Grow the Sport

Among board gaming, another one of my hobbies is Disc Golfing. One of the many mantras of disc golfers is “Grow the Sport” which can be used in many different ways: as reminders to people to extoll the virtues of disc golfing to others, as ways for people to stay active in local leagues to drum up interest, or even as a reminder to people to be kind, friendly and welcoming to new disc golfers, in an effort to ensure that the sport will flourish. But, despite the mantra and best efforts, there are still jerks out there who exclude newcomers, who chide them for asking questions or for making comparisons that may seem way out of the norm, or who generally make disc golf courses terrible places for new individuals looking to share in the experience.

Boardgaming isn’t all that different. How many times have we heard stories of someone playing a game that piques the interest of a passerby. Polite conversation is had up until the new individual mentions Monopoly, Risk, or some other mass produced game. It can be met with a snort, a scoff, an unkind “oh, we don’t play that” or any other reaction. But in any of these cases, it can make the onlooker feel unwelcome and excluded. I should know. I have been both the scoffer and the scoffee (In fact, when I founded the Board Game Society at my undergraduate university, I included a clause in the bylaws that Monopoly would not be played. It was meant as tongue in cheek, but boy did it provide a rude awakening when I presented it to the Student Senate for approval).

To most boardgamers, those mass market games are no fun to play at all. And that is perfectly fine! But instead of meeting this potential player with derision, why not engage in further conversation? Why shut them out? Why not describe why the game you are playing is similar or different? Why not try to explain about the game you are playing? Why not try to introduce the world of gaming to someone, especially someone who shows at least a little bit of interest?

The only thing I care about when I am playing a game is if the person is fun to be around while gaming. That can vary on the game. I know there are some games that I would never play with specific people, including my wife. And that is okay! But to exclude individuals because they may not meet any preconceived notions of how much of a gamer they are is ridiculous. We all started gaming somewhere. Not everyone started playing Twilight Imperium, 1822 or Bios: Megafauna.

Not everyone started playing Twilight Imperium, 1822 or Bios: Megafauna.

My gaming resolution this year is to step out of my comfort zone and be more inviting to those who are just learning the hobby. Greet them with a smile and an open seat at the table. We hear over and over how gamers don’t like cell phones at the table because they like the social aspect; I’m going to put this into practice. I’m going to be more social and ensure I highlight the social aspect of the hobby.

In the coming weeks, Ryan and I are going to write about some tips for “growing the sport” of boardgaming. We’ll talk about some of our favorite introductory games to non-gamers, some tips for individuals who are just starting to game, and some tips for us gamers who have been doing it for a while but want to do better about including others, especially newbies.

I’m going to help grow the sport this year. And I hope you will as well.

To New Beginnings

Hello everyone!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. It’s been a little quiet around here lately.

Ryan and I are looking forward to jump starting Sword, Board and Pen back up in 2019. With that being said, I wanted to provide an update with our posting schedule/expectation moving forward.

You can expect a new post every Thursday. It’s going to be a mixture of reviews, session reports, essays, top 10 lists, who knows? The last Thursday of each month we will be continuing our d20 lists.

We also just launched our “2019 Challenge” pages. Check them out here:

Drew’s Challenges

Ryan’s Challenges

We are going to try to take more pictures of what we are playing too, so keep an eye on our instagram (@swordboardpen).

Extra Life: Andrew

I wrote a few weeks ago about some posts we’d be writing that explain why we got involved with Extra Life.  It’s my turn to post.

A few years ago, my sister called me and told me that she had some news.  My niece had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  I was in shock, because we hadn’t known that there was any sort of problem, and to be honest, neither did my sister.

I felt pretty hopeless as we heard about her treatments and surgeries.  I felt like I couldn’t do a thing to help.  Then I found out about Extra Life.

Simply put, Extra Life is a gaming marathon that was founded to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.  I found out about it through a friend who sets up our event every year.  When I was doing more research, I found out the very hospital system my niece was treated at was one of the hospitals that benefits from Extra Life donations, and so, I signed up to raise money.  This is my 5th year participating!

