Tag: Cry Havoc

MY TOP 100 BOARD GAMES 2020 EDITION – 50 THROUGH 41

MY TOP 100 BOARD GAMES 2020 EDITION – 50 THROUGH 41

We’re onto the top half of my Top 100 games. We’ve seen a number of games drop out of the top 50 so far, that means we’re either going to have new games or games that have rise, you’ll have to find out. You can 

Top 10 Sci-Fi Themed Games

Top 10 Sci-Fi Themed Games

Continuing with another Top 10 list, this time I’m looking at games that I love which have a Sci-Fi theme on them. I think that there are some Sci-Fi games that are going to be very high on my list of Top 100 games, but 

The Top 10 Area Control/Influence Games

The Top 10 Area Control/Influence Games

I started doing Top 10 Lists last week to talk about my top 10 deck building/deck construction games. This time, I’m continuing that with some area control. I like area control games and I think that there are some good ones out there, but there are also some old ones, that you’ll have to see if they make my list.

While putting together this list, I found it more challenging than putting together the deck building/deck construction list. I think that while I enjoy area control or area influence, given their more confrontational nature, they don’t tend to get to the table as often so it’s harder for me to come up with them off of the top of my head. And toward the bottom of the list are games that I’ve enjoyed, but might not be in my collection anymore.

10 – Smash Up
This is a game that I actually dropped from my collection for a few different reasons, but I don’t think that it’s a bad area control game. The idea of pairing two random factions together, finding their synergies, and creating a strategy to get points and have the control of these locations when the score works really well. And the game play itself is simple which made it pretty easy to get to the table quite often. It’s a good sort of game for people who are intimidated by the bigger games later on in the list, but want more than just a simple take that style game.

Image Credit: Wikipedia

9 – Carcassone
Yes, technically there is area control, and it’s in two parts. First it’s for a city, if you are in a city and someone places down a connecting piece, they can’t also place in that city. But the farmers are also area control for scoring at the end of the game. While I don’t think the area control comes across heavily in the game, there is a bit of that, especially with the farmers, that can make a difference in end game scoring. But when most people thing for Carcassone, they rightfully so consider it more of a tile laying game. Did I mention this was a harder list to make?

8 – Risk Legacy
I don’t have regular Risk on here, pure control all the areas for the game to end is not enjoyable to me. But with Risk Legacy you still get more resources for controlling more areas. And by controlling your opponents HQ, that also brings you closer to victory. The legacy nature of the game is fun as well, while it isn’t as heavily a story as some of the more modern board games, it does provide enough to open up and the games are fast enough that it’s a good time. If you want to play the first (or at least one of the first) legacy games, Risk Legacy is really enjoyable.

Image Source: Leder Games

7 – Root
There is one major downside to Root, and that is that teaching it takes a while, won’t be the last with that, because each faction plays asymmetrically. But it’s a good area control game where you are fighting over the woodlands, but that isn’t purely how everyone wins. The different factions get points by doing different things, all the while needing to keep the cats in check who are really about area control. Each faction plays so differently that without playing it often you’ll need to do the teaching of the rules, but if you can get it to the table, it is really interesting and lots of interesting options

6 – Cry Havoc
The other game that can take a bit longer to teach. This game is also asymmetrical, so you need to explain some of the players what their factions are best at. But this game is all about controlling games, and the more that you control on the alien planet, the more points that you get. It makes an interesting game because while the faction that’s the Pilgrims doesn’t care much about having many areas, they still need a few to be able to produce games to score points, but they can bunker down. The combat in this game is interesting as well and actually has a tiny bit of deck building to it. While it has some of the looks of a dudes on a map games, it also has some strong euro style mechanics.

Image Source: Portal Games

5 – Small World
This is the intro to area control game. I like this game for it way better than Risk because Risk can go on a long time, Small World plays fast and is a lot of fun. In it you mash up a race and power combo and start taking over the lands. However, the board is small enough for each player count that soon people will start attacking you, so you need to put your race into decline, the next turn grab another race and start attacking with that one. This game is a ton of fun and simple to teach because you aren’t counting up troops, building a die pool, playing cards, and rolling dice to determine a winner, it’s just if you can put down two more pieces of cardboard than area already in that space. It works well, it’s a lot of fun, and while the game can last a little while if you’re playing more than three, turns are still pretty fast, it’s just that there are more of them, and it’s not a heavy strategy game, so the time goes faster because you can chat.

