Checking In

Hey everyone.

Long time no….read? write? Both? Anyway, I haven’t been shy about my issues with anxiety, and some personal stuff the past week had me in a bad head space, so not much gaming or writing going on.

I’m doing better now, though, so I figured I would give a brief update.

My wife and I haven’t been playing a ton and she’s been gone at a work conference for the past few days, but we did get a game in of Last Will and Roll Player with the Monsters and Minons expansion.

We both enjoyed Roll Player and I especially enjoyed the addition of fighting monsters; one of my biggest frustrations of the base game was that it didn’t seem like there was any sort of end goal. M&M fixes that because the points you gain from making sure you are going to fight well against the big baddie can definitely help, especially if your dice weren’t rolling well.

The big surprise, though, was Last Will. I had played it a few times and enjoyed it, but Samantha had never played it before. She really, really liked it, and I could see the wheels turning in her head how she might have spent a few more dollars each turn so that she would have come out ahead. It was one I was ready to trade away, but based on our first play, it’s going to stay in our collection for a while.

I also managed to start a campaign of Thunderbolt/Apache Leader which is always a good time.

We picked up some games on Prime Day that I’ve played before but am excited to own. We snagged Tokaido and Pandemic: The Cure, along with some mass market games that we can start playing with our daughter. I also picked up One Night Ultimate Super Villains which probably would surprise those of you who have been following the blog for a while, since I don’t normally like those games. However, it was a good price and it’s good to have for larger impromptu game nights or for my Friday work game hours.

Anyway, I think that’s good enough for now. We’re going to get back in the swing of things, both playing more games and writing about them. We already have our next d20 List ready! What have you been up to lately, gaming or otherwise? Let us know in the comments below.

What I’m up to Lately

I haven’t been able to game in almost 3 weeks. No particular reason, my family has been busy, my wife has been using the table for sewing purposes, and kind of the doldrums I mentioned in a previous post.

So I’m just going to kind of ramble a bit today. This may end up short, this may end up long. It will not stick to gaming exclusively.

One thing that’s been weighing on my mind is Minnesota in general. I have been missing my friends and family lately. My parents have had some health issues. Dad had a hip replaced and Mom had something else that left her staying with my sister for a couple of days. It sounds like things are ok now, and they are both back at home. I doubt my siblings will ever know how much I appreciate all the things they do to take care of them while I’m not close enough to help. We had been hoping to go to MN this summer, but for some reason that vacation just never seems to have worked out, so now it seems less likely, and I’m bummed out by that. But we’ll see what we can do next year, although with Katlyn being a senior, we may be too busy with graduation and college stuff.

Joe, my oldest, turned 21 this week. A lot of reflection back on our lives since he was born and feeling old myself because my oldest can drink now. Not too bad, but it was interesting having a beer with him Monday night, going to take some getting used to.

While I haven’t been gaming, I have been watching a lot of videos. I pre-ordered Underwater Cities, and then started getting cold feet. After watching several videos, I think I made a good choice. It looks like something I’ll enjoy. It’s supposed to be similar to Terraforming Mars, which is another one I keep thinking about picking up. I have picked up a few games this month. Aeon’s End Legacy, which I’m really excited to get to, but it may be awhile before we can get everyone together to play it, and Welcome To…, a roll and write style that I played before and liked, and I think Dina and the family will like it too.

Drew is teaching us Food Chain Magnate this weekend, so I’ve watched a how to play and a review or two. The Shut Up & Sit Down review made me laugh, although I may have just been tired. It seems like a relatively simple game to play, but also a game that I will only do well with pure luck, because it’s going to take me a bit to figure out how to make it work, and by then I’ll probably be too far behind to win. But it seems relatively simple to understand, just how to make things work to your advantage, and I suck at planning in games like that.

Lack of gaming has also meant Dina and I have been watching a lot of TV. We’ve finished The Americans, Fleabag, Veep, Good Omens, caught up on Barry, and started the new season of Big Little Lies. I’d highly recommend ALL of these shows, especially Barry & Fleabag, they are doing some crazy things with the Dramedy genre. I’ve also been watching a lot of baseball, mostly because the Twins are really fun to watch right now, but I’m a fan in general and will watch any game when the mood strikes.

I’m kind of slowly using my vacation time up this year, so I’ve been taking random days off here and there. Have I mentioned my 17 yr old decided to play a sport for her senior year? Kansas recently approved Girls Wrestling as an official High School sport, and she’s going to participate in her school’s inaugural season. I mention it with my vacation because I am planning on taking a day off to go and watch practice in the next few weeks. I can’t wait till February when her season starts to be able to watch her compete.

