Author: Peder

LitRPG – What Why and How

LitRPG – What Why and How

I’ve recently been listening to a lot of LitRPG and you’ve seen me talk about it with Sufficiently Advanced Magic, Ascend Online, and Towers of Heaven that I’m listening to currently. Those are the ones that I have enjoyed but I also read Awaken Online, […]

Malts and Meeples – Aeon’s End War Eternal Unboxing

Malts and Meeples – Aeon’s End War Eternal Unboxing

Trying my hand at this for the first time to see how it goes to unbox something. Also, this was supposed to have gone up on Twitch, but I had issues where it said it was streaming there and it didn’t. You can find me […]

TableTopTakes: Pandemic Legacy Season 1 – Solo and Group

TableTopTakes: Pandemic Legacy Season 1 – Solo and Group

So, recently, as I’ve been posting out, I’ve finished a playthrough of Pandemic Legacy Season 1 solo on Youtube. You can find that on Youtube at Malts and Meeples or on the Nerdologists.

But, I wanted to go back to this game and write an updated TableTopTakes on it, because the two experiences were very different, but similar. I’ll explain what I mean in a second, but first, let’s talk about the game itself.

Pandemic Legacy Season 1 is based off of the base game Pandemic. In Pandemic you are a group from the CDC based out of Atlanta. You are trying to stop the spread of four diseases, red, blue, yellow, and black, before you run out of time, run out of disease cubes, or have too many outbreaks. At the start of Pandemic Legacy Season 1, this is what you are still doing. However, because it’s a legacy game, the game evolves over time. New rules are added, cards are added or removed from the decks, characters change, and stickers are added to the board. At the end of Pandemic Legacy, you end up with your own copy of the game that is unique from anyone else’s experience based off of a number of different things. But along with changing up rules, etc. there is also a story element that leads you through the game as you find out what is happening around the world and with the diseases. This story is pretty straight forward and you are always going to hit the same beats at the same time.

This story is where I want to start talking about the two experiences that I had. Mainly, because, the story doesn’t change. Even though the boards look radically different between the two games, the story, progressed in a very similar way. You hit the same beats at the same time, and while I got to skip a little part or two along the way because I was more prepared, the story as a whole didn’t change. Now, is that a bad thing about the game? Is it bad because there is a limited number of times you can play through because you remember the story? It was three years, I believe, between plays for me, and I remembered a fair amount of the story. Maybe not when it was going to happen in the game, but I remembered that it happened. It isn’t a great thing about this game, however, playing through the second time, the experience was still very enjoyable. It was different though as I wasn’t always waited with baited breath for the next bit of story.

Image Credit: Game Base

Pandemic Legacy Season 1 (and Season 2 for that matter) really come down to being so much of an experience. Even when you know the story, you are still wrapped up in what you know is going to be coming. Plus, the tension that you can get even from the base game if the epidemics come up just wrong is still strong in this game, if not stronger. The game builds up to the point where you feel like if something wrong happens, it’s going to get out of control fast. And I don’t think that you lose that experience either playing it a second time or playing it solo. I think had my first play been solo, I might have done better than we did but probably a few more rules would have been missed. I also think that the tension might have been lower the other way around because while I wouldn’t have spoiled anything, I could have lead people in the right direction and had more group input. Or I would have had to have sat back and that might have caused more tension, because I could see wrong choices or poor choices being made.

One big difference between the two games was that the first time through, there were four players. When I played solo, I was the only player and I controlled two characters. Controlling two characters is pretty easy, and it worked well. You’re able to coordinate a bit better than with four characters because you aren’t sending your characters away at random. I also tried not to play on “easy mode” which would be using the Medic and the Dispatcher who are a powerful character combination. Even with that, I would say that coordinating two characters yourself is notably easier than playing with four people each controlling a single character. That’s not a downside to either experience, but the game dynamic changes with the number of players you have, and in a game with tough decisions, both ways can sometimes be an advantage.

With all of that said, do I think I could play it a third time? And I think that I probably could. I’m not sure I could sit down and do it now, it would seem like something I just finished and know too much about, because that’s an accurate statement. But, sometime down the line, I could see coming back to it with the right group, especially if you’re introducing it to new players. To kind of take the role of the rules expert who can run the set-up and keep track of the book keeping aspect while sitting back and enjoying the game or helping as needed in decision making. It would be a good way to introduce a more complicated idea of a game, though the mechanics are pretty straight forward, to a group of people who might not play as many games.

