My Journey into Solo Gaming

You may have noticed that I am going to be focusing on solo gaming this year. For example, my 10×10 is based on solo plays. I haven’t really done much solo gaming in previous years. I actually played more last year than ever before. It looks like I played around 75 games solo last year, but 25 of them were Palm Island and another 10 were Friday. The rest were pretty much various dice games, mostly roll & writes.

Why do I want to play games solitaire? To play more games of course. I’d prefer to play games with other people, but sometimes I want to play and nobody else is available. I have a huge collection of games, and most of them are barely leaving the shelf in a given year. I want to remedy that, and this seems like a good way to do it.

But, how do I choose which games to play? A TON of games on BGG have homebrewed solo play, sometimes using automa or bots. I’m not sure how well they work, so I have downloaded a couple of them to try, although I haven’t actually played one yet.

There is a fantastic Geeklist that lists the top 100 (200 actually, but the second hundred are listed 101-200 after the top 100.) solo games as voted on by the 1-Player Guild. I checked to see which games I own on there, and intend to try some of them out. Turns out I have quite a few of them, but it’s difficult to know which ones I will enjoy. A good example is Roll Player. I really like the game with other players, but it really fell flat for me solitaire. Race for the Galaxy, which I have owned for years and had the solitaire bot in the Gathering Storm expansion for a long time but had never used, is really good and will be an easy game to get 10 plays of this year. I have a book of solo scenarios for Gloomhaven, but you need to progress to a certain point in the campaign to integrate those, and I’d really like to get to that point.

Playing Fleet solo using the Arctic Bounty expansion.

And what about the amazing solo games that I missed? It’s really hard to not run out and buy the hottest games. I have several I am eyeballing though, and am trying to figure out some ways to get them. Anachrony didn’t really interest me much until I started reading about it solitaire. Spirit Island was one I was thinking about anyway because I love co-op play, but now it’s jumped up because it’s supposed to be amazing solo. Wingspan & Renegade are also games I’d be interested in anyway, but their ability to be played solo bumps my interest up quite a bit. I picked up Shadowrun Crossfire: Prime Runner Edition because it was on sale and I love the setting, but it also has solo play scenarios. Eric taught me Aeon’s End, and I loved the game, and really want to pick it up for solitaire play too. I liked it enough that I want my own copy.

And that’s just a short list. Eric enjoys solo games too, so I can probably borrow some of them, like I probably don’t need to rush out and buy Mage Knight because he has it. I have had his copy of One Deck Dungeon for a few months because it’s a lot of fun. I’ll likely raid Drew’s collection of games at some point too, he has some interesting ones. I know our friend Bryan also posts solo plays on Instagram sometimes, so maybe I can bug him too.

I’m not really sure where this journey is going, but I’m enjoying it so far. I’m not sure how realistic doing a 10×10 is going to be, but it motivates me to try. For now it’s slightly slow going, and it would be really easy to just play a few 10 times right away, which is what I should probably do, but I’d rather stretch out my plays of Palm Island or Star Realms: Frontiers to enjoy them throughout the year and feel like I’m cheating on the challenge playing them after getting 10 plays.

What do you think? Do you have any thoughts on solo gaming in general? Any suggestions on games I should try? My 10×10 is flexible. Any games that you love that don’t work as a solo game for you? Let me know in the comments.

d20: Ryan’s Top 18 Games for New Gamers

Drew texted me the other day to remind me to roll the die this week. I had been thinking about it, but I kept forgetting. So, now that we are starting to feel a little rushed, of course I roll a nice manageable 18. Crud. Ok, at least we knew the topic this week already, so at the very least, we had a few ideas already in place.

Unfortunately, Drew got sick shortly after I rolled the die, and he wasn’t feeling up to writing yet. He’ll post it sometime in the upcoming days. Just get well!

Games for new players are a fairly easy topic, although it’s tricky for people who game regularly. It’s very easy to think a game is simple, but will still cause a glazed over look in the eyes of new players. I tend to go for rules light, often silly games, although I’m not against throwing a next level game out there, for when you feel you are ready. I don’t think I did that though, I cut most of those off of my official list.

