A very geeky Christmas ’twas had by all

It’s a rare event indeed where your humble narrator gets anything for Christmas other than an old biscuit, a lump of coloured clay, or a couple of castoff buttons.  Therefore, I was delighted to find a series of oblong, parti-coloured boxes with YHN’s name inscribed upon them on Christmas Day.   Even more interesting was that many of these boxes were boxed board and miniature games.  Even MORE fortuitous was the fact that we promptly had a White Christmas and got snowed in– so we had nothing to do but play board games and Xbox for three days in a row.  Herein follows my Holiday Gift Boodle list… which is impressive by my standards if not yours.  I’m also throwing in some mentions from Gar’s Christmas boodle (unless pressed for time) and my Secret Santa pressies.

1. NINJA BURGER (2005)
Steve Jackson Games

I was ready to think this was going to be too silly even for me, but I am glad we broke this one out and played it first.

Ninja Burger
Ninja Burger, Steve Jackson Games

Players are Ninjas, working at the Ninja Burger hamburger stand.  Missions are hamburger deliveries made to a series of unlikely spots via card draw.  Player Ninjas must roll against their character traits to make a successful delivery and therefore garner honor points for their corporation.

The artwork is silly and Foglio-like, the parts and bits very well done.  The rules have a logic hole here and there but we improvised.  Great fun!

2. SPACE HULK: DEATH ANGEL the card game (2010)
Fantasy Flight Games

Death Angel
Death Angel

This game was on my short list after hearing an enthusiastic review on a certain podcast of my acquaintance.   Getting it sorted out and set up was a bit of a chore.   Why?  Because artists painting in the Warhammer: 40K milieu can’t stand making illustrations that are anything other than dark, moody and reeking with proper atmosphere.  Unfortunately that makes older chaps like myself blink with confusion and frustration, as the cards so rarely seem as clear as the chap writing the instructions booklet.  Anyway, I got it all sorted and played it three times solo.   I found myself liking the game quite a bit.   It plays in a fashion similar to SPACE HULK (the board/miniatures game) but not as three dimensional (obviously..) and somewhat more constricted and claustrophobic feeling due to the card format.

The card play is pretty straightforward once you figure out which card does what and what they mean when they say terrain card and location card.   I strongly recommend the casual player check out this player video of the setup procedure, it explains much and overcomes what I consider to be a major weakness in both the rules and the card art– murkiness and a lack of clarity.

Once you get started, however, I think you might enjoy this game– it’s FAST, FEROCIOUS and UNFORGIVING.  I have lost every game so far (solitaire!!!).  I’m not saying it’s impossible to win, but it sure seems damned hard against the system itself.

3. Dice Town (2009) (Secret Santa pressie)

A total stranger, somewhere, sent me this low-complexity, high-on-fun dice roller with a Western theme.  Theme is important to the mechanics, which is pretty unusual for a family/euro game these days.  Players role special poker dice to achieve winning combinations that further the player’s position on the game board representing a Western “Dice” Town.

This is almost a no-brainer for me.  The kids like it, the theme is easy and the mechanics are unique and asymmetrical.   I strongly recommend Dice Town.

4. Ticket to Ride Card Game (2008)
Days of Wonder

This is another card game that I put on the short list simply because of an enthusiastic review on a podcast.  I don’t have the parent game Ticket to Ride and I have never played it, but I liked Railroad Tycoon, the old Microprose game, so I figured how different could it be, right?  Right.

Ticket to Ride, the Card Version plays somewhat differently.  It’s a cards-ONLY game– the parent game did use cards but the mechanics are quite different from what I can see.

I liked the components at once, just a giant group of cards divided into a train deck and a destination deck.  The language of the setup was once again, vague as to the mechanics of playing and scoring– I got set up easily enough but wasn’t really clear on what to do next until a couple of experimental solitaire games.  The rules also reference the parent board game in passing, with sentences like “card draw is accomplished much like the board game“.  Uhhhhh?

Ticket to Ride Card Game
Ticket to Ride Card Game

Still, I got it sorted and it turns out to be somewhat fast and easy once you get the hang of card combinations.  I was reminded strongly of Mayfair’s STATION MASTER or FREIGHT TRAIN. Not very surprising, as Alan Moon designed Freight Train.

5. Warhammer: Chaos in the Old World (2009) (Secret Santa Present)
Fantasy Flight Games

I admit right up front, I haven’t played it yet.  Another recommendation from a gang of enthusiastic podcasters.  I like the look of it and look forward to playing this semi-wargame of conflict between the Gods of Chaos in the Warhammer Fantasy world.

Chaos in the Old World
Chaos in the Old World (FFG)

It also came with a small pocket game of Pocket Battles: Celts versus Romans, but I’ve said plenty of good things about that system elsewhere.

6. Wings of War: Flight of the Giants (2010)
Fantasy Flight Games/Nexus

Zeppelin Staaken from WoW:FotG
Zeppelin Staaken from WoW:FotG

This is the expansion box for the wildly successful World War One airplane game, WINGS OF WAR, covering the giant bombers of World War One.  All, that is, except for my personal favorite, the Russian Ilya Mouremetz, but who’s picky?  Not me!

The Caproni, The Handley Page, the Gotha, the Zeppelin Staaken, they ARE in the box, and aside from the fact that all of the large bombers have multiple gun positions, each of them is unique in a certain way that replicates the historical performance of the aircraft.  There are several scenarios included in the box.. some of which seem to be optimized for the Wings of War battlefield mat that I’ve been seeing in stores in the last couple of years.  I hope Nexus makes miniatures for these planes– I’d certainly buy some.

Unfortunately, the game out of the box requires the player to have one of the other games in the series to play– it is NOT a standalone game.  So I haven’t played it yet.  A perusal of the rules looks very hopeful.  They haven’t changed much, just added restricted fields of fire based on the machine gun layout on the large monster planes.  I only wish they had added Zeppelins, but I imagine it would be difficult to create a zeppelin in scale and use the same mechanics.

Non Boardgame pressies were:

7. The RALGARD FLEET from Uncharted Seas (2010)
Spartan Games

The Ralgards

Not much I can say here.. if you have read any portion of this blog over the last year and a half you know of the author’s UNCHARTED SEAS fixation.   It was only a matter of time before I picked up the most current fleet, and I love the Chinese Junk look of the Ralgard ships– very different visually than anything else on the board.  I haven’t looked at the ship stats yet but it would seem that their hulls are hard hitters compared to the existing fleets– I don’t know for certain, they just are showing more cannon.

I also received the new Dystopian Wars miniatures rulebook from Spartan Games*, the new steampunk land-sea-air game from the same folks that brought you Uncharted Seas.  It’s steampunky, it’s naval, the models are lovely.  I couldn’t pass it up.  So far, the rules look not a great deal different from Uncharted seas.  They just seem to make allowances for attacking and defending in other theaters of war, like in the air and on the land.  It still looks to be primarily a naval game and that suits me just fine.  I also picked up my first fleet independently of Christmas, the Federated States of America fleet (USA analogue).

FSA Fleet
FSA Fleet

Gar also received a number of small LEGO boardgames*: Magikus, Robo Champ, and Race 3000.  We  played Magikus and Race 3000 whilst snowbound– we had a great time, but both of us preferred Magikus.

And that was my Geekly Christmas!!

* We hope to revisit both Dystopian Wars and the new LEGO games in a future posting.