Palm Island Review

Imagine making a game with 17 cards. Total. That’s it. Now, those 17 cards are double sided, and each edge has something on it based on orientation, but it’s still only 17 cards.

Palm Island is exactly that. Mostly. The basic game is just 17 cards. There are additional things you can earn and therefore add to the deck, but no more than 18 cards. There are additional cards with goals to reach, and even an extra deck so you can play with another person in the box, but really it all comes down to just the 17 basic cards to play. Oh, and you don’t need a table, you can play it completely in your hands.

So let me start with how the cards work. The picture above is the front and back of a basic Canoe House card. See the white corner in the upper right on the first picture? That’s how you need every card oriented at the start. That means that the part on the top is the active part of the card.

So the top part of the pic on the left shows a green arrow that says “Free.” That means you can save that fish for free. You turn it sideways and save it to purchase things. You do this by putting it at the back of the deck. The other parts on the top are what you need to pay to upgrade the card. The yellow U-turn card means you flip it so the bottom is now on the top, but only if you pay a fish. So the next time this card comes around, the 2 fish will be available for free. The blue circular symbol means you can flip it over for the cost of one fish. That means the log and fish would be available the next time this card comes back. As long as you have the resources, you can keep updating the card until there isn’t any cost to pay, like on the bottom part in the right picture. You make the cards more powerful by upgrading them.

A lot of this isn’t going to make much sense. So I’ll show a picture with resources and a card to upgrade.

So, as you can see, I have saved a fish and a wood. They are still in their place in the deck, moving towards the front. But I can upgrade the Canoe House card by paying the fish & the wood, so I turn them back into the deck, making sure the single fish and single wood are still at the top, and then I can flip the card in the front over and move it to the back of the deck.

That’s basically how the game is played. You keep cycling the cards, moving things to the back. If you can’t upgrade them, you don’t change their orientation. You keep doing this until you get to the end of the deck. Oh, the end of the deck…

This card is always at the end of the deck. After the first round, turn it over to 2. When it comes up in round 2, flip it to 3. Keep doing this until you hit turn 8, and then the game is done.

The point of all of this is to score as many points as possible. You score points by counting the number of yellow stars facing up, as you can see above, as you upgrade the card, you get more points for it.

There is one other goal, and that’s Feats. Feats are goals you reach that can get you another card to add to your deck. You don’t get it on the first turn, it starts the game behind the end of turn card, but it can help in subsequent turns.

To get the feats, you reach a goal. Some are for scoring so many points, some are for upgrading things during the game. I’ll keep what the various rewards do a secret, wouldn’t want to be accused of spoilers.

A game in progress.

That’s pretty much it. I guarantee I haven’t done this wonderful little game justice. It plays in 10-15 minutes, and the fact that a table isn’t needed is fantastic. I’ve played the game over 30 times, and still haven’t completed all of the feats. It’s compact and relatively cheap. I think it’s a must have for solo gamers, or gamers who travel and want something to do on the train, bus, or plane. I haven’t played it co-op or competitive yet, but I’d like to give it a try someday.

Have you tried Palm Island? What do you think? Or f you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them. I left out a lot, and I suspect I didn’t explaing thing particularly well either.

What I’ve Been Playing

I have been under the weather and dealing with a lot of work lately, so the original idea I had for this week wasn’t going to pan out.

But the show must go on.  So since my wife and I have been playing quite a few games lately, so I figured I would do a little blurb or mini review on each of them.

Trans America:  This, like many of these on the list, was a nice, light surprise of a game.   It’s a route builder where you can use the track your opponent lays.  In a 2 player game, it’s really important to time that connection so that your opponent can’t use the network you’ve built to complete their network.

We didn’t play with it, but I did also pick up the expansion that allows players to lay exclusive track, which I have heard improves the game quite a bit. 

Notre Dame:  The only Feld I had played prior to this was Castles of Burgundy, and while I think it’s still my favorite, I was really impressed by this one.  The cube placement mechanic combined with the card drafting wasn’t something I had played before, and I really liked that we didn’t need to tweak rules to play two player.

Mint Delivery/Mint Works:  These were a surprise hit.  I picked them up on a whim, hearing they were good, but not expecting much.  We played Mint Works first, and it was a quick, thinky worker placement; it was quick enough we played a couple games back to back.

Mint Delivery took a little longer, but I really enjoyed this one.  My major complaint with pickup and deliver games is that set up and gameplay can usually take a big time investment; with Mint Delivery, you can play a solid pick up and deliver game in 30 minutes.

Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game:  I always forget how much I love this game.  It has mechanics I enjoy (deck building), a theme I enjoy (Marvel superheroes) and tons of expansions.  We played the Avengers v. X-Men scenario which was fun, and ended up defeating Mysterio thanks to my wife’s shouldering about 90% of the work.

Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle:  Another deckbuilder we had played before, but not for a very long time, this one was nice.  It isn’t the best thing I’ve ever played (and this could be because we are playing year by year instead of taking the recommendation to start in year 4), but I’m looking forward to playing through all 7 years.

Villainous:  I liked this one more than I thought I would.  The theme is unique, and I like the variable player powers and goals.  It’s straightforward enough, and I want to try playing it again.

So some really good lighter games getting played, but I’m looking forward to summer, when my wife doesn’t work and so we can afford to play some longer games.

Extra Life Half Marathon 04/27/2019

I actually started that long overdue Palm Island review, but I kind of got busy and forgot to get back to it. I don’t want to rush it, so I’m doing another filler post today.

Drew and I both participate in a yearly Extra Life 24 hour gaming marathon run by our friend David Cook, usually in early November (It’s actually on the day we go back from Daylight Savings, so it’s 25 hours.). But we like gaming for a cause, and are always looking for a reason to get together with our friends, so a discussion started about having a “half” marathon, and go from 10 am to 10 pm.

I will say that I am awful at raising money for these things. I am just not someone who wants to hit people up for donations. But I do help out in other ways, by donating games as prizes for our raffles, and smaller things like that.

Ok, so we got together this past Saturday for a long gaming day. Dina dropped Joe and I off at a little after 10, and Drew, Bryan, & David were hanging out with David’s family. We all stood around and chatted for a while before we went into the room.

I decided to start us off with the current hotness, Wingspan. I recently got a copy, and was personally raving about it. This was going to be my 4th time playing, and my second time teaching. Lucky for me, Joe and Clint had both played it also, so it was only teaching Bryan and Drew.

It went over quite well. Drew was almost immediately texting his wife to ask for it for Father’s day. Bryan said he had been trying to convince himself it wasn’t going to be good, and was unable to keep that attitude. I have realized that I obviously have no idea who’s winning, looking at Drew about halfway through and mentioning that he and I were getting our butts kicked. I ended up winning, and he was a close 3rd. 5 players was an interesting game though, and except for the extra length, it scaled really well. I’ve now played it with 1, 3, and 5, and it’s been a blast and worked really well with each. It’s currently one of my favorite games.

Dead Last was the next game we played. Pretty much everyone who was there at the time was involved. This is not my style of party game, but it played extremely quickly, so it wasn’t too bad either. It kind of reminded me of Ca$h ‘N Gun$, which is another game I’m terrible at. You discuss who to kill each round, and the trick is if you aren’t part of the majority, you’re out. I think I only got through the first selection once.

I don’t think I’d pick it to play, but I could probably be talked into trying it again.

After a quick lunch break, Bryan taught us Alea Iacta Est. It’s a dice placement game. There are a lot of rules to how you can play dice, but high rolls aren’t always preferred, so it’s difficult sometimes to get what you want or need. We had a very close finish, with Drew, Clint, and I all having the most points, and Joe was only a couple behind. I ended up winning the tiebreaker.

I’m not rushing out to get my own copy, but it was interesting, although I suspect I’d do worse next game because I think I kind of know what I’m doing.

So shortly after that Dina and Aleksia arrived, and I had promised to play some games with them. Aleksia chose to play The Lion Guard: Protect the Pridelands. This is a really cute, quick, and not super easy kids cooperative game. The Lion Guard character figures are fantastic. We do win more often than not, but it’s probably 60-40. We won this game really quickly, which isn’t a common occurrence for us.

Aleksia and I moved on to Outfoxed. This is another kids co-op game. It uses some simple deduction, and she is really good at the game. My one complaint is that it’s probably too easy. We win about 70% of the time. Unfortunately we suffered a rare loss in this one. The dice kind of abandoned us, and we needed about 1 more clue to be able to figure out the thief.

Dina and Aleksia were playing some 2 player games, so I thought I’d try a quick game of Palm Island. I’ve talked about that a lot, so I’ll wait till I do my review.

Aleksia had seen some of the other kids playing a game with some cool pieces, and wanted to try it. So Dina and I were trying to learn the game Sumo Ham Slam. Drew came over too, so we had 3 adults and 1 5 yr old playing it. As you can see from the picture, it’s really cute. The game isn’t particularly good, it involves magnets and sticks, but it was a silly time for us. Not something I need to own, but silly enough to want to be willing to play again, especially with kids.

A few of us walked a couple of blocks down to The Pennant restaurant and enjoyed some good food, and then we went back so Bryan could teach us Ginkgopolis.

