Saturday, November 18, 2017

TableStop Thoughts: New Beginnings

Over the past year I have had time to think. 

I came to the realization that no matter how much I loved it, there is such a thing as too much. 

Life forced me to step back and take a look at my life and how I devoted my time to the hobby. I began to ask myself those questions while re-evaluating alot of things in my life. I don't need to bore you with all my personal stuff beyond the hobby but I need to address why I created this blog a couple of years ago. Also how I feel about continuing. 

Find the balance and share.


HOW IT BEGAN

For as long as I can remember, games in one way or another have been a part of my life. My younger years certainly saw memories of the tabletop kind. Growing up I recall playing games with my family like Subbuteo, Monopoly, Survive! and Scotland Yard - the latter of which I still have my copy from the late 80s. 

After that I spent a great deal of time into video games, becoming more anti-social even from my own family. It wasn't until the advent of online gaming that I began to be reminded of those moments that you felt playing across the table from one another. 

After I met my wife and had a few kids, as they grew up we tried to bring in a board game night feel. Playing classics like Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit together. It was Xbox live that helped me fall toward hobby board gaming, Catan and Carcassonne were early arcade games that I enjoyed playing with a few friends online. I found out later they were real, purchasable games that I could share with my family. That coupled with the appearance on YouTube of Wil Wheaton's TableTop we soon found ourselves rushing full steam down the path.

We ended up creating our own game group to find fellow gamers beyond our family. The rest is West Valley Tabletop history. And it hasn't been without it's up and downs.


WHY DO WE GAME?

I have a couple of reasons here, so bear with me.

At the core we are social creatures, I believe we were created with a inherent want to share our lives with other people. I know people, myself included, who struggle in social situations and we find talking or interacting with others hard at times. 

Why is that? We don't generally fear others for no given reason. It is often more because how we perceive ourselves. You see yourself and think 'Who would want to hang out with me?' or 'I look like I'm an idiot.'. When these things couldn't be further from the truth. We become too worried about what other's think of us that we begin to think those same thoughts about ourselves.

If you are willing to put in that time and bridge the gap you will find that you are wrong and those preconceived perceptions are figments of you own imagination. There is acceptance that comes with finding like minded individuals to play with. Fellow humans that have had the same struggles as yourself. Board gaming certainly allows a social interaction while still being able to hide behind decisions and cards while playing. 

Secondly, accomplishment. Many games that we play offer decisions, puzzles and options that give you a feeling of achieving something. In a world where we often feel like we are ice-skating uphill. Where choices seem to never be the right ones and attempts to improve your life run into walls. In the world of games you are presented with forthright choices that lead toward an ending goal.

A great game designer, Reiner Knizia, once said 'When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning'. In the real world the goal is not always clear. In gaming it is right there in the rules; you are given an aim. More often than not, you will fail or score below that goal. Even though the whole time you had your eye's fixed on the prize; fully involved and tasked with meaning.

We want our lives to have meaning and know our choices affect the world. In a game we have tangible opportunity to see that in action. Now look at that quote again with different wording:

'When living life, the goal is to live, but it is the goal that is important, not the living.' - It's not what you accomplish in life, it is that you tried to do your best.


MY NEW PERSPECTIVE

I turned 40 this year and only now do I feel I am at a point where I'm trying to figure out what the rules for my life are. What is my purpose? What can I do to serve and help others? I think as I moved through life I was always looking at the ground, head down, not sure where I was going, but just moving. I had trouble looking up and forward. I also found it hard to look back. 

I spent a good part of this year looking back.

How the life I thought I was living was different than what was actually going on around me. I brushed over the finer details and didn't think too much about the end goal. Now this is opposite to how I would game; I had to focus on the end goal and on that WIN. I built a gaming group with a goal in mind, but lost myself to the cardboard. My heart had been in the right place, but my mind became consumed with that next buzz. That sweet sweet smell of freshly opened shrink-wrapped game box.

Not to discount everything else that was going on in my life, but I think the hobby became a tool to gloss over the real-life issues and avoid addressing them. 

