d20 List: Top 6 Pieces of Advice to Existing Gamers for Helping New Players

We all have friends we would love to come play games with us. For many of us, it’s a very social act, and that includes many of us who aren’t particularly social in the first place. Whether it be at a small gathering or a convention, there are often new players who might be intimidated by these games that have so many pieces and 10 pages of rules. Drew and I have some suggestions for how help these folks out as experienced gamers.

My 5 yr old rolled us a 6 this week, so here are my (Ryan) top 6 suggestions.

Keep it simple: All of us can be overeager sometimes. I’d love to get my new gamer friends, who have played Catan and Cards Against Humanity several times in the last 5 months, to play Power Grid with me. And while PG isn’t a difficult game, it can overwhelm people with the sheer amounts of math and strategy. Stick to simpler games to break them in. Modern boardgame mechanisms are getting more familiar, but there is no need to overwhelm them at first. Play a few games, or game days to get a feel for what they may or may not enjoy, then ramp things up a bit.

We once had a hardcore gamer come to a game night. and only 2 of us had played many games, and almost everyone else was newer to the hobby. The player brought out Carcassonne, which is a good idea, but he threw several expansions in too, which was not. He then suggested RoboRally, which is a fantastic game, but set up a super aggressive 4 board track, and he was the only person at the table who had played. We lost a couple of players that night for several months.

Know your Audience: This one comes from help I see on a lot of message boards. If I’m asking for a new boardgame for a 7 yr old who has only played kids games, that kid will probably not be served very well by someone seriously suggesting Race for the Galaxy. Ok, I haven’t seen that suggestion exactly, but I have seen many where I shake my head and think “Seriously?” Even something like Lords of Waterdeep is probably overwhelming for many. Just because you see a game as simple, know that you are also well versed in reading these instructions, and new players might be freaked out by a long rulebook, and anything over a few pages will seem long. Heck, I even look at an 8 page rulebook as too much sometimes, even though I should be used to it by now.

Don’t Play your Best: I don’t mean lose intentionally. But when you have a great strategy that will work as long as somebody doesn’t do X to counter it, new players probably aren’t going to do X. And if you win in a dominating fashion, they may not want to play that game again. Try some kind of new tactics, or help them with suggestions on what options they have. Don’t play the game for them, but politely show them a couple different options occasionally, and explain why it’s a good move. Probably keep the trash talk to a minimum too.

Relax: Many of us aren’t the best at socializing. I know I am awful at it. Try not to be nervous, talk slowly, and take your time explaining things. I know I especially like to talk fast when I’m nervous, so trying to relax will help me out. It will also help the folks you are teaching/playing with feel at ease too.

Sample Turns: As someone who tracks plays and time playing, this one goes against everything I stand for, but don’t be afraid to show a couple of sample turns. You can always start over, or at least offer to, maybe the players are fine just seeing how this all plays out, but leave it up to them. Also ask if they want to see another turn, sometimes one will be enough.

Don’t be a Dick: Be polite, be nice, don’t scoff at the fact that they like Apples to Apples or consider Monopoly a gamer’s game. It only takes one negative experience to spoil the whole thing for some folks. It’s fine to joke around, but don’t go overboard. This one may seem obvious, but I’ve seen folks do it anyway. A little polite conversation is probably a good idea too, although i suck at that personally.

Drew’s Tips

Ryan picked which of the 3 d20 Lists we were going to do this week, and I think this is a great one to start on. We were all beginners once, and whether we became gamers because we ran into people following these tips or in spite of people who ignored them, remembering this info could help grow the hobby.

Be Welcoming: Walking into a room full of people you don’t know getting ready to engage in an activity you may know nothing about can be stressful. Help eliminate some of the stress on the new gamer. Take the initiative to talk to them, find out what games they have tried out, and invite them to join in a game getting started. By taking the pressure off of them to find someone to connect with, you are giving them one less thing to worry about.

Gauge Comfort Level: This goes in with my above point. As you are getting to know a new member to the game group, find out what games they have played, even if those are “just ones like Monopoly and Clue”. Use that information to help get them into a game without a steep learning curve (or into one if it seems like they would be comfortable). Be the bridge to help gap the knowledge divide and get them playing with something they’ll be more likely to enjoy. Use theme to your advantage too: If they like a certain movie, TV show, or book series, see if there is a gateway game that has a theme similar to their interests. It’s another way to keep them comfortable and having a great time.

Keep Things in Reference: Gamers like to compare and categorize things. “Oh! You’ll love Game X! It combines the action selection mechanic of Game Y with the Scoring Mechanic of Game Z, but it’s more like a Knizia than a Feld.”

That sounds like Greek to me, and I’ve been playing games for a while now. Focus on keeping things limited to the game you are playing, or to something that the new gamer has a frame of reference for. It ensures that you are keeping table talk and conversation accessible. After you finish a game, by all means mention that there are other games that use mechanics like what we just played, but don’t go into detail.

Forget about “The Hotness”: The debate will rage on forever whether it’s better to play old classics or belong to the Cult of the New. This sort of ties in to the above point about keeping things in reference, but be sure you aren’t rushing to play a game just because it’s new if you don’t think it’s a good gateway game or if it will gel with newcomers.

We have, on occasion, done “theme days” where we try to play Roll and Writes, or dice games, or things like that. Maybe hold a “Gateway Game” day. A lot of the “What games are good for beginners” threads on Boardgamegeek reference the same games over and over; there’s probably a good reason for that.

Don’t Finish a Game for the Sake of Finishing It: I think this is my most controversial point here. If you are finished explaining the rules and everyone at the table has sort of that glazed over eye look, or just doesn’t seem to be feeling it, then DON’T PLAY THE GAME!

