Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Middle 20 -- Part 1

Back in early February 2010, I listed my Top 15 favorite board games. That was the start of my effort to cull my board games collection down to 50 total games.

Well now it's time to pick out "The Middle 20". Since I'm feeling quite a bit under the weather today, I'll save my brief game-by-game comments until next time. For now, I'm just going to list 20 games (10 that I've played, plus 10 more in my collection that I haven't played yet but which I'm really hoping to get to the table over the next 12 months). So without further adieu, let's see the Middle 20 list!

10 Games I've Played
  1. Through the Desert -- Strategy (Abstract, Caravan Building)
  2. Colossal Arena -- Strategy (Economic / Bidding, Monster Gladiator Battles)
  3. Talisman -- Adventure (Quest, Fantasy)
  4. Cosmic Encounter -- Strategy (Negotiation, Aliens)
  5. Battle Cry -- Wargame (Tactical, Civil War)
  6. Dragon's Gold -- Strategy (Negotiation, Dividing Treasure)
  7. Cash 'N Guns -- Party (Negotiation, Mafia / Criminals)
  8. No Thanks -- Strategy (Economic / Bidding, Cards)
  9. Slapshot -- Sports (Strategy, Fantasy Hockey)
  10. Fearsome Floors -- Adventure (Head-to-Head, Escape from Monster)

10 Games I Haven't Played Yet

  1. Age of Conan -- Wargame (Campaign, Conan in Hyboria)
  2. El Grande -- Strategy (Area Control, Spanish Knights)
  3. Fire & Axe -- Strategy (Area Control, Viking Conquest)
  4. Nexus Ops -- Wargame (Campaign, Sci-Fi)
  5. Wallenstein -- Wargame (Campaign, 30 Years War)
  6. Blood Bowl -- Sports (Strategy, Fantasy Football/Rugby)
  7. Cave Troll -- Adventure (Head-to-Head, Escape from Troll)
  8. Big City -- Strategy (Area Control, City Building)
  9. Aladdin's Dragons -- Strategy (Economic / Bidding, Arabian Fantasy)
  10. Condottiere -- Strategy (Area Control, Italian Renaissance Wars)

More details about each game next time!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pictures from Sultans Wargame Day

Just felt like posting a few pictures from last Sunday's (FEB 21, 2010) Sultans Wargames Day held at my house in Enola, PA.

The guys (Wally, Geoff, and Kevin) came over to my place for another playtest of the Sword of Severnia miniatures wargame that I've been in the process of designing for 3+ years now.

Sunday's battle was between a Goblins/Orcs/Broog force and a mixed Elves/Barbarians army.

As it turned out, the Gobbos squeaked out a narrow victory, thanks in large part to some terrific Artillery shooting, a potent & timely spell, and an enemy Wulfen regiment which turned coat and defected from their army in an act of treachery. We had a blast. Can't wait for our March wargames day!

Below, Jarl Udu's Krone Barbarian warband faces off against the Thud Brothers (Mountain Trolls), while the Tiger Claws (Galenite barbarians) defend against a vicious charge from General Brindle's Great Orc battalion.

Here's a long shot of the battlefield from the left-flank perspective.

A contingent of Sylvan Elf Cavalry, Falernian Knights, and two warbands of Krone Barbarians find themselves stuck in ultra-slow going thanks to a "Druid's Revenge" spell cast by Brayzar Binch, an enemy Broog Shaman which entangled their legs with hundreds of creeping vines.

Stonebark, the lone Tree Man next to the boulder, stands ready to unleash some rocks towards enemy wolfriders and Duke Scuzzar, their Raptor-riding Goblin Lord.

Hopefully I can get my mini-tripod setup and get some better, more close-up shots next time.

Until then.... ATTACK!!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Back on the Radar -- Miniature Wargaming

Switching jobs last Summer and winding down my software business didn't do any favors to my extracurricular life. My frequency of boardgaming and wargaming suffered, and the work I had been doing on my miniature wargame dropped off a cliff.

Well, it seems that finally things are beginning to turn around, albeit slowly. Baby steps... baby steps. I still need to actually make a SCHEDULE of my non-work activities so I can better focus on accomplishing those things I really enjoy doing (like painting, gaming, reading, etc.). Having too many interests can be a curse!

