Ryan's Best of 2019 Lists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Novels

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marvel Champions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sprawlopolis

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

25 Hour Extra Life Marathon 2019

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

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

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

My silent auction haul.

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

Ok, so onto my actual gaming for the day:

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

My map from Cartographers.

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

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

Early on in Hadara.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

d20 List: Top 17 Scary Games

Ryan: So Drew and I had discussed to do out next d20 list on scary games. It seemed like a great idea, it’s Halloween after all. So of course I roll an extremely high number, making this a much bigger chore. So here are my top 17 Scary Games in no particular order.

  • Eldritch Horror- Ok, so it’s not exactly a scary game to play per se, but the Cthulhu Mythos theme is creepy and fun.
  • Pandemic- This game may not seem like much, but if you really just sit there and think about how plausible the scenario is. Maybe not 4 super bugs at once, but one can spread quickly and get out of control in a hurry.
  • Arkham Horror: The Card Game- Like EH, not exactly a jump scare type game, but the theme and scenarios make this pretty spooky.
  • Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters- Children trying to collect treasure and fight ghosts. This seems like a pretty irresponsible thing to be doing. Terrifying for a parent.
  • Go Away Monster!- I mean, it’s right there in the title. The whole idea is you’re so terrified you need to yell at and throw the Monsters out.
  • Rhino Hero- A flying Rhino? And some pretty questionable structural engineering going on here too.
  • Munchkin Clowns- Go ahead, click through and see this nightmare. I mean, Munchkin is scary enough on it’s own and you add scary clowns?
  • Galaxy Trucker- You want to see why space travel is a terrible idea, go play this game. Your ship gets decimated every round by all kinds of unavoidable hazards.
  • Red November- Let’s put drunken gnomes on a submarine and see what happens! This game is just your worst nightmares about what can happen on a sub.
  • The Mind- You are basically trying to create a psychic link with your friends, or even worse, complete strangers! Who knows what kind of stuff you might unwittingly access in their heads.
  • Nyctophobia- I haven’t played this yet, but playing a game where you need to escape from a killer while not being able to see the board sounds like an interesting gimmick.
  • Divided Republic- We played this once, and somehow caused 2 states to become slave states that weren’t supposed to be and broke the Union. I am terrified that the US was so fragile that we were able to break it accidentally. How close are we to something like that today?
  • Cards Against Humanity- I don’t hate this game, but would be scared that playing it once turns into an all night CAH session.
  • Agricola- This farming game scares me as showing how easy it is to not have enough food and how easy it is to end up with a cow living in your house.
  • Hare & Tortoise- It’s frightening how much math is involved here.
  • Flash Point: Fire Rescue- Mimics extremely well how quickly a fire can get out of control in a building, and how difficult it can be for rescuers to get in and help.
  • BANG!- This shows how quickly we’ll turn and shoot each other blindly if we have guns and no consequences.

That’s it. My completely 100% super serious list of scary games. I hope you enjoy it, I had fun writing it.

Drew: Here are my top 17 ‘scary’ games.

  • Richard Scarry’s Busytown: Eye found it! Game: This one has Scar(r)y right in the name! (and yes, it’s gonna be that type of list).
  • Food Chain Magnate: I can’t think of anything scarier than being hungry for the exact same type of food for eternity.
  • Monza: The only thing scary about this game is that I can’t beat my 2.5 year old at it…
  • Disney Villainous: Some Disney Villains are down right scary…I was terrified of Beast when I was younger…
  • Arkham Horror (2e and 3e): A more serious entry for this list, being delayed in Cthulhu’s home is terrifying, as is being cursed for the third time in one game (which happened to me recently).
  • B-17: Queen of the Skies: There is nothing scarier in this game than having to make an entire trip back to base, while on 2 engines and half a wing…
  • Pandemic: Iberia: Thinking about all the diseases you can contract without proper water treatment! Pandemic: Iberia lets you do just that!
  • Zpocalypse: Another ACTUAL game for this list (but one I haven’t played), zombie games are always scary…BRAIIIIIIINS.
  • Dice Hospital: Another real scary thing to think about, I don’t want to be treated by the whims of dice and advance planning.
  • Boggle: Again, the only scary thing about this one is how often I lose at it. I scream anytime it gets pulled off the shelf.
  • Space Hulk: Death Angel: Being stalked by Genestealers in air vents is always fun. Another game where I have a consistent losing record.
  • Fortress America: America being invaded by Communists!!! I can’t think of anything scarier!
  • Pay Day: What’s scarier than playing a game based upon your day to day life? Taxes and Bills! EEEEEEEEK!
  • Silent Victory: Much like B-17 mentioned earlier in the list, trying to find out out if your submarine made it back to port after stalking Japanese shipping ships.
  • Hornet Leader: Cthulhu Conflict: A good one to end the list one. Again, I haven’t fully played this one, but I know you can nuke Lovecraftian horrors. Nuclear War in Ril’yeh? Awesome.

