Issue 36: Claim, Maskmen, Sea Change and more
Five Things this week tackles games played on my recent road trip.
Hello! I hope you’re all having a very nice week. I’m just returning home today from a two-week road trip with my wife, in which we visited friends across the West Coast and Arizona. It was a very nice time, and relevant to your interests, dear reader, we played a number of board and card games with said friends along the way.
I’ll talk about those in Five Things below. I’ve also got a bit of a discussion on Claim, which was quite a nice two-player trick-taking game.
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Photo of the Week
My photo of the week this week is from our road trip. This is along the coast in southern Oregon. Rocky beaches — you don’t get much better than that.
Claim: a trick-taking duel
I’d read about Claim a while ago, and I was intrigued. Two-player trick taking seems like a difficult — and niche — design space, and I wasn’t sure how it would play out. The number of expansions and the depth of those expansions indicated a wide breadth of options, but would the game get too unwieldy?
I’m happy to report that I’ve really enjoyed Claim. It was one of a hefty bag of games that I took with us to Seattle, and it consumed a good three or four hours of an afternoon. There are two base games, Claim and Claim 2, and three expansions released in the U.S. (and six more that haven’t made it stateside yet — here’s hoping they don’t sit too long!) Each expansion includes between two and three new factions to include in your game, and each of them also offers a piece that can change any game you play, regardless of your set of factions.
It’s such an interesting concept. It’s very Dominion — not in play, but in terms of the swap-in, swap-out expandability. It reminds me of a Ludology episode I listened to on a drive recently (Episode #256 — You’re Big in Japan!) in which game designer Mike Elliott — who worked on Magic: The Gathering for some time, and designed some beloved mechanics — talked about designing systems, not individual cards. That philosophy can be seen playing out in Claim, wherein the system is the design, and the individual pieces (in this case, factions) lock into place in the design space.
Claim is a game I’m excited to dig further into. The number of expansions yet to be released in the U.S. is filling me with excitement, and knowing that there are so many combinations I’ve yet to try has me doubly excited.
I’m on vacation this week, so I haven’t been keeping as close an eye on the news. Rather than five things in the news this week, I’m focusing more on five things I’ve been thinking about, experienced, or enjoyed.
I visited a really lovely game store in McKinleyville, California, called Dandar’s Board Games and Books. It’s a combination of things that shouldn’t surprise me much, but it does — this was great science fiction and fantasy PLUS great board games. (Plus, Pink Floyd’s Animals was playing while I was in the store, so it really did feel like something of which I’d love to be the proprietor.) This one comes highly recommended. I picked up two Oink games, Maskmen and Flotsam Fight, plus two small box card games from last year, Coyote and Spicy.
I played yet another Exit game, and it’s just such a quality series. Game after game, the puzzles have been engaging and immersive. (This time, I played The Sunken Treasure.) It’s such a joy when the puzzles come quickly but don’t seem overly easy, and even though we started around midnight (that may have been mistake), we knocked it out in a good 90 minutes. Great times.
We played a game of Sea Change with friends recently. It’s a trick-taking game with a twist: In addition to normal following and trump mechanisms, you can play a card of the same value as the one last played to trigger a “sea change” — or a change of the trump suit. It’s a clever twist that changes the way you think about the game pretty considerably. (With some of these card games that are very close to traditional games, I wonder if they might work just as well with traditional decks of cards. The balance would be different, because the cards are numbered a bit differently, and there can be up to five suits. I guess that actually completely rules that out. Thanks for coming on this journey with me.)
Maskmen made an appearance on the table, and it was a really interesting design from Jun Sasaki, who has designed a number of Oink games. It’s a really nice twist on trick-taking and ladder-climbing combined with masked luchadores — you’ll recognize the iconic masks. In each round, you’ll determine the power of each wrestler, and once that power is determined, you can only play cards that beat the cards that were previously played. Shed your hand first, and you’ll win the round. It’s an elegant little game, and it’s one I’m looking forward to getting into regular rotation.
We played one of my all-time favorite party games, Anomia, which has produced more moments of absurd laughter than almost anything I’ve played. It pulls such subtle tricks on players — it’s clever that way. In Anomia, your turn consists of just drawing one card, consisting of a symbol and a category, and placing it in front of you. Should the card you draw ever match the symbol of another player’s card, you have to quickly shout an example of your opponent’s category. One such trick is that you’ll often end up reading your own card as you place it down, rather than your opponent’s, and end up just shouting random syllables as you realize your mistake mid-exclamation.
Well, I suspect I’ll have a bit more of a normal issue for you next week. Until then!
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