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My wife and I love to play games together. Join us for the journey!

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BRB

sean johnson
United States
Edinburgh
Indiana
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We typically try really hard to make a post at least once a week. However, I am leaving the country for the next ten days so we will probably not post anything for a couple of weeks.
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Tue Feb 2, 2016 1:34 pm
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End of the Month Recap

sean johnson
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Edinburgh
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Despite not being able to make it game night, I was able to record a decent number of plays. Playing through all of Pandemic led the charge in getting that number up.

Game Play Statistics



Most Played Game: Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
Best New to Me Game: War of the Ring

New Games to Play
New Games Reviewed in January: 3
Highest Rated Game this Month: Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 and A Study in Emerald (second edition) (both combined rating 8)
Games Left Unplayed: 11

State of the Collection
New Games added: 0
Games Removed: 0
Total number of Games: 212
It seems to be fairly common that I do not acquire any new games in January. Probably because we are still working through a collection of stuff from December.

10x10 Challenge
Pandemic Legacy: Season 1Completed!
Warhammer: Invasion
Ticket to Ride
Fleet
Glory to Rome
Roll for the Galaxy
Star Wars: Imperial Assault
Tides of Time
Viceroy
Bruges
Deus

I do feel good about getting one of our games knocked out already. However, having zero plays in Deus and Bruges makes me feel like we are a little bit behind already. Even with an extra day we might fall behind in February because I will be out of the country for just shy of half the month.
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Mon Feb 1, 2016 2:25 am
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Planes (One Couple's Reviews)

sean johnson
United States
Edinburgh
Indiana
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My wife really likes airports. So when she first heard about this game on various podcasts, it piqued her interest. This game has gotten some criticism because it is more about people rushing to gates to board planes, instead of actually being planes. There is even a BGG thread about how the name is misleading and "Airport" is a more accurate title. For my wife the the airport theme was perfect. We did not buy this game when it first came out, because my wife wanted to save it for an item on Christmas list. That is what she did and she received it this year. Does this game fly to new heights or is it stuck at the terminal?

Game Overview

In this game each player has five cubes of their colors that they are attempting to board the plane that matched their color. All cubes of a set colors start in particular spot and the other spaces have two neutral cubes. Players also have a hand of cards. These cards can be used as an action or a goal.

On a player's turn they can do up to three things. First they may play an action card. These cards somehow modify the rules of the game. These actions will either move a piece to a different square or somehow change how the player's movement will work.

Next, a player must move. To move a player picks up all the cubes present in a space where they have at least one cube present. They then can move as many spaces as they wish, and cubes allowed. Each time they move through a space one (and only one) cube must be left behind the space just vacated. At any time a player can stop and leave all remaining cubes in the space. If the final cube makes it to the gate spaces that matches their color then they board the plane. This is the ultimate goal as boarding the plane is the best way to get points.

The final thing a player may do is play a card for the goal. A goal has certain requirements that must be met like a player's cube being on a certain space or a specific combination of cubes in a space. When that condition exist anywhere on the board the goal card can be played (but only by the active player and only once per turn). The goals score between one and three points.

If there are ever seven or more cubes in a square a blockage occurs, and cubes can move into but not past the blockage. There are two neutral planes and when neutral cubes get on those planes the active player draws two cards. The game ends when 12 cubes have boarded a plane or one plane is filled. Each boarded passenger is worth five points. The player with the most points wins the game.

Our Thoughts
As a reminder we rate games on our own 5 point scale. When our scores are added together, it is where we as a couple theoretically rate the game on the BGG 10 point scale.

My Rating: 1.5 (do not care for)
My Thoughts: Of all the mass market abstract games (chess, checkers, backgammon) mancala is my least liked. I never cared for that game, and this feels like a gamer version of that. I suppose for some that might sound like a good concept, but it is not a good fit for me. I found this game dry, boring, and uninspiring. At two players I question how well it will hold up to repeated plays. After just a few plays we were making the same first moves over and over again, because they seemed to be the most efficient way to score quickly. This game is not one that I enjoyed it all.

Her Rating: 1.5 (do not care for)
Her Thoughts: I am so disappointed because I was so excited for this game. It is just so boring to play. I wanted to be engaged by the theme, but the theme is so non-existent it might as well not be there. This game is not fun for two and I feel like it would be miserable with more.

