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  • Recap : The Best 4 days in Gaming [it's a long one]

    Recap : The Best 4 days in Gaming [it's a long one]

    Another GenCon has come to a close, and we're left wondering where it went and, especially this year, how we missed so much, and "I swear I took more pictures.." Ah well, here's what we did see and our thoughts on it!

    We got a group of friends together as soon we saw a Pathfinder Adventure Card Game event titled Season of the Goblins, and made it happen. My one regret of GenCon is that we weren't able to play the whole set of scenarios. It was fantastic fun though, and some of us got a little too into goblin character, but it was awesome.

    There were a good number of games played in their prototype stage which is one of my favorite parts of GenCon.

    Pinball Showdown - Shoot Again Games, Diane Sauer

    When we started playing pinball semi-regularly after moving to Chicago, almost every time the conversation came around to "man, how can we make a pinball board game?" Diane, who restores pinballs, has had the same question on her mind for a long time too, and nailed it. This card game completely captures the feeling of pinball. It'll be up on Kickstarter later this year/early 2017 and you can bet I'll be telling everyone about it again then too. - Courtney

    The Stygian Society - APE Games, Kevin Wilson

    A wacky co-op dungeon delve that takes place in the tower of an evil wizard. The core mechanic revolves around dropping colored cubes into the tower. What you put in isn't always what you get out but the results determine what abilities you'll have access to and what types of obstacles you'll come up against. Each player had a different class which interacted with the various cubes in their own unique ways. I'm definitely interested to see where this goes since playing with the cubes was very satisfying. - Drew

    Shuffling Horror : Roswell 51 - Gamewick Games

    This was a really fun, light, highly thematic game that plays up to 12 [plus 1 as the "director"]. This is the second game in the Shuffling Horror game system, the first was zombies [Philly '68], and they've got a Lovecraftian one coming up next and a Poe themed one a bit further down the pipeline. It's played across 4 rounds, and the goal is to survive the monsters! Don't fret if your survivor gets killed off though, you'll come back as a monster and make the game harder for the remaining players! I love that it can play so many while being more than a party game.  - Courtney

    Sagrada - Floodgate Games

    This game is Killer! We demo'd the game with a friend and the worst part about it was that it isn't out yet. Floodgate took a pretty light game and theme and then put them together to build what is a deceivingly intricate stained-glass-window-building dice-drafting game. Keep an eye out for this to hit Kickstarter in the next month or so. -Drew

    Drew [not pictured] also helped out local publisher Argyle Games with their prototype game in the First Exposure Playtest hall which was an awesome experience!

    Giant Killer Robots - Cryptozoic & Weta Workshop

    I'd seen this game pop up on my social media feeds a number of times but I couldn't seem to actually find any info about it prior to GenCon. The game gives off a Robot Jox vibe if you're familiar with the film. It is a miniature skirmish game pitting rival mechs against one another for the entertainment of their corporate overlords. The gameplay was pretty simple and overall I'd say this is one of the more approachable mini's games that I've played. With that said I am a little concerned whether the game has enough going on to hold lasting interest. This one ought to be hitting kickstarter in the coming months. - Drew

    We played some complete games too though.

    Dastardly Dirigibles - Fireside Games

    This was a fun set collection kinda game I demoed at their booth, basically because a couple other people were walking up to demo it, and there was an open spot as I walked by. We played the first round to get a feel for it, and I enjoyed it. It was fairly easy to teach, and the player mats have a handy player aid making it a great cafe game. The theme is fun, and it's cool to see what sort of zeppelin you end up with!

    Deepwars - Antimatter Games

    I was taken with these minis last year, I'm a total sucker for ocean themed things. We decided to stop this year after admiring the minis again and play a short demo. It's a neat little skirmish style game [how it was demoed to us at least] that makes me wish we had the resources, time, money & space for these sorts of games. I just want to collect and paint the awesome minis.

    Moonquake Escape - Breaking Games

    Okay, so we didn't actually really play it, the designer, Jeff Johnston ran us through it, but we did walk away with a signed copy of it, so that counts for something right? I also just really liked Jeff's outfit.

