Checking In

Hey everyone.

Long time no….read? write? Both? Anyway, I haven’t been shy about my issues with anxiety, and some personal stuff the past week had me in a bad head space, so not much gaming or writing going on.

I’m doing better now, though, so I figured I would give a brief update.

My wife and I haven’t been playing a ton and she’s been gone at a work conference for the past few days, but we did get a game in of Last Will and Roll Player with the Monsters and Minons expansion.

We both enjoyed Roll Player and I especially enjoyed the addition of fighting monsters; one of my biggest frustrations of the base game was that it didn’t seem like there was any sort of end goal. M&M fixes that because the points you gain from making sure you are going to fight well against the big baddie can definitely help, especially if your dice weren’t rolling well.

The big surprise, though, was Last Will. I had played it a few times and enjoyed it, but Samantha had never played it before. She really, really liked it, and I could see the wheels turning in her head how she might have spent a few more dollars each turn so that she would have come out ahead. It was one I was ready to trade away, but based on our first play, it’s going to stay in our collection for a while.

I also managed to start a campaign of Thunderbolt/Apache Leader which is always a good time.

We picked up some games on Prime Day that I’ve played before but am excited to own. We snagged Tokaido and Pandemic: The Cure, along with some mass market games that we can start playing with our daughter. I also picked up One Night Ultimate Super Villains which probably would surprise those of you who have been following the blog for a while, since I don’t normally like those games. However, it was a good price and it’s good to have for larger impromptu game nights or for my Friday work game hours.

Anyway, I think that’s good enough for now. We’re going to get back in the swing of things, both playing more games and writing about them. We already have our next d20 List ready! What have you been up to lately, gaming or otherwise? Let us know in the comments below.

A Brief Hiatus!

Hello out there!

Just stopping by to let you know SBP is going to take a brief 2 week hiatus to celebrate the 4th of July holiday.

There will still be plenty of gaming, so we’ll be sure to provide you all with a recap, but that will be in a couple of weeks.

So be safe, have fun, and play more games!!

Wingspan Review

I wrote a few weeks ago about playing games where the strategy escapes me the first few times and how that usually drives me to try to figure it out. It’s not always heavy games, though.

There’s this new game out that you might have heard of. It’s designed by Elizabeth Hargrave and published by Stonemaier Games. It’s a game about birds. Does the name Wingspan ring any bells?

Of course, that’s a bit tongue in cheek. Wingspan has been a ridiculously hot commodity, so much so that it is already on maybe its 6th print run. Gamers everywhere seem to be clamoring for it. Gamers tend to have a pretty big fear of missing out and want to seek out the new hotness, sometimes even if the game isn’t that great. So does Wingspan live up to the hype?

I had heard about Wingspan and I initially had mixed feelings. A game about birds? That’s…eh. But I knew it was being put out by Stonemaier and so I wanted to give it a shot based on their catalog alone: I haven’t played a Stonemaier game I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed. I was determined not to buy a copy though, which I didn’t think would be an issue due to the initial shortage.

Ryan, though, managed to snag a copy, and so at the next game day I asked him to bring it so we could just rip the bandaid off. Let’s get it over with, I thought. Let’s play this game about birds that I don’t want to like so I won’t need to buy it.

And then, we played it. And I did terrible. And I knew I had to have it.

Let’s talk briefly about gameplay. Wingspan is an engine builder, and due to its scoring mechanic, the number of actions you have each turn (I use turn to define the largest chunks of gameplay) diminish. Like other engine builders, there are a variety of ways to chain cards together to make the most of your actions. There’s a variety of end game scoring opportunities too, from private objectives, to turn based objectives, to simply playing cards with high point values or that can hold lots of eggs.

I can usually sniff out a competitive strategy the first time I play an engine builder; it’s one of my favorite mechanisms. With Wingspan, though, even though the rules were extremely light, the strategy wasn’t apparent to me. I sort of floundered here and there, not being able to commit and didn’t really feel like I played well at all. As I told a board game community I’m a part of, “It enraged me and I loved it and I must have it”

To some people, though, gameplay isn’t everything, and I’ll admit I do like games with higher quality bits than just cardboard, and Wingspan doesn’t disappoint.

The game comes with a lot of stuff. Notably, it includes a plastic card tray to hold all the cards, 5 chunky (but not too big) wooden dice, a cardboard birdhouse dice tower, 3 rulebooks that come on the best paper I’ve ever held in my hands, wooden eggs that might be confused for Easter candy and lots and lots of beautifully illustrated cards.

I can’t stress how impressed I am with the work of Beth Sobel, Natalia Rojas and Ana Maria Martinez Jaramillo . All of the birds look like they came right out of an Audubon field guide. The iconography and layout is clean and easily recognizable, and the player boards are thematic. I am not a birder, but based upon feedback I’m seeing in the Facebook group that was set up for this game, there are tons of them that vouch for the art being ridiculously authentic, as well as the game being enjoyable. The artwork complements the mechanics, and you really do actually get the theme of birds and building an aviary.

Wingspan has vaulted itself to the top of my “games to play with people who aren’t gamers” list. The rules are easy to grasp, and it’s a fun game to play while you are having a conversation. I’ve enjoyed it at various player counts, from 2 to 4, and it even includes the ever great Automa system so you can play it solo (even though I haven’t yet tried).

