While we keep ourselves quarantined, we’ve been thinking back to the game nights of before. Reminiscing on these times had us thinking, wait a minute, we never posted our top lists for 2019! With time now abundant, we got to work, crafting the words to describe the wonders of the year before. What games did Ethan love from the year 2019? Read below to find out!Continue reading “Top 5 Games of 2019 : Ethan”
Well, another Gen Con is on the books! This year was our fourth time experiencing “the best four days in gaming.” After being strictly Gen Can’t last year, this year’s Con did not disappoint! This Con, we experienced both the familiar and the new, and I kept a mini-journal of each day’s experiences to be able to recap them in detail. So without further ado, let’s jump into our Gen Con Recap 2019!
Disclaimer: This is not a paid review or sponsored content. A friend of the blog is a demonstrator for Thunderworks Games and brought an early copy of the new Roll Player expansion to a game night at a local meetup so we thought it would be an excellent opportunity for a mini-Roll Player review as well as a preview of the new expansion content! If you’d like to check out Thunderworks Games on twitter, you can find them here.
Roll Player is a game about creating a fantasy roleplaying character (à la Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder). Players start with a race, which determines bonuses or penalties they may receive to specific abilities, and a class, which provides the target ability scores the player wants to aim for. Players also get a background which gives points for placing dice of certain colors in specific spots on their “character sheet” and an alignment card, which will give (or take away) points based on how well the player satisfies it. Throughout the game, players will draft dice to build their characters, placing each one in one of the classic fantasy RPG stats (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma). Each round players can also buy something from the market, whether it be a weapon or armor, a unique ability, or a trait which provides additional end-game scoring opportunities. Once players have drafted 3 dice to each of their abilities (giving each one a range from 3-18, plus or minus any racial bonuses), they earn points for how well they were able to satisfy their class, background, alignment, and trait goals. It is a fun dice-drafting puzzle, and the theme is sure to entice any tabletop roleplayer!
Last year’s Monsters and Minions expansion added on to the base Roll Player game, and let players do something with their characters besides just building them. Each round, players have the option, instead of buying something from the market, to fight a minion. Every minion will give you combat dice based on some condition — for example, get a combat die for every completed column you have on your character sheet. Then, gain rewards depending on how well you fare in combat against the minion. At the end of the game, once characters are fully built, they will face the final monster. This is similar to a minion in that it gives players combat dice, and the better result they get upon rolling them, the more points they can earn (or lose if they do poorly). I thought this expansion made a ton of sense with the base game since in roleplaying games creating the character is only half the fun and it provides an incentive for drafting different dice and making sure your character will survive against the final boss.
This new expansion, Fiends and Familiars, adds… well, fiends and familiars. Fiends are penalties you get for drafting higher-valued dice each round, while familiars provide characters with an animal companion that gives a unique ability as well as three extra slots in which to draft dice. It also adds split dice that are considered 2 different colors, making it easy to complete backstory and familiar color goals, but only range in value from 1-4, making getting higher attribute scores more difficult.
Last night, I got an opportunity to try out Roll Player with just the Fiends and Familiars expansion. We had a three-player game with a new player, one who had played just the base game before, and me, who had played both the base game and the game with the M&M expansion. It seems like the new expansion would’ve integrated well with Monsters & Minions — the most significant difference there is removing more cards from the market deck to keep it the same size. But Fiends & Familiars keeps the “hunt for a minion” action, the final boss monster, and includes new enemies to fight. There are also new classes to choose from, so I was able to play the Conjurer, who actually (somewhat) benefited from taking Fiends by gaining XP, along with the ability to use XP to banish fiends. Otherwise, the initial setup is similar to what players with experience playing the base game are used to. The other new part added is choosing a familiar. Everybody gets two familiars to choose from, and they add a small board above your player board to draft familiar dice to. All of the familiars have power range targets, similar to attributes from your class card, but they look to be generally lower (e.g., 5-7 or 8-9). This gives you an excellent place to draft lower-valued dice without worrying too much about messing up your attributes (which generally want values of at least 14). Familiars also have an ability you can activate when placing a die in their row. As an example, my Ancient Tortoise familiar allowed me to take either an INT or WIS action when I set a die there, so being able to get a choice of what power to use made the familiar doubly helpful!
The other titular mechanism in the game, fiends, added a new challenge. Since we were playing a 3-player game, there were 4 initiative cards available to draft dice from each round, and a fiend was placed on the two higher-valued initiative cards each round. So, as a penalty for drafting higher-valued dice, you must take a fiend, which has a negative effect. Some of the fiends aren’t too bad: for instance, I had a fiend that made weapon cards from the market cost double, and another which prevented me from using weapon’s special abilities, so it was easy enough just to not buy or try to use weapons. Other fiends were more troublesome, preventing you from gaining gold from initiative cards or completing rows and otherwise mucking up the game for you. Fortunately, there is a way to get rid of them: by paying 5 gold or a charisma token, you can banish one of the fiends that are plaguing you. I really liked that this gave another use to charisma tokens, because the discount at the market isn’t always useful, especially when you can choose to hunt for a minion rather than purchase something.