Here are my Top 18 Games for New Players (In no particular order.):

Patchwork
  1. Ticket to Ride: This is a great game in general, with very simple rules. Yes, you can play it hardcore with a ton of intentional blocking, but that’s a bit cruel to do to new players. This game can be bought at stores like Walmart & Target along with game stores. It’s probably one of the top 5 games in all time sales, and might even be just behind Catan.
  2. Pitchcar: This one can be tough to find, and is a bit pricey, but I can’t think of a game that is more fun, and can play a large group of people. You just flick discs around a slot-car style track, the first person to cross the finish line after a set number of laps wins. There are some rules about going off the track or knocking others off, but not many rules to get in the way. And if the full version is too much, there is a Mini version too.
  3. Blokus: This was one of the games that brought me to the wonderful world of Boardgamegeek.com. It’s very pretty to look at, has familiar Tetris-like pieces, and is quick to play. You just try to place as many of your pieces out on a shrinking board, while only touching at the corners. You are able to block, but it’s not easy to completely block someone, and it often comes back to haunt you later when they manage to take that area you were planning on using.
  4. Forbidden Island: This is a co-op game that is very simple to play, but hard to win. It’s from the creator of the immensely popular Pandemic, and is a simpler use of similar mechanics. I’ve always enjoyed it.
  5. Take it Easy: This is a multi-player solitaire puzzle game with a little bingo blind drawing to it. Ok, it’s a lot more fun than it sounds. You add tiles to a board, but the trick is you only score rows you get to go the full lengths, and you can’t move them once they are down. Plays quick, and it really only takes a game to understand what’s going on.
  6. Kingdom Builder: A pretty rules light game, not a ton of decisions, but clever plays can be made. It’s simple, but has some good mechanics to help a new gamer advance up in game difficulty.
  7. Hanabi: A small card game where you hold your hand of cards facing out, and need to rely on your fellow players to help inform you what’s there. Co-op and silly at times, it’s a neat little games that I don’t play often enough.
  8. Patchwork: It’s only a 2 player game, but it’s a great 2 player game. You are placing Tetris-style pieces on a board to create a quilt. The player order mechanic is cool, and the value of pieces makes it have some interesting choices.
  9. Harry Potter: Hogwart’s Battle: A very basic deck builder, at first. It’s a great intro to deck building games, and the theme will appeal to many people. It also ramps up by adding more rules and cards as you defeat each book.
  10. Potion Explosion: This game has really familiar mechanics to most people, it kind of copies the board of app games like Candy Crush. It’s a fun game, and looks really neat out on the table.
  11. Mint Works: The most basic worker placement game out there, but it’s really clever. Might be over faster than I’d like, but it’s fun, cheap, and fits in a mint tin. A great intro to worker placement mechanics.
  12. Codenames Duet: This is a fantastic co-op game, although any of the Codenames family of games would work. I prefer Duet because it can be played with 2 players, but the family can all be played as party games, and the only limit on players is room to see the board. A pretty thinky game, but easy to explain and get into.
  13. Carcassonne: A great tile laying game. Another really popular game that has stood the test of time, it’s the first game I know of that used Meeples. At the very least it was probably the one that popularized them. If you are having trouble wrapping your head around the Farmers, feel free to skip them when starting out.
  14. Hey! That’s My Fish!: Another game that seems simple, but it can get nasty in a fun way. Move your penguin, take a tile with fish on it, and the person with the most fish wins. Where it gets a little nasty is when you trap an opponent on an island on the ever shrinking board, or you manage to block off a huge chunk for yourself.
  15. Tsuro: Add a tile, move your stone, try not to get moved off the board. It’s extremely simple, really easy to teach, and you can play several games in an hour. The stones look great, along with the tiles. It also plays up to 8!
  16. Can’t Stop: A classic press your luck game. Just roll the dice and move up the ladder, but if you can’t move, you lose the progress you made. It also helps teach how die rolls average out, with the 7 needing a lot of rolls to complete, while the 12 only needs a couple of hits. Mathy fun.
  17. Fits: Ok, so I have a thing for Tetris-like pieces. This one literally plays like Tetris, sliding pieces down the board. I really should bring this one out more often.
  18. Kingdomino: Very familiar elements of Dominoes. Tiles with each half having a terrain on it. Match terrain types, get the biggest areas you can, while also requiring crowns to be in the area, making you multiply the score of total spaces times the number of crowns. Simple to play, but it takes a little luck and planning to be good at it.
Kingdomino

Ok, so that’s my list. I have a couple of guesses at potential repeats from Drew, but I don’t expect many. I am looking forward to seeing his list. Believe it or not, I had to cut down the list quite a bit. My initial list was over 40 games!

