Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Board Games that I played that came out in 2020!

I was thinking that I didn’t get that many board games in 2020. But, then when I went back and had a count, the number is 14. That may not seem like a whole lot for a hobbyist, but it works out to more than 1 a month, and this doesn't include games that I got this year that have been published in previous years. In fact, of those published in 2020, I haven’t even played them all. So, that seems like more than enough for me. I thought it might be fun to run down my top 10 games from 2020. (These are the 10 that I played!)

10 - Mint Cooperative
I have some 2020 games in my collection that I haven’t yet gotten to the table that might easily push Mint Cooperative off my list. Julie and I liked this okay, but I don’t think I can call it a favorite. The main draw of the “Mint-Series” of games is portability, but we actually got another cooperative game in 2020 that fits that bill, which we like a lot better. This one is just, okay.

9 - Kingswood
This is an odd little rondel style game. After we played the game, I received an expansion that was part of my Kickstarter. We haven’t played that yet, but I think it will elevate the game play quite a lot.

8 - Gate
This is a solo game. I only own a few of these. Mostly, I don’t play solo games. I would rather play with my wonderful Julie. So, those few solo games that find their way into my collection must be really good. This one is. Gate is a dark fantasy themed tower defense game where you must use the townsfolk (a deck of cards that you build as you play) to defeat monsters that threaten the town. It’s a solid game. It’s quick to set up and play, and it comes in a tiny tin that can be carried anywhere. Plus, the designer: Jason Glover once sent me a little fan-email regarding one of my RPG designs. How cool is that!

7 - Fox in the Forest Duet
Fox in the Forest is a great two-player only trick-taking game. Julie and I loved the original game, so when this cooperative version came out, we had to try it. While I like the original game better, Julie and I did like this one, and I will be happy to get it to the table again. So, here we have a small cooperative game that I like better than Mint Cooperative, but this isn’t the game that I was talking about above.

6 - Fossilis
This game is high on the “toy” factor. You have little plastic tiles that represent bits of sand, stone, and clay that you must shift in order to reveal dinosaur bones that you are working to excavate. Digging up the best dinos and making the best sets gets you the most points to win the game. This one is light, family fun!

5 - Mint Condition Comics
While this might sound like one of the “Mint-Series” games, it’s not. “Mint Condition” is a collector’s term, which is commonly used by comic book collectors. As a comic book fan, I was hoping to enjoy this one, but I wasn’t necessarily expecting to (if that makes any sense.) I bought it for the theme and held my breath with fingers crossed that it might actually be good. As it happens, it is great. It manages to capture the theme of collecting comic books well with simple set collection mechanics, and is a really satisfying little card game.

4 - Solar Storm
In this small portable cooperative game, players work together to save their damaged spaceship from crashing into the sun. This one is quick to setup and play, but contains all the tension and excitement of a larger game. On our last play through, Julie and I finally beat the thing, which is a real accomplishment for us! THIS is the game that I was thinking of when I mentioned a small cooperative game that we like much better than Mint Cooperative. 

3 - Parks: Nightfall
This might be a little bit of a cheat. Parks came out in 2019, but it’s a new game for us, and the Nightfall expansion came out this year. Parks is a great game where you are campers exploring the National Parks. Nightfall adds a camping option that expands what players can do on their turn. It’s a great add-on that increases player options without ramping up complexity. We love it!

2 - Rallyman: GT
This is a race car game, and I love it. You use dice to control your car. For every space you move ahead on your turn, you roll a die. The dice have bad stuffs on them that can make you wreck your car, so you have to be careful about how many dice you roll (aka how fast you go.) It’s a great press your luck mechanism and an interesting puzzle!

1 - Marvel United
This was my favorite game this year! Superheroes! Cooperative play! Easy setup and game play! Many heroes to choose from! Three different arch villains / scenarios to challenge players! It’s great! GREAT!

