Extra Life Recap!

This past weekend, I took part in my favorite gaming event of the year: Extra Life! Each year, in the first weekend of November, gamers of all sorts stay up and play games (video and board) to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

This was my 7th year participating, and it’s always a good time. We usually have a raffle, but this year we made a change and held a silent auction. In addition to that, we also had a “bring a game, take a game” table. This was a fun way to swap out some games, even if not everything is an SdJ winner 😉

Our silent auction raised over $700 for Extra Life, and at the time of this writing, we have raised $2,126 (but if you are so inclined, we are still taking donations here).

As always, we had a great time playing games. I figured I would give a brief recap of what I played and my thoughts on it.

  • Cartographers: This was a straightforward flip and write game set in the Roll Player universe. I really enjoyed this one. The best thing about it, in my opinion is the player interaction, which you don’t normally get with these “X + Write” games
  • Hadara: This is a candidate for my game of the year. I keep referring to this as “Good 7 Wonders”. It’s an engine building, card drafting game with a Civilization builder theme. I feel like this is more straightforward and quicker than 7 Wonders as there isn’t any player interaction and it’s much easier to track resources and costs for things.
  • Lords of Vegas: This was my second or third time playing this game, and I still don’t have great feelings about it. It was enjoyable enough, but I think that was due to the people I was playing it with instead of the gameplay. If people requested to play it, then I would, but it isn’t one I’ll ever think “Oh man, we really need to play Lords of Vegas”.
  • Quacks of Quedlinberg with the Herb Witches Expansion: This is another one of my favorite games this year. This push your luck bag builder is another quick game to play, and the rules overhead is really minimal. The expansion adds a few once per game player powers that add a nice twist too.
  • Samarkand: This was an interesting route builder. We played a few rules wrong, but I’d really like to give this one a try again with a group of people not late in the day.
  • Clank in Space: We played this last Extra Life and this one as well. This is a good one to play later in the evening. I am not sure if I like the space version more than the castle/dungeon version, but seeing as I don’t own Space, it’s a good chance to play something different.
  • Tsuro: Phoenix Rising: I had just gotten my Kickstarter version of this, and so we had a bit bigger group, so we played this with 6. It really adds some unique dimensions to the base Tsuro experience, but we all agreed that playing it with 6 was too many. I think the sweet spot for this game would probably be 4.
  • Undaunted: Normandy: This is my wargame of the year, hands down. I taught it to two players and both seemed to enjoy it well enough. I really like deckbuilders that let you do something in addition to building your deck, and the casualty mechanic and lack of complicated Line of Sight rules make this one a great introductory wargame.

I’m always excited for Extra Life, and this year was no exception. While I didn’t make it all 24 hours, I got pretty close this year. Extra Life is always worth participating in, and if you haven’t tried it, you should!

d20 List: Top 17 Scary Games

Ryan: So Drew and I had discussed to do out next d20 list on scary games. It seemed like a great idea, it’s Halloween after all. So of course I roll an extremely high number, making this a much bigger chore. So here are my top 17 Scary Games in no particular order.

  • Eldritch Horror- Ok, so it’s not exactly a scary game to play per se, but the Cthulhu Mythos theme is creepy and fun.
  • Pandemic- This game may not seem like much, but if you really just sit there and think about how plausible the scenario is. Maybe not 4 super bugs at once, but one can spread quickly and get out of control in a hurry.
  • Arkham Horror: The Card Game- Like EH, not exactly a jump scare type game, but the theme and scenarios make this pretty spooky.
  • Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters- Children trying to collect treasure and fight ghosts. This seems like a pretty irresponsible thing to be doing. Terrifying for a parent.
  • Go Away Monster!- I mean, it’s right there in the title. The whole idea is you’re so terrified you need to yell at and throw the Monsters out.
  • Rhino Hero- A flying Rhino? And some pretty questionable structural engineering going on here too.
  • Munchkin Clowns- Go ahead, click through and see this nightmare. I mean, Munchkin is scary enough on it’s own and you add scary clowns?
  • Galaxy Trucker- You want to see why space travel is a terrible idea, go play this game. Your ship gets decimated every round by all kinds of unavoidable hazards.
  • Red November- Let’s put drunken gnomes on a submarine and see what happens! This game is just your worst nightmares about what can happen on a sub.
  • The Mind- You are basically trying to create a psychic link with your friends, or even worse, complete strangers! Who knows what kind of stuff you might unwittingly access in their heads.
  • Nyctophobia- I haven’t played this yet, but playing a game where you need to escape from a killer while not being able to see the board sounds like an interesting gimmick.
  • Divided Republic- We played this once, and somehow caused 2 states to become slave states that weren’t supposed to be and broke the Union. I am terrified that the US was so fragile that we were able to break it accidentally. How close are we to something like that today?
  • Cards Against Humanity- I don’t hate this game, but would be scared that playing it once turns into an all night CAH session.
  • Agricola- This farming game scares me as showing how easy it is to not have enough food and how easy it is to end up with a cow living in your house.
  • Hare & Tortoise- It’s frightening how much math is involved here.
  • Flash Point: Fire Rescue- Mimics extremely well how quickly a fire can get out of control in a building, and how difficult it can be for rescuers to get in and help.
  • BANG!- This shows how quickly we’ll turn and shoot each other blindly if we have guns and no consequences.

