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.

What I’m up to Lately

I haven’t been able to game in almost 3 weeks. No particular reason, my family has been busy, my wife has been using the table for sewing purposes, and kind of the doldrums I mentioned in a previous post.

So I’m just going to kind of ramble a bit today. This may end up short, this may end up long. It will not stick to gaming exclusively.

One thing that’s been weighing on my mind is Minnesota in general. I have been missing my friends and family lately. My parents have had some health issues. Dad had a hip replaced and Mom had something else that left her staying with my sister for a couple of days. It sounds like things are ok now, and they are both back at home. I doubt my siblings will ever know how much I appreciate all the things they do to take care of them while I’m not close enough to help. We had been hoping to go to MN this summer, but for some reason that vacation just never seems to have worked out, so now it seems less likely, and I’m bummed out by that. But we’ll see what we can do next year, although with Katlyn being a senior, we may be too busy with graduation and college stuff.

Joe, my oldest, turned 21 this week. A lot of reflection back on our lives since he was born and feeling old myself because my oldest can drink now. Not too bad, but it was interesting having a beer with him Monday night, going to take some getting used to.

While I haven’t been gaming, I have been watching a lot of videos. I pre-ordered Underwater Cities, and then started getting cold feet. After watching several videos, I think I made a good choice. It looks like something I’ll enjoy. It’s supposed to be similar to Terraforming Mars, which is another one I keep thinking about picking up. I have picked up a few games this month. Aeon’s End Legacy, which I’m really excited to get to, but it may be awhile before we can get everyone together to play it, and Welcome To…, a roll and write style that I played before and liked, and I think Dina and the family will like it too.

Drew is teaching us Food Chain Magnate this weekend, so I’ve watched a how to play and a review or two. The Shut Up & Sit Down review made me laugh, although I may have just been tired. It seems like a relatively simple game to play, but also a game that I will only do well with pure luck, because it’s going to take me a bit to figure out how to make it work, and by then I’ll probably be too far behind to win. But it seems relatively simple to understand, just how to make things work to your advantage, and I suck at planning in games like that.

Lack of gaming has also meant Dina and I have been watching a lot of TV. We’ve finished The Americans, Fleabag, Veep, Good Omens, caught up on Barry, and started the new season of Big Little Lies. I’d highly recommend ALL of these shows, especially Barry & Fleabag, they are doing some crazy things with the Dramedy genre. I’ve also been watching a lot of baseball, mostly because the Twins are really fun to watch right now, but I’m a fan in general and will watch any game when the mood strikes.

I’m kind of slowly using my vacation time up this year, so I’ve been taking random days off here and there. Have I mentioned my 17 yr old decided to play a sport for her senior year? Kansas recently approved Girls Wrestling as an official High School sport, and she’s going to participate in her school’s inaugural season. I mention it with my vacation because I am planning on taking a day off to go and watch practice in the next few weeks. I can’t wait till February when her season starts to be able to watch her compete.

I think that’s mostly what’s been on my mind lately. We’ve haven’t seen our friends much lately, but it sounds like that might change here over the next week due to our gaming, a former game group member visiting next week, and maybe hanging with Drew & family on the 4th of July, which can be a tough day for Dina and her PTSD. Actually, most of the next week or so can be rough once firework sales open in Kansas, but the 4th is the worst.

If you have any comments, please leave them below. Gaming, TV, life in general, all are welcome. I should get some gaming going again soon, so hopefully my next post will be more on topic.

Trading and Selling Games

Some of us have really large game collections. If you’re reading this, you likely know this, but it bears pointing out. Most of us have probably been asked things like:

“Have you played all of those games?” I suspect most of us reply that we’ve played MOST of them, but not all. That’s definitely the case with me. I currently show 24 unplayed, but about half of them were purchased this year, and gaming has been fairly slow the past month or 2.

“How can you afford to keep getting more games?” I’m planning on addressing part of this second question in this post. I admit, I buy more than I get rid of, but I will trade, sell, and even donate games. I’ll typically donate some at our Extra Life events.

So let’s start with selling games. I’ve had to sell a lot of games a couple of times over the years to get some money shortly after Dina was shot and after she lost her job. The family and I went through and chose our can’t sell games, and then I went from there.

