d20 List: Top 10 ‘Experience’ Games

Editors Note:  An earlier version of the post had some wonky formatting and Andrew forgot how to count, so he only had 9 items.  This has been corrected, and the writer is completely mortified by the error 😉 )

Hello! It has been a while.  My (Andrew) family has been continuously sick for the past 6 weeks, so we’ve really been focusing on surviving and not really worrying about things like board games or writing about them.

But that all changes today! I realized it had been a while since we had done a d20 review, so I spun up the dice and rolled a 10…which is a really original number for lists 🙂

I decided to challenge Ryan and myself to think about games that can be classified as an “Experience”.  Now, this might mean something different to both of us, but when we were talking about it I described them as this:

“Those games that you may only play once a year due to the sheer size of it, or something like Pandemic Legacy that is an evolving experience after many plays.  Games that almost get to “that was an experience but I never want to do it again, or do it for a very long time” or it could even be something you played at a CON that’s out of print so you probably won’t experience it again.

  1. Charterstone: I called Charterstone my Game of the Year 2017, which was pretty high praise considering we played it twice and it came out in November (or thereabouts).

    While we haven’t been able to continue our campaign recently, my wife and I still fondly talk about our time playing it, although I don’t see myself/us playing through the campaign again, even though I bought the recharge pack.
  2. Memoir ‘44 D-Day Landings:  This is a specific expansion to Memoir ‘44 that takes 6 maps in the Breakthrough and Overlord formats and smushes them together so you can play Operation Neptune..if you can find the space. I ran a game of this at BGG Con Spring this year, and it was a ton of fun, but also a surprising amount of work.  Due to the space, time, and rule investment, I can’t imagine playing this anywhere other than a Con, but still feeling super satisfied each time I finish.
  3. Twilight Imperium 4e:  I played this for the first time a few weeks ago, and it was incredible (I wrote about it here).  However, this is one I don’t see myself playing more than once or twice a year due to the number of people needed and the time investment it takes.  It was a ton of fun, and at the end I did sort of sit there in a state of awe, but it also took a lot out of me (as weird as that is to say about a board game).  I was drained when we finished.
  4. Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit:  This is one of those that’s an experience because it’s so hard to find.  Long out of print, this is a sort of 3 front ameritrash Star wars game that coincided with the release of Episode 1.

    I was able to play this at the first BGG Con I went to since they had a copy in the library.  It was a fun game, not great, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want a copy for my collection.

    Side Note:  If you are looking for a game to substitute for this one and still get a similar experience, I wholeheartedly recommend Risk: Star Wars Edition.
  5. Arkham Horror with All Expansions:  Arkham Horror is how I got started in gaming.  A fraternity brother brought it home one evening and so we went down to the dining room where there was plenty of table space and promptly got devoured by Azathoth.

    Eventually, we would play marathon games where we would play against Great Old Ones after Great Older One.  Eventually we would add in an expansion or two, but we never played with all the expansions.

    I see these games pop up at Conventions I attend from time to time, and I haven’t yet joined in one, but I want to.  But something tells me I would never want to do it again (especially since I haven’t played Arkham Horror in a very long time).
  6. Roads and Boats:  This is a game that doesn’t look the prettiest, but it is super deep.  It’s a game about managing and upgrading a supply chain, while being opportunistic and taking from your opponents who haven’t been paying attention.

    It also takes a while to play; a recent teaching game I ran at a Con took 5 hours or so. That’s a lot of time to devote to a game about moving geese, donkeys, and other transporters around, and it’s a real brain burner, so this one hits the table about once a year or so.
  7. Tales of the Arabian Nights:  To me, Tales of the Arabian Nights (TotAN) is not a game, it’s an interactive story.  This is a huge choose your own adventure game set in the world of 1001 Nights. However, there isn’t a whole lot of strategy or meaningful decisions to be made, so I only like to play it from time to time with a group that is looking for just that: a fun night laughing at what hijinx our characters get into.
  8. Monster Wargames: This one is a bit of a cop out because it’s a classification of game, not a game itself, but I have a ton and I couldn’t pick just one.  A Monster Wargame is a wargame that has a ton of counters and a huge map. Some examples are The Devil’s Cauldron and The Battle for Normandy.

    I have a ton of these, and while you can play smaller scenarios, there is something about seeing an epic setup of maps on your table.  These can take a long time to set up, usually have a pretty dense rule set, and take a long time to play, so most people play them with VASSAL.  I can’t imagine, though, after playing a whole full game of one that I would be itching to do it again soon.
  9. Sentinels of the Multiverse: Age of OblivAeon:  Full disclosure: This is the only one on the list I haven’t yet played.  This was the last Sentinels of the Multiverse Kickstarter, and it provided a mode where the heroes have to fight OblivAeon, who can be compared to Thanos from the Marvel universe.All the things I’ve heard from people who have played it say that it’s long, complicated and takes up a ton of table space.  Based upon that, I can definitely see myself getting this set up when I want something meaty, but I can’t imagine I will play it a ton.
  10. Silverton:  This is game about mining and prospecting in Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico.  It’s a thinky economic game that actually can play solo which is somewhat rare. However, it’s a little fiddly and games can take a while, so we normally only get this out once or twice a year.

 

Ryan’s Picks

When Drew first suggested this topic, I took it completely wrong. I was considering only my individual favorite gaming experiences. I was listing experience games, but also those. Then I re-read his text, and fixed my list. This would have been a really long post if I went with gaming experiences in general, although I might use that for a personal post in the future.