That’s it. My completely 100% super serious list of scary games. I hope you enjoy it, I had fun writing it.

Drew: Here are my top 17 ‘scary’ games.

  • Richard Scarry’s Busytown: Eye found it! Game: This one has Scar(r)y right in the name! (and yes, it’s gonna be that type of list).
  • Food Chain Magnate: I can’t think of anything scarier than being hungry for the exact same type of food for eternity.
  • Monza: The only thing scary about this game is that I can’t beat my 2.5 year old at it…
  • Disney Villainous: Some Disney Villains are down right scary…I was terrified of Beast when I was younger…
  • Arkham Horror (2e and 3e): A more serious entry for this list, being delayed in Cthulhu’s home is terrifying, as is being cursed for the third time in one game (which happened to me recently).
  • B-17: Queen of the Skies: There is nothing scarier in this game than having to make an entire trip back to base, while on 2 engines and half a wing…
  • Pandemic: Iberia: Thinking about all the diseases you can contract without proper water treatment! Pandemic: Iberia lets you do just that!
  • Zpocalypse: Another ACTUAL game for this list (but one I haven’t played), zombie games are always scary…BRAIIIIIIINS.
  • Dice Hospital: Another real scary thing to think about, I don’t want to be treated by the whims of dice and advance planning.
  • Boggle: Again, the only scary thing about this one is how often I lose at it. I scream anytime it gets pulled off the shelf.
  • Space Hulk: Death Angel: Being stalked by Genestealers in air vents is always fun. Another game where I have a consistent losing record.
  • Fortress America: America being invaded by Communists!!! I can’t think of anything scarier!
  • Pay Day: What’s scarier than playing a game based upon your day to day life? Taxes and Bills! EEEEEEEEK!
  • Silent Victory: Much like B-17 mentioned earlier in the list, trying to find out out if your submarine made it back to port after stalking Japanese shipping ships.
  • Hornet Leader: Cthulhu Conflict: A good one to end the list one. Again, I haven’t fully played this one, but I know you can nuke Lovecraftian horrors. Nuclear War in Ril’yeh? Awesome.

So there it is! Ryan and I’s top 17 SpOoOoOoOoOoOoky games? Did we miss any? What are your favorite spooky games. Let us know in the comments below!!

Klask Review

Sometimes I see a game and I fall in love with the idea. I loved the idea of Tumblin’ Dice, and was incredibly lucky to find a brand new copy in a thrift store for $5. It was one of our most played games for years, and I eventually sold it when we needed some money for a nice profit, it was out of print at that point. But the memories of my 5 or 6 yr old daughter Katlyn beating adults badly, will always remain.

Klask is also one of those games. I loved the simplicity of it, and the table hockey style play. I am a bit of a sucker for dexterity games to be honest. But for some strange reason, I never picked up a copy. I saw it at Target at a completely reasonable price. I even saw a copy at a thrift store, although that price seemed high, and it was taped shut, so I couldn’t verify the contents. The Target price went up as I assume they had the retail price wrong for the first few months, and while it was still fine, I balked at getting it. I saw it on sale, and still never picked it up. I finally grabbed it once I saw a single copy on a clearance shelf. It was 50% off, and I guessed it wasn’t going to come back.

So as I mentioned above, Klask is a Air/Table Hockey style game, with a couple of twists. The first being it’s much smaller, and is designed to sit on a table. It would fit on a small square folding table if you wanted it to. It looks really good on the table, and while not built from the highest quality materials ever, I don’t see any reason why it would fall apart or get damaged with reasonable care. Note: Some research on BGG mentioned the surface may start to scuff eventually, and there are some suggestions of felt pads or other thin layers to help with that.

Ok, so onto the gameplay. The main way to score is by getting the ball into the small cutout circle on your opponents side. You do this by using a pretty strong magnet between 2 pieces with magnets, the longer striker goes on top of the board, and the steering magnet underneath it, and this is the part you move, so you are able to slide the striker around on the board. These parts do come separated quite easily, but this seems like more of a feature as opposed to a flaw, as you can’t just zoom around all willy nilly. If you are unable to get your pieces connected back again if they do become separated, you give your opponent a point. .

