October ends with a Silver Bayonet charge from @gmtgames & Dad is the real King(domino) (@BlueOrangeGames)

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October 2018

My October gaming featured 20 plays of 11 different games. Actually, I played 19 times with 10 games and one expansion. Or two expansions? Confusing. The ability to tie an expansion to a game is a needed upgrade to BoardGameStats to avoid this very confusion.

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GMT Games

The top game of the month was Silver Bayonet: The First Team in Vietnam, 1965 (25th Anniversary Edition) (GMT Games, 2016). I played this game six times in the one week it was in the house this month making it currently tied for my second-most played wargame of 2018. I like the game so much I wrote about my out-of-the-box impressions, theme, and game mechanics.

DFILK233QhiVw9QZAigEhAThere was one special game this month, Kingdomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017). My father, aged 88 years and a veteran of the Korean War, visited our area as part of an Honor Flight group. After dinner one night the RockyMountainNavy Boys got to sit down and play a single game of Kingdomino with him. When we lived closer to him we played many games togther. I remember one early game where he sat down and played Blokus with the kids. As the kids racked up the points Dad sat there pondering the board until he finally asked, “How do you win?” To him a game is always a puzzle to be solved; it was supposed to have a “key” to unlock it. He never did figure out the key to Blokus, though over the years he did play several games of Ticket to Ride with the kids (and often held his own). Given my dad’s age and general health, and the fact he lives on the opposite side of the country, this very well could be the last game the RockyMountainNavy Boys play with him. Thanks to boardgaming we have several good memories of times with him.

How’d it suddenly get so dusty in here?

 

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Stomping out a hit – Kingdomino Expansion Age of Giants (@BlueOrangeGames, 2018)

Kingdomino (Blue Orange Games, 2016) designed by Bruno Cathala was the 2017 Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) winner. The game has also been a winner in the RockyMountainNavy house. We love this simple domino-like tile-laying game, so much so we also invested in Queendomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017). Of the two, we tend to prefer playing Queendomino as it is more a “gamer’s game” whereas we use Kingdomino as a gateway or filler game. This summer when Mrs. RMN and the Boys visited family in Korea they took an extra copy of Kingdomino to play and leave with the niece. It was very popular. So when I saw an expansion coming on sale I was interested.

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Courtesy Blue Orange Games

In Kingdomino Expansion Age of Giants the major change is the addition of Giant meeples. Thematically, certain tiles bring the Giants to your kingdom, and others chase them away into another player’s kingdom. Mechanically, Giants cover up scoring crowns and take away VP. The expansion also features a neat Domino Dispenser (tower) that makes dealing the tiles that much easier. With the additional tiles a fifth player can also be added.

 

I really liked the Giant meeple idea so that alone was enough to sell me on the game. To be honest, as much as we like Kingdomino it was dropping in popularity in part because the RMN Boys and myself had “solved” the game. We had reached the point that every game we play ends up with the scoring bonus for Middle Kingdom (bonus points for having your Castle centered in your grid) and Harmony (complete grid with no gaps). It is the very rare occasion that we don’t get the full 15 point bonus. The Giant meeple mechanic looked to be a great way to reinvigorate the game.

In looking at the publisher’s blurb for Kingdomino Expansion Age of Giants I totally glossed over this part:

End of game bonuses are eliminated, instead, before the start of each game, players must draw 2 challenge tiles. These provide additional ways to get points. For example, get 5 bonus points for each lake tile that surrounds your castle, and get 20 bonus points if your castle is located in one of the 4 corners of your kingdom.

This, my friends, it the true hidden gem of Age of Giants and the real reason Kingdomino will be back on the table with a vengeance. The game includes 17 Challenge Tiles, each with a different bonus scoring condition. Middle Kingdom and Harmony are just two of the possible bonus scoring means; there are 15 others.

Upon getting Age of Giants we immediately played several games. In our first game we all fell back on our “solved” approach – and failed to actually score many points. Midway through my second game I realized I had to “unlearn” what I “know” about Kingdomino and state with a new strategy to fit the scoring bonus. Rather than playing Kingdomino by reflex, I really had to think!

Bottom Line: The Challenge Tiles make Kingdomino really fun again.

Designer Bruno Cathala deserves great respect for what he has done with the Kingdomino line. From the “basic” Kingdomino to the “gamer’s” Queendomino to the renewed challenges in Kingdomino Expansion Age of Giants, a game for every skill level of gamer is present. This entire series of games are deservedly core members of the RMN gaming collection.

