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Monday Brews: 8-12-13

Oh baby! It’s GenCon week! That means I’ve already been staying up way too late as I prepare for the convention. I’ll be providing my GenCon Preparation blog post tomorrow with tons of awesome goodness (maybe). But today is Monday.

That means it’s time to review the Boards and Barley that I enjoyed this past week. Let’s start with the Barley as usual…

The Barley:

Ben Franklin’s Honey: I am nearing the end of my supply of my second homebrew. I had hoped to have a few of these left to bring to GenCon but that’s not the case anymore. Sorry fellow designers. At least we still have PBR!

Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss: This excellent Wisconsin beer is enjoyable to drink, goes down smooth, and has a refreshing taste of honey. This is a favorite summer beer of mine, especially when I’m camping.

Lake Louie Warped Speed Scotch Ale: Lake Louie makes my favorite Scotch Ale. Located in Arena, WI, they have made tasty beer for a while now. But just recently, I believe, they just re-opened their doors for tours. This scotch ale is a really good beer.

Warning: May make other game designers jealous!

Boddington’s Pub Ale: A can of Boddington’s isn’t just an enjoyable beverage. It’s also an enjoyable experience. I brought a couple to Protospiel-Milwaukee and could feel the jealousy of our fellow designer’s as Adam and I cracked the can and listened to the widget exhale. This British pub ale is a very excellent beer, even outside of game designer events! The only downside is that it’s a product on InBev.

Alberti Amber: I have had the last of my first homebrew ever. There’s a little tear running down my cheek. My friend’s seemed to enjoy this one so I may brew it again. Alberti and I had an enjoyable ride.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale: I purchased this and the Leinie’s Honey Weiss for our softball team to enjoy after our last game of the season. Thankfully we won the game and became the league champions! That made this beer much more enjoyable, since I’m not typically a Pale Ale or IPA kind of guy.

The Boards:

It was another slow gaming week for me. I’ve been pretty busy prepping for GenCon and haven’t had as much time to actually play games. But here are the two lonely games I played this week:

Qwirkle: This is a great abstract game. In Qwirkle you are trying to complete sets of six tiles of either the same shape or the same color. There is a fun amount of strategy in this game. It’s pretty easy to teach. And since I have the travel edition it is pretty easy to take anywhere!

Scoville: I had the pleasure of testing Scoville with a good friend of mine. He had previously played the game twice, including the 4th ever playtest in Scoville history. We played a very close game until the end when he beat me to a 16 point recipe and I had nothing to fall back on. I love that about the game though; Sometimes you just have to make sure you get what you want first! I ended up losing, but the game was a lot of fun. Here’s a picture from early on in the game at our camping table:

Sometimes playing by the light of a lantern is really fun!

Sometimes playing by the light of a lantern is really fun!

Miscellany…

Last Friday was my birthday. And it happened to coincide with the receiving of two Kickstarter project rewards and one Blogiversary prize!

The special Kickstarter variant “Mimic” box.

On Friday before we left for camping I received my Dungeon Roll game from Tasty Minstrel Games. Dungeon Roll comes is a sweet treasure chest box. It includes a bunch of custom dice and hero cards. I have not yet played, but since there were over 10,000 backers there’s no shortage of people who have gotten it to the table. Congrats to Tasty Minstrel on a very successful campaign!

Then when I got home from camping I learned that my Catan Board had arrived. This was expected to arrive in April, so that’s a little disappointing. But the product looks really nice. I’m hoping that it works as advertised.

And finally my prize arrived for being the randomly chosen winner of the Theology of Games Blogiversary Contest #2. The game I won is Sunrise City, by Clever Mojo Games! I’m very excited to get this game to the table!

Add in the fact that I also received Le Havre: The Inland Port and a set of Beer Glasses for my birthday and you’ll see that all the gifts I received had to do with either Boards or Barley. (Disclaimer: I also received Seasons 1 & 2 of MacGyver, but I already had those so I returned them and bought something for my kids with the money).

And now we’ve got GenCon week! So I’ll pretend it’s my birthday all week!

