What you missed

23 11 2012

Well, even though it’s a holiday week, we certainly didn’t slow down! Here’s a full recap of all thing TOG this week!

Monday – we brought you the first installment of our 2012 Christmas Holiday Gift Guide!

Tuesday – Firestone reviewed Star Wars: X-Wing the miniatures game

Wednesday – Speaking of Star Wars, we interviewed the one and only Eric Lang, designer of Fantasy Flight’s newest Living Card Game, Star Wars The Card Game! You can read it right here.

Thursday – We gave thanks.

Friday – We brought you our second installment of the 2012 Christmas Holiday Gift Guide: Family Games!

Thanks so much for reading; check back next week for more news, reviews, interviews, and more great gift ideas for the gamers in your life!


2012 Holiday Board Game Gift Guide—Family Games

23 11 2012

The next category in our Gift Guide is Family Games. This is kind of a tough one to land on, because the notion of “family” will vary depending on the makeup of your family, whether or not you have kids, how old your kids are, or if you even like playing game with your kids… (Kidding.) And some games from our Kids Games list could have gone here, too (like Sorry Sliders, for instance). But it’s our list and our blog so we’ll be coming at it from the viewpoint of people with two boys under the age of 10.

Castle Panic—All of our kids love this game. It’s a cooperative game where you’re trying to fight off hordes of baddies trying to attack your castle. You can adjust the difficulty up or down depending on how old your kids are; and there’s an expansion that adds some more difficulty, options, and monsters. You can check out our review of the base game right here.

Cost: ~$27

Available From: Amazon, and your friendly local game store

Ages: 6 and up

Forbidden Island—A great game of adventure, treasure hunting and team work! Players in this co-op are a group of treasure hunters searching for 4 different treasures on an island that’s sinking into the sea! A great bonding experience as players have to work together to accomplish the task of defeating the game—all of the players win or lose together! If you have kids who are a little older, check out Pandemic. It’s very similar to Forbidden Island, but you’re trying to stop diseases from spreading across the planet. It’s more complicated, has some more things going on, and is harder to win.

Cost: ~$14

Available From: Amazon, and your friendly local game store

Ages: 8 and up (10 and up for Pandemic)

Hike—A fun card game that simulates a hike in the woods. Players take turns playing cards representing a segment of the hike. It’s great for young kids because all cards (except the special cards) are icon/art-driven, but fun for the family because of the special ability cards, which add another layer of strategy. It plays like a thematic Uno game, with less luck involved.

Cost: ~12

Available From: Amazon
, and your friendly local game store

Ages: 6 and up

Zooloretto—You’re a zookeeper, trying to create the best zoo by buying truckloads of animals and putting them in your pens in the most efficient way possible. It’s bright and colorful, and kids love animals. There’s also a slightly more complicated sequel called Aquaretto that has you running an animal water park.

Cost: ~$30

Available From: Amazon, Target, and your friendly local game store

Ages: 7 and up

Snow Tails—Race games make for good family games. They’re usually not too complicated, they usually have some randomness, and races are just fun! (And parents, it’ll force your kids to do some simple arithmetic, but they won’t even realize they’re doing it!)

Cost: ~$35

Available From: Amazon
, and your friendly local game store

Ages: 8 and up

King of Tokyo—In this game, you’re one of a group of monsters who are trying to become the King of Tokyo by beating up on your opponents. There lots of randomness and crazy special powers, so it’s just the sort of game that works well for families. Check out our review right here!

Cost: ~$35

Available From: Amazon, and your friendly local game store.

Ages: 8 and up

Memoir ’44—This is a 2-player very, very light wargame that my (Firestone) 8-year-old LOVES. You’ll be able to re-create battles from World War II, with each person playing a side of the conflict. There are LOTS of expansions, so you can play in Normandy, Russia, and the Pacific. If you have a kid who loves WWII history, consider this gem.

Cost: ~$40

Available From: Amazon, and your friendly local game store

Ages: 7 and up

Pirate’s Cove—In this game, each player is a pirate, who travels to different island to grab some treasure. But if you end up at the same island as another pirate, you fight! And there are some Legendary Pirates floating around, looking to challenge you for your treasure. The production values on this one are fantastic.

Cost: ~$45

Available From: Amazon, and your friendly local game store

Ages: 8 and up

Thank You!

22 11 2012

Today, as we set aside a day to spend time with loved ones, and give thanks for all of the ways we’ve been blessed, we thought we would take a few minutes to stop, breathe, and say “Thank you!”