    So this doesn't go on forever, here's the rest of the stuff that caught my eye

    Scurvy Dice, Council of Blackthorn

    Ticket to Ride : Rails & Sails, Captain Sonar

    Here Kitty Kitty, 4 the Birds

    That's pretty much the barebones run down of our GenCon, how was yours? What games did you demo, drool over and bring home?

  • List : Great games for a BBQ or beach day!

    List : Great games for a BBQ or beach day!

    Summer is winding down, but there’s still plenty of time for barbeques and beach hang out days with friends and family. We’ve got some game suggestions for you that should fit right in with whatever outdoorsy activities you have planned for the rest of summer and that bittersweet Labor Day weekend.

    Wits & Wagers


    “In what year did Levi’s produce the first pair of denim blue jeans?” Everyone takes their best guess and then after comparing answers they place bets on who had the closest answer. You now know how to play Wits & Wagers! This trivia & gambling hybrid seems to have made a large number of our lists. The main reason is probably that it is so easy to rope people into playing. When we pull out games while spending time with the family there is always that one person who says, “Oh… I’m okay I’ll just sit out and watch.” The beautiful thing with Wits & Wagers is that it usually doesn’t take long for that person to perk up and all the sudden be turning in a few answers of their own. ANYONE can play this game! It might be a trivia game but knowledge about the questions has very little impact on how well you can do.

    Spyfall

    Spyfall is a hidden identity game where amongst the group there is one spy and the remaining players must determine who that spy is. The spy is randomly determined by dealing out one card to each player, one of these cards says spy and the rest all depict the same location (like cruise ship). Players take turns asking open-ended questions to uncover the spy while the spy tries to figure out where the rest of the players might be without giving themself away. Whether you’re huddled around a table or lounging around the pool, Spyfall is a game you can play just about anywhere. There can be a little bit of a hurdle at first while explaining the game as some people just won’t get what you’re trying to describe. Our best advice though is to just try to get a quick round in and then answer any questions afterward as this is a game best learned by playing.

    Knock Down Barns

    KDB is a game of building a sturdy structure with wooden blocks and then demolishing the one made by your opponent. It is played on top of a bamboo surface the size of a kitchen cutting board and players take turns flicking foam pieces to try and knock all of the opposing blocks off of the play field. It is really satisfying to obliterate the opposing tower while yours withstands everything your opponent can throw at it. Knock Down Barns is made locally and is an absolute blast to play. The craftsmanship on this handmade game is pretty outstanding and game definitely stands out while being played. There isn’t a whole lot else out there like it.

    Geek Out

    Game of trivia best played with your nerdy pals! The die is rolled and one of five nerdy categories on each prompt card is chosen, say games. The prompt is read aloud, example, “four board games with a non-fictional war theem” and the first person decides if they can meet or beat the number of titles the card is looking for. Players take turns increasing how many they can name until all but one player has dropped off, at which point they have to name the number of titles they claimed to know for the prompt. If they can’t, they lose a point, but if they can they gain a point! We honestly hardly play with a points system, and just play until everyone is brain dead, but the point system can keep people from being too bold with their bluffing of knowledge to egg others on. We love it as a filler or travel activity, and tend to just carry cards around with us.

    Cat Tower

    Jenga and cats combine in this game of feline card stacking. As a quick and easy game that can be played in about 15 minutes, Cat Tower makes for a good way to fill some time while waiting for burgers to come off the grill. A die is rolled to determine how many cats you place on the tower [or that you make someone else place for you!] but be careful! If you topple the tower you have to take up to 2 cats back into your hand. The goal is to get rid of the 7 cat cards you start with, so taking 2 back can really set you back. It’s another easy game for people to flow in and out of, but it’s also fairly quick so no one is left out for too long.

  • Profile : Splendor

    Profile : Splendor

    “Gateway games” are boardgames that act as a great entry point for folks when they’re just getting in to gaming. While they might still have a lot of strategic depth to them, in general their rules are succinct and straightforward so that there is less set-up and less to keep track of overall. Getting more people to play more games is one of our largest goals as well as being an incredibly rewarding experience, we highly recommend that you make room on your shelf for a couple gateway games.

    This week’s featured gateway game is Splendor, designed by Marc Andre and published by Asmodee.

    # of players: 2-4

    Length of game: 15 minutes per player.

