Guest Post: X-ing the Xpansions

Eric Carter is back with another guest post this week. He writes about a struggle we all have as gamers: Expansions!

The Book of Meeple Chapter 23, Verse 5, states: “My box runneth over.”

This entry was inspired by a recent trip to a game store where I saw an expansion for Sagrada on display. Even though I’ve only played Sagrada a few times I had a strong urge to buy this, because…

… I have a problem. If I like a game I tend to become a completionist about it. The first game I owned that sparked this obsession was the second edition of Talisman, back when I was in college. There was one comic/game store an hour away that carried Games Workshop stuff and when I had a spare $30 I would gas up the car and make the trek. Over a couple of years and hundreds of miles I had every retail expansion for the game. But the setup became too much, the game lasted too long, and the fun was sucked out of it. It never got played again.

Twenty-plus years later I have the same problem with Dominion. And Carcassonne. And Race for the Galaxy, Eminent Domain, Last Night on Earth, and several more. I will over-expand a game to the point that I don’t even want to get it out anymore.

When I buy an expansion for a game I enjoy, I’m doing so just to add more of what I like. Maybe it’s simply more cards, like most of the Dominion expansions. Maybe I just want more heroes and scenarios for Last Night on Earth, or more tiles for Carcassonne.

The first Race for the Galaxy expansion – The Gathering Storm – was relatively simple. It gave you more cards and a starting hand for a fifth player, plus solo rules. This is what I would consider as the perfect expansion. But along comes the second expansion, Rebel vs. Imperium, which added a Takeover mechanism that just looked so convoluted I never bothered to learn it, and it added more direct conflict to the game, which would turn it into something I didn’t want. I just wanted to add cool new cards, like the previous expansion did. I did buy the third expansion, but I gave up trying to get RftG played in my game group. I did NOT want to try to add more explanations to this already difficult-to-teach game.

Dominion has suffered the same fate. I still love the game, but it’s now so hefty I have to warm up first before lifting it or I’ll throw my shoulder out. I still haven’t bought Nocturne or Renaissance, the latest available expansion of us this writing, even though I have a couple pieces of art in one of them. I hate to admit it, but I haven’t even tried playing Eminent Domain with the expansions yet.

Our game group does not stay with one game very long, which has its advantages and disadvantages. I love the fact that all of us are keeping an eye out for new and interesting games, but since there is a new and interesting game coming out every 6.2 seconds, we hardly ever play one more than once or twice. On game days there are enough new games to choose from that we often have difficulty even settling on one to break out. Again, our cups runneth over.

So from now on I must give up on expanding any multiplayer games. Solo-capable games, however, are still fine. I just received the Xia: Missions and Powers deck. I’m looking forward to the two player expansions coming out for Star Trek: Ascendancy. I’ll still get pretty much anything for Aeon’s End.. These games don’t have to compete with the new releases we all want to try. All it takes for them to get to my table is a few hours of free time, and if I decide something from an expansion is taking away from my experience instead of adding to it, I can easily leave it in the box.

But I like to think I’ve learned my lesson. If there’s another expansion released for Rebellion it’ll have to go unbought until my base game (plus the expansion I bought with it, of course) finally gets played. Cards Against Humanity and many of its additions will have to stay cramped in The Bigger, Blacker Box until it sees the light of day (and the darkness of our souls) again. I’m glad I got rid of my copy of Firefly because the urge to get everything for that would’ve been overwhelming, and it would’ve found itself in my gaming graveyard next to RftG.

Part of me wants to get new copies of Last Night on Earth, Race for the Galaxy, Memoir 44, and so many others, and just keep them in their original, lean condition. All of them got played before they packed on the pounds. And isn’t playing them the whole point of having these games in the first place?

Do you, dear reader, have any games you’ve overfed? Comment below and tell us your story.

My Top 10 Games to Play When I’m Sick

I am still feeling under the weather, so I figured I would write this week about my top 10 games to play when I’m sick.

(This is meant to be a tongue in cheek list. While I do enjoy all these games, I usually don’t play often when I’m not feeling well.)