Here’s my list in no particular order:

  1. Die Macher – This was once a top 10 BGG game (Even #1 I believe before I joined.). It’s a game about German elections, so the theme isn’t exactly attention grabbing.  It may be THE prototypical “Euro” game, all cube pushing. It’s like a 3-5 hour playtime. I’m not going to want to play it much, but I would gladly play it again. The mechanics make sense. There are a LOT of them, but once you play through a turn or 2, it makes sense. But it’s never a game I think I would knowingly play well. I’m just never going to dedicate enough time to get good at it. 
  2. This War of Mine – Ok, I haven’t actually played this yet, but the reviewers all seem to say the same things. They all mention it’s a well designed game and practically a work of art, but it’s depressing and not fun. I love the idea of a game that may not be fun, but is more a work of art game. I traded for this recently, and I do enjoy the video game. Or I should say I enjoy the challenge of the video game, it really is difficult and a bummer to watch your characters continually suffer. The board game apparently mimics this well. 
  3. Time Stories – A very interesting gaming experience. Start a story, fail, start over with some knowledge, likely fail again, repeat until successful. Believe it or not, it is fun. I’ve only played the base scenario, and I am looking forward to trying more of them. 
  4. Charterstone – The only legacy game I’ve finished so far (That list is really just this and Pandemic Legacy.). We had a blast, although I screwed up a rule early, and misread a card midway through, and continued to misuse that card for points for the next several games, and of course, guess who won? We already have a recharge pack to play it again. 
  5. Eldritch Horror – I am not obsessed with the Cthulhu mythos, but the games tend to be really good. This one may end up being my top new game I played this year. I’ve only played it 2 player, but have enjoyed it immensely. It tells a nice story to go with simple mechanics. 
  6. Tales of Arabian Nights – A fun choose your own adventure style game. Not a great cohesive story, and it can take a long time for what it is, but it’s a game I’ve enjoyed the couple of times I’ve gotten to play it. 
  7. The Mind – This one probably barely qualifies for this list, but it’s almost exclusively an experience when you play it. It’s quick, but the game itself is just how much you enjoy the experience of not talking, just feeling when you or your teammates need to play a card. Not for everyone, but I very much enjoy it. 
  8. Formula De – This one is especially great with more players. Having several people racing closely, causing issues, maybe even blocking the exact spot you wanted to go. It’s a blast with at least 6,better with 8-10, and one of my best gaming experiences period involved 12 people at a con. 
  9. Runebound – One of my favorite games. I really enjoyed the first edition and fell in love with the second edition. Sadly I haven’t played the latest version. Always fun, but it can take a LONG time if people play cautiously. It just take a while to build up your character. I have learned to not be too timid early on anymore. 
  10. Descent: Journeys in the Dark – I have however played both editions of this game. I prefer the new edition, with its streamlined rules, but the first edition was a better experience, taking several hours of players vs Overlord battles. Still one of the best dungeon crawls. I really considered Gloomhaven for this spot, but went with the one I’d played the most, I’ve only played 2 sessions of GH, although we are trying to plan for more, so that might replace Descent eventually.

There you have it.  Ryan and I’s Top 10 “Experience” Games.  Have you played any of these? Any other ones you would add? Let us know in the comments!

d20 List: Top 6 Games to Play With 2 Players

Hello out there! This is our latest d20 list, where either Drew or I roll a twenty sided die, and pick a topic to make a list based on the roll. This week I rolled a 6 and chose to have us choose our favorite 2-player games.

I apologize for not showing a video or picture of the die roll. I kind of forgot to do it at home, so I used an app to get our d20 roll this time. I’ll try to do better next time.

I didn’t realize how hard this list would be to make. I’ve been busy at work, and I was happy to roll low, and thought I’d pick an “easy” list. I had several games in mind when I chose the topic, yet only a couple of those made the cut. Not adding some of these games almost broke my heart. The following list is in no particular order.

Ryan’s Picks

1) Memoir ‘44: A game I traded away or sold a few years ago, but not for lack of really liking it. I always loved the simplicity of it, and massive number of scenarios. I had several of the expansions, and it’s a game I really miss having, even though I don’t think my wife would play it with me.

2) Yinsh: I am really intrigued by abstract games. I am terrible at them, but the idea of designing something with no theme fascinates me. THis is the best one of the GIPF series, which are all amazing and beautiful looking games. I sold these off too, and I really wish I hadn’t needed to.

3) Eldritch Horror: The one game on my list that isn’t 2-player only. The reason I included it is because I have yet to play it with a different quantity than 2. I really love this game, the theme is fantastic, and I’m not typically a Cthulhu mythos fan.

4) StreetSoccer: I continue to preach about Corné van Moorsel’s games. This one is abstract, but with a die it takes a little less pure strategy than Yinsh or Chess. The better player will still almost always win, but it’s not a brain burny this way.

5) Patchwork: I grew up playing Tetris when I got the original Gameboy. This game takes those style of pieces and makes 2 players make a quilt. I love trying to make things fit together, and I enjoy that just because you have the most buttons (Money) coming in when you are able to gain them, you may not have the higher scoring board in the end.

6) Perry Rhodan: The Cosmic League: Another one from my previous d20 list (StreetSoccer). I love the art, I love the simple pick up and deliver, and the way you buy add ons to your ship can make for some tough decisions. I mentioned before this one doesn’t get enough love.

Andrew’s Picks

1) Memoir ’44/Commands and Colors: Ancients
I am sort of cheating here, because this is technically two games, but they really are the game system, and I like them equally, it just depends on the comfort level of my opponent.

I’ve written about it before, but these games are introductory wargames that are all card driven.  Ancients is a little more complex with rules such as battling back and evading combat, but Memoir comes with minis and a ton of additional flavor added through expansions.  My advice:  just get them both J

2) 7 Wonders: Duel
I really enjoy 7 Wonders, and I like Duel even better.  I wrote about it in my Top 10 Quick Games for 2 Players, so I’m going to repost what I said about it there here:

Card drafting is a hit or miss mechanic with me mainly because I have a hard time focusing on one strategy.  Duel, though, is compact enough it’s fairly easy for me to keep track and get an engine going and there are multiple routes to victory.  In fact, if you aren’t paying attention to what your opponent is doing they may sneak by and win by Science or Military.  This is on our 10 x 10 list for the year, and I’m really looking forward to getting it played; no two games are the same due to the card layout and I don’t think of the games I’ve won, I’ve won with the same strategy more than a couple of times.

