Friday, November 09, 2007

Session Report: Gaming at TABS

Bus Woes

First off, I take back everything I said about Toronto yesterday; well, at least about Toronto's transportation system.

Like I did in Dallas two years ago, I managed to take the bus going the wrong direction for a good distance before figuring out my mistake. In my defense, I got the wrong information from both a passerby and a bus driver.

As such, I only made it to the Two-Headed Dragon at around 7:00 pm.

The Two-Headed Dragon

Unlike last week's game location, Dueling Grounds, this week's was a tad hard to find. The door is a little door stuck in between two normal shops; the place is on the second floor over one of those shops. There is a plastic banner strung on the top of the building which is visible, but out of one's general line of sight and not attractive enough. And there's a small poster outside the door reading "Games" which I walked past at first.

The reason for this, as Eng the co-owner told me, is that they invested a good chunk of change in a nice sign and then the guy fled with their money.

Eng told me that the business is very tough, especially in the last few years when the industry has fallen to 60% of what is was a few years ago. They are hurt, naturally enough, by online competition, but also by other stores which start up their business by trying to undercut the competition. When these businesses fail (duh), they then sell their stock at even lower prices which results in a double whammy for stores trying to stay in business.

Their smartest move would be to drift over into the video game business, which is what everyone else does. But they have been resisting (I didn't quite figure out why). The video game industry doesn't make much from the initial sales, but makes a lot more from used or resales. As it is, THD make bursts of money from new Warhammer players, and then trickles of steady money from CCG players. The board game night has a few loyal and regular customers.

They're nice guys, anyway.

In other news, this was my second attempt to meet Sonja from BGG, but she didn't show again. Oh well.

Cutthroat Caverns

When I got there, there was one group playing Buck Rogers, which looked like it was going to take them all night (and it did). Another group was playing Amun Re. Four others were playing Magic. And a last group was learning this game. They let me join.

Cutthroat Caverns is eerily like Munchkin, except even more chaotic if you can believe that. A monster is attacking all of you, and only the one who strikes the final blow gets the points. Therefore, you spend all your time and cards preventing anyone else from striking any blows, except the one that will set you up.

Oops, you tripped. Oops, critical failure. Oops, your weapon slipped. And so on. it's funny for about a half an hour, and then you just want the game to be over as soon as possible. And look, it's still the middle of round 2 out of 9.

We ended up quitting the game at that point. We were six players; perhaps the game might be somewhat quicker with only four.

It's Alive

I took the opportunity to teach this to three others, and we played well enough. The final score was quite close, with a high of 49 and a low of 43 (me).

They weren't exactly engrossed with the game, however. Sometimes that's just what happens. On the other hand, it might also have been because someone was trying out Eye of Judgment behind me.

Eye of Judgment

Wow does this game suck, and I didn't even play it. Now hold on, please; I've rated close to three hundred games, and I've never uttered an opinion about a game I didn't at least try. This is my first time.

The entire game is as follows: Spend a long time and a lot of money setting up this thing that tracks your physical cards as you play them.

Look at your mat. Play a card. Look at the screen. Wait 10 seconds as the machine reads your card and does lots of tacky cliche animation to show your creature entering play. Watch for 20 seconds while your card does something cliche. Watch for 10 seconds while the machine resets the view. Look down at your mat. Play another card. Repeat.

Sounds stupid? Well it gets much much worse. This entire time very LOUD heavy metal music is playing non-stop. Over the heavy metal music is very LOUD explosions, roars, clashing weapon sounds, and other cliche trash. Over all of this is the most cliche deep overly-excited narrating voice telling you what's happening.

And there's some game play, but I didn't learn how it worked.

OMG, is it annoying. I'm not always quick on the uptake, but this is one of the biggest disasters I've ever seen in a game, and I predict it's days in the sun are numbered quite small. All of you people who forked out a lot of money for this because it's cool are going to be kicking yourselves in the near future.

Note: EoJ has one redeeming factor in that you can play against other people across the internet using your physical cards. I just don't see how this can compete with other existing and less cumbersome networked games. It's merely a bump in the road toward full-featured electronic gaming tables.


Speaking of debacles, this game is a short-lived collectible Wizards of the Coast game released this year and already discontinued. It's actually not a bad game, but it has one truly awful thing about it that makes me want to shoot the designer: it's a mini game where the special abilities of each creature are printed on the bottom of the base of each figure.

I'll let that sink in a moment. Just imagine what a typical game scene looks like for a new player. And remember that each of your dozens of creatures is entirely unique, and different from your opponent's as well.

The game is played on a 5 by 5 grid, where you enter your creatures on your side and try to occupy spaces in the second row of your opponent, or the middle row, or kill your opponent's creatures.

Whoever scores the most points each round wins the round, and the game is over as soon as someone wins six rounds. Lots of dice rolling, special abilities, and the usual wargamey tactical maneuvering. Owing to how points are scored (being alone in a space that scores you points), some odd tactics gave me a whole lot of won rounds during the game, even when I had the far inferior force. But I lost the game 6 to 5 anyhow.

Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot

Eng taught me this game at the close of the session, and the deck included the standard yellow expansion and an additional red expansion on top of the standard blue deck.

You could hardly expect a game with this name to be serious, and it wasn't of course. Each round you revealed the card on top of your queue, did whatever it said, and then put a card onto the bottom of your queue. Owing to the wild and unpredictable effects of cards you draw or play, you have no hope of knowing whether a card you put in your queue will actually do something when it is finally played.

Still, it's amusing enough for what it is. I'm not going to go out an buy it, though.

And that was game night.

Games Already Acquired

I haven't even yet made it to BGG.con, but I've already acquired the following games, though purchasing and trades:

750 Magic commons
Vegas Showdown
Blue Moon
Arkham Horror
Robo Rally
Mr Jack
Dungeon Twister
Power Grid: Benelux & Central Europe
Schotten Totten

And I've traded away:
Shear Panic
Colossal Arena
3 Lord of the Rings expansions

Game News

Diamondback Online writes about North Star games.

Gamer Help writes about why we play games. Compare their list to my own reasons why we play games.

It's more a lottery than a game, but the New Paltz Oracle reports on a school using a game to inspire more activity participation.

The Waterloo Chronicle slips in a pitch for Stonehenge in an article about a local toy store.


1 comment:

Chris Brooks said...

let's play Bus at BGG.con - one I my favorites. I'll bring some Magic cards too that you can take home.