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Month: April 2013

Among the Living

It all started with A Game of Thrones.  My friend Kent had collected the base game and the first eighteen (yes, eighteen) expansions because he liked the art.  He never played the game, just collected the cards.  Last summer, he traded the collection to me, so we reassembled it into the base set and expansions.  We then sat down with the rulebook and tried to get into it.  It was a bit daunting, especially after I looked for the FAQ and found it to be a larger document that the (large) rule book.  The book explains from the start, the 4 player setup, with all the extra trappings, but doesn’t point out how much easier the 2 player experience is, which the tutorial video does much better.  We came back to it from this angle, and eventually the 4 player setup made a lot more sense.  It also helped that between the first play and the second, I read the first three books in the Song of Ice and Fire series.  I’m not going to go too heavily into each system, but share some early thought, having played a few games of each, and planning to expand each game.  I will start with the oldest ones first, and finish up with the newest members of the format.

A Game of Thrones (1 Base Set,  6 Deluxe Expansions, 46 Chapter Packs) — This is a very cutthroat game, with a lot of focus put upon messing with what other people are doing.  It plays most thematically with 4 players, but more smoothly at 2.  My collection started with the base game and the first 3 cycles of cards, but we played several times with just the base decks that came with the Core Set.  I like this game a lot, but find it to be a tough sell to a new player.

Call of Cthulhu (1 Base Set, 5 Deluxe Expansions, 42 Asylum Packs) — My friend Shane brought this game into the shop the first time I met him, and left it for us to try.  We played a handful of times, again with just the base game.  This one has a more straightforward 2 player experience.  You’re trying to claim “story” cards by committing characters to them, and then facing off against your opponent.  There are a lot of cards in circulation now, though, and I’m not sure how much I should collect, to put together a decent handful of decks to play casually with friends.

Warhammer: Invasion (1 Base Set, 4 Deluxe Expansions, 36 Battle Packs)  — This one is probably the most “in your face”.  It allows for more than 2 players, but plays best as a head to head game.  Each player has 3 regions in their home that they are defending, as the other player builds up their forces, and attacks them.  Lose two of your regions, and you’re eliminated from the game.  This one probably plays quickest, and I’ve seen the balance of power change on a dime.

The Lord of the Rings (1 Base Set, 2 Deluxe Expansions, 2 Saga Expansions, 18 Adventure Packs, 2 Print on Demand Expansions) — The only cooperative game in the lot.  2-4 players play against a “Quest Deck”.  In theory, each quest has its own feel and play experience.  In practice, the game is a lot of resource management and number crunching.  I don’t dislike this game, but I think it’s the most difficult one to massage the theme out of.

Android: Netrunner (1 Base Set, 3 Data Packs) — One of the two newest members of the format, Android: Netrunner has been at the top of the BoardGameGeek “Hotness” for the last several months.  It features truly asymmetrical gameplay, with each side taking vastly different types of actions, as the noble corporation tries to defend its assets against criminals.  Or perhaps, as the digital freedom fighter tries to stick it to Big Brother.  It really depends on your outlook.  This is another game that I feel isn’t for everyone, but is probably the most unique of the six.

Star Wars (1 Base Set, 2 Data Packs) — Despite early claims that this would be a cooperative game, Star Wars released as a “light” versus “dark” game, with 3 different factions on each side.  This one probably has more similarities to Warhammer: Invasion than any of the others, but I feel it holds its own theme very well.  I’ve probably played this one the most, and have enjoyed it immensely.  It also features a unique deckbuilding method that I like a lot, though others have claimed it too restrictive.

One thing all of these games have in common is STELLAR artwork.   Granted, the Call of Cthulhu art gets reused throughout Arkham Horror, Mansions of Madness, and Elder Sign, but the artwork is good enough that I certainly don’t mind. The Star Wars art all has a great illustrated style, and really bring out the “feel” of the original trilogy.  Lord of the Rings uses all unique artwork, and pulls nothing from the movies, not even inspiration.  Considering how bad the art is on just about every other Lord of the Rings game these days, that’s a wonderful thing.

I’ve found myself to be a fan of all of these games.  I’m actively looking for people to play them with, though I’d likely have to play at home, at least for a while.

I will be touching on each of these games as I get to them in my regular “Collection” articles, but I wanted to say a few things about these now, and hopefully start a dialogue, that will give me more opportunities to PLAY these games.