3) Alhambra
This one has a special place on my list because it does something rare in games with a minimum 2 player count, but that are designed for more:  a dummy player.  Of all the games I’ve played with a dummy player that both players compete against, “Dirk” (as he is called) has provided us the best combination of both challenge AND ease of implementation/lack of changing the game.  I would rather play a game that scales appropriately to 2 by limiting components/map space/etc, but Alhambra is one of those “oldies but goodies” I keep coming back to.

4) Codenames Duet
Another one I wrote about in my Top 10 Quick Games for 2:

The only cooperative game on this list, we are terrible at Codenames.  The couple of games we have tried did not go well, but we still had a really good time.  Each person has certain clues (with some overlapping) they have to get the other person to guess but there is a limited number of turns.  Stressful and probably the game that has also caused the most frustration between us, I’m looking forward to getting this to the table more.

Since I wrote that, we’ve added Codenames: Disney into the mix which means we are still terrible but we get to look at pictures of movies we both love.

5) Viticulture: Essential Edition
This is probably the longest game on my list (definitely the longest Euro) and it’s one of my favorites.  It’s thinky and it is still very tight at 2 players for a worker placement game as the number of spaces are limited based upon the number of players.  This is also one of my top 10 Non Solo Non Wargames, so if you want to find out more about what I think on it you can check that out here.

6) Quest for El Dorado
This deck building race game deals with 2 players by requiring each player to get two adventurers across the finish line instead of 1.  This, to me, adds even more strategy to the game.  Do I focus on one and leave the other behind? Do I use one to block my opponent? What card do I use on what figure?  It’s a very approachable deck builder, and I’m really glad I finally added this one to my collection, even if we haven’t played it a ton.

Top 5 Wargames I’m Itching to Play

Hey all!

I’m here with a short post…I’ve been dealing with Vertigo for the past few days so I haven’t really been doing much of anything in my free time. No gaming, no video games, no nothing.

So, with it being a Wargame Wednesday, I figured I would post my top 5 Wargames in my collection I’m itching to play.

  1.  Up Front: I was part of the whole Kickstarter debacle, but luckily I was able to get a copy printed at WargameVault.  I have heard so many great things about this one that it’s jumped to the top of my must play pile.
  2. Combat Commander: Europe:  I just got back into this about 6 months ago, so I’m always dying to get it to the table.
  3. Unconditional Surrender: I have everything ready to go for the Case Blue “scenario” so now it’s just time to find to play this as an intro into the whole game.
  4. Breakout Normandy: A buddy and I try to get together once every (other) month or so to play a wargame.  This was going to be last month’s choice but due to real life, neither of us got to read the rules, so it’s still on my list for us to play at our next wargame day.
  5. Iwo: Bloodbath in the Bonins: This is a solo folio game from Decision Games.  It’s something different that I could play over my lunch hour(s) at work, so I’m reading through the rules now to figure out the best way to get it to the table.

There you have it. Short, sweet, and to the point.  I think the next Wargame Wednesday we have will be how I read and parse rulebooks, which, while not the most exciting of topics, may prove beneficial to some of you out there.

d20 List: Top 5 Hidden Gems!

D20 List: Top 5 Hidden Gems

It’s time for our first d20 List! I (Andrew) had the pleasure of rolling our first dice, so what better way to do it than through a trusty dice tower.

I rolled 5. (Check out our Instagram for the video)

With the number 5, I decided to make Ryan and I search high and low for our games that we love, that are really, really great, but that everyone may not have heard of or that, for any reason don’t seem to get much love or play.  So, without further ado:

TOP 5 HIDDEN GEMS

Andrew’s Picks

1) FITS:  I am generally not a big fan of abstract games, but I will almost always play a game of FITS.  For those who aren’t familiar, it is basically Tetris the board game.  It plays up to four, but the game isn’t any different whether playing through one or four players.  The pieces are tactile and colorful and this game appeals to gamers and non gamers alike.  I definitely think this one has a FIT (pun definitely intended) in every gamer’s collection.

2) Time of Soccer:  I love sports games, especially anything soccer related.  I heard on BoardGameGeek about a worker placement game that simulates being a manager of a futbol club from Spain.  As I was reading more about this game, I knew I had to give it a shot.

In Time of Soccer, you play the manager of a futbol club.  Throughout the week, you travel around the board signing players, holding press conferences and getting sponsors.  At the end of the week, you play a game against another team (which might be controlled by the game or the other players) and you gain points in the league.  There are various cup tournaments you participate in, and your position in those tournaments, sponsorships and the final league standing determine who wins.

This is a unique worker placement game that really captures the theme well.  I am really glad I picked up a copy (it is hard to find in the states, but I heard rumors of a second edition coming).

3) Among the Stars:  This game has been around for a while and it’s one of my favorites, but it never seems to get much play.  This is a tile drafting/placement game where you are building a spaceship, and like most drafting games, there is a component to engine building.

I don’t recall if many people in our group don’t enjoy this game, but this is one of my favorites to play.  I like drafting, it’s quick, and I really enjoy the art and other gameplay additions.  Because we don’t play it very often, I haven’t picked up any of the expansions, but this is one I’d like to get to the table again soon.

4) Walnut Grove: I described Walnut Grove as a combination of tile laying, worker placement with some worker movement that can interrupt your plans.  It’s done by Lookout games, so if you are familiar with their other offerings then this one might seem similar, but at the time it was like nothing I had played before, and each time it comes out, I am reminded both how much I enjoy the game but also how bad I am at it.

5) Tobago:  I love deduction games.  I love thinking about a problem and eliminating possibilities until I know what the answer is.  I love games with chunky components.  Tobago has it all.

Tobago is a hand management games with a modular board where you are trying to find the hidden treasures before your opponents.  There is also a press your luck portion to it as, when you find the treasure (done by playing cards until only one possible spot can remain on the map), and other player who played cards to narrow down the location and yourself get to split the treasure up, with you only knowing a portion of what’s in that particular treasure’s deck.  This is a great game for families (and is actually ranked in the Top 100 of BGG’s family game sublisting), but for some reason it doesn’t get played all that often.  It is definitely family friendly, especially if you all work together to figure out what spaces can (or cannot) have treasure in them.

