Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Update (7/29)

I've been in and out of town so I haven't updated the ol' blog in a while, but I'm back and should be reviewing again shortly. For anyone wondering I went on a mission trip with my youth group to Athens, GA for a week, and then I spent some time with my wife's family in Rhode Island, and then I spent some time in the Charlotte area with my family for my niece's fifth birthday party.

Erin and I have a couple new games we like: Pickles, which is a game played with two standard decks of cards. I learned this game on the mission trip and now Erin and I are hooked. We also have a game called Bananagrams, which we found in Rhode Island. It plays a bit like a mix between Scrabble and Boggle, so if you like word games, google this on and check it out. A review of Bananagrams will be up in the future.

We've also been playing a game I made up for use with a standard deck of cards that is based on the concept of Lost Cities. It has a few twists to separate it from being a clone of Lost Cities. We call it "Gilberts," after our dog, though I may come up with a better name at some point.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Monday Update, 3 days early (7/3)

I'll be out of town next week sans computer access so I thought I'd update what games Erin and I played this week. Only played a couple this week, but Heroscape is my favorite game so that makes up for it.

Games played with Erin this week
Loot-fun, casual card game(1 game)
Heroscape (1 game)

I'll be updating and reviewing again the week of July 13.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Card/Board Game Review: Politico

I bought Politico, published by Small Box Games, a couple years ago, fully expecting to like it because of all of the good things I read surrounding its release. I did like it, and I’ve introduced it to many friends since buying it. Without exception, everyone I’ve played this game with likes it. This group of people includes Erin.

I didn’t expect Erin to like Politico because it can seem a bit complicated at first, and complicated games usually aren’t her favorites. Don't get me wrong--Erin is not a simple person; she just likes simpler games. Unless it’s the game of playing with my mind. Then she weaves a complicated web of distractions so that she gets exactly what she wants and I’m left wondering what happened. When this happens, I say, “You just Bugs Bunnied me.” Erin always says she doesn’t know what I’m talking about.

Anyways, Politico can seem a bit complicated at first to someone who doesn't play a lot of games, but after a game or two, the game mechanics become second nature, almost intuitive.

Politico is a card game for 2-5 players which requires that you collect enough followers (represented by tokens of four different colors) needed to win an election in a new democracy. To win the election you must collect 13 followers total, with at least one follower from each of the following classes: clergy (white), merchant (yellow), the guild (brownish red-Erin swears they are brown, but I know they are maroon), and peasants (green).

To win over these followers, you must choose each turn whether to shake hands with them or draw and use influence cards to, you know, influence them. These influence cards do things like turn a peasant into a member of the clergy and steal followers from other players based on how many of a certain follower you have. The trick of the game is to balance these three things: what followers you need, what followers your opponent will need, and what followers you think your opponents think they need. For every opponent that chooses the opposite of what you decide to do in regards to shaking hands or drawing and using influence cards, you get an extra action to take during your turn.

I have to say that this game plays good with two players, but it plays great with three to five. The reason that two-player game of Politico is a slightly weaker is that there are less factors to keep in mind; you only have one opponent to take into your calculations when choosing whether to shake hands or go after influence cards. The rules remedy this in a two player game by creating a sort of ghost player—each turn you draw at random a card to shake hands or a card to go after influence cards. This clever mechanic works and saves the two-player game.

The Verdict
This game rocks to play with the Mrs. Erin and I always have fun when playing this game together, and we have even more fun when we add in other friends. The rules are simple after you get a game under your belt, but you will find a lot of strategy in this one. Another great feature of Politico is that a player is never truly out of this game, and victory can be snatched from the front-runner in a one short turn. It only takes 10-45 minutes, so you can usually get in more than one game in a sitting. I highly recommend this game for couples, especially if you ever have friends that like to play games with you.

I just checked Small Box Games' website, only to find that Politico is not currently available for sale. Here is a link to the rest of Small Box Games' games, which I bet are also good:

Small Box Games

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday Update (6/29)

This week was a good one for gaming. I think Erin has been inspired to play more games since I've started this blog. Hopefully this pace will continue!