This is a pretty neat city building game. I was also not at the right point of the day to have something so complicated explained to me. I had a good time, and would gladly play the game again, but I had no clue what I needed to do to score points, and finished last, quite a long way away from winning. Dina pulled off a late move that changed the scoring dramatically and pulled off a win.

One last game was decided upon as the evening wore down. Drew taught Bryan and I his print and play copy of College Basketball Dynasty. I love the idea of sport simulation games, and I used to play a lot of them on my computer, so I was really interested in how this one worked.

It had some neat ideas. We only had time to play about half a game, so we were just getting to the point where many of our best players were going to graduate, so I was interested in what would happen after that. I liked the game, and am hoping to get to try it again sometime. Drew won 3 National Titles to win this one.

That was it. I played a lot of games with a bunch of my favorite people, so it was a fantastic day. My family also won a couple of games that had been generously donated by Asgard’s Gate game shop. Joe won a copy of the 10th Anniversary Notre Dame and Dina won a copy of Dicey Goblins. I’ve always enjoyed Notre Dame, and I look forward to trying Dicey Goblins, it looks like a nice push your luck dice game.

What have you been playing lately? Anything neat? Any thoughts on what I played? Let us know in the comments.

d20 List: Top 12 Expansions!

It’s time for another d20 List.  This week, I rolled 12, which was a relief because we’ve had a few longer lists.  I wanted to do something different, so this week, I chose something that is near and dear to my heart: Expansions!!

Whether I’ve played the game 20 times, or I’m just going “all-in” I love games that include ways to change up the base game or add additional functionality/gameplay.  I, like many of you (I assume) am also a completionist, so there are some game systems where I own more expansions than times I’ve played the game.

A few ground rules I set for us to define expansion for this list:

  • Standalone expansions are okay (Trains and Trains: Rising Sun, for example)
  • Reimplementations are not (Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries)
  • Game systems are not (Piecepack/Ice House)

Drew’s Picks

So with that being said, here’s my top 12 expansions (in no particular order) [Author’s Note- Many of my entries count for ALL of the expansions for that series, I just picked the one I prefer the most]:

  1. Memoir ‘44 Campaign Book 1:  It’s no surprise I love Memoir ‘44.  The Campaign Books give you a way to link together multiple scenarios where there are ramifications based upon if you win or lose.  It also provides an extra layer of strategy as you can get reinforcements or special abilities to use throughout the campaign.
  2. Lords of Waterdeep: Scoundrels of Skullport: This adds two new boards and a new mechanic (Corruption) to Lords of Waterdeep, which really made it fresh to me again, after playing the base game quite a bit.  Corruption really adds another layer of interactivity between players which can make things really, really interesting, especially at higher player counts.
  3. D-Day Dice: Operation Neptune: I am a fan of all things D-Day, and Operation Neptune (as many of the expansions) add a ton of extra maps, items, and other things you can use to storm the beaches.
  4. Ambush: Move Out!:  This one can be hard to find, but Ambush! Is probably one of my favorite wargames of all time.  Move Out! (along with the other 2 expansions, Silver Star and Purple Heart) adds more story based missions that you can take your squad from the base game through.
  5. Alhambra: The Thief’s Turn: While I enjoy many of the Alhambra expansions (especially the Treasure Room), using the “Change” module from this expansion added an extra oomph to the game that was missing.  This is probably the base game I’ve played the most, so I’m looking forward to adding more and more of the modules.
  6. Sagrada: 5 and 6 Player Expansion:  This gives official rules for modifying the dice bag based upon the number of players, as well as adding some interesting new goals.
  7. Lock n Load Tactical: Solo: This allows you to play any of the Lock n Load Tactical games solo; it’s versatility to work with any game in the system is amazing, and gets you a ton of use for the price.
  8. Roll Player: Monsters & Minions:  In the base Roll Player, I was always a little frustrated that you couldn’t do anything with the character you created.  In Monsters & Minions, you get to take your character and gather information and eventually fight the monster. It makes me feel like I’m actually doing something with my character, instead of just building them and then returning them to the box.
  9. Combat Commander Battle Pack 1: Paratroopers:  I love Paratroopers, and Combat Commander, so this was a no brainer.  Each CC expansion adds something a little different to an already amazing game.
  10. Clash of Cultures: Civilization: This is the one expansion on the list that I think really improves the base game.  Civilization adds leaders and unique Civs to a 4x Civ game that was missing them. Oh, and war elephants.
  11. Imperial Settlers: Atlanteans: Imperial Settlers is in my top 5 games of all time (most days) and so any expansion that adds a new mechanic or civilization (usually the big expansions do both) is awesome in my book.
  12. Viticulture: Tuscany Essential Edition: Viticulture is amazing on its own, but Tuscany kicks it up a notch.  Instead of two seasons to allocate your workers, Tuscany includes all four seasons.  It also includes the Mama’s and the Papa’s (not the band), a way to randomize and asymmetrize players’ starting resources.

