Every year I host a Gaming in the New Year party at my place on New Year’s Eve. This year was no exception.
I have a group of my friends over and we play games through the night and early into the morning. We take a short break for pizza but basically it’s about 12 hours of non-stop gaming.
I closed out 2018 and welcomed 2019 with 8 different games and 14 total plays.
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We started off the event with exactly 6 players. This included my two kids and we wanted to start with something everyone could play. I got the girls to grab their copy of King of Tokyo and the Power Up Expansion.
Just as I was explaining the rules, another gamer showed up so we decided to play with 7. Now technically King of Tokyo only plays 6 players, but power up comes with a 7th monster, so we just played with 7. While this played with the balance a bit (it was really scary to stay in Tokyo) it still worked.
I still dig King of Tokyo. It’s a solid Yahtzee based dice game that’s basically King of the Hill with Kaiju (giant monsters). It’s simple enough my kids can play (and play well) but with enough depth that adults dig it just as much. The power up expansion makes the game asymmetric giving each of the monsters unique powers and I think it’s a must own if adults are playing the game. It adds just enough depth to change the game from okay and kinda fun to actually good.
While we finished up King of Tokyo quite a few more people showed up. Everyone was still looking to play a big group game with everyone involved so I broke out Codenames.
I’m not a big party game fan and only own Codenames because a friend learned I didn’t own it, thought that was a travesty and bought me a copy. I had only tried to play my copy once before at a family party (with all non-gamers) and it flopped terribly. Being surrounded by games and friends I thought it was worth giving Codenames another shot and I’m glad I did.
We broke the group into two teams and played a best of three series. This came down to the fifth and final game, with my team ending up winning despite us being pretty terrible at clue giving. It was the other team’s mistakes that won us two of the three games. I did feel good that we won the final round legitimately.
In Codenames you have a grid of words in front of all the players. A code giver is elected from each team. They are given a random pattern that shows what words belong to each team. In addition there is one word that is the assassin and a few words that are neutral. The goal is to get your team to guess your words without guessing the assassin. If a team guesses the other team’s word that other team gets the point. Clues have to be one word clues and then the number of words on the board that apply to that clue.
So you may say Spider-Man 2 when you are trying to get the other team to guess Change and Webs, but you need to pay attention because if Octopus is on the board there’s a good chance your team will pick that instead of Change. It’s all about word association and trying to get into the head of the guesser.
I had a surprisingly good time. Before New Year’s Eve I would have told you I don’t like Codenames. Now I will say that I enjoy it with the right group.
At this point we had enough people at the party that we split into three groups. We had two groups playing games at my big table and another group playing stuff over by the TV and video game systems.
I was in this last group and the first thing we played was a three player game of Sagrada. I talked about Sagrada quite a bit last week so I won’t bother explaining what the games about or the rules here. Just check out last week’s Tabletop Gaming Weekly for more info.
What was different about this play was what we played three player. The interesting thing about playing three player in Sagrada is that you don’t use all the dice. You put them all in the bag but you aren’t going to go through the entire bag. This messes with the probabilities somewhat. Now there’s a really good chance that the dice aren’t going to be evenly distributed between all of the colours.
Now, I’m not saying this is a bad thing, or a good thing, just that it’s a thing. It’s something we noticed during play that I thought was interesting. It definitely removes any chance of counting all the dice to figure out the odds of pulling a certain colour, which can speed up play a bit in the last round but it can also mean that one player could be punished due to their random scoring card coming up the colour that there is the least of in that game.
After finishing Sagrada, I grabbed my shiny new copy of Gizmos.
Earlier in the day I had recording an unboxing video of a bunch of games. Gizmos was one of them. As part of the unboxing, I attempted to assemble the Gizmos gizmo and that didn’t go well. It broke during assembly. After the breakage I attempted to repair the ripped cardboard using some tape and glue in hopes that it would dry in time for the party.
So I tentatively attempted to assemble the Gizmos gizmo again and it seemed to go well enough. After a couple of test marble drops everything seemed to be working.
I strongly suggest anyone that does pick up Gizmos to do this with their game. The top piece has to come off to store the game but the bottom half stays assembled when you put it in the box so reinforce that thing with tap and consider gluing all the joints. I did and now my copy is nice and sturdy.
