Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Showing posts with label Acquire. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Acquire. Show all posts

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Congress of Gamers 2016

Every fall there's a little weekend convention in Rockville, Maryland that I've always enjoyed.  Hosted at the unassuming Rockville Senior Center, Congress of Gamers features a series of Euro tournaments, an auction store, and a game design room.  The Games Club of Maryland sponsored the convention, and Break My Game ran the prototype testing event this year's session, which convened last weekend. 

My first priority was to play Acquire (designer Sid Sackson), my favorite game that I never get to play.  Five of us signed up to play in a single game that was a real brain-burner.  All seven companies came out within the first two rounds of play.  I had no chance of keeping track of who had what.  By the end, it occurred to me that I need to reconsider how I play this game.  I tend to buy shares strictly in small companies that I anticipate being taken over, in the interest of pursuing bonuses with a high return on investment.  Unfortunately, at the end of the game I found myself with a lot of cash but very few shares of the large high-value surviving companies.  The result was that I came in a distant second to Bill, the player to my right, whose purchase timing seemed impeccable throughout the game.  If I have one complaint about Acquire, it is that tile luck can factor strongly in the outcome, and Bill readily admitted that the right tiles came out for him.  Nevertheless I'm convinced that he also made some excellent investments at the right time and capitalized on a number of other players' mergers, so he deserved the win outright.

I spent most of my time in the Unpublished Gaming Room, as I usually do.  I didn't bring any designs myself but spent the entire time playtesting other people's games.  Highlights included
David Stephenson explains "Empire" to
Matt and Corinne Yeager

  • Getting in a four-player game of David Stephenson's "Empire."  I played it once head-to-head with David at UnPub 6 last spring, and I can tell now that the game is much more interesting in a larger group.  Negotiation plays a big part in this abstracted nation-building game.  I'm really fond of it, and it deserves attention from publishers.
  • Discovering "Bring in the Birds" by Elizabeth Hargrave, such an innocent-sounding game, and so strategic
  • Revisiting "Dichotomy" (alias "Zhongbai: Game of Balance"), by Matthew Yeager, much cleaner than its 2015 Congress of Gamers rendition and perhaps one of the best trick-taking games I've ever played (and that includes Diamonds
  • Trying out "Fealty," David Stephenson's nifty social bluffing game (that might need a new name, since Asmadi has a 2011 release with that title)
  • Learning "Cave Paintings of Lascaux," by Corinne Yeager, a dice-driven set collector with a simple tech tree and elements of Splendor 
  • David Stephenson (l.) gives feedback to
    designer Austin Smokowicz on
    "Cattle Car"
  • Playing through "Cattle Car," by Austin Smokowicz and Aaron Honsowetz (the "Dr Wictz" design team), a lean deck builder with a Western theme that I'd seen before but don't recall playing.  It's got some tricky little interaction mechanics, as Josh Tempkin demonstrated in our playtest.
  • Jumping back into Adam "Alf Shadowsong" Fischer's "Kahl'Shera," a chaotic dice game with a whirling dervish martial showmanship dance kind of theme that I'd seen at an UnPub event somewhere before


(l. to r.) Peter Gousis, Dan H., and
Jessica Wade schooling me in Asara
Also in open gaming, I met up with Peter Gousis (MVP Games), Dan H. (League of Nonsensical Gamers), and Jessica Wade (Dice Hate Me - State of Games podcast).   (Actually, I kind of invited myself to their table.)  We all learned Asara (designers Michael Kiesling and Wolfgang Kramer, publisher Rio Grande), which turns out to be a nifty area control game.  Fun and clever, if not life-changing.

I also sat in on a demonstration of Eminent Domain (designer Seth Jaffee, publisher Tasty Minstrel Games), which I'd always been curious about since its seminal success on Kickstarter in the fall of 2010 as one of the ground-breaking boardgames of those early crowd-funding days.  As it happens, I found it to be rather a love-child of Dominion and Race for the Galaxy, both games that I wish I liked more than I do, and so I was left similarly unexcited by ED.  That's okay; that's why we do demos.

So Congress of Gamers was a fun, low-key gaming weekend.  Such a nice little convention.  I look forward to next year.