So there it is! Ryan and I’s top 17 SpOoOoOoOoOoOoky games? Did we miss any? What are your favorite spooky games. Let us know in the comments below!!

Klask Review

Sometimes I see a game and I fall in love with the idea. I loved the idea of Tumblin’ Dice, and was incredibly lucky to find a brand new copy in a thrift store for $5. It was one of our most played games for years, and I eventually sold it when we needed some money for a nice profit, it was out of print at that point. But the memories of my 5 or 6 yr old daughter Katlyn beating adults badly, will always remain.

Klask is also one of those games. I loved the simplicity of it, and the table hockey style play. I am a bit of a sucker for dexterity games to be honest. But for some strange reason, I never picked up a copy. I saw it at Target at a completely reasonable price. I even saw a copy at a thrift store, although that price seemed high, and it was taped shut, so I couldn’t verify the contents. The Target price went up as I assume they had the retail price wrong for the first few months, and while it was still fine, I balked at getting it. I saw it on sale, and still never picked it up. I finally grabbed it once I saw a single copy on a clearance shelf. It was 50% off, and I guessed it wasn’t going to come back.

So as I mentioned above, Klask is a Air/Table Hockey style game, with a couple of twists. The first being it’s much smaller, and is designed to sit on a table. It would fit on a small square folding table if you wanted it to. It looks really good on the table, and while not built from the highest quality materials ever, I don’t see any reason why it would fall apart or get damaged with reasonable care. Note: Some research on BGG mentioned the surface may start to scuff eventually, and there are some suggestions of felt pads or other thin layers to help with that.

Ok, so onto the gameplay. The main way to score is by getting the ball into the small cutout circle on your opponents side. You do this by using a pretty strong magnet between 2 pieces with magnets, the longer striker goes on top of the board, and the steering magnet underneath it, and this is the part you move, so you are able to slide the striker around on the board. These parts do come separated quite easily, but this seems like more of a feature as opposed to a flaw, as you can’t just zoom around all willy nilly. If you are unable to get your pieces connected back again if they do become separated, you give your opponent a point. .

And you wouldn’t want to move crazily all over the place very often anyway. If you aren’t careful, you’ll accidentally slide your piece into YOUR goal, and that’s called a Klask, which is based on the noise it makes when it happens, at least that’s the story according to the rules, and again you’ll give your opponent a point.

An additional obstacle is 3 small magnets in the middle of the board. If you ever have 2 of those stuck to your piece, it’s a point for your opponent. They get knocked around quite often, and provide a different element of strategy for just knocking the ball as hard as possible and hope it goes in. Plus it’s another reason to slow down moving around, you want to keep an eye on where these bits are at.

One other slightly different thing is how you start after a goal. You start in the marked area in the corner. It’s not always very easy to hit it well out of there, and adds a surprising amount of difficulty to your opening shots, or at least it has been for me. but maybe I’m just terrible at it.

The first person to 6 points wins the game.

This may sound a bit complicated, but it’s extremely simple and fast paced. My 5 yr old can play it with no issues, and can even beat the grown ups sometimes, because let’s face it, bad hops and accidents can happen very quickly. It’s chaotic and silly, and you learn that finesse is more often the better option than power shots, because you may set off a crazy sequence that ends up with the ball in your own goal if you hit it too hard.

