Changes, about time…

Dear readers,

I have decided, once again, to make a change to this blog. Unlike the previous ‘changes’ this time I am finally free of college and now have free time to make good on my promises. I began this blog in an effort to play with my writing skills, but lacking direction I floundered a bit and had nothing to force me into adherence. I am now setting down what may be called a ‘mission statement.

I have always been a gamer and have announced my love of all types of games, even beyond role playing variety. Of late I have found myself drawn strongly towards board gaming. I know that when I say this most people envision “Clue” or “Monopoly” and those are board games to be sure. But there are other board games, ones that involve more than tossing a die and pushing a bit of plastic around a track. I have recently played a board game that brought up feelings of anxiety and panic, more so that most other forms of media. I have also spent much of my free time refurbishing an old board game that I used to love.

So I am going to begin focusing on these. I have finished my initial list and I count myself owning nineteen board games. This includes certain dice and card games as well. After factoring in games owned by friends, and a shopping spree I plan to embark on for my birthday, this list should rise to thirty-plus. To those who enjoy my RPG reviews and postings, I will not neglect them. I like to feel that the line between board game and role playing game is a blurry one so RPG reviews will still be at home here.

And here the final twist hits. If I am limiting my blog to RPGs and board games it is to give me focus. But focus does not shape a thing or set up limits. I am deciding now to limit myself via brevity, clarity, and conciseness. And to help me do so I will attempt to do these reviews in video.

Yes, video. My goal is to write a review that contains a simple intro, a clear covering of the rules, and then my opinion and final rating of the game. There are many video reviews out there, and many of them long and filled with ‘amusing anecdotes’ and ‘rambling’. These videos are good in their own right but I aim to create something more accessible. I plan to create videos so that not only will my writing be force to conform but also so that I can practice conveying information and maintaining a professional appearance.. So I plan to aim for videos no longer than ten minutes in length with only minimal ‘self stories’ that actually tie into a subject and convey rules or subject information.

I do not have an exact date for these reviews to begin. I still have some preparation to make but I should be ready to start rolling in about a month, maybe a bit longer. At first I may release one video every two weeks but I would like to do a video a week if possible.

Finally, I think I have enough material for a year’s worth of reviews, longer if I’m lazy. But if there is a certain product you wish reviewed I will accept gifts and review those…or just give me a name and I’ll see what I can do. I’m a poor man, so the gift option is the best. Heh.

My name is Jack, and I am a gamer.

 

On boardgames, a random selection

So…it’s been awhile.

In an effort to ‘jump back in’ so to speak I thought I would spend a post away from my usual fare. No movies, television shows, or video games. Today I’m going to talk about board games, a subject too often neglected.

I have mentioned before that I love all kinds of games, board games included. I actually have one or two that I take wherever I go, in case the party winds down and we need something to do. Whilst loading up groceries it occurred to me that I have been toting around four games for a while. I thought today, as a minor means of randomness, I would give a mini review of each product.

 

Betrayal at House on the Hill. I have written about this game before, but it deserves a second look. This is my current favorite board game. Most of the people whom have played it enjoy the experience; the crew at my local library liked it enough to buy a copy and make it a staple of their game days.

In betrayal a game consists of two sections: exploration and the haunt. In the beginning the players work together, exploring the house and gathering weapons and clues. In the second half one of these players will turn traitor and the houses mystical nature will fall upon them. Then it’s time for action, where the traitor tries to murder the players and the players tries to survive.

Survival is determined by which of the 50 random missions to get. Adding to this, Betrayal’s tile-based modular board very nearly ensures that you will never have the same game twice. It’s a fun game, dripping with style and atmosphere. The characters are likable, if not crazy, the scenarios are inventive, and the wealth of quests and random nature make this one of the few high-end games to justify its price.

I take it everywhere I go, and I try to spread the word to everyone.

 

Monopoly. A classic staple of the board game world and how I hate it. The cutthroat atmosphere is almost certain to provoke arguments, and with a smart group of players (or just some really dumb ones) the game can last forever. Perhaps I’m just bitter, this game is popular and well known so it’s possible I just have a bad taste left over from childhood.

I bought this copy because I ran into a friend who had never played Monopoly. I figure everyone deserves the chance to hate their friends, so I bought a copy. We played, there was some antagonism and the game was not finished, but it was mostly an enjoyable experience.

