Monday, January 11, 2016

Railways and Gunfighters

One of the great pleasures of holiday visitors is introducing people to new games, as well as discovering them yourself. On our way back from Leduc, we stopped at Chapters to use a gift certificate we'd received. All the board games in stock were on sale, and I had to stop myself from buying the X-Wing Miniatures Game at half-price, but that injustice became easier to take once it was confirmed that I was the only one in the house who would actually play it.

I had heard good things about Ticket to Ride, however, from a couple of the G&Geeks, and Island Mike spoke highly of both how easy it was to learn (and teach), as well as the fact that most games finish in about an hour, making it a good candidate for after-supper gaming with the family.

At this point, Mum was already with us, but was happy to learn how to play, and we muddled our way through the brief ruleset and had our first game under our belts in perhaps 80 minutes, with subsequent games going more quickly once we knew what we were doing.

I appreciate games with simple mechanics, which Ticket to Ride has in spades. Mum is not one for complexity, but got into this railway game very easily and had a good time. Audrey's sister Vera, on the other hand, rrrreeaalllyy liked the game, and we got 4 in with her over the next couple of days.

A much lesser known and entirely different game that I was very happy to pick up with the aid of a gift certificate from Mission Fun & Games in St. Albert was Flick 'em Up! I had read about this 'dexterity game' on, and was intrigued by the notion of 'cowboy crokinole'.

Straight up, the game gets full marks for production values, beginning with the slide-top wooden box, complete with compartments for stowing all the pieces. The wooden figures representing the combatants as well as cactuses and hay bales are all smooth, varnished, and stand steadily on the table. The buildings are two-dimensional, but are cleanly die-cut from extremely sturdy and thick cardstock.

It sets up similar to a miniatures game, with players setting up the assorted buildings and obstacles according to one of the ten scenarios provided, then deploying gangs of wooden lawmen and outlaws to shoot it out in the streets.

Movement is accomplished by flicking a movement disc (pretty close to a crokinole checker) from the position the figure started in. If you accidentally hit another piece, however, the move does not count.

Shooting works similarly, with the player placing a bullet besides the figure taking the shot, and flicking it at his target. In movement as well as shooting, the thumb is not allowed to provide resistance to the flicking finger, resulting in a weaker but more controlled flick. If you hit an enemy cowboy and knock him down, he loses one of his three hit points, and remains laying down until his turn comes around again.

On the other hand, if you hit the target but don't knock it over, it is assumed the shot only grazed the varmint, and has no effect. It is also somewhat dramatic and highly frustrating.

I have played both girls now and they enjoy the game's speed and simplicity, as well as the fact that for a game depicting bloody shootouts in the untamed west, it is, in their eyes at least, completely adorable.
For my part, I love the game's integrated approach to record keeping, which uses counters instead of paper records. The cardboard hats are both numbered and reversible, letting you tell the cowboys apart easily, as well as which ones have already gone this turn. The hand on the clock in the town hall serves as both a turn counter and as a reminder as to which colour of hat represents available figures that turn.

The scenarios included range from straightforward shoot-em-ups, to rescuing an outlaw from the gallows, and even includes equipment variations such as a Winchester rifle (a cardboard guide you can use to increase the accuracy of your flick), a second Colt, or even sticks of dynamite.

Best of all, it supports up to 10 players so I am greatly looking forward to perhaps having it at G&G XI!

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