I re-read my previous blog (from a year ago) and how I called board games an obsession, then brushed it off because I was enjoying it. Even then, I sensed something was off but was unwilling to pull back the curtain. 

I'm back in the game now, but this time primarily focused on sharing this hobby with the one person on this earth who is the most important to me.

Secondly with my family. 

Then with my friends old and new, as well as friendships I make along the way. 

Then with whomever will spend the time to read my thoughts outside that circle.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Bad blogger, sad blogger

Remember when I said I would spend more time talking about the hobby I love? No? Well neither do I apparently.

Several months back now I made a promise to myself to put my head down and keep with it. Get in a flow, find the time to share my enjoyment with others outside of my game groups.

So much has seemingly passed since I last sat down and started typing away.

Another blazing hot Phoenix summer has come and gone.
My Wednesday night regulars are still hitting the tabletop. Every week.
A trip to Tucson and the fun of RinCon yet again, this time shared with my darling wife.
Seeing a friend's gaming group, G3, blossom and attract many new people to the hobby.
An epic 24 hours for charity with Extra Life.
And so many games. Now standing at a whooping 374 unique games played since I started tracking.

I do consider myself lucky that I have found friends who are willing to share their time and enjoyment of games. Without them I would have never got to play so much in so little time.

I do hope that I bring to their experiences what they bring to my life.

I do look forward to our many game nights. An escape from reality. Pushing cardboard. Rolling dice. Flipping tables. Together.

I do consider sometimes if this is too much, as there is a thin line between loving something and an obsession. But you have to do something if you enjoy it. Right?

I'm glad I have a found a love I can share with my greatest love. And if I can drag them to the table, my kids too.

What to play next?





Wednesday, June 1, 2016

THE ROUTE - Blades of Time

Gaming wise it has been a rather exciting time since I last took a look at what I've played. It truly is a golden age in gaming, it seems I rarely sit down to play something new and find myself being disappointed by the experience. In part this could be down to the great group of people I get to play with each week, a sour playthrough can always be improved by the interactions with them. Of course this could easily swing the other way when a player can bring a great game down, but fortunately I haven't had that feeling in a while.





STEAM TIME

First mention this week goes out to prolific designer Rudiger Dorn, who formed a double bill of plays for me. Firstly, haven't you always wanted to pilot a time travelling zeppelin? No, well your no fun then. On the other hand is that thought excites you as well as the prospect of playing a unique worker placement game then I suggest checking out Steam Time. This colorful game has players competiting as turn of the century (19th) time-travellers using newly discovered crystals to power their flying machines and exploring different time periods.

In turn players take an airship, place it in a time period and take an action. What is unique is that after this they must choose a spot later in the time period than any previous placed ships of theirs. This makes a clever puzzle of choices each round as you have to figure on a certain path through time to get what you need.



KARUBA

On a more gateway level comes recent Spiel des Jahres nomination Karuba. This is a tile-laying game with players leading expeditions into the jungles on the island Karuba, racing their explorers through the paths they create to get to the hidden treasures first. Everyone starts the game with the same empty board and locations of explorers and temples. One player will draw numbered tiles which essentially everyone will use for their own supplies, they have the choice to place it on their board creating the paths or discarding the tile to move an explorers along those pathways, I highly recommend this one to anyone with younger family members they are trying to get into the hobby,



WORLD'S FAIR 1893

Following on from Gold West last time comes another game with a historical tilt for newer designer J Alex Kevern, this time he takes us to the World's Fair 1893. Players compete through area control to get their exhibits approved, scoring them as sets at the end of the game. The mechanics are simple and abstract as you take turns placing a supporter (cubes) in an area and then picking up cards. Like his take on the gold rush previously the game itself has an elegance that makes it easy to teach to everyone. The theme wins through the usage of the cards, as every exhibit and ticket card in the game are unique with great flavor text that show you what the world expected in 1893.

THE TABLESTOP CHOICE DESTINATION



MILLENNIUM BLADES

Over the past couple of weeks I've managed to get in a few plays of Millennium Blades. Wow. Billed as a CCG simulator, it does well in boiling down all the key components of being into a game like Magic: The Gathering. It has you treading through the throes of acquisition disorder as you purchase pack after pack of cards just to find that ONE. Trading cards with your buddies still in the hopes that have that elusive card you are searching for. You get to build up your collection to turn in that perfect set to garner more points, And finally it drags through the tactical card play of a full blown tournament against your friends.

