Posted in Board Games

New Branding (and new Podcast!)

We’ve been busy giving all things Variant Hex a refresh as we’ve taken on a new endeavor: Our own podcast!

You can listen online and or from the podcast section of Board Game Geek.

You can also find us on most major podcast apps by searching for “Board Games with Variant Hex”.

We have no ads, no format, and no schedule – but we’ve already released over 20 episodes! We wanted to make sure we enjoyed creating these episodes before we shared them. Additionally, since we have no format, we wanted to create a variety of episodes so that anyone who might be interested in listening would have a good sampling of what to expect.

We have no intentions to ever monetize the podcast. Gaming has reinforced our friendship, and kept us close and connected as our lives, and the world, have changed in the last couple years. We just wanted to create it to capture our own conversations about games and add our voices to so many others who celebrate this hobby!

As you may notice, we also have a new logo and new branding! We use Canva for just about everything we make, with occasional assistance from Photoshop. We’ve made logos for each of us, with icons that represent our play styles:

Aaron is straightforward, and finds the fastest ways to earn points and win games.
Adam is always looking to the horizon, finding fringe strategies that are hard to beat.
Jason is able to see the gears below the surface, cutting through the chaos.
Kellye is tactical, and is most likely to make the best move in the moment.

Posted in Board Games

Pandemic Legacy Season 1: Rebooted

Years ago, we started playing Pandemic Legacy. Despite our enthusiastic start, we slowed to a halt by April. The game has sat untouched as two more Pandemic Legacy games were released. As vaccines became available for our real-word pandemic, a couple of us got the idea to celebrate our final month of seclusion by playing through ALL the Pandemic Legacy games.

We have a few things going in our favor for this second attempt: We have a preview of what will happen in the first season, which may help us get off to a faster start. And, just two of us will be playing this time (Kellye and Aaron only). We also have the benefit of knowing the play times and number of games from others, such as Dice Tower and Brothers Murph. We won’t attempt to detail every month played in the interest of time. We’ll just post our thoughts at the start and end of each season.

It’s been a long year (as far as we are concerned, 2020 started in last March and is just now ending). As we schedule our first vaccination shots, we are looking forward to gaming in person again. Playing online has helped us stay connected, and even brought us closer. Once life opens back up, we may find ourselves with less time to play Tabletop Simulator or aimlessly chat on Discord. For example, Kellye and Aaron were able to play their entire collection in just 3 months. We can’t imagine that happening in 2019. Before we know it, we’ll all be thrown back into obligations and expectations that have been suspended for a year. There’s certainly lots of changes coming around the corner, but for now we’ve got a world to save (thrice).

Posted in Board Games

GameDay Upgrades from IKEA

As we maintain a healthy distance from one another as we await vaccine roll-outs, we’ve been finding small ways to upgrade our board game experience. Organizing and improving our games helps us keep our positivity about playing together in person sometime soon.

We’ve shied away from truly significant upgrades, like new game tables or remodeling. We’ve settled in to smaller, more bite-size projects like crafty upgrades and budget buys that bring big value to our table. It goes without saying that KALLAX shelves are the unofficial sponsor of board game storage everywhere. While you’re at IKEA expanding your shelving, there’s a few more things we think you should grab. We’ve found some great accessories that are ready to add to your game right away, or can be upgraded further for a premium experience.

First up, we have VARDAGEN glass bowls. At just under five inches wide, these thick glass bowls are a sturdy, stack-able, and stylish choice for holding and passing bits during games. We with with glass instead of a solid ceramic bowls so we could peak at the bits from the sides. At only $.99, we highly recommend this upgrade for even the tightest board game budgets.

If you have a bit more to spend, there are a variety of tableware options to give your bits a more elevated table presence. The MIXTUR set give you three small bowls, as well as a long, rectangular one that can be used to hold the small ones, or as a fourth container. The INBRINGANDE, KVITTERA, and GARNERA are great choices for a small table. These tiered serving platters will let you stack your pieces vertically, and the bottom levels are roomy enough to hold individual bowls. You’ll have a basic Token Sesame for a fraction of the cost!