Collecting Games, Playing Games, and the “Cult of the New”

I collect games.  Whether I like to admit it or not, I collect games.  My collection has grown so much over the last two years, I certainly can’t deny it.  I’m trying to limit my game buying to games I actually KNOW I’ll play, now, but that’s still a pretty big list.  I’ve been thinking about my collection lately, and how much of it has been influenced by what’s newly coming out. (more…)

Interludes and Introductions

I’m going to take a bit of a departure from my normal format tonight. I’ll be going back to it,but for now, I just want to share a few thoughts about my last couple of years as a board game enthusiast. When I started this blog, I didn’t ever intend for it to be read by anyone besides people who already knew me. To that end, I never really introduced myself. My co-contributors have all introduced themselves. I guess I should follow suit.

I’m a 38 year old new father. I’ve been gaming since the late 1980s, and have been involved in the industry, at the retailer level, since 1994. Like most people, I had games as a kid, but nothing more in depth than Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit. My first introduction to tabletop gaming really came in 1988 when I borrowed my uncle’s basic D&D set (which he’d never played). I ran the game for a few neighborhood kids, and was hooked pretty quick. This was the pre-red box version, and I only had it for maybe a couple of weeks.  Role playing remained a pretty strong hobby for me, and I found myself immersed in systems like Marvel Super Heroes, Twilight 2000, Rifts, and Vampire, as well as a regular ongoing D&D campaign.

In the ’90s, I went to work for a local comic shop, and was introduced to Magic: the Gathering. At the time, it was the only game they carried. I played heavily from The Dark through the Urza block. The store changed ownership in 1996, and eventually, we started moving more into games. When I took over ownership in 1998, we eliminated comics altogether, and became a full-blown game store. When I say game store, I mean CCGs and Roleplaying games, mostly. I remember seeing solicitations for games like Settlers of Catan, but not thinking much of them. We continued until 2002, and closed when the building we were located in was sold.

When I opened a new shop in 2003, we still followed the same model, though we carried some of the collectible minis games like HeroClix and MechWarrior. Sadly, that shop didn’t stay open very long either, and I missed the opportunity to expand my horizons. During this time, games like Raw Deal (the WWF/WWE card game), Star Wars d20, and Warlord: Saga of the Storm dominated my time. The shop re-opened in 2006, almost completely focused on Magic: the Gathering. In 2008, we moved to a larger location, and re-introduced comics to our lineup.

It was in this location that I started to see some of the great things that were going on. Finally, I discovered Settlers of Catan, and Carcassonne, and Ticket to Ride, and all the other great “gateway” games. Still, I moved slowly into board gaming as a hobby. Games like Pandemic and Forbidden Island became staples for us. Indeed, when Jamie and I got married in 2010, we had board games on each of the tables at the reception, and gave out custom d6s as wedding favors. I had personally drifted away from Magic as a player, but continued to run events on a weekly basis. I also had gotten into Warhammer Fantasy Battles and amassed a decent sized Vampire Counts army. I wasn’t very good at it, though, and never got knowledgable enough to teach it very well. Our latest D&D campaign had ended, as well, and the next one never quite got started.

I found myself without a steady hobby for the first time in a long time. I turned to board games as a “one-off” kind of thing, as I had access to a smallish collection, with a decent amount of variety. I can’t say there was any one specific board game that sucked me in, but in the last two years or so, I’ve really found a hobby that I can love.  All types of games, with so many ways to interact with friends and new faces. I also feel that I’m a passable teacher for these games, so in general, I really feel at home with board games. At the beginning of 2013, I started a quest to talk about each of the games in my collection. Give my thoughts on the ones that I’ve played, and at least talk a little about the ones I haven’t. I’m still in the As, so this might take a while. I don’t think I’m quite done with this interlude yet, however.

In my next segment, I plan to talk about new games, old games, and the direction I plan to go with my hobby.


As humans, one of our instincts is to belong to a group, to fit in, to feel special.   Originally, it was a survival mechanism, groups can support each other, look out for each other, and utilize each others’ skills for the benefit of the group.  I feel that boardgaming furthers that instinct.

Take kids as an example.  If you have any, you know as soon as they are born, they need attention, want to be held, want to be close to others.  As they get older, they start wanting to be part of what the parents are doing.  Even if you don’t have any kids, I’ll bet you can remember a time in your younger days when you wanted to be part of what ever your parents were doing.  Why not get them involved in gaming as soon as they show an interest?  The benefits are endless.

