Blades in the Dark and Scum and Villainy

Hey all,

Sorry it’s been awhile between boths, but such is life.

Lately I’ve been absorbed with a new RPG system that I’m dyring to run. It’s the Blades in the Dark system by John Harper and published by Evil Hat Games. Evil hat which has been mostly known for it’s Fate system games (Dresden, Spirt of the Century, etc) has branched out into a few different game systems lately. The best of which i think is the Forged in the Dark Systems.

Blades in the Dark is a  game kind of based on Powered by the Apocalypse. Ice been really excited about the recently published sci fi hack of it called Scum and Villainy. I actually hate the name mostly because i can never spell Villainy right the first time.  But overall the system is really cool.

It’s a d6 based system using narrative modifier that define your rolls effect and position. Its really pretty neat and super flexible.

I love the S&V setting the most. It’s very analogous to Star Wars and I almost with it was a free standing Star Wars hack, but its just different enough to avoid legal shit up in its business. My friend Todd says i should just run a Star Wars Fantasy flight Star Wars game, but the weird dice in the FFG really bother me for some reason. I got over the DCC weird dice thing, but the FFG weird dice thing still bugs me to no no end. If Todd were to run a FFG game, I’d still play., but probably complain about the dice.

When it comes to Blades vs S&V I’d probably choose S&V. while the faction system in Blades is really pretty awesome, I don’t really like the setting that much. It’s a weird mix of horror and steam punk Victorian England with a dash of Venice that I just don’t love. It’s interesting and I’d love to run a game in it, but I think if I were to choose a setting for a roguish fantasy setting it’d be more like what Dusk City Outlaws does. It’s very close tot he world built by Scott Lynch in The Lies of Locke Lamora books.

That being said the world is very interesting for Blades in the Dark. It’s a mashup of this post apocalypse fantasy Victorian Venice.

The game is super neat, and I’m prepping a campaign later this fall after I get through Curse of Strahd. Check out more on the games website!

 

 

Burning Dan Recap 1: Gloomhaven Delivers

Another successful Burning Dan is in the books.

For those of you not familiar, Burning Dan is an annual summer gaming event that takes place in Frostburg Maryland. It is invite only and really is just my family and few friends and their families, but we like to pretend it’s an exclusive Gaming Conference. Mostly it’s just an excuse to get together twice a year (the winter version is Dan Con) in Frostburg and play games and enjoy the company of good people. It started after I moved to Frostburg from Delaware and my friends were worried about me since i started counting the number of cars turning around in front of my house.

See this post for more info on Burning Dan / Dan Con!

Now Burning Dan is a big event for me every year, so to celebrate this year I saved the unboxing and first play of the current #1 Game on Board Game Geeks Top board game list… Gloomhaven.

Now I had heard alot about Gloomhaven since it came out. We had made it a priority every year at Dancon/Burning Dan to play the previous #1 ranked game Pandemic Legacy the previous years, so when we saw that it was overthrown we were very interested in checking out Gloomhaven. There was only one problem. Okay, two actually.

Problem #1:

$140 bucks for a board game! Woah! Thats a bit extreme! (I thought until actually opening the box. more on that to come)

Problem #2:

Well thats an even bigger problem.

Gloomhaven was a kickstarter game that had a limited production run, during boths of it’s initial releases. This made finding the game on the primary market difficult.

You COULD find it on the secondary market (ebay, amazon resellers, etc.) but that led to even bigger problems!!

Up to 2 x the retail price on the secondary market!

Definitely problematic.

So ultimately I went awhile before buying the game. In the meantime, I read everything i could about the game. I watched Tom Vasels Dice Tower review 3 or 4 times, and pined for it to be available again.

Finally a friend of mine notified me that the 3rd Production run of the game was about to happen and it SHOULD be available sometime in June. I asked my wife for it as a Fathers Day Gift and she relented. I placed my Pre-Order and waited.

It finally came in when I was out of town on vacation! I frantically called a friend in town and asked them to bring it in before it got ruined by rain or wild animals looking for a good board game to play. When I got back from the beach i saw this:

So excite.

BUT I was scared to open it! so it sat on my table for the next few weeks, still in it’s shipping box, waiting for the right moment. Little did i know, my wife opened it while I was out of town… oh well. At least she didnt open the box itself!

Nick Pancake for Scale

Finally I had the nerve to unbox it during Burning Dan. We live streamed it on twitch for the world to see. I think we had 5 viewers. We then dove in and learned how to play.

Wow.

The Game:

Gloomhaven sure delivers. It’s like a GM less D&D campaign in a box. The rules are slick and easy to learn, as intimidating as they seem. The components are top rate and the miniatures are very detailed. Not an item exited the box that I wasn’t thrilled with. The monster and bad guy miniatures are card board figures, but that’s fine and not disappointing.

The mechanics are really neat and different. No Dice. “What?!” you are probably saying? I know right! Instead it uses a modifier deck for each character and bad guy to add some randomization. The action deck is really neat as well for the characters. Every character/class has a unique action deck of 2 actions they can take on each card. A Lot of variety there. It also adds a level of resource management that can be missed initially. when you are out of cards you are exhausted.  Leading to some interesting dilemmas as you “Lose” cards from your discard through out the game until you are out of cards!I f all of the characters run out of cards, you lose the scenario. You need to use the cards to move, fight, etc. Do you spend a few previous resource cards to gather the loot from the dropped bad guys? Or do you just try and finish the scenario! These are tough decisions we learned about the hard way.

