July Update (Livin’ on a Prayer)

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July 5, 2015 by Jake

Greetings wooden apple eaters! I haven’t posted in over a month, but that doesn’t mean my gaming table has been bare. June brought with it many gaming discoveries and nearly brought me within 50% of my 10 Plays Challenge progress. As of July 1st I have 51 more plays to check off my list, but have finally managed to make headway and fully complete one of the ten completely.

There was never any doubt that Small World could be the first game I completed ten sittings of. My wife has become a big fan of it (perhaps her favorite game so far) and she has progressively grown as a player and given me a true run for my money on most of our matches. We were able to play so many games in part because of the digital version available on the Apple store. We brought up the app at the laundromat multiple times for a quick game on her iPad without having to worry about losing pieces, table space, or clean up time. Now that this game has been cleared off my challenge list I still couldn’t see myself not playing it for the rest of the year, it is still a cornerstone of my collection and will remain one of my favorite games to introduce friends and family to modern board gaming.

Another game on the list that I (and hopefully we) have become painfully addicted to is Imperial Settlers. I have played the game seven times since the wife presented it to me last December and still can’t wait to play perpetually once again. Sometimes in the middle of the day I am tempted to take out the cards and look for all the intricate combos I haven’t made use of. An abstract analogy I can use to attempt to share the experience is to imagine you have purchased a hundred piece jigsaw puzzle without seeing the final image. Then continue to imagine the shadowy figure of Fate reaching into the box and handing you the pieces in small handfuls periodically. You must use logic to slowly work out how your Empire puzzle is going to look without needing to know that final image, to see the end would ruin the ride. This can juxtaposition as both satisfying and frustrating for minds that have to fit as much of their puzzle together without wasting time or cutting corners. Sometimes in your mind’s eye you will have a scene of barbarians warmongering across the countryside … only to realize two rounds later that barbarians in question had a particular knack for making candy and apple cider, rather than ransacking and raping the locals. Sometimes you will lay claim to acres of forest ripe for logging, only to keep petitioning the random draw deck for somebody in your blasted empire with skills in carpentry. Megan has bested me in three of the four games we have dueled over thus far, but last night I finally defeated her for the first time ever! Of the four factions in the box she has shown preference and deft affinity for the Egyptians, supplying strong evidence that sometimes ladies it is all about the gold. Her strategy almost always dictates stock-piling gold coins mixed with sensible real estate acquisition. On occasion she will make my Empire miserable via chariots of fire and loosely wrapped packages of wroth scorpions. I have yet to find a favorite faction, but enjoy the other three equally. We are hoping to get to bring the game over to our friends’ home next weekend for our first game with more than two players.

A few weeks ago my friend Greg brought over a new expansion of Smash Up! his wife surprised him with, Monster Smash. The box includes factions of a monstrous persuasion in the form of Giant Ants, Vampires, Mad Scientists, and Werewolves. This box is BY FAR my favorite addition to the game to date as each of these decks is oozing with the theme of optimizing and increasing your minions’ power. I took Werewolf Bear Cavalry out for a trail ride (it remained undecided if the werewolves were riding upon the bears or if the ursine steeds possessed the taint of lycanthropy i.e. Were-Bears) and found the new lupines to be just my style of shock and awe mixed with a few vile tricks for cornering your enemy before going for the jugular. Not to be denied the power of the Golem, I mixed Werewolves with Mad Scientists in our next match. The Mad Scientists have astounding tricks for amplifying their minions power and when necessary recycling that strength to a position where victory is at stake. The other factions in the box I didn’t try, but did suffer the wrath of up close. Vampires have the ability to grow more deadly while draining the potency of their opponents. Envision Bela Lugosi taking a paraplegic’s wheelchair away from him and then beating him to death with it and you are pretty much there. The Giant Ants use their strength as sort of a network and can move numeric superiority fluidly from base to base. More than once I would enact a plan to rush to a base’s defense only to realize Greg no longer had use for it and had marched his forces two by two (hurrah) away from my retribution. The ants also had hilariously themed references to Queen songs in lots of the cards I saw which cranked the absurdity up to eleven. This expansion is a must purchase for fans of the game who like a sturdy bat (baseball or vampire) and know how to swing it; bluntly with gay abandon.

That is more than enough for now, I have blabbed enough. Tomorrow is my beloved’s birthday and I will be showering her with affection. In the weeks and months to come my 10 Games 10 Plays Challenge is all down hill. Happy belated Independence Day everyone and don’t forget to tidy up your front lawns, lest the giant ants make their way to your house.

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