We’ve been having a good time as a family with Klask. The games often take only a few minutes, and the giggling and shouting are a lot of fun. My wife wasn’t too sure about our purchase until the first night we took it out, and all 3 kids took turns playing each other with lots of laughing and trash talking. She looked at me and said “This alone might be worth the $30.” For a family that seems to be on the run a lot, a fun game we can play quickly is fantastic.

Have you played Klask? Any suggestions for some other games like that? I really want to get a nice Crokinole board someday, and we’ve played a lot of Pitchcar over the years. Any other whole family game suggestions?

Mixed Bag

Sorry, I’m late on my post. I typically work on a little bit of this during my breaks at work, but we had a workforce reduction and I haven’t had as much time to take my breaks this week. Plus just some general weirdness made me busier than normal. Then kids stuff last night meant I didn’t get home till late.

So I am writing a mixed bag of stuff today. I haven’t played enough new things lately for me to write many mini reviews, I didn’t have enough time to prepare a proper game review, and I didn’t have a particular topic I thought I’d be able to rip out quickly.

So first off I want to put out some thoughts on a recent trend in board game complaints. A TON of people complain about a game being unbalanced or not playtested enough. For instance, the recently released Tapestry. There are a bunch if civilizations and techs to develop throughout the game. Some combos may work better than others, but it might just be inexperience among players. But to accuse a game as being unbalanced, which can be a very negative connotation for a game, especially after one play, is ridiculous. These games have been playtested to death more often than not (Especially by well known publishers.), and maybe, just maybe, you messed something up, or didn’t find the ideal strategy, and maybe your opponent did. That doesn’t mean the game didn’t spend enough time in development. It’s quite possible, you just don’t know what you’re doing. Give a game a few more plays before trashing the development and playtesting. It does happen, things can get missed, but somehow I doubt you’ve broken a game in your first couple attempts.

I thought I’d discuss a couple of games I’ve played recently:

Tapestry– A really fun, light civilization building game. I admit, I don’t get the feeling of creating a civ, but that didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. It was deceivingly simple to play, but with a lot of interesting choices to be made as the game goes on. I did win, but I fell WAY behind the other players early on, so I don’t think that had much effect on my opinion. I had a plan, stuck with it, and came out on top, so I felt like I enjoyed that part of it.

Tapestry

Jaipur– A very nice little 2 player game. It’s always interested me, and I’ve owned and enjoyed the app for a couple years, so when I found this on the Barnes & Noble clearance table, I jumped on it. Dina and I have played it a couple times, and it works great as something quick to play at the laundroma

I also bought a couple of games. I bought Drew’s copy of One Deck Dungeon so I can give Eric his copy back. I picked up Mistfall: Heart of the Mists on a deep discount for solo play. And I bought Pharaoh’s Gulo Gulo to play with Aleksia.

Lastly, I belong to the 1 Player Guild on BGG. Every year, they have members rank their top solo games, up to a max of 20. I thought I’d share my list.

1) Wingspan
2) Star Realms: Frontiers
3) Race for the Galaxy
4) Palm Island
5) Crypt
6) Deep Space D-6
7) One Deck Dungeon
8) Fleet
9) Azul
10) Patchwork
11) Friday
12) That’s Pretty Clever (Ganz Schon Clever)
13) Elder Sign
14) Factory Funner
15) Onirim
16) The Game
17) Sagrada
18) Rising 5: Runes of Asteros
19) Tiny Epic Galaxies
20) Mint Works

That’s it. Sorry for the random post, but life got in my way this week, but I got a post up. Let me know if you have any thoughts on any of these, I look forward to hearing from folks.

d20 List: Top 9 RPG-esque Games

It’s my (Drew)’s turn to roll the dice and pick a topic. I am a huuuuge fan of Critical Role. For those of you not familiar, Critical Role is an Internet Series of professional voice actors who stream their Dungeons & Dragons game each week (you can find their YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpXBGqwsBkpvcYjsJBQ7LEQ). I don’t ever watch it live, but I watch the on demand playback while I’m playing video games or working on homework.