Featured image courtesy Blue Orange Games.

 

July Gaming Festivities – or – A Good Month of #Wargaming but Better to Have Family Back After Travel

This past July should not have been a good gaming month.

My “regular gaming group” (aka the RockyMountainNavy Boys) were on international travel the entire month. Before they left, we played one game, Queendomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017) together.We didn’t play another game together until they got back and Tiny Epic Galaxies (Gamelyn Games, 2015) launched.

Yet somehow in between I played 23 other games. Better yet, 20 plays were of WARGAMES! Yet even better, and uncounted in my BGG Played log, the RockyMountainNavy Boys shared games with the family in Korea and made some lasting memories along the way.

fullsizeoutput_609The top played wargame of the month was Cataclysm: A Second World War (GMT Games, 2018). I call Cataclysm a wargame though I actually see it as a strategy game of politics. When I tried to play Cataclysm as a wargame it was disappointing; as a strategy game I love it!

Another notable play of the month was the first full scenario run of Battle Hymn Vol. 1: Gettysburg and Pea Ridge (Compass Games, 2018). The chit-pull activation mechanic makes this game very interesting by showing the friction of war. Additionally, it can’t be the Fourth of July without Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection (GMT Games, 2016) making a rebellious appearance on the table. GMT Games also offered a Fourth of July Holiday Sale where I picked up Washington’s War (GMT Games, 2015 reprint). I am lucky I did so because it is now out-of-stock.

It was on travel this month that I picked up Tiny Epic Galaxies. Played it solo a few times in the hotel. As much fun as it is in the solo mode I enjoy it even more when playing against the RockyMountainNavy Boys.

Alas, July 2018 was also a month of wargaming disappointments. I was supposed to go to the CONNECTIONS 2018 wargaming conference but was pulled off at the last minute by work. I was supposed to go to the World Boardgaming Championships (WBC) but waved off after traveling on official business and getting home late the night before I was supposed to drive. I sorta owe an apology to Alexander and Grant of The Player’s Aid (@playersaidblog on Twitter) because I had planned to meet them. From the looks of it they certainly didn’t miss me as they tweeted and blogged about all the great talks and games at WBC!

When the RockyMountainNavy Boys returned home they brought lots of good stories about playing games with the family in Korea. They took along (and left behind) copies of:

  • Kingdomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017) – Very popular with cousins
  • Quartto Mini (Gigamic Edition, 2017) – Good brain game for older family and especially an Uncle who is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Chicken Cha Cha Cha (Rio Grande Games Edition, 2011) – Mrs. RockyMountainNavy wanted to get this great game for her nephew’s daughter; she is a bit too young right now but the game will be there when she is ready!
  • Rhino Hero (Haba, 2011) – What is marketed as a kid’s game was the most popular game amongst the adults; so popular the RockyMountainNavy Boys surrendered their copy to their cousin so she could take it to play with her friends (all mid-late 20’s)
  • Happy Salmon (North Star Games, 2016) – I keep hearing stories of an epic night there all the adults stood around and played a game of Happy Salmon; the youngest RMN Boy tells me everyone – players and observers alike – were laughing so hard he couldn’t even record the game.

Though I was able to get alot of good wargaming in by myself this past month, I really and glad the RockyMountainNavy Boys are back. They want to play a game every day in August until school starts.

I like that idea; will keep you posted!

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!

Queendomino as a Family Game Night Filler

This last weekend was a bit challenging. With our trip to Gettysburg and Mrs. RockyMountainNavy having a job that requires some weekend hours, it looked like we were going to miss the Family Game Night. That is until Youngest RMN Boy asked to play something. Anything. As long as we play. Recognizing that we were short on time, we chose Queendomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017).

It was awesome.

The RMN Boys and I have played Queendomino before, but this time all the game mechanics were in play. There were many Knights sent to collect taxes, lots of Buildings constructed, many Towers erected, the Queen changed kingdoms a few times, and the Dragon burned down more than a few structures.

The game took a bit longer than its advertised 25 minute playing time but it was well worth the extra minutes. When the points were counted Youngest RMN had won thanks in part to a GIGANTIC forest territory he was able to cash in for a whopping 55 points! We all agreed that this game had just clicked with each of us. We all pledged to get it to the table more often as it is just that enjoyable!

Featured image courtesy Blue Orange Games.

Ice Outside – Hot Games Inside

Icy day in the neighborhood meant that school was out for the RockyMountainNavy Boys. Mrs. RMN also had a job interview lined up so I decided to take the day off. This gave me some time for gaming!