One of my favorite things is pushing it's way back into my life: miniature wargaming.

I finally got around to opening that package of nicely painted Nurgle plague bearers that I purchased on eBay back around Thanksgiving. I can't believe I ignored them for so long. They're actually really neat figures too, and I'm extremely tempted to stick some magnetic bases on these guys, build 3 stands of these twisted one-eyed guys, and create some stats for them so I can test them out in my Sword of Severnia wargame playtests. In SoS, these freakish demons are called Noxiks. I'll have to shoot some pics of them and post them on the blog soon.

Speaking of Sword of Severnia, after a several month hiatus, the gang is finally getting back together on FEB 21 for a Sunday Afternoon playtesting session. I'm hoping to test out some tweaked combat mechanics, a new variation of my WarChips mechanics relating to performing special in-game actions, and the use of magic items carried by Heroes/Leaders/Mages. It should be fun and enlightening to me as the game designer. I can see the game mechanics really taking on their final shape as I make a final push to refine & simplify as much as I can without losing the flavor of this deep game system.

I also recently pre-registered for Cold Wars 2010, the HMGS East winter miniatures wargaming convention being held at the Lancaster Host (PA) from March 11 thru 14. I can't wait to go, and will probably take off a day of work so that I can get down there for 2 days of action and shopping. There's nothing quite like an HMGS East convention to get your mini-gaming juices flowing in full force.

Gotta keep the good wargaming karma going, and maybe just maybe, I'll share a post-session report of our Sunday Sword of Severnia playtesting. It's going to be Geoff's Barbarian/Elf army facing off against my Goblin/Broog/Orc hordes again. Eventually, I'm hoping to create some stat cards for Wally's reptilian army, and pull together a Norse style Dwarf/Gnomes/Ice Trolls/Krones (Viking) army to complement my Undead army and Falernian Knights forces.

Talk to ya later!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New Games Mag -- Thru the Portal

It's a fact that there aren't many worthwhile magazines on the market that are devoted to providing a "broad brush" overview of hobby games (board games, card games, miniature wargames, and RPGs). Being a longtime hobby gamer myself, this really saddens me.

One of my old printed favorites, Knucklebones, ceased being published well over a year ago, although there are faint rumors of it coming back into print in a small, digest format. Several excellent mags geared towards miniature wargaming lovers have died as well (rest in printed peace Wargames Journal, Harbinger, and HMG Magazine).

There are still some very good printed magazines out there for miniature wargamers, including Battlegames, Dadi & Piombo, Miniature Wargames, Wargames Illustrated, and the venerable GW house rag - White Dwarf. Of the lot, Battlegames is my clear-cut favorite and a highly recommended read for any serious miniature wargaming enthusiast.

Unfortunately, things aren't so robust on the board-gaming side of the fence. But one new entry on the gaming e-zine scene is thru-the-portal, a new quarterly games magazine from Neil Meyer in the UK. Neil and some guest writers promise to do their best covering board games, card games, RPGs, miniature wargames, MMO's and the occasional computer game. You can download the e-zine for free from Issue #1 shows promise. It includes reviews of Pandemic, Small World, Bombay, Through the Desert, Dragon Age rpg, and an interview with the cover artist amongst other things. Check it out!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Culling My Game Collection -- Part 2 (Top 15 Games)

So how do I reduce my overgrown board games collection down to just 50 games? This isn't going to be easy! I have to start somewhere, so I'm going to lay down a few basic ground rules at the start.


#1 = Don't count expansions to a base-game. If I'm going to keep a game, I want to retain all of its expansions as well. After all, that's why we buy expansions in the first place; to enhance the fun of the base game and expand its replayability.

#2 = Don't count miniatures wargames. In my mind, miniature wargaming is really a separate hobby from board-gaming. Miniature gaming requires a greater time investment, since it encompasses collecting, painting, army construction, scenario design, playing games, and sometimes even campaigning. It's definitely a more CREATIVE hobby. In reality, it's probably the bigger love of the two gaming hobbies to me, so I'm going to exclude it here and discuss it on its own merits at a later time.