Friday, August 14, 2015

WBC 2015

Keith Ferguson and I drove up to Lancaster, Pennsylvania last Thursday for our annual pilgrimage to the World Boardgaming Championships.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The game time conundrum revisited

A couple of years ago, I looked over my game collection and sighed at the number of games that hadn't seen the attention they deserved.  I wrote a post listing games that I wanted to spend more time on, even as I realized that as long as leisure time is limited and the game collection is big, there will always be neglected games on my shelves.  It's a topic worth revisiting from time to time - both because it's interesting to see how the list has changed (and how it hasn't) and because it's helpful to look at the collection with fresh eyes and think about resurrecting a few titles that might bear dusting off and playing again.

Friday, September 5, 2014

My candidates for the 2014 Dice Tower Top 100

(c) Queen Games
Used by permission
The Dice Tower is soliciting People's Choice votes for its annual Top 100 Games.  At the risk of exposing my idiosyncratic taste in games, here are the twenty for which I voted:

Saturday, August 16, 2014

WBC 2014 Saturday and Sunday: WS&IM fleet action, Acquire semifinal, and demos

One quick go-back on my earlier posts recounting my World Boardgaming Championships experience this year:  The very first thing that Keith Ferguson and I did Thursday morning, on our way to the registration desk, was to bump into Josh Tempkin of Tall Tower Games.  He spent a good part of the convention demonstrating several of his games:
  • "WarTime," which I've written about before as a fascinating, innovative real-time wargame involving sand timers
  • "Throne Dice," which surprisingly I still haven't taken the time to play
  • "Commissioner," which I learned at UnPub 4 as "Lesser Evil"

Thursday, August 14, 2014

WBC 2014 Friday: WS&IM loss, Acquire victory, and EIC demo

(c) Rio Grande Games - used by
permission
Friday August 8 was the day that the Vendors' Area opened at the World Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, so Keith Ferguson and I headed there as soon as the doors opened to see what we could find.  I had a few specific games in mind, and I was fortunate to find immediately the one at the top of my list, Concordia, designed by Mac Gerdts and published in the U.S. by Rio Grande.  I was initially attracted to this game simply because the title, after the Roman goddess of harmony, shares the name of the protagonist in my wife Kathy's series of historical murder mysteries.  Reviews led me to believe that I would appreciate this game in its own right, so I look forward to giving it a try.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Luck, skill, and research

Last week I opened a discussion on my effort to quantify game characteristics.  I had in mind that I would explore this question on my own, somewhat in a vacuum, based on my own experience and opinions, as something of an exercise to see what defensible conclusions I might reach.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

PrezCon 2014 Part 2: Friday

(c) Rio Grande Games
Used by permission
Continuing my recap of PrezCon from a couple of weeks ago, Friday turned out to be a long and eventful day.  I started with Saint Petersburg (designer Michael Tummelhofer alias Bernd Brunnhofer, artist Doris Matthaus, publisher Rio Grande), a game that I never get to play as much as I would like.  I finished third in a heat of four players - not surprising given the level of competition I typically find at PrezCon for this game.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Boardgame marketing in the 1960s

3M edition, 1968
A few weeks ago, our friend Jeff invited my wife Kathy and me over for dinner and a boardgame along with our friends Rebecca and Sheila.  Rebecca had expressed an interest in playing Acquire (designer Sid Sackson), and I had obtained a copy on eBay of the 1968 edition published by 3M, so after dinner, we pulled it out and started to set it up.  When Sheila saw the box, she commented on the atmosphere that the cover art conveyed, a sophisticated 1960s image.  The connotation was very strong - almost like a Sean Connery 007 film - and very different from the typical boardgame published today.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

PrezCon 2013 - Friday

(c) Meridae Games
Used by permission
Garden Dice
Glenn and I met Doug Bass of Meridae Games for a demo of Garden Dice (designer Doug Bass, artist Joshua Cappel, publisher Meridae), which I'd seen on Kickstarter and which is now available.  Garden Dice is an interesting game of dice allocation in which players use a roll of four dice to acquire seeds of various values, plant them in a garden based on grid coordinates from two of the dice, and subsequently water and harvest them for points.  There are run and set-collection bonus scores at the end of the game.  The most interesting part is the geographic element.  Watering higher-value plants benefits adjacent lower-value plants, regardless of who owns them, so there is an opportunity to take advantage of an opponent's placement to get watering and harvesting actions for free.  Players also can add a sundial to the garden to modify the grid coordinate dice rolls or a garden gnome to improve rolls for acquiring seed, watering plants, and harvesting vegetables.  Players can further introduce a bird to the garden to eat other players' seed or a rabbit to eat vegetables before they are harvested, although seed can be protected by an upgrade of the sundial to a scarecrow.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Countdown to PrezCon

Okay, it's that time of year when my favorite convention, PrezCon, happens in Charlottesville, Virginia, the week of President's Day.  I've got a preliminary schedule laid out, which is pretty much carved in sand - except, that is, for Pillars of the Earth, which stands like an immense cathedral, a great pillar, on the landscape of my convention plan.  (I'm running the PotE tournament, so I'm pretty committed to it.)