A few negative things about the game to bring some balance to this post, like balance to the force. One is the number of players. Only 4 players max, which makes it tough to play at Burning Dan since there is often 8 – 10 people playing board games. Luckily this year the wives wanted to nap, Shasta just wanted to watch, and we had a few people who didn’t attend, allowing us to play a 4 player game guilt free. The number of players keeps the game as a challenge instead of just having a bunch of PCs to throw at the dungeon. It also keeps the game moving quickly with little downtime. The game says scenarios should take 30 minutes per player, and the dungeons do ramp difficulty based on the number of players through adding in more monsters or increasing the level of the monsters or their status (standard or elite).

One other negative is it is possible for a player to be knocked out early. My character was brought down to 0 hps in the first round of the 2nd battle in the 2nd scenario (first game played on our second time playing). The sad part is it was maybe  15 – 20 minutes in to our second playing of the game. So I was “exhausted” and could not be revived. Even worse the women folk had all just gone into the hot tub, and i didn’t want to be a creepier and be the only guy in the hot tub. I tried to watch the Union/Onion Snakes play vs the Portland Timbers, but they were getting smoked… so i fell asleep on the couch instead.

Finally one of the really cool things about Gloomhaven is the scenario/legacy play. The game IS a legacy game. You place stickers on the board, rip cards up and write on the game board with a sharpie. As the designer of the game Isaac Childres says: ” You’re already writing on your board. Embrace it.”. Truth Bomb Issac. I loved the feel of the world evolving and changing around you as you play. Road and City events give the world a broader feel then just the adventures in the scenario book. And the random dungeon card adds alot of replay value outside of the scenarios.

Those negatives aside I think I have to agree with the hype. Gloomhaven might be the best board game I’ve ever played. It scratches all the right itches for a d&d esque game without a GM. Lets you have character advancement in table top fashion, something you can pull off the shelf and play quickly and rules that don’t confound or befuddle you 4 beers in.

So the game gets a 5 Beer Rating (out of 5 Beers) from me!

Speaking of which:

The Beers:

So Gloomhaven is a bit complex. And you CAN easily lose the scenario if you are not paying close attention to your cards and whats going on. Losing the scenario means you all lose! And it’s not fun to ruin everyone else’s fun because your cards are blurry from that 2nd DFH 120 Minute IPA.

So with that I’d have to say you need to stick to some low ABV drinks. Something like a Seaquench or a All Day IPA. Jake likes his PBRs and Fred his Natty Bo.

Stayed tuned for tomrrow’s post about Fiasco!!!

The Dearth

It has been almost 2 weeks since I’ve played a board game, and that makes me sad.

Now I’ve had some chances to play video games, mostly with my kids. We play alot of Super Mario Kart 8, Mario Party, and some Smash brothers. My son is obsessed with Mario and my daughter has a Wii U we play on.

We also have played some Red Ball on the ipad recently, and it’s a lot of fun too.

I have had the opportunity to play a few video games on my own when I’m not driving to Delaware or hanging out with the kids. Usually at like 1030pm after everyone is in bed, so I’m pretty tired at that point. But it’s what I’ve got.

Darkest Dungeon and Sunless Skies are the 2 I’ve played the most recently. I had a lot of optimism for Sunless Skies, as i love Fallen London, but the game is still in open beta, or early access or whatever they call it now adays on steam. The fragility of the ships in that game make me sad though, and I feel like i die way too much. Also i keep getting lost and find myself just playing a trader. I was hoping for more of an RPG with a rich story, but nothing yet. I’m not done with it yet though.

Darkest Dungeon is a fun one I get back to every now and then. It’s a quick pickup game that i can jump into without too much thought, although i always forget the optimal party combinations for the various runs and inevitably lose a valuable high leveled Vestal.

So the video games have been keeping me going, but I really truly miss playing table top games. I haven’t even played our d&d campaign in nearly a month, and I’m traveling again this week for work, so hopefully we can then.

BUT there is a shining light out on the horizon. A glimmer of hope and joy that I can ALMOST touch. This weekend is Burning Dan.

I’ve mentioned Burning Dan and Dan Con previously. These are the biannual events where friends from Delaware come out and we game and drink and carouse and just have a grand old time. I hope i can make it till then!

<3 <3

A weekend in Ocean City

Every year my friends and I spend an extended weekend in Ocean City Maryland playing board games. We call it the “Bros Beach Trip”. I’ve gone for the past 2 years  now, but the rest of them have been going for a few years longer. It’s a long drive for me to get to the beach from my mountain Chalet, and I inevitably hit traffic both going there and leaving, but it’s worth it to spend some time gaming with my closest friends from back in Delaware.

There’s a beach back there, I promise.

During this beach trip we play a lot of board games, eat tons of food, and drink lots of yummy beers.

we are all a bunch of nerds (as you can see from the above picture) so we even went out and made a spreadsheet to help us maximize our enjoyment!