4 – Lords of Hellas
So, this one wasn’t in my top 100 when I did that at the end of last year because I hadn’t played it yet. It was a bit of a trick to figure out where I wanted to slot it, but this seemed like the best spot. Lords of Hellas has a bunch of different ways to win, but two of them deal with area control. First you can control two regions which can be up to eight smaller areas, or you can control five temples. There’s some interesting combat in this that is done through card play, and while there are other ways that you can win, you definitely need to be paying attention to areas that you are controlling or other people are gathering up, because when various events happen in the game, you can really benefit from controlling temples. This is again a dudes on a map game, but one that doesn’t have all the ameritrash feeling to it with dice chucking.

Image Source: Awaken Realms

3 – Star Wars: Rebellion
Probably the most ameritrash game I have on the list, besides Risk Legacy. It’s a two player game where one side is the Empire trying to find the Rebels base, and the Rebels are trying to do missions to subvert the Empire’s control and if they can weaken it enough they win. But a lot of the game is big land and space battles for areas where you are trying to wrest control of a planet from the other side so that they aren’t able to produce as many ships and troops. The game has a good cat and mouse feel to it as the Empire spreads out trying to find the Rebels, and it feels like Star Wars original trilogy. Just the pieces that we weren’t seeing because the movies are so focused on a handful of characters, this is the stuff that was going around that.

Image Source: EmperorS4

2 – Hanamikoji
Another two player game, that surprised me, and I was also surprised when I realized that this is definitely an area influence game. In Hanamikoji you are trying to put influence over various Geisha and win their favor by giving them gifts. If you can get either four to your side or eleven points worth of Geisha you win the game. It’s a fast game and an interesting game because it’s played with a small deck of cards. And each player only doe four actions per round, and the same as the other people. You either pick a card to keep face down, discard two face down, put out three and your opponent picks one, or put down two sets of two and your opponent picks one. It is interesting because in some ways you’re forcing your opponent early to make decisions for you because there’s enough hidden information to make a fully puzzled out decision.

1 – Blood Rage
I think that this game would top a number of peoples lists, as it’s been a game that’s been hard to find for a while. In this game you are fighting over and around the world tree to improve how many action points you get, how much glory you get in battle, and how many troops you can have on the board. The game does a whole lot more than that as well because you are also upgrading your troops and drafting cards at the start of each age. So it might be possible that you don’t want to actually have any of the areas with a Loki strategy, but you do want to bump up some stats, probably, because that gives you points as well, so there is a good reason to do some area control.

Image Source: Board Game Geek

Looking at the list, I think that Small World is the only one that is purely area control, though I should say as people will think of it. I think that Hanamikoji is also basically just area control. Looking at what Board Game Geek has for area control, I know that there are some more that I want to try. Twilight Imperium is a massive game with a lot of area control in it, though not just that, that feels like something that I’d like. I also have Scythe on my shelf that I haven’t played yet which seems like a fun game with some area control in it as well. Same with Cyclades, a game that I picked up a while ago but haven’t been able to get to the table yet.

What are some of your favorite area control games? Based off of the ones that I’ve rated in my Top 10, what are some that I should checkout?

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TableTopTakes: Skulk Hollow

TableTopTakes: Skulk Hollow

If you’ve read my previous reviews on Root and Cry Havoc, you can see that I really like asymmetrical games. Skulk Hollow, when it came on kickstarter last year, was a game that caught my attention right away. The look had a bit of that 

Christmas Ideas – Epic Board Games

Christmas Ideas – Epic Board Games

It’s that time of year, with Black Friday and Holiday Shopping nearly upon us. That means that people are starting to think about the gifts that they’ll be getting for others or what they might want to ask for themselves. This list is basically the 

The Weight of Games

The Weight of Games

Now, there are a lot of ways I could go with this. I could literally be talking about how heavy some games are, such as Gloomhaven which is over 20 pounds. I could be talking about how emotionally heavy a video game is like Life is Strange. But instead, I’m talking about the “weight” of a board game as to how complex it is. In particular, I’m going to talk about the different weights and what that generally means when someone talks about it.

