Archive for the ‘Board games’ Category

“Slingshotting” – a review of Fresco

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

A few months ago we played a new game called Fresco, which unfortunately ended up disappointing all of us. It had a nice, tight theme of painting pieces of the fresco with different colors that you buy and mix together. The calculation of whether to mix yellow, red, and blue paints together or save them as distinct colors was an interesting mechanic I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere else.

There was also a fun track where you had to balance how early your painter wakes up with how happy you are. Too many early mornings in a row would eventually make you cranky and reduce your ability to take actions.

Unfortunately, it had two serious flaws:

  1. The starting player each turn had an absolutely enormous efficiency advantage over all the other players, because he could take the “buy paint” action and buy up to three-quarters of the paint on the board, denying all the other players any way to get paint whatsoever. This meant that on average we had to wait 4 turns to get resources to do basically anything at all. All the other actions the other players could take were decidedly lame in comparison. Having 3 “off” turns for every “on” turn felt so boring that we all assumed we must have read the rules wrong, but apparently not.
  2. The player who was last in points each turn got first move on the “wake-up time” track, which meant that whoever was in last place could force their way into starting player and buy all the paint. The result was that we all “slingshotted” for the entire game – whenever anyone got ahead on the point track, they would then be unable to do anything for a few turns until the other players caught up. It seemed the only way to win was to be efficient right at the end of the game, and get fairly lucky with the timing of your turns.

The idea of a “slingshotting” mechanic is, I think, fairly distinctive among games. I can’t recall seeing such a blatant leveling effect anywhere else, even though some other games have minor boosts for players who are trailing. Many of the resource gathering board games even have the opposite “snowballing” effect where being a little bit ahead economically can give you the ability to get even further ahead, and they don’t seem to suffer for it. While I appreciate the idea of helping trailing players stay in the game and not feel eliminated, making the boost so big that it forces all the players to try to do worse in the early parts of the game is frustrating and detracted substantially from the game.

New board game: Ascension expansion

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Today we were in the mood for a board game, so we headed out to the local game store to pick up a new game: the expansion to the card game Ascension. Times like this make us happy to live in a town big enough to have conveniences like this! Just a quick 15 minute drive out and back and we were ready to play.

We are fans of the original game and excited to try this one. Our fascination may be partially because we never got into Dominion that much, so we’re riding that wave now. Anyway, here are some photos of our first playthrough:

The expansion can be played on its own with 2

Set up and ready to play. Since including another copy of the board would be redundant, the expansion box doesn't have one. We have to check how many cards are supposed to go in the center row, then just set it up like a card game.

Partway through the game. I've drawn a pretty boring hand with nothing but +7 Runes, but hey - could be worse.

Victory chips and cards laid out for final scoring. It was a close one, with my Mechana Constructs making the difference.

In the last photo you can see some of the new cards. The one new mechanic that’s unexpected is “Fate”: when a card with Fate appears in the center row, each player gets a minor benefit. Some of these are good to get on your turn (return a construct from your discard pile to your hand) and some are better to have happen on the opponent’s turn (draw a card).

Other than that, the new cards are pretty much what you would expect in a first expansion: variations and explorations on the existing mechanics, with not too much brand new. The new stuff strays a little bit more into gimmicky territory, with cards like Deathseeker (3 points if you can banish it somehow) and Dartha’s Retreat (gives you 2 cards on your next turn if you somehow don’t acquire or defeat anything this turn) that are only good when combined with specific other effects.

We enjoyed the two-player version quite a bit, but I think we probably won’t go back to it all that often once we get our copy of the base game back. Some of the interactions between cards feel a little strained when every card has a twist, and there are none of the more basic “draw cards”, “gain runes”, “kill monsters” cards that the base game has in droves.

Looking forward to trying out the new 6-player version as well once we get it all put together. I think we may need to sleeve the decks to do so, though, because inexplicably the cardstock is different! These cards feel exactly like Magic: the Gathering cards, while the base game had thicker, less flexible cards that were slightly glossier. Not sure yet whether mixing these will have any adverse gameplay effects.


Monday, January 25th, 2010
Arcane Company defeates the mad goblin king

Arcane Company defeates the mad goblin king

Reached the final battle of the story arc we’d been on in D&D for the past few months. The red bead there is a mad goblin king who wears a jester costume and ruled a crazy mountain with lots of portals, magical things, and adventuring dangers.

The results of our victory are yet to be seen…


Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

If you haven’t seen it and are interested in board games like Dominion, Caylus, Settlers, etc., you should check out

It’s a German site (hence the .de) that has web apps for some of these games and lets you play with other random people online. When I tried it everyone I ran into spoke English.

This site has exposed my lack of skill at Dominion – I really have a lot to learn about valuing cards. Got to start respecting the Attack cards like the Witch and Militia more.

Galaxy Trucker

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

This is my newest board game obsession – thanks Dan for letting me play it so much!

Picture shamelessly stolen from BoardGameGeek (this is not mine):

A nearly-perfect Galaxy Trucker ship

A nearly-perfect Galaxy Trucker ship

The game has two phases which repeat three times: build ship, adventure, build, adventure, build, adventure. Each time the ship gets bigger and the adventures get more perilous. It’s a good mix of real-time strategy (the ship-building requires some quickness) and player interaction during the adventure. I’ve yet to come close to winning, but it has really been a blast to play.