Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: My International Tabletop Day & Tween Lock-In Failure

This was my first year back in gaming. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I had taken a huge break and was focusing obsessively on three RPG systems with my husband and our friend. Having stepped back into the fold, I was so excited to share in Tabletop Day again. From looking at my blog over the last month, it should be rather obvious that I have been so excited for this year. I planned and dedicated a whole month to counting down to it! Even moreso, when I was booking days for my Tabletop Game Club to have their Lock-Ins I chose the eve of Tabletop Day so we could ring in the excitement at midnight! That was all planned way back in January!

As the day drew closer, I was starting to have severe pain in my stomach. I was doubled over in pain at work. I even went home on one of the days. Then I didn't have pain and then I had pain again and it was so inconsistent. So on the Friday of our Lock-In, I was feeling great! My day went well and everything was great and I was so excited and putting up my posters for Tabletop Day and I had all my table toppers and stickers for the kids!

The gaming day started off with our 6th Grade incentive. I was hosting a gaming room. I promoted my gaming room with a showing of some of the offerings from our vault and my own personal collection that were being used for my tabletop game creation unit in Literacy.

When school ended, it was time for our Tabletop Day celebration! As with all our Lock-Ins, we start with dinner and roll into gaming. I took a little longer to get my dinner eaten, because a co-worker stopped in and I was showing off a game I was excited about and he just, in general, got a feel for what we were doing.  I was all excited by my toppers and posters, so I HAD to show those off.

After he stole from our snack table, which clearly states "looking for players", he left and I finally sat down to eat. Once I was done, I joined in on a game of Carcassonne Junior and while I played, I felt like a sudden fever had come over me and I was starting to bend over in pain. When the game finished (one of the girls "let me" win), I left the media center and went to the bathroom. It wasn't helping, but the pain was intense. I went to the more luxurious staff bathroom and I literally spent two hours on the floor wondering all sorts of things about my digestive tract. I decided to maybe set up my bed in the back room in the media center where the girls sleep. I'd lay down for a bit and the pain would go away... all I had to do was push through it.

Half an hour later, it was not better. I was in tears and doubled over in pain and I told my husband to cancel the lock-in. Parents were called and kids were sent home at 9PM. I felt so guilty and so horrible. My husband cleaned up a little, but I told the night custodian we'd be back in the morning to clean up everything.

My husband closed up and took me home where I went straight to bed in pain. I had ruined the night. I had ruined my student's weekend. But by the next morning I was feel fine. So we went to pick up my daughter from my friend's house. We decided to go out to eat and took my daughter to IHOP, because she's been begging. I ordered just an omelet, then we stopped back home and went back out to collect our ceramics that we made at a local shop and I wanted to drop off our tabletop summer camp fliers at the local game shop so they could start to promote it. When we left the ceramics shop, I was starting to have pain in my stomach and it got worse after my daughter accidentally tripped me and I slammed straight into the ground. By the time we made it to the game shop, which was literally only 5 minutes away, I was doubled over in pain crying. I was driving and my husband forced me to pull over and he drove me home.

I still didn't know what to do and I went to lay down. My husband brought me some soda to drink and I finally was able to empty my stomach. Bottom line... I'm feeling miserable, but I have no fever so I can't even put my finger on what was wrong.

So I ruined everyone's Tabletop Day, because I could barely do anything and I had canceled the kids' lock-in. I was determined to do something to make my husband feel better, because he was literally devastated. I had him bring up a folding table and he laid it on the bed. While he ran to the store, I quickly ran downstairs for a couple light games and made up the table. So when he came home and came up to check on me, he would see my surprise.

I did the trick and we were able to play a few games.

The weekend went along the same lines... lots of pain... can't eat. I finally could have some yogurt. I hope I can find out what this is soon and get back to my normal life and enjoy all of the gaming excitement that's been going on around me.

*EDIT*On that Monday I finally went to urgent care and it turned out I had an ulcer. How exciting! So now that I know, let's hope things can get better and the next lock-in will be better.

On a sadder note, I did not get to finish my countdown to Tabletop Day due to this health dilemma, but all this happening really showed me that I was putting myself under way to much pressure with everything I was doing and I'm looking forward to hopefully finding a bit more zen.

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: 1 Day Until International Tabletop Day - Mice & Mystics

The minute I saw Mice and Mystics I knew I needed to have it. The adorable miniatures... the compelling story of a mouse determined to save his kingdom! It was the kind of game I knew I needed to own.

