Sunday, November 30, 2014

Meet Me at the Table: December Game-a-Day Challenge

Each day for the month of December, I will play a game. Some of you are probably laughing to yourselves, but I honestly have a hard time making time for gaming during the week. I'm a teacher, afterall, and let's not forget a mother and a wife. All three of these jobs combined essentially eliminate any kind of extra time, but I try to find a way to combine them all together so I can still enjoy my life as a gamer.

That is how December Game-a-Day Challenge began. I wanted to be able to have a little fun during this chaotic time of year that would hold me accountable for playing at least one game everyday. I could play some of them with my students at school. I could play others at home with my husband and daughter. Since they're planned, I could also have my husband prep some of them for me for when I arrive home.

On this blog, I will be posting the games that I play. I have no real rhyme or reason for choosing the games that I have chosen, other than picking lighter fare during the week and more committed games during the weekends. I also wanted to just play whatever I wanted to play, instead of having to showcase certain types of games or theme out the games in any way.

Additionally, I have a Winter Break over Christmas and New Years, so I'll have plenty of time to game and will probably be receiving some new games over the holidays. Did I mention I have a birthday on the 15th? Yep. . . lots of games coming my way this month.

I waffled for a while over doing an Advent Calendar, but when I realized the bulk of my gaming would be done after the Advent Calendar was over, I figured why not go the whole 9 yards! I was, though, turned on to an Advent Calendar Game Challenge on and I am looking forward to a little. . . double-dipping? Or... will I make myself play the game twice in order for it to count. Who knows! I'm feeling a little adventurous this season!

Finally, I wanted to share a graphic I made, inspired by the Space Invader tree that I've seen floating around out there for a while. I made a dice tree! Enjoy!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Meet Me at the Table - Turkey Day Tabletop Games

Like your table isn't full enough with all that delicious food on it, am I right? But let's just say you've cleared the table and are looking for some fun with the family while those leftover turkey sandwiches are being made for a late dinner.

These are my recommendations for games to play with the family around Thanksgiving. Many of the games are personal favorites and others came from recommendations from gamer friends and past experiences with my family. Some are for your more adventurous and edgy families and others are for the whole family, regardless of age.  These are listed in alphabetical order.

Agricola (2007)

Agricola plays 1-5 players ages 12+ and runs for about 120 minutes. Agricola is almost like Sims in a tabletop game. You start out as a farmer and their spouse and you take one action each per turn trying to build your farm, get farm work down, and expanding your family. You'll run through 14 rounds that are 6 stages each. You have to run your farm efficiently. It felt like a great choice for Thanksgiving, thinking about how our local farms and agriculture run, as well as evoking the spirit of America's first settlements.

There are several expansions on this classic and popular game to help enhance your gameplay.

Alfredo's Food Fight (2005)

Alfredo's Food Fight plays 2-4 ages 5+ and runs about 20 minutes. I found this game when browsing holiday options for my daughter. With all the tension surrounding these types of holidays, I though, "What could be better during the holidays than a food fight?" Essentially you're flinging meatballs at Alfredo as he spins around. A fun dexterity game for all ages. It's sure to make you laugh without making a huge mess.

Amerigo (2013)

Amerigo plays 2-4 players of ages 10+ and runs about 90 minutes. Players help explorer Amerigo Vespucci as her explores new lands in South America and establishes trade and expands settlements. I enjoyed the theme of exploration in the Americas and expanding growth, once again drawing on the history of our own colony which started in America.

The game itself is played using actions to try to expand and establish these routes. The different color cubes determine what you can do and the types of actions you can take. Players sail their ships and try to explore new islands and collect resources. You'll have to purchase defense to help protect what you earn. A great game of strategy and learning about early settlements in the Americas. 

BANG! The Dice Game (2013)

BANG! The Dice Game plays 3-8 players ages 8+ and runs around 15 minutes. The more players the better. Players play either the Sheriff and deputies, outlaws, or renegades. The Sheriff and deputies need to take out all the outlaws and renegades. The outlaws need to take out the Sheriff and the renegades need to be the last ones standing. Rolling the dice determine the amount of damage that can be done to you or others, heal, or increase the range of your shot. Everyone but the Sheriff is anonymous and you need to figure out who is on your team by their actions. Test those relationships with this classic bluffing party game.

Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game (2011)

Blood Bowl: Team Manager plays 2-4 players ages 14+ and runs about 90 minutes. Selected for its loose connection to football and, as we know, football is a staple of American Thanksgiving. After the tryptophan sets in and you've cozied yourself into your recliner to watch the pigskin battle unfold, try another tradition with Blood Bowl: Team Manager. It has a surprising amount going on between deck-building, card-drafting game, bluffing, area control, and--of course-- cheating!. You run a team that competes against the other teams in the most brutal of sports. Draft, hire, upgrade, and cheat like crazy in order to get the most awesome highlight reels over several weeks until it comes time for the Blood Bowl itself. What wouldn't bring people closer together than some good ole' sports without you actually getting hurt.

Cards Against Humanity (2009)

Cards Against Humanity plays 4-30 players ages 17+ and lasts about 30 minutes. CAH is the game for the edgier family that can handle the inappropriate, lewd, and downright blasphemous. You have got to be comfortable using swear words, referencing sexual positions, and any other matter of obscenity in front of your family. If that works for you, CAH is keep you laughing all night long, so keep the Sparkling Grape Juice coming! Players are given a fill-in-the-blank answer by one player, then they have to come up with what they think that player with laugh the hardest at. Think Apples to Apples for adults. Points are collected based on who has the most fill-in-the-blank cards. There are countless expansions and promo packs to keep this game interesting and full of flavor, so if you only have to base set, think about expanding to even more disturbing visualizations.

Diamonds (2014)

Diamonds plays 2-6 players ages 8+ and lasts around 30 minutes. Diamonds is a brand new trick-taking game in the vein of Hearts or Spades from Stronghold Games and noted designer of Mystery Rummy games and the classic CCG Wyvern, Mike Fitzgerald. Diamonds shares the same foundation as its elder cousins where each round one player leads the trick and the rest of the table is supposed to follow suit. What makes Diamonds a stand out in its class are the little acrylic diamond tokens players collect as they play and the fact that any player that wins the trick or cannot follow suit gets to take a "suit action" with the card they played. These suit actions move diamonds on the table around, either stealing from opponents, taking from the central pool, or moving it from your "showroom" into your "vault' behind a little cardboard screen. Players are out to collect the most diamonds. If you love trick-taking games, this is a phenomenal reinventing of the wheel and the game is a perfect choice for the family table.

Dixit (2008)

Dixit plays 3-6 players ages 6+ and last about 30 minutes. Dixit is comprised of a deck of giant cards featuring absolutely gorgeous artwork. On their turn a player will give a clue to the other players about a card in their hand. Then the other players will have to pick one of their own cards that they think fits the clue the best. They hand the card they've chosen over to the player who gave the clue and that player lays out the cards. Then the players have to pick which cards was the original clue card. Points are awarded based on guesses. A great game for everyone, because it's visual with no reading required and the artwork leaves much to the imagination.

Fluxx (1997)

Fluxx plays 2-6 players ages 8+ and last around 15 minutes. I've seen games go pretty long, though, depending on players and how often the games changes. Fluxx is just that, it is a card game where the rules are always fluctuating and changing. One minute you could be about to win the game, when someone changes the outcome rule and they take it for the win. A great family game with so many editions that no matter what your geek passion is, you are bound to find one that fits the tastes of your family. You can choose from the original or pirates, zombies, Cthulhu, Wizard of Oz, Monty Python, and the list goes on.

Gloom (2005)

Gloom plays 2-4 players ages 8+ and lasts about 60 minutes. You are one of four families that are set on being the most miserable families ever. Your goal is to play as many negative cards on your family members as possible before they are killed. Storytelling goes along with each event that unfolds and the events can be quite. . . unique. It's hard not to think of the eccentricities of the Addam's Family. Gloom has expansions and editions, including a Cthulhu edition. This game broke creation barriers with it's see-through cards that function as part of the gaming dynamic.