Gizmos is an engine building game all about building neat gizmos and doodads for a science fair. You do this by getting energy from this gumball machine like hopper and using it to buy and power new machines.
At the start of the game all you can do is pick a ball from the machine, pick a machine from the board and file it for later use, build a machine from the board or from your file or use research to look ahead and potentially build or file a machine not yet on the board. In addition you have two slots you can fill with conversion machines that let you change one type of power into another or double that source of power or with upgrade machines that let you hold more energy, file more machines or look at more tiles when you research.
Each machine you buy modifies one of these things. So pick machines go off when you pick energy of a certain colour. Build machines go off when you build new machines of that colour. File machines go off when you file machines. The trick is trying to build machines that set off other machines, basically making some kind of Rube Goldberg like chain of machines.
Machines come in three levels, with the level one machines generally giving you one small thing for doing something. The level two machines are improved versions either letting you do two things for doing one thing or giving you twice as much. The level three machines are expensive and often generate victory points or end game scoring. All machines are worth victory points. The game ends when someone builds their 16th machine or someone builds their fourth level 3 machine.
I really enjoyed Gizmos. Enough so that I insisted we play a second time after fully grasping the rules after the first play. I’ve been itching to play it again since New Years and can’t wait to teach others how to play this one just so I can play it more. This game gets compared a lot to Splendor and I will say right now that I would take Gizmos over Splendor any day. Heck I would take Gizmos over Century Spice Road any day as well.
After Gizmos I moved back to the main table. Midnight had hit at this point. Some of the guests had headed home and my kids were in bed. At this point we had 10 players and split into two groups of 5.
I took this opportunity to show Sean a real life physical game of Tokaido. We play all the time on Board Game Arena (BGA) but he had never seen the physical copy. Of course we also used the Crossroads expansion, I don’t play without it now.
I’ve talked about Tokaido multiple times both here and on the podcast. You don’t need to hear about the most zen, backstabby, peaceful, friendship ruining, game I own again.
All five of us playing it enjoyed it, and the final score ended up ridiculously close. One of the players had never played before and loved it, especially the theme. Another two had never tired Crossroads and really liked the new options.
Sean also enjoyed it but did note that he found it annoying having to keep score, something he was used to BGA doing for us. I do have to agree with him. There are a lot of ways to get points in this game and it seem like every action gets you at least one point, so it’s easy to miss some points along the way. Having the computer track that for you is a big advantage of playing on BGA.
After Tokaido finished the other group was still in the middle of their game of Terraforming Mars so I broke out The Climbers.
The Climbers is a fantastic, very physical, race game. Players are trying to race to the top of a mountain represented by various shaped wooden blocks. Each side of each block is painted in one of the five player colours or white. On a players turn they can climb, then move one block and then climb again. When climbing, player pawns can only be moved up by the smallest block height (which is just a bit shorter than the pawns themselves) and pawns can only move onto surfaces of their own colour or onto the white side of a block.
To make the climb easier each player is given two wooden ladders, one short and one long. Any time while climbing the player can spend a ladder to climb up double the normal height (with a small ladder) or quadruple the normal height (with a large ladder). Players also get a blocking disc they can use once per game to prevent other players from moving a block.
While Climbers requires some dexterity to play it’s not actually a dexterity game. It’s more of a spatial awareness game with a lot of take that elements, where you are trying to build the mountain so you can climb as high as possible while also preventing anyone else from going up at the same time.
This game usually doesn’t disappoint, but for some reason I just wasn’t into it on New Year’s. It was hitting about 3am at that point and I think that had a lot to do with it. The game wasn’t bad, and I still dig The Climbers overall but I just wasn’t feeling it this game. A part of me wonders if the game just isn’t as good with 5 players. It did feel extra cutthroat.
The Terraforming Mars game was still going (that game is LONG with 5 players and Venus Next) and it was just Sean and I left over from The Climbers. All of the other players called it a night and headed home.
Sean and I took this opportunity for him to finally learn Race for the Galaxy one of my all time favourite games.
