Category Archives: Building a Game Group

What is “The Griffin’s Rest” and why should I care?

[Editor’s note: I’d like to introduce Kiel Reid to everyone. Kiel Reid was born and raised in Muskegon. He’s been involved in the gaming hobby for many years, much of it in convention sales. He has some exciting for us. The rest of this post is his announcement.]

What is “The Griffin’s Rest” and why should I care?

Griffins Rest logo
Griffins Rest logo

The Griffin’s Rest is a new gaming store opening in downtown Muskegon in Spring of 2017. That’s great but honestly…Why should you care?

That question became pivotal in how we decided to go about this endeavor. In order to really bring something awesome to the table, we asked ourselves this question every time we made a decision on how this store would operate.

For us, a key aspect of what we do revolves around this concept. Being a place where you can buy AND play games is what really separates us from our online and big box competitors. Honestly…Why shop with us if you can get it a few bucks cheaper online, avoid a trip and save money on gas? Being “local” isn’t enough. Our geographic proximity to you does not entitle us to your business.

With that in mind here are the key things that we feel will make it worth the trip and a couple extra dollars.

 

A Great Place to Play

1121 3rd Street 49441
1121 3rd Street 49441

When you enter The Griffin’s Rest, one of the first things you will notice is our play areas. Clean tables and comfortable padded chairs can be found in our retail area and our dedicated play area upstairs. Our free wi-fi will ensure you are able to connect any of your mobile devices such as a phone or laptop. We will have a small library of games you can play at no cost.

You’ll also find a lounge area where you can sit and socialize for a bit. Beverages and snacks for sale when you’re getting into a long gaming session. Private rooms for your regular gaming groups. There will even be smart TV’s that can display information for your tournaments or campaign information like maps and such.

 

The Ideal Customer Experience

It’s great to have neat toys and comfy chairs but at the end of the day this is a store. We need to be able to provide you with an awesome experience. At The Griffin’s Rest we don’t just stand behind the counter, we are your concierge. We want to hear about what kind of games YOU like and help make a recommendation based on that.

Know what you want and just need to grab it and go? No problem! We’ll get you squared away real quick so you can continue on with your day and look forward to seeing you next time. Don’t have what you need? We will give you a realistic time frame as to when it will arrive if you order it from us and let you decide if that meets your needs.

When you visit us you can always count on us to be professional, knowledgeable and accommodating.

 

Fun Events

Events are what we think will really make things special. Every month we are going to hold a specialty event that revolves around a concept. This event could revolve around Star Wars, Game of Thrones or any other multitude of things. Along with a gang of games that are free to play that revolve around the theme, you will find people in costume running demonstrations. There will be light music, giveaways and special discounts on themed games.

Magic: the Gathering
Magic: the Gathering

Don’t worry tournament players! We love you too! We will be doing our best to ensure we have awesome weekends and whatever games you guys want us to run. Friday Night Magic be a big part of what we do as well as other competitive play options. What other games? Well…It would be pretentious of us to assume we know the will of the people. You guys are gonna have to come in and let us know so we can make it happen.

 

A Safe, Inviting and Inclusive Community

Kiel Reid giving his 5x5 presentation
Kiel Reid giving his 5×5 presentation

Another thing we think is really important is being stewards of the local gaming community and that means spreading the love of the hobby. The way we plan to do this is by sponsoring gaming clubs at the schools in the Muskegon area. This helps the next generation of gamers start enjoying the hobby earlier.

We also want to ensure our players know we are dedicated to ensuring all visitors are held to a simple yet firm standard.

– Maintain your personal hygiene before coming to the store. It’s not our goal to single anyone out but we want to make sure EVERYONE has a great shopping and entertainment experience. If it happens, we will ask you to leave for the day. If it is a reoccurring problem, you will be asked to leave and not return.

– Loud or consistent profanity are not allowed. We understand people are human but this is an all ages store. We don’t need little Timmy telling his parents about all the profanities he learned at The Griffin’s Rest because you play a loud drunken pirate in your Dungeons & Dragons game.

– Be courteous to your fellow players. We are all passionate about the games we play but it never gives us an excuse to be mean or rude to each other. Do onto others as you would have done onto yourself and when in doubt if something is OK, don’t do the thing.

– You are the eyes and ears. If you see any of the above occurring we ask that you let us know so we can ensure the standard we have set is maintained. Don’t suffer in silence.

Pretty simple right?

 

Big Promises

It does sound like a lot right? I agree. So when we open this spring, come check us out.

As progress continues on the renovation of the building we will keep you informed, get you pictures of the progress, and the date for the grand opening. We’re looking forward to our opportunity to earn your business and provide you with an awesome gaming experience.

 

More information here:

www.facebook.com/thegriffinsrest

 

Thrift store finds

It’s time for our quasi-monthly installment of Thrift Store Finds! The past month has been very fruitful for everyone’s favorite board game thrifter.

If you’ve been around these parts for a while, continue to the list below. But if you are new to this blog, I’ll take this time to explain. I love going to thrift stores and rescuing games. I have a large collection of games that I have rescued that are incomplete. I also have an entire shelf of rescues that are 100% complete. I often use these games as a recruiting tool. I post ads on social media where I give games away as an excuse to get new people to come to The Gaming Annex. If someone likes Risk or Axis and Allies, they could be a good fit for the group. Every once in a great while I will find one of my Holy Grails.

