RePlay FX 2017: Retro Gaming in Pittsburgh (Review)

For its third year running, the Burgh’s retro gaming convention, RePlay FX, has marshaled an impressive army of the coin-op monoliths of arcades past—there are so many of these sizable and venerated artifacts of video gaming, in fact, that this year I was reminded of the moai statues of Easter Island. And unlike other nerdy gatherings, RePlay FX has Easter Island’s je ne sais quoi of being that rare bird in the convention circuit, having its own truly unique ambiance, and offering a one of a kind experience. There are dozens upon dozens of comic cons and gaming cons that are very similar to each other, but there’s only one RePlay FX.

While RePlay FX bears some resemblance to the arcades of decades past, the emphasis here is less on the arcade experience—though you buy a ticket at the door, all the coin op games are set to free play—and more on the culture and aesthetic of these vintage games, as if some time-traveling liberator arrived in the eighties, set all the video games free, and gave them a ride in his Tardis to a place where people would appreciate them more than twenty-five cents at a time. Moreover, in addition to the rows of coin-op arcade games and pinball machines, there are consoles vintage and current, musical acts, seminars (i.e. panels), and tabletop gaming.

While the inaugural RePlay FX won me over right out of the gate, and each year since then has simply added to the awesome, my experience of it this year was much different, because on Friday, my wife and I were able to attend kid-free. So while on Thursday and Saturday we gamed in the family-friendly way that we had at prior RePlays, Friday was a chance to take in one and a half concerts and play the games we wanted to play.

Nothing speaks to the ongoing development of RePlay Fx more than the evolution of Thursday attendance. While in 2015, Thursday was like a ghost town, in 2017 there were a good number of attendees, so that I had to wait for a game once or twice. That there still wasn’t a ton of congestion means that Thursday is still a great day for crossing things off of your convention to-do list. Attendance increases every year, so that if you’re reading this in 2020 it may no longer be true, but if you’re looking at attending the 2018 RePlay, I would definitely plan on going down your game checklist, hitting any vendors, and demoing tabletop games on Thursday, when the competition is lighter.

Our Thursday was epic, marked by a ton of coin-op play, including Ms. Pac-Man, Burger Time, Gauntlet, Gauntlet Legacy, Asteroids, Crazy Taxi, The Simpsons, Donkey Kong, Joust, Joust: Survival of the Fittest, Donkey Kong Jr. Missile Command, Tron, Tempest, and probably a few others I’ve forgotten.

Thursday was the day I discovered I can no longer walk past Tempest without playing it, an unspoken law that remained in effect during the convention. Of all the games listed above, I played Tempest the highest number of times and Ms. Pac-Man for the longest duration. While I’m no Ms. Pac-Man pro, I can often get past Act III on one life, and I was on my A game during Replay FX 2018. The game in which I showed the most improvement, though, was Burger Time, which I have never taken seriously, and for which I found a new appreciation this year. Not unlike Ms. Pac-Man, in Burger Time you can fake out the fatal food’s programming; when I realized this, Burger Time became more strategic, and I played it as many times at RePlay FX as I have my entire life. Also, the soundtrack is really catchy.

Magical Truck Adventure gave us a cardio burn and that mid-day convention push we needed. If you’re not familiar with this Japanese arcade game, you can find pictures of Magical Truck Adventure through this link to last year’s RePlay FX review. Suffice to say that MTA is a really fun game, especially when your co-pilot’s moves are coordinated with yours, and its best feature is that you feel more energized after you play.

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After our arcade fix and a snack, we decided to demo a tabletop game. RePlay FX’s tabletop area is staffed by volunteers from the local gaming / co-work association, Looking for Group, so that if you want to learn a game, and/or want an extra player when they’re not demoing for someone else, LfG’s volunteers, identifiable by the leis they wear, are happy to help.

Tiny Epic games were already on my radar, not only because they’ve been spamming my e-mail, but because they’re really committed to the “tiny epic” concept, as illustrated by its many iterations: Tiny Epic Galaxies, Tiny Epic Kingdoms, Tiny Epic Defenders, Tiny Epic Quest, and Tiny Epic Western, the one that we learned.

The Tiny Epic premise is that of pocket games as potent as big box games, and Tiny Epic Western delivered by mashing-up a worker placement game with three card poker. While the insertion of poker enlivens the Wild West theme, it is also an unusually effective game mechanism, so that I was only reminded by its similarities to other worker placement games for a few minutes before I became fascinated by its own unique dynamics.