For the first game I actually took the time to sort out all of the expansions from my copy of the game. This took some time, as I have three expansions and a handful of promo cards I’ve picked up over the years. I think it was worth it though, as the base game is solid and removing the expansions removes some of the more complicated card abilities.
We played through one teaching game with the base set. Since we just had the base game there was no drafting or picking of starting worlds. We just got one random world and a starting hand and got going. We used the proper two player rules so each of us was picking two phases to act in each turn.
Now I’ve talked about Race For the Galaxy before and I think I’ve already covered the mechanics so I won’t explain the full game here. Basically it’s a card based 4X game that uses a very pure action selection mechanism derived from San Juan (which itself was derived from Puerto Rico). Actions only happen if one of the players selects that action that round, but when selected all players carry out the action with the player who selected it getting a bonus.
Our first game went well. Sean seemed to really grok the game this time around and actually managed to win this first match. I asked if he was up for a rematch and suggested adding in the first expansion, The Gathering Storm. I personally think Gathering Storm is a must have have and use expansion because it better balances the cards, allows for more combos, and the goal tiles give you direction at the beginning of the game.
Sean agreed and we played a second round after putting all The Gathering Storm cards back into the deck. This second game went even better than the first. It was obvious by the third round that Sean now fully got it and we had a rather close game. I ended up winning in the end with a solid military strategy but Sean was catching up with a good production/consumption cycle building. Had the game gone on longer I think he would have quickly caught me.
I have to admit some relief that Sean enjoyed the game. I really dig Race for the Galaxy, and I love the fact that we will be able to play together in the future over Board Game Arena or the next time we get together in person.
Technically Race for the Galaxy was the last game of the party. By the time we finished our second game the other group’s game ended and they headed home. Sean grabbed his spot on the couch and I headed to bed myself.
There was still one more game played on New Year’s Day though and that was KeyForge.
Before Sean headed home to Hamilton we wanted to try recording me teaching him to play a game. He specifically requested that I show him KeyForge and that sounded cool to me. We rearranged my game room, set up a couple of cameras and started everything recording.
I’m still new to KeyForge. I talked about my first experience a couple of weeks ago where I lamented not having a starter set. This was fixed for me Xmas morning as my wife gifted me a copy of the starter set. I unboxed the starter set New Year’s Eve before the party (video coming soon), and that’s what I used to teach Sean.
We each picked one of the starter set’s pre-set Archon decks and I taught him the game. About half way through the teach we started playing as it was much easier to explain some of the concepts while playing instead of trying to front load everything. Since we already had the cameras running we decided to just keep playing and finish a full game and record the entire thing.
Now this is something we will eventually be releasing on YouTube. We’ll be sure to let you know both here on the blog, on social media and on the podcast whenever that goes live. I think folk will dig it.
As for our game of KeyForge, it was my most enjoyable yet. After only three plays, I feel I get most of the mechanics and at least some of the strategies. I haven’t figured out any amazing combos yet but I feel like I know what I’m doing now. Sean also seemed to pick it up quickly. Now the two of us have played our fair share of two player card games against each other over the years and I’m sure that helped.
That’s something that hit me hard. Mid game I looked across the table and got a big wave of nostalgia from my University days and sitting and playing CCGs with Sean. KeyForge did a great job of bringing back that feeling. I could tell Sean was feeling it too. He had that “I must buy more of this game” look in his eyes after unlocking his second key.
I dig KeyForge. I dig it a lot.
At this point I will say KeyForge is an excellent two player card game. I will also admit that I now understand why people are buying multiple decks for this game. You don’t need them, all you ever need is one deck. You can play that deck forever, and truly learn it and master it. But it’s so much fun to try out other decks and other factions.
I personally want to try at least one deck featuring all the factions. Then I can see hunting down a deck with the three factions I find I enjoy the most. Despite not being collectible I can see spending quite a bit of money on this game. Though I don’t have to. That’s the brilliance of KeyForge. You don’t need more than one deck to play. You may want more, but you don’t need it.
What I’m probably going to do myself is wait for a local sealed deck tournament and enter that in order to scratch that desire to get more cards.
So that was how I closed out 2018 and welcomed in 2019. Lots of gaming! Do you play games on New Year’s Eve? If so, what did you play? Let me know in the comments.