Here’s to the start of a new(ish) countdown! Gen Con 2020 has transformed into Gen Con Online. There have been quite a few conferences that have decided to take a year online. We remain excited for Gen Con, and are interested to see how it goes!
We’ve been trying to make the best of the current situation by organizing our game days a bit more. At the end of each gaming session, we pick a few games for the next one. Throughout the week, we learn the rules and watch videos, then play and discuss afterwards. Preparing for Paladins of the West Kingdom felt like cramming for a test. The game play itself is not very difficult, but the execution and strategy can be mind-bending. You find yourself with a pile of workers that all need worthwhile assignments, which can lead to significant analysis paralysis.
Settling in for a long game in front of a screen can be a bit more taxing and exhausting than playing at a table. At first we were playing huge games every weekend, but we’ve started to ease back and play more lighthearted and short titles, like Go Nuts for Donuts. We’re also trying lots of new (to us) small box games, like Cartographers and Mint Works. These have also been great one-player games, along with Roll Player, Rolling Realms, and Castle Panic.
We already had quite a few game apps in our shared Google Play library, many of which were collecting digital dust. Now we’re revisiting many of those, and finding that we prefer some apps to the physical game. Potion Explosion is one app that lead us to sell our physical box. Lords of Waterdeep doesn’t quite replace the actual game, but we would definitely recommend the app. We’re not thrilled about the Dream Home app,…but we’ve also never played this one in person. Maybe that experience would be better?
We’ve come to an end of this countdown. On May 19th, Gen Con officially cancelled their event for this year. All the badges will roll over to 2021 (unless individuals request otherwise) and they will instead be offering Gen Con Online this year, during the same dates. We’ll now be counting down to that, and we’re going to start posting some digital games… Maybe a lot of digital games; we’re running out of board games and our local cafes are not open.
Ticket to Ride was perhaps our gateway into the hobby. We happened to see the 10th Anniversary when we were shopping for a copy. It’s huge and beautifully made – we’ve definitely been more partial to special editions as a result.
With a library of over 100 games, it can be hard to keep everything in rotation. Dominion, Castles of Mad King Ludwig, and Ascension are all games that we play multiple times a year. We used to play Dixit quite a bit, but that was years ago. We only recently played Helios and Pioneer Days for the first time. Helios had been on the shelf for nearly two years, still in wrap. Kingdom of Solomon and Herbalism have yet to be played, but they are both fairly new acquisitions.
This set of ten features quite a few games that we purchased recently. We bought a few games from IELLO, and were able to support our FLGS in the process. We also bought a discounted bundle from Deep Water Games. We figured they would at least provide some entertainment while we were stuck inside, but so far we’ve liked them all!
KoTDE is BEAUTIFUL. We’ve been fans of the game for quite some time, as a light-hearted diversion from our more intense games. The new edition adds some features to better balance gameplay, and tons of new art. Dark, matte blacks are splashed with glossy neon, resulting in frame-worthy components. You can take a look at the assets and experience the gameplay on Tabletop Simulator, but it’s no substitution for owning the physical game!
Our bundle from Deep Water included both Hanamikoji and Jixia Academy. We had no idea that this was the same game with different art. Hanamikoji features women on the cards, and Jixia has men. It’s a simple but strategic game, much like Onitama. We think there’s something Euchre-ish about it… if you enjoy that card game, you should definitely give this a try.
We haven’t played Charterstone since finishing the campaign, but we’ve given the digital edition a try and have been impressed. We could never otherwise imagine affording endless copies of a Legacy game, just so we could keep trying new tactics to see how the game is shaped.
Shakespeare, Attack on Titan, High Risk, and Little Town have all only been played once. The first two just don’t happen to work their way into the rotation, and the last two are brand new and will probably be played quite a bit. Tokaido and Gravwell have both been played frequently. We bought the collector’s edition for Tokaido, but elected to keep our standard edition. The same may be true for King of Tokyo… we still opened both, but there’s also a temptation to keep the special editions, well, special.
This week, the State of Indiana released a plan to transition back into full public life after COVID-19. The current dates on the plan targets July 4th for all business and events to return to normal, though Indianapolis may be a bit delayed due to population density. With Gen Con’s start date of July 30, we are cautiously optimistic that the date will not be postponed! We hope everyone continues to remain safe as we transition back into public life, so that we can hit these projected dates.
