Tag: table top

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., […]

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 […]

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 out.

Hats was one of the games, going into GenCon that I was really excited to try and definitely knew I wanted to pick up. There were a few different things that drew me to the game. The first was the Alice in Wonderland theme. The idea of Hats is that you’re at the Mad Hatter’s tea party and you are trying to get the best collection of hats. I have liked the theme on other games, mainly Parade, which might have an Alice in Wonderland theme, but like this game also be a primarily abstract game. The next was that I got to watch a play through that Man vs Meeple did on their Youtube channel. In it the game seemed like it was a lot of fun, but as importantly, and the last thing that drew me to this game, the game seemed simple but challenging.

Image Source: Board Game Geek

Hats, like I said, is a game with an Alice in Wonderland theme, but really it’s an abstract puzzle. In the game, you have a hand of cards that you are using to swap with the cards on the Mad Hatter’s table. There are seven different suits in the game, numbered 1-6. You can swap the cards out, as long as the card you’re replacing is the same color or has a smaller number than the card that you’re playing. You then place the card you took in front of you, and that will be what you end up scoring. The tricky part of the game comes with the fact that you only score the colors on the Mad Hatter’s table. So, if you have three blue cards, and the blue card on the table is in the first spot, you get three points, one for each card. If there is also a blue in the six spot on the table as well as the one spot, you still get three points, because you always score the lower numbered spot. And it’s possible that you’ve collected a couple of pink cards, because they are in the six scoring spot, so it’s going to score you twelve points, but one of your opponents on their turn, seeing that you’ll be getting a lot of points from it, can potentially swap out that pink card, as long as they have a higher number.

In most card games, you know which cards are going to be used to score form your hand. In something like Uno, you know that you want to get rid of high numbers. In Hearts, you know you don’t want to take hearts of the queen of spades. In Euchre, you know you want to take so many tricks. You can plan how you are going to use your hand to score or not score points. In Hats, your hand probably won’t be the majority of your points. You’re going to be taking the cards that were dealt to the table originally, and what your opponent is playing. So you have to think about what cards on the table you can use to score, and what cards you can put down so your opponent doesn’t score. And as you get more information about what your opponents are taking, you have to consider more what you want to grab yourself and what you want to try and take away from your opponents.

Image Source: Board Game Geek

There are two final ways which you score in the game. Sometimes you can’t play a card, you don’t have the right colors and you have low numbers. The game realizes that this sucks, so it gives you two options. At the start of every turn, you can discard a card to draw a new one, as long as there are still cards to draw. But if you still can’t play, you can play a hat card face down, and that’s worth a single point. The other way to score is the more interesting way. At the end of the game, you still have a card in your hand. You add up your total in the color, say I had three blue cards the 1, 3, and 4, I would add that up and I have 8, and then I subtract the blue card I kept in my hand from them. Hopefully I kept the 2, and I’d score 6 points, but I might have kept the 6, in which case I’d score to points. Black Hats shouldn’t be a big strategy in someones scoring, scoring off the table is basically always better, but if it’s late in the game, and you can’t play or don’t want to help an opponent, it’s a valid strategy. But the scoring based off of the last card in your hand, that can be huge. I’ve seen people get over 10 points, and I’ve seen people get negative points from it.

They’ve done a great job with components and theming of the game. I did say that this is an abstract game, and this is really an abstract game. But it works with the theme, and the cookie is amazing, the board and art are beautiful, and the scoring pad is a dry erase board. My only complaint about the quality of the game is that the dry erase marker that they sent with the game doesn’t have an eraser. Fortunately, I have a lot of dry erase markers with erasers, so I can swap in one from what I bought for roll and write games that I’ve laminated. But if you don’t have that, you’re always going to need an actual napkin or something to clean off the scoring sheet. It seems like a pretty obvious oversight, but not anything that really knocks the game or the ability to play the game.

Overall, I like this game a lot. I think that it’s challenging, even though I’ve probably played it eight times. I think that there’s good strategy to it, but you have a single action, playing a card to the table, and taking the one you played it on for scoring. So it’s a simple yet tricky game, and a fast game. The game says 20-30 minutes, and I think most of the games I’ve played have gone 10-15. Granted, that is two players, but with the full four players, I think that time frame seems accurate to maybe a little bit long. If you want a game that you can teach fast, have some interesting choices, and play multiple times, Hats is a very good game for that.