Many people play video games and stream for 24 hours straight, but we play board games.  It’s always fun to see all the different types of games people play.  There are the new, hot games, classic favorites, usually a game of DnD going on as well as many others.  The few people that make up my core group of gaming have made it a sort of tradition to learn a medium to heavy weight game at 2 or 3 in the morning.  We usually mess up a ton of rules and make many, many mistakes, but it’s always fun and sort of re-energizes us to make it until morning.

We also do a raffle. Some people donate games to a grab bag table, while others (and local businesses) donate to a “Big Prize” table.  We do hourly drawings where you get to pick up any of the grab bag games of your choice, and then the larger games are spread out through the day.  I happened to win a copy of Race for the Galaxy from the grab bag table, as well as a nice copy of Santorini from the Big Prize table last year.

All in all, Extra Life is a great time full of games and friends, but we do also to talk a little bit about why we are there for 24 hours.  If you are interested in finding out more about Extra Life, visit their website at https://www.extra-life.org/.  If you feel so inclined, you can find my personal donation page here.

Guest Post: “So, What Kind of Games Do You Play?”

Hey all:

Real life has been real crazy in the past couple weeks, so I’m going to turn the blog over to recurring guest author Eric J. Carter.  He writes about getting asked the question “What kinds of games do you play?”

Recently I was at a dinner party when the subject of hobbies came up. I mentioned that I like to collect and play board games, which prompted the response “What kind of games do you play?”

I hesitated. I couldn’t decide how to answer that. Being a colossal introvert, I rarely get asked that question. So many things went through my mind… I wanted to present my hobby in a good light, I wanted to blurt out everything I love about Star Trek:Ascendancy, I wanted to talk about deck builders, and I wanted to say that I definitely didn’t play Monoply.

But my fellow guest was not looking for any of that. He was making polite conversation and just wanted a simple one-sentence answer instead of the fumbling, incoherent babble I came up with that now I can’t even recall.

So I decided to put some thought into it, so when asked again I’ll have an answer at the ready.

Most likely the person asking has played some type of board game in their youth. Checkers, Chess, Candyland, Chutes and Ladder (The 4 Cs), and of course they’re familiar with Monopoly. No matter what your opinion of Monopoly is, to the world at large, ‘board games’ equals Monopoly. It will take a long, long time before ‘board games’ equals Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Dominion, Carcassonne and other titles you’ve got on your shelves.

So when asked “What kind of games do you play,” how can you answer them? How do you let them know that you play games for the social interaction, for the chance to really get your brain burning or to just give it a rest? How do you avoid the cliched “So like Monopoly?” response?

Do you say “I roleplay. I conquer. I amass great wealth. I settle worlds. I connect cities. I discover where the rebels are hiding. I blow up Death Stars. I slay dragons. I beat everyone to the finish line.” Or do you hit them with the big whammy – “I trade resources for goods and then sell them for points.”

Therein lies the problem. The games we play are legion. There are hundreds of genres of games and there are many different types of games inside each of those genres. In fact, the question of what kinds of games we play can be as distinct as what kind of music we like, what kind of books we read or movies we watch. And therein also lies the solution.

The sports fan does not watch all sports. The music lover does not listen to every style. Movie lovers do not watch every flick ever made. If you ask any of these people about their hobbies, they are not going to answer “I watch sports”, “I listen to music”, “I like to read.” Well, maybe that last one… No, they’ll tell you which sport, what type of music, or the kinds of books they enjoy.

The simple answer for the question “What kind of games do you play” is unique for each of us. Maybe your answer is “I enjoy train-themed economic games” or “I like deck-building style card games” or “I like many types of games, but right now I’m concentrating on sci-fi themed wargames.”

This treats our hobby with the respect we wish it had. We’re communicating to others that we have a multifaceted hobby, something so expansive that we have distinct choices within it, just as they may be a Chiefs fan, or they’ve been to every Foo Fighters show, or like to curl up with a great mystery novel.

There is no one-sentence, generic answer to “What kind of games do you play?” Thank goodness for that, right? If there were, the hobby would not be exploding like it is. Each of us has to figure out that answer for ourselves, and we have to figure out how to keep it brief enough to not bore or overwhelm the other person, or worse, make ourselves look like colossal introverts who don’t know how to answer simple questions.

