Friday, June 27, 2008

IF only

So you may have noticed that a few weeks ago I seemed to drop off the map for a few weeks. There are many reasons for that but here for your amusement I present one of them to you.

When I was a much younger man and computers were still in training pants there was a very popular genre of computer games called "Interactive Fiction". (You may be more familiar with the term "text adventure".) Well IF is still very much alive and well in this modern age; only it's not nearly as lucrative. In fact, it hasn't been commercially viable for more than two decades now. Still, that hasn't stopped people from doing some incredible things in this space.

Well back in the day I used to write this stuff and every so often I get the urge to return to my roots and see what new things are happening in the world of IF. A few months back one of those urges hit me and I stumbled upon a particularly cool IF authoring environment called Inform 7. That got my creative juices flowing and the end result was this game:

The Abbey is an interactive murder mystery set in an English Benedictine Abbey. It's very loosely based on the board game: The Mystery of the Abbey which in turn was inspired by The Name of the Rose, a book by Umberto Eco.

If you feel like stepping back to yesteryear, I'd love to have you play it. First you'll need to install a program that's capable of running the game. You'll need a Glulx interpreter which you can download from here. (There are versions for just about every computer type. In case you're having trouble finding it on that page, a direct link to the Windows version is here.) Next you can click here to download the game. Now you should be in business. Feel free to send me feedback. I know it's no masterpiece but it sure was fun to write another one of these after so long.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Two Weeks in a Row!

The world must be coming to an end.

Last night was Tuesday night and that means I went to game night. We had a rather small turnout last night because the Seattle contingent was absent but we also had a few newcomers and there were more than enough people there to keep everybody playing and happy.

I played Metropolys and Tichu last night, which was fun. I also played a little Richocet Robot, which I always enjoy. But there were two games that were new to me which I want to talk about.

The first one I want to talk about is Toledo. This is a new game by Martin Wallace, who is known for making some of the best deep thinking Euro-games out there. This is not one of those games. But don't get the wrong idea! It's still a very good game. Toledo is a nice light-to-middle-weight family game where players compete to acquire resources which they use to make swords which they then deliver to the Spanish emperor's palace for victory points. The mechanics are very simple (which is unusual for a Wallace game) and the game plays relatively quickly. This is not likely to ever become a true classic like Age of Steam, but it's a very nice game and I really enjoyed playing it.

The last game I want to talk about is a light dice game called Airships. I really enjoyed it but that's not why I want to talk about it. I want to talk about this game because it's one of those times where I think I really messed up. House Full of Games is still a smallish store and I don't always choose to stock every single game that comes out. Airships is one of those games that for some reason managed to float (pun intended) under my radar. That's a mistake that I plan to rectify as soon as I can because I thought it was a pretty darn good game (better than its 6.5 BGG rating would indicate).

So my message to you is this: if there is a game coming out that you are excited about (particularly if it's not one of the obvious blockbusters like, say, Agricola) and you think that I should know about it, please send me an email ( and let me know! Every now and then I miss a game that I really wish I'd paid attention to and this was definitely one of those times.

Update: Airships should be listed on HFoG by tomorrow morning (June 28).

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Metropolys - A First Impression

One of the new games that I played last night is Metropolys, a new release from Ystari Games, the company that also gave us two of my favorite games: Caylus and Mykerinos.

Metropolys is relatively light-weight strategy game for two to four players. It plays in about 45 minutes and it's for ages eight and up.

The game is played on a very colorful board depicting a city that's divided up into five regions or districts by a series of canals. Each region is in turn divided up into a number of colored building spaces. The board is not only colorful and chock full of artwork, it is perhaps too colorful and too chock full of artwork. I found the board to be incredibly busy and a little bit too hard on the eyes. Still, I enjoyed the game and I thought the other bits were very nice. I particularly appreciated the really nice wooden building tokens and the plethora of plastic zip bags that were included in the box.

The core game mechanic works like this: each player has thirteen wooden buildings, each numbered from one to thirteen. Each round of the game, players will bid for the right to construct one of their buildings somewhere on the map. The player starting the bidding puts one of their buildings on an empty space. Each subsequent player can then outbid the previous player by putting one of his higher numbered buildings on an empty space next to the previous bidder's building. Bidding continues around the table until all players have passed or until there is nowhere else to bid. The winner then turns his building over (number side down) to claim his space and all the losing bids are removed from the map. Then the winner starts the next round of bidding.

In this way, the map is slowly populated with buildings. Along the way, players try to achieve various goals by trying to place their buildings in the spaces that will net them the most points. Each player has a couple of unique, secret goals and there are also a few goals that everyone knows about. Once a player has placed his last building, the game is over and scores are calculated.

I really enjoyed the unique bidding mechanic. With this system, where you bid can be just as important as what you bid. It's possible to force a bid to go a certain way by placing your bid in a particular location and a big part of the game is paying attention to which buildings the other players have left and using that to your advantage.

I enjoyed this game quite a bit. My only complaint is that the artwork is just too busy. There were a couple of times where we missed some important plays because the busy artwork made them difficult to spot. I imagine that problem will get better as players become more familiar with the game and it's not enough of a problem to seriously hurt my opinion of the game.

I look forward to playing this one again.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Let's Catch Up

Wow. Where has the time gone? I had no intention of going this long between posts but life got very busy and one week follows another and before you know it, over a month has gone by without a post! Ack!

So for the next few days I'm going to try to make a few quick posts here to try to get things going again.

First off, tonight was game night and I played a couple of new games and a few old ones too. Rather than try to tell you all about them tonight, I'll just talk about one of them now and then I'll pick up where I left off tomorrow (I hope).

So in this post I'm going to mention just one of the games I played tonight: Tichu! Mike and I teamed up against Kai and Adam. It was a pretty interesting game too. It started out with Mike and I having a fantastic run of luck. It appeared that we could do no wrong. In fact at one point, I was left with the following hand after the pass:

For those of you who aren't Tichu players, that's a 14 card straight which is the perfect Tichu hand. That's like catching lighting in a bottle. It only happens once in a very, very long time. In fact, it's the only time I've ever had a natural 14 card straight. (There's even a bomb in there but when you've got a 14 card straight a bomb becomes unnecessary.)

After that hand, Mike and I were up by about 530 points or so. Unfortunately, that must have used up all of our Karma or something because from that point on it was all downhill. Adam and Kai managed to engineer an incredible comeback and they beat us by about 200 points. It just goes to show that no matter how badly you're behind, you don't give up. Fortunes can change just that quickly.

Oh well, at least I can take satisfaction in knowing that I scored a perfect hand!