This might sound like a battle, but it’s not. It’s something that I have been thinking about, and you can see why if you check out my Back of Brick of Stormsunder. There are a lot of different types of games, but I think that…
So, I thought that with my Dominion review, and Dominion being an extremely popular game, I thought I should write a bit about what sort of games I like, what I don’t like, and what I’m looking for.
To start out with, there is one thing that I really look for in a game, though not every game, but Theme is extremely important to me. Theme helps me get immersed in the game, and while I really can lean into tactics of the game and the strategy, without a good theme, though, I’m less likely to pick up again, and if the theme doesn’t come through, I’m not that likely to continue playing a game. If it’s just a puzzle, once I’ve figured out the puzzle, even if that puzzle is variable, I’m less interested in playing it again. That’s a lot of the reason that I don’t like Dominion. You are just finding the puzzle in the collection of random cards you’re going with, and that’s it. The theme could be about trading coins and it wouldn’t make a difference for the game.
And within theme, there are certain things that I’m apt to be more interested in. I’m a huge fan of Fantasy, Horror, and Sci-Fi. Thankfully, there are a ton of games with those themes. Now, let me say, I’m not a fan of Medieval games with a light fantasy sprinkling on it, but really you’re trading cubes. I want fantasy, and I like a slightly darker fantasy. Things like Gloomhaven and Sword and Sorcery, yes, they are epic fantasy, but they have some odd things going on that don’t just make it the standard heroes rushing in and smashing everything. I’m excited to get games like Apocrypha to the table, because it’s a dark urban fantasy setting. And with horror, while I don’t mind something like zombie horror, I prefer that Lovecraftian style of horror or campy horror. Which, isn’t always the best, because Kristen claims I don’t need 8 different Lovecraft horror games, I suspect that’s wrong, but I also don’t get all of them to the table that often. With Sci-Fi, I don’t know that I have any subset that I love more than others, I think that I have a harder time finding Sci-Fi games that really excite me because a lot of them can end up being cube pushers, and I’m really looking for that theme or that continuing story.
That’s another big thing that I really like, I like Story Based games. Now, that can fall into a few different categories. There are games where you are playing a one off story/scenario where you have an objective that you’re trying to complete. I find that sort of game okay. It’s definitely not my preferred type, but if the scenario is strong, I’m cool with that. I prefer campaign or legacy style games. Now, not all legacy games are story based but they often still keep the pretense. Charterstone which is a fun game theoretically has a story, but in reality, it’s the loosest of threads holding it together. And I’m going to say that I prefer campaign games where you don’t end up destroying stuff, because I have a couple of copies of Pandemic Legacy Season 1 that I had a blast playing and I’m not sure I want to get rid of, but what am I going to do with them? I should just harvest them for parts. Thankfully, there are a ton of campaign games out there, and now there are more legacy games that once you’re done with them, you can continue playing them. Charterstone is a great example of this, but there’s also games like Betrayal Legacy, Aeon’s End Legacy, and Clank! Legacy that allow you to continue playing them. And while I’m less likely to play them once the main story is done, it’s nice that it’s not just a one time investment.
Now, I mention that Charterstone doesn’t have much story to it, and I don’t think it really has much theme to it, but if the theme is light, there are ways to make it feel like more than it actually is. The biggest way to do that, and another thing that makes me interested in a game is Great Artwork/Bits and Charterstone has both of these. The art is consistent and nice and you feel the lightness of the world that Stonemaier Games created through the artwork is great. And the coins in there are amazing, and the little tuck boxes and magnetic boxes are nice in the game. So those aesthetic pieces are very important. Or there are games like Clank! In! Space! where there are some nice pieces, but the cards don’t have the best artwork, but I like it because the art references something and sometimes you just want to figure out what the joke is that is on the card. Another example of a game that has great pieces but not a great story/theme is Century: Golem Edition where it’s a good engine building game, but there’s no theme. The art is just amazing and the pieces, the coins and gems and gem cases are great. That game just looks good on the table.