I think that’s mostly what’s been on my mind lately. We’ve haven’t seen our friends much lately, but it sounds like that might change here over the next week due to our gaming, a former game group member visiting next week, and maybe hanging with Drew & family on the 4th of July, which can be a tough day for Dina and her PTSD. Actually, most of the next week or so can be rough once firework sales open in Kansas, but the 4th is the worst.

If you have any comments, please leave them below. Gaming, TV, life in general, all are welcome. I should get some gaming going again soon, so hopefully my next post will be more on topic.

Wingspan Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trading and Selling Games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

d20 List: Top 5 Game Mechanics

With some rough weather in Kansas recently, and a holiday on Monday, I was kind of glad to roll a low number for our post this week. I chose our favorite game mechanics, because that seemed like something we wouldn’t necessarily want to do a long list for. I admit, I’m not always sure what qualifies as a mechanic, so I went with the BGG categories.

Ryan’s Top 5 Game Mechanics

A completed board in Sagrada showing how you are placing dice.
  1. Deck Building– I love the deck building mechanic in games. Trying to make your deck work as well as possible by adding cards and combos is a ton of fun. Of course, I absolutely suck at it, and usually just stumble into cool plays, but that doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of it.

  2. Cooperative Play– I really love cooperative games. It’s so much more fun to play as a team towards a goal. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind competitive games, but co-ops fascinate me. They have had a big impact on games over the past 15 years, and I look forward to more of them in the future.

  3. Dice Rolling– This covers a lot of ground. It’s not a mechanism that always makes sense or works well, but when someone finds clever uses, it’s amazing. The recent roll & write trend has really shown neat uses of dice, while dice placement games like Sagrada or Roll Player also have some clever ways to use dice. It’s also a common mechanic in racing games, one of my favorite genres. I really enjoy chucking dice.

  4. Card Drafting– This one is a newer mechanic, or at least it seems to be. The main thing I consider it to be is you get a hand of cards, keep one, and pass the rest to the person next to you. The first time I remember this being a major mechanic was Fairy Tale (Still one of my favorite games.), and 7 Wonders also uses it, and is probably more familiar to gamers. I love the tension of should I keep this card to help me, or should I keep this other one to make sure my opponent can’s use it.

  5. Hand Management– This one can cover a wide range of things. Blue Moon City has multiple things you can do with the cards in your hand, and I consider it a really good example of this mechanic. Figuring out which cards you need to use, and which ones you need to hold for future use is something I really enjoy, and am often quite good at, although not as great at in something like Wingspan. I admit to not really understanding everything this mechanic entails, but it shows up on many of my favorite games, so I must enjoy it.
Fairy Tale. Take 1 card, and pass the rest. Nice quick card drafting game.

That’s it. I didn’t think I consider mechanics often when playing games, yet some, like Card Drafting & Deck Building dominate the game play and are really obvious when playing. Mechanics often make the game, but just good mechanics isn’t enough. Deck Building is a good example. You need good card interactions to make the mechanic work, or it’s just making a useless deck. But trying to add too many mechanics can spoil your game too.

Andrew’s Top 5 Game Mechanics

Like Ryan, I used the BGG Mechanic page to guide what is defined as a mechanic. There’s a lot of overlap in mine, but I think I would still like as a standalone game.

  1. Hex-and-counter– This encompasses a majority of board war games. Obviously, as a wargamer, I think they would kick me out of the club if I at least didn’t mention this mechanic. Some of my favorites include Normandy ’44 and D-Day at Omaha Beach.

  2. Deck/Pool Building– I really like the idea of cultivating an engine to get something to grow. I’ve always been bad at open ended deck building (like Magic: the Gathering) but games where I get to work on building a deck or pool to build from from a limited selection of choices always are fun. Some of my favorites include Trains and DiceMasters.

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    Trains: One of my favorite Deck Builders

  3. Route/Network Building– I’ve always enjoyed maps and city building. I think a part of that includes seeing some sort of sprawling network grow from nothing. Route or Network Building games really make me plan ahead in order to play well, which tie into those heavier games I mentioned last week. Some of my favorites include Roads & Boats adn Transamerica.

  4. Tile Placement– Tile placement is probably the earliest mechanic I really remember recognizing as a mechanic thanks to Carcassonne. Combine that with my wife’s enjoyment of Carc as her first Euro game, and tile placement games always get a look at our house. Some of my favorites include Suburbia and Quadropolis.

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    Walnut Grove: A great game that combines many mechanics, including Tile Placement

  5. Worker Placement– I debated adding this one or not, as it is pretty hit or miss with me. I think the Worker Placement games I really enjoy are those that don’t completely lock me out of getting a resource or taking an action because another player has taken it. Games like Viticulture or Brewcrafters can definitely force you to take a less efficient space, but your whole game plan may not be derailed just because someone took that one space you needed.

