Ryan's Best of 2019 Lists

As we’re getting towards the end of the year, I thought I’d go with some of my favorite things from the past year. I probably won’t include my top games, I’ll do that later this month.

TV Shows
It was really an amazing year for TV. I won’t even pretend to have watched everything, so it’s completely possible I missed your favorite show, but here are a few of the best ones I’ve seen this year:

1) Fleabag- I’m not even sure how I’d describe Fleabag. It’s extremely well written and acted, and the less you know about the show, the better off you are. It’s not a mystery or anything, but it’s one of the most clever and genre bending shows out there.

2) Watchmen- Sadly I’ve only seen 3 episodes so far, but they were fantastic. I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, but I’ve loved it so far. So well acted, and it’s gorgeously filmed, and does a great job of having the feel of the source material.

3) Barry- Bill Hader has created an amazing character, and surrounded himself with talented character actors who are able to turn a story about a really dark person into comedy gold. There was a one off episode that involves trying to force someone to leave town, and ends up with Barry being beaten up several times in some truly amazing combat sequences, while also being possibly the funniest episode of anything I saw all year. But when this show goes dark, it goes really dark, and then is more a drama than comedy, and it’s still brilliant.

4) Big Little Lies- Second season may not have been as good as the first, but it was still well acted and a very good drama. Meryl Strrep is amazing, not that anyone should be surprised by that.

5) Good Omens- I love Neil Gaiman, so I had high hopes. It was a lot of fun, and I felt they did a good job bringing the novel to life.

6) The Good Place- Just silly fun, but some extremely smart writing. Their podcast that tells stuff behind the scenes is a fantastic addendum to each episode. The podcast is hosted by Marc Evan Jackson, so having an actual actor on the show really brings some neat insight, and he has various actors and production crew on each episode, so they have their own insights to add.

7) The Americans- We finished the final couple of seasons of this brilliant show. So well acted and consistently well written. It also gets you thinking about how the “good” guys aren’t always so good. I was always really fascinated on how the show makes Russian spies someone you care about and root for. Some neat 80’s nostalgia too.

I guarantee I am forgetting a bunch of good stuff, but this was the stuff that really stuck with me.

Novels

I read a lot. But most of the stuff, while keeping me entertained, doesn’t effect me in any particular way. I’m only going to list the stuff I rated as 5 out of 5 stars (Per Goodreads, I’ve read 67 books so far this year.).

As I look through my Goodreads ratings, I had no 5’s that weren’t Graphic Novels, so I’m going to list a couple books that DID have a lasting effect on me. I may have become more selective in rating things over the years.

1) The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie- Someone on BGG mentioned in the monthly New To Me Novels geeklist that this felt like Spirit Island the novel. I couldn’t think of a better description. It’s a fantasy novel told from the Protagonist but also a God’s view. Really well written and neat novel.

2) The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe: How to Know What’s Really Real in a World Increasingly Full of Fake by Steven Novella & The Skeptical Rogues- I wish everyone would read this. It gives advice on how to look at news stories skeptically and advice on how to avoid fake news. Sadly, it’s audience most likely knew most of these tricks, but it had some interesting stories I had never heard, even after listening to the podcast for over 10 years.

3) The MVP Machine: How Baseball’s New Nonconformists Are Using Data to Build Better Players by Travis Sawchik & Ben Lindbergh- I love the analytical movement in baseball, and this takes that to a new extreme. It breaks down what a lot of cutting edge folks were doing as the movement started, and what people were trying out to get an edge. Not for everyone, but I loved the book.

There were a handful of other really fun novels I read this year, but these were the ones that stayed with me afterwards.

Marvel Champions

Solo Games
Ok, I decided to add something game related this article. I don’t watch a ton of movies, but I wanted another list to add. And while I listed my top 20 that I submitted to the 1 Player Guild, that list has changed already, with me playing several games in November.

1) Marvel Champions- This game is amazing. I need to play it more, but it’s really quick solo and almost as much fun as with more players. I’ve played a lot more with 2 players, but I need to start playing solo to try different decks out. I am really excited to get the new stuff as it comes out.

2) Wingspan- Really great game with a great Automa. I need to break this out more often also. Interestingly these are both also going to be high on my game of the year list too.

3) Star Realms: Frontiers- Take Star Realms, which is a great game, and add some solo scenarios and new card interactions. Still a great game, but I can play it on my own.

4) Sprawlopolis- A fantastic little puzzle game. You have goals to have other things besides just making the best city, which makes this game really hard. I haven’t even been close to winning, even though my scores are improving. It’s 18 cards total, and fits in your pocket, so it’s portable too.

