My Top 10 Games to Play When I’m Sick

I am still feeling under the weather, so I figured I would write this week about my top 10 games to play when I’m sick.

(This is meant to be a tongue in cheek list. While I do enjoy all these games, I usually don’t play often when I’m not feeling well.)

Pandemic: The grandaddy of them all. The sick game to beat all sick games. What better way to soothe your sore throat than to track down all 4 strains of the bacteria that caused it…and eradicate it. I give it 4 test tubes.

Pioneer Days: This dice drafting game can remind us all of a simpler time, when one could die of dysentery or cholera on the trail. (Actually, this was one of my favorite games of 2018). I give it 5 oxen.

Healthy Heart Hospital: Another medically themed game, this cooperative experience has you in charge of running a hospital and making sure all patients are treated. I give it 2 aspirin, and call me in the morning.

Stone Age: Much like Pioneer Days, Stone Age makes me thankful that I get the opportunity to take antibiotics instead of just curling up and dying inside my cave. I give it 2 mammoth tusks.

Sushi Go: Nothing says “I’m Sick” more than the questionable meal you ate the night before. Sushi Go, thankfully is high quality and fun to play every time. I give it 2 California Rolls and a few Tums.

Roll Player: I get sick rather often, so my D&D group jokes that Constitution is my dump stat. Well, the joke’s on them! In Roll Player, I can be sure to bump my CON up to an 18 and then we’ll see who gets sick or poisoned. I give Roll Player a +3 to Saving Throws.

Dice Hospital: I actually just played this for the first time the other night, and I’m really glad I picked it up. While some may scoff at the theme, there is a really, really neat dice manipulation game here, and it’s surprisingly thinky. I definitely recommend you try it out. I give it 5 cc’s of saline, stat!

Zpocalypse: When the Zombie Apocalypse comes, it’s going to be because of some mutated pathogen, I just know it. By playing Zpocalypse, I at least know that if whatever has infected me it that pathogen, I know what to expect. I give it 4 braaaaaaaaaaains.

Elder Sign: There are times where I’ve been told illness is all in my head. If that’s true, I had better prepare for my descent into madness by playing something out of the Call of Cthullu universe. Elder Sign captures the feel of longer games like Arkham Horror or Eldritch Horror in an easy to digest rules package. I give it 2 Cultists and 1 Great Old One.

1846: The last game on my list, I can’t think of anything better to play while in a Sudafed induced haze than something with lots of numbers and stocks. 1846 fits the bill for this one. I give it 8 Trains!

So, there you are, my top 10 games to play when I’m sick. I hope you enjoyed this silly Top 10 list. Ryan will be posting next week, and I hope by the time my next post comes around I can write about my thoughts on a few new to me games so far in 2019. But for now, I’m gonna grab some chicken noodle soup, wrap myself up in a blanket, and veg on the couch.




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.

Wargame Wednesday: Standard Combat Series

Hello everyone!

I’m back with another Wargame Wednesday, and this one ties in with my last post on VASSAL.

I mentioned in that post that certain games don’t lend themselves to playing via email well, because there might be a decision point in the middle of a turn that would require you to stop, have your opponent decide what they were going to do before you could take your turn.

There are certain games that are IGOUGO, which means I take my turn then you take yours.  These usually tend to lend themselves to play by email (PBEM) because there may not be tons of decision points where a quick back and forth is needed.  I mentioned in my last post Day of Days as my last 5 x 1 game, so today I want to talk about a great entry level wargame series (of which Day of Days belongs to) called the Standard Combat Series (SCS).

A wargame series normally is a variety of games that all fall under one ruleset, so instead of learning a ton of different rules, you learn the main rules, and then learn any game specific rules that the specific game in the series has.

SCS was originally published by “The Gamers” but is now published by MultiMan Publishing (MMP) who is really well known in the wargaming community.  Originally designed by Dean Essig, SCS is a great series for people who may be interested in getting to know more about traditional hex and counter wargames.  Many games in the system have a low counter density (which means there are few playing pieces on the map) and the rules are considered light (7 pages in the series rules, plus whatever game specific rules you are playing).

Essig writes in the designer notes of the series rules:

This series was designed for two reasons. First, it was meant to offset our other series which, by an order of magnitude, are much more complicated than the SCS. Second, it was designed to be a basic ‒ read FUN ‒ game which can be played at times when the others seem like too much of a good thing. These games are made for the “break out the beer and pretzels, and here we go” type of evening. While none of our games are designed with the beginner as their raison d’être, the SCS was designed as something the beginner would be able to handle ‒ as opposed to being devoured by.