Overall, it was a really enjoyable experience going through the game again. I think I had basically as much fun the second time as I did the first time, and when it’s just me playing it, it’s easier to coordinate it getting done. Pandemic Legacy Season 1 is a game that can benefit from having a tighter timeline, though, since it’s based off of months, you can certainly do what we did the first time and try and play once a month. If you are looking for a campaign style game that is very accessible, I think that Pandemic Legacy is a great option. And while you can’t play the game again when you are done with it, the price point is good and the hours of entertainment and the experience are fairly valued.

Overall Grade: A
Gamer Grade: A-
Casual Grade: A

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Completing Your D&D Game, Does it Ever Really Happen?

Completing Your D&D Game, Does it Ever Really Happen?

I think that this is a very rare thing. I don’t know that a ton of people ever really complete their D&D games. There are multiple reasons for it potentially not being completed. But, is that something that’s okay, or as the DM should you […]

10 Minute Marvel – Episode 6 – Marvels and Iron Man

10 Minute Marvel – Episode 6 – Marvels and Iron Man

This week’s episode of #10MinMarvel is up, though I forget to say you can get in touch with me by using (#10MinMarvel) or tweeting @TheScando on twitter. In the news today we are getting another collaboration between Stitcher and Marvel for the series Marvels. This […]

TableTopTakes – Cat Cafe

TableTopTakes – Cat Cafe

Another GenCon game, this time a little roll and write about cats. And when you think about it, with how popular roll and write games are are right now with the likes of Welcome To…, That’s So Clever, Dino World, etc., and etc., and etc., it was only a matter of time before someone did one about cats and hit another area that is really popular in our culture.

Cat Cafe, as I said, is a roll and write game where you are trying to build up your best cat tree(s) so that you can attract the most cats possible. On every turn you roll a die for each player, plus one. Going in a circle, you draft dice until there is only one left. Then, you pick which die you want to use for drawing a symbol and which die you want to use to determining the placement on a cat free for that symbol. These symbols are things like food dishes, cat beds, toy mice, etc. You get points in the game for complete cat trees, but also for placing the certain cat items in a particular pattern, depending on what you’re drawing, on the cat trees.

Image Source: Board Game Geek

I haven’t played this game a ton yet, but when I have, I’ve gone for a different strategy than the other person (oh, I should say this game plays up to four people). They went for the strategy of building up their cat trees as fast as possible, because once one person completes three cat trees that ends the game. I, on the other hand, went for building combos. The food dish wants to be surrounded by different items, so the more unique items, the more points you get, the mouse toys want to be a in connected path, so the more of those, the more points you get. I think that I messed up the strategy and wasn’t as efficient as I could have been for scoring points, but in the end, I lost a close game. I was kind of doing this intentionally because I wanted to see how balanced the game seemed. And while I do think you need to complete some cat towers to really have a chance, I don’t think it’s a race to completing the towers.

Aesthetically, I think that this is a pretty good looking game. The sheets are actually very nicely laid out to add to the puzzle aspect. But the dice in the game are bad. I have a picture on this page from Board Game Geek, those are not the dice you get with the game. The dice you get with the game look like someone took some old six sided dice (D6) and painted them again to be D6. So you can see the old pips underneath them and it makes no sense. I also wish that the score tallying area was a little bit larger. I do want to point out, though, that their pencils come with erasers, which is amazing. I really wish that more roll and write games did that.

Overall, Cat Cafe is a fun roll and write game. I wasn’t expecting anything too thinky, but Cat Cafe gives you some interesting choices to make. And with the drafting of the dice, I can see a lot of interesting choices coming up in the game. It’s definitely a roll and write that is a bit more than something like Second Chance, but probably around the same weight as Welcome To… in terms of the decision making, however, Cat Cafe is a smaller package. If you like roll and write games and are looking for another to try, I think that Cat Cafe could scratch that itch.

Overall Grade: B+
Gamer Grade: B
Casual Grade: A-

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Friday Night D&D – The Virtual World

Friday Night D&D – The Virtual World

This came up because of an episode of Total Party Thrill, where they were talking about how you could you virtual worlds or illusion worlds in a game. So what happens if you play a game where this is the main theme of the game? […]

Malts and Meeples – Criss Cross and Welcome To…

Malts and Meeples – Criss Cross and Welcome To…

Back again last night, still on Youtube, but still planning to move over to Twitch soon here. I played two different roll and write games while drinking a beer from Dogfish Head brewery. The games were Welcome To… in which you are building up your […]

Teaching the Rules

Teaching the Rules

Too often one of the biggest blockers of getting a board game to the table is the ability or inability to teach the rules of the game. Or, probably more fairly put, one of the biggest blockers of getting a game back to the table is the inability to teach the rules well.

