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Month: July 2016

Small Games Review Blast: Little Devils, No Thanks!, Red7

Small Games Review Blast: Little Devils, No Thanks!, Red7

So today I thought I’d try something different. There are several small games that I love to play and get played all the time, because they’re easy enough that my family will play them. None of them really require a full on review, but I think that they’re worth mentioning. We’re going to call this a quick review blast and see how it goes.


Little DevilsLittle Devils Box

Designer: Michael Feldkötter

Player Count: 3-6 Players

Play Time: 20-30 minutes

Little Devils is a trick taking game published by Stronghold Games, where you don’t want to take the trick. The deck is 54 cards numbered 1-54 and each card has a “devils” value in the corner of the card that ranges from 0-5. One person will play a card and the player to their left gets to play whatever card they choose to set the “rule/trump” for the hand, based on if the second card played is higher or lower than the first. Every consecutive player then has to play a card either above or below the starting card, as decided by the second player, while trying to be as close to the starting card as possible. The player who takes the trick is either the player who was the farthest away from the original number, or the player who had to “break the rule” by playing a card above the original number when supposed to play below, or vice versa. The game is played until 1 player reaches 100 devils, or points, and then the lowest scoring player wins. My family loves this game. We play it all the time and it plays up to 6 players. There’s something supremely satisfying about being the last player to play a card and having a number closer than someone else. Especially if you’re giving them one of the few 5 devil cards. It’s very easy and doesn’t take a whole lot of brain power, but you still can have some interesting choices to make. Nothing too fancy, but solid and fun.

GLG Rating 7.5/10


No Thanks!No Thanks! Box

Designer: Thorsten Gimmler

Player Count: 3-5 Players

Play Time: 20 minutes

No Thanks! is a press your luck style game most recently published by Mayfair Games, however my copy is an older version from Zman Games. In No Thanks!, you are trying to have the least amount of points at the end of the game. There is a deck of cards numbered 3-35 which is shuffled and 9 are dealt out face down before starting the game. No one gets to see what isn’t being used. Each player then gets a handful of 11 tiddlywinks/chips to use. To start the game, the top card of the deck is flipped up. On your turn, you have 2 options. You can either take the face up card, which is worth the number of points printed on it, or you can place a chip on it. The next player does the same. This continues until one player takes the card and the associated chips. They then keep the card face up and take the chips into their hand. The next card is flipped up and play continues as before. If you are out of chips, you are forced to take the card. When the last card is taken you add up the numbers on your cards, subtract the number of chips in hand, and that’s your score. With one exception. Only the lowest card in a run of consecutive cards counts to score. While the 35 card may not be appealing, if it has a big pile of chips on it, and you’re able to get cards 31-34, only the 31 card would count towards your score. Again, this is super quick and easy to play, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. It’s a great filler game to pull out for 10 quick minutes, or a great game to teach someone who hasn’t played games of this nature before. And once people start playing, it’s impossible to go without hearing people say “No Thanks” at least half a dozen times per game. It’s always fun and easy to get to the table.

GLG Rating 7.5/10


Red7Red7 Box

Designers: Carl Chudyk and Chris Cieslik

Player Count: 2-4 Players

Play Time: 5-10 minutes

Red7, published by Asmadi Games, is the trickiest game on this quick list. It’s a tableau building game with a deck of 49 cards. Each card has a number 1-7 and is colored one of the 7 colors from the ROYGBIV rainbow. No 2 cards are identical. Each player will start with a hand of 7 cards and one random card in front of him. The goal of this game is to be winning at the end of your turn. If you can’t end the turn winning, you lose and are out of the game. This is where it gets tricky. Cards are placed into the center of the table and whatever the COLOR of the middle card is, dictates the current rule for winning. For example, if a red card is in the middle, the player with the highest card is winning. If a blue card is in the middle, the player with the most different colors in front of them is winning, etc.… Each color has a different rule. On your turn, you have 3 options. Play a card in front of yourself to win the current “rule,” play a card to the middle to change the “rule” so that your cards already in front of you cause you to be winning, or play a card in front of yourself AND play a card to the middle to change the “rule.” I’ve probably lost you, and that’s ok. This is one that seems to be best taught by showing. It’s very puzzley and requires a little more thinking, but it’s still incredibly fun. It’s my favorite of the three on today’s post. One word of warning with this one though. Every once in a while, there is a fringe case where someone won’t be able to do anything on their first turn, and they automatically lose. This stinks, but considering games usually take 5-10 minutes, I typically chalk it up to bad luck and have them wait until we deal out the next hand.

