Another mechanic that I really love, action points/allowance is basically how many things you can do on your turn. Now, I want to say that this differentiates from something like Monopoly or Clue where you can do multiple things on your turn, possibly. I doubt…
I have a lot of mechanics that I like, deck building was an easy list for me to make and while I don’t always love area control, there are some of the games that I love that use it. But variable player powers, that is probably my favorite. For those who aren’t as familiar with the concept, simply, it means that I can do something that you can’t. That can be that I could move a piece for free, or do a more powerful version of an action, but I can do something unique. It’s that feeling of doing something different that gives you the feeling that you are special in the game or that you have a different direction in the game than other players can that is really cool.
10 – Lords of Hellas
You’re playing as a mythological Greek character, of course they are going to have their own powers. They have a couple of things that are unique, first they have something that they get while setting, up, in my case, I was getting a priest/priestess to start the game. And then you have a special ability that only you can do. It kind of helps focus you on what you want to do for a win condition because those are so diversified as well. The game has a lot of unique things that you can do as well, because when temples are built, it might trigger drafting a blessing. And those blessings are unique powers to you a well so you become more unique and diversified as time goes on the further you get into the game.
9 – Dice Throne Season 1 and 2
These characters are completely unique in the game. They roll their own unique dice, they have their own unique decks, and their player board is going to do unique things as well. The game is pretty simple in concept as it uses Yahtzee and King of Tokyo style rolling where you can roll three times and you see what you get, but when you actually dig into what the characters can do, there’s a lot of interesting things that allow you tweak dice or that you can focus on. The Pyromancer plays very different than the Shadow Thief who plays different than the Gunslinger who is different than the Cursed Pirate, so you do need to plan out your strategies and hope that you have the cards to make the dice rolls work. It’s probably the simplest game on the list, but it gives you that feeling of playing a special character without you learning so much that’s new.
8 – Aeon’s End: War Eternal
There are a number of things that make you unique in this deck building game. First, your deck is going to be constructed differently at the start, you are going to have a card in there that is special to you. So that’s a unique power. The set-up of your breaches for casting spells is also unique, but not really a power. Finally, on your player board, you have an ability that you can charge, that ability is probably pretty powerful and it’s unique to you. All of that gives you a unique feel and a unique focus. If you plan it right, you can set-up good synergies between the characters where one character can get a spell cheaper and pass that spell to another player, and that other player can then focus on getting breaches open to cast more spells for better use of the games money.
7 – Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition
Spoilers, this isn’t the only Arkham game on the list. Fantasy Flight does a good job of making all the characters with unique powers. Not only do you have a unique skill set and health and sanity levels. But it’s the character powers and unique character items that really can set you apart. And generally, you’re going to need to use those powers because it’s going to give you something that you can do that is just better than a regular action. Now, they don’t always come into play, but to really optimize your game, you’re probably going to want to use those powers. There’s just a lot to love about this game and the variable player powers is just the icing on the cake.
6 – XenoShyft: Onslaught
Not one that jumped out to me at the start as having variable player powers, but when I thought about it, you do have unique roles that you do. At the start it’s just that every role can buy a certain type of item cheaper. But as you get further into waves, you unlock more special abilities that make your character unique. Plus, in your starting deck, as this is a deck builder, you get unique things. It might be weapon or armor or a soldier, but you are going to have a unique starting deck compared to everyone else. That really drives the game because you need to support each other, and it has the interesting mechanic where you can trade cards or play cards when another person is going in order to help them get through their line up of alien bugs. So while some of the variable power games on the list have you really as your own unique character where you do that thing, this one is set-up so that you can help the other players which is a unique twist.