But who knows, perhaps your answer will connect with them somehow? Maybe your love of Age of Steam will connect you with a model railroader. Maybe your love of social-deduction games will connect you with a mystery novel enthusiast, and perhaps mentioning miniature war-gaming will bring up fond memories of when your fellow guest played Risk back in the day.

Turns out that your hobby has more than one way to help you make new friends.

Extra Life!

I’m taking this opportunity to take a break from reviews and lists to talk about a cause that is pretty close to my heart.

In November, I and other gamers will be taking a full day, that is 24 hours, to play board games.  Now this may not seem like anything special to write about, but in the lead up, we’ll be raising money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.  We take part in Extra Life.

I took this blurb from their website:

Extra Life unites thousands of gamers around the world to play games in support of their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. Since its inception in 2008, Extra Life has raised more than $40 million for sick and injured kids.

Instead of video games, we get together to play board games for 24 hours.  There are always some standards, like party games later in the night and I tend to wrangle 3 or 4 people to learn something heavier at 3 in the morning (I know for sure one year it was Clash of Cultures, but I don’t remember the specifics of others).  We also do other things such as a donated game raffle and have some local sponsors who tend to donate some awesome stuff as well.

I’ve been taking part in Extra Life for quite a few years now, and it’s an amazing experience.  I’m not going to write about it in depth here, but I wanted to at least introduce the concept for those who weren’t familiar.  We’ll be taking some time in later weeks to write about why we choose to participate and what we are looking forward to doing.  I might also try to get a few guest authors to write about what Extra Life means to them.

So keep an eye out for those posts in coming weeks, and if you are planning on participating, let us know in the comments!

My Half Year in Review

I am writing this and realizing the year is half over, which means that by now I should have played about 25 games from our “What should we play deck” as well as be about halfway done with my 10 x 10 and 5 x 1 Challenges.

The What Should We Play Deck has been a lot of fun.  We have been able to play some new games (and find some new gems) but also revisit games that we haven’t played in a while, for whatever reason.  I always seem to be looking for the new hot thing without realizing how many great games I have sitting on the shelf; case in point, I got out D-Day at Omaha Beach and played a few turns, and I forgot how tense and enjoyable this game is.  I know that this feeling isn’t unique to me, as many gamers probably feel this way, but having this deck guiding what we play instead of me staring at my collection and picking something I’ve played a lot has been really enjoyable.  My wife and I sort of picked “togetherness” as our word for the year, something to strive for, and this has definitely helped with that.  We don’t sit in front of the TV near as much or on our computers; we get our daughter to bed then play a game at least once a week.  I’m excited to keep this going for the rest of the year (and beyond).

I attended BGG.Spring this year and it was tons of fun as well.  I realized I never did a write up, but I played tons of classic games (or at least classic to me) that I don’t own or don’t get the chance to play very often.  I even went out of my comfort zone to ask complete strangers if I could join them in a game.  I want to try to attend a convention a year (or every 2) but I also want to try out a wargame convention as well.  It’s a different clientele than the BGG.cons (at times) so I think it would be another step out of my comfort zone.

My biggest surprise game to me this half year was: Space Base.  This is a dice rolling game that, to me, Is a better Machi Koro.  I haven’t played it a ton, but once I was introduced to it I had to get a copy.

My biggest disappointment game to me this half year was: The Mind.  I know it was up for one of the Spiel awards, but to me, this isn’t a game so much as an activity.  I don’t know.  I liked it more than I thought I would once I finally played it, but don’t want to play it again.

My biggest deep cut (game that I’ve had forever and finally played again) this half year was D-Day Dice.  I had not played it much due to the Kickstarter drama surrounding it, but I finally got over that and once we played it I forgot how much I really enjoy it.

My biggest Finally game (that game that’s sat on my shelf forever and I finally got to play) is a tie between The Colonists and Star Wars Rebellion.  Two very different games (Heavy, thinky Euro and Ameritrash goodness) but these hit just about everything I want in those respective categories, so I’m glad I’ve played them both, and hopefully will play them more frequently.

Most Memorable Gaming Moment So Far: Playing the six map version of Memoir ’44  D-Day landings at BGG.con.  I was really nervous about getting this together, but we ended up having a great time and it’s something I would consider doing every year.  It was organized chaos, and I definitely learned some lessons for if we do it again.