Judging by the volunteers that helped us this year and last, Looking for Group‘s demo staff are excellent facilitators that add to the value of RePlay FX. The tabletop gaming area was always bustling with gamers, which makes me excited for the future evolution of RePlay’s tabletop gaming. My concluding paragraphs mention ways that RePlay FX 2018 and beyond may expand in scale, and while I hope the RePlay FX formula stays the same, my fingers are also crossed for more tabletop gaming.

We also played a lot of video games on Friday, especially longer ones like Gauntlet that are hard to play with kids in tow. This was nice, but the real highlight of our kid-free Friday was Super Thrash Bros, an outstanding band that came all the way from South Jersey to the Burgh to drop some sweet sets, the coolest of which was their rendition of Donkey Kong Country. If Super Thrash Bros is coming to your local convention, you should definitely forego any other events to take in their act.

While we were only able to catch some of the Triforce Quartet, we were already fans, being familiar from last year’s RePlay FX and from their musical contributions on YouTube. As I’m a gaming nerd, a soundtrack nerd, and a classical music nerd, they hit a lot of my sweet spots. You may already know them from their 2014 interpretations of Super Smash Bros and The Legend of Zelda as these pop up occasionally in YouTube recommendations for those search terms. Triforce Quartet’s gift to the world is taking the already epic soundtracks of some of the best video games and letting that grandeur linger on classical strings. If Nintendo ever does that often-rumored The Legend of Zelda live action movie, it would be harder for them to do better than Triforce Quartet’s interpretation for a classical-styled soundtrack.

Saturday morning was a redux of Thursday, although my daughter and I first played Japanese arcade games, such as Pang Pang Paradise, in which you have to throw actual plastic balls–not unlike Chuck E Cheese ball pit balls in size, shape and lightness–at the touch screen a few feet in front of you; and, Future Tom Tom, which inserts your image into the game via a video camera, so that we could see what we would look like if we ever got into Furry fandom. The more that I play these awesome Japanese imports, the more that I wish someone would open an arcade in Pittsburgh with nothing but Japanese coin-op games. Each one of them seems to be its own separate experience, unlike the video games I played as a youth, which were all variations on shooting, racing, or levelling.

Since we’ve been working our way through Star Trek: The Original Series, it was nice to find the Star Trek simulator so that she could sit in the captain’s chair and kill Klingons. Eventually, we made our way over to Looking for Group’s LAN gaming area, so that she could play a variety of their PC games.  

Earlier in July, RePlay FX announced the welcome news that the convention had locked in three more years for the show at the David L Lawrence Convention Center. On Friday morning, I talked with RePlay FX’s Fred Cochran about some of the factors that went into this, as well as some potentially exciting news for fans of the convention. Cochran noted that they always had a five year plan, and this was fueled by their rapid growth—15,000 attended in 2016, with sales expected to outpace that in 2017—which has made them the third largest show at the DLC. Dates are already set not only for the 2018 RePlay FX, but also for 2019 and 2020, which will take them into their sixth year. While it has not yet been finalized, he added that it is almost certain that RePlay FX will add 50,000 square feet to 2018 by adding Hall C to the already-rented Hall A & B. Let it all be true—I hope nothing but the best for the future of this convention.

RePlay FX is not only an entertaining convention, full of amusements, but the curation of the experience is very strong as well, with a dynamic theme interpreted not only in the gaming contents of the hall, but the musical entertainment, the lighting, and a light-show on the ceiling in which you can see video game art as well as logo branding.  The only other Pittsburgh con with a passion, a theme, and a mission that’s at the level of RePlay FX is Tekko, and that RePlay has crafted such a strong presence in just three short years speaks not only to there being a demand for this convention, it also speaks to the future of this convention, as it appears to resonate not only with fans of vintage games everywhere, but also the local convention goer.  I look forward to the ongoing evolution of this gaming festival.

RePlay FX provided press passes for this event. Cross-posted to NerdSpan.com.

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Catan Blues

Alliance Game Distributors Gets Exclusive Agreement with Catan License Holder, Asmodee North America

In a move which may increase the amount of tabletop games sold in comic book distribution juggernaut Diamond’s shadow, their affiliated company Alliance Game Distributors, also owned by Diamond’s Steve Geppi, has hammered out an exclusive distribution agreement with Asmodee North America, probably best known as the current Catan license holder in English-speaking countries.

Due to Diamond’s affiliation with Alliance Game Distributors, many comic shops are already hybrid hobby stores, with walls and shelves of tabletop games and role-playing games adding to sales and broadening customer bases.  One can speculate that having established this trade partnership, even more tabletop games will be available in Diamond’s PREVIEWS catalog than there are now.

