d20 List: Top 12 Expansions!

It’s time for another d20 List.  This week, I rolled 12, which was a relief because we’ve had a few longer lists.  I wanted to do something different, so this week, I chose something that is near and dear to my heart: Expansions!!

Whether I’ve played the game 20 times, or I’m just going “all-in” I love games that include ways to change up the base game or add additional functionality/gameplay.  I, like many of you (I assume) am also a completionist, so there are some game systems where I own more expansions than times I’ve played the game.

A few ground rules I set for us to define expansion for this list:

  • Standalone expansions are okay (Trains and Trains: Rising Sun, for example)
  • Reimplementations are not (Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries)
  • Game systems are not (Piecepack/Ice House)

Drew’s Picks

So with that being said, here’s my top 12 expansions (in no particular order) [Author’s Note- Many of my entries count for ALL of the expansions for that series, I just picked the one I prefer the most]:

  1. Memoir ‘44 Campaign Book 1:  It’s no surprise I love Memoir ‘44.  The Campaign Books give you a way to link together multiple scenarios where there are ramifications based upon if you win or lose.  It also provides an extra layer of strategy as you can get reinforcements or special abilities to use throughout the campaign.
  2. Lords of Waterdeep: Scoundrels of Skullport: This adds two new boards and a new mechanic (Corruption) to Lords of Waterdeep, which really made it fresh to me again, after playing the base game quite a bit.  Corruption really adds another layer of interactivity between players which can make things really, really interesting, especially at higher player counts.
  3. D-Day Dice: Operation Neptune: I am a fan of all things D-Day, and Operation Neptune (as many of the expansions) add a ton of extra maps, items, and other things you can use to storm the beaches.
  4. Ambush: Move Out!:  This one can be hard to find, but Ambush! Is probably one of my favorite wargames of all time.  Move Out! (along with the other 2 expansions, Silver Star and Purple Heart) adds more story based missions that you can take your squad from the base game through.
  5. Alhambra: The Thief’s Turn: While I enjoy many of the Alhambra expansions (especially the Treasure Room), using the “Change” module from this expansion added an extra oomph to the game that was missing.  This is probably the base game I’ve played the most, so I’m looking forward to adding more and more of the modules.
  6. Sagrada: 5 and 6 Player Expansion:  This gives official rules for modifying the dice bag based upon the number of players, as well as adding some interesting new goals.
  7. Lock n Load Tactical: Solo: This allows you to play any of the Lock n Load Tactical games solo; it’s versatility to work with any game in the system is amazing, and gets you a ton of use for the price.
  8. Roll Player: Monsters & Minions:  In the base Roll Player, I was always a little frustrated that you couldn’t do anything with the character you created.  In Monsters & Minions, you get to take your character and gather information and eventually fight the monster. It makes me feel like I’m actually doing something with my character, instead of just building them and then returning them to the box.
  9. Combat Commander Battle Pack 1: Paratroopers:  I love Paratroopers, and Combat Commander, so this was a no brainer.  Each CC expansion adds something a little different to an already amazing game.
  10. Clash of Cultures: Civilization: This is the one expansion on the list that I think really improves the base game.  Civilization adds leaders and unique Civs to a 4x Civ game that was missing them. Oh, and war elephants.
  11. Imperial Settlers: Atlanteans: Imperial Settlers is in my top 5 games of all time (most days) and so any expansion that adds a new mechanic or civilization (usually the big expansions do both) is awesome in my book.
  12. Viticulture: Tuscany Essential Edition: Viticulture is amazing on its own, but Tuscany kicks it up a notch.  Instead of two seasons to allocate your workers, Tuscany includes all four seasons.  It also includes the Mama’s and the Papa’s (not the band), a way to randomize and asymmetrize players’ starting resources.

So there you have my top 12 expansions.  Now we’ll see what Ryan chose.

