Games We Play: Con Games

Hope everyone is having a good Memorial Day and remembering why there is a Memorial Day and no it is not a national day to get drunk, eat hot dogs, and party. We are doing our part here at home.

When we went to Motor City Comic Con we took a few games with us, but due to the hectic pace we kept we were unable to play more than a game or two. This time because C4 has shorter hours we packed several games including a new one, We Didn’t Play Test. Before that some suggestions from us about games and travel.

When packing games here are some things we learned:

  1. Smaller games are better, think pack of cards big
  2. Make sure the games do not have a lot of small parts
  3. While you hope this won’t happen, if something should get lost or damage make sure you are okay with that
  4. Quick games are better than long games, people are tired and distracted
  5. Packing more games is not better than packing a few good games
  6. Have games that interest as many people as possible
  7. When playing in public get used to all sorts of interest from passerby’s

For C4 I packed, Get Bit, Star Realms with Colony Wars, Roll For It, and We Didn’t Playtest This. All of them are self-contained, small games, that fit in one bag. Further, if something happened to them I could get another copy at worse.

Here is what happened:

Roll For It is too much for very tired people. I know, a game where you roll dice and match pictures can become frustrating when the dice won’t roll the pictures. Tired people get frustrated quicker, see where this is going?

Get Bit is a great little game, except when people play in a easy to recognize pattern. Then Get Bit becomes repetitive and boring.

Star Realms was the favorite of the trip. We taught two people how to play and they loved the game. I expected to play a game or two, at most. We played every day, a couple of games each day. We even played a quick game before C4 opened on Sunday. Star Realms is an extremely well designed game making games close and keeping everyone engaged. Adding Colony Wars to allow 4 players made games more interesting.

We Didn’t Playtest This was…the adults expected a lot more. The kids had no clue what to expect. The gamer in me hoped for more and got what he expected. We Didn’t Playtest This is played as such, deal two cards to each player. On your turn draw a card from the draw pile. Pick a card and place the card in front of you. Follow the instructions on the card in front of you. That’s it.

Here’s the rub, the goal is to win. Many of the cards are instant win, everyone hold up 1 to 5 fingers, those with an odd number lose. Now, if we were drinking, this probably would’ve been fun. As it was there were no drinks and there were children. Children and adults don’t like instant lose over and over and over again. So here is my recommendation, IF you are looking for an extremely quick game (longest game was 4 minutes) to carry around, you are not looking for things to make sense, fun cards to read (the cards are very fun to read), then pick up We Didn’t Playtest This. Otherwise stick with Cards Against Humanity.

Games We Play: Moral of the Story, Research

I do not enjoy buying games that require other purchases to use. I try my best to research games before buying them. I suggest everyone takes the time to research a game before purchasing, as games are expensive…often times more expensive than necessary or in relation to the value of the game’s pieces. There are many places posting reviews, unboxing (essentially someone unpacks a game and tells you about it, good for seeing what is in a box), and game play. That being said, from time to time, I fail to do my research or I miss an important fact while researching.

I had researched Warhammer Quest Silver Tower plenty. There is a lot to like about this game especially when you have fond memories of the original game. The biggest hurdle for us, price. Warhammer Quest Silver Tower is a Games Workshop which means, excellent quality, good rules, great art and miniatures, and good paper components. This also means high price. The value for the price is almost always good.

While we were at Motor City Comic Con there was a game vendor who had excellent prices. Seriously, excellent prices. He beat Amazon on everything, which is how we ended up with Silver Tower and Shadows Over Hammerhal, an expansion or separated game depending upon who is talking. I personally feel that Shadows Over Hammerhal is both, you can purchase Shadows Over Hammerhal and have a complete game and/or you can purchase Shadows Over Hammerhal and have new pieces to use.

So here is where the research fell apart, there are two miniature expansions, Arcane and Mighty Heroes. Each consists of 4 or 5 new heroes to use in your game. Now you would think that new miniatures would mean includes all necessary information to play. In other words, you purchase the miniatures and you get whatever cards are necessary to use them. NOPE!!!!

There isn’t even a hint that cards are not included nor is there a hint where to find the cards. The cards contain the information to use the miniatures, no cards, no miniatures. Checking the Games Workshop site…yep no cards. However, there used to be a product…you guessed it, a package of cards for the miniatures in both boxes and a whole bunch others using miniatures from other sets. Unfortunately, the product is no longer available, in the US. In the UK, shipped to the UK, it is.

I, being a reasonably knowledgeable gamer, looked all over for the cards and/or information about the cards. Turns out the cards for Mighty Heroes is in one of the books in Silver Tower. Good. Where are the cards for Arcane Heroes?

Nowhere!

Yes, Nowhere.

Not in any of the books from either game.

Not online anywhere I could find.

