Wingspan Review

I wrote a few weeks ago about playing games where the strategy escapes me the first few times and how that usually drives me to try to figure it out. It’s not always heavy games, though.

There’s this new game out that you might have heard of. It’s designed by Elizabeth Hargrave and published by Stonemaier Games. It’s a game about birds. Does the name Wingspan ring any bells?

Of course, that’s a bit tongue in cheek. Wingspan has been a ridiculously hot commodity, so much so that it is already on maybe its 6th print run. Gamers everywhere seem to be clamoring for it. Gamers tend to have a pretty big fear of missing out and want to seek out the new hotness, sometimes even if the game isn’t that great. So does Wingspan live up to the hype?

I had heard about Wingspan and I initially had mixed feelings. A game about birds? That’s…eh. But I knew it was being put out by Stonemaier and so I wanted to give it a shot based on their catalog alone: I haven’t played a Stonemaier game I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed. I was determined not to buy a copy though, which I didn’t think would be an issue due to the initial shortage.

Ryan, though, managed to snag a copy, and so at the next game day I asked him to bring it so we could just rip the bandaid off. Let’s get it over with, I thought. Let’s play this game about birds that I don’t want to like so I won’t need to buy it.

And then, we played it. And I did terrible. And I knew I had to have it.

Let’s talk briefly about gameplay. Wingspan is an engine builder, and due to its scoring mechanic, the number of actions you have each turn (I use turn to define the largest chunks of gameplay) diminish. Like other engine builders, there are a variety of ways to chain cards together to make the most of your actions. There’s a variety of end game scoring opportunities too, from private objectives, to turn based objectives, to simply playing cards with high point values or that can hold lots of eggs.

I can usually sniff out a competitive strategy the first time I play an engine builder; it’s one of my favorite mechanisms. With Wingspan, though, even though the rules were extremely light, the strategy wasn’t apparent to me. I sort of floundered here and there, not being able to commit and didn’t really feel like I played well at all. As I told a board game community I’m a part of, “It enraged me and I loved it and I must have it”

To some people, though, gameplay isn’t everything, and I’ll admit I do like games with higher quality bits than just cardboard, and Wingspan doesn’t disappoint.

The game comes with a lot of stuff. Notably, it includes a plastic card tray to hold all the cards, 5 chunky (but not too big) wooden dice, a cardboard birdhouse dice tower, 3 rulebooks that come on the best paper I’ve ever held in my hands, wooden eggs that might be confused for Easter candy and lots and lots of beautifully illustrated cards.

I can’t stress how impressed I am with the work of Beth Sobel, Natalia Rojas and Ana Maria Martinez Jaramillo . All of the birds look like they came right out of an Audubon field guide. The iconography and layout is clean and easily recognizable, and the player boards are thematic. I am not a birder, but based upon feedback I’m seeing in the Facebook group that was set up for this game, there are tons of them that vouch for the art being ridiculously authentic, as well as the game being enjoyable. The artwork complements the mechanics, and you really do actually get the theme of birds and building an aviary.

Wingspan has vaulted itself to the top of my “games to play with people who aren’t gamers” list. The rules are easy to grasp, and it’s a fun game to play while you are having a conversation. I’ve enjoyed it at various player counts, from 2 to 4, and it even includes the ever great Automa system so you can play it solo (even though I haven’t yet tried).

I think Wingspan could be easily dismissed, like I almost did, because of the theme, but this would be a mistake. Wingspan is one of those games that has something for just about everyone, although I could see how those who tend to the medium-heavy end of the spectrum might lose interest. It’s definitely worth a play, however, even to just look at the art and play a laid back game.

Trading and Selling Games

Some of us have really large game collections. If you’re reading this, you likely know this, but it bears pointing out. Most of us have probably been asked things like:

“Have you played all of those games?” I suspect most of us reply that we’ve played MOST of them, but not all. That’s definitely the case with me. I currently show 24 unplayed, but about half of them were purchased this year, and gaming has been fairly slow the past month or 2.

