Game Review: Bananagrams

By Drew

 

bananagrams-large1

Background
Bananagrams is a tile laying game where the goal is to be the first player to complete a word grid after the pool of letter tiles has been exhausted.

Initial Thoughts
The game is inexpensive and very quick to learn.  It uses elements from Scrabble and Boggle; so, players familiar with those games will have almost no learning curve.  Bananagrams is a multiplayer game, but you have little interaction with the other players.  The only player interaction is racing to complete your grid first after the last tile has been drawn.  There are no turns.  Everyone places at the same time.

Review
Pros: Bananagrams has very high replayability.  Its easy rule set makes getting new players up to speed a quick process.  If you get bored with the base rules, there are variants to the game that people have posted online.  The game has a heavy dose of luck which does help level the playing field when playing with poorer spellers.  Bananagrams is great for causal gamers and those looking to take a break from more complex games.  The only set up is placing all of the tiles into the middle of the table face down.

Con: I have few, if any, complaints.  The game does bounce between being skill based and luck based, but many games are.  The basic game can get repetitive if you play too many rounds, but that’s while variants exist.  The pieces are high quality.  The packaging is very thematic (it’s a zip up banana), but it can make putting Bananagrams away more difficult.  You can’t just put it at the bottom of your game pile.

Final Thoughts
This game is loads of fun, quick to teach, quick to set up, and a great breather from more complex games.  It’s fun for heavy table gamers and casual players.  Each round is short, and you can keep playing rounds until you are bored with playing making the game last essentially as long as your group wishes.  I highly recommend playing this game.

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Game Review: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Wrath of the Righteous

By Drew

 

PFACG-Logo_500

Background
The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is from the same company that designs the Pathfinder role playing game.  The card game is a cooperative game for 1 to 4 players (up to 6 if you get the expansions).  Each player’s character is made for a deck of cards, stats, and class (familiar to all roleplayers).  You’ll improve your character (specifically the deck you use) by earning or finding new spells, items, upgrades, and other loot to change your deck.

According to Paizo, “the adventure begins with a Base Set containing nearly 500 cards, including the first chapter of an Adventure Path that offers your characters interesting locations to explore, monsters to fight, and villains to hunt down, as well as piles of weapons, spells, armor, loot, and everything you need to build you own unique character deck.”

Initial Thoughts
Getting into the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game is for only dedicated players.  The full Adventure Path will take you months to play (assuming a season a week like my friends).  The base game is only around $60.  However, the base game is only the first of many parts to the Adventure Path.  With 6 expansion decks at $20 a piece, the full adventure will be over $200.  If you want extra characters, items, and the ability to have up to 6 players, it’s another extra expansion.  However, there is enough content to last 7-12 months depending on how frequently you play.

Review
Pros: I enjoyed the mix of a card game and the idea of leveling up and gaining new equipment.  The story was a little thin, but most card games, if they even have a story, ignore it during the actual game play.  The full Adventure Path can take awhile to play.  The group I play with has been playing almost weekly for three months, and we are not finished with part 1 yet.  At the rate we are going, when we finish, we will feel as though we accomplished something.  New players can join at any point and other party members can sit out if they can play that session (although if you sit out you miss out on possible loot).

Con: I have two main complaints.  First is the price.  Yes, the game is expensive if you want to do the full Adventure Path (about $200).  If you are a fan of collectible card games or miniature war games, you may not have sticker shock.  For others, here is my reasoning.  If my friends and I are actually going to play it through, then the price is fair for the total hours play (100+).  If you think you will only play a few times, only get the base game.  It’s much cheaper, and you can try it out.

My second complaint is the potentially repetitive nature of the game.  Once you learn the game play, each session consists of using your cards to defeat other cards until the boss creature is found and destroyed.  Unlike Magic: the Gathering, there doesn’t seem to be too many synergistic decks you can make out of found loot.  Rangers take range weapon cards; paladins take swords, and so on.  However, we are still early in the game, and that may change.

