Tag: Magic: The Gathering

Top 5: Deck Building

Top 5: Deck Building

So I normally do a lot of top fives at the end of the year in bigger categories, but I wanted to break it down for a few specific categories within board games so you can see what I really enjoy in the various genres […]

My Little Board Games

My Little Board Games

Now, This is meant as more of a play on the new game that came out called My Little Scythe. To see if you want to continue reading this, this is not about small games, though I’ll probably do a post on that soon now that […]

The Jargon – Board Game Edition

The Jargon – Board Game Edition

I’m doing something that’s a bit different style, I realize that there can be a lot of terms for various nerdy hobbies that might be a bit confusing. So I wanted to, for board games, run through what some of these terms are, if they describe games, give an example of what sort of games are in that genre. It might give you a unique vocabulary to better talk about games, it might help you realize what the exact genre of game is that you like the best and what you want to get more of, and it might just be a long list of words, which isn’t all that exciting, but anyways. Here’s the jargon of board gaming, or at least some of it.

Image Source: How Stuff Works

Starting with the most popular

Roll and Write: This is a genre of board game where you are rolling dice and then filling in numbers, lines, areas, of a game board that is probably just your game board to try and get a higher score than other players. The original example of this game is Yahtzee. Yes, roll and write is that simple of a genre, but it’s having a huge moment now with the biggest game being a German game, Ganz Schong Clever. They’ve evolved past Yahtzee in their scoring, and while it’s a genre I haven’t gotten into, they tend to be a bit more clever in their game play versus Yahtzee which is just telling you the numbers.

Then moving to the classic

Euro Gaming: The next is also a genre of games, they can also often be called worker placement games, though that is a slightly separate genre. These games are the ones where the result of the game all comes down to math. You can figure out an optimal strategy and there isn’t going to be all that much that can be done to stop that strategy. They started to change that, as of late, with making the boards tighter so that you had to plan out things a bit more or taking it away from everyone having to do everything to score enough points to win.

Point Salad: I wanted to put this one next to Euro gaming as a lot of them can be point salads. What this means, is like a salad, you can have a ton of different things in there. So in a game, that means you are scoring points at the end of the game in six or seven different categories that make up your total score. Games like Five Tribes and Seven Wonders are two prime examples of those games. It allows you to customize your winning strategy based on another a things.

And now to one that’s more a favorite

Image Source: Days of Wonder

Card Drafting: Card drafting can be a mechanic in a game or the basis of some games. The idea is that you have a hand of cards, you are selecting one card from that hand to play and then passing it on to the next player who is selecting a card from that hand either until all the cards have been played, or there is one left in the hand. This can be done several hands during a game, or it can be a lesser part of the game, maybe just at the start of the game. Two games that use it as the basis of the game are Sushi Go! Party and Seven Wonders. In those games, drafting is the whole game as you’re trying to make sets and score points based off of different criteria. A game like Blood Rage uses it at the beginning of each age to help you strategize and then you play with those cards, it’s similar in Near and Far where you draft cards at the start of the game.

Hate Drafting: So, clearly tied into the one above. Normally when you are drafting, you want to draft cards that are best for you. But in games like Sushi Go! Party and Seven Wonders, you will have an idea of what the other players want or need, so you might draft a card that doesn’t really help you, but it stops other players. Generally, this isn’t a great strategy for the person doing it, unless all the cards are equally as bad for them, but sometimes you do it to stop a large number of points just to keep yourself in the game.

The another genre that was popular and still is going strong

Image Source: Wikipedia

Deck Building: It’s a genre that has cooled off a little bit, probably more so because there are fewer games coming out in the genre that are new, and more expansions instead for older games. In these games, you have a base deck, or some resources to start buying cards, that builds up your hand and your deck. So by the end of each game, the players deck is personalized to them. The biggest game in this genre is Dominion. It has a pasted on theme of medieval times and is really about quickly drawing cards, getting money, and buying victory points. There have been a lot of games since Dominion got the genre to take off that have come out like Marvel Legendary, Xenoshyft, Hogwarts Battle, Clank!, and many more. This also can include games like Arkham Horror LCG and Magic the Gathering. They take it a slightly different way in that you are building your deck before the game is played, but the deck can still be customized to what you want.

Abstract Game: These tend to be the logic based and puzzle based games. A game like Quoridor or Blokus fall into the abstract game. It’s about thinking through and figuring out the puzzle for your given game situation. They also tend to have little theme on them, or if there is theme, it’s pasted on and there is disconnect between the theme of the game and the mechanics of the game. Dominion is a solid example of a game that could be an abstract game without any theme and it would still function just as well, but the theme makes it a more visually appealing game.

