June 2018 Update – Origins!

Disclaimer: Thanks to Leder Games for providing my Origins 2018 badge and allowing me to come, participate and volunteer at their booth! 

After GenCon 2016, I left Indianapolis with the desire to one day work a booth for a game company.  This obviously is a strange thought to most board game companies who have worked GenCon/Origins/BGGcon, etc…but to me – it seemed exciting.  Fast forward to this month and I have officially completed my goal.  It was a lot what I expected and a lot different than expected.  And so, I’d like to talk about my experience at Origins – as both an attendee and as a booth volunteer.

How did this come to be?

Back in January of this year, @LederGames posted a tweet asking for play testers for their new game: Vast: The Mysterious Manor.  I tweeted back that I was available which started a weekly play testing group with me and a few other testers.  For the last 6 months, I’ve had the ability to play the new Vast, meet the team at Leder Games, other game testers and craft friendships with the the entire team.  I also got some real life insight into the day to day of board game development, testing and publishing.

After a couple of weeks, I let the LederGames team know that I was available to volunteer for a convention coming up called Con of the North.  It’s one of the largest conventions for role playing, board games, and sorts in Minnesota.  They agreed and I was able to spend a day demoing Vast: The Crystal Caverns.  It went over well and I had a great time doing it.  A couple of months later, I asked again if there was any volunteers needed for Origins and they said that they were happy to have me come on board!

What is like working the booth?

In all, it was equal parts fun and awesome but equal parts exhausting.  Normally, I don’t find myself to be an extrovert in actively seeking out strangers and talking to them about board games but being part of the team, being present in the booth while wearing the appropriate garb and having that booth precedence felt natural to engage with con-goers.  Everyone at the convention had the underlying passion for games and so I felt comfortable just being able to say hi, ask about how their convention was going and talk about Vast as they passed by the booth.  Origins is neat as well because the expo hall was fairly large but not as crowded as it is during GenCon.  It seemed to be a show that had that big grandeur scale of GenCon but the intimacy of a smaller show to be able to meet the team of your favorite developers and publishers.

Most people I talked to never heard or have heard mention of Vast and Leder Games so it was cool to talk to them about it.  Sometimes when you are surrounded by the people and product of the company, it can be a little strange to have people be completely unaware of the products or the company so I did my best to give a quick talk about what it is Leder Games is a l about. It was neat as well to overhear attendees walk by the booth and talk to their friends about Vast/Root as well.

With that being said, it doesn’t make the expo hall any quieter.  So, I found myself having talking loudly (even though I talk loud as it is) and within a couple of hours on my first day – my voice became raspy and it was difficult to speak.  Luckily there was some water and cough drops but I’m not sure I was prepared enough to know how it would impact me.  So, I strongly encourage new or returning booth attendees to drink lots of water and not over exert yourself when talking to attendees.  Even when you think you’ve had enough water  – be sure to drink and have more.  A rookie mistake on my part.  What was nice though is that we had enough staff for the volunteers to work in shifts which gave half the day to roam and the other half to work at the booth.

What is the expo hall like before/after the show?

I’ll admit that having the ability to see the expo show floor completely empty before general public come in is quite a cool feeling.  I was able to get a few laps of the main expo hall and get a sense of where everything is.  People in the booths there are busy as they are setting up product, talking about how to lay out their booth space for the day or just chatting with their neighbors.  I was lucky enough one day to run into Tom Vasel of the Dice Tower and talk to him for a little bit along with the Pandasaurus Games and Floodgate Games crew!  I would say that there is opportunity to purchase product or trade during this time but I didn’t want to disturb anyone that was still setting up just so I can purchase something.  I only did so when I confirmed with the publisher prior to.  One of the most hyped games from Origins prior to opening was “Welcome To” by Deep Water Games.  It’s a “flip and fill” game that had a line to purchase for vendors!  They just had 5 copies to give out per day.  I imagine this happens more during GenCon but it was crazy to see the pre-expo hall hype!  Also, PlanB/Next Move Games had Reef and the new Century: Eastern Wonders game on sale that sold out quickly.

After the expo hall closed, there were some vendors that stopped by to purchase or trade but not many.  The expo hall was vacated within the hour and no one was allowed back in an hour after it was closed.  Nothing exciting there.

What were the hyped games of Origins?

