Epic 7×7 #Kingdomino + #Queendomino Battle (@BlueOrangeGames)

Our Family Game Night has changed a bit in character recently. Finding ourselves short on time with RockyMountainNavy Mom working weekends now, the last few weeks have seen shorter game nights with smaller, more family-oriented games vice larger grognardy titles. This weekend, Youngest RMN suggested playing multiple rounds of Kingdomino (Blue Orange Games, 2016). He then asked if we could do try the multi-player 7×7 version using the tiles from Queendomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017). Both Middle RMN Boy and myself agreed to three rounds.

We only played one. It was epic.

I have played 7×7 Kingdomino before but only in a 2-player game. Playing a three-way battle was much more challenging. Quickly I started concentrating solely on my board and virtually ignored the others. This is a dangerous strategy for in Kingdomino one must think offensively (selecting tiles you need or can use) and defensively (checking the game state of the other players and possibly selecting a suboptimal, but useful, tile for oneself while preventing the other player from selecting it).

Early in the game I selected a tile that Middle RMN Boy really needed. He needed it because it was the only playable tile left and my selection meant he was left with an unplayable tile. I admitted that I was not even watching their boards because I was struggling with mine. I jokingly said that we all were going to probably lose to Middle RMN because he has the best spatial awareness of any of us.

Fifty minutes after we started the game ended. The game was a bit longer than we expected not because of major analysis paralysis but because we were all trying to be careful.

Both Youngest RMN and myself had completed 7×7 boards with Middle Kingdoms (castle in exact middle). Middle RMN had Middle Kingdom but an incomplete 7×7. We then scored our boards.

After scoring the 7×7 and Middle Kingdom bonuses, I only had one territory of any real value at 88 points. The rest was not very valuable. Final score – 136 points.

Youngest RMN got the 7×7 and Middle Kingdom bonuses and had a huge Ocean that gave him 90 points. Total score – 140 points.

Middle RMN did not score the 7×7 bonus but had one territory – Mines – with 16 crowns on 8 territories. That’s 128 points right there. When he finished adding up his score he had an incredible 217 points.

Total runaway victory. All the more sweet because Middle RMN is my Autism Spectrum son. His brothers (and even myself) underestimate him at times. Once again we are reminded that he can be a shark at games. Youngest RMN is demanding a rematch on Sunday.

It’s nights like this that make me a proud gaming parent. Can’t wait for next weekend!

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Plotting Along with Air Force (Avalon Hill Battleline Edition, 1977)

Playing Air Force (Avalon Hill Battleline Edition, 1977) for my Game of the Week culminated in a game with the RockyMountainNavy Boys on Saturday night. Although I personally rediscovered my love for Air Force this week, the Boys had a lesser reaction.

At first I imagined a basic Battle of Britain dogfight scenario with Hurricanes and Spitfires versus Me-109s. That was until Youngest RMN Boy got his hands on the Aircraft Data Cards (ADC) and found the Me-262. He absolutely wanted to fly the Schwable. He also asked about shooting down bombers. So I quickly scratch-built a scenario where a single B-17G, separated from the bomber stream but escorted by a pair of P-51D, is jumped by a pair of Me-262.

Gameplay in Air Force is “Spot-Plot-Scoot-Shoot.”  In the interest of making for an easier first scenario we bypassed the Spotting rules and got straight into the action.

Youngest RMN Boy quickly discovered that the Me-262 handles like a truck. We had randomly rolled for starting altitude with the B-17G at 20,000 ft. In Air Force, when the Me-262 is at 20,000 ft. or higher, it has no Maneuver Speed and therefore adds the Level Speed penalty for maneuvers. This made the already ponderous Me-262 even more ponderous!

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Photo of Luftwaffe Me-262 being shot down by P-51 Mustang of the 8th Air Force, as seen from the P-51’s gun camera (Courtesy warhistoryonline.com)

I spent a lot of the game helping the Boys with plotting notations. The hardest part for them to envision was the aircraft Attitude, or banking.. Interestingly, Middle RMN Boy, my Autism Spectrum son, caught onto plotting faster than his brother. This may be because he is a bit of a “rigid thinker” and the predictability of the plot “clicked” with him easier than his more free-thinking brother.

The game lasted 15 turns, played out over about 90 minutes. The result was both Me-262 shot down by the B-17G, but with helpful contributions from the Mustangs. Unfortunately, in the same turn the last Me-262 was shot down, the B-17 fell too. This was in great part because the Me-262 used it’s Air-to-Air Rockets…and blasted the Flying Fortress.

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A B-24 “Liberator” of the 448th Bombardment Group, shot down by R4M missiles of a Messerschmitt Me-262 (Courtesy warhistoryonline.com)

After the game, we talked about Air Force as it compares to the other air combat game the Boys know; Wings of Glory. They both agreed that the addition of aircraft attitude and altitude was a large step-up in complexity over Wings of Glory. They also agreed that the flight model in Air Force gave a better comparison of the aircraft.

