This week I was able to learn and play three new games! (ok, ok, four… but one of those I don’t really count). Sadly we missed game night this week, so the actual play count on the week was a little light. I was able to get in some Friday Night Magic, but that’s a topic for another blog.
My wife Jan belongs to a Facebook group in which people in the community post things that they want to give away, and others respond and someone gets it. This week Jan was able to snag a copy of DICEcapades. Jan and I played through the game together, and then we played it with Karen (sister-in-law) and our niece Maddy. I won’t go too deep on it, as it is a very light family game. Each turn you draw a card depending on where you are on the board, and complete the challenge on the card to move forward. The first person to get to the end and complete a challenge in the final space is the winner. The challenges include things like rolling dice to determine which picture to draw for a round of pictionary, or rolling a die to determine how many times you have to run from one room to another in 30 seconds, or rolling many dice and performing arithmetic on the results, and even challenges involving all players who have to stack various sized/shaped dice before the other players. It is entertaining for a while, but I can’t imagine it will get much play. More likely the dice will be used for prototyping other games. We’ll see.
During the week I received the replacement cards for Arcadia from APE Games, so at one point I did teach myself the game, hoping to get it to the table shortly thereafter, and I did. On Saturday afternoon, I was able to get in a couple of games with Karen.
Arcadia is card game in which players are each attempting to build the best theme park possible. Each player collects job and expert cards which provide symbols in four types for use in purchasing attractions. There are four categories of attractions, and each costs some combination of symbols and provides in-game advantage in the form of special abilities, permanent symbols to use in the purchase of other attractions, and victory points. The game takes place over four years which are tracked through the rotation of the attraction deck. Each year the deck gets successively shorter as players are purchasing attractions. At the end of each year the players total up the value of their attractions, and at the end of the scoring on the last year additional points are awarded by the “Critics” in the form of secret goals that each player has been given at the beginning of the game. Whomever has the most victory points is the winner!
I had fun playing Arcadia. The theme is fun and well implemented, as you are collecting ride operators, choreographers, cooks, and more in order to build your attractions which range from roller coasters to magicians, and corn dog stands to the ring toss. The game play is quick, as each turn a player may only do one thing, either take resources, buy an attraction, or hold an attraction for a future turn. At first it seemed like the game would take too long, but the fact that the attraction deck is always thinning makes each year shorter than the last, so you get a real sense of urgency in the late game. I look forward to playing it again, and hopefully with more than two players next time.
I hesitate to liken this game to Splendor, but it certainly has similar elements. If you’ve read my previous weekend report you would see that I do not like Splendor. However, Arcadia does what Splendor didn’t, it adds a realistic theme and is a much deeper game, as you aren’t “just” collecting symbols to buy other symbols. In Arcadia you get attractions and some of those have special abilities instead of the other symbols. While the take-that aspect of Splendor is part of what I didn’t like, in Arcadia you don’t get that unless your opponent has a similar goal that they are trying to achieve (i.e. both players are going for midway games). However, the secret goal isn’t the only thing that contributes to your win, and doesn’t determine games. In both games I played, I had a significantly higher amount of secret points, and I lost both games. There is also a level aspect to the attractions (i.e. you have to own a level one ride in order to build a level two ride after it, and if you want to build another level two ride, you have to have another level 1 ride before you can do so) which is quite important. Level four attractions are worth twenty or more points each, where level one and two attractions are worth two-to-eight points each. In the case of our last game, I was focused on level one and two midway games and shows, and pairs of level one attractions, as those were my secret goals, but in not having more than a couple of level three attractions, and zero level four attractions, I missed out on a lot of points. By taking all of the level one attractions that I possibly could, I was even denying the potential for Karen to build more strings of attractions, but she built hers up to higher levels and therefore had more base-points than I did.
I have three negatives about Arcadia. The first is that with player turns going so quickly, the act of cycling the attractions after each player’s turn seems very “fiddly”. Basically, if a player takes jobs or an expert, then the last attraction in the row is placed at the bottom of the attraction deck, the row shifts over, and a new attraction is placed at the back of the row. I see that mechanic is necessary given that the clock in the game is the attraction deck, and if there are all level three or four attractions, then you can’t build anything until a level one or two attraction shows up. Second, is that the players must have a piece of paper and pencil handy in order to write down scores, and these are not provided with the game. The third, and this kind of ties into the second, is that the box is odd. The shape of the box is such that the cards just kind of sit in there, but aren’t tight on any side, and there is one wooden token for tracking the year that kind of flops around in the box. They easily have the room in the box to include four wooden tokens and a score track, or even a white-board and marker, or a pencil and little score pad with spaces for each year and the bonus points. These negatives are not enough for me to not want to play the game more though!
