Parade of Sevens

It’s always an exciting day when I update my board game ratings over at BGG! Here are the changes and additions I made recently:

20th Century: 8 – For me this occupies a similar niche as Power Grid, a game I adore. It suffers from having at least one layer too many (the train tracks, I’m thinking) but it’s still a fun and interesting experience with each play.

51st State: 8 – I was concerned at first that this was going to be similar to Race for the Galaxy, with a bunch of impenetrable cards and no (sorry, “subtle”) interaction. While the influence of the other players is still fairly low, I find this to be a surprisingly easy to grasp game that plays pretty fast and furious. (I will probably talk about this in more detail on the blog once I’ve played it a few more times.)

Antiquity: UPGRADED from 8 to 9 – Nail-biter of a Civ game. There’s not much interaction here but you won’t notice because the game itself is such a beast. Compare this to watered-down faff like Agricola and there’s no contest — even if you lose at this one you actually feel like you’ve accomplished something.

Ascension: 8 – As a board/card game, it’s not bad. An above-average deckbuilder that relies more on good tactics than long-term strategy. But I play it on the iPad, and it is utterly wonderful on that, giving all the satisfaction of a board game with all the immediacy of a casual game.

Battlestar Galactica: DOWNGRADED from 6 to 4. Just thinking about playing this makes me shudder.

Belfort: 7 – Doesn’t do anything especially new, but it does the same old stuff in a pleasant enough way.

Bhazum: 7 – Exceptionally tricky game. I haven’t quite figured out how to do well at it, even though it’s fairly straightforward. Recommended.

Die Burgen von Burgund: 7 – I really like In the Year of the Dragon but have disliked or downright hated most of Stefan Feld’s other games. (I like Roma as well, warts and all.) I was expecting DBvB to be a pretty by-the-numbers affair and was pleasantly surprised to find it a somewhat original design with genuine multiple victory paths (this is my latest thing). And dice! Dice that are actually used to determine things randomly! They must have had fainting couches and EMTs on standby wherever this debuted.

Catacombs: DOWNGRADED from 8 to 7.

Chronicle: 4 – My friends like this far more than I do. It’s just thing piled on thing piled on thing until I just don’t know or care what is happening anymore. No reason to play this over Sticheln or Bottle Imp.

Code 777: 4 – Not as much fun as Coyote.

Confusion!: 7 – Truly interesting mechanic that really adds to the theme. It’s a shame 2p games don’t have much of a chance in my library, because this one is quite nice.

Founding Fathers: 8 – More plays will be needed to really digest this one, as at first it seems like there are far too many rounds when there isn’t anything useful you can do, given your cards in hand (and swapping them out won’t accomplish much either.) That said, though, this is an excellent blend of strategy and theme that rewards those paying attention.

Gargon: 7 – Underrated, in my opinion. A truly brain-burning card game.

Genoa: DOWNGRADED from 8 to 7.

Ghost Stories: 7 – Absolutely soul-crushing cooperative game. A bit overwhelming for me, but I haven’t really given it a fair shake.

Mare Nostrum: UPGRADED from 6 to 7 – Eric has helped me appreciate this more, especially with the Mythology expansion, which is essential (and is also rated a 7).

Martian Dice: 6 – Inoffensive push your luck dice game that neither captivates nor overstays its welcome.

Merkator: 7 – This is a pretty good economic engine game with a few fairly novel features. Nothing here to blow anyone away, but worth playing.

Onirim: 7 – Nice atmospheric co-op card game with great art. Haven’t played with any of the expansions, and to be frank, they seem a little “off” from the regular game.

Palastgeflüster: 8 – I think this is a true overlooked gem. It’s easy to teach and learn, it’s fat packed with strategy (and difficult decisions) and it’s all tucked away in a little card box. The only complaint I can give is that it goes on a little long (unless you either play to fewer points or award points differently) and the player aid card is in crazy tiny print. Other than that, I very much recommend it.

Phoenicia: 5 – Economic engine game where the rich only get richer. Blurgh.

Planet Steam: 8 – Quite tense economic game that doesn’t give you any time to just sit back and scoop up cash. Overproduced and gaudy in many respects, but a solid game.

