Review: Space Base

I love games with dice. Dice drafting, dice collecting, dice manipulation, you name it. If the game includes dice as a means for the mechanic, I’m in.

That is, I was in, until I played Machi Koro. When it came out, I was super excited. I loved the idea of using the dice for resource allocation a la Settlers of Catan. And we played a bunch of Machi Koro when it first came out. But then, we stopped, even with adding in the expansions. It became very samey to us. Either we would pursue the same strategies we always did (Cheese for the win) or the randomness that the expansion(s?) introduced made the game run way to long for what it was. It had so much promise, but I wanted more.

Last year at BGG.Con Spring, I was introduced to Space Base,designed by John D. Clair and published by Alderac Entertainment Group. It was described to me as a more interactive Machi Koro and I was intrigued, so we gave it a shot.

In Space Base, players are trying to be the first to gain 40 points. On your turn, you roll two dice. You can then either take the active benefit of the cards that are either on each of the dice or the benefit of the card on the sum of the dice (so if I rolled a 1 and a 4 on 2d6, I could either take the benefits of the 1 and 4 cards OR the benefit on the 5 card).

Once you’ve taken your actions, you may then buy a card. This allows you to upgrade to more powerful active abilities. Additionally, it also lets you move the card that was in that space to the top of your board, where it becomes a passive ability; that means you get to use it if any other player rolls that number (or combination).

With the transitioning of cards from active to passive, you have a great, lightweight tableau builder where you have meaningful decisions to make on every turn. I’ve glossed over some of the more nuanced rules, but there are tons of different abilities on cards, from those that let you charge up and deploy special powers, to straight up victory points. Knowing when to replace a card is huge in this game, as is managing cards with charges on them.

Space Base is a lightweight game that would be great for people who might have dipped their toes in the water of gaming, but aren’t sure where to go next. I feel it helps to have someone who has played through the game a few times teach it, or at least be close by, because in most of the games I’ve taught of it there have always been a few card clarifications needed.

Now that I’ve traveled to space, I can’t see myself returning to Earth, except maybe when playing a game with people who don’t consider themselves gamers. I wholeheartedly recommend Space Base.

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.

# x # Challenges: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Forcing Myself to Play Games

I wrote earlier this year about how I had set up a 15 x 5 challenge this year, as the 10 x 10 I tried to play last year didn’t go well.

Well, spoiler alert: The 15 x 5 isn’t going well either.

This is my usual thought process:

Hey, I want to play a game!

Let’s look and see what games I need to play for my challenge.

All of those are okay, but I want to play something else.

I should really play one of my challenges though.

Play what you want.

What’s the point of having a challenge if you aren’t going to play those games?


Anyway, at this point I usually shut the door to my game room/office and go play a video game.
I get the appeal of challenges, especially for people who are in groups like I am that tend to not replay games a ton.  But when my wife made me a deck of “what should we play” cards for Christmas this past year, I specifically requested that she not include specific games.  “What if I don’t feel like playing the game that week? Shouldn’t we play things that we want to?”

I don’t know why I felt compelled to keep up with a yearly challenge, especially when I’ve acknowledged the mindset of playing what I want being more important.

So, I’m going to be pulling down my Challenges page.  In it’s place will go a “Bucket List” page where I list games I want to play at least once.  There will be a list for owned games and a list for not owned games. I think this will help me focus on games that actually need a dedicated day where everyone is on the same page to play, because I had actually been keeping up with my 5 x 1 challenges throughout the year.  So I’m going to lean in to that. As I play games on the lists, I’ll strike them through so I can keep track of what has been completed on my bucket list.

What about you? Do you do any challenges in gaming?  Do you stick with them? Let us know in the comments!

How I Prepare to Teach Games

Hey all, Andrew here: I figured I would write about something a little different this week.

I was preparing to teach my wife Fortress: America and so I started about my normal way of relearning games and preparing to teach.  For whatever reason, I tend to teach most of the games in our game group (I think it’s probably because I’m pushy and want them to play my stuff first, so I have to know the rules) but I realized that this process is the same for me, whether it’s playing something light like Kodama or the latest entry in the SCS catalog.  I figured I would give you all insight into how I do this in the hopes that it might help someone out there.

