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).

Games We Play: Tokaido & Teaching Warhammer 40k

Day two of weekend of gaming was fun! Only two games, but they were as I said previously, fun. Both games are new to the majority of people playing, making yesterday a teaching gaming day. Those are always fun and fraught with the tension of teaching a game to catch interest and not overwhelming new players so they give up. This is more important with games like Warhammer 40k that has volumes and years of rules. I think I did well, today people are painting their armies. 🙂

Tokaido

Should be a relaxing game. Should be. Unfortunately, Tokaido can and for us did, become rather cutthroat. I mention this upfront because a lot of people, including us, like Tokaido, but they fail to mention that games can turn cutthroat competitive in a heartbeat.

The premise is simple, you are a traveler walking from one end of Japan to the other. Along the way you have to stop at inns for rest and food. Other than that the only other things you have to do is stop at various points between inns, no die rolling, the choice is yours. Stop at a village to shop, a farm for money, visit with some people on the road, hit the hot springs, pay your respects at the temple, or stop to paint. Task completion is easy, draw a card and collect the reward or pay money to purchase one or more cards drawn.

The kicker, movement is always forward, there are only so many spots at each stop, and the player last on the road is the first to move. Here is the cutthroat aspect, if you and another player are attempting the same thing, such as finish a multi-panel painting first, blocking them requires a bit of planning. With less than four players this should not be much of an issue, with five, at one point or another, especially at the end of the game blocking became as much of a strategy as picking spots beneficial to the player.

Even with the potential for cutthroat play, Tokaido is a game I highly recommend for families. Our kids liked playing a lot, the adults enjoyed playing with the kids, and after the first inn stop everyone should know the rules. Really that simple.

Warhammer 40k

Warhammer 40k is a complex game, not a game I recommend for anyone without them playing a game or two with someone else’s pieces, and the understanding that Warhammer 40k is a very upfront heavy investment of money and time. Catch that?

For our family, 40k is a great game the children are learning:

  • patience
  • painting, a whole set of skills
  • math
  • planning, short and long term
  • risk versus reward
  • and so much more…

The problem for us, other than the lack of gaming for two weeks, only one of us (me) really knows the rules. Unlike many games where one person can know the rules, 40k is best when everyone understands the basic rules, some of the advanced rules, and ALL of the rules of their army. Yes, three sets of rules (see why I don’t recommend this for everyone?).

The goal, to teach everyone including me the basic rules. When stripped down, 40k rules are easy to learn, the big problem for me is the stats, every miniature and every weapon a miniature holds has a stat line, think 4 to 8 numbers and associated use, such as WS for weapon skill how well the miniature is at hitting other miniatures with their fist or weapon in fist or I for initiative used during melee combat or AP for armor piercing, how well a weapon penetrates (negates) armor.

Suffice to say, for me the entire stat thing should be boiled down into something more intuitive and easier, however until I come up with that system or they do we use what we have. The solution to teaching everyone how to play, everyone gets the same people with the same stats. That way they can focus on learning how to move and how to attack.

Here is what I learned, painted miniatures are much cooler to everyone, same with terrain. We had a lot of gray on the field of play. Choosing the same miniatures for everyone while “boring” allowed them to focus on learning and asking questions. Also allowed me to insert knowledge for later use, such as different types of troops and weapon choices. Everyone needs to wear comfy shoes, there is a lot standing around the table, and/or more breaks. I know games will speed up as everyone learns the game, but for a while comfy shoes. Based one everyone working on their army this morning, I think the first learning game went well.

 

 

 

 

Games We Play: Roll For Get Bit Snakebite On the Oregon Trail…and more

Day one of game weekend went well. Before diving into the last two scenarios of Rise of the Goblins we played several mini-games (as in small bite sized (this will come up in a minute)).

Roll For It

Roll For It is a die rolling, gambling/press your luck game. The goal to score 40 points before the other players. To score points you roll up to six 6-sided dice and place the results of your roll onto cards that have images of dice on them. For example, a card might have an image of a 1, 3, and two 5s. To score the card, you must have a die with a 1, 3, and two more dice with 5s showing on the card. Here is the catch, once a die or dice are placed on the card, they stay there until the card is scored by you or someone else. The challenge, allocating your dice in a way that leaves you dice to roll with a good chance of success, while other players do the same.

Roll For It is simple, but not as quick as expected. Between luck of the die and luck of the card draw a few of our games went over 30 minutes. Over five rounds, everyone won a round with the last round being the tie breaker. We had fun, but there were several times where one or more us scored no cards, kind of a downer for that game. If you purchase, get the deluxe tin, save yourself some hassle.