Ryan’s Picks

I’m going to admit, I don’t play with expansions that often, but I own a lot of them. I also am really bad at evaluating how much they bring to a game. You’ll likely notice a pattern to some of my choices…

  1. Marvel Legendary: Dark City: This can pretty much apply to all of the Marvel Legendary expansions. This was the first big expansion to what’s currently my favorite game. The main thing it brings is variety. More of everything makes this game a lot of fun. Although sometimes you get some bad combos.
  2. Ticket to Ride 1910: The best thing about this game to me is the full sized cards, but it also brings a lot of nice variety in additional route cards.
  3. Star Realms: Frontiers: A really good, fully playable game on it’s own, it’s just a different implementation of Star Realms, and it adds a lot of solitaire options. You can mix it with the base deck too, although I haven’t done that yet.
  4. Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm: This adds solitaire play to one of my favorite games. And it works really well too. You add most of the cards to the deck, so I’m not sure what exactly they do. Oh, and it adds the ability to have more players too.
  5. Fleet: Arctic Bounty: Great art from EricJ Carter, and another expansion that adds solitaire play that works really well. I haven’t played with much else from it. I need to just play Fleet more often in general, I always enjoy it.
  6. Power Grid: Benelux/Eastern Europe: Another one that encompasses a bunch of maps, although I’ve only played this one and France/Italy. They add variety to another of my favorite games.
  7. Patchwork: Automa: This one only changes a great 2 player game into a really good solo game. Admittedly I’ve only tried it once, but I thought it did its job extremely well.
  8. Time Stories: The Marcy Case: Another place holder for a full series of expansions, they are literally required to play the game without spoilers. The intention is to only play each module once. I haven’t even played any of them yet, but I enjoyed the game so much I know these will be fun too. They’d likely be ranked higher.
  9. Runebound: The Island of Dread: Yet another placeholder for a large amount of expansions to one of my favorite games. These apply to the 2nd edition only for now, although I am hoping to play the 3rd edition soon. There are a TON of expansions, some just a deck of scenario cards, some just extra weapons, and some have maps and change everything. While most work well, I’m not really sure I like the character decks.
  10. Formula Dé Circuits 23 – 26: USA Track Pack #1: Guess what? Another placeholder for several different expansions, for both Formula De and Formula D. More tracks equals more variety. I’ve played on several, and own 5 track sets.
  11. Pitchcar Mini Extension: This applies to a few different expansions too. It basically adds things like multi-lane corners, jumps, and criss crosses. Just more variety for a great game.
  12. Carcassonne: Inns & Cathedrals: This adds some variety of tiles, pieces for another player, but the best thing is the big meeple. The big meeple counts as 2 meeples, so placing it can break a potential tie because he’s around. Plus, those big meeples look awesome. The Traders & Builders expansion also adds some interesting things to basic Carcassonne, but no big meeples.


So there you have it.  Our top 12 (times 2) expansions.  Do you have any expansions that you HAVE to play with when you play a certain game? Did we completely miss the mark? Let us know in the comments!

d20 List: Agree to Disagree

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

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

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

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

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

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

d20: Drew’s Top 18 Games for New Gamers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

d20 List: Top 15 Tips for New Gamers

Last week, we talked about advice for long time gamers to keep in mind to help bring people into the hobby. This week, we look at the other side of the equation, and provide our top 15 tips for gamers looking to get into the hobby.

Drew’s Tips

It’s important to remember that this isn’t a once size fits all list. Some of these ideas may not work for you and that’s okay. This is just meant to be a starting point.

Get Out There: There are tons of ways to get involved with a game group. There may be game days at your local library, a Facebook group that posts events regularly, local game stores, or (and the way I orginally found my group) a meetup at meetup.com.

These are all great ways to find gamers and get a feel for the group, as well as get more information about various things.

Go to a Public Gathering: This is a way for individuals to be more comfortable. Meeting in a public setting for the first time playing with a group is an easy way for you to get to know other gamers in a more open environment, and also does allow you an “out” in case you don’t gel with other players.