Pandemic: The grandaddy of them all. The sick game to beat all sick games. What better way to soothe your sore throat than to track down all 4 strains of the bacteria that caused it…and eradicate it. I give it 4 test tubes.

Pioneer Days: This dice drafting game can remind us all of a simpler time, when one could die of dysentery or cholera on the trail. (Actually, this was one of my favorite games of 2018). I give it 5 oxen.

Healthy Heart Hospital: Another medically themed game, this cooperative experience has you in charge of running a hospital and making sure all patients are treated. I give it 2 aspirin, and call me in the morning.

Stone Age: Much like Pioneer Days, Stone Age makes me thankful that I get the opportunity to take antibiotics instead of just curling up and dying inside my cave. I give it 2 mammoth tusks.

Sushi Go: Nothing says “I’m Sick” more than the questionable meal you ate the night before. Sushi Go, thankfully is high quality and fun to play every time. I give it 2 California Rolls and a few Tums.

Roll Player: I get sick rather often, so my D&D group jokes that Constitution is my dump stat. Well, the joke’s on them! In Roll Player, I can be sure to bump my CON up to an 18 and then we’ll see who gets sick or poisoned. I give Roll Player a +3 to Saving Throws.

Dice Hospital: I actually just played this for the first time the other night, and I’m really glad I picked it up. While some may scoff at the theme, there is a really, really neat dice manipulation game here, and it’s surprisingly thinky. I definitely recommend you try it out. I give it 5 cc’s of saline, stat!

Zpocalypse: When the Zombie Apocalypse comes, it’s going to be because of some mutated pathogen, I just know it. By playing Zpocalypse, I at least know that if whatever has infected me it that pathogen, I know what to expect. I give it 4 braaaaaaaaaaains.

Elder Sign: There are times where I’ve been told illness is all in my head. If that’s true, I had better prepare for my descent into madness by playing something out of the Call of Cthullu universe. Elder Sign captures the feel of longer games like Arkham Horror or Eldritch Horror in an easy to digest rules package. I give it 2 Cultists and 1 Great Old One.

1846: The last game on my list, I can’t think of anything better to play while in a Sudafed induced haze than something with lots of numbers and stocks. 1846 fits the bill for this one. I give it 8 Trains!

So, there you are, my top 10 games to play when I’m sick. I hope you enjoyed this silly Top 10 list. Ryan will be posting next week, and I hope by the time my next post comes around I can write about my thoughts on a few new to me games so far in 2019. But for now, I’m gonna grab some chicken noodle soup, wrap myself up in a blanket, and veg on the couch.




d20: Drew’s Top 18 Games for New Gamers

Part 2 of our “Top 18 Games for New Players”

I have been under the weather, so forgive me this week that Ryan and I’s posts have been split in two.

With my approach to games for new players, I tried to select a group of games that covers a wide variety of mechanics.  Also, remember that these aren’t my top 18 games, just ones that I feel are the best for new players. This can be based on how the mechanics are implemented, how easy the games are to learn/play, or just based on personal experience.

So, in no particular order, my top 18 games for new players.

Carcassonne:  One of the classic gateway games, Carcassonne (or Carc) is a great introduction to tile laying games and if you play the base game, very easy to learn.  It also has always come off as a very laid back game (unless someone steals the perfect spot for your next tile).

Lords of Waterdeep:  This has become my go to worker placement game for new players.  It has a bit more of an exciting theme and the rules are straightforward with little to no edge cases or exceptions.

Memoir ‘44: This is my go to introductory wargame.  It has eye catching pieces and the base game is not super rules heavy (and there are reference cards available in the game to help players remember).  This is actually one of the first games that I ever played when I was getting into contemporary gaming, and it will continue to be a part of my collection.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf: This is a quick filler of a social/hidden role game.  I hate these games, but this is one that I’ll play if asked because it’s quick and there is an App that walks players through how to play the game.