And you wouldn’t want to move crazily all over the place very often anyway. If you aren’t careful, you’ll accidentally slide your piece into YOUR goal, and that’s called a Klask, which is based on the noise it makes when it happens, at least that’s the story according to the rules, and again you’ll give your opponent a point.

An additional obstacle is 3 small magnets in the middle of the board. If you ever have 2 of those stuck to your piece, it’s a point for your opponent. They get knocked around quite often, and provide a different element of strategy for just knocking the ball as hard as possible and hope it goes in. Plus it’s another reason to slow down moving around, you want to keep an eye on where these bits are at.

One other slightly different thing is how you start after a goal. You start in the marked area in the corner. It’s not always very easy to hit it well out of there, and adds a surprising amount of difficulty to your opening shots, or at least it has been for me. but maybe I’m just terrible at it.

The first person to 6 points wins the game.

This may sound a bit complicated, but it’s extremely simple and fast paced. My 5 yr old can play it with no issues, and can even beat the grown ups sometimes, because let’s face it, bad hops and accidents can happen very quickly. It’s chaotic and silly, and you learn that finesse is more often the better option than power shots, because you may set off a crazy sequence that ends up with the ball in your own goal if you hit it too hard.

We’ve been having a good time as a family with Klask. The games often take only a few minutes, and the giggling and shouting are a lot of fun. My wife wasn’t too sure about our purchase until the first night we took it out, and all 3 kids took turns playing each other with lots of laughing and trash talking. She looked at me and said “This alone might be worth the $30.” For a family that seems to be on the run a lot, a fun game we can play quickly is fantastic.

Have you played Klask? Any suggestions for some other games like that? I really want to get a nice Crokinole board someday, and we’ve played a lot of Pitchcar over the years. Any other whole family game suggestions?

Sometimes Simpler Is Better

I wrote a post a while back about how I love playing thinkier games because they really stretch my mental muscles.

Wargames are no exception. Wargame rule books are usually pretty dense, with sub clauses and exceptions: Sometimes they remind me of my law school text books. In some wargames, there’s a lot of figuring out attack strengths, defense strengths, if a unit has line of sight (LOS) to another unit, what the range is, and on and on.

I enjoy playing games like that, but lately I’ve been appreciating simpler games. Not just wargames (although there is one that really made me want to write this, I’ll touch on that later) either.

There’s a real joy in coming home after a hard day at work and playing something like Tsuro or playing a game of Zombie Dice or Kingdomino over a lunch break. There are times where I’ve been programming all day, and I feel like doing something social but I really don’t want to sit down for an hour or so: it’s nice to pick up a game that I can remember the rules to without reading anything and play it in 20-30 minutes (maybe shorter).

It’s really hard to find a wargame that fits in this space, but I recently got Undaunted: Normandy (designed by Trevor Benjamin and David Thompson and published by Osprey games), and to me, it really fits this description well.

Undaunted: Normandy is a wargame deckbuilder that is super accessible and has a very simple ruleset. The couple of games we’ve played have taken between 20 and 40 minutes. The great thing about Undaunted is that you don’t have to worry about determining line of sight or attack value and finding out the defense value is very straight forward. My wife isn’t the biggest fan of wargames, but she seemed to really enjoy this take on it, even if it’s not a traditional hex and counter wargame.

This was a shorter post, but I guess I’m just keeping in line with the topic: short and simple. What are some of your favorite short or simple games? Let us know in the comments below!

Mixed Bag

Sorry, I’m late on my post. I typically work on a little bit of this during my breaks at work, but we had a workforce reduction and I haven’t had as much time to take my breaks this week. Plus just some general weirdness made me busier than normal. Then kids stuff last night meant I didn’t get home till late.

So I am writing a mixed bag of stuff today. I haven’t played enough new things lately for me to write many mini reviews, I didn’t have enough time to prepare a proper game review, and I didn’t have a particular topic I thought I’d be able to rip out quickly.

So first off I want to put out some thoughts on a recent trend in board game complaints. A TON of people complain about a game being unbalanced or not playtested enough. For instance, the recently released Tapestry. There are a bunch if civilizations and techs to develop throughout the game. Some combos may work better than others, but it might just be inexperience among players. But to accuse a game as being unbalanced, which can be a very negative connotation for a game, especially after one play, is ridiculous. These games have been playtested to death more often than not (Especially by well known publishers.), and maybe, just maybe, you messed something up, or didn’t find the ideal strategy, and maybe your opponent did. That doesn’t mean the game didn’t spend enough time in development. It’s quite possible, you just don’t know what you’re doing. Give a game a few more plays before trashing the development and playtesting. It does happen, things can get missed, but somehow I doubt you’ve broken a game in your first couple attempts.

