Board Game Documentary Review: Under the Boardwalk

We really are living in a board game renaissance. Even documentaries are treating board games as their subject. I recently watched a documentary about Monopoly called Under the Boardwalk. Here’s the scoop.

Board Game Documentary Review Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story

 

Under the Boardwalk documentary
Under the Boardwalk documentary

Released in 2010, Under the Boardwalk tells the history of the world’s most famous board game while also following the 2009 Monopoly world championship. The documentary was created by relatively unknown Kevin Tostado who weaves his narrative between the history and culture of Monopoly and back to scenes of the 2009 championship. The documentary is like a dream come true for any Monopoly fanboy. Those who love the game will love this documentary. Those who don’t love Monopoly will still find it entertaining enough.

The History of Monopoly

Muskegon doesn't play Monopoly
Monopoly?!

The documentary does a very good job describing the history of Monopoly. The game began in the early 1900’s as a critique of landowners. It took 30 years for it to become published by Parker Brothers.

The original game did not come with game tokens. Charles Darrow wrote in his rules that people should take household objects such as thimbles and pennies and use them as your tokens.

Monopoly cat replaces iron

When Parker Brothers bought the rights to the game, they asked Darrow what he would suggest be used in their game as tokens for the “official” game. Darrow recommended using charms. That’s why there are metal charms and thimbles in the game.

I won’t go into all the details the documentary does. But after watching it, I know more about the history of Monopoly than I ever thought I would.

The 2009 Championship

Waddingtons' Monopoly
Waddingtons’ Monopoly

There are several interludes in the movie about the world championship game in 2009. Like chess, Monopoly has a worldwide following with large cash purses. The cash prizes are $20,580. Why such an odd amount? Because a standard game of Monopoly has this much play money in it.

The cast of characters in the championship are interviewed throughout the documentary. Among them is Ken Koury–the guy who wrote the book on Monopoly strategy. I was intrigued by Koury. I found him to be a bit like Billy Mitchell from the Donkey Kong documentary: fierce, almost villainous.

An elementary school teacher was also headed to the championship. Tim Vandenberg teaches 6th grade. He introduces his students to Monopoly. He uses it to teach probabilities, money management and expected values. He won an online tournament which allowed him to go to the national championships in DC.

Monopoly was a gaming linchpin for Muskegon
Monopoly from Parker Brothers

The rest of the movie shows the US championships in Washington DC and then the world championships in Las Vegas. This part of the documentary was a bit of a drag. The cast of characters, other than the ones I mentioned above, were a bit boring or bland. Watching them play Monopoly was like watching a worse version of the World Series of Poker: there is no bluffing and the dice rolls feel very arbitrary.

Conclusion

New Monopoly pieces
New Monopoly pieces

Under the Boardwalk does a good job at telling Monopoly’s history. It shows what the tournament scene is like for Monopoly. Technical aspects such as sound and film editing were also well done.

My main gripe is: the documentary was not as interesting as it could have been. There was no humor in it despite several opportunities. The cast of players seemed to be interesting but that did not always get captured by the documentarian. This could be due to the subject matter. Maybe Monopoly is not that interesting of a topic. But I doubt it.

As I mentioned, the creator of the documentary is relatively unknown. The director is still feeling out his style. I suspect if he were to do more documentaries, we would see him hone his craft. Kevin Tostado did the subject justice. But some portions were considerably better than others.

The movie is available on Amazon prime and Netflix. The movies is 98 minutes long–and it should entertain you for about 75 of those minutes.

 

 

Thrift Store Finds

I haven’t done a thrift store report in some time. And not because I’ve been avoiding thrift stores either. The past several weeks leading up to Christmas have been particularly fruitful. I’ll get the good stuff in a minute. First I’d like to remind everyone that The Gaming Annex has a presence at Timeless Treasures (1447 W. Sherman Blvd). This “presence” is kind of a mini “Gaming Annex II” where I make these games (and other games) available to the public. Our presence isn’t huge (less than 50 games). But it will continue to grow. As always, if you want any of these games, just ask. Some are at The Gaming Annex and some are at Timeless Treasures. And now for the list…

Thrift Store Finds January 2018

Sheriff of Nottingham

Sheriff of Nottingham from Arcane Wonders
Sheriff of Nottingham from Arcane Wonders

Sheriff of Nottingham is a family bluffing and deal making game. The goal is to accumulate the most wealth. You will have to be a savvy sheriff and a savvy bluffer to win this game. Each player will get a turn as the sheriff. As the sheriff of Nottingham, you will get to decide which players will be allowed free passage and which players will have their luggage searched and seized.

Legal items in Sheriff of Nottingham
Legal items in Sheriff of Nottingham

Players are free to bribe the sheriff so he will allow you free passage. The sheriff is allowed to look at search the luggage of one player. If he finds illegal items, you must pay a penalty. Otherwise, the sheriff just wasted his time.

I found a copy at the Goodwill on Harvey Street. I often post pictures of my conquests on our Facebook page.  Darrin, part of our extended group, came over and grabbed this game before I could even inventory it. It turned out to be complete save for the bag. Darrin was happy to get a copy of this game–reason enough to go on living.

 

Camel Up

Camel Up from Z-Man Games
Camel Up from Z-Man Games

Camel Up is a great family game of betting and speculation. It centers around a camel race in Egypt near the turn of the century. Players do not control a specific camel; instead they make bets about which camels they think will win.Then try to make that outcome a reality.

Camel Up won the Spiel des Jahres in 2014. And deservedly so. It’s a solid entry. Camel Up can almost fire Long Shot, another racing/betting/speculation game. Camel Up has better components, a bit friendly theme and more player agency than Long Shot.

I found a complete copy at the Goodwill in Rockford. Like Sheriff of Nottingham, I didn’t have it long before Jonathan pleaded with me to let him have it.

 

Sushi Go

Sushi Go Party from Game Wright
Sushi Go Party from Game Wright

Game Wright is trying to make crossover games. They want to continue to make cute family/children’s games while also making good strategy games. Sushi Go is the par excellent example of this.

Sushi Go (and Sushi Go Party) is like a dumbed down version of 7 Wonders. It’s a drafting game but with simpler scoring than 7 Wonders. You play a few rounds. Add up your points. Then call it a day.

Sushi Go Party is like a cross between 7 Wonders and Dominion. You play 7 Wonders (an all drafting game) but you can select which decks to use (like in Dominion). Sushi Go Party is definitely the way to go if you are looking for a family version of 7 Wonder.

I found a complete copy recently. The tin was still in pristine condition. And the cards do not appear to be played. I still have it at The Annex for any members who need a copy.

 

Epic Resort

Epic Resort from Floodgate Games
Epic Resort from Floodgate Games

Have you ever wanted to own a resort? Have you ever wanted to own one in a medieval fantasy setting? Well, you’re in luck. Floodgate Games published Epic Resort in 2014.

Epic Resort is a worker placement and deck building game. These two mechanics do not often overlap. But if they did overlap, I could see how they might do so in a monster laden tourist trap like Epic Resort.

Players will attract tourists to their resorts. Players will also try to attract heroes who can stave off monsters. You will have a deck of workers. You will use these workers to build attractions and to attract more tourists.

I stumbled across a complete copy recently. This is currently at The Annex also 🙂

 

A collection of Munchkin games

Steve Jackson's Munchkin
Steve Jackson’s Munchkin

Munchkin is the perfect example of the type of game I like to find when thrifting. I don’t care for the game per se. But there is no denying it’s appeal to the general public. If I can find a cheap copy, I will usually re-thrift it to some local person who will have to make their first visit to The Gaming Annex in order to pick it up.

