#FirstImpressions of #Queendomino (@BlueOrangeGames, 2017)

On of the big gaming hits of last year in the RockyMountainNavy family was the arrival of Kingdomino. The 2017 Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) winner is also a winner in this house as it is a lite, filler game that also serves as an excellent gateway game. Indeed, Mrs. RMN uses Kingdonimo to introduce her students to boardgaming.

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Courtesy Blue Orange Games LLC

So popular was Kingdomino that Youngest RMN was just itching to get Queendomino. So, using some of his Christmas Cash he purchased the game. We broke it out immediately after getting home and played.

The first game was a letdown.

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Courtesy Blue Orange Games LLC

Sure, the core mechanic (placing the “domino” and selecting a new one for next turn) remains the same as Kingdomino but the addition of Knights and Buildings and Towers and Taxes and the Dragon sorta fell flat. Maybe its because we didn’t fully understand the rules and didn’t utilize the new components as best we could. Maybe it was the very confused scoring round (I mean, you need a custom notepad?). The result was a kinda blah gaming experience.

Maybe we should of not gone into the game with such high expectations. The RMN Boys and I talked about our clash of expectations and reality and decided that Kingdomino and Queendomino, though being similar in name and core mechanic, are actually two very different games. Kingdomino is the “simple” version and as such it rightly meets the gateway game requirement. Queendomino, on the other hand, is more a “gamers game” with more advanced mechanics added in making it a much different game. With this new viewpoint we reassessed our feelings on Queendomino and agreed that it is a good, fun, lite-middleweight game that takes the Kingdomino core mechanic to a new level.

There is an episode of Miami Dice (with Tom Vasel) out there where they talk about Queendomino. Tom, who is not a fan of Kingdomino, likes Queendomino but constantly reminds the viewers that Queendomino is the game that (he believes) Kingdomino should of always been. He even casually dismisses the Spiel des Jahres win. When I first watched this episode I bristled at Tom’s attitude because I think he misses the point that we only really discovered after our first play; these are two games aimed at different segments of gamers. I got a little bit miffed at Tom (and Zee) in this video because they showed me an elitist attitude that I abhor. Not every game is a Heavy Cardboard candidate nor is every game a new Carcassonne. Many games have their niche and in the case of the RockyMountainNavy family Kingdomino filled one nicely. Queendonimo is not a bad game but it is taking a bit for us to warm to it because it is just so different then we expected. Tom and Zee, well-known spokesmen for the gaming hobby, seems to have forgotten that not everyone has their taste – or needs – in games. Their casual dismissal of Kingdomino is laziness at best and negligence towards their gaming audience at worst.

Queendomino will get played by the RMN Family but it will not replace Kingdomino. The two games compliment each other more than Queendomino “expands” Kingdomino. Two games for different gaming needs.

Featured image courtesy Blue Orange Games LLC
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2017 Gaming Retrospective

Well, its that time of the year for the obligatory post addressing the question, “How much did I game in 2017?” This year I tried to keep better stats using BoardGameGeek. Here is my year:

fullsizeoutput_56bIf my math is correct, that is 124 plays of 59 different games. Actually, it’s only 57 different games because there are two expansions in there.

I have no real data to compare these numbers to because I admit I only sporadically logged game plays in 2016 and before. But there are a few trends I noticed myself.

Family Gaming: This was the year that the family started gaming together. Look at all the family games. From heavy games like Scythe to lighter fare in Kingdominothe game shelf is sagging a bit more this year.

Academy Games: Easily one of my favorite publishers today. In particular I love their Conflict of Heroessystem and their “lite” family wargames of in the Birth of America and Birth of Europe series.

Hollandspiele: Another small publisher. Small, innovative and interesting games have rekindled my love of wargames.

GMT Games: A powerhouse publisher, this year I explored titles beyond their niche wargames. Their COIN-series title Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection is a favorite.

All in all, 2017 was a good gaming year. Here’s to hoping 2018 continues the trend!

Happy New Year!