Verdict
Combined Rating: 3
I do feel bad for my wife, because she was really excited for this one. We are sad that the game turned out to be a big dud, and we will be seeking to get rid of it as soon as possible.
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Sun Jan 31, 2016 3:44 am
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The Best Games I Have Not Played in a Long Time

sean johnson
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Indiana
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I have been recording plays now for seven years, and in the course of that time I have recorded 5,972 plays in 901 different games. That is a lot of games over quite a bit of time. This means there are a lot of games that I enjoyed, but that I have not played for years. I thought I would look back and see what some of those games were. Annually, I do a list of the best games I have played once, so to keep this from having too much crossover I looked at games that I have played more than one time. As it turns out there are a lot of great games that I have not played for a long time.

This is the top ten best games I have not played in at least three years. As usual, the list is in descending order for dramatic effect.

10. Throneworld
Last Recorded Play: June 18th, 2010
Looking back I am not sure how this game ever got played. It is full 4x game that is loaded with hundreds of little counters and takes hours to play. We played this game at kind of the right time. Our son had just been born and he was still in the stage where he slept a lot and was not mobile. This gave us extra time an the luxury to leave a game set up. In a two player game, the game has more of a race feel as players start on opposite sides and fight towards the core worlds. The big appeal that this game had to my wife as buckets of dice, and this game has big buckets! I remember one of our biggest fights required 68 dice rolls just for one side. After we played this game a second time we realized that given the length of this game it was going to be really hard to ever get back to the table, so we eventually traded it.

9. Dynasties

Last Recorded Play: January 12th, 2012
This is a game that I really enjoyed. This is one of the first area control games that we played, and I thought it was a lot of fun. I especially liked that a big part of this game is trying to get in the head of the other player and try to figure out what they might be doing. With each play my wife liked this game a little bit less. After ten plays or so my wife was completely done with this game, so we traded it. I am really curious how this game would go if we played today. In the past year or so, my wife has enjoyed several different area control games.

8. Campaign Manager 2008
Last Recorded Play: January 29, 2012
I found this game a lot of fun for a couple of reasons. It delivers the card driven game play similar to games like 1960: The Making of the President, and it combines it with some neat deck building mechanics. We played this game several times, and we both felt that it started to feel a little played out. That being said, after four years now this is a game that I would like to play again.

7. Founding Fathers
Last Recorded Play: April 5th, 2011
I think that I only had a couple of options to play this game and I took them both. Unfortunately I have not had much of an option since 2011 to play this game. What I particularly liked about this game was how well the game capture the theme and well the mechanics helped support that theme. Even though it has been years, this is a game that I would like to play again.

6. Endeavor

Last Recorded Play: March 4th, 2011
This game is a bit of a rare game in that both my wife and I have played it separately yet it is not a game we own. We both enjoyed the game, but the fact that the game can not be played with two made it a pass for us. I though this game offered good choices. I only played it a handful of times, but it seems that this game offers several good paths to victory. This out of print game is hard to come by. I played it every time at a game group that is difficult for me to get to now, so I am not sure how likely it is to get to play it again.

5. Mansions of Madness
Last Recorded Play: April 17th, 2012
I really like the theme of Arkham Horror, but not the game so much. I like the adventure style dungeon crawl of this game. Compared to similar games, this one is a little bit more limited and structured. However, this game does tell an engaging pulp horror story. For my regular game group this game pretty much fell off the map in 2012. This is a game that seems to show up in math trades often, and it is one that I will be trying to get through those means.

4. The Games of War
Last Recorded Play: August 18th, 2012
Of all the games on this list, this is the one that I am almost certain to play. This is a book of easily accessible miniatures rules for about every imaginable setting. I got it in 2010 to eventually play with my son. Now that my son is six, he is almost to the age where we can start playing this. For several years in a row, I played in events ran by the game author, and they were always a blast. I am not sure when it will happen, but I do hope to play this with my son sometime this year.