Read the Room: Try to get a feel for the group you are playing with. This might prevent you from having a different idea of what a gameday consists of than what the group regulars do.

Relax: Gamers are a relatively welcoming and friendly group. No one will judge you for not knowing about the vast world of tabletop games (or if they do, that’s them being a jerk, not a fault of yours). Relax and remember you are there to have fun.

Be Yourself: Let the group members get to know the real you. Pretending to be someone you are not to gel with a group is only going to lead to frustration later on down the road.

Be Friendly: This one is pretty self explanatory, but if you show up with a friendly face and engage people in conversation, a better time will be had by all.

Pay Attention!: If you are new to a group and to gaming, then you will probably be listening to quite a few rules explanations or introductions. During these, put your phone away (I’m really guilty of this, I’ll admit) and pay attention. It can be distracting to the person teaching the game and it can be frustrating to others if you have to ask questions after someone has taught since you were distracted.

Ask Questions: If you aren’t clear on a rule, though, don’t be afraid to ask questions! This is how you learn rules, as well as can learn about different games. Don’t be afraid to ask for examples too; most people teaching rules are happy to get out pieces to demonstrate an example of play so everything is clear.

Don’t Be Afraid to say No: If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t want to play a game where you’ve been invited or even if you don’t want to play a game with a specific person, don’t be afraid to say “No thanks”. Be polite, but it’s perfectly fine to know your preferences and ensure you are having fun.

Find Games You Like: Gamers love making comparisons. If you find a game you like, ask questions like “What other games are there like this?” or “What mechanic is this?” (A mechanic is the main way the game works, like worker placement or card drafting). This might help you find other games in the same vein that you might enjoy.

And Games You Don’t: If you find a particular mechanic enjoyable, you can use that information to avoid games that have that mechanic. This will allow you to focus on games that you may enjoy more.

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone: Don’t always shun games with mechanics you may not like. I hate (and I mean HATE) social deduction games. However, the first time I played One Night Ultimate Werewolf I actually ended up enjoying it a lot more than any of the other games in that vein. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone of games to try new ones!

Be Mindful of Gamer Etiquette: Gamers have some weird idiosyncrasies. Some prefer a specific way of shuffling cards, some are very strict about cell phones at the table, some care how specific games are put away, and others may have certain expectations of taking moves back.

Be mindful of these, and it never hurts to ask “Are there any house rules on redos?” or “Do you care how I shuffle these” when playing someone else’s game.

Don’t Give Up: It may take a few tries to find games you like, or people you gel with, or it may take a while for you to adjust and figure out the strategy for games. This is okay. Don’t get discouraged. Keep searching/playing and eventually you’ll settle in to this wonderful hobby.

Don’t Worry About Being the Best: At some point, you will probably learn the name “Reiner Knizia”. He has a quote about gaming:

‘When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning”

There has been plenty of discussion on what this means, but to me it means that while we should all try to win while we are playing a game, it’s the act of playing the game that is important instead of the victory itself.

Play games to have fun. I lose more games than I win. And yet I keep coming back to play again and again and again.

Ryan’s Tips

This was a large number of suggestions to have to write, so please excuse me if some of them feel like they could have gone under one single category. So here are my 15 suggestions for new players.

Don’t be shy: It’s not easy to find games you might like. So don’t be shy to talk to people. Talk to your local game store owner or ask the guys you see playing about their game. I’ll gladly talk your ear off about my passions. That kind of leads to…

Ask Questions: Again, people love to talk about their passions. But also ask about terminology that you are hearing. Ask for game suggestions. Ask about rules or strategies when you’re playing a game. Don’t be afraid to annoy folks with questions, if they get annoyed, go find someone who won’t be, there are more like that out there.

Speak Up: This is one I struggle with even today. Don’t be afraid to join a game. If people are looking for players, everyone should be welcome, and just being the new guy shouldn’t matter. I’ve had some great games I’ve joined at a Con or game day with people I barely know. Make small talk, which is again something I suck at, but it helps pass the time.