So there you have my top 12 expansions.  Now we’ll see what Ryan chose.

Ryan’s Picks

I’m going to admit, I don’t play with expansions that often, but I own a lot of them. I also am really bad at evaluating how much they bring to a game. You’ll likely notice a pattern to some of my choices…

  1. Marvel Legendary: Dark City: This can pretty much apply to all of the Marvel Legendary expansions. This was the first big expansion to what’s currently my favorite game. The main thing it brings is variety. More of everything makes this game a lot of fun. Although sometimes you get some bad combos.
  2. Ticket to Ride 1910: The best thing about this game to me is the full sized cards, but it also brings a lot of nice variety in additional route cards.
  3. Star Realms: Frontiers: A really good, fully playable game on it’s own, it’s just a different implementation of Star Realms, and it adds a lot of solitaire options. You can mix it with the base deck too, although I haven’t done that yet.
  4. Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm: This adds solitaire play to one of my favorite games. And it works really well too. You add most of the cards to the deck, so I’m not sure what exactly they do. Oh, and it adds the ability to have more players too.
  5. Fleet: Arctic Bounty: Great art from EricJ Carter, and another expansion that adds solitaire play that works really well. I haven’t played with much else from it. I need to just play Fleet more often in general, I always enjoy it.
  6. Power Grid: Benelux/Eastern Europe: Another one that encompasses a bunch of maps, although I’ve only played this one and France/Italy. They add variety to another of my favorite games.
  7. Patchwork: Automa: This one only changes a great 2 player game into a really good solo game. Admittedly I’ve only tried it once, but I thought it did its job extremely well.
  8. Time Stories: The Marcy Case: Another place holder for a full series of expansions, they are literally required to play the game without spoilers. The intention is to only play each module once. I haven’t even played any of them yet, but I enjoyed the game so much I know these will be fun too. They’d likely be ranked higher.
  9. Runebound: The Island of Dread: Yet another placeholder for a large amount of expansions to one of my favorite games. These apply to the 2nd edition only for now, although I am hoping to play the 3rd edition soon. There are a TON of expansions, some just a deck of scenario cards, some just extra weapons, and some have maps and change everything. While most work well, I’m not really sure I like the character decks.
  10. Formula Dé Circuits 23 – 26: USA Track Pack #1: Guess what? Another placeholder for several different expansions, for both Formula De and Formula D. More tracks equals more variety. I’ve played on several, and own 5 track sets.
  11. Pitchcar Mini Extension: This applies to a few different expansions too. It basically adds things like multi-lane corners, jumps, and criss crosses. Just more variety for a great game.
  12. Carcassonne: Inns & Cathedrals: This adds some variety of tiles, pieces for another player, but the best thing is the big meeple. The big meeple counts as 2 meeples, so placing it can break a potential tie because he’s around. Plus, those big meeples look awesome. The Traders & Builders expansion also adds some interesting things to basic Carcassonne, but no big meeples.


So there you have it.  Our top 12 (times 2) expansions.  Do you have any expansions that you HAVE to play with when you play a certain game? Did we completely miss the mark? Let us know in the comments!

Review: Space Base

I love games with dice. Dice drafting, dice collecting, dice manipulation, you name it. If the game includes dice as a means for the mechanic, I’m in.

That is, I was in, until I played Machi Koro. When it came out, I was super excited. I loved the idea of using the dice for resource allocation a la Settlers of Catan. And we played a bunch of Machi Koro when it first came out. But then, we stopped, even with adding in the expansions. It became very samey to us. Either we would pursue the same strategies we always did (Cheese for the win) or the randomness that the expansion(s?) introduced made the game run way to long for what it was. It had so much promise, but I wanted more.

Last year at BGG.Con Spring, I was introduced to Space Base,designed by John D. Clair and published by Alderac Entertainment Group. It was described to me as a more interactive Machi Koro and I was intrigued, so we gave it a shot.

In Space Base, players are trying to be the first to gain 40 points. On your turn, you roll two dice. You can then either take the active benefit of the cards that are either on each of the dice or the benefit of the card on the sum of the dice (so if I rolled a 1 and a 4 on 2d6, I could either take the benefits of the 1 and 4 cards OR the benefit on the 5 card).

Once you’ve taken your actions, you may then buy a card. This allows you to upgrade to more powerful active abilities. Additionally, it also lets you move the card that was in that space to the top of your board, where it becomes a passive ability; that means you get to use it if any other player rolls that number (or combination).