3. El Grande
Last Recorded Play: November 6th, 2010
I think I may have missed recording a play, because I really feel I have played this game more recently than 2010. This is also the oldest game on the list, and it is clearly a classic of game design that stands the test of time. I recognize that this is a well made game. This is a game I will play again, but at the same time I think more recent area control games that are more theme heavy such as Blood Rage are games that have a greater appeal to me.

2. Dystopian Wars
Last Recorded Play: November 28th, 2012
I really enjoyed this game a lot, but it was honestly a bit of a disappointment. I played this at Gen Con in 2012 and really connected with the game. A local game store sold Dystopian Wars. I asked the owner about how many people played it, and he said there were a lot of people in the store who played it regularly. He said that it should not be that hard to find some of the store regulars to play with. That was enough motivation for me to get a Federated States of America starter, but it turns out the store owner's statements were not entirely accurate. I did get to play the game with some friends, but playing starter vs. starter does not have much variety. my painted miniatures sat unplayed for three years, and even though I like the game I traded it for shelf space.

1. Agricola

Last Recorded Play: May 27th, 2012
This is a game that used to be in my list of favorite games. In fact it used to be one of my top ten favorite games. However, lack of playing it has really caused the game to slide back. One of the things that I liked about this game is that even if I lost, I had the satisfying experience of building a farm. At first my wife really liked this game as well, but with repeated plays or enjoyment of the game dropped. She just found the constant pressure to feed her people to oppressive, stressful, and eventually not fun. Even though I really enjoyed the game still, we traded it in 2012 because the thought process is that we knew enough other people who had the game that I could still play it. The cult of the new is strong though, so an older game like this just does not make it out. My memories of this game, and thus my opinion is still positive. That being said, I think if given the choice I would rather try Caverna: The Cave Farmers for the first time than play Agricola again. I think that I would be among the people who find Caverna the more fun game.
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Fri Jan 29, 2016 5:08 am
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A Study in Emerald (Second Edition)

sean johnson
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Last year I played the first edition of a Study in Emerald a couple of times and I really, really liked the game. This was a bit of a problem for me because playing the game was going to be very problematic. The game was out of print and in demand with a higher price tag. I was happy when I heard a second edition was coming, but I did notice that there was a lot of ire being stirred up due to the changes. However, I decided having A Study in Emerald in some form was better than not at all. So does the second edition save this game or is it just maddening?

Game Overview

This game is set in a the Victorian Europe of Sherlock Holmes mixed with the Cthulhu mythos. Great old ones secretly control Europe, and players either oppose these evil beings of work for their purposes.

At the beginning of the game each player is secretly assigned to be a restorationist or a loyalist. Each player also gets their starting deck. At it's core this is a deck building game. Each turn players will take two actions. The cards in their hand determine the actions they can take and how much of that action can be done. Actions symbols on the cards determine this, and many cards have multiple symbols.

There are several actions to take. One of the main ones is place influence cubes. As an action for each card played with the place cubes symbol a player can place cubes from their supply in one city location. One of the reasons why these cubes are placed is to claim cards. Each city location will have a face up card that can be acquired. In order to claim a card a player must have at least one influence cube and have the most pieces in the city. Claiming a card is an action that can be taken with the corresponding symbol, but it must be the first action of a turn. Another of the major actions is reclaiming cubes. Cubes that are used to acquire cards go to limbo and reclaim actions move them from limbo back to the personal supply.

Players have agents on the board as well and some cards when acquired give additional agents. Two actions pertain to agents. One allows agents to move on the board. One move symbol allows one agent to move from one location to any other location. The other agent action is assassination. During the game great old ones will come out, and restorationists will want to kill them. Meanwhile, loyalists want to figure out who the restoraionists are and assassinate their agents. Assassinations require having the most pieces, playing a card with the assassin action, and then getting bomb points equal to the monster or city threshold. The card used for the assassination is removed from the game and points are scored.

The final action is players can move up a point track for the respective faction by playing the appropriate cards. All players get points equal the difference between these two tracks, but only the leading faction on the tracks gets to keep those points.

In addition to assassinations and the faction tracks points are scored by buying certain cards, especially city cards. The game ends when one player reaches a certain point level or a restorationist player is revealed because they lost all of their agents or lost all of their sanity.

