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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drew’s Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Top 10 New to Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sorry about the glare.

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



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

10 Worst New to Me Games

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

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

So in reverse order:

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

img_20180509_2017527579574818941854107.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15154681651602821443862344979710.jpg

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

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

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

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!