#3 = Focus on games that you're still interested in playing, and not those that you're keeping around purely for nostalgic reasons.

#4 = Not all games serve the same purpose. Light strategy board games and card games often work well with family members and casual gamers. Adventure games are great for fantasy & sci-fi buffs. Co-operative games are perfect for less competitive folks. Wargames and head-to-head strategy games satisfy the tastes of many hardcore gamers. Party games and tongue-in-check "take that" games are crowd pleasers and laughter inducers. There are several niches that a game collection needs to fill, and your game collection should be diverse enough to cover them.

Trying to condense the wide variety of board games into a small number of categories is a highly tricky task at best. Here's a swipe at categorizing the types of games in my collection. I've lumped my games into 5 basic categories, and narrowed down each category into 2-6 subcategories. Agree or disagree all you want, but this is what I'm going with:

<> Adventure (Co-Op, Head-to-Head, Quest)

<> Strategy (Area Control, Abstract, Deduction, Economic, Negotiation, Set Collection)

<> Wargame (Abstract, Campaign, Tactical)

<> Sports (Simulation, Strategy)

<> Party (Dice, Negotiation, Trivia, Word)

With these key points in mind, let's brainstorm and eventually try to whittle my board games collection down to 50 games. By the way, for those of you who are interested, you can see what games I own by checking out user SultanSevy on BoardGameGeek.

The NO BRAINER LIST (Top 15 Games)

Everyone has their favorite games; their personal No Brainer List of games they love to play and wouldn't think of getting rid of (at least at the moment!). For me, those games are as follows (grouped by basic category):

Adventure games:

  1. Drakon = although not a true adventure game in the RPG sense, this Tom Jolly classic is perhaps my favorite 30-45 minute race-to-escape the dungeon game. The simple decision of whether to move your hero, or build a pathway to escape the dungeon, or screw your enemy is a truly delicious one. This has been a winner with my group of gaming buddies.
  2. Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (Deluxe) = think of a Lord of the Rings version of Stratego, but ten times better. A fast playing, thinky, and elegant head-to-head strategy adventure game from Reiner Knizia. Get Frodo safely to Mordor, or play Sauron's minions and try to eat him alive. LOVE IT!
  3. Dungeon Twister = this could also go in the Strategy games section, but I classify it as a head-to-head adventure game. It pits 2 players trying to get their team of fantasy adventurers to escape an ever-changing dungeon before getting killed by the other team. The rules are fairly simple, but the decisions on how best to plan your escape are numerous. Plenty of expansions make this an infinitely replayable game. Not everyone's cup of tea because it can lead some players into analysis-paralysis. My suggestion is to play with a sand-timer to limit that problem.
  4. Cutthroat Caverns = a much under-appreciated gem on BGG (at least from my perspective), this card-based adventure game is an interesting hybrid of co-op game and backstab-your-neighbor-to-win style of game. With a crowd of fun-loving gamers who don't take themselves too seriously, this game is a guaranteed blast. The back-&-forth TAKE THAT aspect of this game is second to none, and the creature card-art is gorgeous.
  5. Shadows Over Camelot = my favorite pure co-operative adventure game of the bunch. I love the King Arthur theme and it's wonderfully brought to life by Days of Wonder with top-notch game components. The game has the right level of challenge, the Traitor element keeps you guessing, and the Merlin expansion adds even more fun. Superb.

Sports games:

  1. Statis-Pro Baseball = this Avalon Hill classic is sadly out-of-print, but it was far and away my favorite baseball simulation game, and perhaps my most played game ever. Although I haven't played it for decades, I recently discovered an eBay store that sells new full-color player cards for the game. That really piques my interest!