For me, The Mind by Pandasaurus Games was my #1 game to purchase.  This goes on sale in July but I had the opportunity to purchase it now – and so I did!  I made mention that Reef and Century: Eastern Wonders were also popular and sold out along with Coimbra by PlanB/Next Move Games.  Deep Water Games killed it this year with Welcome To and their releases of EmperorS4 games like Shadows in KyotoInsideUp Games had copies of Summit: The Board Game which looked awesome along with Gorus Maximus that just recently hit Kickstarter. Lastly, Kolossal Games had a very early look at Eclipse 2nd ed, Western Legends that looked so good and a game in development called Terror In London which was GREAT artwork and was a cool variant on the whole 2p “Star Realms” hand / deck management type of game.

Who did you meet?

I met so many great and lovely people.  Everyone was nice, helpful and friendly.  Provided in a Google Photos album of who I all met.

Origins 2018

What did you play at Origins?

I did play a few games at Origins!  I played some High Society from Osprey Games which was a lot of fun.  Of course, I got in a few games of The Mind and even a full game of Secret Hitler which is always a blast to play especially at that player count.  I didn’t play anything that complex or large at the convention just because it was hard to carry around and that after a day of roaming and talking – I was just too tired to play anything intense!

One game that I did see played was “I’m The Boss” which was one of the most confusing but interesting games I saw.  The Leder Games crew played this and it was a game where as soon as I felt like I knew what was going on – something happened and I was back to square one.  Everyone was so  engaged, cards were flying around and everyone was laughing.  I’m super intrigued by this game and hopefully one day I will play it.

What did you buy?

I didn’t want to bring too much back with me and I kinda broke that promise to myself…but I didn’t completely over do it.  Here is my list.

Conclusion

In all, Origins 2018 was a blast.  I got to accomplish a goal I made a couple of years ago.  I got SUPER addicted to collecting the enamel pins around the expo hall.  Met a lot of cool and awesome people in the board game industry and made it out without the con crud.  If you guys find yourself being available to go to Origins – I strongly recommend going!

 

Rolling Doubles – Episode 2 – Dropping the Deuce

This week we nard punch each other for bricks!
Delve deep into The Mind.
Fly planes across the US of A.
And pet pretty little space kitties for an uncomfortable amount of time.

Cold Chocolate 0:52
The Grimm Forest 2:35
The Mind 12:00
Twilight Imperium 4 Discussion 21:50
Now Boarding 39:50
Crystal Clans 50:00
R and J Top 3 Games 58:35
End 1:18:55

Rolling Doubles – Episode 1


Jacob Russell and I are proud to announce the release of our first board gaming podcast: Rolling Doubles.  We had both started the year of 2018 contributing content creation to board games and through happenstance, it led to some casual talk on Twitter and our eventual collaboration.

Rolling Doubles is our journey as we (Jacob and Ryan) talk about the games we played, tell stories and ask questions about our board gaming habits, things we like and dislike.  This is a casual affair – no previews or reviews (at this time!) – just two guys chatting about board games.  We really hope you see us as two friendly guys you’d like to sit next with, chat and play games with.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter!
RollingDoubles: @rolldoubles
Jacob: @thegamercurator
Ryan: @ryguy314

Without further ado, please click below for audio outlet of choice to listen:

Listen on Google Play Music

Continue reading “Rolling Doubles – Episode 1”

Gazing into the Twilight – A First Time Playthough of Twilight Imperium 4

If anyone goes into their Friendly Local Gaming Store and peers at the top shelf with all of the big box board games, one game in particular always stands out.  The box is draped with a dark blue starry backscape.  Ships and planets prominently dressing the background giving epic scale to the game inside.  Unique species speckling the foreground ALL looking like they weren’t a rehash of a Star Wars or Star Trek entry.  These were original races each being begged to discover.  And then the coup de gras.  A giant proud lion bust that looks like a giant animal star that is shining across the galaxy; making the box pop up from others on the shelf.

That game isTwilight Imperium.

In 2017, Twilight Imperium 4, the latest version to come from the offices of Fantasy Flight Games hit GenCon floors and promptly sold like hot cakes.  They offered many of the expansions of the previous version and streamlined rules to help new players get into the game easily plus reducing playtime.

In my board gaming career, Twilight Imperium has always been the game to have the most clout behind it.  The stories I would hear about games taking 6, 8 even 10 hours to complete!  I’ve seen the timelapse videos of gamers willing to dedicate an entire day conquering the galaxy around the planet of Mecatol Rex.  There is even a 32 minute video explaining the rules of the game.  It was extremely intimidating.  Even looking at the back of the box gave me vertigo and day dream nightmares  of whether I’d be able to truly encompass a game of that size.

What I can say at this time is that TI4 isn’t as a bad as I thought it would be.  I had a lot of fun with it and I would love to play it again!