Splendor:  This is a good entry level game for people who have at least played games before, or maybe are familiar with one or two other games.  It has a straightforward rule set as well as nice components, even if the theme is a little lacking.

Ticket to Ride: Another frequently mentioned gateway game, this again has low density rules, good physical components, and plays relatively quickly.  There are many different versions of it, but I recommend the one that a) will support the number of players you will have in your group and b) you are most familiar with, geography wise.

Kingdomino: This is another quick, light tile laying game that has a lot deeper gameplay than one might think.  I think the biggest thing in its favor is the components, which are brightly colored (it can be easy to catch other players eyes to get them to join in!)

Kingdom Builder: This is a good introduction to area control that, with its many different boards, gives a lot of replayability.  It presents some difficult choices for players and is a good introductory “thinky” game as well.

Sushi Go: This is my go to introduction to card drafting.  The art is silly, personified sushi rolls and the gameplay is quick and straighforward.  It is also a game that teaches you to think about other players which can be very important in some games.

Alhambra: This is another great tile laying game that is a step up from Carcassonne.  This was one of the games I used to get my wife into board gaming, and we still enjoy it after 10 years.

Boss Monster: If you have people in your group who are old school video game fans, this is a great game to use to introduce them into board gaming.  You are building an old school dungeon that you are attracting adventurers to venture in, but not come out. The art is done in an 8-bit pixel style and there are other references to video game culture.

Elder Sign: This is a cooperative game based in HP Lovecraft’s Cthullu universe.  It plays quick and has mechanics that can be compared to Yahtzee, so that can be used as a selling point for people who may be unsure about the game.

FITS: This is essentially Tetris, the board game.  The great thing about this one is that a new player can just focus on getting their score better, instead of worrying about what others are doing.  The components are also great and can catch the eye of gamers.

Forbidden Island: This is a co op game that is in the same vein as Pandemic, only lighter.  This is my go to co-op game, since sometimes that concept can take a second for people to adjust to.  The great thing about Forbidden Island is that there are amazing components and there is tons of replayability if the easiest difficulty gets to be too easy.

Love Letter: This is another  social deduction game.  The components are simple, but the rules are easy to pick up, and even if people don’t like it, it is over quick.  There are different variations if the original theme doesn’t sit well with you.

Takenoko: This is a game about growing bamboo and a panda eating it.  It’s a fun, easy game that has some amazing components and I haven’t encountered many people who say they hate this game.

Tales of the Arabian Nights:  This one gave me some pause.  I tend to describe it more like an experience than a game, but essentially it is a choose your own adventure game set in the Arabian Nights Universe.  It’s definitely worth a play or two, especially with people who will enjoy sitting back and letting the story unfold, regardless of the outcome.

Tsuro:  This is a tile laying game where you are almost forced to interact with other players.  It plays quick, and the rules are essentially match up a path on a tile to the existing path you are on, and don’t go off the board or run into other players.  Seriously. That’s it. This is great as a filler or a warm up game while you are waiting for people to arrive.

So there you are.  My personal top 18 games for new players.  We hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction series.  Starting next week, we’ll be back to our once a week posting reviews, session reports, top 10 lists, or who knows what.  Thanks for reading!

d20 List: Top 15 Tips for New Gamers

Last week, we talked about advice for long time gamers to keep in mind to help bring people into the hobby. This week, we look at the other side of the equation, and provide our top 15 tips for gamers looking to get into the hobby.

Drew’s Tips

It’s important to remember that this isn’t a once size fits all list. Some of these ideas may not work for you and that’s okay. This is just meant to be a starting point.

Get Out There: There are tons of ways to get involved with a game group. There may be game days at your local library, a Facebook group that posts events regularly, local game stores, or (and the way I orginally found my group) a meetup at meetup.com.

These are all great ways to find gamers and get a feel for the group, as well as get more information about various things.

Go to a Public Gathering: This is a way for individuals to be more comfortable. Meeting in a public setting for the first time playing with a group is an easy way for you to get to know other gamers in a more open environment, and also does allow you an “out” in case you don’t gel with other players.