The time after Dina got shot I made a spreadsheet with all the games, and asked people to make an offer. Any time a game went 24 hours without a new offer, I finalized the sale. These were all to local gamers and a few friends back in MN. I assume we got a few bids over market value to help us out, and we got quite a bit that helped for bills. I would guess I may have sold 30-40% of the collection that time. We weren’t in dire straights at that point, but money was going to be a little tight, so we having some extra made a big difference.

The second time after she lost her job was a rush sale. We really needed money, and I set values and pretty much took any price even close to that. I had a lot more issues with offers too. Like my Heroscape collection, I had valued around $400, got an offer for it, and then had 3 weeks of the guy asking to wait another week and he’d have the money. He eventually backed out, and I only got about $250 for it I believe, partially because people weren’t paying any attention to my sale anymore. Most of the experience was good, I sold only to local gamers, but didn’t get my asking price for most of it, which was ok, but was a bummer. That was probably only about 20-25% of the collection that time, because we had built it back up a little, but didn’t have as many games available as the previous time.

I’ll admit I hated needing to do this. It’s difficult and having some social anxieties, was not a lot of fun meeting sometimes new people. I have nothing against selling games, but I’d rather not do it. I did recently sell some games to a local game store, but that was to clear some space, and to get some store credit to get more games. I know I could probably make more selling them other ways, but I’m lazy.

BGG has a Marketplace where you can sell games, but I’ve never used it. I assume it works well. There are of course other options to sell like Ebay, Facebook, or Amazon. Anywhere you can post used things.

I very much prefer trading games. BoardGameGeek.com has a great search tool, although I tend to be lazy about looking for trades, I wait for offers to come to me. As of right now, I have 124 positive ratings out of 131 trades. The non-positive folks didn’t leave any ratings. I’m not sure why on a couple of them, one could have left a neutral or even negative rating, I messed up and forgot about a split corner on a box. We were able to discuss it face to face, although we never actually resolved it. I very much enjoy trading games.

One time a BGG admin cancelled a trade of mine, they suspected the guy of trying to rip people off, apparently he made a whole bunch of really good offers all at once, and they doubted he was legit.

That’s the closest thing I’ve had to a negative experience trading. Sure sometimes you get a box that they could have let you know the wear was fairly significant, or even a little crushed, but most people are very up front about that. I tend to over package when I ship, having one guy praise me because the box got left out in the rain, but it didn’t get to the game inside. Shipping can get spendy, but you know your trade partner will have to pay it too, and it’s still WAY cheaper than a game, in most cases.

Trading is also one of the best ways to get out of print or hard to find games. Especially when you can’t pay a ton of cash, but you have a lot of games you can offer. Although if you offer a rare/hard to get game, like Glory to Rome for example, for trade, expect a TON of terrible offers for it. I think people are either oblivious or trying to take advantage of you not knowing what you have.

There is one other kind of trade that I participated in called a math trade. I admit to not knowing all the details, just that a bunch of people offer games for trade, and submit a list of games they want, and an algorithm crunches everyone’s lists and distributes things as fairly as it can. It’s an interesting way to get rid of and receive games. But I haven’t done one of those in years.

How about you? Have you had to sell games, or even choose to regularly? Have you ever made a trade? Any interesting stories to tell about your experiences? Feel free to leave a comment about it.

d20 List: Top 5 Game Mechanics

With some rough weather in Kansas recently, and a holiday on Monday, I was kind of glad to roll a low number for our post this week. I chose our favorite game mechanics, because that seemed like something we wouldn’t necessarily want to do a long list for. I admit, I’m not always sure what qualifies as a mechanic, so I went with the BGG categories.

Ryan’s Top 5 Game Mechanics

A completed board in Sagrada showing how you are placing dice.
  1. Deck Building– I love the deck building mechanic in games. Trying to make your deck work as well as possible by adding cards and combos is a ton of fun. Of course, I absolutely suck at it, and usually just stumble into cool plays, but that doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of it.

  2. Cooperative Play– I really love cooperative games. It’s so much more fun to play as a team towards a goal. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind competitive games, but co-ops fascinate me. They have had a big impact on games over the past 15 years, and I look forward to more of them in the future.

