Voices in Board Gaming: Interview with Talia Rosen

About Today’s Guest: This is the second interview in our “Voices in Board Gaming” series here on The Opinionated Gamers.  We’re starting the series with a couple of writers from this site.  Longtime readers will be familiar with today’s guest, Talia Rosen, who is one of the most-read writers in the history of this site.  Talia first started writing as NYC Gamer, then DC Gamer.  When I was getting into this hobby, Talia was one of the insightful voices that I loved reading, and I think many of the best articles to ever appear on OG are her work.  She took a sort-of break from gaming in the past few years, but she recently returned.  Below we talk about how Talia got into gaming, blogging over the years, and what’s changed on the game scene.
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(1)  When did you get into the hobby?  What’s kept you in it?

I was always the kid trying to get family and friends to play board games with me growing up — games like Monopoly, Risk, Life, and Clue.  My dad also taught me Diplomacy as a child, which was another formative gaming experience. And of course I was friends with another kid in town mostly because he owned Fireball Island and its oft-overlooked cousin Crash Canyon…

I’ve just always loved strategy games.  They bring me such joy and engagement. In the mid-1990s, I got very much into Magic: The Gathering, which led me to a weekly club.  That’s where someone brought Settlers of Catan and I fell in love with German-style games. I ran out and picked up this ancient copy of Settlers shortly thereafter at the local comic book store.

From there, I studiously worked my way through almost all of the Spiel des Jahres winners before eventually falling in love with epic, narrative games like War of the Ring, Through the Ages, and Twilight Struggle.  I’ve stuck with the hobby for 20+ years because it’s simply my favorite way to spend time with friends and family. Continue reading

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Congratulations to Voodoo Prince, winner of the Trick-taking Guild’s 2017 “Golden Trickster” award!

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A couple of months ago, I created the Trick-taking Guild on BoardGame Geek with the goals of (1) having a forum to discuss trick-taking games, (2) giving an annual award to the best trick taking games of that year, and (3) enjoying the camaraderie of enthusiasts of the genre.

After discussion and nominations, the Guild — which now has more than 120 members — opted to give an annual award to the best trick-taking game of the year.  All trick-taking games released in 2017 were eligible.  The guild’s annual award is called The Golden Trickster, a nod to David Parlett, who called games in the genre “tricksters” in his book A History of Card GamesContinue reading

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Dare to Love (敢愛就來)

Dare to Love (敢愛就來)
Designer: Chih-Fan Chen
Artist: Kim Chen
Publisher: Mizo
Players: 3-4
Ages: 15+
Time: 40-60 minutes
Times Played: 2 times with review copy

Dare to Love is one of Mizo’s new releases for Spiel this year.  As with their previous releases Raid on Taihoku, which I talked about yesterday, and Run Animals, Run!, which I have not played, the topic is serious, the tone is stark, and to a point, it is a game of experience over grand strategy. A simulation game – but of feelings. Sometimes of hopelessness.

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Dare to Love predicates the following background theme for the game:

Dare to Love takes place in the Empire Asomrof where homosexuals are oppressed. During a pogrom known as the Imperial Crystal Night started in the 107th year of the Empire, all homosexuals who were arrested by the Empire were imprisoned in floating crystals and were scheduled for execution later that night. Therefore, their lovers, families, and friends seek to save their beloved ones from the Empire’s tyranny.

There are two opposing forces in the game. One player will be an Oligarch, either the Emperor, Grand Inquisitor, or the Tycoon, who must ensure the execution goes smoothly; other players will be Rebels, who must fight against all odds and save their loved ones before they are executed.

Dare to love is a 3 or 4 player one-vs-many tactical skirmish.  The player representing the Oligarch will have several characters to choose from, and the players representing the lovers, families, friends of the imprisoned will also have a selection.  Once selected, the players will place the corresponding son, daughter, leader, or lover into one of the prisons. Continue reading

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First Impressions of Pandoria

  • Designer: Jeff Allers and Bernd Eisenstein
  • Publisher: Irongames
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 90-120 minutes

Pandoria, the newest game from Jeff Allers (Piece o’ Cake/NY Slice, Nieuw Amsterdam) and Bernd Eisenstein (Peloppones), is many things, but the first one that I thought of after playing it twice was “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”.  Some gamer’s games look like they’re going to be meaty, so there’s no surprise when they turn out that way.  But Pandoria is a tile-laying game vaguely reminiscent of Carcassonne (every turn you place a tile and put one of your pieces on it), so how heavy can it be?  Turns out, it’s a thinky, studious game where you need to be at your best to do well.

