Tag Archives: Gaming with Kids

Roll Player Adventures: Games We Love

Introduction

About a half a year ago, I became addicted to Kickstarter. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But, I did support several gaming themed campaigns. One of them arrived in a huge box. It took so long to be delivered that I forgot about it and wondered what the postman delivered. “Ah”, said when I opened it, “Roll Player Adventures. It’s a game I ordered on Kickstarter, I explained too my family. I got the game because it sold itself as a single or two player action game similar to Dungeons and Dragons.

Not exactly like D&D. That’s fine. Now we have two outlets for our nerdiness.

As I mentioned in my previous article, I hadn’t finished the newest adventure for our duet campaign I still havne’t completely finished it. I have the first part of it done now. At the time, I suggested we try Roll Player Adventures instead. Quinn agreed and off we went.

First Impressions

This game takes forever to set up for the first time. There’s so many different types of cards, dice, tokens, maps, and books. Plus, you need the rule book to set up your characters (thankfully, in this game, they came premade, so that saved some time) and an adventure book to set up the adventure map. Some of the set up is intuitive and (again) thank goodness for that. Some of it makes no sense without the context of the game, but you figure it out quickly enough.

I mean, look at all that stuff! It’s pretty intimidating.

Gameplay

Again, the gameplay is mostly intuitive if you’ve ever played a dice game before. A few things are difficult to understand, but the rules are mostly comrehensive. We screwed up more than one ruling, but it was just the two of us. Ultimately, no harm, no foul.

You move your party around the map. There are encounter tokens that can be either a skill check, combat, or sometimes both. There are also the defined areas on the map. Here, you run through a story that changes based on your decisions. Skill checks and combat work similarly. You need to build a die pool from the die bag, roll them, and match numbers and colors on the card to pass the check or win in combat.

Probably easier to show. To defeat the bandits, you need a white two, blue three, red three, and any color five. You have three rounds to win as shown in the lower left corner.

You draw dice from the bag, roll them, and try to match them. While this might seem like an almost impossible task, you can buy certain colors using your attribute points. You have a hand of cards that lets you alter die rolls or colors. All in all, we’ve only ever gone past round one on a couple of fights. In etween fights, you can rest to get ready for future challgenges. Rinse and repeat this process as you work your way around the map until the book tells you “The End”.

After that, you advance your character and you can “save” the game. This sets you up for the next play through so that you don’t spend as much time getting ready. The second time we played took a lot less time to set up and a lot more time to play.

Roll Player Adventures: Overall, a fun game

Both times we played, Quinn mentioned how much fun he had. He talked about the game at dinner to Christine and both of his brothers. We were supposed to play more today, but we took a two hour hike and we just finished eating dinner. I think tomorrow might be busy, too. So, you might have to wait until next week to hear more of our exploits against the enemies of ulos.

How to Let Go: Gaming Dad’s Lament

Introduction

I’ve written about the Gaming Dad’s Lament in the past. As a parent, we both celebrate and mourn the passing of childhood. In fact, I recently posted something on Instagram about the boys growing up. I never give in to the “you’re going to miss this crowd” because honestly, most of it you don’t miss. That’s why when you become grandparents, you are happy to give the kids back at the end of the day. You get all of the good and very little of the bad.

However, I admit that every now and then, I do get a pang of the old times and wish for just one more day of playing Thomas the Tank Engine or watching endless episodes of Paw Patrol. In fact, I suffered just such a pang the other day when Aiden came down with a box of Heroclix that he sold on eBay. You may wonder why this hit so hard, seeing as how Heroclix has to be one of the least referenced games on the page.

Heroclix: As Chris said, a game with such promise that we never actually realized.

Farewell Heroclix: Gaming Dad’s Lament?

Honestly, the sadness surprised me as well. I can count the number of times I played Heroclix on one hand and the number of times that I played Heroclix with the boys on one finger. Why such a strong emotional response, then, to losing them? I wish I knew.

As I wrote a few years ago in the article about the train show, forgive me my indulgence as I work through some emotions here. You are free to completely ignore this article until something more appropriate tickles your fancy. We are getting together on Saturday to play Commander, so expect that article sometime next week.