My two grandsons, Garrett, age 5. and Troy, age 3 are already avid gamers.  They get games as presents for birthday’s, Christmas, and just because.  Within an hour of my wife and I visiting them, they are pulling out a game and asking us to play.  When they visit us, they soon are asking me to play Toc Toc Woodman with them.  As they get older, the games will advance in complexity, and someday we will be playing Dominion, Agricola, or Paths of Glory together.   And then, in their teens, cars and girls will arrive in their lives, and the games will go away. 🙂  But then, if my own kids are any example of what will happen, they will be back, wanting to play games again.  And for certain favorite games, they may never go away completely.

So, what do you start with?  I am by no means and expert, but I can tell you what works for us.

1- Let them roll dice….lots of dice, big dice, soft dice.  In our family, both the boys, when they were only a few months old, had the ritual roll of a d6.  Granted, it was little more than putting the die in their hands, and eventually they drop the die (maybe it wasn’t really a roll), but it counts!  The die my daughter found somewhere, it is about a 3″ cube, and made of foam.  By the way, Garrett rolled a 4, and Troy a 6.  As they get a little older, let them roll dice for you in a game (make sure you watch them closely so they don’t eat the dice).

2-Get a copy of waterproof UNO cards, and play.  Basically the boys are just trying to match colors initially, and later colors and numbers.  All of the skip and reverse cards we just use to match colors and symbols.  The waterproof cards are great for spills and getting chewed on.  Initially, when they’re attention span wanes, let them stop.  But as they play the game more, make them finish the hand before stopping.

3-Space Rockets, the card game.  This is the card game War, with cool rocket pictures on the cards.  (We do model rocketry as a family also).  They are out of print, but available on ebay.  I sleeved them and away we go.  At this point, we do keep score, and have winners and losers.

4-A themed dominos game.  Matching characters, like Cars, Spiderman, or such on the domino’s.

5-Toc Toc Woodman.  We, as adults, follow the two swing rule, but initially, let the boys swing until they knock out a core piece.  At first, we also give the boys points for each piece of bark they put on the core when reassembling the tree.  Then, an amazing thing starts to happen, as they get older and play the game more, on their own, they start only taking two swings, because that is what the adults do.

6-Can’t Stop.  Rolling dice again. As adults, we follow the rules.  So far, we let the boys roll the dice until they can’t place the dice, with no penalty.  As 3 and 5 year olds, they don’t understand the chances of rolling certain combinations are more difficult than others.

7-Dino Dice.  The boys love dinosaurs, so this is a bit hit.  Initially, we let them roll with no penalty.  But slowly, they start to realize that the adults are playing by different rules, and change on their own.  Garrett is at this point, Troy is not there yet.

8-Swipe. Rolling lots of dice, and getting to steal dice and chips from Grandpa is a huge plus!  One thing that this game helps teach, more so than the games above, is sportsmanship.  At first, it is hard for them to have dice and chips stolen from them, but we keep reinforcing that it is part of the game, and you have to be a good sport if you are going to play games.

9-Sorry Sliders.  Another great dexterity game.

10-Blokus.  Garrett asked to play this game, there is a version of it at his pre-school.  He actually does pretty well, but he hasn’t won yet.

11-Monster Chase.  A memory game.  What the boys like about this game is when they make a match, the get to yell “In the closet, monster!” and banish the monster from the game.  They absolutely love this part of the game.

12-Ninja vs Ninja.  Garrett is a ninja fanatic, so I picked up this game for him.  While it is a very simple game, it is a little advanced for him, because you have so many decisions to make.  So, right now, I show him his different movement options.  I am confident, that soon, he will be seeing those options on his own.

Other games Garrett has played recently are Castle Panic and Sentinels of the Multiverse.  Obviously, at 5, he doesn’t have the reading ability for either game, so we help him by explaining to him what options the cards he has have give him, and let him make the decision on what to do.

As you can see from above, we make rules adjustments to the games for the boys.  As they develop, they start to understand the concepts better, and so far, have advanced on their own.  I do feel that you have to have winners and losers, so they understand that winning and losing are part of playing games. We stress finishing the games and good sportsmanship.  I will admit, I have put off winning, such as rolling again in Can’t Stop, to give the boys more opportunities, but I only do it once in a while, and usually when the boys have had a lot of bad luck.  I will, at some point in time, stop doing this.

Develop a gaming relationship with you kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews.  Be a Big Brother/Sister and introduce them to the wonderful world of boardgaming.  You will educate them, teach them important life lessons, improve their self esteem, and develop a much closer bond with them.  And along the way, your will receive all of these  benefits in return, and just maybe, find a gaming partner for life.


Next blog; “Everything Deserves A Second Chance”.