When a game is that more abstract style, I can enjoy heavy strategy games, but I tend not to be great at thinking five turns ahead or twenty to the end of the game, so I don’t always do the best, I might think two turns ahead, So for those more abstract games, I prefer Family Weight games. And I have a lot of family weight games in my collection, some that are more introductory games like Catan, Ticket to Ride and Carcassone, but there are some very abstracted ones like Photosynthesis and Century: Golem Edition that I have as well. Now, Photosynthesis is probably heavier than family weight, but go back to that aesthetic paragraph, that’s where it belongs. But Century: Golem Edition is a great example of a game that is a family weight strategy game that looks amazing and is very abstracted away from the looks. Like, why does it matter that you’re getting gems to trade gems, but the strategy is still simple enough that it’s fun and I can pull it out with any group. Sagrada is another game like that. And there are reasons why I have Azul over Sagrada and that’s because the theme, while not there, is easier to sell than Azul, even to myself.
I haven’t even touched on mechanics, and really I’m cool with a lot of mechanics. I like Area Control, Cooperative, Deck Building, Action Points, Engine Building, Drafting and so many more I’m sure. But if I were to pick one that stands out above the others that I love, that would be Variable Player Powers. I love it when I have a character that does something slightly different than other people. Some of the reason that I like it so much is that it allows me to be slightly different and unique than everyone else in the game. And it means that I have to think about my strategy in a slightly different way than everyone else. That means that every time that I play the game the game is going to feel different or could feel different. I enjoy it when it’s fully asymmetric like Root or Cry Havoc, but those are harder to teach because they can be completely different as to how you play. So games like Small World where you have different races and powers that get put together, that’s great because you feel unique multiple times during the game. Though, that makes the game very light in Small World, so games where you have one that you’re playing with throughout the game is great, that’s one thing I love in Xenoshyft: Onslaught, because I have a unique starting deck and unique powers throughout the game.
Now, that’s a lot of information, but I wanted to write this because of my TableTopTakes for Dominion yesterday and just thinking about some of the responses from Board Game Geek that I got when posting it there. Some very good ones and some that basically just said, “You’re wrong in every sentence” without providing any reasoning for saying that. When I do a review and give my ratings, I try and think about the game as to why someone might like it as well, and while a grade will suffer if I don’t like it, I try to base it on more than just that. And really, I do like most games, there are just some that I’m going to gravitate towards and overlook flaws in the game because it’s my type of game. Plus, there are some games that I’ll read a 30 page rule book for because it’s my type of game and if it’s not my type of game, I’m less apt to get it.
Hopefully that helps clear up some of why I don’t like Dominion or why I love some games that might be less popular, Xenoshyft: Onslaught for example. Obviously, everyone is going to have their preferences and I hope that I can somewhat divorce myself from mine when I look at a game, but that’s certainly not possible to fully do. But beyond that, I’m curious to know what other people look for when they look to buy a game or what intrigues you about a game to get you to pick it up?
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I’ve done these battles a number of times now, but we’re going to talk about Legacy (if you’re a WWE fan, you might have a few legacy jokes going through your head). If not, we’re going to be battling it out between the four legacy games that I’ve played thus far. Yes, I said four, and technically I’ve played five different legacy games, but we’ve already had a battle between Pandemic Legacy Season 1 and Pandemic Legacy Season 2, and I think they are close enough in feel and tie in that they are going to go into a single entry.
As I have talked about it before, it’s the first to enter the ring for the board game throw down. Pandemic Legacy is a strong contender as it works in a great story line with nice cooperative play. Season 1 is very similar to regular Pandemic where each person takes on the role of a CDC member and you are fighting various outbreaks. However, soon after you’ve started, you get a lot of twists and turns. The second season is much the same continuing after the first game by a little ways and able to be played without having played the first, but you’ll appreciate it more if you have played the first season.
