Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Crit and Miss is blog dedicated to tabletop gaming. I will be providing reviews, news and discussions on various types of games including board games, card games, miniatures, and role-playing games.
While there are many other gaming blogs out on 'the webs', my focus will be from the point of view as a husband, parent and friend of gamers. As such I will focus more on using games to develop friendships and build relationships. With more and more people getting caught up in online social media, I want to do my part to make sure face to face time doesn't become passe.
If anyone would like to submit reviews of games to be posted on the site, feel free to contact me as I would like to have as many contributors as I can.
For more on my background, visit the About page for some more personal insight.
Let me start off by saying, I'm a gamer. Since I was a kid I've played board games, card games, and video games. And all these playing all these types of games are best played with friends and family. In the 90s, when online gaming took off, I was right there with it. I remember having to tell the wife to hurry up and get off the phone (you remember dial up modems, right?) so I could play some Half-Life or Starcraft with my friends. I thought this was about the best experience you could having in multiplayer gaming. To be able to sit a home and play games with others online. I was hooked..from FPSs, to RTSs, to MMOs. I could sit down anytime I wanted at my PC or Xbox, find some friends online and engage in some 'social' gaming.
Then something happened in late 2001. I was introduced to a type of game called collectible card games (CCGs). This type of game had been in the market for about ten years, but I had never looked into it. Without going into too many details, this type of game involves buying cards, building decks and playing against other people. The particular one I got into was Lord of the Rings. I introduced it to a friend and he too was instantly hooked. Over the next couple years, we bought cards, traded cards and got together anytime we could to play. We'd play at each others houses, meet a libraries and even fast food restaurants. All of the sudden, sitting at my PC and playing games online wasn't as much fun sitting across the table from someone and playing a game in 'real life'.
The Lord of the Rings CCG is no longer published but I replaced that game with several other CCGs and more recently got into board gaming. The board games we play aren't the classic board games such as Monopoly, Risk or Sorry. Instead they are more non-mainstream board games that have been gaining popularity over the years. These game ranges in different styles such as 'european' style, resource management, strategy, and co-op. We've played many games over the years and while some have stayed in our game night rotation while others were a one and done, one thing does remain. I would still much rather sit with my family and friends and engage in this type of gaming over the online gaming that comes from the PC, Xbox360, PS3 and even Facebook.
So that's what this site is all about. I want to provide people reviews with some games that I've played with family and friends that will provide hours of enjoyment, provide social interaction and even require a little brain power. These reviews will be tailored towards hardcore gamers, casual gamers and even children.
Real life gaming is still a great form of entertainment that can build relationships, provides hours of laughs (and frustrations), and even making us use our 'thinking games' more so than just staring at the TV or PC. While I still enjoy video games, it's no replacement for personal interaction. I am a proud father of three sons and they also enjoy video games, but I want them to appreciate what comes from sitting with other people and having a good time. I think it's too easy to replace real social interaction with online alternatives such as instant messaging, texting, online chats, etc. Sitting with friends and family around a table and holding cards or board pieces while strategizing over a game are times that you'll love and look forward to.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Tsuro (Calliope Games) is a easy to learn strategy game that consists of nothing more than laying a lined tile down on the game board, then taking your token and following the path on the tile onto other tiles until the path ends. The goal is to keep your token on the board and while trying to cause other players token to follow a path off the board. The last token on the board wins.
Components: Game board, 36 tiles, 8 game tokens
Number of Players: 2 - 8 players
Average Game Length: 20 minutes
Tsuro is game that can be taught and played in a matter of minutes. It's very easy to understand the rules thus making it a great game for children and those who don't want to spent a lot of time learning games with 40 page rule books (like Starcraft: The Board Game). Because there are so few game pieces and games are quick, it's a good game for pulling out of the closet and playing at a moments notice. There is downtime between turns, but the pace of the game moves pretty quickly so you won't spend too much time waiting on others to make their move.