I thought I’d discuss a couple of games I’ve played recently:

Tapestry– A really fun, light civilization building game. I admit, I don’t get the feeling of creating a civ, but that didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. It was deceivingly simple to play, but with a lot of interesting choices to be made as the game goes on. I did win, but I fell WAY behind the other players early on, so I don’t think that had much effect on my opinion. I had a plan, stuck with it, and came out on top, so I felt like I enjoyed that part of it.

Tapestry

Jaipur– A very nice little 2 player game. It’s always interested me, and I’ve owned and enjoyed the app for a couple years, so when I found this on the Barnes & Noble clearance table, I jumped on it. Dina and I have played it a couple times, and it works great as something quick to play at the laundroma

I also bought a couple of games. I bought Drew’s copy of One Deck Dungeon so I can give Eric his copy back. I picked up Mistfall: Heart of the Mists on a deep discount for solo play. And I bought Pharaoh’s Gulo Gulo to play with Aleksia.

Lastly, I belong to the 1 Player Guild on BGG. Every year, they have members rank their top solo games, up to a max of 20. I thought I’d share my list.

1) Wingspan
2) Star Realms: Frontiers
3) Race for the Galaxy
4) Palm Island
5) Crypt
6) Deep Space D-6
7) One Deck Dungeon
8) Fleet
9) Azul
10) Patchwork
11) Friday
12) That’s Pretty Clever (Ganz Schon Clever)
13) Elder Sign
14) Factory Funner
15) Onirim
16) The Game
17) Sagrada
18) Rising 5: Runes of Asteros
19) Tiny Epic Galaxies
20) Mint Works

That’s it. Sorry for the random post, but life got in my way this week, but I got a post up. Let me know if you have any thoughts on any of these, I look forward to hearing from folks.

d20 List: Top 9 RPG-esque Games

It’s my (Drew)’s turn to roll the dice and pick a topic. I am a huuuuge fan of Critical Role. For those of you not familiar, Critical Role is an Internet Series of professional voice actors who stream their Dungeons & Dragons game each week (you can find their YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpXBGqwsBkpvcYjsJBQ7LEQ). I don’t ever watch it live, but I watch the on demand playback while I’m playing video games or working on homework.

This season (they are in their second campaign), the PCs have formed a group called the Mighty Nein. I might have been watching the latest episode while I rolled for this week, and when it came up Nine, I knew what the topic was going to be. Since they play D&D, I decided we should come up with our top RPG -esque games. These can be RPG systems, or game books, or board games, but they have to tell a story. Here are my Picks:

  1. Dungeons and Dragons– The grandaddy of them all. I could write a whole book on D&D (in fact, I’m toying around with the idea for one) but it has provided me the most memories of any game on this list. We started playing 3.5e, but switched over to 5e when it came out. I’ve played in one off games and longer campaigns. I’ve avenged fallen friends and changed the fate of kingdoms. I’ve failed to prevent a Godkiller from being summoned and I’ve seen numerous Critical Rolls and Fails. I can’t wait for my daughter to get old enough so that I can run games for her and my wife
  2. Fiasco– This is a great, game masterless RPG that puts you in a crazy scenario straight out of a Cohen Brothers film. This is a great choice for people who want to get together to tell stories and see craziness happen, but may not be able to commit to a campaign.
  3. Tales of the Arabian Nights– This was my intro to this genre (at least on the board game side of things). It’s fun for a night of people who enjoy story telling and the setting, but I definitely play it for the experience and not for the “game” aspect.
  4. Fabled Lands Game Books– These are Choose Your Own Adventure books on Steroids. There are 7 in the series, and you can jump between books depending on where your character goes. You maintain stats, inventory and statuses as you encounter monsters, traps and dungeons.
  5. Four Against Darkness-Another set of dungeon crawl books, the base book was given to me as a gift from a friend. I haven’t had time to play much, but the little bit I did gave a great dungeon crawl experience quickly without much rules overhead.
  6. Star Wars: Edge of the Empire– I have a love/hate relationship with this RPG Series. I love the rules and how it implemented successes and failures (you could use them to narratively describe the actions a player was taken) but I had a really hard time DM’ing in this because of the setting: there is so much material that you want to stay true to (or at least I did) I always felt I was going against the source.
  7. Ambush! – This is D&D, wargame edition. In this game, you roll for a squadron of soldiers (they have stats as well as equipment points) and then take them through a series of mission in WWII Europe. This was my first foray into solitaire wargaming, and many consider it one of the best solo wargames ever created.
  8. Target for Today – In Target for Today, you control a B-17 (or other models of bombers) flying missions in WWII Europe. You generate your squad and guide them through missions, trying to get both your bomber and crew to survive 25 missions. The narrative this game provides is amazing, but be warned: there are not a ton of decisions to be made. You’re really rolling dice against a number of tables.
  9. Detective/Chronicles of Crime – These are the only ones I haven’t played, but in these games you take the role of a detective and try to solve crimes. It’s a deduction game, but you do progress through missions that tell an ongoing story. (I included both because they came out at the same time, and I own both).

