Saturday, 31 December 2011

Shiny new baubles...

Well, it’s been nearly a week since I posted last.  Between then and now much has happened: the castle has had a state visit from my family for the annual Christmas festivities, and we have paid a visit to my wife’s family - in as much pomp as we could fit into our car (and that’s quite a bit of pomp considering how well my self-proclaimed ‘tetris-queen’ wife can pack into a small space).  There has been much feasting, much drinking, much squirting of water pistols, some golf, but relatively few games. Happily tonight, after the lad retired for the evening, my wife and I managed to get in a game of Catacombs - one of the gifts I received as a part of the annual celebrations.

Last year, as the annual gift giving rolled around, the usual call for ‘present ideas’ was trumpeted from one end of the kingdom to another.  Apparently keeping an online gift registry in the form of a wish-list on Boardgamegeek, as well as having a variety of sundry interests ranging from astronomy to reading books, isn’t enough to inspire ideas - people want more specific suggestions!  I decided last year to forgo the usual requests for whatever the latest and greatest games were, and instead I asked for books, DVDs and various telescope-related paraphernalia.  

This year, as that familiar call echoed from wood to vale,  I did ask for games - my wife and I sat down and decided upon a range of games we each would like, we purchased some as gifts for ourselves and gave out other titles as suggestions to those family who asked for them.

Now all of this seems like we’ve turned Christmas into some twisted and hateful consumer orientated spending spree.  Not so.  This season, for us, is all about the time we get to spend together with our families and friends, relaxing, eating, drinking and generally attempting merriment. But gifts - given and received do play their part.

So - onto the games!  All in all we now have 5 shiny new titles we must find room for on our overburdened game shelves.  This year we really decided to focus on games that we could sit down and play together - some of our personal favourites, titles that get regular play here at the castle, include Agricola, Rivals of Catan, Stone Age, Ticket to Ride and the like.  We find now, that games that are relatively simple, are easy to set-up and play, and that can be finished in around an hour are those we enjoy the most.  And when we get the chance we really have loved sitting down together and participating in something we can both actively engage with, laugh over, talk over and generally make eyes at one another over.  In short: it’s a damn fine way to while away an evening together.  With all that in mind we were very happy with the 5 titles we were gifted.

The Ticket to Ride pocket iOS app has rekindled our love of this game - it’s one we have played regularly in the past, especially with my father-in-law, who much enjoys the game.  We already own the vanilla Ticket to Ride, and after both becoming addicted to the iOS implementation, we decided to investigate some of the other iterations - in the end we chose Nordic Countries.  It looks as if the game, specifically designed for 2 or 3 players, would be particularly tight and interesting.  We haven’t played yet, but the pieces and board are up to Days of Wonder’s usual very high standard - and we’re hoping to play soon.

A Schacht puzzle making game.  My wife loves anything to do with animals; and the cute artwork and fun theme of this game seemed like it would be one we would both enjoy a lot.  We haven’t played yet, but both look very much forward to breaking it out soon.

A short and small-box game published by Z-Man Games.  The theme looks like a lot of fun, and the idea of tile-laying in order to build the largest burrows the gophers would therefore visit seems an interesting mechanism.  We are a fan of small-box games that are light and easy to break out, and while we haven’t played it yet, we both hope this one will be a lot of fun.

This one was really my choice - I love dexterity games, and the mixture of a fun theme, dealt with through the novel implementation of the flicking mechanism seemed like it could be a lot of fun.  The theme is one of a dungeon crawl - with one player controlling the monsters, and the other players controlling the heroes.  Players play through a variety to rooms in an effort to meet and best the ‘big-bad-guy’ - nothing too cerebral, but a lot of fun.

We played tonight for the first time and I have to say I wasn’t disappointed.  While there is a bit of set-up, there is also a lot of variability and fun to be had here.  It plays well as a two-player game, and I could see it working very well as the close for an evening.  The rules are extremely simple, and while the rules-book could really do with a better and more consistent layout, the game really isn’t that difficult to master.  The fact that each character and each beast breaks or bends the core mechanism in a small way makes for an enjoyable and sometimes tactical experience.  I’m glad we got it - and my wife was much more impressed with it than she thought she would be.  All in all I can see this getting quite a bit of play - and I’m already looking at the expansions... stay tuned...

Hasn’t arrived in the kingdom yet - but looks like a nice medium-weight family style game of the same ilk as others we enjoy.  I’ll write a little about this when it arrives and we get to play it no doubt!

Well, this festive season hasn’t seen us break out and play a lot of games.  I have a mate arriving on the morning tide tomorrow for a day of gaming - so hopefully there’ll be more game commentary to follow in the next few days.  It has been highly enjoyable though - with the hot weather we’ve been having fun teaching the lad to chase the castle staff around with an arsenal of water-firing weaponry.  I’ve even enjoyed playing a couple of rounds of golf - though I have to admit, my game lacks in a few departments - namely driving, chipping, putting, and any other moment requiring one to strike the ball in a specific direction.  It’s the specific I’m having difficulty with.  All in all a highly enjoyable time.

I hope everyone out there has also enjoyed a similarly happy Christmas period.  All the best from myself and everyone here at the castle!




  1. Hey Giles - Merry Christmas to you and your kin.
    Sounds like you had a great time. Like you I find that I actually play less games over the Christmas period which seems counter intuitive.
    I guess we're starting from a high bar, though :-)

    I've not played TtR Nordic but I do have and enjoy TtR Switzerland which, again, is optimised for two to three players. It's a lot of fun.

    Catacombs is on my wishlist but Santa did not read it. Like you I am puzzled that my family seem that I need to be more specific.

    I did get, and am loving, both Qwirkle and Oregon.

    Merry Christmas!

  2. Thanks you good sir! And to you and yours!

    Yes - I'm not quite sure why - it's not like I go out of my way to conceal the things I enjoy and would like!

    Oregon is a good game in a mind bending sort of way (odd for a game of its size/play length really).