But my husband and I dabbled in the world of "real" RPG with our friend and Mice and Mystics took a bit of a backseat to our experiment. We had decided, though, that we wanted to play with our daughter. My husband was starting to consistently game with her and was sussing out her gaming level. This past December we finally felt it was the right time to move away from Hero Kids and move into Mice and Mystics! First of all, I didn't have to do a ton of planning on my end to make the game happen. Secondly it had all the little adorable mice figures and allowed for more diversity with the play. Don't get me wrong, I love Hero Kids, but I was a little RPGed out after what went down with my group.

I fell in love with the character of Filch and he is my signature character. I almost never don't play him. I did have to give him up for Tilda one our last adventure that we were trying to conquer... no seriously... 4th time around! I wear my Critical Role hoodie with the hood up, because it makes me feel all scampish. The only problem we have with the game is my daughter's occasional attention span. I love that she wants to play the characters, but she's always touching things and moving things and... ahhhh! She's 7-almost-8-years-old, btw. She always says, "But mom! I just have so much energy!" To which I silently answer, "Then how do you spend so much time on your Kindle playing games?"

I digress. It's been a great family game and the adventures keep us on our toes and having to look for ways to work together. So we break out the sliced cheese and prep out table every other Sunday for Mice and Mystics! Let's just hope we don't have to keep playing scenarios over and over again, because it does have a tendency to steal away the enjoyment. But we love it!

Episode 1

Episode 2

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: 2 Days Until International Tabletop Day - Sushi Go!

Oh Sushi Go!... let me count the ways... that you have been played throughout your release and Tabletop's demand that I purchase and play it immediately! It wasn't a hard sell, to be honest. I am a sushi addict! Or.. was before I had this whole "change of lifestyle." Granted... I am not going to deny myself something once in a while. So I will have a Naruto Roll from my local sushi place in honor of this most delicio... I mean... enjoyable games!

First of all, I share it with my students all the time (club and other) and they sometimes struggle with the game, because it is like nothing most of them have ever seen before. Then the scoring is strange to them. Once I get them through the game and teach them how to score, the game takes off and everyone is trying to teach it to everyone else! This year, it is one of the most popular games as a Mentor Game for my game unit. I'm waiting to see how that turns out.

Sushi Go! is also a game that I love, because it has the set collecting aspect that I love. I don't always win, but I feel I'm good at the game and that's a nice feeling to have.

Original Episode
Gag Reel

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: 3 Days Until International Tabletop Day - Legendary

On the eve of the early releases of Avengers: Infinity War, I am so excited to write about one of my favorite Deck Builders. Legendary hits all my favorite things about a game. It is cooperative, it's a deck builder, it's got super heroes and different combinations of teams you can make, and it is fast-paced.

We, of course, have a ton of (though not all!) the expansions for the game. I have fun playing around with the different teams that can play together. Sometimes I like to be silly and pick unlikely heroes to work together and other times I like to play the classics.

My husband sometimes makes the setup take forever, but most of that has to do with picking the people that you want. When teaching it as a new game, I remember it took forever. I was teaching it to my kids at a game convention I help run. They were being crazy choosing their people and then their turns were so long. I had way too much time to socialize during other people's turns. I think that's the best way to phrase that experience. This is not an ideal game for my game club kids-- too much mucking about.  It is one of my favorite games to play with just my husband though!

The whole Legendary series makes me happy. I just love it. Now I know there are lots of Marvel games coming onto the market, because of the whole MCU craze, but it's sometimes hard to suss out the quality games. Legendary hit the mark with this one and I can't gushingly recommend it enough.

Original Episode

Gag Reel

The Joy of Gaming - Ray's Rate a Shelf #11

At the beginning of this year, my husband started a Twitter feed, posting a different part of our game shelves and rating the games that are on them. I was so impressed by this activity, I thought it would be great to share it on my blog.

Click the Tweet to see the rankings and the games.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: 4 Days Until International Tabletop Day - Love Letter

Oh Love Letter... you pop up so often in my gaming life. Probably because you are my absolute favorite travel game and you have some neat pop culture skins. The game is also one of the most popular games in my game club and when non-game-clubbers play it, they love it to. Sometimes the skins are what make the difference, because the kids get weird about the title. Either way. Love, love, love.  Here's an entry I wrote for Valentine's Day.

Love Letter Livestream - Tabletop Day 2014

Love Letter Original Episode

Love Letter Gag Reel

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: 5 Days Until International Tabletop Day - Five Tribes

5 Days and 5 Tribes! #numbernerd

Bruno Cathala is one of the hobby's most brilliant designers. He is one of three designers who get their own shelf in our collection, with our current count of his works at 12. Six of his designs are in my husband's current Top 100 Games of All Time. His games are just works of art.