Life is too short to play games where people aren’t enjoying themselves. Don’t be afraid to (with the agreement of all players) put a game up and get something else out. The only thing you’ll have lost is a bit of time, and it still won’t be as much as if you all suffered through a game no one was enjoying.

When I teach games at a Con, I always start it with “I’m gonna go over the rules and maybe we play a round. If it’s bad or not enjoyable, we can put it away, no questions asked”. I think this is something that definitely has it’s place at any game table. (But beware: The more setup there is, the more frustrating this can be, especially if you are the one who set up the game.)

Follow Up!: If you enjoyed gaming with someone, tell them. Exchange contact info, and invite them to your next game day. Make sure they know they are welcome to join. I have really bad social anxiety (which I’ve discussed here before). If someone reaches out to me letting me know they had a good time and I was welcome, I don’t get as nervous going back to another game night.

That’s it, our 6 suggestions. We both had more trouble with this list than expected. Most of these things may seem obvious, but they are worth reinforcing. We get in our gamer bubble and forget what it was like being the new person, who had a cursory interest but wasn’t ready to commit to the hobby. We know we both are often shy about getting into new games with other gamers, let alone being someone who has no idea what most of these games are. So take chances, make a new gaming buddy, and most importantly, play more games.

Grow the Sport

Among board gaming, another one of my hobbies is Disc Golfing. One of the many mantras of disc golfers is “Grow the Sport” which can be used in many different ways: as reminders to people to extoll the virtues of disc golfing to others, as ways for people to stay active in local leagues to drum up interest, or even as a reminder to people to be kind, friendly and welcoming to new disc golfers, in an effort to ensure that the sport will flourish. But, despite the mantra and best efforts, there are still jerks out there who exclude newcomers, who chide them for asking questions or for making comparisons that may seem way out of the norm, or who generally make disc golf courses terrible places for new individuals looking to share in the experience.

Boardgaming isn’t all that different. How many times have we heard stories of someone playing a game that piques the interest of a passerby. Polite conversation is had up until the new individual mentions Monopoly, Risk, or some other mass produced game. It can be met with a snort, a scoff, an unkind “oh, we don’t play that” or any other reaction. But in any of these cases, it can make the onlooker feel unwelcome and excluded. I should know. I have been both the scoffer and the scoffee (In fact, when I founded the Board Game Society at my undergraduate university, I included a clause in the bylaws that Monopoly would not be played. It was meant as tongue in cheek, but boy did it provide a rude awakening when I presented it to the Student Senate for approval).

To most boardgamers, those mass market games are no fun to play at all. And that is perfectly fine! But instead of meeting this potential player with derision, why not engage in further conversation? Why shut them out? Why not describe why the game you are playing is similar or different? Why not try to explain about the game you are playing? Why not try to introduce the world of gaming to someone, especially someone who shows at least a little bit of interest?

The only thing I care about when I am playing a game is if the person is fun to be around while gaming. That can vary on the game. I know there are some games that I would never play with specific people, including my wife. And that is okay! But to exclude individuals because they may not meet any preconceived notions of how much of a gamer they are is ridiculous. We all started gaming somewhere. Not everyone started playing Twilight Imperium, 1822 or Bios: Megafauna.

Not everyone started playing Twilight Imperium, 1822 or Bios: Megafauna.

My gaming resolution this year is to step out of my comfort zone and be more inviting to those who are just learning the hobby. Greet them with a smile and an open seat at the table. We hear over and over how gamers don’t like cell phones at the table because they like the social aspect; I’m going to put this into practice. I’m going to be more social and ensure I highlight the social aspect of the hobby.

In the coming weeks, Ryan and I are going to write about some tips for “growing the sport” of boardgaming. We’ll talk about some of our favorite introductory games to non-gamers, some tips for individuals who are just starting to game, and some tips for us gamers who have been doing it for a while but want to do better about including others, especially newbies.

I’m going to help grow the sport this year. And I hope you will as well.

2018 Top 10 New to Me

Drew and I debated about if we’d start blogging this week or next. He wasn’t feeling well, and my work is about to get crazy, and I don’t know exactly when, but today it’s quiet so far.

So I decided to try to get a post up today. It should be an easy one, I’m going to write about my top 10 games I played for the first time in 2018.

I had a great gaming year, with playing 135 individual games, with a large number of new ones.

A couple honorable mentions that didn’t quite make the top 10: Azul, Stuffed Fables, Space Base, & One Deck Dungeon. All are fantastic games that were very close to making the cut.

I better not waste too long on this part, so without further ado, here are my favorite 10 games I played for the first time in 2018.

10) Gloomhaven– The #1 game on BGG has made a big impression on me too. The combat system is creative and exciting, and this might have finished higher up the list had I gotten to explore it more. I look forward to playing this more in the future.

9) Patchwork– I had played the app before 2018, but we got an actual copy of the boardgame this past year. I grew up playing Tetris, and that style of tile placement is fun to me. Dina’s a crafty person, so the theme appeals to her, although the theme isn’t particularly strong.

8) Codenames Duet– We love Codenames, and the buzz with this one was good, so I was excited to finally pick it up. It’s fun, difficult to win, and plays extremely quick. It ended up tied as my third most played game this year.

7) Ganz schön clever– Although my Top 10 doesn’t reflect it, 2018 was the year of the Roll & Write for me. I played 7 or 8 different ones, and really enjoy the genre as a whole. This was the best of an excellent bunch. The use of the dice and the sheet is fun and interesting, and I look forward to seeing if they have some expansions come out soon and what they do with them (I believe there was something in the works.).