With the transitioning of cards from active to passive, you have a great, lightweight tableau builder where you have meaningful decisions to make on every turn. I’ve glossed over some of the more nuanced rules, but there are tons of different abilities on cards, from those that let you charge up and deploy special powers, to straight up victory points. Knowing when to replace a card is huge in this game, as is managing cards with charges on them.

Space Base is a lightweight game that would be great for people who might have dipped their toes in the water of gaming, but aren’t sure where to go next. I feel it helps to have someone who has played through the game a few times teach it, or at least be close by, because in most of the games I’ve taught of it there have always been a few card clarifications needed.

Now that I’ve traveled to space, I can’t see myself returning to Earth, except maybe when playing a game with people who don’t consider themselves gamers. I wholeheartedly recommend Space Base.

Gaming Doldrums

I’ve noticed a pattern for me the past couple of years. I tend to have a period of a month or two where I don’t play many board games. Sometimes it’s because I’m playing video games (Like Spider-Man in February this year, or likely September when Borderlands 3 comes out.), sometimes it’s just life (Like March the past couple years.).

I’m a father first. That’s often a lot of my time. My 17 yr old both works and is very active in theater, so we are often driving her places. My 20 yr old also doesn’t have his drivers license, so we need to drive him too (He’s working on it.). We only have one of our 2 cars running right now too, so that means our single vehicle is in use all the time. And my wife had chronic pain, so I try to drive as much as I can

I have a lot of other hobbies. As I’ve said before, I read, play video games, and play disc golf. I tend to read year round, video games when the mood strikes me, and disc golf as much as my body will let me in spring-fall. I’m also a bit of a football and baseball junkie, so I watch them when I’m in the mood. And of course TV shows and movies take a lot of my time too.

But I can binge on games too. I played over 100 games in one month last year. We have a beer & boards occasionally, and I tend to go to Extra Life events locally.

But tonight and the past couple weeks are a really good example of not gaming. I have been wanting to play games for a while now, but haven’t since our Beer & Boards almost 3 weeks ago. My wife had surgery a couple weeks ago, so we haven’t played anything. Last Friday we went to the First Friday Artwalk in Topeka, Saturday my 17 yr old had prom, Sunday we had pictures of the 5 yr old and the 17 yr old worked. Monday night we caught up on Last Week Tonight, Veep, and Barry and took the boy to D&D. Tuesday the 17 yr old worked. Tonight, I don’t know. I had a post to write, and I intended to write that review of Palm Island I’ve been promising, or play something with anyone in the house who’d play a game, yet I did neither. I watched the Twins, and wrote this. Too often we don’t have a clean space to play, often due to the 5 yr old doing crafts on the table.

I know I can usually get someone to play a game with me, but for the time being I have more desire to play than actual will to play. I haven’t played anything with the 5 yr old in about a month. I really wish I knew why…

Anyway, I think I’m going to play a quick game of something tonight still while I have time. Hopefully something to help with one of my challenges or two. But who knows, maybe I’ll drink another beer or have some ice cream and check on my fantasy baseball team. Or go try to finish my Sword & Laser book club book for April.

What about you? Do you go into a gaming funk at times? Any suggestions on how to get out of one? Let me know in the comments.

d20: Top 18 Spiel des Jahres Winners

Ryan

First, an apology for this being late. My wife was having outpatient surgery yesterday, and I was going to write this up after we got home and while watching some baseball.

So of course, the surgery started 3 hours late, and it turned into needing an overnight stay. So I suddenly didn’t get any downtime yesterday, and Drew had tickets to the KC Royals home opener, which because of rain turned into a bit of a marathon itself.

I’ll start off explaining our topic for the week. These are Drew and my Top 18 Spiel des Jarhes Game of the Year winners. Of course on a week when we both had plans on Thursday, I roll an 18.

So the Spiel des Jahres is basically the German Board Game of the Year award. Germany is a huge board game country, so this is a big deal. The main complaint most people have about it is that the games tend to be on the lighter side and pretty family friendly. They have added a more complex game category in recent years, most likely to help recognize excellent games that don’t quite fit the lighter criteria. There is also a kids game award and special prizes given to games that don’t get nominated, but deserve special recognition.

I thought this would be a fairly easy list, but I had played a grand total of 24 of them. Most of the cuts weren’t hard, but getting them in order was. I think all of these are really good games, I just prefer some to others.

1)Ticket to Ride: A gigantic hit when it came out, and still one of the most well known games out there. It’s fun and really easy to teach. I’ve always enjoyed it.

2) Hanabi: It’s cooperative, which I love, and it’s an interesting mechanic. I always have a blast when I play this, and I’m sad we don’t get it out more often.