During the selection process we eliminated games that couldnt play 5 people (since we had 5 people and didn’t want to leave anyone out) if we couldn’t play while drunk, and anything ranked over 2000 on the Boardgame Geek website Rank. Some games got past our validation by people constantly saying in chat “What game list?” and “Well I’m bringing X. We can play it or not.” Thats how Pat snuck Fury of Dracula in (2nd Edition). We ended up not playing it because the 3 hour play time scared us. Would still love to play that some day as it looks fun!

Some of the highlights for me from this years gaming was Mansions of Madness, Duskcity Outlaws, Rock Paper Wizards, and some more Dead of Winter. We also got in Terraforming Mars, Epic Spell Wars, Welcome to the Dungeon, Coup and Secret Hitler!

Duskcity Outlaws was probably my favorite game of the weekend.

It’s not a traditional board game but more of a RPG game from Rodney Thompson, the designer of Lords of Waterdeep who’s also worked on Star Wars Saga Edition and D&D 5E.

The game is set in a fantasy world like Venice but on the scale of New York City. It’s very much in the vein of The Lies of Locke Lamora, which Rodney Thompson has stated was a key source of inspiration for the game.

I’ve been really excited about this game since I Kickstarted it a year or so ago, admittedly on a whim since I loved Lords of Waterdeep, but since then reading through the material and watching many actual plays I’ve really gotten excited about not just the mechanics, but the world and the theme. I also got into similar systems that I saw a lot of comparisons to on the internet/forums/gplus, Blades in the Dark, and it’s space opera setting, Scum & Villainy from Evil Hat (one of my favorite game companies! Based in Maryland!)

Both of those games really sound great. Blades is darker (heh) and more focused on the  crew running the job. While S&V is a more space opera style game. I’m committed to running a game of both, but they are very different thematically from Dusk City, that I’ll probably never expound on in another post, but I’d like to!

But back to Dusk City. It’s a percentile based role playing game with additional Advantage and Disadvantage dice used for added flavor, making the system very easy to pick up and play. The game is designed to be the kind of game you can take right off the shelf and play with very little preparation time, and the scenario design makes it so. With a bunch of drunk guys who had never played before (but admittedly are very experienced table top gamers) we were rolling along quickly and easily.  I think the guys enjoyed it too!

I probably fudged a few rules in my first run through (I messed up needing to roll disadvantage dice when pushing your luck) and also probably didn’t get them accruing heat as much as possible. But nonetheless it was a lot of fun and I cant wait to get people together again to play some more.

Check out the kickstarter page here for more on the game, actual plays and lots of fun pictures, or the website for it. So much fun.

We also played some old stand by’s like Coup which is probably one of our favorite games. Everyone always seems to have a duke! There weren’t any memorable moments from Coup like we’ve had in years past, but was fun as always.

I also finally got to try out Mansions of Madness with the companion app that I’ve heard so much about. The game came recommended by a good friend of mine, James, who loved the app feature, letting him and his wife play co-op with out someone needing to run the keeper.

See through tables are the worst.

I was a little worried since Jake forgot his ipad, so we ran the companion app on my laptop and it’s been freezing up and crashing on my all last week. Luckily it made it through without any issues. We lost pretty badly when Nick playing the orphan was killed by the Priest of Dagon, but shit happens. It was fun and I didn’t have to GM it!

The system for Mansions of Madness is very similar to the other Fantasy Flight Mythos games like Arkham Horror, but more streamlined and not taking 3 hours to setup.

Speaking of long setup, Dead of Winter still remains one of my favorite new games.

While the Zombie thing is a bit played out like Jake says, the game mechanics bring about a new twist to the zombie apocalypse in that you are trying to survive a winter, adds a betrayal component which we haven’t run into yet, and has a bunch of smaller twists and turns to keep it interesting, making the zombie apocalypse really just the back drop to the theme of colony survival, overcoming obstacles and twists from the crossroads cards.

Jake is so happy!

I really cant wait to play this one again. Not to mention we had Sparky the Stunt Dog carrying a Shot Gun!

There’s a series of comics about Sparky i think i need to pick up!

I think Nick and Steve liked Terraforming Mars the best. I loved it to, even if I had to play as yellow, didn’t get to drop a moon on Jake (good job nick) nor did my overall strategy pan out, but was still fun and i didn’t come in last place!

Deimos Down!

We played two games that were very much in the “Wizards Fighting it out” vein.

The First was Epic Spell Wars, that pat brought. It was ok. was kind of a deck building game (we all know how i feel about those) and was really about what card you drew. It was ok. I probably wouldnt play it again unless everyone else did.

The second i liked more,  Rock Paper Wizards, we were all a few more beers in by this one but it had a fun mechanic where you did hand gestures to indicate what spell you were casting. I was weirded out by it at first, but it ended up being a blast.

I think

Now the beach trip wasnt all just us sitting in a condo playing board games. We did get down to the beach a few times, visited the boardwalk, rode the beach bus and played pokemon! We also found an excellent sports bar called The Abbey Burger Bistro for burgers, beers and to watch the Fifa World Cup Final.

The guyz

Viva La France!

