Monday, January 26, 2004


This new "big box" game from Aaron Weissblum and Alan Moon (published by Uberplay) has potential to be a very big hit. I had a very interesting experience with this game.

The first time I played it, it was in essentially finalized prototype form. I really enjoyed the game until about part way through when I realized I had scored no (or almost no) points. The scoring is the product of two numbers and while one of my numbers was quite reasonable, the other was zero. For the rest of the game, I tried desperately to get the other kinds of scoring markers, to very little avail. I was crushed. I didn't think I had done anything wrong. I may not have played brilliantly, but I thought I played reasonably. I found it very unjust that through my unremarkable but tolerable play to get so completely trounced. I wanted to like it for the experience of the first half, but had a very hard time. I knew I'd give it another chance.

Tonight, I played the release Uberplay edition, which to my memory is the same as the version I played before. I did something different and right. I enjoyed the game all the way through the end, and not just because I won, although that didn't hurt. In any case, the problems I had with the game before may still hold (see below), but they may not, in which case the game is outstanding. The core mechanic is "offering" cards which other players then choose from. The order the sets are chosen determines the order in the next round of who gets to pick first. The cards let you build stuff and get scoring multipliers. Oh, and there are really nice wooden camels. Maybe not quite as nice as Durch die Wuste plastic camels, but very nice camels all the same.

The game seems to allow for a few different strategies as well as some interesting tactical play. There is a fair bit of luck in the card draws, but it doesn't seem to be overwhelming. It has nice player interactions and good decisions without lending itself to analysis paralysis. Overall, definitely recommended, though see the caveats below.

*But,* I need to play it a few more times. I've only played it twice. I worry that the luck factor may be more substantial than it seems at first, unduly hurting some players. When luck benefits one player disproportionately, that's not good, but it's usually worse if it particularly nails someone. Further, while most games I enjoy whether I win or lose, some very few are fun to win, but really irritating to lose. Kahuna for example. Winning Kahuna is quite satisfying, but losing Kahuna ends up feeling like you had no control whatsoever (and it's not just me). I worry Oasis may have this problem. But, I *really* enjoyed the second play and the first half of the first play, so I hope this stands up to more playings. It will certainly get more.

Adam And Eva

Adam and Eva is a new game in the Ravensburger "Fun for Two" series by Aaron Weissblum. This is "Balloon Cup" meets "San Marco". It's very good. There you go, that's all you need to know. Go get it.

Actually, it's not really that much like either of them, but they aren't absurd starting points. I'm not going to give my personal rewrite of the rules here, because I hate reviews like that. I'm sure someone else will review it and regurgitate the rules. You play cards, your opponent chooses who gets it. You win apples. This is a light game, lighter than Balloon Cup, but it's got some interesting decisions. It's got a fair amount of luck. The game is played over four hands and some hands are simply better than others and the timing of when you get a good hand can make a big difference. But, it's got a good bit of skill, and for a 20 minute game, it's at a level of luck I like.

The core mechanic is that you present a card, and your opponent chooses whether you or he gets it, where you're each only going to get half the cards. This makes for some interesting tactics and choices where you try to finesse your opponent into taking the cards that look good but aren't going to make a big difference.

If you like games that are light, clever, quick and have some subltety, if not substantial depth, you'll like Adam and Eva. It's certainly my favorite of the "Fun for Two" series so far (both Richelieu and Bakerstreet are good, but nothing particularly special, in my view).

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Similar Games

While to some extent this is an old practice, increasingly there are many games being republished in slightly variant forms of previous versions. In some cases, the change is only thematic. In other cases, there are minor changes, and yet others that are dramatically different. How could these similar games be generally described? Here are some of my thoughts, and I'd welcome comments below.
What I really want is a nice easily understood set of terminology to describe these kinds of relationships. So, just as we compactly say "Kingdoms is a rethemed version of Auf Heller und Pfennig" or "Democrazy was inspired by 'Das Reglen Wir Schon?'", I want a way to say "Battle Line ________________ Schotten Totten" to someone who is unfamiliar with one or the other and be understood. "Expands upon" or the like doesn't seem to quite cut it. Similarly, fill in the blank "Ghost Chase ___________ Scotland Yard". One could use "was developed from", but that also feels awkward.


This is the most trivial and obvious relationship two "similar" games can have. Many would (reasonably) argue that they are in fact the same game. I'm only including games here where the mechanics are identical and the components are identical in the context of gameplay.

  • Feuerschlecker, Flea Circus

  • Drahtseilakt, Relationship Tightrope

  • Auf Heller und Pfennig, Kingdoms

  • Bonobo Beach, Cronberg
    and many many more

    "Different components, same game"

    This category needs a name. Games where the game has changed because of distribution of cards, layout of the board or other parameters, but the rules are almost untouched.

  • 10 Days in Africa, 10 Days in the USA
    These two have almost identical gameplay (Alaska and Hawaii having slightly special rules in the latter), but the map on which they're played is different.

  • Great Dalmuti, Corporate Shuffle
    With the exception of a couple of additional cards, Corporate Shuffle is exactly Dalmuti with a slightly changed card distribution. The extra cards don't quite qualify it for the "Plus" category below, but it could be described both ways.

    "Different components, similar games"

    This category needs a name. Games where the game has changed the distribution, layout or other parameters and has changed the rules as well, but they remain substantially the same.

  • 10 Days in Africa, Europa Tour

  • Risk, Risk 2210, LOTR Risk


    Thie category needs a name. Games where the rules are essentially a strict superset of those in another game. Frequently, this manifests itself as a game where certain cards have special powers or the like. Minor rule changes are sometimes needed to accomodate these additions.

  • Attacke, Ivanhoe

  • Schotten Totten, Battle Line

  • Flinke Pinke, Thor


    This caegory needs a name. This includes games that went through more development or were otherwise reworked. Mayb this should be more than one category.

  • Lowenherz, Domaine

  • Carcassone, Carcassone: Hunters & Gatherers

  • Muscat, Message to the Czars

  • Pacal, Pyramiden der Jaguar


    This category needs a name. Maybe this should be in the same category as Inspired, below.

  • What's That On My Head?, Code 777

  • Speed, Top Speed


    Often games inspire other games. Sometimes this inspiration leads to specific rules or components to be carried over, but more often it is simply the general idea or "feel" of the game.

  • Das Reglen Wir Schon?, Democrazy

  • Carcassone, Carcassone: The Castle

    Uncategorized "similar" games

  • Flinke Pinke, Quandary, Thor, Loco

  • Europa Tour, 10 Days in Africa, 10 Days in the USA

  • Scotland Yard, New York Chase, Ghost Chase

  • Grand National Derby, Titan: The Arena, Galaxy: the Dark Ages

  • Zirkus Flohcati, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones Card Game

  • Isi, Morisi

  • Monday, January 12, 2004

    Bus and Crocodile Pool Party

    I finally got around to playing Bus, which I've wanted to play for several years. I enjoyed it.

    I had heard some bad things about Crocodile Pool Party. I've played
    it a few times now. Don't believe the bad things. It's a cute light
    abstract that feels like an appropriate depth for its length.

    Friday, January 2, 2004

    Year To Year Comparison2003

    Last Year's Hits

    Essentially all of last years hits still get played, some substantially more than others:

  • Still hits(5+)
    ElectronicCatchphrase, TransAmerica, Crokinole, Puerto Rico, Zirkus Flohcati

  • 3-4 plays
    SpinBall, LOTR:TC, Bluff, For Sale, Battle Line

  • 2 plays

  • 1 play
    Geister, Lord of the Rings, Industrial Waste

    Year to Year Trend

    Year Games New Diff Ses Ppl
    1997 ~30
    1998 ~100
    1999 ~150 63
    2000 301 112 141 126 129
    2001 712 172 266 175 165
    2002 650 161 279 163 241
    2003 552 128 272 129 180

    I'm rather impressed to see that despite substantial variation in
    number of games played over the past 3 years (>25% variation), the
    number off different games played has been very consistent.

    Year Metric

    I started playing German-style games around '97-'98 then seriously in
    '99, so this covers games that get played pretty much every year.
    Seeral games on the "5 years" list obviously have been played every
    year since I discovered them and some of those in the "4 years" list
    only came out 4 years ago. It pleases me to know there's a solid core
    of 25+ "perennials".


    RoboRally 7 none

    E&T 6 1997
    En Garde 6 1997
    Bluff 6 1997
    Modern Art 6 2002

    Elefantenparade 5 1997,1998
    Take It Easy 5 1997,1998
    Samurai 5 1997,1998
    Basari 5 1997,1998
    Ricochet Robot 5 1997,1998
    Apples To Apples 5 1997,1998
    Ra 5 1997,1998
    Lost Cities 5 1997,1998
    Caesar & Cleopatra 5 1997,2002
    Settlers 5 2000,2002
    Set 5 2001,2003

    Showmanager 4 1997,1998,1999
    Carolus Magnus 4 1997,1998,1999
    Alladin's Dragons 4 1997,1998,1999
    Zapp Zerapp 4 1997,1998,1999
    Flinke Pinke 4 1997,1998,1999
    Barbarossa 4 1997,1998,1999
    Vinci 4 1997,1998,1999
    Space Beans 4 1997,1998,1999
    Mole Hill 4 1997,1998,1999
    Lord of the Rings 4 1997,1998,1999
    Traumfabrik 4 1997,1998,1999
    Medici 4 1997,1998,1999
    Schnaeppchen Jagd 4 1997,1998,1999
    Carcassone 4 1997,1998,1999
    Speed 4 1997,1998,1999
    Battle Line 4 1997,1998,1999
    Can't Stop 4 1997,1998,1999
    6 nimmt

    4 1997,1998,1999

    Wildlife Adventure 4 1997,1998,2003
    Ursuppe 4 1997,1998,2003
    Acquire 4 1997,2000,2003
    Manhattan 4 1997,2000,2003
  • 2003 Games Report

    Overall summary

    2003 was another good year, though again the second year in a row with
    a total decline in number of games played.

  • 556 total games

  • 275 different games

  • 130 sessions

  • 180 different people

  • 4.2 games per session

  • 128 new-to-me games

  • 25% 2-player games

  • 30% 4-player games


  • More2003Statistics This includes more details on summary stats like those above.

  • 5sAnd10s2003 This is list of games played 5+ and 10+ times

  • GamesOfTheYear2003 The overall bests of the year

  • GameMetrics2003 The bests, as measured by a number of metrics

  • YearToYearComparison2003 Comparison with previous years

  • More2003 Statistics

  • 556 total games

  • 275 different games

  • 130 sessions

  • 180 different people

  • 79 new-to-me people

  • 3.7 players per game (average)

  • 4.2 games per session

  • 124 new-to-me games

  • 25% 2-player games

  • 22% 3-player games

  • 30% 4-player games

  • 12% 5-player games

  • 10% 6-player games

  • 1% 7+-player games
  • Thursday, January 1, 2004

    Game Metrics2003

    I like game metrics. "Best" is a word that can mean lots of different things. Game metrics provide a nice way of describing what "best" means, more specifically. Here are my top games for 2003 by a number of metrics:


    (Rating-Offset)*Total Time

    • Amun Re

    • Puerto Rico

    • ElectronicCatchphrase

    • Attika

    • 6 nimmt!

    • Finstere Flure

    • Balloon Cup

    • RoboRally

    • Princes of Florence

    • Crokinole


    (distinct months in which the game was played)

    • ElectronicCatchphrase (10 in 2003, 23 ever)

    • Can't Stop (6 in 2003, 18 ever)

    • 6 nimmt! (5 in 2003, 20 ever)

    • Light Speed (5 in 2003, 5 ever)

    • Crokinole (4 in 2003, 15 ever)

    • TransAmerica (4 in 2003, 11 ever)

    • Puerto Rico (4 in 2003, 10 ever)

    • Hick Hack in Gacklewack (4 in 2003, 10 ever)

    • Mause Rallye (4 in 2003, 7 ever)

    • Blokus (4 in 2003, 5 ever)

    • Amun Re (4 in 2003, 4 ever)

    Most Plays Metric

    See the 5sAnd10s2003 list

    Most Sessions

    • ElectronicCatchphrase (14 sessions)

    • Light Speed (10 sessions)

    • Can't Stop (8 sessions)

    • Attika (7 sessions)

    • King Lui (7 sessions)

    • Amun Re (7 sessions)

    • Balloon Cup (7 sessions)

    • Crokionle (7 sessions)

    • Europa Tour (7 sessions)

    • Zirkus Flohcati (6 sessions)

    • 6 nimmt

      (6 sessions)

    • Finstere Flure (6 sessions)

    Initiative Metric

    Basically, total time spent playing with an offset to accomodate short games.

    • Electronic Catchphrase

    • Amun Re

    • Puerto Rico

    • Attika

    • Finstere Flure

    • Balloon Cup

    • Crokinole

    • 6 nimmt!

    • Light Speed

    • Can't Stop

      Top 4 Games by number of players

    • 2 player: Light Speed, Balloon Cup, Crokinole, Cathedral

    • 3 player: Loopin' Louie, Coloretto, Can't Stop, Filthy Rich

    • 4 player: Crokinole, Password, Attika, Can't Stop

    • 5 player: Amun Re, Foppen, TransAmerica, Puerto Rico

    • 6 player: ElectronicCatchphrase, 6 nimmt

      , Call my Bluff, Split Second

    Top Games by Day of the Week

    Ok, so as if these stats aren't strange enough, this is just weird, but it amuses me to present the data, so here we go:

    • Sunday: ElectronicCatchphrase

    • Monday: ElectronicCatchphrase

    • Tuesday: Light Speed

    • Wednesday: Balloon Cup

    • Thursday: ElectronicCatchphrase

    • Friday: Loopin' Louie

    • Saturday: ElectronicCatchphrase

    5s And10s2003

    My 20s, 10s and 5s list is essentially unsurprising. The last entry
    (Trollig) is a children's memory game from Haba that has been a big
    success with 5-year-old relatives. Those in italics are games that have been on the 5s and 10s before:

    20s, 10s and 5s:


    ElectronicCatchphrase (36), Light Speed (23)


    Balloon Cup (10), Crokinole (10)


    Coloretto (9), Amun Re (8), Europa Tour/10DiA (8),
    Can't Stop (8), 6 nimmt! (6), Attika (7),
    Finstere Flure (7), King Lui (7), Loopin' Louie (6),
    Puerto Rico (6), Zirkus Flohcati (6), Hick Hack in Gacklewack (5)
    Mause Rallye (5), Paris Paris (5), Password (5), Trollig (5)