I suppose the sudden finality of it all hit me hard. As I said, we never played the game. But, to know that we never will brings a somber realization with it. But, and I need to focus on this, some positive came from that realization. Quinn just bought a new Pokemon deck with a gift card he got for Christmas. That inspired me to build a deck. Also, Aiden mentioned that he wanted to play Dicemasters again. When that game gets the heave ho, expect many more words about the passage of time.

The Verdict

Initially, I mourned the loss of our Heroclix. Much more than I ever worried about Skylanders getting sold or YuGiOh cards put into a binder and into the closet. We played both of those games far more than Heroclix. But, I got over it, shipped them, and just told Aiden that I found my Dicemasters teams. All that’s left is to actually build that Pokemon deck. How do you let go? I just hold on to what I still have.

Top 10 of 2021: Our Favorites of the Year

Introduction

We unintentionally took 2 months off this year. We played the least amount of games by far this year than any of the other years since starting the page. I can’t explain either of those. It also defies explanation how, in spite of them, we had one of our best years as 2 Guy Gaming. I heard someone say that they just blame everything on Covid. So, let’s go with that and continue with our Top 10 of 2021.

Top 10 of 2021 (Honorable Mention)

  1. Atari 2600 – If I remembered earlier to hook it up, this might have actually made the list. Instead, I just hooked it up the other day and played through a few games of Circus Convoy. The games are so simplistic, but o much fun. Look for this to be on the list next year.
  2. Jackbox Party Pack 8 – I talked about this one in the last article. We played it a couple of times as a family and had an absolute blast. I would have liked to have gotten it working on Christmas to play with a larger group, though.

Top 10 of 2021 (#10-6)

10. Comic Books – Like most of my hobbies, I lost the time I used to devote to comics. I dedicated more time to my job (which, if you’ve been reading the other page, you know didn’t ultimately pay off) and family (worth the investment always). Comics were the first to go. Still, I collect them and enjoyed the storylines when I stopped. I will pick them up again at some point.

9. Football – I swore of the NFL about a decade ago. I simply found less and less enjoyment from watching. Perhaps, as a result, I leaned more heavily into college. It helped that my friend Craig liked college football. More recently, Chris texts me about the NFL. As a result, I watched more the last couple of years and enjoyed it.

8. Hades – This might be higher on the list if I played it before today. As it is, I think being number 8 solely on the recommendation of Chris is pretty good.

7. Geocaching – I found a cache on a whim during our trip to the museum with Quinn in late summer. That triggered something because I started hiking/caching after school and on the weekends. Then, I got the silly idea to try for a full year (366 days) streak of finding geocaches. I’m currently at 118 days. You can follow those adventures here.

6. Dungeons and Dragons Duet – When we tried playing D&D as a family a few years ago, it met with limited success. I wasn’t prepared to be an entertaining and engaging DM and, frankly, maybe the family just didn’t enjoy the game that much. Quinn did, though, and on a whim I bought him some D&D dice. I have also been reading a page on how to play 2 player D&D, called Duets.

Top 10 of 2021 (#5-1)

5. Battlegrounds – I have a love/hate relationship with Hearthstone. Every now and then, it evolves to hate/hate. However, I admit they did something right when they designed Battlegrounds. It takes little time or brain commitment and is a good way to kill 10-15 minutes.

4. Magic the Gathering Arena – In spite of the fact that I played less games this year, I still logged in to MTGA on a daily basis to complete quests and get my “free” loots from the reward track.

3. Disney + – From the best show to come out in recent memory, WandaVision, to the Covid shortened and potentialy ruined Falcon and the Winter Solider. From the Mandalorian to the new Book of Boba Fett. From What if to Hawkeye. I even splurged for their premier access to be able to watch Cruella after prom earlier this year. As with most things, Disney took the streaming service and improved it by leaps and bounds.

2. Marvel Movies are Back – We saw Black Widow in the theaters. Christine, high on girl power, enjoyed that one more than the rest of us. I liked it, but it wasn’t necessary and a huge let down after the last two Avengers masterpieces. Then, we just saw the new Spider-Man movie. Those who say it is the best Marvel movie ever are engaging in hyperbole (both Infinity War and Endgame are better stories and movies), but it is the best live action Spider-Man.

  1. Commander – I wrote several times in the last few months about my adventures in Commander. Chris and I finally played face to face while eating pizza and watching Alabama destroy Georgia in the SEC Championship. He Alabama’d me in the games, but it inspired me to improve my decks for the rematch next month.