Thrift Store Board Game Finds in the Muskegon Area February 2017

 

Penny Arcade: Rumble in R’lyeh and Gamers vs. Evil

Penny Arcade: Rumble in R'lyeh
Penny Arcade: Rumble in R’lyeh

I don’t make it to the various thrift stores in Grand Haven (49417) as often as I’d like. But I have to admit: when I do make it there, it is often worth the trip. For example: I found Cryptozoic’s Penny Arcade Rumble in R’lyeh and Gamers vs. Evil for $2 each. Both games were complete and fully sleeved.

Penny Arcade: Gamers vs. Evil
Penny Arcade: Gamers vs. Evil

When you find complete, fully sleeved games like this, it’s an auto-buy for me. I would classify this as an “amazing” find.  These games hold decent ratings (6+) on boardgamegeek.com and have a decent trade bait value.

When I find games like this, it always makes me think: there must be gamers in the area that don’t have other gamers to play with. If the original owner of this game liked this game enough to buy both the base game and expansion and to sleeve both, would he dismiss it to a thrift store if he had an active game group? Connecting with these forlorn gamers that makes me such a diehard thrift shopper.

Politika from Red Storm Entertainment

Tom Clancy's Politika from Red Storm Entertainment
Tom Clancy’s Politika from Red Storm Entertainment

Tom Clancy was to the Cold War what John Grisham is to courtroom dramas. Clancy’s books have been turned into movies like Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games. One of his books, Politika, was turned into a board game.

Politika did not do as well amongst the hardcore gamers, unfortunately. It was distributed exclusively by Toys R Us, whereas hardcore gamers like supporting game stores; it covers an obscure theme (Russian politics); and the component quality was a hindrance to game play.

If one were to overlook these flaws, one would find this to be Risk with more depth and complexity. In 1997, that was a big step forward in game development for its time.

I found a complete copy. I haven’t decided what to do with it. If any readers of this blog would like a copy, you know where to find it.

 

Diplomacy (metal pieces edition)

Diplomacy from Avalon Hill (metal pieces)
Diplomacy from Avalon Hill (metal pieces)

In my last thrift blog post, I posted how I found one my grails. I found a copy of Avalon Hill’s Acquire with the plastic hotels.  That was part of a large box set of Avalon Hill games that Hasbro put out several years ago. Well imagine my elation when I found another game from that set: Diplomacy with metal pieces.

Most editions of Diplomacy have cardboard counters for the ships and armies. But this rare edition uses pewter cannons and ships (repurposed from Monopoly) as the units. The game was largely unpunched and 100% complete. As was the case with the Penny Arcade find, I believe some local gamer bought Diplomacy, hoping to play it, but never found a strong group with which to do so. And his copy ended up at Dibs on Harvey Street.

Duel of Ages

Duel of Ages from Venatic Games
Duel of Ages from Venatic Games

Duel of Ages is a tactical game where players break into two teams. Players take on the roles of agents in an anachronistic universe, wielding laser rifles, long bows and four wheelers. The game was a hit in the early days of boardgamegeek. It spawned a reimplementation in 2013.

I knew of Duel of Ages but had never played it. I found a copy for sale at a Goodwill. The game was complete. The components were all separated and bagged. Evidently the previous owner loved this game and took good care of it.

Like Politika, I don’t know what I’ll be doing with this game yet. Hit me up if you need a copy 🙂

Other notable finds

Liar's Dice (Milton Bradley)
Liar’s Dice (Milton Bradley)

Liar’s Dice, especially Milton Bradley’s 1987 edition, is an auto-buy. I can always find someone locally who needs a copy of this. Plus this game hits the table at The Gaming Annex with some regularity. I have plans for this copy of Liar’s Dice. I’m toying with the idea of having a game giveaway day–maybe have this (and other games) as door prizes. Stay tuned for more details.

Monopoly Coca-Cola Edition
Monopoly Coca-Cola Edition

Specialty Monopoly editions are a good way to connect with gamers in the area. I found a Coca-Cola edition, Monopoly City, Simpson’s Monopoly and a SpongeBob edition in recent weeks. The SpongeBob game has already flew off the shelf to a person who had no idea The Gaming Annex even existed 😀

Where you can find these and many other games

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
167 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

Dictator Jon

Tuesday, Feb 28, 2017, 6:00 PM
4 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

Games for Couples

Among the gamers over the  Sunday before last was a pair of couples. Because we had a total of six players, we played Imperial 2030, Top Secret Spies and For Sale. But after the games, it was clear that the couples primarily played two player games and were each others primary gaming partner. Most people don’t have access to a large gaming group at the drop of a hat so they happily game with their significant other. After our gaming session, we discussed some good two player games that they perhaps hadn’t heard of. I decided to expand upon that conversation here. This is a list of board games that not only play well with two players but have the right amount of complexity and game length to be a good fit for couples.

 

1. Castle Panic

Oh no! Orcs are at the gates of Muskegon!
Castle Panic from Fireside Games

Castle Panic is a good couples game for two important reasons: it’s a cooperative game and it’s an accessible game.

Players work together to stave off what feels like an endless horde of orcs and trolls. If you run out monsters, you win! If the castle is destroyed, you lose. Players can trade cards with each other in order to optimize the castle’s defense.