Regardless of the impact on comic book retailers, the impact on tabletop retailers will be noteworthy, as on August 1st, Alliance Game Distributors will hold the Catan pipeline to North American game retailers.  In terms of support for specialized tabletop game retailers, Alliance Game Distributors will be creating an Asmodee Specialist Team for dedicated service of Asmodee products.  Additionally, AGD has announced “upcoming retailer initiatives to support and grow the market.”

“This is an amazing and transformational deal,” said Christian T. Petersen, CEO of Asmodee North America. “We at Asmodee have long enjoyed a terrific and productive relationship with the great people at Alliance. This deal joins the combined experience of both organizations to craft a communications and distribution infrastructure that we believe will positively affect both retailers and consumers in the hobby games market.”

“We are truly honored to be part of this historic agreement,” said Daniel Hirsch, president of Alliance Game Distributors. “Alliance has enjoyed a very close relationship with the companies that make up Asmodee North America for over 20 years. We are both proud and grateful that Asmodee has placed its trust in us for the stewardship of its brands.”

In addition to the original press release sent out by Alliance Game Distributors, I’ve also posted for the benefit of game retailers and hobbyists the two FAQ sheets with answers from Alliance and Asmodee as regards the transition.

Original press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ASMODEE NORTH AMERICA ANNOUNCES EXCLUSIVE DISTRIBUTION AGREEMENT WITH ALLIANCE GAME DISTRIBUTORS IN THE U.S.A.

June 1, 2017
Asmodee North America is excited to announce an exclusive distribution partnership with Alliance Game Distributors in the United States.
The multi-year agreement, which goes into effect on August 1st, 2017, is aimed at broadly increasing support for U.S. hobby games retailers. This includes the creation of a large, dedicated Asmodee Specialist Team at Alliance, significant updates to Asmodee’s sales policies, and a number of upcoming retailer initiatives designed to support and grow the market.
More information on updated Asmodee sales policies and details about upcoming retailer initiatives will be made available in late June.
“This is an amazing and transformational deal,” said Christian T. Petersen, CEO of Asmodee North America. “We at Asmodee have long enjoyed a terrific and productive relationship with the great people at Alliance. This deal joins the combined experience of both organizations to craft a communications and distribution infrastructure that we believe will positively affect both retailers and consumers in the hobby games market.”
“We are truly honored to be part of this historic agreement,” said Daniel Hirsch, president of Alliance Game Distributors. “Alliance has enjoyed a very close relationship with the companies that make up Asmodee North America for over 20 years. We are both proud and grateful that Asmodee has placed its trust in us for the stewardship of its brands.”
For additional information related to this announcement, please refer to the Q&A sheet attached hereto.
For sales and business inquires related to this announcement, please contact Brendan Bell, Hobby Market Sales Manager, at bbell@asmodeena.com.
For questions directed to Alliance Games Distributors, please contact Mike Webb, VP of Marketing, Data, and Customer Service, at mew@alliance-games.com.

FAQ sheets:

Hobby Games Retailer Questions to Alliance Regarding the Exclusive Asmodee Distribution Agreement in the U.S.

June 1, 2017 Q: Are there any specific areas we can expect things to improve? A: We are excited to be rolling out a number of new initiatives in the next couple of months that could not have happened in a multi-distributor environment. Please keep an eye out in the Alliance Alert and in ANA communications for upcoming changes – we believe these opportunities will be transformative and will create more value for retailers than ever before.

Q: If I don’t have an account with Alliance, how do I get one? A: To set up an account with Alliance, simply contact Marc Aquino, VP of Sales with Alliance at mla2@alliance-games.com and he will set you up with a Sales Manager to walk you through the process. You can also find our account applications online at http://www.alliancegames.com/Home/11/1/79/1162?articleID=127270

Q: I have some outstanding issues in the past with Alliance. I am concerned about reopening an account – what can I do to make sure things go smoothly? A: Contact Marc Aquino, VP of Sales at mla2@alliance-games.com or Mike Webb, VP of Marketing, Data, and Customer Service at mew@alliance-games.com. We are committed to working with you to clear up any issues on either side to make this transition a smooth and mutually beneficial one.

Q: How will this affect my supply of product? I liked my allocations with my former distributor better on ANA product. A: Although there will no doubt be some future products where demand outstrips supply, we do believe having a single source of the product will help to balance out some issues related to allocation of products. Alliance and ANA will also be sharing data more directly during the pre-solicit and solicit phases of a product, and providing extremely detailed analysis of sales within product lines. This will allow more accurate demand forecasting. In addition, allocation policy can better be coordinated on a product by product basis. Alliance’s history as steward of hobby sales for Days of Wonder and Catan products demonstrated considerable improvement in availability of product lines, and we hope to see many of those benefits accrue again.
Q: Is Alliance going to be able to handle the increased volume this represents? How can I know my orders will still be processed in a timely manner? A: Alliance has already begun hiring and training additional operations staff to handle increased volume. They have also undertaken significant investment in technology in their warehouses to increase the speed and accuracy of orders.