I am hopeful, that someone reading this will send a link to the information. Until then I have a box of miniatures for a game, that are useless for the game.

Moral of the story, research, research, research!

Games We Play: Food Can Wait, We Are Gaming

We are a gamer family, you know this, but I like to establish some credentials first. 🙂 While home we play big games. Games that take time and space to play. Such as Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Warhammer, and Forbidden Stars. Between big games we play smaller gamers. Games that take little time and space to play. Such as Get Bit, Roll For It, and Tiny Epic Galaxies or Kingdoms.

Our boy, after watching Tabletop Star Realms episode, wanted a deck of his own to take to school. Awesome, he wants to teach his friends how to play and start his own gamer group. Fully behind this and secretly hoping traveling games would travel with us, I got him his own deck.

And that deck went to school the next day. My only guidelines, no playing class, no variant rules (he likes to make his own rules that ensure his victory and everyone elses dislike of his variant rule), and if you get the deck taken away from you at school you are on your own for getting a new deck.

Each day a new game report, mostly interrupted games-lunch ended, recess ended, the wind started, and so on. He is getting his friends involved. At home we already play Star Realms, so all this did was increase the frequency of games. Surprsing to me, he began to bring Star Realms with him everywhere we go. Now, I have tried prior to this to bring games and have had no luck engaging people, which is why I expected the same result.

I was wrong and I am glad to be wrong. Provided someone is sitting across from him he pulls out Star Realms and a game ensues. And because of these experiences we have started to amass knowledge on the do’s and don’ts of gaming at a restaurant.

For games like Star Realms, two sides with a central row of cards, figure out a way to layout the game to take up less space, in this case the explorer cards which are always available are stacked underneath the draw deck, still visible and easy to draw. In addition, loss the authority life counter cards, they take up too much space, a napkin and a pen more efficient and space saving.

Learn how dining works. This is more for the kids playing than the adults. Waitstaff have a rhythm, some are good, some are bad, most fall between that. They want to greet, take your drinks, bring you drinks, take order, bring food, and check out how things are going. Adults know this. Kids may know this, but when deep in a game could care less.

Thus, games have to wait until they know what they want to order. Thankfully ours have learned how to order. Games need to proceed quicker than at home. Nothing irritates waitstaff like having to wait for a game to finish or clear out before food can be served. Of course, if the waitstaff has already demonstrated they are screw ups, an extra minute of holding plates wont hurt them.

Be prepared to explain to the waitstaff they game. Some waitstaff has genuinely been interested in the game. Just don’t let you overeager children explain, take the time as an adult to learn the game (you should be a gamer) and explain to the waitstaff. Service goes up when the waitstaff are also gamers.

I’m sure we will learn more as gaming continues. 🙂

Games We Play: Dysentery On The Trail To Mt. SkullzFyre

Yesterday was Free Comic Book Day. Around here Free Comic Book and Free RPG Days are hit or miss, mostly miss. After this year, I am hoping things are starting to change. We found five different locations participating in Free Comic Book Day. There was a thought to spend the day hitting the various locations; in the end sanity won out and we picked the nearest store, Excelsior Games and Comics.

Up here game stores and comic stores are a mixed bag, most of them are operated by fans. Fans tend to make bad business owners. A store is a business and should be run as such. Fans run dream shops, their own dreams. This is one of the biggest reasons why it took us five years to find the few stores we visit frequently. Now we can add two more shops, Game On was a pleasant surprise and yesterday’s Excelsior a welcome surprise; both stores are well stocked with a variety of games and comics.

After a day visiting a new store, picking out a bunch of freebies, and making a nice purchase (yes, we made a purchase in addition to taking some of the free stuff, if you ever attend a Free Day, buy something from the store, while the stuff is free to you, it cost the store plenty.) of comics and games we returned home to make food and play a bunch of small games.

First up, Here Kitty Kitty. There are too many kitties in the neighborhood and the problem is you don’t have them all. The goal of Here Kitty Kitty is to have the most points in cats at the end of the game. Between the cute cat miniatures, cards with clever names, abilities, and art Here Kitty Kitty has a lot to offer in a small box. Each player has a house with a yard, porch, and house. In the middle of the table, all of the cats. Each turn players may perform up to two actions. On a turn a player may move a cat from the neighborhood to the yard, yard to porch, or porch to house or a player may play a card from their hand or discard cards. Play alternates until the last card is drawn. Here Kitty Kitty is fast and fun to play.

Get Bit followed. I haven’t enjoyed playing Get Bit due to the children as my competition. They have patterns that I know well, thus beating them is easy. This time two adults along with the kids made Get Bit a lot of fun and introduced some much needed tension.

After several rounds of Get Bit we pulled out Oregon Trail. I died of dysentery. That is all…oh yeah, immediately after my death another player went out to a snake bit and the rest is history.