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

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Friday Night D&D – Zombie Apocalypse

Friday Night D&D – Zombie Apocalypse

The name says it all really, we’re going to be doing a zombie apocalypse. However, we aren’t going to be playing the game where the players are trying to stop it. Instead, we’re going to pull from things like The Walking Dead, Dead of Winter, […]

Board Game Battle – Star Wars Imperial Assault vs Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth vs Mansions of Madness

Board Game Battle – Star Wars Imperial Assault vs Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth vs Mansions of Madness

We have a triple threat match this time as we have three heavyweights from Fantasy Flight facing off. The reason that they get to face off is because all of them have app integration. What this means for all these games is that you don’t […]

Board Game Expansions

Board Game Expansions

Kind of a different topic today. I’ve talked a lot about board games, but I haven’t talked much about one of the trends in board games, and that’s expanding an existing game. Expansions give you more content in a board game in one of several different ways. I’ll go through the main three that I see board games being expanded in this article.

Image Source: Catan

The first is the simplest way, and that is there are companies expanding board games to get higher player counts. Catan was the first game to do this, that I know of, where it was out of the box a 4 player game, but you could buy the 5-6 player expansion for the game to be able to play with a larger group. For me these expansions are kind of hit and miss because some games are already pushing their upper limit with the out of the box player count. Adding in additional players often increases the amount of time the game takes and can increase how much time you have between doing something meaningful. If it doesn’t do either of those things, I think that it can be a fine expansions, but it won’t ever be my preferred type of expansions. But this one is one that is pretty simple to explain, it just allows more people to play the game at once.

Image Credit: Game Base

The next one is the expansion that adds in content to a game. And specifically with this type of expansion, it’s an expansion that is going to add in a new mechanic or tweak to the game. To use Catan as an example again, Seafarers of Catan adds in ships and islands. These are mechanicaly additions. Most of the time, this is something that is going to be easy to add in or take out from the base game. However, sometimes it’s just tricky to know what was added in, and that can be a downfall of these expansions. Maybe I don’t always want to play with the expansion, but it might not be possible to split them out. The other problem is that you can end up with two many expansions. For Catan you have Seafarers, Cities & Knights, Traders & Barbarians, Explorers & Pirates and 5-6 player expansions for all of them. If you were to get everything for Catan, you’d be in for around $500. Now, that might be worth it to you, but you can see how you can push too far in the game play expansions. Pandemic and Carcassone do the same thing having a lot of expansions to the base game. The biggest offender of having too many expansions coming out would be Smash Up and Marvel Legendary. Both of those games seem to come out with a couple expansions per year at least, and they’ve been going at it for a while. Now, sometimes these expansions make the game a lot more interesting. This is both a good and bad thing. Sometimes these extra content/game play expansions just take a good game to a great game, so that’s a good thing. However, sometimes, an expansion will be essential to the game being enjoyable. Other times, the expansion will take a poor game to a good game. That seems like a solid thing, but if the base game isn’t fun without an expansion, you’ve basically just bought the full game in two parts. So these expansions can be a bit more troubling, but often do add in good variety to games so that if you’ve played the base game a lot, you can change it up.

Image Source: Across the Board Cafe

Finally, you have story expansions. These expansions are not possible for every game, while the other two normally are, whether they should be made or not. Story expansions have to be for a game that has a story to it. Something like Gloomhaven which has a 100+ hours of game play story is getting an expansion that has more story coming after what happens in the base game. Games like Folklore: The Affliction and Sword and Sorcery also do this. Since these games really focus on the story, the replayability of the game, without an expansion, can be a little bit tricky. Though, something like Gloomhaven, it’s been long enough since I started playing it, that with a different group I’d be up for playing it again. How these games are often made more replayable also is that you have multiple characters to jump into the game with, so if you play a different character your experience might be different than it was the first time through. That is one thing that Sword and Sorcery does, it gives you another way to play through the main story with a different character expansions. That would fall under content/game play expansion versus a story expansion though. I really like story expansions, because it allows me to continue playing with a character that I like, or it allows me to delve further into a world that has been created. I’m excited for Tainted Grail coming out from Awaken Realms for that reason. It has the base game and two expansions with the kickstarter, and it really takes you through a large chunk of the world that they’ve built and through generations.

I’m not sure that I’ve ever come across an expansions that I would consider needed. I think that there are a few that add in interesting things to games, such as extra races and powers for Smallworld, but, I haven’t run across any that are needed. Some of it might be because I won’t buy an expansion just to make a game good, so if I don’t like the game, I’ll move on from it.

What are some of your favorite expansions? Are there any expansions you consider needed?

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Is a Game Better if it Looks Better?

Is a Game Better if it Looks Better?