Next, we have SKOGSVIKEN: a nice little tray for an even nicer price. At just $.99, this unlikely find was discovered while winding our way to the exit. Meant to hold bathroom trinkets, these 4″ x 6″ trays with 11/16″ walls are perfect for rolling dice. Like the bowls above, they stack nicely and are cheap enough to buy one for each seat at your table. We’ve tested them with dice from Corinth, Hex Roller, and King of Tokyo, all with great results. We’re thinking of adding a thin bit of felt at the bottom, and maybe even creating a foam board dice tower to attach to the side. These trays would also work perfectly fine for holding bits. It’s no Gamer’s Chest, but it’ll get the job done on a budget.

If you’re interested in some dice rolling and game component combos, BESTÅ and KUGGIS are options to consider. They’d look a bit better if you drop them in a cardboard or foam-board box, but they’ll allow you to hold pieces as well as roll some dice. They are a bit large, so you’d probably only want one or two at the table.

Last, we have our most unexpected upgrade. We recently got new bulbs for the light over our table. They were super-bright LEDs, which is what we thought we wanted. We soon realized that the light was too harsh, and created a glare on nearly everything. Now, we’ve switched to these extra big, glare blocking SILLBOs in 370 lumen each. While they won’t fit in every light fixture, they are just perfect in our builder standard fixture. These give off a diffused, yellow-orange light, which lends a cozy fireside vibe to the game table.

We didn’t see standard sized bulbs at IKEA, but they can be found on Amazon. You can also consider lamps or other lighting from IKEA to keep the glare off your cards and boards, allowing you to see the game better. We have other lights to the left and right of the table, allowing for a good mix of light while still avoiding glare.

All in all, we spent $55 on everything. The bulbs were certainly the most expensive, but we’ll get use for them outside of GameDays. In our next GameDay upgrades post, we’ll be talking about crafty upgrades for game components and boxes. The final post will discuss some of our favorite foods and cookbooks for GameDay. We hope you enjoy the series, and are inspired to upgrade your GameDay.

GameDay Upgrades from IKEA
Posted in Board Games

Worm Month

"We’ve been humans doing human things for a whole nine months of this year and frankly, we want it to stop." — Quintin Smith

The spring pandemic has spanned far beyond it’s expected reach, blazing into summer and settling deep into fall. For us, this has created an uneasy warping of our standard lives, with half of our existence frozen in time while the other half changes completely. It feels like ages ago when we were celebrating Leap Day and playing Clank Legacy together.

The last couple months we’ve found ourselves busy managing late-activating effects of the pandemic. We’ve been helping family members move, most of us have had jobs both disappear and be replaced, and we’ve experienced countless other events that have exhausted our capacities. And this has turned us, to borrow a phrase from Shut Up and Sit Down, into worms.

"We’re going to stop doing human things, because, well, we’ll be worms." — Tom Brewster

We began to wormify earlier this month, and while we have continued some board game activities from our various wormy… burrows(?) we haven’t captured any of this game play – not here on the blog, and not on boardgamegeek, bgstats app, or Instagram. We did briefly re-humanize to enjoy AwShux!? last weekend and pick up a few new games at Target. We watched streams, played games, and generally reveled in the joys of having arms and doing things. We even continued non-worming for a few extra days. But now, the wormification has reached its final stages, and this state will endure until sometime next month.

"Say goodbye to your limbs, your worries, and your responsibilities." — Matt Lees

And in that future month, we are considering some very un-wormy activities: more activity on Instagram with a push to top 1k followers, logging every single one of our plays, trying out a new review system, and maybe even a podcast! But, those decidedly un-wormy events are still at least a couple weeks away. Until then, we encourage you to focus on your health and wellness. Take all the worm time you need to recharge, renew, and refocus to finish out your human year.

Posted in Board Games, Countdown, Gen Con

Countdown to Gen Con Online: 10-1

We’ve made it! Our Countdown is finally complete, and Gen Con Online is underway! The last ten days featured the games that got the most likes. Some of that surely has to do with the names of many games also being actual locations… but Scythe had no such advantage. We enjoyed getting these games back off the shelf to finish out the countdown.

Games Featured:

First, we have a couple honorable mentions for tenth place. Both Ceylon and On Mars also got 90 likes by the time Dice Forge was posted. As of now, On Mars has 93 likes! Given that it was posted on day fourteen, this was a quick surge into contention, but not quite fast enough to be featured again. 

All of these games came from our physical collection, aside from Scythe. We have the stunning Tabletop Simulator DLC for that one, which we cannot recommend enough. The countdown allowed (forced?) us to try more new games per week than ever before. Tabletop Simulator has been a great way to find and play new games, and we’ve seen more and more official mods as online conventions continue.

