Jason Panella

What board games have you been playing lately?

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This weekend, I learned how to play Pandemic and Puerto Rico, both of which I have been longing to try for years. And I taught 7 Wonders to a bunch of people, most of whom loved it. Is 7 Wonders a perfect game? It might be one of the best I've ever played.

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This weekend, I learned how to play Pandemic and Puerto Rico, both of which I have been longing to try for years. And I taught 7 Wonders to a bunch of people, most of whom loved it. Is 7 Wonders a perfect game? It might be one of the best I've ever played.

 

Pandemic is a favorite in our house. In fact, it's the second most played game that we own (after Dominion). We recently got the On the Brink expansion for Pandemic and it looks like it will add even more longevity to a game that we're nowhere near getting tired of.

 

Because of my love for Bauza I've really wanted to try 7 Wonders but haven't had the opportunity yet. Seems like quite a number of people speak of it as highly as you do.

 

Got these today for my birthday...

 

 

Good set! Cosmic Encounter and Shadows Over Camelot are in the same camp for me: games that I desperately want to play/own but fear the 3+ player count required would mean I don't have many opportunities to play them. If I find myself with a consistent gaming group in the future, those would shoot to the top of my wishlist (along with 7 Wonders).

 

 

We bought my son Rampage for his twelfth birthday, and played it last night. What a blast of a game, as far as tactile play goes. 

 

Also, a friend brought Karma (from the folks who made SET) and Reiner Knieza's Lost Cities to my office, and they were a lot of fun for two players each.

 

My wife and I dig Lost Cities. Great little 2 player game. The only downside is the scoring is always a bit awkward. We have to pull out calculators or a piece of paper and such. The upside is this is one of the few games that I can almost always beat my wife in.

 

 

 

As for what I've been playing lately...

 

- Escape: The Curse of the Temple. Finally jumped into the "real time" end of the board game pool and we're pretty delighted with this one. It only takes 10 minutes to play and every game has been a blast. Took it to my parents' house over 4th of July and got a number of people to play it. While not everyone loved it, none of them could accuse it of being boring.

 

- Steam Park. Speaking of real time games... this game -- about building a steam-powered theme park for robots, how is that for an awesome theme? -- starts with frantic real time dice rolling each round before players use those dice to take actions building a theme park. There's a ton of randomness in this game (which doesn't bother me too much, but I know some won't care for it) but there's plenty of opportunities to strategize and use bonus cards and special powers to mitigate some of that randomness. Fun game.

 

- Pandemic: On the Brink. As mentioned above, this expansion breathed tons of replayability into one of our most replayable games. I love everything about this (though we haven't played a game with the bio-terrorist yet).

 

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I think Pandemic might be my most-played game ever. So much so that my wife and I have gotten worn out! I still like to use it to introduce new gamers to co-operative games, though. We have the old version of the game, and I've been hesitant on spending money on the new edition (or even getting an upgrade pack). The In the Lab expansion does look like a lot of fun, so maybe some day. (And yes, On the Brink might be one of my favorite expansions for any game ever.)

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I think Pandemic might be my most-played game ever. So much so that my wife and I have gotten worn out! I still like to use it to introduce new gamers to co-operative games, though. We have the old version of the game, and I've been hesitant on spending money on the new edition (or even getting an upgrade pack). The In the Lab expansion does look like a lot of fun, so maybe some day. (And yes, On the Brink might be one of my favorite expansions for any game ever.)

 

One awesome thing about second edition On the Brink is that the box is designed to fit everything (base game + On the Brink + In the Lab), which is cool. The bad thing about the second edition version of On the Brink is that the card backs don't quite match, they are slightly lighter in color and while it may not be a huge deal I can almost immediately tell at a glance if the next card in the draw piles is from the expansion or not. Not a huge thing, but yeah, kind of annoying.