Hedbanz Act Up (2013)

Hedbanz Act Up plays 2-6 players ages 8+ and lasts around 30 minutes. Each player wears a headband that holds a card on it. Each player has to try to guess the card that is on their headband, but they can only guess based on clues the other players give them about their card. A classic game made modern and is fun for the whole family and all ages.

Keyflower (2012)

Keyflower plays 2-6 players ages 12+ and lasts around 90 minutes. A worker placement game at its very core, Keyflower is played over four rounds, which represent the four seasons. Just like the pilgrims in Plymouth, you have to create a productive settlement as more settlers come to try to make a new life for themselves. This plays similar to a blend between Carcassonne and the Settlers of Catan, through it's use of meeples and tiles. The setup is original and is sure to be fun for the family.

Last Will (2011)

Last Will plays 2-5 players ages 13+ and lasts about 60 minutes. What family gathering wouldn't be complete without a discussion or two about the future of the family heirlooms. A strategy card game, Last Will celebrates the enjoyment of money. Your rich uncle will leave his millions to the family member who can demonstrate how much they appreciate spending money the most. Each player will start with some spending money and after 7 rounds or the first player to go bankrupt, the game ends. Who will be the heir to millions? Spend an evening contemplating what your last will has in store for the ones you love.

Lewis & Clark (2013)

Lewis & Clark plays 1-5 players ages 12+ and lasts about 120 minutes. A card drafting boardgame based on the expeditions on the namesake, Lewis & Clark focuses on hand management as each player runs his own expedition across North America. The game is a bit more on the complex side for gamers and will take a little while to teach to new gamers, but is definitely enjoyable once things are under way. Recommended for those nights with the family during the holiday break.

New World (A Carcassonne Game) (2008)

New World plays 2-5 players ages 8+ and lasts about 45 minutes. Like the original Carcassonne game, you place tiles to expand your settlements. What makes this one special for Thanksgiving is that it is set in early America. While you play you are forced to explore westward in order to win. If you love Carcassonne, New World is the perfect way to add a new twist and theme it out with the holiday.

The Settlers of Catan  (1995)

The Settlers of Catan plays 3-4 (or 5-6 with the expansion) players ages 10+ and lasts around 90 minutes. Settlers is a classic tabletop game and boasts many variations and expansions to build on the enjoyment. Roll the dice to collect resources and manage your hand to expand and grow your settlements. Don't forget to trade wood for sheep. Another game that focuses on building settlements that, again, reflects on Thanksgiving a little bit.

Sheriff of Nottingham (2014)

Sheriff of Nottingham plays 3-5 players ages 13+ and lasts around 60 minutes. I think you can play with ages below 13, depending on how you feel the kids will do. Sheriff is a bluffing game and will definitely elicit laughs and silliness from the whole group. Each player is a merchant who wants to sell their goods inside the city. There are legal goods and contraband goods. You have to try to pass off your goods when you declare to the Sheriff. Each players takes turns playing the Sheriff. Try to get the most goods through the gates and benefit from the bonuses on your contraband, but just make sure the Sheriff doesn't catch you or you'll be paying out. Great fun for a family get-together.

Small World (2009)

Small World plays 2-5 players ages 8+ and lasts around 80 minutes. You start out as a race that wants to expand to collect victory points. As your races spread out, you might realize it's time for that race to decline and another to begin. How long and how many races can you use to colonize the board? A great way to learn about how expansive cultures of people are and how sometimes other groups need to take over already inhabited areas. Small World has several expansions and other variations of the game, so pick what you like the best. Hours of fun for the whole family.

