Humans of the Tabletop: June 5, 2017

One of the best things about playing board games is the time spent hanging out with your fellow human beings, bonding over your shared experience at the tabletop. Inspired by Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York, I present Humans of the Tabletop, an ongoing series about the people I’ve played games with.


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“The first game I played was Legendary. My friend said it was a deck builder. I didn’t know what that meant and seeing all of those cards was frightening, but after one game I thought it was pretty cool. Before I knew it, I’d bought the game and five of the expansions.”

Every Night Is Game Night: Backgammon

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Technically, my Every Night Is Game Night: My Daily Play & Blog Challenge is over, but I missed a few days so I’m writing about other games I played during May. This is post no. 29, so I’ll write two more and consider my quest completed. What are you playing these days? Tweet me and let me know!


I didn’t learn to play backgammon until about 10 years ago, back when game night meant poker games that lasted all day and/or all night. I learned the basics online and then a few of my poker buddies and I would play games between poker hands.

Backgammon’s history has always fascinated me. The earliest known set was found in Iran and dated 3000 B.C. It’s mind-blowing to think about a game that’s been around 5,000 years! One of my relatives through marriage is from Turkey, where they call the game Tavla, and I try to bring my backgammon set whenever I know we’ll see each other. He’s a fantastic player and sees all of his moves quickly. Thankfully, he’s patient with me while I figure out my moves.

Backgammon is a racing game at its heart, with dice for movement and a little take-that as well. It’s an abstract game with no theme, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying it. The goal of the game is to get all of your pieces off the board. On your turn you’ll roll the dice and move a piece (or pieces) according to the pips on the dice. For example, if I rolled a 3 and 2, I could move one piece 3 spaces and another 2 spaces, or one piece a total of 5 spaces.

If you land on one of your own pieces, that’s fine, but if you land on an opponent’s piece, then they’re sent off the board to the middle slot. They can’t move any other piece until they’ve gotten that piece back onto the board. Think of it like jail: the game continues without you until you roll the number that will get you out.

Once all of your pieces are in the final quadrant of the board, then you can begin to bear off, or roll the dice to take your pieces off the board. First player to get all of their pieces off wins.

There’s a lot of tactical strategy involved since the dice determine your movement. Sometimes the dice seem to be against you, but other times you’ll roll that perfect number (usually doubles) that give you the advantage.

Even for a game that’s thousands of years old, I’ll never turn down an opportunity to play it. Once you get the hang of the rules and figure out some basic opening moves, games go by quickly. As long as both players know the game, it’ll only take about 10-15 minutes to play and people usually play a set of games for a match, like best of 5 or 7.

Every Night Is Game Night: Clank! Sunken Treasures

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Technically, my Every Night Is Game Night: My Daily Play & Blog Challenge is over, but I missed a few days so I’m writing about other games I played during May. This is post no. 28, so I’ll write three more and consider my quest completed. What are you playing these days? Tweet me and let me know!


My buddy Daryl loves deck builders and when he bought Clank! I was curious to see what all the fuss was about. After two games, I knew it would be a fine addition to any game library.

While the theme to Clank! is a well-worn one (adventurers going into a dungeon to grab treasures while avoiding a dragon), the deck-building mechanism used for combat, movement, and more is a fresh take on the genre. You know the drill: each player draws five cards from their deck and uses the money to buy additional cards from a general supply. There are also combat symbols so you can fight monsters and movement symbols that allow you to explore the dungeon.

The fun happens when it’s time to see who’s been burned by the dragon. Whenever a “clank” happens, you add your colored cubes into a bag. When a card with a dragon icon is revealed in the general supply, then it’s time to reach into the bag and randomly pull out cubes. Each cube of your color that’s pulled means you take one point of damage.

Finally, I loved how the push-your-luck mechanism was used in Clank! Once you’ve grabbed your treasure, you may race back up to the surface for bonus points and safe haven from the dragon. It’s a blast watching your opponents scramble through the dungeon as the dragon’s attacks become more frequent and more damaging. Evil laughs abound during this part of the end game. Muahahahaha.

