I managed to get in 2 great games this afternoon and evening: Puerto Rico closed the night (and I eked out a narrow victory), but Fiasco was definitely the star of the show.
Fiasco is a highly improvisational role-playing game where the players pick a scenario, roll a bunch of dice which influence the setup and character creation, and then spin a tale chock full of lust, greed, and fear. From those three elements, both comedy and tragedy are pretty much guaranteed to emerge for all of the player characters.
There is no GM, only a few rules, and it’s meant for a single session including character creation, so it’s a great game to pick up and play if you can assemble the right group. That’s actually one of the keys to the game, and it’s more important than adhering to the rules – the group has to be comfortable with almost pure improv or the game won’t work.
Fortunately, I had the right group assembled and we had a blast. My character was a whiny “poor me” type who made himself out to be a black sheep, even though he really wasn’t. In reality, a college buddy Rusty had a peculiar control over me, and my “brother” (I was adopted) had plans for greatness that didn’t include me. I had already been written out of my late father’s will, and that was only the start of what would ultimately result in my untimely death in a drug deal gone wrong in suburban nowhere, Nebraska. And this was after my character killed an FBI agent working under deep cover as a local news anchor. So in other words, everything went completely off the rails (as intended by the game), and the other characters suffered similarly.
There were so many laugh-out-loud moments that it’s hard to pick just one, but I think the nod has to go to Franklin while he was playing a non-player character (my adoptive mother) while my brother and I were letting her know we were moving back into the house… and shipping her off to a nursing home. Way too funny.
I’d love to play it again, and hopefully I’ll get the chance soon. I also know I’ll never be able to keep a straight face again when I hear the phrase “corn husking” but that’s a story for another time.
I had the chance to try a couple of games for the first time in the past few weeks. One I’ve owned for a very long time (years) but never played, and the other I bought recently and was able to get to the table pretty quickly.
The first is Sweet Agatha, an award-winning 2-player indie RPG that I really enjoyed. I was playing with a less-experienced role-player, so I took the role of the Truth. We danced around numerous plot threads and odd occurrences. It turned out Agatha had both a very creepy landlord and an old flame who moved to Seattle. She was an aspiring recording artist trying to get noticed, and took irregular shifts at a pirate radio station whose transmitter was on the shore of Lake Poway.
This is a game for seasoned story RPG buffs. If you’re not into heavily story-based progression or not comfortable with improv, this might not be the game for you. By contrast, if you love Fiasco but want a two-player option, this might be just the ticket so long as you can track down a copy. The only real flaw of our game is my gaming partner didn’t quite understand that he could completely make things up and it wouldn’t break the game – since I was The Truth, I think he expected that I already knew the ending when we started (which I definitely didn’t).
I also want to echo a bit of game advice. We didn’t use any clues in the final scene of the game, and we made very liberal interpretations of the clues in scene 9. By that point, our story was far enough along that we needed more freedom to resolve, and introducing new clue elements wasn’t going to work well. So we just finished out the climax and the resolution free-form.
This is mentioned in the rules, but if you’ve played Sweet Agatha, you’ll understand what I mean when I say that this might be overlooked by less seasoned gamers.
The second game is Le Havre, a game by Uwe Rosenberg which struck me as a kinder, gentler, and less random (and therefore better in my books) version of Agricola. I came in last place with only 178 points (the winner had 240ish), but the game was actually closer than the scores might indicate. I mismanaged some of my resources in the mid-game and failed to generate points with some of the buildings; I also misunderstood the importance (and scarcity) of steel and so made a few more missteps there.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the game. The tension comes entirely from resource management and the “many options but I can only do one, what do I do?” dilemma that drives a lot of games I enjoy. Unlike Agricola, failing to feed your family is a minor setback, resulting in a loan that can be paid off. In fact, the winner at one point had 7 or 8 loans, then paid them all off in the final 1/3 of the game. It’s a strategy I didn’t understand until I saw it in action, and now I realize it can be quite viable. Just like in the real world, borrowing to invest can result in large profit, if done properly.