A word of note:  this may seem like I’m overprepared.  I am. I have pretty bad social anxiety and board games alleviate that.  However, if I feel like I’ve screwed up in front of people (especially friends and family) I start to feel super embarrassed and anxious, which tends to lead to me shutting down a bit.  By (over) preparing in this manner, I’m ready to teach the game in a way that’s comfortable to me, and hopefully more enjoyable to those I play with. This is also why I get frustrated if I get interrupted during a rules explanation; it takes me out of the zone so to speak.

First, I normally see if there is a rules teach video or playthrough on YouTube.  My two go to channels are HeavyCardboard and Watch it Played, and if they don’t have a video for the game I’m about to teach, I’ll usually check out the video section of BoardGameGeek for the game in question.

I watch videos for a few different reasons.  I don’t like to reinvent the wheel if I don’t have to, so seeing how masters of game teaching (IMO) structure their teach really helps me get a basic outline in my head and may bring up points that I want to be sure to highlight. Additionally, if I’ve never played the game watching people play it or at least an explanation gives me a better idea of what to expect.

Once the video has been watched and I can wrap my head around the gameplay and the mechanics, I read the rulebook.  Now, this isn’t a detailed readthrough of every single bullet point, parenthetical, and subcase. Instead I get the major ideas, how the rulebook is organized, and use that to further my mental outline.

This outline then gets put down to paper.  It is at this point that I comb through the rulebook, summarizing each major and minor point in an outline format that makes sense for the game and the way gameplay is structured.  This forms the core of my teaching notes and is what I refer to when I actually explain the game I will usually print them out, but sometimes I don’t. This is also my favorite part in the process.  Something about me internalizing then repeating (on paper) what I just read is really when the rules to the game ‘click’ for me.

From here, I will generally call my process complete.  I have a better idea of how I want to approach teaching.  I do try to anticipate questions that players will have, and I make sure that I take frequent breaks to allow players to ask questions, move pieces around to set up situations that might be better explained visually.  And then, we play!

That’s a look into how I find it helpful to learn games so that I can teach them.  Do you have any steps you take when you are planning on teaching a game? I’d love to hear them.  Leave a comment below!

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.

.

d20 List: Agree to Disagree

It’s been a crazy couple weeks…so crazy that Ryan and I almost forgot that we were gonna start doing a d20 list at the end of each month.

So, you get this! I did actually ‘roll a die’ (courtesy of random.org) but we are going to do something that is sort of sweeping Facebook groups.

Below I have listed 10 statements from myself (and 10 from Ryan that could be considered controversial or unpopular in the board gaming world. In the comments, list the number(s) and whether you agree or disagree. No discussion, no trying to get others to see your viewpoint. Just agree or disagree. I’ll post our rationales as an additional post early next week.

Drew’s statements are 1-10, Ryan’s are 11-20.

  1. The Mind is not a game.
  2. Most Kickstarters are overrated, not great games.
  3. Great Mechanics aren’t anything unless they are paired with good components or theme.
  4. Not every game needs a solo mode.
  5. Collectors ruin the secondary market for games.
  6. Digital implementations of games will not ruin boardgaming.
  7. During game days, you don’t have to play games that include all players at once.
  8. Cool minis are no replacement for gameplay.
  9. There is nothing wrong with BGG asking for donations.
  10. There is no such thing as too many D-Day games.
  11. Cult of the new isn’t a bad thing.
  12. I don’t enjoy direct conflict.
  13. Your opinion about a game one of us doesn’t like is completely valid.
  14. It’s ok to take some time away from gaming.
  15. Party games are games too.
  16. Kids games can be fun.
  17. The Mind is a game.
  18. The biggest box doesn’t always mean the best game.
  19. Kickstarter can and should be used by established companies.
  20. Just because you play solo games, it doesn’t mean you need more friends.

Do you agree with us? Let us know in the comments, and give us your own ‘controversial’ board game opinions!

Guest Post: X-ing the Xpansions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My 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: Drew’s Top 18 Games for New Gamers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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