The Verrdict

As you see, even though we weren’t active on the page as much this year, we still found time to do the things we enjoy. Maybe this will inspire us to do more of them and write more and, who knows, podcast (inside joke, haha) more. Or, maybe this is one last hurrah and we fade into obscurity. Only one way to find out. Stay tuned.

2021 Console Game of the Year

Introduction

And, so, we arrive at our last award, the 2021 Console Game of the Year. If you thought our other two choices (really just one choice) were farcical, this one will really blow your mind. Before we reveal the choice and get on with the Year in Review and Look Ahead articles, some background first. We promise to make it worth your time.

Are we going to pick some ridiculous retro Atari game? Stay tuned.

If you thought we might take the easy way out and pick some Atari 2600 or other retro themed game, you’re not right. But, you’re not wrong, either. If I remembered to set up my emulator earlier in the vacation, I might have been persuaded to cheekily choose “Frostbite” or “Pitfall” or even “E.T.” or whichever of the games I became addicted to over the last week. Alas, I only just hooked up the games yesterday and spent a half an hour or so this morning playing “Circus Convoy.”

We pick a game that I only recently played a couple of times with my family. Aiden discovered the games through his friends. I found it through a Twitch stream one night and it was a lot of fun to play Humble Bundle ran a deal for several of the games. Then, my laptop, as they tend to do, died on me. Also, our desktop memory fried. So, I downloaded the most recent version on the XBox in order to play. Our 2021 Console Game of the Year is The JackBox Party Pack 8.

Ta da!

2021 Console Game of the Year: The Jackbox Party Pack 8

In any other year, I played ridiculous amounts of Minecraft. Somehow, the XBox ended up in Aiden’s room again, so I never thought to load the game this year. I played some on my laptop, but solo Minecraft is boring. I suppose, then, that Minecraft is still a contender. But, having not played the new update, I wouldn’t do it justice.

Likewise, I haven’t played any Minecraft Dungeons in spite of the fact that Quinn and I planned to a few times. Mortal Kombat 11 died last year after I played through Kombat Pack 2. I received Hades for Christmas, so too late to give it any attention. Though, I asked for Hades for Christmas because Chris played and enjoyed it so much. Perhaps next year, we can have more variety in our game playing.

We played this twice as a family. The first time, we played “Job Job” by Liam’s request. Then we played “Wheel of Enormous Proportions”. Both got the family laughing and having fun. Then, I think I mentioned that we tried to play at Christmas, but a mishap with controllers prevented that. Finally, we played the other day. We played “Drawful” and “Weapons Drawn”. We actually played “Drawful” twice. We haven’t played “Roll Mine” yet. Christine didn’t like the “Weapons Drawn” game, but the others have all been a hit. If you want a party game that’s quick and a lot of fun, this fits that bill.

Mobile Game of the Year 2020: Pokemon Go

Introduction

A few years go, right after Pokemon Go released, like many people I became obsessed. At the time, all the game involved was walking around and catching Pokemon. That was enough for me. I walked around and I caught Pokemon. Eggs hatched. I waited patiently for the inevitable updates that allowed gyms, trainer battles, and trading. Taking the warnings seriously, I never drove and Pokemon Goed (Pokemon Went?) Several years later, I’m obsessed again. Pokemon Go is my choice for Mobile Game of the Year 2020.

If I was ever stupid enough to do this, I’m positive that this is how I would die.

What brought Pokemon Go back into my life? Well, as with many things when you are a parent, my kids started playing the game. They received phones for Christmas last year. Additionally, due to the Covid restrictions, Liam developed a walking habit. Like me, he figured if he was going to walk anyway, why not hatch some eggs and evolve some Pokemon.

I heard the boys talking about Pokemon Go, so I loaded up the game one day. Then, we all discussed the game on the beach one day during Seedot community day in the spring. This common interest lasted until Aiden’s phone broke a couple of months ago. Then my phone dies. I stopped playing any mobile games, including Pokemon Go. Honestly, I miss this game the most out of all of them. Why? Until that last word, I had no idea how to structure this article. Now I know. Though I usually hate top lists, I will do a top 5 reasons Pokemon Go is my mobile game of the year 2020.

