New navigation, new packages, new products!

Wow, what a week. We’ve got a ton of updates made and on the way. Lots of exciting news.

1) Directory changes – some of you might have noticed a huge change in the navigation on the site. This is from listening to you, our customers, so we’ve simplified how to find product on the site. All products show up straight away under each main category and you can drill down further if you know the type of product you are looking for. Hopefully, this has helped make navigation and finding products much easier.

2) New promotional packages – if you all noticed, we’ve got a ton of new promotional packages in store. Expect them to sell out quickly though.

Upcoming updates

1) Visa and MasterCard payments direct on site – We’re just finishing up the technical ends and testing this out, but we should have full Visa and MasterCard integration on the site in the next week and a half. Now you won’t have to go to PayPal to complete your payments.

2) New products – we just had a slew of new products arrive and restocking of old products from our distributors. Included are more expansion sets for Battlelore and Alhambra and old favourites like Risk, Monopoly and Scrabble. As always, if there’s something you’re looking for that we’re out of stock, we will be happy to order it in at no additional charge.

Launching a board games store in Canada – Part 1

We thought it might amuse some of you to find out how a pair of geeks ended up owning and running an online board game store in Canada.

So let’s start at the beginning. What happened?

Fencing. We are both members of Academie Duello, a historical fencing school and went for some sushi after class (you have to love living in Vancouver). We got talking about, well, geek stuff and ended up under board games. I can’t recall who commented that there weren’t many good board game stores in Vancouver itself – most were in hard to reach locations for those of us who don’t have cars. We started debating why no one had launched a store in any of those locations, going back and forth and well, we decided to find out.

So what did you learn?

That we couldn’t think of a reason why no on had it done yet. Obviously, it was expensive – in fact, the fact stands that retail businesses are probably quite marginal at the best of times, and the board game store – especially in Canada, is not considered the ‘best’.

Still, at that point, we started the plans for putting the store together. Quite a bit of discussion went into the company name and the store name. We finally decided to just incorporate the company under one name and decide what to name the board game store at another time.

But you don’t have a board game store in Vancouver right?

Not at the moment. But why we don’t is in part 2.

Gloom card game review

Gloom is a card game of morbid humor. Your goal is simple – to make all five members of your family die; after living the most miserable lives possible, utterly dejected. And how do you do that? Well, by playing a variety of unfortunate situations on them while making sure to play a variety of happy situations on your competitors.

Appearance: To start with, Gloom’s comes in a little 2 player card case that contains the two decks of cards and the rule sheet. Nothing to comment on here, it’s the usual light cardboard packaging for any deck of cards.

The cards themselves on the other hand are a different matter entirely. Gloom cards are plastic and transparent. It’s an innovation that allows players to place cards on top of one another, hiding bonuses and other card effects. I like it, it actually made the count up of points very simple – one glance and you knew how many positive and negative pathos points a character had.

There are two minor issues with this – because they are printed on plastic, the print quality is only average with some blurring occasionally. The other problem is that at times, you’re requested to have cards randomly discarded from your hands by other players. Since the cards are transparent – and bonuses come in three levels of rarity, each shown by a different dot on the left side, someone who wanted to cheat could easily pick cards that had the most number of bonuses from your hand. Not a huge issue, but still something to keep in mind.

Rules / Ease of Learning: Rules for Gloom are relatively simple, though I would have preferred a clearer write-up. They try to explain and show how each card is different in the rules, which can be difficult to pick out since differences are all in the margins of the card. We also found that the game itself played a lot simpler than what the rules made it out to be. Kudos however for the strategy tips – those were a great primer.
We took about 5 minutes to go through the rules with one another, a few minutes more to set-up properly and then started playing straight away. There was, as mentioned, very little confusion once we got the hang of the different types of cards in Gloom. There really are 3 – modifiers that add or subtract pathos points from a character, event cards that could have immediate or continuing effects (like the Untimely Death cards) and character cards.

Actual Gameplay: There are 4 families available in the base game, each of them with their own horrid, morbid descriptions. Gameplay wise, there are no actual bonuses for choosing one family over another in Gloom.

Each turn, players may play or discard up to two cards and then draw back to their hand maximum (normally 5). They can only play an Untimely Death card as their first card normally (unless otherwise stated on the card) and characters may only have an Untimely Death if they have a negative number of pathos points.

Modifier cards are the meat of the game – each turn you play negative modifier cards on your character to make their lives more gloomy and if you wish, positive modifiers on other players characters to make their lives better. Event cards provide well, events and shake things up a bit, from bringing dead characters back to life to killing new characters or just stopping other event cards.

When all of one family are dead and the points are tallied. Whoever has the least number (since you are making their lives miserable) of pathos points on their dead family members wins’.

That’s really the sum of Gloom mechanics wise. Theme wise, it carries it through very well since each card is generally morbid (e.g. Shamed at the Dance – with a quote about glass shoes or Suffering from Consumption) or seriously silly happy (Found Love on tthe Lake or Saw Ducks). The added bonus is the ability to storytell or make horrible excuses for why each card is played on each character.