This season (they are in their second campaign), the PCs have formed a group called the Mighty Nein. I might have been watching the latest episode while I rolled for this week, and when it came up Nine, I knew what the topic was going to be. Since they play D&D, I decided we should come up with our top RPG -esque games. These can be RPG systems, or game books, or board games, but they have to tell a story. Here are my Picks:

  1. Dungeons and Dragons– The grandaddy of them all. I could write a whole book on D&D (in fact, I’m toying around with the idea for one) but it has provided me the most memories of any game on this list. We started playing 3.5e, but switched over to 5e when it came out. I’ve played in one off games and longer campaigns. I’ve avenged fallen friends and changed the fate of kingdoms. I’ve failed to prevent a Godkiller from being summoned and I’ve seen numerous Critical Rolls and Fails. I can’t wait for my daughter to get old enough so that I can run games for her and my wife
  2. Fiasco– This is a great, game masterless RPG that puts you in a crazy scenario straight out of a Cohen Brothers film. This is a great choice for people who want to get together to tell stories and see craziness happen, but may not be able to commit to a campaign.
  3. Tales of the Arabian Nights– This was my intro to this genre (at least on the board game side of things). It’s fun for a night of people who enjoy story telling and the setting, but I definitely play it for the experience and not for the “game” aspect.
  4. Fabled Lands Game Books– These are Choose Your Own Adventure books on Steroids. There are 7 in the series, and you can jump between books depending on where your character goes. You maintain stats, inventory and statuses as you encounter monsters, traps and dungeons.
  5. Four Against Darkness-Another set of dungeon crawl books, the base book was given to me as a gift from a friend. I haven’t had time to play much, but the little bit I did gave a great dungeon crawl experience quickly without much rules overhead.
  6. Star Wars: Edge of the Empire– I have a love/hate relationship with this RPG Series. I love the rules and how it implemented successes and failures (you could use them to narratively describe the actions a player was taken) but I had a really hard time DM’ing in this because of the setting: there is so much material that you want to stay true to (or at least I did) I always felt I was going against the source.
  7. Ambush! – This is D&D, wargame edition. In this game, you roll for a squadron of soldiers (they have stats as well as equipment points) and then take them through a series of mission in WWII Europe. This was my first foray into solitaire wargaming, and many consider it one of the best solo wargames ever created.
  8. Target for Today – In Target for Today, you control a B-17 (or other models of bombers) flying missions in WWII Europe. You generate your squad and guide them through missions, trying to get both your bomber and crew to survive 25 missions. The narrative this game provides is amazing, but be warned: there are not a ton of decisions to be made. You’re really rolling dice against a number of tables.
  9. Detective/Chronicles of Crime – These are the only ones I haven’t played, but in these games you take the role of a detective and try to solve crimes. It’s a deduction game, but you do progress through missions that tell an ongoing story. (I included both because they came out at the same time, and I own both).

Ryan: I’m really surprised that I had a bit of trouble making this list out. I really like RPG’s and board games that bring those elements to the table. Maybe I am too harsh on what I consider RPG-like, but finding 9 games was more difficult than I expected. I decided games with a good narrative and often having you play a character worked best, but not all are 100% like that, as you’ll see.

I did misread Drew’s suggestion for this topic, and I thought that meant we wouldn’t choose RPG’s. I am a huge fan of RPG’s although actually playing them has been an issue. A quick couple I really have had fun with over the years are D & D, Toon, Happy Birthday Robot, Star Wars (Wizard’s first d20 edition.), and Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple.

I am fascinated by systems, so others that I haven’t played but really wish I could find time to are Fiasco, Fate Accelerated (Dresden Files particularly), and Blades in the Dark.

  1. Fog of Love– A great game where you play as one of 2 people who are dating and starting a relationship. The game also encourages a little role playing to get into your character a bit more. There isn’t much of a win condition, so it can end however best fits the story.
  2. Gloomhaven– The story part of this one isn’t necessarily as strong as some (Although we’ve only played a couple of times, maybe it gets going later.), but the combat definitely feels like D&D style fights.
  3. Runebound– This one feels a little less story based too, although you can create a bit of a story as you go along. The player progression and XP make it feel like character building. I’ve only played the first 2 editions, so I can’t speak of the newest version of the game.
  4. TIME Stories– This one is almost all just story. But a really neat story with some puzzle solving involved, so I feel like it qualifies here. I know I loved the strong story telling aspect, although I’ve only gotten to play the base scenario.
  5. Tales of the Arabian Nights– Another story driven game, but you craft some crazy stuff here. The Choose Your Own Adventure aspects make me feel a little less RPGish than some, but it’s hard to argue with the story driving the game.
  6. Stuffed Fables– A really neat family game that has simple combat, but a lot of fun combat with some decisions to help shape your story. Feels like a great intro to RPG’s for kids.
  7. Descent– Pretty similar to Gloomhaven, but a simpler game. Still fun and enough story to qualify, and is something I need to get to the table more often.
  8. Star Wars: Imperial Assault– See Descent, but with the Star Wars universe to carry the story.
  9. Roll Player– It’s the least story involved of the group, but the most RPG-like, although it’s the setup, not the story. You make a character by manipulating dice to score the most points, but you are giving these dice to D&D style attributes.