The rules are very easy to pick up. And the components are perfect. Not perfect in the sense that they are the top of the line, though they are decent quality. Perfect in the sense they add to the game’s accessibility. The bits allow a savvy gamer to figure out the rules with little instructions while also introducing new players to typical gaming iconography. Castle Panic has the added bonus of having two expansions which gives couples the ability to play the game with more variety.

It should be noted that Castle Panic is not strictly a two player game. But due to downtime, I cannot recommend it with 3 or more players. But I can recommend it to couples who are looking for light gaming options.

 

2. Raptor

In the jungle, the mighty jungle the raptor sleeps tonight
In the jungle, the mighty jungle the raptor sleeps tonight

When prodigious game designers Bruno Cathala and Bruno Faidutti work on a project together, you know some magic will happen. Mission: Red Planet, Queen’s Necklace and now Raptor.

Raptor is a bit of a departure from their previous collaborations. Raptor is a strictly two player game that is completely asymmetrical. The game could be classified as a Euro (given that the Brunos are French) but the asymmetry and the plastic bits make it feel more wargame-y.

One player is the intrepid scientists who need to capture raptor babies. The other player is the adroit raptor mother who protects her young from the scientists. The game can end in one of four ways, all player driven. And the game comes in an economical package: both in terms of price (around $40) and time frame (around 25 minutes).

Being a huge fan of Jurassic Park, my wife took a shine to this game. And Raptor holds up under more serious gamer scrutiny. I’ve heard Dusty and Jon praise the game. If you part of a “gaming couple”, Raptor is a no-brainer.

 

3. Splendor

Splendor by Space Cowboys
Splendor by Space Cowboys

Long time followers of this blog may recall me lambasting Splendor (see here). But despite my well placed and hilarious barbs, I have to admit that Splendor is deserving of the high praise gamers bestow upon it.

Splendor is a simple game to learn. You have a few different actions to choose from, much like Ticket to Ride. You use your actions to either build your economic engine or to score points. There is a point in the game where you must stop building your engine so you can get points. And like any good game, that point changes based upon the strategies of you and your opponents.

Splendor plays up to four players. But the game plays fine with two. With no downtime, I think Splendor really shines with two.

 

4. 7 Wonders Duel

7 Wonders: Duel
7 Wonders: Duel

7 Wonders is a good, light card drafting game. It plays well with 3 to 5 players with minimal downtime in about 30 minutes. When I saw they were making a two player version, I thought they were barking up the wrong tree. How do you make a card drafting game for two?

The answer: you don’t. 7 Wonders Duel captures the feel of 7 Wonders without the card drafting. It’s really amazing how they did this. Instead of card drafting, the cards are laid out either upside down or right side up in a pyramid fashion. Players take turns selecting cards from the pyramid, revealing the cards underneath as they do so. You can score points, build you economic engine or go for a military victory. All the aspects of 7 Wonders along with the feel of 7 Wonders. And it’s for two players only and plays in 20 to 30 minutes.

It’s no wonder this game has reached #10 on boardgamegeek. It’s a work of high design (by Bruno Cathala no less). All gaming couples should have this game in their collection.

 

5. The Kosmos Two Player Game collection

Muskegon is a lost city
Lost Cities by Reiner Knizia

Kosmos, often in conjunction with Rio Grande Games, released numerous “games for two”. These games were in small boxes, came with a small price tag and were more often than not, quite good. We will look at the best ones here.

Lost Cities is the most popular of the collection. It’s a take on Rummy. While this may not sound all that great, Lost Cities is actually a perennial hit at The Gaming Annex. It’s a light game but has some room for clever play.

Dracula stalks Muskegon (again)
Dracula from Michael Rieneck

 

 

Dracula is one of my favorites from this line. It’s an asymmetrical game of cat and mouse. If you liked Raptor, Dracula may be a game for you to consider. The rules are light enough for most gaming couples. But the strategy and bluffing are enough to satisfy even seasoned gamers.

Muskegon Area Gamers says "Jambo" to the world
Rüdiger Dorn’s Jambo

 

 

 

Jambo is a two player version of Traders of Genoa and Istanbul. Makes sense. All three of these games were designed by Rüdiger Dorn.

Players buy and sell goods in Central Africa. Savvy use of your actions will be required if you want to finish with the most money.

Jambo is a very good two player game. Like Dracula or Raptor, it’s good for both seasoned gamers as well as for couples who might not rules intensive games.

 

 

6. Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War

Stronghold Game's Confusion is a favorite at the Gaming Annex in Muskegon
Stronghold Game’s Confusion is a favorite at the Gaming Annex in Muskegon

Confusion will round out this list. Confusion is heavier than the other games listed here. Literally. The pieces are dense resin. Plus the game is more brain burning the others. Yet, I think Confusion can be a good couples game. It’s a game that a couple who likes 7 Wonders: Duel or Jambo but want a little something more on occasion.

Confusion is like reverse Stratego. Instead of knowing your own pieces and trying to figure out your opponents–you know your opponent’s pieces and must figure out your own! This makes Confusion an actual deduction game. Since you know how your opponent’s pieces move, it’s also a game of bluffing.

Like Stratego, you must move your pieces around the board in an effort to capture the flag. In Confusion, you must pick up this flag and move it across the endzone. Another familiar theme in this game is: you can “king” your pieces like in checkers. With familiar themes along with a 30 to 45 minute play time, most couples won’t be put off by Confusion.