The Beers

Now for what should you drink during a gaming weeken? Well,  thats a tough call. Now that I’m in my late 30s and dont have the drinking prowess of a kid in their 20s, I recommend with riding it out with a good session beer like SeaQuench from DogFishHead or the old stand by of the All Day IPA. I started the weekend off with a few Narragansetts that Jake brought. That wasnt bad. I brought in a few heavier Sweetwater IPA’s a bit later, but those seriously impacted my gaming ability. Not to mention the shots of Tito’s Jake had me doing later.

Nick kicked it with a 4 pack of DFH 120 Minute all weekend. Thats basically a wine at that point.

Final Verdict, stick with the SeaQuench and other session ales during a gaming weekend and throw in the occasional water and heavier stuff to keep it balanced out!

Teen Titans Go! Deckbuilder Games

As happens from time to time, my friends alerted me to a boardgame sale on Amazon.

The Games:

Perusing the list of games, i saw two that caught my eye. One was Dead of Winter and the other the Teen Titans Go! Deck builder game.

I’ve always wanted Dead of Winter, so i made sure to pick it up.

I haven’t even broke the seal on the box yet. But when I’ll do I’ll post about i here or something.

But the other game i did take the opportunity to play over the weekend.

That is the Teen Titans Go! Deckbuilder game from Cryptozioa (or something).

My daughter Penny (who I call little gamer on twitter) LOVES Teen Titans Go!. We’ve watched every episode about a dozen times each, and there are times it’s the only thing played on our tv for weeks at a time. I love it to and the Episode with weird Al might be one of the most enjoyable half hours on TV. I personally am not a huge deck builder game fan. I’ve played the old stand by, Magic the Gathering, a ton as a kid, and even some as an adult with some of my gamer friends. As I’m sure is a shock to you, I’m not very good at it, and my good friend Jake once broke me from wanting to ever really want to play it again with some bullshit backwards in time “the stack” shit. If you’ve ever had a moment in your life where all joy from something is destroyed, then you know how I felt at that moment. I was almost that dood who flips tables when he loses at games… but I didnt, because I’m not that dood. I did have a few moment of fun in my last go round of playing it.. Black vise + The Rack for one, and a neat combo of earthquake plus earthbind.

 +  

 + Image result for magic the gathering bind

The second one got me one of my favorite Nick quotes ever. “You know Dan, you should try a multi-color deck next time. It requires more strategy”. Dood… My strategy involves playing cards that show up in my hand. I’m one step above picking cards for their art.

Either way I do NOT enjoy the deck building process, and don’t enjoy losing to people who are much better then I. Although as Jake says, it might just be because I have “shitty cards.” Ok, to pause that for a second.. I have played a few card/deck/drafting type games. I’m not sure if they are really the same as MTG and TTG? 7 Wonders which is alot of fun (and T’s favorite game) but a little too mathy for me?

I always get sucked into taking the boob cards.. what can i say, I have a type:

7 Wonders is great. It’s a drafting game where you choose cards based on their abilities (and boobs) or stats, and how they play with other cards and making sets, all while trying to have the greatest civilization, based on the number of victory points you’ve gathered of course. It’s quick and has a set time limit so you can get through it pretty easily. If you are playing with people who havnt played before they kind of have to have a shitty game or two to get the gist. I recommend they choose cards for the art (boobs) while they are figuring it out. Tianna really likes 7 Wonders and 7 wonders Duel (which is EVEN BETTER!) Maybe I can convince her to do a write up.

But 7 Wonders is more of a Drafting game then a deck building game… so forget that whole write up.

The other deck building game I’ve played recently is Sentinels of the Multiverse.

(The cover is even comicbooky!)

This is fun and kind of plays like a B side Marvel/DC universe, although Steve and Jake will probably kick me for not recognizing the universe (multiverse?) it’s in. Feels like they started making the game and lost the rights to the IP they were using so they made something up. It’s a ton of fun but is more co-op then competitive. You play with other players to take down a big bad guy. Your cards are more for chaining abilities together or playing off your co-players abilities to do maximum damage. I played Ra in the one time we played and my Staff was super duper awesome and let me do tons of fire damage… I like playing DPS classes.

Image result for staff of ra sentinels of the multiverse

But again this isnt really a deck building game. You have the deck from the start and i guess it’s more about fishing for the cards you awnt to chain stuff together? So forget that too!

So back to the Teen Titans Game.

I wasnt super thrilled about playing a deck builder game, but Penny saw the box on the table when it came in from Amazon and really wanted to check it out. I was a bit concerned since the game box has 12+ as the recommended Age, and Penny is only 7 (almost 8 she yells at me as I type this), but I said hey, lets give it a shot. We almost quit a few time before we really got started as an 8 year old has the attention span of a gnat and wouldnt pay attention to me reading the rules. So I just soldiered on and figured it out and kind of showed her through playing. I guess Crytotacistic makes alot of these Deck Builder games because it talks about being compatible with others, and a quick google search shows a bunch:

The game was alot of fun. The art on the cards is enjoyable and invokes the whimsy of the TV Show. The rules were not too complicated and after a few rounds of fumbling through the rules we figured it out and got into the swing of things. Penny really picked it up and while I went easy on her at first she got the strategy a bit faster then I. She did almost start crying (which might have been fake) when I hit her with the first weakness cards in the game but she was fine.

I really enjoyed how they incorporate the villans and nemesis and they are used to make your deck more powerful. Once your deck gets alot deeper the game moves alot faster and your taking down Nemsisis cards much faster and speeding up.