There you have it, our top 9 RPG-esque games. Have you played any of these? Any systems or games we overlooked? Let us know in the comments below, and may all your rolls be 20!

Geekgroup.app Review

I’m going to do something a little different today. I’m going to review a game based website.

Those who know me well know that I love having data. I typically don’t use that data much, but I love having if I want it. I track my games played, owned, how much I paid, and where I got it. I track the details of each play. I also track the books I read, TV Shows & Movies I watch, beer I drink, and all of my disc golf plays (Which sadly has been 0 this summer.).

So when Drew invited me to use a site he found called Geekgroup.app, I was very interested. And I’ve enjoyed seeing it add features over a fairly short amount of time. We’ve been using it since April or May sometime.

One of the main features is being able to create a custom group of BGG users, and compile their collections & data. You want to quickly see how your group rates a game? This is the place. You want to use see which of your friends your game tastes match up with the best, that’s here too. The insights are at the very least interesting, if not always useful. The best feature might be just being able to look at all of your collections in one place.

There have been a ton of insights that they have added for your own info too. Mostly stuff that again isn’t all that useful (At least to me.), but still interesting, like what was my longest losing streak, or how long was my longest streak of not playing games.

You can create lists for your info too, including your top 100 rated games. Or seeing my shelf of shame It saves me a bit of time as opposed to using BGG. You can create custom lists, but I haven’t played with that.

There are ways to sort your collection & plays too, but again, I haven’t dug too much into those features. Same thing goes with the tools page, I don’t have much use for a Word Cloud or Heatmap, but it’s cool to have the options.

The last tab/page is activity, which is interesting to see when I rated games and when I added games to my collection.

One negative is that it only updates your data once a week. I don’t sue it often enough to justify that. You can make a one time tip of $2.50 to get daily syncs, manual syncs, and custom group urls. To be honest, I should probably do this just because I like rewarding small developers when they have a good product.

If you are stat junkie like I am, this site is really neat. I consider it a really useful companion to BGG. Some things will work better as time passes, like your yearly collection data, it starts when you join, or maybe that’s just for your groups, I was having trouble finding something individually that hadn’t puled my historical data. There are frequent improvements being made, and I look forward to seeing what else gets added in the future.

How about you, are there other sites out there I should know about? Are there any apps or sites that you frequently use? Let me know in the comments.

d20 List: Top Licensed Games

It’s the time of the month that Drew and I make a list. My 5 yr old rolled the big foam 20 sided die she has and came up with lucky number 13. With a Friday the 13th coming in a few weeks, I thought about a horror theme, but I’m not sure I have played that many games like that, so I decided to go with a different theme that Friday the 13 would fall under, licensed games in no particular order.

Disclaimer: We are not lawyers, we don’t know for sure which of these actually require a license or are public domain.

So here are Drew and my top 13 Licensed Games:

Ryan’s List

First off, I didn’t consider other game franchise. I wasn’t sure how it worked with D&D, Shadowrun, or Pathfinder. I did count video games though.