Ryan’s Picks

1) Powerboats – Probably the most well known game on my list (It was nominated for 2 Golden Geek awards), but still not a game many people know about. My gaming groups, both in Kansas and Minnesota, definitely know about it. I preach about this game as often as I can. It’s simple, like many racing games, fun, and looks great on the table. The 3-sided dice are neat too. Corné van Moorsel has always been my favorite lesser known designer, and this is my favorite game he has created.

2) Perry Rhodan: The Cosmic League – This is probably the highest ranked on BGG off of my list, but I suspect my American friends don’t know much about it. Perry Rhodan is a popular Sci-fi novel hero in Germany. This game is a great 2-player pick up and deliver game. It’s English release came a few years after the original German, so I think that hurt the buzz. I think it belongs in the small 2-player pantheon with games like Patchwork and 7 Wonders Duel.

3) Streetsoccer – I believe I mentioned Corné van Moorsel was my favorite lesser known designer? I’d have added more of his games had Roll to the Top not been too new and Factory Fun been more popular than everything else on this list. Gipsy King was close to making it, but I tossed it out in favor of the other 2. This game is probably my favorite sport game. It’s an abstract game at heart, but the soccer theme works incredibly well. I used to play this on a turn based online site, so my number of plays is a bit skewed, but it’s been one of my favorite 2-player games for years.

4) Igel Ärgern – Loosely translated as “Annoying the Hedgehogs,” This is a fun racing game that involves getting your hedgehog pieces to the end of the track. You are able to stack onto other players pieces, but you are allowed to move other players pieces. It’s simple, and can be a little meaner than I typically like my games, but we’ve always enjoyed our plays. I’ve only played the base game, but I also have several variants for the game included, although those were printed out by the person I traded the game with.

5) Mutant Meeples – Take Ricochet Robots, add some super powers, and you have Mutant Meeples. I tend to enjoy many of Ted Alspach’s more popular games too, but this one has been fun since we originally got it on Kickstarter. It is typically a little simpler than RR once you get the special abilities figured out, so it’s a little more newbie friendly.

New Feature: d20 Lists!!

Hey all:

First things first:  Yes I know that’s a d4 in focus of the image.  But I liked it, so it’s what we are going with.

Sorry for the silence for a while.  Real life gets in the way sometimes… or I forget to talk to Ryan about setting a schedule so we both don’t post.

But anyway, I’m back, and I’m introducing a new feature that will premiere this Friday:  d20 Lists!!

I wanted a way for Ryan and I to collaborate on something, but wasn’t sure how.  We could do top 10 lists, but those can get pretty samey over and over, so being the DnD player that I am, we are going to leave it to the good ole d20.

This is how it will work.  One of us will roll a d20.  Based upon what we roll, that person will select a topic for the list that makes sense for the number rolled.  For example, if I rolled a “1”, we might write about our best gaming moment or the first game we played.  But if we roll a “20” it might be our top 20 quick games to play.

We have overlapping game interests, but we also have very different thoughts on games and genres, so I’m hoping this is a chance for you all to get to know us a little better and for us to interact a little bit more.

So, this Friday will be our first d20 List! I’ll be rolling the die and selecting the topic, and then we’ll start alternating.  So keep your eyes peeled, and we’ll see you on Friday!

Top 10 Dice Games

I love dice.  I probably have an unhealthy obsession with dice, to be honest.  For a while, in my DnD group, when we would start a new campaign or a new character, I would go out and buy a new set of polyhedral dice.

The draw from the “What Should We Play” deck was Quarriors, which got me thinking…dice are probably one of my favorite components, so what better way to come back from an unintentional hiatus than writing about my top 10 dice games.

Castles of BurgundyRavensburger

Dice Laying, Tile Placement and ‘Worker Placement’ are probably my favorite mechanics, and CoB has them both.  I have enjoyed every play of this game.  There are numerous player boards that you can play with that require you to adopt different strategies (even if I haven’t played most of them).  This is one that many, many people in my game group enjoy even if we don’t play it that often.

KingsburgFantasy Flight Games

This is probably my wife’s favorite game on this list.  This is one game that combines Dice rolling and worker placement and requires a surprising amount of planning and mitigating your plan if an opposing player takes your spot.  I think this is a game that is better if you play with the expansion, but any time we’ve played it it’s been enjoyable.

St MaloRavensburger

This is a roll and write city building game that was a bit of a surprise. I bought it on a whim at a convention and ended up playing it 2 or 3 times that weekend.  It’s quick and easy to teach and the boards are coated so you use a whiteboard style marker, which for some reason is really entertaining to me.

QuarriorsWizKids

When Quarriors first came out it seemed as though they had struck gold with a confrontational but not too confrontational “dicebuilding” game.  We had to make some adjustments to make it work for 2 players (we play to the 4 player point limit) but we enjoyed the custom dice, the art, and the way the game works: it felt to us like a dice version of Magic the Gathering.

D-Day DiceValley Games

I hesitated to put this on my list.  I was a Line for Life Kickstarter backer of the first edition which has been marred by some terrible dealings with the now defunct Valley Games, but this is actually being reprinted by Word Forge Games, who along with the designer, is going above and beyond to atone for the sins of the previous publisher.

When it was released this was a really unique mechanic along with a theme that I loved.  The D-Day landings are by far my favorite military operation to study and read about, and it’s co-op and solo capable.  Custom dice are always awesome, and this comes with tons of them.  I really need to get it to the table more.

DicemastersWizKids

I’ve talked about this in previous posts, but this really made me feel like I was playing Magic: The Dice Gathering.  With all the IPs offered, I really like the limited deck building aspect of it and the gameplay is pretty straightforward.  They took Quarriors and kept the streamlined feel of it while making it feel like you could actually get your engine going.  Just beware if you are a completionist.

SagradaFloodgate Games

I’ve given a review of Sagrada and mentioned it in previous posts, so I’ll give my abbreviated thoughts:

If you can find a copy, buy it.  You won’t be disappointed.  It’s a puzzly dice placement game that looks gorgeous.