That’s it. Anything you like we should maybe check out again? What mechanics do you like best? Or even which ones do you hate? Let us know in the comments.

The Pursuit of Awfulness –Why I play Heavy Games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I’ve Been Playing

I have been under the weather and dealing with a lot of work lately, so the original idea I had for this week wasn’t going to pan out.

But the show must go on.  So since my wife and I have been playing quite a few games lately, so I figured I would do a little blurb or mini review on each of them.

Trans America:  This, like many of these on the list, was a nice, light surprise of a game.   It’s a route builder where you can use the track your opponent lays.  In a 2 player game, it’s really important to time that connection so that your opponent can’t use the network you’ve built to complete their network.

We didn’t play with it, but I did also pick up the expansion that allows players to lay exclusive track, which I have heard improves the game quite a bit. 

Notre Dame:  The only Feld I had played prior to this was Castles of Burgundy, and while I think it’s still my favorite, I was really impressed by this one.  The cube placement mechanic combined with the card drafting wasn’t something I had played before, and I really liked that we didn’t need to tweak rules to play two player.

Mint Delivery/Mint Works:  These were a surprise hit.  I picked them up on a whim, hearing they were good, but not expecting much.  We played Mint Works first, and it was a quick, thinky worker placement; it was quick enough we played a couple games back to back.

Mint Delivery took a little longer, but I really enjoyed this one.  My major complaint with pickup and deliver games is that set up and gameplay can usually take a big time investment; with Mint Delivery, you can play a solid pick up and deliver game in 30 minutes.

Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game:  I always forget how much I love this game.  It has mechanics I enjoy (deck building), a theme I enjoy (Marvel superheroes) and tons of expansions.  We played the Avengers v. X-Men scenario which was fun, and ended up defeating Mysterio thanks to my wife’s shouldering about 90% of the work.

Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle:  Another deckbuilder we had played before, but not for a very long time, this one was nice.  It isn’t the best thing I’ve ever played (and this could be because we are playing year by year instead of taking the recommendation to start in year 4), but I’m looking forward to playing through all 7 years.

Villainous:  I liked this one more than I thought I would.  The theme is unique, and I like the variable player powers and goals.  It’s straightforward enough, and I want to try playing it again.

So some really good lighter games getting played, but I’m looking forward to summer, when my wife doesn’t work and so we can afford to play some longer games.

Extra Life Half Marathon 04/27/2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

d20 List: Top 12 Expansions!

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

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

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

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

Drew’s Picks

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

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

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

Ryan’s Picks

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

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


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

Review: Space Base

I love games with dice. Dice drafting, dice collecting, dice manipulation, you name it. If the game includes dice as a means for the mechanic, I’m in.

That is, I was in, until I played Machi Koro. When it came out, I was super excited. I loved the idea of using the dice for resource allocation a la Settlers of Catan. And we played a bunch of Machi Koro when it first came out. But then, we stopped, even with adding in the expansions. It became very samey to us. Either we would pursue the same strategies we always did (Cheese for the win) or the randomness that the expansion(s?) introduced made the game run way to long for what it was. It had so much promise, but I wanted more.

Last year at BGG.Con Spring, I was introduced to Space Base,designed by John D. Clair and published by Alderac Entertainment Group. It was described to me as a more interactive Machi Koro and I was intrigued, so we gave it a shot.

In Space Base, players are trying to be the first to gain 40 points. On your turn, you roll two dice. You can then either take the active benefit of the cards that are either on each of the dice or the benefit of the card on the sum of the dice (so if I rolled a 1 and a 4 on 2d6, I could either take the benefits of the 1 and 4 cards OR the benefit on the 5 card).

Once you’ve taken your actions, you may then buy a card. This allows you to upgrade to more powerful active abilities. Additionally, it also lets you move the card that was in that space to the top of your board, where it becomes a passive ability; that means you get to use it if any other player rolls that number (or combination).

With the transitioning of cards from active to passive, you have a great, lightweight tableau builder where you have meaningful decisions to make on every turn. I’ve glossed over some of the more nuanced rules, but there are tons of different abilities on cards, from those that let you charge up and deploy special powers, to straight up victory points. Knowing when to replace a card is huge in this game, as is managing cards with charges on them.

Space Base is a lightweight game that would be great for people who might have dipped their toes in the water of gaming, but aren’t sure where to go next. I feel it helps to have someone who has played through the game a few times teach it, or at least be close by, because in most of the games I’ve taught of it there have always been a few card clarifications needed.

Now that I’ve traveled to space, I can’t see myself returning to Earth, except maybe when playing a game with people who don’t consider themselves gamers. I wholeheartedly recommend Space Base.