November 8, 2007

Halloween Games

by Susan Rozmiarek

Zombie Fluxx

Just about any game can be made better by adding zombies and many people seem to think Fluxx is desperately in need of improvement. So, here you go. Now we not only have Keepers to collect to achieve a winning goal, but we have Creepers (zombies) as well. Zombies get played automatically in front of you when you draw them and can be killed with weapons or sometimes passed on to other players. Usually, having a bunch of zombies is a bad thing (duh!). Of course, if you get together nine zombies and have a baseball bat, you'll have your very own zombie baseball team! (Yes, that is actually one of the goals.) There is also an Ungoal in the game. If these conditions are met, the zombies win and all the players lose. Some gamers would say that if you are playing Fluxx in the first place, you lose. I don't mind the game though, and this new version is definitely more fun than the original.

The Gothic Game

It just wouldn't be Halloween if this cheesy game didn't hit the table. I managed to be the second one killed. Note to self - going into and out of the Trophy Room on the heels of another player usually means that one of you will kill the other with a nice, newly found weapon. Lowell, my only victim and the first to be killed, did not have any sympathy for my fate. This game was notable by having a very active Dracula and the first escape that we've ever seen from the dreaded Spiral Staircase. As a matter-of-fact, struggling on the stairs in this normally lethal location kept Wendy safe and out of the way while several people met their demise elsewhere in the castle. Too bad she fell into the moat right after she escaped. Paul was waiting atop the tower when she finally was able to crawl out and he finished her off with a well-aimed shot from a blowpipe stolen off her husband Scott's corpse. Well done, Paul!

We abandoned the spooky games to return to some more normal fare. This was the time to pull out some oldies as they have no chance of hitting the table once the new Essen goodies start rolling in. Of the two games we played, one still felt fresh and the other one definitely felt very outdated.

Atlantic Star

This game is still as enjoyable as the first time I played its predecessor, Showmanager, as an easily impressed gaming neophyte. While I've seen a few of its mechanisms in other games since then, there is still not another game quite like it. The game plays so very smoothly and the way the hand limit drives the set collecting is brilliant, forcing tough choices. Permanently decreasing the value of your completed sets as the only way to get more money is tricky as well. What a great game that packs a lot into under an hour. It also plays well all the way up to six players. I only wish I could find the original game as the ocean liner theme works but is boring. Yes, I am compelled to say that every time I write about this game.

Auf Achse

This game, on the other hand, feels pretty clunky and dated with its roll-and-move mechanism and its straightforward pick-up-and-delivery. Still, it is a sentimental favorite with our group and will always be popular. We used to play it often when we had six players as our meager collection at that time provided few options for that many. When I read that it was going to be republished with a few rules tweaks, I wanted to try them out. The new version isn't available yet but I found a sketchy summary of some of the changes. They included rolling two dice instead of one and picking which to use for movement. You also get to move up to the number of pips instead of having to move the full movement. While this gives you a whole lot of flexibility, it also made it very easy to avoid stopping on the spots that force you to draw an event card. Since many of these are bad, the event cards were not a factor in our game. Without them, I thought the game was lacking in flavor. I did some research later and found a better explanation of the rule changes on the designer's website. Apparently the event deck is being tweaked as well, making more of the events positive and thus encouraging players to draw them. The one rules change I did like was allowing more than one truck in a city. This took a little frustration out of the game and makes more sense thematically. Overall though, the changes made for less of a "mean" game and I'm not sure I liked them. Maybe this new kinder and gentler version is an attempt to improve it as a family game.

As much as I like the game, it's a surprising choice to republish. There have been so many great, innovative family games since then that I don't see how it can compete.
Then again, what do I know about the tastes of German families. Shoot, if you re-themed this to appeal to the American public, it would be better than a lot of the dreck on store shelves here and might do quite well.

Random gaming thoughts:

I decided to drop my Scrooge attitude and sign up for BGG's Secret Santa. This seems to me to be a little similar to prize tables at game conventions. You buy a game to put on it and take away a different game. Tit for tat - what's the big deal? Oddly enough though, prize tables are fun with an exciting, lottery feel to them and I expect Secret Santa to be the same. Besides, getting things in the mail is addicting as can be attested by my eBay activity lately. I hope I get somebody from another country as I'd like to add some local flair to my gift. I need to perpetuate all those Texas stereotypes! I guess I better start a wishlist soon.

Speaking of stereotypes, deer hunting season has opened around here and I only wish I could find locals as obsessed with playing games as they are about guns, "points" and sitting in dark, cold fields in the wee hours of the morning. What is amusing is that my neighborhood is overrun with the darn critters. I could probably go out in my backyard and pick off a few right now; I wouldn't have to hunt for them. Then again, I'm glad it's illegal to discharge a gun in my neighborhood. Let the crazy hunters stay on their hunting leases. The little local paper always publishes pictures of cute kids in camouflage kneeling on the ground and struggling to proudly hold up the head of their first kill. How sweet. NOT. Today's deer carcass picture was of a little 9 year old girl. I'm surprised that she is even strong enough to hold a rifle steady. I used to be a decent shot as a kid but the only things I ever felled were aluminum beer cans off a fence post! Kill Bambi? Never! Looking at our game collection, the only game that I see that focuses on hunting is Tally-ho. Are there any others?

Posted by Susan Rozmiarek at November 8, 2007 7:16 PM


BGG Secret Santa was a delight last year - both the giving & the getting. Glad you've jumped in with both feet.

Posted by: Mark Jackson on November 9, 2007 2:20 AM

You mean you don't have Woods & Water: the Hunting and Fishing Adventure Board Game yet? It was one of my early thrift purchases, as I had seen it in Great Hall Games so knew it must be expensive. I picked three cards at random just now and got a DOG which can bag you a squirrel, rabbit, dove, or quail if you also have the SHOTGUN and SHELL cards. Next up: BOW which, if you have the arrow card get you deer, turkey and even grizzly. Finally, we have a Trophy Rabbit worth 75 points! Shea would love that. Can you believe I never even put the camouflage stickers on the tokens? It has a very cool board, though, that maybe could be rethemed for a bird and animal watching game (it could be called Stalking, like the old boy scout badge). Watch out for all those skunks, though

Posted by: Betty Dingus on November 14, 2007 3:38 PM

BGG has Woods & Water here: you have to use the ampersand not "and" -- I wish they'd fix that. Another pro hunting/fishing game is listed as Camp Becca insisted we try it at Great Hall the other day but we had to admit we didn't like it. The "interesting playing characters and a cute Camp card decoder” include a boy named Micheal (isn't that misspelled?) and the decoder is a piece of red plastic you have to squint through to read the answers.

Posted by: Betty Dingus on November 14, 2007 3:50 PM

About the local paper, don't you think you should submit a picture of your boys with weapons and unusual game? Like something photoshopped giant or teensy or unlikely. They could link to Game Ranch for new readership.

Posted by: Betty Dingus on November 14, 2007 3:53 PM
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