I can’t believe how quickly 2016 went for us here at Board Game Duel. It was a busy year, with tons of family time, the start of preschool for our son, and lot of volunteering in our church and community. We also got in so many board games and video games with family and friends!
Favorite Games We Obtained in 2016:
Mansions of Madness, Star Wars Destiny, Tickets to Ride Rails and Sails, Small World Realms, Codenames Pictures, Qwinto, Nimmt Card games, Carcassonne: Gold West, Pathfinder: Skulls and Shackles, The Game, Mysterium, Arabian Nights
What we discovered about our gaming style in 2016:
We have started enjoying more thematic games, like Mansions of Madness and Arabian Nights. Because we’ve gotten so involved doing Dungeons and Dragons, it’s allowed us to see past euro games and see that storytelling is extremely fun too. I’ve really enjoyed doing more immersion in gaming, like having color changing lights and music. We’ve also been playing some lighter games like Qwinto and Codenames because that’s easier to do with family and with our son, who started playing more games this year. While we still play euro games (7 Wonders and Concordia are still favorites), we also play many thematic games where the mechanics play well into the theme. We still don’t like overly random games, but we do enjoy games that mesh theme and mechanics well.
Our Game Groups in 2016
Our main weekly game group is usually between 3-5 people and always a fun time. We’ve been playing lots of Mansions of Madness lately, has that’s been a favorite. We also enjoyed playing through Pandemic: Legacy during the beginning of the year. We haven’t done as many game groups at my husband’s work just due to scheduling. But we have been playing more board games with friends and family lately. We usually get to play board games 2-3 times a week and even more when there’s an extended holiday break. It also helps that our son is getting into board gaming and can easily play games like Carcassonne, 6 Nimmt, and Qwinto.
Favorite Kickstarter of 2016:
I would definitely say Hero Realms. It came just about on time and it’s excellent. I really need to play it more, but I love the fantasy theme and the gameplay is quite fun. We also loved the ABCs of RPGs Kickstarter, because my son loves the alphabet! I was highly impressed by that Kickstarter and I believe it came on time as well!
What we are looking forward to in 2017
I’m definitely excited to play more games with our son as he gets older and better at games. I also want to start playing role playing games with him as his speech catches up. While we aren’t planning on doing any conventions this year, we are excited to play more games with family and friends, and play games while on vacation. We also look forward to playing more and more thematic games and D&D!
I was on vacation last week and almost missed out on getting the first print run on Star Wars Destiny. Thankfully, my FLGS, Cloud Cap Games, saved the day by saving a copy of Rey’s Starter Set for me. And they easily convinced me to also get a booster box of 36.
Upon opening the starter set and boosters, I was immediately impressed by the dice and card quality. With superior packaging, they ensured no cards would get bent. The dice are a thing of beauty. Printed on photos and big, these are fun to roll and very easily to read.
The art of the cards is very good, with some art of Star Wars The Card Game showing up, but also some new art showcasing all parts of the Star Wars saga. I was pleased to see some Star Wars Rebels art, as well as plenty from Force Awakens.
Many folks have asked how this is any different than Dice Masters. To start off, it’s a deck builder, not a dice builder. You build your deck of 30 cards before you start the game, following some basic customization rules. The customization rules are less restricted than Star Wars the Card Game, which I really appreciated. Also, not every card you put in your deck has a dice attached to it. So, it’s very much more like a deck builder than a dice game. There are dice, sure, but they aren’t the only part of the game.
As someone who has played very little collectible games, I cannot speak to the price point that much. So far I’ve spent 115 bucks and can build 4-5 decks. I’ve only built 2 so far, since my main focus is casual play with my husband, James. I also ordered the Kylo Ren starter set, which I will get next week. We were a bit low on villains from my booster pulls.
After just 2 games, I’m very happy with Star Wars Destiny. It has the pace of Star Realms, with the deck builder aspect of Star Wars the Card Game. It’s way more strategic than Dice Masters, and the dice and cards are much higher quality. I’m looking forward to many more games of this, and I’m excited to tweak my decks more and more as I get better at the game. May the Force (and dice) be with you!
Talk Like A Pirate Day is every year on September 19th. One of my favorite themes is pirates, so I celebrate Pirate Day each year by having a board game party. While I don’t have nearly as many pirate themed games as I wish I did, I do try to get in a few pirate themed games.
One of last year’s additions to our pirate day gaming was Libertalia. It’s an interesting card game where you try to play just the right number of pirate to get the right loot and points. While it is very fun, it did seem a bit too long with 6 players, so we’ll likely skip Libertalia this year. We also usually play Liar’s Dice, but my group doesn’t tend to like that game so instead, we’ll be doing some pirate variants of games we do like.