5) Race for the Galaxy- This requires the Gathering Storm expansion, but I feel dumb that I never tried this before this year. Another really tough Automa, but any excuse to play this game more is great.

6) Unbroken- A very controversial game due to some shady Kickstarter distribution issues, but I got it in a trade. The game itself is very straight forward, and very difficult. I look forward to playing it more. You are the only surviving member of a group of adventurers that got ambushed, and now you are trying to get out of the dungeon with no supplies or weapons.

7) Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale- An really amazing take on roll & flip genre. Drawing a map with different terrain is great fun, and looks cool when you are finished.

8) Palm Island- Still great, still fun, but I finished 10 plays of this for the year, so I’ve been focusing on other games.

9) Deep Space D-6- This dice placement game is a ton of fun. Chuck the dice and hope you can fend off the many bad things that will happen to you. Having multiple ships to use also adds to the replayability.

10) One Deck Dungeon- I finally got my own copy, although I still haven’t returned Eric’s copy yet either, whoops. Fun, quick, and some neat dice manipulation in this one too. I hope to play it more now that I don’t have to worry about wearing someone else’s copy out.

Sprawlopolis

I think I’ll stop there. I hope you enjoyed my lists. Any TV I should be looking into? How about novels (I tend to read mostly Sci-fi & Fantasy.). What solo games are you playing? Let me know in the comments.

My First Wargame: Ambush!

As a history major, I love learning about different events and time periods. My favorite, though, was World War II. I’m not sure why I was drawn towards it, but I loved learning about why it happened, how the war unfolded and the stories of various soldiers and their feats of heroism.

I think this is why I was drawn to wargames. Unfortunately, in the circle of friends I had when I started gaming, no one was really into wargames. I did find a class of games that focused on war, but could be played solo. You played against the game itself instead of an opponent. The first one that was recommended to me was Ambush!, which is an older game (It was printed in 1983 by Victory Games).

The box cover of Ambush!
The box cover of Ambush! (Photo taken from user FrUnit7 on Boardgamegeek, https://boardgamegeek.com/image/964790/ambush )

In Ambush!, you take control of an American Squad in World War II, taking them on a variety of predefined missions in Europe. The beauty in Ambush! is that the mission unfolds by making a series of checks when you enter a new hex. You do this by putting a card that contains a series of numbers into a “Viewing sleeve” and then looking up the number it gives you in a paragraph book. That paragraph book contains a variety of things, from German soldiers firing at you to “You notice a British plane flying overhead, spewing flames from the tail”. You may then encounter the plane later in the scenario, if you come across it.

The Mission Cartridge sleeve with a Mission Card enclosed. (Photo taken from user Jeff on Boardgamegeek, https://boardgamegeek.com/image/93878/ambush )

Ambush! also has an RPG feel to it. There are tables so you can roll and generate your own squad, and of course you have to name them, outfit them with gear, etc. You can play a campaign game where your soldiers gain experience and can gain better skills. But that means there are also rules for replacing your soldiers when they are incapacitated or killed. I love this aspect of the game. I really get tied to characters and that causes me to play the game differently depending on the situation I’m in.

As a wargame, the rules can be a little dense, but once you read through them and play a mission or two, things get pretty straightforward. The great thing about the rules is that it will introduce the first sections you need to play the first mission, and then add the extra rules you need to play the following missions. If you are familiar with wargame concepts, then you’ll feel right at home with Ambush! but as a new wargamer it could be a little intimidating.

A mission in progress. (Photo taken from user Blastpop on Boardgamegeek, https://boardgamegeek.com/image/2461950/ambush)

Ambush! has 3 expansions (that are pretty hard to find at an affordable price) as well as a Pacific base game and expansion (Called Battle Hymn and Leatherneck, respectively). These add more missions and different enemies, vehicles and weapons. These can definitely add the the replayability factor, because most of the missions are one use only: that is, once you’ve played it, since they are pre-programmed through the scenario cards, it’s easy for you to remember where certain events or soldiers are.

The Ambush! base game, 3 expansions, and the standalone Pacific version “Battle Hymn”. (Photo taken from user bdegroot on Boardgamegeek, https://boardgamegeek.com/image/720726/ambush)

Ambush is probably my favorite solitaire wargame of all time…and if it isn’t first, it’s definitely top 3. If you can find a copy (they appear on eBay and the BGG Marketplace from time to time at a decent price), I highly recommend it. It’s worth the learning curve, especially if you are looking for an immersive, individual soldier wargame.

25 Hour Extra Life Marathon 2019

On November 2nd several of us got together for one of my favorite gaming events, Extra Life. Gamers get together and play games, while hopefully raising money for Children’s Hospitals. I don’t typically manage to get many donations, although this year I went over my goal for the first time and sold several games in our silent auction that helped us earn even more.