2018 has been a great year for gaming so far, and I’m really excited to see what I get played in the coming months.

Hello! A Not so Brief Introduction

Hello readers. Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Ryan, Yollege on BGG.

A quick summary of me. I’m 44, a father of 3, and an avid reader (Mostly sci-fi and fantasy.), disc golfer, and gamer (Both board & video.). I also really enjoy craft beer and have recently been fermenting foods.

Now I’m going to tell my gaming history, so it will be a little long, and a little personal at times.

I’ve always loved games, but I grew up in a really small town where there weren’t others to play with. Most of my gaming memories as a kid were on my own. I could be impulsive with my purchases, I know I had Fireball Island and Conquest of the Empire, and played them on my own.

I looked into games when I was in college, but again I was buying and not playing. I also had some social anxiety about meeting people. I collected RPG books and CCG’s (I still have my original Netrunner cards.), but again was rarely playing. Dina and I got married in 1997. We had our first child Joseph in 1998.

Things changed once we moved to the Minneapolis/St Paul area after Dina got a job up there. I had some friends that lived in the area and we were looking for excuses to hang out. We started by playing the Wizards of the Coast Star Wars RPG, but we screwed around too much to get anywhere in a night, so we moved onto Heroclix.

Heroclix gave me a reason to go to the game store. I found Blokus. That led me to BGG. I’ve had an obsession ever since. This was probably around 2000-2001. We added a daughter, Katlyn, in 2002. We started getting a regular weekly group together, several people that are still close friends today. I was buying a lot of games, but the others were bringing some too. Most of us had kids or had to be to work early, so we tried to be done playing by 9-9:30 (Typically Thursday nights.). We had Saturday game days occasionally to get longer games played. We started going to the Con of the North, and were making friends there too.

But in 2009 that all changed. Dina’s job was leaving Minnesota. We were suddenly moving our family to Kansas. We found out the weekend of Con of the North, so we had a fun time there, knowing we were leaving soon (We had about a month/month and a half to get moved.). We had a final game day with our friends, and left for Topeka.

Gaming has been on and off since moving. We found a good group of friends here, but none of us have been able to make a weekly gaming night stick, but we were getting together often. We even threw our own single day Con to help raise money for a friend who had a heart attack.

Then in September of 2011 everything changed for us. A mentally ill neighbor shot Dina in front of the older kids and me. She only spent a few days in hospital initially, but had to have spinal surgery due to bullet fragments lodging in her spine. Needless to say, gaming took a back seat, and I auctioned off a significant chunk of our games to local gamers and friends in MN. The Con this time was for Dina.

We never stopped gaming, but it slowed quite a bit. We gradually got it going again, although most of my plays were with the family, but we still saw our friends to play occasionally. The collection started growing again. In 2014, our family grew. We added another daughter, Aleksia. A bit of a surprise, but a wonderful surprise.

Dina lost her job in 2016. Again we sold off a chunk of the collection. This time as more of a panic sale.

But now, in 2018, I am gaming a lot again. The majority is with the family, but we try to get together with our friends when we can. Joe is absolutely a gamer. Katlyn has lost interest, although if that was due to the shooting, or just being a teenager, I’ll never be sure. Aleksia loves games, which means we have acquired a big bunch of small kids games again (For obvious reasons, we had passed on the games we had to friends when the other two outgrew them.). Dina tries to play with us when she’s feeling up to it, she still has a lot of pain due to the shooting. I have also started playing games solo on occasion, which was something I never did.

Our game group down here have become our friends and family. When we get together, we are just as likely to sit and chat than we are to play games. They helped us a lot after the shooting, and have helped us move twice. And we have helped them when we could with things. We try to get together at least once a month, but scheduling occasionally gets difficult.

Ok, I am sure I could have cut half of this, but I was on a roll and didn’t want to stop once I got going. Future posts should be shorter, but I’m not making any promises.

Here are a couple of pic, one of the family and the other being our current collection, except the kids games, which are mostly off camera to the left:

 

 

 

Back From A Break

It’s been a while since I’ve posted.  I started this blog as a way to write about the hobby I love, but it’s also here to serve another purpose: to be a coping mechanism with my stress and anxiety.

