This is a combined post from the past two gamedays which spans three weeks because of the Games Plus Auction in the intervening week. I did not post following the 3/2/14 gameday because, frankly, we only played one new game and it didn't warrant a full post. Then the next week was thwarted by a combination of the auction and a very terrible bout of food poisoning. Crap...I'm rambling again!

3/2/14: Santiago De Cuba

Santiago De Cuba is the lightest of the Cuba-themed games published by eggertspiele (with Havana and Cuba) all bearing similar box designs and themes, but very different gameplay. At its core, Santiago de Cuba is a rondel game, and unlike most rondel games, players share one pawn on the rondel.

Usually, rondels are pretty boring and look like this:

In "Antike" each player gets his own pawn to move around the rondel.

A rondel is a wheel-shaped game mechanism with a number of different options. A rondel game is one where a player's choice of actions is limited by their ability to move around the rondel and so are restricted from taking the same action repeatedly. A player is usually able to move farther around the rondel by paying a cost.
This neatly describes the central game mechanic of Santiago de Cuba. The rondel is cleverly disguised as a street, and the pawn is a car, and so you and your opponents move the car around the loop taking actions when you can. The rondel is 10 spaces long and 9 of those spaces are randomly placed using location tiles. Most tiles give access to commodities, and then allow you to visit one of the 12 buildings, which are also randomly placed in groups of three. Each turn, a player will move the car 1 space for free, or pay 1 peso per space he wishes to go further, then take his location benefit, then move his person pawn to a building and take that action.

The general objective is to acquire the commodities demanded by the ship in the port and ship them for victory points. The rondel makes choices very tough and can be extremely punishing to a player who runs out of pesos, particularly in a 2-player game. The game is certainly a "point-cruncher" and when the end game is in sight, all players will be mentally calculating point totals to try to figure out their win conditions. It's a light strategy game, but it's not a gateway game by any stretch, and will probably not appeal to the nongamer. But for gamers, it's a nice, well-designed, and quick diversion from the heavier board games.

3/16/14: Space Cadets

I went to the Games Plus Auction on Saturday (sci-fi and fantasy games) and not Friday (historical and Euro games) for the express purpose of finding this game. And find it I did...and couldn't wait to play.

Space Cadets is NOT a Star Trek game. At least, not as far as the lawyers are concerned. Great care has been taken to eliminate any reference or terminology that might communicate what is obvious to're playing Star Trek!

What? My living room is laid out exactly like this!

In Space Cadets, players take on the roles of a bridge crew on a starship. Players man stations, including the helm, sensors, shields, torpedo tubes, tractor beams, and engineering. (Transporters, apparently, are too well protected under IP law!) In an exasperatingly short 30 seconds, players have to manipulate their stations, which are comprised of various mini-games, to accomplish a mission critical tactical objective. If these all go well, your starship performs according to plan and you hope your strategy is sufficient to meet the mission goals. If not...there's always the damage control station!

Sorry, "Scotty" can't beam you up...until there's an expansion set perhaps!

You are not alone in the galaxy, of course. Monsters and asteroids and enemy spaceships and space rifts loom in the same sector of space as you, each posing a distinct threat to your mission, as well as to your continued survival. If you dare to survive too long without completing your mission the "nemesis" appears and ends it abruptly. The "nemesis," for those who have been paying attention, behaves pretty much exactly like a Borg cube would, but looks like a flying Tylenol for copyright purposes.

The game is fast and furious and there is no shortage of hilarity, including the preposterous "shift change," which happens when damage to your ship sends crew members flying from their stations and they scramble to new ones in the ensuing panic. You will probably end up at two or three different stations throughout the mission, and each time you'll have to hit the ground running even though your objectives have changed.

We come in peace, but we brought shuffleboard and aren't afraid to use it!

It's great fun, and I can't wait to play again soon

3/16/14: Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix

One of the most fun games in my library, even if it's not the most cerebral, is Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix. The game begins with an auction of the cars (and undoubtedly, with some overbidding). Once everyone has their cards (you might have more than one) the race begins!

The central game mechanic is best visualized by an image of the cards:

Sometimes, you're going to have to move your opponent's car for him!

There are six cars, and each card has one to six movement values on it. Each player must play a card each turn (whether it heps him or not!) and the card will be moved in order, from top to bottom. Sometimes you have the benefit of moving only your car, but usually, you're going to move others too. To make matters worse, there are narrow points on the track, and if a car is blocking you, you cannot move past it! Sometimes you'll find yourself advancing a car ahead of you just to get it out of your way!

Blue says "no" and there's nothing you can do about it.

The tracks are well-calculated so that when most of the cards are played, most of the cars will be near the finish line, so the game is usually exciting to the end (we had runaway leaders in our first race, but in the 2nd race, all of the cars were on the final straightaway when the winner crossed). The game is intended to span several races, with players seeking not so much to pile up wins, but to be the money leader at the end of the season.

I should note here that this game plays very well with children. Anna has been playing Detroit/Cleveland Grand Prix since she was 3. We simply omit the vehicle auction portion of the game and distribute cars randomly, then race them. She absolutely loves the game!

Same game, different packages, very minor differences in the rules.

Detroit Cleveland Grand Prix has been reprinted as Top Race and as Daytona 500, so there are currently 4 official tracks out there for the game. If you keep playing these same 4 tracks, the game can stagnate; the tracks are pretty simple, though, and I've been able to print and play several others to keep the variety up.

Pete (hopes someone is reading these!)