5 Reasons Pokemon Go is the Mobile Game of the Year 2020

Note: I went from being almost week ahead to a couple of days behind my deadlines for no particular reason.

#5 Exploration – Unlike Geocaching all those years ago, I won’t go so far as to say that Pokemon Go has caused me to explore new places. However, whenever I was in a new place, I opened the game to see what new and interesting Pokemon might be offered there. That has led to some “Oh, wow! Look at that!” moments between me and the boys.

#4 Exercise – I will go as far as to say that Pokemon Go has inspired me to exercise more. Okay, maybe exercise is a stretch. But, I did start the summer only walking far enough to get one candy per day. Eventually, I extended that walk until I was getting multiple candies per day. For the uninitiated, that means I went from a roughly two mile walk to 7 or 8 miles. I think I even extended it out to 10 miles right at the end of summer.

#3 Updates – When I stopped playing Pokemon Go, I called it a boring game without much going for it. Basically all you could do was walk around and catch Pokemon. While fun, the novelty wore off very quickly. When I came back this year, it was like a whole new game. You could battle in gyms and trade between trainers. There were daily and weekly quests. Niantic added events that ran at least once a month. Community days featured a specific Pokemon, allowing you to evolve it if you dedicated some time. All in all, the game is fun. And, this time, the novelty hasn’t worn off.

#2 New Pokemon – While this could easily fall under the previous category, it is strong enough for me to consider on its own merits. Admittedly, I don’t play Pokemon much these days. I played through Shield a little bit last year. However, several times over the summer, I said, “What Pokemon is that? That thing is cool!” As I mentioned, that alone isn’t enough. With the rest of the updates, though, it makes for a stronger experience.

#1 My Kids Played It – Liam has been walking every day. Not all of that is due to Pokemon Go. Much of it is, though. Even Aiden, who often doesn’t have the attention span for a game like Pokemon Go loaded it on a daily basis. He’s in the same boat as I am with a busted phone, so we’re both out of commission. Hopefully that will change after Christmas and we can get back to catching ’em all.

The Verdict

I played more mobile games this year than at any other time in my life. Heck, I played more mobile games this year than any other type of game. The end of the year is seeing a resurgence in PC and console gaming (as you will see in next week’s articles). However, 2020 was the year for mobile here at 2 Guys Gaming. One game, above them all, reigned supreme and that game was Pokemon Go. I can’t wait to get my new phone and get back out there.

Minecraft Card Game

Introduction

I picked up the Minecraft card game on a lark at Target one time. I was in the store looking for Pokemon or Magic the Gathering cards. As I was searching, I saw the aforementioned card game. I did some searching to see if the game was a legitimate attempt at making Minecraft into a card game or just a case of slapping a popular property onto an inferior product.

Clearly, Spaceballs the flamethrower does not qualify, but you get the point.

As it turns out, the game was pretty good. It had decent to good reviews from the few that turned up during my quick search. And, so, I bought the game. Now that I think about it, I might have even picked it up because I needed a tabletop game for one of our previous Minecraft weeks. In any case, we have played it more than once. In searching, I found that I never actually did a review of the game like I thought. When I realized that I might need another Minecraft week due to the Dungeons update, it made perfect sense to revisit this.

The Great

It’s Minecraft: Cue either the sing song chorus refrain or the thunderous groans of disappointment. So, either thank you for understanding and recognizing my running gag or your hatred fuels me and I will continue to grind this joke into a fine powder for as long as this website persists. Seriously, though, with every passing review, this actually becomes less and less true. This card game is almost nothing like Minecraft. It retains two of the core principles, mining and crafting, but that’s it. Basically, the card game is if you took the board game and stripped away all of the cool stuff and just left the basics. Still, if you have a space issue, this game can be a fun diversion and remind you vaguely of Minecraft.

Fun: It’s a fun game. We’ve played this one over and over and I haven’t gotten bored of it yet. Heck, even Aiden has played this one and he showed no interest in playing the board game. Sure, he’s a cool teenager now, but he still plays the video game, so I’m not sure why he didn’t want to play the board game. Maybe we can convince him the next time we play.

Anger is definitely at the helm in Aiden’s brain right now.

The Good

Easy Set Up: I’m snagging this one from the board game review. However, since there are fewer bells and whistles, the game sets up even quicker than the board game. Shuffle cards, deal them into piles, and go.