Now, I’ve written about this game as well, and I will say that I haven’t played through whole game, and likely never will. SeaFall is an exploring sea faring game where you take on different tribes and try and expand explore the unknown. There is a story running through the game, though, it can be a bit tricky to find all of the story in the correct order or to feel like there is a ton of story to it.
This variation on classic Risk takes you to an alien planet, that somehow looks exactly like Earth, except that all the borders are made up of short straight lines. At that start of every game you pick your group of people and where you want to start, but instead of it being a slog to total world domination, it’s a race to see who can be the first to the victory point total. This move cuts the game time down a long long ways and makes the game much easier to get to the table than regular risk.
The final game in the battle is a worker placement game where you are competing against others to win the favor of the king as you work and build up a town for him. You build buildings, use what comes out of them to build more buildings, and you can explore crates which open up more opportunities to build and develop your section of the town into something unique. The game board evolves as the buildings you place are stickers, so everyone’s game is going to be unique.
Let’s talk about the tale of the tape with these games:
Time: Seafall games are by far the longest of any of these games. I don’t think that any others come close, in fact, Risk Legacy, the next longest game time, is probably about half the length of a single game of Seafall. Charterstone and Pandemic Legacy both generally clock in at under an hour, and Risk Legacy is just over an hour, whereas Seafall is probably three hours per game.
Story: Only in one of these legacy games would I say that there is a ton of story. Pandemic Legacy is full of story and twists and turns. I might get some disagreement, but Seafall has the next most story. While the story isn’t told the best, and you can get story out of order, there is definitely story in Seafall, it just isn’t presented or paced all that well. Risk Legacy and Charterstone basically have no story. Charterstone has a story slapped on the game, but the game wouldn’t play any different without the story, so I consider it completely optional, though it does pace out better than Seafalls, seeing as the story doesn’t really make a difference, it goes lower on the tape.
Ease of Play: Risk Legacy is probably the easiest out of all of them to play because it is just Risk with victory points. There’s plenty of familiarity with Risk out there in the world, and while not everyone might like it, they can probably pick it up easily. Charterstone is the next easiest as the mechanics of the game, while they do grow more complicated, still basically always remain, place a worker, or pick your workers up, so turns go by quickly. Pandemic Legacy is next, while at the start of the game it might be easier to grasp than Charterstone, Pandemic Legacy quickly adds in a lot of rules that you have to remember. Finally, Seafall, to no surprise, is a beast when ti comes to play, you have a lot of hard decisions to make every turn, and there is a decent amount of luck involved. Add in a poorly written rule book, and Seafall is not a game to pull out with beginners.
Now, I think that all of these games can be okay games. I have plenty of issues with Seafall, mainly a horrible rule book, and a poorly paced story, there are some solid mechanics behind it, and a lot of interesting and tough choices to make. However, it’s also the only one that is prone to a ton of analysis paralysis. So it’s the first out of the match, which is a shame, because I had high expectations for the game, which is some of the problem, because the game didn’t align with those expectations at all. Next out of the match is actually a double count out, so we’re getting to the winner which is Pandemic Legacy. No surprise there, but Pandemic Legacy has the story element and thematic ties that I look for in games. I will say this, though, about Charterstone and Risk Legacy, if your group is going to play a couple of games of it every other month, they are going to be better games to play, because you aren’t going to add in rules that vastly change the game between plays. However, the speed of play of Pandemic Legacy, the cooperative nature, and the great story telling makes it the winner.
On the horizon I’m hoping to play Rise of Queensdale and Betrayal Legacy. And I have yet again massive expectations for a Legacy game with Betrayal Legacy.
How many legacy games have you played, are there some that you haven’t that look interesting to you?
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Now, as I normally do, a disclaimer/clarifying my title since I just write catchy titles, or something like that. This isn’t only going to be about gaming with a baby around, it’s going to cover a number of nerdy things.