Although he had trouble during the game with plotting, Youngest RMN expressed a desire to try Air Force again. Next time, he wants to fly a maneuverable FW-190! I think the next game will be better; the hardest part of the learning curve for Air Force – plotting – is now behind them.

The Man with the Plan – Playing #Pandemic by @Zmangames

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“I is for Infected” (Courtesy KillerTaco on BGG.com)

With #windmageddon shutting down most of the area this weekend (and thankfully we didn’t lose power or have a tree fall on our house – or a large outlet sign) I felt the need for a “lighter” Game Night. So Pandemic (Z-Man Games, 2008) landed on the table. The RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself played a 3-player session with Youngest RMN Boy as the Operations Specialist, Middle RMN Boy as the Dispatcher, and myself as the Scientist. I really enjoyed the game tonight not because (spoiler alert) we won, but because the game enabled Middle RMN Boy, who is on the Autism Spectrum, to shine.

At first it looked bad as the initial infection was heavily Black Plague and Red Death. As we tried to beat back those two contagions, the cards fell my way and I was able to eradicate the Blue Virus. Youngest RMN was quickly able to cure the Black Plague, but several closely spaced Epidemic Cards led to multiple outbreaks. It was looking bad; we really needed to knock back the Black Plague and the Red Virus was out of control. We cured the Yellow Virus, but really needed to get after the Red Death.

We always play Pandemic with everybody’s cards face up in front of them so we can all collaborate on strategy. Usually, this discussion is dominated by Youngest RMN and myself, with Middle RMN Boy only occasionally making a contribution. We usually try to let him plan his own actions and Youngest RMN Boy sometimes has to control his facial expressions as he disagrees with what his brother does.

Tonight, at the peak of the pressure as we were running out of Outbreaks and Action Cards, Youngest RMN Boy and I were having a “spirited discussion” as to the next actions. We were trying to plan two-players ahead, and that included Middle RMN. Suddenly, Middle RMN Boy spoke up.

“Don’t worry, I got this,” he emphatically stated.

“Got what?” I asked.

“We can win. I’ve got this!”

I challenged him to explain what he was thinking. He proceeded to lay out a three-player sequence of events that, sure enough, would give us the win. His idea took advantage of a recently drawn Event Card and optimized each players abilities. It was a brilliant plan.

I love my Boys and sometimes I don’t give Middle RMN Boy enough credit because of his Autism Spectrum. He rarely shows the ability to think ahead, and when he does it’s often for the wrong reasons that end up getting him in trouble. Though we haven’t played Pandemic too many times, it obviously has “clicked” with him.

Small moments like this tell me that our weekly game nights are well worth it. It also reminds me that, as much as I love being a Grognard, other genre of games are well worth playing and sometimes bring out the best in each of us.

No Turkeys on Mars – #TurkeyGameDay17

The RockyMountainNavy household is a bit busy this holiday with family visiting. Unfortunately, this means the last weekend Game Night was cancelled due to travel. However, this week (and especially thanksgiving Day) saw some games landing on the table. For some reason, the Red Planet Mars seemed to be our theme….

IMG_2055Thanksgiving Eve the RMNBoys and myself played a 3-player game of The Expanse Board Game. The game was slow with some analysis paralysis as the boys tried to get their heads wrapped around the game. The game ended a bit early when the sixth Scoring Card came out before the fourth or fifth had been played. At the end of the game I was a bit worried because Middle RMN Boy (on the Autism Spectrum) reacted a bit negatively to the ruthless play of his brother. I (belatedly) realized that The Expanse Board Game is a bit more on the “ruthless” side of gaming and not like other games we have played recently. The contrast was all-the-more apparent since the previous games Middle RMN Boy had played were the cooperative Ghostbusters: Protect the Barrier Game or the very family-friendly Ticket to Ride. To further exacerbate his loss, he had played the OPA which probably has the most “indirect” asymmetry of the three factions. Maybe I should have encouraged him to take the more militant MCR or the diplomatic UN. Thus, it was with some trepidation that I agreed to another play of The Expanse Board Game on Thanksgiving Day. Middle RMN insisted that he play the OPA again and I did not get in his way.

After the first game, we had talked about how the game encouraged being ruthless and how it was not his brother being mean, but the design of the game. I was hoping he understood. After the game it was very apparent that I had little to worry about for he was just as ruthless as his brother. In the end, Little RMN ran away with a victory but Middle RMN and myself were in a virtual tie. The boys both want to play again, and I too am more comfortable playing with them as Middle RMN Boy now seems to “understand” the game and not take it personally.

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Courtesy BGG

Thanksgiving Night ended with a full game of Terraforming Mars. Little RMN again proved to be ruthless and gave us no mercy with another runaway win. This was the second full-play of Terraforming Mars using the regular Corporations and the boys are exploring various strategies and getting better at playing Action Cards. As we were putting away the game, we looked at the Corporate Era cards. The rule book states that using the Corporate Era cards will result in an extended game; elsewhere I have read using these cards results in a more “confrontational” game. For that reason I was not planning on introducing these cards until after a few more plays. However, after The Expanse Board Game the RMN Boys are in a bit of a “confrontational” gaming mood and want to play the Corporate Era variant.

