking trip. I was a little sick of that one after three days in the desert.

Total games played: I have done more gaming by far than the average person. I guess that's what happens with a hobby. Over the past two years I've played 743 total games. This doesn't include many kids games played with my daughter and nieces and nephews. Whew...that's a lot of games! That averages out to be about 31 games played a month.

When I look back and reflect on how much has happened in the past two years it's really pretty amazing. I've played a lot games, got to know A LOT of great people, strengthened friendships with those that I already knew, and started a board game business that will hopefully one day turn into something that will let me provide for my family doing something that I love. Board games have been a big part of my life I wouldn't want it any other way. Thanks for reading and happy gaming.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

So Why Games?

So why do people play games? This is a question that I've asked myself many times. As I put more and more time and effort into the hobby I see even more value in it. The game industry is growing. Games like Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride are becoming more mainstream. Barnes and Nobles even has games like Dominion and Forbidden Island. More people are being introduced to the wonderful world of modern board games. I've put together a list of some of the reasons that I like games. Feel free to comment and add some reasons of your own!

  • Games are Social: Board games are a very social experience. This is probably what I like most about the hobby. I love getting together with friends and playing. I run a game group and it has been a blast getting to know local gamers. It can be kind of crazy packing 25 or so people in my little house, but it's always a great experience.

  • Competition: Who doesn't like to win? The experience of games is almost always fun, but when you see your carefully crafted plans working as expected and you win a game, it can be a very satisfying experience. I'm a big fan of strategy games. Dominion is a perfect example. I can formulate a plan going into the game, and if I play it well my strategy wins. Unless someone had a better strategy that is. :) Winning obviously isn't everything, but it sure is fun every once in awhile.

  • Games provide memorable experiences: I will never forget the time when my brother in law scored 20 total points in Ticket to Ride. For those that have played Ticket to Ride you know that scoring 20 points is pretty hard to do. You almost have to work at getting a score that low. We've laughed about that game many times as we've gotten together to play games. Playing games with friends and family makes memories and provides experiences that we will remember for the rest of our lives. And then there was that time that my entire ship got blown apart in Galaxy Trucker...

  • Games are educational: As my daughter gets older I'm having more and more fun playing games with her. It's fun seeing her learn and develope through games. Games teach important skills such as learning to win or lose gracefully. This is something that many adults need as well. :) They can teach math, social skills, color and shape recognition, decision making skills, and many other things. There are a lot of games that are historical reenactments as well. Many of these games recreate historic battles or they can replay presidential elections in American history. You can play games about the Roman Colosseum, or the Incan empire. While some of these games are loosely based on historical events, they can generate interest in further study.

  • Games can bring families together: Life can get very busy. It's important to slow down and spend quality time with the ones you love. Games help provide that opportunity. Some of my best memories growing up were playing Mexican Train with the family. I also remember some great games of Chess, Rummy, Hearts, Spades, and many other card games. With so many influences in the world trying to tear the family apart, it's important to find things that help bring the family together. Family game night can do the trick.

So whether you break out an old favorite, or play the latest and greatest game around, enjoy the value that comes from a good game! Happy gaming!