January 2012 was the first full month for Painted Wooden Cubes. As with so many projects, the site started with a surfeit of ambition and a want of direction. I wrote a great deal that month, largely to see what form my thoughts would take written down. Four of the pieces written at that time took the form of reviews, encompassing the longest, most convoluted game I own, Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game, and one of the shortest and least intricate I then possessed; Hey, That’s My Fish!
The breadth of coverage from that month was a valuable means to explore how my style of commentary could address games of diverse styles. It also, I feel, accelerated my comprehension of my own interest in games: in part through working on Painted Wooden Cubes I have come to understand that I like board games encompassing a breadth of styles, but wish to focus upon a limited number of games across that breadth.
In the coming months, Painted Wooden Cubes will probably be restructured to reflect this. I think the site can be more valuable to me personally if it comes to focus more on some of those games I myself focus upon. There are four or five games among those I am most interested in for which I think there is the audience for a deeper resource (which means, sadly, no 6 Nimmt!-specific blog): I intend to select three or so of those, and provide more and deeper coverage of them on Painted Wooden Cubes. I understand that for some the games chosen will not be of interest, but a broad-brush site cannot, by its nature, be as penetrating as a more specialized one.
Feel free, of course, to let me know what you think about these ideas.
Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game
Original review from January9th, 2012: Arabian Knights
Sid Meier’s Civilization is a game I’ve now owned for exactly two years: it was a New Year’s gift at the start of 2011. I was a great fan of the computer game series, particularly the fourth game in the series, to which I dedicated a lot of time in the years following its release.
Indeed, to a certain extent, the relative demise of strategic computer games was part of what saw me take an interest in modern board games. As I’ve written before, it was through online portal BrettSpielWelt that I first became acquainted with what board and card games have become, meaning, in effect, board and card games were strategy computer games for me for a time (the same, I guess, must also be the case for some users of iOS and Android devices).
As a distillation of the Civilization series, Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game continues to bring me a lot of pleasure. I’ve played perhaps thirty times by this point, and still find flipping over the map sections used in any given game exciting: though I know my starting position relative to that of my opponents’ is fixed, unlike in the computer games, it’s fuel for the imagination seeing the varying lie of the land between us.
The enthusiasm I expressed for the game in my initial review remains largely undimmed. My opinions on what represent its particular strengths are also little changed. I said last year that Sid Meier’s Civilization succeeds because in it you ‘can play the ruthless dictator or benevolent king or queen of your civilization, and not its finance minister or treasurer.’ I stand by this. It’s a game of big decisions regarding orientation – towards war or peace, economy or culture – rather than financial micro-management. I’m very glad it is.
Hey, That’s My Fish!
Original review from 13th January, 2012: Be Gentoo with Me
I’ve probably also played Hey, That’s My Fish! thirty odd times, though that means it’s taken rather fewer hours of my life than Sid Meier’s Civilization.
If you were to steal any game from my collection, I reckon Hey, That’s My Fish! would be one of the last I’d notice were missing. I find intruiging the spatial challenge the game provides, but it’s not something which occupies my thoughts when I’m not playing: Hey, That’s My Fish! isn’t metonymic of an aspect of my gaming taste (I never catch myself saying that ‘I enjoy games like Agricola, 6 Nimmt! and Hey, That’s My Fish!), and isn’t something I tend to await my next game of fervently.
Still, when it does force itself into my thoughts, as now, I find myself fond of it. Hey, That’s My Fish! is a wonderful item on a table: childish looking, yet an intense, sophisticated challenge. Even in the small box edition I own, the penguins are great toys as well as playing pieces. To a particular audience, it would probably be the ideal game for demonstrating what modern board games can be.
Food Chain (Who Eats Whom?: The Card Game)
Original review from 20th January, 2012: Man Eating Spider
I was sent a copy of Food Chain along with my prize in a Games for Geekgold lottery at Board Game Geek. A couple of games I’ve reviewed have been gifts, but this constitutes the only unsolicited freebie about which I’ve written (though I wasn’t sent it because of this blog). Perhaps Iwould have praised the game less had I bought it myself: I think the point is not that I wrote with the intention to be generous (I didn’t), but that I wrote with the sense of reviewing for an imagined possible buyer rather than reviewing in myself as an actual buyer. Somebody would buy this game and enjoy it, and I was writing for that person. The problem is that I’m not sure how many people could buy Food Chain and not feel their money could better have been spent on something else.
I guess the chief issue I find myself having with Food Chain (known as Who Eats Whom?: The Card Game for its first edition) is that there’s not often that much fun in working out what to do with a hand of cards. The strength of cards is not nearly as situational as in many of the best card games: a bear or a wolf is almost always a good card to have, a rabbit or mouse almost always weak. Though the game can be won from a weak start, this will tend to be through swapping cards, rather than through exploiting opportunities to do something useful with a poor card. The game by no means provides a bad experience, but there are a great many card games which offer that bit more than Food Chain.
Original review from 30th January, 2012: Simple Plans
Many of my British readers will be aware that discount outlet The Works bought a large batch of modern board games in 2011. Many of those readers will probably have noticed that a fair number of games reviewed on this site were available in The Works at that time. I admit I took full advantage of the sale to explore games I would not otherwise have been able to afford.
Oregon, one of those games, is secure as part of my game collection for the foreseeable future. I love tile-laying, and, while Oregon is not as wonderful a game as Carcassonne, it provides a pleasurable alternative. The choice between placing a meeple or a tile which Oregon offers is typically a challenging one (and not a feature of Carcassonne), while the aspect of hand-management in Oregon is also a challenge Carcassonne does not offer. Carcassonne is by far the more attractive looking game, which counts for a lot; when introducing people to modern board games, I’d more often expect Carcassonne to make the better first impression. Nevertheless, Oregon is a lot of fun as a reconstitution of Carcassonne‘s core elements.