For the past 5-ish months we have both enjoyed writing for TOG, and are truly appreciative of you. If you have ever read, retweeted, mentioned, shared, liked, or commented on a post; emailed us; been interviewed by us; or sent us a game to review, we thank you. Please keep it up; because we truly cannot do this without you. Seriously.

We hope that you’ve enjoyed being a part of this little blog as much as we have, and we can’t wait to see what’s coming down the line!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

~Firestone & Jeremiah

An Interview Eric Lang – Designer of Star Wars The Card Game

21 11 2012

Eric Lang is the designer of the long-awaited Star Wars The Card Game, which will soon be released by Fantasy Flight Games.

Eric, thanks for taking some time to chat with us.

Thanks for having me!

First I just have to ask: When Star Wars The Card Game was first announced, Lucasfilm was still owned by George Lucas, and there was no hope—or even an expectation—for new Star Wars films. What’s your take on the Disney purchase, and the forthcoming films?

I am crazy excited. I was as surprised by the announcement as everyone else, but it took me only a few seconds to process … and I must admit that I did a little Snoopy dance.

Pixar, of whom I’m a giant fan, runs deep in Disney’s DNA. And the thought of new Star Wars movies with that kind of talent at the helm makes me so happy. When I read that Michael Arndt was writing Episode VII … be still my heart!

How did you first become interested in gaming? And when did you start designing games?

I’ve been designing games since I was playing them as a kid with my grandmother in Germany. It started out by modifying mass market Pachisi and Stratego clones, then I got into RPGs in high school and never looked back. When Magic: the Gathering hit in 1993, after one game I was determined to do this for a living.

My first published credit was for FASA’s Shadowrun CCG (playtest and development) back in the mid-90s, and I’ve been designing full-time since 2001. I’ve designed games for a number of companies including Fantasy Flight, Wizards of the Coast, Wizkids, Mattel, Alderac Enterainment, and Z-Man Games.

Your game design resume is quite extensive; do you play a game regularly after you’ve completed it? What are some of the titles you still go back and play? Or do you move on to the next design?

Time is my enemy, and many of my own games are of the “lifestyle” sort (like FFG’s Living Card Game series). I wish I had more time to play, but I do have decks for each of my LCGs ready to go. I play Warhammer: Invasion more often than most, due to its speed of play and my short attention span.

What are some of your favorite board/card games?

A short list would include: Cosmic Encounter, Magic: the Gathering, D&D, Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation, El Grande, Heimlich & Co., I’m the Boss!, Crokinole, Geschenkt, and Nexus Ops.

The Lord of the Rings Dicebuilding Game uses some of the same mechanisms as Quarriors. How involved are you with the design of the LotR game, and can you tell us how it will be different than Quarriors?

Mike (Elliott) and I designed an early draft of the LOTR game, but were unable to finish it due to schedule issues. The published design (by Brett Myers and Jeph Stahl), is cooperative whereas Quarriors is competitive. It is also slightly more complex and focused on narrative, which offers quite a different experience even with shared mechanics. I think co-op players will really like it.

Star Wars The Card Game has been a long time coming; how involved were you with the first concept of the game? And how hard was it to scrap the whole thing and go back to the drawing board?

I was not involved in the first version at all. FFG made a really tough call going back to the drawing board, but I agree that it was the right one. I can’t speak to the decision process, but my own opinion was that there were some unsolvable long-term issues, and the inability for players to play the dark side, as compelling as Rebel co-op is, was really rough.

The original game had some real strengths, though, and you’ll likely see some of its influences in the current game.

Fantasy Flight has enjoyed the success of the “Living Card game” genre with several blockbuster titles (we’re BIG fans of The Lord of the Rings and Netrunner). What about Star Wars makes it stand out in the genre?

I think Star Wars is the first game to start deeply exploring what makes LCGs different from other customizable games.

The way you customize your decks is different from all other games; easy to simply jump into and play, but requiring a whole new way of thinking to really tune at a high level. I think both hardcore and casual players will enjoy this new approach, even if for different reasons.

I feel like this game captures the desperation of the Light Side and the monolithic but inertial drive of the Dark Side. I wanted to do this in a simple, intuitive way that did not bog the players down in rules exceptions, but rather let the game itself stand aside and allow card interactions to take center stage.

The gameplay is more hand management than straightforward resource management in most customizable card games. You are more focused on when and how to use your cards, than how to squeeze maximum value out of your board position. Combat is easy to grasp, but the way Edge battles work (combined with the card pool) add a psychological element that is sometimes game-defining, other times peripheral.

