October Catch Up

About this time last year, when I returned from Essen, I felt jaded and pessimistic about gaming. I had played way too many mediocre games at Essen and my weekly games nights had pretty much dried up. A year on things are really looking up. I have played plenty of inspiring games, my regular games nights are back on the road and I am even getting meatier games played with several other friends.

The Kids Of Catan

My four year old boy loves this. If he can get it down from the shelf he likes just assembling the village. It is very simple and is pure luck, but it teaches basic game-playing skills and the components are gorgeous. Far more fun than snakes and ladders.


This is very sweet. You take it in turns to hang up washing on a miniature washing line. It is barely a game, but the kids love it.


I played this once with my regular gamers and once with my boy and it was a major hit both times. I will have to get the expansions and maybe even pimp it out.

1829 Mainline


Peter and Chris came around and we had a very enjoyable afternoon with 1829 Mainline, followed by a less enjoyable evening watching the Rugby World Cup Final. This gets poor reviews from serious 18xx fans, but this Age-of-Steam-loving newbie enjoyed himself. I played 1825 by email a while ago and found it very static. This was far more fluid. 1829 ML does have problems, but they seem fixable. Chris Farrell sums it up nicely.

Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery

I am not sure about this. For one thing the board is hideous and the other components are gaudy. Many compare it to Puerto Rico, but there is plenty of luck. I did not enjoy Puerto Rico at all the first time I played it, so I will have to give this another chance. Its BoardGameGeek rating is now a massive 8.05 and its standard deviation is an average 1.35, but the blog pundits are on the fence. Anthony Simons was disappointed, Chris Farrell hates it and Frank Branham likes the game, and never wants to play it again.

Blue Moon City

A respectable welterweight. You have to give some respect to a game that says sixty minutes on the box and comfortably finishes in that time on the first play.

Caylus Magna Carta

I prefer this to the board game. It took longer than expected to finish at two hours. This is top of my list to play again.

Dia de los Muertos

I played this again and I decided to trade it away. It is very quirky and complicated compared to the underlying depth of play. It is a shame as the cards are great.


Easy to learn, elegant and vicious. What more do you want?

The End of the Triumvirate

This is so close to being great, it hurts, but it has one fatal flaw. Three player games, especially ones with lots of interaction, have to conquer the Petty Diplomacy problem and this one does not.

Gang of Four

Simpler than and superior to Tichu. I would like to play Ole again, my other favourite climbing game to see how it compares.

High Society

One of my favourite lightweights. It is the most intuitive auction game I have tried.


My favourite large-scale trading game – definitely better than Parthenon for instance. Apart from the mergers, this is actually relatively easy to learn and play. The map is difficult to use, but nowhere near as bad as the hype suggests.


The opposite of a cooperative game. Incredibly intense if played in the right spirit. More of a psychological experiment than a game. I felt dirty afterwards, but it is very interesting.

Notre Dame

The intricate pictures on the board and cards reflect the game play perfectly. Very dry, but very compact. A two player game with me as a newbie took thirty minutes.

Thurn and Taxis

I would rather play Ticket to Ride Marklin every time.

We the People

If you like Twilight Struggle, you will like this. Charles Vasey taught me and methodically pulled me to pieces. By the end he was toying with me, but somehow got too confident and allowed George Washington to stray into Long Island, which is a dead end. I attacked him, and as he had nowhere to run, George Washington was captured – a real upset. This sort of unpredictability is something I love about war games. They are so complex and deep that you are never entirely out of it as one missed step can lead to disaster. I would love to buy WtP, but it is out of print and copies go for crazy money. I can see how it spawned the Card Driven War Games genre. There are rumours of a reprint, but there has been no word for a while. Apparently the reprint would not use battle cards, which is controversial. I would be happy to see them go. There is little skill involved in the card play and it slows the game down. Something like Descent’s dice mechanic would be much more interesting.


  1. Glad to hear your thoughts on games!

    I could consider trading Dia de los Muertos as well, especially as my trick-taking needs are pretty well covered by Tarot these days. Owning both DdlM and Four Dragons is particularly unnecessary – but which one to get rid of? I can’t make up my mind. I would have a buyer for DdlM, too. Perhaps I’ll just keep them – it’s an interesting game, even if I don’t ever play it.

    Caylus Magna Carta can take quite long – indeed, more than you’d think. However, it’s definitely faster than Caylus and should be easy to play in 60-90 minutes once you get comfortable with it. Blue Moon City is fast – 30-35 minutes is what I think it usually takes, more if it goes on long but still well under an hour.

    Nooa loves Funny Fishing… I should probably get a picture of him “playing” for my blog.

  2. Rob: Thanks for that. Serves me right for speed-reading. I think I have had these games confused all along.

  3. Mikko: Good to hear from you too. It’s been too long.

    Will your new card games book be in English or in Finnish? I will buy an English copy for sure.

    Please get a photo of him playing Funny Fishing! It looks very nice. I might have to pick it up.

  4. Finnish, unfortunately. I’m still sending copies to John McLeod and David Parlett for their help, I better write at least the thanks in English. Anyway, the history bits are basically abbreviated version of Parlett’s Oxford History and the rules are translations from McLeod’s site…

    Well, I’ve been collecting rules elsewhere as well, and there’s definitely a Finnish angle to it, but still, I don’t think it warrants a translation. But it’s becoming a good book – I think it’s definitely better than my first book, and definitely something that’s missing. Hopefully others will see it that way…

  5. Good luck to you. You are definitely the right man for the job. I am enjoying all the card game reviews. I hope you can uncover the best of the best.

    By the way, I disabled the option that forced all OpenID comments into moderation.

  6. We the People is one of those diamonds in the rough I think. It’s an interesting and worthy game, but it’s got a few issues (the battle card one being the main thing … they just simply don’t work at all), and I’m not sure whether it would be remembered as fondly if it weren’t for the fact of its amazing successor, Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage. Mark Simonitch was able to take the battle card system, which was a flop in We the People, and turn it into a fascinating sub-game for Hannibal with only a few tweaks. Hannibal is a more complicated game, while We the People is a classic introductory game, but still.

    Anyway, I do like We the People, but a key to that is that it is such a compact game. Short rules, short playing time, a little depth to the board play, historical interest in the cards … it doesn’t overdo anything, which is unusual (shall we say) for a Mark Herman design.

  7. Hi Chris. You’re *totally* right about WtP – as usual.

    My copy of Hannibal is on my shelf and is looking very sexy indeed (for a board game). Can’t wait to play it.

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