Allons marcher! at Top Tier Board Games in Hattiesburg

At Board Game Gumbo, we like to “run the roads” (courir les perron — which in Cajun French directly translates to “running the porch”). We travel for fun, for business, and for family. And when we are out running the roads, we like to visit local game stores. We even like to support those stores by purchasing a game! With homage to Greg, the traveling gamer from The Dice Tower fame, let’s talk about a great game store in the “Hub City” of Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  Allons marcher!

Hattiesburg is located in Southern Mississippi, just a few hours north of New Orleans, and just a few more hours from the Gulf Coast beaches. Hattiesburg is best known as the home of the University of Southern Mississippi, whose stadium is nicknamed “The Rock.” It is also known as a paradise of outdoor pleasures, like kayaking down the Okatoma River or exploring the Natchez Trace.

But, it should be equally known to gamers in the Deep South as having one of the best game stores around, Top Tier Board Games. On a recent visit, I made a pass by the game store looking to pick up a good game to play around the dinner table with my lovely bride. The store is set back in yet another strip mall, but had a pleasing sign to light the way to the corner of the parking lot.

Inside, I found a relatively small store in size but a giant when it comes to gaming spirit. For such a small footprint, the store packs a wallop. The front area has a ton of tables, filled to the brim the night I went with Magic players and X-wing gamers. The right side has four or five large shelving areas with all of the latest games, and tons of classic and old favorites, too.  There is an ample area of X-wing and other Star Wars collective games, and even a large selection of Haba games — the first time I have ever seen a display like that in the South (but not the last…)

12096462_1671580093079932_5985567886315699315_nThe owner of the store saw that I was browsing, but not a familiar face, and introduced himself to me. He asked a few questions about the kind of games that my wife likes. After talking about the hobby, he steered me toward New York 1901, which he said was about to go on a side table for a special Christmas sale that he was doing to encourage locals to try hobby games. He said it was the perfect game to introduce to new gamers, but also had plenty enough strategy choices to satisfy any veteran gamer.  But since I was not from town, he offered to give me the very generous discount, and of course, I couldn’t resist. Months later, it is still one of my wife’s favorite games, and so I am glad that the owner helped me out. What a great recommendation.

I love it when a local game store owner does it right — clean tables, ample lighting, good prices, great selection, nightly (and I mean EVERY NIGHT) special events, knowledge of the hobby, and a friendly atmosphere.  Top Tier Board Games does it right, and so if you ever find yourself “running the roads” in southern Mississippi, make sure you make a pass by and pick up a board game or three.

13055873_1707122776192330_7817171410486643703_o

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

 

 

Spice it up! with Blood Rage

In some parts of south Louisiana, there’s an old saying. “Passer a la bastringue.” It roughly translates into “passing through the triangle.” The triangle in this case is an important part of Cajun music. The typical Cajun music band has an accordion, a guitar, a fiddle, and a little iron triangle that is used as percussion. Keeping time on the iron triangle with an iron rod can make a nice ringing sound, but its size is also just large enough for a hand and not much else to pass through the opening of the triangle.

So when Cajuns say that a board gamer looks like he was “passed” through the triangle, that means the gamer probably looks pretty beat up. Or,  they could be referring to the gamer’s sour reaction to the end of a particularly disastrous outing.

What an appropriately accurate expression for today’s discussion.

By now, your group has knocked around a few of the well made introductory-type war games. You may have started with Memoir ’44 , by Richard Borg (who surprisingly also designed Liars Dice), especially if your group likes two-sided pitched battles with just enough randomness to even things out between those on different levels of experience and skill.

Or better yet, maybe someone in your group has already grabbed a copy of Small World. It is a relatively simple game in concept, and serves as a great introduction to area control and battle mechanics.  It is super easy to teach, and with a few modifications, you can knock out a three or four player game in about an hour.

But what happens when Small World and Memoir ’44 get a little stale (even with their numerous expansions, which is a good topic for another day)? Are you ready for a challenge — with the potential that you just might get “passed through the triangle?”

Spice it up! with Blood Rage, by Eric M. Lang.  (You will remember Lang from XCOM: The Board Game and Arcadia Quest and all those  Quarriers! dice — and watch out for his latest, The Others: 7 Sins!).

Blood Rage is the ultimate in Viking glory games. It is a card drafting battle royale between two to four players that plays in about an hour and half (maybe even about an hour if everyone is experienced.) The game consists of three rounds (called “Ages”) where the Viking clans compete for space across the board, represented by lands and villages.

And when I say compete, I mean battle for the Glory of Odin, in a blaze of mayhem that will ultimately result in an honored spot in Valhalla.

To get to Valhalla (and to earn the most ‘glory’ or victory points), players are each dealt a random hand of cards. They draft a card out of their hand, and then pass the remaining cards to the next player. (Those familiar with 7 Wonders will have no problem with this part of the game, although card combo-ing is ratcheted up in Blood Rage.) Once each player has the required number of cards, the strategy and battles of each Age begin.

Clans summon their leaders and warriors to stake out claims in each land.  Players spend Rage (the ‘money’ in this game) to move the clans around the board, or beef up their stats and clans, summon ships and monsters, or even to pillage the villages for more upgrades.

Those who enjoy the cramped quarters in Small World, which encourages attacks and counterattacks, will appreciate how that mechanic is drilled down even more streamlined here. One of the main goals in the game is to upgrade your clan’s rage and numbers, and each area of the map has juicy favors that can be won by raiding. But, each treasure is within the range of almost every other clan, so the battles for the prizes are ultimately contested by one or more clans.

And the board gets smaller and more cramped in each age. “Ragnarak” (signaling that the Viking world is ever closer to the end times) occurs after each age, destroying more and more parts of the board.  Warriors are sacrificed to Valhalla when the areas are bombarded by meteors, but if the clans play the right card, quests can be completed (which could include bonuses for sending your fighters to their ultimate glory) to gain tons of victory points.

By Age Three, there is no safe place to hide. No village goes uncontested, and the treasure battles are higher with more intensity…..all part of Mr. Lang’s diabolical design, I am sure.

After the last helmet is knocked off of the last standing Viking, and the last village is destroyed during Ragnarak, then it is time to count up the glory.  I made lots of mistakes during my first play, but at least I was thinking about how each card can combo with others in my hand. I could already see the different strategies that one can use to march toward victory — load up on warriors and take over the board? trick others into giving you more glory through the trickery of Loki cards? focus on beefing up your clans and getting the extra glory that comes with the increase in stats? — and can’t wait for the next play.

So if your game nights are getting bland, Spice it up! with Blood Rage. I am sorry I missed the initial Kickstarter campaign and can’t wait to get my own copy. I give it 4 out of 5 cayenne peppers.

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

B.J.