    Splendor is a game of mining, collecting and refining gems so that you can turn around and sell them allowing you to invest in your gem-bound empire even further. The theme in this game is extremely light and not particularly necessary but having some gorgeous artwork certainly helps draw people in. The gems are all represented by poker chips which adds a very tactile element to an otherwise dry game. It is pretty entertaining to just play with the chips while waiting for others to make their decision.

    Gameplay is where Splendor truly shines! Each player is racing to acquire 15 points and once someone does the game will end within a couple turns. On a player’s turn they choose to take one of three different actions:

    1. Take some gems: either two from the same color, or one each from three different colors.
    2. Purchase a card: there are a variety of cards and by cashing in some of your gems you can acquire one. The game revolves around purchasing these cards because having them means that you get a permanent discount on the gem cost of all future cards you might take. The cards come in 3 tiers, with the lower tiers requiring fewer gems to purchase and the higher tiers being worth more points!
    3. Reserve a card: sometimes you’re worried that someone might grab the card you’re working on before you are ready to purchase it. In those instances you can reserve a card so that you alone are able to complete it on a future turn. As a consolation for spending your turn reserving, you are also able to take a gold (poker chip) which counts as a wild of any color!

    In addition to taking those actions players are working to gain the favor of nobles. The nobles each want you to collect a specific number and color of gem, the first player to do so is able to claim the noble which is worth 3 points.

    Nobles and cards are the only source of points, so working on each is important if you want to claim victory!

    Splendor is a game that is hard to turn down the opportunity to play, it plays so quickly and the balancing is so tight that we’re always down for another round. As a gateway game, you should bring this to the table for folks that might enjoy set collection / strategy / math / planning. Additionally, the game plays well whether you’re playing with 2-3-4 players and slightly alters the setup for each accordingly. Splendor’s simplicity means that it works well across all ages, but despite its simplicity it retains a lot of strategic thinking which is what makes it such a great game.

    Bonus points for: great components, the chips really bring it all together!

  • GenCon pro tips!

    GenCon pro tips!

    A week from now we’ll be at GenCon, spending time with friends we aren’t able to see that often and soaking in all the gaming glory. We’re still pretty new to GenCon ourselves, but we’ve picked up a few pointers and learned a few things from years past that we try to keep in mind so that we have the best time possible. With the convention right around the corner we wanted to take a few moments to share some advice (even if some of it is fairly obvious).

    On that note lets get the obvious stuff out of the way first:

    • Eat: Duh right? Yes, but for some folks it is easy to forget to go grab a burger between events and before you know it 7:30 pm has arrived and the last thing you ate was half a banana from the continental breakfast at the Sheraton by the airport. Protip: pack some hearty snacks, not only will they keep you going throughout the day but your friends will thank you.
    • Stay Hydrated: Coffee and beer might be great but they aren’t what your body needs. Protip: Bring a water bottle, there are water fountains all over the building and your wallet will thank you too for not paying inflated convention center prices for a bottle of water.
    • Sleep: Drew is known to get pretty cranky by Sunday morning, and it is probably because he was up too late every night since arriving in Indianapolis. Protip: make time to sleep even if it is in the form of a power nap in the afternoon and missing that early morning event might be the right call if it means you’ll be alert the rest of the day.
    • Shower: Whether you have your own room all to yourself or are sleeping on the floor of one with twelve of your besties please please please shower… each day. And wear plenty of deodorant. Protip: You don’t want -7 to charisma do you? Just do it.

    Alright so what about our actual tips, well here’s what we’ve learned…

    Drew: “Avoid playing games you already own. Try something new. Try something you might not have ever played otherwise. Try something you don’t know the rules to. Playing in a tournament for your favorite game might be neat, but will it really be any different than your typical Friday night at the card shop? Play something that you’d never see yourself playing and you’re much more likely to come back home with a few cool stories.”

    Courtney: “Don’t underplan your convention. I know there’s a lot to take in, and it’s easy to think you can just drop in on a game here or there when you feel like it, but especially as a first timer, it’s easy to get caught up walking the exhibit hall and gaming floors over and over but never jump in on a game. My first GenCon in 2014, I spent a lot of time solo as Drew was playing a digital TCG a lot and we realized at the end of the convention we hadn’t played any games together. We remedied it a little by playing what we bought with friends in their hotel all night Sunday after the show closed, but it wasn’t the same. There is still plenty of time to sign up for things, go find something cool!”

