Unspeakable Vegas: Road to ThunderHive

I had another opportunity this week to get to game night a little early (Samantha was sick, unfortunately, and staying with Maw-maw for the day), so as I mentioned on Twitter, I took some of that time to pull out and set up Descent and the Road to Legend campaign stuff, just in case.  Pretty soon, though, a handful of others wandered in, and we got to work playing our Game of the Month!

Vegas Showdown

I specifically wanted to try out something different from the “pick up lots of slots early” strategy this time, so I instead focused a lot more on the hotel and restaurant part of my resort building rather than on the casino portion.  I again took a bit of a risk in picking up the Dragon Room before owning some Fancy Slots (sort of like last week with the 5-Star Steakhouse), but this time I made sure to get the prerequisite and take a publicity turn before the game ended.  I even managed to pick up a Night Club on the last turn to seal the deal and win the game.

Time: 57 minutes
Score: Me 66, Adam 55, Michelle 40, Chris 38, David* 34
Ratings: Me 8, Adam 7, Michelle 8, Chris 8.5, David 7.5

I had a lot of respect for Vegas Showdown coming into this month, and my opinion of it continues to rise the more I play it.  It’s mainly a tactical and somewhat opportunistic game, where you want to be doing what no one else is doing and picking up things as cheaply as you can, but you must also have an overarching plan about where you’re going in order to make it all work out.  You’ve got to have your eyes on the final scoring, but you can’t ignore the opportunities to score points all along either, and you have to keep your eyes on your income/population tracks and balance them throughout the game as well.  And the cool thing is that even with all this strategic complexity, the game itself is incredibly simple to learn and play. 

In a lot of ways, Vegas Showdown reminds me of Acquire.  The gameplay itself isn’t that similar, but between the spatial aspects and economic backbone of both games, they seem to scratch the same sort of itch.  And the comparison is probably helped some by the fact that I own the Hasbro version of Acquire, which has a similar component quality to Vegas Showdown.  I don’t know if this comparison is really going anywhere, but I thought it was interesting as I sat and reflected a bit on things.  

Anyway, after finishing up Vegas Showdown, I looked around a little at what other people were doing, and John the Z-Man guy was getting ready to demo Midgard, which I had actually been interested in for a while.  But I really wanted to play Descent, and a few others were showing some interest, so…  

Descent: Road to Legend

I got to start my Road to Legend campaign!!!  Chris, Kenny, James, and Tom joined me as we tried to get the whole shebang going.  It took us about an hour or so for them to pick characters and skills, for me to decide on an Avatar and an agenda, and for me to explain the base game (since Kenny and Tom had never played Descent at all) as well as the campaign basics to them.

We then had time for one wilderness encounter and the first level of one dungeon.  In both, they were able to handle the minions pretty well (even when every skeleton in the box was thrown at them), but the named “bosses” of each level were just too much.  Frankly, they all seemed a bit overwhelmed and somewhat frustrated with how bad they were getting torn up.  

Time: 145 minutes
Score: Overlord (Me) – 13 Conquest; Heroes (Chris, Ken, James, Tom) – 6 Conquest 
Ratings: To be determined…

None of us were ready to really rate the whole campaign experience after only this one session.  In reading reviews on BGG, though, it appears that it is totally normal for the adventurers to be way outclassed in the Copper level.  Apparently, though (much as it is in the real game), once they get ahold of Silver and then Gold equipment, the balance of power shifts completely in their favor.  So I’m hoping that my players will be willing to hold out and struggle through for a while until we reach that point.

The biggest time sink of the whole thing, though, was in finding the right map tiles and monsters, as well as manipulating the several different decks of cards that you use.  I knew that it would be a challenge, so I had already bought a couple of craft organizers for all the tokens and map features (pits, ice, lava, etc.).  But clearly, I need to rethink my whole storage and organization of the whole game, which I have, up to this point, mostly kept in the original (inordinately large but now apparently inadequate) Descent box.

Preparing to open the door to the dungeon… and get quite a little surprise! 

If we’re going to play the campaign with any regularity, we need to be able to pull it out quickly, find what we need, put it away, and get on with the rest of game night when we’re done.  I know that the monsters will be pretty easy, but I’m most concerned about keeping the cards organized but accessible, and finding something with large enough wells for the map tiles and which I can label to keep them straight (because you need to be able to find the double-sided encounter/wilderness tiles at specific times).  If anybody out there has already figured something out to make it easy, please let me know! 
No matter what, it was really nice to play some Descent again (for the first time in almost 18 months).  I sincerely hope that we are able to work out some of these kinks, and that we can make it a regular part of game night for a long time!


Even though it’s not a Z-Man game, John the Z-Man guy brought his personal copy of Thunderstone along this week sort of at my request.  Most of us from the Descent game decided to keep the dungeon-crawl experience going and joined him as he went over the rules and did all the setup.  The game went pretty well, and I managed to kill off several of the monsters and even take the Thunderstone to end it.  John really knew what he was doing, though, and took the win based on lots of kills and upgrading 2 or 3 of his heroes to level 3. 