At my Thursday night gaming group I played the Clank! expansion, Sunken Treasures. While I enjoyed it, there wasn’t much new to the base game. There’s an additional push-your-luck element with the scuba gear and diving into the water for more treasure; you can still go underwater without the gear, but you’ll have to come up for air (go to any non-water space). A nice touch, as were the new cards, but nothing totally game-changing about it.

Sunken Treasures isn’t a must-have expansion that improves the game significantly or adds new layers of depth (like Tuscany did for Viticulture), but Clank! fans should enjoy it. I did.

 

 

Every Night Is Game Night: Alhambra

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Technically, my Every Night Is Game Night: My Daily Play & Blog Challenge is over, but since I missed a few days last month I’m writing about other games I played during May. By my count this is post no. 27, so I’ll write four more and consider my quest completed. And don’t forget to tweet me with what you’re playing these days!


Alhambra is a classic game, one that took the Carcassonne model of tile-laying and incorporated set collection. I played it last night for the first time with my regular gaming group and immediately saw the game’s appeal. Player turns are easy, with one action allowed: draw a money card or buy a tile. I liked that you’d receive a bonus action if you paid the exact amount for a tile. The spatial element of matching up your tiles is an interesting twist that moves the game beyond simple set collection, too.

We played with a few expansions that seemed to add options without weighing down the game too much in terms of additional length or deeper strategy. The base game seemed just fine as a gateway game and I’ll probably buy it during Queen Games’ next fire sale on Amazon.

Every Night Is Game Night: Lords of Waterdeep

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I’m playing a board game every day this month and blogging about it (I did a similar challenge last year)Feel free to join me during my Every Night Is Game Night: My Daily Play & Blog Challenge. And tweet me with what you’re playing these days!


My final game played this month was Lords of Waterdeep, the worker-placement game based on the Dungeons & Dragons city Waterdeep in the Forgotten Realms campaign. While the game itself has no dungeons nor dragons, its theme of intrigue and deception is fantastic.

Players are the Lords of Waterdeep trying to gain control of the city by sending out adventurers on quests to earn victory points and resources to buy buildings. My favorite part (aside from the worker placement mechanism, which I love) is the Intrigue cards that can be used to negotiate with other players and eventually double-cross them.

Tonight’s game with my regular group had plenty of trickery, as everybody took turns messing with each other. We played with the Scoundrels of Skullport, which added the negative-point Corruption tokens, and we also had two promo cards in the deck. Near the end of the game I was able to play an Intrigue card that forced the current leader to complete a mandatory quest before completing a scoring quest. I ended up winning by two points so I’d like to think that my well-timed card helped me to the victory, but I’m not sure if it crippled him as much as I’d hoped.

I’m glad my month ended with Lords of Waterdeep. It’s a fantastic game and it’s quickly become one of my favorites. I hope one day I’ll have a blinged-out version like my buddy Oscar, who not only has the Broken Token organizer, but also the super-cool worker meeples and corruption skulls.

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Every Night Is Game Night: Tiny Epic Galaxies 2

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I’m playing a board game every day this month and blogging about it (I did a similar challenge last year)Feel free to join me during my Every Night Is Game Night: My Daily Play & Blog Challenge. And tweet me with what you’re playing these days!


I’ve already written about Tiny Epic Galaxies this month, but today was a special day: it was the last Tabletop Tuesday game club I hosted at a local high school.

I’d never done anything like this before and I’m glad that I did; it’s easy sharing my hobby with my non-gaming friends and family, but to do this with high school students was a welcome challenge. In fact, it wasn’t a challenge at all.

From our first meeting to our last, each hour that I spent teaching, facilitating, and playing games with the group was a good time. There were a few teenager-attitude moments, but they were minor bumps on an otherwise smooth-sailing school year.

We met a total of 28 times since October and coincidentally played exactly 28 different games this year. After showing them new games for the first five or six meetings, the students began requesting games they’d played before. I happily obliged while making sure I brought something new every week just in case they were curious.

Two of the regulars were into Magic: The Gathering and they loved Dominion and Ascension. One week we traded places and they taught me the basics of Magic and we played a game.

We had a total of eight regulars, with four semi-regulars. They were all great young people and I’ll miss playing games with them every Tuesday afternoon. I told each of them that I hope they continue to find games that interest and challenge them.