  1. Legendary- I’m going to lump the 3 games I’ve played under this. The Marvel version is one of my favorite games, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer version is excellent, and the Firefly version is fun, but I haven’t played it enough to know if it’s up to the other’s standards, it’s a slightly different game being a Legendary Encounters game.
  2. FFG Cthulu Games- Another group listing. Fantasy Flight Games has made several Mythos based games, and Eldritch Horror, Elder Sign, and Arkham Horror: The Card Game are all excellent games, so I decided to add them all here.
  3. Star Wars: Imperial Assault– Descent has always been one of my favorite games, both versions, and this is a great edition to it. A fun dungeon crawl with a Star War twist.
  4. Harry Potter: Hogwart’s Battle– This is probably my favorite deck builder to teach new players. It starts basic, and you keep adding stuff as you win, basically adding cards from the next book. We haven’t finished yet, we stalled out on Book 4, which I understand is a common place for people, it ramps up the difficulty.
  5. Perry Rhodan: The Cosmic League– Space pick up and deliver. THe art is neat. It’s only 2 players, which might be an issue for some. I believe I’ve had it on both my favorite 2-player Games and Underrated Games.
  6. Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery– I never played the computer game, but this game was great. I think it’s be re-done at least once after losing the IP. I really wish I hadn’t sold my copy, it was always a fun time.
  7. The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game– A pretty difficult, but interesting co-op game. I love the novels, so I know the characters well. Each novel is a seperate scenario, and each requires you to play a little differently. As a bonus it typically only lasts about 30 minutes.
  8. Daytona 500– This one uses the same system as Detroit/Cleveland Grand Prix and more recently Downforce. You don’t control a particular car, but you get a handful of cards to move all of them, and you bid on where they finish. I’ve mentioned my affection for racing games, and this one is simple and fun.
  9. Discworld: Ankh-Morpork– I love Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and this is the best game from that world. Hidden goals with some area control, and just enough take that to not annoy me. It’s a really solid game.
  10. Railroad Tycoon– You’ll sense a them of regret getting rid of games, although most of them were necessary at the time. I have loved this since I fort played my friend Kevin’s copy many years ago. It’s a HUGE board, but it’s such a great system. It’s still in print as Railways of the World and that series.
  11. Gears of War: The Board Game– Did I once own this? Yep. Did I sell it? Yes again. Admittedly, I doubted we’d play it often. Bryan taught us once, and I really liked it.
  12. Starcraft: The Board Game– Another one I owned and sold. Again, it wasn’t going to get played enough, but it was a cool system, and did a great job of building up like the computer game itself. I only played it a couple of times, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  13. The Lion Guard: Protect the Pride Lands– This one is probably more sentimental than it being a great game, but it’s a really solid kids co-op game. Aleksia and I have played it over 10 times since we got it last spring, and she still asks for it. I’m not even sure she’s watched the cartoon very much.

Drew’s List

Now that Ryan has had his say, here’s my top 13 Licensed games (in no particular order).