I found a collection of 4 Munchkin games: Nightmare before Christmas, Axe Cop, Adventure Time and Zombies. All complete and in good condition. These are available at Timeless Treasures.

 

Risk, Risk and more Risk

Muskegon and classic board games like Risk & Castle Risk
Parker Brothers’ Risk & Castle Risk

Risk, like Munchkin, is a game I will typically pick up at a thrift store. I have so many different copies, I can usually cobble pieces together to complete any incomplete specimen.

Risk is a mainstay at thrift stores. If you don’t found a copy at a thrift store, you didn’t try hard enough. Of course, finding special copies of Risk requires more dedication; but your standard run-of-the-mill copies are everywhere.

I found an incomplete copy of Risk & Castle Risk recently. Luckily, I have spare pieces to complete it. It is now available at Timeless Treasures. I also found several copies of normal Risk.

I also found a copy of Risk: Lord of the Rings edition–with the One Ring. Primo!

Other Notable Finds

DC Rival Card Game
DC Rival Card Game
Trump: the Game (2nd Edition)
Trump: the Game (2nd Edition)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dice Masters X-Men Vs. Avengers
Dice Masters X-Men Vs. Avengers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out our partners at Michigan Gamers…

Michigan Gamers
Michigan Gamers

Ringing in the New Year

The new year is here. I’d like to take this time recap 2017’s highlights. Then we will discuss what is in store for the Muskegon Area Gamers in 2018. Sit back and enjoy!

Ringing in the New Year

Attendance in 2017

2017 Attendance
2017 Attendance

The Gaming Annex has seen some growth! This chart shows how many attendees we’ve had at club sanctioned events (typically meetups at The Gaming Annex). We had 1,145 attendees in 2017. Not too shabby. That is 3% more than in 2016. 2016 had 18% growth over 2015 but that was because we added Thursday nights officially in late 2015/early 2016.

So we have an explanation for the 18% growth between 2015 and 2016. But why were we still able to grow in 2017? Because we are amazing–that’s why. We have a lot of passionate people in our organization who love our hobby. Our hobby is growing in general which accounts for some of our success. And finally: because we are always actively recruiting. I suspect we will have growth in 2018. I don’t think it will be 3% however; I predict it will be closer to 1% to 2%. But that is all we need to keep a robust game club.

Attendees in 2017
Attendees in 2017

So who were these attendees? You might be able to find your name in the chart here. This shows our Top 15 Attendees: the amount of times these attendees came to a club sanctioned event. Sick Nima almost eclipsed me this year–2018 may be his year to do so.

Changes in the Group

Death Wears White (Asmodee)
Death Wears White (Asmodee)

With the surge in attendance, we’ve added a few new faces to our inner circle. Brandi was promoted. She also is in charge of our special events. She has done a bang-up job too. She put together the Kids’ Gala, the Extra Life Event and Death Wears White. Look for her to put up more special events in 2018!

Iggy Games www.iggygames.com
Iggy Games

And then we promoted Iggy. Iggy has an impressive game collection. He’s been bringing over new games for us to play almost every Thursday in 2017. And this shows no signs of stopping in 2018. He also owns a nice collection of audio/visual equipment. He and I started a podcast called Beer & Pretzels. You can find it on his website Iggy Games. So while Brandi is our special events coordinator, Iggy is our A/V guy. And he’s excited to be on board.

Changes to the Venue

851 W. Laketon Avenue 49441 The Gaming Annex
The (New) Gaming Annex

Our headquarters has changed. We moved to Laketon Avenue near Henry Street. After 5 years at Sherman and McCracken, The Gaming Annex has set up shop in a space about 50% larger than our previous spot.  I like having a location this close to downtown. The presence on Laketon Avenue will also help with attendance as it is good, central location.

Griffins Rest logo
Griffins Rest logo

The Griffin’s Rest made their debut in 2017. Officially opening on Black Friday, The Griffin’s Rest is part of a 3rd Street renaissance. Hamburger Mikey’s, Third Coast Vinyl, the Curry Kitchen, and now The Griffin’s Rest.

The Griffin’s Rest boasts two stories of gaming. The main floor is the store with some tables for gaming and demos. The 2nd floor is all gaming. There are televisions, Wi-Fi and very comfy chairs. Use of the facility is open to the public. Private rooms are available for rent also.

I’m very impressed with the store and its owner Kiel. This is the first store/Gaming Annex partnership that has me all tingly inside. I know they are going to be successful. I know we can help them be successful. I also know they can help us grow the community. And if a gamer or two from their store decides to play with us: so much the better!

Timeless Treasures
Timeless Treasures

The Gaming Annex Too is open. Well, it’s not called that. Yet.

We have a small presence at Timeless Treasures on Sherman Boulevard. This is a vintage resale shop. The Gaming Annex has a shelf where we have our excess, overflow and thrift store games. We’ve been there for about a month. And sales have been stupendous! Seriously. We almost sold out. If you see any of my posts about my thrift store finds, you better hit me up quick. Otherwise, I’m relegating it to The Gaming Annex Too.

Games from 2017

Muskegon loves Twilight Imperium 4th Edition
Twilight Imperium 4th Edition from Fantasy Flight Games

Did any new and exciting games come out in 2017?

Hmmm…

Just Twilight Imperium 4th Edition! The news spread across BGG and FFG’s websites like wildfire. Fantasy Flight announced they would have copies on hand at GenCon. Both Dusty and I wanted copies but we were unable to attend the con this year.

Fortunately, Dusty and I know a doctor who makes convention calls. Dr. Steve waited in line for several hours just so we could have TI4. And we are very grateful! TI4 is great! It fixes many issues with TI3 but leaves the charm and epicness of Twilight Imperium well in tact.

Werewords from Bezier Games
Werewords from Bezier Games

Our group is also enamored with Werewords. This 5 minute long game is hands down the best social deduction game out there. It has eclipsed even Avalon. Werewords belongs in every game collection–it is that good.

 

Magic Maze from Gyom
Magic Maze from Gyom

 

Magic Maze is another sleeper hit. This family friendly game is a real time delight. I was seriously surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I’m not sure it belongs in every game collection like Werewords. But it belongs in most game collections. It’s a real hoot.

What’s in store for 2018

Muskegon loves Dungeons & Dragons. Best game of the 80's!
TSR’s Dungeons & Dragons

So what will the Muskegon Area Gamers be up to in 2018? Pretty much the same thing as last year: lots of gaming. We will be open at The Gaming Annex on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

By the end of 2018, we may be open on a fourth day. This is because there is so much demand for role playing games. I probably won’t be available for a fourth day of gaming (there is a limit to even my gaming capital). But I think we can arrange it before the end of the year.

Extra Life logo
Extra Life logo

We will also have another Extra Life event in 2018. And this one will be at least as awesome as last year’s event. Last year’s event was a huge success. We’ve learned some things that work and that don’t work. As such, 2018’s event should be even better.

We raised $800 last year. I predict we will raise $1,000 for Helen DeVos in 2018. Check back in November to see if my prediction was correct.

Muskegon Area Gamers love Into the Woods Retreat
Into the Woods Retreat

CabinCon V is right around the corner. Yes, our yearly tradition is half a decade old this year. Where did the time go? Last year we had our biggest turnout for this event. I predict this year’s will be just as big. We almost have to put people on a waiting list for this event–it’s that popular.