With the countdown complete, we’ve been wondering: what’s next? We’ve upped our gameplay considerably, and become more involved in the board game community during our countdown. We think we may start a podcast or start streaming board games… but for now, we’re enjoying Gen Con and replaying some of our favorites.

Posted in Board Games, Countdown, Gen Con

Countdown to Gen Con Online: 20-11

It’s not long now! We’re getting our schedules sorted and snacks ordered for Gen Con Online in just a few days. We started this countdown on a whim, and it’s been a focusing force for the last few months. We hope you’ve enjoyed seeing a different game featured for each day, and we look forward to sharing our plays more regularly going forward (but not every day…).

Games Featured:

As we’ve found unique games to post each day, we’ve been forced to expand our gaming horizons and try things that we’ve passed up. Dungeon Academy, Islebound, Paper Tales and War Chest were all games we had heard about, but never really dug into. While we’ll be happy to go back to some of our old favorites, finding new games has been rewarding.

This set of games featured stronger art and themes with titles like On Mars, Oceans, and Crystallo. Much like Parks from the last 10-Day recap, these games are as enjoyable to look at as they are to play. Through the Ages and Concordia on the other hand, fall more in line with typical beige Euro vibes, even though the individual elements are colorful. We’ve had the Through the Ages app for a while, and still feel like it’s the best way to play. To our knowledge, there’s no Concordia app yet. As we’ve seen more and more games going digital, we hope this one turns up soon.

Death Eaters Rising is yet another Harry Potter game, but overall our group liked it more than Hogwarts Battle. We feel like we can’t keep acquiring every game from the Wizarding World… but we’re also pretty sure that we’ll pick up that new House Cup game.


Posted in Board Games, Countdown, Gen Con

Countdown to Gen Con Online: 30-21

The days are going by fast! We’re making our final Gen Con gear selections and browsing the events as we continue to countdown to Gen Con Online. Our daily posting engine is running dangerously low on fuel, but we’re doing our best to finish strong! We may still post daily on Instagram once the Countdown is over, but we’ll probably focus again on our game collection and what we’ve recently played instead of posting a unique game everyday.

Games Featured:

We appreciate games presenting new themes, like in Chai and Parks. Games with unique themes can also be great ways to introduce our hobby to people who may be unfamiliar, or apprehensive. Have a friend that loves tea? They probably have no idea there’s a board game about it. The art in Parks is so delightful, it’s easy to convince someone to spend some time playing a game with such wonderful designs.

Imperial Settlers almost sounds like a parody of the standard theme for so many board games, but it’s so well done that we can’t hold anything against this one. We originally played in on Tabletop Simulator, and almost immediately bought a copy from our local game store. We’ll likely do the same with Istanbul Dice and MMAGK, which has the much-less exciting name of Divvy Dice here in the U.S.

Champions of Midgard, Keyflower, Teotihuacan, and Villagers were all games that we loaded just to browse through the cards and pieces. We’ve enjoyed being able to sift through components as we decide what to learn next. Before, we would be limited by the number of games we wanted to buy. Now, we’re limited by how much we can learn and play.

Posted in Board Games, Countdown, Gen Con

Countdown to Gen Con Online: 40-31

We’re settling in for convention season, from the comfort of our desks! Gen Con 2020 would have been our first convention ever. Now that many are heading online, we are taking advantage by indulging in a steady stream of board game content. We watched much of the Virtual Gaming Convention and The Dice Tower Summer Spectacular, and are looking forward to participating in all sorts of conventions online that we never would have traveled to in person. 

Games Featured:

Because apps are comparatively cheap and endlessly portable, we’ll often find ourselves buying both a physical copy and a digital copy of games we like. Many of the apps we have are already featured earlier in the countdown (Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Terraforming Mars, Istanbul, and Splendor, to name a few). We had a fair amount of stand-alone apps this decade of the countdown: Galaxy Trucker, Exploding Kittens, Dragon Castle, Mysterium, Mystic Vale, Kingdom Builder, and Le Havre. The remaining games were either from Tabletopia or Tabletop Simulator.