“How can you afford to keep getting more games?” I’m planning on addressing part of this second question in this post. I admit, I buy more than I get rid of, but I will trade, sell, and even donate games. I’ll typically donate some at our Extra Life events.

So let’s start with selling games. I’ve had to sell a lot of games a couple of times over the years to get some money shortly after Dina was shot and after she lost her job. The family and I went through and chose our can’t sell games, and then I went from there.

The time after Dina got shot I made a spreadsheet with all the games, and asked people to make an offer. Any time a game went 24 hours without a new offer, I finalized the sale. These were all to local gamers and a few friends back in MN. I assume we got a few bids over market value to help us out, and we got quite a bit that helped for bills. I would guess I may have sold 30-40% of the collection that time. We weren’t in dire straights at that point, but money was going to be a little tight, so we having some extra made a big difference.

The second time after she lost her job was a rush sale. We really needed money, and I set values and pretty much took any price even close to that. I had a lot more issues with offers too. Like my Heroscape collection, I had valued around $400, got an offer for it, and then had 3 weeks of the guy asking to wait another week and he’d have the money. He eventually backed out, and I only got about $250 for it I believe, partially because people weren’t paying any attention to my sale anymore. Most of the experience was good, I sold only to local gamers, but didn’t get my asking price for most of it, which was ok, but was a bummer. That was probably only about 20-25% of the collection that time, because we had built it back up a little, but didn’t have as many games available as the previous time.

I’ll admit I hated needing to do this. It’s difficult and having some social anxieties, was not a lot of fun meeting sometimes new people. I have nothing against selling games, but I’d rather not do it. I did recently sell some games to a local game store, but that was to clear some space, and to get some store credit to get more games. I know I could probably make more selling them other ways, but I’m lazy.

BGG has a Marketplace where you can sell games, but I’ve never used it. I assume it works well. There are of course other options to sell like Ebay, Facebook, or Amazon. Anywhere you can post used things.

I very much prefer trading games. BoardGameGeek.com has a great search tool, although I tend to be lazy about looking for trades, I wait for offers to come to me. As of right now, I have 124 positive ratings out of 131 trades. The non-positive folks didn’t leave any ratings. I’m not sure why on a couple of them, one could have left a neutral or even negative rating, I messed up and forgot about a split corner on a box. We were able to discuss it face to face, although we never actually resolved it. I very much enjoy trading games.

One time a BGG admin cancelled a trade of mine, they suspected the guy of trying to rip people off, apparently he made a whole bunch of really good offers all at once, and they doubted he was legit.

That’s the closest thing I’ve had to a negative experience trading. Sure sometimes you get a box that they could have let you know the wear was fairly significant, or even a little crushed, but most people are very up front about that. I tend to over package when I ship, having one guy praise me because the box got left out in the rain, but it didn’t get to the game inside. Shipping can get spendy, but you know your trade partner will have to pay it too, and it’s still WAY cheaper than a game, in most cases.

Trading is also one of the best ways to get out of print or hard to find games. Especially when you can’t pay a ton of cash, but you have a lot of games you can offer. Although if you offer a rare/hard to get game, like Glory to Rome for example, for trade, expect a TON of terrible offers for it. I think people are either oblivious or trying to take advantage of you not knowing what you have.

There is one other kind of trade that I participated in called a math trade. I admit to not knowing all the details, just that a bunch of people offer games for trade, and submit a list of games they want, and an algorithm crunches everyone’s lists and distributes things as fairly as it can. It’s an interesting way to get rid of and receive games. But I haven’t done one of those in years.

How about you? Have you had to sell games, or even choose to regularly? Have you ever made a trade? Any interesting stories to tell about your experiences? Feel free to leave a comment about it.