I’m looking to expand our presence in Timeless Treasures. I’d like to get a couple of shelves of games there. Ideally, I’d like one of their rooms. That way I can put a sign up that actually reads, “The Gaming Annex Too”. Maybe by the end of 2018…

Muskegon Masonic Temple
Muskegon Masonic Temple

We are also working on codifying how candidates move up into our not-entirely-secret-society. We’ve been using the tried and true “30 Game Gauntlet”. This was a grueling ordeal where we made new players learn the rules to 30 new games before playing the same game a second time. While this is hilarious to most of us, it was shunned by a vocal minority: Brandi.

Our new system will be much more objective. New players will accumulate merit points for attending meetups, playing games, teaching games, etc. The process is under discussion by our crack team of HR specialists.

Interested in learning more? It’s free and only a click away.

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
207 Muskegon Area Gamers

This group is for anyone interested in playing board games, card games or any table top game. This group learns and teachs new games all the time. We welcome fresh players. We…

Next Meetup

Thursday night games

Thursday, Jan 4, 2018, 6:00 PM
7 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

Hits & Flops

It’s always fun doing the Hits & Flops column. This is where I pan games after a single play or, less commonly, heap mounds of praise on them. This month we will look at Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition, Legacy of Dragonholt and a Stockpile. Hope you enjoy!

Hits & Flops December 2017

Crossfire

Crossfire from Plaid Hat Games
Crossfire from Plaid Hat Games

Dusty loves social deduction games. They are his favorite genre. The typical attendees at The Gaming Annex, however, are lukewarm on the genre. To be sure, there are a few very good social deduction games: Werewords and Avalon for example. But there are some that fall flat.

The reason why I don’t care for games like Werewolf, One Night Werewolf or One Night Revolution is because I don’t know what team I am on. Typically in these games, you will get a role. Then someone could swap your role. And then you do not know what team you are on. So you could play the game thinking your are a good guy only to be surprised at the end that you are a bad guy.

Games where you have your role switched like this are problematic. Think Battlestar Galactica where you could become a cylon at the half way point. It’s rather annoying.

And there is role swapping in Crossfire. Uh-oh!

But the role swapping in Crossfire isn’t terrible. You get to see your initial role card. Then you pass it to the left. And then it gets shuffled and dealt to one of the players to your left. And then you get to see your new role. This fixes a lot. Players know what role they are. Players have some information about the other players but it’s scrambled. And the game only lasts 5 minutes.

We played it a couple of times. The game wasn’t terrible. But I’m not ready to say it’s a hit yet. There is a journeyman quality to social deduction games. And our group hasn’t made the journey yet.

Verdict: Undecided

 

2. Mansions of Madness 2

Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition
Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition

I’ve written about Mansions of Madness (1st edition) a few times on this blog. I was not a fan. I tried it three times and hated it each time. The game was dismissed by most of the people in our group in fact.

Our partner at Iggy Games owns the new edition of Mansions of Madness. He brought it over for us to try. And it was amazing. I rated the 1st edition a measly “3” on boardgamegeek. But I give the 2nd edition a solid “7”. Here’s why.

The 2nd edition is app driven instead of requiring a game master. This means there is no tedious set up where Jeremy (Scott) Pyne spends 30 minutes poring over which components to include or exclude.

Mansions of Madness 2nd edition contents
Mansions of Madness 2nd edition contents

Because there is an app, there is much less set up time, the game is fully cooperative and there is less upkeep. All of this helps make the game a bit better. But the app also has a sound track. And this is the real charm of the game. The soundtrack, when paired with a Bluetooth device, adds ambiance to the game. Every creaking door, every foreboding exploration and every lurking monster. Players will be fully immersed in the game.

The game play is so much better than the 1st edition, I should write another blog about “games that fired other games” Not only does Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition fire its first edition forebear, it fires Betrayal at House on the Hill as well.

Verdict: Unequivocal hit!

 

3. Legacy of Dragonholt

Legacy of Dragonholt box
Legacy of Dragonholt box

Fantasy Flight released Legacy of Dragonholt in Q4 of 2017. This is an immersion into their Runewars universe, a milieu they are fleshing out since losing their Games Workshop licenses.

Legacy of Dragonholt is an RPG/board game fusion. Players make characters. Then they read paragraphs from the book. They make decisions about what to do as a party based upon their characters’ quirks and the game’s narrative. The game encourages players to make character decisions more so than optimal game decisions. This will appeal to some players.

But not to me.

Legacy of Dragonholt contents
Legacy of Dragonholt contents

I prefer my games to have hard-and-fast objectives. I don’t find games like this or Tales of the Arabian Nights particularly good. I do enjoy Tales of the Arabian Nights because it is a game filled with so many laughs. But Legacy of Dragonholt is not filled with laughs. It’s a slog.

To be sure, this game is perfect for the right players. To the right group who wants to explore and create, Legacy of Dragonholt will be a great fit. To a player who wants a story experience more than a game experience, Legacy will find a place on the shelf. And FFG will undoubtedly support it with expansions.

But for me, the game was a flop. A rather loud one at that.

Verdict: Flop

 

5. Stockpile

Stockpile from Nauvoo Games
Stockpile from Nauvoo Games

Making a good stock market game is tough. How do you capture the idea of wheelin’ and dealin’ on a stock exchange, make it simple enough to learn while also making it fun to play? That’s a tall order.

But that is exactly what Seth Van Orden and Brett Sobol have done. They have made what will probably end up being my favorite stock game.

Stockpile contents
Stockpile contents

Players will get a handful of cards. They can look at them. Then they place them either face up or face down in the auction offering areas.

The “wheelin and dealin'” part of Stockpile has been replaced with a rigid auction mechanic like in Vegas Showdown. This works nicely in Stockpile.

Players will bid on an auction offering. Because some cards are face down, you will not know what cards your opponent put there. Most cards are good: additional stocks, the ability to move stock prices up or down, etc. But some cards are “broker fees” where you must pay $1 to $3. Since the object is to have the most money, these cards should be avoided.

Players also are given an incomplete forecast of the stocks. Each player will secretly know how one stock will perform. Plus another stock’s information is public to all players. And some stocks are hidden from players until the end of the round. This makes for speculation–just like in the real stock exchange.

Stockpile isn’t just a good stock market game; it’s a good strategy game and a good family game. Stockpile should find its way into most player’s collection. If you haven’t tried it, you should. And if you have tried it, you will likely buy it.

Verdict: it’s a hit!

 

Where the hits never stop: check out our new Facebook presence

 

Around the World of Board Gaming December 2017

It’s time for one of my favorite columns: Around the World of Board Gaming. Several mainstream media have covered the topic of board games. NBC wrote about how board games bring out the worst in us. The Economist wrote about the growth of our hobby in Nigeria. ABC had a write up about how messy children’s games can be. And Cosmo of all places had several articles about our favorite pastime*.  Each put their own spin on how they covered our beloved hobby. I’ll go over each article. Also, Hasborg is conquering Mattel. And we will wrap up with our close to home section.

*Get your mind out of the gutter. I’m talking about board games.

Around the World of Board Gaming December 2017

Cosmopolitan has some write ups about…board games?

Cosmopolitan
Cosmopolitan: fun, fearless, female…board games?

Cosmopolitan, that liberating magazine, has been giving women advice on fashion and sex since 1965. In recent weeks, they’ve also been giving women advice about our other favorite pastime: board games. The articles range from gift giving ideas for this Christmas season to the latest adult party games.

Cosmo (UK) gave us this advice for Christmas shopping: the top board game sellers on Amazon this season. As you might expect, various editions of Monopoly top the list because top selling does not equal top quality. But the advice isn’t horrible if you don’t know much about the hobby. Oddly, A Game of Thrones edition of Monopoly is one of this season’s top sellers. Prediction: I will find copies of this game at thrift stores in 2018.