Read the Room: Try to get a feel for the group you are playing with. This might prevent you from having a different idea of what a gameday consists of than what the group regulars do.

Relax: Gamers are a relatively welcoming and friendly group. No one will judge you for not knowing about the vast world of tabletop games (or if they do, that’s them being a jerk, not a fault of yours). Relax and remember you are there to have fun.

Be Yourself: Let the group members get to know the real you. Pretending to be someone you are not to gel with a group is only going to lead to frustration later on down the road.

Be Friendly: This one is pretty self explanatory, but if you show up with a friendly face and engage people in conversation, a better time will be had by all.

Pay Attention!: If you are new to a group and to gaming, then you will probably be listening to quite a few rules explanations or introductions. During these, put your phone away (I’m really guilty of this, I’ll admit) and pay attention. It can be distracting to the person teaching the game and it can be frustrating to others if you have to ask questions after someone has taught since you were distracted.

Ask Questions: If you aren’t clear on a rule, though, don’t be afraid to ask questions! This is how you learn rules, as well as can learn about different games. Don’t be afraid to ask for examples too; most people teaching rules are happy to get out pieces to demonstrate an example of play so everything is clear.

Don’t Be Afraid to say No: If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t want to play a game where you’ve been invited or even if you don’t want to play a game with a specific person, don’t be afraid to say “No thanks”. Be polite, but it’s perfectly fine to know your preferences and ensure you are having fun.

Find Games You Like: Gamers love making comparisons. If you find a game you like, ask questions like “What other games are there like this?” or “What mechanic is this?” (A mechanic is the main way the game works, like worker placement or card drafting). This might help you find other games in the same vein that you might enjoy.

And Games You Don’t: If you find a particular mechanic enjoyable, you can use that information to avoid games that have that mechanic. This will allow you to focus on games that you may enjoy more.

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone: Don’t always shun games with mechanics you may not like. I hate (and I mean HATE) social deduction games. However, the first time I played One Night Ultimate Werewolf I actually ended up enjoying it a lot more than any of the other games in that vein. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone of games to try new ones!

Be Mindful of Gamer Etiquette: Gamers have some weird idiosyncrasies. Some prefer a specific way of shuffling cards, some are very strict about cell phones at the table, some care how specific games are put away, and others may have certain expectations of taking moves back.

Be mindful of these, and it never hurts to ask “Are there any house rules on redos?” or “Do you care how I shuffle these” when playing someone else’s game.

Don’t Give Up: It may take a few tries to find games you like, or people you gel with, or it may take a while for you to adjust and figure out the strategy for games. This is okay. Don’t get discouraged. Keep searching/playing and eventually you’ll settle in to this wonderful hobby.

Don’t Worry About Being the Best: At some point, you will probably learn the name “Reiner Knizia”. He has a quote about gaming:

‘When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning”

There has been plenty of discussion on what this means, but to me it means that while we should all try to win while we are playing a game, it’s the act of playing the game that is important instead of the victory itself.

Play games to have fun. I lose more games than I win. And yet I keep coming back to play again and again and again.

Ryan’s Tips

This was a large number of suggestions to have to write, so please excuse me if some of them feel like they could have gone under one single category. So here are my 15 suggestions for new players.

Don’t be shy: It’s not easy to find games you might like. So don’t be shy to talk to people. Talk to your local game store owner or ask the guys you see playing about their game. I’ll gladly talk your ear off about my passions. That kind of leads to…

Ask Questions: Again, people love to talk about their passions. But also ask about terminology that you are hearing. Ask for game suggestions. Ask about rules or strategies when you’re playing a game. Don’t be afraid to annoy folks with questions, if they get annoyed, go find someone who won’t be, there are more like that out there.

Speak Up: This is one I struggle with even today. Don’t be afraid to join a game. If people are looking for players, everyone should be welcome, and just being the new guy shouldn’t matter. I’ve had some great games I’ve joined at a Con or game day with people I barely know. Make small talk, which is again something I suck at, but it helps pass the time.

