Tag: tabletop games

TableTopTakes: Seafall

TableTopTakes: Seafall

So, last Sunday, instead of really watching the Oscars at all, Kristen, and some other friends, and I started playing SeaFall. SeaFall is a legacy game, which means that when I say we started playing it, I mean that we are going to have several […]

Dungeons and Flagons Episode 43: Going from Bad to Worse

Dungeons and Flagons Episode 43: Going from Bad to Worse

After finding out that there were imps invading the Gnome town of Decil, a larger fiend seems to be making an appearance. What will that means for our heroes, will they help defend the town of Decil? Will they run away? If you have questions […]

Table Top Picks: Kristen’s Favorites

Table Top Picks: Kristen’s Favorites

It’s my turn for Table Top Picks today (shout out to @Mundangerous for the delightfully punny name)!

Though I’m not nearly as much of a gaming aficionado as Peder is, I’ve gotten into board games in a big way during the last couple of years, and I’ve come across several favorites. As I’ve mentioned a time or two, I enjoy cooperative games the most, so those will feature prominently on my list, though a couple of my favorites will show that I do feel a little competitive from time to time.

Image Credit: BoardGameGeek
Image Credit: BoardGameGeek

Lord of the Rings: Board Game

This one is at the top of my list for many (obvious) reasons. Lord of the Rings is pretty much my favorite creative work of all time, and playing this game is basically just a great new way to take another journey through Middle Earth. And as a huge fan of the story, I always find myself getting ridiculously invested in the outcome of this game. Will I save Middle Earth, or will I doom it to be subjugated by Sauron?? Sadly, it’s usually the latter — as Peder mentioned, it’s one of those games in which things are going along swimmingly until they’re…not, and suddenly, all that’s standing between you and defeat is one unlucky dice roll. I love this game for its intensity, its high stakes, its collaborative strategizing, and its story immersion element. As soon as I finish a round, I’m ready to reset the game and play again!

pandemic
Image Credit: BoardGameGeek

Pandemic

In reality, this one is pretty much tied with the Lord of the Rings game for me. This is another game that I get hopelessly sucked into, no matter how many times I’ve played. The race against time as you try to save the world from being overrun by contagion will never not be exciting to me. Like LOTR, Pandemic ratchets up the tension quickly, and leads you to believe that you’re doing well just before everything falls apart. The difficulty level is *just* short of making this game nigh impossible to win, which, if it were a competitive game, would turn me off to it pretty quickly. As it is, though, this element forces the players to work together at all times, and while it’s important for all players to bring their best strategy to the table, the outcome doesn’t depend solely on one person. That spirit of collaboration and innovation is what keeps me coming back for more.

Pandemic: Legacy

On that note, that’s why I love Pandemic’s spinoff game, Pandemic: Legacy, as much as I do. This game is basically Pandemic on steroids, with even more tension, more possibilities, and more ways for everything to go wrong. Due to the changing nature of this game, it can be played a limited number of times, as the choices you make during each round of this game affect each subsequent round. Which is something I find both terrifying and exciting.

Image Credit: Board Game Geek
Image Credit: BoardGameGeek

Splendor

As I noted in my post about this game a while back, one of the reasons I love this game is because it’s ~*pretty*~. However, I certainly don’t judge it on aesthetics alone. It’s my favorite competitive game for a reason — for me, it hits that sweet spot of just enough strategy to get my brain working (but not enough to make me feel overwhelmed), and just enough luck involved to keep me on my toes. The jewel-trading theme is unique, and I’m a fan of the Renaissance-y vibe. And as a round of this game is usually fairly short, it’s one that I can play several times through in one sitting — and generally, I want to do so when I play this one, which is a pretty rare occurrence for me!

Hanabi

I’ve written about this game already as well, so I won’t say much about it, but it’s still standing strong as one of my favorite card games. As a cooperative board game, it’s pretty unique, made even more so by the element that allows you to see everyone’s cards but your own. It’s a great example of a game that’s simple and elegant in concept but has a high level of difficulty when played. And like many on my list, it’s highly addicting, and always makes me want to see if we can beat our last high score.