Earlier in December, Cosmo published an article worthy of boardgamegeek.com. The article, entitled “All the different types of board game players that are sure to ruin your Christmas” is a geeklist waiting to happen. The list includes many family game tropes such as the family member who turns every board game into a drinking game. Or the sore loser who flips the table. Of all the articles I critique in this post, this one is the best. Read it. It’s cute.

Cosmo also did a review of a game. The adult board game, Pick Your Poison, is a “would you rather” game. Place two unappealing (and often raunchy) scenarios in front of your friends. Make them choose which one they would prefer. While this game isn’t the highest rating game on BGG, it is definitely in Cosmo’s wheelhouse.

And I am glad to see Cosmo giving love to my hobby.

 

NBC tells us why board games bring out the worst in people

NBC News
NBC News

NBC News has a pop culture section. Earlier this week they published a piece called, “Why board games bring out the worst in us“. The article, which is also a geeklist-waiting-to-happen, tells us why, in a pop psychology way, board games can make us behave badly.

It seems these are not “just games”. Our brains cannot tell the difference between a board game loss and an actual real world loss.  From the article: “…imagined situations activates the same brain regions as the actual experience”. This might explain Dusty’s typical disposition at The Gaming Annex.

Family dynamics is also a reason why board games can bring out the worst in us. Kids want a crack at beating their old man. Siblings want to take down their older brother. The ugly ramifications from this are obvious.

The article gives some half-hearted advice about how to fix this. You can really just skip that part. Overall the article is a bit weak in the science department. I guess that’s what you get from a pop culture section piece. But to its credit, the author did name drop “Settlers of Catan”.

 

ABC gets all wet with board games

ABC News
ABC News

ABC wrote a hit piece about board games. Their article Board games get messy with squirting toilets, soggy dogs discusses how modern children’s games are trending towards getting players wet.

Hasbro re-released their “classic” game Pie Face. Long time readers may recall my dismissal of this “game”. While Pie Face will never be a Spiel de Jahres winner, its re-release was still a commercial success. Hasbro followed up this success with Toilet Trouble–a game where players huddle around a water filled basin shaped like a commode.

The article rambles on without much point. Overall, the tone is negative which seems odd for a lifestyle piece about board games. The one positive note is that parents find their kids are enjoying the wet and messy games more than traditional games like Candy Land.

 

Hasbro will dominate Mattel in 2018

Hasbro
Hasbro

Hasbro. Hasborg. I’ve written about them extensively. I have a love/hate relationship with this we-could-be-great-but-let’s-settle-for-mediocrity company. Despite my strident feelings, Hasbro is slated to hammer Mattel in 2018.

2017 was not kind to toy makers. Toys ‘R Us announced bankruptcy. Tons of competition from the digital side. But Hasbro has making it work anyway. They have a monthly board game subscription. They have the rights to Star Wars toys. And Monopoly sales are strong.

Mattel
Mattel

Compare with Mattel. Mattel has lost its Christmas magic. Barbie and Fisher Price are performing weakly. And don’t get me started on Mattel’s board game line. It makes Hasbro look like Fantasy Flight.

If you are an investor, my recommendation is to buy Bitcoin. But if you insist on investing in a toy/game maker: you should consider Hasbro over Mattel.

 

The Economist reports that Nigerians got game

The Economist
The Economist

Yesterday the Economist published a story about the popularity of board games in Africa’s most populated nation. Nigerians love board games. Our favorite hobby is the preferred past time of Nigeria’s budding middle class.

Nigeria boasts more Scrabble clubs than the US and Canada combined. And the game of Monopoly was made an official sport in the west African country in 2016. There are national circuits for games like chess and Monopoly with cash and scholarship prizes.

I’m pleased to hear our hobby has made it to the shores of the Niger Delta. I’d love to come back to this subject in a year from now and be able to tell you that Nigerians have a Twilight Imperium national circuit and that Clash of Cultures is a national sport.

Closer to Home

851 W. Laketon Avenue 49441 The Gaming Annex
The (New) Gaming Annex

I’d like to welcome Brian to our inner circle. Brian was promoted to Tier 1 recently. Brian has made The Gaming Annex his gaming home. Well, at least one of his gaming homes.

Brian has an impressive game collection. He brings over a new game every Thursday. And that is not an exaggeration. He is also our host for the podcast. With his camera and computer equipment, I’ve made him our A/V guy.

He also runs a similar website to this one: Iggy Games. Because of his knowledge of computers, programming and such, I’ve discussed some strategy with him about our group. Which brings us to the next topic: The Gaming Annex versus the Muskegon Area Gamers.

Michigan Gamers
Michigan Gamers

The Gaming Annex is part of the Muskegon Area Gamers. But only a part. There are several other groups, stores, etc that are gamers in the Muskegon area. While I try my best to make us the best club out there, The Gaming Annex is not the best fit for everyone in the universe. But that doesn’t mean I can’t help find the right group for you.

After discussing this with Brian, he bought a website called, “Michigan Gamers“. You can go on there and post your gaming events. There’s a map so you can search by location. The website is designed to be used by anyone in Michigan. But obviously all the stuff on it right now is close to Muskegon.

Timeless Treasures
Timeless Treasures

The Gaming Annex has a satellite store! Sort of. We have a presence at Timeless Treasures. You may recall Timeless Treasures is the thrift store that was located at the west end of our old location at 1976-1996 W Sherman Blvd. When we moved to 851 W Laketon, they moved to 1447 W Sherman Blvd, the corner of Sherman and Glenside.

This new location is big. We’re talking 3,000 ft². And the place is full of vendor. We have one game shelf there with about 50 games. We decided to move into this location because we were constantly inundated by people dropping by looking to buy games. I thought I would sell my extra games at Timeless Treasures, put some business cards on the games and get the word out that way.

This is a trial basis. But so far the sales have been surprisingly strong. Don’t tell Debbie. If she gets wind of it, she may try to get into Timeless Treasures herself so she can sell furniture 😉

 

Where the fun never stops

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
207 Muskegon Area Gamers

This group is for anyone interested in playing board games, card games or any table top game. This group learns and teachs new games all the time. We welcome fresh players. We…

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Saturday gaming

Saturday, Dec 23, 2017, 9:00 AM
2 Attending

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Favorite Board Game Fillers Part II

The board game renaissance has been marching on relentlessly. Great new games are being published and released every week. The “fillers” genre has not been overlooked by the deluge. I blogged about great fillers once before. You will have to go back into great antiquity to see that post: all the way back to October 2014. The games listed there are still good fillers. But several newer games are challenging that earlier blog of mine. Let’s take a look at some of my…

Favorite Board Game Fillers Part II

Magic Maze

Magic Maze from Gyom
Magic Maze from Gyom

A game that Bruce, Dusty, Nick Sima, [name redacted] and I all enjoy has got to be special. And that game is Magic Maze. Magic Maze is truly magical. Players move a host of fantasy heroes around a shopping mall to find their respective gear. The shopping mall is a maze which must be successfully negotiated by the players in this 10 minute coop.

The shtick: you may not talk to your fellow players during the game.

Play through of Magic Maze
Play through of Magic Maze

Players are given a movement card. They can move any pawn the direction shown. The egg timer is flipped to start the game. The goal is to move the pawns to their individual exits.

The egg timer runs out after about 2-3 minutes. When a pawn is moved onto an hourglass space, the egg timer is flipped over–not necessarily reset. During this time, players may speak. But as soon as a pawn is moved, silence is again enforced.

