Games on the Go

There are some great games that have so many components they can take up the entire dining room table and take ages to set up. Once done, you can say goodbye to your evening (or weekend, I’m looking at you, Twilight Imperium) as you are embroiled in strategy, scheming, bartering, bluffing and rolling your way to victory. However, more often than not, you want a quick, easy game that can be played anywhere and can be used to stop you, or the kids (or both) getting bored waiting for whatever you’re waiting for. Here are some games that might just keep those electronic gadgets in pockets for a little bit longer:

Dobble (Asmodee)

55 cards with 8 pictures on each, but only one picture is the same on any two cards. Who can spot the pair the fastest? This is the game of Snap multiplied by 8 and, with at least 5 game variations, is far more engaging. Comes in a sturdy tin and can be played without a table. Look out for the waterproof version to play on the beach or in the pub.

Cobra Paw (Bananagrams)

21 domino-style tiles but with coloured symbols instead of the regular spots and two chunky dice with matching symbols. Roll the dice and find the matching tile the fastest. Very competitive. Swap out the overly large octagonal box for a small pouch and you can fit it in your pocket. If playing while waiting for your meal, move the drinks to the side!

Zombie Dice (Steve Jackson Games)

Take on the role of a zombie hunting for delicious brains. How many can you eat before you got shot three times? Comes in a small cylindrical tube that can fit in larger pockets. How to play. 1. Open tub. 2. Roll dice. Can be played off and on as with any number of players long as someone keeps track of the score.

Star Realms (White Wizard Games)

If you have a little space and a bit more time, this fantastic deck-building space-themed combat card game is little larger than a standard set of playing cards. However, hidden within the box is a highly engaging two-player game than can add more players with extra decks. An ideal game for taking abroad.

A Tiny Epic Game (Gamelyn Games)

Gamelyn games have specialised in producing great games that feel like big games, but in small boxes. Each title in the series is completely different in look and feel. Whether it’s in space colonizing planets in Tiny Epic Galaxies or fighting off zombie hoards cooperatively in Tiny Epic Zombies, the games do take up some space and time to play, but are highly transportable (meaning you can take many with you – they even do a bag!!!) and there’s bound to be at least one title that appeals to you.

Just One (Repos Production)

For fans of the ‘Guess the word’ party game, this is a must. Small without the box and hours of fun and laughter. One guessing with the rest independently providing one-word clues. Duplicate clues are erased.

Enemies to Gaming

This article was originally written for Board Game Crate, but never got submitted. Needless to say, this was written before COVID-19 and Lockdown which is a definite enemy number 1 nowadays – particularly with the government pretty much banning the playing of board games over Christmas.
For day 17 of #Blogmas 2020

The other day I listened to the Dice Tower’s Top 10 Enemies of Gaming on youtube. Here, three panellists presented their main barriers to playing games. Although I agreed with everything they said, I thought I’d try and compile my own list.

1. Lack of players
You’ve got all those great games, but nobody to play them with, or not enough to play that 6-player that’s been collecting dust. Finding players isn’t nearly as easy as it should. The rest of the list explores why there are so few.

2. Lack of player compatibility
Yes, you’ve managed find some game players, but they’re not into the games you are. Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons are examples of this. They aren’t mutually exclusive, but for some, it’s either you play that, or nothing.

3. Lack of games
Unless you’re lucky enough to live close to a games store, the high street offers a very narrow selection of games which leads into … –

4. Lack of new games coverage
We all grew up with the likes of Monopoly, Cluedo, Game of Life, Scrabble and Connect 4. Even if we didn’t play them, we were aware of them collecting dust on some uncle’s shelf. Today, if you speak to a non-gamer about the hobby, their immediate go-to game of reference are these old games. The Settlers Of Catan, for example, is over 25 years old and I’m still introducing it to people who’ve never heard of it.

5. Lack of storage space
Not limited to this hobby, but some of those games come in big boxes – I’m looking at you Gloomhaven. Storing 100+ games is also a problem.

6. Lack of play space
Some games require a lot of space to play and not everyone has the table or floorspace to spare, particularly if it’s a game that is played over multiple sittings.

7. Lack of time
The enemy of just about everything, tabletop gaming is very much included here.

8. Lack of money
Unless you live near a friend or gaming café with a good games collection, chances are most gamers will have to make do with a few of the more affordable titles. The silver lining here is that there are some great games in this category.

9. Video games
After Time, the greatest competition to tabletop gaming is the one where, at the push of a few buttons, a full and immersive game can be played with thousands of other players across the globe. Video games also don’t suffer from a lot of the other issues on this list.