Now that I’ve played Le Havre, I suspect my copy of Agricola will get traded away in the next no-ship math trade that comes to San Diego.
I do have a number of other new games I’d like to get to the table, so hopefully I’ll be able to report on those shortly. I’ll have to find the right group for Fiasco, and also the right time for Brass, but I’m pretty confident I’ll get both to the table in the coming months.
Now that I’ve had a week to digest my 2013 Coachella experience, I thought I’d post a brief summary of the weekend.
Coachella 2013 was extra special for me since it was the first chance I had to visit with some of my Canadian friends since last June when I moved to San Diego. Jay, Megan, Steve, and Kristin all spent some time in San Diego before and after the festival and it was great to catch up with them.
Coachella 2013, by the numbers:
- 3 hours of sleep the night before driving to Indio for our 8:00am meet time.
- 4 hours waiting in the security line to get into the campground
- 36 acts seen, in total, including 12 full sets
- 1 best festival day ever
- 3 glowing cowboy hats and baseball caps
- 5 offers to buy said glowing hats
- 1 morning waking up next to Fish Magician
- 1 giant mobile snail
- 0 leftover beers
Here’s what I managed to watch, in whole or in Part
Friday April 12
- Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra
- Dillon Francis
- Jake Bugg
- Passion Pit
- Modest Mouse
- Yeah Yeah Yeahs
- Jurassic 5
- How to Destroy Angels
Saturday April 13
- Biffy Clyro
- Dropkick Murphys
- 2 Bears
- Violent Femmes
- Fedde Le Grand
- Hot Chip
- Postal Service
- Simian Mobile Disco
- Franz Ferdinand
- New Order
Sunday April 14
- Thee Oh Sees
- Gaslight Anthem
- Alex Clare
- Social Distortion
- Tame Impala
- Vampire Weekend
- Pretty Lights
- Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
- Wu Tang Clan
- Dub FX
- Dead Can Dance
On a somewhat sad note, one of my gamer friends here in San Diego is selling his entire collection of games as he has been out of work for about 12 months and needs to raise some cash to pay the bills. On a happier (for me, at least) note, I bought some of those games from him and they’re now resting comfortably on my shelves. The new (to me) games:
Most of these I’ve played previously, but the two I haven’t (Brass and Le Havre) I’m hoping I can get to the table sometime soon.
I also played a couple of games recently that I’ve had in my collection for a while.
Power Grid remains one of my favorite games of all time, and I taught it to 2 new players. We duked it out on Benelux, as per my tradition of using that map to teach the game, and the ending left me scratching my head. I’ve never before seen a game where all of the players wanted the game to go one more turn than it seemed to naturally go. I didn’t see a way to place first in either scenario, though there was an outside chance so I let the game go a turn longer. Ultimately, I was able to guarantee second place, but only by screwing one of the other players out of resources he needed. An unusual ending, and one that I don’t usually see with larger numbers of players. Still, it was really fun to get it to the table again and I hope I can bring it out with a different map soon.
Alien Frontiers is a game I had not played since I moved to San Diego, and like Power Grid, I taught it to 2 new players. I opted for the base game though I’m itching to try out the expansion if I can. It went pretty well, and I once again came in second place. I still really enjoy the game, since there are many paths to victory and there are few “bad” rolls that really screw things up.
Next week, I’m hoping to get Java to the table for the first time in roughly 3 years. One of the other Tuesday gamers at Game Empire wants to try it, and hopefully we can round up a third or fourth to make the game interesting.
I’m starting to get excited about the 2013 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Looking over the list of bands on the lineup poster, there are more than 50 I would like to see, and that’s even before I start looking into the ones I don’t know as much about. In reality, I’ll only see about 30 bands over the course of the weekend. Perhaps the most depressing moment before I attend will be the moment after the set times are announced, when I realize how many bands I won’t get to see due to scheduling conflicts. Still, it’s fun to start sorting through the lineup early, so when I have to make some tough game-time choices, I have my priorities in order.