 

Epilogue

Twilight Struggle: The Cold War is waged in Muskegon, MI
Twilight Struggle

I don’t expect gaming couples to play my favorite two player game (which is Twilight Struggle). But I hope my list inspires you to try some new games.

It should be noted: all the games on this list are at The Gaming Annex. And most of the Muskegon Area Gamers could teach them to you if you want to test drive them before foisting them upon your significant other.

 

-Chris, on behalf of the Muskegon Area Gamers

The Muskegon Area Gamers and our community outreach efforts

All game groups experience attrition. Players move out of the area, have life changing events or simply lose interest in the hobby. Finding new gamers is crucial to maintaining a thriving game group. This is true even of the Muskegon Area Gamers. Our efforts to connect with area gamers has always been hit and miss. Mostly miss. This has preoccupied me as of late. I’ve decided to be a bit more proactive in our community outreach efforts. Here are some my thoughts. Feel free to comment if you have ideas on how to improve our community presence.

 

1. The Brew House on Seminole Road

The Brew House in Muskegon
The Brew House in Muskegon

We had two game days at the Brew House. We were invited there by the owner/operator. We made arrangements, advertised on facebook, posted fliers and on meetup. We had 16 people come to the first game day. We had 20 come to the second game day. I would call this a success.

And yet the crew at the Brew House didn’t seem to know we were going to be there. This, despite our efforts to the get the word out.

And in unrelated news: the Brew House is closed down. The store claimed the cause was a disagreement about the terms of the lease. I can’t help thinking if the management of the Brew House took our business more seriously, we both could have been benefited from it.

 

2. Shoreline Minis

Shoreline Minis in Spring Lake
Shoreline Minis

We had a partnership of sorts with Shoreline Minis. The Muskegon Area Gamers made several appearances at Shoreline. We demoed board games for an otherwise Warhammer 40K crowd.

We never got the crossover between the two groups. I was hoping members of our group and their group would blend. Other than Mike and Molly who made a few appearances at The Gaming Annex last year, there was no crossover.

Then in December, Shoreline Minis called it quits.

Like the Brew House, I think Shoreline Minis would have benefited from making the Muskegon Area Gamers a staple in their establishment. Both these establishments have closed; The Gaming Annex is still open.

 

3. Out of the Box Games

Century Club in Muskegon
Century Club

Having an Out of the Box Games in Muskegon is nice. The Century Club is a good fit for Jeff’s retail vision. And since I get a 30% discount, you can bet that I’ll be buying games there. Often.

The Century Club is a good location for hosting events, what with its 2nd story ballroom. And Out of the Box did have a game night here in November. Our group supported the event. But other than us, there wasn’t any other people there. I was disappointed.

To date, that was the only game night Out of the Box has hosted at its Muskegon location.  Although we haven’t had much success in finding recruits from these community events, I’m optimistic this will change if OotB sponsors more events. As such, I’m hoping Out of the Box hosts more events.

 

4. Fetch Brewing in Whitehall

Fetch Brewing in Whitehall
Fetch Brewing in Whitehall

Fetch Brewing moved into a former bank on Colby Street. Indeed the bank vault is still there due to the difficulty in removing it. And Fetch Brewing is game friendly along with being vault friendly.

Each International Game Day they host a gaming event. Today was no exception. Some members of our group attended.

Despite heavy attendance from Fetch Brewing’s clientele, there was no crossover with our  group members. The gamers from Fetch wanted to play games with their own friends and not meet other gamers. 🙁

Another swing and a miss.

 

5. A new enterprise is opening up

Technology Bytes
Technology Bytes

Tasha has been a great asset to our group. She definitely earned her keep by uncovering this morsel of information. A gaming lounge is opening up in North Muskegon.

Located near my old stomping grounds on Whitehall Road, this gaming lounge will have video and board games on tap along with periodic tournaments. The place is scheduled for opening in May/June.

I was surprised and excited to hear the news. I poured over the details on their facebook page and their website. This new start up could be the partnership we’ve been looking for. We supply game demos and seasoned gamers while they supply interested clientele. Their clientele learn about board games and make purchases; then their clientele drops by The Gaming Annex semi-regularly.

And if that wasn’t enough, it seems a member of our group has ties to the owners of Technology Bytes! I’ll keep you posted with details as I get more…but I’m really excited about this opportunity.

 

6. Plans for community outreach: immediate future

Muskegon Area Gamers meetup calednar
Muskegon’s meetup calendar

As you can tell from the above points, our efforts to make headway into the community have not been very successful. I’ve been pondering this as of late. What is going wrong? What can we do differently?

And I’ve come to a few conclusions. The reason for our lack of successes is in part because our events are too spread out. When you have only one event a year at the Brew House, it’s easy for regular patrons to dismiss you. When you have an event every month, eventually you become a regular patron. And then the other regulars get involved. This would in part solve what happened at the Brew House and Fetch Brewing.

And this would also help with the lack of crossover members in the Muskegon Area Gamers and other game groups. If we had met at Shoreline Minis once a month instead of once every 6 to 8 months, the regulars there would have gotten to know us more. And would have been more open to coming to The Gaming Annex.

I think the Muskegon Area Gamers needs to have a monthly game event in the community. It could be on a Thursday, in lieu of going to The Gaming Annex. It could be on a Saturday. It could be on any day, really. But we need to be more consistent. This will certainly give us better results.