Image Credit: BoardGameGeek
Image Credit: BoardGameGeek

Marrying Mr. Darcy

One thing I love most about this game is that it basically involves nerding out in like, three different ways at once. The premise is more or less what you’d expect from the name — you play as one of six female leads from Pride & Prejudice, and to win, you must make the most advantageous marriage by marrying the suitor who is best…well, suited to you! This is another competitive game that feels challenging without feeling cutthroat (though the zombie expansion pack makes it that way, I suppose??). As a huge P&P fan, I adore the theme of this game, and can’t wait to try out the Emma expansion!

Five Tribes

This one’s a recent addition to my list of favorites, and, like Splendor, has the perfect strategy/luck ratio for me. Also like Splendor, it has a great aesthetic; I love the Arabian Nights-esque theme. And as Peder mentioned in his recent post about this game, it’s about as European-style as they come, in that you’re trying to amass more victory points than all the other players through a variety of means, and in that no one knows how many points they have until the game has ended. I was able to quickly pick up a strategy that works for me with this game, which…may very well be unprecedented in my history as a gamer, actually. And that in and of itself is enough to make me thoroughly enjoy this game!

 

And that’s my list — for now, at least! Let’s hear from you — what are some of your favorite games? Are there any from my or Peder’s lists that you’d love to try?

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Share questions, ideas for articles, or comments with us!

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TableTopics – Tsuro

TableTopics – Tsuro

Sometimes, as a gamer, you want something complex, strategic, and highly competitive — a game that will take you a few hours to play, and several sessions to really master. Sometimes there’s nothing like spending a whole afternoon really digging into a game and living in […]

Dungeons and Flagons Episode 19: Into the Woods

Dungeons and Flagons Episode 19: Into the Woods

Leaving the Lieth Barony, Nim, Finja, and Tate head off through the open country until they reach the Heath Width Woods where going gets a bit tougher. ————————————————————————- Our players are: Ashley – Nimrose the Wood Elf Monk Kristen (@Kefka73) – Finja the Human Paladin […]

Dungeons and Dragons: Book vs. Campaign vs. One-Shot

Dungeons and Dragons: Book vs. Campaign vs. One-Shot

Today, we’re wrapping up my current series of articles on Dungeons & Dragons — let’s talk about the different types of stories you can run.

To gloss over quickly — the easiest way to run a game is to use pre-made stories found in campaign books. Dungeons & Dragons puts these books out fairly regularly; they tell a single story, and players follow along that storyline, generally taking the characters from early levels to higher levels as they go. This works really well if you want to have a lot of the structure of the world and combats already in place.

Image Source: Wizards
Image Source: Wizards

But I know that, for a lot of people, myself included, when you start as a DM, you have ideas for stories already in your head, and you want to tell those stories and have the players shape them with you. When I got started, I didn’t want to do one of the campaign books, and I was willing to take the time to create my own world. I found that there are a couple of different ways you can run this type of game: either by playing a campaign or a one-shot.

A campaign is going to run over a long period of time. Characters will grow stronger, relationships will be defined, and backstories will be dug into while the players progress through an epic arc. Something like our Dungeons & Flagons podcast is a great example of a campaign. I have general ideas/stories for large, earth-shaking events and resolutions, which the players and characters are just now starting to find out about, and it is going to take a long time to get through the story, defeat the biggest bad guys, and be the heroes that these characters (or other ones that they roll up as their original ones die off) are meant to be.

