Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Showing posts with label Battle Line. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Battle Line. Show all posts

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, November 7, 2014

A look back at hip-pocket wargames

I just saw the documentary Game On: The World Boardgaming Championships, by Alex Dunbar of Wind-up Films, which featured (among other things) the progress of a young competitor in the Ace of Aces tournament.  And just yesterday, my friend Paul R. just contacted me, now that we are working in the same building, about getting together for a game (which we haven't done in far too long).  It occurred to me that with proper planning, we could play a wargame on a lunch break.  Both of those events reminded me of a post I wrote a couple of years ago on what I called "hip-pocket wargames" - those that you could pull out and play on relatively short notice.  So what follows is a re-post of that blog entry, which might be new for some of my more recent followers.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Top ten games that I play with my wife

Quite some time ago, Chris Norwood posted a list of his top ten games that he plays with his wife.  That list in turn was inspired by The Dice Tower podcast Episode 189, in which Tom Vasel and Eric Summerer shared their own top ten games that they play with their wives.  Those lists are both several years old, but the topic is timeless, so I thought I'd confer with my wife Kathy so that we could compile our own list.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

WBC 2013 Sunday: Convention wrap-up


First, a shout-out to Charlie Hoopes, whom I mistakenly failed to mention in my "WBC 2013 Thursday" post.  Charlie is the designer of the family game Fill the Barn and has a work-in-progress abstract two-player called "AtataT."  I'd seen "AtataT" at UnPub 3 but missed out on playing it.  Charlie made a point of catching up with me during the Trains Planes and Automobiles tournament, and we had a nice chat about our respective game designs.  I look forward to seeing more of him.

Sunday morning provided an opportunity to catch up with the representatives from one of the vendors and talk a little about "East India Company."  This company is a well-known publisher with a line of games to which I think "EIC" would make a valuable contribution.  The fellows I spoke with weren't the people who make decisions about which submissions to evaluate, but they do much of the playtesting.  We talked a little about the wide variety of quality and maturity they see in some of the game designs that they are given to check out.  I thought it might be valuable to pass on to them a copy of the rules of "EIC" with my contact information, just as an indicator of how far along I've developed the game and to help with their company's evaluation of whether to get a closer look at it.  There's no telling what will come of this contact, but I was glad at least to have reached out and pursued a potential relationship.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Farmers and hoplites

Two quick game accounts:

(c) Z-man Games.  Used by permission
Farmers of the Moor
Last evening, Kathy and I played Agricola: Farmers of the Moor (designer Uwe Rosenberg, artist Klemens Franz, publisher Z-Man Games).  We used the "Advanced (F)" deck of minor improvements.  We took completely different approaches to our farms.  Kathy was immediately disgusted with her hand and dismissed the idea of pursuing any of her minor improvements.  In fact, the only major improvement she paid for was a fireplace, which she later upgraded to a cooking hearth.  She was the first to build an extra room and grow her family.  She built fences like crazy and had quite the sheep/boar farm going before long.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Battle Line in the Back Yard

Back yard setting for Battle Line
Fall is really our favorite time of year for sitting out back in the yard.  We have a fire in the firebowl, we set up cocktails and snacks, and play a small game on the little glass table outside.  This evening, after I got home from work, we sat down to beer and wine and Battle Line (designer Reiner Knizia, artists Rodger B. MacGowan and Mark Simonitch, publisher GMT).

I really like this game.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say Battle Line is my favorite Knizia game.  It's perhaps the most knife-edge card game I know.  You really never want to waste a move in this game, never want to make an unnecessary commitment of a card to a slot.  It's playing the odds, it's card luck, but mostly, it's calculated risk-taking.  Not exactly a push-your-luck game, BL is really a strategic game of options and opportunity cost.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My top ten card games

Inspired by Dice Tower Episode 206, Chris Norwood (GamerChris) recently posted his favorite card games.  Since inspiration begets inspiration, I thought I'd explore the topic myself.

Before I get into my top ten list, I'll mention that the definition of a "card game" might be ambiguous. I think Alhambra qualifies, for example, because the card play (among four suits or "currencies" of a range of values) drives the purchase of the tiles that are placed for scoring. But I wouldn't include games that just "have cards in them," like Agricola or Clue, because card play isn't the primary aspect of the game (even if they are essential to the mechanics). I'm not sure how to write the definition of a "card game," but I'd be curious to know people's thoughts on which games are close to the frontier between card games and "other games" and how you decide on which side of the boundary a game falls.

My honorable mentions would include:

Chrononauts: A goofy title from Loony Labs that my wife really seems to like. I prefer Martian Fluxx, but this one is also a likeable game.

Incan Gold: I'm always fascinated by the way teenagers play push-your-luck games, so this is a fun one to play with my kids. I never know what they're going to do.

Guillotine: The artwork in this Wizards of the Coast title still makes me chuckle.