Friday, August 17, 2012

WBC: Acquire and acquisitions

Early in our game of Acquire.
I had a majority holding in Worldwide
(the purple hotel to the right), but
that wasn't enough to prevail
One of the great things about game conventions is that I get to play games that I never play at home.  One of those is Acquire (designer Sid Sackson, artist Kurt Miller, publisher Wizards of the Coast), which I played at WBC last week with Roger B. of Providence, Rhode Island, and the GM, Cliff Ackman of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  I first learned Acquire in a demo at PrezCon some years ago, and even bought a copy on eBay, but didn't give it much thought until my friend Rebecca E. remarked on it in comparison to Chicago Express last year.  That comment, plus a Little Metal Dog Show endorsement as a "stone cold classic," re-fired my interest, and I made a point to play Acquire at PrezCon last February.  I am definitely on a learning curve with this game.  I love the tense jockeying for majority shareholder investment, although I think that the tile draw aspect can introduce too much of a luck factor sometimes.  In our game last week, Roger couldn't draw a tile to start a hotel chain to save his life.  I thought I played reasonably well, but not well enough to beat the experienced Cliff.  I do very much enjoy Acquire, though, and I hope to get to play it more often.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

WBC: "Ethics in Gaming" revisited

At WBC on Thursday last week, Joel Tamburo hosted his annual seminar on Ethics in Gaming.  This was my second opportunity to attend.

I arrived a little late and found myself in the middle of a conversation on the interpretation of rules
Signing of the Constitution of the United States
U.S. Government.  Public domain
ambiguities.  Not entirely a matter of ethics, the question on the floor seemed to center around whether an unaddressed action in the rules should be allowed (because the rules don't prevent it) or prohibited (because the rules don't allow it or provide for it).  Peter, an attorney, likened the question to that of Constitutional interpretation, whereby some people hold that rulings on Constitutionality ought to depend on the intent of the founders at the time that they wrote it, as best we can determine from other writings at the time.  Others hold that interpretation of the Constitution necessarily changes with the times, and so it is with game rules:  It doesn't matter how the game designer wanted you to play the game; what matters is how the players want to play.  So, then, the question became, does the designer's intent matter?

Friday, February 17, 2012

PrezCon: The first casualty of battle is the plan



PrezCon!  I get excited just thinking about the name.  My favorite convention.  So convenient to northern Virginia, such a friendly and yet competitive gaming community.

I felt a little burnt out after five solid days of PrezCon last year, so this day I'm going for just four days; I'll arrive on Thursday and go through Sunday.  My gaming friends Keith F., Brian G., and Tom S. will arrive a day ahead of me, on Wednesday.  My buddy Grant plans to arrive in time for the first events on Monday evening and stay the entire seven days.  Hard core, baby.  I don't know how people do a solid week of intense boardgaming.  People like that must pace themselves better than I do.

Excerpt of my PrezCon
schedule ... for now ...
Every year I go to the PrezCon website and agonize over the schedule.  Every year I carefully prioritize my gaming preferences and put together a perfectly-crafted sequence of events that will take me from breakfast to midnight of solid gaming for the duration of my stay.  And it seems that every year my plan flies out the window within two hours of arrival.  I always seem to get re-directed to some new discovery and find myself playing something I never thought I'd try.  I think that's the magic of a game convention - the impetuous spontaneity of pick-up games and demos and vendors and auctions.  Grant said he's given up on even trying to make a plan.  He just plays as the spirit moves him.  All the world is his gaming table, and all of us merely opponents...

I've written this before, but I'm not afraid to repeat myself.  The best advice I ever got when approaching PrezCon came from Convention Director Justin Thompson:  "Learn at least one new game; buy at least one new game."  I have three demos in mind for games that I want to learn this year:
  • Acquire
  • Small World
  • Command and Colors: Napoleonics
1976 3M Edition
I'd actually seen a demo of Acquire (designer Sid Sackson, artist Kurt Miller, publisher Wizards of the Coast) once before, at my very first PrezCon, and bought a copy on eBay shortly thereafter, but never got a chance to bring it to the table.  But when Little Metal Dog Show explained why Acquire deserves the title of a "stone cold classic," he reminded me of how much I liked what I saw in that game years ago.  So now I'm going to blow the dust off the box and get reacquainted with this Sid Sackson masterpiece.