Lengthier Games: Okay, this one might seem weird on a couple of levels. First, I said that the game isn’t as involved as the board game. So, how can games be longer? Also, how can it be that this is a good thing when shorter games was a selling point of the board game? Well, let me answer both questions in order. The games were probably longer because we were playing with 3 players instead of 2. Also, we weren’t up against bed time, so there wasn’t a time limit. Secondly, you may remember that I said that the board game could stand to be a little bit longer. I feel like the length of the games we played of the card game were perfect.

The Decent

Is it Minecraft?: I said it was earlier just to keep the running joke going. But, is it really Minecraft? No, honestly, it isn’t. Like I say, it’s a decent facsimile (look that one up Zillenials) of the game. But, it will leave you wanting more. Look, it’s tough to make a workable card game from Minecraft and they’ve done it. I’d just have liked more. I guess that’s what the board game gives me.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just like my mother. She’s never satisfied.

Not Collectible: When I first saw the game, I thought that it might be a CCG like Pokemon or Magic the Gathering. When I learned that it wasn’t, I was a bit upset. There also haven’t been any expansions to the game released and they said right out (I think) that there wouldn’t be. I’m not sure how even such a thing would work, but again, it’s limiting that there isn’t.

The Bummer

Can’t find the game: This is a new (and maybe the only time it shows up) section in the reviews. But, after buying the board game, Aiden went looking for the card game and he wasn’t able to find it. I just looked for it, too, and I can’t find it, either. I will keep looking and hopefully it shows up.

The Verdict

The Minecraft card game has enough Minecraft in it to make you think of the game. Unlike the board game, you can’t explore anything and the combat system (such as it is) is very limited to the point of almost being comical. Nevertheless, it is a fun game that is easy and quick to play. I just hope that we can find our copy again soon. Otherwise, I’m going to have to order another one because I want to play the game.

Magic the Gathering Retrospective: Origins to Eldrich Moon

Note: This is part 3 of a 5 part series.

Part 1 | Part 2

Introduction

This is the time in Magic the Gathering history when the game was supposed to change forever. They made an announcement that there would be no more core sets. Admittedly, I don’t always have my finger on the pulse of various communities, but I never heard a huge outcry during the announcement. Granted, as a collector, I mourned the loss of those sets, but I’m not sure that many others did.

Aside from that, they reduced the number of sets for each block from 3 sets to 2. In response to this announcement, I did hear quite a bit of murmuring from the crowd. Perhaps it was a bridge too far so soon after the abolition of core sets. As we’ve discussed several times, some portions of the nerd community have become resistant to change. Furthermore, they are quite vocal about it.

Actual quotes from Star Wars fans after every new movie.

Magic the Gathering Origins and Competitive Play

In the previous two articles, I’ve included the core set with the block. I change that here for two reasons. First, with the core sets being discontinued, WotC assured us that there wouldn’t necessarily be “blocks” of sets anymore, even though there were for the next six cycles. Second, since Origins was supposed to be the “last” core set, they promised something innovative for the set.

As with most of WotC’s promises, this wasn’t entirely true. While there were some new things in the set that I will talk about briefly, at it’s heart, Origins was a core set. I think in my article about it, I called Origins the “corest of core sets”. I don’t blame them. Core sets existed for a reason. If you’re going to have core sets, then it should fulfill that purpose. Just don’t promise that you’re going out with a bang and then offer a slightly exaggerated whimper.

Okay, enough of my own “Grumpy Cat” impression. As I said, there are things that I enjoyed about the set. Before I get to those, I will just write a quick note about competitive. I’m not a competitive player by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t aspire to be one either. I do enjoy watching Magic, though, and this set was very kind to competitive players.

Plus, as an added bonus, it gave us the earworm, “I ain’t no Hangerback girl”. Just me? I can live with that.

My Thoughts on MtG Origins

Finally, we get to my positives from the set. Not to give too much away, but they’re what you have come to expect from a filthy casual such as myself. I might be mistaken here, but it’s the first time that I noticed that WotC made the story front and center in the game. I know that there has always been lore. It’s one of the things that we love about Magic. But, this is the first time that I saw them pushing that story on their web page and through the cards. That story focused around five main Planeswalkers and their journey through Magic history.