Snake Oil (2010)

Snake Oil plays 3-10 players ages 13+ and lasts around 30 minutes. I actually think you could have kids who are younger play, just be aware of the cards you're using. Snake Oil is great for the whole family and will be the source of massive amounts of laughter. Each player is dealt some cards and has to come up with an item to sell to a randomly selected personality. For example, the person you have to sell to might be a gangster and you have to sell the best gangster item to them using two of the items from your hand. Lots of laughs to burn off all those turkey calories.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Meet Me at the Table - 4X Sci-Fi Tabletop Games

One of the biggest types of games that you find when looking for Sci-Fi themed tabletop games are the classic 4X games. "That sounds like some kind of vehicle," one of my students said to me the other day and I couldn't help but laugh. Essentially, 4X is a style of game that follows a set patterns of play. For this article, I will explain what 4X is and then just summarize the "story" of the games, because the game play is pretty set in stone with one a few minor tweaks to set the games apart from each other.

4X are called 4X because there are 4 categories of gameplay: Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate. Each stage in each game typically function in the following way:

Explore: In this phase of the game, the players typically seek to reveal surrounding areas or territories of the game. Players may or may not send out "scouts" to learn more about the area. It really is about exploring the board or the areas of the game.

Expand: Typically during this phase, players start to take on new settlements by claiming areas or territories. During this phase, players might also expand their already existing settlements or focus on expanding influences of those settlements.

Exploit: Now that players have explored and expanded their settlements, they want to take materials to help their settlements develop. So they exploit the areas that they have taken control of.

Exterminate: At this point, players are attacking in the hopes of eliminating the other players. Typically in these games, all the territories are claimed by the players and you want to be able to expand even more. To do this, you have to exterminate the other players to gain their territories.

The 4X games mimic the idea of intergalactic colonization and fit perfectly within this realm of Science Fiction.

Within this large category of games, I chose four that I thought were incredibly unique in their utilization of the 4X game mechanics. Not only was their theme engaging, but the mechanics in some of these have stood the test of time.

Empires of the Void (2012)

Embedded within a storyline of becoming a galactic superpower, Empires of the Void, like the games that follow, features alien races that are vying for power. These alien races see that the Pyrious Empire is struggling to keep their hold and feel that now is the time to strike!

In Empires of the Void, two to four players are competing to enhance and expand their own empire. Their goal is to beat out the other races by exploring in order to find new planets. Once a planet is discovered, the race that discovers it has two options: to conquer or assimilate in order to learn their special abilities. By expanding their own empires, players can earn victory points. Within the empires, players strive for technological growth and to gain control of the galactic council. All three of these provide victory points that will determine the ruler of the galaxy! After three rounds of play, the points are totaled and the new ruler is declared!

Distributed by Red Raven Games, Empires of the Void is one that is hard to get. It pains me to promote a game that is so difficult to find, but hopefully another print run is in the making. If you can get your hands on this game, it is absolutely fantastic. Empires of the Void engages and has stunning artwork, as well a unique gameboard. It is well worth the time and investment. It is definitely one of my favorites in the 4X game pool as it is a much shorter playing time than most of these, because I do struggle with the turn length of these games (I'm lookin' at you Merchant of Venus and Twilight Imperium). Definitely grab this as soon as possible if you can.

Empires of the Void has two expansion worth checking out if you are able to find this game to add to your collection: Key to the Universe and Pirates of Cidran.

Time: 120+ minutes       Suggested Age: 12+

Merchant of Venus (1988/2012)

The Merchant of Venus has the distinction of being the oldest entry on this list or, really, any of the games in my Sci-Fi series. Originally released in 1988 (that's 9 years before Twilight Imperium) when the very concept of a game this epic in scope was absolutely mind-bending to the average earthling, Merchant of Venus became a grail game to many a fledgling tabletop geek of the day.

For almost two decades the game, like many other visionary board games that came before their time, was lovingly played on the tables of their original owners but was unavailable to a new audience. Then in 2012, a joint venture between Stronghold Games (Among the Stars) and Fantasy Flight (Twilight Imperium) released a new edition of the game with all the modern bells and whistles. (In reality this was nearly a disaster as both companies had planned to re-release the game on their own unaware of the other, but they fortunately found alliance in common cause and worked together to package a "Classic" and "Modern" version of the game.)