Some games certainly perform better as apps than others. While Kingdom Builder is still enjoyable, the controls are less than great and there’s no undo options or confirmations for your moves. Mysterium has a bit of a campaign mode, but it is a bit strange to play a game like that with AI. A game like Mystic Vale is able to benefit from crafting cards much easier on the app, and highlights your available moves. Dragon Castle and Galaxy Trucker are a couple of the ones we like the most. Dragon Castle is well designed and has optional animations that help highlight the top level of the castle, and Galaxy Trucker has a story mode that makes playing solo more interesting.

We’ve been a little obsessed with Garphill Games recently, playing through both the West Kingdom and North Sea Trilogies. Architects and Viscounts were the last two on our list. We felt that Orléans was a bit similar to those trilogies, as there were many interconnected elements that could lead to victory points. Unfortunately, Orléans felt a bit long, especially because there doesn’t seem to be any rubber-banding to keep the game competitive. In our game, the standings at turn 9 were the same as they were at turn 18. An early lead, or an early mistake, seem to set your course for the rest of the game. But, it was only our first playthrough, so perhaps we weren’t commanding all available strategies.


Posted in Board Games, Countdown, Gen Con

Countdown to Gen Con Online: 50-41

Time is ticking down! We’ve bought some official merch from Gen Con, and have been hunting down games to fill out the last slots of the countdown. We’re not exactly sure what we’ll do after the countdown is done, or if we will still post a game every day. We typically play less games in the summer, as we find ourselves busy with other commitments. One thing is for sure: when we finally decide to join up again in person, we’re planning a bit of a feast!

Games Featured:

After playing Paladins of the West Kingdom and Raiders of the North Sea, we found ourselves jumping between Shem Phillip’s Trilogies until we made it through all available online options. Shipwrights of the North Sea was the only one we couldn’t find, and we sort of stumbled upon Shelfie Stacker on Tabletopia. We’ve enjoyed his games so much that we purchased the complete North Sea Trilogy from Garphill Games, including the Epilogues RPG. We’ve also backed Shelfie Stacker on Kickstarter. Needless to say, we’ve become loyal fans, and we’re excited to watch Shem tonight on Dice Tower’s Daily Chat!

Playing more online has increased our solo and 2 player plays by quite a bit. While we’ve also played some of these multiplayer, Nations, Welcome To, Fantastic Factories, and On Tour are a handful of the solo games we’ve been enjoying. Jaipur, Onitama, and Patchwork are all two-player games that have excellent stand-alone apps. Playing Patchwork against the hard AI (named after Uwe) is truly challenging!

Small World was a game we used to play quite a bit, but has since fallen out of rotation. Right now, we’re preferring the area control of Yellow and Yangtze. This is one that we’ve only played on the app, but have loved the experience. The animations and artwork are clear while still being immersive. We do think that it’s worth nothing that it’s bit more expensive than the average board game app.

Posted in Board Games, Countdown, Gen Con

Countdown to Gen Con Online: 60-51

We’re continuing to feature digital versions for board games in our countdown. We’ve been platform agnostic, playing games on Tabletopia, Tabletop Simulator, and from app stores. We’ve dabbled a bit in Board Game Arena, but haven’t featured any games from there. There’s also a newer contender called Tabletop Playground. As much as we like board games, it’s hard to justify buying yet another digital board game platform.

Games Featured:

Sometimes in Tabletop Simulator after playing a game, we load mods just to see how the game and components look. Both Thanos Rising and Star Wars Rebellion were impressive, though we have yet to play either one. We haven’t played Are You A Human? either. The presentation on Tabletopia is excellent, but we are unlikely to play a memory game.

6 Nimmit!, Onirim, Cat Lady and Splendor are all apps that we own, though the Tabletop versions of the latter two were used for the countdown. We’d recommend any and all of these, as they are easy to learn and a great way to get familiar with playing analog games in digital form. If you’re new to playing online, tacking something like Scythe can be a bit intimidating (but certainly worth the challenge).

That leave us with Quartz and Explorers of the North Sea, two games that we hope will become standalone apps in the future. There is already a Raiders of the North Sea app by Dire wolf Digital, and we hope they continue making digital version of the North Sea Trilogy. Explorers is available on both Tabletopia and Tabletop Simulator, but each one is less than perfect. Even though we struggled a bit with the pieces staying where they should, we had a great time playing and think that it could be quite fast in person. We didn’t all love Quartz, but it’s a decent push-your-luck game. We think we’d like the game a bit better with some balancing elements, and may try to create some sort of variant if we play again.