I just realized that 4 of the 10 games are cooperative games. So, 2020 must be the year of cooperative games. Other games that we got that didn’t make this list because we haven’t yet played them are: Godzilla: Tokyo Clash, Sweet Existence, Small World of Warcraft, and Talisman: Kingdom Hearts. I’m sure that we will get these to the table soon!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Role Playing Games Part 14 - 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons

The latest version of Dungeons & Dragons is D&D 5th Edition. It is part third edition D&D and part fourth edition D&D. It marries ideas from the two pretty well while drawing on the experiences of thousands of play-testers to streamline and simplify systems.

The 5th Edition Books are really nice, and I like this game a lot. On my shelf are familiar tomes: the Player’s Handbook, the Dungeon Master’s Guide, the Monster Manual, and a few unique entries. 

There’s: Xanthar’s Guide to Everything, which features a bunch of new options for players. And, I have: Guildmasters Guide to Ravnica, which is a world/campaign guide for one of the worlds (the world?) that is a backdrop for Magic The Gathering.

The newest 5th Edition D&D book to enter my collectin is called: Tasha's Cauldron of Everything. I don't have a lot to say about it because I haven't read it. Finally, I have pre-ordered a role-playing game based on Talisman the Board Game called: Talisman Adventures Fantasy RPG.

That’s everything that’s on my RPG shelves. 

Including The Talisman Adventures RPG that I have on pre-order my RPG collection spans 127 volumes. However, I don’t actually have room on my shelf for the new book. I plan to remove both the Castlemourn books from my collection to make room. (The Talisman RPG is a thick book!) That leaves me with 125. I like that. 125 is a nice sounding number.

I have been trying to decide where and how to make cuts to my board game collection because my shelves are overflowing. I like the idea of reducing my board game collection to 125 board games. Then, my board games and my RPG count would be the same. I like the symmetry in that. That could happen.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Role Playing Games Part 13 - Dungeon Compilations

You might remember that I mentioned in the 4th Edition post that I would like more books like “Dungeon Delve” which is a compilation of short adventures? Well, I have a hefty tome called aptly enough: Mini-Dungeon Tome and, I have several annual volumes that collect the entries for the One Page Dungeon Competition. The One Page Dungeon Competition is this cool online contest where participants create a playable RPG adventure that fits on one page! These books are great for throwing together a quick night of adventure at the last minute.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Role Playing Games Part 12 - Misc. Fantasy

There are a few odds and ends on my RPG shelf that I have yet to mention. I have a few boxed sets. There’s the Lord of the Rings Adventure Game. My motivations for having this one are a little odd. I bought it because I have fond memories of reading some Lord of the Rings Adventure Books which were choose your own adventure path novels. Those novels used the system that’s in this box set. So, I bought it. (But, I don’t own the novels.)

Two other boxed sets are Karameikos Kingdom of Adventure, and First Quest. These are part of an initiative to teach D&D to new comers using audio CD tracks to stand in for the Dungeon Master (what D&D calls its referee/director.) The First Quest comes with rules and sample characters to start players playing without any prior knowledge or other rules. The Kingdom of Adventure box provides a lot of really nice detail about the game world of Mystara which I spoke about when I mentioned Basic and Expert (also called B/X) D&D. These boxed sets represent the only time I know about where Mystara is mentioned outside of B/X D&D.

Savage Worlds is a popular multi-genre RPG that keeps its rules light, and is really a pretty awesome rules set. For Savage Worlds, I have the fantasy adventure: Evernight. I ran Evernight successfully for two different gaming groups. Good times! These books will always have a place on my shelf.

I also have Tiny Dungeon 2nd Edition. This is part of the Tiny D6 series of games that includes Tiny Frontiers and Tiny Supers, both of which I have already mentioned. The Tiny D6 series is a fast and light RPG system with just enough crunch to keep it interesting. And it uses those six-sided dice that I like so much!

