Jack208 Boardgame Library – The “A” list (Part 2)
Continuing from the first parter of my “A” list, here’s the 2nd and concluding the “A” list featuring the first Rondel game to the best squad level combat system (ASL) and one of the more popular strategic level wargames (Axis & Allies).
Back in early 2006 (the game was actually released in Essen 2005), everyone here was all hyped up about a game with an innovative & new mechanic. Simply called the “Rondel”, it was a circle with possible choice of actions spread around it and players take turn moving their game piece round the rondel, selecting an action space and executing that action.
The early version was a German edition (no English text) published by eggertspiele and I still know some of those gamers who bought this first edition of Antike. Mine copy is the Eggerspiele 2nd print which comes with English rules. Rio Grande’s English edition only arrived here in late 2006 and yet the game was still getting the buzz! Deservedly so as it made the finalist of the IGA (International Gamers Award) for 2006.
I would not want to call it Civilization-lite becoz it doesn’t really play like a Civilization game. The only thing it has in common with the CIV theme is the name of the countries involved such as Persia, Babylon, Phoenicia etc. And as long as you are not expecting a Civ game in it, you’ll find there’s plenty to like about this fluid and streamlined game of racing for VPs.
Allen (aka blownfreaks) teaching a game of ANTIKE @ OTK Cheras.
Most who only played this game once or twice assumed there’s only a single way to end the game (ie snatching the last VP you need by sacking a temple). That’s not always the case as I’ve played (and won, and lost) Antike where
- you need to sack temples for the last victory points (esp the game with Chua/Edw where Chua used diversion tactics cleverly to cut thru a well-defended temple to sack the other one in Mecca!
- someone sacked three temples for his last 3 points (and two of those temples BELONGED TO ME!! %^*#&@)
- you win by turtling in one corner and quietly amassing VPs without being confrontational *whistle*
- some dude thot this was RISK and went on an expansion strategy, stomping every cities in his wake (and almost won!). By the way, this is a valid strategy, just that you need to execute it with speed and brutality.
This is another game where an experienced players tend to prevail over newbies.. probably becoz they can see the end coming (before the noobs) and know where/when to get those crucial VPs. A newbie tend to play “the board” (ie they decide what to do next by looking at their positions on the board) whereas an experienced player play “the VPs”.
Above: The recent E.P.I.C. game played at OTK Cheras where the war mongers were piling up their military units – and misery – on each other. Read the sessrep here.
This game has kinda gone under the radar lately simply becoz the publisher has ran out of stock and did not reprint. Rio Grande has been talking about reprinting but until today, Jay has not yet been able to give me an ETA. Understandably as there is a line of new & interesting games that Rio Grande needs to get out the printers first. A pity coz this is a very good game to intro gamers into the rondel series of games….
… speaking of which, Mac Gerdts, the designer of ANTIKE has since went on to design 4 more games using the “Rondel” system – Imperial (and IMPERIAL 2030), Hamburgum, The Princes of Machu Pichu, and the latest rondel baby NAVEGADOR. I personally rate IMPERIAL as the best among this lot.
Check out all the games in the Rondel series in our webstore.
Antike is probably the lightest among the Rondel series and actually can be played within 1.5 hrs if all players are already familiar with the game mechanics. Hopefully Rio Grande gets this back in print soon. BGC is sure to bring this game back in-stock when that happens. 🙂
Have you ever played a game that’s as depressive as it is challenging?
Welcome to the world of Antiquity.. where as all of us do, we begin our life filled of hope & enthusiasm of building and improving our city, making our people happy and prosperous. When the game hurtles to it’s ending, Prozac won’t help your increasingly depressive state and you will swear the game box looks like a coffin!
The (once) lovely CITY of yours (above)… yes that thing between the Granary and Cathedral is a graveyard.
Why do you have a graveyard in your lovely city? Ah.. when you dun have enough harvest (food) to feed your people, they starve. When people starve too long, they die. And when you dun have enough space outside your city to lay your deceased to rest, you build graveyards in the city itself.