Don’t be Afraid to Give Opinions: If you love a game, feel free to let people know. If you don’t like one, say so. You don’t have to agree with everyone, don’t feel bad if your opinions differ from other gamers, we all have things we don’t agree with the masses about.

Don’t Judge a Book by It’s Cover: This one can work a couple of ways. Great game art doesn’t mean great game, and vice versa. The same goes for gamers. Some people seem intimidating, boisterous, or creepy, but they can be the nicest and most fun folks to play games with.

Find a Group: This isn’t exactly required, but it enhances your enjoyment a lot. It might be you drag your friends into gaming with you, or you join an already existing group. Having even a semi-regular group makes gaming so much more enjoyable.

Solo Gaming: But, if you can’t find a group, or aren’t able to game regularly, know that there is a thriving solo board game community. Many new games are starting to have solitaire rules with them now. You can find some additional resources on BoardGameGeek.com (More on that later.), including advice on playing many games that don’t have actual solo rules. You can figure out ways to play games no matter what your situation is.

Cooperative Games: Another fairly recent trend in gaming is Cooperative games. Basically it’s you and the group against the game itself. Sometimes it’s killing monsters, sometimes it’s solving puzzles, or even racing to a group goal. They are various and plentiful, but can really be a great way to get into gaming, when you don’t need to worry about competition. Although they are often difficult to win.

BoardGameGeek.com (BGG): Ok, here is where you can get sucked down a rabbit hole. It’s a huge, daunting, intimidating, and not always friendly place to get board game info. But it’s amazing once you know how to get the most out of it. There are a TON of things a new gamer can utilize to get info on gaming, find new games, convention info & advice, and even find gamers in your area. It’s worth taking the time to learn to navigate the site, and you likely can get whatever out of it you are willing to learn.

Facebook Groups: These can be a bit overwhelming also, but there are many groups based on board games on Facebook. They are often helpful, and interesting to follow. Again, you need to research which ones are for you, but they can also be a very useful resource.

Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS): Another great resource can be your local FLGS. Besides just a convenient place to look at new games, they often have game days or gaming rooms to play games, and help you locate some of the local gamers. The employees are often very knowledgeable in gaming, and can provide helpful info too. Sadly, they don’t often make enough money to stay in business for long, so if you have a good one, do everything you can to help support them.

Buying Games Online: Eventually there will be something you need to have now that your FLGS doesn’t, or the price is too good, and you go online to get games. THere are tons of good places to get stuff, so compare prices and availability. Typically there is some kind of free shipping threshold, so if you can get others to join your order, larger amounts is always better.

Retail Stores: Believe it or not, big box retail stores are also starting to carry games. The selection isn’t huge, but Walmart and Target do have some gamer games. And there are occasionally mass market games that are quite good. This may be where you pick up your first few games in fact. Barnes & Noble also carries a pretty good game selection.

Don’t go Nuts: This is more a general guideline, I don’t know your financial state, but try not to go too crazy buying new games at first. It’s not the expense per se, but it can be very easy to go crazy buying every game you want. Take it easy, be selective, build up a small collection. The same can go for gaming in general. Don’t go to every con, or play for several hours every night. You can burn out if you play too hard. And don’t stress if you end up not gaming often, we all go through lulls, it will balance out in time.

Have Fun: The obvious conclusion right? We all need some fun and relaxation in our lives. If you aren’t having fun, you aren’t doing it right. And that doesn’t mean you have to enjoy every game or even like every person you play with, but if you don’t end the night feeling like you had a good time, something was wrong. If it happens too often, then maybe you need to look at what’s going on and make changes, or just take a break.

Here you have it. Our top 15 tips for new gamers on how to get into the hobby. Are there any we missed? Any you want us to go into further detail? Let us know in the comments!

Next week, we’ll finish this series on “New Players” with providing our “Top # Games for New Gamers”. We’ll then go back to our normal back and forth posting schedule, with more lists, reviews, and maybe a session report or two.

Happy Gaming!

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.

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).

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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