It’s important that I note that starting from the very setup, my longtime friend Nick had spent a day or two preparing and setup the entire board for our 3p game.  His knowledge of the rule set and teaching us the phases and details definitely helped.  Being a trial by fire learner to board games most of the time, our hands on approach vs. the extensive reading and watching of the rules helped get things acclimated faster for me.  Setup time took around an hour or so.

Our third player, Chris, arrived and we sat in our wooded spacechairs ready to take off into our first game.  At the beginning of the game, we each picked a race.  each having unique set of rules but all offering the same amount of ships, ground troops and ports for us to utilize.  I literally picked a race that I had no idea how to pronounce (Xxcha?) and Nick picked the lions (yes, the race prominently shown on the box.)  I can’t remember what Chris took but I do remember he was able to have a bigger fleet than all of us.  That is probably why he won.  :).  All races have a different backstory to how they fit into the entire universe.  The whole back of the role sheet included that information it isn’t necessary to play.  In a nutshell, the game begins each turn with one person picking one of 8 different action cards that netted them special actions.  One might be for trading, while another might be gaining tokens for actions to even getting extra movement on the board.  Each player picked these cards twice during this phase.  Then, in clockwise order, we either did our special action we picked, playing “Action Cards” from our hand or took tactical actions which involved moving our ships from system to system and occasionally, getting into fights with one another.  If the player decided to do one of the special actions that they drafted, other players can ‘follow’ spending Strategy tokens to take a similar action to that card  This continues until players no longer want or can play actions.  Then objective card statuses are checked and scored (public and private objectives), some tidying up and round plays over again.

And that is pretty much it.  Yes, there is much omitted in the above explanation but from a game that felt like it needed an official decree and examination to learn how to play – TI4’s rule set does execute successfully on making the turn by turn process a simple one without sacrificing the strategy that the game has been known for.

Space combat is inevitable as you start inching closer and closer on each other’s borders.  Combat is frantic dice rolling where each turn during the attack phase, you accumulate dice per ships that have certain dice roll criteria (9+, 7+, 5+ etc) and roll these dice to see whether your ship rolls higher than the number specified on the ship sheet’s reference guide and you essentially go until there is a winner or someone retreats (if possible).  Again – simple dice rolling vs. what I thought would be this intense, mathy complex system that would take ages to do – boils down to the basics.  I guess I could imagine each dice roll encapsulating the lasers and rockets being shot at ship to ship, getting direct hits or missing completely.  But looking at it face value in just seeing who gets lucky enough to roll a 7+ on a d10 (dice with 10 sides) makes it a little anticlimactic and almost boring.  There are special cards that will allow you to alter combat during certain phases but it doesn’t have the spectacular space ‘umph’ that I would be looking for.

One part of TI is the negotiation of the game.  As ships start bordering your territory, you can begin to barter, trade and negotiate.  Depending on the type of people you play with, it can seem at times that you are role playing the species you have been chosen making these verbal space agreements, creating allies and enemies from turn after turn.  In the same  vein, when the huge planet of Mecatol Rex is conquered by a player, Agenda cards are revealed that have universe wide affects that give players buffs, debuffs or laws that all players much vote for, or against.  In our 3p game, the Agenda’s did not play a huge role but I can only imagine in max player games, these cards are taken with much more urgency which could probably swing a game one way or another.

So while the game has done a good job streamlining player turns, it does not sacrifice the amount of choice each player has.  Do I want to play this special action card to put me in position to score on a public objective or wait to score on secret and public objective together?  It’ll put me down in the score longer than I would like – but it gives me more benefit over time.  Do I want to make a tactical action to put me closer to my neighbor even if I don’t want to fight?  Can I convince them that I am no threat?  What if I bargained with another player in which I promised that I won’t encroach their space but if I take this wormhole that places me in part of the universe that is in prime position for my objective… will they have a problem with it?  These are just some sample questions that bounce around in your mind as you hopefully take the most optimal action for your role.

It doesn’t officially have the player counter to 10 but this was essentially the end state of the board.

Clocking in at a touch below 5 hours, the final score was Chris: 10 points, Me: 8 points and Nick: 6 points.  All of us sighed in relief that A) we played a full game of TI(4), B) the game ended one turn longer than we expected it and C) as the dust settled, unpacking the game’s opinions over dinner that night and we came to the conclusion that the monster that was this deep space galaxy game of complexity turned out to easier and more fun than we first thought going in.

No doubt about it – this is game is no picnic.  I would recommend some research, learning the rules in your preferred way and a good solid half a day for a 3p game of TI4.  Also, any experience in heavier games like this would help.  But, I would say to new players or interested players in TI4 that it isn’t as bad as the stories you heard or videos you’ve watched.  There is a great game of exploration, negotiation, intrigue and action to be had.

