Rhino Hero

Rhino Hero

Rhino Hero

We had a packed house at our weekly gaming group, with several tables of us regulars alongside some new faces. As always, there was a wide variety of games on the tabletops including Specter Ops, Descent: Journeys in the Dark, Sushi Go Party, FUSE, Kingsburg, Othello, and several others.

My buddy Oscar brought Rhino Hero, which is one that has been on my gaming bucket list for quite some time. It’s a gamer’s version of building a house of cards.

Each player starts with five cards and plays one of them. First, they add the wall cards on the spaces indicated on the roof (or if they’re first, on the base) card. Next, they lay down a new roof card, which will indicate an action such as play another roof card, make the previous player go again, place the rhino figure on the card, and more. First player to play all of their cards wins or whoever has the fewest cards when the building comes crashing down is victorious.

It was nerve-wracking trying to place the cards on top of each other and the Rhino Hero meeple seemed like it would bring down the structure every time we moved it. I think we made it to seven stories before our building bit the dust.

I’m sure this will be a hit at my family game nights, so I’ve added it to my Wish List. All hail Rhino Hero!

100 Games

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Last week I completed my 10×10 Challenge for the year, with six months to spare. Over at boardgamegeek.com, people have been doing these challenges for years, but this was the first time I’ve tried it.

I chose to do the Normal Challenge where you pick 10 games that you’ll play 10 times each during 2016. You can swap out games if necessary to accomplish your goal, which I did several times. In the Hardcore Challenge, you’re bound to your original list and can’t change games.

After my wife bought me Dead of Winter for Christmas, I solo-played it a bunch of times at the beginning of the year, then took on the 10×10 Normal Challenge. According to the original post:

As a counterpoint to the Cult of the New, this challenge encourages people to play each game several times to explore and experience them in depth. There is no rush to find the optimum strategy on your first play, or read all of the cards beforehand. Instead, each play reveals something more and something different, you get to try various strategies, and everyone’s strategies evolve with their understanding and learning of the game. If you are tired of constantly learning new rules when running after the latest hotness, never really learning various strategies to any game, and needing to relearn the rules of old games because it’s been too long since they were played, this is the challenge for you.

At my weekly gaming groups there is always something new (or new-to-me) to play. I love trying out all of the different games and figuring out which ones would go over well with my wife and family. However, not many games get played multiple times except for fillers like No Thanks! or For Sale.

So, my list was completed thanks to all of the gaming I did with my wife and family. I’ll never tire of our game nights, especially the good-natured trash-talk that my wife and I dole out to each other. Nothing like gloating over our imaginary championship belt for whatever game we’ve most recently won.

After completing my goal I learned that I’d played 106 different games so far this year. I’m happy to say that I’ve played heavy fare like Mage Knight along with fillers like Zany Penguins. Besides the bonding time with my family, the best part about my board gaming experience this year has been making new friends at the tabletop. This alone has made the challenge worthwhile.

And I’ve got six more months to go.

Day 289: French Friday

Carcassonne.

Carcassonne.

There wasn’t anything particularly French about today, but my wife and I played Carcassonne so that gave me a chance to use the alliterative post title. After an early dinner we watched Book of Life (good animated movie), went out for ice cream, and came home to play the game.

Carcassonne is a city in the south of France that I’d love to visit one day, if only to see the actual landscape that inspired this modern classic board game. In my mind it’s a mellow place since that’s the feeling I get whenever I play. Draw a tile, play the tile, place a meeple if you want, and score points if possible. Simple, relaxing, and I have no idea why I let it sit in storage for years before actually playing it.

Day 267: One-Day Genius

fantasy football

I was patting myself on the back yesterday after nabbing free agent running back Matt Jones from my league’s waiver wire. We’re an auction league, so all free agents are up for bid on Tuesday and the results are announced Wednesday.

It’s a much better system than the standard waiver wire priority that most leagues run. Several years ago, my league switched to the auction format for our draft and our free agent acquisitions. I couldn’t be happier since it eliminates a lot of the luck during these two parts of the game.

Standard snake drafts have you at the mercy of a random draw for draft position and the first two rounds are usually predictable. So if you were stuck at the bottom of your draft order year after year, you weren’t going to get an elite running back unless one of your late-round sleepers panned out.

Good luck with that.

Auction drafts give every owner a chance at their favorite players. There are no excuses for not getting a top player. If you want him, pay the highest amount. Simple and effective.

