Monday, January 26, 2015

Santa Came Late.....or Incredibly Early This Year.

So this intro is a late addition to this particular article as it's become one of those posts you keep trying to finish but for whatever reason (usually sleep) ya can't quite wrap up. By this point it's not unlike a frosty marriage. All passion for the subject has been lost, only to be replaced by the ever growing need to get it over with. Of course it also makes for a fine bit of stalling while I work up some potential book and movie reviews, and prep for the new sentai series that I plan on actually keeping up with this year.

Oh, and if you find it out of touch to be writing about something Christmas related this far into the new year, just remember that package was just received a week ago. Santa must be getting slow in his old age.

Frequent visitors may know of my fondness for boardgames even though I rarely cover them. My regular place of study and convo for them is over on If you've never been, it's a damn fine place to throw away an afternoon.... or ten. Every year there are multiple holiday exchanges ranging from regular Secret Santa, Xmas cards, Wargamer Santa, and thrifty Santa. There may be more than that but you get the idea. Being a man with a very light bank-account I only participated in the cards (covered in an earlier post) and thrifty Santa.

There are two key differences between regular and thrifty Santa. Naturally the one is that regular peeps get brand new stuff while thrifters stick to smelly used things. The other difference is much bigger. Due to the lower cost of our games there's a distinct possibility of receiving a gaming mountain from your own personal Santa. True there are some folks who only get one or two nice things but overall it's a very generous group. Even someone with fairly limited cash flow like myself can pull of some pretty impressive work in this regard.

The tricky part was waiting on my own Santa who didn't contact me until two weeks before Christmas. To put that in perspective, my target opened his gifts the following day. Santa's message to me was that he couldn't find anything I wanted so he just bought me something new. In my rash judgment I assumed they'd simply gotten one of the cheaper items off of my list and called it a day. As time would later reveal, they bought me a copy of Black Fleet which is a beautiful and awesome game all around, which made me choke down that seething jealousy at other people's hauls.

Upon arrival I wrote a lengthy and detailed report of my experiences and thanked Santa profusely for their game picking skills, but this triggered something. My Santa seemed to take to my complaints about what a horrid year 2014 had been (thank god it's over) and decided to one up himself. Last Saturday I got a second box that was meant to give me the full thrifty Santa experience so let's look through it shall we?
First thing to note is that Santa had an aim to follow up on his original theme, so there was a plethora of Pirate titles to choose from, starting with three card games.

First up is Pirate Fluxx. In case you've never encountered it, Fluxx is essentially the card based equivalent of Calvinball and if you'd don't know what Calvenball is then what the hell are you doing here? Go catch up on some pop culture. Anywho, the trick to Fluxx is that you start with simple play one/draw one rules and no goal. Then you play cards that create endgame scenarios, or change them, possibly even steeling them. Then you add it keeper items and some versions even have sorts of attack cards. I say versions because not unlike Monopoly, there's a Fluxx for nearly any taste.

Next up is Loot, which I've generally heard good things about. It's sort of a bidding game disguised as pirate ships attacking other vessels. Possibly the most unique feature of the game are the cards that resemble those boardwalk caricature paintings. You know, the kind were someone draws you as a pirate, only now you're head is twice the size of your body and you've developed a rapid onset case of rabies.

Lastly on the card game line up is Splice. Never heard of it before getting this box. It's got a pretty lousy reputation though the rules don't sound all too bad. Plus the cards are really thick & smooth which are just nice to hold. Like the previous two, this one would fair best at a fuller player count which makes for the difficult task of convincing enough people to join in. Think I might have my chance this weekend.
Pirateer is an older title that could be considered as pirate checkers crossed with capture the flag. You've got some very abstract looking game play that's about steeling a treasure off of the main island only to return it to your home port. Messed up part is how bad the rules are. This has one of the worst manuals I've ever encountered. I actually learned more about playing them game from some micro review than the actual instructions. Very interested to see how fun it is as t has a mensa award and lots of people hate it. Which are two things that rarely go together.

Aargh! Is a very simple children’s memory game with some fairly decent components. Nothing much to say there. For an adult, the trick with memory games is to get nice & tipsy first, kinda ups the challenge.

 The game of Life Pirates of the Carribean is fairly self-explanatory. Like most kids we had a copy of the regular game of Life. Me and my sister used to play against each other all the time, tough I'm not sure way other than it was so much shorter than Monopoly. So this is one of those items that will get pulled out specifically for a nostalgia night with the added flair of us now being able to do some piraty actions instead of just laughing at the poor bastard who got stuck living in the trailer park.
Eventually ol' Saint Nick ran out of high seas adventures and gave me some pure Milton Bradley goodness.

Scotland Yard may have been in some of your childhood collections as it's a fairly popular game. I never knew of until getting into the hobby. Think of it as boardgame hide & seek with more mobility. One player is a master criminal trying to bust outta town while the others try to catch him. Supposedly newer versions and even other games have improved on this style dramatically but this is the classic game of the year version which is nice as I'm aiming for a complete collection of those. Want to note that this is where one of those sleep interruptions happened while writing the post. When I woke up there was some gibberish about adding mushrooms to the game. Can only assume I was hungry.

Screaming Eagles is the game any Top Gun maniac would love. Best as either one on one or teams of two, you use cards to pick movement direction and the number of dice to roll, then you select which type of ammo to fire (from a limited supply) and roll the appropriate number of dice. There's tons of neat little touches to this one which made me want it for a while. Santa really made me happy with this one.

On the surprise front was Battleball. This was from a time when Milton Bradley had been bought by Hasbro but was still producing really excessive games under their proper name before it was totally removed from the gaming scene. Most of my fellow thrifters consider this one a rite of passage but it looks like it deserves more than that reputation. The components are outstanding and the rules are pretty quick & simple. Much as I hate football itself, ya give me some lil robot players and tons of dice & suddenly I'm talking like Madden, boom!

So that was my introduction to the world of Secret Santa. Honestly; I'm looking forward to the next exchange and maybe joining one of the others for fun......employment pending of course. For now I'll be working on some different posts for you folks. Went through another stash of new foods, also reading about slutty German girls and space gladiators. Surely there must be something good to report on there.

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