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.

Grow the Sport

Among board gaming, another one of my hobbies is Disc Golfing. One of the many mantras of disc golfers is “Grow the Sport” which can be used in many different ways: as reminders to people to extoll the virtues of disc golfing to others, as ways for people to stay active in local leagues to drum up interest, or even as a reminder to people to be kind, friendly and welcoming to new disc golfers, in an effort to ensure that the sport will flourish. But, despite the mantra and best efforts, there are still jerks out there who exclude newcomers, who chide them for asking questions or for making comparisons that may seem way out of the norm, or who generally make disc golf courses terrible places for new individuals looking to share in the experience.

Boardgaming isn’t all that different. How many times have we heard stories of someone playing a game that piques the interest of a passerby. Polite conversation is had up until the new individual mentions Monopoly, Risk, or some other mass produced game. It can be met with a snort, a scoff, an unkind “oh, we don’t play that” or any other reaction. But in any of these cases, it can make the onlooker feel unwelcome and excluded. I should know. I have been both the scoffer and the scoffee (In fact, when I founded the Board Game Society at my undergraduate university, I included a clause in the bylaws that Monopoly would not be played. It was meant as tongue in cheek, but boy did it provide a rude awakening when I presented it to the Student Senate for approval).

To most boardgamers, those mass market games are no fun to play at all. And that is perfectly fine! But instead of meeting this potential player with derision, why not engage in further conversation? Why shut them out? Why not describe why the game you are playing is similar or different? Why not try to explain about the game you are playing? Why not try to introduce the world of gaming to someone, especially someone who shows at least a little bit of interest?

The only thing I care about when I am playing a game is if the person is fun to be around while gaming. That can vary on the game. I know there are some games that I would never play with specific people, including my wife. And that is okay! But to exclude individuals because they may not meet any preconceived notions of how much of a gamer they are is ridiculous. We all started gaming somewhere. Not everyone started playing Twilight Imperium, 1822 or Bios: Megafauna.

Not everyone started playing Twilight Imperium, 1822 or Bios: Megafauna.

My gaming resolution this year is to step out of my comfort zone and be more inviting to those who are just learning the hobby. Greet them with a smile and an open seat at the table. We hear over and over how gamers don’t like cell phones at the table because they like the social aspect; I’m going to put this into practice. I’m going to be more social and ensure I highlight the social aspect of the hobby.

In the coming weeks, Ryan and I are going to write about some tips for “growing the sport” of boardgaming. We’ll talk about some of our favorite introductory games to non-gamers, some tips for individuals who are just starting to game, and some tips for us gamers who have been doing it for a while but want to do better about including others, especially newbies.

I’m going to help grow the sport this year. And I hope you will as well.

2018 Top 10 New to Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sorry about the glare.

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



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

d20 List: Top 10 ‘Experience’ Games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ryan’s Picks

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

Here’s my list in no particular order:

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

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

Extra Life!

I’m taking this opportunity to take a break from reviews and lists to talk about a cause that is pretty close to my heart.

In November, I and other gamers will be taking a full day, that is 24 hours, to play board games.  Now this may not seem like anything special to write about, but in the lead up, we’ll be raising money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.  We take part in Extra Life.

I took this blurb from their website:

Extra Life unites thousands of gamers around the world to play games in support of their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. Since its inception in 2008, Extra Life has raised more than $40 million for sick and injured kids.

Instead of video games, we get together to play board games for 24 hours.  There are always some standards, like party games later in the night and I tend to wrangle 3 or 4 people to learn something heavier at 3 in the morning (I know for sure one year it was Clash of Cultures, but I don’t remember the specifics of others).  We also do other things such as a donated game raffle and have some local sponsors who tend to donate some awesome stuff as well.

I’ve been taking part in Extra Life for quite a few years now, and it’s an amazing experience.  I’m not going to write about it in depth here, but I wanted to at least introduce the concept for those who weren’t familiar.  We’ll be taking some time in later weeks to write about why we choose to participate and what we are looking forward to doing.  I might also try to get a few guest authors to write about what Extra Life means to them.

So keep an eye out for those posts in coming weeks, and if you are planning on participating, let us know in the comments!

Challenge Update!

Hey all!

We are almost ¾ through the year, and so I thought it was a good time for Ryan and I to give an update on our 10 x 10 (and other) challenges.

Andrew’s Challenges

On my 10 x 10 front, I am not looking so hot.  I’ve played 46 of the 100 total games, and have finished 10 plays of 2 games:  Azul and Ganz schon clever.  I need two more plays of Kingdomino, and that will finish it off as well.