That takes us to one of the last overarching genres

Ameri-trash/thrash: It’s really Ameri-trash, but Ameri-thrash is more fun to say. These games are all about theme, whereas a lot of Euro games, their big genre counterpart, focus in on a lot of minute details and figuring out logically how to win, Ameri-trash have more luck involved. They also tend to be a lot more steeped in theme and have theme tying into the mechanics of the board game. Games like Gloomhaven or Near and Far are two prime examples. Ameri-trash games also have more randomness in their games. While Gloomhaven doesn’t have too much randomness, for Near and Far, you are rolling a die quite often to find out if you can complete a skill challenge or win a fight. You see the randomness more so in dungeon crawl sorts of games, such as Star Wars: Imperial Assault.

Gloomhaven takes us into another genre of game as well

Image Source: Cephalofair Games

Cooperative or Coop: These games are as they sound, you are all playing together on the same team and playing against the game to see if you can beat it or not. There’s no special mechanical piece that is tied into this, beyond that you are all on the game team. The game that caused this genre to take off was Pandemic which has come out with a ton of version and variations on the base game. Gloomhaven and Star Wars: Imperial Assault are also games that fit this genre, but Imperial Assault only does because of an app, before it fit into another genre.

One versus All: This is the other genre. Classic RPG’s fall into this as well as dungeon crawl board games. In these games one player is playing the bad guys, or the antagonists, and everyone else is playing cooperatively against them. In an RPG, that is going to be the game or the dungeon master and it’s a similar situation in dungeon crawl games.  So Star Wars: Imperial Assasult, can be played as a dungeon crawl where one person plays the imperial characters and the other players play the heroes against the bad guys. The app changes that so that no one has to miss out on the story. There are also other games that don’t fit into either the RPG or dungeon crawl genres, like Not Alone where one person controls a monster that is trying to track down all the red shirts from a crashed alien ship.

I probably should define this category next

Dungeon Crawl: I’ve mentioned it a few times, so you probably have some idea what this is, so I’ll talk about it fast. This is a game where you are going through a scenario or going up against bad guys moving through a game board, exploring new areas, and trying to complete some objective(s). Games like Gloomhaven, Descent, and Star Wars: Imperial Assault fall into this genre. You might be thinking that you don’t remember any dungeons or many in Star Wars, but that’s more of a genre given name now that a specific.

Back to more coop games for a second

Semi-Cooperative Games (Hidden Traitor): This is a genre that is closely related to cooperative games and probably wouldn’t be as strong if it wasn’t for cooperative games. In these games you are basically playing a cooperative game where all the players have the same objective. That is, all of them but one (or more depending on the game). Those players are trying to sabotage the mission for the players or have their own objective. However, they are trying to not be found out. Games like Dead of Winter, Shadows over Camelot, and Battlestar Galactica are the biggest in the genre that really needs to get more games.

Social Deduction: This is the category that seems to be stealing a lot of the hidden traitor games. In these games, you have players who are in secret roles and you are trying to figure out who the werewolves, fascists, cannibals, or whatever the games theme says the bad guys are. It is similar in some ways to a hidden traitor game but there is one huge difference. These games are built around trying to draw out that information and all the mechanics are around that deduction piece. So games like One Night Ultimate Werewolf, The Resistance (Avalon), Donner Dinner Party, and Secret Hitler are all examples of this, but the best one, in my opinion, is Deception: Murder in Hong Kong as there is more game to it than games like One Night Ultimate Werewolf or The Resistance.

That brings me to one final trio of definitions. There are so  many more things that I could write about, and I might do a part two, but this will be enough for now.

Light Weight: Probably an area that I could have described games sooner, but games are generally put into three different categories of weight, though the last one you never really hear the weight added to it. A light weight game is going to be a game with fewer rules and fewer options in the game. There can still be more strategy to the game, but it’s simple to sit down and play that game. weight in game can refer to strategy, complexity of the rules, and length of set-up/number of fiddly bits, but generally mainly the first two. Games like Splendor and Ticket to Ride are light weight games to me. While they are a bit more complex than the standard of Monopoly, they don’t offer that much strategy and complexity. Interestingly enough, a strategy abstract game like Quoridor also falls into this category even though it has a lot of strategy and thinking too it, because the rules and game play are very simple.

Medium Weight: Medium weight games are, shockingly, a step up from light weight games. They are going to offer more complexity in their interactions. You have to think through more of what you are going to do, and you can plan out multiple turns, but are more apt to have to adjust on the fly. They still aren’t getting into the area where they are too mathy or too much strategy where you are having to plan out a lot of turns in advance. Five Tribes is a great example of this where you have a number of decisions and options that you can do, and someone can take your move from you but also might not. Century Road: Golem Edition, is another game that is a bit on the lighter side of medium weight games, but builds up good strategy in the game and gives you quite a number of options.