So this series, while it might be difficult for a new wargamer, is not impossible to grasp and could be played in an evening (depending on scope of the game and scenario).

There are tons of games available in the SCS catalog, ranging from WWI to WWII to Modern Day.  The system rules adapt fairly well to various time periods (or so I’ve been told, I’m still waiting to play my first entry in the series, although I am very familiar with it and it comes highly recommended).

I am planning on playing Bastogne (World War II, Battle of the Bulge) with a friend, and starting in the coming days. I spent some time today outlining the rules and getting a grasp on the system, and I’m really looking forward to getting it played as a stepping stone and then onward to the monsters (very large games) in the series, including Day of Days.

If you are interested in the Standard Combat Series, you can find more information here:

http://www.multimanpublishing.com/Products/tabid/58/CategoryID/12/Default.aspx

http://www.gamersarchive.net/scs.htm

Latest SCS Rules

If you are a wargamer, what game(s) did you start with?  If not, but interested, are there any games you are interested in? Let me know in the comments!

Guest Session Report: Star Trek: Ascendancy

Hey all!

Last weekend, my friend Eric Carter brought Star Trek: Ascendancy over for him, Ryan, and I to play.  It was a blast, but Eric wanted to type up his thoughts.  Consider this a guest session report/review!  Ryan and I will be back to writing later in the week.

My name is Eric Carter. I’ve played games with Ryan and Drew and many other amiable Midwesterners for nearly a decade. As an expert introvert, board gaming has given me an avenue to connect with other people. Of all the gifts the hobby has given me, that one is the most treasured.

I managed to find a great deal on this game at a store closure sale, and knowing that there is an expansion out there that allows me to play it solo, it was a no-brainer. I found the two available player expansions at another store that was selling them at a deep discount, then started a search for the dice and playmats, but decided I needed to see if this game would get played enough before spending more money on it.

One thing we’ve been trying to do more often is schedule game days where we decide ahead of time what will be played. This gives us the opportunity to devote more time to games that take longer to play or that have rules that take longer to teach. ST:A is perfect for such an occasion, and this past Saturday we got it to the table.

The game consists of players exploring the galaxy from their home planets from equidistant points of the play area. Players can send their ships out to discover worlds and exploit (nicely or not so nicely) the civilizations found thereon, or finding virgin worlds and setting up colonies to gather the resources necessary to build more ships, research various advancements, or build up their level of culture. Culture tokens are traded for Ascendancy tokens, and the higher a player’s Ascendancy level the more Fleets they can build, the more Starbases they can have, and they reach 5 Ascendancy they win the game. They could also win the game by controlling 3 home planets, and controlling one’s home planet is necessary for either win condition.

After reviewing the components and rules we got busy boldly going. Ryan took the Federation, Drew the Klingons, and I took on the role of the Romulans. Board gamers are very familiar with Player Powers, and Star Trek: Ascendancy utilizes its theme tremendously well by providing the players with a Federation that has a Prime Directive restriction (preventing them from invading planets or colonizing pre-warp civilizations,) but also giving them a boost for exploration. The Klingons are restricted from retreating from a space battle, but also get a boost from defeating enemies in those battles. The Romulans will not quickly accept an opponent’s peace offering (Trade Agreement), but can get a boost from researching their advancements. Those advancement decks for all of our factions added more thematic abilities throughout the game.

During the Federation’s first voyage, Ryan ran into the Space Amoeba (from Star Trek: The Original Series – The Immunity Syndrome) that wiped out half his fleet. The Romulans discovered a couple of worlds that had a low maximum number of space lanes that could connect to them, so I decided use them to build up a wall, a separation… a type of Neutral Zone, I guess you could say, to help keep Romulus safe from the Klingons, who were discovering highly versatile worlds right next door to Kronos. My warbirds would be safe if the Klingons couldn’t get to them, right? While this idea allowed me to build up my forces in relative safety, it proved to be problematic later on.

Drew’s Klingon Empire was built on book-learning. He had quickly established or took over enough laboratories to invest his research tokens into half a dozen projects at once while Ryan and I struggled to gather enough of those research tokens to build up our shields to prevent us from losing ships to the hazardous planets and phenomena we were encountering. He also had three cultural nodes in play within 3 or 4 turns and had gotten his third, then fourth, Ascendancy token before the second hour of play was over.