#FirstImpressions – 878 Vikings: Invasions of England (@AcademyGames, 2017)

This Christmas was a very merry Academy Games Christmas in the RockyMountainNavy household. Our Birth of America collection was completed with 1754 Conquest: The French & Indian War and 1812: The Invasion of Canada. The first of the Birth of Europe titles, 878 Vikings: Invasion of England also landed under the tree. This weekend, 878 Vikings found it way to the RMN Game Night in a full 4-player scenario. 878 Vikings delivers a fun family game that strikes a nice balance between playability and teaching.

Academy Games calls the Birth-series “light grand tactical play.” In reality, these games are light strategic play with little “tactical” elements. In 878 Vikings, two factions of Viking invaders are trying to conquer England which is defended by the Housecarl and Thegn. Each turn, a new Viking leader will invade and try to conquer shires while the English try to hold back the Viking hordes.

It is actually a bit rare for all three RMN Boys to play on a game night. This is usually because the oldest RMN Boy, a die-hard video gamer, often chooses to pass on boardgames. However, in this case it was he who wanted the game because he absolutely LOVES Vikings. Thus, the teams were Oldest RMN Boy – Viking Beserkers, Youngest RMN Boy – Viking Norsemen, Middle RMN Boy – Housecarl, and myself as Thegn.

As we were setting up the game it became very apparent that the game had struck a cord with the oldest RMN Boy. Without reference to any materials he was talking about the history of various Viking Leaders. Youngest RMN Boy had pulled out his Guts & Glory: The Vikings book and was trying to keep up with his older brother. You have to understand something about these two; the Youngest RMN considers himself the smartest and was not prepared for his older brother to be so far ahead of him in Viking knowledge.

This “conflict” between the two of them continued as play began. Youngest RMN considers himself a bit of a tactician and usually leads his middle brother in plan development when they play against me. This time, it was literally like watching two Viking factions arguing amongst themselves.

The initial Viking invasion went well but was stopped in the south. Aggressive Thegn play (by me) and a Reinforcement rather than another full invasion slowed the Viking advance and allowed the English to take advantage of Viking overreach. The first invasion was eventually defeated (the leader eliminated) but at the cost of many Thegn which weakened further defenses. A lucky Saxon Navy card play forced the next Viking invasion to land in a less-than-optimal location and gave time for the English defense to stabilize. When the next Viking invasion arrived, an absolutely heroic stand on the beach (with Middle RMN rolling 5 hits on 6 dice) gave the invaders pause and made them adopt a less aggressive strategy. One feature that (happily) surprised us was the many Event Cards that feature some sort of betrayal. Both Viking Treaty of Wedmore cards were out by the end of Round IV, meaning Round V would be decisive. This was also the turn of Alfred the Greats arrival and when Housecarl went first they took back two Viking controlled shires. At the end of Round V, the Vikings only controlled 8 shires, short of necessary victory.

All the RMN Boys have played 1775 Rebellion: The American Revolution which is the first of the Birth of America series featuring the least complicated rules. Although the basic game mechanics are similar in 878 Vikings, all agreed that the Leader rules and invasions makes 878 Vikings play very differently. In this case the difference is welcomed as 878 Vikings plays very thematically appropriate. The rules overhead is very light but delivers a powerful gaming experience. As an added bonus, the Viking knowledge that Oldest RMN Boy possesses has challenged Youngest RMN to go back and carefully reread his Viking book and dig into the historical notes in 878 Vikings. In this way, 878 Vikings has achieved a goal that Mrs. RMN and I both strive for in gaming; teach the Boys.

So as 2017 comes to a close I have to give a big shout-out to Academy Games for delivering not only a fun game, but one that makes my boys hungry to learn more. Such is the power of gaming. Here is looking forward to many more learning chances from gaming in 2018.

Hot #Boardgames in Winter

In preparation for the arrival of a few new games this Christmas, I was updating my BoardGameGeek collection pages and noticed my profile page. There are two lists given, one is my Top 10 and the other my Hot 10. Looking at the two lists, I realized I had a methodology for creating the Top 10 list (based on my personal BGG rating) but I did not have a system for the Hot 10. Giving it a bit of some thought, I decided to use my Logged Plays as a guide. The resulting list is actually a good reflection of my year in gaming.

