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!

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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Guest Post: “So, What Kind of Games Do You Play?”

Hey all:

Real life has been real crazy in the past couple weeks, so I’m going to turn the blog over to recurring guest author Eric J. Carter.  He writes about getting asked the question “What kinds of games do you play?”

Recently I was at a dinner party when the subject of hobbies came up. I mentioned that I like to collect and play board games, which prompted the response “What kind of games do you play?”

I hesitated. I couldn’t decide how to answer that. Being a colossal introvert, I rarely get asked that question. So many things went through my mind… I wanted to present my hobby in a good light, I wanted to blurt out everything I love about Star Trek:Ascendancy, I wanted to talk about deck builders, and I wanted to say that I definitely didn’t play Monoply.

But my fellow guest was not looking for any of that. He was making polite conversation and just wanted a simple one-sentence answer instead of the fumbling, incoherent babble I came up with that now I can’t even recall.

So I decided to put some thought into it, so when asked again I’ll have an answer at the ready.

Most likely the person asking has played some type of board game in their youth. Checkers, Chess, Candyland, Chutes and Ladder (The 4 Cs), and of course they’re familiar with Monopoly. No matter what your opinion of Monopoly is, to the world at large, ‘board games’ equals Monopoly. It will take a long, long time before ‘board games’ equals Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Dominion, Carcassonne and other titles you’ve got on your shelves.

So when asked “What kind of games do you play,” how can you answer them? How do you let them know that you play games for the social interaction, for the chance to really get your brain burning or to just give it a rest? How do you avoid the cliched “So like Monopoly?” response?

Do you say “I roleplay. I conquer. I amass great wealth. I settle worlds. I connect cities. I discover where the rebels are hiding. I blow up Death Stars. I slay dragons. I beat everyone to the finish line.” Or do you hit them with the big whammy – “I trade resources for goods and then sell them for points.”

Therein lies the problem. The games we play are legion. There are hundreds of genres of games and there are many different types of games inside each of those genres. In fact, the question of what kinds of games we play can be as distinct as what kind of music we like, what kind of books we read or movies we watch. And therein also lies the solution.

The sports fan does not watch all sports. The music lover does not listen to every style. Movie lovers do not watch every flick ever made. If you ask any of these people about their hobbies, they are not going to answer “I watch sports”, “I listen to music”, “I like to read.” Well, maybe that last one… No, they’ll tell you which sport, what type of music, or the kinds of books they enjoy.

The simple answer for the question “What kind of games do you play” is unique for each of us. Maybe your answer is “I enjoy train-themed economic games” or “I like deck-building style card games” or “I like many types of games, but right now I’m concentrating on sci-fi themed wargames.”

This treats our hobby with the respect we wish it had. We’re communicating to others that we have a multifaceted hobby, something so expansive that we have distinct choices within it, just as they may be a Chiefs fan, or they’ve been to every Foo Fighters show, or like to curl up with a great mystery novel.

There is no one-sentence, generic answer to “What kind of games do you play?” Thank goodness for that, right? If there were, the hobby would not be exploding like it is. Each of us has to figure out that answer for ourselves, and we have to figure out how to keep it brief enough to not bore or overwhelm the other person, or worse, make ourselves look like colossal introverts who don’t know how to answer simple questions.

But who knows, perhaps your answer will connect with them somehow? Maybe your love of Age of Steam will connect you with a model railroader. Maybe your love of social-deduction games will connect you with a mystery novel enthusiast, and perhaps mentioning miniature war-gaming will bring up fond memories of when your fellow guest played Risk back in the day.

Turns out that your hobby has more than one way to help you make new friends.

Extra Life!

I’m taking this opportunity to take a break from reviews and lists to talk about a cause that is pretty close to my heart.

In November, I and other gamers will be taking a full day, that is 24 hours, to play board games.  Now this may not seem like anything special to write about, but in the lead up, we’ll be raising money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.  We take part in Extra Life.

I took this blurb from their website:

Extra Life unites thousands of gamers around the world to play games in support of their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. Since its inception in 2008, Extra Life has raised more than $40 million for sick and injured kids.

Instead of video games, we get together to play board games for 24 hours.  There are always some standards, like party games later in the night and I tend to wrangle 3 or 4 people to learn something heavier at 3 in the morning (I know for sure one year it was Clash of Cultures, but I don’t remember the specifics of others).  We also do other things such as a donated game raffle and have some local sponsors who tend to donate some awesome stuff as well.

