Each week I take a look back at the previous week. Consider it a #WhatDidYouPlayMondays review. I’ll be letting you know what I played and share some thoughts on each game.
Monday night I finally got The Colonists off my pile of shame. The big news though, was that Saturday was our launch party. For those of you that didn’t have a chance to stop by the live stream, I can tell you that a great time was had by all and we got a ton of gaming in during the 12-hour event. I personally played nine different board games that night and there was lots of gaming going on that I wasn’t involved in. Overall it was a huge success and a ton of fun.
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Last week I talked about getting games off of my Pile of Shame. Work on that continued this week. Monday night I managed to get one of the heaviest games I own off of the pile. This game was The Colonists and it’s heavy in two ways. Until I picked up Gloomhaven, it was the physically heaviest game I owned. It’s a tall box and there is so much cardboard in there! It took over an hour just to punch everything out and sort it, and we didn’t even punch everything out. We just got out the stuff for playing through era one.
The Colonists is a civilization building game. You start in era one with just a couple of farmers, a blacksmith shop that makes you tools and three starting resources (your choice between wood and clay). The “board” is a set of hex tiles that includes a couple markets and a bunch of action spaces. You move a pawn around this board and wherever it stops you take that action. In era one these are simple things like fishing for food, harvesting lumber, mining for clay and building some very basic buildings. As eras go on new spots come out and the civilization level advances. Farmers are replaced by citizens and eventually merchants. You go from building pubs, to theaters, to casinos. Basically, the timeline advances and the options grow and everything ends up being bigger and better and worth more points.
One neat thing in this game is that there are four eras and you can choose which ones to play. So you can play a full game from era one to four, or you could just play era three. Another cool bonus is that the game has a “save” system where you can stop at the end of an era, put the game away and start up some other day at the next era.
Since this was our first time, we decided to just play through era one. We played with three players and had a good time. While the rules and the number of options can seem daunting, the actual gameplay is very simple. All you really do is move your guy and then either get resources or spend them. We found the game to be extremely tight and it seems to be all about optimizing each and every turn. We all made quite a few mistakes this first play (as in made bad decisions or didn’t quite understand the value of some of the options) so decided not to bother saving our game. Instead, we plan to play again from era one next time and probably go through eras one and two. I’m looking forward to that next game.
Now we skip forward to the fun part, the launch party!
To celebrate the launch of The Tabletop Bellhop I had a big gaming extravaganza at my place on Saturday. A group of us went out for ramen for lunch then came back here and played games for 12 hours (actually more like 13.5 for some of us). It was an open house, with gamers coming and going throughout the day. We also streamed the entire thing live on Twitch. Except for a few technical difficulties it went rather well. You can check out these live videos over on our Twitch Channel. They will be up there for 13 days and then will vanish… forever! Unless someone downloads them or something.
At the very start of the event we had exactly seven players, and I wanted to have everyone play something together so I grabbed 7 Wonders off my shelf. 7 Wonders is one of the best, big group, games out there. It’s a civilization building game where the main mechanic is card drafting. You are given a hand of seven cards. You pick one to use and pass the rest on to a player adjacent to you. You then either build that card, work on your wonder, or discard the card for money. Cards represent buildings and can give you resources, military strength, points, special one use per turn abilities or science icons (sets of science icons score big points at the end of the game). To play cards you have to have the right resources and one of the neat bits in the game is that you can buy resources from the two players that are to either side of you. Military strength is also compared to your neighbour’s and can award points at the end of each round. What this all means is that despite the fact seven people are at the table playing, you all play simultaneously so there’s very little downtime and you only really have to focus on the two players next to you. We all enjoyed it.
After the first round of 7 Wonders, a few more gamers had shown up and a group split off to play Azul, while another group of us played a second round of 7 Wonders. This went even better than the first round as there were a few players who hadn’t played before the first time around and it takes playing once to really grok the scoring. Scores were much closer the second play.