Games Played This Week

Lost Cities (See review below)-Four games
Wiz n' Liz (Sega Genesis)
Wii Play (Wii)
Politico (sweet card game)-One game

Another review will be forthcoming later this week.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Card Game Review: Lost Cities

Sometimes I really have to coax Erin into playing a game. Reiner Knizia’s Lost Cities is not one of those games. With Lost Cities, I don’t have to gives any Indian rug burns, monkey bites, or chester backsters to get my wife to play. In fact, Erin likes it so much that she offers to play it sometimes. “Hey, let’s play that game with the cards,” is a phrase I’ve heard out of Erin’s mouth on multiple occasions. Each time Erin proposes that we play Lost Cities, I am reassured once again that I proposed to the right woman.

This game has you take the role of an investor who has a serious jones for financing expeditions to lost civilizations. The problem with this theme is that it could be replaced easily with just about any theme. You could just as easily be investing in a baseball team or a fainting goat farm. The game is so abstract that you could play a very similar game with a deck of regular playing cards, though I have to admit you would miss out on the quality components found within the box.

Lost Cities is a game of taking calculated risks while hoping for the right cards hit your hand. You have five types of environments to send expeditions to, represented by five colors. Yellow is the desert, blue is Neptune’s Realm, green is the Brazilian rain forest, white is the Himalayas, and red represents ancient volcanoes (though I prefer to think of it as Mars). These colors are found on the oversized cards and on the small rectangular board that serves as the playing surface.

The cards are made up of investment cards and expedition cards. The expedition cards are numbered two through ten for each color, and the investment cards have a handshake symbol on them (there are three investment cards per color). When you lay down any card on a color, you get a -20 (that’s negative 20) for that color. You job is to put enough of the expedition cards down so that you get back into the positive. The catch is that once you play an expedition card, you can’t play a lower-numbered expedition card on that color.

The investment cards have to be played before you lay down any expedition cards, and they double, triple, or quadruple your risk, depending on how many you lay down. That means if you end up with a -4 on a certain color and have 2 investment cards down, you will triple your loss and get a -12. Likewise, a positive number on a color gets multiplied based on your investment cards as well. You can discard a card instead of playing one if you want, but your opponent can pick up the top card on discard pile when they draw.

After you play or discard a card, you draw a card, and the game is over when the last card is drawn. If you have more cards in your hand that you want to play towards the end of the game, you can prolong the game by drawing from the discard pile. Once the game is over, you tally up the scores for each color, and the player with the most total points wins the game. Usually Erin and I play 3-5 games and then add up our total score to see who wins.

Since you can’t directly affect your opponent’s score in this game, it is not cutthroat at all. That is a big plus for Erin, and I have to say it’s also a plus for our marriage since we play this one so much. One more thing to note about this game is that the players don’t have much interaction with one another as the game is played. Between games we usually talk about the tactics we used during the last game, but during actual play, not much is said.

The Verdict
Lost Cities is a lot of fun for both me and Erin. We are both good at it, so we have some pretty close games. The competitive-but-not-too-competitive tone of the game is nice for us on a quiet evening or weekend afternoon. I recommend this game for couples, especially as an introductory game for those who aren’t really all that into games but would like to maybe be. The rules are simple and the game plays fast (three games takes about 20-30 minutes or so once you get the rules down). Check this one out.

Dogstar Games Link to buy Lost Cities

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday Update (6/22)

Every Monday (that I have access to a computer) I'll be updating how much gaming I've done with Erin over the past week. This past week we played Trauma Center: New Blood (see review below) and Bocce Ball. Bocce (pronounced "Bah-chi") Ball is one of our favorite outdoor activities. It's not really a game in the "gaming" sense, but it's a game and it rocks so I'm including it here. I'm sure I'll get a review of Bocce Ball up sometime in the future.

Games Played This Week
Trauma Center: New Blood (Wii)--Final three missions completed over two play sessions
Bocce Ball--two games

I'll post another game review later this week. Game on.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Video Game Review: Trauma Center: New Blood (Wii)

Erin and I discovered one of our first co-gaming successes about three months after our big day. Trauma Center: New Blood for the Nintendo Wii has been one of the games we go back to time and time again. In fact, we just beat this game on the easy difficulty after a year or so of playing sporadically. I’m not positive whether this game is good to play solo because I played every mission with Erin (although I suspect it is a great one-player experience); I can say enthusiastically, though, that this game has been a blast to play with the Mrs.