Catacombs & Castles is one of our few dexterity games. We’ve really only played it once, and only two of us at that. We enjoyed it, haven’t gotten it back off shelf. Downfall of Pompeii and The Estates are two more that we enjoyed, but have only played once. Discover: Lands Unknown also happens to be in this category, but it’s much newer than the rest. We bought this one out of curiosity; because the game is procedurally generated, no two copies are the same. We’ve since seen a few used ones at Half Price Books, and considered buying another copy to understand some of the variation.
Tsuro, Nefarious, 7 Wonders, and Camel Up are some of our most played games. They are all relatively fast, so we tend to choose these either when we are waiting for everyone to arrive, or at the end of a GameDay when we don’t want to pull out anything huge… like Talisman Kingdom Hearts. The game is beautiful, the implementation using the Kingdom Hearts theme is excellent, but it’s definitely a “start of the day” sort of game.
Mystery of the Temples was one that we first played on Tabletopia. Deep Water Games has been offering Gamer Relief Bundles with deep discounts over the last few weeks. The bundle we bought including Temples was meant to come with a playmat, but an inventory error meant that they were not available at the time of shipping. The company was nice enough to offer us a discount on a future purchase, but we can’t decide if we’d rather get another game or go for upgraded components.
We’ll soon be leaving three digits behind and we sink below 100 days to go! We’re still keeping a close eye on Gen Con’s COVID page, and will adjust our countdown if they are forced to postpone. We’re wondering how different Gen Con and other conventions will be this year… only time will tell. For now, we continue to #stayhome and play games!
Banagrams, Coup, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, and Monopoly Gamer are some of our favorite party games. They are quick to teach and can accommodate many players. We’ve had some disagreements while playing traditional Monopoly, but have enjoyed the Gamer edition more than we expected. We searched lots of local stores before breaking down and buying the rest of the power packs from Amazon.
Machi Koro, Carcassonne and The Princes of Florence are some of our oldest games. Though, we did swap our original Machi Koro for the Bright Lights, Big City version. We found that you could sort of “break” the original by just stacking up a lot of the same number, and waiting for the the number to hit. Wingspan and Prophecy are some of our newest, both bought as gifts over the last year. We’ve considered getting the European expansion for Wingspan, but the core game come with so many cards already. We’ve played the core game a few times and still find it to be fresh and engaging.
We’ve enjoyed discovering new games on Tabletopia and Tabletop Simulator. We’ve learned and played a new game or two every week. We first played It’s A Wonderful World on TTS, and liked it so much that we ordered a copy the next day.
By now, we’ve all sunk into our at-home routines (for work and gaming) and continue to wait out the pandemic while we count down the days to Gen Con 2020. Due to upturned schedules and plans, it hasn’t always been easy to keep up with the posts. We’ve been very fortunate to have jobs that transitioned to remote work, and good health to enjoy while we stay at home. The consistency of the countdown has been helped to mark the days, and remind us to look forward to the future.
Imperial Settlers: Roll & Write is one of our newest games. We like that the box includes a separate scorepad for solo play, with 48 unique sheets. This keeps solo play interesting and engaging, and highlights how much versatility roll & writes can offer. The downside is that only one of each sheet is provided, and you cannot buy replacement pads. And, keeping track of all the resources while playing gets a bit confusing… So we use page protectors to write with a dry erase board, and grab components from another game to help keep track.
Overall, we don’t much like Munchkin, feeling about the same as discussed during this week’s On Board Games podcast episode. But, the Harry Potter theme makes it all a bit more palatable, the mischief more enjoyable, and gives us yet another opportunity to cheer for our respective houses.
We’ve been considering combining a lot of these small box games into some sort of storage system. Captain’s Wager, Fidelitas, Thief’s Market, Fantasy Realms, Zombie Dice and Unstable Unicorns could all fit together in a relatively small box. There’s something so sentimental about keeping the boxes, though.
Get Bit!, Zombie Dice, and Jenga Tetris are some of our older games. They are all a bit silly, but at least one of us likes each one enough to keep it around. Jenga Tetris is a rather ridiculous implementation of Jenga, since the blocks are all different sizes. But, it’s a great game to have on the shelf to entertain younger gamers (aka toddlers).
With the world recently becoming a real-life instance of Pandemic Legacy Season 3, we’ve suspended our in-person GameDays until everything blows over. We’re all sheltering-in-place and finding new ways to play together while apart.