Grant is running Small World (designer Philippe Keyaerts, artist Miguel Coimbra, publisher Days of Wonder) at PrezCon, and I'm embarrassed to admit that I've never actually sat down and played the game before.  So I'm setting SW as a specific "learning goal" for PrezCon this year.

Cover Design by
Rodger B. MacGowan
Copyright ©2010
I also want to get my hand back into wargaming.  Now, the Richard Borg series of historical strategy games (Battle Cry, Memoir '44, Command and Colors: Ancients, Battle Lore) aren't exactly the kind of hard core Avalon Hill / SPI wargames I grew up on, but they will scratch the itch for now.  And I haven't done Napoleonics in a very long time, so Command and Colors: Napoleonics (designer Richard Borg, artist Rodger MacGowan, publisher GMT) seems like a good new title to learn.

As for buying at least one new game, well, I'll bring my wishlist, but there's no telling what I'll come home with.  Here's my top seven, in no particular order:
  • Fairy Tale
  • Le Havre
  • Chicago Express
  • Traders of Carthage
  • Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War
  • High Frontier
  • Saint Petersburg
Finally, of course, I'll be demonstrating Trains Planes and Automobiles three times at PrezCon.  I've mentioned before that PrezCon has a special place in my heart as the place I sold TPA two years ago, so it's nice to come back and show it off as a finished product.  The family game format is a little off the conventional PrezCon path, but I'm hopeful that for a few people, it will be the new game they learned at PrezCon, and maybe one or two will even pick up a copy.  I just want people to have fun playing it.



Sunday, February 5, 2012

Chicago Express: Where has this game been all my life?

(c) Queen Games
Used by permission
I gave our good friends Sheila and Keith a copy of Chicago Express (designer Harry Wu, artist Michael Menzel, publisher Queen Games) for a wedding gift.  I had never played before, but I was looking for something suitable for two to six players - something they could play together as a couple but that our occasional "game night" group of friends could play as well.  CE came up pretty high on the boardgamegeek rankings, and the reviews looked promising, so it felt safe as a gift choice.

Sheila and Keith hosted a dinner party last night, and we got to play a six-player session.  None of us had ever played before, so I read the rules beforehand.  The game struck me as the perfect implementation of capitalism in game form.  Railroad company shares are sold at auction.  Company dividends are distributed among shareholders based on earnings.  Stockholders - or board members, if you like - direct the investment of capital raised from the sale of shares to invest in railroad expansion and development to improve the company's earnings.  I have never played an 18xx railroad game, but I have the impression that CE is a kind of "18xx light."

We had a really great time with this game.  I was very pleased that it was a relatively easy game for all of us to learn even though we had no one at the table who had played before.  (The only open rules question for us was whether money is "hidden" or "open"; the boardgamegeek consensus seems to be that money in any game is open unless the rules specifically provide for hiding it, as in St. Petersburg.)  I think as we played, we all overbid pretty heavily for stock certificates.  More players chasing a fixed number of shares, which were the only source of income - supply and demand at its finest.  We had so many auctions that three railroads had only just reached Pittsburgh when Rebecca triggered game end with an auction of the last share of the New York Central after the Pennsylvania and B&O had already sold out.

Part of what struck me about this game is a complete absence of luck.  I didn't really think about it until the game was over, but there is not a single card draw, dice roll, or bag pull in the entire game.  As one reviewer mentions, the only "random" element (if you can call it that) is the seating order around the table and determination of starting player.  The rest of the game is determined entirely by the decisions of the players at the table.  Even more than Puerto Rico (which I consider a brilliant design), CE is entirely in the hands of the players.

The more I think about CE, the more excited I am about it.  I've put it on my "must have" short list.

1962 3M edition
Rebecca mentioned that CE reminded her of Acquire.  I have only played Acquire once, at PrezCon, and I loved it enough to buy it on eBay, but haven't had the opportunity to play since.  I had recently read mention of Acquire when Little Metal Dog Show called it "a stone-cold classic" in a post about ten days ago.  Rebecca and I agreed that we should bring it to the table at our next opportunity.  Since that conversation, I ran across an interesting boardgamegeek thread comparing the two games.  This is another game that I need to bring out soon.

So many games, so little time.