My Haul at Gen Con

Gen Con was fun again this year! My bro and I walked for miles searching for both new and classic games. What did we find….inquiring minds want to know! Well my faithful friends, read on, read on for the answer!

— day one loot!

In the photo above you can see what I found on day one!

Smash Up! Oops, You Did It Again — I found this new expansion that I was looking for. Can’t wait to get in some Smash Up Games with these four new factions.

Scythe: Rise of Fenris — Is this expansion a set of alternate game rules (i.e. modules), a legacy campaign, or both!

Too Many Bones: Undertow — I kickstarted this game. It looks like a really fun dice builder. The components inside are top-quality. And many thanks to the guys at the booth who switched out the duplicate dice for the omitted dice that were missing from my box.

Horizons — A 4x space game. I love these sort of games (e.g. Eclipse, Ascending Empires, Eminent Domain)!

Unlock! — My wife loves these puzzle/escape room games, so I was happy to pick up a few more adventures.

Call of Cthulhu: Nameless Horrors — Six new adventures for CoC RPG, and it was only $15! Let the sanity checks begin!

Eminent Domain: Oblivion — Yes, yes, and more yes! Finally that Politics card gets to be a role! I am super-pumped to integrate this expansion into one of my favorite games.

King of New York: Anubis Monster Pack — A new monster and it even has a Pyramid die!

Day Two was more about taking in the convention than grabbing Games, but still we found a couple things.

— day two loot

Near and Far — This game looks cool…and I got the next to last copy at the booth too! Is it a legacy game, a worker placement game in the vein of Raiders of the North Sea, or an RPG disguised as a board game? Is it all three? Did I mention that the maps are in a spiral-ring notebook? The art is great too!

Cat Lady — Saw this at the AEG booth and I had to buy it for my wife. She loves cats.

Star Realms Promos — Yep, picked up some free promos. You want to know why? Well I’m not telling you…at least not tell my next post!

Love Letter: To Have or Have Not the Princess Early

Deconstruction Junction: Finding Strategies to Protect a Winning Hand

In a few recent games of Love Letter (from AEG) my friends and I got into a little, mini debate. While I contended that getting the Princess early was very helpful, a few others disagreed. They argued that it was almost always a curse, because they ended up being forced to discard the Princess and lose the hand. Who is right?

The Princess is the best (in other words, winning) card in Love Letter. But, if you are forced to discard it, you are knocked out of the round–so you have to protect your winning card from discarding effects. I understood what my friends were saying: if any other player suspects that you have the Princess, they are going to target you with a Guard or Prince (and perhaps the King). Or if a Priest is used on you, then your opponent knows what you have, which is going to make it difficult to survive the rest of the round. I argued that in my experience that I could often avoid detection of my Princess card and make it to the end of the round, and of course I would win the round.

So who is right? Well, I think neither. Having the Princess early (or even in your initial draw) is a good thing. Why? There are two ways to win a round of Love Letter: knock out all other players or have the highest card when the deck runs out. If you have the Princess you are sure to win in the latter instance. And of course, you can still knock out your opponents and win. All the other players can ONLY potentially win by knocking you out (or trading their King for your Princess which almost never happens). To make this clearer think about all the opening hands that are sure not to be a wining start: Guard, Priest, Baron, Handmaid, and sometimes the Prince. These players must draw good cards combo cards (for example, Priest and Guard) but if you have the Princess some combos cannot happen for your opponents (for example, Baron then draw a Princess, Handmaid then Princess). Having the Princess gives you a head start or one or two times around the table. Moreover, the more other players use those two Handmaids and two Princes (but not forcing you to discard) the quicker you get to winning. Also, the more players in the game, the less likely someone will be able to knock you out by a good Guard guess or with the Prince just because there are so many other targets.

So having the Princess is a good thing–but you have to defend her. The Princess has two weaknesses. One, if you get targeted with a Prince, the Princess is the only card that forces you out of the round. Two, given that the Princess is the highest card, all the other players are trying to figure out where it is (and they are indeed looking, because they know that they don’t have it). If any player figures out that you have the Princess, expect them to try and knock you out. So how do you defend the Princess against these weaknesses?

Feign Weakness

Love Letter is like a game of poker, a strong hand is better than a weak hand, but bluffing and deception can help any hand. So, like poker, if you have the strongest possible hand (in other words, holding the Princess), you are going to want to bluff a bit of weakness. How can you accomplish this in Love Letter? If you get a guard accuse someone else of having the Princess! That should throw them off your track! If you draw the Baron, go after the opponent whom you think has the weakest card. When they discard that Guard or Priest, the other players won’t assume that you have a Princess. When someone discards a high card, pretend that you wish you were holding that card.

Take Your Time When Playing Your Cards

Nothing signals to the other players that you have the Princess or Countess more than quick play on your part. You need to deceive your opponents a bit. When you draw your card, look at it, put it in your hand, shuffle your two cards, and then look at both of them. Pretend that you are trying to figure out which to play. Good poker players do this as a matter of habit–you should too.