GLG Rating 8.5/10


These review scores may seem high today, but let’s put them in context for a moment. Each review does measure up to other games, but more of the scoring is based on the type of game. I gave Spector Ops an 8.5, which is the same as Red7. I like Spector Ops waaaay more than Red7, but I typically prefer bigger, meatier games, and for being a small card game, Red7 is amazing.

All three of these games are small, quick and easy to play, but don’t let them fool you. These games bring fun to the table that isn’t always possible with certain crowds. Even the people least interested in games will probably like at least one of these. And at less than 15 bucks a pop, they’re pretty easy on the budget.

What are some small card games in these categories that you like to bring to the table?

Finding Fellow Gamers

Finding Fellow Gamers

Whenever you move to a new area, you have to figure out where all of your new “go-to’s” will be. Where is the best pizza in town? Where will you buy your groceries? Which movie theater is best? As an avid gamer, you’ll need to find where your gaming venue will be. I’ve talked a little bit about this before, but I figured I could go a little more in depth as to how I find new places and people to game with.

My favorite way to find gamers is through Meetup.com. They have a search option that lets you search within a certain mile radius for groups with similar interests. One of the things that you can do on meetup that I’d recommend if there isn’t a specific board game group, is contact the organizers of similar groups. If there’s a chess players meetup or a D&D meetup, see if the organizers know anybody that would be interested in playing board games. Generally speaking, these people will know a lot of the participants and they may be able to point you in the right direction.

The second thing I do when looking for gaming, is to simply do a google search for game stores in the area we move to. While some areas might not have specific game groups, if they have a good game store, there’s most likely gaming held at that location. Most game stores will have a calendar on their website that outlines all the events at their store and open gaming may be listed. Again, always feel free to either call or email the stores to ask if there isn’t any information easily available. Even if they don’t have open gaming, you might be able to get at least the name or contact information of a “non-publicized” game group.

If neither of these strategies work, you may need to get a little creative. I always like to check out comic stores or “geek culture” stores. I’ve found a surprising availability of board games in videogame resale stores. Again, maybe I’ve just gotten lucky, but the employees at these locations can be incredibly helpful at finding fellow gamers.

With the board game hobby growing at the rate it currently is, more and more people are becoming familiar with gaming, and finding new groups is relatively easy. You may have to do a little digging, but the people are usually there. And who knows? Maybe you’ll go somewhere that doesn’t have gaming and you’ll be the person to introduce a new hobby for a brand new gathering of gamers.

What other strategies have you used to try to find new game groups?

Specter Ops Review

Specter Ops Review

For today’s review, I’m going with a game that I had highly anticipated, and it diSpector Ops Boxdn’t disappoint. A game of secret agents and deception.

Specter Ops

Designer: Emerson Matsuuchi

Player Count: 2-5 Players

Play Time: 60-120 minutes

Most people have claimed that this is the streamlined version of Fury of Dracula, but seeing as I’ve never played Fury of Dracula, I can’t report on that front. I came into Specter Ops never having played a hidden movement game before, and in my opinion, this one fires on all cylinders.

Specter Ops is a 2 to 5 player, asymmetric, semi-cooperative game published by Nazca Games and Plaid Hat Games. One player plays an agent trying to infiltrate a secret base, while the other players are hunters trying to catch the spy before he’s able to complete a set number of objectives and escape the facility. The board in the game is a giant grid with streets and obstacles that allow the agent player to hide. The agent player moves secretly, recording his movement on a piece of paper, and only reveals his exact location when the hunters can directly see him. The agent also has a small hand of equipment cards that allow him special one-time abilities such as increased movement, less chance of being seen, and so on. The hunters work as a team to try to corner the agent and inflict wounds to him until he is captured and the hunters win. The agent will have 3 or 4 objectives to complete, depending on player count, and then have to retreat off the board without being captured.

Spector Ops Game

Things I like:

  • Variable player powers. The hunters have 4 possible options when selecting who they want to be, and each character has specific strengths that will help them contribute to the capturing of the agent. Also, the agent has 4 possible options when choosing his character, which all provide him with special abilities which make it harder to capture him or easier to complete objectives.
  • The Minis. You should know that I’m a sucker for good minis. I love the characters in this game and the minis are fantastic.

