Monday, March 12, 2018

Spring Games

With Saint Paddy's Day around the corner, my friends and I were wondering if it would be a fun excuse to pull out some games and enjoy them with our Guinness and Irish stew. So what do we have that might fit in with the theme? We scanned our list and came up with a few goodies...

Get Lucky
This is the only one with the word "Lucky" in the title. I don't have the full board game, just this little card game, but it is a fun game full of murderous intentions and friendly backstabbing.

March of the Ants
Okay, yes, we are already grasping at straws here. Not a lot of Irish stuff on the shelves. But I chose this one because it hash"March" in the title, it is one of my newer games and I am really enjoying it! I purchased it used and think it was a Kickstarter game. Easy rules, with instructions on all the cards that explain what to do, which I love! Lots of different strategies to try to win. Is it spring themed? Sure, why not ;)

Bring Your Own Book
I thought this could be a fun one if you happen to have some Irish/spring books on your bookshelves. This is an easy Cards Against Humanity style party game. Someone draws a card that asks for an answer, and do you have to quickly have to quickly paw through the book you've chosen to play with, then you all laugh and pick the best one :) I'm a little over those types of games, but with a new crowd, they are always fun. This one tends to get more tedious, so we never play it as long as it suggests we do.

Terraforming Mars
Wait, what is spring themed about this one? Well you're going around planting trees! Starting new life! What could be more Earth-/Arbor-Day-ish? It also happens to be one of my favorite games. The cards make it interesting and force you to change up your strategy each time you play.

Catan British Isles
Ah, there we go! Ireland on the map! This one requires the Seafarers Expansion and possibly some labels that you make yourself. But it certainly fulfills my St. Patrick's Day needs. Maybe you can change the robber into snakes that you have to drive out of your territory ;)

Photosynthesis
Again, a game in keeping with the tree planting theme of spring and Earth Day and Arbor Day. This is a fun and easy one that is made for a younger crowd, but is actually pretty tricky to master and I enjoy playing it with a table full of adults. And, let's face it, it's a beautiful game.

What are you playing at your spring party? Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game

Hi there! I'm Atticus Levy, and I am now one of the Editors on Pile of Games! I hope you enjoy the things that I have to say!


There is a certain Movie series known as "Star Wars," that has been gaining popularity in the Nerd world. You should check it out, I think the series MAY be going places.

Anyway, when I saw this game, it caught my attention (as any Star Wars related merchandise does) and  so, of course, I got it, and I love it! From the picture I have at the top, the game may not look that complex or big, but believe me, you do not want to judge this game by it's cover. This game is one of those games that are built to be played with expansion packs. When you first buy X-Wing, You start out with Two TIE fighters and one X-wing. One player plays as the X-Wing, and the other plays as the TIE fighters. That is how the game will always work; Rebels VS Imperial. Your Miniature figure will have statistics on how many back-up shields your ship has, and how many lives it has once shields are down completely. The object of the game is to destroy all enemy ships.

Game play is quite simple. First, you need to choose where your ship is going to go on the board with a small dial showing the limitations of your ship(s) movement. Once you do that, The player of choice moves their ships using small strips showing the distance in which you move your ship. After all ships have been moved, The players attack! Taking turns, the players attack enemy ships if they are in range. The player being attacked rolls a certain number of green defense dice, while the attacker rolls a certain number of red attack dice. The attacked player removes the necessary amount of shields and/or lives from his or her ship, and this cycle continues until One team is left.

This game is normally played with 2 players. You can play with 4 players (two on each team), but a game with 2 players is recommended. My friend and I play it occasionally. We are very familiar with the rules, and we even have our own ships! Some expansion ships I have include the Millennium Falcon, Boba Fett's Slave I, a rebel B-Wing, TIE Interceptor Aces, TIE Advanced (Darth Vader's ship), and a rebel A-Wing. I had to retire from the original box, an bought my own case for everything. There is even a playable Tantive IV, which appears to be the largest ship in the series.

This game is truly recommended for all Star Wars fans, and for anyone who is a fan of Board Games of any sort! I rate this game 4 and a half X-Wings out of 5.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small

I have never played the big-box version of Agricola, but I saw this little 2-player version on sale at a local game store (shout out to timewellspentgames.com) and couldn't resist it.


The first time I tried reading the instructions aloud to a friend, we were in a Whole Foods cafe. It was just us at one table and three businesspeople at another table. One of the men was pontificating so loudly in the open space that his voice echoed everywhere, filling my head with his noise and making it nearly impossible to concentrate on the rulebook I was reading. So before we tried to play, we gave up and pulled out a game we already knew well.

