Sunday, 29 January 2012


Plays: 3Px1.

The Game

Ninjato is a worker placement game. Players are ninjas trying to win the most honour (i.e. victory points / VP) for their clans. A game consists of 7 rounds and every player has 3 actions per round. The worker placement mechanism here is non-blocking, i.e. if you have placed your shuriken (the "worker" in this game) at one location, others can still use that location. Most locations have a few items available, so getting there first means a better chance of getting the one you want.

Small shurikens (throwing stars) printed on the game board are places where you can place your "workers", which are large wooden shurikens, much larger than their counterparts printed on the board.

Things you can do include gaining skill cards, learning special techniques, using these to rob or steal treasures, and then cashing in these treasures, i.e. gaining VP's, while also gaining envoy cards or rumour cards which are used during intermediate scoring and game-end scoring. The cashing in of treasures is to ensure they earn you their true worth. If not cashed in, they'll only be worth 1VP each at game end. The envoy and rumour cards are also important sources of VP's.

Envoy scoring, which is done 3 times, has a stock manipulation aspect to it. Each envoy card is from one of three noble clans. Players compete to collect the most envoys in each clan, for the intermediate scorings. Each if the 5 houses (where ninjas go treasure hunting) belong to one of the three noble clans and has an honour value which is scored during intermediate scoring. If in a round a house is completely depleted of treasures, the ninja who did it gets to change the house ownership and honour value. So you need to manage both gaining majority and manipulating the value of the majority.

Envoy cards. To claim one, you need to pay the specific combination of treasures on the card. Those treasures will score you points according to the treasure values. I love the artwork of these cards. I think the artwork of the game is fantastic.

The rumour card scoring is done at game-end only, and is based on matching rumour cards with other items collected. E.g. if you have collected many rumour cards for defeating elite guards, and you have also defeated many elite guards, you'll get good multipliers and score lots of points.

When attacking a house, you can choose to use strength or stealth. Strength means defeating guards by playing skill cards with bigger numbers, and stealth means the opposite. So big or small numbers do not mean good or bad. After defeating a guard, you can decide whether to press your attack to try to gain more treasures. However the next guard is randomly drawn so it's a gamble whether you have the right card to defeat him. If you defeat all guards, you not only get to claim all treasures, you also get to change the house ownership and honour value. However sometimes the number of treasures and guards can unexpectedly increase making it harder to clear out a house. Elite guards which are tougher to beat may also turn up. There's a push-your-luck element here. If at any time you decide to withdraw after winning a fight, you keep all treasures won thus far. If you attempt the next guard but lose you only get to escape with one treasure.

A house by default has three treasures, one guard (which you know the strength of), and a noble clan marker (which is green with a value of 5 here). There are two shuriken icons, i.e. two spots where you can place your shuriken. You place it on the left side if you want to attack by strength (i.e. rob). You place it on the right side if you want to attack by stealth (i.e. steal).

The Play

Allen, Han and I did a three-player game. I found that 3 actions per round really is not a lot. You need to plan ahead and make the most of every action. In our game I concentrated on green envoys, while both Allen and Han competed for red envoys. That was unfortunate for me, because while they competed for red envoys, they both had incentive to convert the houses to the red noble clan. Since they had no interest in the green noble clan, removing the green clan's control over houses became a default preference. That's baaad for me.

Attacking houses was fun. No matter how well prepared you are, there is no guaranteed success. Sometimes a house simply has too many hidden guards behind its walls and you don't have enough cards to beat them all. It's quite exciting.

Learning special techniques from the sensei can be a tough decision. A technique learnt early can be used many times, but sometimes it's tempting to grab those treasures and envoys early to get a good lead over your opponents. There is also jostling to manipulate turn order for the next round, which gives another aspect to fight over.

These two tiles are special techniques which can be learnt from the sensei. You need to pay a specific skill card to gain a special technique, but the special technique can be used once every round from then on.

It's tempting to grab a shuriken from the board and throw it at someone.

Allen scored many points from red envoys because the red noble clan controlled many houses and all were high valued. He had a huge lead by mid game and Han and I never managed to catch up.

The Thoughts

Ninjato is squarely a Euro design. It uses worker placement. It's a mid-weight game. There are a few different ways to score points and players can put different emphasis on how they want to score. The game is quite interactive, because you are always trying to grab good stuff before your opponents take them, and you keep manipulating the noble clan values to help yourself and hurt your opponents. I like the press-your-luck excitement in invading the houses to rob / steal treasures. You can plan, but there's always a little luck factor to keep things exciting.

I feel a little multiple-ways-of-scoring fatigue, because some of these multiple ways feel a little like they exist for the sake of balance and creating choices and not for thematic reasons. In particular the rumour scoring feels a little artificial. Treasure scoring and envoy scoring are much better integrated.

Buy from Noble Knight Games. Status: in stock (at time of this post).

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Ares Project

Plays: 3Px1.