The game comes with 17 increasingly difficult scenarios. The first scenario, you must get the pawns to their home base. In the second, you must get the pawns to their home base and then to the exit. And so on. This makes the game immediately accessible to non-gamers but also intriguing to hardcore gamers who want a challenge.

 

Nations: the Dice Game

Nations: the Dice Game
Nations: the Dice Game

In 2013, Lautapelit published Nations. It’s a civ building game for up to four players. Think Through the Ages without the soul–that’s Nations. Our group made the mistake of trudging through it a couple of times before falling back on our favorites: Clash of Cultures and the aforementioned Through the Ages.

When Lautapelit published their dice version of Nations in 2014, I was intrigued. I like dice games. And while Nations was a dumpster fire, the dice game proclaimed to last only 20 minutes. I can tolerate a 20 minute dumpster fire.

Nations: The Dice Game
Nations: The Dice Game

I was pleasantly surprised. Nations: the Dice Game boils down its bloated forebear into arguably one of the most strategic fillers out there.

Nations: the Dice Game somehow turned a dice game into a Euro. The whole game is about making the right tactical decision to scoop your opponent while also keeping your eye on the end game. You roll your dice. Then you may spend them to purchase one of the available tiles. These tiles will give you extra dice, victory points or other economic boons. You may only buy one thing and then the next player does the same. Players must be competitive in gathering food, swords and books–these are the primary ways to score points. But you need coins to buy more dice.

The expansion was just released as well. This should add lots of replayability. The base game is back in print so you don’t have an excuse to overlook this game anymore.

 

Werewords

Werewords from Bezier Games
Werewords from Bezier Games

Werewords is the best social deduction game bar none. It has dethroned Avalon. Werewords fixes many of the minor problems you might have with Avalon and while reducing play time to five minutes.

Players are dealt a secret role: seer, villager or werewolf or mayor. Then, one at a time, the mayor, werewolf and seer will see the secret word. Then the 4 minute timer starts. The players will ask the mayor yes/no questions about the secret word. The goal for the villagers is to successfully guess the secret word. The goal of the werewolf is to prevent this.

Should the villagers guess the secret word, the werewolf reveals himself and guesses who the seer is; should the villagers fail to guess the secret word, they must guess who the werewolf is. It’s a play on the One Night Werewolf games. But the 20 questions aspect makes this game so much more engaging than trite One Night series. This game has been such a hit, it’s already on my h-index.

This game is accessible to non-gamers. It’s a hit with hardcore gamers. Werewords belongs in any game collection.

 

10′ to Kill

10' to Kill
10′ to Kill

Are you looking for a deduction game that plays 3+ people in 15 minutes? Maybe one that is accessible to new gamers but will also be well regarded by hardcore gamers? Then La Boite de Jeu has the game for you. It’s 10′ to Kill.

Players get a secret character. Their goal is to use this character to surreptitiously assassinate other characters on the board. You score points for killing other assassins and for killing your secret targets. You lose points for killing bystanders.

Promotional for 10' to Kill
Promotional for 10′ to Kill

You may move any piece on the board. But only your piece may do your killing. When you decide to kill, you must announce all pieces on the board which could be your assassin. To assassinate, you must use a knife (and be in the same space), a revolver (and be alone and adjacent) or a sniper rifle (and be alone with a line of sight). You can use deduction to figure out which characters are your opponents so you can kill them and score points.

The theme of 10′ to Kill may not seem suitable to families. But the characters are all anthropomorphic animals. The cartoonish nature of the game makes the theme palatable to families. The deduction and bluffing make it fun. The 15 minute play time makes it a great filler.

 

Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers

Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers
Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers

The more I play games in the Eminent Domain universe, the more I like it. I’ve written a review of Eminent Domain and Terra Prime on here. Now it’s time to add a brief review of Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers.

This is the first Eminent Domain game not designed by Seth Jaffee. This one was designed by Phillip DuBarry, designer of Revolution!, a great blind bidding game.

Players will have a deck of 5 to 8 cards, depending on how many people are playing. Everyone’s deck is identical. Players then will take one card and simultaneously reveal it. One effect takes place if you were the only one to select this card title; but a different, worse effect takes place if others played the same card.

Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers sample cards
Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers sample cards

The genius of this game is two fold: each card has two effects and there are two ways to win the game. You must try to score 15VP or eliminate your opponents. But you must weigh the two possible effects of each card. Once you play a card, it goes into your discard pile. You will take it back into your hand when you play your next card. This gives you some information about what cards your opponents cannot play and thus make an informed decision.

A game of Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers takes only 15 minutes to play. But it feels like a heavier game. This is because each decision you make is tense. You will feel like the game could turn at any moment. And if that wasn’t a strong enough sales pitch, this game comes with a huge deck of cards but you only use a subset of them in any given game. So this game has a Dominion like replayability.

 

Love fillers? Or epic games? or anything in between? Join our group:

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Muskegon, MI
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Dictator Matt

Tuesday, Dec 12, 2017, 6:00 PM
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Overlooked Gems: Eminent Domain

I’ve had the chance to play Eminent Domain a few times in November. I taught the base game along with the Escalation expansion to several new people. It really is a gem of a deck builder. I have an on-again-off-again column called Overlooked Gems where I review games that are quite good but one that was usually dismissed by the gaming community. Long time readers may recall my post about Terra Prime. Now I’m reviewing another overlooked gem from the same designer, Seth Jaffee. Let’s look at why this is such a good game.

Overlooked Gems: Eminent Domain

Oh no! Not another deck builder!?

Eminent Domain from Tasty Minstrel Games
Eminent Domain from Tasty Minstrel Games

The deck building mechanic can trace its origin to the 2008 publication of Dominion. In a deck building game, players will start with their own small deck of cards. They will add cards to it during the game–the goal being to improve their personal deck’s efficiency and point scoring ability.

Dominion is themed around building a medieval town. With its considerable popularity (7.68 on BGG), it was only a matter of time before others took the deck building idea and applied it to other themes.

This is what Seth Jaffee did with Eminent Domain. Sort of.

Research role from Eminent Domain
Research role from Eminent Domain

Everyone starts with the same cards in their respective decks. Players will acquire additional cards each turn called “role cards”. Players will play cards from their hand to take their turn, presumably to further their point scoring efforts. The game ends when two piles of role cards have been exhausted.

So far, this sounds a lot like Dominion. You add cards to your deck on your turn, presumably to score points. The game end is triggered when enough piles of cards are depleted.

But Eminent Domain has a few things going for it.

Lifting the best from Glory to Rome and Dominion

Fertile planet from Eminent Domain
Fertile planet from Eminent Domain

Eminent Domain took the deck building aspect of Dominion. This is singularly the best part mechanic of Dominion. But Dominion is largely a 4 player solitaire game. Yes, with some of the expansions you will have to pay attention to your opponent’s purchases. But largely Dominion will come down to your own efficiencies and not your timely responses to your opponent’s decisions.

Fertile Ground tech card
Fertile Ground tech card

Enter: Glory to Rome. In 2005, Carl Chudyk authored the unlikely game Glory to Rome. This is a card game but it isn’t a deck builder. Instead, you have a hand of cards and you play them, usually one at a time.

But the cards have several uses. If the card is in your vault, it’s worth victory points. If it’s in your clientele, it’s a client. If it’s in your stock pile, it’s a resource. And if it’s in your hand, it’s a role. Suffice it to say, the cards are very busy.

In addition, Glory to Rome doesn’t feel like four player solitaire. During your turn, you will either play a role card or “think”. If you think, you draw a card. If you play a role card, everyone else can follow your role or “think”. This idea was lifted by Eminent Domain. And it works well when laid atop the deck building.

