# x # Challenges: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Forcing Myself to Play Games

I wrote earlier this year about how I had set up a 15 x 5 challenge this year, as the 10 x 10 I tried to play last year didn’t go well.

Well, spoiler alert: The 15 x 5 isn’t going well either.

This is my usual thought process:

Hey, I want to play a game!

Let’s look and see what games I need to play for my challenge.

All of those are okay, but I want to play something else.

I should really play one of my challenges though.

Play what you want.

What’s the point of having a challenge if you aren’t going to play those games?


Anyway, at this point I usually shut the door to my game room/office and go play a video game.
I get the appeal of challenges, especially for people who are in groups like I am that tend to not replay games a ton.  But when my wife made me a deck of “what should we play” cards for Christmas this past year, I specifically requested that she not include specific games.  “What if I don’t feel like playing the game that week? Shouldn’t we play things that we want to?”

I don’t know why I felt compelled to keep up with a yearly challenge, especially when I’ve acknowledged the mindset of playing what I want being more important.

So, I’m going to be pulling down my Challenges page.  In it’s place will go a “Bucket List” page where I list games I want to play at least once.  There will be a list for owned games and a list for not owned games. I think this will help me focus on games that actually need a dedicated day where everyone is on the same page to play, because I had actually been keeping up with my 5 x 1 challenges throughout the year.  So I’m going to lean in to that. As I play games on the lists, I’ll strike them through so I can keep track of what has been completed on my bucket list.

What about you? Do you do any challenges in gaming?  Do you stick with them? Let us know in the comments!

How I Prepare to Teach Games

Hey all, Andrew here: I figured I would write about something a little different this week.

I was preparing to teach my wife Fortress: America and so I started about my normal way of relearning games and preparing to teach.  For whatever reason, I tend to teach most of the games in our game group (I think it’s probably because I’m pushy and want them to play my stuff first, so I have to know the rules) but I realized that this process is the same for me, whether it’s playing something light like Kodama or the latest entry in the SCS catalog.  I figured I would give you all insight into how I do this in the hopes that it might help someone out there.

A word of note:  this may seem like I’m overprepared.  I am. I have pretty bad social anxiety and board games alleviate that.  However, if I feel like I’ve screwed up in front of people (especially friends and family) I start to feel super embarrassed and anxious, which tends to lead to me shutting down a bit.  By (over) preparing in this manner, I’m ready to teach the game in a way that’s comfortable to me, and hopefully more enjoyable to those I play with. This is also why I get frustrated if I get interrupted during a rules explanation; it takes me out of the zone so to speak.

First, I normally see if there is a rules teach video or playthrough on YouTube.  My two go to channels are HeavyCardboard and Watch it Played, and if they don’t have a video for the game I’m about to teach, I’ll usually check out the video section of BoardGameGeek for the game in question.

I watch videos for a few different reasons.  I don’t like to reinvent the wheel if I don’t have to, so seeing how masters of game teaching (IMO) structure their teach really helps me get a basic outline in my head and may bring up points that I want to be sure to highlight. Additionally, if I’ve never played the game watching people play it or at least an explanation gives me a better idea of what to expect.

Once the video has been watched and I can wrap my head around the gameplay and the mechanics, I read the rulebook.  Now, this isn’t a detailed readthrough of every single bullet point, parenthetical, and subcase. Instead I get the major ideas, how the rulebook is organized, and use that to further my mental outline.

This outline then gets put down to paper.  It is at this point that I comb through the rulebook, summarizing each major and minor point in an outline format that makes sense for the game and the way gameplay is structured.  This forms the core of my teaching notes and is what I refer to when I actually explain the game I will usually print them out, but sometimes I don’t. This is also my favorite part in the process.  Something about me internalizing then repeating (on paper) what I just read is really when the rules to the game ‘click’ for me.

From here, I will generally call my process complete.  I have a better idea of how I want to approach teaching.  I do try to anticipate questions that players will have, and I make sure that I take frequent breaks to allow players to ask questions, move pieces around to set up situations that might be better explained visually.  And then, we play!

That’s a look into how I find it helpful to learn games so that I can teach them.  Do you have any steps you take when you are planning on teaching a game? I’d love to hear them.  Leave a comment below!

My Recent 10 Plays

Work and life have made gaming difficult lately. I work for a small company in the Ag business, and we tend to be extremely busy from February to May due to farmers in the US and Canada getting to planting season, and our systems go on planters and sprayers. And I’m in purchasing, so it’s a rough time making sure we have parts, in addition to a couple of ambitious new products being released, and the headaches that can come with that.