The Game

The idea behind The Ares Project is based on real-time strategy (RTS) games on the computer, like Starcraft, Age of Empires and Warcraft. Players start with a base and some basic units. They harvest resources, construct buildings, use those buildings to build new and better units, upgrade units, and then fight to the death. Usually there are different factions for players to choose from, and each has its own strengths, weaknesses and unique aspects.

The Ares Project implements all these using a clean overall structure. Every player has his own deck of cards. On your turn, you just play one card. If played face-down, it's a resource that you can use to construct a building or train a unit. If played face-up you use what's on the card, which can be a building or some special improvement. All this is done behind a screen so your opponents can't see what you're doing. There are some special battle cards, and when played face-up, you attack an opponent.

Other than the players' bases which are not adjacent to one another, there is one other location called the frontier, which is adjacent to everyone's base. Normally you can only attack the frontier from your base, and only after you control the frontier, you can attack others' bases. If you conquer an opponent's base, he is eliminated. You win if you are the last man standing. The game also ends if everyone runs out of cards. In this case victory is determined by the number of battle cards held and control of the frontier. Whenever a battle card is played, it is usually claimed by the player who is holding the frontier at that moment. Thus the importance of controlling the frontier although it makes you more vulnerable to attacks.

Only during battle are player screens removed, so that you can see what your opponent has built. Units are placed in a battle line, and a number of combat rounds are conducted using dice. There are four types of units, infantry, armour, air and buildings. Every unit has different attack abilities against the four unit types, so it's important to position your units well at the battle line.

Every turn a card is played into your own playing area behind a screen. You have a hand of 3 cards, and whenever you play a card, you have to decide between using it as a resource, or using the ability on its face (usually a building type). Buildings which can train new units have two halves, each for a different unit type, and when constructing them, you have to decide which half to use, and play the card with that half pointing forward.

When it is time for battle, the screen is removed, and both combatants get to see what buildings and units each other has built. Only at this point resources (i.e. cards played face-down) are converted to actual unit tokens.

The Play

Allen, Han and I did a 3-player game. I played the Terrans and Allen the Kahoum (a wizard-like human faction). These two are "normal" factions. Han played an insect-like race called the Xenos, which works rather differently. We were mostly conservative and did much build-up before committing to battle. I was first to claim the frontier, and Han was first to attack me. I managed to fend off his attack, but this battle left both of us weaker, while Allen preserved his strength and built powerful buildings and units. Later when Allen attacked me, I conceded the frontier to him. He attacked me again, this time targeting my base, so it was a battle for survival for me.

Allen's units were expensive and he didn't have many, but he had very powerful obelisks, a unique Kahoum building that support his units during battle. One of them gave instant kills by expending power, and it destroyed a full battalion of my armour units (four of them). I lost the battle and was eliminated. I had collected the most battle cards (equivalent to victory points) up to that point, but they now went to Allen.

Han's only chance of winning was to eliminate Allen, since he didn't have that many battle cards. When he attacked the frontier, Allen conceded it to him. Before his deck ran out, Han launched a final attack at Allen's base. To maximise his odds, he brought along his queen, which is the most powerful single unit in the game. Unfortunately for him he couldn't overcome Allen's defenses. Even his queen got killed. So Allen was the final victor.

The small red square board is the frontier. Whoever controls it places his faction marker on it. The orange player screen is for the Xenos faction, blue for Colossus (but Allen was actually playing the Kahoum) and green for Terran.

The final battle between Han and Allen. Units are arranged in a battle line like this. Green squares are infantry-type units, red circles are armour units, blue triangles are air units, and grey pentagons are buildings. When you attack an opponent's base, you can get your units to attempt to destroy vacant buildings instead of shooting at enemy units. You do so by attacking the Base cards, which are placed at two ends of the battle line on the defender's side.

The Thoughts

I wonder whether this should primarily be a two player game. With three or more players, it seems the first two to get involved in a battle are making themselves vulnerable to the other players. I have only tried one game so I can't say for sure. It's just a gut feel. In our game we did a lot of build-up before the first battle so it was a big one with much losses inflicted on both sides. If players attacked earlier and more frequently, this situation I worry about may not occur much.

The basic turn structure is very simple, which I like. Player turns are quick. The game is most rich in the unique faction abilities and characteristics. They all require different styles of play. You need to invest time to understand their strengths and weaknesses to fully appreciate the intricacies of the game.

I found the battle resolution procedure a little tedious. How the various unit abilities and faction abilities come into play is interesting, but there's no avoiding the actual execution. The game has the rock-paper-scissors concept of units being effective against some unit types but not others, but I didn't find the implementation particularly interesting.

In summary, I like the high-level design, didn't fancy the detailed implementation, and still need to explore much more of the faction intricacies to get a deeper understanding of the game.

Buy from Noble Knight Games. Status: in stock (at time of this post).

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Risk Legacy

Plays: 3Px7.

In the interest of not revealing spoilers to those who don't want to read them, I'm doing things a little differently with this post. I'll do the overview, then share my thoughts, and only after that share my experience with Risk Legacy.