Also, to be fair, Monopoly does feature easy-to-understand rules, and an open-ended and evolving board. It’s a classic for a reason: it’s more complex than a majority of its brethren yet remains simple enough to teach in a night. The version I bought also includes a ‘speed die’ to help speed up the game, a feature I really want to try. It’s also interesting to read the full rules from an adult perspective; the makers of Monopoly are not stupid and know how the game gets played so there is an entire section devoted to shooting down popular house rules such as ‘teaming up’ or ‘free parking gives cash’

I’m not a big fan, but still it is Monopoly and it deserves a spot in my trunk.

 

Bump in the Night. As much as I love Betrayal there still comes the point where you want to try something new. As a fan of co-operative gameplay, a horror theme, and tile based/modular gameplay, I began looking towards “Arkham Horror.” Seeing it listed as a 60 dollar game caused me to stop looking. Instead I picked up this 20 dollar entry.

Bump in the Night has its heart in the right place, but it just never sticks the landing. In this game you play as the ghosts and are annoyed to find that a group of girls have invaded your home. The goal is to use your varied monsters to scare the girls into running away or passing out. It’s an awesome premise, but it soon falls apart.

Firstly, each player is in competition with each other, owning duplicate sets of monsters the focus is not on ‘getting the invaders out’ but instead ‘getting more out than your friends.’ It’s not a deal breaker, but in actual play it lessens the atmosphere. The invaders consist of 20 identical little girls, which seems to fit the atmosphere but then you wonder how so many grade-schoolers got so lost. Using a group of varied NPCs seems a better option, with each character having various phobias and fears.

On the monster side of the deal things are a bit dry. The monsters look cool, but their actual abilities vary little, mostly just in ‘how scary’ they are. To scare a girl out of the house you have to set up a system of monsters and locked doors, so that the girls will run from room to room, encountering new monsters, and will hopefully be lead outside. It’s an interesting mechanic, but it really feels like you are just opening paths for the rats.

It’s a shame really; the game is pretty well made. The board consists of six tiles that, while having to be placed in the same place each time, have two sides to them which gives a decent amount of randomness. I also give full marks for including plastic minis for the girls and the monsters, the game would have worked just as well, and could have been manufactured cheaper, if the pieces had been cardboard, but the plastic really ups the scale of the game. My one complaint, content wise, is that game set up calls for a random number between 1 and 6 to be decided. They do so by having numbers printed at the bottom of the action cards and having you drawn an amount of these and use those numbers for randomization. For a game this well manufactured the inclusion of a simple six-sided die should have been a no-brainer. Granted I have a bajillion D6s laying around, but it’s the oversight I question.

Anyways, Bump in the Night is a beautiful game at an affordable price. It just never nails the atmosphere it was going for and feels more like an inverted game of pac-man. I’d recommend it with the hope that some fans could work up alternate play modes for it.

 

Malarkey. The final game currently in my trunk is a party game, vaguely concerned with trivia. I say vaguely because the trivia included is barely useful to know and serves only to support the real nature of this game: outright lies.

Play begins when one players pulls a trivia card which could be something like, What happens to the holes that get punched out of binder paper? Once the question has been read the player puts the card into one of many identical holders, shuffles them, and hands them out. The players then check their holders to see if they got the correct answer, or nothing. Play continues with each person either: giving the right answer but in their own words, or making up something convincing should they not have the answer. Once everyone has answered players then bet on who had the most convincing answer. Points are awarded for receiving bets or for betting on the right answer.

Sometimes, due to the random dealing, a player who doesn’t have the answer will make up the real answer before the truth holder’s turn. Duplicate answers are not allowed meaning the truth holder must now make up a convincing lie. This is where the game name comes from as it is called ‘pulling a malarkey.’ In this instance the truth holder gains double points, but will lose points if no one votes for him.

It’s a fun game, especially if you have a group of creative individuals who can think on their feet.

 

And that’s what I got in my trunk.

In Which Betrayal Becomes the Name of the Game

Last night we all were a little disorganized and there was some lateness involved so to kill time we played a board game while waiting on the last player. However the game took a while to resolve so instead of trying to shift gears and such we just had another round of the board game. I think fun was had.

