Monthly Report: January

I’m going to try (and we’ll see how this goes) to talk a little about the games I’ve been playing in the first post of each month.  Just to put down some thoughts on some stuff I may never get around to talking about otherwise.  I won’t cover everything, just some highlights (and possibly lowlights).

image by BGG user ddlhz

On New Year’s Day, we had some friends over for a full day of gaming.  One of the things played was Magic Maze, which I had just gotten for Christmas.  In case you don’t know it, it’s a real-time cooperative game where players are guiding adventurers through a mall to steal back their stuff.  What sets it apart is that you aren’t controlling a specific adventurer, but are rather controlling a specific direction.  Also, you can’t talk, so all communication must be done with the eyes or with a special DO SOMETHING pawn.

In our first five-player game, we had a major communication issue where the ten-year-old kept moving an adventurer (the elf) in the complete wrong direction.  I had the vortex action, so I would move the elf back, hoping he would get the point.  But he would keep doing it.  Finally, when we ran out of time, he said he was trying to get the elf to one of the timer icons to reset the time.  However, the elf’s steal spot and another timer icon were both a lot closer, so we had to talk about taking a hint.  In the second game, we won handily, only using the timer reset once.  This was all just on the first scenario.

I really like the game so far.  I’ve played solo a few times, as well as two-player and those five-player games.  I need to play more with some of the more advanced scenarios, then I’ll for sure do a review of Magic Maze.

image by BGG user ckirkman

Another holiday acquisition for me was Lazer Ryderz, which we also played on that New Year’s Day.  This is a racing game that simulates light cycle racing from Tron.  You’re racing around, trying to pick up prizms and not crash into anyone’s trail.  The game uses measuring pieces much like in X-Wing, with the biggest difference being that they stay on the board when used.

After one game, I’m very much on the fence about this one.  I simultaneously love and hate the packaging of it.  It’s made to look like a VHS box set from the 80s (complete with wear marks), and each team has its own VHS box to store its pieces.  That’s cool, but the inserts are fairly flimsy and don’t hold the pieces well at all.  Also, the common pieces are spread out among all teams, meaning you have to get everything out even when you’re just playing with two.  The game pieces are glossy, which looks pretty, but they slide around terribly on the table.  I really need a cloth next time I play this.  I like the idea of the game, but I just need to get past component distractions to gain a full opinion.

image by BGG user aarontu

We close out the New Year’s gaming with Power Grid.  This is certainly not a new game (it came out in 2004), but it was the first time for a couple of people.  This is a classic Euro about building routes across the US (or Germany) and powering cities.  In each round, you bid on power plants, buy resources, build power plants in cities, and finally power those cities to earn income.  The object is powering cities, but having the most money helps in the event of a tie.

I got to play this in December, so I was refreshed on how it all worked, but it was nice to play again.  My wife is really good at the game, but hadn’t played in a long time, and I think that’s the only reason I was able to beat her (by $7 in the tiebreaker).  Even the ten-year-old enjoyed this one, and I was reminded that every once in a while, there’s an auction game that I enjoy.

image by drb1004

I don’t do a lot of complicated print-and-plays, often saying I don’t have the time, equipment, or patience to put them together.  Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of one-page PNPs, and that has been OK.  But, after finding out my library lets me print ten pages a day for free, I thought I’d take a stab at something a bit more ambitious.  Enter Doctor Who Solitaire Story Game, which just had its second edition released last year.  It’s a free PNP, but it’s over 150 pages in four parts, so it took a bunch of trips to the library to get it finished.  Basically, this is a solitaire roleplaying game based on the newest incarnation of Doctor Who.  There’s a lot of dice rolling and page flipping involved, and it’s a pretty cool game.  I finished the project in January, and I’m looking forward to playing more.

image by BGG user wdragon3

Murders in the Rue Morgue is the second game in the Mystery Rummy series, and the third one I’ve played (after Jekyll & Hyde and Jack the Ripper).  The games are all rummy games based on classic literature or real-life mysteries.  Edgar Allan Poe’s classic is the star here.  You’re trying to meld sets of identical cards to score points and get rid of your hand first.  In this game, you’ll also be feeding the orangutan with cards that will be a prize for whoever goes out first.  The game goes until someone hits 100 points.

I really enjoy the Mystery Rummy series and what they bring to the traditional card games through the addition of a theme, however pasted on.  I’ve played this with three players only so far, which I understand is not the best, but I enjoyed it and look forward to playing some more.

image by BGG user austicke

At a game day I went to near the end of the month, I played a couple of games of Skull King.  I had never heard of this game before, so it was cool to try it out.  It’s a trick-taking game where you’re bidding on how many tricks you’ll take that hand.  Unlike other bidding trick-takers, however, you have to get this bid exactly correct to gain points; otherwise, you’re losing points.  Each round has successively more cards – one card for round one, and ten for round ten.  The Skull King is the highest card in the game, followed by the pirates, then the black suits (which are trump), and finally the other cards.  There are also escape cards that can be used to not win a trick.  After ten rounds, the player with the highest score wins.

We played two games of this, one with four players and another with five.  I was the only one who hadn’t played before, and to be honest, I didn’t really think I’d enjoy it since I really haven’t liked bidding trick-takers in the past (Spades and Bridge are the two I have experience with).  But I did like it, and I think it was the precise nature of the bid, and trying to figure out how to get there.  I played it generally conservative in the games, and ended up winning both games, which was cool.  It was a pretty fun game.  If I ever make a list of top trick-takers, this will likely be one of them.  Pity the art is bad.

image by BGG user Mad Scientist

The last game I want to talk about this month is Don’t Turn Your Back.  This is another one I had never heard of before playing it at game day.  It’s a weird sort of fusion between worker placement and deck building.  Everyone has their own identical deck, and you draw four cards in each of the eight rounds.  You send these cards out to different places to acquire new cards, score points, or do other things.  As you go, you’re trying to score candle points to win the game.

The art on the cards looks kind of creepy, and there isn’t really a cohesive sense of theme.  Nevertheless, I thought it was a pretty good game.  Certainly a surprise for me.  Everyone is drafting cards for their deck from their own card row, but the acquisition decks are all identical so everyone has the opportunity to gain those cards that can mess with others.  This isn’t the game I ever would have thought to play on my own, but I’m glad I did.

Looking forward to playing more in February!  Thanks for reading!



  1. So I got entered into a Skull King tournament with 3 other people at a local 4-day game extravaganza in Atlanta. This was one of two tourneys I was in , the other being Nevermore. Both times, none of us had played the game. I won both and got a copy of both, plus a ticket to GenCon to compete nationally. Does this game (Skull King) have a national audience? Don’t know, but like you, I liked it a lot even though I am not much into trick-taking games. Artwork is truly bad, I agree.

    And yesterday I requested a trade through BGG to get Murders in the Rue Morgue, but I never have any luck with trade requests on there. Doubt it will happen.

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