Even though my wife and I loved Charterstone, we lost a lot of momentum midway through the year.  We could normally count on our daughter to go to bed and give us enough time to get a game in during the week, but as bed time has become a more drawn out process, we are finding that the time and mental effort of getting back into the swing of things during the school year is making it difficult.  We still want to finish it, but I am not sure if we can get 7 more games in by the end of the year.

I have quite a few solo wargames on my challenge to play as well, but I also have newer games coming in that are vying for my attention (and I’m sure I’m the only gamer on the planet who has this problem).  I should just focus on one game at a time and get a proper campaign in, but this is also compounded by the fact that I’m a huge video gamer and that’s been taking my attention as well.

As far as my 5 x 1 challenge, I only have one more game to play on it, and I’m not sure if we will play it or not.  It’s a pretty complicated entry in the system, so I have been trying to work on a VASSAL game of an easier game in the system, but again, finding time to get that set up and working has been difficult.

Even though I may not complete my full challenges, the width of games from the deck of cards has been nice (even if we’ve fallen behind on that as well).  I definitely consider this year a success so far, but I’m excited to try to at least get 75% of the way done with my 10 x 10 games.

Ryan’s Challenges

My gaming numbers have been up a lot this year from previous years. Part of that is my dedication to getting the 10×10 list completed.

I am not doing a hardcore 10×10. I am willing to add games if I think it will get that many plays. My goal is to end up with 10 games played 10 time, regardless of when I started playing them. You will see a pattern in the completed games mostly being new acquisitions, almost all this year.

I have a 4 year old who likes playing games. I have several games on my list that she enjoys. Kids games are pretty quick and easy to get to the table.

Gaming over the past couple of months has slowed a bit, not really sure why exactly. I’ve just been lazy about getting anything to the table, In fact September has already had more games played than August, 10×10 games or otherwise.

I won’t go into details on every game on the list, but wanted to talk about the games I’ve finished, and where I am as far as the rest.

I have played 86 games so far, so I only need 14 more plays to finish. Being so close to finishing, I have obviously completed several games already.

The first one I completed was Friday, partially due to it being a solo game. I enjoy it quite a bit, although now that the pressure is off, I haven’t played it since. I actually borrowed Drew’s copy to complete this, so I kind of packed them into a short time.

Charterstone was a game that got added once we bought it. After 2 plays, I knew we were going to finish this game quickly. It’s a legacy game that requires 12 plays to complete, and we flew through it in a couple of months. Eric, DIna, and Joe and I really enjoyed it, so much that Eric bought the recharge pack so we can do it again, and I can try to avoid some mistakes I made that quite possibly contributed to my overall win.

The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game is a fun, quick co-op game. It’s difficult, plays in about a half hour, has a nice variety of characters to play as, plays solitaire, and I am a huge fan of the book series. I enjoyed my couple of plays from last year, and added it to this list so I would play it more. We have completed 4 of the 15 novels in our 10 plays, so we are winning more often than I would have expected, but they are rarely easy wins. I am not sure if all 15 are available to play for the game yet, but it’s close to that many.

Ganz schön clever was a game that fascinated me from the moment I first heard of it. I have discussed it in a previous article. It plays solitaire, but I rarely have trouble finding someone to play it with me. It’s a fantastic game.

Codenames Duet is one of my most recent purchases. It takes a great party game, and cleverly designs it for 2 players. We are usually willing to sit and play it multiple times in a sitting, so I got in 9 plays over Labor Day weekend alone. It’s not easy, we’ve only won twice, but it’s a ton of fun, and can be played in 15 minutes.

The last game I have on the completed list is The Lion Guard: Protect the Pridelands. It’s a kid game that has really nice bits, plays in 15 minutes, and is a cute little co-op. Aleksia obviously enjoys it, and it’s not too grating on a parent playing it multiple times.

Some other games that are really close and will likely contribute to the final 14 plays:

Legendary: A Marvel Deckbuilding Game  (7 plays)

Outfoxed! (7 plays)

Sagrada (6 plays)

The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game (6 plays)

Ghost FIghtin’ Treasure Hunters (6 plays)

Azul (6 plays)

There are a few more at 5 or less, and who knows, maybe they’ll jump up suddenly, but I think these are the most likely games to complete the challenge. I do love that I’ve gotten Legendary to the table that many times, it’s probably my favorite game right now.

Quick update to my other 2 challenges. Nothing has changed since my last post about them. I have finished playing 10 of my Unplayed games as of January 1st on June 12th, so I am pleased with that.. The other challenge of playing 10 “It’s Been too Long” games, I’m still at 9. I am kind of holding the last spot for Power Grid, but may just play something else anyway.

d20 List: Top 6 Games to Play With 2 Players

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

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

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

Ryan’s Picks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew’s Picks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.