So Monday saw our monthly meetup at Grace Free Church and there were 6 of us who showed up to start the night, myself being the ever so thoughtful person suggested that rather than split up, we should give Thunder Alley another run. Much to my surprise everyone agreed and we sat down to give it another go. When a seventh person showed up we simply reset the track and brought him in since we hadn’t even finished a round yet. I love Thunder Alley, it pretty much encapsulates everything that is good about Stock Car racing and puts it in a box. In a game of Thunder Alley you are the owner of a team of cars, how many cars just depends on how many players are playing, with our 7 we each had 3 cars. While yes, the object of the race is to win the race, the object of the game is to collect as many points as possible from how your team finishes. The team with the highest total points wins the game. This night we were racing on Pullinger’s Pyramid, which is kind of based on the Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania I believe. On this track you are going to run three laps, now, those three laps are like 500 miles all abstracted down into a few hands of cards. As I said with 7 players we each started with 3 cars on the track and at the beginning of each round we are dealt up to 4 cards, so you have one card left over at the end of a turn which you can choose to keep or trash. In a round you are going to go around the table clockwise, each player activating one of their cars, each car on the track can only be activated once per round. So the cards, the cards dictate movement and in Thunder Alley there are 4 different types of movement. There is Solo Movement where the only car moved on the track is the activated card unless you displace other cars. There is a Draft Movement in which the activated car moves all the cars in front of and behind it. They are ‘Linked’. Linking is a very important part of this game, most of the game you are moving cars in a group, even cars of the other teams. Cars are linked together when they share the same line, nose to tail, when they link is different based on which type of card you played, but I won’t go into that in too much depth here, just know that each of the different movements, except solo, involve linking, either before or after a forward movement. The third type of movement is Pursuit, in a pursuit movement the car is linked only with cars in front of it and “pushes” those cars. The fourth and final movement is a Lead Movement, a lead movement pulls the cars behind the activated cars that are linked. Each card also has two sets of numbers on it, the bigger number is the On-Track Speed and the smaller number is the Pit Exit speed. Along with that information on the cards, there may also be a wear indicator, some wear is temporary and can be fixed via pitting, but some wear is permanent, once you reach three wear markers on a car, there is a penalty to speed. Also on the card may be some special text that gives different abilities on that turn. After everyone has activated each of their cars once, the round ends and a series of steps is followed, with the big part being an event card that is flipped. Sometimes nothing happens and the race continues on as normal, other times there are Yellow Flag events that can hurt cars and regroup the field, even rarer is the Red Flag event, if two of those happen the race is called and the racers receive points based on where they are positioned at the time of the second red flag. You do this until a car finishes the race, everyone then completes that round and tallies up their points, with the most points winning. That’s it, that is Thunder Alley in a nutshell, but the game is much bigger than that, I just wanted to kind of give a brief, fairly quick overview.
In Monday night’s race everything was pretty uneventful until I took first and second place at the end of a round and an event card turned out to be a yellow flag and brought the cars back together. This happened right before the second turn on the pyramid on the final lap. Which hurt me horribly, because when I drew my cards, I didn’t get a Draft Card or a lead card, all I had was pursuit and solo movements and I chose horribly. I took off with my car that was in the lead with a huge solo movement, hoping that someone in the field would help out but it never happened, in hindsight I should have used a pursuit movement with my car further back in the field and pushed the line forward a bit and saved that solo movement, it hurt. I went for two cars in the top 2 to finishing 3rd to last in points as everyone went past me and I couldn’t get my other cars grouped back up to work together. Fantastic race though and it left me wanting to play more, but also realizing that this game has been the first game that I can recall that our game group has played on two consecutive meetups, but I sense that a few may not want that to happen next month so I won’t push it, but I may just bring it and let it sit on the side, letting everyone know that I would love to play it again. I haven’t managed to get my family to play it yet, but I think I will sooner or later, it’s really not that difficult as long as you know the basics and someone else can verify all the questions and such. Our 6 and 7 player games took us 2 ½ hours or so I believe, I think with repeated plays it’d shrink that play time down a little bit, but it’s always going to be a longer game. I’ve got a Friday afternoon of Thunder Alley scheduled at Geekway in May and I really can’t wait to give it a whirl, not to mention the fact that I have P500’d the new tracks and the Grand Prix game that is coming from the same designers.