Image Source: http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/
Image Source: http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/

A one-shot, on the other hand, is a self-contained story that can take place in about two to five hours. These games are generally much more directed. The players are told at the beginning what their mission will be, and they get to play through that bit of a story. Usually, players don’t roll up their own characters for a one-shot, as character generation can take a couple of hours if you really delve into it. So a DM will come prepared with several different characters that the players can choose from, and those characters then make up the adventuring party that busts into a dungeon to chase out the goblins who have set up camp there, or free a town that is being harried by a harpy. They don’t level up; though you are telling part of the characters’ stories, it’s really only a snapshot.

Both styles have their advantages. A one-shot is great for introducing the game to people who haven’t played before. They can find out if they like it and if they would want to invest the time to join a full-on campaign. It’s also much easier for the DM; you’ll only need to come up with a couple of combats, and some sort of main challenge for your players to overcome. Those elements, along with a small town or small area of land that is really easy to make up on the fly, are all you need for a one-shot.

On the other hand, the advantages of a campaign are that you can tell a story that has much greater depth, and that allows for much more growth of the world and characters in the game. It really allows you to stretch your storytelling muscle a lot more and come up with creative situations to put the players in. You also have the ability to allow the players to pick what happens in the story more, because they can go anywhere in the world you’ve created, and you can put anything you choose in front of them.

So which is better?

Depends on your group. For a group of new players, I’d recommend a short game of some sort, like a one-shot or a story from a campaign book that will last a couple of sessions. That is what I did with the players who make up Dungeons & Flagons. To start, we played a story about assassins trying to solve a mystery that lasted three or four sessions. It was a good way for the players to get their feet wet by starting at a very low level and getting a feel for the mechanics of the game. Alternatively, you can start with a campaign. However, I think one big thing about jumping straight into a campaign, especially with new players, is that you’ll have help them along more. For example, it’s cool to recommend that they roll a nature check about an owlbear they encounter in order to learn some information about it. Or to recommend a perception check when they go into a room where you know there is a trap. You don’t do it all the time, but plan to help the players along from time to time, and be willing to teach.

What prep do I need to do?

For a one-shot, I’d really recommend just going with a story that is pretty simple. Adventurers saving the town from some monster that is hidden away in a cave, tower, dungeon, etc. is really easy to do. Go with a simple setup to for the action — a quick fight against minions, a challenge of some sort, and the boss fight. That’s all you need for a good one-shot.

For a campaign, one of the best spots to start is to ask the players what type of story they would like to play. If all of your players really want to be a bunch of detectives in a city, make a story that’s driven that way; if they want to be explorers of a new world, build that story. You have plenty of room to put your twist on a story that has the potential to last from half a year to multiple years. Then, spend some time going through my first post on this Dungeons & Dragons series about world-building. The main thing is not to overwhelm yourself; keep it simple and let it build slowly over time. Flesh out towns, terrain, and NPCs as you need to, so that even though you’ll need to do some prep before each session, it’ll stay balanced and sane.

If you have specific topics that you’d like to see discussed regarding Dungeons & Dragons, comment below, or let me know on Twitter and I’ll gladly do more articles on the topics that you suggest.

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Share questions, ideas for articles, or comments with us!

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Dungeons and Dragons: NPCs

Dungeons and Dragons: NPCs

Today, we’re back to where I thought I was going after the world-building article. NPCs, or non-player characters, are the people of note whom your players meet on their journeys. It could be the king of the land, a peddler along the road, or a […]

TableTopics: Concept

TableTopics: Concept

Concept is a game that’s pretty different from ones we’ve talked about before. I would qualify it as a party game — one that isn’t all that competitive and that leaves both room to talk and room to focus on the game. I played this game for the […]

TableTopics: Legendary

TableTopics: Legendary

TableTopics: Legendary

Today, we’re continuing on the topic of board games — Kristen and I host a board game night every second Saturday; our most recent one was this past weekend, and this time, we played Legendary. Legendary is a deck-building game in which you team up with your fellow players to defeat an evil mastermind.

