Entries in Board Games (7)

Thursday
Feb072013

Everyone Brought Their ‘A’ Game

SONY DSC

February 2nd may have seemed to be a write off at first glance.  There was a fresh layer of snow.  It was cold and very grey. However, there were many reasons for being upbeat about the day.  Wiarton Willie did not see its shadow, giving us an early spring. It was Winterlude’s opening weekend.  The highlight for gamers, though, was the 6th Game Summit.

The winner of the Heroscape tournamet, Trong KhoiClose to 1000 people came through the doors of the Palais des Congrès for the convention.  Inside, free tables were at a premium.  Organizers were expecting that once the convention closed its doors the next day, close to 2000 people will have been there.

Part of that may have been due to the incorporation of the Geek Market to this year’s convention. Local artisans gathered together showing off their wares. Everything from steampunk watches to medieval inquisition kits was there for those looking to find something unique at the event.

At the other end, those looking for insight on bringing a game from a concept to tabletops everywhere could listen in on a talk from Jason Anarchy, the creator of Drinking Quest. The audience was treated to an informative and funny recap of his experiences bringing the game to market.  Quite a few in the audience seemed to be ready to run home and implement all the advice given.

One person who didn’t end up needing his advice, though, was in the main hall.  Last year Louis-Nicolas Dozois showed his new game Shake Out.  The day after the Game Summit convention, his game got picked up by a publisher. Since then, the game has been renamed to Roll n’ Bump. From there it’s ben nothing but success for him. He managed to get his game sold in major retailers across Quebec like Archambault. The morning of this year’s convention, he got news that his game will now be available at Miss Tiggy Winkles.  Turns out this convention is a great place to discover games before they get popular everywhere else.

New to the staple of giant games this year is Giant Catan!That was likely the biggest draw of the event.  Gamers were able to pick up and try any new game that caught their eye.  They could even enlist the help of the volunteers in explaining a new game.  Ashley Cabecinha, whose business card lists her as the Most Honourable Chairwoman of The Meeple’s Republic, was on hand to help anyone with a new game.

Her company holds events to help people socialize while learning a new game.

“We want people to understand why we like board games,” Cabecinha said.

For those that went, that summed up the day entirely.

Friday
Feb012013

Put Your Game Face On

They decided to show me their best game face.

There was a time when the mere mention of board games elicited dreary images of playing a monotonous round of Monopoly.  Things have changed from then.  Now people actively seek new games to play with friends at board game cafes and watch web series based around playing them.  With Game Summit at the Palais des Congrès, there’s even an entire convention devoted to finding, learning and playing new games.

This year’s event, running from February 2nd to 3rd, is predicted to be nearly twice to three times as popular as last year’s according the event’s Chief Games Ambassador, Marquis Côté.  That’s saying something since last year they had about 900 people in attendance. 

This is likely thanks in part to the event’s friendliness to newcomers as well as veteran game players.

“If you want to learn a new board game, this is the place to be,” Côté said.

Logo_GameSummit_ELearning a new game can be quite an intimidating process.  The printed rule sets can often be difficult to understand.  If the rules come in a thick booklet, they can even be a little intimidating. To that end, there will be 100 volunteers around to show newcomers how to play any game that interests them.  Intimidating instructions can be left in the box.

Along the same lines, the event has become even friendlier to families with little children.  The introduction of the Kinder Zone to this year’s event sees an entire section where little children can play.  Parents can drop the children off with the staff from Monkeying Around while they go and explore the rest of the event.

“We know, as parents ourselves, we know that spending four hours and having kids around and trying to play a game is difficult,” Côté said.

Those looking to take a little bit of a break between gaming sessions can also find some shopping available.  The Ottawa Geek Market has joined forces with Game Summit to bring together exhibitors and artisans for the event.  Two entire halls will be devoted to artisans showing their wares.  So if a steampunk timepiece is what’s desired, chances are it’ll be here.

The event has been picking up steam year after year.  People from all over Ontario and Quebec make their way down to Game Summit each year.  Some even come from as far as Boston.  It’s garnering the reputation among geeks, and those who want to be, as something not to be missed.

“That’s what we want it to be,”  Côté said.

Monday
Jan212013

Star Trek Catan Review: “To Half-Heartedly Go Where No One has Gone Before”

star trek catan

Licensed games can be hit or miss. You might come across games that are genuinely good like a Game of Thrones or one of the myriad Star Wars games.  On the other hand, the game can seem like a cash grab that leaves fans with a feeling of disappointment and lost opportunity.  Unfortunately, Star Trek Catan falls into the latter category.

For those unfamiliar with the original Settlers of Catan, the game feels like Risk and Monopoly had a baby.  That baby then grew up to be cooler than either of its parents. In fact, those who play it often call it cardboard crack.

In the game, you play the role of a colonizer of Catan.  You collect resources and trade with your opponents to build roads and settlements. Part of the strategy comes in trying to prevent other players from getting resources they need while making sure you get your bases covered. The goal is to get 10 victory points and settle Catan.

So if it has such a well regarded pedigree, where does this game go wrong? It seems like little thought went into bringing the Star Trek license to the game.  Take, for instance, the pieces representing the players.

Roads in this game are replaced by a load of Enterprises while villages and cities are replaced with Federation starbases.  The swap seems like the obvious one to make at first.  A little more thought would have seen each player in control of a different alien race like the Romulans, Klingons or the Gorn instead of all players in the role of the Federation.  In fact, that arrangement would make much more sense in the context of the game.  After all, why would the Federation compete against each other to colonize the galaxy?

foodThat same carelessness to details creeps into other aspects of the game.  I seriously have to question whoever thought that dark blue is a good choice for a player colour when the entire board is mainly black.  Then there are questionable artistic decisions such as the art for the food resource card. It looks like two Big Mac boxes.

There even seems to be a lackluster attempt to tie members of the Enterprise to the game.  You’re given a card each with a different character on it.  These characters will provide you with certain bonuses.  The problem is that their effect on the game is so negligible that there really is no point having them there.  The game is actually better if you ignore them completely.

That’s not to say that there isn’t anything positive to say about it.  The entire set seems to have a higher build quality to it.  In almost all games of the original Catan, the board never felt solid.  At any point, you were certain it would break apart.  That isn't the case with this version.  Everything snaps together solidly making the board at least feel like it’s of a bit higher quality.

That said, this game has a whole host of problems that prevent me from recommending it to anyone.  It’s more expensive than the normal Catan.  In fact, in most cases it can be at least $20 more.  There’s nothing in this game for a Catan player to warrant paying that much more for a game that is basically the same thing but with a pallet swap.  The lack of detail tying it to the Star Trek universe means it’s hard to even recommend to Star Trek fans.  The only group I can see this appealing to are collectors due to its limit availability.  If that’s the only appeal, than unfortunately it’s a poor one since it means it won’t be played often if at all.  Isn’t that the point of a game, after all?

Monday
Apr092012

Shake Out! Winner

So, after some careful deliberation, I’ve decided that the winner of the board game is Captain Spectacular.  That paragraph long smack down left my head reeling.  If he said that to me in real life, I would have no counter to it.  It was like being one up-ed by the child of Shakespeare and Asimov.  So well done to you sir! 

Sunday
Mar252012

Shake Out! Contest

So I’ve decided to run a contest.  In my possession is a signed copy of the game Shake Out!  If you want it, leave your best and most creative trash talk in the comments  of the review along with some method for me to contact you if you win.  The entries have to be free of cursing and sexual innuendo.  I’ll decide on the winner April 9th at 1 pm.  Good luck everyone!