May 2018 Update – Japan!

This post will be more of a personal blog post vs. a board game post as a huge chunk of the month of April and May was dedicated to a trip to Japan!  Before you get to the long wall of text that was our trip, as far as board gaming goes – I have just started to get back into the swing of things with games.  I’m back to testing each Wednesday with Leder Games and I was able to get games of Tokyo Highway and even a game of Twlight Imperium 4 this past weekend in that went well!  I’m still  resetting my body clock and getting readjusted back to CST zone so the goal of May and June is to play a handful of games each week, participate in weekly testing and see if I can start jotting down some ideas of games that have been running through my head.  In the meantime – here is my post about Japan!


When I was 3 or 4 years old, I opened up a gift under the Christmas tree that contained a Nintendo Entertainment System.  It sat in my basement where I grinded out games of Super Mario Bros and shoved the light gun in front of the TV to cheat at Duck Hunt.

Fast forward to high school, one class that I did exceedingly well at was History – specifically when it came to World War 2.  Learning about the rise of Germany, the strong foothold they took within Europe, the eventual entry of Japan to the war and their attack on Pearl Harbor.  Then came the eventual drops of the two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  I clung to that teaching more than any other subjects in school and I began to grow interest in Japanese culture, way of life and of course – the growing popularity of Nintendo/Sony games and consoles that made their way to the United States from overseas.

So, 10 months of official planning and years of dreaming – my wife and I took the 12 hour flight to Tokyo, Japan.  We spent a total of 13 days out of country (about 10 official days of roaming – if you consider a couple of travel days thrown in the mix) and I can say that the amount of planning, waiting and travelling well exceeded my expectations.

There is a lot to unpack, say and show about our time in Japan.  In total, we spent a chunk of our time within Tokyo (and multitude of wards within), one night in Hakone, three nights in Hiroshima and two nights in Nara – with our final night back in Tokyo.  Instead of writing about each day, I’d like to probably list out some bullet points and pictures that showcase each town and experiences that come directly to mind.  If there are any questions that come to you, fellow reader, after reading this – I can be reached via comment or social media outlets.

Tokyo

This is the station/ward of Tokyo we stayed in called Shin-Okubo. It isconsidered the Korean Town of Tokyo.
  • As expected, the amount of people in Tokyo in general is staggering.  Everyone, tourists included, seem to live in a microbubble – trying to get their way to wherever they are going.  Given the small space, people were very courteous to excuse themselves or slowly inch in to entry or exit out of trains or shops.  Never once did I have anyone aggressively push their way to the front of anything.
  • Expenses in Tokyo are somewhat equivalent to prices in America.  If something is 2,000 yen in Japan, you can roughly say that it is $20.  Specifically, it would be more like $17 or $18 if it was on a credit card but the conversion was easy to eyeball in general.
  • Tokyo is home to a host of many different tracks and stations that can get patrons to and fro Tokyo at minimal cost.  The JR Rail Pass helped eat some of the cost when travelling and also helped when travelling via Shinkansen (bullet train).  All trains were to the minute – on time and with English signs – it made traversing a lot easier than I expected.
  • Our time spent in Tokyo was in the Shin-Okubo station/ward of Tokyo which was considered K-Town (Korean) of Tokyo.  There were a large number of different Korean shops to eat and purchase goods and the population was mainly of teenagers 18 to 25 (rough estimate) so it was a very “hip” part of the neighborhood.
  • Stand out moments in Tokyo was just snaking our way throughout the crowds  – especially at night in the Shinjuku ward.  Also, we ate a restaurant called Ninja which was the most unique place I have ever eaten.  I don’t want to spoil it for anyone but with a place named “Ninja”, they go hard with it.  You will not be disappointed if you decide to go.  There is one in New York!
  • Also this giant sign.  This show did also not disappoint.
This half block wide sign of a Robot show that was legit crazy.

Hakone

This is the river that ran past the Ryokan where we stayed.
  • About an hour southwest of Tokyo via shinkansen is home to the small town of Hakone.  Close to Mt. Hakone and somewhat off in the distance – glimpses of Mt. Fuji can be seen as well.  The town is walk-able within about an half hour in total and has a number of many different ryokans or traditional Japanese inns.
  • Ryokans are home to onsens as well which are public hot spring baths.  On the outside, these onsens look more to be like fancy hot tubs but in reality – are specifically heated at 40 degrees Celsius and have minerals within the water that claim to have healing elements to help relax any bathers.  If you want to enter an onsen, you must actually shower and clean yourself before to help preserve the shared water.  Also, the last aspect of onsen is that you are bathing naked with other fellow patrons.
  • If you have ANY tattoo’s on your body, they will REFUSE to let you into the onsen.  I’ve heard that this is tied back to the Yakuza gangs of old.
  • Japanese rooms are also traditionally laid out as they have been for hundreds of years but with a few upgraded amenities such as flat screen tvs and AC units.
  • The amount of food provided to you both for dinner and breakfast is astronomical.  8+ small plates of seafood, some beef and maybe chicken, rice, and lots to drink.