The Game

Risk Legacy is an enhanced version of Risk, the main new concept being that the game and game components will change permanently as games are played, some being modified by the players, like marking the board and adding new elements to it, some being revealed bit by bit as certain conditions are met and players are instructed to open some sealed envelopes. Risk is a mass market game, so I won't describe the basics. Risk Legacy uses the basic earth map. Its winning condition is based on victory points, i.e. controlling headquarters, completing missions and trading in resource cards. There are different factions in the game each starting with different special abilities, and additional special abilities can be introduced as the game is played. The game is expected to stabilise after 15 games, i.e. no further modifications to rules and game components.

When you open the game box, you will see six envelopes sealed off, with instructions on when to open them. Inside them you'll find narratives about how your world has developed, and you'll get new rules and new game components.

Preparing for the first game. Naturally I picked green, my favourite colour. Before your first game you already get to choose one from two special abilities (that green sticker already attached to the faction board). The unchosen ability is forever lost. You are asked to destroy that sticker. The four cards are resource cards. Each card has one coin value by default, and before the first game, everyone gets to pick four cards to increase the coin value to two. I picked Indonesia because my home state of Sabah (which is in Malaysia, not Indonesia) is depicted here. The game pieces are HQ (star shape), 3 armies piece (wolf rider) and 1 army piece (warrior). Scar cards have stickers which you can add to the board.

This is another faction. They are desert dwellers. The sculpts are different for each faction.

I was fooling around with game pieces. No, in Risk Legacy your armies do not walk on water.

This was our first game, so the game board was still very "clean".

The Thoughts

The concept of letting players modify the game permanently is a novelty, a gimmick, but it is fun. Aspects of the game being gradually revealed is fun. There are new rules, changes to rules, and new gameplay elements. Cities will get added, territory properties will be modified (e.g. becoming harder, or easier to defend), faction abilities will change, continents will be named. There is a story line developing through the series of 15 games being played, which is aligned with the rules changes. However you need to keep in mind that this is still Risk, just with some improvements. It is still about breaking one another's control of continents over and over, accumulating many resource cards to exchange for troops to make big attacks, and dice luck being able to spoil the best laid plans. But it is also about waiting for the right moment to strike - after you have enough resource cards to swap for many armies and before your opponent strikes a fatal blow. It is also about trying to appear weaker than you are, and persuading others to fight. For players who are familiar with the game, there is careful manoeuvring and positioning before launching a major attack. It can be tense.

Allen's HQ (red) was in Great Britain, and had been conquered by me (green). Han's HQ (beige) was in Argentina, and was also under my control. My own HQ (green) was in Indonesia and was captured by Han (beige). What a mess. Allen's faction (red) had been wiped out, but since there was at least one unoccupied territory, he could reenter the game.

The purple faction had cool tanks (3 armies piece).

In the foreground you can see spaces for writing the names of the winners. Han won the first two games.

One concern I have with the game is it seems to encourage players to start from the same locations, which might make each game feel similar. At the end of a game, you get to add some good stuff to the map. Very good stuff if you win, moderately good stuff if you lose but are not eliminated. Once you add a city, in future games, only you may place your HQ in this city. So there is incentive to start here, and in subsequent games you are somewhat encouraged to add more good stuff in that general area, which compounds the problem. I'm not sure whether this is commonly experienced. It happened in the campaign I played, and I intentionally did weird stuff, even some not beneficial to "my" starting area, hoping to mix things up a bit and prevent the games from becoming scripted or static.

Risk Legacy has been a fun journey of discovery so far. There were some stale moments, e.g. some games got into long stalemates with nobody being able to control any continent, but those tend to be earlier in the campaign when the game was still quite bare. As more elements were added, this happened less. Our games were all 3-player games, and they reminded me of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, where the three kingdoms maintained a delicate balance of power, always keeping one another in check. There was much cajoling, pleading and convincing others to fight. We were all sneaky. Sometimes A intentionally refrained from attacking C to conserve his armies, forcing B to do it on his turn which is just before C's turn, because otherwise C would receive a big continent bonus. Alliances formed quickly, when the third person threatened to win, and also dissolved quickly, when one ally found a convenient time and location to launch an attack. All in a day's work.

Risk Legacy is suitable for casual gamers, because it is not that different from regular Risk. For gamers, it is still fun as long as you set your expectations that it is not really that different from regular Risk.


The Play

I realise I have already described what it feels like when playing the game, so this will be just the spoiler section with more photos.

Fortress Europe. Both Northern Europe and Southern Europe had fortresses built. Allen had also added a minor city in Great Britain. We made a mistake in our first two games. When placing the initial troops, they must all be placed in one territory together with your HQ. We thought we could take turns placing one army into any territory. That's why you see some of my purple armies in Africa and some in South East Asia, and they are disconnected.

We were keen to open new envelopes, and sometimes intentionally took actions that lead to meeting the conditions required, even though some of them were against our best interests in winning the particular game we were playing. In one particular game, I (red) amassed a huge army group and invaded Alaska from Asia. I intended to fight my way through North America and South America to eventually reach Han's capital at the southern tip of Argentina. However when fighting in Western United States, we had the opportunity to have 3 missiles used in the same battle, so we did it. It wasn't that critical a time to need to use missiles (which convert die rolls to 6's), but we wanted to see what surprises the game had in store for us. And the surprise turned out to be this - the nuclear fallout sticker now applied to Western United States on the game board. The nuclear explosion wiped out half my troops, stunting my progress. Western United States became a danger zone, with the fallout sometimes killing nearby troops, unless you play the newly introduced faction - the mutants.