Today the group played games they all enjoyed from previous meetings: Lotus, Indigo, and Tiny Epic Galaxies. I played in a four-player game of TEG and held the lead late in the game before one of the students came roaring back with a final colonized planet that also completed his secret mission, beating the rest of us by four points.

It was a great way to end our year of gaming. This student was our only senior, so if I’m fortunate enough to do this again, he won’t be back next year.

I wished him good luck with his future, which I learned was going to involve a stint in the military.

“Thanks,” he said, shaking my hand. “You know, I never knew that board games could be so much fun.”

It was the perfect thing to say to end our final Tabletop Tuesday.

Games We Played:

  • Ascension
  • Carcassonne
  • Dominion
  • For Sale
  • Get Bit!
  • Hocus
  • Imhotep
  • Indigo
  • Karuba
  • King of Tokyo
  • Lanterns: The Harvest Festival
  • Love Letter
  • Magic: The Gathering
  • Nexus Ops
  • Pandemic
  • Paris Connection
  • Qwirkle
  • Qwixx Deluxe
  • Red 7
  • Rolling America
  • Splendor
  • Takenoko
  • Settlers of Catan
  • Smash Up
  • Sushi Go!
  • Patchwork
  • Tiny Epic Galaxies
  • Wits & Wagers: Party Edition

Humans of the Tabletop: Gamex 2017

One of the best things about playing board games is the time spent hanging out with your fellow human beings, bonding over your shared experience at the tabletop. Inspired by Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York, I present Humans of the Tabletop, an ongoing series about some of the people I’ve played games with.

This initial series is from Gamex 2017, the second of three conventions hosted by Strategicon every year in Los Angeles. My heartfelt thanks to these first participants, all of whom I’m fortunate to call my friends.


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“I’ve been playing the COIN (COunter INsurgencies) games series from GMT. The last one I played was A Distant Plain, based on the Afghanistan War. They’re long games and they’re fun, plotting out how to build up your troops and how to attack people. I think I’m one of the few Filipino gamers in Phoenix, so it’s always exciting to meet someone that understands your cultural heritage, your big family, your similar background. I play a lot of war games so I’m usually the only woman in the room. I feel like L.A. is a much more diverse crowd. It’s cool to see women gamers and gamers of color all around here.”


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“At my first Strategicon I volunteered during the first day. After I finished, I walked around to see what was being offered in each room. The next thing I know, I’m playing one game after another. It felt like Vegas, where there’s no windows and you can’t tell what time it is. Then I experienced my first game of Werewolf at a convention. Man, I did not know what I was getting into. There were about 30 people and there were 3-4 games going on at one time. Ten in the morning rolled around and I ran into some buddies. I joined them and played more games until about 10 at night. The last game I played I was falling asleep at the table, but I finished it.”


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“Outside of gaming, I train for half marathons. I do the Avengers Infinity Gauntlet Challenge, where you run a 10K on Saturday and a half marathon on Sunday. That’s 19.3 miles in two days and I’ve been doing it because I saw that shiny Infinity Gauntlet medal. Each medal has a different gemstone from the Marvel Universe. So I’m stuck running this half marathon for six years straight and after that I’m done. I’m going to lift weights the rest of my life.”

Every Night Is Game Night: Sagrada

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I’m playing a board game every day this month and blogging about it (I did a similar challenge last year)Feel free to join me during my Every Night Is Game Night: My Daily Play & Blog Challenge. And tweet me with what you’re playing these days!


I had a busy weekend that included a graduation party, Star Wars Reads Day, and quality time with our daughter before she begins her final three weeks of college (!), which meant that my time at Gamex was limited.

Thankfully, for the few hours I was there I was able to buy, sell, and play a few games. It was great seeing two of my regular gaming buddies, Oscar and PK, as well as my friend Meeple Lady. We’d originally planned on playing Agricola (still on my Shelf of Shame), but I was feeling the effects of a long day and asked to play Sagrada instead.

There’s been a lot of hype about Sagrada and after my first play I’d say it’s well-deserved. A simple yet thinky puzzle game of dice allocation, there’s a lot to like here, from the nice-looking components to the elegant play. It’s a game that will satisfy both gamers and non-gamers.