This game is so meta and within itself it has it's own meta as you are hoping to pull off the perfect combos with your tournament decks. It will break you and you will love it more for that. Hidden behind the over the top card art and so many gaming in-jokes is a game of great depth and huge amounts of replayability.

Other stops...
Multiple plays of 51st State and finally learning to play it correctly... Finding myself still winless in Terra Mystica... Exploring a new world through Alien Frontiers... Hoping off the Colt Express to ride a stagecoach... Once again exploiting Africa in Mombasa...




Saturday, May 21, 2016

TIMETABLE: A Feast for Odin

A FEAST FOR ODIN

RELEASING: AUGUST 2016 (GenCon) - Possibly copies at Origins in June

Not one to miss out on a theme while it is hot, Uwe Rosenberg is well on his way to putting in his entry in the viking world. Not too many details about this with the release date so close but we can reach our own conclusions.

With a box that is coming in slightly larger than Caverna, and more than likely a little heavier, this looks like it'll feature all the Rosenberg tropes. Worker placement, resource management, building up a player board and cards, lots of cards.

Using a central board players will have to hunt, gathering materials to refine, build production buildings and raid settlements. In turn this will allow them to place earnings on their own boards in the best possible pattern to help produce and later the much beloved VP (Victory Points).

Judging from the released photos of what is going to come in the box the game will come with a built in storage solution. Something most welcome after the collections of bits and baggies that are prevalent in games such as Agricola.

The final shocker for this one is that it was announced that the game would see it's release stateside first. Being published by Zman games, with tentative availability hitting Origins but more likely GenCon in August.

My anticipation is high on this one. Bring on the sheeples.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

THE ROUTE: From Defused to Confused

FUSE

You are on a mission in deep space and intruders have boarded your ship, setting up twenty or more bombs. Now the elite bomb defusal unit has been called in to stop the threat in the next ten minutes or it is curtains for us all. How do we defuse the bombs? By rolling lots of dice. Wait what?

So the theme is thinner than the air surrounding our spaceship but hear me out. Each bomb is represented by a card, on the card is spots to place dice in different combinations. One player rolls dice equal to the number of players, each player then have to take one and only one die, placing it on one of the bomb cards in front of them. Players co-operatively decide who needs the certain dice the most. Any dice that are left over are re-rolled which can cause players to remove already locked in dice from their array in front of them.


With an ever ticking clock counting down you often don't have time to fully discuss or stop someone from taking a die. As the deck thins and the seconds waste away the tension rises.


This is the perfect dice chucker if you are looking for that game to fill that short time between games this should certainly be on your wishlist.















51st STATE: The Master Set

A pleasant surprise on my doorstep during the past week or two was the arrival of my pre-ordered copy of 51st State: The Master Set. After the success of Imperial Settlers, which had reimplemented the original 51st State game system designer Ignacy Trzewiczek went back to the original, taking what he had learnt in the process. 

The original version is much loved but has a reputation for being symbology heavy and a hard teach to a new player. This version streamlines alot of that. Or so I've heard, having never played the original I just have the comparison to Imperial Settlers to make, which is very favorable.


Players are competing factions, building up their states in a post-apocalyptic world. It's a kill or be killed world, where razing an opponent's buildings right after they built it often happens. Settler's viciousness was layered beneath a cutesy art style, where as 51st is in your face about how you should proceed. The replacing of a round limit with a race to a score of 25 is most welcome, making the play length more bearable at the higher player counts.


Just got in a couple of plays so far and looking forward to much more.















GOLD WEST

There's gold in them there hills!! And silver. And copper. We're prospectors competing to build up our mining empire, with a mix of resource management and area control. Players will be putting out camps or settlements to maximize the resources of the land. All the resources you gather get placed in your "supply track" which uses a clever mancala mechanic to manage what you have. The further back you place the more points you score, but the more refined a product you will have in the end.