10. Bad experiences
If someone’s first, or last experience of a game was a bad one, for whatever reason, they may be inclined to think that tabletop gaming isn’t for them and move on to other things. A bit like not enjoying a book and never reading again.

That was my list, it’s not exhaustive, but it’s what I’ve experienced or seen.

Introducing games to beginners

This is for #Blogmas 2020

Another article I originally wrote for Board Game Crate, now available for general enjoyment.

Usually, whenever I bring up the subject of board games, most non-gamers immediately conjure up such titles as Monopoly,Cludo or Game of Life. Now, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying those games, but the roll-and-move mechanic doesn’t really give preparation into deck-building, drafting, line-of-sight, tower defence, worker placement, co-operative, buffs & de-buffs, point salads and so on. Having seen first-hand the deer-in-headlights terror displayed by a new player subjected to StarCraft: The Board Game, I thought it best to provide some tips when introducing games to new players.

Choose games that utilise only 1 or 2 mechanics. For example, Dominion, being one of the first deck-building games, is just about deck-building so should be easier to introduce instead of games such as Star Realms that has added combat and synergy or Clank which has a lot more going on. Sushi Go nicely introduces the idea of card drafting and set collecting, to be built upon later by more complex games such as7 Wonders and Terraforming Mars.

Dumb down the rules – but don’t give the appearance of doing so. Many games nowadays have a ‘Family’ or ‘Newbie’ version of the rules for first play. Using these rules as if they are the only rules not only helps players get into the game, but also avoids them feeling patronised.

Play games that are still readily available. It can be really off-putting when someone accompanies a friend, partner or co-worker to a game, really enjoys it, and then searches online to buy it only to discover it’s only available for upwards of £250 on ebay and in German.

Be patient. We were all beginners once upon a time. If they struggle to comprehend a rule, try using analogies, show a youtube clip – or even give them the rule book for them to interpret for themselves. Be prepared to field the same question time and time again. Also, when they’re caught out by a rule you so totally did actually explain to the right at the beginning, just accept the blame for keeping it a complete secret and give them 50 points in compensation.

Be aware of short attention spans. In today’s world of soundbites, people can be less tolerant of sitting there while you read them all 64 pages of a rule book and then watching you sort and arrange seemingly countless components across the playing area while their sweaty hands grasp the hand of cards they were given at the start as if they were a lifeline to sanity. Set up before-hand and play to introduce, not play to win. Aim for a half-game so that they grasp the basics. Then, when they’re happy, start over.

Finally, accept there is such a thing as beginner’s luck and not rage out by being totally defeated by someone who’s still coming to grips with a changeable turn order. Remember, they need to enjoy their experience so they will come back where you can then properly demonstrate just how to completely destroy an opponent.

My Favourite Gaming Themes

Another #BlogMas 2019 blog, another list of stuff.
This time it’s my favourite themes in games
Here goes:

5. Zombies

This might be higher if I get to play more zombie games, but they’re a hit with me so far.

4. Fantasy

If nothing else, fantasy games are usually really quite stunning to look at. Good thing they’re great to play too.

3. Cthulhu

The great old ones must be appeased or they’ll come and take all our meeples away.

2. Dinosaurs

Slap a dinosaur on it, I’m game for a game.
1 Space
Cosmic Encounter
This is the clear winner. Actually, it’s almost impossible for me to resist a space game.

My Top Games By Type

Yesterday for #Blogmas I did a post on My Best Genre Books listing my favourite book or series from each genre. I thought I’d do something similar for today’s Blogmas by listing my favourite games by type. This can include games that utilise a particular gaming mechanic, or a particular type of game style.
Here goes.

Break Point (Compete to score the most points toward a given target):

A visually impressive game where dice rolls determine all actions as players strive to get the most pips on a card. What makes this one even better is that bad rolls are also rewarded.

Cooperative (Playing as a team to beat the game):

I’ve not been a huge fan of most of the cooperative games I’ve played, but I do enjoy the Legendary games (possibly being deck building games have helped). Even when we inevitably lose horribly, they’re tremendous fun.

Deck Builder (Start with a standard deck and use cards to acquire better ones, increasing the size of the deck):

I’m a sucker for most deck builders to be honest, but this is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of the gaming type.

Dexterity (Steady hands and some assembly required):

Stacking small plastic pieces according to a particular design is hard enough. Having to then slide the finished construct into the centre of the table is plain evil. Looks so good as the city is built up.