In the End Penny beat me by about 6 points. I’m not sure If this is due to her being really good or me just sucking. Probably me just sucking. She loves playing games and that makes me super excited to play it again too! We’re planning to play again soon and I’ll let you all know if my impressions of the game change with that!

I’m super excited that Penny was able to pickup a game with such complex rules pretty easily. I’m hoping to get her into some Catan or Pandemic soon! Maybe even The Captain is dead!

The Beers:

So Beer rating. Playing with a kid and a kid oriented game.. I think it’s probably best to stick with water.

Image result for glass of water

Or Maybe a Soda? How about a Root Beer. I really like Hanks Root Beer. It’s a Philly area staple and being that I feel like a transplanted Philly REGION guy, we’ll go with that. It’s like a beer? It has beer in it’s name?

Hanks root beer.jpeg

Status of my Tabletop

I like to play a wide assortment of games. Usually I get time to play video games on and off, mostly PC but I am still making my way through Breath of the Wild, I play alot of various games on Steam.

I’ve played some Fortnite recently, but I’m so bad at it. Maybe I’ll live stream me being bad at Fortnite.

My true love is table top gaming though. I love board games and RPGs, as well as card games. I unfortunately do not have alot of local friends with whom i get to play games with. So I’ve been playing Virtual table top with friends from around the country. We use Roll20 (www.roll20.net) for our virtual table top gaming, mostly of D&D, but there are a few others like maptools and fantasygrounds you can play.

Right now we’re deep into our 2nd year of real life playtime in our Curse of Strahd campaign. This is definitly the longest campaign I’ve ever run. I started it in the Fall of 2016. More people have joined and dropped out then are still around, but the core 3 people are still going strong. I actually started running it for a guy who never even joined the campaign. Too many “Logistics”.

They are in the Amber Temple right now, and I’m pretty sure will wipe… either that or Orm will come out with a whole bunch of blind eyes.

I’m thinking of running a DCC or D&D game at my local game store soon. We’ll see if anything actually comes of that.

Mostly I play alot of video games. I’m trying to wrap up Pillars of Eternity since the PoE2 just came out. Hopefully that will happen soon!

I just got a few games in and am planning on playing one with Penny next weekend. STAY TUNED!

Ok thats it for this short update. Go Phils!

Dan Con / Burning Dan

It’s been about a month since the last Dan Con, so i think it’s safe to begin talking about it.

What is Dan Con you might ask?
Well, It all began when I moved to a town out in the far reaches of Western Maryland. My wife got a job at a small university after toiling on her Doctorate for a bunch of years, and in celebration we moved out into Trump country.

Working from home and living hundred miles away from your friends makes it super hard to make new friends, and while I tried to find a group of people who i liked, and in turn liked me, i may have sat at my house for way too much and counted the number of cars that turned around in front of my house for nearly 8 months. So, My friends took pity on me and offered to come out and visit for a weekend and play boardgames, drinks lots of alcohol, and watch bad movies. Thus the first Dan Con occurred in the depths of winter.

After that we realized we really enjoyed getting together and hiding in a house for 4 days and just hanging out, so we decided to do a summer version of Dan Con, which we dubbed, Burning Dan.

For funsies, i took an old pirate statue I had broken, and dubbed him “Armstrong the Pirate” and awarded him to whomever had the most “points” at the end of the weekend. It’s never been me.

Burning Dan Con

This is our pirate trophy.

Each year something gets added on.

Our winner this year for Dan Con (that happens in the winter) was Hannah.

Elsa also won Penny Con. Which the points for Penny Con are even more bullshit then Dan Con… let me tell you.

This year was great because I had finished the basement remodel enough to exile the kids to it:

And I didnt have the flu. I also got to run some DCC and we played maybe more games then ever before.

I finally got to play Sheriff of Nottingham. Which I loved. We played some Coup (which is an all time favorite at these events), The Captain is Dead (which i LOVED LOVED LOVED) and some Disney Codenames.. which was actually kind of boring.. once you’ve played Codenames: Deep Undercover.. there’s no going back (Peter North, what what).

This years highlight had to be playing Terraforming mars. My friend James kept warning me about how complex the game is, and when you open the box and all the cards fall out on your head (this didnt happen to me) it can be a bit intimidating. But once you’ve picked all the cards up, it really is a blast. Jake dropped a comet on Fred… what more can you ask for!

The basics of the game are building up your victory points through terraforming mars! Who’d have guess. If you want to learn how to play go watch one of the great videos on youtube. This isnt that kind of blog. I really liked that I could drink whiskey and still follow the rules for the most part. Even on the sunday morning of Dan Con, which tend to be pretty rough. Nick was pretty sore he missed out on this one, so we need to make sure we get it in again for the next tone. I also really like you use the pandemic virus cubes for your markers. Thats pretty hot.

We also played some Secret Hitler, which is probably our go to and most classic Dan Con game, mostly because we’re all a bunch of terrible people, and Fred is always Hitler.

Last thing to mention is we played some of Red Scare, which is another deception based game like Secret Hitler, but a little more weird. It was fun, but weird.

