This past weekend I had the opportunity – as I often do – to do two of my favorite things simultaneously: drink delicious American microbrew beers and play board games. This time around, though, was a little different, because I’m gonna blog about what I played and what I drank.
Read this, dear reader, and it’ll be like you were there.
One reason why I feel like blogging about last weekend was because of all the new things I was trying – new beers AND new games.
So… last Thursday I drove to Kennesaw, which is far, far away from where I actually live; I did this because in Kennesaw I can get my games at a discount. Two of the games I picked up were Thebes and Ad Astra, two “Euro” style games, one of which I like a lot and the other which I was curious about since I like the game designers. Those who know me know that neither of these games are typical of what I enjoy. But if you keep reading, you’ll understand why I bought these games which are so far afield of what I usually like.
While I was in Kennesaw, I decided to stop off at Total Wine and More and buy a 6-count variety pack of beer. Summer just ended, as you know, and autumn is my favorite time for beer, since a lot of good fall and winter beers get released, and its Octoberfest season. Plus, I’d been floundering around all summer trying to find something crisp and light and tasty (i.e. summery!), and realizing that I don’t really like crisp and light and tasty – I prefer dark and heady and tasty.
So I ended up buying a variety of stouts, porters, and pale ales, some of which I’ve had before, some of which I haven’t. I took these beers home, stuck them in the refrigerator, and started opening up my new games. By Saturday the beers were chilled, all the games punched and organized, and all the rules read.
Saturday I sat down with my friends Jay, Eddie, and Freitag and laid into both the games and the beer. We had a grand old time, but that’s beside the point – at least the point I want to make here. Instead, here’s a blow by blow rundown of several of the beers I drank as well as three of the games we played.
Beer #1 - Left Hand Imperial Stout: Imperial stouts are my drink of choice this year – I like the richness of them, the way the beer lingers in your mouth (beer aficionados would call this chewiness), the complexity of flavors available in a beer this rich. So by default, I like Left Hand’s entry into this genre. I will say, though, that this beer is actually lighter than many of its counterparts. So if you’re looking for a more full version of an imperial stout, this isn’t it. But for those who like lighter beers, this might be something you enjoy more than say, a Yeti or even a Rasputin.
Beer #2 - Great Divide St. Bridget’s Porter: Speaking of Yeti, this beer is from the fine purveyors of that most auspicious beverage ( my current favorite). But this one? Not so good for me. You have to understand, though, that THIS IS A MATTER OF TASTE. While I like richer beers, and I dig licorice hints, berry hints, chocolate hints, I don’t like charcoal. I can tolerate a certain level of charcoal-y flavor, but when it gets overbearing, I get turned off. Now, overbearing to me might not be the same as it is to you – for instance, I know that Eddie is much more tolerant of “charcoal” than I am. Keep that in mind. Try this beer and taste for yourself.
Game #1 - Chaos In The Old World: I actually didn’t buy this one – Eddie brought it over at our request. CITOW is a game based on the Warhammer universe – a place I’ve avoided by avoiding miniature gaming and the Warhammer card game. But the premise for this game – that you are one of the old powers of chaos vying for control over the ruination of the world – and the attractiveness of the game components, made me want to try it.
I’m glad I did. The game is pretty simple, and the strategies don’t run very deep, so the time it takes to play – an hour or two – works well. There’s decent variety/replayability in the fact that each “power” approaches his victory in a different manner. Also, it’s one of those games where you have to start wailing on people as soon as you’re out of the gate, so no “turtling” or inadvertent “cold wars.”
It’s fast-paced, it seems balanced, it’s highly interactive, and it’s fun. As games should be. I didn’t buy it last Thursday. But I will.
Beer #3 – Tommyknocker Pick Axe: It boasts on the label that it’s a pale ale, and I guess that’s what it is. But what an unusual pale ale. It has all the trappings of a typical ale of this variety – hoppiness barely offset by the malt, a full front and a kick to the finish. But lemme tell you about that finish: it’s fruity, which is way unusual. And in this case, really good. This was my favorite new beer of the evening – I like Mountain Dew, and with this beer, I got my lemon-lime on. Sort of.
Game #2 – Ad Astra: It’s made by Fantasy Flight, and the premise is that you’re a sub-race of human who’s out exploring space, since our sun is dying. But all similarities to the space-faring “Ameritrash” games that I enjoy ends there. This is a worker placement, resource management, and tile exploration game – a Euro in disguise. A Euro in space.
Fooled me. I bought it.
Still, I enjoyed it, as I typically enjoy most “European” games the first time I play them. At least it’s not scripted – there’s no set move you have to make in order to optimize your position. And one really cool thing is that the “worker placement” aspect, which is actually the placement of a series of cards, is done in secret – a la orders in Diplomacy and A Game of Thrones. So you can’t know what someone else is planning – you can only anticipate. That makes things interesting….
Ad Astra will get played, but I don’t think it has the replayability of more varied games.
Beer # 4 - Dogfish Head Midas Touch: Dogfish Head is a brewery that is constantly experimenting with recipes, and this is no exception.
This beer – which isn’t really a beer, but more of cross between a mead and wine – comes from “ancient Turkish recipe using the original ingredients from the 2700 year old drinking vessels discovered in the tomb of King Midas.” The bottom line for me is that it’s really sweet, which makes it something I won’t drink too much of in a night. But BECAUSE it has such an unusual and full flavor, one or two Midas Touches make an excellent addition to an evening of drinking.
Game #3 – Thebes: When I tell people I like Thebes they say: “But it’s a Euro!”
Oops. You know, I guess I should post an explanation of what is meant by “Euro” and “Ameritrash”. So go here, read this thread started by my friend Matt Thrower, and I think you’ll get it.
Thebes is not a Euro by my definition. You’re not trying to build to the next level of civilization. You’re not placing workers or choosing roles to optimize your resources and constructs. You ARE gathering resources, but they aren’t bricks or hay or cow turds. They’re books and knowledge, which help you to eventually travel to one of 5 archaeological sites and dig in the dirt.
And here’s where the game varies from most other games I’ve seen – you have to maximize your “dig” potential – but regardless of how much digging you do, luck has to play a factor. You see, when you “dig”, you actually pull tiles out of a bag. Those tiles MIGHT have treasures on them. They MIGHT be empty. I’ve seen players go to the bag, draw 3 tiles, and score 14 points. And I’ve seen players go to the bag, draw 12! tiles, and all of them were dirt.
I love that shit.
Would it be too “punny” to say I dig it?
So there you have it: some beers I recommend for your drinking pleasure (and maybe one I don’t), and some games I think everybody who even remotely likes games ought to try.
These are a few of my favorite things….