Because of the nuclear fallout, the Western United States resource card had to be destroyed. It was lost forever. Oh what a feeling to tear up a game component.

The mutant faction that appears mid way through the campaign. They have special abilities which are quite different from other factions. There are four grey patches on the right covering additional special abilities. Only one of them will eventually be scratched off to have that special ability come into play, when the appropriate event cards are drawn and acted upon.

When this event card appears, the mutant faction gets to decide how it wants to mutate.

I named the South East Asian continent after my wife. In future games, whenever I controlled Michellia, I would gain 3 bonus armies instead of 2. That new connection between Madagascar and Western Australia was created by me, because I completed a special mission that allowed me to do so. South East Asia (oops, I mean Michellia) has always been the easiest to defend continent, having one single choke point in Indonesia. By creating another route, I hoped to shake things up a little.

I named a major city after my elder daughter.

I named a minor city after my younger daughter.

More and more cities have sprung up (blue stickers). Typically my starting area is South East Asia, Allen's is Europe and Han's South America. This game they started in their usual locations, but I (orange) chose to start in Japan, just to be different. I had a major city in Japan. Han (beige) became lord of the southern hemisphere, expanding his empire eastwards to Africa and then to South East Asia, the route to South East Asia made much easier because of the new sea connection. Allen had control of Europe, and was poised to wreak havoc in Han's territories by having just placed a huge army group in the Middle East. I controlled neither Asia nor North America. It was a strategy to appear weak, but it turned out to be so effective that I became rather weak for real.

When we opened the last sealed area on the game tray, we were pleasantly surprised and greatly amused to find --- Aliens (white)! This game is crazy. It was the green faction, the supposedly most primitive faction, who collaborated with the aliens and brought them into the game. In this particular game they were treated as one faction, but from the next game onwards they will be separate factions that players can choose. Aliens have their own unique abilities, and they love attacking cities.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Zoneplex on Kickstarter

The designers of Zoneplex contacted me about their game which is now on Kickstarter. Looks like a mid-weight Eurogame. It is for 3 - 5 players, plays in 60 minutes and is for age 11+. Check it out if you are interested.

You construct the pyramid as the game progresses.

I love the artwork.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Meeples Cafe - Captain Clueless, Pack & Stack, Kids of Catan

I visited Meeples Cafe again on their members day, this time bringing the family. I was there to buy games too of course, taking advantage of the good discount on that day. It was a family outing for us, to try some children games and children-friendly games. The staff at Meeples Cafe was very helpful and friendly. It was a hectic day for them. The place was crowded with people taking numbers to pay for their game purchases. Thankfully I had made a reservation. I had also listed games to try, read their rules and prepared rules summaries, so we could jump in to play without delay.

We were customers number 21 to 24 that day, but I don't think the numbers go in sequence strictly.

Captain Clueless

This is a team game needing at least two per team. The game board is a map if the Caribbean. To win, your team needs to start from your home port, visit 3 ports (randomly picked), and then return to port. You do this by drawing your route using a whiteboard marker (can be erased after every game). What's interesting is the captain doing the drawing is blindfolded, and the crew (teammates) are limited to giving a few words as hints during the sailing. Whenever the ship crashes your turn ends and on your next turn you start from where you crashed. First team to complete its journey wins.

We played at easy level, 5 words allowed to be given as hints per turn. I teamed up with Shee Yun (6) and Michelle with Chen Rui (5). In the first game the children played the captains, which I thought would be fun for them. They certainly have not played anything like this. Sometimes they drew too quickly and crashed before we could stop them. We didn't even manage to fully utilise 5 words.

For the second game Michelle and I played the captains and the children gave hints. It turned out to be hilarious. When you have a 5 word limit, hearing panicky hints like "Oh no!" (2 wasted words), "left a bit" (3 words when 1 would do), "Not there!" (2 words which are rather useless to someone blindfolded) makes you want to laugh and at the same time makes you feel so helpless.

Michelle and Chen Rui playing Captain Clueless, with Chen Rui being the captain.

Chen Rui was quite pleased with the results - her team (red) won.

Some of the port cards.

I think Captain Clueless is primarily a children's game. Not really suitable as a party game if played with only adults, because I suspect it would become more serious and skill-based than it should be. It may be different matter if you are a littly tipsy though.