Rangers of Shadowdeep is an interesting experiment. It’s not really an RPG at all, but a miniatures board game in book form where players provide the miniatures and playing surface and play through a series of missions. The game is fully cooperative and doesn’t require a DM. David Crockett and I played this over video chat and really enjoyed it. I have the base game in a deluxe leather bound edition as well as three expansion adventures.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Role Playing Games Part 11 - 13th Age

The game that brought me to appreciate 4th Edition D&D is called 13th Age. As Wizards of the Coast moved to abandon 4th Edition, publisher Pelgrane Press looked to do for 4th Edition what Paizo had done for 3rd Edition.

Hmm … maybe I should take a step back. As Wizards of the Coast moved from 3rd Edition D&D to 4th Edition D&D they left a lot of unhappy D&D players behind. Paizo was the company that Wizards had hired to publish TSR’s D&D Magazines: “Dragon” and “Dungeon.” This Paizo did with flourish. They brought in some of the best writers and artists in the business to produce super high quality materials for the 3rd Edition of the world’s most popular role-playing game.

When Wizards decided to change to 4th Edition, they also opted to change Dragon and its companion magazine Dungeon to an online only format. They released Paizo from their contract. (Paizo had been producing Dragon Magazine and Dungeon Magazine for 7 years.) Paizo put their considerable (D&D 3rd Edition friendly) resources to work creating a Dungeons & Dragons clone of their own, (under the open gaming license,) called: Pathfinder.

Pathfinder was important because it was an extension of 3rd Edition D&D, which many (a great many) existing D&D players wanted, and because it was being produced by some of the best professionals in the business, (who had 7 years experience working with the 3rd Edition D&D system.) Pathfinder was a huge success. Pathfinder was in fact so successful, that for the first time since the publication of the first Dungeons & Dragons book, (and the creation of role-playing games,) another game outsold D&D. No RPG before or since has ever outsold Dungeons & Dragons. Pathfinder did.

I don’t have a copy of Pathfinder on my shelf. As I have said, my love of 3rd Edition D&D has waned, so Pathfinder (which is basically 3rd Edition D&D) holds no special interest for me. I mention the game because it is important. Being outsold for the first time in history caused Wizards of the Coast to take notice. In response, they fast tracked a 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

5th Edition was going to be a throw-back to simpler times, reclaiming Dungeons & Dragons roots (and its lost player base.) At least that was the promise. But, what would become of those new players who had since discovered the joys of 4th Edition? That’s where Pelgrane Press and a game called, 13th Age steps in.

13th Age was designed and written by Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet. Heinsoo was the lead designer on the 4th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, and Tweet was lead designer on the 3rd Edition of Dungeons & Dragons. With a pedigree like that, 13th Age was bound to be something special, and it is. 

I theorize that 13th Age is more Heinsoo’s creation than Tweet’s simply because the game seems to retain a lot more 4th Edition than 3rd Edition influences. That said, the game is amazing. I am not sure why I was so much more impressed with 13th Age than I was with 4th Edition D&D, but I suspect it has something to do with the fact that 13th Age didn’t call itself, “Dungeons & Dragons.” So, I believe that I approached it with a more open mind.

I have fewer 13th Age books on my shelf than other D&D based tomes. This is surprising, considering how much I love the game. (I referred to 13th Age as my favorite “iteration of D&D” in a conversation with some friends just a few weeks ago.) The thing is, beyond the core book and a few others, supplementary materials for 13th Age have been very slow to come out. Those that have come out have been underwhelming. So, I haven’t kept them on my shelf.

(Edit: Upon review, I have 6 books for 13th Age. That's more than either AD&D 1st or 2nd Edition, and as many as I have for 5th Edition -- so, more than I was thinking.)

I have the 13th Age Core Rules, a second player's book called: 13 True Ways, two Bestiaries featuring various monsters for the game, and two Books of Loot, that feature equipment and magic items for the game. I have bought other volumes, but haven’t felt compelled to keep them.