In Eminent Domain, you will take a role card on your turn. Your opponents will either follow, playing the same role card or they will “dissent” and draw a card. The effect this has is players will stay engaged when it’s not their turn.

Plus Eminent Domain has multiple use cards. Every card has icons on its top left corner. The more icons you play of the corresponding type, the more powerful the role is. It’s possible your opponent could select a role, you follow the role and you get a bigger benefit from following because you have more icons. This interaction makes Glory to Rome (and Eminent Domain) more interesting than Dominion.

More than the sum of its parts

The roles of Eminent Domain
The roles of Eminent Domain

I don’t want it to sound like Eminent Domain is just a merger of Dominion and Glory to Rome. Eminent Domain adds an important mechanic missing from both of these: the action step. In Eminent Domain you are obligated to take a role. But before the role step you may take an optional action. The cards in your hand all have actions listed on them. You may take a single action during your turn. And the actions you take are what will make you good at the game.

Improved Warfare from Eminent Domain
Improved Warfare from Eminent Domain

When you take the Research role, you will be able to get upgraded cards like Improved Colonize, Improved Warfare, etc. And these cards are similar to their standard counterparts except they have better actions on them. Finding a way to get the improved actions that synergize with your strategy is a key element of the game.

And the action step is a nice, simple difference between Eminent Domain and its counterparts.

Based solely upon base game, Eminent Domain is a 6 on a BGG scale.

It’s the Escalation expansion that bumps this game up to a high 8, low 9.

Eminent Domain: Escalation kicks butt and takes names

Eminent Domain Escalation
Eminent Domain Escalation

I was always lukewarm on Eminent Domain before the Escalation expansion. The game seemed to be on the cusp of greatness but needed a nudge. Escalation gives it a shove.

Escalation does what most expansions do: more stuff. There are more advanced cards you can research, more planets you can colonize, etc. Escalation also does what many game expansions do: adds some new mechanics. But Escalation avoids the “more mechanics” pitfall which besets some game designers. The new mechanics in Escalation patch the weak areas of the base game or breath fresh life into underdeveloped areas of the game.

Destroyer technology
Destroyer technology

The base game came with three different ship miniatures. But the pieces were all equal. This seemed odd. Well the expansion differentiates between them. You can acquire fighters, cash them in for destroyers and then cash in destroyers for battlecruisers.

Some planets you may scout out will be bustling planets or pirate havens. These planets have lush resources for you to harvest but will require a destroyer instead of fighters. And if you have a battle cruiser, you can spend it in lieu of any conflict cost to acquire a planet.

Arms Dealer scenario
Arms Dealer scenario

But the best new addition to Eminent Domain, bar none, are the scenario cards. Players are randomly dealt a scenario card at game start. Each is unique. Each gives you a specific planet. Everyone starts with a level 2 research card. And everyone’s starting deck is different. This makes the game so much better.

While your opponent might start with some advanced surveying technology, you might start with weapons emporium. Your path to victory will be quite different than your opponents. And the interactions and role choices matter greatly.

The nice thing about the scenario cards is: you don’t need to be an expert at the game to understand them. You might not be the most efficient at playing each scenario but the additional rules for the scenarios are not complicated. But the best part is the asymmetry. I love asymmetrical games.

Epilogue

Eminent Domain: Oblivion
Eminent Domain: Oblivion

There was another expansion for Eminent Domain: Exotica. It adds exotic alien planets along with asteroid planets. I haven’t played this yet. After doing this review, I will do my best to get it to the table in December.

And if that was exciting enough, Seth has announced the release of another expansion: Oblivion. This will add another mechanic along with turning the Political action card into an action/role card. This should keep the Eminent Domain universe fresh for many  years to come.

And speaking of the Eminent Domain universe, you should try Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers. It’s a nifty take on games like Citadels or Libertalia.

And I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Seth will update his Terra Prime game into an Eminent Domain universe game…

 

 

 

Where you can play Eminent Domain in Muskegon

 

 

 

 

Around the world of board gaming November 2017

There’s been a lot going on in the world of board gaming. This month I’ll cover how Twitter now lets you tweet board games, a lawsuit over who owns the rights to The Game of Life and, of course, all the happenings close to home. Many exciting things have been happening locally. Read on…

Around the World of Board Gaming November 2017

NPR’s Market place does board games

NPR Marketplace
NPR Marketplace

NPR Marketplace had a spot about board games recently. Their November 22 broadcast had an interview with Mike Sellers, professor of game design at Indiana University.

Prof. Sellers tells his students, “Movies will make you famous, television will make you rich and theatre will make you good.” He compares board games to theatre because you have to be good to design a good board game. There is nothing hidden in theatre with special effects or editing just like there is nothing hidden in board games.

The good professor makes a few insightful comments in the brief (six minute) interview. He said designers are tasked with making board games for vary different experiences. Some people need games they can play with children who cannot read, others want highly interactive and complex games. And people who play board games often need several of these various categories.

Pokemon Go
Pokemon Go

New games will undoubtedly go the direction of augmented reality. Augmented reality is where you play in real life but your tablet/device will allow you to interact within a virtual environment. Think Pokémon Go. This was the first example but will not be the last.

Game designers are working on other games which will use this idea. Hopefully making a more compelling game than Pokémon. With board game sales reaching a fever pitch, this seems rather likely.

When Twitter increased its character limit to 280…they allowed you to play board games

On November 7th, Twitter doubled its character limits. The new limit allows you to tweet your unsupported political views in 280 characters instead of 140. While that is mildly interesting, what concerns us here is: can you play board games on Twitter now?

Twitter Connect 4
Twitter Connect 4

And the answer is yes.

People are able to play chess, Connect 4 and Go. I guess if you’re bored and have access to Twitter, you can find a game.

I imagine other games will follow these. And, God willing, more games will be possible when Twitter decides to bump their character limit to 560. Maybe then you can play Terra Mystica?

 

Lawsuit will decide who invented Milton Bradley’s The Game of Life

Game of Life 3D board
Game of Life 3D board

Followers of my blog know I like both board games and legal proceedings extending from them. Recently I blogged about who has the rights to Twixt? It’s only natural to bring up the same topic as it applies to a household name like The Game of Life.

A federal court is hearing arguments about who owns the rights to Milton Bradley’s The Game of Life. The Game of Life was first published in 1960 as a 100 year anniversary to Milton Bradley. And now the authorship of said game is being disputed.

In 1860, Milton Bradley himself created The Checkered Game of Life. He was inspired by European board games of the day. He applied what he learned and put a game on a checker board. When you moved onto a white space, something good happened to you. When you moved onto a black space, something bad happened. From this game was inspired the modern Game of Life.

Game of Life 2D
Game of Life 2D

The estate of Bill Markham is suing for lost royalties. The estate, led by his widow, Lorraine Markham, claim Markham made the game but was never given proper credit for it–not in 1960 nor anytime since.

Hasbro, the current owner of the entity, along with collaborator Reuben Klamer, argue otherwise. The defense argues Bill Markham was a hired gun. He was hired to make a prototype and paid for his work. The prototype underwent substantial revisions before it was released to the public.

The pre-trial hearings have begun the week before Thanksgiving. The judge is allowing a partial bench trial due to the age of the participants. I’ll keep you posted about any changes to this as they arise.

 

Closer to Home

Christmas time at The Gaming Annex
Christmas time at The Gaming Annex

Our staff* did some Christmas decorating. The Gaming Annex has its first ever Christmas tree. The walls are covered in holiday cheer. The place is actually looking respectable. The staff also did some rearranging. Our space utilization has improved markedly. So if you see our staff, be sure to give our gratitude.

