Monday, July 11, 2011

This July: Free Gaming Day!

Get into family gaming this month!  Continuing the spirit of promoting the productive hobby of board gaming, The Gaming Library [website] and Open Gaming Meet will once again host the monthly FREE gaming day in an event called All aBOARD! on 30 July 2011, from 11AM to 8PM.  This event will once again be held at Robinson's Galleria, Ortigas.  Bring your friends, relatives, and kids to this awesome venue for fun, learning, and interaction.  Be exposed to games you may not have heard before or have been itching to try but haven't found the best place to test it for yourself.  This is an event for everyone who wants to sit down and have a good, quality time and perhaps even meet new friends.  Also, this is a perfect opportunity for you to support the local board gaming community and industry.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Money Making

Even though I got hold of Acquire just this past decade, this is a game that was actually first published in the early 1960's [Wikipedia].  Surprising, at least for me, because it came before Dungeons & Dragons which I refer to when drawing the line between classic games (such as Monopoly, Cluedo, Risk, and Scrabble) and the modern ones (most of the games I will discuss in this blog).  I assumed that the majority of classic games would have penetrated the local household, particularly the middle class household who were willing to try these foreign mass market games.  Most of our generation (80's babies) were aware of Monopoly and Cluedo by the time we reached high school, at the latest.  This was years before Hobbes and Landes and The Gaming Library and any of the various movements to promote tabletop gaming to Filipino homes.

So who has heard of Acquire?

Let's put that aside for now and get on with describing the game.  Judging by how they look, Acquire and Monopoly have a few similarities.  Both have play money, cards that represent holdings, and boards, but these components are very, very different in actual features.  Acquire is a deeply involved game.  Monopoly has nothing to do with investing, but rather a game of waiting for opponents to fall in your financial bear trap of properties.  Acquire is heavily strategic.  Monopoly is random and makes you feel bad after losing all your fake money after a bad dice roll.

Now, I'm not totally bashing Monopoly.  I have a few good memories with the game.  However, it teaches a lot of nonsense, especially to kids who have yet to understand how money works.  It is about spending on whatever "property" fate brings your way because of a dice roll, and taking money from others who are "unlucky" to have landed on one of your properties.  That's not even how rents work!  But anyway, this is a game that breeds a negative experience about money and the concept of being wealthy, even if we're just talking about play money.

Acquire, on the other hand, provides an incremental experience with money.  This is a game about corporations and controlling shares of these corporations.  The growth and decline of corporations are decided by the players, but in an abstracted way.  The real meat and source of competition lies in the acquisition of stock certificates.  Corporations in the game are not wholly under a single player's control.  Most of the time, two or more players own a corporation holding a varying number of shares.  The game is won by having the most money in the end.  In the end, unless you arrogantly just sat on the stocks of eliminated corporations, you will most likely have a lot of (play) money to count.

Each player starts with some money and six tiles.  These tiles are the abstract representation of what I could surmise as business growth.  Corporations grow larger as you add more tiles connecting to them.  You place these tiles on the board, wherein the name of the tile (I mean the label represented by a number and letter, e.g. 1A) must match its position on the board where you place it.  

So each turn, you must play one tile.  You may play a tile that will connect to a corporation (if any), which will cause the value of its stock certificates to rise.  You may also play a tile that does not connect to anything.  This is an orphan tile.  Or you may also play a tile next to an orphan tile, causing the birth of a new corporation.

Then, you buy stocks from existing corporations.  The price of each stock certificate depends on the size (number of tiles connected) of the corporation, and you will see the values in an information sheet.  There are certain limits, though.  First, you may only buy up to three stocks each turn, forcing you to analyze immediately with multiple corporations in play which has the most value for you.  Second, each corporation only has 25 stocks available, making it a race between players vying for the most shares of one corporation.

Before you end your turn, you draw back up to six tiles.

An interesting (and common) behavior between corporations is the merger.  When a tile connects a small corporation to a large corporation, the small corporation is removed --acquired by the larger corporation.  The stocks of the small corporation that is owned by the players can be liquidated, traded for the acquiring corporation's stocks (2-to-1), or kept in hopes that the removed corporation will be revived later in the game.  The majority and minority (first and second largest) stock holders of that removed corporation also gets financial compensation in the process.  In fact, mergers are very exciting whenever they occur.

The game ends when all corporations are safe, meaning their sizes prevent other corporations to acquire them.  At this point, the players count their cash-on-hand, if any, and the total value of their owned stocks.  The player with the most money wins.

