Monthly High Five - December 2018
WHAT IS CARDBOARD REALITY’S HIGH FIVE?
The High Five is a monthly piece where we talk about five of our board gaming highlights from the past month. Then one member of Cardboard Reality will deliver the “down low” at the end of this piece, covering a poor board gaming experience from the past month. Enjoy!
The High Five
James - Warning, avert your eyes if you want to save your hard earned board game budget and continue buying the next big thing. Because if you’ve never been exposed to crokinole prior to this article, then you may very well join myself and many others with being fully infected by this amazing Canadian tabletop dexterity game. I’d stared at crokinole from afar - it looks perfect and right up my alley. It’s this bizarre blend of a tabletop game, bar games like billiards and shuffleboard, and yard games such as cornhole and horseshoes. Surely I wasn’t going to drop $200, $300, even $500 on one of these things for casual game night though, right?
Enter Cardboard Reality’s own Nick Northcutt, who posted in the CBR Slack chat that he had received an incredible gift from his wife - his very own crokinole board. He was raving about his experiences with it, and thanks to always having the internet in my pocket, I started wandering down the rabbit hole. A few hours of tough negotiations with the wife, and 3-5 days later with expedited shipping and I was staring at my own beautiful crokinole board. The rules, teach, and scoring are amazingly simple. You grab one of your discs, flick it towards the center hole or an opponent’s disc, and alternate turns until you’ve both shot all of your discs. Grab a beer and get flicking.
I’ve played with kids, the elderly, casuals, hardcore gamers, 1 v 1, 2 v 2 tag team matches, and taken it to several family gatherings over the holidays. Everyone that sat down loved it and couldn’t wait to start another game. Everyone that walked by immediately stopped and asked what this thing was. Is it a board game? Not really. But it’s an incredible, accessible, easy to teach experience that will stay on your shelves (or on your wall), avoid the come and go of the usual hotness, and with proper care can be passed down in your family forever. In the words of Nick: “Do yourself a favor and save the money you’d spend on your next four board game acquisitions and buy yourself a crokinole board. Hot damn is it addicting.”
Joel - As I pondered my board game collection to find some games to take with me to my parents house for the holidays, there was one game that I knew was a no brainer. That game was Acquire. Designed in 1964 by Sid Sackson, most people know this Avalon Hill original. It is a business simulation game with stock holding and mergers. The goal of the game is to have the most money based on the the stock values held, shareholder bonuses, and cash on hand. There is a bit of randomness as companies are built on the board with tiles that you draw that make up certain spots on the grid.
With the rules being so simple, it really makes for the perfect game to play with my parents. It also does not have a deep strategic depth that requires connecting the dots of multiple actions across multiple phases (e.g. Dinosaur Island, which I also played with them but it did not go over very well). Acquire has some planning ahead for sure, but not quite the same level as Dinosaur Island. My parents definitely grasp games quickly, particularly if the ruleset is fairly simple. They do not shy away from depth, however, as I have yet to be able to beat my dad in chess. Not that I have played against him for a few years.
Now that the holidays are over, I have played the game numerous times and am almost burned out on it. Usually I would take abstracts to play with my parents, but this was the first Euro that they really seemed to latch onto. My parents absolutely love the game and we ended up playing it back to back one night. They even asked if they could take it to one of their friend’s houses on New Year’s Eve. I am glad I found a great game for them to enjoy, as it makes it delightful for me too. It will always be in my bag of games to take whenever I visit them. Now I will just need to get them interested in some other games to add to the rotation so I do not end up even more burned out on Acquire.
Scott - Just recently at our Christmas board game exchange, I was finally able to play Imperial 2030 after bringing it to many a game night. Imperial 2030 is sort of a sequel for Imperial. It was released back in 2009 and was designed by Marc Gerdts, the designer of Concordia. The idea of the game is that each player is a wealthy investor buying up bonds in different countries to get the best returns on your investment.
By having the highest credit sum with a country you get to decide what actions that country will take on its turn. The more territory and factories a government has the more its power will increase when it taxes. The countries power rating acts as a multiplier on the interest of your bonds. The bonds start of with an interest rate of 50%, ludicrously high for the real world but it makes numbers easy for the game. Larger bonds help you solidify your influence over a country but don’t have the same returns. So while controlling a powerful country and smashing other people’s is definitely something you can do, it is also good to diversify and trust that the person controlling the country you invested in is going to do what benefits them the most which is usually to grow the country.