Hiroshima

This Atomic Dome was one of the buildings that survived the blast and has been preserved as a memory of what happened.
  • Peace Park, the Atomic Dome and memorials for the victims of the blast were as heartwrenching as expected.
  • For a town that had been literally decimated about 60 years ago – the town has grown and thrived even more so.  It was very uplifting to see everything that has been built in a relatively small amount of time.
  • Okonomiyaki is a savory Japanese pancake that is very popular in Japan.  There are two unique styles known as the Hiroshima Okonomiyaki and Osaka Okonomiyaki.  They consist of fried noodles, lots of cabbage, vegetables and essentially – your choice of topping.  The difference between the two is that they are prepared differently and have different tastes – but are essentially the same.  This is comparable to America’s “Chicago” vs. “New York” style of pizza.
  • We had some of the best shopping in Japan was in Hiroshima, personally.  There was a giant 5+ block outdoor shopping mall that was filled with tourists and young adults.
  • Sadly, on our way to Miyajima Island, we witnessed a train accident where a patron fell onto the tracks with a train coming inbound to the station.  LUCKILY, she was alive which is still a mystery to me.

Nara

Home of one of the largest wooden structures and bronze buddah statues
  • By the time we reached Nara, we were getting close to peak Golden Week travel capacity so commuting via train was extremely busy.  Nara was a much more relaxed town where it seemed that most residents of Japan live here to raise a family and have done well for themselves in life.
  • Golden week is a series of Japanese holidays that fall within the Spring time in which a majority of the country goes on vacation so lots of people taking trains and getting to different parts of Japan.
  • Nara Park is a huge park in this prefecture that is home to deer that were a sign of God or Holy Ones that freely roam the park and are fairly docile to tourists.  If you bow to them, most likely they will bow back – but you must give them a deer cracker or they tend to get ansy towards you in wanting something in return.
  • Todaiji temple was a huge wooden structure located in Nara Park that was home to the largest bronze Buddha statue.  It was an amazing sight to behold.  Oddly enough, right inside what seemed to be this holy temple – was a giant souvenir stand which felt out of place.
  • We were lucky enough to be invited for dinner at one of our AirBnB host’s home and experience Takoyaki – a tempura battered ball that contained octopus, fish, vegetables that had slathered ebisu sauce, fish flakes and “green stuff”.  I have never tried octopus let alone octopus fish balls – I had 10 of them.
  • We also got to participate in a matcha tea ceremony.  In a tatami room, you sit on your knees while the tea is prepared.  You then eat a specific sweet food item that enhances the tea flavor.  Once the tea is poured out for you, you must acknowledge the front of the bowl, turn it 180 degrees, drink, turn back and place it down.  Matcha is concentrated green tea.

    Participating in an official tea ceremony.  I could not sit on my knees so cross legged was fine.
  • On our last night, we participated in what turned out to be a 3 hour tempura dinner that had 12 plates of tempura items, numerous appetizers and “japanese water”.  Shrimp head was also fried and presented to us.  It wasn’t bad!

Other Notes

  • There are rarely trash cans in Japan.  If you get something, normally you have to eat it in close proximity to the stand so you can throw it away.  Otherwise you are expected to keep all trash with you until you go home.
  • Yen to dollar exchange was roughly the same for food and items.  General rule of thumb is that anything in Yen, add two decimal points from the right side and that is the dollar amount.  So, 2,000 yen is approximately $20.  Technically, closer to $17 or $18 but it was as good conversion sense.
  • We were told that Japan is still a physical currency based country but many companies still took card.  Instead of handing money to the clerk, you present your money in a small dish that is then taken, sorted and presented back to you – if you have any change.
  • If eating out in what would be considered a “American” restaurant – a “large” drink in Japan would equate to a “medium” in America.  In general, portion sizes are smaller in Japan.
  • There are many temples and shrines in Japan.  At shrines, you place some Yen in a big wooden box and begin a small prayer where you bow twice, clap loud twice.  Bring your hands together and bow again – making sure to do your prayer and thoughts.  Bow one last time without your hands and walk away.  Different shrines have different statues that represent certain things so if there a certain troubling event – find the right shrine to pray to and you might be able to overcome it!
  • Something I never had before was Sho-chu which is a sweet potato vodka.  It was much sweeter than vodka!
  • You can find more highlighted photos on my Google album:  https://photos.google.com/share/AF1QipPz-lzGVzndxJVz5NyCcggGqKgMV_Fo4YRn7Zr5nXbftBxHta5CPis6A2YeR82Yng?key=V1ZHSUNQbVZmakM2NTN5NTlDZ2hMRFNfSU9zSUh3
  • There is quite a board game community in Japan given the limited amount of space!  This picture is from a business called Yellow Submarine in Hiroshima.  How many titles can you recognize?
Yellow Submarine was one of the bigger board game businesses in Japan.

