It is during these times that I usually discover new games outside my usual hunting grounds. Since my board game collection is still made up of predominantly FFG/ameritrash titles I tend to try and find something different. Combined with a feeling of needing more gateway games to introduce the hobby to non-gamer friends and family I ended up playing Ticket to Ride Europe, doing a solo run of Power Grid: The First Sparks and (finally) teaching myself Bios Megafauna.
I was black. Would have won if blue hadn't blocked the track from Moskva...
I played Ticket to Ride Europe with my wife and a couple of friends and it was a HUGE success! Sure, I'd read many times that it's one of the best (or simply the best) gateway game out there, but even so I was surprised by the great response. Even my wife who has always struggled to understand what joy I could find in "simple games" had a lot of fun with it and wanted to play again. This has pretty much never happened before so... neat! I've heard the 1912 expansion is very good but I think we'll have some more fun with the base game first.
My personal first choice for that "non-gamers gaming" evening was The First Sparks by Friedemann Friese. As you probably know it's a re-themed version of Power Grid where you try to gather food and spread your tribe of cavemen rather than building powerplants. It's been slimmed down a bit with some of the heavier elements removed meaning it plays in about an hour instead of two. In retrospect I realize my friends wouldn't have had any trouble grasping the mechanics, but I wanted to play it safe so brought Ticket to Ride instead. However, yesterday I set up a three player solo game of The First Sparks just to get the mechanics down and damn... that's a fun little game! I was only going to play through a couple of turns but ended up finishing it because it was so much fun. Looking forward to trying it for real!
Playing and enjoying Ticket to Ride Europe and The First Sparks would have made a great board gaming weekend, but reading through and learning Bios Megafauna might be what I take the most satisfaction from. It's designed by Phil Eklund who has made another favourite game of mine: High Frontier (session reports here and here) so I knew what to expect. Phil writes rules like technical manuals so that when you need to reference something during actualy gameplay it's great, but when you are reading it through for the first time it can be a bit confusing and... minimalistic. Having conquered the High Frontier the rulebook for Bios Megafauna wasn't all that difficult. In fact, I think it's an easier game to understand overall.
Anyway, you play as either mammals or dinosaurs (up to four players) and start out during the Mesozoic era and basically try to create creatures that are better adapted than your opponents so they can spread as wide as possible. As always in Phil Eklund's games the science is at the very core of the game so I'm looking forward to playing this with my biologist friends! I get the same feeling from Bios as I do from High Frontier - that the theme and mechanics are so well integrated that I really would have a hard time seeing how they could be separated. Awesome! Will play it soon and write a proper first impressions post.
Browsing through BGG and looking through my board game wishlist two games have risen as my (probable) next investments: CO₂ and Archipelago. I've mentioned CO₂ before but I don't think I've talked about Archipelago. It's what a traditional euro looks like after having gone through the filter that is Christophe Boelinger's mind. If his name sounds familiar it might be because I've been going on about his last game, Earth Reborn, quite a bit (here and here for example). Earth Reborn took a unique approach to skirmish board gaming and I think it's the best in that (admittedly small) genre. Archipelago seems to do to Puerto Rico what Eearth Reborn did to Space Hulk and from what I can tell it looks like huge amounts of fun!
So yeah... don't worry though. I'll get cured of my ameritrash fatigue eventually and go back to the mountains of plastic. I just need a break to push some wooden cubes around. :)
In other news I've bowed out of the Infinity Paradiso campaign that I participated in. I did manage to make it through the first chapter but had to call it quits after that. The reason mainly being a simple lack of time but also me not being very much into playing games at a store. I'll see if I can scrape together enough friends to play a smaller campaign at a more leasurely pace in the comfort of our own homes. I am painting though!
More on that later...