I think Wingspan could be easily dismissed, like I almost did, because of the theme, but this would be a mistake. Wingspan is one of those games that has something for just about everyone, although I could see how those who tend to the medium-heavy end of the spectrum might lose interest. It’s definitely worth a play, however, even to just look at the art and play a laid back game.

The Pursuit of Awfulness –Why I play Heavy Games

I work as a developer for a pretty specific IT Management product; it’s a job that can include a lot of programming or other logical thinking about how I might go about solving a problem.  It can be pretty brain burny at times, but I really like this aspect of the job:  it’s what appealed to me during my brief stint in law school too.  I like being challenged to think about things.

I like this in board games too.  I enjoy needing to follow a variety of threads and think about the implications if I pull on a specific one at the right time.  I like games that take a while to play where you really have to invest in what you are doing to be successful.  I like heavy games that require you to think waaaaay ahead, or juggle umpteen variables in your determination in what to do.

To me, a game can be rules lite and still be heavy.  The heaviness comes from the ability to understand optimal play quickly or where it takes quite a bit of mental capacity to play well.  It can also take the time it takes to play the game into consideration, but there are other games that take a long time that I wouldn’t necessarily call “heavy”.  I know that this definition can vary for people, so I wanted to use this as a starting point.

I can really thank the folks over at Heavy Cardboard for really getting me to dive into these games (note: if you are a fan of “medium to heavy board games, war games, 18xx, and thinky fillers”, you should really be following all the content they put out at https://www.heavycardboard.com/ and consider becoming a patron of the show).  I never thought I would be interested in economic games like 1889, Brass Birmingham, or Age of Steam, but after watching some of their playthroughs, a new board gaming world opened up to me.  I always thought I had to have a strong grasp of how stock markets work to play and enjoy these games, but I was wrong.  Sure, that understanding can help you make competitive moves, but there’s a joy in “pulling some levers, seeing what happens, and enjoying it” which is paraphrased from HC’s host, Edward Uhler.

The reason these games appeal to me is because they challenge me.  I know I’ll never play Age of Steam or an 18xx title enough to fully grasp the optimal play for each situation, but that’s okay with me. I can keep trying different moves out to become good, though.  Playing these games sub-optimally with my friends, who also play what I would consider sub-optimally, has provided me with some of the best “hold my beer” and most enjoyable moments in board gaming.  I actually enjoy it more when I can’t figure out a board game in my first few plays of it, because it drives me to try to think a little harder about the game and I’m more likely to play it more often.

I think I can best sum it up by saying I really enjoy the journey or the process in what makes a game work. Even if I’m terrible at the game, figuring out what is under the hood is the thing that appeals to me most, and with heavy games, there’s a lot more to understand and unpack.

Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoy playing party games in the right crowd, and I have plenty of lighter games I love, but I think medium to heavy games are really where my most fulfilling gaming experiences come from.

What is the heaviest game you’ve played?  What makes it ‘heavy’ for you? Have you been scared off by games because you thought the theme would be too heavy, or it would be too difficult to play well? Let us know in the comments!

What I’ve Been Playing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

d20 List: Top 12 Expansions!

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

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

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

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

Drew’s Picks

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

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

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

Ryan’s Picks

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

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


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

Review: Space Base

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is my usual thought process:

Hey, I want to play a game!

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

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

I should really play one of my challenges though.

Play what you want.

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


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

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

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

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

How I Prepare to Teach Games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

d20 List: Agree to Disagree

It’s been a crazy couple weeks…so crazy that Ryan and I almost forgot that we were gonna start doing a d20 list at the end of each month.

So, you get this! I did actually ‘roll a die’ (courtesy of random.org) but we are going to do something that is sort of sweeping Facebook groups.

Below I have listed 10 statements from myself (and 10 from Ryan that could be considered controversial or unpopular in the board gaming world. In the comments, list the number(s) and whether you agree or disagree. No discussion, no trying to get others to see your viewpoint. Just agree or disagree. I’ll post our rationales as an additional post early next week.

Drew’s statements are 1-10, Ryan’s are 11-20.

  1. The Mind is not a game.
  2. Most Kickstarters are overrated, not great games.
  3. Great Mechanics aren’t anything unless they are paired with good components or theme.
  4. Not every game needs a solo mode.
  5. Collectors ruin the secondary market for games.
  6. Digital implementations of games will not ruin boardgaming.
  7. During game days, you don’t have to play games that include all players at once.
  8. Cool minis are no replacement for gameplay.
  9. There is nothing wrong with BGG asking for donations.
  10. There is no such thing as too many D-Day games.
  11. Cult of the new isn’t a bad thing.
  12. I don’t enjoy direct conflict.
  13. Your opinion about a game one of us doesn’t like is completely valid.
  14. It’s ok to take some time away from gaming.
  15. Party games are games too.
  16. Kids games can be fun.
  17. The Mind is a game.
  18. The biggest box doesn’t always mean the best game.
  19. Kickstarter can and should be used by established companies.
  20. Just because you play solo games, it doesn’t mean you need more friends.

Do you agree with us? Let us know in the comments, and give us your own ‘controversial’ board game opinions!