Why dun we have enough space outside our city to build graveyards? Oh… you see those red tokens (below)? Let’s just say they are not red packets (angpow). 😛
Look closely… and you’ll see those are pollution markers resulting from your over-farming which turned once fertile lands into desolated space. Unlike other euro games where if you sit on a production space, you can keep producing and producing and producing from that space without worrying about it’s sustainability.
In Antiquity – and in real life – production space doesn’t work in an infinite manner. You farm, you produce and the space turns barren. You have to search for new spot to farm. Problem is, your neighouring city is also facing the same farming-pollution-famine-graveyard situation as you. So guess where they are looking to expand? 😛
Where’s my Prozac?
This game is published by Splotter Spellen, otherwise known as the Louis Vuitton of Boardgame. The game is usually produced in a big box, game components like tiles & tokens are all punched (!) but not kept in any plastic bag.. They are simply scattered / kept inside the box which is not even shrinkwrapped. Yup, that’s how Splotter packages their games.
Strangely, they have a very loyal (or dumb, it’s just a fine line here, hehe) fans who will swallow every game they produced – and they usually do small print runs – hence most of them will be sold out pretty quickly, achieving the famed OOP (out of print) status. Seldom reprinted.
How much does this game cost?
Harlow.. I did mention earlier this is LV stuff right? You dun ask for prices when you are buying LV stuff… hehe.
Supposedly a party game but unless you dig American humour, this may end in frustration. I suppose if you have the “right” group, this can turn into a crowd pleaser. If you like games of this genre, perhaps take a look at Say Anything.
Yes we are biased becoz we sell Say Anything but not Apples to Apples. 😛
I’ve an open set but haven’t played this yet. Waiyan has played this before, so you might want to solicit her opinion how good this game is. 😛
Hehe… let me be upfront. I bought this game becoz I like the cute animals pictured in the cards. 😛
This is part of the Frank & Doris series which consist of two other notable card games Frank’s Zoo and Mu & More. ARK is more a card drafting game compared to Frank’s Zoo (climbing) and Mu & More (trick taking). Perhaps ARK is good as a step-up for children into DOMINION? hehe
A steady Euro that has pasted-on theme. Quite a fast-to-play game and has elements of hand management. If you do not mind the pasted on theme and uninspired board/pieces, this can be a good appetizer before you get into the main gaming agenda.
AUNTIE MILLIE’S MILLIONS
We’ve a copy of this but I suspect it’s a playset for Boardgamekids and we no longer have stock for this game as it appears to be an out-of-print item. So do not ask me if this game would turn you into a millionaire. Ask your auntie instead. 😛
AUTOMOBILE, with token cars add-on
This list seems to be the list of Wallace. With his venerable Age of Steam getting a good write-up in the 1st parter of this list, he has another WINNER within breathing distance in the same list though there was a noticeable gap of 9 years in-between these two games, and sadly a few turkeys such as Tempus and Byzantium.
But Wallace has came back strongly lately and has released some very good games in the past 2 yrs thru his new publishing company Treefrog. AUTOMOBILE is IMHO his best (certainly in the economic/business category) and is much more thematic than Age of Steam.
It’s a game about you vying to become the first automobile tycoon in the early days of the car manufacturing industry. The game infuses elements of capital, production, distribution, promotion, discounts and competition perfectly into no more than 2 hrs of game time.
Thanks to Hiew (of Hiew’s Boardgame Blog), the OTK gamers had an early playtest of this game, as early as Sep 2009 when Hiew’s preorder copy – now a limited edition
fetching astronomous price with no market value (hehe) – arrived in our local shores and that was even before Mayfair confirmed they are distributing the 2nd edition.
I immediately sense a winner from Wallace but we all had to wait till much later (this year) before we can get hold of our own copy from Mayfair. But I’m sure all who bought or played this game would agree with me this is a top notch game!
To wood or not to wood?