With the exception of city cards, all points in this game are conditional on the player's faction. So for example, a loyalist only gets points for assassinating restorationist agents. If they killed off the agents of another loyalist, then they lose those points. Once points have been adjusted, whoever is the same faction of the last place player loses five points. After that final adjustment, whoever has the most points wins.

Our Thoughts
As a reminder we rate games on our own 5 point scale. When our scores are added together, it is where we as a couple theoretically rate the game on the BGG 10 point scale.

My Rating: 4.5 (like it)
My Thoughts: I think this is a great example of a deck building/board game hybrid. For me this game has so many great things going for it. I like it when cards have multiple uses and that is present here. Every new hand offers fascinating choices of how to best utilize it. This means the game has a great mix of strategy and tactics. The two actions a turn really accents this, as that is never enough, so each turn really feels like making the right tactical play to advance the overall strategy. I like the direct competition with other players, as this game has strong area control elements. Then I love the hidden role aspect of this game. How a player approaches the game changes based on their side, and it is important to make sure that your faction is not in last. However, flying your affiliation to early may not be a great idea as that creates a target. Finally, I love the theme and I think this game overall makes a great package.

As for the complaints with the changes from the first edition, I can understand why some are up in arms. The second edition is extremely streamlined, and it places a much greater emphasis on deckbuilding. In the first edition the deckbuilidng was just one part of a larger game. The first edition had a stronger area control element, and because of that keeping the team affiliation secret was a bit more important. Despite that the first edition was much clunkier and a lot harder to keep things straight. While this is not the same game, it does offer a similar enough of an experience that it serves a suitable replacement.

Her Rating: 3.5 (It's OK)
Her Thoughts: I do like this game. I think it is extremely clever how it all comes together. I initially thought I would hate the hidden roles, but I like how they make it so that players have different goals. I also thought not knowing exactly who everyone else was added to the tension. Even though I like this game it frustrates me. The game intentionally has the feeling of not being able to do everything I want. I know that makes it tense, but it can also be aggravating as I have a hard time deciding which two of the three actions are the right ones to do. I also find it frustrating because I can not quite figure the game out. I perpetually feel like I am a turn or two behind everyone else.

Verdict
Combined Rating: 8
I am pleasantly surprised my wife liked this game as much as she did. I am also pleasantly surprised that the game works decent with just two. In fact when it comes to learning the rules and flow of the game, I think it is probably easiest with just two. That being said I think this game works best with 4 or 5 and there are several people of both faction in the game. That really creates the "who can I trust" atmosphere. I am very happy we got this edition of the game because this is the one my wife will play.
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Sun Jan 24, 2016 4:34 am
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Pandemic Legacy (One Couple's SPOILER FREE Review)

sean johnson
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Edinburgh
Indiana
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We honestly were not sure what to expect going into this game. Our dislike of co-op games is fairly well documented at this point. However, I was incredibly intrigued by the legacy concept, and I knew I had a much better chance of getting my wife to play Pandemic Legacy over Risk Legacy. Plus with this being THE hot game, and shooting up to be the #1 game on BGG it became something we wanted to experience. We had already committed to getting the game to play as part of our 10x10 list, but fortunately our BGG Secret Santa really came through and gave us a copy.

Game Overview
I will attempt to be spoiler free, I will probably mentioned in vague terms that the game state gets permanently changed during the course of the game. I do not think that is a spoiler though, since that is the core of the Legacy concept.

Pandemic Legacy begins like Pandemic. Each player has a character that has special abilities. Diseases of four different colors populate the board. Players can take actions on their turn to move around the board and keep these diseases under control. Players are trying to collect sets of city cards of the disease color to cure it. Each turn the diseases will infect new cities. Five times throughout the game there is an Epidemic which causes a major infection in a city, increases the rate of infection, and has all of the already drawn infection cards get shuffled and put back on top of the deck.

There are lots of ways to lose such as all the cubes of a color being used up, the deck running out, or to many outbreaks occurring. In Pandemic Legacy victory is accomplished by completing a certain number of objectives. True to the legacy concept, the number and details of the objectives change as the game goes on. The game is played in months. If the players lose a month, they get to try again before moving on to the next month. Winning is preferable because there are helpful win bonuses, and in our experience were extremely clutch in securing a win in the following month.