6) Palm Island– A game that wasn’t even on my radar until August, and that was because the Kickstarter backers were starting to get their copies. I checked out their website and ordered a copy, and it turns out there weren’t many available, my timing was just lucky. It’s basically a solo game, although there are rules to play co-op, I have yet to try them. It’s 17 cards, and you use these cards to do things like generate resources to upgrade other cards and play to get the highest score. The clever part is making feats to work like achievements or trophies to video gamers. You have targets to shoot for to get an additional card to add to the deck. You can only include 1 though, so it’s fun to try the different cards to see which you can use most effectively. I should probably just write a review so I can gush more about this extremely clever little game. Eric has also gotten a copy of the latest printing after I showed him how to play it at Extra Life. As a plus, it only takes 10-15 minutes, and can be played in just your hands, no table required. I played it over 25 times after my copy arrived in early October.

5) Legendary: Buffy the Vampire Slayer– I’ve talked about my love of the Legendary system before. Heck, Legendary: Marvel is my favorite game right now. I also love the show, so when this was available as a deal of the day on Miniature Market one day, I jumped on it. I hadn’t really heard any buzz, but while waiting for it to arrive, I checked out the few reviews, and people really liked it, even people who had no knowledge of the Buffyverse. I really love this game. It’s the Legendary system, but the card interactions and the Day/Night mechanic add some really cool things to the system itself. If I wanted to play a Legendary game quickly, this would be the one I’d grab. The card names are also contain some great references to the show.

4) Aeon’s End– Another game that wasn’t really on my radar, and it really should have been. I think the art is just so-so, and I believe that influenced my opinion. It’s a fantasy themed deck builder, and I love both of those things. It’s apparently great solo, so that’s another plus. Eric has a copy, and he taught us at Extra Life, and it was a blast. The part about not shuffling your deck is kind of hard for me to wrap my head around, although in our 2 plays both Eric and Joe have tried to shuffle, and I haven’t yet, so I am encouraged by that. I really wish I had known about the game when the Legacy version was on Kickstarter, but I hope to pick up a copy of that eventually. Heck, I am hoping to pick up my own copy of the actual game at some point. We have played it twice so far, and it’s been great, so I hope to be able to play it more in the future.

3) Charterstone– The first (And so far only.) Legacy game I’ve finished. But it was a fantastic experience. It’s basically a worker placement game, but the new mechanics and options added as the game goes on makes it fun. We played through all 12 games in like 2 months, and Eric bought the recharge pack for us to play it again, probably later this year. I also screwed up a couple of things, one that quite likely made me the winner, so I am interested to see how the game plays now that we kind of know what to expect.

2) Eldritch Horror– Through most of the year, I expected this to be my #1. I traded for this late last year, but didn’t get it to the table. I’ve only played this 2 player so far, so maybe things will change, but I don’t see why. I have thoroughly enjoyed every play of this, the story it tells is fun, and the mechanics and turn length don’t get in the way of it. It’s quite a bit simpler to play than it looks, and that was a big plus for me. I am really hoping to play this more in 2019 and hopefully actually win a game.

Sorry about the glare.

1) Arkham Horror: The Card Game– I bought this for my birthday. I had been interested in it after seeing how highly rated on BGG it was, but it’s an Living Card Game, so I held off. I’m not a huge Mythos fan, but you wouldn’t know that based on my top 2. Everything about this game blew me away. How they made an LCG co-op, and it works extremely well. The fact that they made it so winning isn’t required to move on to the next scenario is a big plus. And also how they made a card game tell a story, which is probably what surprised me the most. I will likely never collect everything for this game, but I am planning on focusing on one story wave at a time and play through them. I am often thinking about the game, and even started listening to a podcast based on it. Very fun, both solo and with 2 players, and I can’t wait to play it more.



That’s it. My Top 10 New to Me Games for 2018. There are a ton of games I haven’t played, and I am excited to see what I get to try in 2019. Let me know your favorites from the last year, or even your opinions on my choices.

To New Beginnings

Hello everyone!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. It’s been a little quiet around here lately.

Ryan and I are looking forward to jump starting Sword, Board and Pen back up in 2019. With that being said, I wanted to provide an update with our posting schedule/expectation moving forward.

You can expect a new post every Thursday. It’s going to be a mixture of reviews, session reports, essays, top 10 lists, who knows? The last Thursday of each month we will be continuing our d20 lists.

We also just launched our “2019 Challenge” pages. Check them out here:

Drew’s Challenges

Ryan’s Challenges

We are going to try to take more pictures of what we are playing too, so keep an eye on our instagram (@swordboardpen).

10 Worst New to Me Games

First off a disclaimer: Do not be offended if you really enjoy a game on this list. This is completely my own personal opinion, and it was the games themselves, not who I played them with. In fact, I played all of these with some of my favorite people, let alone favorite gamers.

I decided I wanted to list the 10 new to me games I liked the least this year. First off, remember I have a 4 yr old, and some kids games are awful, so there are a few of those. I don’t hate any of these games, and would probably still give all of them another try if someone wanted to play them.

So in reverse order:

10) Luna: In the Domain of the Moon: I like Stefan Feld games. I haven’t played them all, but many of them are really great. I got this from my 2016 BGG Secret Santa. I have no idea why it took me over a year to get it to the table, but as some of you know, I committed to increasing my games played this year. I do know the rules were confusing me, so I watched some videos on the game play, and they helped a little. This one was great for my “New to Me 10 x 1” challenge. I got this out to try it solo, but Dina decided she wanted to play it. The game went fine, I won, and I had no idea why I won. I don’t enjoy that. We also had some excitement in our apartment complex that night that may have affected my opinion negatively. I traded the game away for This War of Mine, which I have yet to play.