As you can see, Acquire is relatively easy to take up with just a few general rules: play tiles and buy stocks.  But it can, in fact, turn into a very heady game.  It is rare to play the game without feeling a bit competitive somewhere along the way.  Speculating which corporations will stay long and which will get acquired quickly compels the player to make important decisions each turn, and thus can sometimes slow him or her down.  The interaction and depth of play might be its greatest achievement (a bit similar to Chess with regard to rules complexity in relation to strategic depth).  It may also be its discouraging factor for a light-heart fun, which excludes it from mass market games like Monopoly.  Even if the ease of entry qualifies it with the classics, the seriousness of the game may scare away some.  However, like many games, multiple plays will help these decision-making skills second nature.

Still, if you like light, mindless (in a positive way), or casual games, Acquire is a game you might want to get into with some mental preparation.  Otherwise, play it as soon as you can, because this is one experience that will open your mind, and a good way to teach some truth about money.

Board Game Geek entry for Acquire:

Photos 2 and 3 courtesy of Marye.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Spaghetti Shootout!

The game that I had the most success with every kind of person comes in a tiny box with simple art and a Western theme.

By Western, I do mean cowboys and Indians.  But the game actually hailed from farther out West, in the land of Europe.  An Italian game designer, Emiliano Sciarra, created a quick and simple card game for 4 to 7 players that involves shooting each other, drinking beer, and deciding which players are your allies and which are just keeping you alive for their own sake.  That game is Bang!

In Bang, each player takes a role, which defines how that player will achieve victory.  The Sheriff needs to clean up all Outlaws and the Renegade, the Outlaws have to kill the Sheriff, while the Renegade has to be the last player standing.  The Deputies have the heroic (or unlucky) duty to protect the Sheriff at any cost.  In the game, all players except for the Sheriff keep their roles face down.  So even while you have allies in the game, knowing who to trust is fragile at best.

Each player takes a character card to represent unique abilities the player can use in the game.  The character card also tells you how many shots a player can take before being eliminated.  The Sheriff --damned in his duty to be in everyone's sights-- has a bonus life on top of what's represented in his character card.

A game turn is very simple.  A player starts by drawing two cards from a communal deck and adding it to his hand.  Then, he may play any number of cards from his hand.  Blue cards are permanently put into play, while brown cards are used once played and then discarded.

The most important card is the "Bang" card.  The Bang card is covered by a special rule that you may only play one Bang during your turn.  A Bang is directed at one player, and that player takes one wound.  However, you may shoot a player this way if you are sitting next to him or her.  You will need a gun with the appropriate range printed on it to shoot a player two or three seats away from you.

A player being targeted by a Bang can play a "Missed" card to avoid taking a wound.  Other special cards also can help the player to avoid wounds if he or she has it.

Like I said earlier, drinking beer  also figures in this game.  If you play a Beer card, you gain back one life point.  If you wish to actually have a bottle of beer beside you, however, you can.  The game is pretty light that you can play it while inebriated.

Various other cards with other abilities can also be played, but they are not as integral as these three before.  Some examples of the cards' abilities are drawing more cards, taking cards from other players, forcing a player to discard, etc.

Game ends as simply when one or more of the players accomplished their goal.

While that seems to be an appropriate description of how the game plays, some notes on why you might want to play it.  It is a really light and quick game.  A group can play it under thirty minutes.  Do not expect heavy strategy or depth.  It's exciting and pretty random, with a lot of player bashing.  If you are the Sheriff, it is likely you will have a hard time with only four players since Deputies don't come out with this number.  Of course, luck can be on your side, and the Renegade may keep you alive enough for him to finish you off himself.

If you like lots of player interaction, maybe even a bit of shouting, and especially if you love games that have direct conflict between players, then this game is for you.  It's not a big stress for your mind, and enjoyably replayable, over and over.

For those who haven't checked the website Board Game Geek, it is the most extensive repository for all information on every board game in the world.  You will find it a very useful database, and becoming a member (which is free) entitles you to search and log your collection, and even trade, buy, or sell games.

Photos by Paul Matias.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Kickstart! Board Game Event, June 25

On June 25, 2011 (this coming Saturday), The Gaming Library will host a free board game event called Kickstart! at the Jumpstreet Area, 3/F Robinson's Galleria, EDSA corner Ortigas Avenue.  If you're near the area and are interested in exploring games and meeting new people also into it, feel free to drop by between 11AM to 8PM.

What is The Gaming Library: The Gaming Library is an online retailer for board games and card games in the Philippines.  They are relatively new, but they have quite a reputation for having the best prices anywhere locally.  They also take special orders, and you will see that they have an extensive list of games they can order for you.

Aside from their great service, the Gaming Library aims to promote a shared experience for families through gaming.  Kids and their parents will find that playing board games, aside from exercising their creativity and intellect, is also a perfect tool to find that common ground between adults and younger people, while having a lot of fun.