3) Azul: This won in 2018, and was very deserving. I thought it might have been a little thinky to win, but it’s a great game in general. I haven’t played the new version yet, I’ve heard many people prefer it to this version.

4) Dominion: I love deck builders, and this was the first one I know about. While the genre in general has pulled away from the basics in Dominion, I still enjoy playing it, I’m just not as obsessed as I might be with other games of it’s ilk.

5) Carcassonne: Along with Ticket to Ride and another game down my list, Carc is probably one of the biggest reasons gaming has become more mainstream over the years. Simple, and different than most games before it, it’s still a fun game to play. We currently own the Star Wars version.

6) Kingdom Builder: This game should be more popular than it is. It’s a great example of a clever gateway game. It’s easy to teach, limits the amount of decisions you have to make, but there are meaningful decisions to be made even while limited.

7) Codenames: One of the best party games I’ve ever played. Simple, tricky, and can play a room full of people.

8) Qwirkle: A great abstract game. My main complaint is that the scores can get pretty high, and you have to have a pen & paper handy.

9) Zooloretto: One of the first card games (Coloretto) to get a board game version, it’s a nice implementation of the card game mechanics in a zoo building game.

10) Hare & Tortoise: Mathy, but in a good way. I seem to be the only person I know who really likes this game.

11) Thurn & Taxis: Always felt like a slight step up in complexity to Ticket to Ride to me. I haven’t played it in years, but I remember liking it.

12) Alhambra: Similar to Carcassonne i mechanics, it’s got some neat way to differentiate itself from being a clone.

13) El Grande: Definitely one of the heavier games mechanics-wise to win the SDJ, but it’s still a good game. One of the earlier area control games I remember playing.

14) Um Reifenbreite: I think I’ve mentioned I love racing games, and as a Tour de France fan, cycling games especially fascinate me. I haven’t played it much, but I’ve had fun every time.

15) Scotland Yard: A really neat hide and seek game where one player is trying to escape from the others. The mechanic has been used many times over the years, but this one still does it well.

16) Liar’s Dice: I’m really not sure why this one was considered, it’s a pretty old game, but maybe a slight variation gained it the win. I typically hate bluffing games, but this one does it right.

17) Colt Express: A programming game I have only played once, but I remember enjoying it, but never picked up my own copy. I guess I’d rather play Roborally for that.

18) Settlers of Catan: I didn’t play Catan until I was heavily into board gaming, so unlike many others, it was not an entry game for me. It’s something I’ll play occasionally, but I’m not a huge fan. But it’s obviously been huge in the board game world, and has a huge shadow over all things gaming.

That’s it. There are some games I’ve always wanted to try, and several that just didn’t strike a chord with me, but this is my top 18.

Drew

When Ryan picked “Top 18 SdJ Games” I thought it would be easy.  Turns out I have played* 19 SdJ winners total. But the ones I enjoy, I really enjoy.  I’ll keep my thoughts brief as I think many of you have heard of them, and to be honest some of them I don’t have a lot of experience with.  But it was really interesting seeing what was picked over the years and how they may have changed related to larger gaming trends.

So without further ado, my Top 18 SdJ winners.

1) Thurn and Taxis: I play this at every convention I go to where it’s in the Library.  It’s become an obsession. The route building and decisions that need to be made keep me coming back to this game again and again.

2) Azul: This is one I use to introduce to gamers after they have played one or two gateway games.  I don’t think it’s difficult, it has great components, and it looks good on the table.

3) Kingdom Builder: This was my go to gateway game for a while.  It’s pretty standard Queen fare, but it has great replayability and I haven’t had a bad time playing it yet.

4) Ticket To Ride: To me, this is another classic gateway game.  With the variety of maps and complexity, I think this has a ton of replayability for beginner and experienced gamers alike.

5) Alhambra: This was one of my first Euro games, and my wife and I still play it to this day.  Some of the mechanics are still fun to use and there are a ton of expansions/modules.

6) Carcassonne: This too was one of my first Euro games, and I believe the one that really got my wife interested in gaming too.

7) Kingdomino:  A quick game that has more under the hood than you might think based on appearances.  I think this one is lower due to the fact I like longer games.

8) Codenames: I didn’t like Codenames initially but after playing Duel, I really like the system/series.

9) Dominion: It’s okay for what it is, but I want more out of my deckbuilders.  I want to do something besides just drafting cards.

10) Hanabi:  This was a fun experience the few times I played it, but it wasn’t a “rush out and buy it immediately game.”

11) Qwirkle: I liked this abstract for what it is, but I like the app better.

12) Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective: This is one of those I have ‘played’.  The theme appeals to me and my wife and I love deductive reasoning games.

13) Catan: The OG of Euro games, this one has sort of fallen out of favor with me. It’s a fine game, but that’s it:  just fine. Why settle for just fine when you can play “amazing”, “awesome” or “wow”?

