New to Me: Spring 2015 — Resources & More

Last quarter I played a good number of new games and had good success with them. As usual, this is my ratings of these games, which means it’s personal opinion rather than an overall assessment of whether they’re good (or not).

The Great

Eldritch HorrorEldritch Horror (2013). Although it’s only advertised as being “inspired” by Arkham Horror (1987, 2005)Eldritch Horror is pretty much a revision of the cooperative classic. Just like in the original, you have gates opening up and spewing monsters onto the board while investigators stock up on spells and items — while working to stop the Doom Track from dropping to zero and freeing the Great Old One.

With that said, this is a really well-polished revision that looks at Arkham Horror systems like monsters, gates, and money and figures out how to simplify them through abstraction and redevelopment. Much as with Caverna, I think that digging through the systemic changes is a great lesson in game design (which is why I did just that in my last article). The best change is probably in Eldritch Horror’s victory conditions. Each Great Old One has different conditions that must be met to defeat it, as revealed on special Mystery Cards. This makes every game very different; even if you play against the same Great Old One, different mysteries can come up in different orders.

Much as with Arkham Horror, the biggest problem is length. Maybe it’s shorter than the famously long Arkham Horror … but it’s still quite long. Our game took just under four hours, including teach. I’d been hoping the revision would shorten things a bit more than that! Continue reading

The Alea Analysis, Part Three: Wyatt Earp (S#1), Royal Turf (S#2), Puerto Rico (#7)

In this third part of my look at the Alea games, I’m moving into the small box set which appeared in 2001 and concluding with Alea’s best known release, Puerto Rico (2002). For Ra, Chinatown, and Taj Mahal, see the first article in the series. For Princes of Florence, Adel Verpflichtet, and Traders of Genoa, see the second article. Continue reading

The Mike Fitzgerald Interview

Mike Fitzgerald’s game design career got started with the publication of Wyvern, an early CCG. However, he’s best known for the Mystery Rummy card games. After a 5-year hiatus the newest game, Bonnie and Clyde, was published by Rio Grande Games last month. The following interview helps to commemorate this new release; it covers the whole Mystery Rummy series, from Jack the Ripper, up to the present.

Shannon Appelcline: What got you thinking about turning Rummy into a more strategic game in the first place?

Mike Fitzgerald: When I was a kid I used to spend the summers playing rummy with my sister and cousin. We played 500 rummy for hours at a time and loved it. As an adult when I thought of what kind of game I would like to design (this was after my trading card game Wyvern was a hit and the company said they would do anything I wanted) a more strategic version of rummy was the first thing that came to mind.

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The Mystery Rummy Primer

After a six-year gap, Mike Fitzgerald’s fifth Mystery Rummy game, Bonnie and Clyde, has finally been published thanks to Rio Grande Games. To celebrate this release, I’m going to be discussing all five (and a half) Mystery Rummy games and offering up a quick-reference sheet covering the most important points about each.

An Overview of Mystery Rummy

For those who have never played the Mystery Rummy games, they’re pretty much what the title suggests. They take general aspects of Rummy — where you’re collecting sets of cards over the course of a game to empty your hand — and they adopt them to mystery themes. The first three Mystery Rummy games toured through Victorian mysteries, while it looks like the next trilogy would have been centered on American gangsters — if Mystery Rummy’s original publisher, U.S. Games, hadn’t decided to stop expanding the line after the fourth release (and has since let most of the games drop out of print).

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A Wife’s Perspective

This week, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I asked my wife to write an article for Boardgame News. Though Kimberly enjoys the occasional game, she’s by no means a serious gamer. Thus she offers a unique perspective on what games your loved one might enjoy. So, consider this a guide to games you might play with your non-gaming-spouse-or-girlfriend this Valentine’s Day, and an insight into why those or other games might be enjoyable. You might even print it out and give to them, so that they can decide for themselves if any of the games sound fun.

As for us, maybe we’ll play some Carcassonne or Lost Cities after a nice dinner out tonight at our favorite Cajun restaurant.

I’ll now turn things over to my wife, Kimberly Appelcline —SA Continue reading

Clubs, Spades and … Orange Chameleons?!

Knucklebones Magazine: January, 2007This is a reprint of an article written in August, 2006 for first publication in the January, 2007 issue of the now-defunct Knucklebones magazine. Because of its origins, this article is more introductory and (hopefully) more polished than many of my online writings. Despite the original source of this article, this blog is in no way associated with Jones Publishing or Knucklebones Magazine.

Card games are a great American past time. Many of us remember games of War, Old Maid, and Go Fish from our childhoods. We might have played Rummy, Euchre, Spades, or Hearts with our families while growing up. Poker and Bridge remain great reasons to get together with friends, while Solitaire keeps our attention when we can’t find other people to play games with.

Traditional card games are great, because with a single deck of cards — and possibly a few accessories, like Poker chips and a scoring pad — you can literally play hundreds of different games. However, traditional card games are, out of necessity, traditional. Sometimes we want a bit more … and in the last ten years, commercial games have begun to fill this void. Increasingly we can find commercial card games that use familiar and standard mechanics — like Bridge’s trick-taking, Rummy’s set-collection, and Poker’s hand-comparison. However, these new games also tend to very original and innovative as well.

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Five Games I’m Thankful For: ’05

Happy Thanksgiving to all you Americans. Since I have the misfortune to post on Thanksgiving Day proper, I figure there’s only a few dozen of you reading, max (and that only thanks to the International nature of the Internet), and so I’ve decided to go with a pretty light & fluffy topic this week: five games I’m thankful for.

They’re not necessarily the best games I’ve played, nor even the games that I’ve played the most — but in various ways they’ve made me happy over the years. When I’ve reviewed the game in question, I also included a link to my review over at RPGnet. Go check that out for some more thoughts on the game in question.
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