I’ve been running D&D 5th Edition for Dave, Burl, and Chris (my brother.) When Burl couldn’t make it for a game, I ran 13th Age. When farming for materials to use for both of these games, I have found what I needed in 4th Edition D&D materials. It was actually while I was going through the stuff on my shelves to write these posts that I realized it. I call on 4th Edition D&D materials to help me as a DM more than any other source. So, while I may have claimed that 13th Age was my favorite D&D inspired RPG a week ago … today, it’s got to be 4th Edition D&D.

One interesting turn of events… following my D&D 4th Edition Post Friday, David, Burl, and Chris have decided they want to play 4th Edtion D&D, and we started that Saturday! So, it seems that all of those 4th Edition books will be seeing some use! But, even if we weren’t going to be playing it, the 4th Edition did lead directly to the creation of 13th Age, and we have had a blast playing that game!

Friday, December 11, 2020

Role Playing Games Part 10 - 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons

I was super excited when the 4th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons came out. I had heard rumors that this version was set to tone down some of the tactical complexity of D&D 3.5 and this interested me. Fourth Edition did indeed take great strides to remove itself from Third Edition D&D. So much so, in fact that it became something other than D&D.

You may recall that I expressed concerns when 3rd edition D&D was released by Wizards of the Coast that this new version might be “Magic The Gathering” the role playing game. While D&D 4th Edition wasn’t that, it was something close.

While streamlining out much of the complexity of third edition, D&D 4e was still very tactical … very tactical. Closer to a board game than an RPG, D&D 4e played like D&D the video game. To it’s credit, this did attract an entirely new audience to D&D. To it’s detriment, it also alienated much of D&D’s existing player base (myself included) which comprised the majority of their customer base.

All of that aside, when it was first released, I was very anxious to play 4th Edition D&D. To that end, I expanded my existing Fantasy Trip play group from three players to six. Included in that group is someone whom I still game with today, Burl King (along with his wife Mendocino.)

The group was fun, it contained some good people, and some not so good, as tends to happen with these groups. The game itself, now that I think back on it, contained many memorable moments. But, I was resistant to the changes in the game system. So, after a few months I abandoned 4th Edition for an older version of the rules (Labyrinth Lord) and the group kept playing. We went from D&D to my game system Five By Five and back to D&D when 5th Edition came out.

At the time, I had determined that I disliked 4th Edition, but recently, and following my experiences with another game (13th Age – more on that later), I have come to appreciate 4th Edition D&D more and more. So much more in fact, that 4th Edition D&D has gone from my least favorite version of D&D to my most favorite version of D&D.

I own more 4th Edition D&D books than any other Edition. I like the way information is presented in these books. The board game like mechanisms appeal to me a lot, now that I have grown to be more of a board gamer. 

I have found that because of the clean presentation and straight forward mechanics of the systems here, I can use 4th Edition books with any other role-playing game that I wish to play, and they are easy to adapt.

I was talking with Burl during one of our game sessions not that long ago, and he mentioned that his fondest gaming memories were of playing 4th Edition D&D. What do you know? Burl was a wiser man than me. I wish I had appreciated the system more when I first played it. D&D 4th Edition is brilliant!

On my shelf I have Player’s Handbooks 1, 2 & 3, Dungeon Master’s Guides 1 & 2, Monster Manuals 1, 2 & 3, Adventurer’s Vault (equipment and magic items for players,) Dungeon Delve (a wonderful compilation of one-shot adventures, would love more like this!) Eberron Campaign and Player’s Guides (Eberron is a world setting created specifically for 4th Edition D&D) and Forgotten Realms Campaign and Player’s Guides.

I’d actually like to add more 4th Edition D&D books to my collection in the future, but I’m not entirely sure where I would put them. (There are currently over 20 books on my D&D 4th Edition wish list!)