Roll PlayerThunderworks Games

My favorite part of DnD is rolling characters, and that’s what you are doing in Roll Player.  It’s a clever dice manipulation game that is a lot deeper under the surface.  The first time I played this, I did terribly, and immediately wanted to get a copy so I could keep playing it to try to get better.  Not many games do that to me.

Elder SignFantasy Flight Games

I’ve probably played the app version of this more than the board game version, but Elder Sign is a quickish Yahtzee style game (for lack of any other way to describe it) set in the Arkham universe.  It does a good job of integrating the theme of it’s bigger brothers Arkham and Eldritch Horror and there are a good selection of expansions to integrate as well.

Carson CityEagle-Gryphon Games (my copy)

I love Westerns.  Carson City puts you in charge of developing a western city complete with gunfights, prospecting, and staking claims.  The first time I played this I was warned that it is completely possible that your opponents might be able to lock you out of doing anything, and while that didn’t happen to me it’s definitely a more in your face worker placement game than I normally play.  The dice are used to seed the board with buildings, landmarks, etc and for a few action spaces, but it’s the use of them to determine coordinates that stuck with me, as this was the first game that I had played to do so (see also Flash Point: Fire Rescue).

Well, there you have it.  A quick look at my top 10 Dice games.  Honorable mentions would probably be Dungeons and Dragons and wargames, but I’m glad I could come up with 10 game that I enjoy, some of which I think are overlooked at times.  What dice games do you enjoy? Let me know in the comments!

Top 10 ‘Quick’ Games for 2 Players

My wife and I welcomed our first daughter a little over a year ago.  One of the things I have learned to appreciate in that time is to appreciate the time my wife and I have to game, even if it’s short.  We usually have a couple of hours after she goes to bed to fit in chores, preparation for the next day, and any ‘fun’ things like video or board games.  Some nights, like the other night, we can get in a longer game like Charterstone.  But more frequently than not, we have the time or mental faculties for a quicker game.  While we may not have played some of these recently, this week’s list is the Top 10 (in no particular order) ‘quick’ games for 2 players, [with the publishers of the edition we own in brackets].

Tsuro [Cailliope Games]

My wife loves tile laying games, and this one is a very laid back semi-confrontational game.  As a sky dragon just travelling along paths, it’s always fun to take a different approach than I did last game; do I gun straight for the middle and try to mess with my wife’s plans, or do I take the avoidance route and skirt along the outside of the board?  Luckily the game is quick enough you can try both in one sitting.

Patchwork [Mayfair Games]

This is also a tile laying game, although it is a bit more spatial and strategic, I would argue, than Tsuro. We play this a little more cutthroat and I love the farther back you are on the time track the sooner it’s your turn mechanic.  It’s been a while since we’ve played it but this is one of our go to games when we do want something a little deeper or thought provoking.

Dice Masters [Wizkids]

I am the main gamer in our family, and while I have fallen out of the habit of playing, I love Dicemasters.  I never played it ‘competitively’ mainly because I am pretty awful at deckbuilding (this will be revisited in a later game on this list) but it’s approachable enough and we have a sizeable enough collection that every now and then we get the itch to roll some dice and pit the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles against the Avengers.

We also really like Quarriors, but the IP offering in Dice Masters is why I favor it.  I do remember discussing this with my wife one of the first time we played it and she likened this to Magic with dice, and I’d agree with that assessment.

7 Wonders: Duel [Repos Production]

Card drafting is a hit or miss mechanic with me mainly because I have a hard time focusing on one strategy.  Duel, though, is compact enough it’s fairly easy for me to keep track and get an engine going and there are multiple routes to victory.  In fact, if you aren’t paying attention to what your opponent is doing they may sneak by and win by Science or Military.  This is on our 10 x 10 list for the year, and I’m really looking forward to getting it played; no two games are the same due to the card layout and I don’t think of the games I’ve won, I’ve won with the same strategy more than a couple of times.

Kingdomino [blueOrange Games]

This is one of the newer to us games, and it’s actually the one that reminded me of this list.  The other night after finishing up a game of Charterstone, we had a little bit more time and were having a great evening, so I suggested Kingdomino.  You can play either with the 5 x 5 or 7 x 7 grid/variant, but both times it goes quick and we probably could have gotten another game of it in as well.  It’s thinky, but doesn’t feel like you need to give your brain a shower afterwards.  And the art is fantastic.  I think this one probably has a place in almost every gamer’s collection.

Martian Dice [Tasty Minstrel Games]

I don’t have a ton to say about this one as there have been tons of variants/themes of the push your luck and roll some dice games, but Martian Dice has always been a hit when my wife and I need something stupid quick and we’ve introduced it to family members.

Magic The Gathering [Wizards of the Coast]

I have never played a game of ‘competitive’ MtG in my life.  But in our fraternity in college we would play for fun every now and then, and my wife eventually started playing against me.  We haven’t touched our decks in a long while (I think probably due to Dicemasters), but every now and then one of us mentions that we should play again.  I will say that this probably has the potential to run long, but our games rarely do.

Codenames Duet [Czech Games Edition]

The only cooperative game on this list, we are terrible at Codenames.  The couple of games we have tried did not go well, but we still had a really good time.  Each person has certain clues (with some overlapping) they have to get the other person to guess but there is a limited number of turns.  Stressful and probably the game that has also caused the most frustration between us, I’m looking forward to getting this to the table more.

FITS [Ravensburger]

This is Tetris the board game.   I would probably venture that this is one of my wife’s favorite games, and it’s one that can easily be paused if the baby wakes up as we are playing without derailing what you were thinking as you were taking or waiting to take your turn.  It’s simple and just a good time.

Qwixx [Gamewright]

Last but not least is a surprisingly deep roll and write game.  The first time I played this it took me a while to wrap my head around it, but once I did I knew it needed to be in our collection.  We both love dice and I loved Yahtzee growing up, and while this really isn’t anything like Yahtzee, it involves rolling dice and writing numbers in a puzzly, optimizing fashion so it’s close enough for me.