My logged plays games are a bit unbalanced. From January to July it featured one or two wargames a month. Beginning in August, the RockyMountainNavy family started family game nights every weekend. In the last five months of the year my gaming changed from wargames to more family boardgames. The pace of gaming also accelerated; so far in December I have already played more games that all of January to July put together. So here is my Hot 10:

#10 – Agricola: Master of Britain

As much as I play wargames solo it is actually rare that I play solo games. Agricola: Master of Britain is an easy-to-learn yet hard-to-master game that uses interesting cup mechanics to reflect shifting allegiances of tribes. I also like the escalating victory conditions that constantly force you to achieve more – sometimes more than is possible.

#9 – 1775: Rebellion

A “lite” wargame that plays well with 2-4 players. In many ways 1775: Rebellion showed me that a “family wargame” should be.

#8 – Scythe

Scythe marked the real birth of family board gaming in the RockyMountainNavy this year. One of the heavier games we played this year, we have not played in a while and need to get this one back to the table soon.

#7 – Pandemic

An older game that we “discovered” this year, I am always amazed at the narrative power this game delivers.

#6 – Plan Orange: Pacific War 1930-1935

Probably the only “real” wargame in my Hot 10. At first I was a bit surprised this was in my Hot 10 but then I thought about it; I really enjoy this CDG-design and the shorter play time means it can land on the gaming table more often.

#5 – The Expanse Board Game

At first I was a bit negative on The Expanse Board Game but I have warmed to it. I want it to land on the table a bit more but in the last game Youngest RockyMountainNavy Boy was ruthless on his brother who swore revenge. So far he hasn’t had a chance, but when it comes I’m sure it will be glorious to watch.

#4 – Terraforming Mars

Another game that exemplifies the arrival of family board gaming in the RMN family. This will be played many more times and there may even be a few expansions purchased.

#3 – Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear (second edition)

If there is a wargame that connected my grognard past with my boys it is Conflict of Heroes. The Firefight Generator has led to several memorable games so far.

#2 – Ghostbusters: Protect the Barrier Game

A lucky thrift-store find, I posted earlier how this is actually a reskinning of the Kinderspiel des Jarhres-winning Ghost Fighting’ Treasure Hunters. A fun cooperative game, it probably will be superseded in a future Hot 10 by Pandemic and demoted to the kids collection for Mrs RMN to use in her teaching.

#1 – Kingdomino

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Courtesy Blue Orange Games

Given the short play time and our usual Dynasty play where we play three games in a sitting one could argue that this game is artificially high in my Hot 10. I disagree; Kingdomino fully deserves to be the Hot 10 leader not only because of my logged plays, but it is landing on the table with the RMN Boys even without me. Even the video-gaming oldest RMN Boy will join in!

So there is my Hot 10. This list helps me recognize what I have sensed all year; as much as I am a wargaming grognard this year I became more of a family gamer. This has resulted in many positive changes in the family. Not only do we spend more time socializing together, we also use games to guide our learning. The boys have learned so much more about the American Revolution and space exploration thanks to gaming. Even Mrs. RMN,  a non-gamer, is touting the value of board gaming to the parents of her students.

#FamilyFriday – King Me! with #Kingdomino from @BlueOrangeGames

Although I am a wargaming grognard at heart, in the course of the Family Game Nights this past year I now recognize that wargames are often a 2-player event.  This year, given that I usually game with two of the RockyMountainNavy Boys, finding a 3-player game has been a bit challenging. In place of wargames, we have turned to tabletop boardgames, like Scythe or Terraforming Mars. These games are a bit on the “heavier” side, sometime taking up to 3 hours to play! In looking for a lighter, maybe “filler” game, for the gaming shelf, I selected Kingdomino from Blue Orange Games

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Courtesy Blue Orange Games

At the time of this writing Kingdomino is ranked #21 in Family Games on BoardGameGeek and #198 of all boardgames. It is also the 2017 Spiel des Jahres Winner. With these sorts of references it was sort of a no-brainer to purchase.