  1. DiceMasters: I’ve written before how I love Quarrior’s IP Crazy big brother, but when I think of a game that used licensing to enhance gameplay, DiceMasters is at the top of the list. Where else can I combine the powers of Captain America with Green Lantern?
  2. Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit: This is a Grail game for many, and I’ve only played it once at BGG.Con. This was a fun, 3D dice fest and I’m really glad I played it. I don’t think I’ll ever pay to get a copy, but I’d pay it again if given the chance.
  3. Risk: Star Wars Edition: The first time I played this I referred to it as “The Queen’s Gambit’s little brother”. This isn’t your typical risk, and it gives a fun tension where players have to manage three different “battlefields” that are taken from the movies. All in all, it’s a fun game and it looks good on the table.
  4. Arkham Horror (2e/3e): Arkham was my first foray into “epic” gaming; games that tell a story and take a long time to play. It was in college, so I had ample free time to play. Recently, FFG released a 3rd edition that streamlines the gameplay and makes it more scenario based. This is much better for my schedule, and I’ve really enjoyed the couple of times I’ve played it. Either way, Arkham will always hold a fond space in my heart.
  5. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle: My wife and I both love the Harry Potter games, so when we heard there was a deckbuilder coming out in that universe, we were both really excited. We haven’t played it a ton, but when we do it’s an enjoyable time, and it’s a solid game to use to introduce deckbuilders to people who may not be familiar with them.
  6. Bob Ross: Art of Chill Game: When I first heard about this, I thought it was a cash grab. Then I picked it up on Black Friday and played it. It was surprisingly not bad. It’s a little set collecting game where you are competing against Bob to finish paintings. It’s a very zen game, much like Tokkaido, and would be good for a lazy evening where you didn’t want to think too much or get too cutthroat.
  7. Codenames: We have both the Disney and Harry Potter versions of Codenames, and we’ve enjoyed it the few times we’ve played it. The Harry Potter version introduces the rules for cooperative 2p play that Duel has. We have yet to combine Disney and Harry Potter though. Maybe if Disney ever acquires the rights….
  8. The Game of Life: A Jedi’s Path: Yes, it’s Life. But this version allows you to make choices that lead to the light or the dark side. No, it doesn’t have deep strategic game play. But it lets me be a Jedi for a little while.
  9. Harry Potter Labyrinth: This is a themed version of the classic Ravensburger title. This will probably be my daughters first introduction to Harry Potter, and I hope she can use it to get lost in the books like her mother and I did.
  10. Star Wars: Imperial Assault: Descent, but in the Star Wars universe? Sign me up. I admit, I haven’t played a ton of it, but with the app that allows for cooperative play without a Game Master, I’m looking forward to setting some time aside for my wife and I to take on the empire.
  11. Lords of Waterdeep: For a long time, this was my default, go to worker placement game for new gamers. I really enjoy it with the expansions as well. The theme could probably be about anything, but I think the Dungeons & Dragons theme helps to draw people in. This one caused a bit of a debate between Ryan and I, since the company that owns the license is the one that produced the board game. But I argue that even if they own it, it’s still licensed. Help us settle this in the comments 😉
  12. Space Hulk: Death Angel: This solo game is brutal. BRUTAL. I have lost more times than I can count, and can count the wins on one hand. But it’s quick, doesn’t take up a ton of table space, and evokes some of the feeling that you are trapped in cramped hallways with no way out except for through the beasts stalking you. Unfortunately, it’s OOP, so you might have to pay a pretty penny to get a copy.
  13. Arkham Horror: Final Hour: This is the newest game on the list. I had the fortune to play a game of this after a buddy bought it from a local game store after GenCon. This was a really enjoyable, tension filled game that you would expect from the “House of Arkham” line. To me, it felt like a step up from Elder Sign, but a step down from Eldritch/Arkham Horror. It features an initiative system that specifically doesn’t allow table talk where you have to balance the values on the cards in your hand against when you might go in the overall turn order. We lost, but we really enjoyed playing it and all agreed we’d play it again.

So there you have it. Drew and I’s top 13 licensed games. How many of these have you played? Are there ones that we missed? Ones that break the mold of “licensed games are terrible?” Is Drew or Ryan right on Lords of Waterdeep? Let us know in the comments!

Gaming with my Kids

As school starts here in Kansas, I am feeling nostalgic for gaming with my children. Joseph is an adult, Katlyn just started her Senior year, and Aleksia started Kindergarten this week. I have been playing more games the past few weeks, and will hopefully get some good ideas about what to write about as my gaming picks up.

I started gaming when Joe was quite young and Katlyn was a baby. I was home evenings with the kids, and was looking for things to do with my friends. Of course this carried over into gaming with the kids as time went on.

Joe has always been a gamer. Sadly, his interest in board games seems to have lessened over the past few years, or maybe it’s just playing with me. He’s playing D&D 2-3 nights a week, and spends most of the rest of his time playing video games. He’ll still play on occasion, but we used to play together several times a week. He’s growing up, but I miss the time we had together. He definitely enjoyed all types of games, and often times wins when we play something for the first time. We probably started with Blokus and Carcassonne with him, and he still plays all kinds of games in general. At Extra Life, when I tend to stay and play with my friends, he branches out and trys all kinds of games, he’s not shy about jumping in with groups he doesn’t know.

Katlyn started out playing lighter games and some kids games. I realized that she didn’t move onto more complex games till she was a little older than Joe had been, probably because I was playing those types of games with him. In 2013, I decided to teach her some more complex games, and documented it on this Geeklist. For a while she was playing all kinds of games with us. But slowly she stopped playing with the rest of the family. Occasionally something with Aleksia, but less and less with us. Now I can barely get her to play anything with us, but she still enjoys gaming. She took several games to a cast party after one of the plays at her school last year, mostly party games, but I was still happy. She really likes party style games, but getting her to play them with just us is hard, because 4 or 5 isn’t great for most party games. She’s extremely busy, and works a lot of weekends and evenings and is very involved in school stuff, so even if she was more interested, it would be difficult to play much more.

