Mid-Break Gaming Update

We’re sitting under a foot of snow out here in South Jersey, which of course means one thing: lots of game time! There was some new stuff under the tree, and we broke out some old favorites as well. Here are some quick takes on some new items. (Several of these will get more thorough coverage later on.)

Trango
This is a shape-making game from ThinkFun, in which everyone gets a pile of colored, interlocking triangular pieces. The goal is to places the pieces in order to make one of four scoring shapes. It’s a neat idea, but thus far I’ve only played it with two people, and it seems like a game that will work much better with 3 or 4.

Space Hulk: Death Angel
My son is the Games Workshop gamer in the house. I can take it or leave it, and based on the huge expense of the hobby, I usually choose to leave it. Death Angel is much cheaper, card-based version of Space Hulk, the famous squad-based bug hunt game played with miniatures. (Space Hulk was even made into a halfway decent PC game back in the 90s.) The card game is burdened by disorganized rules, which make a fairly simple exploration/combat mechanic read like a Chilton guide to disassembling a Ferrari Testarossa. Once you digest it all, however, it’s an interesting game with a pretty high body count. You control two men who are part of a co-op team fighting constantly-spawning aliens. Everyone picks one of three action types (basically: move, fight, or support) and then resolves them in order. Then the bugs get a chance to fight back. It’s a decent enough game, but it could have been explained much more clearly.

Black Sheep
I found this old Reiner Knizia game at our local Borders (which was going out of business), and gave it to my daughter for Christmas. Players basically bid on fields of animals using poker hands. The little plastic animals in the field act like the flop in a hand of Texas Holdem: everyone combines them with cards to make a “hand,” ranging from five of a kind, down through full house, pairs, and so on. The winner gets the little animals and scores their point values, but you have to watch out for the black sheep: they’re worth negative points. I was expecting this one to be a lot lighter than it was. It actually requires a bit of strategy and takes some time to play a full game. We liked it, however, and we’re looking forward to another round.

Small World

A game of Small World during our post-Christmas blizzard.

Since I picked up two Small World expansions–Cursed and Grand Dames–we had to give them a test drive. The White Ladies of Grand Dames are a bit hard to figure: so few units (only 2) with such a minimal racial bonus. The Kobolds are a good race for swarming, and the “white tower” ability of the Priestesses makes them pretty appealing. We were most surprised to discover that the “Peace-Loving” power (3 victory points for not attacking during a turn) is actually incredibly useful for a starting race, since it’s not unusual to go a few turns in the beginning without attacking someone. Overall, these are a decent pair of expansions, although not quite as impressive as Necromancer’s Isle and Be Not Afraid.

Chess

Chess Cafe’s Club Combo

I picked up a new tournament chess set from ChessCafe: vinyl mat, triple-weight club-style pieces, and a durable carrying case. It’s really quite nice, and only cost $20 after discounts. My daughter (the nine-year-old who regularly beats me at Cribbage) slapped me down on our second game. She takes these things seriously.

GoldenEye (Wii)
I haven’t touched the single-player portion, but the multiplayer is great. You can play as dozens of characters from the entire Bond series, some with special powers. Our favorite is Oddjob with his killer bowler hat, but there’s a lot to love here. I’m looking forward to digging in deeper.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I (Xbox 360)
I’ve only logged half and hour so far, and it is not impressing me. Repetitive rail-shooting sequences, pointless stealth missions, and a cover shooter all smashed together. My kids assure me that it gets better, but I have my doubts.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (Xbox 360)
It’s not new for Christmas, but I’m still logging a lot of time on it. I’ve upgraded all of Rome and I’m swimming in money, my assassins are all maxed out, and I’ve looted every piece of treasure I can find.