Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Games Review: 6/29

I'm getting involved with another group of game players, this time Boston Cards and Conversations, a group that usually meets in the northern Boston area. They had their monthly New Member Mixer last night, and here's some of the games we played at the table I sat at.


Guillotine is based on the French Revolution, where the players are trying to execute as many nobles as possible over a 3-day period (rounds). Action cards are played to shuffle people in line for the blade...the idea being you want to move up more valuable nobles to the front of the line for you to collect into your score pile when it's your turn. It comes with a little cardboard display of the namesake device - cute, but unnecessary - and the real charm of the game comes in the art design. Very Disney-esque. Fairly simple and straightforward.


We then played a couple games of a game that I own - Monty Python Fluxx. Not sure if I mentioned it before that I have this game, but there it is. I do like the basic premise of the game - that every card changes the rules - but I find that Fluxx is a lot like sex: either it's a long marathon session of whirlwind activity, or it's over so fast that you're left quite unsatisfied.


Gloom is a very depressing card design. Actually, it's not, but it's got that macabre feel, a mash-up of the Addams Family and Tim Burton and Lemony Snicket. You are a family of five, and the goal is to do cause events to your family member that depress them significantly (decreasing your score - which in this game, is a good thing), and then you put them out of their misery. Alternatively, you can cause positive things to other player's cards, make them happy and raise their score. The game ends when one player's family is all dead, and points are totaled.

The really cool thing about this game is the core mechanic. All of the cards are clear plastic. The family cards are at the bottom of the pile, and as you play your cards on top of them, parts of the cards are obscured, while other parts show through. Say you put down a card that shows a -10 score in the top slot. Then someone else could put a card with a 0 in the top slot and +15 in the middle - the 0 covers up the -10, but you still read the +15. You can then put another card with a -10 on the top and -10 on the bottom, which ends up as a -5 (-10 + 15 -10). Then at some point you play Untimely Death cards and those scores get locked. And of course, most of these cards (especially the ones with significant scoring) have additional abilities.


Archaeology is a real charmer of a game, because it plays so quickly, and the strategy is pretty simple. The game only takes like 20 minutes to play, so it's fun to get a lot of games in (sadly, it was getting pretty late at this point, so we only played twice). The idea is that you're a bunch of explorers collecting artifacts in Egypt. You draw cards, then sell collections of artifacts to the museum (your score pile). Usually the more cards you have of a kind, the more points you get. You can trade these artifacts at the market. There are also maps to explore the pyramid (getting you a stack of cards), and there are thieves and sandstorms to contend with, too. The trick is figuring out when to sell to the you save up to get the points, or do you risk losing them, or not being able to sell pieces back before the game ends?

This group plays a ton of different games, from traditional trick-style card games (like Hearts or Spades) to toy-store party games (think Scattergories or Pictionary). I've already been to one of their Magic: The Gathering nights, and I'm hoping to make it to more of these events.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Boston Unity Day

Boston Unity Group is a new off-shoot of the Boston-area game development community, founded by Elliott Mitchell and fellow WPI grad Alex Schwartz. B.U.G. is a meetup group centered around the Unity game development engine.

On June 12th the group had its first meeting, dubbed Unity Day. Over 100 developers met at Northeastern University to hear from Unity's "product evangelist", Tom Higgins. The morning started off with Tom giving an overview about the Unity engine - how the company started, about himself and how he got involved with the company, some features about Unity, both current and what's in store for the future, and some business information about what's involved with licensing the engine. Then people had the opportunity to show off the projects they've been working on in Unity.

After an impressive lunch spread (thanks to Demiurge Studios), we headed back in for some tips and tricks about using the Unity engine. Unfortunately, this part got off to a late start - a lot of people were engaged in conversation - plus I had to leave early for a previous engagement. So I missed out on a lot of the tutorial talk, which is a shame since that was my main motivation for attending.

Overall I think this was a good start to what will be a great group. Personally I would have liked to see things stay on schedule, since this had a very strong conference vibe to it. And I'm not sure what the group's plans are for the future (aside from the next meeting at the end of August), but I think it would work well to follow the format of the Boston Postmortem and Boston Indies - to be able to meet and talk with people, with a short presentation. I thought the conference could have used a little refocus. Tom gave a lot of talk about how to get involved with Unity, but it seemed like everyone who was there is already on board with it.

I'm excited about the Unity engine. I'd like to work with it more on my own, which I really should, since it's available for free on Windows. But then, I need to sit down and do anything, really...not just go through Unity tutorials. Although I wonder if I should wait a bit, considering the cool new features that will be available with Unity 3.0 when it's released later this year.