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9) Champions of Midgard: This is a game that felt like many other games I have played before. I like worker placement games, but this one was just an ok one. I had a flight of beer samples with lunch before Drew taught us, so maybe that was part of my issues, although I didn’t think I was too tipsy. I’d gladly play it again though if asked.

8) Kansas Pacific: Drew taught Dave and I how to play this game. I think he mainly got it because it was about Kansas. I didn’t dislike the game as much as I didn’t get it. I did surprisingly well, I think Drew won by a point or 2, but it didn’t seem like I played well, just guessed at what to do and it worked out well.

7) Bottom of the 9th: This one was probably a bad experience because I was playing it solo. I love baseball, and I suspect 2-player it might be fantastic. I might give solo a shot again later once I have played it more an see if experience helps. It took almost 2 hours to play with the full solo rules, which is too long for a 15 minute game.

6) Yeti in My Spaghetti: A silly kids game, but not sure if there is an actual strategy that’s better than any other. You just pull a stick of spaghetti out and hope the yeti in the middle doesn’t fall. It’s quick, so it’s not something I’d never play again, but luckily we only played a store demo and didn’t own the game.

5) Saint Malo: I enjoyed my first play of this game. I really hated my second. The dice just didn’t give me anything to deal with, and yet I was still very close to winning, even though my city was terrible,and the pirates trashed me. I’d probably give it another shot, but the whole family’s opinions were tainted by that second game.

4) Richard Scarry’s Busytown: Eye Found It!: Probably a great kids game, and it’s a novel idea for a board game. My main issue with this is that I’m not a young man anymore, and the game is meant to be played on the floor. It definitely wouldn’t have fit on our table. So crawling around was not the best for my 45 year old body. It was even harder on my wife Dina.

3) Hot Wheels: Body Worx: Another kids game. Draw cards, and hope you get the right parts to put together your car. Dull, but it plays quickly, so I’ll play it if Aleksia requests it.

2) 4 Tractors and a Cow: I played this back in January, so my memory is a bit foggy. I remember not liking it, and that is needed to be play quicker. It felt chaotic and random.

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1) Feed the Kitty: Ugh. Bad game, even for kids. Roll dice. Look at dice. Do what the dice say. Watch opponents do the same. No decisions, no thinking needed. It should play quickly, but can get dragged out by bad die rolls sometimes. I try to avoid playing it, although I would if Aleksia was to insist. The only thing Aleksia is learning with this one is how to pick up and take care of her own game. We picked it up cheap at a thrift store, and I decided I didn’t care if she kept it with her or not.

That’s it. I thank Drew for teaching me some of these game, and letting me borrow a couple others. Have you played any of these games? What were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

Drew and I are planning to blog a little more as the month wraps up (Or maybe early next year?). Our 10×10 lists, 6 month summaries, and maybe some best of the year stuff.

Extra Life Recap!

Drew’s Extra Life Experience

This was my 5th year playing in Extra Life, and once again, it was tons of fun.

I go there early to help setup so we could start gaming.  I also have been in charge of helping with the raffle, so we spent the first 40 minutes or so debating the best way to set it up.

We started the day with Pioneer Days which is a fun game of dice drafting as you are seemingly travelling along the Oregon Trail or something like that.  I’ve been on a Western kick lately, so this was a fun one to teach.

After that, it was decided that we should play a game with everyone who was there.  DC Spyfall and Hail Hydra were thrown out, but many of us weren’t interested in that, so we settled on Welcome To… , a flip and write game that plays up to 100.  We had a good time playing that, then we sort of split up into groups.

We then played Great Heartland Hauling Company which had been on my list for a while to pick up and even longer to play.  There is a deceptively deep game hidden in the tiny box, and I think it does the pickup and deliver mechanic well, especially in a quick time frame.

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Next up was one of those classics I have been told that everyone needs to play once to be a euro gamer, and that was Power Grid.  Although I had no idea what I was doing, I still really had a good time playing it.  I came in last, but if I recall it was actually a pretty close game even though we couldn’t catch up to Ryan.  I did pick up on some things that I did poorly, so I would give this one a try later on to see if my assumptions are correct.

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I also got the chance to play Pandemic: Iberia, which I have owned since its release but never had the chance to play.  Samantha and I had played a three player game earlier in the week, but this time we played with 4, and had a good mix of lucky card draws and special powers that we were able to research the diseases (since you don’t cure them in the olden days) and win.  I really liked some of the mechanics the game added, but the familiar Pandemic tension was there.

Next up I was able to teach Century: Golem Edition.  This was a hidden gem (pun intended) when I picked it up on a whim. It is a quick engine builder in the same vein as Splendor but I like the gameplay better, as it feels a little deeper to me than Splendor.  This is one that I think I will keep playing for years to come, and I’m glad I was able to teach it to the others in my group who haven’t tried it yet.

I picked up Hitler’s Reich which was supposed to be a lightweight wargame of WWII, so Bryan and I set it up and fumbled through a rules explanation.  This one did not go well. The rules aren’t written the best, so we were using a player aid that I feel might have left out some major information.  We both felt like we weren’t having a great time so we agreed to watch some videos and read through the example of play and save it for a later date.

From here, we ran a joint mission of B-17 Queen of the Skies and Target for Today.  Both of these games simulate a mission or campaign of B-17 bombers in Europe.  B-17 is an older game, and Target for Today is a more updated, in depth treatment, so we used the B-17 version Bryan had to run through a campaign.  One of our bombers hit the mark, but we both returned home safely.

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The last game we played was The Gallerist which is  heavier game all about running an art gallery.  I learned this one at 4 in the morning, and loved it, even though we stopped early since everyone else had left.  I really want to play this one again since I loved the mechanics and it’s a unique theme. But, the next time we play, I want to start at a reasonable time.