Players are trying to build their stained glass windows through the use of colored dice. Dice are randomly pulled out of a bag and rolled, then each player takes one for their window.

(Before I continue, a word to my fellow colorblind gamers: although I did okay with Sagrada, you should try it out before buying; colors are used throughout the game and there are no unique icons for each color to make things easier. I had trouble differentiating between blue and purple. From what I read, Floodgate Games did try to do something about this, but the budget couldn’t accommodate those with colorblindness. It’s a real shame that the game’s accessibility couldn’t be improved. Perhaps in a later printing? One can only hope.)

Back to the game: there are rules of adjacency for each die, so players can’t just put them wherever they want. Additionally, there are secret goals for each player; for example, mine was the total number of pips on the yellow dice on my window so I was trying to snag those yellow dice every chance I could. There are also public goals that I basically forgot about for the first half of the game. These included pairs of certain dice and same-colored dice diagonally.

Finally, there are special game-breaker community cards that a player can pay for to help them complete their window. After all of the dice are placed, the next round begins. A game consists of 10 rounds and at the end each player counts up their points and subtracts one point for every empty spot.

I really enjoyed this game, in spite of the colorblind issues. I love chucking dice and trying to figure out puzzles, so this was a natural fit. It reminded me of The Cubist, a similar dice-chucking puzzle game, which I liked, but Sagrada felt like it had a bit more meat on its bones.

Every Night Is Game Night: Tuscany Essential Edition

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I’m playing a board game every day this month and blogging about it (I did a similar challenge last year)Feel free to join me during my Every Night Is Game Night: My Daily Play & Blog Challenge. And tweet me with what you’re playing these days!


Thursday I was burned out, so no game or blog about it. Yesterday I got to play Tuscany Essential Edition, the expansion to Viticulture, but was too tired to blog about it last night.

Who said this play a game and blog about it every day for a month would be easy?

Anyways, I played Tuscany with my buddy Daryl and afterwards we agreed that our brains hurt. And we also agreed that that was a good thing.

Earlier this year I was totally hooked by Viticulture: it’s a smooth-playing worker placement game with a fantastic theme. Players try to build their vineyards into wine-making machines. In Tuscany, it’s more of the same thing, but with more options and things to consider, from new structures to an interesting area-control map (although in the two-player game, no victory points are awarded here). I liked the new special workers, which can vary from game to game and offer new abilities.

While I wouldn’t recommend this expansion for new gamers, anyone who liked the original Viticulture or worker placement games in general should enjoy Tuscany. For those new to games or the worker placement genre, I highly recommend Stone Age.

Every Night Is Game Night: Formula D

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I’m playing a board game every day this month and blogging about it (I did a similar challenge last year)Feel free to join me during my Every Night Is Game Night: My Daily Play & Blog Challenge. And tweet me with what you’re playing these days!


Tonight I was part of a six-player game of Formula D, a dice-chucking fest wrapped up in a racing theme. The familiarity of cars racing makes the game’s rules easy to grasp, especially for non-gamers.

Players are trying to race around the track and finish first. Each player gets a car and a board that keeps track of their gear shifting as well as any damage done to their car (the advanced game adds more, from more detailed damage trackers and special abilities), but both times I’ve played Formula D, the basic version was just fine.

One other rules tweak that I prefer: going around the racetrack once. I’ve only played for one lap and it seems like the three-lap rule would definitely feel like Formula D was overstaying its welcome.

Each turn, players roll a die corresponding to their current gear. First gear gets a d4, second gear a d6, etc. The bigger dice allow you to move more spaces, but the challenge is figuring out when to downshift before you hit one of the turns. This is what I like about Formula D: players are required to stop in the turns throughout the board, sometimes more than one time. If you don’t slow down, then your car is taking damage.

My gaming group had a great time playing tonight, thanks to my buddy Oscar, who brought in the game. We each had our lucky and unlucky dice rolls, and there were plenty of groans and shouts of joy. It’s a terrific party game and hopefully one day I’ll try the advanced rules that add layers of strategy.