Five Tribes is no exception. While not my personal favorite from his catalog of work, Five Tribes nevertheless is an amazingly fun, thinky, tactical game.  The game consists of a grid of tiles peppered with a metric ton of little meeples in five different colors.  On your turn you pick up all the meeples from a tile and travel to another tile, dropping off meeples one a time along the way so that the last meeple you drop off lands on a space with members of his own tribe. You claim all those meeples for points and you then trigger different special actions and abilities based on their color. Each tile you stop on has its own potential bonus effect as well and when you clear a tile out on your turn, you gain control over it, earning more victory points.

There's more going on in the game. Collecting goods from the market, summoning powerful Djinns, building palaces and discovering oases. But the real bread and butter of the game is the Mancala-esque meeple collection and dropping off.

Five Tribes is a remarkably rich game, enhanced by its expansions (though certainly not requiring them) and one of the best games of 2014 despite that year being filled with outstanding games.

Original Episode

Gag Reel

How the Iron Fist Brought Zen to My Classroom

It's time for testing in our state. We're trying to create these positive and zen environments for the students so as not to overly tax them in order to reduce stress. Students are given peppermint candies to have during the test. Some of us are using essential oil diffusers to wake up the mind with essential oils. I even have my Himilayan Salt Lamp going to help remove negative energies in the room. Sitting in here right now I have never felt so very zen.

Now... I teach Science for the first hour of the day. It's quite a bit of reading and the curriculum lesson itself, I thought, was a bit heavy for the students. So I wanted to do something different, especially since in Literacy they're all taking the Reading portion of the exams. I didn't want to burden and tax them with excessive reading and processing when I was about to ask them to do this on a state exam.

As I drove to school that morning wracking my brain for what I could do it hit me. No, literally... a fist of iron just cracked my skull. In theory, when Danny Rand does his "tai chi" he centers his body so that his chi is strong. Then he uses that chi's potential energy to energize his fist, which then produces kinetic energy and knocks out Luke Cage! Sure, there's magic, blah blah blah, but there it is!

So I had this whole explanation worked out. I had appropriate clips chosen, even showing him doing the whole "calm face" to summon his chi and the fist glow. It was so cool. So then I gave the kids a quick rundown of chakras and calming the body and how when our chakras are out of alignment it can cause problems in our body. So by meditating and doing tai chi, we can center ourselves, store our potential energy to then push out into the world.

I put on some Tibetan bowl music, we meditated with spines straightened to try to align out chakras. Then we all stood together and practiced tai chi! Ended with a little more meditation and then they left.

When I saw some of my students for testing an hour later, they said they still felt good. At the end of the test, there were only 10 minutes left in class and a few of them asked me to put the music back on. They were quiet, focused, etc. So lovely.

I know it all sounds crazy, but we're going to debrief tomorrow and it hopefully put them in a better frame of mind to be successful with their stressful forward exam. GO MARVEL!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: 6 Days Until International Tabletop Day - Concept

Concept is a party game that really has its focus in charades, but you have to use the images that are on the board. I know kids love this game, so we brought it as a weekly game for our game club. As I listened and watched my kids playing the game, I was horrified when I heard "RACIST! RACIST" being yelled from the back gaming room. I didn't know what was going on, so went to find out what it was... sadly, it was a student I had been having some difficulties with and while the comments may have been taken out of context, the yelling of "RACIST" during the game didn't fly. So it sadly left a bad taste in my mouth and, I think, also ended up affecting how the kids perceived the game. While in school there is the idea of fun and appropriate fun. I can understand being overly silly, but that kind of silly I can't have on my head.

We did break the game out again at our Lock-In and while I missed out on the game play (because sometimes people need their sleep), my husband just raved over how brilliant kids were at the game. It's always so shocking that in my club they seem so anti-gamer, but they get to the Lock-In and it's like hardcore. So strange.

Either way, I can't wait to break out Concept again and really start to appreciate how awesome it is.

Original Episode

Gag Reel

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: 8 Days Until International Tabletop Day - Dead of Winter

Dead of Winter is another game I adore that I also needed all the promotions to! Felicia Day is so much fun to play and actually led to one of my most epic events as a gamer. I wrote an entry back in July of 2015 after playing a session with my husband and our friend Jim. I had played Felicia Day and was very excited about it. As we played, a Crossroads card finally came up that applied to me and what occurred scared me for life. I won't retell it here, but you can read the whole experience here. Just understand that I did in fact post the Crossroads card, but it's too late for you anyways, because I spoiled it.

I also love the game so much that I wrote about it in my Meet Me at the Table series I used to go for the International Geek Girl Pen Pals Club (IGGPPC). You can read all about it here.

Like Pandemic, there are varying degrees of success in this game depending on all sorts of things. We played it for the first time with my game club kids at our lock-in and it was a huge success. Shockingly we survived with no traitor. I love the zombies and the cooperative atmosphere of the game. Even ran out and bought the expansion. But seriously... go read the bit about a girl and her horse.