I also managed to win some games in the raffle, but the one I was most excited about was Tiny Epic Zombies, which was new in shrink and the deluxe edition from the Kickstarter.  I really liked Tiny Epic Quest, so to add an extra, quick, zombie game that can be played co-op is always a plus.

Extra Life was a ton of fun this year, and while it took me a while to recover (some might argue I still am) I’m looking forward to doing this again next year.  I don’t remember what our finally tally was, but I know it was more than $1,000! We are even talking about trying a “Extra Life Blitz” next spring to do another longer game day and try to raise more money.

Ryan’s Extra Life Experience

The local Extra Life event has turned into one of my favorite gaming days of the year. I go and hang out with my friends, play some games, usually eat some good food, and then stay up WAY too long.

This was my second year of participating in the full 24 hours, although I’ve dropped in and played some games other years. Even though my 45 yr old body doesn’t really enjoy the lack of sleep, I like it to remind myself that I can still do weird things just because I want to.

I knew I wasn’t going to get there by 8, so I was hoping 9-9:30. Dina, Joe, and I stopped by Burger King for breakfast, because I was craving a Croissanwich. So we’d be arriving around 9:30 it appeared…

Clunk! Wow, I hit something switching lanes. Never even saw anything, especially something big enough to make that loud a noise. Oh well. A couple more exits to go…which bell and light is that? Nuts. Low tire. Better pull off here and check.

Ok, so now we need to change a flat tire. At least it was with Joe and I there, and not after Dina dropped us off.

So it’s closer to 10 when we arrive. No big deal. Obviously still plenty of gaming time.

I don’t see any of my typical gaming buddies yet, so I head over to check out the raffle table. There were a TON of games there, I wish I had remembered to get a picture. I hadn’t even thrown my stuff up yet. Not all of the games donated are gems, but people take them anyway. Games are games, although I think it was Bryan who commented wondering how many of those games show up again next year.

I was luckier last year in the raffles. The only thing I won was a second copy of Star Realms, some promos for it, and Scopa as a bundle from the grab something table. Joe won a couple of things for us to take home, he grabbed For Sale from the grab table, and won an item from the nicer games table, and I talked him into grabbing Bottom of the 9th plus some expansions.

Ok, so onto the gaming…

As we were kind of waiting for some folks to come back from breakfast, I decided to show Eric Palm Island. He’s big into solo games right now, and I knew he’d enjoy it. I’ve been playing it like crazy lately, and it’s a blast. It’s a deck of 17 cards, and you try to create a engine to get goods and build things up. You have only 8 turns total, and you are just trying to score as many points as possible. One of the really cool things about it is that you can play it just in your hands, no table required.

After more people arrived, Drew graciously taught Ben, Eric, and I Pioneer Days. I’m not sure how I missed this game when it came out, I typically enjoy Tasty Minstrel games, and this one has a couple of mechanics that I like, card drafting and dice rolling. It was a very fun game. I’ll need to pick it up, or maybe borrow Drew’s copy so DIna can try it, I think she’ll enjoy it. It helped that I won.

Drew taught the next game too, with a large group of us coming together to play Welcome to…

It’s another roll and write, which is kind of my personal hotness right now. I’ve played so many of these over the past year, and this one was a really good one too. I was terrible at it, but I look forward to trying it again. I think Clint won this one, but he had played before, I think David Cook was the highest finishing newbie.

Drew, Eric, Joe, and I decided to go for a short walk to The Pennant restaurant. We ordered some excellent food to go, and sat and had a beer while we waited for the food. It was a beautiful day, and this was a pleasant diversion.

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After getting back Drew again taught Eric, Joe, and I a game. This time it was The Great Heartland Hauling Co, which Eric had won in the raffle earlier in the day. I’ve always been interested in this pick up and deliver game. I was interesting. I wouldn’t mind owning a copy due to it’s small size, but I;m not running out to get it either. I was still thinking about how it cleverly made you have to move every turn and how 2 trucks can’t share the same location. It made each turn mean something, but also made it difficult to plan in advance. Maybe I liked it more than I thought.

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Then I actually taught a game. I’ve been trying to get Power Grid to the table all year, and it finally happened! Joe left us, so we played with 3, and I think 4 or 5 might be a better number, but I was happy to play. Drew had never played, and he said he enjoyed it. I used my experience (Although I hadn’t played it in something like 7 years.), and pretty much led the whole game. I am not sure I played well or not, but I was able to keep one step ahead on powering up cities. This play helped me complete my 10 games that I hadn’t played in forever challenge for the year.

So by this time it’s late afternoon/early evening, so I decided to hold off on starting a new game until after Dina and the girls came, so I could drive them home and keep the car. They did hang out for a while, so I should have gotten into something, and by the time I realized I should play Palm Island, they were ready to go. So I took them home and returned prepared for the late night…

Upon returning, I waited for my friends to finish playing Pandemic: Iberia, I had played it once before, and remember enjoying it.

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Drew got out Century: Golem Edition next. I’ve never played any of the Century series, but I’ve heard good things. I really loved the art and bits for this game. I think even though this version isn’t supposed to get expansions, it’s the version of the game I’d want to own because of that. I very much enjoyed it. Turns are quick, fairly simple, and it’s done quick. I did better than I thought I might, although it took me a little to realize what I was doing. I think Drew and Bryan did better because they had played before, and I think it was Eric’s first time too.

Zack wanted to try Best Treehouse Ever, so Bryan, Eric, and I played it with him. What a cute and vicious little game. It was fun, but really mean Zack said it best when he mentioned he was thinking about picking it up for the kids, but he thought they might cry. He was the winner.