14) Zooloretto: I remember playing this once and that there were animals.  I wasn’t impressed.

15) Tikal: Another one I have “played”, this has just been on the app, and I had difficulty figuring out what I was supposed to do.  This isn’t really the games fault, but I calls them like I sees them. I imagine this would be higher if/when I actually play the physical game.

16) Dixit: The art in this game is freaking amazing, but I played this a few times with a good group for it, and wasn’t all that impressed.  I am not a big fan of party games to begin with, but this just fell flat for me.

17) Colt Express: This one is low because I’m terrible at it and I don’t enjoy programming games (despite being a programmer for a living).  The theme is neat and it’s a unique take on the programming aspect, but again, just fine.

18) Rummikub: I have played this one.  That’s all I have to really say about it.

So there are my top 18 SdJ Winners.  I am sure there are ones that I haven’t played that would find their way on the list, but so many games, so little time.

So what are your favorites? Are there any we should try? Are there any you really dislike? Let us know in the comments.

# x # Challenges: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Forcing Myself to Play Games

I wrote earlier this year about how I had set up a 15 x 5 challenge this year, as the 10 x 10 I tried to play last year didn’t go well.

Well, spoiler alert: The 15 x 5 isn’t going well either.

This is my usual thought process:

Hey, I want to play a game!

Let’s look and see what games I need to play for my challenge.

All of those are okay, but I want to play something else.

I should really play one of my challenges though.

Play what you want.

What’s the point of having a challenge if you aren’t going to play those games?


Anyway, at this point I usually shut the door to my game room/office and go play a video game.
I get the appeal of challenges, especially for people who are in groups like I am that tend to not replay games a ton.  But when my wife made me a deck of “what should we play” cards for Christmas this past year, I specifically requested that she not include specific games.  “What if I don’t feel like playing the game that week? Shouldn’t we play things that we want to?”

I don’t know why I felt compelled to keep up with a yearly challenge, especially when I’ve acknowledged the mindset of playing what I want being more important.

So, I’m going to be pulling down my Challenges page.  In it’s place will go a “Bucket List” page where I list games I want to play at least once.  There will be a list for owned games and a list for not owned games. I think this will help me focus on games that actually need a dedicated day where everyone is on the same page to play, because I had actually been keeping up with my 5 x 1 challenges throughout the year.  So I’m going to lean in to that. As I play games on the lists, I’ll strike them through so I can keep track of what has been completed on my bucket list.

What about you? Do you do any challenges in gaming?  Do you stick with them? Let us know in the comments!

How I Prepare to Teach Games

Hey all, Andrew here: I figured I would write about something a little different this week.

I was preparing to teach my wife Fortress: America and so I started about my normal way of relearning games and preparing to teach.  For whatever reason, I tend to teach most of the games in our game group (I think it’s probably because I’m pushy and want them to play my stuff first, so I have to know the rules) but I realized that this process is the same for me, whether it’s playing something light like Kodama or the latest entry in the SCS catalog.  I figured I would give you all insight into how I do this in the hopes that it might help someone out there.

A word of note:  this may seem like I’m overprepared.  I am. I have pretty bad social anxiety and board games alleviate that.  However, if I feel like I’ve screwed up in front of people (especially friends and family) I start to feel super embarrassed and anxious, which tends to lead to me shutting down a bit.  By (over) preparing in this manner, I’m ready to teach the game in a way that’s comfortable to me, and hopefully more enjoyable to those I play with. This is also why I get frustrated if I get interrupted during a rules explanation; it takes me out of the zone so to speak.

First, I normally see if there is a rules teach video or playthrough on YouTube.  My two go to channels are HeavyCardboard and Watch it Played, and if they don’t have a video for the game I’m about to teach, I’ll usually check out the video section of BoardGameGeek for the game in question.

I watch videos for a few different reasons.  I don’t like to reinvent the wheel if I don’t have to, so seeing how masters of game teaching (IMO) structure their teach really helps me get a basic outline in my head and may bring up points that I want to be sure to highlight. Additionally, if I’ve never played the game watching people play it or at least an explanation gives me a better idea of what to expect.

Once the video has been watched and I can wrap my head around the gameplay and the mechanics, I read the rulebook.  Now, this isn’t a detailed readthrough of every single bullet point, parenthetical, and subcase. Instead I get the major ideas, how the rulebook is organized, and use that to further my mental outline.

This outline then gets put down to paper.  It is at this point that I comb through the rulebook, summarizing each major and minor point in an outline format that makes sense for the game and the way gameplay is structured.  This forms the core of my teaching notes and is what I refer to when I actually explain the game I will usually print them out, but sometimes I don’t. This is also my favorite part in the process.  Something about me internalizing then repeating (on paper) what I just read is really when the rules to the game ‘click’ for me.