So in all, that was our trip!  It was expensive but I would go back to Japan in a heart beat – given the opportunity.  I would recommend anyone interested to go as long as they don’t mind tight spaces and large crowds.  I’d suggest going in the Fall as the hustle of spring travelling will have past and the summer hot months will be gone too.

 

 

 

April 2018 Blog Post

So it’s official.  I’ve slammed hard into the creative slump wall that has made it difficult to keep this website posted as much as I had hoped when I originally started.  I knew that the  three posts as week wasn’t going to be a maintainable goal but I am slightly disappointed in myself that I couldn’t keep up with the content I set out to do.

But you know, that’s okay.

While I haven’t been posting articles, I’ve been keeping busy on the personal and board gaming front.  Board gaming each week has been consistent and fun as ever.  I’ve been playing on average 2 to 5 games a week for the last couple of months.  I’ve been contributing to my 10 games / 5 plays challenge with pretty much each play so seeing those numbers tick up has been fun.  I also been volunteering my time over at Leder Games playing some new Vast and Root which I am really excited for.  They are a great group of people and I look forward to every Wednesday night to play some games with those folks.  I think Root is going to do extremely well and I hope will win some awards during award season.  The team behind that game deserve it.

Personally, my wife and I adopted a puppy and it’s been a month and a half since we’ve had her.  It has been a challenge in the beginning weeks as keeping eyes on her in making sure she doesn’t get into things we don’t want to have her be in was stressful – but she has been getting better and smarter each week and it’s been rewarding to not have her bite our faces with each day.  Also, my day job at work had picked up and has kept me relatively busier than normal which is fine.

Smol Puppo Halp Mr. Daddo

As far as events, I recently participated in a Board Game Bazaar selling off some of my collection at a local distillery.  The turn out for it was more than I imagined!  It was probably overbooked as far as customers.  But I had a wonderful time talking with people about games and working out deals to make sure each game got a good home.

Board Game Bazaar in MLPS MN

I mentioned Root above but I participated in a blind play though test of the game at the Leder offices a few weeks ago in preparation for the files heading off to the printer and had a great time being able to play test the game and help add some suggestions for the last final touches before this game hits KS backers homes and shelves!

Root by Leder Games

I’m also going to be heading to Origins Game Fair this June which I am very excited for!  I plan around hanging out by the Leder Games booth, networking with some publishers, designers and artists and playing a ton of games!

In one last final note, I have thought about different media formats to be able to utilize towards contributing to this site and I’m working on a project with a friend of mine that we hope to launch in mid May which I am very excited and energized for!  It’s a tease but after our first trial run yesterday, I am extremely happy with the results and I think it will add a positive spin of content to this site.

 

 

2017 Golden Geek Awards – Part 3

It’s been awhile but it’s time to round the corner and talk about my picks for 2017’s best Cooperative Game, Card Game, Artwork & Presentation and 2-Player Game!

Cooperative Game

Magic Maze

Magic Maze takes a ‘dungeon crawling’ tile laying mechanic with Nintendo style controls and breaks each action/movement into pieces given to players around the table.  Paint a coat of silence around the table, start moving pawns and have excitement and frustration levels tick higher and higher!  For each game, players are exploring a “mythical” mall, tile by tile, and move four heroes to their unique equipment and attempt to escape out of the mall within a time limit but with a few interesting twists.  Everyone is silent and the actions and movement given to each player are the only ones that player can do – only to have a giant red pawn be “placed” in front of you when there is a move that you can make that you can see.

Magic Maze surprised me in a good way.  The giant red pawn is awesome and terrifying as it is placed in front of you as you stare at the board frantically trying to find out which one of the heroes you are able to move.  That probably scares a lot of people but for me – I found it to be exhilarating.  I can’t imagine what it is like to have all 8 people play a few rounds but I hope to try or witness it one day.

Honorable Mention

Card Game

Clank! In! Space!