Edited by Gavin Breeden

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This past weekend I brought out Arkham Horror, the first time I've played the game in about two years. I've been reading some of Lovecraft's longer, better-known stories recently, so I thought a game of this old gem was appropriate. Some people play with all of the expansions, but I think that's a certain one-way trip to Lovecraftian madness. When I was playing the game frequently a few years ago, I developed a system of using one big expansion, one small expansion, and select elements from Miskatonic Horror (the expansion for the expansions...no joke).

 

Since I had just read the story "The Dunwich Horror," I used the big Dunwich Horror expansion and the smaller Goat of the Black Woods expansion, as well as some of the cards that tie the two together from Miskatonic. It ended up being a lot of fun. The set-up and tear-down portions are tedious, but I have things organized well enough that it's not a whole-day event. There is certainly flawed—the ebb and flow is drastically different from game to game, which results in chaos or tedium. This game leaned slightly toward the latter, but I really had fun. I think what I like best is that this game is focused primarily on the characters. Each is different, each has a backstory, and each character has some motivation that makes them feel more like an RPG character than an interchangable board game widget (this last part especially comes through with the "personal story" option available in one of the expansions...it gives the characters something more personal to shoot for besides "beat big evil thing"). While Eldritch Horror seems like it smooths down many of AH's knobby parts, it also seems more focused on the thing you're fighting. Which is cool! But that, plus the broader expanse of the story, makes me cling more closely to its flawed (but lovely) predecessor. 

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Not sure of the best place to park this, but this tribute to the beauty of board gaming is most moving-- all the more so if you're already hip to the Shut Up & Sit Down crew.

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When I was back in Saskatchewan visiting family I played Fantasy Flight Games A Game of Thrones: The Board Game. It's a pretty fantastic strategy-battle game that captures the feel of the different Houses and the geography of Westeros from Martin's books quite well. Also, I appreciate that it uses original artwork rather than images from the show (I know, the game pre-dates the show, but that hasn't stopped publishers in the past).

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Does "Star Trek: Attack Wing" count as a "board game"? It's a tabletop miniatures game that I've been playing now for a while, and it's awesome. Using the FlightPath movement system first developed for "Star Wars: X-Wing", it takes that game into a much Trekkier direction, and is a ton of fun to play. Anyone else tried it?

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Does "Star Trek: Attack Wing" count as a "board game"? It's a tabletop miniatures game that I've been playing now for a while, and it's awesome. Using the FlightPath movement system first developed for "Star Wars: X-Wing", it takes that game into a much Trekkier direction, and is a ton of fun to play. Anyone else tried it?

 

I've only played X-Wing, which is a lot of fun. I don't know if it's a board game specifically, but it's a hobby tabletop game, so....close enough! I don't know a lot about Attack Wing...how similar is it to X-Wing?

 

Also, I'm pretty sure the FlightPath system was first developed for the old Wings of War game, which Fantasy Flight bought out and absorbed for X-Wing. 

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Well I haven't actually played either one of them yet, but I did place an order this morning for Gravwell and Seasons. Any fans/proponents here?

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Well I haven't actually played either one of them yet, but I did place an order this morning for Gravwell and Seasons. Any fans/proponents here?

 

Two games that are definitely on my radar. Eager to hear what you think of them, Josh.

 

Well, we finally picked up Jaipur based on several recommendations (including yours, Josh) and we're quite taken with it. Could see it becoming our favorite light, 2-player game. At times it feels like it's heavily luck based since you might be holding out for a particular card to come into the market place only to see it come out on your opponent's turn and watch in horror as they snatch it up. However, I'm less inclined to think that it's too luck-drive since my wife has one every single round of the game we've played except one (each game consists of 2-3 rounds). Anyway, it's a fun game, light and fast, with beautiful components.

 

Here's another little bit of something interesting (maybe). A few months ago, I discovered the active community over at the board games subreddit (70k subscribers and counting) and it's become a website I check everyday. There are posts about game deals, links to new reviews and videos, questions and stories about games, and all kinds of stuff related to new, old, and upcoming games.