I played this game with Joel, Dylan, and our friend Jonah. I usually prefer war games as you may know and while war is the theme of this game it doesn’t really play like one. If you play with the variant rules that start the game with an auction then this game has no hidden information and no dice rolls. Combat is purely 1:1 and having the largest army or most territory is no guarantee of success. I started off with 9 million invested in Russia and 2 million in Europe. Actions are taken by moving around the Rondel and I had immediately planned out my actions to maximize my troop numbers, and their movements to get my territory growing and eventually it was Russia that ended the game by reaching 25 power. Despite this I came in 3rd place. I owned the most stock in Russia but the winning player, Jonah, got the same returns off of his Russian investments and he had also managed to secure a good amount of stock in the 2nd and 3rd largest countries. He had been focusing on pulling money out of various countries treasuries and using his larger cash pool to buy up a variety of stocks, sniping control of countries away just in time to run taxation with them and score himself a healthy bonus.
I had a lot of fun playing Imperial 2030 this month and hopefully it won’t take as long to get the second play as it did the first. I have found that I actually do enjoy some economic games as long as there is plenty of player interaction. I’m still plenty bad at stock games though.
Dylan - If you follow Cardboard Reality on social media or have heard our bonus episode about games with depth, you know that Nick is obsessed with the classic abstract game of go. My copy of go ended up in his hands after the game wasn’t clicking with me. But I still have a love for abstracts. And who other than Dr. Reiner Knizia to find another fantastic abstract, with some obvious inspirations from go and his 1998 classic Through the Desert. I’m talking of the 2018 release Blue Lagoon. So what makes the game good?
The game is really pretty. The colors of the waters, the player pieces, the art on both sides of the chits and the resources all combine for some real eye-candy for an abstract.
Playing and teaching the game is quick and easy. You place a piece and then the next piece must either be adjacent to the prior piece or placed in another legal starting spot. Go over scoring at the conclusion of each of the two eras and you’re done.
The two eras are cool. In the first era, you start out with the boats and you have huts to place out as pieces. In the second era, your pieces start from the huts you placed in the first era. Really different.
You can score in different ways. Area control, network building, placing on all the islands, set collection, Blue Lagoon has it all! It’s really cool to notice that placing your piece prevents your opponent from reaching the last island they need to connect to achieve all eight island connections.
While the depth in Blue Lagoon is nowhere near what you’ll find in go, I’m still delighted to have an abstract that is just as simple, plays 2-4 players and could be understood by non-gamers. A solid game from this year.
Cardboard Reality’s Annual Board Game Gift Exchange
Nick - Four years ago our then small gaming group gathered together to gift each other personalized board games by the means of individual name draws that were conducted a month prior. We made an entire day out of it by commencing games early in the afternoon; I even cooked an entire brunch complete with biscuits and gravy and mimosas. Fast forward to December 2018, it’s safe to say our annual gift exchange tradition is as strong as ever. Our board gaming group has doubled in size, my new home possesses the proper space to host the joyful event, and the gifts were plentiful; however, none of those reasons are why I love our gift exchange. It’s not about the board games we’ve gifted and received, but instead that board gaming has gifted us friendship—a social bond that will continue to grow inside and outside of gaming for years to come.
Sitting around the Christmas tree watching everyone laugh and smile as they open their gifts together was perfect. My wife said it best, “I love our friends,” and I whole heartedly agree. I look forward to growing the tradition in 2019. Here’s to a new year of gaming filled with wins, losses, laughs, shouting, old faces, new faces, and more!
B.L. - Cryptid is not an overly complicated game. A deduction game where the goal is to discover the only location on a variable map where an unknown creature could live, Cryptid is based around a single, simple question: Could the creature be here?
Seems straightforward, right? And it is. But my first few games of Cryptid were marred by lucky guesses and rules errors, and have left the game with a tenuous place in the collection. In our first game, a lucky guess in the second round meant the game was over in less than 10 minutes. Then, some confusion about animal territories on the map (there are two types of territory: cougar and bear) led to an incorrect result in the second game. Then, the exact same rules error by a different player led to an overly long and still incorrect third game.
Fortunately, we played two more games a few days later, and the final game in particular gave a glimpse of what the game could be, so it’ll stick around for now. The rules errors in the early games were our own fault, and they certainly don’t mean Cryptid is a bad game. But there will now be a nagging voice in the back of my mind, wondering if everyone is playing correctly, or if we’re all just searching futilely for something that doesn’t actually exist. Which—considering this is a game about finding sasquatch and chupacabra—is certainly thematic, but it doesn’t mean it’s a game I’ll always want to play.