Hardcore Score: 5
This game is good in short bursts, but it's not something a hardcore gamer is going to play hours upon hours. There isn't a lot of strategy involved and your best plans can be thwarted by someone throwing down a random tile and totally messing up your path.
Wifecore Score: 7
Due to the quick setup and easy to follow rules, this is a very good casual game. In addition, my wife likes it because its a great social interaction. You don't have to spend a lot of time planning out your next move so during your downtime you can chit-chat with everyone around the table.
Kidcore Score: 9
Of all the games I've played, this is by far one of the most kid-friendly. Probably anyone ages 5 and up can play because there are so few rules, no reading is needed, and you don't have to hold many tiles in your hand. Now a 5 year old may not be able to plan their moves in advance. But it's easy to understand that your piece follows the path until it can't go any further. Highly recommended for kids.
Settlers of Catan is the first non-mainstream boardgame I ever purchased. I had read several reviews on this "European Style" game (more on that later) and so I decided to try it out. In Settlers of Catan, players try to develop to build settlements, roads and cities on the island of Catan. This is done by collecting different resources that the island produces and using those resources to build your domain. As you build your domain you collect victory points and the first to 10 wins.
- 19 Terrain Hexes (Tiles)
- 6 Sea Frame Pieces
- 9 Harbor Pieces
- 18 Circular Number Tokens (Chits)
- 95 Resource Cards (19 of Each Resource: Ore, Grain, Lumber, Wool, Brick)
- 25 Development Cards (14 Knight/Soldier Cards, 6 Progress Cards, 5 Victory Point Cards)
- 4 "Building Costs" Cards
- 2 Special Cards: "Longest Road" & "Largest Army"
- 16 Cities (4 of Each Color Shaped like Churches)
- 20 Settlements (5 of Each Color Shaped like Houses)
- 60 Roads (15 of Each Color Shaped like Bars)
- 2 Dice (1 Yellow, 1 Red)
- 1 Robber
- 1 Games Rules & Almanac Booklet
Average Game Length: 90 minutes
Settlers of Catan was first published in 1995 and a winner of the prestigious German Game of the Year award, the Deutscher Spiele Preis. The game is centered around economics as opposed to military theme or a game where you 'attack' others. Instead, the game is about collecting resources and using those resources to build roads, settlements and cities as a mean to obtain 'victory points'. These victory points are used to determine the winner of the game.
The game board is composed of hexagon board pieces that represent different types of resources such as lumber, wool, brick, grain and ore. These board pieces are put together to form an island. Since the board pieces are randomly placed, each game plays differently. In addition, random numbered pieces from 2 -12 are placed on each one of these hexagon pieces. Each turn a player rolls two 6-sided die. If you have a settlement or city that borders a hexagon that contains a number rolled on the dice, then you earn that type of resource. As the game goes on you continue to collect resources from the dice rolls and you can even trade resources between players.
The trading is what really makes Settlers a social interactive game. During the game, people are wheeling and dealing trying to get resources they need. Many times a player will barter back and forth with several other players in order to get the best trade possible. Because of the trading and the ability to earn resources on each turn, there is very little down time when it isn't your turn. Even though you are not rolling the dice, you will trading and strategizing as to what you need to build next and where to put it.
The goal of the game is to possess ten victory points. Players possess one point for each settlement built, and a second for each settlement upgraded to a city. Various other achievements, such as establishing the longest road and largest armies, grant a player additional victory points.
As mentioned in the overview, this is a "European Style" game which means the emphasis is more on strategy and downplay luck and conflict. Rules are typically easy to understand but require more thought and strategy than a typical 'party' game such as 'Pictionary' or 'Trivial Pursuit'. Settlers of Catan is sometimes referred to as a 'gateway' game which means it's a great game to introduce casual players to a different style of boardgame that could lead to interest in more complex, strategy games.
Settlers also has several expansions such as 'Seafarers' and 'Cities and Knights'. These add rules and elements to the base game.