Note: This episode also includes Ashley Johnson (Critical Role) and Grant Imahara (Mythbusters) and I love them so very much.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: 9 Days Until International Tabletop Day - Sheriff of Nottingham

Sheriff of Nottingham is the most fun game to play with your students. Why? Because you already know all their tells and know how to keep a straight face around them. Ha! Sheriff of Nottingham is all about bluffing  and trying to get contraband past the Sheriff. I've been told I'm not a very good liar, but when it comes to this game, I'm actually not that bad.

I loved the game from the first moment I played it. The laughs were nonstop and it even became something I taught as part of a women's event at GenCon hosted by ConTessa. They're a group that supports minority-led gaming, empowering women, people of color, and LGBTQs in the gaming community. It was a great experience for me to teach this game while trying to break my anxiety over teaching games to predominately male players. Until you've experienced situations that make you feel uncomfortable, you won't really understand how damaging it can be. So I appreciated this opportunity and the game itself went swimmingly.

This game is definitely close to my heart for the special moments I've had playing it and I would recommend it to players looking for a bit of fun, coupled with a good bit of strategy. I know it sometimes seems a bit silly, but it's a smart game with some great bluffing.

Note: We got the expansion not long ago and we're breaking it out. I'm going to be using it at my next Tabletop Game Club Lock-In to celebration International Tabletop Day. Really excited about that.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: 10 Days Until International Tabletop Day - The Hare & the Tortoise & Council of Verona

The Hare and the Tortoise introduced me to a whole new series of games called Tales and Games from the excellent publisher Iello. It uses fairy tales to create games, such as Little Red Riding Hood, Aladdin & the Magic Lamp, and The Three Little Pigs. The Hare and the Tortoise, though, was our first introduction to the series and offered a new look at games that feel like they're for kids, but have the ability to completely enthrall an adult. It's a great little racing/betting game.

The other part that I loved was that it fit into my game unit. The students have to write a narrative to go with their game and these games all have accompanying stories. It was really quite nice.

I still share The Hare and the Tortoise whenever I get the chance and several of my students have used it as a Mentor Game and created some really interesting games based on the mechanics.

This past February I wrote a little bit about Council of Verona. See my article here.

The Joy of Gaming - Ray's Rate a Shelf #10

At the beginning of this year, my husband started a Twitter feed, posting a different part of our game shelves and rating the games that are on them. I was so impressed by this activity, I thought it would be great to share it on my blog.

Click the Tweet to see the rankings and the games.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: 11 Days Until International Tabletop Day - Tokaido

Tokaido stands out for me, because I remember my husband was so excited to introduce it to my students in my game unit. He set the directions down for them to play and it became the biggest directions fiasco I have ever had in my classroom. This one group literally sat there and just, like... silently protesting playing because we would not explain to them how to play. See... the point of the research phase is to 1) be exposed to game directions, 2) learn the pros and cons of direction writing, and 3) see what mechanics look like in-game. I am familiar with stubbornness, but that which was demonstrated on that day was beyond my comprehension. It's not a difficult game to play, but reading directions is something many, many people struggle with. The visual impact of 4 sulking pre-teens in the middle of a sea of joyous pre-teens engaging in games is seared into my mind. I did not use this game for the game unit this year. (We actually revamped this portion of the unit slightly, because you have to tailor the units to the students and it just needed some changes.)

My husband, though, brought the game in for my club and it was enjoyed. It, again, requires some thinking, which doesn't always seem to go over well in my club, but for the time it lit their fire, it was a joy! Recently on Daddy-Daughter-Tuesday-Game-Day, my daughter and husband played it. My 7-year-old won (again with support from my husband). My husband doesn't "let" people win, but it was her first time playing and he guided her through it. Her winning, though, was not a condition of teaching the game. Like me, my husband is very firm about character being built through winning and losing.

Tokaido is a beautiful game with a lovely premise and it has definitely found its way into my book of games that I developed a connection with.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Joy of Gaming: 12 Days Until International Tabletop Day - Qwirkle & 12 Days

I took the opportunity to cover two games in this entry not only because it's a double of Tabletop, but because Qwirkle is a game I just wrote about for my Women Game Designers series this past February. You can read my article here.

12 Days (2011) I like to keep around of the holidays. It is a trick-taking, set collection card game based around the 12 Days of Christmas. My kids break it out for fun and I do enjoy having an occasionally play. I just really love the game, because I like theme games that fit into "events." If you've had any experience with my writing, you should know I love to theme out everything! I mean... goodness... I did 30 days of Star Wars Apparel counting down to the release of The Last Jedi. It makes me happy, so this is one of those games that does that for me. A good family game, too.

Original Episode

Extended Episode