You can find out more about the Gaming Library's mission through this link:

What to expect in Kickstart!: Kickstart! is an Open Gaming Meet event.  That is, people who are interested can just drop by and join in at any of the available games about to be played.  Prior knowledge about the game is not necessary, as each table is headed by someone who will explain the game to everyone.  This is generally about having a new experience in playing and interaction.

Some people are concerned about the learning curve of these games.  Kickstart! features tried and true games that will be an easy entry for anyone.  Also, each game will be scheduled and classified according to their themes and genres, so if you are particularly interested in one or more of these games, simply check the schedule below.  Most games have a two-hour allotment, though many of them really plays under that length of time.

Schedule of Activities: Each game is classified according to their genre or theme.  For each section, each line contains the title of the game, and the schedule during which you should be present at the particular game table.

Economic Games Table - Economic games involve management of financial resources to make use of it strategically and come out with the most money at the end of the game.
  • Container 12noon - 2pm
  • Power Grid 2pm - 4pm
  • Acquire 4pm - 6pm
  • Automobile 6pm - 8pm
Eurogames Table - Eurogames are games that were introduced from Europe, particularly from Germany where gaming is pretty much a way of life.  Eurogames usually involve managing resources to build up your score, and are perfect for both kids and not-so-kids-anymore.
  • Amun-Re 12noon - 2pm
  • Stone Age 2pm - 4pm
  • Agricola 4pm - 6pm
  • Serenissima 6pm - 8pm
Ameritrash Table - Ameritrash is a game genre that is deep in theme.  Many games that were designed in America involves such theme-centric gameplay, and thus the name stuck.  Ameritrash invokes a lot of interaction, while the mechanics of the game itself are fairly quick to pick up.
  • Last Night on Earth 12noon - 2pm
  • Wrath of Ashardalon 2pm - 3pm
  • Summmoner Wars 3pm - 4pm
  • War of the Ring 4pm - 6pm
  • Battlestar Galactica 6pm - 8pm
Gateway Games Table 1 - Gateway games are perfect for people who haven't tried any game before.  The rules for the game are pretty easy, the games themselves are substantial but not overly complex.  If you are new into the concept of board games or haven't been playing for a while, try one of these games.
  • Wacky Wacky West 12noon - 1pm
  • Forbidden Island 1pm - 2pm
  • 7 Wonders 2pm - 3pm
  • Wasabi! 3pm - 4pm
  • Ticket to Ride: Europe 4pm - 5pm
  • I'm the Boss 5pm - 6pm
  • Ingenious 6pm - 7pm
Gateway Games Table 2
  • Bohnanza 12noon - 1pm
  • Alhambra 1pm - 2pm
  • Hive 2pm - 3pm
  • Small World 3pm - 5pm
  • Ticket to Ride:Europe 5pm - 6pm
  • 7 Wonders 6pm - 7pm
Wargames Table - Tabletop war games are the definitive simulation board game genre.  They usually present specific moments in history which could be relived in the games.  Now, even though the results have been produced and the winning sides chosen in reality, the outcomes of the game may be different.  This is much an experience of what we can learn from the choices made before us and what we can change strategically, even if it's only in the confines of the cardboard map.

  • Fleets 2025: East China Sea 12noon - 2pm
  • Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kit 2pm - 4pm
  • Hannibal: Second Punic War 4pm - 6pm
  • Waterloo 20 6pm - 8pm

But Wait, There's More.  Seriously: Recent announcement in the Facebook event page states that there will be freebies for the participants.  That got your attention now, huh?

RSVP in the Facebook Event Page:  

My Induction To Gaming, Part 2

There were two elements that introduced me to the various board games and card games that you will see me review in this blog: The first was during my research in game design.  The second was my exposure to the other games my co-players in Vampire: the Eternal Struggle also played.  Let us return to my life story, shall we?

Back in high school, during my Magic: the Gathering days, I was driven to game design by two things: a desire to make a card game on The Matrix movie concept, and a desire to make a card game based on real-time strategy computer games such as Starcraft and Command and Conquer, which were both popular at the time.  While neither of these ideas took off during those amateur years (though I still go back to the latter idea to see if I can develop it further), the research did me very good and exposed me primarily to websites that I found invaluable for both the design process and knowledge on board game trends.

One website was The Games Journal (, which produced articles on game theory, game design, and various game reviews, among many others.  Though it is still up until now, it hasn't been updated for nearly six years.

Another was the Board Game Designers Forum (  It was (and still is) a collective for sharing design ideas.  It is a complete resource for all things, from laying out your concept, to publishing, and to general tips and guides that you may miss if you are a beginner in the design field.  They often held contests on designing games as well.