Deck building games are a hard sell for me.  I’ve played my fair share of Dominion and any variants of it didn’t bring anything new to the table that I cared about…until the Clank! series came along.  Clank! In! Space! sets you off to grab treasure deep in a giant enemy spaceship in hopes to make it out on an escape pod before your life total hits 0.  As you make your way through the spaceship, you will purchase new cards to move around the spaceship, recruit new prisoners, aliens, making noise, activating terminals, shops and fight aliens to become more and more powerful.  The further you travel inward…the riskier it becomes but with a high point treasure in your midst!

Clank in Space (CIS) is the sequel to the Clank! Adventure game that came out a year or two ago that is more revolved around dragons and magical themes. I will say that I do prefer the original medieval fantasy theme of Clank! than Clank! In! Space!, I feel that CIS is the more mechanically sound version of all versions.  I played through the solo campaign on the iPad and while it is only 5 games in total, each game is graded on an A to F scale so being able to go back and replay for a better score does offer some incentive to master each level.

Who knew that adding board to move a meeple across a spaceship or deep underground could get me to like deck builders so much.  You can find CIS for dirt cheap on some outlets of FLGS (friendly local gaming store).  If you ever get a chance to play it – hop in and make some noise!

Honorable Mention

Artwork and Presentation

Sagrada

This award has to be said that I’ve known the graphic design artist, Peter Wocken,  for a very long time.  He and I have been playing board games for many years and I consider him a very good friend.  I’ve been able to see all of this finished products and I think Sagrada out of all the candidates (Photosynthesis comes very close) takes the cake for Artwork & Presentation of 2017.

From the moment you take the double slabbed window pane and start drafting dice – each window of dice you create in Sagrada is a snowflake begging to be posted on Instagram.  The colors of the dice are bright and pop off the board that complement the stained glass window design.  The design closely duplicates that of what you would find in churches extremely closely with the hazy colorful dice creating your own secondary design to the window.  There is a 5 & 6 player expansion in the works right now that looks fabulous that I can’t wait to see.  Fans of Sagrada should be pleased once this hits stores.

Honorable Mentions

2-Player Game

Fugitive

I was pumped for Fugitive when it came out on Kickstarter and even more when I got to play during Gen Con 2016 with Tim Fowers himself.  Fugitive pits 2 players in a cat and mouse chase with 42 cards (not including the events cards) where one player is the Fugitive (trying to escape) and the other as the Marshall – trying to guess the cards being played by the Fugitive as they make their escape.

The unique art work on each card is what drew me into game as each time you guess and reveal a location – you get to see a chase unravel from rooftops, to night clubs and car chases.  The fact the unique illustration on the card enacts a piece of the chase makes each game feel like new and different chase.

The game is small and compact for travel and comes with an app if you run out of dry erase marker to keep track of the cards that were guessed.  For around $20ish dollars, there is a bit of game to be played here and I fully recommend!

Honorable Mention

To close up this article series – next week I will be announcing my Game of the Year of 2017!

 

2017 Golden Geek Awards – Part 2 (Sagrada Edition)

This week, we continue with the next three categories for awards which include Solo Game,  Innovative, and Family Game.

Solo Game

Sagrada

The sudoku variant has hit the table a number of times during 2017 for it’s ease of play and teaching across all ages and interests.  I gave the solo variant a number of tries as well and found it to be enjoyable if a little difficult – which I think is perfectly fine.   It was a little of a toss up with This War of Mine and it’s story based gameplay but TWoM got a little finicky at times in trying to get to the story parts where Sagrada just has this put down, play and put away in less than hour that feels satisfying.

Honorable Mentions

Innovative

Sagrada

Mentioning yet again the sudoku variant of colors and numbers on beautifully laid tableaus – it was a refreshing surprise to be able to bring this out and have anyone, regardless of experience when it comes to games.  This was a highly contested list and while we could look at games like 7th Continent, Gloomhaven probably taking top honors for this spot, Sagrada for me in my games played just knocked it out the park for me.  Floodgate is looking at offering up to two additional players (6p) max that includes personal dice pools, more cards for tools and play areas which should breath some extra life into the game which I am looking forward to!

Honorable Mentions

Family Game

Sagrada

Sagrada has sweeped this week’s categories by far.  Everything I’ve said above applies.  It was by far just an overall hit whenever I brought it out to play.   NMBR 9 comes close with it’s number styled tile laying and even Photosynthesis with it’s cutthroat tree growing game play was close in the rear view mirror but it still was no contest.  Congrats Sagrada!

Honorable Mentions

 

Next week , we will go through best Cooperative Game, Card Game, Artwork & Presentation and 2-Player Game before ending this series with Board Game Of The Year!