Although our Thanksgiving games ended well enough, it reminded me that playing with Autism Spectrum must always be in the back of my mind. When introducing a new game, I need to ensure that the tone of the game is presented up front to avoid negative emotions. I am happy to do this because – at the end of the day – I get to game with two of my greatest gaming partners.

(Featured image courtesy stellasplace1.com)

#FamilyGameNight – Further Thoughts on #Scythe (and #AutismSpectrum)

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Courtesy Stonemaier Games

Scythe (Stonemaier Games, 2016) has quickly become the game-of-choice for Little RMN. We have played it three of the last six Saturday Family Game Nights. This weekend we added in the Invaders from Afar expansion. We played another 3-player game where I won using Rusviet/Agricultural with 91 points against Nordic/Mechanical (71 pts) and Togawa/Mechanical (26 pts.)

Some reviewers and critics accuse Scythe of starting out as a series of solo games, or of feeling to “samey” ever time. After the second game I was starting to feel the same way. However, when I got the Invaders from Afar expansion, it reminded me to look at each factions special abilities. These asymmetric abilities are what sets each faction apart and to win one must take advantage of these differences.

Most importantly, each faction has a different movement advantage. In our game, the Rusviet can go from any Village to/from the Factory. The Nordic workers can swim across rivers, and the Togawa can jump to Traps. In our early games we didn’t pay too much attention to the special movement and thus our first mechs invariably were for Riverwalk.

Secondly, each faction has a special ability or characteristic. For Rusviet it is “Relentless” which allows the player to pick the same area of the production mat each turn. For Togawa it is placing/arming Traps. These asymmetric (overused word) abilities again distinguish each faction. Proper use can assist in the run to victory.

Recognition of these differences, and how to use them, is key to the game. Unfortunately, in last night games the Middle RMN Boy drew Togawa. You have to understand that the Middle RMN Boy is on the Autism Spectrum and his ability to rapidly process information is challenged. Drawing Togawa from our newly purchased expansion he had no real time to study his faction and figure out how to take advantage of his faction’s abilities; especially the new Trap rule which is a key special ability. More than anything else I feel this contributed to his low scoring.

All of which serves as a reminder that games are for fun. I am going to sit down with him (not his brothers – help him feel important) and we will discuss each faction. I think if we do this, it will help him “see” what makes Scythe an impressive game. In the end, I hope it will keep the game “fun” for him instead of making him feel left behind. After all, we are a family and need to remember that gaming together is more important than just winning.

RPG Thursday – Edge of the Empire Reconsidered

Courtesy podbay.fm

I am a latecomer much of the new media. In particular, I find many podcasts are too long and on subjects that only marginally interest me. With Fantasy Flight Games taking on the Star Wars gaming license, I revisited an older podcast, Order 66, to see what the gamer community had to say. I’m glad I did because Order 66 has forced me to reconsider my opinion of Star Wars: Edge of the Empire RPG.

Order 66 started out as support for the d20 version of the Star Wars RPG, specifically the Star Wars: Saga Edition. I was first surprised to find that Order 66 has reinvented itself in support of the new FFG version of the game. This made me suspicious; are they nothing more than company hacks or do they really like the new system? What I quickly found out is that GM Mike and GM Dave are alot like me; eager to learn the new system but hesitant to jump in fully.

What finally convinced me that Edge of the Empire (EotE) has more going for it than I gave it credit for was Episode 2 – Beginner Box, Veteran Style. With this podcast I finally really understand the power of the EotE core mechanic – all those colorful dice and numerous symbols. What really grabbed me was the advantage-threat and triumph-despair conditions. I like how the rules actually assign narrative control. For instance, the player character (PC) rolls to throw a rope across a ravine. The roll is success with advantages. The player then narrates the success (subject to GM approval). In this case it might me “the grapnel holds, and wraps around twice making a very strong anchor.” On the other hand, if the roll was a success, but with threats, the GM could explain “the grapnel holds, but it looks a bit precarious as only one hook is actually caught.”

The podcast also made it clear that the core mechanic supports a highly cinematic version of the Star Wars Universe. The descriptions of game events shows that the combination of skills and fluid initiative makes for fast, pulp-like science fiction action. Sure, blasters are deadly but those minion troopers can’t shoot straight anyway (just like the source material)! This means the game should be FUN for those playing it. A major consideration as I give thought to using this game for a campaign with my kids.

The thought of a shared narrative between the GM and players is also highly appealing to me, especially as I consider using EotE as a game for my kids. The shared narrative mechanic could be a great mechanism for drawing out my son with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as it could draw him out and get him to participate more and exercise his imagination.