When I got home I gave this one a try again. At first run-through, the directions seem REALLY complicated. But you just have to find the answers to a few basic questions, and then play a round or two. Then it starts to click.


The parts of the game are basically all placeholders so that you can keep track of the animals you've bought and bred, the land you've developed, and the turns you've taken. So you have lots of little pieces in the game: buildings, fences/walls, wood, stone, wheat, workers (represented by disks -- I want meeples!), sheep, pigs, cows and horses.


During setup, each player gets a farm board containing 6 grids and a Cottage. You also each get 9 yellow fences/walls (borders) and your workers (three for the red player, three for blue).

On the game board — used by both players — you lay out the starting markers next to any option with a tiny red arrow. Right now ALL of the options are available to both players, but as you take your "work phase" turns, the options start to disappear.

Let me give you an idea of some of the options: On the top left of the board is a half circle with the player disc shown and "1 Wood". In the beginning of the game you choose a starting player, but if someone chooses this space, they get to pick who goes first in the next rounds until the space is chosen again. And they also get one wood (a brown disc).

The player who chooses the half-circle on the top right of the board gets 2 stone. The player who chooses the grid with "+1 trough (yellow structure)" gets to build a trough. If that same player also has a lot of wood on-hand, additional troughs can be built for every 3 wood paid. See? Easy-peasy. But when someone takes that one grid you needed, you should think about trying to get the "first player" grid (the one on the top left that I mentioned earlier).

The player who chooses the grid on the bottom right of the board gets one horse. If no one chooses that grid, then the horse stays and, during the "refill phase" you would add 1 sheep. Add another sheep the following refill phase if the horse and sheep are still there. If you DO take an animal, you'd better have the space on your farm to keep it (an enclosed pasture, a building that allows for animals, a feeding trough — which will also double the number of animals that are in the area).

You use things like the stones and wood to purchase buildings, items and abilities. For example, there is a grid (second to bottom on left) that lets you build a Stall on your farm as long as you have 3 stone and 1 wheat to "pay" for it.  There are also grids that will allow you to build fences, buy more fences, and build more costly special buildings on your farm (or upgrade buildings). Or even add a strip of 3 grids to either side of your farm (you can add up to 4 of these; though there are only four available and you lose points if you don't utilize every space somehow)


After you've played all three of your workers, taking turns with your opponent, and have carried out each action (which you do immediately upon claiming it) there is the "breeding phase". If you have two of the same type of animal sharing an enclosure, you add one more (maximum) of that animal. If you have no room for it, you don't get to add it (and you can try to make room -- there is no limit to how much you can shuffle your animals around, but once your fences and other structures are placed, you can't move them).

Then it's the "refill phase" go back and reset the game board. So, if the wood is gone from the top left grid, you would place a new wood marker there. The 4th grid in the second row asks you to add a fence each turn — there are 8 fences after each player has his/her 9 fences at setup —  once all of those are placed, it is the last round. If a player claims that spot, he/she gets all the fences sitting there (there is always at least one there since you add one from the collection next to the board during each refill phase) AND a farm expansion, if they haven't all been taken.

...So you're taking turns to claim and carry out three actions apiece (from the 17 available actions) in each of 8 rounds, total. See? Easy :)

The goal? To obtain and keep as many animals as possible. Once the last round has been played, you add up your score. Each animal is worth one point. Then there are bonus points that come into play — those are listed on the side of the game box. For example, if you have 1-3 of any type of animal, that is MINUS 3 points per animal type. If you have up to 10 sheep (the easiest animals to collect) you get 1 bonus point. If you have 15 sheep you get 5 bonus points. And each animal has its own different scoring system. There are also some bonus points for some buildings, for completely used expansions, and if you have the Storage Building, you get bonus points for building materials you have at the end of the game. Like Carcassonne, the points can be small, but can add up.

I enjoy the challenge of this game and have even played solitaire versions, where I control both farms and just play against myself, trying to see if I can get some really high scores while trying to block my other self from doing the same. Haha! Yup, I'm a geek. But because it's only 8 rounds, it's a fast game. I'll have to try the big box sometime with more players and see how that goes.

Whew! I kinda went on there. Well, like I said, this game isn't the simplest. But once you play it through the first time it really does all click and makes sense. But if you have any questions, feel free to email me. LOL! ;)

I guess I would say that if you like games like Carcassonne, Catan, The Builders — games where you're working on your own goals while putting some obstacles in front of your opponent, then you'd like All Creatures Big and Small.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Munchkin Loot Letter


Well, how the heck could we resist this? With Munchkin being a beloved game of ours, especially when we're playing with the kids & teens, this was a must-have.