So let’s describe the game.  Each player plays one of the five fantasy races of Pandoria.  The board shows an irregular hexfield roughly 14 x 10 hexes.  The tiles that will be placed are made up of two hexes joined at one side.  Each hex shows one of four different types of terrain—forest, hill, mountain, and city—and the two hexes of a tile never have the same terrain.  Each hex also has one or two symbols on it and the symbols for each terrain are always the same:  hills produce gold, mountains produce crystals, forests, shockingly, produce wood, and cities produce VPs.  Wood, crystals, and gold are the game’s three resources and each race has different starting levels for each of these.  Each race also has a special ability.  In addition, there’s a deck of cards and each card shows a spell on the upper half and a building on the lower half.  The players begin the game with a randomly drawn tile and four randomly dealt cards.  They also have from 4 to 6 pieces in their color, depending on the number of players, and a single leader; collectively, these are called figures. Continue reading

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Raid on Taihoku and Infarkt

Raid on Taihoku (台北大空襲)
Designer: Teng Chieh-Ming
Artist: Nuomi
Publisher: Mizo
Players: 2-4
Ages: 10+
Time: 40-60 minutes
Times Played: 3 times with purchased copy

Infarkt
Designer: Vladimír Brummer
Artist: Karel N. Moravec
Publisher: Czech Board Games, Efko
Players: 2-5
Ages: 10+
Time: 45 minutes
Times Played: 2 time with a friend’s purchased copy

Are black and white opposites?

For most purposes, I don’t think they are. A checkerboard pattern of black and white squares is a sort of ‘opposite’ of both.  As pigments, as light, there are ways they can be, but compared to a mongoose, they are at least both colors. Both solid colors next to some sort of tessellated, fractal, or random pattern.

Zoom out a little and maybe gray is the opposite end of the spectrum from black and white.

In a few months when it becomes year-in-review time, I’ll likely mentally-fail to be able to provide you a list of ‘best of’ or anything similar.  I can’t see a best/worst spectrum. For me, there’s only the spectrum that has black and white and checkerboards and gray… and that 11-dimensional pizza can be cut along so many axes, that I’m speechless when someone at a convention says ‘what’s your favorite thing you’ve played this weekend?’ or when it’s end-of-the-year-list-time.

More to the point here, Raid on Taihoku and Infarkt simultaneously occupy many of the same and many distinct areas of mechanics, tone, and theme. I’m quite delayed in bringing you this review, but I’m here now.

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Raid on Taihoku is a cooperative game where the players are civilians, attempting to survive the US bombing of Taihoku (now Taipei) in May 1945. Victory is each member of your family, the players, surviving the raid. On the other hand, if any of your family dies, the group loses. The raid was conducted by more than 100 B-24s.  

As the introduction for the rules state, the players are in a family facing life and death situations, and there is only one enemy: the cruelty of war.  Continue reading

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Dale Yu: Preview of Four Taiwanese Children’s Games

 

 

Included in my most recent game shipment from Taiwan was a set of four nicely illustrated tins with games for the younger set (3yo or 4yo+).  While this isn’t really my thing any more, I figured that we could maybe get in touch with our inner toddler and take a look at them.

 

The tins are labeled “Play Again”, but BGG has the games Publisher as: Kang Hsuan Educational Publishing Corp.  The four games are clearly in a set, with each one stressing a different educational objective, and labeled as such on the tin:

OK, Chume, Boom!: Response Game

Monsters’ Party: Tactile Game

What to Wear: Color Game

Going Around the City: Strategy Game

Continue reading

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Dale Yu: First Impression of Papering Duel

 

Papering Duel

  • Designer: Martin Nedergaard Andersen
  • Publisher: Mandoo
  • Players: 2
  • Age: 8+
  • Time: 20 minutes

Papering Duel is a new 2-player game where you and your roommate (opponent in the game) are fighting over the wallpaper pattern in your new apartment.   You’re fighting over a wall made up a 3×3 grid. The wallpaper samples are found on clear plastic cards. Each player will have their own deck of cards – one player with a rectangular arrangement of wallpaper and the other with a diagonal pattern.  Each player shuffles their deck and draws a hand of three cards.