I’m open to suggestions as to where to start. I’m leaning towards having a monthly game demo at The Burrow in Grand Haven. I’d like to get started in May. Check meetup for more information.

 

7. Plans for community outreach: long term

Magic: the Gathering
Magic: the Gathering

One thing that has bothered me about our current arrangement is: I rent the Annex for the entire month but we only use it about 13 days each month. There are other gaming things we could do during our off days.

Muskegon has been without a serious Friday Night Magic venue for a few years now. Out of the Box doesn’t support Magic, Friday nights or any other night. White Caps Comics supports Friday Night Magic but they’re not in Muskegon. Langes is in Muskegon and has Friday Night Magic but they’re not serious.

The Gaming Annex meets all the burdens that Wizards of the Coast imposes for Friday Night Magic venues: we are a brick and mortar commercial location. Dusty has mentioned using The Gaming Annex on Fridays for this purpose. He could get judge status from WotC easy enough. But he has family obligations for the foreseeable future. Thus, this is a long term goal.

Another long term idea was to have an ongoing RPG campaign at The Gaming Annex. This couldn’t be during our board game hours because the RPG players need their own space. So we would need someone to run the campaign on Wednesdays or Saturdays. This person would need to be in our super secret cabal Tier 1 status because he/she would need a key to the Annex. And he/she would need to be the champion of building the RPG group. Thus–a long term project.

 

Epilogue

Parker Brothers' Can't Stop
Parker Brothers’ Can’t Stop

Despite not making the headway into the community, I’m very optimistic about our future. I know there are other gamers in the area that would fit in well with us. And our tack to connect with them will bear fruit.

-Chris, on behalf of the Muskegon Area Games.

 

 

 

 

Our Second Game Day at The Brew House

Recruiting new gamers can be a Herculean effort because finding new gamers is a task that requires the power of demigods. Sometimes it’s a Promethean effort because finding new gamers is a pointless endeavor. The Muskegon Area Gamers are constantly looking for ways to make inroads in the Muskegon area. When the Brew House reached out and asked us to have a game day at their place last year, I thought that was a good idea: more exposure for our group and we can drum up customers for a  local business. We mustered 13 gamers. The Brew House has been asking us to come back for some time now. We had our second game day last Saturday. Here’s what you missed.

 

1. What is the Brew House?

The Brew House in Muskegon
The Brew House in Muskegon

The Brew House (http://www.brewhouse.co/) is located on Seminole Road near Seaway Drive. Old timers from the area may call this “the old Hills Department Store” area. That is, I call it “the old Hills Department Store area”.

They serve made to order coffee along with locally brewed craft beers. They also have open mic nights, local music performances and karaoke. Mongo told me he has played there a few times.

The venue is decently suited to have an occasional game day.

 

2. Picking Games for such an event

Muskegon Area Gamers
Board game collection

Event planning is hard. Getting the right games out to an event such as the ones we have at the Brew House can be a chore. You have to negotiate so many constraints.

You need games that are fun. No one will be interested in your hobby if play games that are tedious. You need games that are short. I love long games. But we can’t exactly expose people in a coffee house to your hobby with a 5 hour long game. And you need games that are easy to teach and learn. Games like Two Rooms and Boom or Avalon are not easy to teach. They would go over like a lead balloon in a coffee shop setting.

We spent some time figuring out what games to bring. I loaded up the Venza with them. And then hit the road.

 

3. The Event

Lanterns from Renegade Games
Lanterns from Renegade Games

Jeremy brought his shiny new copy of Lantern: the Harvest Festival. This is a beautiful game of tile laying, set collecting and menu filling. It’s a very good fit for an event like Saturday’s. This was my first play of this game so check out our next “Hits & Flops” to see how it went over.

Rhino Hero at the Brew House
Rhino Hero at the Brew House

 

 

 

Rhino Hero is a great family game. Rhino Hero is a cross between Uno and Jenga. But it’s so much better than either of them. If you have kids, buy a copy. At least one game of Rhino Hero was played on Saturday.

Ninjato at the Brew House
Ninjato at the Brew House

 

 

Paul has been a member of our group for a couple of years now. He doesn’t get to play as often as we’d like. He asked me if I could teach him Ninjato. He picked up a copy and wanted a refresher. We had a four player game of this on Saturday.

Codenames at the Brew House
Codenames at the Brew House

 

 

Codenames is another perfect fit for an event like this one. It’s quick, easy to learn and people tend to enjoy it much than I can fathom (I find it to be mediocre). Dusty taught the game to my wife and a few others.

Citadels at the Brew House
Citadels at the Brew House

 

 

 

Tasha brought her copy of Citadels. She also brought the newest addition to her family. We were all happy to (finally) meet this happy little guy.

I lost Citadels. Badly.

Kingsburg at the Brew House
Kingsburg at the Brew House

Matt & Company brought Kingsburg. Kingsburg is a great game with which to introduce people to our hobby. It’s fun, it’s easy enough to learn and it’s a good stepping stone to deeper games. (I think the folks here were more intent on getting day drunk than getting game drunk).

 

4. Results

King of New York
King of New York

We started around 11 am on Saturday. The last game ended a little after 3 pm. We had 20 people in attendance in total. By all accounts, this was a success.

I do have some reservations though. The staff did not seem to know we were going to be there. This, despite flyers in house and events posted on facebook. I looked at the Brew House’s calendar on their website. No mention of a game day is listed. I found this to be a tad disheartening since we brought out so many people.