Seeing Drew’s imminent victory, the Romulans reached out to the Federation to join forces to attempt to forestall it as long as possible. Honestly, the was no hope that either Ryan or I could eke out a win, but so far we had zero space battles and we felt the need to explore more of what this game had to offer. There was one avenue available to us – the Klingons could not claim victory if they did not control their home planet, even if they had reached the goal of five Ascendancy tokens. Here’s where the Neutral Zone, which had served me so well up to this point, became my biggest weakness. I had finally established a connection with Drew’s area of the galaxy, but Romulus and my starbases were a minimum of seven sectors away. I managed to maneuver an existing fleet to Kronos while Drew’s forces were elsewhere, and they wiped the Klingons off the planet while they were busy reading their copies of Stephen Kahless’s A Brief History of Time.

The Klingons quickly returned and calmly discussed their disagreement with the Romulans through the use of superior firepower. But thanks to the order of operations in the game Drew was unable to reestablish control of Kronos in that turn, preventing his fifth Ascendancy token from doing him any good. The Federation had a similar gap between its area of the map, but one of the border planets had the capacity for another connection, so Ryan was able to explore his way over to Drew’s fleet, hoping to keep the Klingons from becoming the dominant faction in the galaxy. But the Federation are essentially a peaceful, exploratory bunch and so their fleets do not have the same ship capacity as the other two factions in the game. Having six ships to Drew’s dozen, Ryan could not prevail, and once Drew was able to send down one of his Klingons to pitch a tent and raise the Klingon flag, the game was done.

Gale Force Nine, the game’s publisher, has a solid gaming experience in Star Trek: Ascendancy. The game took nearly three hours from start to finish, and if we had not turtled in our own areas of the galaxy for so long and we had started interacting quicker, the game would probably have lasted another two.

The game is a heavy time investment, so it’ll likely not see casual play and we all have enough games that we want to get to the table that it probably won’t get scheduled again for some time. If I do invest in more of the promised player expansions (Vulcans and Andorians) and additional components available (the play mat, the additional dice and ships available for each faction), I will likely try to run this game at local gaming conventions. It’s definitely a game that not only elicits memories from the various Star Trek series, it also inspires fond memories through the situations you and your opponents create together.

Andrew’s Note: Eric not only is a friend of mine, he also is a Board Game Artist who has done work for games such as Dominion, Eminent Domain, Fleet, and many more.   In addition to board game art, he also sells board game themed t-shirts, glassware, stickers, and more at https://www.cafepress.com/meeplehut.

My Half Year in Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Champions of Midgard

One thing that my wife and I wanted to do this year was revisit some older ‘classic’ games that we really used to enjoy, but that have sort have been relegated to the corner of the game shelf as the new hotness arrives.  Sometimes, though, I find a game that revisits mechanics of these classics, and it can even replace the feelings I have for those classic games.  Champions of Midgard is one of those games.

Champions of Midgard is a worker placement/die rolling game designed by Ole Steiness and published by Grey Fox Games.  I would describe it best as a mix between Lords of Waterdeep and Stone Age, because the primary mechanic is worker placement, but there is also die rolling to determine if you defeat monsters or hunt successfully.

In Champions of Midgard, players are trying to vie for the Jarlship by recruiting 3 different types of adventurers and gathering resources that they can use to purchase or lease ships so that they can adventure to battle monsters.  Players can earn glory, but if they aren’t mindful to deal with the trolls that are rampaging outside the village then the villagers get angry with them and give them blame.  If no player defeats a troll each turn, they all take blame, which leads to increasing negative points at the end of the game.  If a player defeats the troll, then they get to give one blame to another player.  To fight monsters, you roll the adventurer dice you’ve assigned to the monster and have to roll enough symbols to meet the defense value of the monster.  You can also roll shields which block some of the damage you would have to take; for each damage you take, you lose a die.

The monsters you fight all have a different color, so there is an element of set collecting to this game as well.  You might try to fight a stronger monster because it’s the last color you need to complete your set (which means more end game victory points).  Each player also has a secret objective they are trying to complete (and a way to gain more throughout the game).

I really, really enjoyed my play of this game, and it’s one I’ve been itching to get to the table since.  It plays quick, is pretty simple to teach and pick up, and there is enough replayability that it would be pretty tough to play the same game twice.  The artwork is awesome and I do feel like it fits the theme really well.