Finally, besides the split dice, there is one other change added by the new expansion. For about the first half of the game, two dice are placed on each initiative card. This makes the start of the game go faster, and it balances getting early fiends a bit by giving you two higher-valued dice for them. You get to place both dice but only activate the attribute power for one, which makes for some pretty exciting decisions. I know there are some powers I rely on more than others (like the STR power of flipping a die over or the CON power of incrementing or decrementing a die by 1), so having to think about the placement to be able to maximize the use of those powers was pretty neat. Then, after a few rounds, the “Call to Adventure” card shows up in the market deck, and you’re back to the usual one die per initiative card.
Altogether, I really liked the Fiends & Familiars expansion to Roll Player! If you’ve played and enjoyed the base game and/or the Monsters & Minions expansion, I think you’ll definitely want this one to round out your collection. I really like what it adds, and I believe the fiends provide an exciting new challenge in balancing what dice you draft, while the familiars give you a few extra spots to dump dice you might not want elsewhere while still providing a benefit! And if you’ve never played it, if you enjoy puzzling out the best place to be able to use dice to meet as many goals as you can, and especially if you enjoy the tabletop RPG character-creation theme, give Roll Player a try!
For the past three years Amber and I have attended Gen Con, but this year due to time constraints and a lack of extra vacation time, we weren’t able to make it. So, to take our minds off of the fact that we were missing the biggest four days in gaming, we decided to host an unofficial Gen Can’t at our house with some of our favorite gaming friends! We usually host game days 4-5 times a year, but we went all out on this one.
It’s that time of year where the weather is getting colder and we’re starting to spend more time inside. Ok, let’s face it, the Meeples aren’t really outside people anyway, so we cranked up the heat and busted out a few games. What have you been playing this week? We’d love to hear in the comments below! Otherwise, please enjoy this weeks boardgame musings!
Hello Meeple fans, and welcome back for another installment of our weekly post on what we’ve been playing! This week was actually a bit lighter, since some meeples had an anniversary this week and were busy with that. But nonetheless, we did play some games, so read on for our experiences…
Hello, this is Ethan here with this week’s post on what we’ve been playing. The reason why I’m doing this instead of Amber this week is simply because I actually was the one playing more games this week with a lot of other people. Despite that, it was still a pretty full week of gaming so let’s not waste any time and jump right in.
Hi, Ethan here with another solo gaming session report. It feels like a while since we’ve done one of these, and in fact it’s been almost a month since we last headed to Kryptonite Kollectibles for a regularly scheduled Meetup — our NMA gaming weekend was at the end of last month, and we needed a few weeks’ beak afterwards. Nevertheless, this Thursday, I was really jonesing for some gaming, so fortunately I got to play a few good games with a good group of people. So, enough with the introductions, let’s get to the games!
I may have mentioned this previously, but one of my favorite parts of game night is getting to play heavy or involved games with a lot of bright people. A lot of times, games don’t play as well (or at all) with two, so just Amber and I can’t play them at home, and sometimes we don’t want to just go at each other in the heavy competitive games anyway. So it’s always nice to get a chance to play a thinky game with a full complement of four people. And Shipyard is a great game to scratch that euro itch, and to play with a full four people at game night.
Shipyard is, as you may imagine, a game that centers around building ships. Over the course of the game, players buy ship pieces, parts to add to their ships (smokestacks, propellers, cannons, etc.), passengers for the ship (captains/officers, businessmen, and soldiers), and waterways to navigate. Players can also buy employees that give them special powers or extra actions, and can buy and sell train cars full of resources (coal, iron, and grain) for money or ship components. Every player has government contracts they’re working on as secret goals that will give bonus points at the end of the game, and they also earn points from taking the ships they build throughout the game on shakedown cruises, which are the shipyard’s version of test runs.
Three out of the four of us playing (Rob, Paul, and me) had played this game before, while the fourth, Brock, was new to this game. And since it had been a few months since the rest of us had played, it took a while for a rules explanation/refresher. Shipyard has a lot of moving parts, with about 8 different actions and rondels associated with most of them that all required a thorough explanation and understanding. In addition, there is a bit of complexity to the midgame scoring coming from shakedown cruises and symbology on the end-game government contract secret goal cards, so it was important that everyone knew what they were working towards and what would earn them points. By about 6:00, we were ready to start!