 

My favorite two features over there are the "What Should I Get" posts in which someone will post a list of likes, dislikes, and games owned, and ask the subreddit for recommendations -- sometimes very specifically, like I'm looking for a complex game for 3 players that has a space theme that plays in 2 hours, what should I get, etc -- and the other frequent feature is called "Check Out My Collection" in which people posts photos of their board game collections or their game rooms for others to see.

 

It's not meant to be boastful or anything (but prepare to get super jealous when you see the quantity and quality of some of these collections, and some of these game rooms need to be seen to be believed), just an enthused person sharing photos of their collection with other enthused persons who are interested. 

 

Anyway, I did my own COMC post the other day and I thought I'd post it here for anyone who might be interested in seeing what my games look like on the shelf.

 

(As I glance at that photo again I realize that there are a few newish games that I haven't mentioned here yet. Will do that soon, in another post.)

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Does "Star Trek: Attack Wing" count as a "board game"? It's a tabletop miniatures game that I've been playing now for a while, and it's awesome. Using the FlightPath movement system first developed for "Star Wars: X-Wing", it takes that game into a much Trekkier direction, and is a ton of fun to play. Anyone else tried it?

 

I've only played X-Wing, which is a lot of fun. I don't know if it's a board game specifically, but it's a hobby tabletop game, so....close enough! I don't know a lot about Attack Wing...how similar is it to X-Wing?

 

Also, I'm pretty sure the FlightPath system was first developed for the old Wings of War game, which Fantasy Flight bought out and absorbed for X-Wing. 

 

I've watched X-Wing being played. I'd say that Attack Wing is much more of a capital ship to capital ship combat, whereas X-Wing is fighter-to-fighter. Also, Attack Wing has missions that can be completed, missions with a Star Trek flair to them. Crew is much more important in Attack Wing. And the Organized Play for Attack Wing is WAY better than the OP for X-Wing, which is fairly poor.

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Has anyone ever had mixed feelings about a game's components?

 

In nearly every way, the components in Seasons are as good as any I've seen. The game is an explosion of color, the artwork is enthralling and original, and the dice are fantastic-- big, colorful, heavy, and with the symbols carved rather than painted on, so they won't chip or fade with time.

 

In terms of quality, the components are virtually flawless, and, in my experience, peerless.

 

... except: Of the game's 100 cards, nearly all of them feature the word "crystal." And then, there are two cards that both come with an unfortunate and tough-to-ignore typo: "Cristal."

 

So close, Seasons team! So close!

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A quick update to say that I've played Gravwell, and enjoyed it immensely. It's a deceptively simple little game, one that initially seems like it all comes down to chance-- but there is more strategy than first meets the eye, both in the initial card draft (which I love) and then in choosing which cards you play based on your predictions of what other people will play. (There is a definite gambling/push your luck component to the game as well, then.) A very elegant and uncomplicated game that I suspect will be an enduring favorite when we need something fairly light and quick; something that's casual but far from mindless.

 

I will also say that it's a great example of game design that precludes anyone from ever catastrophically losing; you can be way behind in the game but catapult yourself into first place, all within the span of a turn, if you play your cards right (literally). I like that about it.

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Couple more board game updates:

 

I have had a chance to play Seasons, and am really impressed by how all of the seemingly disparate and disjointed gaming mechanics come together into something so fluid and intuitive. On paper it all seems like a mess, but you can master the game play in just a turn or two, and playing an entire two-player game can go by in 45 minutes, maybe even less. My only caveats are that it is exponentially better with 2 than with 4-- haven't tried 3 yet, which may be the sweet spot-- and that, the first time you play, it's really best if you stick to the Basic cards and not the Advanced.

 

Have also played Sentinels of the Multiverse-- and it's pleasant enough, if you're into superheroes and comic books. The comic book art and theming is masterful, actually; the game itself is heavy on chance and also has a lot of accounting/scorekeeping elements that can make it feel just a tad tedious. There really isn't much of a game here, to be honest, but it's pleasant if you just want to throw down some cards and immerse yourself in a comic book world.