Board Game Apps
The easiest and most reliable method is official board game apps, available in droves on Android and iOS, as well as some on Nintendo Switch, individual websites, and Steam. This is potentially the most expensive option, as you may be buying each game individually, often with additional costs for expansions.
Even with this expense, the games still cost a fraction of physical price. In addition to AI opponents and challenges, we’ve also found that apps have clarified rules for us and offer great tutorials. As we’ve mentioned before, some of our favorite apps are ones that involve a lot of moving pieces. Playing something like Through The Ages on tablet is like having a digital game butler presenting you with everything you need, right when you need it! Many of these games have online multiplayer, where you can either join with strangers or friends.
One way to disperse the cost is to use family groups to share apps. We’ve joined our Google Play accounts in a Family group, so that we can buy the app once and all play it. In addition to paid apps, your Google play family also shares TV shows, movies, and books. You can choose what to share to your family, and there are often sales on games.
And, there are many games available for free! Lots of classic board games have free versions that may include multiplayer. There are modern games that are free as well, such as Onirim, Onitama, Ascension, Fluxx, and Isla Rica (a Puerto Rico clone). Publishers have also been offering games at steep discounts or free on different platforms: Tokaido, Gang of Four, and Between Two Castles are some that have been available for free recently, with many more being offered on sale, like Scythe, Isle of Skye, and Carcassone.
We’ve seen lot of people lately using video chat to play together while apart. We briefly considered this so that we could continue our Clank! Legacy play-through… but decided against it. There are certainly many games that are simple enough or can be easily managed, but we don’t think this particular method is for us. I think we’d be more likely to host a This Game is Broken style quiz show than actually play a game over video chat.
We tried two tabletop sandboxes this week, both available through Steam: Tabletop Simulator($19.99) and Tabletopia(free). Tabletop Simulator has a lot more in-game options (and physics, and table flipping), but we couldn’t stop TS from dumping us from the server as soon as we tried to start a game. Tabletopia is also free to use, offering a subscription service to unlock premium games and run more tables at once. We found Tabletopia to be a bit more stable and easy to use.
There are a fair amount of games available for Tabletopia, but their catalog is no match of the steam workshop’s avalanche of user created content for Tabletop Simulator. While it may be a bit more finicky, we don’t regret the purchase. Tabletop Simulator also offers a four pack for $60, bringing the price down to $15 each. At first blush, that seems expensive… but it’s the price of one game, with the ability to play thousands. Subscriptions for Tabletopia are more individualized, at rates of $5 to $10 a month. Once you have a subscription, you are able to play premium games and “setups” – for example, a two-player game may be free, but a 3 or for player “setup” may be a premium feature.
Either one is a great way to try out games before buying them, in addition to being a great way to maintain your board game habit while apart. We’ve also found ourselves playing solo games, and using them to learn and test games before playing as a group.
While some games or apps may have a built-in chat feature, there are a number of services to use to communicate while playing. Our game group already used Slack, with separate threads for GameDay planning, general game chat, and random asides. For playing online, we used a Steam voice chat, which worked pretty well once we all found headphones. Google Meet and Skype are rather ubiquitous and easy to use as well. Discord is quite popular in the video gaming community, and could be another good option to try while playing apart. Overall, this depends on your group and what they will be most comfortable with. Even a regular old phone call could work!
Aside from being able to play board games, we’ve enjoyed staying in touch while apart. If we weren’t getting together to play a game online, we may not have called one another just to chat. Inevitably, as we wait for our turn or linger after a game is complete, we share what we’ve been streaming or reading and how our jobs have adjusted.
We’re a third of the way through our countdown! We’ve been focusing more on our small box games recently, which has pulled us into the fringes of our game collection. Getting these boxes out on the table and opened up has been nice. Even though we love big, heavy games, we all agree that accessible, small games are great for intermissions or getting new people into the hobby.
The only full size game in this set is Formula D, a press-your-luck racing game for up to TEN players. The most we’ve ever played with at once is four. This was one of the first games we added to our collection. Despite enjoying it whenever we get it out, we don’t find ourselves playing it too often. And, though it is not a small box game, it has small box accessibility. Because we play so infrequently, we often use the “beginner” rules, which don’t calculate wear and tear on certain parts of your car.