We also haven’t had the organic recruitment from this event that I was hoping for. All twenty people in attendance were from our group or were directly invited by our group. I was hoping to make a new connection.

Having said this, I am not completely dismayed by the event. It was a big success statistically. I’ll get with Dusty and Nick Sima (both in attendance that day) and see what we can do to make our next game day at the Brew House even better.

Which necessarily means there will be a next game day 🙂

 

Building the Better Game Group: When to play which games

CabinCon II is in the books. We had eight of the toughest gamers turn out for four days of gaming debauchery. Most of the event went great. There are some areas we could work on. I’ve been pondering some of the weak points of CabinCon II and I’ve realized an opportunity we have. I’ll share my insights below. Please comment with your ideas and feedback.

1. Background

Rune Wars is a favorite of the Muskegon Area Gamers
Rune Wars

At CabinCon, we started our Saturday with some eight player Formula D. We used most of the bells and whistles. Then we played Memoir ’44 Overlord with eight players. Then we played a few fillers. In the late afternoon, we broke down into two tables. At one of the tables, Jon taught Rune Wars to Matt, Mongo and Rocky.

Rune Wars is a great game, not unlike a fantasy version of Twilight Imperium. As such it is a heavy game. For rules explanation to game completion, Rune Wars took approximately 7 hours. The guys were done around 1am, give or take.

 

 

2. Outcome

Lego Angst in Muskegon
Lego Angst

Jon loves Rune Wars. Rocky loves fantasy games. Matt loves Mage Knight. Mongo loves Twilight Imperium. Rune Wars seemed like a natural fit.

It wasn’t.

The game left a terrible taste in everyone’s mouth except Jon’s. It will take a tremendous amount of coaxing to get Matt, Rocky or Mongo to try Rune Wars again–despite the fact that this game aligns strongly with their favorite games–and despite the fact I can personally vouch for this game’s excellence.

 

 

 

3. Other Symptoms?

Muskegon loves Memoir 44
Memoir 44

How did the other games go? To be honest, Formula D and Memoir ’44 were not as well received as they could/should have been.

This is partly my fault for not bringing an Overlord-approved scenario for Memoir ’44. This will be fixed when we play the Overlord edition again (which should be very soon!)

But it also has to do with WHEN you play games–not necessarily WHAT you play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Timing Your Games

Formula 1 racing in Muskegon!
Formula D from Asmodee Games

Some games are really good–but you have to play them at certain peak times. those same games can be quite irritating at other times.

Formula D is a good game. I love it. It’s my favorite racing game. But there is a lot of mindless dice chucking in it. Certainly there are decisions to make that have a huge bearing on your outcome. But this game is too long for a filler (~60 minutes). It’s a perfect game to wrap up a game night, when people are drained from a long, deep game.

Rune Wars is a long, deep game. You should play this when people are fresh and ready, say at 9 or 10 am. Unfortunately, Jon started the rules explanation around 5 or 6pm. This is when people should have already played a deep game and are now ready to relax and laugh while playing a game.

5. Making a good game schedule

Muskegon walks a Relationship Tightrope from Uberplay
Relationship Tightrope from Uberplay

A game night should start with a warm up. A game that gets people’s juices flowing. Ricochet Robots is a good game for that. So is Relationship Tightrope. These games feel satisfying for their length of time and whet a hardcore gamer’s appetite for a meatier game.

After the warm up game, bust out the meaty game like Rune Wars. People will be prepped and ready a heavy game. Their attention will not compromised. If anything, their attention will be at a peak level if the warm up did its job.

After the meaty game, pull out the light fare. Got an hour? Play some Formula D. Got 45 minutes? Play Longshots. Tweak the game to the time frame and the player count.

6. Recent Execution of this plan

Muskegon loves Colt Express from Ludonaute Games
Colt Express from Ludonaute Games

I was the dictator last night. Everyone wanted to try Penny Press and Colt Express, two new games I had gotten. Colt Express falls squarely into the “lighter fare” category. I knew it would be harshly treated by the Muskegon Area Gamers if we played it when we should be playing a meaty game.

For meaty games, I dictated China and Manila. I probably should have picked something a little meatier but oh well.

But the reception of Colt Express, however, was overall very strong. I really believe it was related to WHEN we played it. Had we played this before China, people would have been more disappointed because it’s not meaty and they wanted meat.

I should have started the night off with a warm up. Instead, I started with Penny Press. And Penny Press, coincidentally, was ill received.

I’ll test my hypothesis further, but I really think I’m on to something. Schedule your game nights with 1) Warm up; 2) Meaty game; and 3)Lighter fare.

 

The Trials of a Game Recruiter

Building a game group is a tough job. Maintaining a game group is just as tough. In fact, building a game group is really nothing more than maintaining a game group. The currency is players. Players leave the group; other join (hopefully). As people’s lives change, the game group is going to undergo changes. Recruiting new gamers is the only way to maintain a game group.

 

1. Recruiting is hard work

Uncle Sam wants you to play board games
Uncle Sam wants you

For those of you who are recruiters in your professional lives: I salute you. For those of you who never recruited: it’s hard HARD work.