***

So that’s the Boards and Barley that I enjoyed this past week. Any of you try a new game or new brew that left a lasting impression?

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Terraforming Rocks! A Review of Alien Frontiers

Friday means it’s time for a board game review. And since the Alien Frontiers Kickstarter campaign just ended I suppose I’m a day late putting up this review. But after seeing that the campaign received 75 times the funding level they were after I doubt my review would have had any effect on the campaign. Let’s get on to the review.

Spoiler: It’s awesome!

Alien Frontiers, at the time of it’s release in 2010, used a very innovative dice placement mechanic for claiming different portions of the board. Your dice represent ships and based on the rolled values you can dock your ships at several of the orbital facilities.  Throughout the game your goal is to colonize the planet, and doing so can give you special bonuses in the game.  When you’re ready for an outer space adventure, and curiosity about the temporal warper has reached it’s peak, then get your friends together for an intergalactic kegger and enjoy Alien Frontiers!

Here’s a look at all the components in the base game (image via BGG user GremlinMaster):

Newer versions are even more awesome!

Since the game was released there have been three other printings (including the Kickstarter that just ended). There have also been expansions, which I am not reviewing today, since I have not played them. Time to launch the rocket and get into the details:

The Upside:

  • DICE PLACEMENT: I think this is one of the first games that really had an elegant dice placement mechanism, combining not just the concept of using a die based on its number, but also using combinations of the numbers you rolled. I think that it makes it really interesting because sometimes you want equal numbers and sometimes you want different numbers.
  • ARTWORK: The artwork for this game is really beautiful. It doesn’t go over the top. It’s family friendly and visually easy to understand. And everything fits the theme of the game.
  • SCI-FI NAMES: A really cool thing they’ve done with the game is name the different regions on the planet after science fiction authors, including Asimov, Heinlein, and Bradbury. That’s just a really cool feature that associates the game with sci-fi literature that fits the theme.

The Downside:

  • THE ENDING: I don’t often like games that just end. This one is like that. Once someone gets to the right number of points it just ends. There’s no final move to try to claim victory. It’s just done. There’s something nice about how a game of Ticket to Ride ends where everyone gets a final turn when the endgame is triggered.
  • ANALYSIS PARALYSIS: This game offers so many cool options to do on your turn that it can lead to some AP. I love options, but I hate AP and the slow play that it causes. I suppose this could be mitigated by playing with the right people. Not really too much of a downside here, though.
  • BALANCE ISSUES: It feels to me like some of the cards that players can earn are a little too powerful. These can allow for some huge moves in the game. And if the other players gets a few of these then you’ll likely lose. Or so it seems.

Designer Perspective – What I Would Change:

Based on the downside above I’d probably try to balance the cards a little bit better. This is a pretty weak answer for this section, so I’ll go out on a limb and make up something more awesome: Player boards where you can change your capabilities of adjusting your dice rolls! OR Factions where each player has a different ability. Oh wait… that’s been done! Aye… it seems they’ve got a very complete and awesome game here!

Beer Pairing:

This just seems so appropriate!

Werner von Brown Ale. This just seems so appropriate!

This game could be paired with many different beers. I could choose something complex because there are so many options on your turn. I could choose something elegant because the game is elegant and beautiful. I could choose something light because it is pretty easy to understand and play. But instead I’ll do like the game did with the naming of the planet’s regions and choose a beer based on someone associated with space: Straight to Ale’s Werner von Brown Ale. While I haven’t had it, it just seems like a good fit for this game.

OVERALL RATING:

I really enjoyed playing Alien Frontier’s. I love the awesomeness of the dice placement mechanics. The theme fits really well. I love the concept of having a fleet of ships and sending them off to do different things. Sometimes you have to send ships off together. Don’t forget about Terraforming! I wish my friend hadn’t traded it away. And I wish I had $95 I could have thrown at the recent Kickstarter campaign. I’m looking forward to playing this again. I’ll rate it 8 out of 10 on the BoardGameGeek.com rating scale!

Very good game. I like to play it. Probably I'll suggest it and will never turn down a game.

Very good game. I like to play it. Probably I’ll suggest it and will never turn down a game.

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