  3. Dice Rolling– This covers a lot of ground. It’s not a mechanism that always makes sense or works well, but when someone finds clever uses, it’s amazing. The recent roll & write trend has really shown neat uses of dice, while dice placement games like Sagrada or Roll Player also have some clever ways to use dice. It’s also a common mechanic in racing games, one of my favorite genres. I really enjoy chucking dice.

  4. Card Drafting– This one is a newer mechanic, or at least it seems to be. The main thing I consider it to be is you get a hand of cards, keep one, and pass the rest to the person next to you. The first time I remember this being a major mechanic was Fairy Tale (Still one of my favorite games.), and 7 Wonders also uses it, and is probably more familiar to gamers. I love the tension of should I keep this card to help me, or should I keep this other one to make sure my opponent can’s use it.

  5. Hand Management– This one can cover a wide range of things. Blue Moon City has multiple things you can do with the cards in your hand, and I consider it a really good example of this mechanic. Figuring out which cards you need to use, and which ones you need to hold for future use is something I really enjoy, and am often quite good at, although not as great at in something like Wingspan. I admit to not really understanding everything this mechanic entails, but it shows up on many of my favorite games, so I must enjoy it.
Fairy Tale. Take 1 card, and pass the rest. Nice quick card drafting game.

That’s it. I didn’t think I consider mechanics often when playing games, yet some, like Card Drafting & Deck Building dominate the game play and are really obvious when playing. Mechanics often make the game, but just good mechanics isn’t enough. Deck Building is a good example. You need good card interactions to make the mechanic work, or it’s just making a useless deck. But trying to add too many mechanics can spoil your game too.

Andrew’s Top 5 Game Mechanics

Like Ryan, I used the BGG Mechanic page to guide what is defined as a mechanic. There’s a lot of overlap in mine, but I think I would still like as a standalone game.

  1. Hex-and-counter– This encompasses a majority of board war games. Obviously, as a wargamer, I think they would kick me out of the club if I at least didn’t mention this mechanic. Some of my favorites include Normandy ’44 and D-Day at Omaha Beach.

  2. Deck/Pool Building– I really like the idea of cultivating an engine to get something to grow. I’ve always been bad at open ended deck building (like Magic: the Gathering) but games where I get to work on building a deck or pool to build from from a limited selection of choices always are fun. Some of my favorites include Trains and DiceMasters.

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    Trains: One of my favorite Deck Builders

  3. Route/Network Building– I’ve always enjoyed maps and city building. I think a part of that includes seeing some sort of sprawling network grow from nothing. Route or Network Building games really make me plan ahead in order to play well, which tie into those heavier games I mentioned last week. Some of my favorites include Roads & Boats adn Transamerica.

  4. Tile Placement– Tile placement is probably the earliest mechanic I really remember recognizing as a mechanic thanks to Carcassonne. Combine that with my wife’s enjoyment of Carc as her first Euro game, and tile placement games always get a look at our house. Some of my favorites include Suburbia and Quadropolis.

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    Walnut Grove: A great game that combines many mechanics, including Tile Placement

  5. Worker Placement– I debated adding this one or not, as it is pretty hit or miss with me. I think the Worker Placement games I really enjoy are those that don’t completely lock me out of getting a resource or taking an action because another player has taken it. Games like Viticulture or Brewcrafters can definitely force you to take a less efficient space, but your whole game plan may not be derailed just because someone took that one space you needed.

That’s it. Anything you like we should maybe check out again? What mechanics do you like best? Or even which ones do you hate? Let us know in the comments.

Palm Island Review

Imagine making a game with 17 cards. Total. That’s it. Now, those 17 cards are double sided, and each edge has something on it based on orientation, but it’s still only 17 cards.

Palm Island is exactly that. Mostly. The basic game is just 17 cards. There are additional things you can earn and therefore add to the deck, but no more than 18 cards. There are additional cards with goals to reach, and even an extra deck so you can play with another person in the box, but really it all comes down to just the 17 basic cards to play. Oh, and you don’t need a table, you can play it completely in your hands.

So let me start with how the cards work. The picture above is the front and back of a basic Canoe House card. See the white corner in the upper right on the first picture? That’s how you need every card oriented at the start. That means that the part on the top is the active part of the card.