Pack & Stack

Now Pack & Stack can be played as a party game with only adults. It is based on a simple and clever idea. Every round everyone gets a random distribution of small wooden blocks, with sizes varying from one cube (the basic unit in the game) to five cubes long. These represent furniture you need to pack onto a lorry. Lorries come in many varieties. They have different storage area base shapes (not all are rectangles), and they allow different stacking heights, ranging from 1 to 4. After getting your set of furniture, a number of lorries are revealed at the same time, and players race to pick the one they want. Whoever is last has no choice and must randomly draw a lorry from the lorry deck. After that everyone tries to fit his furniture onto his lorry. You lose points for furniture you are unable to load, and also for wasted space on the lorry. That means it's very hard to get a perfect score of 0. Everyone starts the game with 75pts, and the game ends when someone runs out of points. One catch is the player who loses the fewest points every round gains a bonus 10pts. So even if you are behind, it is still possible to turn the table.

There is not a lot to the game, but it is exciting to grab your ideal lorry quickly, and somehow the game manages to make moving house fun. I never imagined something like packing too much luggage into a too-small car boot (trunk) can be fun.

Pack & Stack. Furniture has been loaded onto the lorry. The number 1 on the lorry means furniture cannot be stacked (only 1 level allowed). The dice are used to determine the furniture you get for a round. The round tokens are scores tokens.

The lorry allows 3 levels.

Kids of Catan

I hadn't planned to play Kids of Catan with my children. It was older daughter Shee Yun (6) who picked it. I wonder whether the "Kids of" on the cover attracted her, or the cover itself did. The game doesn't have much decision making, so I wasn't keen. The game has a rotating disk in the middle, and player pawns are placed on the edges of this disk. Right outside the disk are slots for the resources (wood, brick, grain). The active player rolls a die (which only has values 1, 2 and 3) and rotates the disk by that many notches. If anyone's pawn stops next to a resource slot which has a resource, she collects it, i.e. this can be done by players other than the active player. You can only collect one of each type of resource. Once you have all three, you construct one of the three buildings you are assigned at the start of the game, and return the resources to empty resource slots. After you build all three buildings, you can build the special city hall building to win the game.

Chen Rui playing Kids of Catan.

The pawns with the outstretched arms are the player pawns (blue, red, orange and white). The centre of the disk is the area for constructing buildings. Some have already been built.

Chen Rui was quite pleased with winning the game.

The building with the green roof is the city hall.

So this is a basically a fancier roll-and-move game, where the most frequent decision is where to return your resources when you construct a building. Well, you want to put them where you are most likely to collect them, so it's not even really a true decision. I thought both my children (6 and 5) have outgrown this type of game, but to my surprise they enjoyed the game. I guess I'm biased, because I'm looking at the matter from a gamer's perspective. Well, Kids of Catan still has many merits as a children's game. It teaches taking turns. It teaches set collection. It also introduces the interesting concept of being able to do something on someone else's turn. It teaches anticipation - knowing what you'd need to roll to get that brick resource, and knowing what you mustn't roll to avoid the robber who would steal a resource. The components are wonderful.

Visit Meeples Cafe, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.
Buy Kids of Catan from Noble Knight Games. Status: in stock (at time of this post).
Buy Pack & Stack from Noble Knight Games. Status: in stock (at time of this post).

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Happy Year of the Dragon 2012

Here's wishing everyone good health and joy in the new year. May all your rolls be 1's in Axis & Allies, and 6's in Risk.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Spot It

Plays: 3Px4, 2Px8.

After two very long blog posts which took much time and energy to write, I need to write something shorter and lighter.

The Game

Spot It is a simple speed game. Every card shows 8 items, and between every pair of cards in the deck, there is exactly one item that will appear on both. In every variation of the game, players race to find the matches between two cards.

What appears in both these cards?

There are five different ways to play.

The Well. The well at the centre starts with one card. Everyone else gets the same number of cards. When the game starts, you try to look for matches between your card and the well card. Once you do so, you place your card into the well, covering the well card. This means you'll reveal the next card in your deck. It also means the other players now need to find a match between their top cards and the new card that you have just added to the well. Whoever exhausts his deck first wins.

The Tower. Everyone starts with a single card. The tower starts with the rest of the cards. Players race to find a match between their cards and the tower card. Whoever does it first claims to tower card and places it onto his deck. Repeat until the tower deck is exhausted. Whoever has the most cards wins.

Triplet. Find an item that appears on three cards, and claim those three cards. Three new cards are drawn to fill in the blanks, then repeat. When the draw deck is exhausted, whoever has the most cards wins.

The Play

I played Spot It with my wife and my kids, and it was quite fun. The game is simple, but also exciting because of the real-time element. Sometimes it's weird that even after looking for a long time, I can't find the matching items. It is as if I have a blind spot in my mind. Yet sometimes the matching items just jump out at me immediately. It's quite funny when sometimes one player simply has an amazing streak, claiming (or giving away) card after card with only a few seconds in between, while the others get very annoyed because they have barely started looking for matches when the centre card is changed yet again.

Naturally Michelle and I do much better than the children. However sometimes they do have those power streaks that leave us stunned. I sometimes let the children win. When Michelle and I are in the same game and we play the variants which are multiplayer free-for-alls, we will target each other first, giving the children better chances to win a round.

The Thoughts

Light and fast real-time game suitable for playing with children and casual gamers. Suitable as a party game too, because it's very quick to explain and to start playing.