Deep Sea Adventure is another dice rolling, press-your-luck game, one of many small boxes from Oink games. Players are a group of divers sharing a common oxygen tank as they explore the depths for treasure. If the oxygen runs out in a round before you make it back to the submarine, all of your collected treasure drifts to the bottom of the ocean. We think the aspect of trying to plan around what your opponents may do reminds us of Traders of Osaka. Determining when to surface as a diver in Deep Sea is like trying to predict what ships will score in Traders. Both games change quite a bit depending on who is at the table.
Monopoly Deal, Doctor Who Fluxx, Sushi Go, and Bohnanza are all fantastic card games. They are all quick to learn, and any of the decks can be shoved in a pocket for on-the-go gaming. Railroad Ink and Sushi Dice won’t easily fit in your pocket, but are also great of portable gaming. We would warn that the bell included in Sushi Dice may irritate bystanders, but you can invite them to join in! Sushi Dice has a unique spectator mode that allows crowd interaction.
That just leaves Time Management. We bought this game used for a couple dollars at a local game store. It seems that it was a kickstarter game, and not horribly popular. And, we’ve only played it once… that said, we liked it enough to keep it around for a while. The game was certainly interesting, and we like that you can play this game solo.
The world has changed a lot in the last ten days. We’ve seen a lot of people rediscovering board games as a way to pass time while other activities are suspended. Pandemic has re-entered the hotness on BGG and is holding steady as shelter-in-place orders ripple across the country.
For now, Gen Con is still scheduled for July 31 – August 2, 2020. If is postponed, or even outright canceled for a year, we will keep counting down until the next Gen Con.
We’ve suspended our regular weekend GameDay, so this week we dipped into our photo archives to fill out the countdown. Eight-Minute Empire: Legends is once we haven’t played in maybe a year? But it’s so small and fun that we keep it around. Century: Golem Edition is one we play in-between heavier games. While it’s the same as the regular Century Spice Road, the theming and gems are so delightful that we’ll be buying the Century Golem – Eastern Mountains to match it.
Forbidden Sky, Kanagawa, Qwirkle, and Lewis & Clark were all games that did not make it through our winter tidying. We sold a good number of games to Half Price Books… and immediately spent the cash on more games. One of those games was Marvel Champions. We bought it in spite of Shut up and Sit Down’s review, since we had a coupon to get it new for 50% off.
We played Morels, Tiny Epic Defenders, and Dice Throne a couple weeks back at Doughnuts and Dragons. Morels is a walk in the woods, collecting and cooking up sets of fungi. Tiny Epic Defenders is.. well, explained in the title. Dice Throne is a super-powered dice fight with lots of individual characters with their own styles and strengths.
This will be the first year we have ever attended a board game convention, despite Gen Con taking place in our hometown. Even in ideal circumstances, it’s not always possible to go to the conventions you want to attend. With social media allowing you a window into precisely what you’re missing out on, you can easily find yourself sullen over what you’ve missed. Just thinking about this leads many to feel FOMO: fear of missing out on something great.
A while back we started tossing around the idea of #JOMOCON. #JOMOCON does not have a specific date or location – #JOMOCON happens wherever you are, throughout the year. A #JOMOCON could happen for many reasons – maybe you’re out of town for work, and missing out on your group’s board game night. Maybe there’s a huge board game convention in your town, but your schedule or finances don’t allow you to go. Maybe you want to play games, but no one is around. Maybe you’re helping flatten the curve during a pandemic (hadn’t thought of that reason until last week…). Maybe you’re just plain bored. No matter the reason, you can start a #JOMOCON right now!
#JOMOCON could have many attendees, but you only need one! One player games and digital board game apps are great ways to start your #JOMOCON immediately. You can create a tournament or challenge for yourself, like beating a high score or bracket-style elimination for the best game. Many board game apps come with achievements or challenge modes that enhance the standard gameplay, and may even improve your strategy for your next game night.
Of course, your #JOMOCON may have nothing to do with board games at all. You might have a marathon of your favorite TV show, cook your favorite meals, or re-play a video game you love. Maybe it’ll be full of reading books, knitting, or even cleaning. (We’d be surprised, but we won’t judge!)
The length, location, and activity are all determined by the core principle of JOMOCON: cherishing the current moment. #JOMOCON takes the fear of FOMO and turns it into joy. Maybe you can’t be where you want to be, or be doing exactly what you want to do, but you can still find joy wherever you are.