Time: 49 minutes
Score: John 32, Me* 27, James* 13, Tom* 12, Ken* 10
Ratings: John 7.5, Me 6.5, James 7.5, Tom 6, Ken 7

To be honest, I was actually surprised (in a good way) by Thunderstone.  With what I had heard about it online and from several podcasts, I didn’t have very high hopes.  But despite all its flaws, I still had a pretty good time with it.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to run out and buy it.  It is way more fiddly than Dominion, feels clunkier, and doesn’t seem to have quite the same “engine building” feel to how your deck works together.  It obviously makes a stronger attempt at theme, however, which is admirable.  But I don’t really know whether pulling off real theme is actually possible in a deckbuilding game, so it didn’t enhance play much, if at all.  I’d definitely give it a few more plays if someone else owned it, but it’s not going onto my wishlist.


Kenny had mentioned wanting to try out Hive recently, so I made sure to tote along my copy this week.  We sat down and played a couple of games, and he had a really good time.  I don’t get much chance to play against humans, but I’m pretty good at the game, and I didn’t have much trouble winning (not should I have, considering that he was new).  But I’ll keep it in my trunk and see if he and I (or other interested people) can make it a more regular part of our game nights. 

Time: 12 minutes (for 2 games)
Score: Me – 2 wins; Ken* – 0 wins
Ratings: Me 7.5, Ken 8.5

Unspeakable Words

I totally couldn’t find the report sheet for this game, so I don’t have any stats for it.  But it went as usual, with lots of crazy fun and merriment.  Alton did spell one very interesting word, however…

Time: ?
Score: Alton, Beth, Brad, Charles, James, Ken, Me
Ratings: ?

Other Games Played

Chez Cthulhu
Time: ? minutes
Score: Beth 8, Charles 8, Brad 7
Ratings: ?

 ? minutes
Score: Beth 75, Charles* 47
Ratings: Beth 9, Charles 6

 5 minutes
Score: Graham 0; Michelle, Keith, David, Adam – Not 0
Ratings: Graham 8.5, Everyone else ?

 70 minutes
Score: Graham – 1st place, Adam – 2nd, Denise 3rd, Michelle 4th
Ratings: Graham 8, ???

No Thanks!
Time: 50 minutes (for 5 hands)
Score: Keith 91, Graham 152, David* 153, Adam 210, Michelle 213
Ratings: Graham 9, ???

Ra: The Dice Game
 45 minutes
Score: Chip 43, Mark* 36, Alton 33, Charles* 26
Ratings: Chip 8, Mark 8, Alton 8, Charles 8

Race for the Galaxy
 50 minutes (for 3 games)
Score: Alton – 1 win, James – 1 win, Mark – 1 win
Ratings: All 10’s

The Red Dragon Inn
Score: Beth – Win; Michelle, Charles, David – Lose 
Ratings: Beth 10, Michelle 10, Charles 10, David 8

Small World
Score: Brad 70, Daphne* 61, Ian 60, Faith* 49
Ratings: Brad 8, Daphne 8, Ian 8, Faith 8

Stone Age
 75 minutes
Score: Chip 207, Alton 173, Adam 169, Keith* 147
Ratings: Chip 9, Alton 9, Adam 8, Keith 8

Vegas Showdown
 50 minutes
Score: Mark 56, Alton 46, Chip 45, Beth 43*, Charles* 37
Ratings: Mark 8.5, Alton 8, Chip 8.5, Beth 9, Charles 8

* First play for that Person


  1. Chris Ingersoll

    The sheer amount of other games going on while we were getting our asses kicked for 2.5 hours makes me sad.

  2. You know I’m at least as interested in the game stats as you are, so it was disappointing that the group I was playing with was a little averse to filling out the sheets. I did what I could.

  3. tomg

    I had fun with Descent. I have been wanting to play it for a while. I didn’t miss not playing anything else. I was having fun with it. Even though we were getting massacreed. I know the game was slowed by me not knowing the rules and the set up but that should get quicker with experience.
    Thunderstone was ok. I need more plays to get a good feel for it. And I hadn’t played this type of game before. No Dominion for me yet. I would be interested in trying that one.

  4. I’ll just say that while I’ve bought games based purely on their presentation (Pandemic) or their themes (Arkham Horror expansions) I can safely say that Hive is the first game I’ve ever bought solely for the sheer tactile delight of playing with the pieces. I’m going to have to learn to play it at least well enough to not get walked over, because I think if I carry the thing around just because I like clicking the pieces into each other over and over and over again people might start to suspect something.

  5. Chris Norwood

    I definitely felt a bit rusty playing Hive with you last week, so I’ve been brushing up on the iPod app some the last few days.  It’s such a cool game, and with how quickly it plays, I really need to get it to the table more.

  6. Chris Norwood

    You really did fine.  Learning Descent and the Road to Legend campaign stuff (which I’m still pretty shaky on myself) was a lot to throw at you and Kenny, but y’all handled it well.  I’m glad that you had a good time, and I really want us to continue.  I just picked up a big toolbox-ish organizer yesterday that I think will be able to handle all the monsters, heroes, and most of the map stuff.  I still need to figure out some solution for the cards, though.

    And we’ll play Dominion soon; you’ll like it.

  7. your article is so informative and interesting. nice shared.

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