Q: How will the Asmodee Sales Specialists work? Will I have to place orders with 2 different people? A: In short, no – you can place your orders for ANA product with either. Your Alliance Account Representative will be there to help as always with the full range of Alliance products and services. The Asmodee Sales Specialists will have additional training and information on programs that can help your store better promote and sell the full range of ANA products. They will help guide you in growing your sales across the ANA brands, and will get to know your store’s unique needs and how ANA can best meet them. From assisting you with organized play opportunity to helping you gauge demand for new product or ANA lines you might not have carried in the past, they will leverage greater experience and information on Asmodee North America products to your store’s advantage.

*****************************

Hobby Games Retailer Questions to Asmodee Regarding the Exclusive Alliance Distribution Agreement in the U.S.

June 1, 2017

Q: Why did Asmodee decide to go exclusive with Alliance in the U.S.? A: It is our goal to provide hobby games retailers with the support and inventory they need to successfully grow their business selling Asmodee’s games. As part of this deal, Alliance will be making a significant investment to enhance our ability to communicate, support, and allocate our products.

Q: When does this go into effect? A: The agreement goes into effect August 1, 2017. Any new releases and restocks of Asmodee products that ship prior to August 1, 2017 will be available to retailers from all our current authorized distributors. Starting on August 1, 2017, all new Asmodee releases and re-stocks will be available exclusively to hobby games retailers through Alliance Game Distributors.

Q: How will this new exclusive arrangement benefit hobby games retailers? A: With this deal, Alliance Game Distributors is building a dedicated team of Asmodee Sales Specialists who will work directly with retailers to help them grow sales by understanding the retailer’s specific needs and providing in-depth product knowledge of ANA products and services. This sales team will also provide greater visibility into stock availability, allocations, and other retailer initiatives, as well as sending retailer feedback to ANA.

Additionally, Asmodee is developing updated sales policies and retailer initiatives that we believe will greatly benefit both retailers and consumers. More information about these changes will be made available towards the end of this month.

Q: How do I open an account with Alliance? A: To set up an account with Alliance Game Distributors, contact Marc Aquino, VP of Sales, at mla2@alliance-games.com. You can also find online applications at http://www.alliance-games.com/.

Q: I have additional questions for Asmodee, who can I contact? A: Please contact Brendan Bell, Asmodee North America’s Hobby Market Sales Manager, at bbell@asmodeena.com.

Q: I have additional questions for Alliance, who can I contact? A: Please contact Mike Webb, VP of Marketing, Data, and Customer Service, at mew@alliancegames.com.

Cross-posted on NerdSpan.com.

Torres

IDW Games and Huch! Partner for Torres Tabletop Game Global Re-release

IDW Games and Huch! have announced a global re-release for the celebrated abstract tabletop game Torres, the 2000 Spiel des Jahres and Games Magazine Game of the Year winner.  Torres will arrive in a big box format for $49.99 in August of 2017.

“We couldn’t be more excited to bring this amazing Eurogame to market,” says Jerry Bennington, IDW’s VP of New Product Development, “and we are honored to represent such a prestigious title.”

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On boardgamegeek.com, the 1999 version of Torres currently ranks a 7.2 from c.6900 voters, and a thread of 2000 comments, including such threads as “how to win at Torres without getting a headache.”  In BGG.com’s abstract games  listings, Torres ranks very well, at #12 compared to all other abstract games.  In comparison, the classic abstract games Go and Chess currently rank at #6 and #38. respectively.  7.2 is a fairly high ranking on boardgamegeek.com, an aggregate site where the highest rankws product, currently, is at 8.7 (Pandemic Legacy: Season 1).

Torres is described by IDW as:

…the compelling tale of a city in need of hope. Following a massive destruction, the King has entrusted his successors to rebuild the city, one castle at a time, to reclaim its prior majesty. That’s where you must act, as a prince in control of 6 knights, stacking castle pieces on top of one another to rebuild the city. Where you place your knights influences how many victory points you earn for the turn.

Torres presents beautifully on the table. With fully updated art and pieces, Torres comes with over 90 sculpted plastic castle pieces that stack on top of one another, 28 beautiful knight figures, 1 King figure, cards, and more. In terms of gameplay, it has the cut and crunch of a Eurogame, with the beauty and elegance of an abstract.

As thematic as it is strategic, this game will force you to make careful moves with your trusted knights, build towers to not only help you score in the short-term, but to set yourself up for your next consecutive turns. Torres provides players with the opportunity to strategize and think ahead for massive long-term pay-offs.