After each game players will get to make decisions for upgrades that will change the game permanently going forward. One of the things that surprised me a lot about the game is how strong of a narrative the game has. I was not expecting the game to tell a strong story, and it is impressive how the rules morph throughout the game to better suit the developing narrative. This is done by having players open small boxes or little envelopes at key points.

At the end of the 12th month, the story has reached its conclusion. Since the story was driven by a now depleted legacy deck, some components may have been destroyed, and the board forever altered, the game itself is also more or less concluded and done being played as well.

Our Thoughts
As a reminder we rate games on our own 5 point scale. When our scores are added together, it is where we as a couple theoretically rate the game on the BGG 10 point scale.

My Rating: 4 (like it)
My Thoughts: I am a little bit of two minds of this game. I ultimately have to say I like it. We tore through the entire game in less than week. We wanted to keep playing. We left the game set up, and as soon as the kids were in bed we started it up. We were thoroughly engaged. I do not think it is a spoiler to say the story the game tells is not fully straight forward. Like any good story there are some surprises. So I enjoyed Pandemic Legacy as an experience.

However, I am not sure how I feel about it as a game. For me the hallmark of a great game is one that I can play again and again and again. A great game is one that I can break out and share with everyone, but that is not the case with this. It is done. Structurally, Pandemic Legacy learned a lot from video games. However, even a video game can be re-played, and there can even be incentives (acheivements, hidden items, or new game plus) for doing so. Books can be re-read, movies re-watched. Even if it was a great experience, I think in the end I am not wild about a consumable game because it betrays what I like most about games. It is not re-playable, and I like games because I like to play. I do not regret playing Pandemic Legacy. However, I think the floodgates are going to open on this genre, and if Legacy games become the new "it" thing I do not know if that is a trend I will engage in much.

Her Rating: 4 (like it)
Her Thoughts: I kind of forgot how much I like Pandemic. I remember my issue with regular Pandemic is that I felt it was very same-y from game to game. I really liked how things changed so that each month was a very different experience. It kept the game engaging and made me want to come back to it.

I am a little torn if this game is worth it though. We played the game 13 times to complete it and $70 MSRP for a game that I am only going to play that many times seems steep. However, when I think about it as an experience (like a concert or event ticket) then the price is a lot more reasonable. I am not used to thinking about games as one time experiences as opposed to an item that I can theoretically use forever. I am also not entirely sure how I feel about the concept. That being said, when Pandemic Legacy Season 2 comes out I will want to play that as well.

Verdict
Combined Rating: 8
Despite both having some misgivings about the legacy model, we had a lot of fun and greatly enjoyed Pandemic Legacy. My wife has commented in the past that she regrets getting rid of Pandemic. If we ignore the stickers we placed on some of the components, we should still be able to play regular Pandemic from time to time.
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Fri Jan 15, 2016 3:44 am
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Loopin' Louie/Loopin' Chewie (A Father and Son Review)

sean johnson
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Edinburgh
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My son is six and he has (of course) grown up playing games. However, only in the past year or so has he gotten to a place where he can start to really understand play games by the rules. We are going to review games together from the perspective for how well these games work as a game for parents and children to play together.

We heard a lot about Loopin' Louie because this game has quite a reputation of a silly kids game that adults can have a lot of fun with. In 2012 the game was reprinted and we got a copy then. Our copy has been played well, well over a hundred times to the point that we completely broke and burnt it out this year. Fortunately, the game found new life was Loopin' Chewie so we replaced the bi-plane with a Wookie. Does this game live up to its reputation and fly over the competition or does it crash and burn from being so over rated?

Game Overview
In this game an out of control airplane will fly in circles. A counter weight assures that he will always be diving back down. Each player has three chickens represented by discs. When Louie hits one of these it will get knocked off. To prevent this each player has a lever placed right in front of their chickens. When Louie flies by players can attempt to knock Louie out of the way. It is against the rules to permanently leave the lever up. Eventually only on player will have chickens left, and that player wins the game.

Loopin Chewie is the same only the chickens become stormtroopers, the player count goes from four to three, and Chewie has a different weight and feel than Louie. We play with a house rule that anyone under the age of ten is able to keep hitting Louie/Chewie for as long as the game is going on.