So I’m in a bit of a non-gaming rut right now. We’ve had kids plays, both attending a friend’s daughter’s school theater doing Pippen, to my older daughter being the assistant stage manager for her high school’s production of Grease. And I tend to hit a bit of a lull every year around now. I think it’s just the winter dragging on (And here in Kansas, it’s actually been wintery this year.), and awaiting spring.

So I almost forgot to write a post today. I went to the site to try to think of a quick topic, and I noticed that 8 of my 10 most recent play are new games to me, so I thought I’d share some brief thought on them all. Although I will admit, this isn’t something I’m very good at.

I kind of think I need to actually write a review of Palm Island at this point, I talk about it enough. I’ll stop discussing it at this point.

The other game I had played previously was Fleet. I also used the Arctic Bounty expansion to play it solo. I really enjoyed it. You use a bot basically to sim a couple of other players. I did quite well against one of them, and only lost by a couple of points to the other. I don’t know why we don’t play this game more. It’s a really good example of using cards multiple ways, and has some good decisions. It’s a really good game that we don’t play…

On to the rest. I’ll start with Just One. It’s a party game where everyone writes a clue on a board, and one player has to guess what the word is. The trick is that you have to remove any matching clues. It’s fun, simple, and plays a big group. This one impressed me.

That same day I got to try On Tour. As I’ve said before I love roll and writes. This one has amazing production values, and was a fun time. I did terrible, but it’s another game that can play a lot of players at once.

I picked up a copy of Shadowrun Crossfire: Prime Runner Edition on a Miniature Market dropping price deal. I love deck builders, and I’ve always been fascinated by the Shadowrun universe and how it combines a couple of my favorite things, magic & cyberpunk. Throw co-op in, and it screams a game I’d enjoy. And I do. I like it a lot. It plays really quickly, and it’s been extremely difficult so far, but it’s a blast. It’s also able to be played solitaire, so I look forward to trying it that way too.

Drew invited Bryan, Eric and I over to play the next few games. We had a really nice Sunday of just hanging out and playing stuff. We started with The Gallerist. For a game with this many mechanics, it kind of makes sense thematically. A really clever game, that I would never intentionally be any good at, too many things going on. It’s pretty fun though, and I’d gladly play it again. It was a quick 2 and a half hours, and that says a lot.

The next game we played is one of the most hyped games of the past several years, Scythe. I’m not even sure what’s the best way to describe it. It’s an interesting theme, although it doesn’t really play to the theme. I really liked the asymmetrical factions.. It has direct conflict, which I’m not a huge fan of, but it’s typically not a huge part of individual games. It was a really fun time. I won this one, but part of it was that my faction fit well to score me points, and yet even though I rushed to end the game, I still needed a tie-breaker to win, and that’s a cool thing too, not just the person with the most stars wins. The more I think back to it, the more I realize how much fun I had. Yet I’m not sure I would ever be very good at this one either.

The last one we tried that afternoon was Dice Hospital. It’s a dice manipulation game, and it’s pretty fun. It’s got a bit of brain burning to it though, so it’s not a light game, but isn’t overly complicated either. I’ll gladly try it again.

One last game on the list, and it’s a doozy. Fog of Love is a game that I have wanted since I first heard about it. It’s a romantic comedy in a box, but it’s more than that. It’s definitely not a game like any other I’ve played. It’s original and fun. One other thing is it has one of the best tutorials I’ve seen. It plays you through the game without railroading you. It’s an experience game to be sure, but I am looking forward to trying it again. I’d also like to see how it play with someone other than Dina, I think it’s a different game when it’s not your spouse playing the other person.

Wow, that got longer than I expected, I hope you stuck with me. What games have you been playing lately, and what have you enjoyed? It was a good month or so in that I played a bunch of good games.

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d20 List: Agree to Disagree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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: Ryan’s Top 18 Games for New Gamers

Drew texted me the other day to remind me to roll the die this week. I had been thinking about it, but I kept forgetting. So, now that we are starting to feel a little rushed, of course I roll a nice manageable 18. Crud. Ok, at least we knew the topic this week already, so at the very least, we had a few ideas already in place.

Unfortunately, Drew got sick shortly after I rolled the die, and he wasn’t feeling up to writing yet. He’ll post it sometime in the upcoming days. Just get well!

Games for new players are a fairly easy topic, although it’s tricky for people who game regularly. It’s very easy to think a game is simple, but will still cause a glazed over look in the eyes of new players. I tend to go for rules light, often silly games, although I’m not against throwing a next level game out there, for when you feel you are ready. I don’t think I did that though, I cut most of those off of my official list.