Overall, I feel as though the variance in gameplay in Star Wars is key. More than most card games, the same exact same two decks will play differently from game to game. All the game mechanics were designed to offer this experience.

Did Lucasfilm/Lucas Arts keep a close eye on the product and sign off on it?

Lucasfilm licensing worked closely with FFG on the game. They were really helpful with suggestions in the naming and flavor text department, too.

Did you get to meet George Lucas?

Sadly, no.

We found it interesting that the first cycle of Force packs is going to take place on Hoth; what made you decide to jump ahead to Empire, instead of working through Ep. IV first?

We wanted to make it clear right off the bat that we are not doing sequential releases, but rather “idea space” cycles. I pitched Hoth as an obvious first expansion, as it has a unique feel and milieu, and allowed us to create a nice set of cards that worked together while not reinventing the game right away.

I think it’s important for the first expansion of an LCG to deliver “more of the same, with a minor cool twist” (pun intended). Hoth’s place in the original trilogy fit that to a tee.

One Word (or Phrase) Response Section:

If you had a lightsaber, what color would it be?

The color of the sun.

If you could visit any place real or fictional, where would you go?

Mos Eisley

Favorite Quarriors creature?

Primoridial Ooze

Favorite cookie?

Mint Oreos!

Favorite author?

Oscar Wilde

You can follow Eric on Twitter @Eric_Lang.

Thanks, Eric, for the great interview. And thanks to you for reading; have a superb and game-filled Thanksgiving!

Review: Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game

20 11 2012

By Firestone

I love Star Wars. I really, really love Star Wars. Of course there are problems, and plot holes, and inconsistencies, and those awful, terrible Episodes I, II, and III. But no film/franchise/toy line is so firmly entrenched in my memories of childhood.

So, of course, I was giddy when I heard they were making a miniatures game based on my beloved franchise.

I played a friend’s copy—he’d picked up two copies of everything. At this point that includes the base game, which includes two tie fighters and one x-wing, and the Wave 1 expansions, which include another tie fighter and x-wing fighter (with new pilots and powers), a tie advanced, and a y-wing. The minis are terrific hand-painted plastic. They are awfully fragile, and at the prices these fetch, I admit I’m hesitant for my 4-year-old to be anywhere near this thing.

The gameplay is superficially similar to the Wings of War game—but with some significant differences that ensure this is no knockoff. First, each person build a squad using points. 100 points seems to be the norm, and you get there by choosing various ships, and then adding pilots (such as Wedge Antilles and Darth Vader), and then adding upgrades (such as proton torpedoes). Each one of these things costs a different number of points; you add them all up to get to your squad total. Here’s where I come up against my first problem with the game: You’ll need more than the base game to make a decent game—either more base games or a bunch of expansion pieces. I get that this is Fantasy Flight’s business model, but someone opening up just the base game on Christmas morning might be disappointed with how small their game will be.

Game play is straightforward: Each type of ship has a unique set of maneuvers it can make, and has a unique movement dial that lets you set its next move and then set it facedown until everyone has made their movement selection. Then in turn order people reveal their dial and move. There are templates that you place in front of the mini’s base, and then you simply move the ship to the end of the template. It’s easy and unambiguous.

Then each person can choose an Action from the choices on their various pilot and upgrade cards; these might include focusing on fighting, or evading a shot that comes at you. Then each ship determines whether there’s a target in their firing arc and attacks if possible. Attacks are resolved using dice, with various abilities affecting the attack or defense dice. The various ships have different defenses: Tie fighters have great maneuverability, but have no shields, while X-wings have shields but have fewer maneuvers available to them.

That’s a basic overview of the game.

The components are great. The minis are cool, the cards are nice and clear, and the numerous tokens are thick. I’m concerned about the movement dials rubbing away over time, but we’ll see.

The complexity is low. My 8-year-old might need a little help with the smaller details and fine strategy, but I think he’d hold his own…

There’s a fair amount of luck in this—in fact, more than I’m generally comfortable with. It gets some grace because of the theme, and because I know my kids will love this game, regardless of luck. The playing time is short—games should take no more than 30-45 minutes. And while the game says it’s for 2 players, we’ve played team games of 4 people (two on each side), and it worked great. Of course, for that size game you’ll need some expansions.

Speaking of expansions, Wave 2 is scheduled for February. And it includes two larger models, one of Boba Fett’s Slave 1, and one of the Millenium Falcon. I can’t wait!