Hardcore Score: 7
Even though this is a gateway game. Serious gamers still like to pull out the 'ole tried and true' Settlers. Because each game is different based on how the island is built, each game will have it's own strategies that must be developed and tweaked during gameplay. The biggest drawback to the game for serious gamers is the amount of luck in the dice roll. Even though you may have your settlements built in the best locations to obtain resources. If the those numbers never come up on the dice then you are 'resource starved' which keeps you from building the things you need to obtain victory points
Wifecore Score: 7
Since this is an excellent gateway game, this is a great way to introduce casual gamers to a different style of game than they are used to playing. The rules aren't overly complicated and by playing just once or twice they will have a good feel of the game and how to develop their own strategies. The only drawback is that setup takes 5-10 minutes and a game could last up to 90 minutes. A casual gamer might not be used to taking such a long time to play one game, so it might be worth giving them a heads up before they play.
Kidcore Score: 4
This game is probably best played by kids 8/9 and up. While the rules aren't hard to grasp, sometimes the strategy can be just because there are so many options that can be done each turn. Plans must be made several turns in advance in order to be competitive. And due to the length of the game, I've had my younger kids get bored and leave the table. While this is a great gateway game for adults, it may not be for young kids.
Dominion is a card game based around the concept of deck building. Each player starts with a small deck of cards which is used to buy additional cards available in the middle of the table. As the game progresses, decks are built to be able to purchase victory point cards. The goal of the game is to gain more victory points than your opponent.
130 Basic Treasure Cards:
-60 "Copper" Cards
-40 "Silver" Cards
-30 "Gold" Cards
48 Basic Victory Cards:
-24 "Estate" Cards
-12 "Duchy" Cards
-12 "Province" Cards
252 Kingdom Cards:
-240 Kingdom Action Cards (10 x 24 Each)
-12 Kingdom Victory Cards (12 x 1 "Gardens")
-30 Curse Cards
-33 Placeholder Cards
-7 Blank Cards
Overview: Castle Keep is an excellent game for younger children. The purpose of the game is to be the first to build your 3x3 castle using the cardboard tiles.
Components: 90 tiles
Number of players: 2 - 4 players
Average Game Length: 20 minutes
As far as rules go, this is about as simple of a game I've played, which is why it's great for younger children. They pick up on the gameplay very fast and it's a quick moving game. At the start, each player gets 4 tiles. The rest of the tiles are put in the middle to be the draw stack. On your turn, you draw four tiles and try to build your walls by either matching the color or shape (curved, zig-zagged or straight) of a wall to an adjacent wall. The corners of the castle needs to be towers with wall sections connecting each corner. The center piece is keep and the only restriction is that the color of the keep must match an existing wall. Instead of building walls, you could also affect other players by matching a tile in your hand to one in their castle. By doing so, you destroy that piece of their castle. You could also pass on your turn and at the end of the turn you discard back down to four tiles. The first person to complete the castle wins.
Hardcore Score: 1
What can I say? A game that is great for kids is just not going to hold a hardcore players attention very long. Now this is a great game for hardcore players to use to introduce their kids to strategy gaming. But a group of hardcore players won't give this game a second look.
Wifecore Score: 5
Again, this may be even too easy for the casual gamer. A group of casual games may play this game twice but it won't hold their attention for long.
Kidcore Score: 9
This is where this game shines. Castle Keep can easily be picked up and understood by a 5 or 6 year old. The rules are simple to understand and games go by quick making it easy to hold their attention. In addition, there is some good strategy for younger kids to work through as they play. Constant consideration must be made of the tiles in their hand in trying to determine should matches be made with colors or shapes. In addition, they have to consider whether to go after an opponents castle that may be close to winning in order to give themselves a chance to win.