Reaching people is not easy. It requires lots of effort. I’ve been recruiting nonstop for almost four years. And there is no end in sight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Recruiting is random work

Muskegon is a gamer's paradise
Pair of dice

It’s not like you can put forth X amount of hours recruiting and count of getting Y amount of new gamers. There is virtually no correlation in the amount of recruiting I do and the amount of new gamers I find.

There have been times when I was utterly disappointed by the lack of recruits my efforts turned up. And then there have been times when our group was nothing short of serendipitous in finding new gamers.

 

 

 3. Where I recruit: Facebook

Lots of gamers on facebook
Facebook

We maintain a presence on facebook. Some of our events are noted on there. We try to keep the page active and fresh.

Every now and again I will do a paid campaign ($4 to $10) in order to generate some likes. We are up to 250 now.

 

4. Where I recruit: meetup

Muskegon Area Gamers use meetup
Meet Up

We have a presence on meetup as well.  This has helped put us in touch with more gamers than facebook has.

Meetup is an excellent tool to also manage the group, not just recruit.

 

5. Where I recruit: craigslist

Muskegon Craigslist and the Muskegon Area Gamers
Muskegon Craigslist

I keep a rather strong presence on craigslist. Craigslist, incidentally, has produced more quality gamers than facebook too. And it’s free. Take that, Zuckerberg!

The bad thing about craigslist is you get wackos replying to your ads along with quality gamers. And only the  most trained of game recruiters can tell the difference.

 

 

6. Where I recruit: Boardgamegeek

Muskegon's favorite website: Boardgamegeek
Boardgamegeek

I’ve gotten two of our mainstay gamers from boardgamegeek. I also got Jeremy Scott Pyne from boardgamegeek.

BGG is an excellent tool to find local gamers.

However, the well seems to have run dry from BGG as of late, though. I haven’t found a recruit from BGG in over two years.

 

7. Unusual Failures in Recruiting

Muskegon Community College has a game club
Muskegon Community College

There have been some recruiting efforts that have turned up no fruit. A few of them are real head scratchers.

Take Muskegon Community College for example. They have a game club that caters to RPG’s, M:TG and video gamers. I’ve been to four, count ’em, four of their game day events. I’ve posted ads on their student union. I’ve contacted their game club advisor. And I have made exactly zero in-roads there. Not a single person from MCC has ever wandered into The Gaming Annex.

 

8. Unusual sources of success

Board games 1976 W. Sherman Blvd 49441
The Gaming Annex

I  asked one of our newest gamers how he found us. He said, “I was literally across the street at The Cherokee when I saw the sign.”

Another guy stopped by out of the blue a few weeks ago. He said a friend of his delivered a pizza to us. And his friend told him about this gaming place.

Every now and again I will get anxious about losses to our group (I’m looking at you Kevin and Ben!) Last night I was lamenting about my recent failures in finding new gamers to Jon over a game of 2008: Campaign Manager. While reversing history with a McCain landslide, I told Jon about my struggles to keep our attendance high. And as we were putting the game away, a new guy showed up out of the blue!

-Chris, HR Manager for The Muskegon Area Gamers

 

 

 

The Gaming Annex is still going strong

I haven’t been attentive to the blog recently. I also haven’t updated our website www.gamingannex.com in some time either. My personal situation has been corrected. And now I will be able to update the blog on the regular basis that we’ve grown accustomed to.

My contract at Steelcase was not renewed. They gave me two weeks notice. I found a new employer immediately. But Steelcase did require that I return their laptop back to them. During my tenure at Steelcase I was using their laptop instead of my desktop almost exclusively. It was very convenient to do all my blogging and updates on the laptop. My new employer, Thierica Display Products, has finally issued me a laptop. And now I’m back to blogging!

I have lots of updates to do like our vital stats for March, upcoming events for April and May, a special about Cabin Con II and much more. Stay tuned!

Or better yet, just join our group!

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
87 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, Oct 1, 2015, 6:00 PM
4 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

 

 

Building the Better Game Group: Muskegon Style

As any follower of this blog (or any regular gamer of ours) knows, the Muskegon Area Gamers is constantly striving to be the best game group it can be. And that quest to make The Gaming Annex the “only game in town” is plodding forward. We’ve recently found some opportunities for improvements. Many Tuesday nights we will sit around wasting time trying to determine what game to play. Someone will mention a game, someone else will sigh heavily and the game will be dismissed. After 30 minutes, the frustration level reaches tedious levels. We are rolling a pilot program to try to address this. Below are the details.

1. Dictator for Night

Muskegon Area Gamers make many Roman references.
Julius Caesar

During times of emergency, the Roman Republic would elect a dictator who would have substantial power over the proceedings. The dictator would make proposals which could not be vetoed. After the emergency subsided, the dictator would lay down the mantle of power and resume his role as a senator.

Our pilot program will be identical to this. Except it’ll be American instead of Roman. And it’ll be during times of deciding games instead of times of draought or Carthaginian invasions.

One regular gamer will decide the game(s) we play each night. And you will comply.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Planning the Evening

Muskegon loves classic games like Republic of Rome
Republic of Rome from Valley Games

Once the dictator has been selected, his game choices will need to be locked in. The game title is of course important. But the dictator must also choose the ideal player count. For example, if the dictator loves Republic of Rome (the board game, not the historical state), he would then have to choose the player parameters. He might decide he likes Republic of Rome with 4 or 5 players best. Three players are not enough and six players means there would be no auctioning.