Games can be split into four different categories in my opinion. There are light weight, family weight, medium weight, and heavy weight games. And for me, that goes from the least complex to the most complex games. I am sure that other people might have an extra category at the end of super heavy weight games for the 18XX games and Train Games (not Ticket to Ride), where you playing in a very heavy economic game and you might actually need a calculator to figure out what is going on, on your turn, not just to add up scores at the end of a game.

Image Source: Cephalofair Games

Let’s first talk about why games are split into these categories. There are a ton of ways to sort or categorize games such as by some mechanic in the game or the theme of the game, but where those tell you some about the game, the weight of a game is really to help you determine the complexity of the game. The heavier a game is, the more complex that it’s going to be, and the more time commitment is going to be needed for learning the game and possibly for playing the game. However, not all games that have a lot of rules have a high weight to the game. Gloomhaven, for example, on Board Game Geek, is rated at a 3.79 out of 5 for weight, which puts it at a medium heavy, and it has a pretty hefty rule book.

What is a Light Weight game?

A light weight game is going to be those filler sorts of games. Something Tsuro, is a light weight game because the rules are simple to teach and the game is easy to play. Party games also fall into this category as you can generally pull them out and get them taught and to the table in five minutes. People aren’t likely to have many questions either about them when you are playing them. And if there is a question that comes up, the rules are likely so simple that you don’t need to look up anything and can just answer it. Kids games would also fall into this category, though, not all of them. But simple games like Chutes (Snakes) and Ladders or Candyland, that people normally think of, are so simple that you really just do what the game tells you, versus make any decision in the game. That’s another area where the complexity of the game is pretty low, even in Tsuro, you have three tiles and while you have some choice at the start of the game, the choice doesn’t matter much then. And in the later part of the game, the choice matters, but you have an obvious choice so you don’t have to think about it much.

Tsuro
Image Credit: Amazon

What is a Family Weight Game?

So just by thinking what is a bit more complex than the light weight games, you can start to figure out what family weight games are. The best way to describe it is that these are the games that you play with your parents if they aren’t board gamers growing up. Or growing up only played a few like Skip-Bo, Uno, Rummikub, and Yahtzee. The latter two would actually probably fall into the family weight category. But more modern games that are family weight would be things like Carcassone, Ticket to Ride, and Catan. These games have more complex rules than light games, but generally there aren’t edge cases where you have to remember that something only happens in a specific situation. These games also start to offer meaningful decisions. Yes, they are generally not that complex, but Carcassone gives you choices when you place figures like knights, farmers, thieves, and monks (if I have the terms correct). In Catan you determine where you start and where you build towards, and in Ticket to Ride, do you take those train cars you want or do you play a route before someone else can get it? But the decisions are still pretty simple and you can probably do either option and end up being fine in the game. These games also can still end up with a run away winner. Other games would something like Sushi Go! Party, Pandemic, Dominion or Welcome To…

What are Medium Weight Games?

Again, we’re taking it up in complexity of game play and learning. These games still aren’t too difficult to learn, but there are going to be more moving parts. Xenoshyft: Onslaught would be a good example of this. Where Dominion is just a deck builder that is pretty easy to each, Xenoshyft actually has you doing something more in the game, and you are faced with more decisions than just buying a card worth points, a card worth money, or a card that draws you more cards. Another game that would fit into this category is Seven Wonders. Much like Xenoshyft builds upon the fundamentals and adds in more to deck building, Seven Wonders is a more complex card drafting game as compared to Sushi Go! Party. You also start to get edge cases in the games where certain cards together interact in a way that you can’t just naturally figure out. But there aren’t so many of these that once you’ve played the game a few times that you won’t know what is going. I actually think that Gloomhaven falls into the heavier side of Medium Weight games. There are certainly a good number of rules, but once you know them, you can play without looking things up, and it doesn’t take too long to know the rules once you start playing. I’d also put a game like Pandemic Legacy in a medium weight game. The rules don’t vary greatly from base Pandemic, but since the rules are changing, you need to remember everything that is going on.