Pre-orders of Torres can be taken through this link to Amazon:

Torres Board Game

Board of Life uses affiliate links. Cross-posted on NerdSpan.com.

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Card Game

Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Card Game Announced by Renegade Game Studios and Oni Press

Renegade Game Studios and Oni Press have announced the summer release of Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Card Game, a two to six player tabletop deck-building game designed by Keith Baker.

“Invite your friends! Throw a pizza party! But don’t get the cards greasy,” said Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan O’Malley.

Scott Pilgrim is an incredibly popular graphic novel series because it is so relatable,” says Renegade President Scott Gaeta. “Renting your first apartment, falling in love, and getting a job are things everyone’s gone through. Keith Baker has done an incredible job recreating these life choices in a deck-building format while incorporating the video game style button-mashing combo moves that we loved in the graphic novel fight scenes.”

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Card Game

Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Card Game will have a MSRP of $45, run 45-60 minutes per game, and is described as:

…a deckbuilding game that challenges you to grow up and prepare for your finest hour. Players assume the roles of their favorite characters in the Scott Pilgrim universe, each of whom comes with a unique starting deck. Innovative double-sided cards let you decide whether to solve your problems with hard work and empathy, or whether to embrace the unpredictable world of gratuitous video game violence.

Beyond the video-game-style combo moves unique to each character, fans will also appreciate the innovative double-sided cards. Players will be faced to make hard choices about whether to fight or upgrade their life with each card placed into the Plot line. Defeating the Evil Ex and collecting Power-Ups will help players inch their way towards victory.

While pre-orders have not opened, you can bookmark the official Renegade Game Studios page through this hyperlink.

Cross posted on NerdSpan.com.


 

 

Random Encounter: Seas of the Sea Chicken Announced by IDW for May

Last year, Board of Life  reviewed Random Encounter: Plains of the Troll King.  While the game mechanics leave little room for players that enjoy strategic tabletop games, we admired its design, and its pluck in capitalizing on the Minecraft nostalgia boom decades before there was a Minecraft nostalgia boom.

Today, IDW announced the May arrival of the first expansion, Random Encounter: Seas of the Sea Chicken, also designed by James Keddie.

IDW describes the new installment as:

Random Encounter: Sea of the Sea Chicken brings 4 new special powers to the Encounter cards. With a black skulled card, you can double the combat strength of any Encounter that card is placed in, which can create an overwhelming advantage. Any Encounter card with a purple skull may flee to another one of your Encounters if the Encounter it is included in is attacked. Salty swashbuckler-scuttled swimwear swept sideways! Or something like that…

Also, while it’s described as an expansion, IDW also notes that it’s a “complete stand-alone product,” although this will not prevent players from combining the two sets into “hilarious off-the-wall land and sea mash ups.”

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Cross-posted on NerdSpan.com.

Add Batman the Animated Series Dice Game to Your Gaming Utility Belt

November was Nanowrimo, which had most of my free attention, but when I logged into Board of Life to post this BTAS Dice Game news, I realized it’s been over a month since I posted!  I still have a vision for this blog—and apparently, so do you, based on the traffic I still get even when nothing posts (November was my second best month in views and visitors)–so I’ll do my best to resume penning, even if it’s just news to share, like today’s.

From DC Entertainment, Cryptozoic and Steve Jackson Games comes the Batman The Animated Series Dice Game, which arrived today in gaming stores and Hot Topic locations just in time for the holidays.  Or, if you’re not looking for a gift for the Batman collector who has everything, you can add it to your own box of quick games.

If you don’t have a Local Gaming Store or a Hot Topic, you can order this directly through Steve Jackson Games.


backcoverpicture硬纸卡包吸塑包装:216x121mmbatman_dicebatmanimage

Game description:

The Joker, Catwoman, The Riddler, and Poison Ivy are pulling off elaborate heists to score as much loot as they can carry! Based on the award-winning TV show, Batman: The Animated Series™ Dice Game lets you become a Super-Villain in a press-your-luck game for the whole family. Roll the dice and take advantage of each villain’s diabolical abilities to scheme your way to victory before getting busted by Batman™!

Suggested Retail Price $14.95 * Stock number 131339
UPC 091037863218

Contents
10 custom dice, 4 large tokens, dice cup, and rules.


Batman The Animated Series Dice Game

Cross-posted on NerdSpan.com. Board of Life uses affiliate links.