There are a lot of other games out there that would be great for new gamers. What are some of your favorites? Any objections to something on my list? Or was my list pretty good? Feel free to give any opinions in the comments below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drew’s Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Top 10 New to Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sorry about the glare.

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



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

10 Worst New to Me Games

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

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

So in reverse order:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts on Keyforge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kickstarter

Gamers have a love/hate relationship with Kickstarter. I personally have 1 KS that never delivered their things (Which is of course one of the bigger pledges I’ve made to a campaign.), and another that I backed because they pledged an Android version of a popular board game after hitting a pledge goal, and they never delivered that, but the campaign was for an iOS app, which they did make, and I’ve heard is pretty good.

But while there are horror stories (And mine are definitely NOT horror stories, just something I lost out on.), there are many huge successes.

So what is Kickstarter? It’s a site where someone can have an idea, and pitch to get funding for their idea. THere is a HUGE range of things this could be. I’m obviously going to focus on what I am most familiar with, tabletop games.

And even the tabletop game part of this has a large range. I’ve seen RPG’s that only want $100. And there are miniature games that as for 100K+.

Some campaigns try to put in a level to get this base item. Then you can add this bonus item. Then you can add on these deluxe pieces. And then an expansion pack.

I won’t even consider those. While I am working on my need to have all expansions, many of these items will only be available through the Kickstarter campaign. And that means I won’t ever be able to get everything if I don’t buy it now, and that turns me off.

I want a simple batch of pledge levels. I prefer cheaper items, but I understand that many people have more to spend on these things than I do, so while I won’t pay $120 for your game, many others will. And that’s fine.

I’ve backed several games over the years. Not all have been winners, but I do tend to still own most of them, so I have been pretty good as knowing what I like. It sucks to order these and have to wait months, but as long as I know it’s going to be awhile, I’m good with it. Although I’ll warn folks that in my experience, they rarely ship on time.

Here are some of the games I’ve backed:

 

The Good

Mutant Meeples – Fun Ricochet Robots style game with meeples having powers to help reach the goals.

Fate Core – This one was crazy. I backed the very popular RPG core rules, and was still getting additional content 2 years later, all was promised as stretch goals. I have some great stuff from this one.

Wok Star – A really fun, but very intense, co-op recipe making  game. Fulfill orders to earn money. Simple to play but difficult to do well.

Tiny Epic Galaxies – A fantastic little game that plays like a larger board game. By far my favorite of the Tiny Epic games, although I’ve only played a couple of them. This is the game in the title pic.

Roll to the Top! – A new roll & write game, I haven’t played it too much, but it’s got some interesting ideas. You basically keep moving up the map with matching and higher numbers till someone completes there sheet.

Eminent Domain – One of my favorite deck builders, helped by the fact that occasional contributor Eric J Carter did some of the wonderful art. But his name being on it isn’t what makes it a good game, it’s a bonus for me.

 
The Not So Good

For the Win! – Here is an example of where Eric couldn’t help it. The game was just really dull, and I typically like abstract games. I think I sold it to someone.

Heat – Another one I wanted to like, and didn’t enjoy. Just wasn’t what I wanted it to be I guess. I think I traded this one, but it may have gotten sold also.

Tiny Epic Defenders – I love co-op games, and this seemed like an interesting one. Joe and I played it once, and it just didn’t do anything for us. It has gotten an expansion, so maybe we just didn’t get it, but I traded it away almost immediately.

 

I like that Kickstarter exists. It genuinely helps games get made. It also helps reduce the commitment a publisher needs to make to create a game that people may not like. I’ve become a lot more discerning in what I purchase, so my more recent games are almost all successes for me.

I am currently waiting on Factory Funner & Bigger because we really like Factory Fun. I have a kids game from Eagle Games called Nut Job that looks like a clever take on traditional memory games.

What’s your take on Kickstarter, especially for board games? Do you have any games you are really looking forward to? Anything you’ve really liked or disliked? Do you back any non-board game projects? Let me know in the comments.