Drew and Bryan were taking out a war game, so I taught Eric Patchwork, which he had won in one of the raffles earlier. Patchwork is probably my favorite 2-player only game right now, I always enjoy it. Not surprisingly, I won, but I am pretty sure he was happy with his prize.

Eric had brought a game I’ve been really wanting to try, so we took out Aeon’s End next. I love deck builders, and fantasy themed and co-op to boot? Count me in! Joe wandered over as we were setting up, so he jumped in too. I really had a blast with this one. I will probably need to pick it up. The lack of shuffling your cards is an interesting way to differ it from most deck building games. We did manage to win also, which is surprising, it looked really bad for a while.

The last game is another personal favorite of mine, Runebound: 2nd Edition. Joe really wanted to play it, so we had brought it with. It felt like a good, fairly mindless game to play at 2:30 am. Eric joined us. We had an epic adventure that came down to who could get either their last dragon killed (Joe and I.) or kill the big bad Dragon (Eric needed that, there were only 2 dragons left to fight.). Eric and I both came up short in our attempt to move to a red space, so Joe was able to squeak out the win.

We hung out for a while longer, trying to read some rules and wait to play something, but almost everyone else was leaving, so Joe and I called it a night. I went home, was in bed by 7, and up at 10:30, my body not wanting to sleep any more. I was fine though, I had taken Monday off from work just in case I needed time to recover. While my body hates staying up that late, I really enjoy it. It’s odd how you need to push yourself to keep going at random times in the middle of the night.

So another Extra Life was over. More memories, and more money raised for children’s hospitals. I don’t need the charity as a reason to play games, but at least it makes me push myself to stay up all night, just because I feel like I’d be cheating if I didn’t. I came home with less games than I left with, so Dina was happy about that, and I was too of course, knowing those games may have encouraged people to donate more.

Thanks to David Cook for continuing the job of organizing this. I suspect there is a lot more preparation involved than we see, and he handles all of it. Thanks to Drew for helping set up the raffle too, that’s a big chunk of our total donations. And of course, thanks to everyone who participated. I’ve been lucky, none of my 3 kids have ever needed any kind of major help from a children’s hospital, but several of my friends have, and even a little bit can make a difference.

This is an easy thing to do to help out. Another easy thing is organ donation. My Sister-in-Law’s 9 yr old nephew recently had a heart transplant, and while not at a children’s hospital because they are close to the Mayo Clinic system in Rochester, MN, it still strikes me as something we all can do without much effort. Most states I believe even let you just check a box when you get/renew your license, and that’s something to think about. I admit, I don’t know why a person might choose not to, although I understand there are reasons, but it seems like something that most people can, and probably should, do.

 

d20 List: Top 10 ‘Experience’ Games

Editors Note:  An earlier version of the post had some wonky formatting and Andrew forgot how to count, so he only had 9 items.  This has been corrected, and the writer is completely mortified by the error 😉 )

Hello! It has been a while.  My (Andrew) family has been continuously sick for the past 6 weeks, so we’ve really been focusing on surviving and not really worrying about things like board games or writing about them.

But that all changes today! I realized it had been a while since we had done a d20 review, so I spun up the dice and rolled a 10…which is a really original number for lists 🙂

I decided to challenge Ryan and myself to think about games that can be classified as an “Experience”.  Now, this might mean something different to both of us, but when we were talking about it I described them as this:

“Those games that you may only play once a year due to the sheer size of it, or something like Pandemic Legacy that is an evolving experience after many plays.  Games that almost get to “that was an experience but I never want to do it again, or do it for a very long time” or it could even be something you played at a CON that’s out of print so you probably won’t experience it again.

  1. Charterstone: I called Charterstone my Game of the Year 2017, which was pretty high praise considering we played it twice and it came out in November (or thereabouts).

    While we haven’t been able to continue our campaign recently, my wife and I still fondly talk about our time playing it, although I don’t see myself/us playing through the campaign again, even though I bought the recharge pack.
  2. Memoir ‘44 D-Day Landings:  This is a specific expansion to Memoir ‘44 that takes 6 maps in the Breakthrough and Overlord formats and smushes them together so you can play Operation Neptune..if you can find the space. I ran a game of this at BGG Con Spring this year, and it was a ton of fun, but also a surprising amount of work.  Due to the space, time, and rule investment, I can’t imagine playing this anywhere other than a Con, but still feeling super satisfied each time I finish.
  3. Twilight Imperium 4e:  I played this for the first time a few weeks ago, and it was incredible (I wrote about it here).  However, this is one I don’t see myself playing more than once or twice a year due to the number of people needed and the time investment it takes.  It was a ton of fun, and at the end I did sort of sit there in a state of awe, but it also took a lot out of me (as weird as that is to say about a board game).  I was drained when we finished.
  4. Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit:  This is one of those that’s an experience because it’s so hard to find.  Long out of print, this is a sort of 3 front ameritrash Star wars game that coincided with the release of Episode 1.

    I was able to play this at the first BGG Con I went to since they had a copy in the library.  It was a fun game, not great, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want a copy for my collection.

    Side Note:  If you are looking for a game to substitute for this one and still get a similar experience, I wholeheartedly recommend Risk: Star Wars Edition.
  5. Arkham Horror with All Expansions:  Arkham Horror is how I got started in gaming.  A fraternity brother brought it home one evening and so we went down to the dining room where there was plenty of table space and promptly got devoured by Azathoth.

    Eventually, we would play marathon games where we would play against Great Old Ones after Great Older One.  Eventually we would add in an expansion or two, but we never played with all the expansions.