Strategy games:

  1. Domaine = currently my favorite area-control strategy game, although I haven't gotten to play El Grande yet. This is one of those easy-to-learn strategy games that features tough decisions and excellent strategic depth, but doesn't lend itself to over-analysis. Klaus Teuber is to be lauded for a truly superb game design here.
  2. Ticket to Ride = collect sets of colored train-cards and place them on the board to build railway lines across America. The more railway connections and longer lines you build, the more points you score. This simple strategy set-collection game appeals to both hardcore and casual gamers alike, and should be in every true gamer's collection.
  3. Kingsburg = a euro-style economic strategy game of building up your kingdom with an innovative dice-placing mechanic and a slight dose of fantasy (defending against hordes of monsters). The board is really pretty, there's a neat "block your opponent" factor and plenty of decisions, but it's not an overwrought brain-burner. Highly recommended.
  4. Acquire = I have the classic 3M version from the late 1960's. This is probably my favorite pure economic strategy game. This Sid Sackson classic about hotel mergers and acquisitions sounds dry, but it's fun with competitive strategy gamers and still holds up really well today.


  1. HeroScape = easily the best light, tactical wargame in my collection. The pre-painted miniatures and hex terrain are terrific, making this game a beauty to behold. And despite very simple rules, there's surprising tactical depth here and enormous replayability when you factor in the wide variety of expansion sets. Great fun for all ages.
  2. Feudal = another classic from my youth, this abstract wargame from 3M is basically a medieval Chess-variant. It features beautiful medieval soldier pieces, which are still great by today's standards. Terrain plays a nice role in the game, as do archers, and you can vary the size of the armies and even play multi-player games. Elegant simplicity.
  3. Battlelore = Richard Borg's "Command & Colors" series of card-driven tactical wargames provide a very playable and interesting twist on land-based warfare across several different periods. Since fantasy is my favorite genre, this is the game in his series that I instantly gravitated towards. The minis are cool, the card-driven play is fun and introduces the chaos of battlefield command & control, battles play quickly, the war-council mechanic is neat, and the expansions are seemingly endless. What's not to love?
  4. Wizard Kings = the best fantasy campaign-style wargame I've played to date, although I'm hoping to be able to try out Runewars and Age of Conan sometime this year. I really love Columbia's block wargames. They provide a very cool fog-of-war element and an easy to understand attrition-based combat system. WK also leads the way here in a wide variety of terrain effects, a bevy of different armies and creatures, and a nice variety of campaign maps. It also lends itself nicely to creating custom game scenarios. This is probably CG's most replayable game and one I won't tire of anytime soon.
  5. Hammer of the Scots = Braveheart in a board game. Another Columbia block wargame (this one by Jerry Taylor), with easy to learn rules, nice chunky blocks, a fun card-driven events mechanic, and truly challenging game play (especially when playing the Scots).

You may have noticed that I didn't include any PARTY games here. Sorry, but none of them made my Top 15 Games list. That's not a genre that really captivates me as much as the others.

Fifteen down and 35 more games to go. Stay tuned for the next 20 games in my next blog installment. That list will include some games in my collection that I haven't even played yet.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Thoughts on Culling My Game Collection -- Part 1

There comes a point in every grown-up gamer's life when reality rears up and bites you squarely in the ass. With that chomp on your tush comes the sudden searing awareness: "holy crap, I own way too many games that I'm never going to get to play."

At first, you deny this painful and sad realization and think, "well I'll just make it a point to play my games more often." But life gets in the way, and your best intentions never really pan out. There's only so much time in the day. And if you're like me and have several hobbies, none of them really get lavished with as much attention as you might hope for. So while "regular gaming" is a noble pursuit, only the most single-minded stalwarts among the gamerati can really pull it off.

My reality is that while I love to play boardgames and card games, getting to play them once or twice a month is about the best I can hope for under current circumstances. And even that low frequency of play is a real stretch to achieve at times.

So with over 180+ games in my game collection (according to my BoardGameGeek stats, which includes expansions and many miniatures wargames that I own solely as reference/inspiration material), it's high time to admit that my collection is just TOO DAMN BIG. I need to start unloading some of those games which I'm no longer interested in, or don't forsee playing anytime soon (or perhaps ever).

So I'm thinking that I should reduce my collection of board games to around 50 games (just the base games -- excluding expansions, and ignoring miniatures games which are a special case for me). It might not sound so tough; after all, 50 games is still a lot of games to most folks. But I'll bet there will be 15 games sitting right on the CUSP of the cutoff-line pleading their little cardboard hearts out not to have the executioner's axe fall upon them.

I smell a Top-50 games list in Steve's collection coming soon.... Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post where I'll try my darndest to separate the wheat from the chaff.