Heavy: Heavy games are steeped in strategy and complexity of the game. A game like Gloomhaven falls into their category. There are a lot of rules to keep track of, there are a lot of little fiddly bits, there’s a lot of set-up, and there’s a lot of strategy. A lot of larger Euro games also fall into this category because you have to figure out what is going to be your best possible turn to get the most possible points from the game. I do want to point out that these games don’t always have to be the hardest games to play, once you know how to play t hem but they can often be more difficult to learn and have strategy that you need to know to be able to play the game well.

There are a lot of definitions, are there some terms that I’ve missed (or haven’t gotten to yet), that you are curious about?


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Concept: Culling the Nerd

Concept: Culling the Nerd

Let’s start by what I mean by the title “Culling the Nerd“. It sounds ominous, but I don’t mean actually culling nerds out of your life, I’m talking tips, tricks, strategies for decluttering your nerd life when your collections grow to a hoard, and you […]

TableTopTakes: Star Wars Destiny

TableTopTakes: Star Wars Destiny

Have you ever wondered how it would be to fight Jabba the Hutt and Asajj Ventress against Finn and Chirrut Imwe? Or maybe something a little more conventional with Rey and Finn against Kylo Ren and a First Order Stormtrooper? You can now do that […]

Board Game Types: Deck-Building Games

Board Game Types: Deck-Building Games

Deck-building games are showing up a whole lot more on Kickstarter these days, and are becoming a more popular style of game. The best-known game of this type is Dominion, in which you build up a deck of cards to gain victory points. A lot of these games have similar mechanics to them. You have a system that allows you to buy more cards, play cards, and build your deck while trying to gain victory points one way or another. There are two main different types of deck-building games beyond this. There are games in which you build your deck as you go, and there are games where your deck is pre-built, either built for you or by you.

Image Source: Gatherer
Image Source: Gatherer

Since You Are Using a Deck, Does it Play the Same Every Time?

No, it really doesn’t. With some games, like Dominion, you often play with different sets of cards, and each card has different abilities. With the Legendary and Teen Titans deck-building games, you play with certain groups of heroes and villains, so the cards come up differently and are generally randomized as well. And with games where you build your own deck, such as Magic the Gathering or Netrunner, they are coming out with new cards regularly, so once you’ve played with some cards for a while, you get new cards to play with. The downside to this is that every time you want to change up and get some new cards, you have to shell out more money. So any of these games can end up being expensive.

How Much Variety is There Between Deck Building Games?

Image credit: BoardGameGeek
Image credit: BoardGameGeek

While they aren’t completely you’ve-seen-one-you’ve-seen-them-all, a number of the games do play pretty similarly. The Teen Titans deck-building game is a simplified, more streamlined version of the Legendary game from Marvel. And Dominion doesn’t fall that much out of line with the rest of them. Magic the Gathering seems like it has limited options, if you look at the competitive players, as there are certain decks that will always be stronger than others, but if you play casually, you have a plethora of cards to chose from and can really flavor the game to your own playing style. That has to be a choice made by all the players whom you are playing with, however, because otherwise, someone can just run away with it.

Which Deck-Building Games Would You Recommend?

I can’t speak to Netrunner, but it is a very popular game that holds tournaments. The nice thing about Netrunner is that it is cheaper to get into than Magic the Gathering, as they don’t make cards rarer than other cards, so no cards have a premium price mark-up. But Magic the Gathering is a great deck-building game to get into for several reasons, the first being that you can really tailor it to how you want to play. A while back, Sam wrote an overview article on the different colors of Magic decks and how they play by themselves. Each of them give you viable routes to win, and each of them have some things they aren’t as good at. So by combining colors and figuring out what aspect of the game you really like, you can build up very interesting decks and do so cheaply. The important thing about keeping Magic the Gathering as a cheaper hobby is to play it casually, because once you start playing seriously, it can drain your wallet fast.

Image Source: Wikipedia
Image Source: Wikipedia

The Teen Titans deck-building game is another I would really recommend. It plays a lot like a comic book, and it keeps it simple. There is a feel to it  (more so than Legendary) of that comic book story as you are playing, which is what you want when dealing with superheroes. It also seems to play faster than the Legendary game, which is nice, as Legendary can really stretch out if you get stuck in a bad spot. An upside that Teen Titans has is that you are playing cooperatively, as with Legendary, and the players try to defeat the villain together, so that is a nice aspect.

