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.

Extra Life Recap!

Drew’s Extra Life Experience

This was my 5th year playing in Extra Life, and once again, it was tons of fun.

I go there early to help setup so we could start gaming.  I also have been in charge of helping with the raffle, so we spent the first 40 minutes or so debating the best way to set it up.

We started the day with Pioneer Days which is a fun game of dice drafting as you are seemingly travelling along the Oregon Trail or something like that.  I’ve been on a Western kick lately, so this was a fun one to teach.

After that, it was decided that we should play a game with everyone who was there.  DC Spyfall and Hail Hydra were thrown out, but many of us weren’t interested in that, so we settled on Welcome To… , a flip and write game that plays up to 100.  We had a good time playing that, then we sort of split up into groups.

We then played Great Heartland Hauling Company which had been on my list for a while to pick up and even longer to play.  There is a deceptively deep game hidden in the tiny box, and I think it does the pickup and deliver mechanic well, especially in a quick time frame.

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Next up was one of those classics I have been told that everyone needs to play once to be a euro gamer, and that was Power Grid.  Although I had no idea what I was doing, I still really had a good time playing it.  I came in last, but if I recall it was actually a pretty close game even though we couldn’t catch up to Ryan.  I did pick up on some things that I did poorly, so I would give this one a try later on to see if my assumptions are correct.

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I also got the chance to play Pandemic: Iberia, which I have owned since its release but never had the chance to play.  Samantha and I had played a three player game earlier in the week, but this time we played with 4, and had a good mix of lucky card draws and special powers that we were able to research the diseases (since you don’t cure them in the olden days) and win.  I really liked some of the mechanics the game added, but the familiar Pandemic tension was there.

Next up I was able to teach Century: Golem Edition.  This was a hidden gem (pun intended) when I picked it up on a whim. It is a quick engine builder in the same vein as Splendor but I like the gameplay better, as it feels a little deeper to me than Splendor.  This is one that I think I will keep playing for years to come, and I’m glad I was able to teach it to the others in my group who haven’t tried it yet.

I picked up Hitler’s Reich which was supposed to be a lightweight wargame of WWII, so Bryan and I set it up and fumbled through a rules explanation.  This one did not go well. The rules aren’t written the best, so we were using a player aid that I feel might have left out some major information.  We both felt like we weren’t having a great time so we agreed to watch some videos and read through the example of play and save it for a later date.

From here, we ran a joint mission of B-17 Queen of the Skies and Target for Today.  Both of these games simulate a mission or campaign of B-17 bombers in Europe.  B-17 is an older game, and Target for Today is a more updated, in depth treatment, so we used the B-17 version Bryan had to run through a campaign.  One of our bombers hit the mark, but we both returned home safely.

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The last game we played was The Gallerist which is  heavier game all about running an art gallery.  I learned this one at 4 in the morning, and loved it, even though we stopped early since everyone else had left.  I really want to play this one again since I loved the mechanics and it’s a unique theme. But, the next time we play, I want to start at a reasonable time.

I also managed to win some games in the raffle, but the one I was most excited about was Tiny Epic Zombies, which was new in shrink and the deluxe edition from the Kickstarter.  I really liked Tiny Epic Quest, so to add an extra, quick, zombie game that can be played co-op is always a plus.

Extra Life was a ton of fun this year, and while it took me a while to recover (some might argue I still am) I’m looking forward to doing this again next year.  I don’t remember what our finally tally was, but I know it was more than $1,000! We are even talking about trying a “Extra Life Blitz” next spring to do another longer game day and try to raise more money.

Ryan’s Extra Life Experience

The local Extra Life event has turned into one of my favorite gaming days of the year. I go and hang out with my friends, play some games, usually eat some good food, and then stay up WAY too long.

This was my second year of participating in the full 24 hours, although I’ve dropped in and played some games other years. Even though my 45 yr old body doesn’t really enjoy the lack of sleep, I like it to remind myself that I can still do weird things just because I want to.

I knew I wasn’t going to get there by 8, so I was hoping 9-9:30. Dina, Joe, and I stopped by Burger King for breakfast, because I was craving a Croissanwich. So we’d be arriving around 9:30 it appeared…

Clunk! Wow, I hit something switching lanes. Never even saw anything, especially something big enough to make that loud a noise. Oh well. A couple more exits to go…which bell and light is that? Nuts. Low tire. Better pull off here and check.

Ok, so now we need to change a flat tire. At least it was with Joe and I there, and not after Dina dropped us off.

So it’s closer to 10 when we arrive. No big deal. Obviously still plenty of gaming time.

I don’t see any of my typical gaming buddies yet, so I head over to check out the raffle table. There were a TON of games there, I wish I had remembered to get a picture. I hadn’t even thrown my stuff up yet. Not all of the games donated are gems, but people take them anyway. Games are games, although I think it was Bryan who commented wondering how many of those games show up again next year.

I was luckier last year in the raffles. The only thing I won was a second copy of Star Realms, some promos for it, and Scopa as a bundle from the grab something table. Joe won a couple of things for us to take home, he grabbed For Sale from the grab table, and won an item from the nicer games table, and I talked him into grabbing Bottom of the 9th plus some expansions.

Ok, so onto the gaming…

As we were kind of waiting for some folks to come back from breakfast, I decided to show Eric Palm Island. He’s big into solo games right now, and I knew he’d enjoy it. I’ve been playing it like crazy lately, and it’s a blast. It’s a deck of 17 cards, and you try to create a engine to get goods and build things up. You have only 8 turns total, and you are just trying to score as many points as possible. One of the really cool things about it is that you can play it just in your hands, no table required.