 

Start Player Review

Have you ever had game night ruined due to two players getting into fisticuffs over player order? Ever had a table flipped over due to people wanting to be the first player?

Well, have I got the solution for you. It’s small, it’s quick, it probably can even cure rabies*.

The solution I have is Start Player: A Kinda Collectible Card Game. It’s a game, it’s a helper, it’s the greatest thing since bread cutting knives!

What is Start Player you ask? It’s a game that helps you out when the game rules aren’t willing to settle disputes before the game starts. You just randomly draw a card, and read the rule, and somebody is declared the winner!

The concept is so simple a baby who can read would be able to do it. Why? See above. I can’t count how many times we’ve had a scuffle break out over who wants to be the start player. So many additional games I could have played!

Here, let’s play a sample game. I’ll shuffle the cards. Then I’ll draw one. I drew the Cold Milk card:

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Hey! I ate ice cream just 2 nights ago. I think I win this one!

See how easy that was. Let’s try another. I’ll shuffle and I draw Dexterity Jones:

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Let’s see, this one is a little trickier, but I appear to have the smallest hands out of everyone present.

Admittedly, this works better with more than one player, but I just picked up 2 wins!

The whole game is like this. Quick, simple, and fun. Even if you have a tie, do you see that arrow on there? Closest person to where that points wins!

And the art. Don’t get me started on the art. It’s from game designer Ted Alspach’s now defunct cartoon series Board2Pieces. I always loved that strip.

So, I have a little bad news. This game is out of print. While I’m giving you a sales pitch, I don’t have any available to sell.

I know I know, you’ll pay me handsomely for my copy, but it’s not for sale!

Ummm. Hmmm. Ok. You seem like you’re getting a little upset. I wasn’t trying to…

Hey! No need to throw your shoe. I’m leaving. Now.

 

* All medical claims unproven as of this writing.


 

Ok, in all seriousness, I’ve always loved this idea. So simple, so silly, and I love the art. It was one of those “Why didn’t I think of this” type games. It was re-released as a non kinda collectible card game under the name of just plain Start Player. I never had a copy of that, although I’d like one.

Any thoughts on this game? What solutions do you use to determine the start player in your games? Would you even consider this to be a game?

Roll & Write Games

Roll and Write games are currently very hot in some gaming circles. It’s not a new idea, but there has been an explosion in creative ways to roll dice and mark something on a page. I haven’t played all of them, or even very many of the latest games, but I wanted to wander down memory lane with this style of game. I’m going to do most of this from memory of how to play the games, so while I’ll do my best to fact check, I may mess up some details.

Let’s start with the one we all know. Yahtzee is one of the games that nearly everyone has played at one time or another. You roll dice, and mark off certain criteria. You lock some dice, and re-roll the others, eventually marking off parts of the page like straights, full house, 2’s, etc. The mechanics are very similar to the newer R&W’s today, and I still enjoy the game from time to time. It can go on a tad long for my tastes though. Like Monopoly, there seem to be a billion different themed versions of this now. I currently own a Dr. Who version with the cup/box being the Tardis.

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Dr Who Yahtzee

The first modern version of a R & W I can think of is Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age. At this time it was kind of becoming vogue to make card or dice themed games of well-known board games. This was based on Through the Ages, which was probably in the BGG Top 10 at the time. It took the set collection aspects of Yahtzee, and made it so you were earning and spending resources on a board based on the die faces. One interesting thing it did was created a way to earn additional dice, but at the cost of requiring more food every turn, or else you lose points. You got to build wonders and buy additional abilities/bonuses. It was a bit of a revelation for me into what you can do with a simple idea of just rolling dice.

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Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age

The next one that caught my eye was Qwixx. I’m pretty sure I first noticed it when it got nominated for the 2013 Spiel des Jahres, eventually losing to another game I enjoy a lot, Hanabi. Once Gamewright came out with a US version, I rushed to get it. It was deceptively simple, but the die rolls were used in a completely different way than the previous 2 games. First off, everyone was involved on every die roll, regardless of who rolled them. You’d roll 6 dice, everyone can use the sum of the white dice, and the active player can add a white die to one of the 4 colored dice, and cross off something on their sheet in a row. The trick is you must cross off numbers from left to right, so if you skip a number, you can’t go back and cross it off later. 2 of the colors go from 2-12, and 2 go from 12-2. Once a couple of rows have been completed, the game ends, and you get points based on how many numbers you crossed off in each row. It’s simple, but has some tough decisions. It’s also cheap and very simple to teach non-gamers.