5 – Arkham Horror: The Card Game
First of two living card games, but all of Fantasy Flight’s Arkham line of products (seeing as this isn’t the first on the list) do a good job with variable player powers. You always are going to have different stats for things like lore, agility, and strength, but you also are going to have a special character power that only you can do, and beyond that, your health and sanity ratios are going to be different as well. Beyond that, each character is going to have a deck that is uniquely built for them. While some of these aren’t technically powers, they are things that make your character feel very unique. And it can help tailor your play style, you’re probably always going to need to be okay at getting clues, but some characters are going to be better at that while others are going to be stronger at attacking. Overall, it’s just a good system and makes any Arkham line of game feel unique.
4 – Marvel Champions
Marvel Champions hits what I want for variable player powers, giving it to me not just because my deck of cards is unique, but because I can do something special as both my super hero side and my alter-ego side. In this game you’re facing off against a villain as a Marvel superhero such as Spider-Man or Captain America. Captain America can do something different as Steve Rogers and as Captain America and those things are different than what Peter Parker can do or Spider-Man. And each character that they release is different. So in a multiplayer game of Marvel Champions, you feel like your hero is that hero and that you can do different things. Then you add in aspects, which are part of the deck building piece, so you might have protection where you are better at defense or aggression that make you even more unique.
3 – T.I.M.E. Stories
This one is a bit trick to talk about because everything is kind of part of the stories in the game. But I’ll give you the premise for the game, you are part of a time agency who is meant to stop time incursions from coming through and messing up the timeline. But it isn’t like you are fully transported back in time, just your conscious is transported. That’s where you get your variable powers from. And the powers your “vessel” as they call them in the game, has, depends on your scenario. Again, I don’t want to go into it too much as it’s fun to determine what a scenario is as you open up the thing, but some of them are fairly obvious at least to the setting with names like Under the Mask and the Egyptian images on the box or The Asylum is probably about an Asylum. I’ve really enjoyed the puzzle nature of the game, and while I think that the player powers sometimes are just okay or won’t be used at all, it is part of the game and you can find some decent combos.
2 – Pandemic Legacy Season 1
This is true for all Pandemic games, so if you don’t want to get the Legacy version of the game, just get basic Pandemic. In the game you take on different roles of people trying to stop a Pandemic. The Medic is able to remove disease cubes easier, the Dispatcher can move players around the board faster, the Scientist can discover a cure with fewer cards. And you can upgrade and improve the characters as you go so that they get more diverse and more variable in what they can do. I won’t go into what those upgrade are as it would be a little bit of a spoiler for some of the stuff that you unlock in the game, but it’s a great experience and the fact that you can customize and streamline your team in hopes of being able to better win games, it’s a ton of fun.
1 – Gloomhaven
It’s my favorite game, of course it has variable player powers. In the game, you play as a character and you have your own unique hand of actions that you can do. Some characters are going to be manipulating elements to perform stronger attacks. Others are going to be supporting with healing or they might be the tank or maybe they’re a ranged attacker. But each character is really different and it makes you feel like you are unique. It can be mechanical in what the character can do, but it really does feel like you can do something else compared to your fellow players. And every time you unlock a new character by retiring your old one, it’s something different. Yes, this game is massive, but if you want something that just has so much diversity in the characters, you can’t go wrong with Gloomhaven.
So, I have so many more that I could put on as well. Literally, all of those games are probably in my top 15-20 of all time (20 as of 2019, minus Lords of Hellas that I hadn’t played yet). I also considered another game in my top 15, Star Wars: Rebellion. Board Game Geek has it listed as variable player power and they definitely are. However, it is so asymmetrical that I feel like I need to put it in it’s own separate category, because everything is so different. Sure, you’re still producing things in a similar way, but it’s more asymmetrical for me. And there are others like Sword & Sorcery and Dead of Winter just missed my list, like I said, I love games with variable player powers.
What are some of your favorite games with variable player powers? What are some that I should checkout?
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Tomorrow I’ll be doing an article looking forward to my 2020 resolutions, and I just wrapped up things that I’m looking forward to in 2020 for movies, games, and more. Today, I’m going to look back at 2019, it was a big year for nerdy things with Endgame toppling Avatar in the box office and more, but what are my highlights from my nerdy 2019?