Continue reading

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Opinionated Gamers – First Impressions of Vita Mors and Wonderland XII

This preview will kick off a week where we concentrate on games from Asia – mostly Taiwan and Korea.  Not quite sure yet how many reviews and previews we’ll get in – but we’re probably going to touch on around 15 games in the next week, all in advance of SPIEL 2018 where many of these games will be available…

 

Vita Mors

  • Designer: Shi Chen
  • Publisher: Play With Us Design
  • Players: 3-6
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 15-30 mins

Vita Mors is a hidden-role game about plague doctors. Players are secretly divided into two teams with randomly-chosen goals and there may also be a spoiler who wants to prevent both teams from accomplishing their goals. Each round a plague victim is chosen and players secretly vote on whether they live or die. Naturally the victims have effects which change things, and each player also has four tokens which change things – cancel a player’s vote, reverse a player’s vote, etc. – and can play them each once per game.

 

The mission cards usually refer to a grouping of characters on the Vita (live) or Mors (dead) row.  For instance, Liberalitas = 3 characters live within 4 rounds.  Pietas = 3 characters show the same actual class in the Mors row.  The Joker (Balatro) wins if no other mission card succeeds in the stated number of rounds.   Being familiar with the different possible scoring scenarios is helpful as you can try to infer what someone is going for based on how they vote…

 

I think it’s a hard game to grasp in the initial plays, and it can feel like the you are being played by the game instead of the other way around.  But, again, once you know realize that you can figure out what the other team might have based on the way people are living or dying – then you can try to come up with a strategy to prevent them from winning while furthering your own goals.  Of course, sometimes you guess wrong and it feels like you’re just fumbling in the dark – but, then hopefully, so is the other team.

 

I’m personally not a fan of hidden identity/hidden victory condition games, but I think that stems more from the fact that I completely suck at hiding my own identity/winning condition…   But, the game time here is short, so I can live with it.

Dan Blum:   This might be fine for fans of this genre of games. I am not one and I don’t think most people I played with were either, so it’s hard to judge the game. It definitely seemed as if the missions weren’t that well-balanced; in our game one team had to have any three victims die in four consecutive rounds, whereas the other had to have victims of all three social classes die in order but possibly separated by surviving patients. The second seems much easier than the first and the situation can lead to forced plays; without giving a full play-by-play of the game, the second team won because the victim that was chosen was faking their social class and because the next player in turn order was from the second team (the tiebreaker rule).

Now, if we all liked and were good at this kind of game it’s possible we would have ramped up more slowly and tried to figure out players’ affiliations more before using our tokens, and maybe then it would have worked better. (We used a lot of tokens.)

Wonderland XIII

  • Designer: Shi Chen
  • Publisher: Play With Us Design
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 6+
  • Time: 15-30 minutes

In Wonderland XIII, players are Dream Librarians – working to collect spirit cards from Wonderland in order to write the thirteenth and final chapter of the story.  (And, yes, the actual book ends at the end of the twelfth chapter…)

 

The game is played with a deck of 68 spirit cards – 12 each of Alice, the White Rabbit, The Mad Hatter, The Queen of Hearts and the Cheshire cat.  There are also 8 Spirit Bundle cards with all 5 characters represented on them.  Each player starts with a hand of 3 cards , and the remainder of the cards are loosely split into 5 stacks and placed in a pentagon arrangement on the board.  The spiffy keys are placed in the center. Each player reserves table space directly in front of him as their Notebook, and a row of space above that which is their Tunnel.  You starting 3 cards are placed in your Notebook.

 

The active player takes 2 keys and then places one next to a stack.  A card from that player’s notebook is placed face up on top of that stack, and then the top card from EACH of the adjacent decks is revealed and placed in the player’s Tunnel area.  Now, check your tunnel – if you have 3 or more spirit cards (either character cards or Spirit Bundle cards) that show the same character, you bust and all the cards in your Tunnel are discarded; all keys are put back, and your turn ends immediately.  If you didn’t fail here, the  turn continues.  You now get a chance to use the special ability of either of the 2 cards which you just drew.