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Qwixx

The past couple of years has seen many of these types of games coming out. I won’t go into detail for all of them, but I’ll mention which one is my current favorite, Ganz schön clever. This was nominated for the Kennerspiel des Jahres this year, which is the “Gamer” Game of the Year award in Germany. It’s simple, but has some legitimately tough decisions to make each turn.  You roll 6 six-sided dice, and you lock one. The trick to locking one is that you then lose any dice that you rolled that are lower than what you took, and those dice become available to your opponents after you are done rolling. You repeat the process two more times, and whatever dice that are left over are also set on the tray for your opponents to use. So your opponents are actively using some of the dice you rolled. Now, I’m not going to get into specifics, but the other trick is the brilliant use of the colored dice and the sheet to write on. Each color does something different, and can score you points at the end of the game in different ways, so while the numbers matter, the color also means something. And you gain bonuses by filling out your sheet, which can range from additional dice to use on your turn, re-rolls, bonuses for other colored sections on the sheet, and foxes. The foxes are often the difference between a big score or not, because once you add up your total scores in each color, you then take the lowest score and multiply the number of foxes. So it rewards you for trying to balance out your usage of each color, not just maxing out a couple of them. It all sounds complicated, but once you’ve played it, it makes sense, although it’s not easy to do well.

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Ganz schön clever

I’ll stop here. I have played many others over the past year, and I really enjoy the genre. Some of the mechanics are getting really interesting, and it will be exciting to see what comes out next.

What Roll & Writes do you enjoy? I know I am missing several above, but I could have doubled the size of this post easily if I would have mentioned them all. Feel free to mention more in the comments, I am really loving them right now.

 

Racing Games

I obviously love board games. Some games have amazing mechanics, others are just plain fun. I am a terrible reviewer, because I often don’t know why exactly a game fascinates me. Sometimes it’s a specific mechanic that I enjoy, another time it’s just watching everyone at the table use a different strategy and yet have a close game, once in a while it’s how much it makes my 4 year old laugh.

One style of game that I almost always enjoy is racing games. I’ve always been a fan of racing in general, be it track, cars, bikes, or pretty much anything. I am hard pressed to find a racing game I disliked, although I’ll try to think of some examples to mention below and why.

I own several racing games, and have sold/traded several more. The sell/trades often had nothing to do with how much I enjoyed the game, but often is just because I have another game that does it a little better, or I can only justify keeping a few race games, and it’s just not quite as fun as another game.

I want to highlight a few games, some very well known, others not as much. I am a racing game enthusiast, and occasional evangelist, but by no means have I tried all of them.

Let’s start by defining what a racing game is to me. It’s mostly games themed as racing. I mean, you could probably call Blue Moon City a racing game, it’s a race to build the most pieces of the tower first, but it’s not what I consider a racing game. Race for the Galaxy is not a racing game either, even though it’s in the title. Clank! is a bit more of a grey area, but I’m going to say no for this article purposes.

Formula D: Let’s start with what I am guessing is the most well known, maybe Formula De if you have an older edition. It’s purely a racing themed game. Be the first person to cross the finish line. It’s very simple, and easy to explain to new gamers. Roll this die to go. Roll this die to go faster. Be careful you don’t go too fast, you need to stop twice in that corner or you’ll take damage. There are some other ways to take damage, but they aren’t really avoidable, just part of racing close to other racers, or going as fast as possible. It has a neat push-your-luck element to it that creates some decisions to be made, although they aren’t difficult decisions, just nerve wracking sometimes. Another plus is variety. There are dozens of different tracks, although many are difficult to get and are long out of print.