I’ve talked about it before, but the TL;DR version of it is that I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and games and rpgs are one of my coping mechanisms that help me get out of my head for a bit.

But what happens when the escape I use becomes a bane instead of a boon? That’s what this post is about, and why I took a break from posting and from board games for a little while.

It all started on Feb. 16.  I finally was able to start playing DnD (5th Ed.) with my normal game group after we all reorganized our schedules and shifted to a twice monthly thing instead of once a week.  I was super excited because DnD really helps with some of the feelings I have towards myself in regards to imposter syndrome and the fact that at times I feel like I’m not good enough (more on this in a later post.  It’s one I’ve wanted to write for a very long time but haven’t felt in the right headspace to do it justice).

We are playing and my character and another are faced with a decision to make regarding taking care of the baddies and saving another PC (player character).  I’m sitting there thinking about what my character would do, when the character I was with chimed in and, at the time, I felt extremely pressured as a player (not as a character) to do what they said, even if it wasn’t what my character would have done.  My heart immediately started racing, I started getting tingly in my arms and the back of my neck, all signs of an impending anxiety episode (maybe not full blown panic attack, but on high alert at every. single. thing that is said and done.  It all starts to get analyzed in my brain at superspeed, usually with a negative filter).  I failed the check to stabilize the character who needed saved, and on his turn, his character died.

At the end of the session, the player who was urging me to take action made a statement that essentially boiled down to “I hold you responsible for this death”, which totally fits in with the archetype that this player is going for.  But, at the time, I couldn’t separate that out.  I internalized it, let it fester, and it really bothered me the rest of the weekend, because it felt like that player was holding ME, personally responsible, which is silly because it’s a pretend game but anxiety makes literally 0 sense most of the time.

I was shaken up enough about this that I thought about avoiding the next session (which is this Friday).  But writing about it now, and looking back on it, I understand this isn’t a personal thing, it’s a game thing.  One that I’ll probably have to deal with in some way, shape, or form.  While I have interpersonal anxiety issues, Aldunn (my character) doesn’t (at least I don’t think he does…), so I should use this as an opportunity to roleplay and work through the personal issues I had that night.

BUUUUT anyway, that Sunday I had a few friends over to play a wargame; Liberty or Death (my first 5 x 1 game of the year).  None of us had played it before, and only two of us were really familiar with the COIN system, so it was a learning game, and I was in charge of teaching it.

My 13 month old daughter decided, at that point, that she would begin having issues with going down to take a nap.  So, as I’m trying to teach/play this new game (for my birthday, I might add), I am also dealing with the frustration/exhaustion of my daughter not sleeping, my wife being the one to have to work with her to get her to sleep, and me trying to juggle the two things.

I felt I didn’t teach the game well.  I overlooked some key parts of what my faction should be doing to win the game, which in turn affected another player’s faction and ability to score.  I’ve been reassured by one of the players that they had a good time and that I didn’t teach the game any worse than anyone else would have (since we were all new to the system) but the events of that Friday night and the goings on with my daughter really soured the experience, even with all of the players explaining to me they understood what I was going through (they all have children).  One of them did make a comment after the fact that sort of confirmed that my misplaying really did have an impact on their score, and to be honest I felt super shitty based upon that.  I was frustrated that this fun event had been tainted by my anxiety, and I even commented to one of the players that the next time I play this it will likely be solo.

These experiences really pushed me away from boardgames.  I am a huge videogamer too, so it’s not uncommon for me to go through swings where I focus on one or the other in my free time, but this time it felt different.  It felt as though because of my anxiety, I didn’t want to repeat that and taint the hobby that I love, so I pushed it away entirely.  This is why I didn’t want to write, because I didn’t feel like I had anything to contribute, so I didn’t, which I think is probably for the best.

My wife and I played some games last week which were really fun and started to get me to peek out of the hole again, so I’m sure I’ll get back in the habit of posting more regularly, and more importantly playing more regularly, but I wanted to at least talk about these experiences I had and how my anxiety colored them.  I’m working on coping mechanisms, including medication and therapy, every day.  There are good days, and bad days but I’m thankful I have this hobby, even if it gets ‘tainted from time to time’.