Nice-looking metal container, but in practice, round cards are a pain to shuffle.

Buy from Noble Knight Games. Status: in stock (at time of this post).

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

my 2011

Similar to previous years, let's start with the fancy stats. This year, I recorded an additional aspect of my boardgaming - whether a particular game played was a computer version played against AI's. That means I now have some additional stats.


The 2011h column means humans-only data. There are some boardgames which I have only played the computer versions of in 2011. Last year I played a crazy number of games of Dominion and Race for the Galaxy against the computer, which explains the drop in the raw numbers this year. I still played many games of 7 Wonders against the computer, but not as many as those games played last year.

All lines use the axis on the left except for Total Plays which uses the right axis. My number of distinct games played continues to rise. Similarly for new to me games. Total plays dropped significantly, but I suspect it is more because of the distortion caused by the 613 vs-computer plays of Dominion and Race for the Galaxy in 2010 than because I have been playing games less in 2011.

Same chart, but using the human-only numbers for 2011.

This chart shows 2011 and 2011h numbers together, which can be a little confusing. In either case, total distinct games played has increased.

This is the percentage view. I'm happy that the yellow section has increased, which means there are more games that I managed to play 2 to 4 times. I've always felt that one needs to play a game a few times to fully appreciate it and enjoy it (unless it's a simple game).

This is counting every play. The biggest contributors to the red section for the 2011 bar are 7 Wonders and Brawl. Many of these plays are vs-computer, and that's why the red section of the 2011h bar is much shorter.

Percentage view.

For the first time in 6 years I managed to acquire no more than 20 games. I am going to set a humble target of 18 in 2012.


Numbers in brackets are plays against the computer.

1.7 Wonders175(167)

7 Wonders

2.Brawl78(78)It was free on the iPhone, and I'm happy to have discovered this little gem.

Brawl on the iPhone

3.Race for the Galaxy38(20)One of my favourite games, and still holding on to a respectable number of plays. I'm looking forward to the next expansion which will be under a new story arc, i.e. cannot be mixed with the previous expansions.
4.Uno25A lot of fun with the kids (6 and 4).
6.Halli Galli16Played with my children.
7.Risk13(13)This was played on the iPhone, using a Risk clone called Dominion. Yeah, it's confusing...
8.Innovation11I wish I had played more. I like this.
9.Power Grid9
10.51st State8
12.Spot It8
13.At the Gates of Loyang7I played this more with my 6-year-old daughter (using simplified rules) than with my wife.
14.Blue Moon7(5)
16.Roll Through The Ages7(4)
18.Mamma Mia6
20.The Message: Emissary Crisis66 games (or so) in one game session. Addictive and fun.
21.Chicago Express5(5)
23.A la carte4
24.Dawn Under4
26.Fast Flowing Forest Fellers4
29.Merchants and Marauders4
31.Omen: A Reign of War4
32.Rabbit Hunt4
33.Sid Meier's Civilization4
34.The Kids of Carcassonne4
35.Through the Ages4
36.10 days in Asia3
38.Blokus 3D3
39.Dominant Species3
40.Dominion3(3)Wow... how far this has fallen since last year (273 plays).
41.Earth Reborn3
45.Gulo Gulo3
46.Indonesian Finger Game3
50.Kingdoms of Crusaders3
51.Loopin' Louie3
52.Viva Topo!3
54.6 Nimmt2
55.A Few Acres of Snow2
56.Castle Ravenloft2
57.Chicken Cha Cha Cha2
58.Downfall of Pompeii2
59.Factory Manager2
60.First Train to Nuremberg2
61.Galaxy Trucker2
63.Hansa Teutonica2
64.Inca Empire2
67.Le Havre2
69.LOTR Confrontation2
74.The Speicherstadt2
75.Ticket to Ride2
76.TTR Nordic Countries2
78.Villa Paletti2
79.Wars of the Roses2
81.20th Century1
82.Airlines Europe1
83.Animal Upon Animal1
88.Battle Line1
89.Battlestar Galactica1
90.Blokus Duo1
91.Carc H&G1
92.Chaos in the Old World1
95.Commands & Colors Napoleonics1
97.Dancing Eggs1
99.Dragon Diego Dart 1
100.Dungeon Petz1
101.Factory Fun1
103.Get That Toy1
105.Giro d'Italia1
106.Glory to Rome1
109.Here I Stand1
110.Ice Flow1
112.In the Year of the Dragon1
116.Labyrinth: The War on Terror1
117.Leaping Lemmings1
118.Lobo 771
121.Minnie's Garden Game1
123.MR1: Jack the Ripper1
124.On the Underground1
125.Pacific Typhoon1
127.Piece o' Cake1
128.Power Grid: The First Sparks1
129.Puerto Rico1
131.Resident Evil1
132.Samurai Swords1
133.San Juan1
134.Santy Anno1
136.Struggle of Empires1
138.Tammany Hall1
139.The Adventurers1
140.The Bottle Imp1
141.The Great Fire of London 16661
142.The Magic Labyrinth1
144.Through the Desert1
145.Tigris & Euphrates1
146.Tikal II1
147.Tinners' Trail1
150.TTR Switzerland1
151.Twilight Struggle1
153.Wan voting prototype1
154.Washington's War1

That's a total of 706 plays of 155 unique games. If I exclude the vs-computer games, I have 385 human-only plays, i.e. from my total of 706 plays in 2011, 321 were vs-computer plays. There are 7 games which I have only played against the computer in 2011.