Half the players wear weird glasses. Which means they can read half of the cards on the table. the other group can see that half but cant see the OTHER half. very weird. We probably wont play it again. I wouldnt call it the low light though, because that might be the 4 hour game of Unstable Unicorns we played.

The game itself was fun itself(do you like my scale of rating for games yet?) and I enjoyed the mechanics, but it literally dragged on for hours. At these kinds of events a game is best played in 1.5 hours to 2 hours tops. After that there’s too many breaks for kids, food, bathroom, alcohol refills, or whatever. I didn’t like this game. Maybe with less cards, less people or both it’s more fun.. but I dunno. Felt like munchkin/flux/exploding kittens. the NFSW pack was fun and made it nice and raunchy… but meh on this one.

Not sure it was the lowlight, but between it and Red Scare it’s a toss up. I will try and ninja chop it from the agenda next year.

It also Snowed:

The kids liked it.

The Eagles and the Super Bowl

Although my blog is about Games (board games, video games, etc) I thought I’d spend a few moments to discuss the whirlwind of joy I’ve been sucked into for the past 2 weeks.

If you dont live on Mars (if do check out Terraforming Mars! ) 

 you probably watched or at least heard of the Super Bowl.  It’s the championship game of the NFL played by two teams who have won their respected conferences. My team in the NFL are the Philadelphia Eagles. I’m a Philadelphia sports fan. Have been since I was a kid. My friends joke and say this is Child Abuse. BUT NOT THIS YEAR!

Fighting through a rash of injuries, and behind backup quarterback Nick Foles, the Eagles were able to win the Super Bowl!

So, how does this stop me from posting blog posts? Well I’ve been watching the games! That is only half of the answer of course. The other half will be in my next post.

I also attended the Super Bowl victory parade in Philadelphia, which meant 8 hours of travel, but was totally worth it.

Ok, well thats all of this quick update. Next post on Tuesday will be about my basement, Dancon, Terraforming Mars, the Captain is dead, and Unstable Unicorns!

Future Consideration – A Munchkin Story

The Game:

Playing board games with friends, as with all things in life to me, are really just opportunities to have fun, create stories to tell others and laugh at your own ridiculousness. Whether you are the butt of the joke or the source of the joke it is always fun to have shared experiences with others and hopefully get a smile or two out of those past experiences. Sometimes there are tears, and thats ok. As I told my daughter recently while she cried and swore she could never trust me again after I assassinated her mother in a heated game of Secret Hitler (another of my favorites we’ll post about later), we sit around the table and play board games for fun, to have a good time, to make each other laugh, and just enjoy each others company, no matter who wins or loses… but in the end there is always fun stories to share with others and laugh over. And she now laughs at the great Thanksgiving Assassination of 2017 just as I do!

With that in mind I’d like to share one of my favorite gaming stories from my 20+ years of playing board games, which involves the great and fun card game from Steve Jackson,  Munchkin.

If you are not familiar with Munchkin, It’a a super fun game that focuses on trying to get the most stuff and loot for your character and involves trying to  steal shit from a dungeon and backstabing your friends. First person to advance to level 10 wins. It’s a silly game and has a lot of satire. It also plays off many old D&D and RPG tropes about min-maxing and Munchkin-ing your character (hobbits with chainsaws, etc.) which should appeal to those of us who have played D&D before. It also includes some borderline raunchy humor which is hard to explain to an 8 year old:

There are a ton of expansions for it, which can all be combined together, and many different thematic brandings of the game which can add new twists and flavor to the game. There is Munchkin Cthulhu, Munchkin Booty , Munchkin Zombies, Star Munchkin, Munchkin Bites!, etc, etc.

I honestly haven’t played the game the game in years, but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable game that has relatively basic rules that are quick to learn. Its a great game to introduce to kids and get help them get bitten but the table top gaming bug. Which is a nice segue into one of my favorite stories involving not just Munchkin, but gaming, young gamers, and how I’m a complete jerk.

To set the scene a little bit, we have some relatives out of state who we visit a few times a year, and they love to play tabletop games. Introducing them to new board games is something I always do enjoy and I’ve shared quite a few with them over the years. When i first started playing games with them, my wife and I were newly married, and had no kids to pester us with yet. The Virginia folks (as I’ll refer to them from here on to keep things anonymous) would typically play traditional games. Monopoly, risk, and lots and lots of card games (I refuse to play pinochle with them anymore). And some weird dice game I never quite understood.

For me generic card games just don’t do it for me. I prefer games that have a specific Thematic element to them. Kings in the corner with generic Hoyle cards? No thank you. Throw some Targaryens and Lannisters on those pieces of card stock? I’m in. I know it’s silly, but maybe its that scarring moment of playing pinochle with my father in law in Las Vegas thats to blame.

So back to the story.

It was another holiday season many many years ago, in which we journeyed to my in laws (the Virginians). I brought with me my new favorite game, Munchkin. the Virginians at the time consisted of the two adults and their 3 kids, two of which were old enough to join us in learning the game and playing. The two kids playing with us were younger and probably still school age to pre-teen ages, but both are super smart kids and picked up the game and strategy pretty easily. At the time there were some play styles that should have keyed me in that this could be an issue in the future, specifically they played it more as a Co-Op game. They were willing to help each other out with or without an exchange of loot as the game recommends. I combed through the rule book to see if there was a rule against helping someone out for fun, or with the expectation that they might return your good deed and assist you later, but alas perhaps it was just my cold dead heart that felt that wasn’t quite in the spirit of the game.