I know some of the people I alluded to do read my posts from time to time, so I do want to say that I am completely over everything, there is no ill will, and my feelings about it in the moment were colored by my anxiety in the moment.

I am thinking my next post will be either a review of a new game I hope to play on Saturday or a session report of one of my 10 x 10 games that I’ve been getting to the table.  Do you have a preference? Let me know!

Remembering ML

Hey all:

This is going to be my post for the week and it’s a short one.

I started this blog as a spin off of a blog I started to help me deal with my mother’s death, which was one year ago today.  I wanted to start writing about something I enjoy, rather than something to use as a processing tool.

Anyways, I’m planning on spending the weekend with friends and family, so I figured I would post the only session review I have ever posted on BGG: Teaching my mother how to play Command and Colors: Ancients.

Enjoy, and be good to one another.

Taken from https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/493100/teaching-my-mother-cc

This is my first session report, and I will be focusing more on the teaching aspect than the actual game(s) we played, so bear with me.

My Mom is always interested in the games I am bringing home from college. I have gotten her to play Carcassonne, but she never really seemed too interested in wargames. My dad fought in Vietnam, so he never was interested in games or toys that, in his opinion glorified war. I did convince him to play a game of Memoir ’44, but that is another story for another day.

Anyway, my mom saw us playing Memoir and seemed kind of interested, so when I got CC:A for Christmas, I figured I would teach it to her. Well, tonight was a rare night where I came home from the University I attend, and I packed my games and told her to prepare to learn.

I selected the scenario, The Battle of Akragas, and prepared the game. She played as the Syracusians, and I took the Carthaginians. I spent about 15 minutes explaining the rules, and the differences between units, dealt the cards out, and we began playing.

She began by advancing her light units forward and harassing with ranged fire. It took her a while to understand the difference behind the rationale with firing 1 dice for a unit who has moved, and 2 dice for a unit who has held. I explained because the archers had to pack up their equipment in order to move.

I spent my first few turns by advancing my chariots and using my light troops for ranged fire. Eventually, I would move my Auxila and my Chariots into her light units to secure the win, 5 Banners to 3.

We spent the next 30 minutes or so discussing what she could have done differently. I explained that you really want to advance Heavy Infantry, esp. in a scenario like this, and she seemed to grasp the rationale for that. She did everything else right though, whether it was evading when I attacked her lights to even isolating one of my units so it couldn’t retreat.

She asked if we could play again, and naturally I agreed. We played the same scenario, because she wanted to try out some strategies that we had talked about.

This time she was much more agressive about moving her HI forward, all the while harassing my skirmishers with bow fire (She realized that if she left them, the dice rolls would be more favorable). She even pulled a screen with two Auxila and the one Medium Cav. unit. This game, my dice were hotter than the first game we played, and I won, 5 banners to 2.

Overall, I would say that she grasped the basic concepts well. She had a hard time understanding that the only units who could use ranged fire were the Lights. I think this could be avoided by finding/making a player aid that doesn’t contain as much information as the cards that are included in the game.

She is looking forward to playing again tomorrow night as well.

*On a side note, I recently recieved Ardennes ’44 in a trade and had the maps set up as if I was starting a new game just to get a feel for it. She took one look at it and asked how long it would take me to explain that game to her. I told her that we should play through the CC:A base and expansions, and then we could tackle that one *

(Edit: Fixed some typos)

Review Rules

I’m off to  a great start with this whole “post twice a week” thing…

Anyway, I had originally started about having a super objective review/rating system.  Judging games on lots of areas on a scale of 1 to 5, breaking it down for everyone, and making it the definitive way I’ll review games.

But I’m not going to do that.

That seems really complicated for something I want to do for fun.  I want to write about games.  So when I review a game, I’m going to give you an overview of what the game is, what mechanics it has, what games I think it’s similar to, what I liked, and what I didn’t like.  I may say that it’s my game of the year, I may say it’s garbage (probably not), but my goal is to not overthink things.

The game of the week is “A Dice Game” and Sagrada happens to be on my 10 x 10, so I think we’ll be playing that tonight.  Look for my review on Saturday, as we’ll be travelling on Sunday this week.