Sunday, May 2, 2010

Thrift Store Archaeology

Today we play Archaeology. Let me just queue up the Indiana Jones theme...

Well, nothing so dramatic. Today I'm going to take a dozen thrift store board games and render them down for parts. And Science! Let's see what we can learn from the board games of ages past. I'm gonna run through an example game first

Game name: RISK
Acquisition: Hypothetical
Quick Description: RISK is a basic resource management and conquer the world kind of game. You get more armies based off of the territories you own and attempt to use said armies to push your opponents off the board. Combat is simulated by dice rolling. There is only one kind of piece, evidently battles are decided by who can throw the most material into them.
The Gimmick: RISK gets by on being one of the classic Conquer the World games; it doesn't have that much of a gimmick otherwise.
Interesting Mechanics: None that I haven't seen before. [That is to say, examining my hypothetical RISK
Playability: I'd rather play Axis & Allies. (It does make an excellent "play with your younger cousins" sort of game though.)
Useful parts: Five dice. Dice are always useful. Also, the board comes with a deck of cards which represent each individual territory. Might be useful, if not in the present circumstances. Six armies with three different figure types.
Other notes: None.

Get the general idea? Good. Let's move on to the games I actually have to... err... archeate. (To do archaeology on. Is there a better word for it?)

Game Name: Chopper Strike
Acquisition: $1 at a thrift store
Quick Description: Two players use armies of helicopters and trucks with anti-aircraft guns on the back to fight it out. It's Stratego only you've got to worry about what's happening on two levels of game board. Combat is done similarly; the first person there gets ganked by the second person. Two dice to direct movement.
The Gimick: Two levels of combat. Above the regular board is raised a plastic edifice which supports the helicopters in their fighting. Both boards interact, although pieces don't move across.
Interesting Mechanics: Well, the two level fighting has it's points. The physical motion of reaching under the plastic edifice and shifting pieces around seems awkward.
Playability. Seems like glorified Stratego; I'll need a better reason to switch. Also, the thrift store special I got had a broken edifice, so it physically isn't playable without some repair. Rendering it down for parts.
Useful Parts: Dice are always good. The ground level board (12x12 square grid, some preprinted barriers) is decently painted, might hang on to it for a while to see what use it is. The broken plastic edifice is going in the trash.
Other notes: None.

Game Name: Masterpice; the Art Auction Game
Acquisition: Cleaned it out of Grampa's.
Description: It's the action packed world of art acquisition, apparently. It's a resource management game, where you start with a number of resources and attempt to maximize them by shrewd purchasing and selling decisions. The game provides numerous opportunities to buy and sell paintings, sometimes at auction and sometimes to the bank. Paintings you do have can be compelled for sale, either by an auction or to the bank. The goal of the game is to acquire the most dollar value in paintings and cash on hand by the end of the game; each painting is randomly assigned a dollar value which is kept hidden from all but the owner.
The Gimmick: I the world of art collection doesn't exactly thrill me, but then again I'm not an artist or a fan of the Antiques Roadshow. Still, I've enjoyed games with dubious themes before. The game focuses all it's playtime on wheeling and dealing between players. That's a hard mechanic to do properly, he's hoping that it works.
Interesting Mechanics: Again, with the auctioneering. I'm suspicious that they do not in fact do it well; the expectation value of a painting is much to easily known. I am curious about the game triggering inter-player auctions. If they do it well it might be a mechanic worthy of co-option.
Playability: I'm dubious about games that distribute effects and rewards by having players go around the board on a track. Still, there's enough of a possibility that this is in fact a good game that I don't think I'll be rendering it down for parts just yet.
Useful Parts: One die. A small stack of play money ranging in values from 50k to 1mil. Half a dozen pawns. Most interestingly, twenty four 3X5 reproductions of famous and valuable paintings. If I do render it down for parts, I'm gonna stick those on my wall. I'm painfully uneducated about art, the only one I recognized was American Gothic.
Other notes: I did recognize the style of one Monet and one Picasso in the deck.

Game Name: Monopoly
Nothing to see here, I think we've all played Monopoly.

Game Name: Guesstures
It's a party game. In general, I have no interest in party games. Doing a quick read through of the rules, then I'm probably gonna burn it. Yeah, nothing of value here.

Game Name: Up! Against Time
Acquisition: Another Grandpa's game.
Description: A manual dexterity game. You set a ball rolling down a ramp, at the bottom of which you stack barrels. Barrels that only fit together in certain ways. Points scored for the maximum number of barrels stacked, without getting knocked over. You can drop a gate that'll stop the ball at any time, but you can't stack any barrels after dropping said gate.
Gimmick: I'd say it's the Donkey Kong reference, but a casual look indicates that it's probably older than that. More seriously, it's a kids game; it promotes quick thinking and dexterity, and it promises excitement.
Interesting Mechanics: No, not really
Playability: Imma gonna pass on this one. Assuming I could find all the barrels and that they still assembled, it's really out of my league.
Useful Parts: Got an elaborate plastic construction which can't be readily used for anything else. In short: none.
Other notes: That said, I would stack SO many barrels.

Game Name: Tri-Ominos
Acquisition: Another Grandpa's game
Game Description: Basically what it says on the tin. It's a dominos variant. Which varies by providing triangle shaped pieces with three numbers on them. Since you have to match up more than one number with every piece you lay it's presumably more difficult.
The Gimmick. Three sides. It's even in the name.
Interesting Mechanics: Again, no not really.
Playability: I wouldn't turn down a game, but I'm not going to go actively seeking people for it. I figure I'd turn down the second or third game.
Useful parts:
Well, I haven't figured out a use for a three sided piece with different numbers on it, but it's a sufficiently general thing that there might be one. Not going to toss them just yet. No other pieces in the box.
Other thoughts: Made an appearance in Futurama. As Bender stated "But I'm the good Santa: I bring Tri-Ominos!"

That's enough for today. There are plenty more gamed to dissect in the coming days.

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