Water downed Waterdeep

Hello Friends and welcome to another year of sucky gaming with your GM Dan Bogart.

Today I’d like to talk about Lords of Waterdeep. One of my favorite games. We have talked about it before briefly but we’ll start from the beginning here for you.

Look at these Adventurers!

Lords of Waterdeep is a traditional strategy worker placement board game that I’d consider one of the most prominent of this new Golden Age of board games. Inspiried by the wave of german worker placement games, and set in the wonder Forgotten Realms world of Faerun, Dungeon and Dragons primary campaign setting for the past 20+ years, Lords of Waterdeep expanded upon the grand tradition of D&D based board Games.

Designed by Rodney Thompson, who’s work on Star Wars and Dusk City Outlaws I’m a huge fan of, has you completing quests with a variety of adventurers you collect in your tavern as a secret Lord of the Waterdeep council. The more quests you complete the more victory points you accumulate. Whomever has the most points after 6 rounds wins the game.

Pretty straightforward mechanics to this one. Gameplay should be relatively quick as well as you take a turn placing one of your agents (workers!) at various locations around the city of Waterdeep to collect adventurers (represented by wooden cubes of different colors), build new locations, collect monies, or utilize Intrigue cards to make neat things happen.

I say “SHOULD be relatively quick” since in reality I’ve been in many games where the game play can really slog down if players are not paying attention or not ready to place their agents. We’ve played some games that take 2.5 hours, which is a LONG time to be playing a board game.

One of the neat mechanics of the game is that at times the actions you may take, or the Intrigue cards you play make effect your opponents. This isn’t the kind of game where you are playing inside a bubble taking your moves while your opponents are in their own bubble taking their own moves and you compare scores at the end. This is a game where you play AGAINST other players. it’s competitive. And you are trying to win the game.

What do you play for Herm?

Alas and this is where my tale begins.

Twas the great Holiday Trek of Two Thousand and Eighteen for my family. We had journeyed far and wide this great festival season, visiting the shores of Delaware for time with my progenitors, as well as our previous land of residence to take in the Yule eve festivities. We partook of many libations and sumptuous repast. Following the Commemoration of the Nativity of Jesus, we then departed the lands of Delaware, and crossed the great Chesapeake Bay as well as the Potomac River, to finally arrive in Herndon Virginia.

We always love visiting Virginia during the holidays as it provides us an opportunity to play board games with my wife’s family. My family isn’t really that into board games, which is ironic as my love for board games began with family game nights we used to have.

We did play one game with my parents. A game we had gotten for my daughter and son.

Dont tell my mom i put this here.

We did play one game with my parents. A game we had gotten for my daughter and son. It’s a silly game called Dont Step In It! Unicorn Edition. I probably should include it on a game blog as it’s barely a game. But the loved it and i got a picture of my mom with a blindfold on! Win Win. Definitely a fun game to play with a 3 Year old. Or a bunch of grandparents on Christmas Morning! Its as bad as it sounds though.

In Virginia we played a number of games this trip. Tsuro of the Seas was the first. It’s a neat game of path finding that involves actively trying to eliminate your opponent by forcing them to take a path off the edge of the board. It’s pretty neat. I had played this once before at the beach with my friend Evil Steve. My cousin big C (thats his beard in the photo below) had found the game at his college’s gaming group and brought it home to share with his family. Glad I got to enjoy it again with them too!

Tsuo of the Seas with the Little Gamer

Penny the little gamer even got in on the action. It’s simple mechanics that are easy to pick up but a lot of fun. Penny didnt have any issues with it and even had the strategy down by the end. I chose the red ship of course. Go Phillies.
Pretty sure I won this one, but who keeps count. (hint i do).

We also played a few rounds of Codenames Pictures which I always love. The “Pictures” version is a nice change of pace, and throws in the added difficulty of trying to decipher the images on the cards. I like it as it give the kids the opportunity to play, even if they are not as great at reading or understanding all the words.

During Codenames I started seeing some of the warning signs for what was to come. The two brothers in the family were ultra competitive during Codenames, and I was worried the table was about to be flipped. And this with them both on the same team! Seems competitiveness runs high in this family and they can get a smidge worked up when playing a game. But I mean, who dosent right? As Herm says:

What do you play for Herm?

To wrap up the evening we played a nice family oriented game of Apples to Apples. This one was a slightly different variant that included the “Sour Apple” to the game, which adds in some complexity by doing silly things like making you not able to talk. Its a fun game and we played with my wife’s parents. So when I got the “Beaver” card i had to discard that as quickly as possible. It turns out that playing

Better then “Beavers”

Turns out playing Cards Against Humanity pretty much ruins Apples to Apples for you.