Don’t be Afraid to Give Opinions: If you love a game, feel free to let people know. If you don’t like one, say so. You don’t have to agree with everyone, don’t feel bad if your opinions differ from other gamers, we all have things we don’t agree with the masses about.

Don’t Judge a Book by It’s Cover: This one can work a couple of ways. Great game art doesn’t mean great game, and vice versa. The same goes for gamers. Some people seem intimidating, boisterous, or creepy, but they can be the nicest and most fun folks to play games with.

Find a Group: This isn’t exactly required, but it enhances your enjoyment a lot. It might be you drag your friends into gaming with you, or you join an already existing group. Having even a semi-regular group makes gaming so much more enjoyable.

Solo Gaming: But, if you can’t find a group, or aren’t able to game regularly, know that there is a thriving solo board game community. Many new games are starting to have solitaire rules with them now. You can find some additional resources on BoardGameGeek.com (More on that later.), including advice on playing many games that don’t have actual solo rules. You can figure out ways to play games no matter what your situation is.

Cooperative Games: Another fairly recent trend in gaming is Cooperative games. Basically it’s you and the group against the game itself. Sometimes it’s killing monsters, sometimes it’s solving puzzles, or even racing to a group goal. They are various and plentiful, but can really be a great way to get into gaming, when you don’t need to worry about competition. Although they are often difficult to win.

BoardGameGeek.com (BGG): Ok, here is where you can get sucked down a rabbit hole. It’s a huge, daunting, intimidating, and not always friendly place to get board game info. But it’s amazing once you know how to get the most out of it. There are a TON of things a new gamer can utilize to get info on gaming, find new games, convention info & advice, and even find gamers in your area. It’s worth taking the time to learn to navigate the site, and you likely can get whatever out of it you are willing to learn.

Facebook Groups: These can be a bit overwhelming also, but there are many groups based on board games on Facebook. They are often helpful, and interesting to follow. Again, you need to research which ones are for you, but they can also be a very useful resource.

Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS): Another great resource can be your local FLGS. Besides just a convenient place to look at new games, they often have game days or gaming rooms to play games, and help you locate some of the local gamers. The employees are often very knowledgeable in gaming, and can provide helpful info too. Sadly, they don’t often make enough money to stay in business for long, so if you have a good one, do everything you can to help support them.

Buying Games Online: Eventually there will be something you need to have now that your FLGS doesn’t, or the price is too good, and you go online to get games. THere are tons of good places to get stuff, so compare prices and availability. Typically there is some kind of free shipping threshold, so if you can get others to join your order, larger amounts is always better.

Retail Stores: Believe it or not, big box retail stores are also starting to carry games. The selection isn’t huge, but Walmart and Target do have some gamer games. And there are occasionally mass market games that are quite good. This may be where you pick up your first few games in fact. Barnes & Noble also carries a pretty good game selection.

Don’t go Nuts: This is more a general guideline, I don’t know your financial state, but try not to go too crazy buying new games at first. It’s not the expense per se, but it can be very easy to go crazy buying every game you want. Take it easy, be selective, build up a small collection. The same can go for gaming in general. Don’t go to every con, or play for several hours every night. You can burn out if you play too hard. And don’t stress if you end up not gaming often, we all go through lulls, it will balance out in time.

Have Fun: The obvious conclusion right? We all need some fun and relaxation in our lives. If you aren’t having fun, you aren’t doing it right. And that doesn’t mean you have to enjoy every game or even like every person you play with, but if you don’t end the night feeling like you had a good time, something was wrong. If it happens too often, then maybe you need to look at what’s going on and make changes, or just take a break.

Here you have it. Our top 15 tips for new gamers on how to get into the hobby. Are there any we missed? Any you want us to go into further detail? Let us know in the comments!

Next week, we’ll finish this series on “New Players” with providing our “Top # Games for New Gamers”. We’ll then go back to our normal back and forth posting schedule, with more lists, reviews, and maybe a session report or two.

Happy Gaming!

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.

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.

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!