Avengers: Endgame – This has been years in the making, but I have enjoyed every single Marvel film, and this was such a great culmination of the first three phases. But more than that, it was something that I had hyped up for a long time for myself. I loved Avengers: Infinity War, and I wanted it to end in an awesome way, especially since Captain Marvel fell a little flat for me. Endgame didn’t disappoint, and there was something so exciting about going to that movie, but something exciting about getting tickets for opening night and having it work and the buzz around that movie was just so much fun. I don’t know when there will be another movie with buzz like that or one previous really, but I’m so happy about it.
GenCon – Probably the biggest thing, though, for me was being able to go to GenCon this past year. I knew I was going to love it because I’m an extrovert and I’ve dived so far into board games so why wouldn’t I love a packed place where I can see all the new cool games. And it was amazing. The best experiences there were playing the games. The RPG’s were fine, but playing board games, just wandering around the dealer floor and finding a random game to try was amazing. There were so many demos that were great and meeting designers and developers of these games was a ton of fun. I remember playing Roll Player Adventure and just having such a grand time or trying to demo Deranged 3-4 times before we were able to actually do it. Not great for the wallet, but so amazing. And got to meet some people who were really cool, The Dice Tower folks were cool, running into Chris Renshaw was fun, and having someone recognize my brewery cap from Duluth was a blast.
Ice Cool – You might have noticed that I didn’t mention Ice Cool in my GenCon post, but that’s because it’s separate from the previous one. Ice Cool was an experience in and of itself. I didn’t know what to expect because Ice Cool is a silly little game, but I didn’t know what to expect. I thought people might be fairly serious about it, and a few were, but for the most part we had a ton of fun. I made it to the semi-finals and found out that Canadian money does indeed smell some like Maple Syrup. That was a surprise to them as well as me. There were some awesome shots I pulled off, and then I had one terrible round, otherwise might have made it to the final. And there was a fun age range of players as well. Definitely a unique experience and it made me love the game even more.
Reading All of The Dresden Files – Technically, I think I started this late in 2018 and I wrapped it up in the middle of 2019, but it’s been a series that I have loved, I would just always start it and get distracted, but I did it this year, and I’m super excited. Now I’m waiting for the next one to come out this year. The world building is just so great, and I like Harry a lot as a character. It’s definitely a massive story with a lot of twists and turns, but I feel like the characters are people and do a lot of things that people would do instead of just being more supernatural than they actually are.
Beating Gloomhaven – It took a long time, in fact almost two years, but we have bear the base game of Gloomhaven, just in time for Frosthaven to be announced. Gloomhaven has been a great experience and the group I’m playing with is a ton of fun. It’s been so much fun to try and figure out how to make our group of characters work together. And I really love the game, clearly, since it’s my #1. Overall, it’s been a long time in the making, and just when I thought I was ready for Gloomhaven to wrap up, Frosthaven made me excited about it all over again.
Playing Through Pandemic Legacy Season 1 on Malts and Meeples – Whoo that’s a long title, but it’s true. I had a lot of fun live streaming those. Even though I don’t know how many people have watched them off hand, I had a lot of fun with it and I’m looking forward to doing more streaming. Even knowing what was coming up, it felt like it took a few twists in different times on them than I thought they were. Hopefully in future streams I can interact more as I play some more campaign games solo.
I know I’m missing things from my list as well. Just the random board game nights were a lot of fun. Becoming more active in the Rolling Solo community was a blast and joining GloryHoundd for their weekly Kickstarter streams has been a good time. I feel like I’ve connected more to the board gaming community as well. It’s been a very nerdy year and I’m excited to see what nerdy things await me in 2020.
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It’s that time of year, with Black Friday and Holiday Shopping nearly upon us. That means that people are starting to think about the gifts that they’ll be getting for others or what they might want to ask for themselves. This list is basically the…
It’s almost Thanksgiving, and with Thanksgiving being so late this year, it’ll almost be Christmas then. That means lots of time with family, so before I talk about what you might want to pick up for that new gamer or that person you want to get into gaming on your shopping list, let’s talk about the games that you can play with your family.