Sometime passed, and with it some of my recollection of just how much time had passed, and also with specifics around dates or even years. I soon found myself back in Virginia, with the Virginians, and around their dinner table, once again playing Munchkin. This time with their own copy of the game! Success! I’ve spread the joy of this game with more people! The kids were a little bit older, with the youngest of the kids of gaming age being a super sweet 9 year old girl who was and IS super smart (I think she’s going to MIT for engineering or something) and enjoyed gaming as much as anyone else. My wife was her Godmother and always had a soft spot for her in her life, hell both of our lives. I had first met her (we’ll call her Middle C) when she was just an infant, so I had been around this family for a long time and Uncle Danny was just part of the clan.

A few rounds into Munchkin during this winter holiday season I noticed something interesting. They would often ask for assistance in defeating a monster of the Munchkin Dungeon with the phrase “future consideration.”

For example “Aunt T, help me kill this Gazebo for future consideration”.

From the way they played it it translated into: “Help me and I’ll help you later! Yay! Isnt winning great! This is a fun Co-Op game where we all want to kill the dungeon denizens!”

FULL STOP.

If you’ve played Munchkin you know part of the fun is in dicking your fellow players… “friends”… over in the game.

“Oh you are fighting a Level 8 Gazebo? Nope. Now you are also fighting a Lvl 20 Cthulhu!!!”

Lets take another look at the box real quick:

Yup, still there. “Stab your buddy.”!!! Nothing about this being a co-op game.

So i think you can all see where this is going.

We’re sitting there, it’s a nice winter day, we have a fire going, everyone is in funny (ironic) ugly holiday sweaters eating warm gingerbread cookies and drinking mulled wine or hot chocolate for the kids (I may be idealizing this a bit. I probably was drinking a Sam Adams at the time as my beer palate wasnt that refined at the time. ) and playing a rousing fun filled family oriented game of Munchkin.

I’m facing a tough fight with a Gazebo (or some shit), and my cute little super sweet 8 or 9 or 10 year old niece says to me “I’ll help you Uncle Danny! For Future Consideration!”.

“Ok Middle C!” I say in a happy tone. I’ve just raised a level, not going to die to the Gazebo, and dont need to split my loot! Win Win Win. “Thanks Middle C!”

Stop now if you don’t want to read about how i crushed all the joy in a young girls heart.

Fast forward to later in the game. Middle C is winning. I told you she’s smart. In fact, she’s about to win the game. We all play the prerequisite wandering monster and monster enhancement cards (read the instructions for more on those! This isn’t a blog on HOW to play! ) In a vain ploy to halt her relentless drive to the finish line. When suddenly it looks like she dosen’t have enough bonuses to defeat the monsters arrayed before her! But she just smiles, as she has thought this through (again she’s smart) and looks to me.

“Uncle Danny. I’d like to call in my future consideration.”

I look at her. I look at the table of cards. I look at the other players. Everyone else has that resigned “awww man. she’s gonna win again” look as they realize together she and I have enough bonuses to defeat the monsters.

I just say “No. I consider helping you and decline. I believe this card says you die and lose a level.”

That might be the first time I made a 8/9/10 year old girl cry.

In hindsight i realize i was being a dick. But honestly, you play to win. Well, you play to play, but you also Play to win the game. (Thanks Herm.)

If anything you play the game to have fun stories you can share and laugh about all these years later. I think she (and her family) learned a lesson in that moment. Well 2 probably.

1: Uncle Danny is a dick when he plays game.

2: Be specific! “Future Consideration” has a loop hole! CONSIDERATION! I CONSIDERED to help her, and determined it wouldn’t be in my best interest to help her and let her win the game. After that they started using “future obligation” in their games, which i think is a much better choice of words.

Pretty sure i still lost tho.

The Beers:

For this one I have to go with Ruthless Rye from Sierra Nevada. It’s a nice beer that hits the right notes with the pine and rye. It’s a bit on the malty side which I’ve been turning down lately, but that tastiness from malty beers i drink lately helps to remind me that I’m alive and should suffer for my misdeeds (see the post above). It’s not too high ABV wise so while not a session beer you can still have a few before you are making kids cry.

Also fits the story a bit.

The Alpha Gamer (or How I learned to love Pandemic)

The Games:

An Interesting conversation came up in the BurningDanCon chat this evening (more to come on what BurningDanCon is later).

We were all cooing over H and N’s son O competing with his father over their Rule Lawyering of a specifc rule in Pandemic, (Specifically Outbreak expansion of one color/virus into a city with 3 cubes of another color/virus),

Rules Lawyer Senior and Rules Lawyer Junior
Rules Lawyer Senior and Rules Lawyer Junior

when I remembered an article i was reading about one of the biggest problems with with co-op games like Pandemic, Arkham Horror, Forbidden Island (which is a big hit with The Little gamer), Forbidden Desert, and to a lesser extent Shadows over Camelot.

The Alpha Gamer.

You should read the article in question here (https://www.kotaku.com.au/2017/02/games-i-will-never-play-again-pandemic/) for a nice reason on why these games can be problematic.