Trauma Center: New Blood has a great theme. You, and your friend if you are playing co-op, take the role of a surgeon. You can choose to play as one of two young doctors: Markus Vaughn and Valarie Blaylock. Each of the good doctors has a special “healing touch” that can be used once during the course of a surgery. Markus’ special can slow time, and Valarie’s special makes sure your patient can’t be hurt for a short time.

There are about 40 missions in the game, so New Blood will be keep you busy for a while. One great thing about this game in regards to playing it with Erin is that it has a great tutorial system. Instead of simply giving you a boring tutorial mode, the game actually teaches you how to play as you go through your first few surgeries, so you get thrown right into the action.

You press a direction on the nunchuk to choose the proper tool (scalpels, syringes, sutures, and more) for the task at hand, and you use the Wiimote for pointing at the screen and actually using the chosen tool. Your surgical tasks can include anything from pulling glass out of a patient’s organs, piecing together broken bones, using a laser to blast critical viruses to oblivion, doing a little brain surgery, and anything in between.

The game can range from slightly frustrating to absolutely hilarious. I have to admit that Erin and I got a bit peeved at each other when our communication broke down during some of the more intense missions. Let this be a warning to those readers whose marriages may be a little rocky at the moment: this game can cause bickering. I think that the game box should probably come with a warning saying as much. I'd hate to think that a couple would break up over this game.

The hilarious moments come into play when you take a step back and think of the absurdity of the situation you are in. Sometimes you'll miss the mark with your scalpel only to knock a few points off of you patient's health bar (called vitals in the game). You'll cringe at first, but then chuckle that you haven't manslaughtered your patient and keep on going with the surgery. Sometimes, though, a patient's vitals get too low and you do manslaughter your patient--that is no laughing matter. You get a game over screen and a doctor who is more important that you comes in to talk down to you and take over the surgery. (You can always restart the mission, so really the only thing you lose is the time you invested in the mission so far.)

Each surgery has a time limit, up to 10 minutes long. You get a grade after each successful surgery, C, B, A, S or XS (the highest) based on your time, your precision, and bring able to combo together successful maneuvers during surgery.

In between surgeries, you are treated to a storyline that starts out as rather mundane, but quickly evolves into an over-the-top and melodramatic affair involving global medical networks, the mafia, and a deadly virus that threatens mankind. The story is told via anime-styled drawings of characters combined with voice-over acting. The storytelling portion of the game works, and it should definitely get a few chuckles from you should you play this game. Erin and I both enjoyed the storyline, although at times the dialogue is long winded. Overall, though, we are definitely glad that the story is there to be enjoyed (or skipped over by pressing A repeatedly).

The Verdict
Trauma Center: New Blood gets my highest recommendation for couples. While Erin and I didn’t tear through this game in a hurry, it has kept our interest for over a year now. Now that we're done, we have some bonus missions to complete, and I think that we will continue to go back to this game in order to change some of our C grades into B’s , A’s, and S’s. It’s a ton of fun, and a game that I suspect works best in pairs. If you have a Wii and a significant other, go buy this game!

Amazon Link to Trauma Center: New Blood


My name is Alex. I love to game. Board games, card games, video games, and heck, even sports games all rock my socks. “Hardcore” games, casual titles, and everything in between make me happy.

My wife’s name is Erin. She does not love to game. Given the choice to game or to watch the C-Span videos my grandpa recorded in the 90’s, she may just choose the latter.

Even though Erin doesn’t share the same passion for gaming that I have, she still supports my playing since she knows it makes me happy, and she will even agree to play with me once in a while. If she is feeling especially amorous on a given day, Erin will even offer to play a game with me unsolicited. She knows it doesn’t matter what game she chooses; I’m all over it.

So I love to play games, and I especially love to play games with my wife. That’s why I decided to start “Gaming With the Mrs,” a blog dedicated to telling of my adventures in gaming with my wife. I’ll be keeping a record of every game we play together each week, as well as give a review of how each game we play game goes over when played by two people with different tastes in games (I tend to like games from all difficulty levels as long as they have some semblance of strategy; Erin prefers simpler games—strategy is not a pre-requisite for a game being considered fun for her).

I hope this blog helps other couples find games that are great for them. I also hope it serves to encourage my own wife to play more games with me!