Get Bit

You are a robot swimming with your buddies when a shark shows up and tries to eat one of you, try to swim faster than your buddies. Get Bit is cute, you get several robots that you can and will tear the arms and legs off of and one shark. Gameplay is simple, each player has a hand of seven cards numbered 1 thru seven. Each round, each player plays a card in secret, reveal and resolve. From lowest to highest number each player moves to the front of the swim line. If there is a tie those players do not move. At the end of a round, the robot in last loses a limb (tear off an arm or leg), when all four limbs are gone your robot is out of the game.

The kids loved this, the adults caught onto card counting and paying attention to player patterns a bit too quick, resulting in a lot of games where adults tried harder to be unpredictable in card play than the kids or they probably should’ve. Avoid the deluxe version, the regular version may not come with stickers, but is cheaper and the game is the same.

Oregon Trail

If you are old enough you remember Oregon Trail as one of the first text based video games. The goal then as now, get your wagon trail from one side of the country to the other. Like then, Oregon Trail is a vicious, but fun game. Oregon Trail was the surprise hit of the night and we lost.

Oregon Trail is a cooperative game, win or lose together. Players start the game with a hand of trail and supply cards. The number of supply cards varies with the number of players. On a turn a player may:

  • Play a trail card, follow any instructions on the trail card
  • Play a supply card, usually in response to one or more calamity cards in play

Play five trail cards, create a stack, start a new row of trail cards, create ten stacks of five and you win. The problem, life on the Oregon Trail is rough. Rivers need to be forded; failing to ford costs supplies (washed down river)-our first river took 5 supply cards. If rivers were not hard enough, there are plenty of trail cards that force players to draw calamity cards.

I died from typhoid, if the river had not claimed all of our medicine I might have lived

Our boy caught cholera, broke his arm, got cured, then died literally the next turn to a snake bite

Our girl and Barb got just over half way to their destination, when calamity struck in the form of dead oxen stranding them

Yes, we died, but we had a lot of fun playing. I suggest Oregon Trail for the whole family, hell if nothing else you get a dry erase board to write your created names on and tombstones on the back to write how you died. 🙂

Finally RISE OF THE RUNELORDS GOBLINS

We ended the night with Rise of the Goblins, we had two scenarios to finish Rise of the Runelords Adventure Deck One and we wanted to get them done. Here is the major difference between a non-goblin character and a goblin character, non-goblin characters do not do harm to others as part of their turn to turn activities. Some of the best goblin moments involve hurting fellow goblins to activate other abilities, such as setting off a spell bomb that damages everyone, but they got extra dice.

There isn’t much to say about the last two scenarios, we won and won well. The hardest moment was one of the first cards, Shopkeepers Daughter who nuked me for six cards. Things should get more interesting with deck 2.

Back to gaming.

Games We Play: Game Prep

Raise your hand if you like setting up or tearing down games?

If you raised your hand you are either lying or a masochist. 🙂

We love to play games. Unfortunately, we are limited to playing games during breaks from school, holidays, summer vacation, and weekends. Thus, weekends is where you get to read Games We Play. 🙂

Of all of the aspects of playing a game, game prep, or the preparation to play a game is the least favorite around here. Game prep used to be solely my least favorite thing, as I am the person who picks the games, learns the rules, teaches the rules, and until recently the person who set up and tore down games. Talk about not a lot fun.

Thankfully as the children age they are taking more interest in the games they play, which means input on games we play and for me, slightly more interest in learning how set up and tear down games. Notice the slightly.

Currently Rise of the Runelords Goblins and some version of Warhammer 40K (actual Warhammer 40k or Kill Team) are the two favorite games. Unfortunately, both games have lengthy game prep and game tear down phases…and neither child enjoys either, go figure.

Taking Rise of the Runelords Goblins, to play the following must be completed, not in any particular order:

  1. Pull the boxed set out of the game cabinet along with play mat
  2. Pull the current scenario out of the box
  3. Assemble the five location decks and blessing deck (this involves drawing cards from up to 10 different decks)
  4. Shuffle the location decks
  5. Pull out each player’s character deck and dice
  6. Establish where each player will sit
  7. Play (this is the last step of set up)

To tear down a game of Rise of the Runelord Goblins

Put any extra cards in the box

  1. Disassemble any remaining location decks (split one deck into up to 10 different decks)
  2. Yell at players to stop throwing cards they acquired during a game, but do not want onto the play mat that you are currently trying to tear down
  3. Remind players to assemble their deck for the next game
  4. Remind players to get their rewards
  5. Pick up all remaining cards other than Blessing Deck, unless the last game of the night
  6. Assemble your own deck
  7. Pick over cards acquired, but not wanted left by other players
  8. Put those cards away
  9. Deep breath

There are a lot of steps and the sad thing is that usually you do this by yourself with up to four other people at the table or in the room. At least that is how it used to be, times are a changing for the better.

Typically what happens is one person will assemble the location decks and walk away from the table, someone else will shuffle the location decks and put them where they think they should go, another person will adjust them while making sure player decks are in place along with dice.