In short the problem comes with more experienced, assertive, and/or knowledgeable players who have (or think they have) a good strategy in mind for the game being played that they want to direct or quarterback the other plays to.

Usually it can be great in certain instances for one player to help coordinate the team (or players) to come together and form a cohesive strategy to defeat the game. This makes sense! How else can you win if your not all working to achieve one goal and solve the problems?!

The problem comes when it feels like the one player is directing everyone else’s plays at the table and there is not an equal level of participation around the table. I’ve certainly been in that position before (honestly only once i can remember, we’re all pretty Alpha at times), not wholly the fault of the other player (Hello Whiskey), but it can be incredibly frustrating when you are and it feels like you are just an extension of another player turn.

I just want to move my piece!

There is another possibility here to consider. Maybe the Alpha Gamer is just stepping up and into the role due to my love of whiskey and/or my shitty style of game play… I’ll admit I’m not a ponderer when we’re playing games and can get irritated if I’m waiting too long for my turn (5 + 6 player Lords of Waterdeep just kills me when it comes to downtime). I prefer to take my turn, make my move, with a little bit of consideration for sure, but certainly don’t want to hold up the game. I personally think this is an obvious positive character trait, but everyone else calls me an Agent of Chaos for reason and I’ve been blamed for our teams failures once or twice due to my lack of optimal usage of my characters special abilities. (See there’s a reason this blog is titled as it is.)

Reading a few other articles on this, it seems one of the ways that game designers have been trying to combat the “Alpha Gamer” is through the use of hidden mechanics, like the traitor in Shadows over Camelot, the hidden cylon in BSG, and the unique style of hand display in Hanabi. (I haven’t played either of the last two games there, but THATS WHAT THEY SAY!)

That being said, i do really enjoy Pandemic. While we’ve only won a few games of it around our table, we’ve always had a great time playing it.

We’ve also played a few “Months” of Pandemic Legacy Season 1, and have failed every single time. N just recently got Pandemic for his BDay so lets hope he’s practicing and getting some good strategies for our next go round.

Another variant of Pandemic that we have in the library is Pandemic: Reign of Cthuhu.

Me and my gaming Bro Dogs were originally brought together by work. Actually besides work we were originally brought together by playing the table top RPG Call of Cthuhu. So this alternatively themed version of Pandemic was a big hit with our gaming group. It also helped that we won on our first play through.

I also recently picked up a copy of The Captain is Dead, another Co-Op game in the same style and with many of the same mechanics as Pandemic. Thematically The Captain is Dead hits more buttons for me then Pandemic or even Pandemic Reign of Cthulhu. I’m more of a Sci-Fi guy, and a huge star trek fan. This game is basically an episode of the late 60s TV show, but with the captain dying instead. It even includes a “Red Shirt” character that is easy to kill but respawns (as another “Red Shirt”) on the next turn!

The Captain is Dead includes a count down deck, which tends to make bad things happen, and good team combos to boost and encourage assisting fellow players. I was drawn to it initially more for the nifty artwork. See below I think the box art is great not to mention the board and character models.

The Captain is Dead

It really brings out a  60s/70s era vibe, (which makes me think of an old video game with similar art style, Evil Genius.

Before i derail this post too much further, I’d like to just come back to the issue of the Alpha Gamer again before closing up. In reviews I’ve read of The Captain is Dead they mention the Alpha Gamer problem as well, so I’m curious to see how it plays out. One nice thing about the Alpha Gamer conundrum is that it allows games like this to be easily played solo, something that works well for me being out in Western Maryland and with 2 kids. Just play as 2 or 3 different characters and use the normal 3 player rules. Keeping track of the different hands is as easy as laying them down in rows so you don’t get confused. This is a strategy i picked up playing the Dresden Files Cooperative Card game from Evil Hat which i really enjoy.

For Pandemic in particular i think playing the rules as written with not exposing your hand really helps to mitigate the potential of someone becoming the Alpha Player. Yes you can talk about what cards you have but through that communication the possibility of cooperation and shared ideas really starts to shine through. I think most play throughs where I’ve run into this problem we’ve always played with our hands exposed, allowing someone to step in and really take over a game like they would if they were just running 3 or 4 characters at the same time.

For those of you out there how do you deal with Alpha Players? Are there some games you find are more susceptible to this phenomenon? Do you specifically avoid games to combat this? Let me know! Drop me an email or comment below!

The Beer:

Finally as part of my theme for my new blog my drink pairing for Pandemic.
A nice thing about an Alpha Gamer is he takes away all responsibility on you to contribute if you don’t want to! He’s kind of like your Designated Driver when you’re playing. So If that’s the route you are going, hit the hard stuff. Some whiskey, some run, maybe some shots of tequila. All are good ideas. From a beer perspective break out a double IPA and go to town. Living in Maryland I’ll recommend the Double Dog IPA from Flying Dog.

Now for me, I’d probably go with a nice mid range IPA. I’m really enjoying the Sweet Water IPA right now and if your on your first or second you probably have enough cognitive function to contribute. If the game gets out of hand or you got some slow play going on, kick into number three and let the Alpha take over.

If you are the alpha, stick with some diet coke, some bud light, or maybe a nice session beer like an All Day IPA from Founders. Good stuff.