While the Mayfair version plays identical to the Treefrog edition, Wallace’s philosophy of only giving the best game components via his Treefrog edition means the Mayfair version of Automobile has tokens / tiles replacing the nice wooden cars, factories and salesman. L
The game board did not turn out too badly (certainly much better than I was expecting and this is good news for Mayfair’s coming reprint of 1830) and the tokens/tiles while not as good as wooden bits, are still functional.
For those who must absolutely get the limited edition (ie Hiew’s copy) which contains wooden this and wooden that, I heard Mayfair is releasing a special Collector’s Edition that has all the wooden bits you want, they even gave you a nice wooden case for the game! Only downside? The retail price for this Collector’s Edition is USD120 (as comparison the standard Mayfair edition is USD50.00) :O
Or you could just get one set of this wooden cars (Mayday) from our webstore and be happy! 😛
(ASL) ADVANCED SQUAD LEADER STARTER KITS
With ASL Starter Kit Expansion Pack #1
I remembered those school days of mine spent lugging my copy of RISK to class and enjoying them at the back of the class. Somehow games of RISK didn’t seem to last that many hours back then. Now I think if we get a copy of RISK to the table, the game would swing back-n-forth for donkey hours and still won’t finish!
RISK – ignoring the randomness of the dice – is what you would call a strategic-level wargame (and I use the term “wargame” loosely here) where your perspective is at a very high level (ie at country level) and the actual fighting/combat is all abstracted out. The “five little army miniatures” you sent to
invade liberate India is not five soldiers but possibly five divisions! And your throw of “1” has just caused the dead of thousands… that’s a sobering thought, ain’t it. 😛
However if we keep insisting RISK is a “wargame”, the grognards will soon correct us and point to some (boring) hex-based maps with terrain, and (even more boring) little square counters which you’ll be told represent the armies you’ll command to war! Wait? What? No soldier or tank miniatures? Ah-la… what are we playing again?
The truth is, to properly represent the units of war (the three key stats of movement, attack and defence), and to provide better realism in the combat resolution – as opposed to shooting random dice – wargame designers found the hex-based system almost the “perfect” medium to simulate warfare; ancient or modern.
Avalon Hill made its name in its heyday by producing many such hex-based wargames; covering various scope – from the grand strategic levels as Advanced Third Reich, to mid level engagements like Afrika Korps, D-Day and even company or platoon level battles with games like Breakout Normandy and the Storm Over series.
No one attempted a squad-level wargame.. until…. SQUAD LEADER.
The history of ASL has to be traced back to around 1977ish when Avalon Hill came out with a game that dealt with combat & fighting at squad-level (ie. a team of 8-20) aptly titled “Squad Leader“. This was a game that was ahead of it’s time and there was nothing quite like it back then. The realism of engaging in street level infantry skirmishes, and the richness of the tactical options open to you quickly built a fan base for it.
Squad Leader spun three expansions – and many more scenarios – before Avalon Hill evolved the system further into what we now know as the “Advanced Squad Leader” (ASL) system.
However the complexity of Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) – part of what makes the combat system in ASL even better – turned many people off. Rules started becoming fiddly and there were too many small rules and exceptions to remember. Wait wait.. before you throw that dice, you need to throw this die to do a morale check on your leader. Ah? What?
Consider this; the rulebook itself is a separate product item and it cost you around USD80 retail. It comes with a three-ring binder including chapter dividers. And that’s just the rulebook, without any components to play. Gasp!
If you think the rules for Republic of Rome is unwieldy… wait till you see the ASL Rulebook. This is part of the reasons I’d steered clear from the ASL game system (which is something I actually would like very much to play). Until… I saw this blurp for a new game:
“This kit includes two maps, six scenarios, and a simplified rules to help players quickly learn the basics of ASL!”
MMP Publishing (who bought over the ASL rights from Avalon Hill when the company was sold to Hasbro) has finally released a more digestible version of ASL. hopefully this can get more people to dip their toes into this impressive squad-level tactical combat system. It really is a beautiful system, once you can get your head around it. 😛
When we watched a movie like Band of Brothers, we saw how naturally it is for the marines to be moving from house to house, covering each other and systematically dismantling the enemy’s defense. Try playing one session of ASL and you’ll realized how difficult it can be to complete a simple task like take over a house defended by entrenched troops. 😛
The first Starter Kit introduces you to the basis concepts of infantry combat and you’ll learn stuff like prep fire, morale check, first fire, advancing fire and how to route your enemies. If you watch Band of Brothers after you’d done a session of ASL, I bet you’ll actually appreciate the movie more.