So the next day before we left we got to play a few more games. The family wanted to play Lords of Waterdeep, as it’s one of their favorites. It’s one of my favorites too! I had introduced the family to it a few years before, and got them a copy of the game for a Holiday or a Birthday I think. I was happy to know they had played it a lot and really enjoyed it. They were all also very good at the game. I’ll say that now before I get to my arguments against our game session. Very smart people. Very good at board games. And I love them.

So we break out the board and start setting up. I didn’t get red. This should have been a the second warning sign for me. But we continue with playing.

As I mentioned above, Lords of Waterdeep is pretty competitive. There are mechanics that specifically attack an opposing player’s tavern resources, money, or even gives them tasks (mandatory quests) they need to complete before they can compete other quests. Boardgame Geek calls it the “Take That” mechanic and it’s purpose is to cause trouble for other players.

If you’ve read one of my other posts about the Virginia Family you’d know that they tend to play games a bit more casual then I do, or even than they are intended. And thats fine. There is nothing wrong with playing games in a more casual manner with house rules to remove some of the components of the game. For some games it can make it easier for people less accustomed to cut throat player vs player style, and allow an entry point for those who dont have the same level of competitive streak. I also am certainly not someone who NEEDS to play very aggressive games. I cant stand online multiplayer games because of this. I’m not super competitive. I enjoy playing games to learn the mechanics. I dont NEED to win, regardless of how often i post that Herm Edwards gif. I like to win. I’ll try to win. But I’m not gonna spazz out if i dont. For me playing the game is more important.

However, (you’re probably saying “HERE IT COMES!”.. but bare with me.) If you are going to house rule your game, ya should let everyone playing know.

Thats one of the things I love about Role Playing Games in general. D&D, Scum and Villainy, Fate, Call of Cthulhu, etc. Part of the constant interaction and dialogue between the GM/DM/Keeper and the players builds a sense of shared ownership and control over the game and TYPE of game you are going to play.

So back to our little game of Lords of Waterdeep.

***Disclaimer*** I’m not pointing these items below out to poke fun at how they play, but more to look at just how changing a few rules can really change the type, tone and tenor of the game. ***/Disclamer***

First thing I notice when playing the game with them is that they play that you can resolve as many quests as you want on each Turn. This is clearly incorrect as the rules explictly state you can complete only one quest per turn. This is pretty game breaking of itself. If you could do that turn economy becomes less important. Why play any quests during the game then? Why not wait till the last turn and play them all.

Second, they don’t record the earned points immediately on the score tracker. This one is a bit of a bigger deal to me. The score tracker is used not just to track your points, but as a bit of a leaderboard for the game. If one opponent is taking the lead you might start targeting them with Intrigue cards with ill effects and Mandatory Quests to try and balance their lead out. The player who goes first in the game generally has a leg up from the very beginning that COULD be insurmountable. At that point it’s just a race to the Castle Waterdeep to get the first player token each turn.

Mandatory Quests as I mentioned before are one of the main ways you can try and slow down a run away leader. This is a quest you play on an opponent that they must complete before they can do any other quest cards. If your opponent is building up Fighters (the orange blocks), play a Magic quest that they need a wizard (the purple blocks) to complete. Then camp out on Blackstaff Tower to prevent them from getting that arcane associate! Unfortunately they had removed all of those from the game so that you couldn’t prevent someone from scoring that big completed quest. I didn’t know this until about 3 rounds in and was holding on to a card to eliminate mandatory quests and fishing the intrigue pile for one to play on the player who was leading.

MOAR POINTS

Third big issue with scoring I came across playing with them was in Plot Quest Cards. Plot quest cards allow you to, once completed, have ongoing benefits that help you along in the game. Some of the guards grant you extra victory points when you complete quests after the plot quest is completed. So if you complete another Arcana quest after completing it, you get 2 more victory points.

They would only score those bonus points at the end of the game when counting up all their victory points and moving the scoring tracker. The problem here is that with that method, you could play this card absolutely last and record those bonus points for all the quests of that type you complete the whole game. That makes this card way too overpowered. This card is a beast if you complete it early and are able to focus on those quest types. Especially if combined with your lords ability.

While bringing up these rules discrepencies they repeatedly told me “You taught us how to play the game!”. And that may be true. This blog is called “Dan sucks at Gaming” because I’m generally terrible at it. However I’m pretty sure I played with those specific rules above correctly, as they are pretty big game breakers if they are played incorrectly.