Here is my current personalized line-up:
Friday April 12 * The Stone Roses
Grinderman * Modest Mouse * Tegan and Sara * Jurassic 5 * blur * Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Purity Ring * Metric * Local Natives * Passion Pit * Bassnectar * Japandroids
Wolfgang Gartner * Dog Blood * Modestep * Passion Pit * Band of Horses
Saturday April 13 * New Order
Sigur Ros * The Postal Service * The xx * Hot Chip * Major Lazer
Portugal. The Man * Franz Ferdinand * Knife Party * Spiritualized * Puscifer * Moby
Fedde Le Grand * Two Door Cinema Club * Jason Bently * The 2 Bears * Biffy Clyro
Sunday April 14 * Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Vampire Weekend * Red Hot Chili Peppers * Dead can Dance * Pretty Lights * Wu Tang Clan
Mimosa * Rodriguez * Eric Prydz * Grimes * Smith Westerns * Social Distortion
Thee Oh Sees * Paul Kalkbrenner * Alex Clare * Excision * James Blake
So far the year has been off to a good start in terms of board games. To kick things off, I finally managed to play a game of Eclipse last week, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The winner ran away to some extent, but the battle for second place was interesting. I managed to hang on to clinch it.
I happened across a copy of the Eclipse expansion Rise of the Ancients at Game Empire so I snapped it up (it was their last copy). I was leery until I had at least played Eclipse once, but I was sold pretty quickly. The expansion looks pretty interesting, and you can mix and match the bits you want and leave out what you don’t. I’m not sure I’d ever want to play 9 players, but playing 6 players with 3 ancients might make for a very interesting game.
I also got Hansa Teutonica back to the table after at least a year and a half where I hadn’t played it. I’m amazed at how well the game has held up and it’s one I should really be playing more often. I was also somewhat amazed to discover that I was playing a rule wrong previously. In particular, the rule about refreshing the bonus tiles – I mistakenly thought they had to go back on the tavern spaces, but it turns out that’s completely incorrect. Playing the rule properly made for a more interesting game.
Finally, I got a chance to try out Eminent Domain. Although we didn’t finish the game, I did manage to learn the rules and get a feel for it. I’d like to try a full game, but I’m not sold on it. It feels sort of like a deck-building version of Glory to Rome in terms of the mechanics, but with less player interaction. We’ll see what I think after giving it a proper play.
As usual, December was a busy month in my life. It brought the usual assortment of holiday parties and numerous birthday parties, and in the middle of all that, I moved into a new place a couple of weeks ago.
The new place is all around a lot better than the apartment I was renting, and it’s in the neighbourhood I wanted to live in, so overall I’m very happy. I’m mostly settled in, but I need to buy a few more bits of furniture (shelves and a desk) before I can finish unpacking. I also need to get around to putting up artwork on the walls, which means I also need to decide what artwork to put where.
It was also different being away for Christmas – this was the first Christmas in my life that I didn’t spend with my immediate family. My family was very supportive and even went so far as to get me a truly awesome Christmas gift. Originally, they were planning on getting me an artificial tree (since I didn’t own a Christmas tree). Those plans didn’t work out, but they managed to find an alternative, which I honestly think is even cooler. I was very surprised to see the box on my doorstep when I got home from work on the 21st, and when I opened it, I was even more surprised. My family bought me a live european cypress tree and some lights and ornaments to decorate it. It was one of the most thoughtful and touching gifts I’ve ever received, and the best part is that I get to enjoy it year round. It’s currently living in a nice large pot on my patio, and it should do pretty well here. I’m curious to see how much larger it will get before next December when I bring it back inside and decorate it once again.
Only time will tell.
In the past couple of weeks I’ve played a few new (to me, anyways) board games.
