Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Twelve Plays of Christmas

Christmas is a wonderful, unique time of the year - centered around the modern interpretation of a Christian Holy festival.  At Gaming with Chuck headquarters, we do many of the things (both religious and non-religious) that others do - we decorate the house, celebrate with family time and food, immerse ourselves in medieval Carols, as well as Victorian and modern songs, and try to spend time with friends, as well as much more family time than the rest of the year. Celebrating the birth of Christ with as much joy as we can muster.

During this time, one of the ways we spend our relaxation time together is (of course) by playing games.  So, once the weeks of the Advent started ticking down, and vacation times started, we started having multiple opportunities for board game sessions.  I wanted to get at least twelve good plays in this year (the "Twelve Plays of Christmas"), and if you count everything (including card fillers, etc) between the Saturday of December 13 (the weekend when vacation time for me started), up through January 1, we had 28 games.

For a list, check out these Board Game Geek stats.

Now, granted, at least 8 of those plays were lightweight filler games, but that still leaves a respectable amount.  I didn't get to play some of the heavier Euros I like to play, and no wargames included, but this was Family time, and Friend time, and we did get in some pretty respectable titles, regardless.

Breaking it down by Title, here is the list (from most plays to least plays):

Shadows over Camelot (3)
Trans Europa (3)
Yardmaster (3)
Guillotine (2)
Power Grid: The First Sparks (2)
Sushi Go! (2)
Ticket to Ride: 10th Anniversary (2)
Carcassonne (1)
Category 5 (1)
Easy Breezy Travel Agency (1)
Flash Point: Fire Rescue (1)
Lords of Waterdeep (1)
Munchkin Adventure Time (1)
Pandemic: The Cure (1)
Salmon Run (1)
Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries (1)
Trekking the National Parks (1)
Valley of the Kings (1)

This did not include iPad plays of Ticket to Ride, Agricola, Stone Age, and Lords of Waterdeep (of which there were many, especially of the first two).

Of this list, some of these titles were new.  Here is a brief comment on those that are new to the staff at Gaming with Chuck:

Yardmaster - We got this title recently, benefits of a Kickstarter campaign.  It is a great little card game, with a nice industrial age Train theme, and we like it a lot.  Also came with Yardmaster Express,which we have not tried yet, but also looks good (and even shorter time to play).  Played a three way game with myself and two other competitive card players - it was quite tight and close scoring. Very satisfying.

Power Grid: First Sparks - We have owned this for a few years, but with the move last year, and other things going on, this is one of those titles that has been waiting to be played.  We finally tried it, and we like it.  Compares well with Power Grid - simpler, less complex economy, but much shorter playing time.  A good trade off - makes both very attractive, for different reasons.

Sushi Go! - This one was a Christmas gift for a good friend, and as we all enjoy drafting games, we thought we would like it.  I think we liked it more than our friends did!  Lightweight, but plays in a few short moments, and would be a good "set the mood" game for something deeper.

Easy Breezy Travel Agency - This is the first of the six pack in Dice Hate Me's "54 Card Rabbits" series, that we received recently (again, compliments of a Kickstarter campaign).  This is a really fun little game.  There might be a strategy hidden here, but it seems like it is over too quick for someone to get bent out of shape over not finding it.  Fun, and fast.

Munchkin Adventure Time - We don't care for Munchkin too much at GwC headquarters, however we do love Adventure Time - so this was a good compromise.  The character cards seem to be just right, and the many, many references (some esoteric) to elements of the TV show had us all giggling.  Played with a youngster, a teenager, and several adults - all fans of the show - as well as an older friend who didn't know what it was.  All of us loved it, regardless, and had a great Munchkin game (Editor: is there such a thing?) in the process.

Pandemic: The Cure - The staff at Gaming with Chuck are split on Pandemic.  Actually we are split on cooperative games in general.  Meaning, I like them, and the Mrs does not.  However, given that this (the Pandemic dice game) plays fast, is very interesting, and isn't too terribly cooperative, it was quite fun, and still didn't feel like a bunch of individual solitaire games going on (like, say, the Catan dice game, or some others).

Trekking the National Parks - This one is pretty fun.  It is a draw cards and move game, with the goal of getting Park card by visiting parks on the map, and turning in sets of cards.  Or is it a move around and collect stones to have the largest amount of certain colors?  Or is it a collect post cards, and then turn them into VPs by playing sets of cards?  Any of these three things seem like a reasonable path to victory in this deceptively simple (but fun) game about our national park system.  Very fun - drew many comparisons to Ticket to Ride - I felt like it was of an older Alan Moon vintage - one of his Elfen games.

Valley of the Kings - We have played this one a few times now - during this recent Christmas period, and a few times back around Thanksgiving.  It is a great little deck builder, with some innovative mechanics.  We love it - the theme, the play, the length of time, all of it.  Some really neat ideas for different strategies, but the strongest seems to be concentration on a particular category or two.  Not sure about timing of the collection of scoring cards (unlike Dominion, etc - this one has you removing cards from play in order to have them count as final scoring artifacts).  Is it better to score all throughout, or to get some big stuff at the end?  Will have to play more to experiment.