Board Game Night!

I recently went to a board game night that had more people I didn’t know then people I do. This was a bit hard and different for me. I prefer to socialize with people I know well, maybe partly as a preventative of offending someone else, but also just worried people wont like me or I’ll look like an idiot to them. As outgoing as I am, I tend to have a lot of anxiety about doing things with new groups of people. On the Five Thirty Eight Big Five personality test I score the highest on Neuroticism and Extroversion. Highest on both scales then most of my friends. 

Kapow!

I’m also an ESFP and my Dungeons and Dragons Class is a Sorcerer.

I had attended a few sessions of a board game club that meets on the weekends here in town back when we first moved in. Back when I REALLY didn’t know anyone. That was a lot of fun too and I really just stopped going when life got busy. Penny was 3 at the time, T was doing derby out of town a lot on weekends, or we were traveling back to Delaware trying to live in both location. And then before we knew it we had another kid and sneaking away on Saturday mornings to play video games was an afterthought.

I also started watching EPL soccer on Saturday mornings, so…

My good friend and future Podcast and Warhammer Instructor Steve K (aka Evil Steve) had been trying to get me to go for awhile. It’s a bunch of people from the nearby University and they play board games on Monday Nights.

T usually has derby, and with two kids it just seemed like it’d be a hassle to get them and get to the board game jawns by 5pm, when they start playing. I usually work till 6 and the kids come home with T around 530.

But I need to try and break out of the bubble I’ve created from working at home in a small mountain college town, and the funk I’ve been in of late. So getting out and meeting new people and playing board games with two kids in tow seemed like it was worth the effort.

William Tiberius a few years back

And it was a lot of fun! Exhausting too. Will (who informed me tonight that he’s a Star Trekker) is REALLY 3 right now, and it’s exhausting. But with the help of an ipad and Doctor Panda’s Restaurant 3 I was able to play a few games, but with him on my lap the whole time.

Penny was excited as she just LOVES board games. She was hoping to play a bit with Evil Steve’s son, but he was more interested in playing Roblox. So Penny played that with him a bit, but was eventually drawn into the board game we were all playing.

I brought a new game I had picked up recently in anticipation of the upcoming Dan Con festivities later this month, Captain Sonar. It has a neat premise of two teams of 4 (8 players in total) play positions on opposing submarine crews trying to kill the other team. Sounds like the perfect game for Dan Con!

7 Wonders


Unfortunately we didn’t get to play Captain Sonar, but we did play one of my other favorite games, 7 Wonders. I’ve talked about 7 Wonders before, so I wont go too deep into it. It’s one of T’s favorite games, and one I really enjoy playing too. I always feel that while it’s easy to learn, strategy takes a play through or two to really get. There were two people playing with us who hadn’t played before, but they are all smart people and picked it up pretty easily! I was happy to say I didn’t come in last place! I couldn’t play my favorite cards however due to being in mixed/unknown company.

7 Wonders, too shy to play my favorite cards.

We also played a game I’ve played once before, and have been eager to give another shot since that one time. A game called Mysterium. Mysterium is a really neat little game in which you play as Mediums or Psychics who are receiving visions from a ghost that was murdered. The ghost wants the mediums to figure out who killed them, where and with what (kind of like clue) through the use of visions that are sent to the mediums (the players) through a seance. In the seance the mediums are given visions of clues to figure out the murderer, the location and the weapon in through cards with some really amazing art on them. the cards are very similar to another game by the same company called Dixit. Dixit is aimed more at story telling and is easier for kids I think. We dont play Dixit much as T dosent like it.

Mysterium Cards, the art is amazing

I was really excited when Penny (the little gamer) was interested in playing. One of the women we were play with was eager to offer Pen to help her with playing as the ghost, and Penny seemed to have a great time playing with her. I love playing board game with Penny and she loves them too. She’s got a real knack for them and is beating me an embarrassingly amount of times at them!

Little Gamer as the Ghost

There’s a neat twist to the game in that ghost dosent choose the actual murderer, location and weapon combination until the last round. I was as little confused at that, as it seemed a bit arbitrary, but in the end it all worked out. The final clues are revealed from the clues given in the previous rounds based on something called clairvoyance points, gathered through voting on everyone’s guesses to their own clues, which initially seemed like a side objective but ultimately turned out to be quite crucial. Luckily Erica and I guessed the right clues even though Evil Steve did not. So we won!

Ultimately I think the moral of this all is that it’s good to get out of the house and interact with other people. The people there were very friendly and welcoming, even with me bringing in two noisy children who kept farting for some reason. I will definitely go back next week. Penny was saying bye to her fellow ghost with a “See you next week!”, so i guess we’re committed!