    I see these games pop up at Conventions I attend from time to time, and I haven’t yet joined in one, but I want to.  But something tells me I would never want to do it again (especially since I haven’t played Arkham Horror in a very long time).
  6. Roads and Boats:  This is a game that doesn’t look the prettiest, but it is super deep.  It’s a game about managing and upgrading a supply chain, while being opportunistic and taking from your opponents who haven’t been paying attention.

    It also takes a while to play; a recent teaching game I ran at a Con took 5 hours or so. That’s a lot of time to devote to a game about moving geese, donkeys, and other transporters around, and it’s a real brain burner, so this one hits the table about once a year or so.
  7. Tales of the Arabian Nights:  To me, Tales of the Arabian Nights (TotAN) is not a game, it’s an interactive story.  This is a huge choose your own adventure game set in the world of 1001 Nights. However, there isn’t a whole lot of strategy or meaningful decisions to be made, so I only like to play it from time to time with a group that is looking for just that: a fun night laughing at what hijinx our characters get into.
  8. Monster Wargames: This one is a bit of a cop out because it’s a classification of game, not a game itself, but I have a ton and I couldn’t pick just one.  A Monster Wargame is a wargame that has a ton of counters and a huge map. Some examples are The Devil’s Cauldron and The Battle for Normandy.

    I have a ton of these, and while you can play smaller scenarios, there is something about seeing an epic setup of maps on your table.  These can take a long time to set up, usually have a pretty dense rule set, and take a long time to play, so most people play them with VASSAL.  I can’t imagine, though, after playing a whole full game of one that I would be itching to do it again soon.
  9. Sentinels of the Multiverse: Age of OblivAeon:  Full disclosure: This is the only one on the list I haven’t yet played.  This was the last Sentinels of the Multiverse Kickstarter, and it provided a mode where the heroes have to fight OblivAeon, who can be compared to Thanos from the Marvel universe.All the things I’ve heard from people who have played it say that it’s long, complicated and takes up a ton of table space.  Based upon that, I can definitely see myself getting this set up when I want something meaty, but I can’t imagine I will play it a ton.
  10. Silverton:  This is game about mining and prospecting in Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico.  It’s a thinky economic game that actually can play solo which is somewhat rare. However, it’s a little fiddly and games can take a while, so we normally only get this out once or twice a year.

 

Ryan’s Picks

When Drew first suggested this topic, I took it completely wrong. I was considering only my individual favorite gaming experiences. I was listing experience games, but also those. Then I re-read his text, and fixed my list. This would have been a really long post if I went with gaming experiences in general, although I might use that for a personal post in the future.

Here’s my list in no particular order:

  1. Die Macher – This was once a top 10 BGG game (Even #1 I believe before I joined.). It’s a game about German elections, so the theme isn’t exactly attention grabbing.  It may be THE prototypical “Euro” game, all cube pushing. It’s like a 3-5 hour playtime. I’m not going to want to play it much, but I would gladly play it again. The mechanics make sense. There are a LOT of them, but once you play through a turn or 2, it makes sense. But it’s never a game I think I would knowingly play well. I’m just never going to dedicate enough time to get good at it. 
  2. This War of Mine – Ok, I haven’t actually played this yet, but the reviewers all seem to say the same things. They all mention it’s a well designed game and practically a work of art, but it’s depressing and not fun. I love the idea of a game that may not be fun, but is more a work of art game. I traded for this recently, and I do enjoy the video game. Or I should say I enjoy the challenge of the video game, it really is difficult and a bummer to watch your characters continually suffer. The board game apparently mimics this well. 
  3. Time Stories – A very interesting gaming experience. Start a story, fail, start over with some knowledge, likely fail again, repeat until successful. Believe it or not, it is fun. I’ve only played the base scenario, and I am looking forward to trying more of them. 
  4. Charterstone – The only legacy game I’ve finished so far (That list is really just this and Pandemic Legacy.). We had a blast, although I screwed up a rule early, and misread a card midway through, and continued to misuse that card for points for the next several games, and of course, guess who won? We already have a recharge pack to play it again. 
  5. Eldritch Horror – I am not obsessed with the Cthulhu mythos, but the games tend to be really good. This one may end up being my top new game I played this year. I’ve only played it 2 player, but have enjoyed it immensely. It tells a nice story to go with simple mechanics. 
  6. Tales of Arabian Nights – A fun choose your own adventure style game. Not a great cohesive story, and it can take a long time for what it is, but it’s a game I’ve enjoyed the couple of times I’ve gotten to play it. 
  7. The Mind – This one probably barely qualifies for this list, but it’s almost exclusively an experience when you play it. It’s quick, but the game itself is just how much you enjoy the experience of not talking, just feeling when you or your teammates need to play a card. Not for everyone, but I very much enjoy it. 
  8. Formula De – This one is especially great with more players. Having several people racing closely, causing issues, maybe even blocking the exact spot you wanted to go. It’s a blast with at least 6,better with 8-10, and one of my best gaming experiences period involved 12 people at a con. 
  9. Runebound – One of my favorite games. I really enjoyed the first edition and fell in love with the second edition. Sadly I haven’t played the latest version. Always fun, but it can take a LONG time if people play cautiously. It just take a while to build up your character. I have learned to not be too timid early on anymore. 
  10. Descent: Journeys in the Dark – I have however played both editions of this game. I prefer the new edition, with its streamlined rules, but the first edition was a better experience, taking several hours of players vs Overlord battles. Still one of the best dungeon crawls. I really considered Gloomhaven for this spot, but went with the one I’d played the most, I’ve only played 2 sessions of GH, although we are trying to plan for more, so that might replace Descent eventually.

There you have it.  Ryan and I’s Top 10 “Experience” Games.  Have you played any of these? Any other ones you would add? Let us know in the comments!