The Pursuit of Awfulness –Why I play Heavy Games

I work as a developer for a pretty specific IT Management product; it’s a job that can include a lot of programming or other logical thinking about how I might go about solving a problem.  It can be pretty brain burny at times, but I really like this aspect of the job:  it’s what appealed to me during my brief stint in law school too.  I like being challenged to think about things.

I like this in board games too.  I enjoy needing to follow a variety of threads and think about the implications if I pull on a specific one at the right time.  I like games that take a while to play where you really have to invest in what you are doing to be successful.  I like heavy games that require you to think waaaaay ahead, or juggle umpteen variables in your determination in what to do.

To me, a game can be rules lite and still be heavy.  The heaviness comes from the ability to understand optimal play quickly or where it takes quite a bit of mental capacity to play well.  It can also take the time it takes to play the game into consideration, but there are other games that take a long time that I wouldn’t necessarily call “heavy”.  I know that this definition can vary for people, so I wanted to use this as a starting point.

I can really thank the folks over at Heavy Cardboard for really getting me to dive into these games (note: if you are a fan of “medium to heavy board games, war games, 18xx, and thinky fillers”, you should really be following all the content they put out at https://www.heavycardboard.com/ and consider becoming a patron of the show).  I never thought I would be interested in economic games like 1889, Brass Birmingham, or Age of Steam, but after watching some of their playthroughs, a new board gaming world opened up to me.  I always thought I had to have a strong grasp of how stock markets work to play and enjoy these games, but I was wrong.  Sure, that understanding can help you make competitive moves, but there’s a joy in “pulling some levers, seeing what happens, and enjoying it” which is paraphrased from HC’s host, Edward Uhler.

The reason these games appeal to me is because they challenge me.  I know I’ll never play Age of Steam or an 18xx title enough to fully grasp the optimal play for each situation, but that’s okay with me. I can keep trying different moves out to become good, though.  Playing these games sub-optimally with my friends, who also play what I would consider sub-optimally, has provided me with some of the best “hold my beer” and most enjoyable moments in board gaming.  I actually enjoy it more when I can’t figure out a board game in my first few plays of it, because it drives me to try to think a little harder about the game and I’m more likely to play it more often.

I think I can best sum it up by saying I really enjoy the journey or the process in what makes a game work. Even if I’m terrible at the game, figuring out what is under the hood is the thing that appeals to me most, and with heavy games, there’s a lot more to understand and unpack.

Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoy playing party games in the right crowd, and I have plenty of lighter games I love, but I think medium to heavy games are really where my most fulfilling gaming experiences come from.

What is the heaviest game you’ve played?  What makes it ‘heavy’ for you? Have you been scared off by games because you thought the theme would be too heavy, or it would be too difficult to play well? Let us know in the comments!

Extra Life Half Marathon 04/27/2019

I actually started that long overdue Palm Island review, but I kind of got busy and forgot to get back to it. I don’t want to rush it, so I’m doing another filler post today.

Drew and I both participate in a yearly Extra Life 24 hour gaming marathon run by our friend David Cook, usually in early November (It’s actually on the day we go back from Daylight Savings, so it’s 25 hours.). But we like gaming for a cause, and are always looking for a reason to get together with our friends, so a discussion started about having a “half” marathon, and go from 10 am to 10 pm.

I will say that I am awful at raising money for these things. I am just not someone who wants to hit people up for donations. But I do help out in other ways, by donating games as prizes for our raffles, and smaller things like that.

Ok, so we got together this past Saturday for a long gaming day. Dina dropped Joe and I off at a little after 10, and Drew, Bryan, & David were hanging out with David’s family. We all stood around and chatted for a while before we went into the room.

I decided to start us off with the current hotness, Wingspan. I recently got a copy, and was personally raving about it. This was going to be my 4th time playing, and my second time teaching. Lucky for me, Joe and Clint had both played it also, so it was only teaching Bryan and Drew.