Puzzle Strike: 6 – Not a bad variation on the deckbuilding thing, and it certainly captures a lot of the spirit of the video game it’s based on, but that said, I just don’t find it that fun. Maybe it’s the folks I’ve played with, because it all SEEMS like it should be a lot more in your face than it feels to me.

Quarriors: 5 – Frustrating and pointless. There’s no “there” there.

Ra: The Dice Game: UPGRADED from 7 to 8 – Not “another themed Yahtzee game” as I initially dismissed this. This is actually one of the few dice games out there in which the presence of the other players matters beyond “Oh no there are three of us but only two wubbles available!” Doesn’t have much to do with the original Ra, but that’s no sticking point for me. What it is is a truly interesting dice game.

Roll Through the Ages: DOWNGRADED from 6 to 5 by itself, Late Bronze Age rules raise it back to a 6.

Rush n’ Crush: 7 – Based only on one play, this has a lot of potential to go up. This might make Formula D(e) completely obsolete.

Samurai: DOWNGRADED from 7 to 6 – The iPad version has made me play this a few more times and I just don’t love it.

Tom Tube: 5 – I want to like this, but it’s just…dull. And the rules are not clear at all.

Vino: 7 – This is a pretty nifty economic game, even if it has some thematic oddness.

Witch’s Brew: 8 – Above-average role selection game.

Wiz-War: UPGRADED from 7 to 8.

Zombie Dice: 5 – I’d love to hate this passionately, what with being both yet another goddamn zombie game AND from Steve Jackson Games but the sad, sorry truth is: it’s not utterly awful, merely inessential.

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3 Responses to Parade of Sevens

  1. Scholar-Gipsy says:

    I’m right with you in terms of being utterly, utterly weary of the zombie trope, but if you don’t mind my asking, what’s your issue with Steve Jackson Games qua Steve Jackson Games? (I’m not looking to pick a fight; I’m just curious.)

  2. Dave says:

    SJG is just a shameless whore of a company. In addition to their stuff being crazy expensive, their tendency to take an idea and just run it into the ground mercilessly drives me up the wall. Plus it really bugs me that they act as though they invented the whole Illuminati/Fnord/Eye-in-the-Pyramid thing, instead of ripping it off wholesale. I just don’t have a lot of respect for the place.

  3. Scholar-Gipsy says:

    Interesting take. I interact with SJG primarily as a roleplaying products consumer (I think In Nomine is really nifty, and while GURPS is far too crunchy for my tastes, a lot of the sourcebooks are useful and interesting no matter what [or whether] one plays).

    I do have a lot of fondness for Illuminati in many of its incarnations — I played the original to death, and the collectible-card-game version, Illuminati: New World Order, was a mainstay back when I played CCGs. The latter’s “One With Everything” boxed set, which I picked up for a pittance, is still a lot of fun. I don’t know if I’d be quite as sanguine about the set if I’d paid full price for it.

    I think you may be overstating the extent to which Steve Jackson Games claims to have “invented” the Annuit Coeptis pyramid/fnord stuff. I mean, I enjoyed the Illuminatus! trilogy and all, but the former image is on the freakin’ one dollar bill, for heaven’s sake, and while “fnord” is a straight cop, it’s not all that ubiquitous on their Website or in their products these days. But your mileage there clearly varies.

    My general impression of SJG is that they try very hard to suss out what their (as you note, very loyal) audience wants, and then give it to them. Over three editions and twenty-odd years, GURPS books were reasonably-priced paperbacks; if a lot of the fourth edition books are full-color hardbacks, I suspect that’s because there’s now a market that wants them that way. (SJG is hardly the only RPG company to have gone that route in order to stay afloat.) And a great many of their RPG products these days are available as PDF downloads, quite fairly priced in my opinion.

    That all said, I really wish Munchkin would go away. No, strike that — if it went away, the company would fold, and that would make me sad for a number of reasons. But as someone who finds Munchkin tedious and unfunny in play, I wish it weren’t the tentpole of the entire SJG circus. De gustibus non est disputandum, I guess.

    And I agree: charging $40 for a game that requires dice but doesn’t provide them is a decidedly unclassy move.

    Anyway, thanks for your answer.

    s-g