When 7 Wonders finished we still had a big group sitting at my main table so I grabbed another big group game: Between Two Cities. We played two six player games mixing up the seating between each round. Between Two Cities is a brilliant short game where you are building two cities; one with the player on your left and one with the player on your right. It’s another drafting game, like 7 Wonders where you are drafting tiles. Each tile represents a type of urban zones (housing, offices, etc) You draft two tiles and then placing them into the two cities you are responsible for. Each type of tile has a unique way of scoring. For example, you want groups of parks together, whereas you want offices in a straight line and the placement of taverns don’t matter but you want four different types in your city if possible. The most brilliant part of this game is the way you work with the other two players next to you and the fact that your final score is the value of your worst city.
Next I set up a quick game of Rumble in the Dungeon. In the other room a couple was checking out Bottom of the Ninth and my wife had taken our webmaster and her husband upstairs to play a game of Terraforming Mars at the dining room table.
Rumble in the Dungeon is a very fun, very quick, filler game. You set up a ten room dungeon and put a fantasy character in each room. In the room furthest from the exit you put a treasure chest. Each round players either move a character or resolve a fight. A fight happens any time there is more than one character in a room. To resolve a fight you just pick one of the characters in the room and remove them from the board. The winning character is either the last one standing or the one that gets out with the treasure. They are worth 10 points, then every other character gets scored in the order they were eliminated. So the second to last character standing is worth 9, then 8, etc. Here’s the brilliant part, at the start of each round you randomize which characters each player owns, and you score points only for those characters. You then reset the dungeon and do it again two more times. It’s silly. It’s quick and it’s fun.
Sometime when we were playing Rumble in the Dungeon a few more guests showed up and they set up a game of Zooloretto. After Rumble in the Dungeon ended it felt like time to move onto some heavier games. I started setting up Wasteland Express Delivery Service. My wife had a game of Terraforming Mars going and a friend who’s into heavier games agreed to teach a group Bora Bora.
One big thought on Wasteland Express Delivery Service. Do not break this one out for the non-gamers in your group. It’s also not the best choice for the gamers who haven’t played a ton of different games. While we had fun there were a couple of players who found it a bit overwhelming due to all of the fiddly rules. It’s not that it’s a hard game, but there are a lot of things going on and there are some silly rules that aren’t obvious at first. The biggest one of these is that finishing a delivery on a quest card is different from delivering goods to an outpost with demand for that good. Completing a quest is an “outpost” action and you only get the reward on the quest card. Selling goods to a town with the right demand is a delivery action and you get paid market value. It’s little things like that, that made the game less fun than it could have been. Lesson learned, try to remember that not everyone has the same gaming experience and don’t just assume that players are familiar with typical pickup and deliver mechanics. All that said I actually really enjoyed it as did one of the other players, both of us had played before and playing with the proper rules made a difference and made the game better.
One of the big things we had planned for the Launch Party was to play Big Trouble in Little China the board game. I picked this up at Origins and have really been itching to get it to the table. What I didn’t realize when I bought it was that despite coming with six different characters that you can play, the actual player count is only four. Doh! Bad move for a party with lots of people at it. If I hadn’t announced we were going to stream our play of Big Trouble, I would have probably picked a different game to play.
The first thing I found with Big Trouble is that it just looks cool. The second thing was that set up is quite fiddly. Having to make the minion deck. Having to make the quest deck (which was extra confusing since it says there are only two hero missions each and my game has four). Figuring out what all the tokens were for. Trying to find the right spots on the board. All of it just took longer than expected. If you are ever going to play this with your group I suggest getting it all set up before anyone gets there.
Actually playing Big Trouble in Little China went smoother but I wouldn’t call it smooth. The way you spend dice to do actions is very counter-intuitive. Something makes you want to match the symbols to the actions and you don’t do that. The symbols only tell you where to slot your dice, and all that matters for is if it becomes an epic action or not. So to move it doesn’t matter if your die shows Body, Mind or Spirit, all that matters is if the slot you put it in is epic or not. Everyone took some time to get this and I still think one of the players didn’t grok it by the time we were done playing.
As for the actual gameplay: we got rocked! Badly. We couldn’t roll a die for anything. I played Wang and I went to 6 different Chinese Hells (“The Chinese have a lotta hells”) before the game was over. We got totally surrounded by thugs on the Chinatown board and only managed to complete I think three side quests and no main quests before we had to flip the board and battle Lo Pan. Now once we got to the final showdown it was cool to learn that since we failed so badly on the first half of the game the second half was made a bit easier. It wasn’t nearly easy enough though. We managed to get two hits on Lo Pan before he won and took over Chinatown.
