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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Bora Bora

Game Night: Bora Bora and Ticket to Ride

On Saturday, we had a short game night with our friends, in which we played Bora Bora for the first time, and also played Ticket To Ride, which we had not played in over a year. The food was great, as usual, with the highlights of the menu being baked tofu sandwiches and a roasted vegetable soup that combined roasted garlic, cauliflower, and potatoes into a kind of creamy stock, though the soup was vegan. The highlight of my week, though, was that I was sitting upright for longer than fifteen minutes, as my recent surgery had required that I be reclining for most of the week.

Bora Bora and the Bora Bora Effect


For the last half dozen game nights, we’ve been focusing on playing games that we already know, as it lets us play more games, but tonight we decided to try a new one. Unfortunately, the game that we learned to play was Bora Bora, which is like the game Puerto Rico—already a Machiavellian pasttime—overinflated with a half dozen house rules pulled from Terra Mystca, Power Grid, and the inscrutable and sadistic games played by Arioch and the Lords of Chaos. While usually I’m down with the maniacal laughter and hand-wringing required to appreciate the most fiendishly convoluted of strategy games, the complexities of Bora Bora were lost on me, as the poorly translated rules were bobbing around in the gas bubble trapped in my left eye by my recent retinal detachment surgery. And, as the discomfort of reading twelve pages of Ravensburger tabletop game instructions apparently exceeds the discomfort of recovering from eye surgery, none of the other players rose to the occasion, and I was still our groups’ de facto game interpreter. Not that I blame anyone for their reluctance to take command over such ambiguous rules; rules which say one thing, while the symbolic task tokens seem to say something else, so that although we played the game accurately according to the written rules, for most of the game we were uneasy with our textual intepretation of it.

When I was a gaming noob, I would sometimes confuse my skill at tabletop games as an appreciation for them, and equate a victory with liking a game, but setting up hundreds of games of Catan not only gave me an honest appreciation of that game, it also helps to peel back the veils from other games. And in this case, winning with a huge lead didn’t soften my antipathy,

And losing obviously didn’t create a bias for the game in our other players, though all of their reactions varied widely: in all six rounds of play, one player begged to be released from Bora Bora so that we could play other games; another grumbled here and there, but since then hindsight has ameliorated her opinion, so that she now says she likes it; and the third—the buyer of the game—cheered louder for the game than a Ravensburger company shill. Of all the games that we have played, this game was the most polarizing, so that I might refer to it in future installments on Board of Life as the Bora Bora Effect—which I’m basically swiping from the Rashomon Effect. If you read the Rasahomon Effect entry on Trope TV, you basically know the Bora Bora Effect: each tabletop game is actually a nexus of shared experience, so that there isn’t just one Catan, there are millions of different Catans, each nuanced differently according to the players of Catan. The main way that the Bora Bora Effect might differ from the Rashomon Effect is that the Bora Bora Effect describes games, which are closed systems, and the Rashomon Effect describes perceptual experience, which it is assumed is less ordered and open-ended. I’m going to resist the sidebar, though, and return to the Bora Bora Effect when our gaming group has a larger selection of polarizing games.

I almost called it the Boring Bora Bora Effect, but spite doesn’t really serve the spirit of inquiry.

To those of you that visit this blog for the strategic takeaways, my main recommendation to you if you want to win Bora Bora is to invest yourself in building your temple as fast as you can, bevause the building blocks of your temple are worth much more in the earlier rounds (10VP eeach) than the later rounds (7VP or 4 VP). Also, if you build the temple entirely, you get a 12 VP bonus—6VP for having a full temple and 6VP for having a finished temple—unlike most other completion bonuses, which are 6 VP. This is on top of the 24 to 60 VP that you get for selecting the Builder role cards over six successive rounds. In addition to often playing Builder, I was able to complete my temple by putting high rolled dice on the Helper role card as often as I could so that I could get the bonus resources for my temple. Other than focusing on building my temple, I used my remaining dice to diversiy my VP investments on the board. Unlike Puerto Rico, you can select a Role card more than once per round, and I did this as many times as I could, prioritizing Builder and Helper, and only investing in other roles when necessary.

Diet Ticket to Ride


Next we moved into Ticket to Ride, which, with Catan, was one of the first games that we played as a group. It was extremely pleasant to return to the world of Ticket to Ride. Something about Ticket to Ride inspires us to be nice to each other in ways that Catan doesn’t, so that while on any of three successive turns I could have interrupted another player’s route, I just didn’t feel like doing it. And, as a point of fact, no player during the entire game deliberately interrupted another’s route just for the sake of doing it. Upon reflection, I feel that we may be ruining the game by being too nice as we play it, so that we’re not really playing Ticket to Ride but a Diet version of it.

Ticket to Ride has many virtues: lightning-fast set-up; speedy play; eminently teachable; multiple winning strategies. If Ticket to Ride went for the viscera like Catan so that it was half as gripping as that game of hexes and dice, we might have played the former more than four times as a group in the last three years. While an inviting game, it’s not very compelling—at leas the way that we currently play it. Because of this, I’m considering resisting my natural inclination to be a nice Ticket to Ride player next time, and blocking every single route that I can, just to see if it makes the game more dynamic and memorable. After some more experimentation—to see how far Ticket to Ride game play can be bent—I’d like to review Ticket to Ride here on Board of Life.

My current takeaway from Ticket to Ride, when players are playing the game nicely, is that the main struggle in the mid game is knowing whether or not you should risk getting new routes, as well as knowing when you should get them or when it is too late to get them. If you’re satisfied with a low number of finished routes, then you need to switch to saving cards in order to buy the biggest routes that you can. That said, if a nice player also decides to be cautious in their investment of routes, it is a very hard game to win.

Here’s what I project: if you’re going to play Ticket to Ride in the nice way, you should invest in a sprawling, easily diversified, series of routes, and get new routes frequently in order to capitalize on that investment. If you’re not going to play Ticket to Ride in the nice way, you should finish your initial routes as quickly as possible, and then spend the rest of the game saving cards so that you can play them strategically in a manner to cut off others’ route investments. This is actually what I had planned on doing going into this game, but as everyone else was playing in the nice way, I decided to play nice as well when the time came.

Conclusion

On the surface, I found Bora Bora to be overcomplicated and torturous, and Ticket to Ride to be enjoyable and gratifying, but bland, but upon reflection, this game night was more fruitful than many others as it has given me pause enough to consider that games have a Rashomon-like separation of individual experiences, and that sharing of the jointly-perceived game may be as important as the playing of the game. On top of that, I have begun to deconstruct the way that we play Ticket to Ride, and I wonder whether long term enjoyment of tabletop games depends on continual examination and deconstruction of their game play.

Bora Bora Strategy Board Game

Ticket to Ride

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A Little Nap

This is officially the longest break on my blog, and I just wanted to let those of you that have this page bookmarked know the reason for my absence.

Those of you not following my other Twitter account, @k4comicbook, don’t know that I had retinal detachment surgery earlier this week.  As I’ve been just resting  and watching One-Punch Man and Mob Psycho 100 for the most part, as well as a rewatch of Doctor Who series six, I haven’t been playing tabletop games.  I’m looking forward to resuming Board of Life soon.