Age Level Appropriateness
My son has been able to play this game since he was three, and our 2 1/2 year old daughter loves this game. This is easily her favorite game and she loves to play it, hitting the flying figure as hard as she can (and scolding it when it hits one of her discs). I have played this game with people of all ages, and it truly does have a large age appeal. I took this game to a church family new year's party and at one point. Four non gamer adults were all obsessively playing the game.

Our Thoughts
As a reminder we rate games on our own 5 point scale. When our scores are added together, it is where we as theoretically rate the game on the BGG 10 point scale. I am specifically rating the game for how well I think it works as a game for families. To get my son's rating I asked him two questions. First, I asked "is this game fun?" and he circled smiley faces that corresponded with No (1pt), kind of (2pts), and Yes (3pts). The second question was "Want to play again soon?" and he had to pick from "no" (0pts), "maybe" (1pt), and "yes" (2pts). By taking his answers and adding them together, we get a rough idea of where he falls on our point scale.

My Rating: 4.5 (like it)
My Thoughts: This is a great family game because everyone can play it, it is very quick, and it is fun. I do have a minor issue with Loopin Chewie because it switched to three players. The spacing of the arms is actually better, but it messes with our family of four. The other issue with this game is it wears out its welcome for me. The quick play time leads to "one more game", and I am usually wanting to be done when my kids want to keep playing.

His Rating: 4.5 (like it)
His Thoughts: Connor thinks it is fun to hit Louie/Chewie and watch him fly around. He finds losing very frustrating though, and more than most games he can get annoyed when the game does not go his way. Despite that, he is always willing to play it.

Verdict
Combined Rating: 9
I am starting to think that my son takes an "everything is awesome" approach to rating games. However, in this case I think that reaction warrants it. If you are looking for a family game that has broad and lasting appeal I think this might be one of our strongest recommendations.
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Mon Jan 11, 2016 4:34 pm
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Rory's Story Cubes: Batman (a Father and Son Review)

sean johnson
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Edinburgh
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My son is six and he has (of course) grown up playing games. However, only in the past year or so has he gotten to a place where he can start to really understand play games by the rules. We are going to review games together from the perspective for how well these games work as a game for parents and children to play together.

Both of my kids are on a Batman kick right now. This all started with watching the Batman animated series DVDs, escalated to my 2 1/2 year old dressing as Batman for Christmas, and it has ended up with her having a Batman figure that is taller than she is (and she carries it around with her lovingly). At the same time, my six year old has been playing Lego Batman and reading a series of first reader Batman books. Given that, when we made a game order and we were only $5 short of free shipping it made sense to add this and see how it went. So what is the story on this game?

Game Overview
This game is extremely rules light, to the point that one could get a semantic and argue that this is not even really a game.

There are nine dice that picture very Batman thematic images on all the sides. These dice are rolled and the narrator uses these dice to tell a story.

We tended to use the large group rules (even if it was just two of us), where we each took three dice, rolled those, added to the story, and then the next person rolled three dice and added to the story. This went on until someone ended it.

When a story is completed, the game is over and everyone wins I guess.

Age Level Appropriateness
Early elementary really seems about right with this one. Five through like nine seems to be an age that will really run with the story cubes. My two and a half year old can roll the dice and that is about it. I suppose I could ask her to describe what is on the dice, but with this set that could be problematic. I feel like older elementary and especially teenagers would not take this seriously and just be silly with it.

Our Thoughts
As a reminder we rate games on our own 5 point scale. When our scores are added together, it is where we as theoretically rate the game on the BGG 10 point scale. I am specifically rating the game for how well I think it works as a game for families. To get my son's rating I asked him two questions. First, I asked "is this game fun?" and he circled smiley faces that corresponded with No (1pt), kind of (2pts), and Yes (3pts). The second question was "Want to play again soon?" and he had to pick from "no" (0pts), "maybe" (1pt), and "yes" (2pts). By taking his answers and adding them together, we get a rough idea of where he falls on our point scale.

My Rating: 3 (It's OK)
My Thoughts: For me as a game this is a bust, because it is not a game. Even as an activity, I am kind of whatever about it. However, as a family activity this succeeds. These are a great way to help bring out creativity in children and for parents and children to interact together. However, this is not for every parent. I enjoy making up stories with my son, but this is not something my wife enjoys very much at all. This means it only works if everyone can get behind the idea of creating a story together.