It's basically "Love Letter" Munchkinized. And if you haven't played Love Letter yet, you really should. It is a simple and fun game — small enough to keep on you at all times and pull out in case of gaming emergencies.

Loot Letter is a game for 2-4 players, using only 16 cards. It's a draw-one-play-one game. Each player starts out with one card. The first player (chosen in whatever silly way you want, really) draws a second card from the prepared draw pile ("prepared" because depending upon the number of players, you remove a certain number of cards from the deck so that each round goes a bit differently — remember to return the unused card or cards to the deck before shuffling for the next round).

You choose which card to play: Maybe you have one that lets you see your opponent's hand. Or one that is a high number, so you might want to hang onto it, for the higher the number you have, the better your odds of winning the round. You just basically follow the instructions written on each card. So know your cards! And know what cards are available to the others (this is where the reference cards come in handy). Usually the winner is the last man standing — the person who can cleverly or luckily get everyone else kicked out of the round.

At the end of each round, the winner gets a marker (representing loot), and that person goes first in the next round. First to a certain number of markers (with 2 players you need 7; with 3 players you need 5; with 4 players you need 4) wins the game.

Very fast game, very fun and frustrating at times, but in a good way. We've played This, Love Letter, and Letters from Santa and they are all pretty much the same, just a different theme. So go find a theme you love best! This is mine, and I am gonna keep it in my bag wherever I go. :)

http://www.alderac.com/loveletter/

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Input



We found this old gem at a yard sale for a dollar or two — the decals hadn't even been applied and the plastic pieces were still attached to each other, so it was like new. And I'm glad I didn't pass it by! A 2-player game, Input plays pretty quickly, and after filling my brain with zombie games and RPGs and 60-page rulebooks, sometimes a game like this is just refreshing :) So compared to those more intricate games, it's no wonder boardgame website ratings on this were just so-so. But I think it's well worth pulling off the game shelf every now and then.

Gameplay is pretty simple. One player is red, the other is blue. The diagrams on each piece match the gameboard. Each player's 6 pieces are different, but aside from colors, each player has matching diagrams on their pieces. The hollow circle a the bottom of each of your pieces represents that piece's starting square. And the connected, filled-in circles represent the only path you can take from your starting square. So each piece is preprogrammed, but you control when to put it into play and when to move it.

Each time it is your turn you have three choices to make:

1) Move one of your pieces from your tilted/hidden tray to the "on-deck" square at your right. (you HAVE to do this on your very first move). This square is the only one that can be occupied by multiple pieces — up to three — but whichever one is on top is the only "free" piece.

NOTE: You can never have two pieces occupying the same space on the gameboard. If one of your pieces is in the way of another one of your pieces, you can't move that second piece. If an opponent's piece is in your way, you have captured it and remove it from play (into the storage bins at each side of the board).

2) Move one of your pieces from the "on-deck" square to the gameboard. You have to move it to the corresponding space in the starter row — the one that is in the same location as the hollow circle at the base of your gamepiece (the starter row is marked with dots the same color as your pieces).

3) Move one of your pieces along its designated path. Once it reaches the end of its path — and hasn't been captured — you can then move it back to your tray or back to its corresponding space in the starter row, skipping the "on deck" square. But if you move it back to the tray, then it does have to go to the "on-deck" square the next time you want to put it into play.

As you are moving along the path, there are two things to watch out for: can you take an opponent's piece by landing on it? Can an opponent take yours with his/her next move? You can see where everyone's "next move" is, for the most part — so it is very exciting to see if you can escape from certain doom by forcing your opponent to move the attacking piece before it can attack. I find myself constantly reminding my son: "Are you suuuuuure you want to move there...?"

The winner is the person who has captured all of the opponent's pieces. I have had this end in a stalemate — each of us with one piece, and those pieces never catch up, no matter what we tried. Not enough overlapping filled-in circles on our last diagrams. We could have kept going to see if one of us would make a stupid mistake, but that seemed silly :)

This game seems so simple, is so easy to learn, and yet affords you some unusual gameplay and a fun challenge. It is a little like someone took simple games like Connect-4 or Tic-Tac-Toe and put them on steroids.

It's an older, hard-to-find game (1984) but I have seen pictures of handmade versions of Input — pretty cool! And I guess it would be easy to make, as long as you can find a picture of all six diagrams. But I'm glad I found the sleek plastic gameboard — I love the look and feel of it while we play! (Click here for an image I found of a homemade set.)

Hasbro's website still has a PDF of the rules. Click here to see it.

So don't pass them by just because Chthulu isn't one of the characters — have fun trying the old games that are new to you!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Mars Attacks — The Dice Game

Ack. Ack ack-ack ack. Ack-ack ack.

And that's all I have to say about that.