After more people arrived, Drew graciously taught Ben, Eric, and I Pioneer Days. I’m not sure how I missed this game when it came out, I typically enjoy Tasty Minstrel games, and this one has a couple of mechanics that I like, card drafting and dice rolling. It was a very fun game. I’ll need to pick it up, or maybe borrow Drew’s copy so DIna can try it, I think she’ll enjoy it. It helped that I won.

Drew taught the next game too, with a large group of us coming together to play Welcome to…

It’s another roll and write, which is kind of my personal hotness right now. I’ve played so many of these over the past year, and this one was a really good one too. I was terrible at it, but I look forward to trying it again. I think Clint won this one, but he had played before, I think David Cook was the highest finishing newbie.

Drew, Eric, Joe, and I decided to go for a short walk to The Pennant restaurant. We ordered some excellent food to go, and sat and had a beer while we waited for the food. It was a beautiful day, and this was a pleasant diversion.

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After getting back Drew again taught Eric, Joe, and I a game. This time it was The Great Heartland Hauling Co, which Eric had won in the raffle earlier in the day. I’ve always been interested in this pick up and deliver game. I was interesting. I wouldn’t mind owning a copy due to it’s small size, but I;m not running out to get it either. I was still thinking about how it cleverly made you have to move every turn and how 2 trucks can’t share the same location. It made each turn mean something, but also made it difficult to plan in advance. Maybe I liked it more than I thought.

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Then I actually taught a game. I’ve been trying to get Power Grid to the table all year, and it finally happened! Joe left us, so we played with 3, and I think 4 or 5 might be a better number, but I was happy to play. Drew had never played, and he said he enjoyed it. I used my experience (Although I hadn’t played it in something like 7 years.), and pretty much led the whole game. I am not sure I played well or not, but I was able to keep one step ahead on powering up cities. This play helped me complete my 10 games that I hadn’t played in forever challenge for the year.

So by this time it’s late afternoon/early evening, so I decided to hold off on starting a new game until after Dina and the girls came, so I could drive them home and keep the car. They did hang out for a while, so I should have gotten into something, and by the time I realized I should play Palm Island, they were ready to go. So I took them home and returned prepared for the late night…

Upon returning, I waited for my friends to finish playing Pandemic: Iberia, I had played it once before, and remember enjoying it.

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Drew got out Century: Golem Edition next. I’ve never played any of the Century series, but I’ve heard good things. I really loved the art and bits for this game. I think even though this version isn’t supposed to get expansions, it’s the version of the game I’d want to own because of that. I very much enjoyed it. Turns are quick, fairly simple, and it’s done quick. I did better than I thought I might, although it took me a little to realize what I was doing. I think Drew and Bryan did better because they had played before, and I think it was Eric’s first time too.

Zack wanted to try Best Treehouse Ever, so Bryan, Eric, and I played it with him. What a cute and vicious little game. It was fun, but really mean Zack said it best when he mentioned he was thinking about picking it up for the kids, but he thought they might cry. He was the winner.

Drew and Bryan were taking out a war game, so I taught Eric Patchwork, which he had won in one of the raffles earlier. Patchwork is probably my favorite 2-player only game right now, I always enjoy it. Not surprisingly, I won, but I am pretty sure he was happy with his prize.

Eric had brought a game I’ve been really wanting to try, so we took out Aeon’s End next. I love deck builders, and fantasy themed and co-op to boot? Count me in! Joe wandered over as we were setting up, so he jumped in too. I really had a blast with this one. I will probably need to pick it up. The lack of shuffling your cards is an interesting way to differ it from most deck building games. We did manage to win also, which is surprising, it looked really bad for a while.

The last game is another personal favorite of mine, Runebound: 2nd Edition. Joe really wanted to play it, so we had brought it with. It felt like a good, fairly mindless game to play at 2:30 am. Eric joined us. We had an epic adventure that came down to who could get either their last dragon killed (Joe and I.) or kill the big bad Dragon (Eric needed that, there were only 2 dragons left to fight.). Eric and I both came up short in our attempt to move to a red space, so Joe was able to squeak out the win.

We hung out for a while longer, trying to read some rules and wait to play something, but almost everyone else was leaving, so Joe and I called it a night. I went home, was in bed by 7, and up at 10:30, my body not wanting to sleep any more. I was fine though, I had taken Monday off from work just in case I needed time to recover. While my body hates staying up that late, I really enjoy it. It’s odd how you need to push yourself to keep going at random times in the middle of the night.

So another Extra Life was over. More memories, and more money raised for children’s hospitals. I don’t need the charity as a reason to play games, but at least it makes me push myself to stay up all night, just because I feel like I’d be cheating if I didn’t. I came home with less games than I left with, so Dina was happy about that, and I was too of course, knowing those games may have encouraged people to donate more.

Thanks to David Cook for continuing the job of organizing this. I suspect there is a lot more preparation involved than we see, and he handles all of it. Thanks to Drew for helping set up the raffle too, that’s a big chunk of our total donations. And of course, thanks to everyone who participated. I’ve been lucky, none of my 3 kids have ever needed any kind of major help from a children’s hospital, but several of my friends have, and even a little bit can make a difference.

This is an easy thing to do to help out. Another easy thing is organ donation. My Sister-in-Law’s 9 yr old nephew recently had a heart transplant, and while not at a children’s hospital because they are close to the Mayo Clinic system in Rochester, MN, it still strikes me as something we all can do without much effort. Most states I believe even let you just check a box when you get/renew your license, and that’s something to think about. I admit, I don’t know why a person might choose not to, although I understand there are reasons, but it seems like something that most people can, and probably should, do.

 

d20 List: Top 10 ‘Experience’ Games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ryan’s Picks

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

Here’s my list in no particular order:

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

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