We do plan on playing Codenames, but print out our own cards with pirate themed words. Words like Doubloons, Matey, Davy Jones, and more. It should be really fun, especially considering Codenames already has quite a few pirate words already in the game.
One of my favorite pirate games we’ve recently bought is Pathfinder: Skulls and Shackles. We’ve only played a couple games of it, but hoping to teach it to our game group tomorrow. I absolutely loved the “Rum Punch” scenario, and we definitely drank Rum Punch while playing it.
Lastly, I’ll be playing Jump Ship and Friday solo if I get time tomorrow afternoon. Jump Ship is a choose your own adventure card game designed by Gamewright, and it’s loads of fun. You all know that Friday is my favorite solo game and one of my favorite games ever. I hope I can beat the pirates on level 4!
I’m so excited to drink some rum, play some games, and talk like a pirate tomorrow!
Games I own that work for a pirate day:
Pathfinder: Skulls and Shackles
Sentinels of the Multiverse (Captain Scarlet Villain)
School is starting very shortly in our house. My son will be starting preschool in 2 weeks, and I’ll actually be aware of school schedules and events now! This summer, you may have played tons of games with family or friends. With school starting, here are some ways to keep playing board games even when the schedule gets busier.
1. Schedule family/friend game nights:
Choose a night every week or every other week to be your game night. Specifically put in on your calendar. Gaming can often be put on the back burner with all the extracurricular activities and sports you or your kids do. Game night is very important, because instead of everyone just going on their devices and ignoring each other after a long day, you can connect face to face! If you build it into the schedule, then it won’t go by the wayside.
2. Start a board game club.
What better way to get gaming in then to start a board game club at your school! If you are a parent, this can be a good way to bring board gaming into the community. It’s also a great way to find out who your kids are hanging out with! You can even go into the educational parts of gaming, such as mathematics, social skills, and English skills.
3. Gaming at lunch
Some schools have longer lunches or recess, if the weather isn’t good, you can encourage your kids to bring a short board game to school. This can be a great way to meet new kids, as well as introduce board games to many students. If you are a teacher, you can have board games available in your classroom for kids to check out at lunch, or have them or when students are done with schoolwork/tests.
4. Host a board game event at school
Many schools have a math night, why not try to host a board game event at school? This would be another great way to get to know the kids and parents in your school community. It could also show many teachers and administrators the educational aspects of board gaming.
These are some fun ways that you and your family can keep gaming during the school year. I know we’ll be doing more family game nights, especially since my son asks for games often. School may be starting, but that doesn’t mean gaming is ending.
4th of July (Also known as Independence Day) is one of my favorite holidays of the year. Fireworks, yummy food, hanging out with family and friends, it’s just so much fun. Typically board games aren’t played on this day, usually because we are just busy swimming, playing outdoor games, or shooting off fireworks. In recent years, however, we’ve actually played a few board games while hanging outside! Here are some thematic favorites to play.
This goes without saying, but Hanabi is a perfect 4th of July game! We’ve played this for the past few years while waiting for it to get dark enough to shoot off fireworks. It’s also great for newer gamers because it’s cooperative. We usually grab a couple people and play a quick game.
Timeline: Americana or American History
I love the Timeline games, and the Americana/American History versions are awesome for the 4th. It’s also a shorter game, and can be easily played on a small table outside. Timeline is easy to teach, and almost anyone can play.
Rolling America is a more recent acquisition and it’s a great puzzle dice game. You can even play this one solo, so if no one can play, you can get a quick game in. Rolling America is easy to learn, but hard to master. I love the custom star dice!
There are many games you could play on the 4th of July, these are just a few that I have that will work with the theme. I’ll hopefully get one or two of these in on the 4th!
Eminent Domain Exotica is an expansion to Eminent Domain, designed by Seth Jaffee and published by Tasty Minstrel. The Exotica expansion can be played with or without the Escalation expansion. The rulebook suggests to play Exotica with just the base game for several games to get used to the new technology cards, planets, and the mining mechanic.
Exotica adds two new types of planets, exotic and asteroid. The exotic planet gives points as well as the ability to produce a new resource: crystal. Also, the exotic planet can have a translator effect on it, which turns the new exotic symbols into usable symbols such as research, colonize, etc. These exotic symbols are on the new technology cards.
The asteroid planets are easy to settle and attack but they don’t give any points. However, new technology cards allow the player to do special effects if they have asteroids in their empire. Also, the new mining action allows players to mine an asteroid immediately by discarding their hand, instead of settling or attacking.