So there you have it.  My top 10 ‘Quick’ 2 Player games.  Are there any games you have that you love because they are quick?  Got a special game you always play with 2? Let me know in the comments!

Top 10 Wargames

I was introduced into the board gaming hobby at large by hex and counter-esque Wargames.  I got my first Bachelor’s Degree in history, so seeing battles take place on the table in front of me always was a selling point (which is why I probably have too many Normandy wargames).

There are a lot of people who think Wargames are super involved and detailed and the rules take forever to learn and twice as long to play.  And they are partially right.  There are definitely wargames that I have tried to read the rules for, was unable to understand them remotely, and (at the time) didn’t have YouTube tutorials to look up, so I passed on them.  But there are also very accessible wargames as well.  The games on this list present both a wide range of complex options and entry points into the wargaming hobby.  I think I’ll probably do a “wargaming primer” post for people who are interested but don’t have any idea what ZOC means (zone of control) and what the difference between tactical and operational level games are.  For now, I’ll try to keep the jargon limited or explain if I use a term that doesn’t translate well to overall gaming.  Also, some of these games are solitaire only, where you play against the game system itself.  A lot of them are, actually, because most of my gaming group aren’t that into wargames.  I’ll note those as well.

One final point before we get to the important stuff:  These all fall in to my definition of a wargame (which is I know it when I see it).  These may not fall in to your definition, and that’s okay.  We can disagree on things.  What I absolutely hate is people using a game like Memoir ’44 or Twilight Struggle as a litmus test for people who want to enter into wargaming and having people say “Oh, that’s not a wargame, you aren’t a real wargamer”.  I’ve had it happen to me, it sucks and it’s not a good way to introduce and grow the hobby.

If you are new to wargames, check out this helpful geeklist on Boardgamegeek: Wargames??? YES YOU CAN!

With that out of the way, here are my top 10 Wargames, [with the publishers in brackets]

Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear (2nd Edition) [Academy Games]

This is a 2 player World War II tactical game (rough idea is that it’s a very focused scale; usually a small part of one battle or one battle, depending on the time).  It uses an action point system, where each player gets a certain pool of points that they can use to do various things like move, fire, assault (moving into a hex with an enemy unit and fighting).  It also includes cards that allow you to do various things.

I have really enjoyed my few plays of this system.  There is also a solo expansion that lets you play against the game, and while I own it, I haven’t had the chance to sit down and digest the rules for it.

I like it because it’s simple and the narrative that can develop really gets me into the action.  I feel it’s rules light and the rules start simple and gradually add complexity with each new scenario, so you can take your time with it if you are just starting out.

Silent Victory [Consim Press]

Silent Victory is a solitaire WWII game where you control a submarine crew.  This game doesn’t look like what many people think of when they think of wargames.  There isn’t really a map, and there are a lot of charts.  Some people argue that there aren’t many meaningful decisions to be made in this game because you are left to the die rolls on the charts and that’s about it, but there are some decisions you can make:  how to load out your sub, at what range to fire, what targets to fire on and what ones to leave alone.

This game is in my top 10 because it is quick to play a patrol or two and the story that develops is absolutely phenomenal.  You get attached to your submariners and your commander, and it always leaves you wondering “maybe I should have taken a shot at that last convoy when I had a chance”.

The level of detail is also astounding; there is an entire chart of Japanese capital and warships that you can sink, as well as tons of charts with various smaller ships.

Memoir ’44 [Days of Wonder]

This was my first wargame.  This is a 2 player variable scale WWII game.  It’s primary mechanic is that it’s card driven, and each card allows you to activate certain sectors of the game board.  There are certain scenarios that have objectives you can hold, but usually you are just trying to eliminate a certain number of enemy forces to win.

There are tons of expansions for this, and I own just about all of them.  I don’t get this played nearly at all, but you can play everything from one battle on one map to a campaign over a series of battles, to the D-Day landings over 6 maps that when put together don’t fit in my game room (Seriously…I haven’t done it yet but I will one day).

There are minis for each unit and each nation has a different color.  Seriously, the amount of content that has been released for this system is astounding….dang, I really need to get this to the table again.

The Greatest Day: Sword, Juno, and Gold Beaches [Multi-Man Publishing]

This is the first game I haven’t actually ‘played’ on this list.  I have set it up on a computer program called VASSAL because this thing is huge.  It is part of the Grand Tactical Series and it’s a bit of a zoomed out tactical look at the D-Day landings on the British and Canadian beaches.

This is what’s known as a monster wargame because there are a lot of counters and a lot of map space.  You can play a single map scenario, or you can combine them to play the whole enchilada.

This is probably the most ‘traditional’ hex and counter wargame on my list.  I have two other games in the GTS series, and every time I see them on the shelf, I go onto YouTube, look up a play list on how to play the system and get excited…then don’t commit.  Maybe this year is the year I actually play a scenario of this.

Ambush! [Victory Games]

This was my first solitaire wargame, and it’s one of the few games I’ve purchased twice.  Ambush! was published in 1983 and was designed by one of the highest regarded solo wargame designers, John Butterfield.

Ambush! is a tactical WWII (do you see a theme here?) solitaire game where you control a squad of American soldiers in different scenarios in Europe.  The counters each are an individual soldier, and much like an RPG, they each have different skills and weapons that you can roll on tables to create.

Ambush! is similar to a choose your own adventure book.  You have a paragraph book that you consult whenever your squad does something (outside of combat) that drives the action forward; you might hear a bullet whiz by your head, you might see a plane going down in the distance, who knows?

There are quite a few expansions for this, and since the game is out of print, they can be hard to find.  Luckily, I own them all, as well as the Battle Hymn game (which is Ambush! set in WWII Pacific theatre) and it’s expansion.

Since it’s paragraph driven, there can be limited replayability since you know what will happen each mission, but if you are like me and take your time between scenarios, that shouldn’t be an issue.