We make plans for a 4-5 player game of Republic of Rome for the night in question. If we get four or five players at The Gaming Annex, then we are perfect! If we get less than four, we are doing something catastrophically wrong (see other blogs about our vital stats).

But happens if we get more than 5 players?

 

3. Managing Chaos

Pandemic by Z-Man Games is Muskegon's original co-op game.
Pandemic by Z-Man Games

It’s damn near impossible to know how many people will actually come to any given gaming meetup. People will show up unannounced. People who initially said they couldn’t make it will suddenly find they can make it after all. Managing this chaos is like trying to stave off pandemic outbreaks.

But I think it’s still manageable.

In the previous example, should we get six or more players, we can have the extra players go to a different table and game. The dictator’s realm will be over one game table. And the gamers at that table will be his subjects.

If we get surprise attendees, they can decide among themselves what games to play, hopefully without the normal hemming and hawing that we talked about in the intro of this blog post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. The Roll Out

Air Baron by Avalon Hill is another classic game Muskegon loves.
Air Baron by Avalon Hill

Next Tuesday will be the (new) official roll out for the Dictator-for-Night pilot program. Bruce is the dictator in question and we will obey most of his whims.

He has selected Avalon Hill’s classic “Air Baron”. We now need a player parameter locked in and we will be good to go.

More fine tuning of the process will take place in the months to come but I have a good feeling about our dictator pilot program. It just rolls of the tongue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you would like to learn more about us, please check us out here.

Muskegon Area Gamers

Muskegon, MI
87 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, Oct 1, 2015, 6:00 PM
4 Attending

Check out this Meetup Group →

Introducing people to the gaming hobby

My wife’s New Year’s Resolution was to learn more about gaming. So I’ve been making my collection a bit more newbie-friendly. Yesterday I taught my wife how to play Tsuro and Castle Panic. We played both games twice. After playing them, she commented on how I should develop a gaming curriculum to teach new players about the hobby. I thought that would be a good idea for a blog post. Here are some ideas. I wanted a list that included many aspects of the gaming hobby while also being easy to learn. Below are  examples of what modern gaming offers: alternatives to Monopoly, cooperative games, social deduction games and real-time games. 

 

1. Settlers of Catan

Settlers of Catan is a classic board game that Muskegon still enjoys.
Settlers of Catan

Settlers of Catan should be one of the top choices for any introductory game. It’s a perennial top seller. It’s easy to learn. It’s fun for new players.

But my reason for including Settlers as the #1 choice is because it is like Monopoly–only much better. Everyone has played Monopoly. And if you’ve played Monopoly, then you owe it to yourself to try Settlers of Catan. Settlers of Catan has urban development like Monopoly. In Settlers, players build settlements (like houses in Monopoly) and cities (like hotels in Monopoly). Settlers and Monopoly both generate income for players by rolling dice. In Monopoly, someone rolls the dice and lands on your property. In Settlers, you roll the dice and all cities and settlements generate income if they are on that space. Settlers of Catan has lots of wheeling and dealing just like Monopoly. In Settlers, players trade resources in order to have the raw materials to build their cities.

Settlers of Catan introduces people to the concept of “victory points”. There is no player elimination in Settlers of Catan. Someone reaches 10 victory points and wins.

 

 2. Ticket to Ride

Muskegon still loves the classics like Ticket to Ride.
Ticket to Ride

Easily the second game is Days of Wonder’s Ticket to Ride. Ticket to Ride is an easy game to pick up. Within a few minutes of playing, new players will feel like they understand the game and are making decisions that will affect their outcome.

Ticket to Ride introduces players to drafting, action selection and press-your-luck mechanics.

 

 

3. Castle Panic

Oh no! Orcs are at the gates of Muskegon!
Castle Panic from Fireside Games

Castle Panic is a good introduction to cooperative gaming. Players work together to defeat a host of orcs, goblins and trolls. Players play cards with archers, knights and swordsmen to do damage to the oncoming monsters.

Players are allowed to trade cards with one another but in a very limited fashion. Castle Panic requires players to work together to find the most efficient way to save the castle.

The monsters take damage and are eventually killed when enough cards are played. This teaches new players about “hit points” and “damage”. The monster pieces are three sided tokens with their hit points located in each corner. This means there is no extra bookkeeping.

 

4. The Resistance

The Resistance (or it’s sister game The Resistance: Avalon) is an excellent introduction to social deduction. This is by far the best party game on the market (sorry Cards Against Humanity).

Players are dealt a secret role at the beginning of the game. Good players try to score 3 victory points by succeeding on missions. Bad players try to score 3 victory points by failing missions. The Good Players outnumber the bad players but do not know each other’s loyalties. The Bad players, on the other hand, DO know each other’s loyalties.

Bluffing, lying, negotiation are the meat of this game. All of this in just 25 to 30 minutes.

 

5. Escape: Curse of the Temple

Escape: Curse of the Temple in Muskegon
Escape: Curse of the Temple

Escape: Curse of the Temple is a real-time board game. The game lasts precisely 10 minutes (because it’s timed). Players act simultaneously trying to find the exit and discarding gems.

Players roll dice over and over in order to get the results they need. Players need to work together to discard all the gems (a requirement to exit the temple).

One side of each die is “cursed” and cannot be rerolled unless they have a gold mask. Getting stuck with all cursed dice is a common problem and your teammates will have to zip over to your location to help you.