Image Source: Leder Games

Finally, What are Heavy Weight Games?

Again, not too difficult to figure out, but these are the games that you have a lot of text on a lot of cards, there is a lot of complexity in these games. I would put games like Cry Havoc and Root into this category where you have asymmetrical powers. Because of this, each person has edge cases that are different than other people at the table. And you need to teach each character separately. These games also have a lot of what I’d call book keeping. That doesn’t always mean taking notes, but it means that there are a lot of phases and some of the phases are resetting things to a starting turn point. Two good examples of this are a couple of cooperative games from Portal Games, First Martian and Robinson Crusoe. In these games, there are certain game events that happen at the end of every turn or end of every round that you need to do. Star Wars: Rebellion is also a heavy game with asymmetrical goals going on, though the actions of the players are pretty similar. But there are a lot of decisions that you have to make in the game, and if you mess up a single decision that can cost you the game. Even a game that is generally panned like SeaFall can fall into this category because the rules are complex (some do to poor writing), but the game offers a ton of tactical decisions that you have to think about.

Finally, let’s talk about what this means for your gaming collection. Do you need a game(s) of each type? I don’t think that you do, if you know your gaming group will never want to play a light filler game, why do you have one of those in your collection or go out of your way to buy one? The same goes for very heavy games, if I know that I don’t want to play a highly tactical war game, I don’t need one in my collection just so I have one just in case. That said, I would try and keep a good variety in your collection that makes sense for the gaming group that you have. For example, according to Board Game Geek, out of the 253 games that I’ve rated on the site (or own), 3 of them are over 4 for weight, so pretty heavy. 23 of them are at 1.25 or lower (1 is the lowest possible number) and all of those are extremely light. That means that I have a lot in the middle, though I tend to skew lighter as those games are easier to get to the table with my gaming group.

So, what does your collection look like? What’s the average weight of the games that you like, do you skew more towards heavy games or do you find your collection to have a lot of filler and party games you can pull out any time?

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Top 5: Variable Player Powers

Top 5: Variable Player Powers

Between campaign building, I want to go back to some of the board game lists. And this is probably my favorite mechanic for a game, where people can do things just a bit differently than other players. 5. SmallworldThe lightest game on the list by far, 

Top 5: Area Control

Top 5: Area Control

Jumping back into another board game list, this time going with another mechanic I like quite well. Area control is a fun mechanic because it really pushes conflict in the game, and the games that do area control well really encourage that conflict to happen. 

The Evolution of Unique Characters in Games

The Evolution of Unique Characters in Games

This one is a bit out there in some ways. I would say that there has been attempts at unique powers for a while and some solid successes, but there was a time where the difference between who you were and who I was in the game was that I was the thimble and you were in the iron in Monopoly.

For a lot of people, that’s what it is still in gaming. Even if they’ve progressed away from Monopoly and into games like Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, and Carcassonne, the difference between you and me is that I’m blue and you’re red. Otherwise everything we do is the same. And that’s a-okay in a ton of a games. There isn’t a need for your character to be slightly different than mine, but in some games, it makes the game a whole lot better.

Back in 1949, there was an attempt to make “unique” characters when Clue came out. Professor Plum, Mrs. White, Mr. Green, and the rest of the cast allowed you to pick your favorite based off of more than just color of the pawn you were using. Now, they gave you some art, but it really wasn’t a unique character at that point. You were really just picking a color still. But in some ways that was the start of having unique characters. It gave some foundation that could be built off off later.

Image Source: Board Game Geek

Now, we see two prominent ways that unique characters are done in board games. There are more ways beyond that, but there are two major ways. The first is the special power route. Your character has something specific they can do that no one else can. The other way is the asymmetric route. Definitely the harder of the two to pull off, because what you do in the game is always different than what I do in the game.

The first type, is the special power or action that only you can take. A great example of this is Pandemic. In this game you have a base set of actions, treat disease, move, trade cards, etc. that everyone in the game can do. But each character has their own special action that they can take or improvement upon one of the other actions. For example, all characters can treat a disease by taking a cube off of the city they are in, but the medic can take all of the disease cubes off of the city they are in. The dispatcher, on the other hand, can move people on their turn, versus just having to move yourself. The rules still apply the same way for how they can move other people’s pawns.