Ryan: I’m really surprised that I had a bit of trouble making this list out. I really like RPG’s and board games that bring those elements to the table. Maybe I am too harsh on what I consider RPG-like, but finding 9 games was more difficult than I expected. I decided games with a good narrative and often having you play a character worked best, but not all are 100% like that, as you’ll see.

I did misread Drew’s suggestion for this topic, and I thought that meant we wouldn’t choose RPG’s. I am a huge fan of RPG’s although actually playing them has been an issue. A quick couple I really have had fun with over the years are D & D, Toon, Happy Birthday Robot, Star Wars (Wizard’s first d20 edition.), and Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple.

I am fascinated by systems, so others that I haven’t played but really wish I could find time to are Fiasco, Fate Accelerated (Dresden Files particularly), and Blades in the Dark.

  1. Fog of Love– A great game where you play as one of 2 people who are dating and starting a relationship. The game also encourages a little role playing to get into your character a bit more. There isn’t much of a win condition, so it can end however best fits the story.
  2. Gloomhaven– The story part of this one isn’t necessarily as strong as some (Although we’ve only played a couple of times, maybe it gets going later.), but the combat definitely feels like D&D style fights.
  3. Runebound– This one feels a little less story based too, although you can create a bit of a story as you go along. The player progression and XP make it feel like character building. I’ve only played the first 2 editions, so I can’t speak of the newest version of the game.
  4. TIME Stories– This one is almost all just story. But a really neat story with some puzzle solving involved, so I feel like it qualifies here. I know I loved the strong story telling aspect, although I’ve only gotten to play the base scenario.
  5. Tales of the Arabian Nights– Another story driven game, but you craft some crazy stuff here. The Choose Your Own Adventure aspects make me feel a little less RPGish than some, but it’s hard to argue with the story driving the game.
  6. Stuffed Fables– A really neat family game that has simple combat, but a lot of fun combat with some decisions to help shape your story. Feels like a great intro to RPG’s for kids.
  7. Descent– Pretty similar to Gloomhaven, but a simpler game. Still fun and enough story to qualify, and is something I need to get to the table more often.
  8. Star Wars: Imperial Assault– See Descent, but with the Star Wars universe to carry the story.
  9. Roll Player– It’s the least story involved of the group, but the most RPG-like, although it’s the setup, not the story. You make a character by manipulating dice to score the most points, but you are giving these dice to D&D style attributes.

There you have it, our top 9 RPG-esque games. Have you played any of these? Any systems or games we overlooked? Let us know in the comments below, and may all your rolls be 20!

Revisiting Childhood Favorites

Apparently I’m in the mood for a board game throw back Thursday. I’m working from home today, waiting on someone to show up and fix our microwave. My office is also my game room, so I was sitting here thinking about what I could write about and my eyes settled on the copy of Fireball Island (reprinted edition) that I just purchased from a friend locally. It got me thinking back to where my board game habits really started.

I was sick a lot as a kid, and so my parents would end up playing board games with me to pass the time. These were your typical mass market games, but my favorites were Monopoly Junior, Life, Payday and Stratego. I also learned to appreciate abstracts like Checkers, Mancala, and Chess. Our family also enjoyed playing larger group games at the holidays; I fondly remember marathon games of Yahtzee and Clue. Maybe the Yahtzee games directly tie in to my love of dice games today.

There were also games that I always wanted for some reason or another, but never owned. I always appreciate going to board game conventions and finding people to play one or two of these games with me either during a late night where I don’t have anything else going or, or on the last day of the Con. Some of these have included 13 Dead End Drive and Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit.

Even though it’s a little early, my wife and I have been slowly picking up some of the games we remember from our childhood to share with our daughter. She’s only two and a half, but she already likes playing games with us. It is only a matter of time before we introduce her to some of our favorites. I even found a copy of the same version of Monopoly Junior I used to play at a local antique mall for a steal, so it’s patiently awaiting it’s time on the shelf, along with other classics we’ve bought like Mousetrap and Chutes and Ladders.