When the game arrived, I became a bit worried. Kingdomino is recommended for ages 6+ and the playtime is a very short 15 minutes? I asked myself, “could a game this simple really be that good?” I read the rulebook, watched a how-to video, and then sat down with my usual RockyMountainNavy Boy gaming partners. I started out playing each of them individually to teach them the game before we played a 3-player contest.

….and we played.

….and played.

…and played some more.

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Courtesy Blue Orange Games

The first night we I played a total of seven games (five as a group) and we all loved it. Kingdominio is a simple game, but the easy mechanics mask challenging decisions. The challenge of placing your property then selecting your next one is simple and genius. This simple mechanic makes for sometimes agonizing decisions. One could easily play a game of Kingdomino in 10 minutes, but those folks are missing out on the agony that happens when you realize that property you placed three rounds ago is not going to work out and you will not make that 5×5 grid and your castle will not be in the middle. The short play time is not a drawback; if you realize your grid is horrible no worries for the game will end soon and you can quickly try again.

In the past two days I have personally played Kingdomino ten times already making it the most-played game of my year. The RMN Boys “appropriated” the box and have played uncounted-many more times. The RMN Boys and I play the Dynasty variant which is three games in-a-row with the highest cumulative score the winner. We enjoy the game so much that Mrs. RMN “recommended” we buy another copy to take to Korea to give to our niece next summer.

Although my grognard heart really wants to wargame, the family/parent side of me absolutely enjoys playing games with my boys. Wargames don’t always make it to the table, but with games like Kingdomino we all get great pleasure in gaming together and having fun.

And that’s the real goal; having fun. Kingdomino delivers royal fun and I am happy to add it to my gaming collection.

 

#RPGThursday – 2017 #RPG Retrospective

I have said before that 2017 was the year of the wargame for me as I rediscovered by wargaming roots. But that is not to say I have forgotten the roleplaying game part of my gaming expereince. In 2017, I still managed to get some make a few RPG purchases and get in a few plays.

In March of this year, I listed out my Top 10 RPG games/systems. Looking back, my top 3 (Classic Traveller, Diaspora, and Cepheus Engine) have not changed. In 2017, of the over 50 game products I purchased, about 30% are RPG-related. I definitely focused my RPG purchases on Cepheus Engine with around 90% of the products in that one system.

Gypsy Knights Games continues to support their awesome The Clement Sector setting. In addition to their great Wendy’s Naval-series which lays out the fleet of various subsectors, this year also focused on pirates and uplifts or alterants. All three introduce true grey-areas into the setting morality and can be used to play anything from a campy to dark setting. I like this; GKG has given me many tools to make the setting I want.

Stellagama Publishing also caught my attention with the These Stars Are Ours! setting. I really enjoyed SOLO for Cepheus Engine by Zozer Games.  Zozer Games’ Orbital setting remains my favorite, probably because it fits right into and feels like it can support The Expanse.

This year, I pledged to support the Cortex Prime Kickstarter campaign. I am not sure why. I like the Cortex Plus system (especially in Firefly) but I have turned towards smaller rules sets (like Cepheus Engine) and settings that are more controlled by me. This is why I passed on purchasing the new Genesys rules from Fantasy Flight Games.

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Courtesy DriveThruRPG

In early December, Zozer Games released their new rules/setting called Hostile for Cepheus Engine. This “Gritty Sci-Fi RPG” draws heavily from popular franchises like Alien or movies like Outland. The setting is right in my wheelhouse and it certainly deserves its own deeper dive in the near future (no pun intended).

To put in another way, in 2017 I found my own version of the Old School Renaissance. My “OSR” game in this case is Cepheus Engine. This year I turned my back on settings with voluminous new rules and a well defined IP-based setting like Star Trek Adventures.

I know my RPG tastes are not mainstream; I am not a Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition fan nor have I dug deeper into the Star Wars Roleplaying Game. In 2017, as wargames and family boardgames grew in popularity in the RockyMountainNavy house, something else in my gaming world had to give. I have given up a lot of RPG experiences, but by keeping to a simple rules system with wonderful setting support I still find a way to keep my RPG gaming going.