I like the combination of mechanics in this game.  While I like Waterdeep, it can get a little bit samey to me (also because we played it a lot when it first came out) and I really like the dice mechanic in Stone Age.  By combining these two things, Champions is a fun game that provides some tense moments and some really meaningful decisions.

10 x 10 Update! New Contributor!! New Content!!!

Hey all!

It has been a little while; I’ve been getting tons of gaming in (Thanks, BGG.Spring) and have come to realize a few things about my 10 x 10 list:

There were some games that were unattainable.  I probably could have forced people to play them with me but that wouldn’t have been much fun.  So, I did what any cheating sane person would do and I tweaked my list.

I added Ganz schon clever, which is a roll and write game I played at BGG.Spring and absolutely loved as well as D-Day Dice, which my wife and I played tonight for the first time in about 4 years (It had left a bitter taste in my mouth due to some further Kickstarter issues from the publisher [and that’s putting it lightly]).  I have a much better chance to play games I enjoy instead of trying to fit longer games into our busy gaming schedule.

Speaking of busy gaming schedule, you probably have noticed that I don’t post very consistently.  Between a toddler, work, and actually playing games, sometimes it’s hard to write.  So I am enlisting the help of a friend, Ryan Olson.  Ryan is going to join me in writing here at Sword Board and Pen.  He has a different viewpoint on gaming than I do, so I think you’ll get a wider approach to content.  Look for an introductory post from him in the coming days.

We are also going to try to stick to a Wednesday/Friday posting schedule.  So you’ll get reviews, personal posts, month in review posts, as well as some special things we want to try out, just to give our thoughts on gaming.

If you’ve stuck with me for this long, thanks! I think you are going to enjoy what we have planned.  And if you are new here, welcome! I hope you stay a while.

Review: Azul

Ooooooooh boy.  I had been waiting for this game for quite some time after I saw a playthrough on Heavy Cardboard’s YouTube Channel.  Unfortunately it was quite hard to find, as it was extremely popular.

Luckily for me, I noticed that it was to be back in stock at Miniature Market, so I quickly jumped over to their corner of the internet, and managed to snag a preorder.  It shipped super quick, and since Samantha and I’s game of the week was “Play a New Game” we fired it up with some friends last Friday.

Azul is a tile placement game from Plan B Games/Next Move Games.  You are creating a wall inspired by azulejos that can be found across the southern Iberia peninsula.  While the theme is nice, to me it’s not vital to the gameplay (although it did make the game more appealing to Samantha).

On your turn you can take 1 color (from 5) of tiles from either a factory space or from the center of the board.  You then have to place those tiles on a row (containing 1-5 spaces) on your player board.  When you fill up a row, 1 tile goes over to your wall and you score points based upon how many existing tiles it touches.  The game is over when someone fills up a row on their wall.  The catch is that if you take more of one color than you can fit on a row, the excess falls to the floor, causing you to lose points.  There is also end game scoring for the number of rows, columns, and complete sets of colors you have on your wall.

This is a great game.  It’s thinky, but not so much that I don’t feel like I can play it after a day of heavy programming at work.  It has enough player interaction for us in that you can really screw up someone’s turn/plans if you stick them with enough tiles (at one point during our 1st game I lost 10 points [I think] because I didn’t have anywhere to put them) but if you play completely harsh you will likely won’t win.

The components are fantastic.  The player boards are chipboard along with the factory discs, but where the components really shine are the tiles.  They aren’t glass, but they feel like a heavier plastic.  I am not sure if it’s bakelite, but they are nice to touch and hold while you are thinking about where to play, and there isn’t a seam in them.  Additionally, the patterns for the tiles are printed on seamlessly, so I’m not too concerned about it wearing off anytime soon.  You also get a nice drawstring bag to keep all the tiles in.

For replayability, there is also a back side to the player board that is just a blank grid (the front side has specific tiles printed on each space in the wall). This is a much more thinky and ‘need to be more aware of what I’m doing’ way to play the game.  We haven’t tried it yet, but I am sure we will some day.

For me, Azul is a great gateway game for people interested in more puzzle type games.  The rules are not hard to pick up on, but to learn how to play the game optimally will take a few more plays, and can change due to how the tiles are distributed.  I really think there is a place for Azul in anyone’s collection, so if you can find a copy for a reasonable price, I’d recommend you grab it!

I actually enjoyed it enough that it displaced one of my 10 x 10 games that we hadn’t started playing yet, so I’m looking forward to playing it more.