So the top part of the pic on the left shows a green arrow that says “Free.” That means you can save that fish for free. You turn it sideways and save it to purchase things. You do this by putting it at the back of the deck. The other parts on the top are what you need to pay to upgrade the card. The yellow U-turn card means you flip it so the bottom is now on the top, but only if you pay a fish. So the next time this card comes around, the 2 fish will be available for free. The blue circular symbol means you can flip it over for the cost of one fish. That means the log and fish would be available the next time this card comes back. As long as you have the resources, you can keep updating the card until there isn’t any cost to pay, like on the bottom part in the right picture. You make the cards more powerful by upgrading them.

A lot of this isn’t going to make much sense. So I’ll show a picture with resources and a card to upgrade.

So, as you can see, I have saved a fish and a wood. They are still in their place in the deck, moving towards the front. But I can upgrade the Canoe House card by paying the fish & the wood, so I turn them back into the deck, making sure the single fish and single wood are still at the top, and then I can flip the card in the front over and move it to the back of the deck.

That’s basically how the game is played. You keep cycling the cards, moving things to the back. If you can’t upgrade them, you don’t change their orientation. You keep doing this until you get to the end of the deck. Oh, the end of the deck…

This card is always at the end of the deck. After the first round, turn it over to 2. When it comes up in round 2, flip it to 3. Keep doing this until you hit turn 8, and then the game is done.

The point of all of this is to score as many points as possible. You score points by counting the number of yellow stars facing up, as you can see above, as you upgrade the card, you get more points for it.

There is one other goal, and that’s Feats. Feats are goals you reach that can get you another card to add to your deck. You don’t get it on the first turn, it starts the game behind the end of turn card, but it can help in subsequent turns.

To get the feats, you reach a goal. Some are for scoring so many points, some are for upgrading things during the game. I’ll keep what the various rewards do a secret, wouldn’t want to be accused of spoilers.

A game in progress.

That’s pretty much it. I guarantee I haven’t done this wonderful little game justice. It plays in 10-15 minutes, and the fact that a table isn’t needed is fantastic. I’ve played the game over 30 times, and still haven’t completed all of the feats. It’s compact and relatively cheap. I think it’s a must have for solo gamers, or gamers who travel and want something to do on the train, bus, or plane. I haven’t played it co-op or competitive yet, but I’d like to give it a try someday.

Have you tried Palm Island? What do you think? Or f you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them. I left out a lot, and I suspect I didn’t explaing thing particularly well either.

Extra Life Half Marathon 04/27/2019

I actually started that long overdue Palm Island review, but I kind of got busy and forgot to get back to it. I don’t want to rush it, so I’m doing another filler post today.

Drew and I both participate in a yearly Extra Life 24 hour gaming marathon run by our friend David Cook, usually in early November (It’s actually on the day we go back from Daylight Savings, so it’s 25 hours.). But we like gaming for a cause, and are always looking for a reason to get together with our friends, so a discussion started about having a “half” marathon, and go from 10 am to 10 pm.

I will say that I am awful at raising money for these things. I am just not someone who wants to hit people up for donations. But I do help out in other ways, by donating games as prizes for our raffles, and smaller things like that.

Ok, so we got together this past Saturday for a long gaming day. Dina dropped Joe and I off at a little after 10, and Drew, Bryan, & David were hanging out with David’s family. We all stood around and chatted for a while before we went into the room.

I decided to start us off with the current hotness, Wingspan. I recently got a copy, and was personally raving about it. This was going to be my 4th time playing, and my second time teaching. Lucky for me, Joe and Clint had both played it also, so it was only teaching Bryan and Drew.

It went over quite well. Drew was almost immediately texting his wife to ask for it for Father’s day. Bryan said he had been trying to convince himself it wasn’t going to be good, and was unable to keep that attitude. I have realized that I obviously have no idea who’s winning, looking at Drew about halfway through and mentioning that he and I were getting our butts kicked. I ended up winning, and he was a close 3rd. 5 players was an interesting game though, and except for the extra length, it scaled really well. I’ve now played it with 1, 3, and 5, and it’s been a blast and worked really well with each. It’s currently one of my favorite games.

Dead Last was the next game we played. Pretty much everyone who was there at the time was involved. This is not my style of party game, but it played extremely quickly, so it wasn’t too bad either. It kind of reminded me of Ca$h ‘N Gun$, which is another game I’m terrible at. You discuss who to kill each round, and the trick is if you aren’t part of the majority, you’re out. I think I only got through the first selection once.