After SK1, MMP has produced two more Starter Kits #2 and #3 which introduce artillery, bazookas and tanks into the game system… .gradually building up your skills & knowledge in squad-level combat. It’s still a very daunting game to get into.. but the Starter Kits make the game more accessible to general gamers.
Since then, MMP has produced two more Starter Kits #2 and #3 which introduce artillery, bazookas and tanks into your combat system… .gradually building up your knowledge & skill in the ASL system. It’s still a very daunting game to get into.. but the Starter Kits make the system more accessible to general gamers.
MMP have finally understood the answer to this question, “How do you eat an elephant?”
– One bite at a time, of course.
The first proper expansion to the Starter Kits (beside those maps that gave out as part of their OPERATIONS magazine) the ASL Starter Kit Expansion Pack 1 was released about a couple months. This is a standalone expansion so it means this can be played on its own without ownership of any of the earlier Starter Kits. Still, I would recommend you start with the first Starter Kit if you are serious about getting into this game system.
I feel the ASL Starter Kits have been a tremendous success in getting people into the ASL system. Think of it as a “gateway game” for the ultimate street-to-street combat system (ASL). You can find out more about ASL from MMP’s website (ASL link).
Want to try ASL Starter Kits? Drop by OTK Cheras then. But wait, go and download the rules and study them first. 😛
AXIS & ALLIES
As boys we all love our toy soldiers. And even as we grew up, I suspect a part of us remain as boys and continue to yearn for the toy soldiers. This partly explains the attraction of a game like the Axis & Allies series which comes with beautifully done (though unpainted) miniatures representing the various military units of Ww2.
The other part could be due to the fact Axis & Allies does represent a fairly good game system, not as heavy as the closer-to-realism type of wargames produced by GMT or MMP but as a lightweight wargame that takes on WW2 in its entire scope! You get to represent either Hitler, Churchill, Mussolini, Roosevelt or Hirohito and attempt to rewrite (if you are the Axis) and to reenact history (if you are the Allies).
The 2004 Edition of Axis & Allies (box cover above) was widely known as an important milestone in this series roadmap, offering a revised streamlined rules and rebranded under Avalon-Hill. This was also the first Axis & Allies game I bought.
In 2008, (what I would considered) the best version of Axis & Allies were released under their 50th Anniversary label. Simply titled as “Axis & Allies Anniversary Edition” (A&A50), this edition quickly sold out and now commands high prices in eBay. It comes in a huge box and a map that’s 2′ by 4′. Surprisingly we managed to do a 6-player session of A&A50 at OTK Cheras in September two years back. “Surprising” becoz we managed to fit that humongous board onto the OTK tables (which are not known for being large).
Table space all taken up the huge 2 by 4 gameboard so everyone has to stand to get a better view of what’s going on….
Can you rewrite the battle of the Pacific islands?
If you wish to read up more about this game from a local gamer’s perspective, head over to Hiew’s Boardgame Blog and check out his Axis & Allies entries (click here for the link to A&A Anniversary Ed articles)
AXIS & ALLIES – BATTLE OF THE BULGE
Avalon-Hill was quick to get out spin-off games based on the popular Axis & Allies game system. One of the early ones was A&A Battle of the Bulge. This game focused on a smaller-scale operational level struggle related to the German attempt to breakdown of the Rhine in Operation Market Garden. It’s not A&A on an epic scale (as in the 2004 and Anniversary Editions mentioned above) but more of a battle of attrition between the American and German troops in the Rhine.
Click here to read Hiew’s session report on one of his Battle of the Bulge session.