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You're making Seasons sound like a winner, Josh. 

 

As a way to cheer me up from getting laid off, my wife gave me my birthday present early: Castles of Burgundy! I've done the usual Jason "play it solo to learn the rules" thing, and I have to say it's a wonderfully designed game. I can't wait to give it some real table time soon.

 

My wife also said she'd play any game with me for my birthday, so...I'm excited to break out Android! Hope she'll still love me after that.

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 ...the game itself is heavy on chance and also has a lot of accounting/scorekeeping elements that can make it feel just a tad tedious. There really isn't much of a game here, to be honest, but it's pleasant if you just want to throw down some cards...

 

This description sounds remarkably similar to how I would describe Smash Up, which I know you love but you seem a little cool on Sentinels. How are they different?

 

Here are a few updates from my own recent plays:

 

Sushi Go! - Fun, little card-drafting game featuring art can only be described as adorable. Great filler game.

 

No Thanks! - Another popular filler with a nice push-your-luck mechanism. A game goes very fast and can be quite funny. Great for taking to family get togethers with non-gamers. My mom loved it.

 

Jaipur - Josh has already mentioned this here and it's been on my wish list for a while. Finally got it and am quite impressed with the beautiful components. On the surface, it doesn't appear to have a tremendous amount of strategy but, for whatever reason, I cannot win this game! My wife and I have played probably 7 games (each composed of 2-3 rounds) and I have won exactly one round, the very first one when I was teaching her how to play. Strange.

 

Indigo - A tile-laying, route-making game similar to Metro or Cable Car but instead of trains, you're moving gems along routes and trying to get them into your own "gateways" at the edge of the board to score them. Designed by famous designer Reiner Knizia, it's a pretty straight forward game with absolutely gorgeous components. Seriously, really pretty board and pieces. What's really fascinating is as the game scales to 3-4 players, players must share some of the gateways. So gems scored in those gateways will score for both players who share it. Creates an interesting dynamic and makes for some fun choices.

'

Race for the Galaxy - Easily one of the most difficult games I've ever learned, not because the gameplay is difficult to understand but simply because this game has TONS of iconography and just about every card out of the 100+ card deck is a little different. However, once you get passed the steep learning curve this game really opens up. It's amazingly balanced and has a ton of different strategies. My and I were a little unsure of it initially but it has quickly become a favorite for us. We love it.

 

Jason, I saw on BGG that you own this one but it didn't seem like a big hit with you...

You're making Seasons sound like a winner, Josh. 

 

As a way to cheer me up from getting laid off, my wife gave me my birthday present early: Castles of Burgundy! I've done the usual Jason "play it solo to learn the rules" thing, and I have to say it's a wonderfully designed game. I can't wait to give it some real table time soon.

 

My wife also said she'd play any game with me for my birthday, so...I'm excited to break out Android! Hope she'll still love me after that.

 

Sorry to hear this news, Jason. Certainly hope some opportunities pop up for you soon.

 

Castles of Burgundy is one of our favorite games (my wife says its her #1). Brilliantly designed game, Definitely made me a fan of Feld and "point salad" games. Think I finally pulled the trigger on it based on your own recommendation here, in fact. So, thanks!

Edited by Gavin Breeden

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 ...the game itself is heavy on chance and also has a lot of accounting/scorekeeping elements that can make it feel just a tad tedious. There really isn't much of a game here, to be honest, but it's pleasant if you just want to throw down some cards...

 

This description sounds remarkably similar to how I would describe Smash Up, which I know you love but you seem a little cool on Sentinels. How are they different?

 

On paper they do seem quite similar, actually-- something I remarked on before playing Sentinels-- with the obvious caveat that Sentinels is a cooperative game and Smash Up isn't.

 

In terms of playing them, though, I found the games to be wildly different-- though admittedly, I have just spent one afternoon with Sentinels, whereas I have probably played Smash Up 50+ times now with a dozen or more different people.