Do I think these games are groundbreaking, or the best games ever designed? No. But the point of gaming is to have fun, and there’s a bonus if you are doing it with people you care about. I’m excited to revisit some of these games that I loved while I was a child, and experience them through my daughters eyes for the first time. In the end, people should play what they enjoy, because that’s the reason we are all in this hobby.

Geekgroup.app Review

I’m going to do something a little different today. I’m going to review a game based website.

Those who know me well know that I love having data. I typically don’t use that data much, but I love having if I want it. I track my games played, owned, how much I paid, and where I got it. I track the details of each play. I also track the books I read, TV Shows & Movies I watch, beer I drink, and all of my disc golf plays (Which sadly has been 0 this summer.).

So when Drew invited me to use a site he found called Geekgroup.app, I was very interested. And I’ve enjoyed seeing it add features over a fairly short amount of time. We’ve been using it since April or May sometime.

One of the main features is being able to create a custom group of BGG users, and compile their collections & data. You want to quickly see how your group rates a game? This is the place. You want to use see which of your friends your game tastes match up with the best, that’s here too. The insights are at the very least interesting, if not always useful. The best feature might be just being able to look at all of your collections in one place.

There have been a ton of insights that they have added for your own info too. Mostly stuff that again isn’t all that useful (At least to me.), but still interesting, like what was my longest losing streak, or how long was my longest streak of not playing games.

You can create lists for your info too, including your top 100 rated games. Or seeing my shelf of shame It saves me a bit of time as opposed to using BGG. You can create custom lists, but I haven’t played with that.

There are ways to sort your collection & plays too, but again, I haven’t dug too much into those features. Same thing goes with the tools page, I don’t have much use for a Word Cloud or Heatmap, but it’s cool to have the options.

The last tab/page is activity, which is interesting to see when I rated games and when I added games to my collection.

One negative is that it only updates your data once a week. I don’t sue it often enough to justify that. You can make a one time tip of $2.50 to get daily syncs, manual syncs, and custom group urls. To be honest, I should probably do this just because I like rewarding small developers when they have a good product.

If you are stat junkie like I am, this site is really neat. I consider it a really useful companion to BGG. Some things will work better as time passes, like your yearly collection data, it starts when you join, or maybe that’s just for your groups, I was having trouble finding something individually that hadn’t puled my historical data. There are frequent improvements being made, and I look forward to seeing what else gets added in the future.

How about you, are there other sites out there I should know about? Are there any apps or sites that you frequently use? Let me know in the comments.

Review: Rise of Tribes

I am a sucker for any sort of Civilization/4X game (4X is an abbreviation for games where you Explore, Expand, Exploit, and eXterminate) . I suppose it’s because I’m a history major, and so any sort of game where I can look back on civilizations and help build something huge and grandiose from nothing.

I know that Tapestry by Stonemeier Games is all the rage (and indeed, I did preorder a copy), but I recently picked up a game from 2018. It was funded via Kickstarter, but I found this at a local FLGS. I was trading in some games, and it happened to catch my eye. The owner (who is also a friend of mine) suggested that I might enjoy it as it’s a lighter, quicker civ building game.

Rise of Tribes is published by Breaking Games and was designed by Brad Brooks. Up to 4 players compete to guide their civilization by completing goals and developing research. Each player has the same set of goal cards, and each have a certain number of victory points. The winner is the first player to 15 points. No tie breaker, no equal number of turns. It’s the first to 15.

A photo of the box cover
The Box Cover

The rules are relatively simple; each turn you will roll two dice and use those dice to take 2 of 4 total actions. There are three spots for dice on each action, so when you take an action, you push an existing die off (so the next player can roll it). Depending on the die faces (three in total), you may get a stronger or weaker version of the action you decided to place. So in this manner, you can really mess with someones later turn by ensuring you place the die on an action that will force them to take a weaker one.

A compilation photo of the various components:  Dice, Terrain Hexes, Meeples
Each player color has a different meeple ‘sculpt’. Above, you can see the three die faces. Moons provide weaker actions, while suns provide stronger. Blank is the standard.

Over the course of the game, you will add settlers to the board, move those settlers around, gather resources from hexes based upon the terrain type, and lead your civ to get more goal cards. There is a global population limit for each hex, so if you (and your opponents) ever find yourself with settlers over the limit, then conflict occurs. Conflict is simply taking turns removing settlers until there is only one color of settler left in a space (or until you are at the population limit if you are the only player on that space).