I’ve been taking part in Extra Life for quite a few years now, and it’s an amazing experience.  I’m not going to write about it in depth here, but I wanted to at least introduce the concept for those who weren’t familiar.  We’ll be taking some time in later weeks to write about why we choose to participate and what we are looking forward to doing.  I might also try to get a few guest authors to write about what Extra Life means to them.

So keep an eye out for those posts in coming weeks, and if you are planning on participating, let us know in the comments!

Challenge Update!

Hey all!

We are almost ¾ through the year, and so I thought it was a good time for Ryan and I to give an update on our 10 x 10 (and other) challenges.

Andrew’s Challenges

On my 10 x 10 front, I am not looking so hot.  I’ve played 46 of the 100 total games, and have finished 10 plays of 2 games:  Azul and Ganz schon clever.  I need two more plays of Kingdomino, and that will finish it off as well.

Even though my wife and I loved Charterstone, we lost a lot of momentum midway through the year.  We could normally count on our daughter to go to bed and give us enough time to get a game in during the week, but as bed time has become a more drawn out process, we are finding that the time and mental effort of getting back into the swing of things during the school year is making it difficult.  We still want to finish it, but I am not sure if we can get 7 more games in by the end of the year.

I have quite a few solo wargames on my challenge to play as well, but I also have newer games coming in that are vying for my attention (and I’m sure I’m the only gamer on the planet who has this problem).  I should just focus on one game at a time and get a proper campaign in, but this is also compounded by the fact that I’m a huge video gamer and that’s been taking my attention as well.

As far as my 5 x 1 challenge, I only have one more game to play on it, and I’m not sure if we will play it or not.  It’s a pretty complicated entry in the system, so I have been trying to work on a VASSAL game of an easier game in the system, but again, finding time to get that set up and working has been difficult.

Even though I may not complete my full challenges, the width of games from the deck of cards has been nice (even if we’ve fallen behind on that as well).  I definitely consider this year a success so far, but I’m excited to try to at least get 75% of the way done with my 10 x 10 games.

Ryan’s Challenges

My gaming numbers have been up a lot this year from previous years. Part of that is my dedication to getting the 10×10 list completed.

I am not doing a hardcore 10×10. I am willing to add games if I think it will get that many plays. My goal is to end up with 10 games played 10 time, regardless of when I started playing them. You will see a pattern in the completed games mostly being new acquisitions, almost all this year.

I have a 4 year old who likes playing games. I have several games on my list that she enjoys. Kids games are pretty quick and easy to get to the table.

Gaming over the past couple of months has slowed a bit, not really sure why exactly. I’ve just been lazy about getting anything to the table, In fact September has already had more games played than August, 10×10 games or otherwise.

I won’t go into details on every game on the list, but wanted to talk about the games I’ve finished, and where I am as far as the rest.

I have played 86 games so far, so I only need 14 more plays to finish. Being so close to finishing, I have obviously completed several games already.

The first one I completed was Friday, partially due to it being a solo game. I enjoy it quite a bit, although now that the pressure is off, I haven’t played it since. I actually borrowed Drew’s copy to complete this, so I kind of packed them into a short time.

Charterstone was a game that got added once we bought it. After 2 plays, I knew we were going to finish this game quickly. It’s a legacy game that requires 12 plays to complete, and we flew through it in a couple of months. Eric, DIna, and Joe and I really enjoyed it, so much that Eric bought the recharge pack so we can do it again, and I can try to avoid some mistakes I made that quite possibly contributed to my overall win.

The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game is a fun, quick co-op game. It’s difficult, plays in about a half hour, has a nice variety of characters to play as, plays solitaire, and I am a huge fan of the book series. I enjoyed my couple of plays from last year, and added it to this list so I would play it more. We have completed 4 of the 15 novels in our 10 plays, so we are winning more often than I would have expected, but they are rarely easy wins. I am not sure if all 15 are available to play for the game yet, but it’s close to that many.

Ganz schön clever was a game that fascinated me from the moment I first heard of it. I have discussed it in a previous article. It plays solitaire, but I rarely have trouble finding someone to play it with me. It’s a fantastic game.

Codenames Duet is one of my most recent purchases. It takes a great party game, and cleverly designs it for 2 players. We are usually willing to sit and play it multiple times in a sitting, so I got in 9 plays over Labor Day weekend alone. It’s not easy, we’ve only won twice, but it’s a ton of fun, and can be played in 15 minutes.

The last game I have on the completed list is The Lion Guard: Protect the Pridelands. It’s a kid game that has really nice bits, plays in 15 minutes, and is a cute little co-op. Aleksia obviously enjoys it, and it’s not too grating on a parent playing it multiple times.