Tear down is still mostly a one person show, but everyone is getting better about not throwing unwanted cards on the table and if not putting cards away putting them into organized piles for easier putting away.

Yep, game prep…least fun part of gaming around here and notice I did not get into Warhammer 40k. 🙂

 

Games We Play: Rise of the Goblins, Me-Lee & Veterinarians

Welcome back to Rise of the Runelords GOBLINS! Our happy band of goblins are still stuck on the third scenario of the introductory adventure. I seem to recall a time LOOOOoooooong ago when our non-goblin characters went through something similar as we figured out how best to work out group. This feels similar, in that we are still learning what goblins can and cannot do. Interestingly enough, our group of goblins has one of everything other than someone who wears heavy armor and who needs that?

Our biggest issue is deck stall and the occasional crappy roll at a critical moment. Deck stall for those not familiar with the term is when you have a hand of cards that are not useful. Typically, in Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, this means that you have a hand of weapons or cards you want to save for later. Weapon cards tend to stay in your hand until you discard one in an emergency or as damage. Cards you want to save for later are your “cool” cards. You want to keep them because they do “cool” things, but for the moment they are not useful.

The effect of deck stall in a PACG is you make one explore a turn unless the explored card gives you a second exploration. One exploration a turn really slows a game down; a player would need 11 turns to get through a location deck, players do not get 11 turns in a game, thus multiple explorations and some luck are required.

Pair multiple deck stall with inopportune crappy die rolls, such as when Zibini faced off against a very early Ancient Skeleton and rolled 3 one’s. Five damage later and deck stall was a good thing for her. Or when Reta did kill her Ancient Skeleton, but botched (more than our share of botches appeared at the table) her To Close roll.

On the plus side we have learned to stop using Blessing of the Gobs to take blessings from the blessing deck, costing us turns. This is a huge step in the right direction. There have not been any moments of goblin math, goblin language continues to evolve…

Me Lee said in a cute girl’s voice, as our daughter has not pronounced melee correctly yet and will correct people who do, “Not melee, Me Lee!”

And don’t ask how or why, but there was a rash of veterinarians in our game. I wish I had an answer for why there were Mercenary veterinarians and undead veterinarians. Honestly, I did not think that animal doctors had so many varied backgrounds and yet there they were fighting us and saving animals along the way. Very odd indeed.

I wish I could say that Black Fang the Dragon was kicking our collective green butts and that is why we keep losing. He is not and we are losing, but we are still GOBLINS!

Games We Play: Sushi Go Party!

Try to imagine your daughter saying “sushi go…PARTY!” with a little jump and fist pump. Did you imagine that, awesome, because it is cute as all hell. That is also how our Sushi Go Party by Gamewright session started.

Sushi Go Party is not a new game. Sushi Go Party is an upgraded version of Sushi Go. We love Sushi Go. We played until a card was lost and then waited, patiently, for Sushi Go Party’s release.

As a quick recap, Sushi Go is a card passing and matching game. Start with a hand of cards pick one, pass your hand, and continue picking and passing until all of the cards are in play. Your goal is to collect sets of cards or to collect individual cards worth points only looking at the ever shrinking hand of cards passed to you. When all of the cards are played, count up your points and start a new round. Sushi Go is not a complicated game, our eight year old learned a year ago. The hardest part of Sushi Go is keeping track of the cards in play so that you plan your picks well and do not end up with a round of 0 points…I did not track that well.

If Sushi Go is a great game, what is Sushi Go Party? Good question. Sushi Go Party is a deluxe version of Sushi Go. If you have Sushi Go, pick up Sushi Go Party the new stuff is worth the cost. If you are thinking of picking up Sushi Go, just pay the bit extra and get Sushi Go Party.

Sushi Go Party comes with new cards for all categories of food, desert, and modifiers. These cards come with some new rules, such as Tea which scores 1 point for each card of the same color that you have the most of; example: you have three yellow cards, two pink cards, and tea at the end of the round Tea will score you 3 points for the yellow cards. Miso Soup is another new card, score 3 points, but only if you are the only player to play Miso Soup when cards are revealed.

Sushi Go Party comes with a menu style scoring board. The best thing about Sushi Go Party is this board, not only can you keep track of scores in a visible manner, you can show what cards are in the deck and how each type scores. Due to the new cards, players assemble the deck before each game. Chosen types of cards go into the menu board as a reminder of what cards are in play and how each card scores. The expanded rulebook has several suggested deck suggestions for a variety of games.

That doesn’t sound like much, however when a Sushi Go Party game is running at top speed: pick, pass, reveal, pick, pass, reveal remembering what cards score, especially with the new cards can be an issue, especially with new players. Speaking of which we had two new players and after a game both players could play without any major issues.

I highly recommend Sushi Go Party or Sushi Go for any game group. Quick play, easy to learn, fun mechanism, and generous scoring opportunities allow for close games.