Final Thoughts
In the end, the question is, “is this a fun game and worth the price?”  My answer is yes.  After you get over the potential sticker shock, the game will provide, by my estimation, over 100 hours of game play.  This is a card game with loot that carries from session to session and the ability to add and drop players from session to session.  My friends I and are looking forward to the day we finish the game and have a feeling of accomplishment we’ve never had with a cooperative card game before.

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Game Review: Machi Koro

By Drew

Machi Koro

Background
In Machi Koro, 2-4 players roll dice and spend money to buy properties for their city.  The first player to construct four special building completes their city first and wins the game.

Initial Thoughts
Each type of property (wheat field, bakery) have their own effects normally related to income.  Some effects can happen on anyone’s turn and others only happen on the active player’s turn.  Some of the cards are more useful during the early stages of the game and others are more useful during the end of the game.  The variety of card mechanics means there is no one specific way to win.

Review
Pros: The base game is simple and easy to learn with the expansions adding different layers.  Even when teaching new players, games last about 30 minutes.  There is a good mix of strategy (which property do I buy) and luck (you need to roll dice well to win).

Con: Although you can play with 2 players, I suggest at least 3 players.  The problem we ran into when playing with only 2 players is it removes much of the strategy.  While there is no guaranteed “buy properties in this order” method of winning, having only 2 players made it much easier to do the same thing each game and consistently win.  There is only a limited numbers of each properties.  With 4 players, you may not be able to buy the properties you want.  With only 2, you pretty much can buy exactly what you want.  At that point, the game becomes only about dice rolls.

Final Thoughts
This is a fun game that is easy to teach new players, is quick to play, has light strategy, and is expandable with the expansions.  If you like building style games, give Machi Koro a try.

Machi Koro

Game Review: X-Wing Miniature Game

By Drew

Background
In X-Wing Miniatures Game, you control ships in ship-t0-ship space combat from three different Star Wars factions: Imperial, Rebel, and Scum.  All of the miniatures come prepainted.  The game is designed for small battles of only a few ships on either side.  Each ship offers several different pilot choices as well as different upgrades to make the ship more effective.

Initial Thoughts
The game is very easy to learn how to play.  We have players as young as 9 years old playing.  The game has a chess-like strategy element to it that allows more advanced players to continue enjoying it.  Having played many, many miniature games, it’s nice to have one that doesn’t require me to paint the miniatures.  The stock paint jobs are well done.  However, the ships are easy to repaint if you are so inclined.  There is a bit of a collected aspect to the game.  Different upgrade cards are only available in different ship boxes.  While they are not randomize (you know exactly what’s in each box), you will find yourself buying ships you may not want just to get the upgrade cards.  The game is one of the most balanced miniature games I’ve seen.  There is no “automatic winning” list to play.

Review
Pros: Inexpensive compared to most miniature games.  The base game is $40 and extra small ships are $14.  $100 will get you a tournament level amount of models.  Very easy to learn but with enough strategy to keep the game fun and interesting.  All of the ships and pilots are from established Star Wars canon and not created solely for the game.  The models come prepainted with nice paint jobs.

Con: Limited amount of ship choices and factions.  Currently, there are only 3 factions with each having around 12 ship choices.  Ships are only from after Star Wars New Hope.  Upgrade cards are only available in specific ships.  There are no booster packs offering random cards, and you may end up buying ships you don’t want just to get certain cards.  The ships come prepainted.  If you are more heavily on the hobby side of miniature gaming it can be a negative, but the ships are easily repaintable.

Final Thoughts
Play this game.  It’s fun, easy, and cheap.  First time you blow a Tie Fighter up with an X-Wing, you’re going to want to collect all of the models.

Game Review: Infinity the Game

By Drew

Infinity is the first Featured Game of the Month for Anime Kat, and with that, the first game to get a review.

Background
This is a miniature hobby game where players buy 28mm high metal miniature model kits, paint them, and then play the game.  From their website: “Infinity is a tabletop wargame in which sci-fi themed miniatures are used to simulate futuristic skirmishes.