I felt pretty bad about upending how they play the game. It obviously frustrated them a bunch as they kept slipping up with those rules after and losing track if they hard recorded points, or trying to play two quests. They just generally seemed grumpy about it.

But to me these are pretty fundamental changes to the game that really change how the game is played. I joked earlier about playing the game in a bubble with no cross interaction between players.. and thats not the point of this game.

I have played a lot of worker placement games, and blocking other players from placing their workers in an advantageous position is pretty critical. This is the main component to worker placement, besides the actual worker placement. This in and of itself is competitive. Why take the other mechanics of the game and water them down?

When discussing this with my in laws they mention that they prefer to play games in a less competitive fashion due to arguments that arose in game play. I can understand that, especially when watching brothers and sisters play the game togther. But knowing who is leading the game and being able to hamper them from a run away victory is pretty important is, as is playing defensively by blocking quests.

Their style of play was much faster then when I typically play this game and that was refreshing. I have dreaded playing Lords of Waterdeep and actively avoided due to some of the delays between turns. Granted that was with the 6 player game and the expansions, so perhaps going back to basics would be fun.

Overall as much complaining I am doing above it was a neat thought exercise to see how their changes of the game really alter strategies and the point of the overall game. Having played a lot of Lords of Waterdeep in the past it really changed how i approached some of the ingrained tactics of holding on to cards that neutralized Mandatory quests, or keeping an eye on who was in the lead to even who I was going to share a split loot card with.

Either way, I lost. So at least I keep up with my blog title. I hope they will play the game with me again!

Game Prep, or How I learned to stop worrying and love Evernote.

Whenever I go to start a new campaign, I like to spend too much time looking at various  campaign tracking and organization tools to decide how i want to lay everything out. Do i want to use something easy like evernote or google notes? Or should i use something more traditional like the wiki based Obsidian Portal? Should i dive into some of the fee based apps like Hero Lab, City of Brass, Realmworks Scabard? Or what about all the novel organizing and writing tools like Scrivener and Final Draft, those seem really cool. Plus I’ve always wanted to write a novel some day! Maybe something semi-autobiographical about my mythical life as a swashbuckling alpaca farmer / IT Manager.

When I was a kid I used to use trapper keepers or 3 ring binders. Sometimes folders and graph papers. This was in a time before time. A time before Ipads and smartphones and even laptops and PCs. During my parents big move back in April of 2018 I found a box full of all my old RPG stuff. I was so happy to find my old TMNT&OS, D&D and WEG Star Wars Books. As well as all my old campaign notes an folders!

Check out these sweet office building map. you know shit went down on Floor 23.

Doing things in analog sure had it’s benefits. You only had to worry about paper and could organize things all you want! But lets be honest, PCs really revolutionized campaign preparation. Even using word and excel allowed you to organize things and track everything with so much more ease. I loved it and have used those tools a number of times.

In 2018 I decided I was going to run a campaign of Scum and Villainy in that fall for a bunch of my friends. See this old post for more about that system. I was hoping to start it once I wrapped up my Curse of Strahd D&D Game.. but that’s still running. So I geared up to run it around Thanksgiving or so. So I really wanted something to help show the interconnection of the different NPCs, Factions and PCs throughout the game. The first thing i realized was that there really are a ton of different systems out there.

Geek and Sundry did a great article on some of the tools you can use. I wont rehash it and just include the link: https://geekandsundry.com/find-your-ideal-rpg-campaign-organization-method/ .  For this round of deliberation I spent a lot of time looking at various online demos and youtube videos, downloaded a demo or two, and signed up for about 4 different online services. I even stumbled upon a play by post site that is really cool and that I’m playing in a few games on . It’s called Rolegate. Check it out too!

One tool I’ve used in past is Obsidian Portal. This is a neat website that is in wiki format and uses collaborative editing. It allows the GM to build out pages and keep them separate or label them for different uses like PC or Locations. I’ve used this one extensively for a Dresden Files and D&D Campaign in the past. I also have their paid version for it that I barely ever use. Please don’t tell my wife.

I also looked at a new one called World Anvil, which was insanely in depth. It scared me away pretty quickly honestly when I went to create a “world” and came up with these options:

Woah….

This was seriously a bit too intimidating. There were just a ton of options and each item had about 15 different fields to fill in. Yikes. I don’t know if i was ready for the level of commitment that this site asked of me. I have one marriage thank you very much. I think if I was building a world from scratch or writing a novel this would be a good option. But for something that I was hoping to use for a more in depth world building or writing a novel this would be a great tool. That being said I’ve come back to this slick website and all the neat features it has built in. Maybe once my kids start sleeping and I’m not tired all the time I’ll come back to it.