I don’t think I’d pick it to play, but I could probably be talked into trying it again.

After a quick lunch break, Bryan taught us Alea Iacta Est. It’s a dice placement game. There are a lot of rules to how you can play dice, but high rolls aren’t always preferred, so it’s difficult sometimes to get what you want or need. We had a very close finish, with Drew, Clint, and I all having the most points, and Joe was only a couple behind. I ended up winning the tiebreaker.

I’m not rushing out to get my own copy, but it was interesting, although I suspect I’d do worse next game because I think I kind of know what I’m doing.

So shortly after that Dina and Aleksia arrived, and I had promised to play some games with them. Aleksia chose to play The Lion Guard: Protect the Pridelands. This is a really cute, quick, and not super easy kids cooperative game. The Lion Guard character figures are fantastic. We do win more often than not, but it’s probably 60-40. We won this game really quickly, which isn’t a common occurrence for us.

Aleksia and I moved on to Outfoxed. This is another kids co-op game. It uses some simple deduction, and she is really good at the game. My one complaint is that it’s probably too easy. We win about 70% of the time. Unfortunately we suffered a rare loss in this one. The dice kind of abandoned us, and we needed about 1 more clue to be able to figure out the thief.

Dina and Aleksia were playing some 2 player games, so I thought I’d try a quick game of Palm Island. I’ve talked about that a lot, so I’ll wait till I do my review.

Aleksia had seen some of the other kids playing a game with some cool pieces, and wanted to try it. So Dina and I were trying to learn the game Sumo Ham Slam. Drew came over too, so we had 3 adults and 1 5 yr old playing it. As you can see from the picture, it’s really cute. The game isn’t particularly good, it involves magnets and sticks, but it was a silly time for us. Not something I need to own, but silly enough to want to be willing to play again, especially with kids.

A few of us walked a couple of blocks down to The Pennant restaurant and enjoyed some good food, and then we went back so Bryan could teach us Ginkgopolis.

This is a pretty neat city building game. I was also not at the right point of the day to have something so complicated explained to me. I had a good time, and would gladly play the game again, but I had no clue what I needed to do to score points, and finished last, quite a long way away from winning. Dina pulled off a late move that changed the scoring dramatically and pulled off a win.

One last game was decided upon as the evening wore down. Drew taught Bryan and I his print and play copy of College Basketball Dynasty. I love the idea of sport simulation games, and I used to play a lot of them on my computer, so I was really interested in how this one worked.

It had some neat ideas. We only had time to play about half a game, so we were just getting to the point where many of our best players were going to graduate, so I was interested in what would happen after that. I liked the game, and am hoping to get to try it again sometime. Drew won 3 National Titles to win this one.

That was it. I played a lot of games with a bunch of my favorite people, so it was a fantastic day. My family also won a couple of games that had been generously donated by Asgard’s Gate game shop. Joe won a copy of the 10th Anniversary Notre Dame and Dina won a copy of Dicey Goblins. I’ve always enjoyed Notre Dame, and I look forward to trying Dicey Goblins, it looks like a nice push your luck dice game.

What have you been playing lately? Anything neat? Any thoughts on what I played? Let us know in the comments.

Gaming Doldrums

I’ve noticed a pattern for me the past couple of years. I tend to have a period of a month or two where I don’t play many board games. Sometimes it’s because I’m playing video games (Like Spider-Man in February this year, or likely September when Borderlands 3 comes out.), sometimes it’s just life (Like March the past couple years.).

I’m a father first. That’s often a lot of my time. My 17 yr old both works and is very active in theater, so we are often driving her places. My 20 yr old also doesn’t have his drivers license, so we need to drive him too (He’s working on it.). We only have one of our 2 cars running right now too, so that means our single vehicle is in use all the time. And my wife had chronic pain, so I try to drive as much as I can

I have a lot of other hobbies. As I’ve said before, I read, play video games, and play disc golf. I tend to read year round, video games when the mood strikes me, and disc golf as much as my body will let me in spring-fall. I’m also a bit of a football and baseball junkie, so I watch them when I’m in the mood. And of course TV shows and movies take a lot of my time too.

But I can binge on games too. I played over 100 games in one month last year. We have a beer & boards occasionally, and I tend to go to Extra Life events locally.

