Tag: table top

TableTopTakes: Say Bye to the Villain

TableTopTakes: Say Bye to the Villain

Say Bye to the Villains is a cooperative game, that even with all the table talk you might want is an extremely hard game. If you like to win half of your games in a cooperative setting, this game isn’t for you, if you like…

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 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…

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 need to have someone playing the bad guys. Too often in a pseudo dungeon crawl you can have a situation where it feels like the one person running the monsters is up against everyone else and more facilitating their fun than having as much fun themselves. There are then games like Gloomhaven where no one has to run the monsters, but everyone still has to do stuff on the monsters turn. In these games, you get an app that does that, it tells you the rules for moving the monsters and what you have to deal with them. Or where to place tiles and what the puzzles are.

Let’s meet the contenders.

Imperial Assault
Image Source: Fantasy Flight

Imperial Assault
Imperial Assault is a Star Wars game where you are playing adjacent to the main characters, since you wouldn’t want to play as Luke and have him die before he can blow up the first Death Star. You, instead, play around the edges of the Star Wars world and the big stories that are happening in the original trilogy. It uses it’s app to help you know when to activate storm troopers and other troops out there, but you still have to go through, when someone activates and see which of the moves that they need to do.

The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth
JiME, as I’ll shorten it to, takes place between the movies, I believe, and it gives you an interesting combination of characters to play with. You can play as Gimli, Legolas, Bilbo, or Aragorn from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, but they also have created two separate characters for the story as well whom you can play as. In my opinion, I get why they picked some main characters, but I’d have preferred if all the characters were side characters who no one has heard of because they aren’t in the books, and you run across characters like Gimli, Legolas, Bilbo, and Aragorn. The app, in this case, runs a ton for you. You build your board, you put down markers, and you have you cards and character information in front of you, but when you’re interacting with a marker or fighting a bad guy, the app helps walk you through what you need to know. With the map, it also will be unique each time.

Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth
Image Source: Fantasy Flight

Mansions of Madness
Welcome to the world of HP Lovecraft. It’s almost impossible to a Fantasy Flight Board Game battle without mentioning something to do with Lovecraft. In this one, you take on a role of an investigator and you try and find your way through a mystery as you’ve been called to a mansion or somewhere else where something mysterious to do with the elder gods is happening. The app helps create a unique setting every time you play through the game or at least a few different ones, for each scenario. It also gives you those tokens to interact with that you place on your unique board and as you delve into the story being told. It also controls the monsters, letting you know what they can do or whom they will go after. It also keeps track of when the end game is coming up for you.

The Match
I should point out that all of these borrow from each other, though, Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth, borrows a lot from both of them. You can kind of tell the order that Fantasy Flight put them out because of that. JiME works well, and I like the campaign aspect to it, which you get in Imperial Assault, but you don’t get in Mansions of Madness. I also like the combat in JiME, it works well, and comes directly from Mansions of Madness. It’s simple and clean and lets you know what to do, whereas with Imperial Assault there’s more that you have to dig through to make the combat work.

I do think what separates them the most is the story. Now, I like all the worlds that they are set in. Lord of the Rings is a great fantasy setting. Star Wars is an iconic Sci-Fi . Lovecraft is synonymous with horror. So Fantasy Flight has basically everything covered that I like. I would say that JiME, thus far, seems to have the weakest story. Now, I don’t think it’s all that week, I guess I should say, JiME feels like you should be playing something more epic than you are because you have Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn, and to a lesser Bilbo, you want to play through the trilogy or The Hobbit, but instead you’re off dealing with bandits. Imperial Assault would have had that feel, but you get to see moments with Vader, you are playing through parts of the movies, but because you’re the E-Team (not even good enough to be the B-Team), it doesn’t matter if you die, and it doesn’t matter if you orbit out from the main Star Wars story for a while. And with Mansions of Madness, you’re playing a single story at a time, and there isn’t a particular story that people really expect when they are getting something from Lovecraft, they just know Cthulhu.

