More Like “Crazy” Garden

More Like “Crazy” Garden

The description of Cottage Garden in the above comic is accurate. I have not yet played Cottage Garden. Make of this what you will.

In all seriousness, though, we enjoy Patchwork, so there is no reason we shouldn’t enjoy Cottage Garden. Well, there is one reason, but excepting the mistreatment of dice, I think we would get along fine with the game.

It takes the basic structure of Patchwork, adds some new mechanics, and ups the player count to four. There is also a change of theme, but in both games, the theme is so light as to be relatively unimportant.

In fact, it was the theme of Patchwork that initially kept me from playing it for so long. I would mentally switch off at the mention of it, so uninteresting was the theme to me. So despite the praise it garnered, I never as much as watched a review or playthrough. Eventually, seeing it crop up on so many lists of recommended two player games piqued my interest. Once I had gotten over the theme, the core mechanic (Tetris, after a fashion) is actually really cool, and something I hadn’t come across in a game before – although I gather Uwe Rosenberg has also incorporated this into ‘A Feast for Odin’ as well as ‘Cottage Garden’.

 

International Tabletop Day is tomorrow! What’s everyone doing? I’m going to be helping out in Tabletop Cork, teaching people games and running a game of Fiasco. Fiasco doesn’t technically need a GM, but the event is designed for RPG beginners, so I will be facilitating.

Whatever you are doing (and I hope you are doing something), you should check out these awesome printable badges/stickers that the amazing folks over at Semi Coop have designed. There is a full range of achievements/accusations to pin on your friends throughout the day, and the design is just gorgeous. The guys at Tabletop Cork have a full range printed and ready to go, including this, ahem, particularly awesome ‘mentioned a board game webcomic’ badge. Wear it with pride!

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Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty Santorini

I have played only a handful of games of Santorini, and while I have enjoyed it, I don’t feel any great desire to play it anymore. Having said that, I have only played in the ‘base mode’ without any of the ‘god powers’ included in the game. That is probably equivalent to only playing the tutorial mode in a video game, so I will withhold judgement until I have played with the stabilisers off.

Abstract games have never really been my cup of tea anyway. If I were to list my three most important elements in any game, it would look a little like:

  1. Theme
  2. Mechanics
  3. Theme

So obviously abstract games don’t exactly roll my dice, so to speak. If I had to play an abstract, my preference would be for a less complex game, like Santorini. A simple set of mechanics that provide a nice puzzle or challenge for the player.

If you start to complicate that equation and add more layers and mechanics, I can’t help but question why I am taking actions and moving pieces; not finding any satisfactory answers on the board means that I don’t have a compelling reason to continue to play. If I am just pushing cardboard around a vacuum in order to score more points, you have lost me. Hence, Santorini, and my absolute favourite abstract: Hive.

However good Santorini may turn out to be once the God Powers come into play, I very much doubt it will tower high enough to topple Hive from the top spot. Hive is a boardless, chess-like two-player game. Each player has a set of wonderfully chunky, tactile, hexagonal tiles, which they place to form the ‘hive’. Each hex represents a different insect: beetle, grasshopper, etc., each with a different movement rule, à la chess. You place pieces and slide them around the ever-expanding hive in order to trap your opponent’s queen.

It’s simpler than chess (considerably so), but still has enough depth of play to warrant more than one strategy guide available to purchase. While I have long since given up on chess (like any sane person would), Hive is a game that I feel I am capable of learning and improving with all the time, without ever feeling utterly and completely out of my depth.

But all of the depth of Hive comes from strategy, not mechanics. The rules form a very simple framework, and games only take 10-15 minutes (depending on how quickly I lose).

My initial feeling on Santorini was that the rules framework did not allow for much gameplay depth, and it was simply move and counter-move. But the god powers introduce different win conditions and player abilities, so these should hopefully shake things up enough spike my interest in the game again.

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The rebranding of Mad King Ludwig

Writer_smallerThe Madness of King Ludwig

It’s the return of Bob from Marketing!. I like Bob. As someone who wore a suit to work and for too long, and used words like projections, going forward, core competencies and best practice, it’s nice to have a chance to skewer that culture of nonsense. And people that refer to themselves in the third person. If anyone deserves a skewering – literally – it’s people who do that.

The Peacock Throne of Mad King Ludwig is, quite marvellously, based on fact. His pet pig, sadly, is not. Although I do feel it’s at least a pretty safe assumption that a mad king would have a pet pig. Why would you not, in that position?

While the theme of ‘The Castles of Mad King Ludwig’ (or just ‘Castles’) is interesting, it’s one of those games that I feel I need to play to understand the appeal of. On paper it sounds somewhat dry. But with the acclaim the game has received, I’m pretty certain that’s misleading. I remember when I initially heard and read about Pandemic, I didn’t see the appeal at all. Curing diseases? Playing as a researcher? Travelling around the world healing and collecting cards just didn’t make sense to me, yet anyone who played it was just so excited about it. I guess the moral here is that I would make a lousy talent scout – the board game world’s equivalent of the man who turned down The Beatles.

I saw the announcement, but other than Codenames, I’m honestly not familiar with the nominees for the Spiel des Jahres this year. Anyone played either Karuba or Imhotep? Anyone want to make predictions as the which the winner might be?

Man, I bet that pig just loves the butter room.

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Random encounter

Writer_smallerRandom Encounter

Betrayal at House on the Hill, besides having maybe the most awkward title of any board game ever, is really, really great fun. The box describes it as a strategy game, and while I love strategy games, this is not why I love Betrayal.

First things first: the box is a lie. Betrayal is not remotely a strategy game. Its gameplay is too simple for that. In Betrayal, the players are exploring a spooky mansion (I’m sure there’s a really good reason why), working as a team to uncover its secrets, while surviving its creaky dangers and uncanny encounters. Each player has four stats, which are tested against the tiles they uncover -make a speed test to dodge the collapsing floor, stamina test to avoid the old man dressed as a ghost to scare the kids out of the abandoned fairground, etc. As the tiles are uncovered, the mansion grows on the table, and encounters and items boost the player’s stats and abilities. Everyone is working together, allowing for sharing of items. And that’s pretty much it. These basic systems are what govern the game play, making for a very straightforward move, uncover and roll system. The game looks great, and the tiles and encounters are fun, varied and thematic, but ultimately all worked out in the same way.

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Harsh realities

Writer_smallerGalaxy Trucker

Galaxy Trucker is a favourite of ours. We’ve never failed to have a blast (sorry ships) playing it. It took a long time to find a comic to do about it though. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, sometimes strips are easy, jumping fully formed from the rulebook. The problem with Galaxy Trucker was that it is already a funny game. A very funny game. It is hilarious in design, theme, artwork, rules and gameplay.

Its space-faring, ship construction theme is grounded by the players working for ‘Corporation Incorporated’, an interplanetary supplier of sewer systems and low-income housing. Instead of building expensive ships to transport their cut-price cargo to the farthest reaches of the stars, the company hit upon the brilliant idea of simply making their ships from the cargo, and dismantling them upon arrival. Given the nature of the ships, of course, arrival is not guaranteed. And that’s the fun of the game.

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