I normally don’t rank games, but Ambush! is without a doubt my number one Solitaire wargame.

Thunderbolt/Apache Leader (TAL) [Dan Verssen Games]

TAL is a solitaire game where you control a squadron of close air support aircraft.  There are tons of campaigns to choose from, and each campaign has a bunch of different situations you can play.

There are two parts to this game.  The first is actually choosing your squadron.  You get to choose both the aircraft that comprise your group and the pilots who actually pilot the craft.  Each pilot has different skill levels and at each of those levels, they have different ratings for different ways to fire weapons, removing stress, and they can gain XP to level up to get better stats.

Once you’ve done that, you actually fly missions where you are taking out enemy battalions that may have special abilities that hinder you in the earlier mentioned portion of the game.  You load out each aircraft with specific weapons for the enemies you’ll face, and then you fly the battle out on a map comprised of various hexes with varying degrees of cover that you and your enemies can use.

The RPG/campaign type elements and the story that evolves as you play this game make it replayable time and time again

Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection [GMT Games]

Liberty or Death is a COIN game set in the Revolutionary War period.  COIN games are relatively new in the hobby, but COIN is an overall system that focuses on “guerrilla warfare, asymmetric warfare, and COunterINsurgencies around the world – in both historical and contemporary conflicts” (taken from http://www.gmtgames.com/c-36-coin-series.aspx).

There are tons of settings currently, from Cuba in the 1958 revolution to present day Afghanistan to Roman Britain.  The thing about COIN games is that there are usually 4 sides, and while they may work together they each have their own specific goals on how to win the game.  You can also play these solo as GMT provides flowcharts for each side that you can use as AI players.

The first game I tried in the COIN series really didn’t click for me, but Liberty or Death came strongly recommended by a few wargamers I follow on Twitter.  I ordered it on a whim, set it up, went through the example of play and I was hooked.  For some reason, it just clicked.  I am looking forward to my first 4 player playthrough of this next month; it’s how I’m celebrating my birthday this year!

Commands and Colors: Ancients (CC:A) [GMT Games]

Commands and Colors: Ancients is in the same system as Memoir ’44, but instead of WWII you get a wide swath of ancient history, mainly focusing on the Mediterranean.  It doesn’t have miniatures, but stickered blocks (that the buyer has to sticker themselves) that represent various units.  There are tons of expansions that have art that reflects the timeframe for each expansion (for example, Republican Roman blocks are grey, while Imperial Roman blocks are Red).  It’s also a bit more complex than Memoir ’44 because the different unit types can do ranged fire or close combat and have some other special rules.

When I want something quick to play, but want it to have a bit of oomph to it, CC:A is pretty much my go to.

D-Day at Omaha Beach [Decision Games]

D-Day at Omaha Beach is a tactical (there’s that word again..) solitaire game of storming Omaha Beach during the D-Day landings in Normandy.  This one is also designed by John Butterfield, and it’s probably the oddest looking map of the bunch.  The reason for this is the game system uses different color coded dots to determine who can fire at you and how deadly it is, and so there are different dots in each hex.  This is a game where cards drive a lot of the action, and so even though it focuses on one segment of one battle, I haven’t had two games that have played out the same way.  This too generates a great narrative, and was successful enough that they published two more games in the series for the landings at Tarawa and Peleliu.  I would say it’s a step up from entry level, but there are plenty of playthroughs and player aids online that help get the flow of the game down.

Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations (HL: CAO) [Dan Verssen Games]

Last and certainly not least is Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations.  This game is in the same ‘Leader’ series as Thunderbolt/Apache leader, but instead of close air support you are flying fighters and bombers off of air carriers.  This is my favorite Leader game, and I don’t think anything will come along to unseat it (unless someone happens to buy me a pledge level of the Corsair Leader Kickstarter that’s running at the time of this writing).  Growing up I was enamored with the F-14 Tomcat, and in this game that is one of the major planes you can take on missions.

The game is structured much like TAL, so it would be pretty repetitive to dive into that again, but the aircraft and armaments are different, and the way you play the battles out are different as well; in HL:CAO you are focusing on one target and the anti-air emplacements around it.  There is even a Cthullu expansion which I own, but haven’t had a chance to play ( I want to get through the base game campaigns, and since it was released in 2010 I have some work to do).

 

Well, there you have it.  My Top 10 Wargames.  Are you a wargamer? What’s your favorite game or system to play?  If you aren’t, do you have any interest in trying out a wargame? Leave me a comment and let me know!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Top 10 Non Solo, Non Wargame Games

My Top 10 Non Solo, Non Wargame Games

Finally! My first real top 10 list.

Originally I thought I was going to do my top 10 gateway games…but then I realized I haven’t ever sat down and thought about what my top gateway games are.  I thought about doing top 10 wargames, but that’s definitely going to take more time to write about than I have, especially if I am keeping myself to my Wed. night deadline.  II was going to do my top 10 overall games, which I am sure I will do at a later date, but I am equal parts wargamer, solo gamer, and euro game (and yes I am sure there are other distinctions that people could make but I’m already writing so we are just going with it).  So, I figure I would go with my gut picks for my top 10 games that are not designed for solo play (co-op games that can be played solo are fine) and that aren’t wargames.  I’ll also add that these are in no particular order (because I don’t need to make things harder for myself) and that for any of my top 10 lists, I have to own the game unless otherwise stated).

So, here you are, my top 10 non solo non wargames games:

Imperial Settlers

As a former history major, I love anything with a civilization component to it.  I also love games that let me develop an engine, and that have variable player powers or strategies.  Imperial Settlers has all of these.  The first time I played it seemed to take forever, and that soured me for a while but once I played again and really wrapped my head around the gameplay, I knew I had to have this game.  I don’t think I’ve ever turned down someone wanting to play a game of this, and with various expansions that can be added, I still haven’t explored all this has to offer.