The third is (  Though much inclined into role-playing games, it was also the first website I encountered that had reviews for board and card games which included pictures. is still up today, as well.

From late high school and early into college, I did produce a couple of card game prototypes during my self-proclaimed "game designer" period.  These are both simple and quick card games.  What really surprised me was that both played something like a game, and not some convoluted set of instructions with thin, badly-designed cards.  The first, simply called Links, is a card game where you connect different cards with numbers and symbols so that their symbols (which are located on each corner) match, and you create a set of linked cards.  You add the numbers on each card, and the first to have 50 points wins.  I still have my prototype for this, which were hand-drawn on index cards.

The second was Hoarders, or at least that was its name before I abandoned it.  This one was about playing various token (jewel) hoarders in order to collect enough of those tokens to meet your secret goal. After five years, the rules and demo cards can still be found online via this link:

Eventually, I focused more on playing games... and studying, of course -- this was college.  That was when I found the Vampire community that played at Katipunan Ave., Quezon City.  As you may have read from the previous entry, Vampire (a.k.a., Jyhad) is the game that I was dying to play, but before could not find the other players who were into it.  It wasn't as popular as Magic, but had been there for almost as long.

These same players also introduced me to other games.  Some I already knew from online game reviews and magazine articles, but never had the opportunity to try them because they were not usually available in local hobby shops.  There were others, too, which were unfamiliar to me. One of those games that certainly caught my interest was a Western-themed card game from an Italian company, titled Bang!  Through Bang, I explored more games that will eventually result to collecting these things called "designer board games".  It is known as such because the designers --like in comic books and other creative endeavors-- are credited and are revered for their work.

Next week, I will give you a semi-elaborate description and review of Bang! and tell you why it got me, and everyone I've introduced it to, hooked.  And perhaps, you too.

See you soon!

Monday, May 30, 2011

My Induction To Gaming, Part 1

When I was 10 years old, my brother brought home a plastic pack the size of a Sky Flakes retail pack with the label Jyhad printed in front.  When we tore it open, it contained 19 different cards with dark artwork and some text which hinted that it was a card game of sorts.  Having played only Chess, Chinese Checkers, Snakes & Ladders, and a few classic card games, my brother and I have no idea what to make of it, except that it was a fairly nice reference for him, the beginning artist.  But I was then enamored with the unknown possibilities of games that I've never encountered before.

A year later, the card game called Magic: the Gathering was introduced to the boys of our elementary school.  Together with the coolness and opportunity for social gaming, it brought with it the media counter-hype of its "occult nature".  Local news and religious people connected the sometimes dark, fantasy art --and I guess the nature that it is a card game, similar to the Tarot-- and claimed that it has an evil influence to the players, especially the kids.  Being lost and confused because of this irresponsible media dictum, it took another year before I actually discarded (pun?) my preconceptions to understand Magic for myself.

It didn't take long for me to start looking for other games that are like Magic, or that mysterious Jyhad.  After high school, I started scouting hobby stories generally far from my comfortable distance to check out other games, old and new, that may be found in the deepest corners of the shops' shelves, far from the eyes of other players who may have found no interest in trying them out anyway.  With the help of a few hobby magazines at that time, InQuest being one of the primaries I looked through, I searched for the particularly interesting ones.  I found out that most of them, after years of having no stable fanbase (unlike Magic) are already "dead" and are being sold for a quarter of the original price.

I happily took them into my arms like orphaned puppies, to introduce them to my friends.  I bought into Netrunner, X-Files the customizable card game, Wyvern, and others.  I was sad, though, that there weren't enough marked-down boxes to buy, and I was stuck with only a few cards to play with.  But, in the beginning, that's okay.

Eventually, without the fix of getting new cards to discover new strategies and combinations, I set aside those other games and returned to playing Magic.  I got into it more during college, and had a good lot of fun, until eventually I got tired again, mainly because I couldn't even dream of getting into competitive gameplay.  Magic, for all its beauty and grace, feels so empty and wasted without tournament competition.  But even if I try, tournament-playable decks are actually more expensive with all the pricey cards they put in just to cope with the dangerous strategies of the experienced opponents.

Later on, I learned to search for casual playgroups over the internet.  Not really "learned", as I've been scouring for online groups on other discussions, but I finally found the sensibility to look for the other people that may feed into my need to play the other non-Magic games.  I suddenly stumbled upon a group of local players who played a game called Vampire: the Eternal Struggle.  Vampire is, in fact, the new name for a card game that's almost as old as Magic about vampire intrigue, violence, and politics.  Back then, Vampire was otherwise known as Jyhad.