Spector Ops Hunters Spector Ops Agents

                          The Hunters                                                           The Agents

  • The spy gear. There is a large deck of equipment cards the agent gets to choose from, and as the agent, you really get to feel like you’re using cool spy tech when you use a card.
  • Playing with 5 players. When Specter Ops is played with 5 players, the agent gets to pick one of the hunters to be a traitor to assist him in his mission. The traitor’s status remains hidden and he still won’t know where the agent is, but it’s his job to try to lead the hunters astray and sow discord amongst the group. Side note, it will play every bit of 2 hours, maybe more, with 5 players.

Things I don’t like:

  • Playing the game with less than 5 players. With 4 players, all 3 hunters are trying to catch the agent and the game gets incredibly difficult for the agent. The game does compensate the agent by allowing him an extra 2 equipment cards and he can take 2 additional hits before being captured, but even still, it is crazy tough. With 2 or 3 players, there are only 2 hunters trying to catch the agent, and while it is still fun, it is more of a pure deduction game. There isn’t the social interaction that a hidden traitor provides.

 

That’s a short list of don’t likes, because this game is awesome. Every time I’ve played it with 5 players, it has led to a high energy and exciting experience. I played a game of this one time with a good friend who changed his mind every turn about who he thought the traitor was, causing him to get so into the game he started standing up while making his points to increase his persuasion. I played another game with a friend who was blatantly caught as the traitor, and was able to lie his way out of it. It’s always an uproarious experience and one that I’m always excited to introduce new gamers too.

GLG Rating: 8.5/10

Spector Ops Game Zoom

Gaming with 2 Players

Gaming with 2 Players

Last time on the blog, I talked about how gaming/our local gaming group, including both the organized group and our friends, was a big part of my life. Not simply for the gaming, but also for the social aspect. I also briefly mentioned how we didn’t have a group in South Carolina and how it affected us.  I want to talk a little bit today about the gaming aspect and how we handled that.

First off, I want to start by saying that I’m not a solo gamer. I like video games, but I rarely like to play solo board games. Following that, I’ve never been much of a 2-player gamer. Most 2-player games seem to be formatted in a 1 vs. 1 combat system. I’m not a big war gamer or combat gamer in that I don’t typically prefer heavy interaction. I like strategy games that allow for player interaction, but I’m not usually a fan of “take-that” mechanics or attacking the other player(s). When my wife and I travel, we have to make decisions about what games to take with us. We didn’t know exactly how to do that when we traveled to SC, and got a little bit of a crash course. We realized that some of our favorite games don’t really work all that well with only 2 players. Some games aren’t scaled down to only play two, even though their boxes say that they will.

A great example of this was when we played Cyclades with just the two of us. This is a game about trying to take control of an Archipelago and earning ancient Greek gods’ favor. If you earn the favor of Zeus, you get a discount when performing certain actions, and these will continue to stack the more times you do it. If one player (this was me in this story) is able to earn Zeus’ favor several times, they have the fast track to run away with the game. I’ve never seen my wife get so mad during a game. As soon as the game finished, she stood up, walked to the bedroom, shut the door and went to bed.  I packed the game up by myself that night.

As rough of a gaming experience as that was, it taught us an important lesson. We need to make sure a game is going to be a good two player game before we 1.)Purchase the game, and 2.)Select it to travel with us. To be fair, we always take a handful of games that require more players, because the hope is that we will always be able to find a group. Games that have had more appeal to us lately have been games like Lost Cities and Kahuna, both games that are a part of Kosmos’ 2 player game line.

Like I mentioned above, we always hope to have access to game groups. That makes things much easier. However, in the event that we aren’t that lucky, we know better than to take primarily games that work best with high player counts. Unfortunately, we just had to learn that lesson the hard way.

What are your favorite two player games, or games with higher player counts that work well with 2 players?

Euphoria Review

Euphoria Review

So I figured for my first review, why not review a game I feel comfortable with. My favorite game.

Euphoria Box

 

Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia

Designers: Jamey Stegmaier and Alan Stone

Player Count: 2-6 Players

Play Time: ~60 minutes

 

Euphoria is a worker placement game published by Stonemaier Games. In it, you are a low level workforce manager in a Dystopic society. You control a small workforce (your dice) whom you send out to gather commodities, convert them into resources, build marketplaces, and ultimately, try to have the most control over the city. During these processes, you need to keep your workforce dumb (keeping dice totals low) and happy (feed them or give them drugs…); staples of any good dystopic work force. As you complete tasks, you place influence markers (wooden stars) on different areas of the board and the first person to place all ten stars is the winner. You also get some variable player powers to start the game and more that can be unlocked as the game progresses.