The Adventure Journal/Forums in Roll20 were also an intriging option. While it’s just a forum I considered using it to just document posts of information there. Most of the games I run I try and write up a session recap immediately after each session, or at least a few days later. However the features on the site were loacking and are really mostly the forum and an external journal of Characters and Handouts. Not organized enough to my tastes . So I ruled that out.

The more I looked at all these complex tools the more I just wanted something to take notes and be able to hyperlink those notes together. Something to make it easy and quick to write down info, look something up and edit it if necessary. This sounded like a note book so I shifted into looking at some of the note book tools that are out there.

OneNote: I use Microsoft OneNote for work and it seemed like a logical choice. I found alot of suggestions on how to use it on reddit and other forums. This one post in particular was pretty neat and showed how one guy used it to build out very detailed notes and templates for 5e and specific campaigns like CoS:
https://www.reddit.com/r/DMToolkit/comments/4yqnru/cryrids_5th_edition_onenote_templates/ . Really cool stuff!

So I fired up Onenote and started to take it for a test drive. And quickly ran into a problem. It was a similar problem to one I had in the past where I couldnt get it to synch my account across various devices, and I wasnt sure where it was saving my notes to. The cloud? My local PC? I tried fighting with it for a bit with using my google drive as a location for the data, but kept running into issues getting it to synch with my phone, my laptop and my pc. So frustrated I gave up. These things should just work!

So finally I was back to Evernote. I used Evernote for my Curse of Strahd campaign originally before, and still do, so I was familiar with it. I had used it for work prior to switching to OneNote. So I thought I’d give it a shot.

Overall I was very happy with Evernote. It was easy to use, simple and I could grab everything i needed in a given session very quickly. I did miss OneNotes organizational and free flowing.

I still wanted something to be able to present to players and have as a resource for others. So I went and setup an Obsidian Portal Page for it.

WALCOME TO SLUDGESIDE AND VILL-AIN-Y

So the draw back here is that I need to do things in 3 places in order to:
1: Take my campaign building notes and where I do the rough draft, ouline and creation of my campaign.
2: Where I put the data for presentation to my players. That will still be Roll20.
3: Where I put the data for after play presentation.
4: (ok there is 4) I have a notebook I use to take written notes in during game play as i find typing to be distracting on my loud keyboard mid-session. Sigh.

So did i save myself work using these three tools? Definitely not. Now I have three places I need to keep update to date. I’m sure Info in one may not make it into the other two… Uggh. FML.

Well Either way this is what I came up with and will have to work with for now. I imagine I’ll stop updating the Obsidian Portal Page first lol.

What do you use for your campaigns? I’d love to hear! Maybe i should just go back to an old school Trapper Keeper or 3 Ring Binder.

So long Gus.

I am heartbroken. Today my 11 year old puppy, Gus passed away. He had been battling thyroid cancer for the past few months. The tumor was constricting his throat so much he couldn’t breathe or eat or drink properly anymore.

Gus has been my best bud for the past decade. Tianna and I were blessed to have such a wonderful dog and were talking about all the big moments in our lives that he was there for. She mentioned being pregnant with the kids, and bringing them home. I mentioned him next to me watching the Phillies winning the World Series and the Eagles winning the Super Bowl.

Working from home he’s been my constant office companion every day of every week, always by my side following me from room to room. I’ll miss the spring and summer days working from the porch with him sitting on the couch beside me and when working in my office having to sit at an awkward angle because he’s sleeping under my desk.

He loved his Penny so much. I remember the day we brought her home and he was so interested in her and would just sit slightly away from her sniffing at her. He would always sit close to her and was her protector.

        

Gus Loved Will a ton too. Will would always love feeding him. Gus was older when he first met Will, so he wasn’t as active or playful with him, but he’d stand guard over Will just like with Pen:

I’m sure Gus will miss stealing their hot dogs out of their hands or their popcorn from the bowl when they turn around. I’ll for sure miss never having to clean food up off the floor.

 

I’ll miss our hikes in the woods, or our nights sitting by the fire. 

I’ll miss his farts from under the game table during game nights, and his stinky breath in the car. I’ll miss his cuddles on the couch or how he always knew when i was sad and would be there for me to hug.

I miss him so much.Image may contain: tree, snow, sky, outdoor and nature

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!

 

 

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!

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!

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.

Welcome to my new Gaming Site!

Hello all and welcome to yet another gaming website. This one will hopefully bring something new and different as I’ll review games, pair them with my favorite beer or drink, and talk about how awful I am generally at gaming.

This should be fun and might have the occasional actual post unlike all my other blog posts which fizzle out after about a week.