Image credit: BoardGameGeek
Image Credit: BoardGameGeek

As a deck-building game, Legendary is similar to games like Dominion. But unlike Dominion, it’s played either cooperatively or as one player vs. all the rest (in the latter setup, the single player takes on the role of the Mastermind). As players of Legendary, you are higher-ups in S.H.I.E.L.D and are recruiting your superhero team. You are going up against a mastermind and trying to stop them from completing their evil scheme. In our game, Blade, Captain America, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Elektra, and Iron Fist were the heroes we could recruit. We were going up against The Kingpin as the Mastermind of our game, who wanted to take over the Daily Bugle, and for some reason, we wanted to stop him.

Image credit: eBay
Image Credit: eBay

On each turn, the player whose turn it is flips over a villain card and adds that villain to the city. There can be up to five villains in the city before one of them escapes. Next, the player looks at their hand of six cards, which they can use to either recruit other heroes to join their team or play the heroes they already have to fight against a villain who is in the city. Or, if it is a really good turn and they draw well, players can use their cards to fight against the Mastermind. The heroes you buy can combo off of each other to improve how hard you can hit or how much influence you have for recruiting heroes. These are the basics of game play, and you are constantly adding cards to your deck as you go, trying to make it stronger and better so you can build up enough points to punch the Mastermind.

This is a fun game, albeit one that starts off kind of slow. During your first handful of turns, you spend a lot of time building up your deck. Once you’ve done that, the turns start getting longer, but at that point, players can do a whole lot more per turn. In our case, while we did end up defeating the Mastermind, our cards didn’t combo off of each other all that well, so it took a long time to build up enough cards to make something happen. The slow speed of the game, especially early on, is one of its weaknesses. It is so hard to hit the Mastermind that you feel like you might as well have skipped the first five rounds and just added heroes to your deck.

However, you are playing with superheroes, which is a lot of fun. As someone who has read a lot of recent comic books, I know who so many of the heroes in the game are, and in our case, I noticed that we ended up building a team of heroes who were all somehow related to Hell’s Kitchen (Daredevil’s area of New York and the area that Kingpin often has his hands in), which made our session work well thematically. And all of the friends in the group we played with are as nerdy as we are, so we were able to talk about recent movies and shows featuring the heroes from our game, and got to give some of the group a lesson on characters who were new to them, like Iron Fist.

Image credit: eBay
Image Credit: eBay

But even though the game revolves around heroes, the gamemakers missed out on the one thing that could have made the pace of play a non-issue. If they had built in a story element to the game, you wouldn’t even notice that the first few turns are slow. As it is, there is a Mastermind who can do a little bit, but often doesn’t make all that much sense story-wise, and the scheme, while cool, is always the same for a big part of the game. If the Mastermind could change tactics and take different actions, it would feel like you are playing out a comic book story. For example: the group stops the Kingpin at first, but he comes up with a new plan, and they have to stop him again as it builds up to his ultimate scheme. It would be a lot of fun that way, would teach players about some of the bad guys from Marvel, and would make the game more engaging for those who don’t know as much about the characters and how they interact within the world of the comics.

Overall, I really do like this game. It’s built for someone like me, though that means it wouldn’t necessarily be as appealing to a casual player. I love the complexity of the combos and how the heroes interact. However, the combos in this game are more complex than those in Dominion, and while you can help your teammates strategize how best to play their turn, I think that Dominion is more fun overall, and certainly faster to play. But as I said, I really do enjoy this game. I have fun playing it and figuring out how to build the best deck of cards that I can. But there is a definite learning curve and a steep time commitment involved with playing this game. It’s one that’s probably best to play with a group of more serious gamers, or with people who really like games that are built more on logic than on luck.

Overall Grade” B-

Gamer Grade: B+

Casual Grade: D+

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TableTopics: Pandemic

TableTopics: Pandemic

Welcome back, friends! A couple of weeks ago, Peder gave us a great overview of tabletop gaming. Today, I’m going to take us further down that rabbit hole and talk about one of my favorite games of all time: Pandemic! As Peder mentioned in his post, […]