And that brings me to Aleksia. She has so much energy and enthusiasm for everything, it’s often hard to ask her to play a game, she seems to be having so much fun with whatever she’s doing. She’s also very crafty, which means she often has a mess on the table that makes gaming difficult. We’ve been playing mostly kids games, but are starting to mix in some rules light abstracts to break her into slightly more advanced games. I think once she starts reading more, we’ll teach her some games with text on the cards, and I think she’ll be very happy. I should play more often with her than I do, but I’m also trying, ok, mostly failing, to play more solitaire games.

Ok, so this may sound like me complaining, but I don’t want to give that impression. Our lives have changed a lot, and due to the older kids work/school, a lot of our available free time has been sucked up, so some of this is just scheduling. I think I may need to set a family game night occasionally, so we can just sit down and play, but I worry about it feeling like forced fun as opposed to family time.

What do you do as far as family gaming? Do you have family nights, or do it spontaneously? Do you have a gap between your kid’s ages that sometimes make it tricky to play games together? Let me know your ideas/suggestions in the comments.

Half Year Gaming Update

Because it’s been another really slow month, mostly due to driving kids around to jobs and stuff. I don’t have a great feel for a good topic.

I’m not sure I’ve mentioned why driving them can be such a chore, it doesn’t sound like a huge time sink. We live in a small town just outside of Topeka and only have 1 car right now (The other one is getting worked on.). My wife needs the car every day, so she drives me to work at 7 am and picks me up at 3:30. My son typically works at 11 am Monday-Thursday, so he needs a ride. He also started another part time job a couple of nights a week for 3+ hours. Our eldest daughter has been working 40+ hours, 6 days a week, so she typically needs to be at work between 5-5:30. So basically if we go from home to pick them up or drop them off, it’s 40-50 minutes of driving. It’s probably only 15-20 miles each way, but from home to some parts of Topeka the quickest ways can take a while. This also includes they both typically work at some time on the weekends, both days in Katlyn’s case. Joe is also playing D&D 2 nights a week. Luckily Katlyn can often get a ride home late at night, but we still tend to stay in town often to save some driving, it’s getting to be a lot for us.

So basically my gaming has been sporadic at best. Once school starts again, maybe things normalize a little. We tend to do things to keep the 5 yr old busy when we stay in town, but maybe I should be bringing more games with to play.

So I wanted to compare my year this year to last year at 6 months, and give an update my challenges. I’ll also do a one line thought on a couple of new games this month.

So last year, I had played 144 different games 235 times. It was a good time, with a good mix of friends and family. This year, 71 games for a total of 102 plays. Those numbers total around my May alone last year (56 for 102). I KNOW it’s been slow, but this is pretty sad to see it spelled out like that. Even if I added July this year it wouldn’t help much, I’ve only played 7 games 10 times total. We’ve even had trouble getting together with our friends for gaming, although we have seen most of them in the past month at some point.

So, the doldrums are continuing. I need to make a bigger effort to get some gaming in. I have been playing a lot of My Time at Portia (Xbox) and Slay the Spire (Switch) lately, so that’s cutting into my board gaming time.

My Solo 10×10 has only gotten 32 total plays, nothing at 10 yet, so there is some work to be done there. My Play 10 Unplayed Games has done much better with 6 games so far. And the 10×5 is probably not going to happen with only 17 plays so far and only 2 games played 5 times.

So we have played a few games this month. Drew taught us Tiny Towns and The Voyages of Marco Polo on July 4th, both were a lot of fun. Aleksia has been enjoying Hey! That’s My Fish! and we picked up and played Drop It (Pictured above.), and they are both good games for both kids and adults. I picked up a copy of Proving Grounds (Pictured below.)to play solo, and attempted it last week. Interesting idea, but pretty difficult to win it seemed. The only other game in the last month was that I taught Dina Welcome to…, which she enjoyed quite a bit.

So that’s pretty much it. I’m finding it difficult to think of topics lately, my mind has been so occupied with other things. Any suggestions on stuff you’d like to see discussed? Or even suggestions on how to get back into my gaming groove.