Dice Builder (Like a deck builder but, with dice):

Combines a deck-builder with dice, this is a very clever game that sees some powerful dice being reduced to not much due to a bad roll. Still fun though.

Drafting (Keeping a card from a hand and passing the rest to the next player):

Where some games use drafting as just a small part of the gaming experience, 7 Wonders is pure, unadulterated drafting.

Engine-Builder/Tableau (Players placing cards in front of them to build up points and better actions):

Also my favourite game at the moment, this extraordinarily well-themed game has so much to do in it, particularly with all the expansions. So many different engines to try out too.

Miniatures/Combat (Moving pieces about a battleground and getting them to fight each other):

A solid tabletop reinterpretation to the excellent computer game. Manage resources, control areas and battle it out across the planets of the Kropulu Sector.

Party (Plays with a large group of people with simple rules):

Chinese Whispers meets Pictionary, played with the right crowd, this is hilarious.

Point Salad (Do anything to score points):

Do something, get points. Do something else, get points. Do it all in this gorgeous space setting and it’s pure joy.

Programming (Preset the actions to perform, then see how they play out):

Who knew you could rob a train using a programme of cards? Playing the cards seems simple enough, it’s the playback of what’s been played that hurts as all your plans go awry.

Push Your Luck (Gain more, or lose everything):

Never before have I been on such tenterhooks as each gem is pulled from the bag. Heaped in tension and also looking mighty fine.

Resource Management (Using stuff to get more stuff at the loss of other stuff):

Yup, this one again. Each action and decision made centres around what resources are available.

Stacking (Putting stuff on top of other stuff until the thing falls over:

This brilliantly combines app technology with the straightforward stacking game to create a thing of beauty.

Tile Placement (Dominos):

You’d think by now that tile placement must feel a bit old and tired. Carpe Diem has reinvigorated the mechanically wonderfully.

Worker Placement (Placing a ‘worker’ piece to do a thing, stopping others from doing the same thing):

Not only does this game look stunning, it’s very playable and supports a surprisingly effective engine-building game as well.

So there you go. Not an exhaustive list, but a pretty solid one nonetheless. Needless to say, if there’s a glaring game type omission here, let me know and I’ll add it along with my preferred game. If there’s a game you think should be here, either I’ve yet to play it, or I just prefer the one on my list.
Check out these posts for my My favourite 10 Games and My 10 Least Favourite Games for a better idea of what I’m in to, and what I’m not.
If you want to give this a go, by all means help yourself. Don’t be afraid to put the same game forward more than once, if it applies.

My favourite 10 Games

Yesterday for #Blogmas I listed My 10 Least Favourite Games. For today’s Blogmas I thought I’d update my 2017 list of Top Ten Best Board Games as I’ve played a whole load of different games since then.
Again, this is my personal list for the games I enjoy the most. If you personally don’t like any of these games for any reason, you are fully allowed to feel that way. If there’s a game you feel is more deserving that should be on this list, there is a chance I haven’t played it.
Here goes.

10. Splendor by Space Cowboys

A delightful set-collecting game that’s simple and devious at the same time. One of the best filler games out there. The Cities expansion gives some good variety to it too.

9. Carpe Diem by Ravensburger

A game that proves you should never judge a game by its box. Combines the tile-laying strategies of Carcassonne with resource generation and planning to meet two objectives a round. Such a satisfying game.

8. Tiny Epic Galaxies by Gamelyn Games

I enjoy all the Tiny Epic games I’ve picked up (and have picked up most), but I’d still say that Galaxies is the best of the bunch. Careful resource management to build up a galactic empire that’s masterfully developed further with its Beyond the Black expansion.

7. Abyss by Bombyx

Some games are all style and no substance. Abyss looks incredible and plays out so well using push-your-luck mechanics to build a usable hand. The two expansions Leviathan and Behemoth provide so much more interest to the game too.

6. Everdell by Starling Games

Another fantastic-looking game with and impressive (if slightly pointless) 3D cardboard tree). However the cutesy theme and delightful components are mere condiments to a solid engine-building game. Need to get the expansion – heard good things about it.

5. Pulsar 2849 by CGE

You either love point salad games or you hate them. I get that. I’m a lover of this style of game. With so many options to choose from each turn even rubbish dice can be used to do great things.

4. Dinosaur Island by Pandasaurus Games

I love Jurassic Park. The book and the film. This is pretty much the game in all but name. Building your own dinosaur park has never been so much fun, even when the dinosaur break out and eat my paying customers. With an expansion that adds four extra aspects to the game, this games just gets bigger and better.