Dominion is the real classic of the deck-building games, though. With all of the expansions, you have the ability to never repeat a combination of cards. It plays quickly, the rules and interactions are simple, and it is a lot of fun to play.

But one fun and random game that should not be overlooked is Red Dragon Inn. The best way to describe it is that you are a bunch of D&D-esque adventurers who are between quests. You go into the tavern and decide to gamble and drink the night away with the treasure that you had gotten on your last quest. All of the different characters you can play are absurd, and it is made even more fun if you, in real life, have a drink in your hand and are doing voices for the character that you are playing. The premise is also absurd; you are trying to keep from getting so drunk or having your fortitude drop so much that you eventually fall asleep on the table — because the last one awake is probably going to get all the money from gambling.

What is a deck-building game I’ve missed that you really like?

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Magic: The Gathering – An Introduction to the Color Pie

Magic: The Gathering – An Introduction to the Color Pie

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our very first Guest Post Wednesday! We’re proud to present a fantastic article on the color designations in Magic: The Gathering, by Sam Nelson. Sam is a good friend with whom we very much enjoy gaming and nerding out, and who […]

Magic the Gathering: Pick Your Color

Magic the Gathering: Pick Your Color

Our first post on Magic: The Gathering dealt some with decks and how the different types of cards break down. The next big area of Magic: The Gathering to be discussed are the different colors of cards. As you can see on the back of […]

Magic: the Gathering 101

Magic: the Gathering 101

Magic: The Gathering 101

Magic: The Gathering is another big game that can be confusing to get into. As compared to Dungeons & Dragons, which is actually much lighter on rules than you would think, Magic: The Gathering has been around for a long time, and all of the cards that have been created for the game can still be used.

Magic: The Gathering is a deck-building game in which players can choose from many different styles of decks. The makers of the game have been printing cards for many years, and they print new sets of cards three times a year. The players can build decks using these cards, which they then use to play against another player’s deck. The first player to get their opponent down to zero life points from a starting total of twenty wins the game. Players lower their opponents’ life points with cards they play from their hand, drawn from their own decks. These decks are generally made up of sixty cards of different types.

There are several different kinds of sixty-card decks: vintage, which use old cards; modern, which use somewhat more recently created cards; and standard, which use cards from the latest sets. What most people start out with, though, is the casual deck style. A casual deck is also made up of sixty cards, but there aren’t as many restrictions on the cards that you can use. This allows people to play with whatever Magic cards they happen to have as they start to figure out the game, even if their collection is a mix of different styles.

Image Source: Gatherer
Image Source: Gatherer

This is one of the seven different types of cards.

In the top left is the name. The top right shows how much mana (the currency of the game) you have to pay to play this creature. In this case, the Storm Crow costs one mana of any color (or no color), identified by the number 1 in the grey circle, and one blue mana, shown by the one blue circle at the top of the card. Below the image is the type of card — in this case, creature — and after that is the type of creature, which is Bird, in this case.

Below that is the card text, which will show and explain what abilities the creature has, which for the Storm Crow is flying. The text beneath that, in italics, is known as the flavor text. This text has no real reason to be on the card beyond adding detail to the story that Wizards of the Coast has created for the game. And finally, on the bottom right there are two numbers. The number on the left is the power (attack) number, so the Storm Crow can do a single point of damage to a creature of another player. The number on the right is the Storm Crow’s toughness (defense) — a toughness of two means that if a Storm Crow takes two or more points of damage on a single turn, it dies and is removed from the battlefield and put into the pile of cards known as the graveyard.

Image Source: Gatherer
Image Source: Gatherer

Land cards are much simpler; they cost nothing to play, but you can only play one per turn. Land cards can be tapped (turned sideways to indicate that they’ve been used during the current turn) to produce mana, and must already be in play before they can be used for this purpose. This mana can then be used to cast a spell, such as Storm Crow. The swamp shown above could be tapped for one mana to then pay the one mana of any color needed to play the Storm Crow, along with an Island land card that’s needed to get a blue-colored mana to play the Storm Crow. Mana is used to cast any card, but the number and type needed is different, and is represented by the grey and colored circles at the top of each card.

The other other types of cards to go along with creatures and lands are sorcery, instant, artifact, enchantment, and planeswalker. All of these are cast the same way that a creature is cast, and will also show the cost to play the card in the upper right-hand corner. They will also all have text that explains what the card does and how to play it. Instant cards can be played at any point in the game, but the rest of the cards will generally be played on your turn, unless the card specifically says otherwise.

That’s a brief overview of Magic: The Gathering — as you can see, there are many different cards with many different abilities and ways to play them. That’s half the fun of playing Magic — you can build a deck that no one has built before and play it for fun.

Next time on Magic: The Gathering: What are the different colors about?