If it weren't for its length, Merchant of Venus would probably be my favorite of the games on this list. Quantum and Empires of the Void have more appeal because they're easier to break out on a whim, but there is SO much amazing game and theme in this box and it's not half as intimidating as Twilight Imperium (still a bit intimidating though).

Merchant features 1-4 players as space traders exploring the intergalactic trade routes, upgrading their ship, discovering fourteen separate cultures and trying to become the king of commerce in the depths of space. But it's not all Venutian roses and Saturn moon gravy. Beware of pirates, hazardous nebulas, and your more aggressive opponents. The player who amasses the most wealth wins. The two versions of the game, while spiritually similar, play surprisingly different so give 'em both a whirl and find the one that suits your tastes.

Time: 180+ minutes       Suggested Age: 12+

Quantum (2013)

Quantum is one of the shorter 4X games I've encountered in this field. It plays 2-4 players, which is also attractive to the gamer who is limited in their ability to play with groups, but still want to experience the 4X experience. As with the other games, it is all about expanding your race in order to get resources and become the most powerful race in the galaxy. Technically, you'd want to consider this a 3X game, because it leaves out exploration, but we're still going run with it being a 4X game. Instead of revealing or placing new planet tiles in a typical 4X exploration phase, the gameboard is actually fully known from the start and you don't need to do any exploring on it,

The goal is to be the first player to get 5 of your quantum cubes out on the board. The rules booklet offers options for creating the layout of your galaxy depending on the amount of players and how advanced you feel you can be with the game. The game uses the board and the dice for the major components in the game.

There are colored dice that represent the different races that you can play. You roll the dice and, according to your player page, dictates the type of ship you will be moving around the board. The lower the number, the better the ship, but the slower it is. So a 1 would be a battle station that can only move one space at a time. If you rolled a 6, you'd have a scout that could move much farther, but is easily damaged. The player sheet explains all the different things you can do and how to improve your ships, as well as actions you can do.

Quantum's special qualities are really founded in the mechanic of dice rolling. It allows for re-playability and relies very little on an agonizing depth of strategy. So instead of watching the other people mentally map out their turn, they have to actively participate in what they want to do and then the other players can be more engaged as your turn goes on.

Quantum is definitely one of my favorite of these games due to its interactive nature and that it relies heavily on the dice to determine your actions.

Time: 45-90 minutes       Suggested Age: 13+

Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) (2005)

Twilight Imperium, another 4X game published by Fantasy Flight Games, originally published in 1997, is the most epic of games! It's a race to control systems and gain victory points! Like most of the other games, it is a hardcore strategy game. You'll see this one listed at most game cons and is one that feels intimidating due to it's sprawling nature. The nice thing about Twilight Imperium is that there is a long game and a short game, so you'll get a victory point tracker with two options. The amount of pieces in this game, alone, are cause for a mild anxiety attack! Within the box you'll be using geomorphic hexagon tiles, plastic miniatures that are crafted with precise details, and hundreds of cards.The game was originally meant to be all you could ever need from space adventure game of this nature and so you'll find a whole galaxy in this box all for the playing.

The game includes 10 alien races that you choose from. Each race has their own special abilities and drawbacks when playing the game. On the race cards, there is a history on the back to help inform you and the cards themselves are incredibly detailed. Once you've selected a race, you select your colored game pieces and you choose from one of 6 colors. The game plays 3-6 players. I've seen recommendations anywhere from 4-6 are best.

The tiles have planets, empty space, and other space oddities. Each have their own special resources, problems or benefits. Each race also gets their own home planet hexagon to start on. There are matching cards for the planets that let you know what the planet can do for you.

Through the use of the 4X style, the game is played until the most victory points are earned. You earn victory points by completing objectives. When Imperium Rex shows up in the objectives, the game is over. Or the first player to 10 victory points ends the game. The third addition has drawn on the success of other games (ex: Settlers of Catan) and improved in areas it originally felt was lacking for it's players.