Likewise, the old waiver wire priority system never worked out well. You were at the mercy of the running list of teams; either you were next up to sign a free agent or you weren’t.

Acquiring free agents via auction, though, requires more skill. Again, it’s better than the old priority system because every owner has a shot at signing a player. You either pay enough or you don’t.

The trick with the free agent auction, though, is that it’s a silent bid auction. It can be brutal trying to figure out how much the other owners will pay for a player. Sometimes you’re outbid, other times you overpay.

Matt Jones was the hot prospect after last weekend’s games and in my league, there is no such thing as a player slipping through the cracks. Everybody’s too smart and too informed to let any decent player go unsigned. So it all comes down to who can make that perfect bid.

It looked like I did when I landed Jones for $34, outbidding several owners (the next closest was $30). I talked some trash (an unwritten fantasy football rule) and got ready to see my new player turn around the fortunes of my 0-2 team.

Not only did Jones fumble away a touchdown tonight, he also didn’t even score two points for my team.

That’s fantasy football in a nutshell: one day you’re a genius, the next you’re clueless.

Day 266: Betrayal at House on the Hill

Betrayal at House on the Hill

Betrayal at House on the Hill

I made my first trip to the House on the Hill tonight, thanks to my local gaming group. Five of us braved the haunted house and one of us did the betraying, which resulted in a fantastic gaming experience.

Betrayal at House on the Hill is like a role-playing horror movie with the brilliant addition of the traitor, which ratchets up the suspense. I somehow managed to survive as old Professor Longfellow and my fellow survivor and I were able to outlast the traitor and the house itself, which was slowly but surely killing us. Two of our group weren’t as fortunate.

Even though this was my first time playing BAHOTH, I loved it. The role-playing aspect of it was fun and gameplay ran smoothly (I liked the tile-laying mechanism and it helps a newbie like me to have four veterans explaining things). After skimming through the rule books, I found so many scenarios that there seems to be a lot of replayability built into the game.  I can’t wait to play it again and I just added it to the top of my Games Wish List.

Day 262: Clearance Sale

Munchkin Zombies Deluxe

Munchkin Zombies Deluxe

I occasionally stop by Barnes & Noble to see what they have in their clearance section and today I dug through a pile of Game of Thrones action figures, Ravensburger jigsaw puzzles, and assorted bookstore knickknacks before I found something to my liking: Munchkin Zombies Deluxe. It’s a zombie-themed version of the popular Munchkin game by Steve Jackson that retails for $29.99. The clearance price was 50-percent off and I had a 15-percent-off coupon, so after tax I ended up paying just under $14. Score!

There’s a terrific thread on boardgamegeek.com with information about the B&N clearance sale. I never knew there was a method to the clearance-sale madness and it was nice to learn about it so I could plan my next day of bargains.

Day 260: I Tried, But …

X-Wing Miniatures Game Core Set

X-Wing Miniatures Game Core Set

Confession: as a self-proclaimed Star Wars geek, I don’t have much of a collection. I have a Yoda figurine, an Admiral Ackbar action figure, a few books, some old trading cards, and a few knickknacks. Nothing too exciting. I LOVE the original trilogy, but I didn’t save any of my childhood toys, then later in life I didn’t feel the need to collect Star Wars stuff. The memories of the films were sufficient.

And even though Force Friday offered a lot of cool things to buy, I still had no urge to buy Star Wars toys, clothing, food, or what not. I’ve resisted the urge, even though I was getting more excited about the movie every day.

My excitement finally got the better of me.

I took the plunge and bought the X-Wing Miniatures Game Core Set. I can’t remember the last time I bought a miniatures game (if ever) and a Star Wars-themed game would be the one, of course. I told myself that it serves the dual purpose of owning a few cool Star Wars miniatures and satisfying my urge to game.

The core set comes with the X-Wing and two Tie Fighters shown above, which are beautiful. But they’re not just aesthetically pleasing, they’re functional as well: using the game’s cards, dice, and range-finding system, you and a friend can create dogfights on your tabletop.

The spaceships only take up a small portion of the living room table and I’m trying not to remind myself that there’s plenty of room for the Millennium Falcon, Slave I, and all of the other iconic ships. I do remind myself, however, that each addition isn’t cheap.

So, I tried to resist the Star Wars merchandising empire, but like Yoda said … well, at least I know this game will be more fun than Episode I.