So, for those of you who aren’t friends of Kristen and myself, I can’t remember if I posted anywhere on Twitter or on Facebook for Nerdologists that we’re expecting our first kid. Which is super exciting, stressful, and life changing. One thing that I’ve been thinking about is how that’s going to affect the website, playing games, D&D, anime, movies, books, etc. I mean, clearly it’s going to affect it, but how much is it going to affect things.
First, I think that the Dungeons and Flagons podcast is probably going to take a bit of a break. Though I’m not sure about that, it’ll depend on a number of things, but at least a little bit of a break and more so than it has. We did just record recently, but once the baby is around it might be more of an official break.
However, I don’t want to get away from my nerdy roots and stop doing things that I’ve loved doing the past few years for the website as well as just in my life. I’ve found that a lot of these things, like playing Dungeons and Dragons, going to AcadeCon, starting up board game night and playing games like Risk Legacy, Gloomhaven, and Charterstone regularly have been great experiences. They also help me because I’m an extrovert and being around people keeps me energized and ready to go as well as keeping me in a better frame of mind.
So what are some tips and tricks for this? How do you balance wanting to do nerdy things and having a kid?
I don’t have a ton of answers for this, and for every person, it’s going to be different. But I think that there are a few things that I’ve been thinking about, that may or may not work, but that I think we’re planning on trying.
- Be fine taking the kid places. They have to get used to being at other peoples places, and while we have to take care of their needs as they arise, just because they want something, doesn’t mean that they are going to get it right away. Also, with our friends, we have friends, who are already modeling this some with taking their young children to our place another others places. There just has to be flexibility with Kristen and myself, as well as with others, because things aren’t going to run as consistently with a board game if Kristen or I have to step away to check on the baby, feed the baby or change the baby.
- Be fine having people come to a messy house. Small children and babies are horrible messy monsters, or something like that. But seriously, it’s going to be hard staying on top of cleaning when there is a small child who needs a lot of attention and makes a lot of messes so our house isn’t going to be as clean as it might be normally. And Kristen and I aren’t over the top and think that our house has to be completely clean when people come over, but we do try and keep it neat. It just might be a little less neat until the kid can pick-up after themselves several years down the line.
- Make intentional space for nerdy things. Now, with this, some of it is creating physical locations for these things where we can kind of keep board games separate from the baby by me finishing cleaning up and getting my games sorted and set-up in the basement or the corner of the office set-up for retro video gaming. But it’s also time wise, keeping going things like board game night or the Wednesday nights of playing Charterstone and Risk: Legacy or the Tuesday nights of Gloomhaven. But being flexible with them, which we already are, but trying to keep those things on the calendar will be important for me. And for Kristen, helping her keep time where she can play Breath of the Wilds or Dragon Age: Origins.
- Find faster nerdy things to do or fit them in where we can. Right now, I will probably watch a couple episodes of an anime before Kristen gets home from work. That might not be as possible in a few months, but watching one during down times and being intentional about those things is going to be how we can get in some more nerdy things. Probably won’t be able to play Arkham Horror every night, but getting in a quick round of Sushi Go! Party with Kristen after the kid has gone to bed and before we do, that’s certainly possible. Let those every day nerdy moments still happen whether it’s reading while in bed for a little bit a new fantasy book or watching an anime or sci-fi show.
So, I’m not sure how well most of these will work, and how much brain power Kristen and I’ll have on nights without a ton of sleep. But these are ideas that I wanted to get out of my head and into an article now, because otherwise, while I’m sleep deprived, I’m probably not going to remember any of them.
Do you have kids, or know someone who does, how do you keep nerdy things going yourself or with those people? What changes in nerdy things have you made, and what opportunities has it opened up? I know I’m excited for a few years down the line when I can start playing board games, not the normal kids ones, but some of the new kids games with our kid or introduce them to D&D or some RPG for the first time or until they can do better than me at Mario (that last one probably by the age of one).
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