And as much as they wanted there to not be expansions, there are expansions for this game: Shards of the Throne and Shattered Empire.

Time: 360+ minutes       Suggested Age: 12+

How to Spice-Up Your 4X Game Night

1. Snacks
First stop. . . snacks. . . You're going to be at these games for the majority of your night/weekend, so you're going to need to stock up on the essentials: Twizzlers, Pretzels, and Caffeinated soda.  Just for fun, maybe get some beef jerky. You are going to need the protein for all that exterminating you're doing. These foods are easy to have in hand and not overly messy. The sillier-mom side of me also feels they're a little less damaging to your health habits. . . well. . . except for the soda. BUT the others are Mom-Approved!

2. Turn Distractions
If honesty in the best policy, I better be upfront now. . . 4X games drive me insane! The turn length and having to sit there for hours upon end watching other people take turns and strategize really frustrates me. Having something to do while I wait is always a good thing. So what I recommend is crochet. WHAT! Yes. Crochet. Or, you could set up a little workout session between moves. I hate turning to snacking, but it's not like you can open up a book and take in a chapter or something. Quick tablet tap games work well, too. I know it seems like sacrilege to even imply that you need to be distracted during turns, but if people aren't chatty and there are concentration issues, you might have to find a secondary hobby while you play games with long turns!  Crochet is really your best bet.

3. Soundtrack
I recommend the soundtrack compilation of Themes from Sci-Fi & Fantasy Movies. It's available on amazon and can probably also be found on iTunes. It has a great selection of all the favorites and could keep you fully inspired while gaming. You could select your favorite tracks from it or let it run the whole way through.

4. The Table most important thing to do when playing these games is to ensure that your playing surface reflects the galactic qualities of the game. Invest in a black or star-spattered tabletop cloth to really enhance the playing of these games. It will also come in handy if you intend to play Star Wars X-Wing or Star Trek Attack-Wing. Go online to or go to your local Jo-Ann Fabrics or Michael's and just ask for some awesome space cloth. Don't forgot your table dimensions and definitely don't get anything too slippery. You'll have to prepare your playing space for the potentially dreaded cloth. (My husband will only play on non-clothed surfaces). 

I hope some of these ideas can inspire you to have an epic Sci-Fi game night. Share your thoughts on these Sci-Fi 4X games or your thoughts on this article here or on twitter @adventgeekgirl (#RRSciFiMonth).

The next article is slated to be released on Thursday, November 27 and will focus on a cornucopia of Sci-Fi games that are Sci-Fi but don't fit into a specific epic category. Hopefully nothing will derail my publication this week. At the very least, check back on Friday (not that I want to jinx anything).

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Meet Me at the Table - Ships & Crew Themed Sci-Fi Tabletop Games

As I started to compile lists of games, I had a constantly nagging feeling that something was missing from my game collection. Something that was uniquely Science Fiction in origin. That evening, it arrived at my door. . . The Captain is Dead! I needed a ships & crew game list for my Sci-Fi Tabletop Games!

I wanted to stay away from the simple skins of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Firefly, which caused me to think farther afield.

The Captain is Dead (2014)

Your ship is under attack and your captain. . . is dead. You and the remaining crew need to keep the ship's systems online and functioning while warding off hostile aliens invading the ship. Get your ship's jump drive repaired and get your ship safely out of there before your shields hit 0%! You've got to give it all you've got!

The Captain is Dead is a cooperative game. The players choose their crew member from the crew member deck. You can go about this in one of two ways. . . based on color (where you pick your crew member within a color) or randomly by just drawing off the deck. The crew members are color-coded to align with the different areas of the ship. For example, green crew members are from the Science Lab and blue crew members are associated with the Battle Room. Each crew member has their own special abilities and some have additional skill benefits for helping out in running the systems.

After each player's turn, an Alert card is drawn. These cards could be invading aliens, an attacking ship, an attack knocking your systems offline, or an anomaly, which affects the crew. Through the use of actions and skills, the help of your surviving crewmates, collect enough engineering cards to get your jump drive online so you can get yourself and your crew outta there!