But tonight and the past couple weeks are a really good example of not gaming. I have been wanting to play games for a while now, but haven’t since our Beer & Boards almost 3 weeks ago. My wife had surgery a couple weeks ago, so we haven’t played anything. Last Friday we went to the First Friday Artwalk in Topeka, Saturday my 17 yr old had prom, Sunday we had pictures of the 5 yr old and the 17 yr old worked. Monday night we caught up on Last Week Tonight, Veep, and Barry and took the boy to D&D. Tuesday the 17 yr old worked. Tonight, I don’t know. I had a post to write, and I intended to write that review of Palm Island I’ve been promising, or play something with anyone in the house who’d play a game, yet I did neither. I watched the Twins, and wrote this. Too often we don’t have a clean space to play, often due to the 5 yr old doing crafts on the table.

I know I can usually get someone to play a game with me, but for the time being I have more desire to play than actual will to play. I haven’t played anything with the 5 yr old in about a month. I really wish I knew why…

Anyway, I think I’m going to play a quick game of something tonight still while I have time. Hopefully something to help with one of my challenges or two. But who knows, maybe I’ll drink another beer or have some ice cream and check on my fantasy baseball team. Or go try to finish my Sword & Laser book club book for April.

What about you? Do you go into a gaming funk at times? Any suggestions on how to get out of one? Let me know in the comments.

d20: Top 18 Spiel des Jahres Winners

Ryan

First, an apology for this being late. My wife was having outpatient surgery yesterday, and I was going to write this up after we got home and while watching some baseball.

So of course, the surgery started 3 hours late, and it turned into needing an overnight stay. So I suddenly didn’t get any downtime yesterday, and Drew had tickets to the KC Royals home opener, which because of rain turned into a bit of a marathon itself.

I’ll start off explaining our topic for the week. These are Drew and my Top 18 Spiel des Jarhes Game of the Year winners. Of course on a week when we both had plans on Thursday, I roll an 18.

So the Spiel des Jahres is basically the German Board Game of the Year award. Germany is a huge board game country, so this is a big deal. The main complaint most people have about it is that the games tend to be on the lighter side and pretty family friendly. They have added a more complex game category in recent years, most likely to help recognize excellent games that don’t quite fit the lighter criteria. There is also a kids game award and special prizes given to games that don’t get nominated, but deserve special recognition.

I thought this would be a fairly easy list, but I had played a grand total of 24 of them. Most of the cuts weren’t hard, but getting them in order was. I think all of these are really good games, I just prefer some to others.

1)Ticket to Ride: A gigantic hit when it came out, and still one of the most well known games out there. It’s fun and really easy to teach. I’ve always enjoyed it.

2) Hanabi: It’s cooperative, which I love, and it’s an interesting mechanic. I always have a blast when I play this, and I’m sad we don’t get it out more often.

3) Azul: This won in 2018, and was very deserving. I thought it might have been a little thinky to win, but it’s a great game in general. I haven’t played the new version yet, I’ve heard many people prefer it to this version.

4) Dominion: I love deck builders, and this was the first one I know about. While the genre in general has pulled away from the basics in Dominion, I still enjoy playing it, I’m just not as obsessed as I might be with other games of it’s ilk.

5) Carcassonne: Along with Ticket to Ride and another game down my list, Carc is probably one of the biggest reasons gaming has become more mainstream over the years. Simple, and different than most games before it, it’s still a fun game to play. We currently own the Star Wars version.

6) Kingdom Builder: This game should be more popular than it is. It’s a great example of a clever gateway game. It’s easy to teach, limits the amount of decisions you have to make, but there are meaningful decisions to be made even while limited.

7) Codenames: One of the best party games I’ve ever played. Simple, tricky, and can play a room full of people.

8) Qwirkle: A great abstract game. My main complaint is that the scores can get pretty high, and you have to have a pen & paper handy.

9) Zooloretto: One of the first card games (Coloretto) to get a board game version, it’s a nice implementation of the card game mechanics in a zoo building game.

10) Hare & Tortoise: Mathy, but in a good way. I seem to be the only person I know who really likes this game.

11) Thurn & Taxis: Always felt like a slight step up in complexity to Ticket to Ride to me. I haven’t played it in years, but I remember liking it.