This was a topic that was brought up on the Dice Tower in one of their videos. Sam Healy made a statement that if a game looked better, he would enjoy it more and it was a better game. That got me thinking about games […]

Top 5: 5+ Player Games

Top 5: 5+ Player Games

We’re up high enough in numbers now that I think that we should just go beyond five and wrap up the list with games that work best with five or more players. I wanted to do just a five player list, because there are a […]

Friday Night D&D – There Will Be Blood

Friday Night D&D – There Will Be Blood

Yes, this is coming out Friday morning where I’m writing from. But Friday Morning D&D sounds way different than Friday Night D&D. What I wanted to start doing on some Fridays, might not be all of them, but should be a number of them for a while is come up with D&D campaign ideas.

I’ve gone through how I build a campaign, and I just picked up Mordenkainens Tome of Foes. Reading through that, or starting to, it was giving me ideas for more campaigns, and even some games that are actually set in the the realms created by Wizards of the Coast for Dungeons and Dragons and not just my own home brew games.


Image Source: D&D Beyond

The Blood War, an eternal struggle between the ordered planes of the 9 Hells and the masses of the Abyss. The Devils of the 9 Hells have different hierarchy in the levels of what each one of them does, while the Demons of the Abyss throw their giant numbers in a much more chaos filled ways at the Devils.

That’s the simple backstory of the Blood War that rages on. There are a whole lot more details, but we’re going to focus on an interesting campaign idea surrounding that.

The idea is that if the balance is broken, either the planes will be overrun by chaos as the Demons run wild or the Devils will impose their own “perfect” order onto the planes. Something is now trying to throw off the balance. The Demons have allegedly found some sort of way to infiltrate Mephistopheles ranks and are going to be taking some of his research out with them, when they figure a way back out.

The adventuring party starts to see more random incursions of Demons and Devils into the Forgotten Realms. They are in fact contacted to dispatch and deal with some situations that are going on. Most of the time the Devils are countering some idea that the Demons have had to get their spies out of Cania in the 9 Hells. The work of the adventuring party doesn’t go unnoticed and an emissary of Asmodeus. The party eventually takes on a fairly powerful Demon and wins, and the party will be approached by an emissary.

Image Source: Wizards of the Coast

The emissary will have a contract that is sealed with Asmodeus’s seal that lays out what he wants them to do to figure out the problem. Laying out how, if the Demons are able to leave with the information it might be enough to turn the tide of the war and the Devils would turn the Forgotten realms into a smoldering world of chaos. He offers the party some money immediately and provides them with some additional information on the 9 Hells.

Unfortunately for the characters, this isn’t something that Asmodeus really wants know what is going on. As part of the deal they are sworn to secrecy. And that also means that while he can give them information about how to get to the river Styx, he can’t just take them straight into Cania, they will have to go through the other layers of hell.

This is the big crux of the adventure being created. How are the players going to get through the 9 Hells? What tricks or bribes will they have to use when they inevitably run into one of the Lords of one of the levels of hell?

You can determine how you’d want your story to end, maybe someone was trying to play a trick of Asmodeus, and there wasn’t an spy in their midst. Maybe there was a spy in their midst. Maybe it is a situation where Asmodeus is testing his own defenses, but remember that Devils are Lawful Evil in what they do and order is extremely important.

I would expect each level of hell, there would only be eight as they aren’t going to Asmodeus level, would be about three to five sessions. So this should be a pretty long campaign, unless you play longer sessions. At the end of the dungeon, players should be hitting 15-16 level. You could even then continue after that, most likely having to face off against some high Demon in the Abyss if you want to finish it off. I’d also expect the party to be around level four or five by the time they hit the river Styx.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

This is going to be a grueling game for the players. I would make things such as create food and water, maybe they work, but because of the extreme heat or cold of the levels of hell, probably won’t actually be able to sustain them. So they are going to have to be resourceful. And while there will be combat, create tempting spots for the players to sneak into, give them interesting loot, devil focused loot. At the end, you should have a well geared out party because of what they are finding on other adventurers who have braved the 9 Hells, and the Devils who have collected trophies.

What do you think of this game idea?

I think this would be interesting because you can create very thematic sessions as you go through the levels of hell. It is also interesting to have an adventuring party doing a good thing for a very evil being. Technically Asmodeus is having them do it so that he doesn’t lose, but it actually ends up helping the planes of existence from being destroyed or turned. However, it probably won’t be the happiest game, and it won’t be the most murder hobo game, though you won’t feel bad about killing anything. I’m also guessing this isn’t that unique an idea, but the Blood War was something I just learned about.

Would you want to play in a game like this one? Would you want to run a game like this one?

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Top 5: 2 Player Games

Top 5: 2 Player Games

Alright, I said I was going start another top 5 list, these are games that can either only be played with two players or are best with two players. There are some games that might have 2-4 players, but are really two player games, because […]