Triumvirate: A recent discovery that I am only beginning to appreciate

Mille Bornes is a nostalgic favorite that has fond memories going way back to when I was growing up.  It was a family favorite then and still sees the light of day from time to time even now.

So, my top ten card games:

10. Alhambra: I used to dislike this game because I thought it had a "run-away" aspect to it, in which an early leader was hard to catch. That is, until I thought I'd run away with a game in the PrezCon semifinals and then lost somehow in the final scoring. Perhaps I completely misplayed near the end, but I prefer to think that my worthy opponent had a more subtle appreciation for the game and how to score big without leading in many categories.

9. Munchkin: My kids have taken a sudden recent liking to this game, and I like anything I can get my kids to play. Another good one for laughs.

8. Empyrean, Inc. This is a regular go-to game for my wife and me, a surprise hit we received as a gift. We love this game so much that we started to wear the cards out, so I bought a backup copy.

7. Martian Fluxx: A genius little game from Loony Labs. What a crack-up.

6. Down in Flames III: Zero!: A very clever card-play mechanism for air combat

Image courtesy of
Rio Grande Games
5. Race for the Galaxy:  This is a game I want to like more than I do. My wife and I found all the symbols confusing and frustrating, and we haven't played it since. Having said that, I'd still like to try it with a fresh (patient) group and find out why people rave about it.  (San Juan is worth mentioning here as something we explored as an alternative to RftG, but I think we found it a little simplistic and perhaps disappointing. We kept thinking, "Why don't we just play Puerto Rico instead?") 

4. Battle Line: Great mind-bending game with my wife, except that she always wins.  What is up with that?

3. Condottiere: I haven't had a chance to play this nearly as much as I'd like. I fell in love with it in just one session. I wish I could play it a lot more to fully appreciate it.

2. Pacific Typhoon: Very fond of this game with a bigger group of people. I love the historical photographs. Very clever game-play structure that motivates some pretty lively negotiation.

1. 7 Wonders: Currently my favorite game of all. I will play this at the drop of a hat.  Will Wonders never cease?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

She beat me again at Battle Line

Kathy and I broke out Battle Line again Sunday evening.  I had some pretty strong Tactics cards to work with, but on at least two occasions, I didn't use them early enough, and she managed to win flags that I was positioned to take if I'd used my Tactics cards more aggressively.  She ended up beating me pretty soundly, five flags to two.  I really, really haven't figured out how to win this game (at least not against my wife), but the great thing about it is, I love playing it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Embattled in Battle Line

Image courtesy of
GMT Games
In the last two weeks my lovely wife has beaten me twice in hard-fought games of Battle Line (designer Reiner Knizia, publisher GMT), one of my acquisitions at PrezCon last February.  In fact, since I brought Battle Line home, my wife has won every game we've played.  My buddy Grant Greffey had introduced me to Battle Line years ago, and I was intrigued at the time, though I didn't buy it right away.  More recently, trolling boardgamegeek for ideas for games suitable for spouses, the name Battle Line came up more than once.  So at PrezCon, I saw that GMT was selling it for $15 and snapped it up (along with another game that I'll post about later).

The main deck consists of six suits of ten ranks of "Troop" cards representing various troop types from the Hellenistic Greek period.  The eponymous "battle line" consists of nine "flags" against each of which the two players each commit up to three cards in an effort to construct a superior "formation" and win the flag; three adjacent flags or five total win the game.  The superiority of one formation (three-card set) over another depends on their pattern; a "wedge" formation (three-card "straight flush") beats a "phalanx" (three-of-a-kind) for example.  Grant describes Battle Line as "nine hands of three-card poker," but I think that description sells the game short.  The real genius of the game is that the deck is never re-shuffled.  As a card is committed to one position in the line (i.e., one of the nine "flags"), that card becomes unavailable for any other position.  The real skill in this game seems to come in knowing where to commit and where to keep one's options open.  If I can prove that you can not come up with a better formation ("hand") than mine for a certain flag (based on cards that have already been played elsewhere on the table), then I win that flag immediately.

The game also has a ten-card deck of unique "Tactics" cards that can modify a position in the line to one's advantage.  A player can choose to play a Tactics card in lieu of a Troop card, sometimes to devastating effect.  Some Tactics cards are wild or semi-wild cards.  Some allow shifting cards on one's own or one's opponent's side of the battle line.  Some change the heirarchy of formations or conditions for winning a specific flag.  The only limitation on playing Tactics cards is that you can't play one if you've already played more Tactics cards than your opponent has.

The fascinating thing is that Battle Line has a very martial theme, so I really didn't expect it to appeal to Kathy.  She really didn't expect to get the hang of it, either, but was willing to try since she's such a good sport about trying new games.  Well, apparently she got the hang of it just fine.  All three of our sessions have been close (more or less), but her timing with Tactics cards is downright uncanny.  More than a few times did I think that I had a flag won only to have her snatch it from me in the nick of time.

Next post:  Another game with a Hellenistic theme - and another loss to my lovely wife.  (What is up with that?)