12) Alhambra: Similar to Carcassonne i mechanics, it’s got some neat way to differentiate itself from being a clone.

13) El Grande: Definitely one of the heavier games mechanics-wise to win the SDJ, but it’s still a good game. One of the earlier area control games I remember playing.

14) Um Reifenbreite: I think I’ve mentioned I love racing games, and as a Tour de France fan, cycling games especially fascinate me. I haven’t played it much, but I’ve had fun every time.

15) Scotland Yard: A really neat hide and seek game where one player is trying to escape from the others. The mechanic has been used many times over the years, but this one still does it well.

16) Liar’s Dice: I’m really not sure why this one was considered, it’s a pretty old game, but maybe a slight variation gained it the win. I typically hate bluffing games, but this one does it right.

17) Colt Express: A programming game I have only played once, but I remember enjoying it, but never picked up my own copy. I guess I’d rather play Roborally for that.

18) Settlers of Catan: I didn’t play Catan until I was heavily into board gaming, so unlike many others, it was not an entry game for me. It’s something I’ll play occasionally, but I’m not a huge fan. But it’s obviously been huge in the board game world, and has a huge shadow over all things gaming.

That’s it. There are some games I’ve always wanted to try, and several that just didn’t strike a chord with me, but this is my top 18.

Drew

When Ryan picked “Top 18 SdJ Games” I thought it would be easy.  Turns out I have played* 19 SdJ winners total. But the ones I enjoy, I really enjoy.  I’ll keep my thoughts brief as I think many of you have heard of them, and to be honest some of them I don’t have a lot of experience with.  But it was really interesting seeing what was picked over the years and how they may have changed related to larger gaming trends.

So without further ado, my Top 18 SdJ winners.

1) Thurn and Taxis: I play this at every convention I go to where it’s in the Library.  It’s become an obsession. The route building and decisions that need to be made keep me coming back to this game again and again.

2) Azul: This is one I use to introduce to gamers after they have played one or two gateway games.  I don’t think it’s difficult, it has great components, and it looks good on the table.

3) Kingdom Builder: This was my go to gateway game for a while.  It’s pretty standard Queen fare, but it has great replayability and I haven’t had a bad time playing it yet.

4) Ticket To Ride: To me, this is another classic gateway game.  With the variety of maps and complexity, I think this has a ton of replayability for beginner and experienced gamers alike.

5) Alhambra: This was one of my first Euro games, and my wife and I still play it to this day.  Some of the mechanics are still fun to use and there are a ton of expansions/modules.

6) Carcassonne: This too was one of my first Euro games, and I believe the one that really got my wife interested in gaming too.

7) Kingdomino:  A quick game that has more under the hood than you might think based on appearances.  I think this one is lower due to the fact I like longer games.

8) Codenames: I didn’t like Codenames initially but after playing Duel, I really like the system/series.

9) Dominion: It’s okay for what it is, but I want more out of my deckbuilders.  I want to do something besides just drafting cards.

10) Hanabi:  This was a fun experience the few times I played it, but it wasn’t a “rush out and buy it immediately game.”

11) Qwirkle: I liked this abstract for what it is, but I like the app better.

12) Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective: This is one of those I have ‘played’.  The theme appeals to me and my wife and I love deductive reasoning games.

13) Catan: The OG of Euro games, this one has sort of fallen out of favor with me. It’s a fine game, but that’s it:  just fine. Why settle for just fine when you can play “amazing”, “awesome” or “wow”?

14) Zooloretto: I remember playing this once and that there were animals.  I wasn’t impressed.

15) Tikal: Another one I have “played”, this has just been on the app, and I had difficulty figuring out what I was supposed to do.  This isn’t really the games fault, but I calls them like I sees them. I imagine this would be higher if/when I actually play the physical game.

16) Dixit: The art in this game is freaking amazing, but I played this a few times with a good group for it, and wasn’t all that impressed.  I am not a big fan of party games to begin with, but this just fell flat for me.

17) Colt Express: This one is low because I’m terrible at it and I don’t enjoy programming games (despite being a programmer for a living).  The theme is neat and it’s a unique take on the programming aspect, but again, just fine.

18) Rummikub: I have played this one.  That’s all I have to really say about it.