Most people who are interested in board games are going to be up for learning a new game from time to time. Though, there will be some people who aren’t interested as well, but that was a different article. So, you get the game to the table, now how do you teach people the game? I might have actually written about this before, but I think it’s worth going back over and giving some more suggestions, because this is one of the bigger barriers to entry for a lot of board games.

The rules to games are often challenging, and unless everyone loves board games, reading from the rule book won’t likely teach people. Even if the people do love board games, and someone starts to read from the rule book, I’m going to zone out, because I can just read the rule book myself if that’s how we’re going to learn. There needs to be a more engaging way to keep people involved in the rules.

Image Credit: Game Base

Teaching Rules Steps:

  1. Start out by knowing the rules yourself. That doesn’t mean that you’ve had to have played the game before, though playing a sample hand wouldn’t be bad or sample turn, just to make sure that you get it. Or you can watch videos from places like Watch It Played that go over the rules to certain games. What you’re looking to come out of is the win or loss conditions, end of game, and what people can do on their turn. You are going to want to know those things well.
  2. Start with the theme of the game (if there is one). By starting with the theme, you can get people’s interest since you aren’t starting off with something dry. This is actually a time where you can read from the rule book, because some games, like T.I.M.E. Stories actually have a bit of a story at the start of the rule book. You can use whatever the game gives you to tell the story. Now, for some games there won’t be a theme you can do this with, I’m looking at abstract games or Dominion as examples, so you can skip that step.
  3. Then talk about how you win or lose the game. This is going to be the most important information for people in the game. Generally it’s going to be about how you win the game, especially in a competitive game. You want to have the most victory points, you want to control so many territories, you want to empty your hand of cards first, whatever that might be. But if there’s a condition, say, if you run out of cards, that can eliminate someone from the game, tell them that too. Or for something like Pandemic, there are a lot of ways to lose the game, so talk about those while you talk about how you win. Pandemic is also a good example as to how you can combine this with step two, because you can talk in the theme about how you’re all members of the CDC who are trying to cure four diseases. In that case, you can get the information out in one fell swoop, though I would be tempted to repeat it again, just to make sure everyone knows.
  4. Spend some time go over turn/round structure. This isn’t what people can do on their turn. But if you start by drawing cards, then playing two cards, then moving the villain ahead two spaces, then optionally getting an event card, explain that. This is meant to teach people who this works at a high level and what the structure is going to be through most of the game. It is also going to give you a chance to show off random decks of cards or things that the players might not immediately interact with in the game.
  5. Go over what people can do on their turns. Now, this doesn’t have to be everything. Especially if there is a player aid that is good and clear. But talk about the important things that people can do on their turns. In Pandemic, explain how the moving works and how to treat diseases and how to cure diseases. Then, most of the characters have a special action that they can take. You don’t need to teach something like this which is specific to a single player, but have the players read, at this time, their special powers, if they exist, and in fact hand them out at this time, and then you can answer questions.
  6. Show people the important parts of the game. But more than just showing off the important decks, let your players be involved in it. In Pandemic, as an example again, you can talk about the player deck and have someone shuffle it and hand out people’s hands of cards while you continue to teach more. It seems like it might distract from your teaching by having someone do something like that. I personally don’t think it will, in fact it might keep people more engaged. Because people are going to be paying attention so that if you ask them to help with something it won’t be obvious that they weren’t paying attention.
  7. Finally, teach in the game as need be. This can be a few different things. Sometimes there are several things that only happen once or twice in the game, you can teach them in the moment when they happen. However, this only works if it isn’t something that is extremely important to the game or to the scoring. If there’s something that can give you an automatic win, teach that earlier even if it’s really rare. Or if it’s something that helps you as the person who is teaching the game and hurts someone else, teach it earlier or refrain from doing it, and give it as an example as something that you could do. Another thing that teaching in the game can be is letting players roll back a turn if need be. If someone has an extremely good move and makes a very bad move, point out the option to them, they might have forgotten or just missed it. But don’t do this all the time, because you’ll basically be taking that person’s turn and make this about teaching the game, so once you’ve taught something once during the game, you don’t teach the same thing again.

Now, there are probably more things that you can do. But being patient and teaching a game from theme first, and from a position where you know the rules is going to make it more likely that people will enjoy the game. And when people don’t enjoy the game, don’t assume that it was how you taught it, if you were trying to be considerate and engaging about it, not every game is for everyone.

Have you found any ways that make teaching a game easier? Or are there things that you’ve found help keep people engaged in learning the rules?

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TableTopTakes: Hats

TableTopTakes: Hats

There will probably be a number of these coming up as I play through different games that I got from GenCon. But Hats is the first of the games to hit the table multiple times. And get played multiple times each time it’s been pulled […]