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.

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Sinking with Buoyant Feelings – Retroplaying Wooden Ships & Iron Men 2nd Edition (Avalon Hill Game Co., 1981)

The RockyMountainNavy Game Night this week went Old School. As in real Avalon Hill wargaming with Wooden Ships & Iron Men (Second Edition, 1981). This is one of the oldest games in my collection and I have not recorded a play since joining BoardGameGeek in 2004. The last game of WS&IM I can remember playing was with the Sea Cadets in Pearl Harbor in 1997 or ’98.

The Youngest RMN Boy had been asking about the older games in my collection. He also has an interesting naval warfare (being a big Battleship Captain from Minden Games fan). I have fond memories of WS&IM and remember how much fun the Sea Cadets had playing it. I pulled out the rulebook on Friday night and reread the Basic Game in preparation for the weekend.

Our scenario was a home-brew; during the Napoleonic Wars I sailed two French 74-gun Ships-of-the-Line (SOL) with Crack crews attempting to escape a blockaded harbor. The RMN Boys sailed two British 74-gun SOL also with Crack crew to stop the French from escaping.

Both sides started with the wind off their aft quarter (up to full speed in the game). In the first turns the range quickly closed, and the lead French ship actually got past the British and looked to be home free. Unfortunately, the British did get multiple Rigging Hits and succeeded slowing the ship down – significantly. In the meantime, the training French ship got caught in between the two British ships and was pounded, eventually losing all Rigging and “surrendered by striking her colors” and otherwise met the conditions to “surrender by immobility.” 

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The French SOL (2206) just before striking her colors.

The first French ship should of kept on and tried to escape. Before the game, we specified that simply exiting the board edge was the Victory Condition. However, I was too heroic and instead of running away turned parallel to the battle to offer some long-range fire support. This was a mistake, and once the first French ship surrendered the British used their (slightly) superior speed to pursue the French ship. Faced with a hopeless situation, the French SOL turned to flee, but in doing so offered her stern for several Raking shots. Shortly thereafter, this ship too “surrendered from immobility.”

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End of the game. There will be no escaping the blockade for the French today!

Total game time was just over an hour. There were some mistakes and we didn’t have more than one Melee with Boarding Parties. Both RMN Boys agreed the game was fun and want to play again using the Advanced or Optional Rules. During the game, we discussed basic naval tactics and the advantages of shooting Rigging or Hull. The RMN Boys became painfully aware of the wind and its impact on movement as well as the dangers of Raking shots. Overall, the

Compared to many games published today the graphics and components of WS&IM are simple – even crude. That said, the game play is simple and quick. Movement rules are easy to grasp even if they require one to plot their movement (oh, the horror!). The Combat Phase requires a Hit Determination Table lookup and rolling against Hit Tables but the actual mechanics play fast. The RMN Boys were amazed that the entire game can be played with a single old-fashion d6!

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Courtesy BGG

Of course, Wooden Ships & Iron Men is one of the oldest Age of Sail fighting games. I also have Close Action from Clash of Arms and most of the Flying Colors series from GMT Games. The Youngest RMN Boy asked about The Ironclads (Yaquinto/Excalibre) that he sees on my game shelf. I was not sure the RMN Boys would accept “old School” wargames but after playing WS&IM this weekend I think they can handle the game mechanics. Indeed, I think they will even enjoy it!

Expanded Play of The Expanse Board Game (WizKids, 2017)

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Courtesy WizKids

The weekend RockyMountainNavy Game Night this week was The Expanse Board Game. I wrote before about this game and how I see as the consummate Eurogame. To date, we had not played a full 4-player game. That was remedied this weekend.

For the game, the Middle RMN Boy went first as the United Nations (UN). Youngest RMN Boy was the Outer Planets Alliance (OPA) and I took ProtoGen. Since ProtoGen is not used in the 3-player game it was a new faction so I took it so as not to burden the others. For the Oldest RMN Boy it was his first time playing The Expanse Board Game so we gave him Mars since that faction plays the most “direct” of the four.

Scythe taught me that I must be careful with new factions, especially with the Middle RMN Boy and his Autism Spectrum Disability. He has difficulty quickly grasping a new faction and their powers jso it is safe to let him play a “known” power. There was no way I could allow him to pick up ProtoGen for the first time. Oldest RMN is a video gamer so he should groan new situations but as we will see the game is not balanced between players of different experience levels.

I gave Oldest RMN a rules walkthru as the others were cleaning up after dinner. We also placed him last in the turn order so we could talk about the other player’s actions and let him see a bit before his first turn.

Getting through the first three Scoring Cards took over an hour as we all were slow relearning (or learning) the game and analysis paralysis kicked in. The Middle and Youngest RMN Boys brought the Cold War directly to Mars, all but eliminating Martian influence at home. The OPA had established dominance in the Outer Planets and took the first two Scoring Cards in that Bonus Sector. The OPA ended up far ahead of the others in CP.

After the fourth Scoring Card, the only Bonus Sector left was the two The Belt. The fifth Scoring Card came out pretty quickly but all tried to avoid it as we jockeyed for influence in The Belt. The draw deck dwindled down until there was only one card; the last Scoring Card (the game immediately ends when the last Scoring Card is turned up). None of us were ready, and the game ended with a runaway OPA victory (99 pts against UN and ProtoGen in the 60’s and Mars in the 50’s).

There were many rookie mistakes made. Oldest RMN Boy was more focused playing Events than Action Points and as a result fell far behind. He ended the game with eight influence cubes still on his player card. As ProtoGen, I waited too long and ended the game without playing either of the Protomolecules.