It went over quite well. Drew was almost immediately texting his wife to ask for it for Father’s day. Bryan said he had been trying to convince himself it wasn’t going to be good, and was unable to keep that attitude. I have realized that I obviously have no idea who’s winning, looking at Drew about halfway through and mentioning that he and I were getting our butts kicked. I ended up winning, and he was a close 3rd. 5 players was an interesting game though, and except for the extra length, it scaled really well. I’ve now played it with 1, 3, and 5, and it’s been a blast and worked really well with each. It’s currently one of my favorite games.

Dead Last was the next game we played. Pretty much everyone who was there at the time was involved. This is not my style of party game, but it played extremely quickly, so it wasn’t too bad either. It kind of reminded me of Ca$h ‘N Gun$, which is another game I’m terrible at. You discuss who to kill each round, and the trick is if you aren’t part of the majority, you’re out. I think I only got through the first selection once.

I don’t think I’d pick it to play, but I could probably be talked into trying it again.

After a quick lunch break, Bryan taught us Alea Iacta Est. It’s a dice placement game. There are a lot of rules to how you can play dice, but high rolls aren’t always preferred, so it’s difficult sometimes to get what you want or need. We had a very close finish, with Drew, Clint, and I all having the most points, and Joe was only a couple behind. I ended up winning the tiebreaker.

I’m not rushing out to get my own copy, but it was interesting, although I suspect I’d do worse next game because I think I kind of know what I’m doing.

So shortly after that Dina and Aleksia arrived, and I had promised to play some games with them. Aleksia chose to play The Lion Guard: Protect the Pridelands. This is a really cute, quick, and not super easy kids cooperative game. The Lion Guard character figures are fantastic. We do win more often than not, but it’s probably 60-40. We won this game really quickly, which isn’t a common occurrence for us.

Aleksia and I moved on to Outfoxed. This is another kids co-op game. It uses some simple deduction, and she is really good at the game. My one complaint is that it’s probably too easy. We win about 70% of the time. Unfortunately we suffered a rare loss in this one. The dice kind of abandoned us, and we needed about 1 more clue to be able to figure out the thief.

Dina and Aleksia were playing some 2 player games, so I thought I’d try a quick game of Palm Island. I’ve talked about that a lot, so I’ll wait till I do my review.

Aleksia had seen some of the other kids playing a game with some cool pieces, and wanted to try it. So Dina and I were trying to learn the game Sumo Ham Slam. Drew came over too, so we had 3 adults and 1 5 yr old playing it. As you can see from the picture, it’s really cute. The game isn’t particularly good, it involves magnets and sticks, but it was a silly time for us. Not something I need to own, but silly enough to want to be willing to play again, especially with kids.

A few of us walked a couple of blocks down to The Pennant restaurant and enjoyed some good food, and then we went back so Bryan could teach us Ginkgopolis.

This is a pretty neat city building game. I was also not at the right point of the day to have something so complicated explained to me. I had a good time, and would gladly play the game again, but I had no clue what I needed to do to score points, and finished last, quite a long way away from winning. Dina pulled off a late move that changed the scoring dramatically and pulled off a win.

One last game was decided upon as the evening wore down. Drew taught Bryan and I his print and play copy of College Basketball Dynasty. I love the idea of sport simulation games, and I used to play a lot of them on my computer, so I was really interested in how this one worked.

It had some neat ideas. We only had time to play about half a game, so we were just getting to the point where many of our best players were going to graduate, so I was interested in what would happen after that. I liked the game, and am hoping to get to try it again sometime. Drew won 3 National Titles to win this one.

That was it. I played a lot of games with a bunch of my favorite people, so it was a fantastic day. My family also won a couple of games that had been generously donated by Asgard’s Gate game shop. Joe won a copy of the 10th Anniversary Notre Dame and Dina won a copy of Dicey Goblins. I’ve always enjoyed Notre Dame, and I look forward to trying Dicey Goblins, it looks like a nice push your luck dice game.