UPDATE: Ok, I've been asked to write more about it, so here goes! I was really looking forward to this one because I love Steve Jackson Games and I love the whole Mars Attacks franchise — great "comics".

But I was soooo disappointed!

You get a pile of cards, each of which containing the name of a city or national monument. There are spaces on the card that let you know how many guns (or Martians) you need to roll in order to claim that card. You put down 4 piles of cards (each pile contains the same number of cards — face down, except for the top card — as there are players). Each card also tells you how many nukes you can roll before you are destroyed (and this variable changes by +1 or +2 depending upon how difficult you want to make your game.

Your 10 dice have images of guns, Martians, and nuke symbols. If you're on a city, you're trying for guns (you can re-roll any Martians; nukes remain nukes and are set aside). On a monument, you're trying for Martians (so you only get one roll, because you can't re-roll guns). But if you roll too many nukes (you can roll until you decide to stop, of until you reach your nuke limit), you die and the turn passes to the next player. You keep your place (with a marker) on the card (one spot for each good dice roll during which you didn't die), but if another player is able to beat you to the last spot, they claim the card. You don't have to stick with one card, you can work on a different one each turn (in the pic you can see I have a marker on San Antonio and one on Dallas). The cards can give you bonus actions that can help you.

Gee, when I describe it here, it really sounds fun.

But it's really not. First of all, you're rolling all 10 dice at once. The chances of rolling the 2-3 nukes you want to avoid are — we found out — REALLY high!!! So here is how a game went:

ME (rolling all 10 dice): Darn, nuked!
OPPONENT (rolling all 10 dice): Darn, nuked!
ME (rolling all 10 dice): Darn, nuked!
OPPONENT (rolling all 10 dice): Darn, nuked!
ME (rolling all 10 dice): Darn, nuked!
OPPONENT (rolling all 10 dice): Darn, nuked!
ME (rolling all 10 dice): Darn, nuked!
OPPONENT (rolling all 10 dice): Hey, I got two hits! (next roll) Darn, nuked!
ME (rolling all 10 dice): Darn, nuked!
OPPONENT (rolling all 10 dice): Darn, nuked!
ME (rolling all 10 dice): Darn, nuked!
OPPONENT (rolling all 10 dice): Darn, nuked!
ME (rolling all 10 dice): Darn, nuked!
OPPONENT (rolling all 10 dice): Darn, nuked!
ME (rolling all 10 dice): Darn, nuked!
OPPONENT (rolling all 10 dice): Darn, nuked!
ME (rolling all 10 dice): Yay! I hit! Oh, no, wait, I didn't see that nuke.
OPPONENT (rolling all 10 dice): Darn, nuked!
ME (rolling all 10 dice): Darn, nuked!
OPPONENT (rolling all 10 dice): Darn, nuked!

... and I'm really not exaggerating (some games went better), though there were probably a few more hits. But it took forever to claim a card. And that was it; that was the game. I hated it. My 13-year-old hated it.

To be fair, the rules weren't very clear on this one point: we couldn't tell if we were supposed to lose ALL our guns (if that is what we were rolling for) for our entire turn if we rolled the, say three, nukes needed to end our turn. If we rolled two nukes and three guns and then opted to take our chances and roll again, only to roll a few guns and another nuke, do we lose ALL our gun points? Or do we get to keep the three from the first roll? Knowing how SJGames' Zombie Dice goes, we'd lose everything. But we were getting nowhere. So after playing that way the first time, we played another game wherein only the guns from the fatal roll were lost. We progressed a LITTLE faster, but still, each turn consisted of one or two rolls, tops. Any that went past that were REALLY rare (it might have happened once or twice).

And we read that rule over and over — we DID have to roll all 10 dice at once. But I wondered if the game would have been more interesting if you could only roll one die at a time, opting to stop before getting your third nuke — and getting to count all the GOOD rolls up to that point. And maybe if you DO roll the third nuke you lose EVERYTHING you rolled during that turn. I didn't play that way, but now I wish I had tried it.

Want a good dice-rolling game? Go for Zombie Dice or Martian Dice (which is a little more fun than Zombie Dice, in my opinion) or if you want something with more to it, try Quarriors or Dice Capades. But not Mars Attacks. I ended up giving my copy of the game to some younger kids in the 'hood, since it would have been hard to get my money back for it. Maybe they'll like it because little kids don't mind some mindless gameplay. I did mention my disappointment to SJGames on Twitter -- told them they need to rethink the rules. I guess I was hoping for more Quarriors, less Pick-up Sticks.

And Steve Jackson Games ain't cheap — so we deserve better. My heart is still with you, SJGames! Just not with this one game.