Game Review: Bananagrams

By Drew

 

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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

 

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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

Dragon’s Maze Prerelease

Waiting to play the Dragon"s Maze Prerelease at Anime Kat.

Waiting to play the Dragon’s Maze Prerelease at Anime Kat.

The Dragon’s Maze prerelease has come and gone.  By every measure, the three prerelease events were a huge success.  The Dragon’s Maze Prereleases were some of the largest events we have ever had at Anime Kat.

There were some new parts to the events compared to previous releases.  First, each player got a guild kit.  In the kit, each player got: one Return to Ravnica Guild Booster Pack, Four Dragon’s Maze Booster Packs, and One Gatecrash Guild Booster Pack.  The second new part was the Implicit Maze.  Players worked collectively to advance their chosen guild through the Implicit Maze each round.  The first guild to the end of the maze won a special prize.

The first event we had was a Sealed event on Saturday.  We had a total of 16 players and played 4 rounds.  As a reminder: in a sealed event, each player get a number of unopened packs of cards.  Players then open the packs and have a set amount of time to build decks using only those packs of cards.

Dragon's Maze Prerelease winners 1Dragon's Maze Prerelease maze 1

Sunday is always the bigger of the two days, and the Two-Headed Giant game at noon is always our largest event.  In a Two-Headed Giant at a prerelease, players participate just like a Sealed event but face off in teams of two.  For this prerelease we had 30 players with a total of 15 teams.  Because of the very limited supply of each guild choice (we only had 3 of each for the Two-Headed Giant), many players lined up at Anime Kat before we opened at 11 to make sure they received the guild they wanted.

Dragon's Maze Prerelease winners 2Dragon's Maze Prerelease maze 2

The final event we had for the prerelease was another Sealed event.  To finish our almost 11 hours of prerelease events on Sunday, we had 19 players for the final event.  The players fought for a total of 5 rounds during our last Sealed event.

Dragon's Maze Prerelease winners 3Dragon's Maze Prerelease maze 3

We would like to thank all of the players that came out to Anime Kat to make this a very successful series of events.  Without you players, there are no events!

Playing the Dragon's Maze Prerelease at Anime Kat

Playing the Dragon’s Maze Prerelease at Anime Kat

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.