    Drew: “Try before you buy. I’m pretty good about not letting money burn a hole in my pocket, but there has been a game or two that in hindsight I wouldn’t have picked up. Nearly all of the publishers at the convention have a demo team of contractors working the convention for the sole purpose of teaching you games, sometimes I’m one of them! These people are getting paid but they’re also doing it because they LOVE teaching people games. Go up and ask to demo a game if it looks interesting rather than feel intimidated. The person demoing it might be busy already but if that’s the case they will probably know when is a better time to come back and they’ll be super excited when you do!”

    Courtney: “To go along with my other point, don’t overplan either. Pick a couple events or panels that seem interesting and get tickets for those. I usually try to leave at least 2 hours between event end/start times, and try not to plan more than 3 events in a day. You do want to be able to walk around and enjoy things without rushing from room to room. This is especially important this year with some events being held at the football stadium, and panels being held at the hotels nearby. GenCon is a sprawl of a convention and with so many people, you want to give yourself ample time to get where you need to go without feeling rushed or anxious. You won’t enjoy it.”

    Drew: “Be socially aware. Please… please don’t be that guy. You’re making us all look bad. I know I’m preaching to the choir here… but just don’t be that guy. If you think you’re about to be that guy, don’t do whatever it is that you were about to do.”

    In short, many of those can be summed up in one important note, slow down. Gen Con might be “the best four days in gaming” but four days just might not feel like enough! That may be so but if you’re gonna make them count don’t rush yourself or those around you. Take your time and enjoy it while it lasts.

    Okay but YOU came here for the real protips, “I knew all of that, where are the protips you promised.” Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered:

    • There is a GenCon bag, it is both awesome and free! There’s usually a booth at the edge of the area where you get your badges / tickets etc and there will be someone that will punch a hole in your badge and give you the bag if you wait in the line for it. The line moves fast and is totally worthwhile. The bags usually run out rapidly on the first day but come back later and their stock will be replenished. Each year they have a different design and they are really cool.
    • There are additional areas to sign up for events within the event halls. What they offer might not be as robust as the main area but most people don’t know about this and you can usually avoid waiting in line if you’re on a crunch for time. Keep an eye out.
    • Many of the smaller / indie publishers have some great games with them that you might not ever have another chance to buy. These folks are usually operating with smaller print runs and the games are unlikely to ever see a reprint, you’ll be able to find stuff from the big dogs once you get home if that’s what you’re worried about.
    • Check social media for some of your favorite publishers. I’ve literally watched someone walk up to a publisher and receive a free copy of a $60 game because they were talking like a pirate. Sometimes folks are feeling wacky or generous and it pays to be paying attention.

  • List: Drew's GenCon Hype Post

    GenCon is right around the corner and I can’t wait to check out some games. Courtney already took a moment to assemble a list of games which have caught her attention and now it is time to present mine. Many of the games here are not necessarily “new” but they ARE all ones which have piqued my interest. Much like Courtney’s list I broke mine into three categories:

    Games I am Hyped for: these are the games that I’ve heard something about and which have been on my mind ever since.

    Games I want to Demo: games which have intrigued me enough that I’d like to find time for a quick demo session of them if I can while at the convention.

    Games I want to See: I am intrigued and want to know more before making any sort of judgement call.

    *After assembling everything... this list is pretty long and there's no way I'll be able to check all of these out but this is at least what is on my radar.

    (Publishers are listed in parenthesis)

    Hyped

    -Codenames: Pictures (Czech Games Edition) - Codenames gets played more at game nights than any other game we own by a long shot, and while it isn’t my favorite style of game it still says a lot that people flock to it so much. I feel like the aspect of adding pictures to it will probably actually make it more up my alley than it currently is.

    -Dead of Winter: The Long Night (Plaid Hat) - Plaid Hat puts out amazing games, they always deliver. It is a wonder that it took me so long to give Dead of Winter a chance but boy does it capture everything that a game should be.