So first off, I hadn’t been feeling well Thursday & Friday, so while I intended to stay at least 20 hours, I only made it to about 3 am, which put me in at 18 1/2. I just never got my after midnight second wind.The surprising thing was how many people were still going strong, by that time we usually don’t have very many people, but I bet there was 10-15 people still there when I left.

The other really amazing thing is that we raised over $2000 (We’ll gladly accept more donations here.), $700+ of that being from our silent auction, which was something we kind of just tossed in there as a experiment, and it went really well. Hopefully we can do that with similar success in the future, although I did buy too many games that way. I picked up My Little Scythe to play with Aleksia, and a couple of games I didn’t know very well, but had pretty good BGG ratings, Tournay & Imhotep.

My silent auction haul.

We also kept our tradition of going out for one of the meals to one of the local restaurants. This year we walked to Iron Rail Brewing and had some good beer and food. I think only Drew had never been there, and he enjoyed the food quite a bit. I’ve heard folks don’t always get the best service there, but the food is really good, and our service was great this time.

Ok, so onto my actual gaming for the day:

Cartographers: A Roll Player Tale- Wow, this might be my favorite roll & write. I love the making a map, and it works in player interaction in a clever way. I solo’d it the night before, and it seemed like everyone enjoyed it quite a bit.

My map from Cartographers.

No Thanks!- Still one of the great small filler games. I haven’t played this in years, but it’s always a blast. We played twice, and I actually won one of them.

Hadara- Wow, 3 games and I haven’t played a new game yet. I don’t dislike this one, but I’m not sure I think as highly of it as others either. It’s interesting, and I’m a fan of card drafting, but I am terrible at this game. It plays quickly though, so that’s a plus, it doesn’t outlast its welcome.

Early on in Hadara.

Lords of Vegas- Read Drew’s comments last week to see how I feel. All right, that’s not a perfect representation of my thoughts, but I think we both feel very similarly, it’s ok, but I don’t think I’d play it without my friends. They make it more bearable. Although it’s also a style of game that I am terrible at, plus luck can screw you at just the wrong time, like when I had finally made a good aggressive move, only to lose everything because the very next person drew the only card that would undo it. That didn’t happen often, but when you were doing badly anyway, and pulled off a big move, it sucked. I’ve played it twice now, and had no memory of the first one, even though it was only a couple years ago. That’s not a good sign. I suspect it’s just not my thing.

Marvel Champions- My friends abandoned me to play something else (it was only a 4 player game, and there were 5 of us. Drew forgot to list it, and I can’t remember what it was.), so Joe and I played this. It’s really as good as the hype. We’ve played several games and have had a blast every times. This time we didn’t just play the opening scenario, although we still used Rhino & Bomb Scare. He used She-Hulk with Aggression and I used Captain Marvel with Leadership, both their suggested starter decks in the learn to play guide, and we beat up Rhino pretty badly.

Tsuro: Phoenix Rising- First new game of the day! Drew literally punched this so we could play it, and since Dina was hanging out for a while, I appreciated it. Tsuro is one of her favorite games. This added some interesting twists to the original game, but it also added play time. You have a little more control, but I think having 3-5 players, maybe only 3 or 4 to be honest, would work best.

The Quacks of Quedlinberg- I had seen this played, but hadn’t gotten a chance to try it myself. We used the expansion so we could play 5 of us. This is a really neat game. I enjoy push your luck games, and this is a good use of that mechanic. It’s light and a little silly, and I need to get a copy for my family.

Samarkand: Routes to Riches- I was luke warm on this one, but we did play it pretty wrong, so maybe the additional choices we’d need to make would make me like it better.

Clank! In! Space!- Clank is a fun deck-builder, and Clank in Space is a sci-fi version. Fun, silly, and a bit of push your luck too, I managed to get the highest score, although I barely made it to the module I had to get to to not automatically lose. Nobody made it to the escape pods, and both Drew & Joe died in the non-losing module, making my last couple turns a mad dash to the back of the ship. It was really tense. We all escaped, but I was the best thief.

Undaunted: Normandy- An interesting deck-building war game. Very light for a war game, probably not my thing though. I did think it was a very cool design though.

That’s it. Four new games, and several good ones. I always have fun playing games with my friends & family, and we haven’t been able to do it often enough this year, so this was great. I’ll be looking forward to our Extra Life events next year too.

Did you participate in any Extra Life events? Do you do some other charity based event like this? Heck, are there any games you’ve been playing lately that you are excited about? Please mention it in the comments.

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.