Here are my Top 18 Games for New Players (In no particular order.):

Patchwork
  1. Ticket to Ride: This is a great game in general, with very simple rules. Yes, you can play it hardcore with a ton of intentional blocking, but that’s a bit cruel to do to new players. This game can be bought at stores like Walmart & Target along with game stores. It’s probably one of the top 5 games in all time sales, and might even be just behind Catan.
  2. Pitchcar: This one can be tough to find, and is a bit pricey, but I can’t think of a game that is more fun, and can play a large group of people. You just flick discs around a slot-car style track, the first person to cross the finish line after a set number of laps wins. There are some rules about going off the track or knocking others off, but not many rules to get in the way. And if the full version is too much, there is a Mini version too.
  3. Blokus: This was one of the games that brought me to the wonderful world of Boardgamegeek.com. It’s very pretty to look at, has familiar Tetris-like pieces, and is quick to play. You just try to place as many of your pieces out on a shrinking board, while only touching at the corners. You are able to block, but it’s not easy to completely block someone, and it often comes back to haunt you later when they manage to take that area you were planning on using.
  4. Forbidden Island: This is a co-op game that is very simple to play, but hard to win. It’s from the creator of the immensely popular Pandemic, and is a simpler use of similar mechanics. I’ve always enjoyed it.
  5. Take it Easy: This is a multi-player solitaire puzzle game with a little bingo blind drawing to it. Ok, it’s a lot more fun than it sounds. You add tiles to a board, but the trick is you only score rows you get to go the full lengths, and you can’t move them once they are down. Plays quick, and it really only takes a game to understand what’s going on.
  6. Kingdom Builder: A pretty rules light game, not a ton of decisions, but clever plays can be made. It’s simple, but has some good mechanics to help a new gamer advance up in game difficulty.
  7. Hanabi: A small card game where you hold your hand of cards facing out, and need to rely on your fellow players to help inform you what’s there. Co-op and silly at times, it’s a neat little games that I don’t play often enough.
  8. Patchwork: It’s only a 2 player game, but it’s a great 2 player game. You are placing Tetris-style pieces on a board to create a quilt. The player order mechanic is cool, and the value of pieces makes it have some interesting choices.
  9. Harry Potter: Hogwart’s Battle: A very basic deck builder, at first. It’s a great intro to deck building games, and the theme will appeal to many people. It also ramps up by adding more rules and cards as you defeat each book.
  10. Potion Explosion: This game has really familiar mechanics to most people, it kind of copies the board of app games like Candy Crush. It’s a fun game, and looks really neat out on the table.
  11. Mint Works: The most basic worker placement game out there, but it’s really clever. Might be over faster than I’d like, but it’s fun, cheap, and fits in a mint tin. A great intro to worker placement mechanics.
  12. Codenames Duet: This is a fantastic co-op game, although any of the Codenames family of games would work. I prefer Duet because it can be played with 2 players, but the family can all be played as party games, and the only limit on players is room to see the board. A pretty thinky game, but easy to explain and get into.
  13. Carcassonne: A great tile laying game. Another really popular game that has stood the test of time, it’s the first game I know of that used Meeples. At the very least it was probably the one that popularized them. If you are having trouble wrapping your head around the Farmers, feel free to skip them when starting out.
  14. Hey! That’s My Fish!: Another game that seems simple, but it can get nasty in a fun way. Move your penguin, take a tile with fish on it, and the person with the most fish wins. Where it gets a little nasty is when you trap an opponent on an island on the ever shrinking board, or you manage to block off a huge chunk for yourself.
  15. Tsuro: Add a tile, move your stone, try not to get moved off the board. It’s extremely simple, really easy to teach, and you can play several games in an hour. The stones look great, along with the tiles. It also plays up to 8!
  16. Can’t Stop: A classic press your luck game. Just roll the dice and move up the ladder, but if you can’t move, you lose the progress you made. It also helps teach how die rolls average out, with the 7 needing a lot of rolls to complete, while the 12 only needs a couple of hits. Mathy fun.
  17. Fits: Ok, so I have a thing for Tetris-like pieces. This one literally plays like Tetris, sliding pieces down the board. I really should bring this one out more often.
  18. Kingdomino: Very familiar elements of Dominoes. Tiles with each half having a terrain on it. Match terrain types, get the biggest areas you can, while also requiring crowns to be in the area, making you multiply the score of total spaces times the number of crowns. Simple to play, but it takes a little luck and planning to be good at it.
Kingdomino

Ok, so that’s my list. I have a couple of guesses at potential repeats from Drew, but I don’t expect many. I am looking forward to seeing his list. Believe it or not, I had to cut down the list quite a bit. My initial list was over 40 games!

There are a lot of other games out there that would be great for new gamers. What are some of your favorites? Any objections to something on my list? Or was my list pretty good? Feel free to give any opinions in the comments below.

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.