Don’t “Tell” Your Opponents That You Have the Princess

Take another cue from poker here: when you draw that Princess stay calm and don’t make it obvious how happy you are. Don’t smile, make some positive noise, don’t look happy, etc. Also, don’t sell it too much the other way. We all know when a player starts moaning loudly about his bad luck that he probably drew a good card. Also, if someone else forces you into a Baron fight, don’t make it obvious that you are going to win. If someone hits you with a Guard and guesses wrong, don’t be so eager to triumphantly say how wrong they are. And as the deck gets low, try to look as concerned as the other players who are holding weaker cards.

Confuse Your Opponents

When you get that Princess early and make it all the way to the end and win, tell them that you drew it on your last draw! They will think that you have Lady Luck on your side and that they just can’t win. Again, deception is your friend here. Also, if you used the Guard trick where you accused an opponent of having the Princess, after you win let others know about your deception. This will get in their heads. The next time you are sitting on the Countess, use a Guard, and then accuse someone of having the Princess, everyone will think that you have it! After a short bit of time no one will have any idea when you have the Princess in your hand or not.

Learn to Love the Princess

So next time you play Love Letter, remember that having the Princess is always better than not having her. Use the tips above to better protect your winning card and maybe you will collect those little wooden cubes instead of watching others collect them.

Hello Dolly! The Smash Up Sheep are Here!

I took a break from the soccer match I was watching and went to go get my daily mail. What did I find? Was it a horse’s head? A bunch of junk mail from political candidates? Utility bills?

No — it was the free Sheep deck from AEG for Smash Up!

The deck has plenty of minions: Flock, Ram, Little Bo Peep….and some nice action cards, including the sure-to-be infamous Wood for Sheep!

Aren’t ewe jealous that you didn’t get one too? I just couldn’t resist the shear hilarity of that last pun! Look, I made another! Hahaha!

Smash Up: Cease and Desist and It’s Your Fault

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Two Smash Up Expansions that I picked up at Gen Con 2016

The Toledo Tuesdays Gaming Club has been playing Smash Up ( Smash Up at AEG ) for quite some time.  If you are not familiar with the game, basically each player selects 2 20 card decks, each with a different theme and “smashes” them together to make a 40 card deck.  Possible combinations are Zombie Faeries, Ninja Steampunks, Time Traveller Giant Ants, etc.  I think you get the idea.  The game is basically about using Actions and playing Minions to win bases.  Get to 15 Victory Points first and you win. It’s fun stuff, not too serious, and pretty much anybody can play it.  The gameplay is pretty deep, mainly because like most card-driven games, finding combinations and playing your cards right are the paths to victory.

Anyway, at Gen Con 2016 I picked up two new expansions: Cease and Desist and It’s Your Fault!  The former contains decks that are parodies of sci-fi/fantasy movies & TV.  For instance, the Star Roamers are clearly Star Trek.

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Star Roamers

And the ChangerBots are Transformers.

 

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ChangerBots.  They turn into bicycles and RVs!  Hilarious stuff!

And of course there has to be a Star Wars deck!

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Astroknights = Star Wars

The latter expansion is a set of decks with themes chosen by fans.  It includes Dragons, Sharks, Tornados, Greek Gods, etc.

Stew was away, so Neal, Lee and Bob got in a game of Smash Up using only the latest expansions.  Neal was Dragons & Sharks, Lee chose Astroknights and Ignobles (think Game of Thrones) and Bob was Mythic Greeks plus Tornados.

 

The game was quite fun with Lee causing mayhem by giving his Minions to Bob and I and then whipping them back (the Ignobles are sneaky!).  The Tornados kept Bob’s Minions moving around while Neal’s Dragons and Sharks were all about brute force!  In the end, Neal won mainly because of the card “Shark Week” which allows the Shark player to draw an extra card every turn.  Here is an example of the play:

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Example of play

Our opinion was that the two expansions were some of the most fun and well-balanced decks yet from AEG.  If you haven’t played Smash Up, starting with Cease and Desist and It’s Your Fault! would be a great way to get introduced to the game.

Gen Con Day One

My brother and I wandered the Exhibit Hall today and only made our way through just over half of it!  Tomorrow I will post some photos from the Exhibit Hall, but today I want to show you what we purchased so far.

Eminent Domain: Microcosm.  It’s a 2-player game set in the Eminent Domain universe and promises to last only 10 minutes.

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Two expansions for Smash Up: It’s Your Fault (fan requests) and Cease and Desist (Sci Fi/Fantasy that mimic Star Wars, GoT, etc).

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The Big Book of Madness.  A co-operative game for 2-5 players.

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Two copies of a Promo Card for Tanto Cuore.

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And the free annual Gen Con d6 from Crystal Castle.

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We have already played a couple games and I am going to write up some reviews once I get back home.

 

That’s it for now.  More good stuff from Gen Con 2016 tomorrow!