The Beers:
No drink pairing for this week! I drank water, and had a Coke while at the game. Probably shouldnt bring alcohol on campus.

I would say, if you are playing games with new people, don’t get too tipsy! Keep it to a low ABV so you don’t embarrass yourself!

Maybe a Bud Light or PBR? Although either might get you judged by your fellow gamers.

Gloomhaven Solo Play

Living North of Wall I do not get a lot of opportunities to sit at the gaming table with my friends as much as I’d like. So outside of PC games and playing RPGs on Roll20 with my pals, i try to find table top board games that have a single player rules variants or can be played easily running multiple players.

A few games that I’ve picked up that have those options are things like Scythe,  Dresden Files co-op card game, Pandemic, The Captain is Dead, Terraforming Mars, Agricola, and more. And finally Gloomhaven. One of the biggest sellers for me on Gloomhaven was that it had a single player variant that Tom Vasel @ Dice Tower even states is just as good if not better then the multiplayer normal game.

Normally I prefer playing board games as a social outlet. I’m a bit of a social butterfly and really enjoy sitting around a table with a group of friends. I’m still a bit hesitant on playing with rando’s due to some bad experiences playing at a local game group, so i shy away from game clubs and cons and gaming at stores. Part of it is probably also because I’m generally bad at games. Board, Video, card, sports etc. I’m just bad at them. I’m not skilled at playing games, I generally just enjoy playing them. Sometimes I get lucky and win, sometimes i just know the rules better, or have played a game more then some other people so I can eek out a win, but if I’m playing against someone who is of comparable experience to me in a game imma lose. I’m usually ok with that. As long as I’m having fun, getting the chance to take my turn regularly and doing stuff I’m ok with losing a game.

Some people may say I’m lying.. but between you and me we’ll just leave it at that.

But back to gaming with people I don’t know. It’s probably silly and I’d probably have a great time, but it just doesn’t feel right. I have my 3 or so group of friends i game with from time to time, and it feels weird playing with people outside of them! I guess you could call me a monogamist gamer?

Many of the games I’ve listed above handle Solo play in different methods. Some of them have you reduce the difficulty in a few ways to make a single player play through possible. I’ve seen games where you might remove some cards, or play a specific board for solo play. There there are some that have you just play the game the same way as with multiple people but playing the different seats or players on your own.

For Gloomhaven the single player rules outline a few specific changes for solo play, that really just line up with increasing the scenario difficulty. In the multiplayer game everyone has a deck of cards that detail the moves or powers that the PCs can perform on their turn. Part of the challenge in many multiple player games is not knowing what each player will specifically do on their turn. This is down by not showing the cards in your hand with the other players. This adds in a bit of difficulty, and as I mentioned in another post, prevents Alpha Gamers from taking control of the game directing everyone’s turns/actions. Games with this specific mechanic are Pandemic, Dresden Files Co-Op and Gloomhaven just to name a few. Being able to see all the cards for the other players or PCs in the game makes it a bit easier as you can coordinate effects and actions with ease. With this in mind Gloomhaven has you increase the game difficulty one level for single player to balance out the difficulty a bit.

I’ve played the first 3 adventures in the Gloomhaven campaign solo with some mixed results. I actually played the first adventure 3 times so i could see the difference in difficulties. My first attempt was with 3 characters at the normal difficulty level. I quit about half way through the first adventure on that one as i found running 3 characters a bit daunting and confusing. Granted this was probably my 5th time playing ever, so with a bit more experience it might be a little easier in the future.

My second attempt at playing Gloomhaven solo was with 2 characters. I made a mistake here and setup the first adventure as If i was playing with 4 players and with a level increase of +1 (for a total of Difficulty Level 5). I realized my mistake about halfway through but wanted to see how it played out. I died in 4 turns from the 2 elite Guards in the first room. Oops.

So my Third attempt I had 2 characters and played on level 3. This was a good balance, if maybe still a smidge too easy. But i played through that and the next two sessions without a huge problem. Was a lot of fun and I cant wait to play again.

I also spent some time last weekend organizing the pieces into a better organization system. I followed the directions here: https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1726878/yss-yet-another-storage-solution. It uses a few inexpensive Plano tackle boxes to organize all the small pieces, the monster standees, and the cards. Really makes it all alot easier to sort! I’ll get some pictures up in the artcile when I have a some time. I have to say I’ve been happy with the layout. I do miss the box container that it comes with as i really liked how it handled all the boxes and cards, but this system makes setup and breakdown a ton easier and less daunting to each play. Part of why i didn’t play the game more in the past was how intimidating getting everything out was before. I’m hoping it’ll be less of a chore in the future!

So thats the end of my post. Have you tried Gloomhaven single player? Let me know how it went!

 

 

 

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!!!

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

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.