Conclusion: Gloom is a fun, if morbid game. Not side-splitting laughter we found, but more black humour with a snigger or two. All the families are so horrid in their description anyway that you can’t fault the bad things happening to them. While the gameplay is light, the cards have enough variation to make the game replayable and some advanced strategies can arise. I certainly wouldn’t buy this game for children, but it’d be perfect for any Goth (or ex-Goth) or those with black humor.

Best part? There are two expansions – Unhappy Homes and Unwelcome Guests

New category and new promotional packages

So, after discussion in-house and receiving comments, we’ve decided to update the index. We’ve added a new category called ‘Kids‘ which is, obviously, for kids games while deleting another category (abstract – all these games have been moved under ‘Family’ games). We’ll also be editing the way products are called up on the site so that products will be shown straight away once a category is clicked. No more multiple clicks.

Another big development that we are working on is a new filtered search system that will let you filter results by prices, categories, ages, etc. Obviously, this is a big project so unfortunately, we don’t have an ETA on it just yet.

What we do have an ETA on are new promotional packages. We’ve added a whole slew of new promotional packages. This includes new packages for Munchkin, Battlelore and Blue Moon. Expect a few more to be added over the next few days.

Red Dragon Inn board game review

Red Dragon Inn is a newly released board game from SlugFest that takes place after the adventuring party has returned after a hard day’s questing. We broke out the game earlier today and this is obviously an initial review.

Appearance: Great. The pieces are good, the cards made of decent material and the illustrations are cartoonish and hilarious. The obvious winner was Pooky, who looks oh-so-innocent on the box cover and oh-so-deranged on the cards. Since the game is literally made up of 5 decks and 50 or so gold pieces, I’m not sure the playing mats were at all necessary as you could keep track of your fortitude and alcohol content with a pair of 20 sided dice. My only other complaint was the size of packaging, for very little content, it was bigger than necessary. Otherwise, it looked great.

Rules / Ease of Learning: Literally – 5 minutes. This is not a complicated game, and it was really easy to get into. The Rules were pretty clear and all the cards have the important information written on them, so there was little debate. Cards are named quite simply and clearly from ‘Sometimes’ to ‘Anytimes’ to ‘Action’ cards which are almost self-explanatory. Definitely well designed.

Actual Gameplay – fun, fun, fun. Since we are all role-players and either have played, or at least have passing familiarity with D&D roleplaying, we got the references easily. As a friend pointed out, it might not be the best game for those who aren’t into the genre as they’ll miss some jokes, but many are so wide open, it isn’t a huge minus.

Gameplay is simple – each turn you have a discard & draw phase, you play an Action card, you buy someone a drink from the drink pile and you drink from your drink pile. At each point a card is played, you follow the rules on the card, from drinking additional ‘chaser’ shots to loosing a ravening bunny on the party. A minor twist is added in the addition of ‘gambling’, but the rules here too are very simple.

Winning conditions are last person standing – either because everyone else has fallen unconscious from too much alcohol or have been thrown out of the bar because of lack of gold.

Gameplay seemed very balanced with each character having different strategies to win. Fiona the Vicious focus is knocking her other party members unconcious, through physical violence and drinking them under the table. Deidre the Priest’s goal is really to ignore all the damage and drinks coming at her, making others lose their fortitude and falling over drunk. Gerki the Thief – well, he’s all about the money. And Zot’s just a little about everything, with probably the most balanced deck, but not being really good at anything.

Overall, we found the comments and titles on the cards hilarious and the game-play well balanced in the Red Dragon Inn. It was certainly more of a ‘filler’ game with very little in long-term strategy since your goal was to run your cards down as much as possible each turn as you always refilled to maximum. Definitely a game to play if you enjoy things like Munchkin but want something slightly lighter or with a different feel.

Edit: An expansion, the Red Dragon Inn 2 has been released that plays a stand-alone and combined card game.

Citadels game review

Citadels is a fun little game that is easily transportable wherever you go. With very few pieces, the game is extremely light and packaging is small and simple. In fact, the entire game can easily be fit into a sandwich bag and taken on a hiking trip. (which I’ve done quite a few times this year). Citadels is a game that takes between 5-10 minutes to learn and accommodates up to 7 players in its expanded version which is sold on the site.

The objective of Citadels is to build the largest and most impressive city by the end of the game. Victory points are scored from the various buildings built and by being the first to build a total of 8 buildings. Each turn players can choose from a variety of different roles each turn, ranging from the Assassin to King to Warlord, each with their own special abilities that make the games interesting to play. From directly affecting other players to more defensive abilities to abilities that focus on developing the players chance at winning, each role is important and can be extremely useful.

As three of the roles available directly affect other players – providing the ability to kill, steal or destroy a building of an opponents, Citadels is a game that has a high level of interaction. It is also requires some thought, most importantly when choosing roles at the start of the game. The Dark City expansion set that is included in the game helps make the game new and interesting all the time, with the addition of new roles with completely different abilities.

Overall, Citadels is a fun game that alters with the number of players involved – from fast and fun with a few players to longer, more involved, strategic games when more players are added. It is just about complex enough to be interesting, but simple enough to involve the whole family. Definitely a great game that is always in demand.