Tabletop

Tabletop Season Four Launches With Lanterns Episode

Even if you’re not a tabletop gaming fiend, there’s no doubt that if you have any familiarity with YouTube at all, you’ve come across Wil Wheaton’s excellent show, Tabletop.  If you’re unfamiliar, the premise of the show is that Wil Wheaton and his friends play games, and in so doing provide useful and entertaining game play recap and commentary.  Fans of the show have been waiting for the fourth season to drop for some time, though we haven’t grown beards like those waiting for Winds of Winter.  

The first episode of season four has hit YouTube today, and it covers a relatively new release, Lanterns.  Wheaton has written on his personal blog that Lanterns was “the first game I officially locked into our schedule for this season.  His guests are Ivan Van Norman and Becca Scott from the show Game the Game, which Wheaton blogged today that he considers a “sister show,” and Zac Eubanks of Twitch.

I’ve embedded the video here on NerdSpan for your convenience, or you can hop over to YouTube through this link.

This article was cross posted on NerdSpan.com.

Lanterns The Harvest Festival Board Game

Board of Life uses affiliate links.

Hogwarts Battle

USAopoly Announces Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle Splash Event for 11/12

Participating tabletop game retailers are hosting demos for Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle on November 12th, in what is being called a “splash event.”  You should be excited about this even if you own the game, as special incentive cards are being given out: Seamus Finnigan and Eye of Rabbit Promo Cards.

potter_blog_promo

Here is the list of game stores, which I pulled from USAopoly.com.  If your store is not on the list, they can contact USAopoly if they’re interested in participating.

Alabama
Madison – JC’s House of Cards

Arizona
Glendale – Imperial Outpost Games

Arkansas
Fayetteville – Dragon’s Keep Gaming Room

California
Vista – Pair A Dice Games
Westlake Village – Game Ogre

Colorado
Arvada – Black & Read Music, Books and Games
Aurora – Shep’s Games
Aurora – Crit Castle Games
Highlands Ranch – Enchanted Grounds

Connecticut
Danbury – Gamer’s Gambit
Mashantucket – Regency Gaming
Newington – YFN Tabletop Shop
Wallingford – Dragon’s Lair

District of Columbia
Washington – Labyrinth Games & Puzzles

Florida
Davie – The Adventure Game Store
Jacksonville – Cool Stuff Games
Winter Garden – Krum’s World
Clearwater – Emerald City

Georgia
Athens – Tyche’s Games
Flowery Branch – Meeple Madness

Hawaii
Honolulu – The Armchair Adventurer

Idaho
Idaho Falls – Gameopolis
Moscow – Safari Pearl Comics
New Plymouth – Gaming Adventures

Illinois
Batavia – Draxtar Games
Bloomington – Red Raccoon Games
Chicago – Cat and Mouse Games
Chicago – Da Sorce
Crystal Lake – Affinity for Gaming
Quincy – Underdark Comics
Peoria – Just for Fun
DeKalb – The Gaming Goat

Indiana
Bloomington – Common Room Games
Elkhart – Secret Door Games
Fort Wayne – Deck Factory Gaming Center
Goshen – Better World Books
Hobart – Games Inn
Indianapolis – Game Preserve
Indianapolis – Family Time Games
Portage – Lightspeed Hobbies

Iowa
Coralville – Geek City Games and Comics
Iowa City – Critical Hit Games
Sioux City – Games King
Sioux City – ACME Comics & Collectibles

Kansas
Overland Park – TableTop Game & Hobby
Wichita – Hero Complex Games & Entertainment
Wichita – Wizard’s Asylum
Shawnee – The Geekery

Kentucky
Lexington – Legendary Games
Louisville – The Louisville Game Shop
Richmond – Legendary

Louisiana
Lafayette – Sword N Board

Maine
Kennebunk – Make It KPT
Belfast – All About Games

Maryland
Baltimore – Canton Games
Gaithersburg – Play More Games
Rockville – Looking for Games

Massachusetts
Northampton – Modern Myths

Michigan
Garden City – Pandemonium Games and Hobbies (U-Con)
Adrian – Acropolis Games
Brighton – Nerdageddon
Ferndale – The Loaded Die
Grandville – The Gamer’s Wharf
Kentwood – Out of the Box Games
Traverse City – TC War Room
Wayne – Warriors 3 Comics & Games (UCON)
Ypsilanti – Fun 4 All Comics and Games

Minnesota
Minnetonka – Lodestone Coffee & Games
Champlin – Village Games
Roseville – Games by James
Roseville – Fantasy Flight Game Center
South Saint Paul – Level Up Games, Comics, and More
Roseville – Source Comics and Games

Mississippi
Long Beach – Dark Knights Gaming (CoastCon Jr.)
Ridgeland – Van’s Comics, Cards & Games

Missouri
Independence – Game Café
Springfield – Meta-Games Unlimited
St. Louis – The Fantasy Shop – South County
Independence – Game Café (Midwest GameFest)