Things I Like:

  • No rounds. On your turn you have essentially 2 options. You can either put a die (or dice, but we’ll cover that in a minute) on the board, or you can take dice off. That’s it. When you place a die on the board, you do the action and that is your turn. This isn’t a worker placement game where everyone places all their workers on the board and then you all take them off at the same time.
  • Variable markets. One of the places you can put a die on is a construction space to build a market. There are 18 markets in the box, but only 6 make it into each game. This increases the variability from game to game. Additionally, if you aren’t able to take part in the building of the market, you don’t get to put a star there, and you get hit with a negative effect. This makes for fun quick races in the middle of every game as each construction site only has enough spaces for some of the players.
  • The Art. This is one of my favorite art styles in general. It’s bright and very colorful, and has awesome Art Deco styling.
  • Bits and Bits and Bits. This is a personal one and some people may not care at all. The game comes with 4 commodities, 3 resources, knowledge trackers and morale trackers for each character AND wooden stars. Everything is uniquely shaped and I love to play with all the bits.Euphoria Bits

Things I don’t like:

  • Lucky rolling. I love the dice rolling mechanic in this game. You use it to determine your workforce knowledge and what commodities you get. That being said, one of the mechanics is that if you have 2 die with the same number showing, you can place them both in 1 turn. This is rarely a problem with the game, but I have played in a few games where 1 person rolls doubles a few turns in a row early in the game, and they are the out in front player, and eventual winner. It doesn’t happen often, but it can decrease the experience.
  • The board. Hold on a minute and bear with me. I know I said but a moment ago that I loved the art, and I do, but it can really cause problems when teaching this game. There is so much going on, and the board is so bright and colorful, that it can be incredibly overwhelming for people who haven’t played before.

Euphoria Board

Overall, I love this game. It’s bright, beautiful, and most importantly, fun to play. The things I don’t like verge on knit picking because of how much I like it. Every time I play seems to go differently as well. Different aspects of the game may get advanced quicker in one game, and be completely forgotten the next. I can’t recommend this one enough.

GLG Rating: 9/10

 

Social Gamers

Social Gamers

Playing board games is a social event. A great majority of the time, people are part of a large group of gamers, with smaller subsets of gamers that break off and will play games together more frequently. When you’re traveling to new locations as much as my wife and I are, that can make gaming difficult. We love when we are traveling back to Michigan because in addition to other friends and family, we get to see our gaming groups. We are fortunate enough to be a part of a group that consists of over 850 members online (however the number of active gamers is closer to 100 people), with almost 25 gaming events per month. Before we began traveling, we would play games roughly 3-4 nights per week, with certain stretches where I played games 9 or 10 days in a row. When you’re no longer around your game group, it can make the thought and process of gaming difficult. One of the first things I look up and research when I begin to look at new job placements is if the community has game stores and if they have a game group listed online. Several people have pointed me to BGG for the threads of regional gaming groups, but I’ve found the best place to locate new gamers is Meetup.com. I always browse their web page to see how many events they have available per week and how many people attend the events. This isn’t a great strategy because many times, people will come to events but won’t RSVP, so you can’t get a hugely accurate feel for what to expect. Either way, just having a meetup group is typically a good sign.

That didn’t happen when we traveled to South Carolina. The town that we went to didn’t have any active gaming groups that I was able to locate, and the nearest FLGS (Friendly local game store, to those new to the hobby), was located almost an hour and fifteen minutes away. As weird and petty as it may sound, this caused a little more stress in my life than I had imagined it would. I realized just how important the socializing that accompanies gaming had become for me. Many nights my wife and I sat at home wishing that we had some friends that we could game with, while missing all of our friends back home. It made me realize that gaming is such a great hobby because, as obvious as it may sound, it requires interaction and socialization. Sure, you will always have people who prefer to focus solely on the game, but a majority of times I get together with friends to play games, we spend at least half the time hanging out and chatting.

Never take your gaming group for granted. Like most things in life, you don’t realize how nice it is, until you don’t have it anymore. You’ll miss it. I promise.

Have you ever moved or traveled to a new place to find out it didn’t have a gaming community? If so, how did you deal with it?