On Sunday, Jan and I went over to a friend’s house to watch the sports game, and we ended up playing a game called Stinky Pig afterwards. Stinky Pig is a kids game with an electronic pig that is the same as Hot Potato. You press the pig’s belly, pass the pig to the left or right based on a die roll, and whomever is holding the pig when it farts gets a token. Three tokens and you are out. It was fun to play with six year olds, and that’s all I will ever play it with… enough said.
Then we went to Mox Boarding House. Mox Boarding House, and it’s sister store Card Kingdom are shops like no other that I’ve ever seen. I won’t get into too much detail, but if you are in the Seattle area, you should make an effort to come see Mox Boarding House, Card Kingdom, and for a cozier, but still excellent shop, Blue Highway Games. All are great. MBH has a main room with board games and several tables for people to play at. They have a quite extensive library of games you may check out to play, and I’ve even seen them open a game for someone that wasn’t in their library (If you decide to buy it cool, if not, I’ll add it to the library). In addition to that they have a miniatures room with four tables and tons of terrain, a card game room with about six tables, and a HUGE tournament room that can easily seat a hundred players. They also have private closed rooms that you can rent, primarily for role playing campaigns, and finally they have a restaurant on-site where you can buy a game or grab one from the game library, grab a table, and play a game while you eat. Jan, Maddy, and I decided to check out a game to play and we ended up on Dice City by AEG. The restaurant was full (at 5pm on a Sunday), so we grabbed an open table in the tournament room and set up the game.
Dice City is a dice crafting game in which you are the mayor of a city. You are attempting to make your city better than all the other cities by improving your city, defeating bandits, and/or conquering the trade routes. If you have the most victory points at the end of the game, then you are the winner and your city is declared the new capitol of Rolldovia!
Each player has their own player board with a starting grid of five rows and six columns. The rows correspond to the colors of your dice, and the columns correspond to the 1-6 sides of those dice. Spaces produce resources like wood, coal, or stone, provide army strength, allow re-rolls of the dice, or give you victory point tokens. At the beginning of the game and at the end of each turn you will roll your dice, and place them on their corresponding grid positions. On your next turn you spend those dice primarily to take the action on the grid space where the die currently sits. Their are other options as well, such as moving dice, sweeping the available locations, etc… The goal is to collect victory points. Victory points are gained by upgrading the locations on your board, defeating bandits, or sending your resources off on trade ships. As you purchase new locations you place them on your board, replacing the space underneath them. This is the dice crafting portion of the game, since as you upgrade the spaces on your board, the dice do different things. You can make your green die to focus on collecting resources, and your red die to focus on cultural improvements such as statues and cathedrals, or as Jan did, make your red, yellow, and blue dice focus on military action to defeat the bandits. The game is over when one of three conditions is met; either a single player has completely filled two rows on their player board with none of the spaces in those rows being deactivated, or all three levels of bandit armies have been defeated, or two of the three levels of trade ships have been used.
I had a LOT of fun playing Dice City. We each approached the game from a different strategy. Jan took the military route and used that to defeat the bandits, Maddy decided to take the trade option, and I was kind of in the middle. I was working on improving my locations, as well as attempting to increase my trade, but I waited too long to upgrade my various resources, and was unable to catch up to Maddy. In the end Jan won by a single point over Maddy. The game has a lot of variability in how you can upgrade your board and I like that each approach to winning the game is equally viable. Of course it will take many more plays to see if there is one particular strategy that will work better than the others.
Dice City is a game with a lot of replay-ability. It has multiple, viable paths to victory, and with the variable locations that you can add to your boards, there is endless variety. The theme is a lot of fun, and the cartoon-y art work is great. And I love dice. One interesting note is that except for me, on the very first turn only, nobody used their armies to attack the other players. I feel like this aspect of the game may have hurt Jan’s perception of the game, as she doesn’t really like direct player conflict, but I also feel like, particularly in a competitive group of players, it would be very necessary to turn off that strong location for a turn or extend the game an additional turn by deactivating a space in a completely upgraded row. The point is that the game can be tailored to the crowd you are playing it with. At my home, with my wife, sister and niece, we can ignore that particular aspect of play, and at game night, we can attack each other the whole time, but in either case, the game is still just as fun! I look forward to acquiring Dice City in the (hopefully) near future, and getting it to the table often!
All-in-all I had a good week, especially the weekend. The games that we played were fun and I look forward to playing them again. I’m thinking that I want to write up a weekly game report like this every week to chronicle the games that I’ve played. I don’t know that I will get as in-depth on the game reviews, but I’ll get better at refining my thoughts as I get more practice writing. I will aim to get each post made on the same day each week, and then try to intersperse additional articles as I finish them and/or have time. So this week the post is going up on Friday. I am thinking that I will try for Wednesday of each week, but we shall see how it goes.
Until next week, make sure you get in a game or two!