3. Star Realms by White Wizard Games

Deck-builders have been around for a while now, with different themes and styles. I’m a sucker for the deck-builder, me. Star Realms is, hands down, my personal favourite in the genre where players build up their decks of cards in order to annihilate each other. Complete with an attractive space theme, many complimentary expansions and one of the best digital versions of a game on Steam, this one just keeps on giving.

2. StarCraft: The Boardgame by Fantasy Flight Games

For the longest time this was my straight-up favourite game. Partially because I adore the computer game of which it is based, but also it’s a very satisfying combat and area control minutres game. However, with a game time of 30 minutes per player, a six-player game is more time commitment than can readily be given.

1. Terraforming Mars by Stronghold Games

Thematically, I don’t know of a stronger game than this masterpiece by Stronghold Games. Players play in a semi-cooperative way with the aim of terrforming Mars by increasing the temperature, oxygen content and liquid water levels. Individually, however, each player is trying to score more points than anyone else. With five excellent expansions that provide even more things to do, this engine-building game can be played over and over again.

There are also a host of other games I also really, really enjoy, but these are my current top ten.
Do any of these feature on your top (or bottom) ten?

Games Expo 2019

It’s that special time of the year again, so off we trot to:

We only did the Friday where it’s supposed to be “quieter”, not so sure about that, but I digress.
The morning was spent shopping and just walking up and down the aisles looking at lots of game-related stuff (and some stuff that was not game-related). We were impressed by the greater variety of wares than seen in previous years. Many stalls had a good collection of items the other stalls didn’t stock.
Our first proper stop was at the always amazing GamesLore where I picked up a game for a friend (not saying what as it’s a surprise), one of the few copies of

at the show (and the main item on my shopping list).
Elsewhere (and I can’t recall all the places I bought stuff-sorry), I picked up another game on my shopping list, a game we tried at the TableTop Gaming Live event last September:

Here they were also demonstrating the Disney baddies game Villainous and its first expansion (due out this August). (Get Photos from Sabrina).
White Wizard Games were there with a wonderful stand, courtesy of Eclectic Games full of stuff and Rob Dougherty himself was there demonstrating his new game Sorcerer (which I already got via Kickstarter). There I picked up the fantasy version of Star Realms:

as well as the five character packs:

I also thought I’d picked up enough matching card sleeves to sleeve the lot, but I think I’m one pack short.
From there I also picked up this beauty:

As they didn’t have any for Star Realms or Hero Realms for some reason. This came a bunch of matching card sleeves and a promo card too. Oooooh!
They did have some very nice playing mats, and I caved in and got this one:

Very nice it is too.
Lunchtime called so I partook in a Beast Burger while Sabrina enjoyed a Hazelnut Latte and a bowl of chips.
Refreshed and refuelled we set forth once more with the view to playing something.
The first game we tried our hands at was Seekers of Asterod:

Despite the awful and cumbersome pizza-style box, this Cludo-style space game was actually not all that bad. Not much substance to it, but a fun little game of narrowing down clues to be the first to find the correct planet. As it’s remotely linked to Cludo, Sabrina won.
Providing further proof that you can’t judge a game by its cover or artwork we had a go at Fireworks:

A game where players construct a pretty fireworks display on their boards by chucking a big die at a pile of tiles and collecting the number rolled if any tiles flip over. A game designed to have players spending most of their time under the table retrieving game components. Also the pretty artwork is not easy to make out the two very similar styles of explosion (a non-jaggerdy one and a jaggerdy one). The obviously translated instructions are also not easy to read. Not so impressed with this one. Sabrina one.
Finally we had a go at Ghostbusters: The Card Game:

In this set-collecting game, players take turns playing cards to move the trap and then trapping the card it finishes at. Some cards are slimy and will deduct points to the player with the most, unless they also have Slimer.
Thematically, not really that Ghostbustery, but the artwork was fun, the game-play was easy to pick up and there was enough in it to keep it interesting. A good filler game. Had there been a copy of this for purchase, we might have picked it up.
Two games I was looking out for were Tiny Epic Mechs and Tiny Epic Tactics, but after consulting the good ol’ internet, I learned they’re not out yet.
One stall that surprised us was one sporting a load of Pillowfight Warriors goods. Not so much soft toys but more like actual pillows or cushions shaped like weapons and shields looked fantastic. Thinking of the boys we bought a pair of swords.