Sudoku The Card Game
The only other game this week was Sudoku The Card Game. My brother in law and sister in law were in St. Louis over the weekend for a wedding and they picked this up at Miniature Market. When they came back to pick up their dog that we were watching they broke this out and we played it a couple times. This is a different twist on Sudoku by Riener Knizia where you are basically building the Sudoku puzzle in front of you as you play. In the game you have 9 yellow cards numbered from 1-9 and you have 45 blue cards numbered from 1-9 as well. You start the game with a random yellow card in the middle of the table and play proceeds around that card. The blue cards can only be placed in one of the 8 spots around a yellow card and yellow cards creating 3x3 boxes with a yellow card in the middle and just like in Sudoku all the numbers in that 3x3 box must be different, just like all the numbers in each horizontal and vertical lines. Yellow cards may only be placed vertically or horizontally to another yellow card and must have exactly one blue card in between, this creates the new box. Each player has 5 cards in their hand and play one on their turn adhering to those rules. You play a card and then draw a card playing until everyone runs out of cards or no one has a legal move left. If you ever play a card and it is an illegal play and the other players call you on it, you remove that card and place it in your “penalty deck”, unplayed cards also go in that deck. The player with the fewest unplayed cards in their penalty deck wins the game. This turned out to be a fairly interesting little puzzle/pattern building game, something that could be pulled out and played fairly quickly but still offering some thinky situations. Not a bad game at all.
Acquisitions Well, I didn’t acquire anything this week of my own volition. As a gift for watching their dog, my brother in law and sister in law bought the family an expansion for Dixit called Daydreams. We really haven’t played Dixit in a long time, going to have to try to remedy that this week at some point, but that’s going to be hard to do with Gabby’s birthday this weekend, my brother and his wife moving, my brother in law and his wife moving and we have Little Olympics for Gabby as well. So this week may end up a lot like last week, only fewer games.
Kickstarter Well, nothing new on Kickstarter this week that I backed except for the quick 3 day Kickstarter for Wild Cats from Jason Tagmire. Wild Cats is just a simple 3 card social game. One person is the good cat, one is the bad cat and one is a Wild Cat. The Good Cat wants the Bad Cat Out, the bad cat wants the good cat out and the wildcat just wants to get out themselves. You deal out the 3 cards randomly and follow the rules on the card and begin the game. Interrogate your opponents, try to figure out what each of them are. As the Good cat you need to figure out who the Bad Cat is and get the Wildcat to also vote for the Bad Cat, if you’re the Bad Cat, you want exactly the opposite, but if you’re the Wild Cat you need someone to vote for you and create a three way tie. When you are ready to vote, count to three and point at the player you want to eliminate. I picked this up mainly because I thought it would be a cute travel game to play in the car or at a dinner or sometime when otherwise the kiddos would be buried into an electronic device or something, and at 5 bucks with a May delivery I figured why not even though you could technically make the game on your own with 3 cards and some sleeves. This one nearly hit $5000 in its three days and had 311 backers.
Surviving: One Month In funded and surpassed its funding goal nicely. Ultimately I backed out and did not back the game as it ultimately wasn’t a game that would interest Gabby or Kerensa, so I backed out and didn’t back it. The game looks really interesting to me though and I hope to someday get a chance to play it.
Podcast News This week I tried something new and interviewed a fellow gamer, board game geek What Did You Play This Week Geeklister and Board Game Twitter friend, Patrick Hillier. Patrick was kind enough to reach out to me and offer to be the first person interviewed on the podcast and I hope it’s interesting to everyone as I would love to continue doing this on a semi-regular basis, maybe interview someone every other week for the show. I think it’ll be fun to get some gamer interviews out there to go along with all the interviews from publishers, designers, artists, even though they are all gamers as well. So, if you are interested let me know and we’ll make it work, otherwise don’t be surprised if you see an email, geekmail or DM from me asking you to be on the show!
Geeklist and Forums I managed to keep up with the geeklist and the forums fairly well this week, I still wasn’t as active in them as I would like to be, but I managed to keep up and not have to read them all at the end of the week for the first time in a couple weeks. We’ve seen some plays of Marco Polo sneak in, I’m anxious to hear what everyone thinks of it after more plays, but it’s definitely a game I’m keeping on my radar. Always nice to see Expedition Northwest Passage on there as well, I like to think our geeklist was a bit part of championing that game, it got an awful lot of attention early 2014 from a couple members including Dan Edelen who was the pivotal voice in getting me to pick it up, and I’ve absolutely loved every play. I think we have to give the post of the week to Scott Ferrier who gave us his rundown on all the stuff he played at Gathering of Friends and wow, those were some games. I’m even more excited now for Flick ‘em Up to get here and Deep Sea Adventure has my acquisition disorder in full go mode, Steph has been talking this one up as well. Plays of Star Wars Armada are starting to come in and I’m still not sold that it is completely different enough from X-Wing to really warrant any attention from me. I realize it’s going to sell like hotcakes, but I still am going to chalk that up to the collectible nature of most things Star Wars, although I would try it if it were offered to me. Hoping that Daniel gets that Specter Ops review up so I can decide just how high up my list it should be. Also think this may be the first Hello Kitty mention that I have ever seen on either the Geeklist or the Forum thread so kudos to you Aigars!
Just one thing of note, Joel Eddy and Geoff Gambill are getting together on Tuesday night at 7:30 pm central time to do a live google hangout discussing their top up and coming designers. On Friday of last week Geoff released a special podcast discussing his top 10 designers of all time, so I’m really looking forward to seeing who they add to the up and coming list, should be interesting.