Jeff Chattin

Great gaming gang!

Jason’s Board Game Collection — Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer



I’m going to  change up my format for these entries.  I’m going to give a brief overview of the game in my own words, followed with my thoughts and play experiences.

Overview:  Ascension is a deck building game.  You start the game with two different types of resources in your deck, with a random assortment of these forming your hand.  An assortment of cards are at the center of the play area, that you may purchase with these resources.  As you buy cards with those resources, they’re added to your discard pile.  Once you run out of cards, the discard pile gets shuffled, and you have a new deck.  That’s the standard deck building game definition, more or less.

In games like Dominion, there are a number of piles in the center of the table for you to choose from and everyone has access to those piles.  Ascension differs in that there are 6 cards in the center row, and as each of those cards is purchased (or defeated) they are replaced by a new card from a central deck of cards.  There are also different types of cards.  Heroes and Constructs may be purchased with one of your resources and added to your deck, while Monsters must be defeated using the other resource, and give you a one-time benefit for defeating them.  You play until a pool of victory points has been exhausted, which happens as you gain victory from defeating monsters.  The cards you purchase also have a victory value, so there are multiple strategies to consider for victory.

Thoughts:  I was a few months late jumping on board with this one.  I didn’t discover it until attending the Alliance Open House in November 2011.  By then it was already a hit, and hard to get.  I played this a handful of times over the weekend, and have been a fan ever since.   The art isn’t great, though.  Later expansions and standalones have brought better artwork to the mix.

Granted,  I don’t get to play it as often, as it’s not a favorite for Jamie.  Since I’ve started recording my plays, I’ve only played it once, physically.  Digitally is another story.  It’s one of the first games I picked up for the iPhone and iPad, and I’ve played it several times.  It’s a great game to play against the AI, and I’ve played against online opponents a few times.

I enjoy this game, though I think I like the digital implementation better.  I think I’d like to try a live tournament, though.  I’m not a super competitive player, but I think I would enjoy trying my hand at two-headed competitive play.

Jason’s Board Game Collection — Arkham Horror


I’ve only had a copy of Arkham Horror for a short time.  Our friend Dave (Morik) has brought his collection over several times, and I’ve joined in games varying anywhere from 4 to 8 players.

I’ve had a few opportunities to play this recently.  A few days after the birth of my daughter, I found I had a little bit of free time, but nobody to play a game with.  I broke out the base Arkham Horror (which is all that I own.  For now, that’s enough) and tried it single player.  I’m beginning to think I would have been better off controlling at least two heroes to play.

I selected my hero randomly, Harvey Walters, and the threat, Yig.  The game went well, and I had a lot of fun.  That’s not to say I survived.  In fact, I was slaughtered rather handily.  I’m using an app to track the encounter cards, as that speeds the game up a lot.  I survived a lot longer than I expected, as everything went wrong rather quickly.

A few days later, three of us got together and played.  Travis documented this play pretty well, and I’ll not repeat him.  We had fun, and we made a few mistakes, but we did triumph.

On Tabletop Day (March 30), Jamie and I got together with a few good friends of ours, and decided to give Arkham Horror a shot.  Our first mistake was trying to start the game so late in the evening.  We never got ahead of the curve, and 6 gates opened, awakening Ithaqua.  We were so tired, we conceded that we could not defeat the elder god, and called it a night.

Last night, however, I got together with Jeff, James, Travis and Robert, and we decided to tackle mighty Cthulhu.  It was a close battle, but a few random bits of luck were on our side, including an environment effect that kept the terror level from rising that stuck around for a while.  We sealed our sixth gate with 3 empty spaces left on Cthulhu’s doom track.

I enjoy this game a lot, but I think I’m ready for a short break from it.  Next week, I think we might stick with the theme, and play Mansions of Madness or Elder Sign, probably Mansions of Madness.

In an only peripherally related note, I haven’t mentioned the Call of Cthulhu LCG in this post.  I don’t own it, but learned it several months ago.  Shane Porter, a newcomer to Legends, brought a copy in and let us borrow it.  Jeff and I played it a handful of times while we had it.

Shane returned several times, and joined us for quick games, frequently before heading to work, and he became a regular friendly face.  We ran into him at GenCon, where he was attending with some (if not all) of his children.

Shane left home on February 8 2013, to go to work, and never arrived.  He has been missing ever since.  His car was found near the river, and I fear the worst.  His situation has been on my mind a lot for the last several days.  Our thoughts are with him and his family, and we hope he returns home safely.