Dusting ourselves off we put on our battle wizard garb to battle one another in Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards Duel At Mt. Skullzfyre. If you watch Tabletop you may have seen the episode where Wil Wheaton and friends play the game. They were not able to complete a full game where one player wins two duels, but had a blast playing. Those of us who watched that episode expected an equally long game.

SURPRISE! Lucky draws or whathaveyou, our first game went by blistering quick, under a half hour. Hell, I was down to 3 hit points after the first turn and only managed to make it to turn 3 because I was able to act first in turn 2.

Hopefully you watched the video and learned more about the game than I could write about. My take on the game, at this moment we are in the middle of a game, is that as long as people are ontop of things it plays faster than in the video and with the addition of some funny voices is a blast to play. Even a dead battle wizard takes part.

Games We Play: Thank You Wil Wheaton

Today is International Tabletop Day. In case you did not know, a day to play tabletop games. Normally we play tabletop games or in the case of a few games continue to prep for the days when we will play them…cough cough 40k…over the weekend. Naturally, today we played tabletop games (as of now: Star Realms, Get Bit, and Roll For It).

I need to say thank you to Wil Wheaton. The whole family enjoys watching Tabletop. We have watched every episode at least once and because of what we have seen on his show purchased many games that we might not have. Because of Tabletop the kids are more informed gamers, more interactive gamers, and better gamers.  That alone merits a thank you.

This particular thank you though is for playing Star Realms on Tabletop a couple of days ago. I purchased Star Realms by White Wizard Games when it first was released. A non-collectable deck building game when we were playing a lot of deck building games seemed like a no brainer. For whatever reason nobody wanted to play. I mean nobody. I tried and tried.

Today on International Tabletop Day the kids watched Wil Wheaton play Star Realms and like the do with most of the games they see, asked if we could get that game.

“We already have Star Realms,” I said.

“Really?” they replied.

I pulled Star Realms out of the “Tried but No Luck” box and showed them. And that is how we found ourselves embroiled in a two-hour round robin series of games. Like I said above Star Realms in a non-collectable deck building game. You only need to purchase one box to play. There are add-ons, but we don’t own any.

Each player begins the game with a 10-card deck consisting of 8 cards that give you a dollar to spend and 2 cards that allow you to attack for 1 point. Between the players is the resource row; a draw pile and five face up cards that players may purchase on their turn. Plus on card that is always available, the Explorer card which gives 2 dollars when played.

A turn, after the first player’s first turn (if you are first player you only start with three cards), consists of playing your hand of five cards. Total up the dollars you have to spend and total up the damage you have done. Spend the dollars on cards in the resource row, purchased cards go into your discard pile, and deal the damage to the opposing player. Discard your cards and draw a new hand of five cards; when you run out of cards to draw, shuffle your discard pile to make a new draw pile. Simple, right?

The complexity and strategy has to do with the four factions, interactions, and outposts and bases. There are four factions, each with a theme, such a damage dealing, life gain, or resource manipulation. All cards have a primary ability that they do when played. Most cards have a secondary ability that only triggers when another card from that faction has been played. The interactions between cards of the same faction typically guides your purchases; players typically pick one or two factions to purchase when they become available in the resource row.

Outposts and Bases are two types of cards that remain in play, until another player blows them up. Both provide resources automatically during your turn. Normally when dealing damage the opposing player loses that much authority (life). However, if they have one or more outposts in play damage is dealt to that first and the only way to remove an outpost is to deal damage equal to its health in one turn. Bases, unlike outposts can be ignored, but often have large enough effects that you’ll want to take them out.

So in our round robin, our girl won two matches in a row, then lost, then I won two in a row, which put her versus me…I won. 🙂 All of the games were close, except one, but if our boy wants to watch Tabletop more than play, who are we not to take the easy victory.

I have to go now, there is a game of Epic Tiny Kingdoms waiting for me.

Games We Play: My Little Pony Tails of Equestria

Another apology, my arm is still hurting and the medicine causes me to sleep way more than I normally do. Soon enough all will return to normal. I have the next installment of Puddles and Whiskers and Menagerie almost ready to go. Why am I not finishing them? Because the gamer dad in me is extremely excited about My Little Pony Tails of Equestria by Shinobi 7 and River Horse.

I have tried all of the kids lives to get them involved in games. There are so many positives to play games at all ages. Because I am an uber gamer I have introduced every type of game to our children; card games, collectible card games, deck building, dice, miniature, strategy games and anything else you can think of. The only type of gaming that has not been successful is roleplaying games.

There are very few roleplaying games marketed for children. While our children are interested in fantasy and science-fiction the amount of work for a typical role playing game, even those marketed towards children is off putting. Worse, even if they are willing to do the work to make a character and learn some of the rules, the setting is…not marketed towards children or at least their attention span.