The map is made of modular terrain tiles and has a specific layout for each player count, so it’s just as tight with 2 as it is with 4. Additionally, there is a basic game which uses basic tiles and no variable player powers and an advanced game, which gives each player a specific power of their civilization as well as some additional terrain and a special meeple. I haven’t yet played the advanced game, but I am very interested to see what the variable powers bring to the game.

A photo of a portion of the insert
The game comes with a very functional and helpful insert; it even has a little divider to keep the advanced game components separate from the base game.

I really enjoyed my play of this game. Even if I’ve only played it once, I can see that there is replayability and that it’s something I want to keep playing. It’s a quick(er) civ game that doesn’t feel like you have to focus on going to war or playing “take that” with your neighbors just to survive. The fact that all players have the same goals available to them, but that may not be in the same order can help you guide your strategy and figure out what your opponent is doing, so you can make it difficult for them to accomplish it, but that may also cause you to hurt your standing.

This was a blind buy for me, and I’m glad I did. My wife enjoyed playing it, and I think it’s in that sweet spot of light and heavy that I can get other people in my group to try it out, even if they don’t like heavier civ/4x Games. The dice mechanic was something I hadn’t encountered before, so that was a neat twist on placing dice to get the most out of your actions, and the artwork and components are solid as well.

Have you played Rise of Tribes? If not, what are some of your favorite Civ/4x games? Let us know in the comments below!

d20 List: Top Licensed Games

It’s the time of the month that Drew and I make a list. My 5 yr old rolled the big foam 20 sided die she has and came up with lucky number 13. With a Friday the 13th coming in a few weeks, I thought about a horror theme, but I’m not sure I have played that many games like that, so I decided to go with a different theme that Friday the 13 would fall under, licensed games in no particular order.

Disclaimer: We are not lawyers, we don’t know for sure which of these actually require a license or are public domain.

So here are Drew and my top 13 Licensed Games:

Ryan’s List

First off, I didn’t consider other game franchise. I wasn’t sure how it worked with D&D, Shadowrun, or Pathfinder. I did count video games though.

  1. Legendary- I’m going to lump the 3 games I’ve played under this. The Marvel version is one of my favorite games, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer version is excellent, and the Firefly version is fun, but I haven’t played it enough to know if it’s up to the other’s standards, it’s a slightly different game being a Legendary Encounters game.
  2. FFG Cthulu Games- Another group listing. Fantasy Flight Games has made several Mythos based games, and Eldritch Horror, Elder Sign, and Arkham Horror: The Card Game are all excellent games, so I decided to add them all here.
  3. Star Wars: Imperial Assault– Descent has always been one of my favorite games, both versions, and this is a great edition to it. A fun dungeon crawl with a Star War twist.
  4. Harry Potter: Hogwart’s Battle– This is probably my favorite deck builder to teach new players. It starts basic, and you keep adding stuff as you win, basically adding cards from the next book. We haven’t finished yet, we stalled out on Book 4, which I understand is a common place for people, it ramps up the difficulty.
  5. Perry Rhodan: The Cosmic League– Space pick up and deliver. THe art is neat. It’s only 2 players, which might be an issue for some. I believe I’ve had it on both my favorite 2-player Games and Underrated Games.
  6. Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery– I never played the computer game, but this game was great. I think it’s be re-done at least once after losing the IP. I really wish I hadn’t sold my copy, it was always a fun time.
  7. The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game– A pretty difficult, but interesting co-op game. I love the novels, so I know the characters well. Each novel is a seperate scenario, and each requires you to play a little differently. As a bonus it typically only lasts about 30 minutes.
  8. Daytona 500– This one uses the same system as Detroit/Cleveland Grand Prix and more recently Downforce. You don’t control a particular car, but you get a handful of cards to move all of them, and you bid on where they finish. I’ve mentioned my affection for racing games, and this one is simple and fun.
  9. Discworld: Ankh-Morpork– I love Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and this is the best game from that world. Hidden goals with some area control, and just enough take that to not annoy me. It’s a really solid game.
  10. Railroad Tycoon– You’ll sense a them of regret getting rid of games, although most of them were necessary at the time. I have loved this since I fort played my friend Kevin’s copy many years ago. It’s a HUGE board, but it’s such a great system. It’s still in print as Railways of the World and that series.
  11. Gears of War: The Board Game– Did I once own this? Yep. Did I sell it? Yes again. Admittedly, I doubted we’d play it often. Bryan taught us once, and I really liked it.
  12. Starcraft: The Board Game– Another one I owned and sold. Again, it wasn’t going to get played enough, but it was a cool system, and did a great job of building up like the computer game itself. I only played it a couple of times, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  13. The Lion Guard: Protect the Pride Lands– This one is probably more sentimental than it being a great game, but it’s a really solid kids co-op game. Aleksia and I have played it over 10 times since we got it last spring, and she still asks for it. I’m not even sure she’s watched the cartoon very much.