This has great replay ability, which is enhanced by the variations based on the crew and when the alert cards are drawn. There is a 1-player variation and 2-players do not draw anomaly cards. We found that 2-player games are enhance by the players choosing two crew members, so it's like you're playing with 4. We stood our best chances that way. You can set the jump drive on varying levels of difficulty, which I think best serves the number of people you have playing. It is definitely worth checking out.

Time: 90 minutes       Suggested Age: 12+

Galaxy Trucker (2007)

 The story the game paints is just too good to try to duplicate on my own, so let's start off this recommendation with this rousing call to galactic ship building:

In a galaxy far, far away... they need sewer systems, too. Corporation Incorporated builds them. Everyone knows their drivers -- the brave men and women who fear no danger and would, if the pay was good enough, even fly through Hell.

Now you can join them. You will gain access to prefabricated spaceship components cleverly made from sewer pipes. Can you build a space ship durable enough to weather storms of meteors? Armed enough to defend against pirates? Big enough to carry a large crew and valuable cargo? Fast enough to get there first?

Of course you can. Become a Galaxy Trucker. It's loads of fun.

Galaxy Trucker is a game in two halves.  The first and most hectic half of the game involves constructing your interstellar hauling vehicle in real time. Players race to grab tiles from the center of the table to construct a ship with suitable engines, cabin space, storage, weapons, shields, and batteries to power their various ship systems. All the while you are obeying the strict rules of construction in regards to connecting pieces, positioning, and orientation of various systems.

The second part of the game is time to sit back, relax and likely watch your ship get pulverized into space dust. Here players take turns moving along a track and encountering cards, many of which are quite unpleasant, and deciding how to handle the situation (if they have any choice). Along the way you can earn credits and pick up goods, but you will almost certainly lose crew, burn out your batteries, and see chunks of your ship get sent spinning into the void. Whoever actually survives to the end of their journey with the most money wins the round and then you can start all over!

Galaxy Trucker players 2-4 players and works well with most amounts. Of course we want four players always, but two players is just as fun. You never know what's going to happen when you rush to get your pieces and try to assemble a ship out of who knows what. All we can say for sure is that you will have some sort of ship. You might already be thinking of Among the Stars, where you build a space station and have to build the best one, whereas here you want your ship to just last to the end of the journey. Instead of cards, you are working with tiles.

Great fun for everyone and worth the time, especially if you think you have the chops to create an epic starcraft that can take on the perils of space! If you fall in love with this game, like I have, there are several expansions to feed your need OR you can by the Big Box Anniversary Edition.

Time: 90 minutes       Suggested Age: 12+

Space Alert (2008)

Did Galaxy Trucker sound like a blast to you?  How about The Captain Is Dead? Well, I sure hope so, because Space Alert is a second dose of spaceship madness from the brilliant Vlaada Chvatil (Galaxy Trucker) and the second game where players are on a team as the crew of a ship in dire circumstances. Is there any other way to exist on a ship?

Space Alert takes the real time aspect of Galaxy Trucker and ramps it up a bit as the game is strictly confined to a 10 minute timer in the form of one of several mission narratives on the CD (or app). This additional component is filled with audio cues and high stakes drama.  Space Alert takes the crew of a ship on a dangerous journey of a hyperspace jump into an unfamiliar sector of space where they find trouble in the form of monstrous aliens, critical malfunctions, and enemy warships. The ship's computer announces one terrible thing after another.

The players man various stations in a panic to complete the tasks necessary to get them out of this sticky situation alive. It is our own anxiety of the real-time aspect that drives us into a literal panic, instead of it being a mock feeling that we feign based on the mere drawing of a card. Depending on the difficulty level that you choose, your panic could run from mere "uh-oh" to "Oh my god we're all gonna die!"

Like The Captain is Dead, your objective is to survive until you can jump the heck back home and find safety away from the insanity! Lucky for the crew, damage is mainly being done to the ship, so you really just need to get your ship home.