Eminent Domain Exotica differs from the Escalation expansion in a variety of ways. For one, Exotica does not have much player interaction, other than following or dissenting during another player’s turn. In Escalation, there were some cutthroat technology cards, as well as stronger ships which encourage players to either do warfare or get the peace treaty card. For players who want a less intense expansion, Exotica is the way to go. I found it more straight forward than Escalation in terms in strategy, and learning the new technology cards was easier.
The only caveat I have with Exotica is reading the red halo around the exotic symbols was very difficult. I have 20/20 vision, and even under bright LED lights, I could barely see the red halo. This is important for some scoring at the end, and it was not thick enough, and thus I short changed myself some points at the end, until I realized there was a red halo on the exotic planet card. For players who are colorblind, the red halo is impossible to see. You may have to memorize or mark the cards that have red halos around the symbols in order to score the game correctly.
I highly recommend the Exotica expansion for anyone that enjoys the base game: Eminent Domain. The exotic and asteroid planets add some variety to the game, and I really enjoy the new technology cards! It definitely helps the replay value of Eminent Domain, and adds a less complex and cutthroat expansion to the EmDo series.
When you get into the hobby of gaming, it becomes clear that careful budgeting is very important when buying new games. Some games cost 10 bucks, while others cost 100+ bucks. Cheap games don’t mean cheap quality and I have some favorites that won’t break the budget, all these listed can be found for under $15.
No Thanks is a quick, press your luck card game for 3-7 players. Each turn, you can either choose to grab the face up card or say “No thanks” and put a token on it. Any points on the card will penalize you at the end of the game, unless you have at least a 2 card run, in which only the lowest card in the run counts against you. Also, if you run out of tokens, you must take the face up card! It’s a great little card game, and kids enjoy it as well as adults.
No Thanks! can be found for about 10-12 dollars.
Tides of Time
Tides of Time is drafting card game for 2 players. Players draft cards each round in order to build up their kingdom and earn victory points. There are 5 different suits and each card has its own scoring objective, so some card combos will be much better than others. The art is beautiful and the cards are high quality.
Tides of Time can be found for about 10-12 dollars.
Bang! The Dice game
Bang! The Dice Game is a secret role, semi-cooperative dice game for 3-7 players. It’s based on the Bang! card game, but plays much faster. Each game takes about 15 minutes. A player is either a Sheriff, Deputy, Outlaw, or Renegade, but their role card remains hidden. Players try and figure out who is on their team while rolling dice and taking out other players or healing hit points. You may unwittingly kill a team member, but thankfully the game is quick so you can play another if your side doesn’t do well!
Bang! The Dice Game can be found for about 12-14 dollars.
Oh my Goods!
Oh my Goods! is an resource management card game for 2-4 players and has multi-use cards. Players build up their engine of cards in attempt to gain more resources so they can buy more cards and earn more points. It has similarities to San Juan and Isle of Trains. It’s very thinky for such a small card game, which gives it lots of replay value.
Oh my Goods! can be found for about 13-15 bucks.
Timeline is a logic card game for 2-8 players and has many different sets such as Historical Events, Inventions, and Americana. Players try to fit their card in the correct timeline, if they are wrong, they draw a new card, if they are correct, they have one less card to solve. Timeline is great for classrooms or with anyone that enjoys history. With all the different sets, it’s easy to find one that your group will enjoy.
Timeline sets can be found for about 10-12 bucks each.
I got into an interesting discussion on Twitter today about reviews and gaming. The conversation got into talking about if you don’t like a game, there’s no reason to try it again, especially as a reviewer. We also talked about if a game needs to get better over time to be considered a great game. I have some reasons why you might not like a game on first play or why a game may fall flat on one play and astound you on another.
I didn’t like the game, should I try it again?
There are many factors to consider if you didn’t like a game. Here are some of those factors and whether or not you should try a game again.
Consider any outside circumstances
Were you or anyone in your group stressed/rude/mad or had any other negative emotion? Was the location not ideal, such as low light or too loud? Did people feel rushed because they wanted to play another game, or just in a weird mood? I think these outside circumstances can have a huge factor into playing a new game. Gamers are people, and as much as we try not to, we bring our emotions, stresses, thoughts to the table. I’ve played many games where I was stressed or hungry and I didn’t enjoy the gameplay. This doesn’t mean I should give up on a game, especially if I feel like these outside circumstances were a factor.
