Tuesday, 26 February 2013

First Impressions - Bora Bora

"I think they mean boring boring" whispers non-gamer wife to my daughter...

So I'd glimpsed this hiding in David's bag o' games at our previous games night, and we managed to get a game of it played last night with three of us, despite my wife's sarcastic remarks. :)

It's far too early for me to review the thing, and that's probably the best first impression I can give of it. It's a game that will take a while to get to grips with, and not because it's difficult to learn, more that ideas for strategy are only going to come from better experience of how the various mechanics tie together. There are many many choices to make in this game, and there were quite a few moments of silence while we thought through the consequences of those choices. It's definitely not going to work with people who agonise over what to do next.

I don't think any of us found it particularly difficult to learn, there is a certain assault on the senses, partly from the vivid colours in the design, and partly from the seemingly overcrowded collection of mysterious icons. It only took a couple of turns to get the general gist of things though, and I can see this playing pretty quickly if we try a few more times.

So the mechanics?...well it's what...dice placement?...worker placement? I'm not sure what it would fall under, and there are several other intertwined mechanics that make it a little different anyway.You roll your dice, assign them to various actions which can help you perform a number of things, and those actions are determined by the value of the dice. The nice twist though is that to if an action already has dice assigned to it, the next player who wants to use that action has to place one of lesser value than the lowest currently there. This leads to some nice choices on where your dice can best be used, and also where you can block the other player's actions by the use of low value dice.

There is a map of the five islands where you can place your huts, and use actions to expand to other positions on the map. This in itself can gain you some points, and leads to a nice little game of fighting over particular spaces to gain extra points at the end. The placement though, also gains you resources, which can then be used to build on your own player board, which is another source of point scoring.

You have tasks to complete each turn which can score you more points, there is temple mechanism which leads to another avenue of point scoring, and if that isn't enough you can buy jewellery to gain more points, and tattoos which push you up the status track for yet more points, and turn order.

I'm pretty sure I've forgotten something, and I've not even mentioned the god cards and tiles, which can help you in a variety of ways.

Anyway, if you can tell, my initial impressions are extremely positive. It has that great combination of tons of choices, and never enough time to do everything you want to which combine to create some of my favourite gaming experiences. I'm really looking forward to trying this one a few more times, and maybe then I'll write something slightly more focused.

I lost by the way :)

Sunday, 24 February 2013

SereneJ's Review of Skull & Roses

So a review of Skull and Roses, a game that I was introduced to in a pub and found it to play really well; admittedly I first thought we were getting some expensive coasters for our drinks but I was quickly corrected. The rules were simple and easy to digest, probably less than a minute and we were away trying to out bluff each other.

However, it’s a more recent play of the game of Skull and Roses that I want to talk about here. It begins by my wife trying to get the extended family seeing each other more regularly, since they live close by. To do this she invites my three cousins and their partners for a meal and drinks at ours, this ultimately means I’m going to be doing the cooking but fortunately lasagne is a quick meal to prepare.

Going slightly further off track, a little bit of info about my family, they aren’t board-gamers, they are muggles to magic wielders to coin a phrase. You would normally find them playing games including the likes of Trivial Pursuits, Logo & oddly enough Texas Holdem Poker (with poker chips & normally for money). My wife’s plan for the evening involves drinks, sharing a meal and lots of conversation; I felt we were obligated to provide entertainment.

The meal concluded, coffee and mints provided (I like to think we offer a proper sit down meal, thank you), Skull & Roses was brought to the table. Immediately a hush falls, then the question of what’s being brought out since the Box art is quite striking to say it’s so small. Now I know all those present can play poker so I tell them that this is like poker, just more refined, with no actual playing cards or poker chips – guffaws are audible.

Once the box is opened the coasters decks are displayed, showing each rival gangs colours. There’s almost a gleeful mischief in the air, disbelief that a deck of four cards and a square mat can be used to play a game. Each of the eight takes a look at the decks that have been layed out & slowly one by one they choose their colours. For this game both the Skull and Roses Black (original) and Red (expansion) box-sets were being used since there were eight people playing.

The game started slowly, everyone being cautious about how to bid, the order of laying down cards - after the first turn’s completed it’s understood. Next round, they eagerly want to lay down cards, who starts? 

This game of skull and Roses goes on for an hour, we’re having fun, drinks are going down and the conversation is flowing equally as well. Each turn you know at least one person is looking round at the number of cards on the table, counting (they’re not even necessarily doing it quietly), calculating their magic number, their bid, which could win for them or could lead them to losing yet another precious card from their deck.

The end comes quickly, the teacher doesn’t win (I have a solitary card left and it’s a skull), everyone’s smiling, more so the winner. I’m told en-mass that they would play again, another of my family asks if next time we gather to play poker if I would bring Skull and Roses along too. They’re already planning on playing it prior to the game of poker like an aperitif and there planning on playing it using money; could be an expensive evening!

Skull and Roses is a brilliant game, I’ll be honest I loved the artwork on the cards as soon as I first layed eyes on them. That said, I didn’t understand initially how so few material items could be used to play a game that was comparable to poker? What no deck of cards, no poker chips, no dealer button?  After playing my second game (my first game teaching the rules), I’m a believer!  Regardless of whom you invite to play this game, your board-gaming buddies, your friends or your family –  I believe they will love this game too!

Skull & Roses is not complicated to learn but will get your heart pumping faster and you will find yourself getting competitive, you will want to be first to turn your square mat over twice; a nice touch for a scoring mechanism. 

This (I believe) is a must have game, it needs to be in your collection!

So what do we want to do today... personally I think trying to take over the world is aiming a bit too high ;-)

Hello from me, my first attempt at writing a blog.

Like Jay has written, welcome to those finding this the blog page of the Finely Diced Gamers!
I've always been interested in wargames and miniature gaming - having started out on the Games Workshop (GW) path as a younger man. Due to necessity (I got married and now have two fabulous children), I have now sold the majority of my GW collection - allowing me to try other hobbies - I have only recently started playing boardgames and I just love them.  I like the fact that you buy a boardgame and it is a completely self contained unit - everything that you require for the game to be played can be found in the box - definitely makes things easier.

At the moment there are five Finely Diced Gamers - Jay has made his introduction and this is mine, our plan is that others will want to join / will be invited to join us and contribute on this blog page.  At the moment the five of us meet up once or twice a week, meeting up at one another's houses, typically sharing a meal and then enjoying a game from our collections.  Some of us have more games than others but that just means the games we get to play are varied and the same game will not be brought to the table too frequently.

The Finely Diced Gamers play different type of games, from card games to worker placement games.  We don't mind playing the thematic Ameritrash games all the way through to the more structured EuroGames.  If you want to bring a miniatures / wargame  that wouldn't be a problem either, we've even talked about bringing RPG's to the table - there are definite plans afoot for the near future.  To put it simply - we'll play almost anything!

What we want to do is create a group for gamers who share a passion for board-games and come together as friends.  We realise everyone has different amounts of time available and we're not expecting a commitment to attend everything that we organise.  Point of fact as a group we're going to the UK Games Expo (held in Birmingham), organised for May - some of us (Jay & myself) will be staying at the venue for the entire weekend, whilst others will be attending as a day trip; the intention is that we will meet and enjoy this event as a group of friends.

Another of our plans for the future includes the organising of competitions for an increased membership - using game systems that we'll all have access to - the Abstract game called HIVE is currently highlighted for this particular task since it lends itself to a tournament style event.

So come and check back here regularly - we'll have some more content for you to peruse!