Thunderstone

Two plays of “Thunderstone”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/53953/thunderstone tonight.

Combined scores were:
# Duncan 15 + 32 = 47
# Iain 19 + 17 = 36
# Rafa 13 + 22 = 35
# Chris 15 + 19 = 34

It was fun, but I got a headache from reading small text at a distance in bad light.

I was impressed by the difference in feel between each play. There is very little waiting around for others as you always have something to think about. Thunderstone grabs me much more than Dominion, which felt very dry. The rules felt a little convoluted for the style of game. We printed out some revised rules from BGG, which seemed to help.

I’d like to play again. 7/10

The Guinness Book of Word Games

Looks like I only get the energy to blog when I’m on holidays with wifi.

Rather than reading all the worthy novels I brought, I got through “The Guinness Book of Word Games”:http://books.google.com/books?id=BBB6OwAACAAJ by David Parlett, which I bought second hand on Amazon for a pittance. You may know “David Parlett”:http://www.davidparlett.co.uk from his card game books, his “Oxford History of Board Games”:http://books.google.com/books?id=rH6DAAAAMAAJ and Spiel des Jahres winner “Hare and Tortoise”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/361/hare-tortoise.

It’s split into:
* Spoken Word Games e.g. I Spy, Charades
* Written Word Games e.g. Jotto, Hangman, Call My Bluff
* Boxed Word Games e.g. Scrabble, Boggle, Upwords
* Playing With Words – a slightly superfluous section discussing issues in word games, e.g. anagrams, synonyms, franglais etc.

I really enjoyed the book, despite not really being a fan of word games. I listed the best known games above, but many original lesser-known games are described. The book also covers a lot of games I already knew in depth. I had no idea there was a dictionary specifically for Call My Bluff / Fictionary.

David Parlett’s writing style is worth the read in itself. He never misses a chance at neat, witty word-play, while still writing perfectly sparse, economical English.

I played “Jotto”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/11821/jotto last night, which is a true classic and I’m looking forward to trying more.

It’s made me consider trying the Alpha Word Games System. I bought the Alpha Playing Cards a few years ago and should really try the rummy game in it – which I now know is similar to “Lexicon”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/3360/crossword-lexicon.

*UPDATE*
I forgot to mention that you can get a taste of the book by reading David Parlett’s original word games at his website.

Washington’s War

Washington's War

I played Washington’s War with John on Friday night. I played the original, We the People, a few years ago. Just about the only thing I remember about We the People was that it was a great game let down by a tediously slow battle card system. Washington’s War fixes that simply with a modified die roll. Both games have top-notch components, so this seems the perfect reprint.

We the People “started the Card Driven Wargame genre”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/519144/card-driven-wargame-cdw-evolution and as a genre-creator it has genuine quality. If only it had been imitated by more games that were as fast-playing and easy to understand. Twilight Struggle fits that bill and the BGG ratings speak for themselves. I would like even simpler, shorter wargames to come out of this mould, but I doubt I’ll see them. If you like Twilight Struggle or Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage you will almost certainly like Washington’s War.

8/10

Highland Clans

Highland Clans photo
Sorry for the horrible photo quality.

Yesterday we played four-player “Highland Clans”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/16500/mac-robber (aka Mac Robber). This game has not had a lot of attention and deservedly so. It is a small-scale cube-fest. Although designed for 45 minutes, we played for much longer. Mostly this was because we struggled with the rules, which were clearly translated by a non-native English speaker and never blind-tested with English-speaking players. A big publisher like Queen should know better.

If you ever play this, definitely use “Innovan’s”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/user/Innovan three player aids ( “1”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/695562, “2”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/695450, “3”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/695449 ) in the BGG image gallery, as Highland Clans is pretty much unplayable without his clarifications.

The gameplay itself has a nice confrontational element as every turn you have a free chance to raid an opponent. Ironically these constant attacks make the game feel quite friendly as they do not have much negative effect and they are a good catch-the-leader mechanic that can backfire. The rest is quite abstract and unintuitive. Scottish clan warfare deserves a game with the flavour of Pirates Cove. At least it is lighter and faster than most current eurogame cube-fests.

Our friends enjoyed it as they bought it as a birthday present and enjoyed the Scottish theme. I am a bit more fussy and just can’t recommend a game with such poorly translated rules.

4/10

Sternenhimmel

Late last night three of us sat down to “Sternenhimmel”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/668/sternenhimmel (Starry Sky), a German 30-45 minute area-majority game from 1995. I bought this cheaply second hand and it was a good purchase – despite the unnecessarily large box. The rules took five minutes to skim through and we all picked it up very quickly. I normally hate open scoring as it slows games down, but in games this short it is bearable. Unfortunately my two friends over-analyse terribly, so it took 90 minutes. I may buy some new batteries for my “G8 Game Timer”:http://www.thegamesjournal.com/reviews/G8GameTimer.shtml. Recommended if you like games like China.

Please forgive the horrible photo, but there are no *free* photos at the BoardGameGeek. Not sure if it is just because my phone’s camera lens is scratched or if there is something wrong with the software or hardware internals.

Sternenhimmel photo

Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game

“Chris”:http://twitter.com/ctd and his son Raphael came over last night to play “Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/77130/sid-meiers-civilization-the-board-game. (Why did they have to give this game such a long name and one that is exactly the same as a 2002 game that no one liked? What about Sid Meier’s Civilization V or even just Civilization V?) We had four very enjoyable hours playing it. Apparently it usually takes about an hour per player.

My patience for long efficiency-engine boardgames has worn very thin, but SMC:tBG has the huge advantage of familiarity. I recently played a full game of Civilization IV on my PC and this boardgame is close enough to make learning much easier.

Michael Barnes wrote a pretty negative review of SMC:tBG, calling it a “heartlessly efficient process-driven machine”:http://www.gameshark.com/features/782/Cracked-LCD-177-Sid-Meier%C3%A2%E2%82%AC%E2%84%A2s-Civilization-Review.htm. He says:

bq. If what you are looking for is the mechanics of CIVILZATION more or less faithfully reproduced as a board game, this may be a game for you. I would be inclined to steer anyone so interested toward games where the designers have explored the CIV idea rather than bringing its literal gameplay to the tabletop.

That’s harsh. SMC:tBG does what it says on the tin and does it well. It is forgiving and accessible, unlike Through the Ages. I actually downgraded my rating of Through the Ages after playing SMC:tBG.

I would like to play again. Three players is probably best, just due to the length of the game, but four would be more directly confrontational.