Some other games that are really close and will likely contribute to the final 14 plays:

Legendary: A Marvel Deckbuilding Game  (7 plays)

Outfoxed! (7 plays)

Sagrada (6 plays)

The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game (6 plays)

Ghost FIghtin’ Treasure Hunters (6 plays)

Azul (6 plays)

There are a few more at 5 or less, and who knows, maybe they’ll jump up suddenly, but I think these are the most likely games to complete the challenge. I do love that I’ve gotten Legendary to the table that many times, it’s probably my favorite game right now.

Quick update to my other 2 challenges. Nothing has changed since my last post about them. I have finished playing 10 of my Unplayed games as of January 1st on June 12th, so I am pleased with that.. The other challenge of playing 10 “It’s Been too Long” games, I’m still at 9. I am kind of holding the last spot for Power Grid, but may just play something else anyway.

d20 List: Top 6 Games to Play With 2 Players

Hello out there! This is our latest d20 list, where either Drew or I roll a twenty sided die, and pick a topic to make a list based on the roll. This week I rolled a 6 and chose to have us choose our favorite 2-player games.

I apologize for not showing a video or picture of the die roll. I kind of forgot to do it at home, so I used an app to get our d20 roll this time. I’ll try to do better next time.

I didn’t realize how hard this list would be to make. I’ve been busy at work, and I was happy to roll low, and thought I’d pick an “easy” list. I had several games in mind when I chose the topic, yet only a couple of those made the cut. Not adding some of these games almost broke my heart. The following list is in no particular order.

Ryan’s Picks

1) Memoir ‘44: A game I traded away or sold a few years ago, but not for lack of really liking it. I always loved the simplicity of it, and massive number of scenarios. I had several of the expansions, and it’s a game I really miss having, even though I don’t think my wife would play it with me.

2) Yinsh: I am really intrigued by abstract games. I am terrible at them, but the idea of designing something with no theme fascinates me. THis is the best one of the GIPF series, which are all amazing and beautiful looking games. I sold these off too, and I really wish I hadn’t needed to.

3) Eldritch Horror: The one game on my list that isn’t 2-player only. The reason I included it is because I have yet to play it with a different quantity than 2. I really love this game, the theme is fantastic, and I’m not typically a Cthulhu mythos fan.

4) StreetSoccer: I continue to preach about Corné van Moorsel’s games. This one is abstract, but with a die it takes a little less pure strategy than Yinsh or Chess. The better player will still almost always win, but it’s not a brain burny this way.

5) Patchwork: I grew up playing Tetris when I got the original Gameboy. This game takes those style of pieces and makes 2 players make a quilt. I love trying to make things fit together, and I enjoy that just because you have the most buttons (Money) coming in when you are able to gain them, you may not have the higher scoring board in the end.

6) Perry Rhodan: The Cosmic League: Another one from my previous d20 list (StreetSoccer). I love the art, I love the simple pick up and deliver, and the way you buy add ons to your ship can make for some tough decisions. I mentioned before this one doesn’t get enough love.

Andrew’s Picks

1) Memoir ’44/Commands and Colors: Ancients
I am sort of cheating here, because this is technically two games, but they really are the game system, and I like them equally, it just depends on the comfort level of my opponent.

I’ve written about it before, but these games are introductory wargames that are all card driven.  Ancients is a little more complex with rules such as battling back and evading combat, but Memoir comes with minis and a ton of additional flavor added through expansions.  My advice:  just get them both J

2) 7 Wonders: Duel
I really enjoy 7 Wonders, and I like Duel even better.  I wrote about it in my Top 10 Quick Games for 2 Players, so I’m going to repost what I said about it there here:

Card drafting is a hit or miss mechanic with me mainly because I have a hard time focusing on one strategy.  Duel, though, is compact enough it’s fairly easy for me to keep track and get an engine going and there are multiple routes to victory.  In fact, if you aren’t paying attention to what your opponent is doing they may sneak by and win by Science or Military.  This is on our 10 x 10 list for the year, and I’m really looking forward to getting it played; no two games are the same due to the card layout and I don’t think of the games I’ve won, I’ve won with the same strategy more than a couple of times.

3) Alhambra
This one has a special place on my list because it does something rare in games with a minimum 2 player count, but that are designed for more:  a dummy player.  Of all the games I’ve played with a dummy player that both players compete against, “Dirk” (as he is called) has provided us the best combination of both challenge AND ease of implementation/lack of changing the game.  I would rather play a game that scales appropriately to 2 by limiting components/map space/etc, but Alhambra is one of those “oldies but goodies” I keep coming back to.