What have you been playing lately? Anything neat? Any thoughts on what I played? Let us know in the comments.

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!

Guest Post: X-ing the Xpansions

Eric Carter is back with another guest post this week. He writes about a struggle we all have as gamers: Expansions!

The Book of Meeple Chapter 23, Verse 5, states: “My box runneth over.”

This entry was inspired by a recent trip to a game store where I saw an expansion for Sagrada on display. Even though I’ve only played Sagrada a few times I had a strong urge to buy this, because…

… I have a problem. If I like a game I tend to become a completionist about it. The first game I owned that sparked this obsession was the second edition of Talisman, back when I was in college. There was one comic/game store an hour away that carried Games Workshop stuff and when I had a spare $30 I would gas up the car and make the trek. Over a couple of years and hundreds of miles I had every retail expansion for the game. But the setup became too much, the game lasted too long, and the fun was sucked out of it. It never got played again.

Twenty-plus years later I have the same problem with Dominion. And Carcassonne. And Race for the Galaxy, Eminent Domain, Last Night on Earth, and several more. I will over-expand a game to the point that I don’t even want to get it out anymore.

When I buy an expansion for a game I enjoy, I’m doing so just to add more of what I like. Maybe it’s simply more cards, like most of the Dominion expansions. Maybe I just want more heroes and scenarios for Last Night on Earth, or more tiles for Carcassonne.

The first Race for the Galaxy expansion – The Gathering Storm – was relatively simple. It gave you more cards and a starting hand for a fifth player, plus solo rules. This is what I would consider as the perfect expansion. But along comes the second expansion, Rebel vs. Imperium, which added a Takeover mechanism that just looked so convoluted I never bothered to learn it, and it added more direct conflict to the game, which would turn it into something I didn’t want. I just wanted to add cool new cards, like the previous expansion did. I did buy the third expansion, but I gave up trying to get RftG played in my game group. I did NOT want to try to add more explanations to this already difficult-to-teach game.

Dominion has suffered the same fate. I still love the game, but it’s now so hefty I have to warm up first before lifting it or I’ll throw my shoulder out. I still haven’t bought Nocturne or Renaissance, the latest available expansion of us this writing, even though I have a couple pieces of art in one of them. I hate to admit it, but I haven’t even tried playing Eminent Domain with the expansions yet.

Our game group does not stay with one game very long, which has its advantages and disadvantages. I love the fact that all of us are keeping an eye out for new and interesting games, but since there is a new and interesting game coming out every 6.2 seconds, we hardly ever play one more than once or twice. On game days there are enough new games to choose from that we often have difficulty even settling on one to break out. Again, our cups runneth over.

So from now on I must give up on expanding any multiplayer games. Solo-capable games, however, are still fine. I just received the Xia: Missions and Powers deck. I’m looking forward to the two player expansions coming out for Star Trek: Ascendancy. I’ll still get pretty much anything for Aeon’s End.. These games don’t have to compete with the new releases we all want to try. All it takes for them to get to my table is a few hours of free time, and if I decide something from an expansion is taking away from my experience instead of adding to it, I can easily leave it in the box.

But I like to think I’ve learned my lesson. If there’s another expansion released for Rebellion it’ll have to go unbought until my base game (plus the expansion I bought with it, of course) finally gets played. Cards Against Humanity and many of its additions will have to stay cramped in The Bigger, Blacker Box until it sees the light of day (and the darkness of our souls) again. I’m glad I got rid of my copy of Firefly because the urge to get everything for that would’ve been overwhelming, and it would’ve found itself in my gaming graveyard next to RftG.

Part of me wants to get new copies of Last Night on Earth, Race for the Galaxy, Memoir 44, and so many others, and just keep them in their original, lean condition. All of them got played before they packed on the pounds. And isn’t playing them the whole point of having these games in the first place?

Do you, dear reader, have any games you’ve overfed? Comment below and tell us your story.

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.