Sunday, January 17, 2016

Impressions Made of Tabletop Gamers

I always laugh when I see the memes about how other people view Tabletop gamers.

Sadly, I get to deal with this kind of stuff in my real life. It's hard for me, because, as with most of life, it's other people judging you. I feel like I need to set the record straight. I'm not a gaming elitist, but I am on a mission to expose people to games outside of the basic Milton-Bradley games of my childhood. I also want to help young people see beyond the basic games that they play at home or games that, seriously... are far below their age level. I want to help them aspire to greater things and expand their minds. I mean, hello. . . I'm a teacher. . . it's in my job description.

I have all of the classic games in my home. I'm raising a child and I intend to bestow on her my love of gaming whether from my childhood or from my adulthood. I have Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders, Scrabble, Monopoly, Scattegories, Pictionary, Sorry, etc. I am not above these games. Did I play them through most of my youth. . . yes. These were the only options I had available to me. Do I still play them today? Not so much, because I've discovered the world of Tabletop games!

Now, everyone knows the games above. When I mention playing games, most people just think they're the games they have at home for their family. There is nothing wrong with these games at home for family. Granted, if you have 12+ years of age, you might want to move beyond the basic "draw a color, move your piece" kind of game. There's no real strategy to it. No real engagement. It's a learning game. It helps you learn colors and the basic mechanics of game play. Additionally, it teachers young gamers how to play properly; taking turns and the pitfalls of losing.

Never have I disputed the benefits of these games for young and emerging gamers, but that's not my goal for my Tabletop Game Club. I like to share new games with people. I like to expand the knowledge of what games can provide. Within my club, I have had great success. Sadly, thinking outside the box scares people. They only want what they know. And that's a greater problem than just within Tabletop Gaming, but it's something that causes my heart to break.

I get that some people are kidding, but it always feels like a tiny dagger stab at my heart when it's brought up that "you should include normal games." Especially from people who don't even deign to think outside the box or are scared to learn something new. Everyone knows the basic games that are available at every store, everywhere. But my mission is to expand the minds of people. Don't take little jabs at people just because they have a different world view.

Assumptions, as I've learned throughout my life, merely make an ass out of you. I'm not an elitist. I just feel there's more to this world than what's on the shelf at your local Target, Wal-Mart, Kmart, etc. Nostalgia is at work for so many of these games when we think of them as adults. As children of the 80's, it's hard not to be nostalgic when everything from our childhood is coming back into modern pop-culture. I get it.

I don't write this because I "can't let it go." I write this to impress upon my readers and others how important it is to keep an open mind to our modern world. I have enough of myself to defend in the circles that I move in, I shouldn't have to defend a passion for advancing the understanding of games outside of the "normal" games every family cupboard possesses.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Joy of Gaming - The Grizzled

This is a game we discovered at GenCon 2015 and fell in love with. My husband had been playing with friends and they kept losing and losing and apparently it was really hard. Then I started playing with him and he started winning. I like to think I am some sort of good luck charm when playing this game, but I know I'm probably being a bit arrogant about that. I'm destined to lose a proper game eventually.

The Grizzled (2015)
Design team Fabien Riffaud (a newcomer) and Juan Rodriguez (Elixir) have definitely put some heart into this compelling and historically inspired cooperative card game. Working together with your teammates, you have to tackle the mission by eliminating cards from the Trials stack. At the end of each round, more cards are added, but you have the chance to deal out more cards to your teammates to help get through the Trials. You cannot talk or communicate unless you have a speech token, where you only give hints about threats. Threats are the images on the cards that are played (mortar shells, gas-masks, night time, winter, etc.). If you play three of any threat card, you fail the mission. Avoid this and you will be successful. You can give hints using your speech token or use your character's lucky charm. Players have to really be in the heads of their teammates to hopefully understand the actions they take.

Within the round, when you have played all the cards you can play, you withdraw and give support to other players who might need to get rid of Hard Knocks cards or earn back their lucky charm. This is a very involved game with many little things to keep track of and learn, but once you start playing, it becomes second nature and things happen automatically.

The art is by Bernard Verlhac, also known by his pen-name Tignous. Tignous was never able to see the fruits of his creative labors, because in 2015 he was killed in the terrorist shooting at the French publication Charlie Hebdo. The artwork is stunningly gorgeous and is reason enough to own this challenging game. The attention to detail is spectacular and edges itself into contemplative art.

The Grizzled is a great game for most ages. I took the game into my game club, because I have a lot of students who are war-buffs. Sadly, the cards are written in cursive and our district doesn't teach cursive, so at least one of my students could not read the cards. I wasn't playing the game, but I was there and I had to read the cards for him. I might be making a reference sheet for them so that they'll be more eager to play without getting frustrated over the text. I, though, love it, because it's authentic.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Joy of Gaming - Artifacts, Inc.

Like most nerds of the 80s, my husband and I love Indiana Jones. As most nerds of the 90s, my husband and I really enjoy Tomb Raider. As nerds of the. . . well. . . the nerds of today, Nathan Drake is also of great interest! All of this lends itself to my interest in Artifacts, Inc., by the designer of  Empires of the Void (2012), Ryan Laukat. 

Set in 1929, you're an archaeologist who has been caught up in the craze! You want artifacts and to go on exciting expeditions to locate these artifacts. Then you want to sell them to the museums to become rich and famous, as well as earning some super valid street cred.

Artifacts, Inc. is a worke/dice placement game that involves dice rolling (expeditions, buying, and selling) and area control (museum cards). It reminded me of a more involved Machi Koro (2012). You really have to play fast and close, because the first person to hit 20 reputation triggers the end game! Draft the cards that will help benefit your goals, but you are only limited to four additional cards to go with your original set of 4. You can only fill a 2x4 grid with your cards, but you can level up most cards with money that you earn selling all your sweet relics.

We played it as a two-player game and it was well developed and even if you feel a little lost at the beginning, things start to make themselves clear. For example, the letters on the cards have meaning! A worthwhile pick with some pretty interesting mechanics, especially if you're into this type of game.

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Joy of Gaming - Loch Ness

Sometimes I see a game and I have to have it purely for a sense of nostalgia. From 2007 until 2009, my husband and I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland. Whenever I see a game that has anything to do with Scotland, I can't help but want it. This game was at our local game shop in the children's area and I knew I needed to have it, because I could tell my daughter all about Nessie and my husband and I would have something to joke about. Thus was the purchasing of Loch Ness (2010).

Loch Ness (2010)
You are a tourist who is hoping to catch a glimpse of Nessie on the loch. On your turn either roll the die to move Nessie or move your tourist in the hopes of ending up in Nessie's path. When Nessie ends up in the line of sight for your tourist, you draw tiles from the bag and keep the highest number.

Loch Ness uses dice rolling, pawn moving, and points acquired based on random tiles that are drawn.

A fun family game that taught our daughter strategy movements. Turned out to be a great impulsive purchase.