4) Codenames Duet
Another one I wrote about in my Top 10 Quick Games for 2:

The only cooperative game on this list, we are terrible at Codenames.  The couple of games we have tried did not go well, but we still had a really good time.  Each person has certain clues (with some overlapping) they have to get the other person to guess but there is a limited number of turns.  Stressful and probably the game that has also caused the most frustration between us, I’m looking forward to getting this to the table more.

Since I wrote that, we’ve added Codenames: Disney into the mix which means we are still terrible but we get to look at pictures of movies we both love.

5) Viticulture: Essential Edition
This is probably the longest game on my list (definitely the longest Euro) and it’s one of my favorites.  It’s thinky and it is still very tight at 2 players for a worker placement game as the number of spaces are limited based upon the number of players.  This is also one of my top 10 Non Solo Non Wargames, so if you want to find out more about what I think on it you can check that out here.

6) Quest for El Dorado
This deck building race game deals with 2 players by requiring each player to get two adventurers across the finish line instead of 1.  This, to me, adds even more strategy to the game.  Do I focus on one and leave the other behind? Do I use one to block my opponent? What card do I use on what figure?  It’s a very approachable deck builder, and I’m really glad I finally added this one to my collection, even if we haven’t played it a ton.

Top 5 Wargames I’m Itching to Play

Hey all!

I’m here with a short post…I’ve been dealing with Vertigo for the past few days so I haven’t really been doing much of anything in my free time. No gaming, no video games, no nothing.

So, with it being a Wargame Wednesday, I figured I would post my top 5 Wargames in my collection I’m itching to play.

  1.  Up Front: I was part of the whole Kickstarter debacle, but luckily I was able to get a copy printed at WargameVault.  I have heard so many great things about this one that it’s jumped to the top of my must play pile.
  2. Combat Commander: Europe:  I just got back into this about 6 months ago, so I’m always dying to get it to the table.
  3. Unconditional Surrender: I have everything ready to go for the Case Blue “scenario” so now it’s just time to find to play this as an intro into the whole game.
  4. Breakout Normandy: A buddy and I try to get together once every (other) month or so to play a wargame.  This was going to be last month’s choice but due to real life, neither of us got to read the rules, so it’s still on my list for us to play at our next wargame day.
  5. Iwo: Bloodbath in the Bonins: This is a solo folio game from Decision Games.  It’s something different that I could play over my lunch hour(s) at work, so I’m reading through the rules now to figure out the best way to get it to the table.

There you have it. Short, sweet, and to the point.  I think the next Wargame Wednesday we have will be how I read and parse rulebooks, which, while not the most exciting of topics, may prove beneficial to some of you out there.

Guest Post: Exploring Strange New Worlds Just to Get Your Butt Kicked – A Review of the Borg Assimilation Expansion for Star Trek:Ascendancy

Hey All:

It’s been a busy week this week, so haven’t had time to write.  Luckily, my friend Eric Carter is back with a guest review of the Borg Assimilation Expansion for Star Trek: Ascendancy.  You might remember our playthrough of the base game, but if not, you can find it here: https://swordboardandpen.com/2018/07/08/guest-session-report-star-trek-ascendancy/

My game collection has evolved over the past decade. It grew into a highly-varied mass of 200 titles and expansions, then shrank to less than half that when I needed to keep my freelance business going. Now my collection grows deliberately with just a few titles added each year. One of the aspects that a game needs to have is the ability to play it solo. If it’s sci-fi themed then deliberation is out the window and it’s time to clear some Kallax space for my new acquisition.

Star Trek:Ascendancy’s base game is not a solo experience, so while the game remained in my sensor range, the $100 price tag kept it out of my tractor beam for quite some time. Finding it at a store closing sale for an unbeatable price resulted in quickly stowing it in the trunk of my shuttlecraft. By the way, I make no apologies for the any Star Trek puns, jokes or wordplay in this review, and I invite you to read this in the voice of Captain Jean-Luc Picard hence forth while you sip on your freshly replicated Earl Gray.

Even though it can be considered a 4X game, base Ascendancy initially feels like a standard engine-building Euro-style game. You begin with meager resources to build up and send out your fleet to establish more resource-generating colonies, which gives you more options for improving your ship’s various abilities and defenses. These decisions have to be balanced out with the goal of the game – being the first player to acquire 5 Ascendancy tokens.
Within these mechanics, the publisher, Gale Force Nine, has built an exceptionally thematic Star Trek experience. The Federation, the Klingons, and the Romulans all have their restrictions and rule exceptions that encourage different playing styles. However, to play solo, you need the Borg:Assimilation expansion.