Pandemic is cooperative game that is based on the theme of eliminating diseases that are breaking out all over the world. Players take on different roles within the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and must work together to try to and find the cures for diseases and eliminate them. Diseases are represented by different color wooden cubes and players collect cards of those disease colors as a means to find the cure. Five matching color cards allow a disease to cured. So players collect and trade these cards as they travel around the world map trying to keep the continually spreading diseases under control.
- 1 8-Page Colour Rulebook
- 1 Folding single-side Gameboard
- 5 Role Cards
- 5 (wooden) Pawns (one colour for each role)
- 6 (wooden) Research Stations
- 96 (wooden) Disease Cubes (24 for each colour disease - black, blue, red, yellow)
- 6 Markers
- 1 Infection Rate Marker
- 1 Outbreaks Marker
- 4 Cure Markers with "Vial" and "Sunset" sides (one for each colour disease)
- 59 Player Cards
- 48 City Cards
- 6 Epidemic Cards
- 5 Special Event Cards
- 48 Infection Cards
- 4 Reference Cards
Average Game Length: 60 minutes
Most of the card and board games out today are PvP (player vs. player). But there are a few games out there where players work together as team against the game itself. You all win or you all lose. Pandemic is one of the more popular co-op games and everyone I've introduced it to has loved it for that reason.
Pandemic is all about taking a role of a person from the CDC to order to find cures to diseases that are spreading all over the world. The game board is a map of the world with major cities being represented on the board. Each region of the world is a certain color and there are 4 different colors. Players collect cards that have city on the card and the color of the card is the color of the region that city is in. Players use these cards to travel around the world in order to try and heal diseases in different cities in addition to collecting 5 of the same color cards in order to find a cure for that colored disease. To win the game, you need to find cures for all 4 colors of diseases.
Each turn players have 4 actions they take from moving their piece around the the map, to trading cards, to finding cures, to healing diseases in cities. At the end of each players turn, cards are turned over from the "Infection Deck" that contain all the cities on the map. When a card is flipped over, a disease (cube) is placed on the city denoted on the card. If three cubes already exist, an outbreak occurs and diseases infect cities adjacent to the city with three cubes. So each turn, more and more cities are being infected. As a team you work together to keep the diseases under control. Players lose if eight outbreaks occur, you run out of a certain color cube, or you extinguish the players draw deck.
Each game, players are assigned random roles that give each player a special ability. For example, the scientist only needs 4 of one color card in order to find a cure for a disease, a dispatcher can help move other players around the board, the medic can heal all cubes in a city for one action (as opposed to healing only cube) and the researcher has an easier job of trading cards between players. These random roles make each game a little different since strategies change based on what roles players have.
As you play the game, players can discuss strategies and try to help each other in determining the best way to win. One problem with the game is that if you have type 'A' personality playing they can tend to take over the game and tell people what to do. At that point the other players don't feel as involved which deter from the game experience.
Hardcore Score: 7
Pandemic is not as easy game to play. The rules provide three modes of play, easy, normal and hard. And even on normal the game can be challenging. The game flow is very dynamic based on where diseases pop up. As such, strategies need to change quickly in order to keep the game from getting out of control. Hardcore gamers will probably also be the ones that are very vocal about strategies and guiding others on what to do. When a group of hardcore players are playing, discussions during turns can be lengthy, but at least there is very little downtime for players. In addition, hardcore players may find the game involving too much luck based on card draw.
Wifecore Score: 9
Due to this game being a coop game, this is a great game for the wife. Not having to play against others removes the intimidation factor. Furthermore, playing within a group allows casual players to be involved as much or as little as they want. The rules are pretty easy to follow, so casual players won't be faced with a steep learning curve. This is one of the better games for casual players...highly recommended.
Kidcore Score: 4
While the rules aren't hard to follow, working out strategies to win the game may be a little tough for kids. In addition, if the kids are playing in a group of adults, it typically turns out that the adults tell the kids how to play their turn which isn't any fun for the kids at all. If it's just a group of kids playing, this score will go up as they will tend to work together and not just wait to be told what to do.