With the action selection mechanic of Shipyard, each turn a player puts their marker on one of the available actions, which leaves it unavailable for the other players. Then, on subsequent turns, you must move your marker to any of the actions besides the one you just did and those occupied by other players. Because of this mechanic, there were a few turns where there were no available actions that I particularly wanted or needed to do, so I had to improvise as best as I could. The game also allows you to pay 6 guilders (the currency of the game) to take any extra action on your turn, so there is a possibility for mitigation, albeit a pricey one. I did take advantage of the extra action a few times over the course of the game, as did my three competitors, but we often didn’t have enough money to do so, or our money was better spent elsewhere.
Overall, my strategy centered around one of my government contract cards, which gave me points for launching ships made up of exactly six pieces, up to 17 points for three such ships. This worked out nicely, since when building ship parts, you’re able to buy up to three each time. So I typically bought the three cheapest (or free) components to try to launch six length ships as quickly as I could. And in fact I was the first one to send a ship out for a shakedown cruise, but because I didn’t bother adding any propellers, smokestacks, or sails, it only had a speed of 1 and did not score me very many points. Meanwhile, the other three players, who took their time building their ships, earned a lot more points test driving their ships. However, by the end of the game I managed to launch my three six-length ships, and on the last one scored a lot of points for soldiers and cannons (which tied in with my second secret goal), so wasn’t too far behind before end-game scoring. Then, after successfully earning lots of points with my secret goals, I pulled out a narrow win with 86 points, with Paul and Rob scoring 82 and 80 points, respectively, and first-timer Brock coming in with a very respectable 67.
I really like Shipyard, and had been wanting to play it again after trying it for the first time last year. After this second play, I can definitely say that Shipyard is a game where strategy is heavily dependent on your secret government contract cards which are used for end game scoring and can contribute almost half of your score. The way I played this game was definitely different from the last, where I had completely different goals to work towards, and I imagine if I play again it’ll be different still based on my goals and what my opponents do. So it’s certainly a game that rewards repeated play and adaptability, so I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to try it out again.
After all the brain-burning of Shipyard, and because there were only 45 minutes left in the Meetup, I decided to finish the night off with something a bit lighter, and wandered over to another table to join a game of Dixit that was just getting started. Dixit is a family-weight game where all of the players submit cards featuring strange and surreal artwork based on a clue given by one player. Then, all other players try to find the card that player submitted based on their clue and what they know about that person. The clue-giver only earns points if some people correctly guess their card, but not all, so it’s to their advantage to give somewhat vague clues or ones that they know only some people at the table will understand. This is definitely a game that’s best played with people you know fairly well.
I’m usually pretty good at Dixit. I can often give clues that are just vague enough so that only some of the other players can get them — this is where it’s good to play with Amber because I can give clues that only she will get for sure. On the flip side, I’m usually good at picking up on a wide variety of pop culture references, which are often good candidates for Dixit clues. However, for whatever reason I was really off my game this night.
On my first turn of the game, I knew right away which card I wanted to submit, as I’d been eyeing it ever since it entered my hand. It was a card depicting a white raven amongst a bevy of black ones. I laid down the card and gave the clue “Citadel”, a reference to the Song of Ice and Fire series (aka Game of Thrones), where white ravens are sent from the maesters at the Citadel to herald the changing of the seasons. I was really hoping that the one other person at the table I knew had read all of the books would get the reference, but when all the cards were revealed and he looked as lost as everyone else I knew I was in trouble. I guess the clue was a bit too vague. Then, as everyone else took their turns, I was missing out on clues left and right. “Geppetto”, “Guilty”, and others were all misinterpreted by me.
In the end we weren’t able to play a full game with the time allotted, but I insisted on taking my last turn since I wanted to redeem myself. I played a card featuring a dragon with some paper lanterns, and gave the very specific clue “1988”. I waited with bated breath as everyone submitted their own cards and then pored over the results, wondering what to pick. In the end, only one person got it right, as I’d hoped — the one person at the table who had been born in 1988, the year of the dragon on the Chinese calendar. So I was able to have my moment of redemption, even though I still came in dead last with 10 points, while the leader when we finished had 20, and everyone else was somewhere in between. I’ll chalk it up to playing with two couples and not having Amber there to balance things out, but it was still a ton of fun. I can’t wait for the next game night!
Hi, Ethan here! Amber took a personal day this week, so I’ll be doing a solo recap of our game night. In addition I played just one game for the duration of the meetup, so it may be a pretty short report. So let’s not waste any time and get right to it!
We’re now about a quarter of the way through the year, so I think it’s as good a time as any to introduce some of the gaming challenges this year and check in on my progress so far. These are all challenges found on BoardGameGeek, and most of them allow you to join in at any time, so if any of these interest you, feel free to check them out! This is my first year doing a lot of these types of challenges, having only completed a 5×5 (playing 5 different games 5 times each), so trying to complete all of these will certainly present a new… challenge.