This game not only harkens back to the gold rush time period, it also pulls back to a simpler time in gaming. It reminds me of those early euro-games like Puerto Rico and it's ilk, where light mechanics give a game a hidden depth. An elegant time.


Only the single play and I want to pick up my own copy. One of the best of 2015 for sure.















STAR WARS: REBELLION

From light euro to the epitome of American gaming. Dripping with theme and over flowing with miniatures & dice comes the huge Star Destroyer like box of Rebellion. Fantasy Flight have hit it out the park again with this game, based off a little know video game.

It can only be described as the Original Trilogy in board game form. Two or four players compete as the Empire against the Rebels, the dark side searching every corner of the galaxy for that hidden base. This game creates a new story every time you play. I can see many unique memories being formed with each play and post-game discussions on the decisions each side took while playing.



THE TABLESTOP CHOICE DESTINATION













SHERLOCK HOLMES: CONSULTING DETECTIVE

Sherlock Holmes is a smartass. That is my summation after playing this sublime game. Originally released back in the 80s, the version the wife and I have been playing is the latest printing for Ystari. This is an incredible solid deduction game. You get a case, you read through an opening chapter, detailing what game will be afoot. Then you have to take the information you were just given, names and the like, grab the London Directory and chase down leads.

Each case gets it's own book with numbered chapter headings throughout, each heading refers to an individual that you look up using the included directory. It's an adult choose you own adventure. You pick a lead, read what happens when you get to the place where they are, digest the info, move onto the next. It is all very clever and has a way of making you feel smart as the pieces of the puzzle come together.


At the end of a case you compare yourself to the master, Mr Holmes, and he is a cocky one. While you were chasing your tail all over London, he had just strolled down the road and solved it in a minute. Yes his way was easier, but your way brings Victorian London to life. Has you scanning the daily paper for that small piece of info you think you missed. Has you discussing the details of the case before you put in your final answers. Makes you think.




Wednesday, May 11, 2016

TIMETABLE: Lengendary Encounters Alien Expansion

LEGENDARY ENCOUNTERS: ALIEN DECK BUILDING GAME EXPANSION

RELEASING: JULY 6th, 2016

Upper Deck haven't released any info on this yet themselves. This expansion was mentioned early 2015 at Origins and then not much else. It is through Cool Stuff Inc that we get details as a pre-order page was recently posted.

From the small blurb on the page we can get excited for 400 new cards with all new artwork.

Within this decent sized expansion we will find four new character decks, one for each movie: Kane (Alien), Lt Gorman (Aliens), Superintendent Andrews (Alien 3) and Cpt Elgyn (Alien: Resurrection).

Even more exciting is the promise of a brand new player mat that will allow the players to become the ALIEN Queen. Surely this will feature one versus all type rules but that remains to been seen when more details surface.

The original release is one of the most thematic games I have ever played and being that it is just made up of cards that is high praise. You can play through each movie in the series with every card turn having the tension which is present on the big screen. I can't wait to see how this expansion can deepen that experience.

I give this an aniticipation rating of five "You always were an asshole Gorman"s out of five ;)

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Getting Back On Topic

Firstly, I must admonish myself for taking such a long break from blogging, life puts many stresses on you and an outlet is needed sometimes. For myself and others gaming is an escape, a welcome respite from all the woes and thoughts of the day, but as is evidenced with our end of game night chatter I like to talk about it as well. So therefore, I resolve to take more time to write about the hobby that I love. The one that my every discussion about my darling wife has to put up with. The constant banter about games she has never heard of, the distraction that keeps my mind off other things.

With my gaming group I have the opportunity to experience and play a great variety of games. I love this chance and would like to get back in the habit of sharing my love here. 

This coming Monday marks a year of my tracking all my plays on the BGstats app. I just hit 300 unique games played in the past year. Yes, 300 different titles have graced a table before me in the space of 12 months. Not sure if I should be ashamed or proud, of course I prefer the latter.

Proud of the fun I can find in the myriad of systems created through plastic, cardboard and cards.

Proud of the friendships I have grow sitting around our wooden alter that meals were once shared on.

Proud to keep on playing!