My biggest complaint is how much money this will cost me over time. I understand that I can choose to not buy the expansions, but if you think that’s an option, you obviously don’t know me very well! 🙂

Bottom line: If you have kids who love Star Wars—or if you love Star Wars and can get over the randomness and the price—then this is a great game to consider. It’ll tide me over until Star Wars The Card Game comes out!

Thanks for reading!

2012 Holiday Board Game Gift Guide—Kids Games

19 11 2012

As the holiday season fast approaches, we thought we’d work up a (hopefully) helpful list of games for people who are looking to give a board game as a gift, but have no idea what to get or where to get it. This isn’t exhaustive, and it’s full of our own biases, but it should give you some ideas. (We’re only mentioning games that are in print, so cool games such as Gulo Gulo, and The Magic Labyinth aren’t here.) And please feel free to contact either one of us if you have specific questions. About board games. Not your Calculus homework…

We’re going to start with Kids Games. We’ll have a separate list for Family Games, but these are games specifically meant for kids—even though many of them are great fun for adults, too.

Loopin’ Louie—This fantastic game has gone through many cycles of being in print and then out of print—I had to order a copy from Germany! But you’re in luck! It’s in print, and I’ve seen this on the shelves of Toys R Us, so snatch one up before they’re hard-to-find again. There’s a crazed pilot trying to knock off your chickens, and you have to bounce him away. It’s as insane as it sounds—and I mean that in a good way. My 4-year-old wants to play this all the time. And my group of adult gamers has Loopin’ Louie tournaments on a fairly regular basis.

Cost: ~$20

Available From: Toys R Us (online and in-store), Amazon
, and your friendly local board game store

Ages: My 4-year-old plays, but if I’m being honest, he’s a tad young. Probably 5 or 6 and up on this one. (But seriously, snag one now.)

Animal Upon Animal—The publisher HABA makes some really cool kids games, and this is no exception. It’s a bunch of carved and painted animals of varying sizes and shapes, and each person is trying to stack their set of animals without it falling over. It’s simple, and kids are good at it—I think because they’re so fearless.

Cost: ~$20

Available From: Amazon, and your friendly local board game store

Ages: 4 and up. Unlike some other games, this doesn’t have a whole lot of appeal for older kids or adults. Definitely a kids game.

Chicken Cha Cha Cha—This is a memory game. You’re moving your chickens along a path, and trying to remember where various tiles are. If you pick the right tile, you move forward, and if you move over another chicken, you steal one of their feathers. The winner is the person who manages to get one of every feather. Kids are ridiculously good at this—probably because they still have a decent memory. Unlike, say…me! There’s a small, hard-to-find expansion for this that introduces small wooden piles of chicken poop. Yes, it’s weird. Yes, my kids love it.

Cost: ~$35

Available From: Amazon
, and your friendly local board game store

Ages: 4 and up. I don’t think older kids would like this, and there’s no crossover appeal for adults, either. But parents will enjoy playing with their little ones.

Sorry Sliders!—Sorry is a game many of us played as kids, but it’s dice-driven, so ultimately unsatisfying (in my opinion). But take out the dice and add a dexterity element, and it turns into a fun game! The pieces each have a ball bearing in them, so they sliiiiiiiide on boards. And the boards can be moved and swapped and changed depending on the number of players, or the variant you’re playing.

Cost: ~$20

Available From: Amazon, big box stores (such as Target or Wal-Mart), and your friendly local board game store

Ages: 6 and up—though my 4-year-old does fine with it. Families, teenagers and adults will have fun with this, too.

Hula Hippos—This is a fast, easy dexterity filler. There’s a polished wooden ring, and a bunch of small wooden hippos. You spin the ring, and people try and slide their hippos into the ring as it falls. If you can manage that, your hippo goes away; if you’re the first to get rid of your hippos, you win. There’s enough chaos and uncertainty that it’s good for all ages.

Cost: ~$10

Available From: Amazon
, and your friendly local board game store

Ages: 5 and up. This is a fun game for many ages. We’ve used this as a quick filler in my game group.

What You Missed

16 11 2012

Another fun week here on our humble blog. Here’s what you might have missed…

  • We kicked the week off with a glimmer of hope regarding the new Race for The Galaxy expansion, Alien Artifacts. Apparently it really shakes things up.
  • Finally we gave you a heads-up on a cool-looking Kickstarter project—that’s almost over!—for the game Boss Battles.

Thanks so much for reading, and have a great weekend!

%d bloggers like this: