The Game That Only You Love...

struggleempiresby Firestone My game group tries to get together one Saturday a month for a full day of board gaming awesomeness. And every time we do we know this is a chance to play some of the longer games on our lists, or try something new, or whatever. So we all come up with lists of games that interest us, and people chime in if something sounds fun.

There's one game that is on my list every. single. month.

Struggle Of Empires.

The brilliant Martin Wallace designed this game, and though it's not better than his masterpiece, Age Of Steam, it's really, really, really good—an underrated gem.

struggletilesIt's a light conquest/war/area-control game where you're building up troops and buying improvement tiles to better your position. You always have more things to do than actions to do them, and that makes for a tense and angst-filled game. But the genius part of the game is the turn order/alliance system: You can pay gold and maneuver things so that you're allied with the person who's your biggest threat. They CAN'T attack you for that entire war (there are three wars in the game). It's so cool.

And no one in my game group likes it.

strugglemapIt's in my Top 10 games, and I can't get anyone in my group to play it! We've played it 2 or 3 times in the last 10 years it's been out. But the last time was nearly 6 years ago, and i REALLY WANT TO PLAY. But for some reason, they don't dig it. Every month it's on my list, and every month people ignore it. I put it there mostly as a joke now, because people expect it to be on the list.

Oh well. Someday...

So what about you? What is the game that only you seem to love? What game would you love to get to the table if only you could convince your friends?

New Expansions for Age Of Steam, Seasons, and the DC-Comics Deckbuilding Game

Prototype image By Firestone

As we lead up to Origins in a few weeks, companies are announcing new games and expansions. First, over on Boardgamegeek, designer Alban Viard announced that he's designing a new pair of expansions for Age Of Steam. It sounds like he's going to use the actual game box as a part of the game. From the announcement: "The box might be a mountain and we will have tunnels to cross the mountain under the box! The network will be cut by the mountain and the players might arrange the different maps around the mountain."

seasonsAsmodee Games announced on Facebook that their popular card game Seasons is getting an expansion called Enchanted Kingdom. It adds "40 Power cards; 10 Enchantment cards; 12 Special Ability tokens; 16 Energy tokens; 2 'Raven' tokens 1 'First Player' token; 2 'Bespelled Grimoire' energy reserve expansions for individual game boards; 7 'Decreased energy reserve' tokens." And it should be ready by Origins!

Finally, though Cryptozoic Entertainment hasn't announced it yet, a couple of retailers seem to have outed a standalone expansion: Heroes Unite. A description on the site says, "Play as Shazam!, Hawkman, Red Tornado, Nightwing, Black Canary, Batgirl, or Booster Gold in Heroes Unite, the first standalone expansion for the DC Comics Deckbuilding Game! Unlock special abilities, like Force Field or the Helmet of Fate, and unleash devastating card combos against your opponents! Craft your hero deck into a well-oiled machine to take on the most vile villains in the DC Universe in your quest for Victory (Points)! Mix the cards from Heroes Unite with the core DC Comics Deckbuilding Game set to wage the ultimate showdown!"

Check out our Double-Take Review of the DC-Comics Deck-Building Game.

Thanks for reading!

When Expansions Go Bad...

MontrealBy Firestone I love expansions. LOVE THEM. Sometimes they can "fix" some of the problems that emerged in a game when it first came out. Sometimes they can just breathe some new life into a game that has grown a little stale. Sometimes they allow more players to play the game (although this is rarely a good thing, IMHO).

Age of Steam is a good example of a game ripe for expansions. Awesome base game, and the expansions are just maps. Maps of new areas—real and imagined—with new and interesting rules and mechanics. Does it always work? No! (cough*Golden Spike*cough). But when it does (Montréal Métro, for instance), it makes me love the base game even more... (Power Grid also benefits from more maps.)

Card games are a natural fit for expansions. Thunderstone, Nightfall, Netrunner, and Lord of the Rings all benefit from just more awesome stuff to add!

Pandemic's On The Brink added some significant gameplay changes—including someone playing as the baddie! Those are the most risky expansions, because they have the potential to be awesome or terrible.

PrincesBut sometimes expansions are just...awful. The first one that springs to mind is the expansion for The Princes of Florence. Now understand: For years and years and years Princes Of Florence was my very favorite game. It was only recently eclipsed by The Resistance, due to the sheer amount of fun I've had with it. So I was excited to play with the expansion that came in the Treasure Chest (one box that had 10 expansions for six games). It. Was. Horrible. Our one and only game using the expansion took 4 hours. 4 HOURS!! Toward the end of that game, the expansion made me hate Princes Of Florence. Any expansion that makes me hate my favorite game is bad, bad, bad.

Another bad one was the Necromancer Island expansion for Small World. This was a freebie giveaway promotion, so I think they felt they could experiment a little. It's lame. It forces the players to cooperate against the Necromancer player—which doesn't really work well in the framework of the game. But beyond that, those who do work to fight the Necromancer are in a worse position that those who don't. Blech. It's going for ~$30 on the secondary market, thanks to completists who didn't get it when it was free and want a copy now. I'll happily part with my copy for that price...

So what are some of your favorite expansions? And what are some that fell flat for you?

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