  1. 18TN - Finally I got to experience an 18XX game. I tend to feel uneasy with stock-holding games, because they feel counter-intuitive to me, but at the moment I am cautiously optimistic about how I will further enjoy 18XX system.
  2. 20th Century - I liked Shipyard (same designer), but 20th Century felt so-so. Will I like Last Will?
  3. 51st State - I like it well enough, but not enough to replace it with The New Era. Version 1 is good enough for me.
  4. 7 Wonders - I like it very much. This is a wide-appeal game, although it may not be a Top 10 game for many.
  5. A Few Acres of Snow - Keen to explore more, using the updated rules.

    A Few Acres of Snow

  6. Airlines Europe - Stock-holding, so, not really my thing.
  7. Animal Upon Animal
  8. Antiquity - Crawl out of quicksand while thinking of how to win and doing it faster than your opponents. Planning to get this.


  9. Brawl - I prefer this over Jab despite being more abstract, because it feels more fast-and-furious.
  10. Castle Ravenloft
  11. Chaos in the Old World
  12. Commands & Colors Napoleonics
  13. Dancing Eggs
  14. Dominant Species - I like it but only moderately, because of the area majority aspect.
  15. Dragon Diego Dart
  16. Dungeon Petz - Ordered. I like it more than Dungeon Lords, which I found just okay. The double-guessing in Dungeon Lords felt more random than I could accept. I feel there is a bit more control in Dungeon Petz.
  17. Earth Reborn - Still halfway through the learning scenarios, but so far so good. Rich background story. I just worry about replayability of the scenarios, despite how interesting the stories are. I have not tried scenario building though.
  18. Evolution - Simple, fun, thematic card game from Russia.
  19. Factory Fun
  20. Famiglia - Quite a clever card game that requires some long-term planning and has hard decisions to make.
  21. Fast Flowing Forest Fellers - Race games are not my thing. This one is OK.
  22. First Train to Nuremberg - Like, but on the second play it starts feeling less novel. I hope I will be able to get more than a handful of plays from this.
  23. Genoa
  24. Gheos
  25. Giants
  26. Giro d'Italia
  27. Haggis - Climbing card game that works for 2 too.
  28. Havoc - Poker with longer term strategy. Too bad this is out-of-print.
  29. Here I Stand - Learn one semester's worth of history about the religious reformation in Europe in 9 hours. Love this.
  30. Illuminati
  31. Inca Empire - Good game. Beautiful second edition.
  32. Indonesian Finger Game - No components. Just use your hands. Wait... that sounds... not quite right.
  33. Irondale - Didn't like, felt too tactical / short-term.
  34. Jab - More pattern recognition under time pressure than releasing your inner wild animal.
  35. Jaipur
  36. K2 - I'm impressed with how thematic this felt.
  37. Kingdoms of Crusaders - Lost Cities with less maths.
  38. Kingsburg - It seems the interesting-use-of-dice games tend to be misses for me, e.g. Troyes, Macao. But then I like Yspahan and Alien Frontiers.
  39. Labyrinth: The War on Terror - It's hard being a terrorist. It's hard being the world's sole superpower too.
  40. Leaping Lemmings - Should be light and fun but I didn't find it light and fun.
  41. Liberte
  42. Lobo 77
  43. Maori - Appears light but can be challenging when adding all the optional rules.
  44. Maria - Tense manoeuvring before battles, and tense battles.
  45. Merchants and Marauders - I like a lot. I prefer to increase the target Glory points so that I get a fuller experience, else the game seems to end just when it starts getting interesting.
  46. Money
  47. Navegador
  48. Nightfall - Deck-building game that feels significantly different from Dominion. It's a multiplayer conflict game, so diplomacy is important and it is easy to get ganged up upon.
  49. Omen: A Reign of War - Good 2P card game with excellent artwork.
  50. Pacific Typhoon - Essentially an abstract card game with lots of flavour. Also a negotiation game with shifting alliances.
  51. Piece o' Cake - Elegant design. Has one clever mechanism. Minimalistic. Didn't click.
  52. Power Grid: The First Sparks - Seems to be more suitable for people who don't like Power Grid. If you already love Power Grid, this feels like a diluted version.
  53. Resident Evil - Didn't feel different enough from the elephant in the room (Dominion).
  54. Santy Anno
  55. Sid Meier's Civilization (Fantasy Flight Games) - I like it, but to me it's a sprint and not a marathon.
  56. Spot It
  57. Stronghold
  58. Successors - Good multiplayer wargame. Card driven game.
  59. Tammany Hall
  60. The Adventurers - Excellent production but game didn't click at all.
  61. The Bottle Imp
  62. The Great Fire of London 1666
  63. The Kids of Carcassonne
  64. The Magic Labyrinth
  65. The Message: Emissary Crisis - Great fun with a big group. A pleasant surprise. The English rulebook is poorly written, and needs an English-to-English translation.