Thoughts on Keyforge

At Gen Con this year, Fantasy Flight Games announced a really ambitious game. One that fascinates me, and I am really interested to see how it works once it’s in wide release.

The game is called Keyforge. What makes it ambitious is that it’s a CCG style card game, without the collectible or construction aspects. Each deck you buy is unique. Each deck will be named differently and have unique card backs to make it so they are not able to be constructed using cards from another deck.

At first, I couldn’t possibly imagine how this will work. The balance issues should be extreme. If you get a great deck, you might be unbeatable. For league play, I will be interested as to how fast they may ban/limit a specific deck. Or how exactly they will do that. There is a handicap mechanic, but I’m not sure how limiting that really is.

I won’t go into to any details about how the game is supposed to work, you can check out FFG’s official Keyforge page for that.

They are going to sell a boxed set that will have 4 individual decks in it. In this starter set, 2 decks are basically learning decks, and will not be unique, every starter set will have these in it. The other 2 decks will be unique. There are also some tokens for tracking life or something like that included. Interestingly, on a podcast from a MN radio station the other night, a couple of FFG employees (Sorry, I forgot to pay attention to their official titles.) mentioned that people do not seem interested in this. That was exactly my own personal thought too. Why pay for tokens and 2 extra learning decks for $40 when I can pay $10 and just get a fully playable deck that I will be able to learn how to play with?

The decks are going to be cheap, so I hope to buy a few and test this out when it’s released (Rumored to be November, but officially Fall 2018.). It’s also the brain child of Richard Garfield, who is a fairly well know designer, primarily for Magic: The Gathering, but also a couple of my personal favorites in RoboRally and Netrunner, so I would be interested with just his name attached.

This idea seems crazy, but I really want to see how it works, if it works at all. I am expecting it will end up working really well due to the names attached here, and Fantasy Flight is probably the best company to be trying this.

Sorry this is a bit rambling, I kind of wrote it up in a rush, I lost my way on a different post idea, and kind of typed this up in a hurry this morning.

What are your thought on this? Concerns? Excitement? Or not care at all?

Extra Life: Andrew

I wrote a few weeks ago about some posts we’d be writing that explain why we got involved with Extra Life.  It’s my turn to post.

A few years ago, my sister called me and told me that she had some news.  My niece had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  I was in shock, because we hadn’t known that there was any sort of problem, and to be honest, neither did my sister.

I felt pretty hopeless as we heard about her treatments and surgeries.  I felt like I couldn’t do a thing to help.  Then I found out about Extra Life.

Simply put, Extra Life is a gaming marathon that was founded to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.  I found out about it through a friend who sets up our event every year.  When I was doing more research, I found out the very hospital system my niece was treated at was one of the hospitals that benefits from Extra Life donations, and so, I signed up to raise money.  This is my 5th year participating!

Many people play video games and stream for 24 hours straight, but we play board games.  It’s always fun to see all the different types of games people play.  There are the new, hot games, classic favorites, usually a game of DnD going on as well as many others.  The few people that make up my core group of gaming have made it a sort of tradition to learn a medium to heavy weight game at 2 or 3 in the morning.  We usually mess up a ton of rules and make many, many mistakes, but it’s always fun and sort of re-energizes us to make it until morning.

We also do a raffle. Some people donate games to a grab bag table, while others (and local businesses) donate to a “Big Prize” table.  We do hourly drawings where you get to pick up any of the grab bag games of your choice, and then the larger games are spread out through the day.  I happened to win a copy of Race for the Galaxy from the grab bag table, as well as a nice copy of Santorini from the Big Prize table last year.

All in all, Extra Life is a great time full of games and friends, but we do also to talk a little bit about why we are there for 24 hours.  If you are interested in finding out more about Extra Life, visit their website at https://www.extra-life.org/.  If you feel so inclined, you can find my personal donation page here.

Review: Twilight Imperium 4th Edition

Last weekend I had the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and try a game I had always heard stories about, but never had the time or opportunity to play.  It’s a 4x-esque game of space combat, exploration, wheeling and dealing, and potentially backstabbing (even though we didn’t have a ton of that).

I’m talking about Twilight Imperium (4e).

I had never played any version before, while everyone else at the table had played 3e at least once.  The only thing I knew was that it was a monster game with lots of bits, and that it would take all day.  Both of these things were true.

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I really enjoyed my play. All in all, it took us about 10 hours (if I recall correctly) and that includes learning.  I really enjoyed the fact that different victory points come out each round, as I felt like I could strategize to try to go for something that was just revealed instead of trying to keep up and finish the goal that was just adopted.

I also liked the idea of spending resources to take actions based on what other players are doing.  It reminded me of the “follow” mechanic in Eminent Domain.  A large portion of the game is managing your Strategy, Fleet and Tactic counters in the game and following other players in these actions consumes some of these counters.  Knowing when to make your move with these is a huge component to playing well and winning

The variable player powers were great as well.  Each face had it’s own strengths and weaknesses.  The one I picked was geared toward diplomacy because I was just meeting these players for the first time so I figured being able to be a middle man would be helpful.

The game was tense up to the last turn.  There were two of us (me included) that actually had victory within our grasp, but the other players were able to come in and wipe us out and occupy our home systems, so we weren’t able to capture victory points.  Ultimately the neighbor I had (whose military power I probably let grow a little too liberally) ended up winning.

I would definitely play TI4e again, but probably not for a few months.  This is definitely my type of game.  If I would have found it while I was in college I am sure we would have played it a few times.  It is definitely a marathon, but we took frequent breaks for food and drinks, and no one took it too seriously, which I could totally see ruining the experience.

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