Consider your group’s tastes
Not only can the groups emotions play into whether or not you enjoy a game, but simply the overall game tastes of the group can factor in. We’ve tried to play games like Camel Up at our normal game group and they didn’t enjoy it as much. It was a bit too random for their tastes. If that was my first experience playing Camel Up, I may not have enjoyed it as much as I did. My first plays of it was with family who likes lighter games, and because of that, everyone had an awesome time. If others aren’t having fun, that can affect your experience as well. The game may be a good game, but with that particular group with those tastes, it may just not be fun!
It wasn’t what you expected
Sometimes reviews or recommendations can give you a wrong perspective on a game. This happened with us on Last Will. My husband had thought it was a light card game based on a review he listened to. As we started playing, we realized it’s a heavier euro game. We didn’t expect that going in and it made us not enjoy our first gameplay as much. We’ll try it again, because now we know what to expect.
You lost the game and got frustrated
Yup, this happens to me! I’m a hothead. It’s something I’ve been working on for years. There are times where I get so frustrated in a game because I lost, that I say “I hate this!” I said this about Star Realms because I didn’t expect how fast the pace was, and after losing because someone did 50 points of damage in one turn, I got very frustrated. However, I decided to keep trying the game, but on iOS against the AI. Once I realized how the game worked and the strategy, I fell in love with the game. It’s in my top 5 of games of all time! If I had just given up because “if a game is good you must like every single play of it” then I wouldn’t play a lot of my current favorite games.
Because of these factors, I believe once you consider these, then decide whether to try the game again. Maybe with a different group, or at a different location, or after you watched a gameplay video to get a better feel of the game.
Reasons for not playing a game after a first play.
One reason may be you feel like the rulebook is only half complete. One game I reviewed, it was riddled with so many grammatical errors and spelling errors I could barely read it, let alone understand the game. Another reason may be that it is a prototype game, and the rules keep changing before you can even write a review. I’ve had this happen with several Kickstarter games I’ve previewed, and it can be frustrating as a reviewer to keep playing a game with new rules everyday. Finally, if a game’s theme offends you, or the art, or any reason you feel uncomfortable playing the game, then it definitely makes sense to steer away from it.
If after a few plays of a game, with different groups and different settings, and you still don’t like it, then I think it’s safe to give up on it, or as a reviewer, give it a negative review.
Does a game need to get better with each game session for it to be a “great” game?
Considering all I’ve mentioned above, a game won’t necessarily have that “wow” factor every single game play. There is the outside circumstances we mentioned, plus who and where you play a game with. Also, some games have variable set up like Dominion and one set of 10 kingdom cards may be much different or better than another. Also, player count is a huge factor in many games. You may love a game at 2 player, but dislike it at 4 player. I think it’s pretty unrealistic to love every single game session of any game you play. I’ve played tons of 7 Wonders and Carcassonne games and while these are two of my favorite games, not every single session was awesome. Does that mean these games aren’t great? By no means! It just means that just like in life, not every day is going to be awesome. Not every Stumptown coffee is going to knock your socks off. There will be off days in game sessions, just like there is in every single part of life!
Ultimately, games are about having fun. However, as a reviewer, I have to sometimes take a step back and say “wait, I may have not enjoyed this particular game session, but I may need to try this game again, under different circumstances.” Only then can a reviewer give a better opinion about a game. If I had reviewed Star Realms after my first 3 plays, I would have given it a very negative review. I disliked it because of my own personality flaw, not because it was a bad game. I’m so glad I gave Star Realms and many other games another chance, because I understand that not every game play session is going to be perfect, even with great games on hand.
The weather is getting nicer, and I am reminded that my board gaming tends to drop quite a bit in the summer. There’s a few reasons for this. I live where it rains 8-9 months out of the year. When it’s warm and sunny out, people here want to get outside. They want to go on walks, to the farmer’s market, have a BBQ or pool party. While this isn’t a bad thing, it can mean that instead of gaming on pizza nights or family events, we are instead swimming or playing outdoor games. So as gamers, how do we adjust toward warmer weather? Is there some games we can play outside, or maybe shorter games to get in while still enjoying the weather? I also realize that for some, summer means lots more time to play games, especially if you have kids in school. Instead of spending the evenings on homework, you’ll play board games. Since my kid isn’t in school yet, summer doesn’t change our schedule much, other then having a lot more outside time.
Things to consider when planning games outside:
1. Is it windy?
In the summer, it gets quite windy in the evenings where I live. This can greatly effect what type of games you can play outside. Basically any card game is out if it’s windy. Some dexterity games, like Bandu, could be effected by the wind. Always plan a backup game if you start playing a card game and it ends up being too windy. Games with heavier pieces or dice won’t be effected by the wind.