First up, I received the new Fantasy Flight edition of Merchant of Venus. It’s a really nice reprint of the original. While a few minor rules have been changed, the classic game is still very much playable and from some solo / self-teaching play, seems to work really well. The new “Standard Edition” rules are streamlined in a couple of ways, fantasy-flight-ized in others, and on the whole it still seems just as complex as the classic game while a little bit less mathy. It does play well with 3 players, the only way I’ve actually managed to play it thus far. We completed the game in about 2.5 hours including teaching time, and I’m looking forward to playing it again. It’s a nice pick up and deliver game where it’s not as easy to run away from the pack as in games like Empire Builder. In order to achieve this, a healthy does of randomness is present in the game (as with the classic game), so if you’re a fan of more deterministic games like Age of Steam, this might not be for you.
I also got my copy of Pirate Dice in the mail. This is indeed a kinder, gentler, faster-playing Robo Rally (as it was billed). The ability to re-roll dice as well as to place dice to deliberately do nothing makes the game simpler to play. Additionally, the complexity is reduced by the fact that you only program 4 turns at a time instead of 5, and that your ship only fires its cannons once per turn, in general. There aren’t all of the wacky power-ups and funky board elements of Robo Rally either, but the end result is a game that you can play and enjoy in about 30 minutes with 2-3 people. I have yet to try a 4-player game, but I think it will work well. This is going to stay in my collection for a very long time, and while I’m not going to get rid of Robo Rally, I already know this is going to be played a lot more often due to its shorter length and relative simplicity.
To round up my recent board game experiences, I played a deck-building prototype whose name I don’t recall, designed by a fellow San Diegan. It generally felt like a cross between Dominon and Dungeon Lords. I did enjoy playing, but I felt it was a little too complex for what I wanted and took a bit too long to play as a result. Still, it was quite playable and I hope someone picks it up for publication or the designer decides to mount a Kickstarter campaign. I don’t think I would buy it, not because it’s not a good game (it is), but because I’m sick of deck-building and don’t really feel like I want to buy any games where it’s the core mechanic at this point. One of the things I really liked about it was the ability to easily remove cards from your deck as they become a hindrance, which means you can easily tune the deck and not have it bloat to the point of uselessness.
I also managed to get in a couple more games of Glory to Rome. I still haven’t quite figured out how to teach the game effectively, but I thoroughly enjoy playing it and actually managed to win a 5-player game not long ago. It rewards repeated play and it’s a nice, fast-paced role selection game if everyone is already familiar with the rules.
Unfortunately, I still have yet to get Eclipse to the table, something I hope to remedy in the near future. I’m itching to play it. Maybe this Tuesday at Game Empire…
The past couple of weekends have been unseasonably warm so I’ve been heading to different parts of the coast to explore the area a bit more.
Last weekend was Leucadia / Moonlight Beach. There’s some sort of construction at the beach proper, but the walk through the oceanfront neighbourhood was nice, and I managed to find a couple of interesting items at Lou’s Records.
This weekend I went to Torrey Pines State Preserve for a bit of wandering along the cliffs and down to the beach. It was hotter at the coast than I anticipated, and I broke a bit of a sweat hiking back up to the parking lot. It was a great day, and consequently the trails and the beach were both quite busy. We arrived just a bit after low tide and it was interesting seeing what was caught in the tide pools. The views from above were quite impressive given how clear the day was, and looking at the cliffs from the beach was also pleasant.
The hike itself was on the short / easy side, but definitely enjoyable and I’ll be back to explore a few more of the trails I didn’t walk this trip to Torrey Pines. I also ran into some cyclists who had cycled in from Del Mar, something I’ll also have to look into in the future.
I’ve managed to find a number of other gamers here in San Diego so far, and have gotten in a surprising variety of games lately:
And others. Overall, the Tuesday group at Game Empire is pretty interesting to play with, and lots of different things have happened there. I’d love to get Dominant Species, Eclipse, Puerto Rico (with expansions), Caylus, and some more Power Grid maps to the table, as well as another play or two of Arkham Horror. I think for the latter, it will have to be a weekend afternoon event at my place, but luckily I have a group I can draw on who I know enjoy that game.
I’ve slowly been building my address book of fellow gamers and I think I finally have a decent crew to draw upon for the heavier eurogames. Here’s hoping…
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