From here, I will generally call my process complete.  I have a better idea of how I want to approach teaching.  I do try to anticipate questions that players will have, and I make sure that I take frequent breaks to allow players to ask questions, move pieces around to set up situations that might be better explained visually.  And then, we play!

That’s a look into how I find it helpful to learn games so that I can teach them.  Do you have any steps you take when you are planning on teaching a game? I’d love to hear them.  Leave a comment below!

My Recent 10 Plays

Work and life have made gaming difficult lately. I work for a small company in the Ag business, and we tend to be extremely busy from February to May due to farmers in the US and Canada getting to planting season, and our systems go on planters and sprayers. And I’m in purchasing, so it’s a rough time making sure we have parts, in addition to a couple of ambitious new products being released, and the headaches that can come with that.

So I’m in a bit of a non-gaming rut right now. We’ve had kids plays, both attending a friend’s daughter’s school theater doing Pippen, to my older daughter being the assistant stage manager for her high school’s production of Grease. And I tend to hit a bit of a lull every year around now. I think it’s just the winter dragging on (And here in Kansas, it’s actually been wintery this year.), and awaiting spring.

So I almost forgot to write a post today. I went to the site to try to think of a quick topic, and I noticed that 8 of my 10 most recent play are new games to me, so I thought I’d share some brief thought on them all. Although I will admit, this isn’t something I’m very good at.

I kind of think I need to actually write a review of Palm Island at this point, I talk about it enough. I’ll stop discussing it at this point.

The other game I had played previously was Fleet. I also used the Arctic Bounty expansion to play it solo. I really enjoyed it. You use a bot basically to sim a couple of other players. I did quite well against one of them, and only lost by a couple of points to the other. I don’t know why we don’t play this game more. It’s a really good example of using cards multiple ways, and has some good decisions. It’s a really good game that we don’t play…

On to the rest. I’ll start with Just One. It’s a party game where everyone writes a clue on a board, and one player has to guess what the word is. The trick is that you have to remove any matching clues. It’s fun, simple, and plays a big group. This one impressed me.

That same day I got to try On Tour. As I’ve said before I love roll and writes. This one has amazing production values, and was a fun time. I did terrible, but it’s another game that can play a lot of players at once.

I picked up a copy of Shadowrun Crossfire: Prime Runner Edition on a Miniature Market dropping price deal. I love deck builders, and I’ve always been fascinated by the Shadowrun universe and how it combines a couple of my favorite things, magic & cyberpunk. Throw co-op in, and it screams a game I’d enjoy. And I do. I like it a lot. It plays really quickly, and it’s been extremely difficult so far, but it’s a blast. It’s also able to be played solitaire, so I look forward to trying it that way too.

Drew invited Bryan, Eric and I over to play the next few games. We had a really nice Sunday of just hanging out and playing stuff. We started with The Gallerist. For a game with this many mechanics, it kind of makes sense thematically. A really clever game, that I would never intentionally be any good at, too many things going on. It’s pretty fun though, and I’d gladly play it again. It was a quick 2 and a half hours, and that says a lot.

The next game we played is one of the most hyped games of the past several years, Scythe. I’m not even sure what’s the best way to describe it. It’s an interesting theme, although it doesn’t really play to the theme. I really liked the asymmetrical factions.. It has direct conflict, which I’m not a huge fan of, but it’s typically not a huge part of individual games. It was a really fun time. I won this one, but part of it was that my faction fit well to score me points, and yet even though I rushed to end the game, I still needed a tie-breaker to win, and that’s a cool thing too, not just the person with the most stars wins. The more I think back to it, the more I realize how much fun I had. Yet I’m not sure I would ever be very good at this one either.

The last one we tried that afternoon was Dice Hospital. It’s a dice manipulation game, and it’s pretty fun. It’s got a bit of brain burning to it though, so it’s not a light game, but isn’t overly complicated either. I’ll gladly try it again.

One last game on the list, and it’s a doozy. Fog of Love is a game that I have wanted since I first heard about it. It’s a romantic comedy in a box, but it’s more than that. It’s definitely not a game like any other I’ve played. It’s original and fun. One other thing is it has one of the best tutorials I’ve seen. It plays you through the game without railroading you. It’s an experience game to be sure, but I am looking forward to trying it again. I’d also like to see how it play with someone other than Dina, I think it’s a different game when it’s not your spouse playing the other person.

Wow, that got longer than I expected, I hope you stuck with me. What games have you been playing lately, and what have you enjoyed? It was a good month or so in that I played a bunch of good games.

.