It was actually a board game I had recently bought: Betrayal at House on the Hill. Some history: this game was actually released some years ago but troubles in the company led to its removal from store shelves. However, it sold well and people enjoyed it and over the years interest in it has been significant. Finally a second printing of the game was released just eleven days ago. I had heard of this game almost a year ago and attempted many ways of obtaining a copy. Finally I heard of the new edition coming down the road and I decided to bide my time.

And now I own it.

The premise of the game is that you are one of twelve characters (it’s a six player max game, each game piece can be used to represent one of two separate characters) each connected to the others in some way. For unknown reasons they have decided to explore an old house…on a hill. The game is tile based, so each room you enter is randomly drawn meaning the board will never be the same way twice (barring very random coincidences). You must explore the house, revealing rooms and collecting items, and surviving events.

Eventually you will collect Omen cards after each you must make a haunt roll. Should you fail the roll the haunt begins, and that is where the ‘betrayal’ comes in; after the haunt one of the players will become the ‘traitor’. The game comes with two books, one for the survivors and one for the traitor. The traitor must read his own rules in his book, while the survivors read theirs. Then the game really takes off.

Before last night I had played two sessions on this game and decided I liked it quite a bit. Last night we played two more, this time with a full six players.

The exploration phase on the first session lasted a bit too long, mostly due to learning rules and other minor things including really good rolls on the haunt rolls. Finally someone failed and became an invisible psycho. The rest of us were heavily armed and we managed to take him down pretty easy. Fun was had.

The second time I ended up being the traitor, an evil cannibal overlord who was attempting to devour all my friends. My minions managed to kill one of the players, but the rest were pretty much mowed over; I’m still learning monster rules. Even worse I was killed by the person playing as the small boy. It was a dramatic death though, with him trapped in the basement being stalked by me.

Betrayal at House on Haunted Hill is a fun game, and one of the few board games that actually justifies its price. I look forward to using it on nights I have writer’s block and at some point taking it up to Chicago.

In Which We Divert to Something Else

Having had a busy and confusing week I entered last night’s game session with no real ideas and even less prepared material. Thus we decided to embark on a one shot session; a murder mystery actually.

I took up the role of a holy man, one who might be involved with some criminal enterprises. With me were a retired army man, a burgeoning actress, an old maid, and a wise professor. Having journeyed to a good doctor’s mansion we were soon shocked to find him murdered, but we were unable to ascertain whom had orchestrated this plot, or how they had done so, and precisely where. In turmoil we each set out to discover the true villain of the hour.

Ok, so we played Clue.

I haven’t played the game in years, though it used to be a favorite of mine. My personal copy is one I obtained from my father and was the version he owned as a child. It’s old and quant and I like it. The one we played last night was a newer version, but not the revamp that has been recently (within a few years) marketed. Even so, I was surprised to see that they were also referring to ‘Mr. Boddy’ as Dr. Black, and that they listed Mr. Green as a Reverend once again. The use of the holy title and the doctor were originally European only traditions, but they seem to have made their way here. I am glad for this.

However, as a negative point, I had to use a different character then I traditionally did. In the past I was always Professor Plum; in my version he is a kindly and portly old scholar and of course in the film he was Dr. Emmitt Brown. In this new version he resembles Waldo (as in ‘where’s Waldo’) wearing a purple suit. So I went for a backup. Since my favorite character in the film is actually Mr. Green, and since they restored his holy title, I played him.

I played him with a very heavy British accent that occasionally became Sean Connery. Just because we were not role playing doesn’t mean I couldn’t role play. I take my Clue very seriously, and I can be a cut throat player, so I may have gotten into things a little too much. I hurled accusations (ahem, suggestions) towards that harlot Scarlett for much of the night and would verbally denounce any attempt to frame me for such murders; in the end my baseless accusations were found to be God’s truth and Scarlett was removed from our sight. In the second session I knew that Scarlett was innocent and thus used her as an unwilling accomplice while I followed Mrs. White for much of the session as she kept suggesting that she was the murderer, very suspicious indeed. I may have relied on her too much as Scarlett revealed that it was in fact the old Officer who had killed Dr. Black.

I had fun reliving one of my favorite childhood things, and since two of the group had never played before I was able to pass on some knowledge. I feel that Clue holds up very well, and in fact has a long ‘in game’ history behind it. A lot of effort and love has gone into this game and I enjoy getting way into it.