Business cards for The Gaming Annex
Business cards for The Gaming Annex

We also got some new business cards. The old ones were, well, old. They had our old address on them. I opted for a new design altogether. First: we needed a logo. The logo was added to the front along with our pertinent contact information. I also wanted a catchy back side. I decided on a Catan and Magic: the Gathering design, not because we play these games often but because these games are so common, it could draw people to us. You can stop by and get some cards (and check out the Xmas decorations) anytime.

*Holly, Nick Sima, Brandi and Kevin.

Black Friday

Around the World of Board Gaming November 2017
Black Friday at Out of the Box

Out of the Box had their Black Friday sale last week. Like previous years, there was a line in front of the store before 6am. And like previous years, there was some great deals to be had. I picked up Legacy of Dragonholt because Nick Sima was yearning for it. Viticulture was on sale for 60% off. But the game I was most interested in was War of Kings. Long time readers may recall my excitement about this game’s upcoming release. Well, the release is finally here. Now I have to get this game into [name redacted]’s hands so [pronoun redacted] can read the rules.

Griffin's Rest play area
Griffin’s Rest play area                               (credit: Griffin’s Rest Facebook page)

Last, but definitely not least: Griffin’s Rest (finally) opened their doors. Their first day of operation was on Black Friday, a test by fire as Kiel put it. The store was well attended by the gaming community. Many in our little club were able to make it there for their inaugural day. All of us were impressed.

The store had a nice collection of gaming titles. But the full inventory build out has not yet happened. Kiel said the next wave of inventory was arriving imminently. They have many of the games our group would play like Star Wars Imperial Assault and Betrayal at House on the Hill. They also had some department store games at the front such as Operation and Monopoly.

But the most impressive part of the store was their upstairs play area. The upstairs has several public tables, several televisions, a separate restroom and one private game room. The televisions were playing Dice Tower reviews but could be turned to a gaming instruction video. The private room was available for rent. The public tables are free. Some people were playing X-Wing fighter. People at another table were playing Runebound.

I wish Griffin’s Rest all the luck in their new enterprise. And as a bonus: Kiel wants to work with us to do some joint events. I do believe this is the start of a beautiful relationship.

 

Want to know more about the Muskegon Area Gamers?

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
201 Muskegon Area Gamers

This group is for anyone interested in playing board games, card games or any table top game. This group learns and teachs new games all the time. We welcome fresh players. We…

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Ave Jon, our Counsel for Tuesday

Tuesday, Nov 28, 2017, 6:00 PM
6 Attending

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What I’m Grateful for this Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers! In between engorging myself with turkey and pumpkin pie, I think I should take some time to be thankful. The Muskegon Area Gamers has a lot to be thankful in 2017. Here a few of our blessings.

What I’m Grateful for this Thanksgiving

Our club, our new location and our continued success

851 W. Laketon Avenue 49441 The Gaming Annex
The (New) Gaming Annex

In June of this year we got a notice. The new owner of 1976-1996 W Sherman Blvd was evicting the thrift store at 1996. He said The Gaming Annex could stay. But the writing was on the wall. I had had my eye on 851 W Laketon for a while. With the recent takeover at Sherman, I decided to pursue the commercial property on Laketon.

The new space is much larger than The (old) Gaming Annex. That alone would make me thankful. But the outpouring of support from our group during the move was amazing. We had tons of support from our regulars. And for that I am truly grateful.

Our group also continues to thrive. Long time readers know I take attendance at all our club sanctioned events. I’ve been doing this since 2014. Our group saw a bump in attendance in 2016 over 2015. A noticeable bump. And 2017 has seen another bump over 2016! We are seeing a positive growth in our club of around 3% to 5%. This is excellent news because it means we will continue to have people to game with. I am thankful for our club’s success.

But enough of the mushy stuff–what I am really REALLY grateful for is board games. Let’s take a look at a few.

GMT’s Here I Stand

Here I Stand GMT Board gaming Thanksgiving
GMT’s Here I Stand

We had the opportunity to play GMT’s Here I Stand recently. I’ve played it four times now. And each time I play it, I bumped up my rating of it on boardgamegeek. I have finally rated it a perfect 10. It is on par with Twilight Imperium, Twilight Struggle and Clash of Cultures. Here I Stand is everything I want in board gaming.

There is asymmetry. King Henry VIII must marry through all his wives so he can get an heir. The French must stave off Hapsburg invasions and continue to control Milan to get points. The Pope must take Florence and Venice while beating back the Protestants. And the Ottomans? They raid the Hapsburgs and French while defeating Hungary.

Knights of St. John
Knights of St. John

You can play major powers that appeal to your play style. Or you can get out of your comfort zone and play a major power with strengths very different than what you are used to. You can pressure your opponents with military might. Or you can make an alliance with another player. You can play cards on their behalf or loan your ships to them. But in the end only one player can win.

Because of the myriad ways to win and to play, Here I Stand is intriguing. It is complex and deep. It’s also historical (based on the Protestant Reformation). I am thankful for getting to play this wonderful game.

Endeavor is getting a reprint

Endeavor 2nd Edition
Endeavor 2nd Edition

I love Endeavor. I bought it as soon as Out of the Box received a copy of it. I made Bruce, Jeremy (Scott) Pyne and [name redacted] play it with me as much as they could tolerate. It never got old (to me).

Endeavor is a Euro. It’s almost Puerto Rico-like in its low randomness. Like most Euros, Endeavor comes down to timing.  If you strike at the correct moment, you will win. That, and forcing your opponent to make a suboptimal move.

While a Euro, Endeavor has some theme. The European powers are conquering Europe and the Near East while exploring the rest of the world. The map is uniquely designed to recreate the explorations the European powers made. And the 2nd edition is going to take this a step further.

Endeavor the Spanish Main
Endeavor the Spanish Main

Among the changes, Endeavor 2nd Edition will have “exploits”. These will be objectives available to players for the whole game. Not only will they help you score points, they will help create a narrative for each game. I’m also looking forward to the new setups and new buildings.

ZMan only did one printing of Endeavor 1st edition. I was lucky enough to get a copy. But I’m thankful that a new generation of gamers will be exposed to this wonderful game with the new edition.

And speaking of new editions…

I am grateful for the 4th Edition of Twilight Imperium

Twilight Imperium 4th edition components
Twilight Imperium 4th edition components

The news was a shockwave from boardgamegeek all the way to Muskegon: Fantasy Flight was going to update Twilight Imperium with a 4th edition. And all we had to do was talk Dr. Steve into going to Indianapolis to buy us two copies.

Muskegon loves Twilight Imperium 4th Edition
Twilight Imperium 4th Edition from Fantasy Flight Games

I knew Fantasy Flight wasn’t done with their TI franchise since it was their flagship. But I thought they would make another expansion.

The new edition is a tour de force. It fixes many of the flaws in TI3. The tech tree is streamlined and much more interesting. Deal making and politicking are streamlined and are (also) much more interesting. They removed distant suns and a few other things. Odds are FFG will be adding expansions which will have streamlined distant suns.

And when they do, I’ll be thankful for that as well!

Whitehall Mystery

Whitehall Mysteries
Whitehall Mysteries

Whitehall Mystery is exceptional. It uses the magnificent movement mechanics of Letters from Whitechapel and turns it into something different. Both games are great. And to its credit, Whitehall Mystery does not scratch the same itch as Letters.

In Whitehall Mystery, one team is the constables who pick up clues. The other team is played by one player who moves his murderer secretly around the board. While this sounds similar to Letters from Whitechapel, it plays and feels different. Whitehall is almost all chasing with a little bit of deduction whereas Letters from Whitechapel is about equal portions of chase and deduction.