Infinity recreates Direct Action operations, high-stakes missions in the battlefront or behind enemy lines, where victory or death are a trigger pull away.  Players command a small group of elite soldiers, chosen for their adequacy to the mission parameters at hand.  Each battle calls for a different composition, and building an effective team from hand-picked members of different regiments is key to a successful operation.

Infinity is a groundbreaking, dynamic system that allows you to make meaningful, fun choices throughout the entire game sequence, and gives you the tools to implement any number of strategies with realism and flexibility.”

Initial Thoughts
I really enjoy Infinity.  There are currently 8 factions with their own play styles.  The art style is very anime/manga inspired.  Unlike some miniature games, the scale of your force is smaller.  An Infinity player typically has between 5 and 10 units to his or her side.  Aside from being tactically more manageable, it also means players don’t need to purchase as many models to play making the game more affordable.  With the mechanics, there is no waiting for your opponent to finish before you can do anything.  Your units can respond to actions taken by your opponent while it’s your opponent’s turn.  There is really no down time for either player.  You don’t have to wait until it’s your turn to shoot back at your opponent.

Review
You may not agree
Pros: Inexpensive (a good starting army is $55 and the rule book is legally available online for free), Both players are active (you still have options of play when it’s your opponents turn), Interesting mechanics (hackers, camo, mechs, paratroopers, minelayers, and more), Smaller army force, the rules are less complex than many other miniature war games

Con: Metal models (makes kit bashing more difficult), not all named units have a representative model, Smaller army force (there are no real vehicles except for mechs)

Final Thoughts
Regardless of if you are an existing miniature wargaming fan or new to the hobby, Infinity is a good game to try out.  The relatively low cost of the models, free access to the rule book, and the less complex rule set of other miniature games makes Infinity one of my favor miniature games.

Nomad faction Starter Pack

Anime Kat’s Move to a Larger Store

It’s been two months since our last article.  We’re very, very sorry for the long delay, but we were busy in the store.  Since May of 2013, we’ve been looking for a larger location.  We outgrew our 1,000 square foot store.  It was getting harder and harder to host events, and there were products we wanted to carry (I’m looking at you board games) that we had no room for.

We had a few requirements for a new location.  We wanted a location that was at least twice the size of our last one.  It needed to be relatively square shaped to make it easier for us to keep track of everyone and everything when we’re working.  Lastly, we wanted to stay in downtown Port Angeles.

After looking for 8 months (including walkthroughs at 3 different locations), we found out that Trading Post (an antique store) in the same building as we were already in decided to move out in March of 2014 and switch to online sales only.  From January to March we prepared to move.  The entire month of March 2014 was mostly spent preparing to move.  On March 25, we received the keys to the new location and we had lest than a week for painting, building, moving, and set up (I didn’t want to pay rent on two locations at the same time).  On April 1st, 2014, we opened our new 2,100+ square foot store only two doors away from were we started exactly four years priors.  The following Friday, we hosted a grand reopening event and ribbon cutting.

Robynn and I would not have been able to move without the support of everyone we know.  Family, friends from work & church, frequent customers, and other people we can’t even think of right this second helped us.  They helped us in more ways that we can think of: emotionally, physically (so much painting and moving), financially (thanks for buying stuff from us during the last 4 years), and other ways.

Robynn and I thank all of you for the support, and hope for continued support in the years to come.

From Wizards of the Coast to Anime Kat to You: Part 4

By Drew S.

Sorry for the delay since the last article about running Magic the Gathering prereleases and releases.  If you are just starting to read the “From Wizards of the Coast to Anime Kat to You” articles, I suggest you start with Part 1.  The very reason I’m behind in writing is the subject of today’s article.  There are at least two events that go on after the prerelease and release for a new Magic the Gathering set is releases.