2. Do you have a table or at least a stable surface?
Most games do require a table, but there are some games that can be played with players holding all their cards or game pieces. Many party games don’t require a table, which can be great for outside play. Some card games, like oddball Aeronauts, don’t require a table at all, and can be played just about anywhere. Some games may not need a table, but require at least a stable surface like a dice tray or concrete ground. Many dice games you can just carry a dice tray with you so that you can play it wherever you go. Portable stable surface!
3. Is it wet or sandy where you are playing?
When playing outside, there is a much greater risk for your game to get ruined. Consider this before bringing your game outside. Card sleeves can help this, as well as games with plastic cards or pieces. Spot it Splash, for example, has plastic cards so the risk of the game getting damaged is very small.
In reality, just about every game can be played outside, but some work far better than others. Smaller games will be easier, especially since most people do not have access to large tables outside. Games with plastic pieces or cards can prevent them getting wet or messy. What’s great about board games is that they can be enjoyed outside or inside! So play board games this summer at the beach, on your back porch, or even in the pool!
Game suggestions for outside gaming:
Small card games:
Star Realms, Timeline, Sushi Go, Red7, Hanabi
Dungeon Roll, Martian Dice, Dragon Slayer, Skyline, and Roll for It
Time’s Up, 5 Second Rule, Say Anything, Telestrations, Spyfall
Bandu, Sorry Sliders, Animal Upon Animal, Chopstick Dexterity Challenge
My son is turning 4 this summer and we’ve already had a couple of spontaneous family game nights with him. We’ve long awaited family game nights with our son ever since he was born. We’ve already learned what types of games he likes and it surprised us, as they weren’t the typical preschooler games. It’s been fun playing more games with him, and we plan to start taking him to our local game store as he matures and can sit for longer to play games. Here’s some advice I have in creating game night for your kids, no matter if they are 4 or 14.
Start them young!
You can start getting kids familiar with games at a very young age. A kid isn’t likely to play a game by the rules until they are 4 or 5, but they can still experience games. Let your toddler roll the dice, get them plastic cards to play with or one of Haba’s toddler games. You may not have a full on game night with your toddler, but you can at least get them used to simple ideas like game components and turns.
I know from experience that kids want to play the games their older siblings or parents are playing. Often, the game would be beyond their ability to play by themselves. Have your kid partner up with their siblings or with yourself. This way, they can experience the game but not have to fully understand the game. Make sure you give them some decisions they can make, such as what card to buy or who to attack. If they don’t feel included in the game as a partner, they’ll reject playing.
Don’t be strict on the rules
This is especially true with the younger ones. You may have to customize the rules based on the kids’ ability. For example, in Tem-Purr-A, we take out the action cards and start with all the indigestion cards in the deck for a short game. Our 3 year old can fully play the game then, with little help. As they get older and more used to game mechanics, you can start adding more and more rules back into the games. Many family games do have beginner and advanced rules, which can be very nice for playing with kids.
Find games that will interest your kids
Find themes and mechanics that your kid will like by playing lots of different games. You never know what your kids may end up liking. If your local game shop has game library, this may be a good way to find fun games for your kids without having to empty your wallet. Once you find a couple of games that your kids really enjoy, then buy those. I thought my son would love Animal Upon Animal, Lucky Pirate, and other games made for his age group. Instead, he likes 6 Nimmt, Tem-Purr-A, and City Square Off.
You will play the same games over and over again
Kids learn best by repetition, that is why they want to read the same book every night. Know that once kids find a game they love, they will play it, A LOT. You may be bored to tears playing Dixit for the 10th time that week, but if the kids are enjoying it, then sit back, relax, have fun. You can try and introduce new games here and there, but don’t be too worried if they get into one game for a long time. I mean, there’s a whole subset of gamers out there that just play Catan, so clearly it’s not just a kids thing.
Try to have regular family game nights
Consistency is key with kids. Make family game nights a weekly or bi monthly event. Make snacks, have them pick out a couple games to play. When they are younger, game night may last a total of 15 minutes. That’s okay! What matter is having fun with your kids experiencing games. Eventually, your kids will be able to play games for hours, and it will be you tiring out rather than your kids.
Game nights are a great way to bond with your kids, especially if they are at school and clubs all day. It can be one of the few times that the whole family is together face to face. These experiences will help your kids in more ways than just having fun. They’ll learn math, science, English, art, vital social skills, and more. Make game nights a priority and you’ll see your family reaping the rewards.