Nebraska
Bellevue – The Game Shoppe
Lincoln – Hobbytown USA (Pioneer Woods Dr)
Lincoln – Gauntlet Games
Lincoln – Hobbytown USA (Cornhusker Hwy)
Omaha – Sparta Games
Omaha – Spielbound
Omaha – The Game Shoppe
Kearney – Game On Games

New Jersey
Bernardsville – The Bearded Dragon Games
Green Brook – Elite Battlegrounds
Washington – Arcana Toys Games and Hobbies
Woodbridge – The Game Room Store

Nevada
Reno – Games Galore

New York
Hicksville – Game Master Games
Hyde Park – Alterniverse
Pittsford – The Game Gamut
Plainview – Legendary Realms Games
Port Jervis – Haven for Heroes
East Greenbush – Flipside Gaming

North Carolina
Matthews – Your Local Game Store (MACE)
Pineville – Carolina TableTop Games
Richlands – Red Door Games
Durham – Atomic Empire

Ohio
Cincinnati – Arkham House Games
Cleveland Heights – Critical Hit Games
Columbiana – Fantastic Games
Mason – Nostalgia, Ink
Newbury – Diversions Gaming and Hobby
North Olmsted    – Recess
Toledo – Old School Gaming
Reynoldsburg –  Great Games & Clubhouse

Oklahoma
Norman – Loot & XP

Oregon
Gresham – Off The Charts Games
Portland – Guardian Games
Portland – Red Castle Games
Salem – Haven Gaming

Pennsylvania
West Chester – The Games Keep

Rhode Island
Warwick – Toy Vault Games

Tennessee
Hermitage – The Game Cave
Knoxville – Level Up Games & Hobbies
Oak Ridge – Stabler Games & Comics
Knoxville – Hobbytown USA
Madison – Comix City Too!
Murfreesboro – Roll The Dice

Texas
Austin – Wonko’s Toys and Games
Austin – Dragon’s Lair
Austin – Mage’s Sanctum
College Station – Clockwork Games & Events
Fort Worth – Collected Fort Worth
Plano – Valhalla Hobbies & Games
Lockhart – Flash Candy and Toys
San Angelo – The Gathering Place
San Antonio – Tabletop Gaming Center
Pearland – Arkham Comics & Games

Utah
Provo – Dragon’s Keep
Salt Lake City – Demolition Games
St. George – Game Haven
Salt Lake City – Hastur Games & Comics

Virginia
Centreville – The Island Games
Fairfax – Comics & Gaming Fairfax
Leesburg – Leesburg Hobbies & Collectibles
Falls Church – The Compleat Strategist

Washington
Tacoma – Uncle’s Games

Wisconsin
Madison – Pegasus Games
Middleton – I’m Board! Games and Family Fun
Sheboygan – The GameBoard

Wyoming
Laramie – 8 Bytes Game Café


Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle A Cooperative Deck Building Game

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Terra Mystica

Terra Mystica App Announced for 2017

Game developer Digidice announced at Spiel and on Twitter this past week that they are developing an app version of Terra Mystica, to be available in the first quarter of 2017.

 

I’ll be very interested to see how this one plays, as Terra Mystica is a notoriously long game:  one time through can monopolize an entire game night.  My favorite board game apps, unlike my favorite tabletop games, are able to be played in an under ten minute time frame, and I’m wondering if the Terra Mystica app will hit that window.

And if game play is rapid, will it satisfy the same strategy-loving gamers that have currently elevated the game to a fourth place ranking on BGG.com, and to a long list of awards that, when run in a single column, barely fit on my desktop screen?  Perhaps making the game more user friendly may make it small in other ways as well…

Thoughts on Splendor Online Play

Online play in the Splendor app is not yet a month old, and it appears to be, compared to other board games on mobile app stores, much healthier in terms of matching a bevy of eager players. It even seems easier to find other players than in the venerable Catan app, and it is much quicker to get the virtual table outfitted as well: from loading the app to picking your tokens takes less than a minute. Also, and most importantly, unlike all other mobile tabletop gaming apps that I own, the app forces players to stay involved by timing each player’s turn. In virtual Splendor, there are no agonizingly long three to five minute turns (although some players take an eon to realize that all they can do, if there are three short stacks, and there’s nothing they can afford or want to buy, is take three tokens or reserve a card). But if the other player’s timer does expire, congratulations! They just forfeited through being inattentive, and you won the game. This means that online Splendor, while slower than Splendor against AI, is much quicker than other games that feature online play.  However, it is still quicker than playing Splendor on a real-world tabletop, as most real-world players don’t use a timer, and there’s always that one Splendor player that takes two or three minute turns.