Looking back on the game after we finished it looks like we got far too distracted by the minions that were spawning on the map and didn’t focus on quests nearly enough. We also may have gotten very unlucky draws on the Big Trouble deck of cards, as each time we drew the threat moved up by 3. Then there was the horrible die rolling. Even with all of that, it still felt like the Showdown phase of the game started way too quickly. I’m going to have to re-read the rules and see if we played the Extreme version at the party. I wouldn’t be surprised if we did.
By the time we started Big Trouble in Little China, it was getting late. Most of the guests were heading home. By the time we finished, there weren’t many people left. It was just my co-host Sean and I downstairs. There was still a group upstairs playing the longest game of Terraforming Mars ever. For a bit, Sean and I just hung out and then I commented something about how we just did an episode on two-player games, so we should probably play some.
The first game I taught Sean was The Duke. This is a fantastic chess-like game where you don’t have to memorize how the pieces move as their moves are printed right there on the tiles themselves. The neat part about this game is that every time you move one of your pieces they flip over and the moves they can make are different on the second side. We had a very solid game that wasn’t over too quickly. Sean did well for a first play. It’s hard to be good when you don’t know what to expect on the various tiles.
After The Duke I broke out Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire. Sean and I used to play Warhammer back in the 80s. Big mass battles of my Orcs & Goblins vs his Dark Elves. I thought it would be neat to show him just how different at least one of the modern Warhammer games were to that game we remembered from when we were kids. I talked a lot about Shadespire last week and on the podcast (In Ep 003, which goes live August 14th) so I won’t repeat myself here. I’ll just say that we had a good time. The game was just as close as my last one, where there was a good chance for either side to win in the last round. The dice were not with Sean though and my Khorn band decimated his Sigmarites.
After the Terraforming Mars game ended we were down to only four players: Myself, Sean, my wife and our webmaster Aeryn. Aeryn was the person who asked our first Ask The Bellhop question which became our first answer blog post and the topic for our first podcast. That was the Catan question. It seemed only fitting that the four of us most involved with this project play some Catan.
I ordered a copy of Catan: Chocolate Edition specifically for this launch party and to play with Sean, Aeryn and my wife. I expected a total joke of a game and was pleased to learn that there’s more Catan in this game than its name. You start with two settlements separated by roads. You spin on a spinner each round to generate resources. These are the standard Catan resources and the game comes with little tiny cards for them. You use these resources to build more roads and additional settlements. You can even convert your settlements into cities. Instead of development cards, in the Chocolate Edition, you can build Knights, these let you steal cards from other players. Knights are worth 1/2 point each and have to be stored in a city. Settlements and Cities are the same as in normal Catan, worth 1 and 2 points respectively. It’s a race to 5 points and in the end, you get to eat all of your cities, roads, and knights. It was fun. Way more fun than I expected and the chocolate wasn’t bad. I think it was Aeryn that called it Xmas Chocolate, the kind you get in Advent Calendars.
At this point, it was late, like 1:30am late. But we announced we would be playing until 2 am and everyone was still up and good to go so I broke out the full version of Settlers of Catan. Yes, I have the original version from when it was still called Settlers. Now it’s been a long time since I’ve played vanilla Catan and it was quite fun. We had a super cutthroat game, one of the most cutthroat I’ve played. Not only were people being nasty with the robber and abusing the monopoly card, they were also placing settlements so that only two fit on each tile and we were all cutting each other off. We had a great time. It was the first time Aeryn had played and she loved it. It probably didn’t hurt that she won.
Overall the entire Launch Party was a big awesome day of gaming. I played 11 games throughout the day, 9 different ones. There were people gaming all over my house, at the main table where we were broadcasting the live show, off to the side in the entertainment room and upstairs at my dining room table. I had friends stopping in and gaming with us all day. We streamed the whole thing and had some fans of the show stopping in to chat and say hi. We gave away some prizes. It was a ton of fun.
Thanks to everyone who attended both in person and virtually through Twitch. You all rock!
Finally, Sunday afternoon before he drove home to Hamilton, I kidnapped Sean and brought him to a Second Cup in a different city where I forced him to play Azul with D and I.
So what did you play this past week? Can you top my 9 different games in one day?