Day 259: Tokaido

 

I’ve had Tokaido on my Games Wish List for a while and I was able to play it tonight with my gaming group. The game is worthy of its accolades; the artwork is gorgeous and gameplay smooth and relaxing. After we finished, I asked for another round next week.

The photo above was my view at tonight’s table. It’s a beautiful setup, but there’s something the picture can’t capture: the “soundtrack” to the game that one of our group had playing through his phone. The music meshed perfectly with Tokaido’s calm and mellow theme and it was a nice change of pace for a Wednesday night.

Day 258: Steve Jackson’s Sorcery

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As a young teenager many moons ago, I loved Steve Jackson’s Sorcery!. This was a series of four books that was the prolific game designer’s take on Choose Your Own Adventure. After you read a page there were two or more choices that would take your story elsewhere. Choose one and go to the designated page to read the consequences of your action. Repeat until your story ended. It was a swords-and-sorcery tale, which appealed to my D&D-playing tastes at the time.

The best part of Sorcery! was the ability to learn spells and use them during your journey. There was a separate spell book that contained the spells and the codes for these spells. Every so often in your adventure, you would be given a choice of a few codes and had to pick one to cast the correct spell for the given situation.

I remember sitting in my local Vroman’s bookstore reading the spell book, trying to memorize the codes for the spells. It seemed like there were hundreds of spells, so after saving my allowance, I finally bought my own copy of the spell book, which made life much easier. I devoured the first two books of the series before my interest petered out. I bought the third book, but didn’t read it as much as the first two.

My waning interest coincided with my high school years and I’m not sure if I ever finished the third and fourth books. I’m sure they collected dust before being passed on to my brothers then Goodwill or the trash can.

I hadn’t thought about the books in quite some time, when last week I came across a website touting free Android games on Amazon. One was called Sorcery! and it sounded interesting, so I downloaded it to play later. Once the game was downloading I noticed Steve Jackson’s* name. I didn’t make the connection.

But once the title screen appeared, I nearly yelped out loud. I recognized that typeface and thought, No. Way.

I read the introduction and immediately recalled the familiar Shamutanti Hills setting.

Yes. Way.

It was the book I had spent so many hours as a youth reading and re-reading!

It’s been updated for today’s tech-savvy kids. The book is now an app with music, graphics, and a slick, user-friendly interface. Thankfully, it’s still the same wonderful fantasy story.

I have not geeked out on anything this hard in a while. Having Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! on my phone? My 1984 self would have been blown away.

In fact, so is my 2015 self.

*Update (9/16/15): All this time I thought that it was the well-known American game designer Steve Jackson. After I tweeted this post last night, the kind folks at Steve Jackson Games informed me that the Sorcery! author is actually a British game designer. My apologies for the mix-up. 

Day 253: New Year, New Teams

Kashyyyk Wookies

Kashyyyk Wookies

For the first time in years, I have more than one fantasy football team. That’s twice the amount of players to follow and stress over. Twice the heartache during the season. Twice the payouts at the end of the year (hopefully).

In honor of Episode VII opening in December, I named my teams the Kashyyyk Wookies and the Tusken Raiders, respectively. I hope the Force is strong in all of my players’ knees and they bring me another championship trophy or two.

Both of my leagues were auction drafts, with slight differences in scoring, waiver wire pickups, etc. The Wookies are in a redraft league and the Raiders are part of a keeper league.

Here are the players I’ll be rooting for and/or cursing this year:

Kashyyyk Wookies:

QB Andrew Luck

RB Adrian Peterson

RB Duke Johnson

WR DeSean Jackson

WR Julian Edelman

TE Dwayne Allen

WR/RB/TE Keenan Allen

Bench: Sammy Watkins, Todd Gurley, Carson Palmer, Charles Sims, Ty Montgomery

Note: I haven’t paid over $1 for a K or DEF in years and have been streaming both positions before it was called streaming. Thus, I’ve left them off my list. 

Tusken Raiders:

QB Drew Brees

RB Mark Ingram

RB Matt Forte

WR Jeremy Maclin

WR Vincent Jackson

TE Rob Gronkowski

WR/TE Keenan Allen

WR/RB John Brown

Bench: LeGarrette Blount, Ryan Mathews, Jordan Cameron, Brian Quick, Pierre Garcon, Carson Palmer, Marvin Jones, Ka’Deem Carey, and Knile Davis.