The first event after the release is the formation of a league.  For the most current set, we ran the Dragon’s Maze League.  The league is Sealed Deck event.  Players receive a set number of booster packs to build their decks.  Unlike a normal Sealed Deck event, the league lasts over the course of five weeks and new players may join at any point of the five weeks.  During each new week of the league, players may one more booster pack to supplement their league deck.  The players’ decks remain at Anime Kat for the duration of the league, and players may not trade or buy individual cards to supplement their league deck.  Only the league booster packs may be used.

Each participant must play three matches per week, for a total of fifteen over the course of the league.  Players joining the league late or players that missed a match can play extra matches to catch up to the current match cap of three times the current total of weeks of the league.  There is always an “official” league night, but players may play league matches at any point at Anime Kat.  At the end of the five weeks, we give out prizes to the top players.

Pentagon of the colors of Magic: The Gathering.

Pentagon of the colors of Magic: The Gathering. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The other main event after the release of a new Magic the Gathering set is Magic Game Day.    Magic Game Day is always run a month after the last set release.  The event features the Standard format and is designed to showcase the newest cards available.  Special commemorative foil cards and are given to each participant and Top 8 competitor while the supplies last.  We typically have a few extra prizes as well.  For many players, the best part is we run the Magic Game Day as a free event.

It has taken be about two months to explain what I work on each time a new set of Magic the Gathering cards is slated for release.  That is about how much time I spend of each prerelease and release.  As soon as one set if finished (and usually before the League is finished) I’ll start work on the next set release.  It keeps me busy, but I wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t fun.

From Wizards of the Coast to Anime Kat to You: Part 3

By Drew S.

In the last article, I explained what I work on to get everything ready for the prerelease and release.  Now, I explain what I do during the big days.

First up is the prerelease.  The prerelease always happens the weekend before the release.  The prerelease is a chance for Magic players to play with the new cards before they are official on sale.  For both prereleases, my day starts earlier than normal.  I arrive at least an hour earlier than I normally do.  That gives me the time I need to clean up from the previous day’s events (Friday Night Magic for Saturday’s prerelease or Saturday’s prerelease on Sunday.)  Typically cleaning up involves taking out the trash, cleaning the bathroom and tables, and vacuuming.

When I’m done cleaning up, I put up any extra decorations I have for the event.  Frequently, I try to get balloons to place around the store.  For the Return to Ravnica prerelease, I got combinations of balloons in the guild colors.  I try to use the last bit of time before opening the store to set up the additional tables and chairs.

At 11am, I open the store.  For most of the prerelease, there is a small crowd waiting to get in.  As the players wait for the event to start, I work on registering everyone.  All players need to have a Duelists’ Convocation International number (more commonly called a DCI number).  Repeat players typically already have a DCI number.  For newer players, I work on having them registered.

Once everyone is registered, the event is ready to start.  To actually run the event, I use the Wizards Event Reporter.  WER is Wizards Event Reporter: the event scheduling, running and reporting tool for the Wizards Play Network.  The WER makes it easier to run Magic events.  The software suggests how many rounds to run based on the number of players.  Each round, the software determines the new round pairing using an algorithm I don’t fully understand.  The WER also determines the player’s standings based on a large number of factors.  For those interested, you can read the full manual on Magic tournament rules.  The WER is what determines tiebreakers determines pairings.  This is what the players should be mad at if they drop in standings at events.

After all of the rounds are played, I get to give out the prizes.  That is my favorite part of the event.  I try hard to make sure at least 1/2 of the players get to leave with what they would consider a good prize.  Once in a while, I’m not able to do that.  At the Gatecrash release event, we had almost twice the number of players that I was expecting.  I was only able to give out prizes to a few of the players.  I used that situation as a learning point and revamp how we give out prizes.  Now, more players should receive prizes.

When the last player leaves our last event on Sunday, I’ve been at the store for about 12 hours.  I will lock up the store and worry about cleaning it on Tuesday.

During the week leading up to the big release on Friday, I receive my shipment of cards.  Before Friday, I will put all of the new items into our inventory.  Then,I will spend several days re-pricing all of the current card binders.  I like to have the most current card prices.  When that’s done, I will open between 1 and 3 boxes of the new cards, organize them into common, uncommon, and rare/mythic, and them price out the cards.  This way the cards are ready to be sold on the release day.