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Courtesy Compass Games

The morning saw a quick game of Command & Colors Tricorne: The American Revolution (Compass Games, 2017). Youngest RMN Boy and I played The Battle of Stono Ferry (June 20, 1779). I took the British who are a rear guard and set up in defensive positions (behind fieldworks and fences) with the impassable creek behind them. The Americans are a mixed lot composed mainly of Militia and Light Infantry. In C&C: Tricorne the real “killer” is not combat, but Retreat and Morale. If a unit is forced to Retreat, it must roll for Morale; if it fails the Morale roll the unit Routs and is eliminated.

Our game actually started out a bit slowly as I had not reread the rules in a little while and it took the first few turns to remember certain elements of the game. That said, the game played quickly. The Americans pushed forward their left flank and actually dislodged an Elite Infantry Highlander unit from their fieldworks and eliminated their supporting Light Artillery and a Provincial Infantry unit through Routs. Meanwhile, the American right aggressively moved out with two Light Cavalry charging directly into the British defensive position. In the ensuing Melee combat, the British were dislodged and forced to retreat…but with the creek at their back the retreat path was cut off. This quickly eliminated several more units. In the end, the Americans won 5-3. Total play time (including set up) was just over one hour.

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Courtesy Blue Orange Games

Later in the day, Mrs. RMN was teaching so having a bit more time to fill the RMN Boys and myself pulled Queendomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017) off the shelf. I have not played Queendomino in a while so I took a few moments to skim the rules. The game experience was more enjoyable from the start (unlike C&C: Tricorne in the morning) and we quickly found the turn rhythm (Place-Tax-Build-Burn-Pick). Even so, our game took the full 25 minutes it is rated not because we were struggling with the rules but because we all had a touch of analysis paralysis. I started the game using a city building strategy but in the later half the dominos didn’t fall my way. Even though I had the most Towers and the Queen I ended up losing…again.

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Courtesy HABA USA

Mrs. RMN’s student today was the kindergarten girl and once she finished studying she badgered the RMN Boys and myself to play games with her. She saw Rhino Hero: Super Battle (HABA, 2017) and Rhino Hero (HABA, 2011) on the stairsteps and was interested. Both these games are new in the RockyMountainNavy house this week. We played one game of Super Battle and two games of the original Rhino Hero. Super Battlewas just bit too overwhelming for her because she didn’t really grasp the strategy behind the game. Rhino Hero was fun (our tower got up to something like 10 levels or more each time) and she did not make it fall, but again her bouncy-bouncy nature did not mesh well with the fine motor skill game. In reality she was anxious to get back to Animal Upon Animal (HABA, 2005) that she played last week. A few games followed with fun had by all even though her bouncy-bouncy nature got the best of her and she repeatedly knocked the animal pile over.

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Animal Upon Animal (Courtesy HABA USA)

All in all a good family gaming day; a wargame for me, a family game for the Boys, and teaching good gaming to a young one.

Featured image courtesy @CapitalWeatherGang on Twitter.

A RockyMountainNavy Royal Wedding – Variant play of #Queendomino (@BlueOrangeGames)

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Courtesy BlueOrangeGames.com

OK, I admit it, Queendomino is growing on me over time. My first impression was maybe less than stellar, but I can see how I was expecting something different and not quite accepting (at the time) what I got. Today I admit that Queendomino is a popular game in the RockyMountainNavy household and shows no signs of going away soon. This weekend, we played the Royal Wedding variant and experienced yet another way the game is challenging and fun.

In the Royal Wedding variant, 3-4 players use the entire domino set from both Queendomino and Kingdomino to create 7×7 territories. The variant is very simple using only the tiles but none of the extra rules in Queendomino, making it a ‘larger version” of Kingdomino. Sounds easy, yes? A no-new-rules, simple build-a-grid version of Kingdomino.

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Kingdomino 2-player 7×7. Close to what we were doing (BGG.com)

After playing our first Royal Wedding game (3-player) we all found our heads hurting. Hurting because we spent nearly 45 minutes thinking, and thinking very hard! As simple as it sounds, creating a 7×7 grid is a real challenge. Placing your current tile, planning ahead for the next one, and hoping to create a grid that can take whatever the future throws at you sounds easy but can also easily lead to Analysis Paralysis.

But the journey is worth it. The game result is huge territories, large scores and extreme satisfaction. Far from being a royal pain, Queendomino Royal Wedding is royal fun!