 

Every game of Smash Up I have played has been different, because the game actually presents you with a lot of interesting decisions to make and a lot of strategies to juggle. There is the huge decision of which decks you pick at the beginning, and then the matter of choosing which Bases to play on, making wise use of your Minions, pairing Minion and Action cards for combos, and other strategies specific to different factions.

 

Sentinels, however, felt fairly scripted to me. On a given turn, you will usually have 4-6 options available to you, yet it never really felt to me like there was much choice. Every time my turn came around, it seemed like there was one really obvious card for me to play, and then some other options that weren't really options at all because they just didn't fit the given scenario.

 

Additionally, in Smash Up, you are playing against another human being who is trying to outfox you, whereas in Sentinels the villain is controlled by pure chance: On each turn you flip the next card on the Villain deck, and carry out its basic instructions. The feel of it is very robotic, to the point where I think your ability to win or lose each game is really predetermined by how the cards in each deck happen to be shuffled.

 

If this all makes it seem like I disliked Sentinels, well, I didn't, because you do sort of get caught up in the story of it. As far as a game, though, it struck me as a little flat. Just my initial reaction, though.

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Haven't had a chance to play much lately. This past month has been kinda hectic. I did play Batman: Gotham City Strategy Game, with my brother which was a decent area influence game with more focus on cards than on dice. It's the kind of thing you could play with kids maybe 10 and up. I got it fairly cheep, so I'm sure it will be at least worth a few plays and something I can get people into because of the theme.

 

Also played a handful of games of Battlestar Galactic with my gaming group. I've suggested playing something else, but I've yet to be notified when we're going to board game instead of D&D, so I never bring anything on those nights. I did pick up 7 Wonders, since it can play a large group. 

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'Race for the Galaxy - Easily one of the most difficult games I've ever learned, not because the gameplay is difficult to understand but simply because this game has TONS of iconography and just about every card out of the 100+ card deck is a little different. However, once you get passed the steep learning curve this game really opens up. It's amazingly balanced and has a ton of different strategies. My and I were a little unsure of it initially but it has quickly become a favorite for us. We love it.

 

Jason, I saw on BGG that you own this one but it didn't seem like a big hit with you...

 

It's a game I really wanted to love — I bought it, played it a few times with a friend, then packed it up and let it collect dust. I recently pulled it out and re-read the rules and felt no excitement. I think my biggest turnoff is how I don't get the connection with the space theme. I realize lots of good games have tacked-on themes, but for some reason it just kills me here. 

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I played Sentinels of the Multiverse again last night-- and while I continue to admire many aspects of the game, I just don't like it nearly as much as I wish I did. Some of the problems that I thought would subside, once I got used to the rules, have actually become more pronounced in my mind-- namely, the fact that it feels like more than half the game is spent counting health points for the heroes, the villain, and other random minion, device, and environment cards.

 

Incidentally, last night was my first time ever winning the game-- and it was a spectacularly anticlimactic experience.

 

I guess I just feel more and more like there's not much of a game here-- just a lot of good ideas for a game.

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Have you played Marvel: Legendary, Josh? I don't think it and Sentinels are all that similar, but I have them filed away in my head in the same superhero box. I'd love to see how someone compares them. 

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I haven't, Jason, but I remember the three Dice Tower fellas recommending the Marvel game as a superior alternative to Sentinels-- though I think they like the latter game, as well.

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I finally had a chance to break in my new copy of Small World last night, and of course I loved it-- but I think there are already several fans of that game here.

 

Also, I may still be the only Smash Up player here, but if anyone does share my affection for that game then let me recommend the new Monster Smash expansion, which comes with four quite good, quite balanced new factions, all of which seem to pair well with both the base factions and with other expansions. In fact, I'd say it is nearly as essential as the Sci-Fi Double Feature pack.

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Obtained the little card drafting game Sushi Go and played it with family; seemed to go over well enough. The game is casual without being purely random or lacking in strategy, and the cute artwork-- which is very Nintendo, by the way-- really makes it endearing.

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