AXIS & ALLIES – PACIFIC 1940 DELUXE
After the success of A&A Anniversary Edition, Hasbro announced plans for a gigantic Axis & Allies set; so large they’d to break up the game into two parts: A&A Pacific 1940 Deluxe and A&A Europe 1940 Deluxe. Both of them are re-implementation of an earlier version of A&A Pacific and A&A Europe respectively, with changes to accommodate for the Anniversary Edition ruleset.
However with the new 1940 Deluxe edition, gamers can actually combine BOTH sets to play a truly grandiose and epic Axis & Allies session!
I’m not sure if there are other local gamers in M’sia who have attempted a combined session of Pacific + Europe (if you’ve, pls write and let us know!) but some of the OTK regulars did such a session last Nov during the Deepavali holiday!
Hiew’s Session Report on Axis & Allies Global 1940. Warning: This sessrep is not for the faint-hearted. 😛
That’s it… this concludes my list of write-up for the “A” list! The above are the list of games I owned but there are some games which I do not own yet they are great games in their own right and deserve a mention in this list. Let me put them in a “Notable Absentees” category. J
A very good exploration themed game with some cool miniatures. One of our OTK regulars ayheng has a copy of this game and since we tend to play with his set, I did not have the inclination to get my own copy yet.
An expansion (buildings) is due out for this game – hopefully this year? – which may finally prompt me to add this wonderful game to my collection. 🙂
Update: I’ve now added this to my collection in anticipation of the Builders expansion.
Age of Industry
A new version of Brass but not sure why Wallace wanted to tweak a winning formula. I felt Brass as-is is one of Martin’s better design (on par with Age of Steam and Automobile) in spite of the fiddliness of the rules. Perhaps he wanted to offer a more streamlined version of the game to make it more accessible, or he simply needed to “fix” some of the inherent “closeness” of the original game which prevented him from releasing expansion maps.
I much prefer Brass but if you are looking for a lighter version of Brass, then do take a look at Age of Industry. You might find something you like!
One of our recent arrival (last month) and the latest game from Alan Moon (of Ticket to Ride (TTR) series fame). This is a re-implementation of an earlier game – now OOP – called Union Pacific (yes another train game but unlike TTR, Union Pacific involves shares in addition to track laying).
I’ve Union Pacific but it’s quite a different game from Airlines Europe. I’ll eventually open a copy of Airlines Europe for my own playset but given that a few of our inner circles already have this game and have been bringing them to our meetups, I’ve held back on pulling the trigger. 🙂
Update: This is also added to my collection recently but yet to be played.
You can’t close the “A” list without a mention of the Cthulhu legend. Unfortunately I didn’t grow up on Lovercraft so all the Great Old Ones held no sway over me. Until today, I remained a non-owner of this game, a game which all Cthulhu – and some non-Cthulhu – fans would rush to get into their game closet ASAP.
This aversion could be due to the horrible Halloween night many years back when we first attempted this game that scarred me – and I think those who were in that session – for life about owning or even playing this game again. One of us actually came up with the “perfect description” of how that night’s experience was but to preserve the sanctity of this blog (there could be underage kids reading this), I shall not share that “description” publicly. Tsk tsk.
This in no way means this is a bad game (else it wouldn’t have garnered a mention in my Notable Absentees list) as I’ve heard many good reviews – from local gamers – and how it’s a great cooperative gaming experience. I believe them. I really do.
Aanemesis is a good proponent of this game. The “is” is starting to turn into “was” (sic). He used to be very active in organizing Arkham sessions back when farming was not such a sexy occupation. Now I think the sight of sheeps and cattles stir him more than the Great Old Ones. He has been talking about getting some sessions of Arkham back to the table. But the lack of Occupation and Minor Improvement cards in Arkham have been a stumbling block.
But to the fans of this series, the expansions continue to roll out at a steady pace from FFG.
After all, why stop when the fans are lapping everything up. There are now 8 expansions for this game; four small-box sets and four large-box sets with the most recent being the Miskatonic Horror expansion.