His Rating: 5 (love it)
His Thoughts: Connor really loved making up stories and a had a lot of fun doing it. He especially liked making stories where "the good guys win". He did get frustrated sometimes when the dice did not roll pictures he wanted, especially when there was not a Batman picture.

Verdict
Combined Rating: 8
My son is really beginning to fully explore creativity and the deeper range of his imagination, and these dice are a great enhancement for that. The Batman theme is a big draw for him, and he may not have been as interested without it. Story Cubes are not for every family, but if there is a creative child and a parent or two willing to engage in that imagination then a lot of fun can be had.
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Mon Jan 11, 2016 4:18 pm
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Favorite Games of 2015

sean johnson
United States
Edinburgh
Indiana
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2015 was a huge year for games. There were so many huge releases. In a normal year it is impossible to play all of the new games, but this year seemed especially hard because of how many great games came out this year. By my count I have played around 50 2015 releases. That was more new releases in a given year than I play in most years. I also had a hard time getting my list down to just ten games.

The least favorite game I played this year was One Night Revolution. It is a game that I really wanted to like, but it was a mess. I also want to cheat a little and give a honorable mention to Yashima: Legend of the Kami Masters.
It is not on my favorite games list because I only played it once in a demo game. It is a game that I will not buy, because it is a two player duel game and my wife will not play it. However, I thought it was a great game. It is a great mixture of tactical miniatures, CCG style combos, and clever hand/deck management. It is an unknown game in a crowded market, but it is really worth checking out.

Obviously, my favorite games list can only have the games I have played some there will no doubt be some notable absences. These are my favorite 2015 games in descending order for dramatic effect.

10. Two Rooms and a Boom
Of all the games on this list, this is one that I will be getting played for years to come. This is a great group game that I will get to play at a variety of church camp and other youth events. This game tends to get played multiple times every time it comes out which I think shows just how compelling this game is to a lot of people.

9. Viceroy

This game has a lot of the elements we love, such a cards having multiple uses, tough decisions, and a lot of replayability. I am really happy this game is on our 10x10 list so we can spend a lot of time this year properly exploring this. In other years, this would have been much higher on the list which shows just how strong this year is. Another plus is this game has some of the best artwork of any game we have ever had.

8. Coup: Rebellion G54
I have played a lot of Coup. I like the bluffing and almost poker feeling of knowing when to hold them and when to fold them. One of the problems though is that group think can dominate about what to do (such as the first two or three people claiming the duke tax action). This game takes the rules that make Coup great and adds much needed variety. Every game can have a different combination of roles, which means each game is a new challenge in how to approach it.

7. Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
We just finished June, so our experience with this game is not yet complete. Once we play through the entire game we will write our review on it, I suspect that in all honesty once we have the full experience this game's true place on this list will be higher than this. As of right now we have both been thoroughly surprised by how much we have enjoyed this game.

6. Risk: Star Wars Edition

At this point I have been a pretty hardcore Star Wars fan for over 20 years, and while this is not the best Star Wars game I have played it is way up there. I really like how this game captures the flavor of Return of the Jedi in a game that is so quick playing and accessible. We used some old micro machine toys to replace a lot of the cardboard tokens and that helped bring the them out even more.

5. Blood Rage
We do not own this game, but I did get to play it once this year. It is really good. I like when drafting is used as part of a larger game. The theme of this game was really good and it was really engaging as each player vied to carry out their own strategy which put them at odds with one another. I am hoping this is a game that maintains its popularity in 2016 so that it makes repeated appearances at game nights so that I can play it again.

4. Elysium
It does not get mentioned as a mechanism often, but I really like tableau building games such as this one. I also like this uses center area drafting, which I think creates more competition as all players get see the full picture and not just a hand of cards. What really makes this game though is the very innovative mechanism with the pillars. Players have four colored pillars and each turn they have to discard one to take a card, but all cards had prerequisite pillars needed to claim them. This makes every single turn full of a couple of extremely engaging decisions.