What the Borg brings to your Ascendancy game is similar to what a tornado brings to a trailer park. The box comes with five Borg cubes that ruthlessly seek out the player’s ships, starbases, and home worlds, assimilating the colonies and civilizations they find along the way. The worlds they take over become a cruel parody of their previous existence… the player’s control markers that potentially house three resource-generating nodes are replaced with obsidian Borg spires, and the resource node spaces become a three-turn countdown timer that heralds a newly-constructed Cube to add to the Borg menace.

These Borg cubes, when they encounter your ships, fight with 9 combat dice. Roughly speaking, a fresh Borg cube has the same strength as a fleet of 9 starships, but unlike a player’s fleet, a Borg cube can regenerate itself after a round of combat. If a cube survives a round and rolled any 6’s during that round, it recovers one of its combat dice from the Cube’s damage tracker. What’s more, the Borg’s shields increase in strength each round, therefore it’s imperative that your ships destroy a Borg cube swiftly before it becomes impossible to overcome. The only advantages you have against the Borg are a First Strike opportunity during the first round of combat, and any Borg advancement cards you’ve happened to get due to successfully destroying a Cube or freeing a Borg-infested world in a previous turn.

The expansion adds Borg-specific system discs and exploration cards, creating even more thematic possibilities to the game. This, however, is where Gale Force Nine has slightly fallen short of perfection. While the plastic playing pieces are exceptionally scuplted, the printed elements of the game do not visually match up with the base game. They are slightly darker and more glossy, which makes them stand out during play.

During one of my first solo games I chose not to Explore because I saw that the next system I would reveal was going to be a Borg system disc, and quite possibly one of the two Warp Conduits that would give the Borg a shortcut to my home world. This is potentially a huge problem for solo play. However, my completionist’s mentality had already compelled me to buy both of the player expansions, namely the Ferengi and Cardassian factions, which also come with additional exploration cards and system discs. Thankfully these all have the exact same production issue, which means that the workaround for the Borg system discs problem is to simply add in even more! In my later games I did just that and now have a very large stack of system discs and exploration cards. I believe the stack was 51 discs high at the start of the game. It’s a simple, yet admittedly costly, solution.

In a solo game against the Borg they begin with their Transwarp Hub system disc already in play and, during their Build phase, must roll higher than the number of Borg cubes currently on the map in order to place a cube. This means that the Borg are already gunning for  you before turn two. Their movement rules send them exploring towards your home planet unless their Command cards tell them otherwise. A compliment to the designers… there is rarely a moment where you as the player need to make any decisions for the Borg’s actions.

One of the joys of playing with an intellectual property such as Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Marvel, etc., is recreating a moment from those beloved stories. One of my plays did this remarkably well by having a seemingly promising game end suddenly after encountering Q, who sent my galaxy-class starship a space lane away onto a Borg Transwarp Conduit, harkening back to the Next Generation episode where Q first brought the Enterprise into contact with the Borg. Earth was assimilated soon after.

Something the Borg expansion makes you forget is that the base game already presents plenty of dangers to your ships. Hazardous systems can destroy them if they’re not shielded, Exploration cards can wreak havoc with your plans, and the simple random configuration of the system discs can mean that  you don’t have the necessary resources available to you to build up your fleets or improve your weapons before the Borg arrive. Most of my games had me struggling to get an engine going before even thinking about futilely resisting.

After four easy defeats I decided to take advantage of the rule variations in the back of the base game. One of them allows for the player to start with 8 Production, 6 Research and 4 Culture instead of the usual 3 of each. Sadly, both games I played this way ended the same as the others.
The next time I play will involve adding in other possible rule variations, and even using two factions. I have a feeling a second faction will help quite a bit, because the Borg won’t be constantly bee-lining for a single home world. However, it may just delay the inevitable, and make the defeat even worse, because if a faction becomes assimilated, the Borg now effectively have two turns to your one. The expansion is not only designed to give a player the option to play alone, but it also gives a multiplayer game a collective threat, something which they must cooperate against or perish. And an assimilated player is just that… they are now Borg, and their turn becomes another turn for the Collective.

Simply put, expect to lose to the Borg resoundingly often. However, if you’re willing to endure these defeats, you’ll have an amazing Star Trek experience. When you finally prevail, it will become a game so legendary that the Klingons will write grand operas about it.