You can start to see from Pandemic how having unique powers can make the game different each time in different ways. In fact, unique powers are a really good way to keep a game replay-able over a long period of time.

There are games that keep the base action for you, but allow either for changing your unique power or setting up your own unique powers. Two examples jump into my head quickly. The first being Smallworld. Since the races and powers are randomly shuffled, you might end up with flying wizards one time, and wealthy wizards another time. In this case, the game, like in Pandemic, dictates what your unique power is.

There are games, however, that allow you to determine how unique you want your character to be. This is the other example, Blood Rage (also Seafall does this), where you can spend action points that upgrade your clan. A pair of warriors can be made to be worth more in battle for you, or you can gain points when your warriors die in battle and go to Valhalla. Maybe your clan leader is now worth more points, or you can move your ship in a certain way. Maybe you have access to monsters now. Based on how you draft cards, you can shape your own player board to be unique. This type of game is interesting because at the start of the game, your clan is the same as everyone else’s clans. But as the game progresses, the clans play more and more differently depending on your cards, and which ones you choose to use. In Seafall, had the game been good, it was similar where you started out with the same base at the start of the first game, but you could buy upgrades that left from game to game, but you could also put in permanent upgrades as well, so the more you played the more unique you were.

Now, that has been the simpler type of player powers to talk about. The more difficult is the asymmetric player powers. The reason that this is tougher is because even if there is the same base to the game, everyone plays with that differently.

Image Source: Leder Games

A great example of this is Root. In Root everyone has some pretty similar actions, but how they go about doing all of them is completely different. While you all might be moving troops and trying to control areas, the cats, to gain more troops have to build up various buildings, where as the birds are trying to create an order or cards that they play. The woodland creatures are just trying to get onto the board by using cards in yet another way, and the Vagabond is doing something else different with their actions.

This type of game is very interesting, and Cry Havoc is another example. There is one fairly big downside to a completely asymmetrical game. The time spent teaching the game the first time you play it is pretty to extremely high. In Root, for example, you have to explain a fair amount about each character, even though some of the base actions might be the same. In Vast, this problem is made even larger by the base actions being a greater variety. Cry Havoc is probably the easiest of them to teach, because the base actions for everyone are the same, just the buildings, objectives, and special powers mean that how you play the game as each faction is different.

Image Source: Indie Boards & Cards

You can see how this has all moved on from Clue where you had a name for your character, but that was about it that made you unique from just being a different colored pawn.

There are a few more ways that games try and add differences. The other most common, though what you can do might not change, is the hidden traitor role in a game like One Night Ultimate Werewolf or Resistance. These games, what everyone does is basically the same, some expansions provide more variability to the game, but in the base, you can hide your actions because you are doing the same thing as everyone else.

This has then been expanded upon with games like Dead of Winter and Shadows Over Camelot. Shadows Over Camelot gives the bad guy more that they can do, if there is even a traitor in the game. In Dead of Winter, each player has a hidden objective. So while you have the exact same set of powers, you are trying for a slightly unique state of the game when it ends, mainly what you have in your hand at the end of the game. For me, these games can be a bit more hit or miss, because depending on if there is a traitor or not, it can greatly hinge the game on various things, and it can at times force you to look like the traitor to actually win the game. If there was some balancing mechanic for it, it would make the game better, but potential hidden traitor and hidden objectives is very hard to pull off well in a game.

That’s a lot variable player powers and the range that can run. Personally, I’d be interested in seeing a reworking of Clue so that Professor Plum can do something different and better than Colonel Mustard, but that’s already been done in some of those investigation games, like Fury of Dracula.

What are some of your favorite variable player power games? Are there some where certain combinations are too broken to play with so you’ve banned them at your table?

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The Evolution of Area Control

The Evolution of Area Control

So another mechanic that I like a good amount is area control. Area control is the mechanic in which you get a bonus for having the most figures in the area or the only figures in the area, so, you have control of the area.