Typically a full run takes about 30 minutes, but that's taking into account setting everything up and also the evaluation at the end of the game. As mentioned above, the mission itself lasts about 10 minutes.

Another game that involves 1-5 players and is best played with an actual crew of people! My recommendation is about 4, but trying it at all levels with different amounts of players provides value for replay. A unique and diverse game that is worth adding to your collection of tabletop games, regardless of your gaming level.

Time: 30 minutes       Suggested Age: 12+

Space Cadets (2012)

If The Captain is Dead is a full-fledged crew defending against aliens, Space Cadets encapsulates the newb factor of your first mission as a crew member. I can't help but think of the Star Trek reboot and how the cadets ended up playing primary roles on the ship. This is your first mission and you are all stationed on the bridge of the ship to work cooperatively to complete the mission.

Players choose from six different crew members: Helmsman, Engineer, Weapons Officer, Shield Officer, Sensor Officer, and Captain. Each role has their own board that drives their actions and helps to achieve the tasks. So for example, the Engineering station has to solve puzzles, which earn Energy tokens that can be used in other areas of the ship to help them complete their task.

While the game appears complex, once you start playing, your roles become clear and it feels a bit less overwhelming. Speaking and communicating with your group is the key to success in this game. What makes this game stand out so much is that each crew member is tasks with a specific set of skills and objectives that they need to accomplish. It is not just simply dice rolling or random cards being drawn, it is the quick calculation and skilled mind that is actually challenged in this game. Definitely for the more cerebral mind, but enjoyable enough for the casual gamers.

Space Cadets plays 3-6 players, but to really benefit from the layers of the game, I felt like the minimal amount of players you'd want to have are 5 to make a difference. Sadly, I can't recommend what I did for The Captain is Dead and play multiple characters per player, because the game itself relies on focusing on your area of the ship to function. Imagine trying to run the Scotty's and Chekov's jobs at the same time!

Space Cadets is another winner from Stronghold Games. Pair this Among the Stars for a Stronghold Games theme night of Sci-Fi greatness!

Time: 90 minutes       Suggested Age: 10+


A friend jokingly asked me after my last article, where is my little "spice it up" section for these games? After all, the whole concept behind Meet Me at the Table was to incorporate not only tabletop gaming, but also having fun when you're having a game night. In all honesty, who would I be if I didn't represent the adorable side. So this time around, I've included a fun little way to spice up your game night if you choose some of these games.

1. Dress Like a Crew
Whatever crew you choose (example: uh.... Star Trek?), dress up like your favorite characters! If you're going to theme out your night with a certain starship crew, make sure everyone is dedicated. I can't help but want to dress in the traditional Star Trek garb for these types of games. Give me my red shirt. . . I'm ready to take on the challenge!

2. Theme Music
Unless you're playing Space Alert, a soundtrack might be a fun little addition. You could choose any of the Star Trek theme songs or, for funsies, you could play Dark Side of the Moon (teehee). I also became familiar with a band while I was GenCon named Five Year Mission. They're a group of 5 Trekkies who are writing one song for every episode of the original Star Trek. It's like BNL meets. . . well. . . Star Trek. I love their quirky personalities and their unique sound.

3. Snacks
Would it be insane to suggest Dip n' Dots? NEVER! Get some Dip 'n Dots for your crew members to keep their blood sugar up for all the clever maneuvers they'll be doing. Personally, I'd probably also find a way to serve Tang (or another delicious orange drink), because who doesn't drink Tang in space? If those types of astronaut foods aren't your favorite, there is always the opportunity to serve Early Grey, hot! Or go all out by searching some of the great Star Trek recipes out there (just buy the book. . . you know you want to).

I hope some of these ideas can inspire you to have an epic Sci-Fi game night. Share your thoughts on these Sci-Fi crew and ship games or your thoughts on this article here or on twitter @adventgeekgirl (#RRSciFiMonth).

The next article is slated to be released on Thursday, November 20 and will focus on 4X games. Hopefully nothing will derail my publication this week. At the very least, check back on Friday (not that I want to jinx anything).