So there are my top 18 SdJ Winners.  I am sure there are ones that I haven’t played that would find their way on the list, but so many games, so little time.

So what are your favorites? Are there any we should try? Are there any you really dislike? Let us know in the comments.

My Recent 10 Plays

Work and life have made gaming difficult lately. I work for a small company in the Ag business, and we tend to be extremely busy from February to May due to farmers in the US and Canada getting to planting season, and our systems go on planters and sprayers. And I’m in purchasing, so it’s a rough time making sure we have parts, in addition to a couple of ambitious new products being released, and the headaches that can come with that.

So I’m in a bit of a non-gaming rut right now. We’ve had kids plays, both attending a friend’s daughter’s school theater doing Pippen, to my older daughter being the assistant stage manager for her high school’s production of Grease. And I tend to hit a bit of a lull every year around now. I think it’s just the winter dragging on (And here in Kansas, it’s actually been wintery this year.), and awaiting spring.

So I almost forgot to write a post today. I went to the site to try to think of a quick topic, and I noticed that 8 of my 10 most recent play are new games to me, so I thought I’d share some brief thought on them all. Although I will admit, this isn’t something I’m very good at.

I kind of think I need to actually write a review of Palm Island at this point, I talk about it enough. I’ll stop discussing it at this point.

The other game I had played previously was Fleet. I also used the Arctic Bounty expansion to play it solo. I really enjoyed it. You use a bot basically to sim a couple of other players. I did quite well against one of them, and only lost by a couple of points to the other. I don’t know why we don’t play this game more. It’s a really good example of using cards multiple ways, and has some good decisions. It’s a really good game that we don’t play…

On to the rest. I’ll start with Just One. It’s a party game where everyone writes a clue on a board, and one player has to guess what the word is. The trick is that you have to remove any matching clues. It’s fun, simple, and plays a big group. This one impressed me.

That same day I got to try On Tour. As I’ve said before I love roll and writes. This one has amazing production values, and was a fun time. I did terrible, but it’s another game that can play a lot of players at once.

I picked up a copy of Shadowrun Crossfire: Prime Runner Edition on a Miniature Market dropping price deal. I love deck builders, and I’ve always been fascinated by the Shadowrun universe and how it combines a couple of my favorite things, magic & cyberpunk. Throw co-op in, and it screams a game I’d enjoy. And I do. I like it a lot. It plays really quickly, and it’s been extremely difficult so far, but it’s a blast. It’s also able to be played solitaire, so I look forward to trying it that way too.

Drew invited Bryan, Eric and I over to play the next few games. We had a really nice Sunday of just hanging out and playing stuff. We started with The Gallerist. For a game with this many mechanics, it kind of makes sense thematically. A really clever game, that I would never intentionally be any good at, too many things going on. It’s pretty fun though, and I’d gladly play it again. It was a quick 2 and a half hours, and that says a lot.

The next game we played is one of the most hyped games of the past several years, Scythe. I’m not even sure what’s the best way to describe it. It’s an interesting theme, although it doesn’t really play to the theme. I really liked the asymmetrical factions.. It has direct conflict, which I’m not a huge fan of, but it’s typically not a huge part of individual games. It was a really fun time. I won this one, but part of it was that my faction fit well to score me points, and yet even though I rushed to end the game, I still needed a tie-breaker to win, and that’s a cool thing too, not just the person with the most stars wins. The more I think back to it, the more I realize how much fun I had. Yet I’m not sure I would ever be very good at this one either.

The last one we tried that afternoon was Dice Hospital. It’s a dice manipulation game, and it’s pretty fun. It’s got a bit of brain burning to it though, so it’s not a light game, but isn’t overly complicated either. I’ll gladly try it again.

One last game on the list, and it’s a doozy. Fog of Love is a game that I have wanted since I first heard about it. It’s a romantic comedy in a box, but it’s more than that. It’s definitely not a game like any other I’ve played. It’s original and fun. One other thing is it has one of the best tutorials I’ve seen. It plays you through the game without railroading you. It’s an experience game to be sure, but I am looking forward to trying it again. I’d also like to see how it play with someone other than Dina, I think it’s a different game when it’s not your spouse playing the other person.

Wow, that got longer than I expected, I hope you stuck with me. What games have you been playing lately, and what have you enjoyed? It was a good month or so in that I played a bunch of good games.

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