The Winner?
JiME gets the early advantage because it takes mechanics from both and it’s able to counter the moves. However, it ends up throwing some predictable moves when it comes with the characters that it has. It gets bounced, but puts up a good showing. We get down to Imperial Assault which throws some strong nostalgia haymakers but eventually tries a complicated move with it’s bad guys and gets caught.

1…. 2…. 3….

Mansions of Madness

Image Source: Board Game Geek

The champion of the app companion Fantasy Flight games is Mansions of Madness which has done so much creative with it’s game and it isn’t just in Mansions.

Now, I will say, I’d always be glad to sit down and play any of these games. These are three of the top contenders out there to take down Gloomhaven, Gloomhaven is just too good, but I’m going to be getting these to the table coming up here on Malts and Meeples.

Have you played these games? Which one is your favorite?

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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…

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 lot of good games that go up to five players, but I can’t say that they are best at that count, so something like Smallworld, which is good at any player count.

Tsuro
Image Credit: Amazon

5. Tsuro
Tsuro would have actually just made it on a five player list. Five or six players is where I think it works best as with more players the board can end up being a little bit tight and the action is forced immediately, and you run out of tiles immediately. With that five or six player count, you can play keep away, or you can push the conflict, the choice is yours. But Tsuro is a very strong large group game and what I would call an ice breaker game where everyone can understand it and play it easily.

4. Not Alone
I really enjoy this game, though I know it’s not for everyone, or at least my wife. In it, one person is a monster and everyone else is the crew of a crash landed spaceship. They are trying to survive and signal for help to get a rescue ship to show up, while the monster is trying to prevent that. I think with more players it adds in more strategy, at a lower player count, the crew of the space ship don’t have to plan out their moves, but if there are a lot of players doing a few actions, the monster and hone in on where they are going to be, and the action might not be as effective. It also has a fun mechanic, where the crew can discuss what they are going to do as much as they want, but they have to do so that the player playing the monster can here them.

Image Source: Board Game Geek

3. Deception: Murder in Hong Kong
Now, I like this one with more than five as I think having a larger pool of investigators and getting the accomplice and the witness into the game really make it shine. Deception is a very good social deduction game where you have one person who is the forensic scientist who is handing out clues as to what the murder weapon and a clue at the scene of the crime were, but they can’t speak, so they are just giving it out as a report. Everyone else is trying to use the clues to figure out who the murder was, and what the forensic scientist is trying to point them towards. It’s a fun game, and having more players doesn’t make the game take longer.

2. Sushi Go Party!
This one is good at the higher player counts. I would say that I prefer it with five or above simply because you get to see more cards, not just rotate hands of cards around. Though I do think that can be interesting. But with a higher player count you are more often racing to try and find that last card that you need to complete your set, and you’re hoping that the person sitting next to you isn’t going to draft what you need. That tighter economy works very well in the game.

Image Source: Brain Games

1. Ice Cool/Ice Cool 2
Now, you need to have the “expansion” for Ice Cool in order to be able to play it at the higher player counts, otherwise it’s just four, but this game is a blast with even the full eight players. You are having a silly time flicking penguins around, either as the hall monitor trying to catch the truant penguins or as the truants who are just trying to get a fish snack. The giant set-up for the game also gives you a ton of room so that you don’t feel like you’re trapped in by the hall monitor. The game goes fast, it works well with kids and adults, and it’s an active game. This one I’d highly recommend with the full eight players because turns go so fast, and you really get that party atmosphere with the high player count.

What are some of your favorite games with 5+ player counts? I know there are some not on my list that might surprise people, like Seven Wonders, but I prefer Sushi Go! Party to that. I also wanted to put Say Bye to the Villains on the list, but I actually think, while it isn’t bad at higher player counts, it is better with lower player counts as the down time can be a bit long. Still really enjoy the game though.

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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…