Boardgame Fest

Back before Christmas, my friend Chris and I started talking about all the boardgames we have that we hardly ever play. Not because they’re not fun, or we don’t like them, but because the roleplaying games always seem to fill up the schedule. So, we decided to see what we could do about that – we scheduled an all-afternoon-and-evening boardgame event at my place for December 30th. The idea was for people to come by when they wanted, play what they wanted, sit around and kibitz, and enjoy the company and refreshments. In particular, I wanted to try out Carcassonne and Battlestar Galactica with the Pegasus Expansion.

Talisman, with all three expansions, turned out to be the big hit, though. It ran essentially all day, with a short break for one person to go pick up someone else while we played Carcassonne. Yeah, Talisman will take all day when you get seven or eight players around the table. It was a lot of fun, despite the fact that I never seemed to have a chance of winning. I’m not going to talk much about the play of the game, because I did that back here. I will say that it’s pretty easy for people to join and leave the game during play, though obviously it’s not ideal if you’re trying to win.

This was also my first time ever playing Carcassonne. I’m pretty sure everyone else in the entire world has already played it, so most of what I have to say will surprise no one. The game is very simple to learn and play, but the scoring system reveals a complexity under the surface that supports pretty deep strategy. We played without any expansions, so the game went quickly – about an hour from opening it up to closing it up again. There’s an interesting combination of laying tiles for maximum benefit – or minimum detriment, as the case may be – with the resource management of using the little wooden people to claim various things. There is a danger to being both too daring and too cautious – sometimes long shots pay off, which is good for the person taking the risk, but not for those avoiding it.

It was a lot of fun, with various folks coming by and playing for a while at various points, and we’re going to do it again.

After all, I still haven’t had a chance to try out the Pegasus Expansion.

Another Casualty of the Crown of Command

Today, my friend Chris ran a demo of the Talisman boardgame at Imagine Games and Hobbies here in Winnipeg.

Now, I realize that what I’m about to confess may cost me a whole pile of grognard geek cred, but I’d never played Talisman before, in any of its incarnations. Don’t really know why; I just never owned it, and neither did any of my friends. And there were always other games to buy. So, I never tried Talisman before today.

I’ve really been missing out.

Yeah, I know everyone else out there who’s reading this has probably played the game to death, and are giggling at my naive wonder. Y’know what? I don’t care. I was blown away.

The game is great fun. And the addition of the Dungeon and Reaper expansions make for even more fun. There was a great variety of things going on in game, and we didn’t get even half-way through the stack of adventure cards that provide the encounters and events. I can see that the game has some real replay value.

Downsides? Yeah, a couple. Mainly they’re artifacts of the era the game was created in: as a product of the 80s, there are some game design decisions that I don’t think you’d see if the game was designed today. Lot’s of “miss a turn” mechanics, for example, and a huge random factor in play. The game is very luck-based; if the dice don’t like you, all the deep strategizing in the world won’t help you. You need to get the right cards at the right times, and make the right rolls when you need them. For example, I spent six or seven turns just trying to get to the Warlock’s Cave to get a quest in order to get a Talisman to get to the end of the game.

I didn’t get one, and someone beat me to the Crown of Command, then killed the rest of us off, as you’re supposed to do to win the game.

So, some degree of frustration, but not enough to actually sour the play of the game.

Set-up took under 10 minutes, including the time for us to sort out some of the cards. Chris taught us the rules in another ten. So, with someone who knows the game, under 20 minutes from opening the box to the first turn. This is very nice, and a bit of a change for me: most of my games require much more elaborate set-up.

The individual turns also went very quickly, averaging maybe two to three minutes per turn. Nice, quick pace without feeling rushed. Again, a nice change from the number of games I have that have each person’s turn taking five to ten minutes. And it takes some of the sting out the “miss a turn” stuff.

All in all, we played for about four hours, and finished with a nice win by Tania, who now apparently rules the world with her Crown of Command.

The game is, as one would expect from Fantasy Flight Games, absolutely gorgeous, with nice, high-quality and durable components. It’s a little pricey, but considering what you get in the box, it’s worth it. It’s going on my Christmas list.

So, a fun afternoon. Thanks to Chris for running the game, and to Clint and Tania for coming to play with us.

Talisman Demo December 6

My friend Chris is running a boardgame demo at Imagine Games on Sunday, December 6, from 12:00 noon to 5:00 pm.

He’s going to be showing off Talisman 4th Edition, complete with the Dungeon and Reaper expansions.

Strange as it may seem coming from an old geek like me, I’ve never played the game. I plant to be down there, rolling the dice (and probably getting ganged up on), so come on down and play with us.

It’ll be fun.