After subsequently hacking at family members over the course of the weekend, we may well invest in some more gear from here. They were hugely successful.
Two items that we’d seen earlier were calling to us, so we tracked down a copy of:

that Sabrina liked the look of. I’d bought her the original Herbaceous at last year’s Expo and she’d enjoyed that. This one seems to follow the latest trend of being redone as dice.
I’d previously acquired a few copies of Keyforge, but had yet to get a starter set with the extra bits and counters and stuff. Eventually, I managed to find one of the rapidly dwindling copies of:

from the good people at Zatu Games. Apparently, the UK have had their orders for this title reduced across the board, so there’s less copies about than expected.
This contains my first Age Of Ascension, but has the improvement of the original starter sets in that the 2 decks contained within are standard unique decks rather than specially constructed decks.
On the way out at the Expo Merch desk, we also picked up this nifty poster:

I did a vlog on this too, more of the same but more waving about at the camera:

Games Night 13th December 2018

This is it, the final games night in Bedford. I expected a large turn-out for an emotional send-off.

DA popped over from across the road (quickly too – it’s jolly cold out there).

To kick off the evening while waiting for anyone else we played

by White Wizard Games
twice.

We played without characters this time.
In the first game, MC acquired a large number of Outposts and became pretty much invulnerable. DA fell to a hit of 37 points of damage.
The second game was quicker, with MC this time generating a powerful synergy with the Machine Cult and obliterating DA with ease.

By this time we realised no one else was going to make an appearance.


by Space Cowboys
was next.

In the first game we tried it with the Strongholds expansion from

We found that with the strongholds in play, we reserved a lot more cards than usual. I’m very eager to see how this plays out with 3 or 4 players.
DA won that game 17 to 13 by getting 2 nobles in quick succession.

Round two was without any expansions.
This was a much closer game with DA achieving the 15 points needed and MC on 13 points with a 2-point finishing move. Victory goes to DA for getting 15 points first.

To see off Board Games in Bedford we played a final game of

This time it was a very close game, with both players being whittled down to 3 points apiece. DA then struck with 2 points of damage. MC responded with the killing attack with 13 points of damage. Brilliant stuff.

And that is that.

Thank you so much to all the players over last decade; be they regular, sporadic, one-off or full of intentions but never made it. This club would not be what is without you.
Of course, if you ever find yourselves in Aylesbury…

Games Night 27th November 2018

LP got his Thursday and Tuesday’s mixed up and turned up unexpectedly. So we played a couple of games.

First up:

by White Wizard Games
LP played as
MC played as

Biolord Walsh held off buying non-affiliated cards too long before realising that some cards are better than none. Meanwhile Valken had amassed a pretty unbeatable armada, which was, indeed, unbeatable.

Next up we heisted our way through

by Renegade Game Studios

LP played as white
MC played as purple
The scenario today was

Our hapless space heroes had barely taken a few space steps before the scenario reached tier 3, effectively nobbling us both harshly.
However, LP was able to limp his way to a treasure and limp back to the escape pods without too much fuss.
MC sort of floundered about not moving much at all, got a treasure and then got pummelled into the ground.

To round of the evening we had a crack at

by Space Cowboys
this time using the Orient expansion from

Basically MC won in the end.

A delightful, if unexpected evening, thank you LP for making a nice mistake (he was jet-lagged so no giving him a hard time about it).

Games Night 22nd November 2018

Three players tonight.
The most voted for game with all of 1 vote was

by Repos Production

Cards were dealt out, drafted, played and discarded right the way through the game until its conclusion.
Which was:

Player DA GN MC
Army VPs -2 12 3
Coin VPs 5 3 4
Monument VPs 10 10 13
Blue VPs 17 5 20
Orange VPs 7 0 0
Purple VPs 6 13 0
Green VPs 0 1 1
Total Score 43 44 41

The process was repeated with different monuments with the end result being:

Player DA GN MC
Army VPs -6 18 6
Coin VPs 2 0 1
Monument VPs 5 20 7
Blue VPs 31 6 10
Orange VPs 3 0 0
Purple VPs 6 9 0
Green VPs 0 0 18
Total Score 41 53 42

Very well don GN!

Following that, out came the brilliant

by White Wizard Games

MC Played as
GN played as
DA played as
Biolord Walsh was first to fall to the might of High Director Valken, leaving her and Overlord Newburg to slog it out. However, the High Director’s regenerative capabilities, coupled with the high number of Outposts meant that Newburg eventually succumbed to Valken’s might.

Horray for MC!