There are a few requirements that I put on these games. They have to be a theme that people will generally enjoy, that probably means not that much theme really. Because there will be some people who don’t like fantasy or sci-fi or horror or romance or whatever the theme might be. The games also have to look nice or have some interesting pieces to them. That attracts people to the games. The games also have to be family weight games and easy to teach. If it’s too complex, you probably won’t play it.
So let’s hop into some games that I think will work well in most groups:
Ticket to Ride: It’s a classic, but there’s enough game to it that it’ll be palatable for someone who considers themselves a serious gamer. But it’s also simple enough that when you play it, you can probably teach a grandparent or a younger cousin how to play it. The little train pieces are fun to play around with as well, so it looks good. This is probably the game that people will be most apt to have played as well.
Century: Golem Edition: Yes, you can do spice road, but that is just more bland. This version has more toy factor with the gems and the art work is very cute and looks good on the table. This is a bit more complex, but what you’re going to be doing on your turn is still simple and limited to one thing. That means that people, while they will have to strategize, won’t be swamped by too many things to do.
Pandemic: If you need a cooperative game, I’d recommend the classic. Pandemic has nice playability and it’s a bit more complex than some other cooperative games that I could recommend. The cubes and the player powers are going to be things that people enjoy. And because it’s cooperative, if you have someone in your family who gets too competitive, you’re all working on the same team.
Sagrada: This game is just beautiful as you are drafting dice to create stained glass windows. If you are worried about some of the tools being too complex, you can pick and choose to get the right level of difficulty. This game looks amazing on the table and it’ll draw people over so that they can join in and play.
Sushi Go Party: I actually considered putting down just plain vanilla Sushi Go, because that game is simpler, but Sushi Go Party offers more variety and people will probably want to play it again, so you can change stuff up. It’s a good fast and simple card drafting and set collection game.
Second Change: This is the game that you can pull out instead of Yahtzee, which I still recommend, but if you want to introduce something different in that drawing on paper. This one you’re putting together tetris types of shapes to see who can fill in most of the area. It’s a concept that people will understand easily and one that you’ll play again and again and again. Plus, you get to doodle.
Just One: Another cooperative game, and this one in the party style. I am personally sick of games like Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity that get pulled out around the holidays, and Just One is different than that. The cooperative nature is great, and the little bit of a Scattergories feel is a lot of fun, plus, trying to come up with a clue that will help, but that no one else will put down is a fun challenge.
Letter Jam: Even more cooperative game play, this time with a word game. Instead of pulling out Scrabble, teach people Letter Jam where you are all trying to figure out your own word and give clues. What this helps with is a runaway winner problem that games like Scrabble can have if someone understands game play better than other people do.
Splendor: I debated between Machi Koro and Splendor but either are good here. It’s all about building your engine in a simple way to get more things. These games look nice and are easy to play. Splendor gets the nod because that’s the one that has the poker ships that everyone loves.
Ice Cool: Sometimes you have young kids in the group. While they might be able to get games like Ticket to Ride, if they aren’t familiar with games at all, you can still play Ice Cool, and I’d recommend getting Ice Cool 2 for the holidays so you can play a massive 8 player game. This is just a simple and silly 8 player game that you can play with young kids or likely have fun with aunts and uncles who are up for a silly good time.
Now, that’s only 10 games, there are so many games out there. But I wanted to give a variety. What I like is that Ice Cool with Ice Cool 2 and games like Letter Jam, Just One, Second Chance, and Sushi Go Party!, they are all able to handle a larger player count. That means if you want to get everyone involved you can.
What are some games that have been pulled out at family holidays? Are there some that you never want to see again? Are there some family favorites that get played every year? What would you introduce your family to this year.
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There are so many board games in the world, and while I would like to say that I have a massive room dedicated only to board games where I can fit in lots of Kallax shelves from Ikea, I don’t. I was able to fit…