    Playing The Message: Emissary Crisis

  66. The Speicherstadt - Didn't like. One clever mechanism does not guarantee a good game.
  67. Tikal II - Found it so-so. Feels unfocused.
  68. Tinners' Trail - Low granularity (but not simple) Martin Wallace game.
  69. Tobago
  70. Troyes - Some interesting mechanisms, but I didn't find the game captivating.
  71. Vikings - A pleasant build-your-own-play-area game.
  72. Wan voting prototype
  73. Wars of the Roses - It has double-guessing and area majority, both of which I usually don't quite like, but I like this game. I like how loyalty and betrayals of your subjects are implemented.
  74. Washington's War


Finally, in 2011 I was able to not exceed my self-imposed quota of 20 new games per year. I was only up to 18. If I twist my definitions, the number will be even smaller.

  1. The Kids of Carcassonne - The first three are for the children, not for me.
  2. A la carte
  3. Spot It
  4. The Message: Emissary Crisis - These are review copies or gifts.
  5. Power Grid Promo Cards
  6. The Kingdoms of Crusaders
  7. Evolution
  8. Agricola: Gamer's Deck - These are expansions of games I already like.
  9. Power Grid Brazil / Iberia
  10. Power Grid China/Korea
  11. Power Grid Japan/Russia
  12. 51st State - These are surprise findings, discovered due to Han and Allen respectively buying them.
  13. Famiglia
  14. Endeavor - These are try-before-buys.
  15. First Train to Nuremberg
  16. 7 Wonders
  17. Maori - These were added to my collection after doing research and knowing what to expect.
  18. Haggis - I self-made a copy using regular playing cards. This self-made copy only have four suits, so it can only be used for 2-player games. The original game supports 2 to 3 players.

So, it's reasonable to say that I only have 7 new games right? (#12 to #18)


  • Favourite new-to-me-in-2011 games: The only one I'm sure about is Merchants & Marauders. Tentative ones are Antiquity, A Few Acres of Snow and Here I Stand, which need more play before I can really be sure. Getting Here I Stand to the table won't be easy though.

    Merchants & Marauders

  • Other games that I quite like: Sid Meier's Civilization, K2, 18TV, 51st State, 7 Wonders, Dungeon Petz, Earth Reborn, Famiglia, Evolution, Haggis, First Train to Nuremberg, Maori, Maria, Successors, The Message: Emissary Crisis, War of the Roses. Wow... 16 of them.
  • Pleasant surprises: Famiglia, Brawl, Omen: A Reign of War, The Message: Emissary Crisis, Vikings.
  • Some favourites that I regret not playing in 2011: Princes of Florence, Die Macher, Lord of the Rings, Axis & Allies games.


  • In 2011, my wife Michelle had 149 plays, 48 distinct games. Most played games are Uno (30), Race for the Galaxy (18), Power Grid (8). Older daughter Shee Yun (6 years old) had 126 plays, 31 distinct games, most played games are Uno (30), Halli Galli (16), Spot It (8). Younger daughter Chen Rui (5 years old) had 84 plays, 28 distinct games, most played games are Uno (27), Halli Galli (7), Ubongo (5). From the numbers, it looks like we all love Uno.

    My family and Uno

  • Han, Allen and I have more or less settled into a comfortable routine in organising game sessions. Most often it's just the three of us playing.
  • One thing that I feel we have been doing well is doing repeat plays, which allowed us to gain more insight in these games, and allowed us to appreciate them more. E.g. plays of Sid Meier's Civilization, Merchants & Marauders, Dominant Species, Maria.


  • I realised how I got to know my friends (and myself) better through boardgames.
  • Jeff of has a new location for his more-or-less regular open gaming sessions on Friday nights. Memorable sessions there include plays of 18TN and Antiquity.

    OTK in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.

  • Here I Stand was certainly another memorable session, and also The Message: Emissary Crisis.

    Here I Stand

  • I managed to bring an old favourite back to the table - Samurai Swords (latest version is called Ikusa).
  • I thought Witch House, the boardgame cafe in Taipei where I started my boardgame hobby in 2003, was going to close down, but they eventually managed to stay open.
  • I was in the media, interviewed by The Star newspaper, and also in an awkward way, in a series of videos.
  • This blog was blocked at my work place.
  • I have been maintaining dual boardgame blogs for more than a year now, my Chinese blog being started in Dec 2010. It has been demanding. The toughest moments are always when I have completed a post for one blog, and have to steel myself to start writing the same post for the other blog. It feels like dreaming about waking up, brushing your teeth, changing, eating breakfast and driving to work, only to then really wake up and discover you have to do all that all over again. Yet, it has been fulfilling, and I hope I can continue this.

I don't have many big achievements in 2011 in terms of gaming or blogging about it. I'm just happy that I have good games to play, and good friends to play them with.