Tails of Equestria is…great. The book is covered in My Little Pony stills and artwork, making everything immediately recognizable to anyone who has watched the show, seen the movies, or read the comic books.

Character creation is simple, pick a pony type-earth, pegasus, or unicorn, sorry no alicorns. Earth ponies are stout, pegasus can fly, and unicorns have magical abilities. Pick an element of harmony, think alignment, but more relatable than alignment has ever been. Then pick body or mind preference, is your character strong or smart (this is selling the two attributes short, but gets the point across). Pick a talent and a quirk, talents are abilities a pony has and quirks are things that set ponies apart, usually negative such as afraid of heights. Finally draw and color your pony and their cutie mark. For those drawing challenged like me there are character sheets with pony outlines coming soon.

Game mechanics are simple, the Storyteller establishes a difficulty number, the Pony Character (PC) rolls a die or two. If the number is equal or great the challenge is overcome. Yes, there are rules for fighting or Scuffling. However, scuffling is the last resort, overcoming challenges and obstacles other ways are preferred.

Teamwork is encouraged throughout the book. There are plenty of ways ponies can work together from working as team (everyone rolls and take the best result) to tokens of friendship. Tokens of friendship are beads or gems each pony character gets at the start of an adventure. Cash the tokens in for rerolls, to automatically pass a test, or better yet share the tokens with fellow ponies to aid them.

I was impressed with the writing. I know I can hand Tails of Equestria to either of my kids and they can understand all of the concepts. Information is kept together with clear page references to where you can find the information.

So why am I so impressed? Tails of Equestria is the kind of roleplaying game that children can sink their teeth into with quick character creation, mechanics easy to understand and implement, and best of all the setting is recognizable and easy to get into (no need to try to explain what a bugbear is), children only need to have seen My Little Pony.

Games We Play: Forbidden Stars

Forbidden Stars by Fantasy Flight Games, no longer sold by Fantasy Flight Games due to some licensing thing, is a really fun game to play.  Set in the Warhammer 40k universe, Forbidden Stars is a strategy game . There are four factions, Space Marines, Chaos Space Marines, Orks, and Eldar to choose from. The board is modular and scales in size based on the number of players.

Getting this out of the way, if you have played or looked at any Fantasy Flight Games game you know that the components are top notch, no deviation from that here. Everything from the board tiles, cards, and game pieces look great, durable, and make games more fun to play.

Getting this also out of the way, if you have played just about any Fantasy Flight Games board game they have given you two rulebooks. I find this BEYOND annoying. Put all of the information in ONE book! I cannot stand having a rule book and a reference book, especially when the reference book has DETAILED information that should be in the rulebook. Why should the detailed information be in the rule book, because when looking up the rules I expect to find them in the rules and when I don’t it does not naturally occur to me to flip through a reference book. In other words, I would rather have one big rulebook with all of the rules in one place than have to check two books, which slows down or stops game play. Please game companies, stop worrying about if a huge rulebook will “scare” players off; having to search through multiple rule books is more of a detriment.

With those things out of the way, Forbidden Stars is reasonably easy to learn and most definitely fun to play. What is reasonably easy to learn? The rulebook contains enough information for play; turn order, explanation of pieces, and overview of combat. There are areas where reading the reference book immediately come in handy, anything involving combat.

Goal of the game, in 8 or less turns capture a number of objective tokens equal to the number of players. Objective tokens represent things of importance to your faction and have no value other than a victory condition. A turn is played in three phases:

The first phase, players alternate placing order tokens facedown in systems. Orders allow players to move, build, collect resources, and upgrade their combat decks and what their orders can do. Placement of order tokens is important, as they are resolved top down, meaning planning is important to avoid attempting to build something without the proper resources, infrastructure, or ability to move them around.

After placing orders, resolving orders; starting with the first player (a token that changes at the end of each turn) each player chooses one of their order tokens on top of stack revealing and resolving the effects. Play alternates until all of the order tokens are resolved. During this phase, combat can occur up to two times per player. Combat is where the majority of the reference book look ups happen.

Here is a break down of combat: each player gathers dice equal to the combat value of their units. Both sides roll their dice leaving the symbols displayed. Then each player draws five combat cards for three rounds of card playing and damage dealing. During the three rounds of card playing and damage dealing each player reveals a combat card resolves the effects, then deals damage. At the end of three rounds if any units are left the side with the highest moral total wins.

The final phase is resource collection, resolving any events, and moving the warp storms which are barriers to movement that move at the end of each turn creating an ever shifting series of barriers.

I have glossed over a lot and there is a lot to Forbidden Stars. Despite everything above, the game plays very smoothly and quickly, most games were over in under an hour. I recommend Forbidden Stars for people who like strategy games and have a passing interest in the Warhammer 40k universe (a deep knowledge is NOT required).