The release is always Friday.  The event is ran similar to the prerelease events (I use the same procedure of registering and using the WER), but the release event will last longer than most of the other events.  When the last player leaves, I will be at the store for about 13 hours.

The prerelease and release events are very time consuming for me.  However, I enjoy running the events.  For many of the players in the area, the prerelease or release event is the only time I get to see them.  I bet you thought I was done with a new set of cards after the release.  Not yet.  I still have a few events to organize after the release.  I’ll explain them in my next article.

From Wizards of the Coast to Anime Kat to You: Part 2

Magic: The Gathering card back

Magic: The Gathering card back (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Drew S.

In the last article I explained how the store level determines what we can and can’t do before the prerelease and release even happens.  Now, I’ll explain what happens during the lead up to the prerelease and release.

A day or two after the last release I will know when the next one will take place.  It is normally three months later.  At this point it is too early for me to do anything other than post that there will be prerelease, release, and Magic Game Day events on the correct days on our calendar page.  The listing only states what days the events will be.  I don’t have any other information at that time.  Even though I run the Magic the Gathering events, I don’t receive any information faster that what is released to the general public.

I typically find out what our allocation for the prerelease is about 6 weeks before the event (read about allocations here).  This is also when I find out what extra prize support I’ll get to use during the event.  Once I have that information, I work on creating posters for the prerelease and release that announces all of the important information.  It takes me a day or two to make the posters and a few days to get them back from the printers.  I also use this information to update our calendar page.

Four weeks before the release date, I will learn what my allocation will be for the release day.  Now I know how many boxes of cards I will be able to sell when the cards are officially released.  That also means I can start taking preorders.  I’ve heard of businesses that presell more cards than they received, because they took orders before they found out their allocation.  I choose to only resell 1/2 of my allocation.  That leaves plenty of boxes to sell after the presold boxes are picked up.  The store also offers a nice discount on presold boxes.  I also start taking preregistration on the actual events during this time.

At some point between one and three weeks before the prerelease, Wizards of the Coast will contact me.  They will explain any peculiarities with how the prerelease or release will run (such as the Helvault or Implicit Maze).  I will also receive my in-store display kit.  The kit will include posters, signs,  promotional cards, and any other special items the store may get for the release.

The Thursday before the prerelease I will receive my prerelease card shipment.  In the cases such as the Return to Ravnica block, I will spend time organizing the prerelease material into guilds.  The Friday before the prerelease, I will spend extra time after that night’s Friday Night Magic cleaning the store extra well.  Not only am I proud to have a clean and fresh smelling store, but I know that I won’t have time to do it Saturday morning before the players arrive.

Before the first player checks in the Saturday morning of the prerelease I have already spent about 30 hours working on the events.  But, when I see everyone having fun I know that the time was well spent.

Check the blog in a few days for the next part of “From Wizards of the Coast to Anime Kat to You” where I discuss how I spend my time during the prerelease and release.

 

From Wizards of the Coast to Anime Kat to You: Part 1

Wizards of the Coast

Wizards of the Coast (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Drew S.

About every four months a new Magic the Gathering card set is released.  Around that time, I have people asking me what it takes to organize everything the store needs to do to have a successful release.  I’ve decided to write a few posts chronicling what the store does every time a new card set is released.

Before I start, I’ll explain a little about what type of Magic the Gathering store Anime Kat is and why it matters.  There are 3 different levels of stores:

At the Gateway Level, we could only do:

  • Magic Leagues
  • Host Casual events

Anime Kat is currently a Core level.  At Core level, we can have:

  • All Gateway content and benefits
  • Friday Night Magic
  • Magic Prereleases
  • Magic Game Days
  • Buy-a-Box promo cards
  • Access to From the Vault product
  • Same-day scheduling for both Casual and Rated events

For us to beget to our current level we had to:

  • Report a minimum of 4 events
  • Have a minimum of 30 unique people playing in your reported events
  • Run and report a single event with 12 players or more
  • Maintain a delinquency rate of less than 20% (be late submitting paperwork online less than 20% percent of the time)
  • Introduce 6 new players to WPN events

Advanced Level is the highest level.  At Advanced level, retail we get:

  • All Gateway and Core content and benefits
  • One additional event for all Core-level programs (i.e.: two FNMs each Friday instead of one)
  • Access to Wizards Play Network Premium Tournaments
  • Access to Magic Grand Prix Trials
  • Access to Wizards Play Network Championship Qualifiers
  • Access to additional From the Vault product
  • Post-scheduling (Advanced-level retail locations can schedule both Casual and Rated events up to seven days after the event has taken place)

To qualify to participate as an Advanced retail location, your Anime Kat needs to (in the preceding 12 months):

  • Report a minimum of 20 tournaments
  • Maintain a delinquency rate of less than 10%
  • Have a minimum of 100 unique people playing in your reported events
  • Run and report a single tournament with 32 players or more
  • Introduce 20 new players to WPN events

Now, why is Anime Kat’s level important?  Well, it basically says what we can and can’t do.  If we were not a Core Level, we would not be able to do Friday Night Magic.  We also would be able to have official, or “sanctioned” events.  Our store level also impacts how much products we can carry.  Before each release of a new product (booster packs, fat packs, intro decks, event decks, etc…) we get what is called an allocation.  The allocation is based on what level store we are, how long we have been part of the Wizards Play Network, how many players we typically have for events, and some other (magical?) levels that I don’t really understand.  The allocation limits me on how much of a new product I can order for the store.  For example, during for the release of Dragon’s Maze, I’ve been allocated 24 boxes of cards.  That means for at least the first few weeks, I will only be able to sell 24 boxes of cards.  If Anime Kat was an advance store, I would have a higher allocation.  The allocations are actually a good thing.  It makes so stores larger than ours don’t buy all of the products before I have a chance to order some.

I said that if we were an Advance Level store we could have more events and products.  It would even be fairly easy to reach that level.  We need one event with 32 players.  We have already had 2 events with 31 players.  But, I’m in no rush to jump to the next level.  Why?  One word: money.

I’ve already explained that there are allocations every time a new product comes out.  I’m not required to buy my full allocation.  I can only buy part of it if I want.  For example, I am usually allocated 3 or 4 cases of Intro Decks.  However, I know that those do not sell well so I typically only buy 1.  However, for some releases (like boosters) there are incentives to buy the full allocation.  I receive free shipping on my order by buying my full allocation of booster boxes.  Anyone who has several binders of cards knows how much they weigh and can recognize the savings of free shipping.  More importantly, if I buy my full allocation from my distributor (the company I actually buy my cards from-Magazine Exchange) will provide prizes for my store.  A large portion of the prizes for our prerelease events are provided to me for free.  This allows me to give out even more prizes than I would be able to otherwise.  As you can see, I try to get the full allocation.

However, buying the full allocation is expensive.  The combined cost of products for the prerelease and release of a new set is about $3,000-$4,000.  Obviously, I don’t sell all of the booster boxes the day they come out.  It typically takes about a month to sell all of them.  In retail, products are not worth anything until they are sold.  Unsold products cost stores money.

What does this have to do with being an Advance Level store?  If Anime Kat was an Advance Level store, we would have a larger allocation.  One of two things would happen. One: I would not order the full allocation, because I know the stack of booster boxes would be behind the counter for a couple months.  However, I would not get free shipping, and I would have fewer prizes to give out. Two: I would order our full allocation.  The extra booster boxes would sit under that counter for a couple of months (because I can’t sell them fast enough) and the money spent on them would not be able to go to stocking other or new products (anime, manga, Warhammer 40K, etc…).

Currently, we are not selling booster packs fast enough to push us to Advance Level store.  However, I know that we will be one day.

Check the blog in a few days for the next part of “From Wizards of the Coast to Anime Kat to You” where I discuss what needs to be done before the cards even arrive at the store.