It has been one of my most fun gaming experiences over the years. And this is my most memorable game. We had a 12 player game going at Con of the North (I forget which track it was sadly.). 3 of us are well out in front, but are slowing down for the final corner, while others are coming up from behind in higher gears. The player in the lead spins out. The player in second pulls up alongside him, but also spins out. There is one lane to pass them, it will take me on the longest route around the corner, but I can upshift and will win, as long as I don’t roll the highest roll on the 3rd gear die. Which of course was literally what I rolled. I spun out also. Now we have the whole track blocked. All of the cars behind us start downshifting to avoid crashing into us. The cars in the back on the other hand, do not need to brake, they actually maneuver around all the slower traffic and are in significantly higher gears now. I believe the person who was in 10th place with 2 corners to go, won the race, the person in 11th finished 2nd. I ended up in 5th or 6th, but had a fun story to tell. 

Pitchcar: Well known, and much more available for the past 15 years than it was early on. Pitchcar is a flicking dexterity racing game. You each get a disk, and flick the cars around the slot-car style track. There are walls around some of the track, so sometimes you can pass people with amazing ricochet shots, but sometimes you also shoot your car right off the track and have to go back to where you started. SIlly fun. We have the  miniature version that we don’t play nearly often enough. The game looks incredible laid out on a table, although the full game looks more impressive. You rarely hear people not laughing and creating a general ruckus when playing this game.

 

Pitchcar Mini

Powerboats: This one is a bit lesser known than most on this list, but is a ton of fun. It uses 3 sided dice for movement, and you can lock dice and move different numbers of spaces. The hex board means going in a straight line isn’t always the best way, but it can also mean multiple ways to get to your goal. You race around buoys placed on the board, so the race also isn’t a set track. Speeding up and slowing down involved adding or removing a die from your locked dice. You can re-roll the locked dice too if wanted, but you always roll an added die. People get into trouble by having too many dice locked and not being able to slow down enough to either make a turn or avoid hitting an island. Chaotic, but simple, it usually only takes people a couple of turns to figure out what they are doing, and it’s designed to have a series of three races, so one bad race doesn’t mean you can’t win.

 

Powerboats in progress. Notice the different ways the boats are pointed while still trying to go and the same course.

I could go on and on. A few other favorites summed up with a short comment:

Detroit/Cleveland Grand Prix : This uses the  same system as Daytona 500, Top Race, and Downforce. I’ve always enjoyed it, and am planning to pick up Downforce soon. The card play, with the bidding mechanics make it an interesting game.

Hare & Tortoise: An oldie but a goodie. Nice and mathy, but I’ve always enjoyed it.

Automobiles: Uses deck building mechanics. I’ve only played it once, but it was really neat, and I need to get it out again soon.

Igel Ärgern: Apparently per BGG it translates to “Annoy the Hedgehogs,” this is a bit of a cute and simple game, with a ton of blocking and messing with the other players, although it never seems to get annoying that way. A fun game that seems like it’s been forgotten over the years, it’s fun and has a TON of variants.

Monza: My First Racing Game would be an appropriate name for this one too. It’s great for kids, and Aleksia has been able to play it with a little help since she was 3. It’s set for ages 5+, and that’s not too far off. I’ll likely do a review for this one down the road.

Ok, I’ll stop there, but know I could have added cycling, motorcycles, horses, and robots to this list and barely broken a sweat.

On to a game that I was a little disappointed by. It was even more of a bummer because it was a BGG Secret Santa Gift (although it was part of a large number of games that they sent me, this was the only in shrink game.).

 

Bolide is a really cool idea. Vector based movement. But it was extremely slow to play with more than a couple of players. I believe we played with 4 or 5, which isn’t a large group for a racing game, and it took us several hours to finish. It’s been 11 years since that game, so I don’t remember too many details.

Another one, this one was a BGG classic and was out of print for a long time, Ave Caesar. It had been hyped for years, people raved about it, so I was excited about the reprint. I was lucky enough to play a friend’s copy, and I was really disappointed. My BGG notes say that 4 races was too many, it felt too repetitive and samey. I’d probably try it again, maybe my expectations were too high.

I’ll end my post here. I count over 20 more games that I didn’t bring up, some well known, others not as much, but the lowest rating I have given any of these was a 5 using the BGG rating scale. So even the games I didn’t like as much, I didn’t hate. I’m a racing game junkie.

Any racing games I should be checking out? Any rare gems I should be seeking out, or even something that BGG ratings hate but you love? Feel free to leave comments below.