It even has it’s own dice set! Oh dear…
P/s Check out what’s the product code for the Arkham Horror dice in the BGC webstore. If you hover your mouse over the image above you should be able to see it. Our system allocated the number “666” as the product code for this item. I swear to you, we didn’t manipulate this. Must be one of the Ancient Ones. 😛
Cards! This game is the domain of derChef as he was the first to be bringing this deck-building game around meetups.
An early play of Ascension back in March 2011 (playset courtesy of derchef)
This game always carry with it the heavy burden of being compared with Agricola and Le Havre. In that respect, it does not come close. But as a game by itself, it’s quite a solid Euro. Lots of pieces (wooden), it’s a game that incorporates element of Bohnanza (Uwe’s early game). Give it a try if you like Uwe’s other games, you might enjoy this too.
Hiew teaching Loyang to some OTK regulars
While I’m still on the fence about getting Axis & Allies Europe 1940 Deluxe, I’m certainly keen to add a copy of A&A Guadalcanal to my Axis & Allies sets. There are a few reasons why I like this game; firstly I’m always fascinated by the Pacific War and secondly there are not many games that are themed on the Pacific War that focuses on naval warfare.
The “A” List
The full “A” list from my library
- A Game of Thrones
- A Game of Thrones Expansion: A Clash of Kings
- A Game of Thrones Expansion: A Storm of Swords
- A Game of Thrones (2nd Edition)
- Acquire (1995 Avalon-Hill edition)
- Acquire (1999 Hasbro edition)
- Afrika Korps
- Age of Discovery
- Age of Empires III
- Age of Steam (2nd Ed)
- Age of Steam Maps #1: England & Ireland
- Age of Steam Maps #2: Western USA & Germany
- Age of Steam Maps #3: Scandinavia & Korea
- Age of Steam Maps #4: France & Italy
- Age of Steam Maps: 1830s Pennsylvannia & Northern California
- Age of Steam Maps: Barbados & St Lucia
- Age of Steam Maps: Disco Inferno & Soul Train
- Age of Steam Maps: Jamaica & Puerto Rico
- Agricola (with animeeples, vegemeeples, farmermeeples)
- Agricola L- and Z-decks (part of preorder bonus)
- Agricola Expansion: Farmers of the Moor
- Agricola Gamers Deck
- Agricola Through the Seasons
- Aladdin’s Dragons
- Alien Frontiers
- Amun Re
- Antiquity (2nd Ed)
- Apples to Apples Party Box
- Archaeology: The Card Game
- Ark Extra Mix
- (ASL) Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kit #1
- (ASL) Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) Starter Kit #2
- (ASL) Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) Starter Kit #3
- (ASL) Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) Starter Kit Expansion Pack #1
- Airlines Europe
- Archaeology: The Card Game
- Auntie Millie’s Millions
- Automobile (with token set)
- Axis & Allies 2004 Ed
- Axis & Allies 50th Anniversary Ed
- Axis & Allies: Battle of the Bulge
- Axis & Allies: Pacific 1940 Deluxe
Note: This series of blog articles is to talk about what’s in my boardgame library and since I do not profess to own every game ever published, I may not write about some titles (though I try to mention them as Notable Absentees). If I’ve omitted to mention one of your fave titles, pls do not take that to mean I do not rate that game or think it’s not a good game. If you are so kind to offer me a copy of the game to add to my library, I would be more than happy to write about it next time. *hehe*
Seen any fave of yours? Ask to play them at the new OTK Cheras. Discuss here.
Jack208 Boardgame Library listing (full list of games)
Check out the list of “A” games as available from our webstore.
ABOUT CK (a.k.a. Jack208) (add me in facebook)
One of the trio who sits on the Council of Boardgamecafe.net and a boardgamer by choice ever since he saved up for his own copy of Monopoly donkey years ago, and fell in love again when he got re-acquainted with Acquire. To get around the question of why he needs to buy so many games, he told his wife they are going into the boardgame business. Well, he did step into the boardgame business so try not to believe every single word he writes here as he’ll also try to sell you the games! When not doing anything with boardgames, CK hits the road running 10K races and hopefully would make a return to squash soon.
Categories: Games Library