Viticulture Essential Edition

The first time I played this, I wasn’t sold on it.  A friend convinced me to give it another try, and after I did, I really, really came to enjoy this one.  A worker placement game where you are in charge of a vineyard, Viticulture has a ton of extra content you can add with the Tuscany expansion, which I am told makes the game better.  I think it’s pretty great as is.  It employs a ‘wake up early’ mechanic for turn order, which I really thought fit well, and you have to strategically save your workers as you place them on different halves of the board for different seasons (meaning If you place all your workers in summer, you can’t take any winter actions).

I have everything in the Essential Edition line, and haven’t played this a ton, but this is actually my wife and I’s game this week, thanks to the Deck of What Should We Play (see my earlier post) so it gets to hit the table this weekend, and I am excited.

BrewCrafters

I know, I know, another game about beverages.  Well this one is just as good, especially because I am a craft brew fan.  This worker placement game has each player running their own brewery and the biggest thing I remember about the first time playing it was that it’s tight.  With tons of different beers players can choose from, this is one of the best Kickstarters I have been a part of.

Castles of Burgundy

I am a sucker for anything with dice.  This has dice and tile placement and tons of different boards that you can choose from.  I think I’ve played with the ‘starting player’ board most times, so this is one I need to revist often.  It’s thinky, but not so thinky that you don’t want to play anything after it.

Trains

I am not a fan of most deckbuilders.  For some of them, it just seems like you are cycling through a deck to score points, which doesn’t do a whole lot to draw me in.  Trains, though, is a deck builder that is also an area control game, of sorts.  Adding in that extra mechanic, so I have something I am actually doing with the cards is what makes this game perfect for me.  Again, I have tons of expansion maps for this one that don’t get played.  I should probably remedy that.

Suburbia

Just like I’m a sucker for anything civilization themed, I am also a sucker for anything city building related.  This was the first city builder I played, and I actually think it was the first game I ever preordered.  I’ll also associate this game with the first Con I went to, as it was in the Hot Games room that year, and it was my most played game at that Con.

It’s a bit fiddly, but theme fits perfectly with this one (i.e., airports by suburbs are a bad idea).  This is one I haven’t played in quite some time…I should remedy that soon.

Marvel: Legendary

Yes, I know this is a deckbuilder.  But it’s a deckbuilder with Superheroes!! Marvel Superheroes!!

Seriously, I love this game for the situations it puts you in.  I don’t think I’ve ever played a bad game of it, even after getting my butt handed to me 3 times over the course of 3 hours.  We sort of overplayed this one when I was first introduced to it, so I cooled on it, but I don’t think I’d turn down a game of this if someone asked.

Legacy: The Testament of Duke De Crecy

This is a ‘worker’ placement game about making your family tree.  I kid you not, you literally build your family out with cards from the game.  This was a very surprising game to me that is sort of cutthroat (easy for people to play their workers where you need it) but the game even gives you a way to mitigate that.  It’s set in the late 1700s, so seeing some of the history come into play between the different nationalities is pretty cool too.  Oh, and the art is amazing.

Fair warning though:  this game does involve the potential loss of a child or a mother in childbirth.  I didn’t fully explain that the first time I taught this, and while none of us playing had children or had been in that situation, it was still sort of jarring, so this is one of those that you might want to give your game group a heads up on before you start playing if there are new players.

Castle Panic

This is a co-op tower defense game.  It’s light, there’s strategy involved, and you can have giant boulders that come through and crash your 3-D castle.

When we got this game, I played it 3-4 times in the first 48 hours we had it.  For me, that speaks very much to the replayability and enjoyability of the game.

Silverton

This is a game about train railways, mining, and prospecting in Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico.  Sounds like a real barn burner, eh?  It involves building routes, staking claims to mines, and manipulating the market in various cities. The few times I have played this, I have always emjoyed it and I think part of that is because the group knew that this game definitely takes a time investment.  So long as you can devote the time and take this game as an experience, it’s always fun

So there you have it.  My top 10 non-wargame, non-solo games.  Have you played any of these? Would any of these make it into your top 10?

Top 5 #Murica games

Tomorrow is the 4th of July in America, which means people will be blowing stuff up, eating and drinking too much, and probably chanting USA.

With that in mind, I wanted to present my top 5 #Murica games, because America is number 1!

(Authors Note:  This is a joke list.  I really do like all these games, but thought this was a neat way to write about them.  Work was hard, so I didn’t feel like doing a real blog post.  #Sorrynotsorry)

With that out of the way:

Number 5:  Pandemic

Pandemic is all about America saving the world from impending doom, and if every Hollywood movie I’ve ever seen has taught me anything, it’s that there might be some people from other countries who help, but it’s American ingenuity that saves the day.  Besides, you start in Atlanta, which is in America.  Need I say more?

Rating:  3 American Flags

Number 4: Food Chain Magnate

There is nothing more American than running ad campaigns so that people indulge themselves on burgers and beer and other things.  Ensuring you make the most money is the cherry on top of the freedom sundae that is this game.

Rating:  4 Burgers and a Beer

Number 3: Washington’s War

It has THE Father of our country in the title.  It could have been Washington’s Unicorn Fairy Monopoly Jamboree and it still would have been considered for this list.  You get to beat up on the British if you are the lucky player and that is really what Independence Day is all about.

Rating: 1 Cherry Tree, 1 Set of False Teeth, and 1 River Crossing

Number 2: Baseball Highlights 2045

It has our national pastime in it AND robots.  How can this not be good?  It combines names of famous baseball players in the past which is important too.

Rating:  3 Balls, 2 Strikes in the bottom of the 9th with bases loaded.

Number 1: Scythe

I’m probably going to get a lot of flak for this decision, because you are probably saying to yourself “HEY! AMERICA ISN’T EVEN IN THIS GAME?!?! WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO PULL?!?!”

This game has former Soviet Bloc countries fighting amongst themselves for control of resources and stuff.  If that isn’t the American dream (from, like, the 80s or something) then I don’t know what is.

Rating: 1 Giant Bald Eagle

So there you have it.  The top 5 games about #Murica as seen by me.  I’ll be playing one of these on the 4th and am really looking forward to it.  Feel free to share your top 5 from wherever you come from!