Drew’s List

Now that Ryan has had his say, here’s my top 13 Licensed games (in no particular order).

  1. DiceMasters: I’ve written before how I love Quarrior’s IP Crazy big brother, but when I think of a game that used licensing to enhance gameplay, DiceMasters is at the top of the list. Where else can I combine the powers of Captain America with Green Lantern?
  2. Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit: This is a Grail game for many, and I’ve only played it once at BGG.Con. This was a fun, 3D dice fest and I’m really glad I played it. I don’t think I’ll ever pay to get a copy, but I’d pay it again if given the chance.
  3. Risk: Star Wars Edition: The first time I played this I referred to it as “The Queen’s Gambit’s little brother”. This isn’t your typical risk, and it gives a fun tension where players have to manage three different “battlefields” that are taken from the movies. All in all, it’s a fun game and it looks good on the table.
  4. Arkham Horror (2e/3e): Arkham was my first foray into “epic” gaming; games that tell a story and take a long time to play. It was in college, so I had ample free time to play. Recently, FFG released a 3rd edition that streamlines the gameplay and makes it more scenario based. This is much better for my schedule, and I’ve really enjoyed the couple of times I’ve played it. Either way, Arkham will always hold a fond space in my heart.
  5. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle: My wife and I both love the Harry Potter games, so when we heard there was a deckbuilder coming out in that universe, we were both really excited. We haven’t played it a ton, but when we do it’s an enjoyable time, and it’s a solid game to use to introduce deckbuilders to people who may not be familiar with them.
  6. Bob Ross: Art of Chill Game: When I first heard about this, I thought it was a cash grab. Then I picked it up on Black Friday and played it. It was surprisingly not bad. It’s a little set collecting game where you are competing against Bob to finish paintings. It’s a very zen game, much like Tokkaido, and would be good for a lazy evening where you didn’t want to think too much or get too cutthroat.
  7. Codenames: We have both the Disney and Harry Potter versions of Codenames, and we’ve enjoyed it the few times we’ve played it. The Harry Potter version introduces the rules for cooperative 2p play that Duel has. We have yet to combine Disney and Harry Potter though. Maybe if Disney ever acquires the rights….
  8. The Game of Life: A Jedi’s Path: Yes, it’s Life. But this version allows you to make choices that lead to the light or the dark side. No, it doesn’t have deep strategic game play. But it lets me be a Jedi for a little while.
  9. Harry Potter Labyrinth: This is a themed version of the classic Ravensburger title. This will probably be my daughters first introduction to Harry Potter, and I hope she can use it to get lost in the books like her mother and I did.
  10. Star Wars: Imperial Assault: Descent, but in the Star Wars universe? Sign me up. I admit, I haven’t played a ton of it, but with the app that allows for cooperative play without a Game Master, I’m looking forward to setting some time aside for my wife and I to take on the empire.
  11. Lords of Waterdeep: For a long time, this was my default, go to worker placement game for new gamers. I really enjoy it with the expansions as well. The theme could probably be about anything, but I think the Dungeons & Dragons theme helps to draw people in. This one caused a bit of a debate between Ryan and I, since the company that owns the license is the one that produced the board game. But I argue that even if they own it, it’s still licensed. Help us settle this in the comments 😉
  12. Space Hulk: Death Angel: This solo game is brutal. BRUTAL. I have lost more times than I can count, and can count the wins on one hand. But it’s quick, doesn’t take up a ton of table space, and evokes some of the feeling that you are trapped in cramped hallways with no way out except for through the beasts stalking you. Unfortunately, it’s OOP, so you might have to pay a pretty penny to get a copy.
  13. Arkham Horror: Final Hour: This is the newest game on the list. I had the fortune to play a game of this after a buddy bought it from a local game store after GenCon. This was a really enjoyable, tension filled game that you would expect from the “House of Arkham” line. To me, it felt like a step up from Elder Sign, but a step down from Eldritch/Arkham Horror. It features an initiative system that specifically doesn’t allow table talk where you have to balance the values on the cards in your hand against when you might go in the overall turn order. We lost, but we really enjoyed playing it and all agreed we’d play it again.

So there you have it. Drew and I’s top 13 licensed games. How many of these have you played? Are there ones that we missed? Ones that break the mold of “licensed games are terrible?” Is Drew or Ryan right on Lords of Waterdeep? Let us know in the comments!