 

2017 Golden Geek Awards – Part 1

Well into 2018, BoardGameGeek has taken nominations and is concluding the year of 2017 board gaming by presenting the BGG Golden Geek Awards.  This is all done by voting by the patrons of the site.  If you’re interested in voting, please follow the link here.

I’ve decided to do my voting where applicable.  My only rule is that I must have played the game in order vote.  I don’t want to vote on a game based on speculation or from others.   The following categories that I voted for are:

  • Board Game of the Year
  • 2-Player Game
  • Artwork & Presentation
  • Card Game
  • Cooperative Game
  • Family Game
  • Innovative
  • Solo Game
  • Strategy
  • Thematic
  • Best Board Game App

Best Board Game App

Through the Ages

I have a friend who lives by TTA being his favorite game.  I had every intention of wanting to play – but we never got around to it.  I did however get around to playing the app version of this game and it’s great.  The app does a lot of the heavy lifting for the user to focus on the choices of what to play and invest in.  I’m not sure I’d ever be interested in trying to play the actual game itself having played the app – which speaks wonders for how well the app is designed.  And at a fraction of the price – it’s worth a look at the very least if you are at all interested.

Thematic

Dinosaur Island

Pandasaurus Games turned the knob to 11 with their release of Dinosaur Island in the latter half of 2017.  The graphic design by Peter Wocken screams 80 and 90’s vibes and the box illustration by Kwanchai Moriya throws back to the epic movie posters of yore like Indiana Jones and Star Wars that jumps off the shelf and says “Hey my dude, you wanna chill and play some gnarly Dino Island action?”.  If the box cover doesn’t bring you back, hell, my copy of the game came with a sheet of friggen POGS!  It’s like if Jurassic Park met Nickelodeon before Jurassic Park was even a thing.  Even with the bright neon colors and design, the gameplay behind it all speaks loudly in feeling like you are building your own version of a dino park for others to see.  It’s a bold and even questionable choice to go this route – but it paid off.

Honorable mentions

Strategy

Azul

Azul popped on my radar a few months ago and I was smitten by abstract gameplay.  A unique take on drafting with patchwork-esque tile laying made this game simple to grasp but difficult to master.  I remember not doing well at all during my playthrough of the game but scouring stores after my playthrough in order to pick up a copy.  PlanB states that reprints are coming and rightfully so as I think Azul will stick around for a long time.

Honorable Mention

Dinosaur Island

 

Next week – I will announce my picks for best Solo Game, Innovative and Family Game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Board Game Highlight – Raiders of the North Sea

End game of my first 2p game of Raiders of the North Sea with an appropriately placed box cover.

Every other week, I have a gaming group that gets together and upon reflection, it has been going on now for the last couple of years – which is kinda crazy!  For the last 10+ sessions, we made our way through a campaign of Seafall which, to be honest, wasn’t that bad of a game!  Sure, it had its share of problems but my gaming group of three had a good time with it.

Now after the holidays and into February of 2018, our gaming group has found some difficulty in getting together so the prospect of trying to relearn all of the nuances of Seafall seemed a little daunting.  And with the 2017 Kickstarters rolling out to our doorsteps – myself and my group started having shrinkwrap towers of games build up in our houses.  My friend, Peter and I, who got together this past week, decided that we need to start churning through the pile of unplayed games which led to a night of playing our initial game of Raiders of the North Sea.

I’ve seen this game on the shelf and after the third or fourth time of picking it up and dropping it back down – I decided to finally purchased it a month ago from my FLGS.  I had watched the Watch It Played video tutorial and it seemed easy enough to setup and play.  Using my recollection of the video and with the instructions, we setup – had a few turns and got to playing.  After some initial confusion on how to play – the game kicked into gear.

Each player’s turn is simple.

  • Place a worker – take the action.
  • Pick up a worker – take the action.

The idea of picking up and taking the action is one of those micro “blow my mind” mechanics that seems so obvious but never have seen done in a game before.  After a few turns, both Peter and I were cruising along, gathering our Raiders to plunder outposts, monasteries and fortresses.   Speaking of raiding – as long as you can afford materials and meet the requirements of a specific place – you gain a bunch resources and a different colored worker that functions differently than the standard workers you start out with.

There is a bunch of other stuff in the game like the Valkyrie and Armor track, trading in goods with your war leader and dice rolling but then I’d be going into review territory.

In short, in that one play through, RotNS shot up my interest list and I am excited to play it again whether it be 2p to 4p.  I’ve also seen a ton of expansions for it but worry that it would get “Arkham-citis” where if you try to play with all the expansions that it is just the massive and overwhelming game.

Raiders of the North Sea.  Check it out!