 

Alice – take 1 Key from the center

White Rabbit – Reveal 1 Spirit card from any deck and place in your tunnel; check for failure

Mad Hatter – choose a player to draw a face down spirit card, not look at it, but show everyone else. This card is face down in his Tunnel.  On his next turn, the table checks for failure as that player will never know what that card is

Cheshire Cat – look at the top facedown card of any deck.

Queen of Hearts – Cover any other card in your Tunnel with this Queen of Hearts card.  The card underneath is not counted when looking for failure.

 

Then, decide if you want to push your luck or not.  If you decide to stop, take all the cards in your Tunnel and place them in your Notebook. It may help you to organize them by type.  If you decide to push your luck, you can either place a key next to a closed deck and explore OR you can go back to an already opened deck.  Whenever your turn ends, if you do not have 3 cards in your Notebook, shuffle the discard pile and draw up to 3.

 

In a 4p game, the game end when 2 decks are drawn empty.  When the first deck empties, it simply isn’t counted, and the next deck in that direction becomes adjacent.  Scoring is done in 3 steps

 

Check for sets of each of the five character cards – 15 points for each complete set.  Discard these cards

Now for each character, score 1/2/3/4… for the 1st/2nd/3rd/4th… card you have of that character. Do this for all 5 characters.

 

Finally score 5VP for each Spirit Bundle card.

The player with the most points wins.

 

This game has a different take on the press-your-luck genre.  Here, you want to try to collect sets of cards as they pay off the best.  However, there didn’t seem to be much tension in our first games because, as it turns out, every card collected ends up scoring, so most of us just played to collect as many cards as we safely could.  This is definitely a risk management game, but the risk to be assessed is essentially the same every turn.  I suppose you could say it’s a little different in later rounds depending on which stacks have which faceup cards on them.  If you can see a card that you want, you can certainly plan ahead and open up a stack next to a card you want to ensure that you draw it.

 

The special abilities of the different characters comes in handy – as they let you at least generate a bit of a strategy in how you want to try to acquire your cards…. though I am not a fan of the targeted Mad Hatter ability – especially because it can be used against the same player multiple times in a round.  Though I haven’t seen it happen, it could come to pass that a player would not even really get a turn as he could have already busted after drawing a single card.

Dan Blum: This is a hard game to come to grips with, and it is not aided by somewhat opaque rules. (E.g. when you go back to step 1 it seems that you do not have to unlock a new deck and can just use the deck you originally unlocked, but the description of step 1 starts by saying that you unlock a deck.)

I would definitely play again now that I think I know the rules and have an inkling of how to use the rules to my advantage, but I am not sure yet that there is much to it.

 

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

 

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Dale Yu: Review of Railroad Ink

 

Railroad Ink

  • Designers: Hjalmar Hach and Lorenzo Silva
  • Publisher: CMON/Horrible Games
  • Players: 1-6
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: about 20-30 minutes
  • Times played: >10 with review copies provided by Horrible Games (Blazing Red edition and Deep Blue edition)

 

Railroad Ink is another Roll and Write (RAW) game – a genre which has been growing in leaps and bounds in the past few years.  In this game, each player gets a sheet with a 7×7 grid on it. There are three exit points found on each side of the grid; alternating roads and railroads.  Over the course of the game, players will draw in transit lines of two types (roads and railroads) – trying to score the most points while doing so.

The base game uses 4 dice; 3 of which are identical to each other showing mainly roads and railroad tracks and the fourth die having a unique set of sides that has crossings and Stations on it.  More on the expansions in a bit. Continue reading

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My Game Market Most Anticipated Titles

I will bring you daily reports from one of the Game Markets in Japan some day, but that is slated for 2022 at the earliest. (And as with my Essen trip last year, would be appended to the end of a family trip, this time to Yakushima.)

There have been a few interesting developments in the Game Markets this year, the majority of publishers are now limited to Saturday or Sunday, with only a few major publishers showing both days, due to the demand for booths, and a European publisher, nestorgames, will have a booth there – in lieu of having one at Spiel.  

I find myself more excited for some of the Game Market releases this year than those at Spiel, and certainly as a percentage of total releases, my heart is with the Japanese convention.

Anyway, here are some of my most anticipated games from the fall Game Market: Continue reading

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