Possibly the most interesting aspect of this rapidity of play is that you are quickly introduced to a wide variety of Splendor strategies. I just finished playing a game with a player that started the game by reserving a red jewel card from the bottom row, and from then on in, was determined not to let me have any red jewel cards on the bottom row, so that whenever one would be placed, she would reserve it. As the green deck was top heavy with red cards, this meant that her first three turns required her to reserve three red cards in a row, so that while I quickly had a card and five tokens, she had three jokers and three reserved cards after the first three turns. Unfortunately for her, the next card placed in the bottom row was also a red token card, and as she had already reserved the maximum of three cards, and I had five tokens and a card, I was better suited to buying it before she did. I’m intensely interested in seeing how this kind of color monopolization strategy might work in another game in which the luck wasn’t as lopsided, but I will probably never play this way myself. I won this game 16 points to 10.

Another player closely scrutinized my till of tokens, so that whenever I was able to buy a point-scoring card, they would reserve it. This probably throws off other players’ games, but as I have played a lot of Splendor, and I have experience in diversifying my strategy, and they can only reserve three cards at most—cards that usually turned out to be useless to them, as they were saving very different colors than I was saving—I won 17 points to 5. However, I will admit to being more annoyed by this player than any other Splendor player, although the feeling was mitigated when I realized that they were stuck with three cards that did not match their game investments, which blocked their ability both to reserve cards and to get joker tokens for the rest of the game.

More than half of the players that I have played have reserved a card from the bottom row. Folks, this is a bonehead move, and tells the person across the table that you have no idea what you’re doing. I’ll allow the exception to this to be the color monopolization strategy I mentioned above, as I have only seen it used in one virtual game and no real-world tabletop games. Color monopolization on the bottom row may very well be a bonehead move as well, but I have little experience with the strategy to say either way. If your first three moves are to reserve a red card, a brown card, and a blue card, though, you’re definitely a mook, as the bottom row cards are inexpensive and plentiful, and are best purchased with a canny economy of three token draws and using prior purchases to make it cheaper to make future buys. Good Splendor players reserve around three cards per game, and they are usually three to five point cards. Sometimes a bottom row card might be reserved towards the end game if it is the color that a player needs to attract a noble.

spl01_annegood

For instance, if I have three green, three blue, and two white cards, and I need one more white to get the noble above, and the white card that costs three brown is drawn for the bottom row, reserving it to get the joker token to add to the two brown in my till will get me three points in the following turn—as long as another player is not about to take that noble.  This is usually the only instance in which I would reserve a card from the bottom row.

There are also the kind of players that you meet in real life, such as the Splendor Gamblers that like to reserve the cheap cards in the middle and top row as an opening move, for example the four point top row cards that only cost seven tokens of one color. While I almost never do this, and only reserve cards that I might play in a round or two, and very rarely reserve compeititively (taking a winning card from another player that will also give me the joker token I need to squeeze out a big purchase), when I see a player reserve a cheap card, it tells me that they know how to play Splendor, and this game will be more challenging than most. Experienced Splendor players fall on a continuum between Splendor Gambling and Splendor Economy, and one of the main disadvantages for a Splendor Gambler is that your early strategic reserves tell the other player that you grok the game while also telegraphing your strategy several moves ahead to your opponent.  I may return to the continuum of Splendor Gamblers and Splendor Economists in a future post.

While I’ve had a lot of fun playing the online mobile version of Splendor, I would only recommend it with the caveat that if you are not playing this game on a good WiFi connection, you could find it a frustrating pastime. If you have a rocket fast internet connection (I have Xfinity, which does the trick), and only try to play it at home on that network, you will probably have a great time with online Splendor play. If you’re trying to play through a 3G or 4G connection, you stand a good chance of being disconnected from the server, which the app counts as a loss for the player being disconnected. This is such a pervasive problem that on any given time if you enter the Online section of the app, the chat stream is likely to have one or two players venting about being disconnected.

Also, I should advise players that while I have mentioned in other articles on this blog that the Splendor app fits that five to ten minute sweet spot for a mobile game, that only holds true when you’re playing against AI. When you’re playing in the Online section of the app, even considering the timer running in the background, the games take at least 50% longer, around 15 minutes with an attentive opponent. 

However, even with these two criticisms weighing in, the Splendor app is currently my favorite online tabletop gaming platform, ending a period of several months in which, when I had ten minutes to kill, I would play San Juan or Puerto Rico nearly exclusively.

You can find my review of the tabletop version of Splendor by following this link.

Splendor Board Game


Splendor on Android.

You can find Splendor on iTunes through this link.

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