Where is our murderer going?
Where is our murderer going?

The heat is always nearby the antagonist. Every move he makes is within arm’s length of one of the constables. And when he reaches his first destination, the board does not fully reset; the constables stay in their location along with the murderer. Now he must get to his next destination. This continues until he’s made four “deliveries” or until he is captured.

If you haven’t played Whitehall Mystery, you owe it to yourself to come by The Gaming Annex and play. It’s quite good.

Learn more about us here

 

Extra Life Event 2017

The Muskegon Area Gamers held their first Extra Life Event. Well, that’s not exactly true. We supported Byte Club Gaming last year. But this year we held our own event at The Gaming Annex. Here is a rundown:

Extra Life 2017

1. Planning

Extra Life logo
Extra Life logo

I began planning this year’s Extra Life event in 2016 after last year’s event. There were several things about last year’s event that left me feeling unsatisfied. I was pretty sure I would support another event–I just wasn’t sure where the venue would be. We flirted with the idea of having the event at Griffin’s Rest. But they are as of yet still not open. The event would have to be at The Gaming Annex.

Out of the Box Games in Zeeland
Out of the Box Games in Zeeland

The event always takes place a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving. That means it takes place a couple of weeks before Black Friday. And every Black Friday I wake up at 4am to stand in line at Out of the Box.

Jeff at Out of the Box is a huge supporter of Black Friday sales. He has great deals on Black Friday: special releases, deep discounts and hourly giveaways. I get there around 5am and there is already a line. The sale last year drew members of our group like Rocky and Jeremy (Scott) Pyne who were in also standing in line.

I was perusing the games in the deep discount area when I saw Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers. I thought this would be a nice addition to a goodybag. Wouldn’t it be nice if the goodybags at Extra Life had games in them? And thus preparation for Extra Life 2017 began on Black Friday 2016.

2. Brandi, our special events coordinator

851 W. Laketon Avenue 49441 The Gaming Annex
The (New) Gaming Annex

Brandi has been coming to The Gaming Annex since February 2016. She has been a steady member of our Thursday night crew ever since. She was a great help in supporting our special events like the Escape Rooms. When she was co-organizing our own murder mystery, Death Wears White, it was clear she needed to be given an official role: special events coordinator.

She, along with her cohort Holly, did a lot of decorating and preparing for the Kids’ Gala in October. Managing an event with 10 little ones was ambitious. But Extra Life would be a whole new challenge. And she was up for it!

3. Scope of the Event

Goodybag games!
Goodybag games!

I knew I wanted every goodybag to have a game in it. This would be a nice surprise, especially for all the 2016 attendees. I spent a lot of time accumulating games in our basement. It took lots of coaxing to get Debbie to believe all those shrink-wrapped games had been in our basement when we bought the house.

I dumped the whole lot of games off on Brandi and said, “Deal with it!”.  She bought bags to put the games into and made them look nice. (She actually did a fantastic job; I’m just being flippant).

The next aspect was how many people to have over. We have limited tables and parking. I thought 10-12 people. Brandi thought we could handle 14-16. She was right. We made enough goodybags for 14-16.

Muskegon appreciates Campaign Coins from King of the Castle Games
Campaign Coins from King of the Castle Games

Extra Life is a charitable event. So charging admission for the event was the main way to raise funds. I thought last year’s price point of $30-$35 was reasonable. This price would include your goodybag, three meals and 25 hours of games.

Greek Tony's Pizza
Greek Tony’s Pizza

Meal preparation for 14-16 people was a lot more painstaking then it is for a typical Twilight Imperium game. Brandi’s bestie, Abbey, was a great help. Abbey knows someone who knows someone who knows Greek Tony’s. She was able to get us Greek Tony’s pizza for dinner. It was delicious. I ate the pizza over a garbage can like a %$@# savage.

We had Crockpot Central for lunch and midnight snacks. I made Swedish meatballs. Tasha made her Annex-wide famous taco dip. And others were generous and brought lots of cookies, cakes and snacks.

4. Contests

Raffle time
Raffle time

Last year we had a raffle. We had modest success with it. I wanted to do another raffle this year, anticipating more hype this go around.

Last year we did a standard raffle. You buy tickets. The tickets go in a hat. We draw a ticket from a hat. And you win the game. Rinse and repeat. Brandi had the bright idea of doing a Chinese raffle. This is where you have not one hat but several hats. People put their tickets in the hat accompanying the prize they want to win. So we had five “hats”. People put their tickets into Sword & Sorcery, Dominion, etc.

It was a much bigger success than last year. This year we had five different winners (whereas last year, we kept pulling Joe Morse’s tickets). Jonathan won Tiny Epic Quest; Matt won The Lost Expedition; Rob won Dominion Intrigue; Brian made up for last year by winning Sword & Sorcery. And Ms. Brandi herself won Teenage Mutant Turtles: Shadows of the Past.

Toe of Satan lollipop
Toe of Satan lollipop

The final contest was at 9PM. It involved Nick Sima and a lollipop. Not just any lollipop. This was Satan’s toe: a lollipop with a 9,000,000 Scoville rating. People would bet on how long they thought Nick Sima could keep it in his mouth. And to our surprise, he did 10 minutes! Special thanks to all the folks at Longer Days for their support.

5. The Games of the Day

Muskegon loves Eminent Domain from Tasty Minstrel Games
Eminent Domain: Escalation

The real question on everyone’s mind is: what games did we play? Yes, we may have raised some money for a children’s hospital. But did we play some awesome games in the process?

And the answer is: yes, we did.

I broke out Eminent Domain. We played this with the Escalation expansion. It was a smashing success. I think we have a dark horse game here.

I thought a group how to play Endeavor. I love this game. And I’m glad we played this just in time for the launch of the 2nd edition.

Muskegon loves Twilight Imperium 4th Edition
Twilight Imperium 4th Edition from Fantasy Flight Games

Dusty and the crew played Twilight Imperium 4th edition. He wrangled Tasha into playing. Tasha liked it so much she has already RSVP’d for our next game in late November. Bill was on board too. He loved it. The rest of us who didn’t play got to enjoy the slapfest between Nick Sima and Dusty.

Brian brought The Captain is Dead. He played it with 6 or 7 people, almost the full complement. It went over well. Then the table broke out Dr. Steve’s Photosynthesis game and gave it a whirl.

After midnight, Ben and the crew thought it would be amazing to start playing Tales of the Arabian Nights. That game lasted until 4am. To wake ourselves up, we played several rounds of Happy Salmon.

We rounded off the event with a bunch of party games like Wavelength and Word on the Street.

6. Final Numbers and thoughts

Tiny Epic Galaxies
Tiny Epic Galaxies

We had 14 attendees at the event. We raised $817 at the event and another $50 after the event (thanks mom!)

The event was a smashing success. Everyone loved the games they played, the games they got in their goodybags and the games they won at the raffle. We really outdid 2016’s event.

Are we going to do this event again next year? More than likely. I have some ideas about how to do things better. And Brandi’s wheels are already turning too. We are going to get more food donated. We will be more proactive in this in 2018. The goodybags next year will be as good or better next year. And the price point will be about the same. We will definitely not being having a Scoville Challenge next year. But we will have some other contest that is both fun for the spectators and humiliating to Nick Sima.

On a related note: Out of the Box is having its Black Friday sale in a week or two from now…

7. Where the fun happens

You can watch all our videos and shenanigans here:

 

 

 

 

The Gaming Annex in Muskegon