Taken as a whole, the game was a bit disappointing. We played for nearly 2 hours and a lot of it was boring. Given our slower pace of play and analysis paralysis there was just too much downtime between each player’s turn. The Expanse Board Game strikes me as a game that is best played when it is played; familiarity breeds speed. The Expanse Board Game is not alone here; in my experience other games like Terraforming Mars or Scythe (especially Scythe) need to be played often to maintain familiarity and understanding of the game mechanics.

I was also mildly surprised to see that this game was the fifth logged play of The Expanse Board Game. This makes it one of my five “nickel” games in the past sixth months. Amazing, considering I only rate it a 7 on BoardGameGeek (just slightly above my 6.41 average). Maybe that’s because I want The Expanse Board Game to work even when it doesn’t.

 

#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.

#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.

 

#GameNight – Getting infected by #Pandemic #Boardgame

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Courtesy boardgamegeek.com

In many ways my year of “rediscovered” board gaming with the family has been a trip into the past. For Family Game Night, we have played new games like Scythe or The Expanse Boardgame as well as older games like Nexus Ops. With the many holiday sales in the States, I used a discount offer at Barnes & Noble to score a copy of Pandemic (Z-Man Games, 2013 English Edition). Pandemic was originally published in 2008 and in the past near-decade we somehow missed it. That error has now been corrected!

Since the RockyMountainNavy Family Game Night usually has myself and two of the RMN Boys, finding a 3-player family game is a bit challenging. The RMN Boys were a bit doubtful when I brought out Pandemic; the last “throwback game” we played, Nexus Ops, was enjoyable if a bit pedestrian. I think the Boys expected Pandemic to be the same.

It was snowy day so we actually pulled Pandemic out the first time in the afternoon. We lost our first game, set at Introductory difficulty, as we had only three cures when the Player Card deck ran out. The Boys and myself struggled to understand the different Roles. In our first game, we had a Medic, Dispatcher, and Quarantine Specialist. But the game was still very enjoyable, and Youngest RMN Boy suggested a replay after dinner for our usual Game Night.

In the evening game we played in a highly cooperative manner. Our Roles were the Medic, Quarantine Specialist, and Operations Specialist. As we started understanding the rules better we also started using a bit more strategy. The game ended on the last possible turn (the Player Deck was empty) as Youngest RMN raced to a Research Station with our last cure and gave us the win. We jumped and cheered and gave each other high-fives.

It was at this point I realized that all three of us were standing for the last turn. Pandemic had delivered a very intense game experience. If I had really paid attention to the reviews and rankings this should not surprise me, but all of us (even RMN Mom listening from the other room) were positively overjoyed with the game experience. Pandemic gave us an intense game the demanded we pay attention to our unique abilities and employ strategic thinking in a time-pressure environment. So intense was the game I forgot to take the usual gaming action photo! Winning the game is very satisfying; there is a real feeling that we “saved humanity.”

I am glad we added Pandemic to our game collection. Youngest RMN has pulled the box out several times in the day since the game and is studying it deeply. This game will definitely land on the RMN gaming table again. Youngest RMN has even asked if they can take it to Korea to introduce the cousins to next trip.

Busting Out Laughing with #GhostbustersProtecttheBarrierGame

Here in the RockyMountainNavy household games are usually serious matters. We play #wargames for the strategy and history, #boardgames for the wonder and learning, and #RPGs for the adventure. I admit that sometimes we lose track of the fact that games should also be fun. Ghostbusters: Protect the Barrier Game (Mattel Games, 2016) reminded us that games can – and should be – fun!

I wrote before how I found this game at Tuesday Morning and was intrigued by its provenance, having originated in a 2014 Kinderspiel-des Jahres winner. We missed our usual Saturday night gaming (hey, after a long all-day home improvement project we were all wiped out) and instead pulled G:PtB out on Sunday afternoon. Feeling a bit sadistic, we using the Advanced Rules with the exception of removing the Paranormal Energy Devices (PED) in numerical order.

We lost our first game quickly but reset for a second game. The second game went longer and looked better with seven of eight PED out and a race to get the last one. Unfortunately, a series of Rowan events triggered the last Haunting and we (barely) lost. Resetting for a third go, we tried again. This time we changed strategy and had two hunters (er, Ghostbusters) removing PEDs while a third tried to beat back ghosts.

Middle RockyMountainNavy Boy entered a room with two ghosts and tried to fight them. For three rounds he fought, and missed. Eventually the room was haunted and he was joined by his younger brother. Again they fought, and again they missed. It took too many precious rounds to knock back the haunting.

As we raced to get several PEDs out, the Middle RMN Boy tried to stop by and join me to fight back a haunting. He was almost at the door when his brother pulled Green Doors Locked and cut off his path. No problem. Just go around the other way. But as he reached the other door his brother pulled out Blue Doors Locked and cut him off. Turing around, he went back the other way only to see his brother pull another card which said…you guessed it…Green Doors Locked!

At this point we were all laughing out loud. Youngest RMN Boy could only say, “Damn!” Middle RMN couldn’t take it any more and tackled his younger brother. As we all laughed and the boys wrestled even Mrs. RMN joined in by shouting, “What’s happening?!”

We lost the game, going 0-3 for the afternoon. We played all three games in about 40 minutes total. Ghostbusters: Protect the Barrier Game gets the RockyMountainNavy family seal of approval as a good family filler game. The RMN Boys want to dial-back the advanced rules and see if they can win at the Basic Game. They want to refine their strategy first before trying the uber-advanced variant. They want to make all this effort because…

…the game is fun. Belly-aching, laugh-out-loud fun. 

Ignore the theme and play the game. It’s just a plain good, clean, silly family fun game.