    -Haspelknecht: The Story of Early Coal Mining (Capstone) - A game based in historical Germany where farmers are eager to unearth the coal which lies beneath their fields. Something about this game has stuck in my mind and I’m not quite sure what it is, luckily there’s a solution for that!

    -Mystic Vale (AEG) - I heard about this while GAMA was going on and have been itching to see it ever since, there’s a very high likelihood that I will be bringing this game back to Chicago with me. It is a “deckbuilder” where rather than adding new cards to your deck you are permanently altering your existing ones.

    -Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Goblin Character Expansions (Paizo) - I just recently learned that these were a thing and I MUST HAVE THEM!

    -Star Trek Panic (Fireside) - Go look at the components for this game and tell me that you’re not hyped too. Honorable mention to Star Trek Ascendancy, which is probably just “too big” of a game.

    Demo

    -Agility (Two Lanterns) - Courtney is really interested in this one, and I’ve heard some really good things about it AND it has a theme that I’ve never seen before.

    -Brass Empire (Rock Manor)

    -Grimslingers (Greenbrier) - The art alone has me nearly sold on this game & I am all about the wild-west-gone-weird theme that this game embodies.

    -Infamous: Pirate Wars (Rogue Asylum)

    -MoonQuake Escape (Breaking Games) - This game seems to have just the right amount of wackiness. Go check out the board / components!

    -Retreat to Darkmoor (Action Phase) - You’re a villain fleeing for your lives from a botched attempt at overthrowing the heros. Sounds like a pretty rad theme.

    -Saloon Tycoon (Van Ryder)

    -Stick Stack (Wonder Forge) - We could use a few more dexterity games and this one looks pretty neat.

    -Welcome Back to the Dungeon (Iello) - It will probably take me less than 30 seconds to determine whether I’m adding this expansion to the library… heck, the first game is already a staple of game nights, who am I kidding!

    See

    -Alchemists: Golem Expansion (Czech Games Edition) - Alchemists is a game that I already enjoy quite a bit even if it is a little bit too tricky to bring out often to game nights. I’m not sure that it actually needs an expansion but I do wanna see what it adds to the game.

    -Apocrypha (Lone Shark Games) - I am a huge Mike Selinker fan, he has been on the design team for both Betrayal at House on the Hill & Pathfinder Adventure Card Game which are two of my favorite games hands down. I would be more anxious to own this if I didn’t feel like it had quite so much overlap with games we already have on our shelf.

    -Arcane Academy (IDW) - Eric Lang & Kevin Wilson are two designers that have each been involved in some really great games and this is a game that they’ve both had a role in.

    -Arkwright (Capstone) - Probably a little to heavy for me to justify fitting it into the cafe collection, still this game of running an 18th century factory looks pretty rad.

    -Chronicles 1: Origins (Artana) - A civ building legacy style game, this has my name all over it but ultimately I just don’t know when I’d ever have time to play a legacy style game otherwise I’d be hyped for this one.

    -Colony (Bezier)

    -Dreamwell (Action Phase)

    -Eko (Sit Down!)

    -Epic Resort : Villain’s Vacation (Floodgate Games) - We bought the base game at last year’s GenCon and it really clicked for me. Even though the original takes up a deceivingly large amount of space we still kickstarted the expansion and I’m looking forward to checking it out.

    -Gloomhaven (Cephalofair)

    -Incantris (RAINN Studios) - I don’t know anything about this game but it looks kinda cool.

    -Pandemic: Reign of Cthulu (Z-Man) - I kinda have a thing for lovecraft themes...

    -Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Mummy’s Mask (Paizo) - The PACG is arguably my favorite game, but we've still gotta finish the previous ones and we want to continue taking them at a leisurely pace that this one probably has to wait.

    -Potion Explosion (Horrible Games)

    -Ninth World… Numenera (Lone Shark Games)

    -Seafall : (Plaid Hat) - Another game that looks incredible but I just don’t know if I’ll ever be able to take it off the shelf.

    -Star Wars Armada : Corellian Conflict (Fantasy Flight) - Courtney is probably sick of hearing me pine about how I wish we had space to play Armada… but this just looks so good. Naval combat as a game mechanic is something that I think is so much fun and I know I’d be all about this.