3. Mysterium

This is without a doubt my favorite co-op game. While I think I prefer the ghost side, I really enjoy the activity of trying to communicate through abstract cards. I find it to be a very engaging riddle to untangle. Unlike other co-op games, I do not feel like the game is artificially hard because when we lose the answer was literally in front of us, we just did not connect the right pieces.

2. Roll for the Galaxy
This game got played a lot in 2015, and since it is on our 10x10 list it will get played in 2016. I know for a lot of people this was a Race for the Galaxy killer or Race for the Galaxy fixer. I do not see that, as I still much prefer Race for the Galaxy over this game. I also do not think them opposed to each other, while they are thematically similar I think the two games are very different and can exist side by side. I do enjoy the dice manipulation in this one, and figuring out the optimal way to manipulate those dice each turn.

1. Alchemists

After playing this game for the first time, I was convinced this was a must purchase and I was also convinced my wife would love it (which she does). I find this game very fascinating. I like the core euro mechanics, but even more I love that it's core is a deductive logic puzzle. Even if I lose this game, it tends to be a satisfying experience because I am usually just happy solving the puzzle and figuring out which combination goes with which ingredient. This is one of the heavier games we have, but we both greatly enjoy it, and it is easily my favorite game of 2015.
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Sun Jan 10, 2016 4:42 am
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Monza (A Father and Son Review)

sean johnson
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Edinburgh
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My son is six and he has (of course) grown up playing games. However, only in the past year or so has he gotten to a place where he can start to really understand play games by the rules. We are going to review games together from the perspective for how well these games work as a game for parents and children to play together.

We bought this game from the HABA booth at Gen Con in 2015. Are primary reason for getting this game was because we had read consistently how great of a game it was. Even though we bought it in August we saved it until Christmas, to ensure that our son was mature enough to handle a competitive racing game. So does this game win the race or is it stuck in the pits?

Game Overview
In this game all players pick a race car color. The board is a race track that is divided up into colored spaces in six different colors. There are stacks of tire that can not be moved into and create some choke points.

On a player's turn they will roll six dice and each die has one face that corresponds with the potential colors on the board. The player will then use the dice to attempt to move. If there is a space in front of the player that matches one of the colors they rolled, then the player can use the die to move into that space. The player can do that until they can not move. This means that on a turn a player can move between 0 and 6 spaces.

If a player ends their turn on the same space as another player, then the player they ended on gets pushed back one space.

The first player to complete one lap wins. Each player gets even turns so if multiple players cross the finish line in the same turn, then the player that did it with the least amount of moves wins.

Age Level Appropriateness
Our six year old is the perfect age for this game. He know his colors and he is able to figure out the optimal moves fairly quickly. The game plays very quickly and keeps his interest. This game is too advance for our two and half year old. She enjoys rolling the dice, but she is unable to really play the game.

Our Thoughts
As a reminder we rate games on our own 5 point scale. When our scores are added together, it is where we as theoretically rate the game on the BGG 10 point scale. I am specifically rating the game for how well I think it works as a game for families. To get my son's rating I asked him two questions. First, I asked "is this game fun?" and he circled smiley faces that corresponded with No (1pt), kind of (2pts), and Yes (3pts). The second question was "Want to play again soon?" and he had to pick from "no" (0pts), "maybe" (1pt), and "yes" (2pts). By taking his answers and adding them together, we get a rough idea of where he falls on our point scale.

My Rating: 4.5 (like it)
My Thoughts: This game works well on several levels. Rolling dice is always fun. While there is not a lot of strategy there can be some optimization decisions, so it is not pure luck. The final aspect is the game plays very quickly, and ends at just the right length not to be tedious or stop being engaging for the whole family.

His Rating: 5 (love it)
His Thoughts: Connor said his favorite part of the game was using the colored dice to move around the board. His least favorite part was when he rolled the dice and was unable to move, but he said it was OK because he knew that he would have another turn.

Verdict
Combined Rating: 9.5
This is an excellent family game. I am curious what the upper age limit will be though. I think when my little girl is four she might be at an age where she can start to grasp the game, but I am not sure if Connor will still be interested. Until he ages out of it though, this is a game we can get a lot of mileage out of.
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Sat Jan 9, 2016 4:42 am
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