Speaking of those Planeswalkers, they lived up to the promise of “something different”. None of them start off as Planeswalkers. Instead, they are cast as younger versions of themselves. Then, through a mechanic associated with their color identity, they “gain their spark” and flip to become a Planeswalker. There has been at least one other flip Planewalker since, but this was like nothing that I have ever seen in the game before this set. I don’t know if they have plans to do so, but I would love to see more cards like this in the future.

Of course, I have to stick to my roots and use our friend Jace as the example.

Battle for Zendikar/Oath of the Gatewatch

I have to admit that I was surprised when they announced this group of sets. While the first Zendikar block might have been popular at the time, the only thing that I ever heard from players was how much they hated the Annihilator mechanic. Wizards of the Coast even publicly admitted that Annihilator might have been a mistake. I think I wrote in my previous article that we haven’t been back to Mirrodin, mostly likely because of infect. But, now, we’re back in Zendikar with an even less interactive mechanic? Okay. Let’s do this.

Yes, the Eldrazi are back. No, they don’t have Annihilator. Most of them don’t have Annihilator. Okay, none of them have Annihilator, but Ulamog is hungry and he wants to eat your deck. In keeping with the colorless theme, this set has colorless colored cards. Yeah, I know. For a game that prides itself on its adherence to logic, that might be a tough circle to square. Hear me out on this one, though. I mentioned earlier that WotC was choosing to incorporate lore more into the game. The Eldrazi are colorless creatures that consume all in their path. Zendikar is a rich source of resources. It makes sense that as the Eldrazi consume Zendikar’s resources, there would be those that were in the process of being converted.

This card has two colors, but is still colorless! Madness!

Maybe I thought too much thought into that. I’m sure that I put too much thought into it. Okay, I’m positive that I thought about that way too much. But, it was a fun train of thought for me and who knows? Maybe I’m on to something.

Back to the sets themselves. You can’t just have colorless spaghetti monsters (Actually, she’s not even here. More on her in the next section. Spoiler Alert.) destroying all in their paths. Well, you could, but that’s not much of a narrative. In addition to the old mechanic of landfall to symbolize the land itself fighting back, there’s also a mechanic called converge that pumps the ability of cards based on the different types of mana used to cast them. Multicolored v. colorless. Great flavor win!

Shadows Over Innistrad/Eldritch Moon

If it was a surprise that we returned to Zendikar, it was a relief to go back to Innistrad. I said several times in my previous article that Innistrad was right in my wheelhouse. If you haven’t read that article, I will summarize here. Having grown up with fantasy and fantasy horror, Innistrad reminded me of times playing the D&D campaign Ravenloft with friends as a teenager. The addition of flip cards, the lore win of graveyard interaction, and a strong story overall cemented Innistrad as one of my favorite blocks. I’m glad to be back.

Okay, but what are those shadows over Innistrad? Who knows? Who cares? It’s probably just witches or giant bats or something like that. It’s certainly not a giant spaghetti monster that has come to consume this plane that we all love. To be honest, I had no idea during the first set that there would be Eldrazi on Innistrad. I mean, I did find it odd that Emrakul was missing from Zendikar, but I wasn’t paying full attention to the story at the time. I was just happy to be back on Innistrad.

It appears that there may have been clues if I had been paying attention.

You got Eldrazi in my zombies! You got zombies in my Eldrazi! Two disgusting things that go great together? I admit that it was a complete surprise when the reveal of Eldritch moon showed that much of the madness on the plane was courtesy of Emrakul’s influence. I wasn’t sure how the crossover might work and felt skeptical that it would be any good. I’m happy to have been proven wrong. While not as strong as the other Innistrad sets, in my opinion, Eldritch Moon delivered enough fun to be a solid filler set if nothing else.

The Verdict

The “new era of Magic the Gathering” as ushered in by the end of core sets and the switch from 3 set blocks to a less rigid construct for sets got off to a mostly successful start. While Origins was, at its heart, just another core set, it did introduce some cool new things into the game. My favorite from the set was the flip Planeswalkers. I hold out hope that we will see more, but to this day they are unique to Origins. Kudos to WotC for keeping things unique.

I never got to play the original Zendikar. I wasn’t even able to collect it as boxes were pushing 300 dollars at the time that I was trying to put together sets. It was nice to be able to see some of what I missed without having to deal with the annoying Annihilator mechanic. I’m not as much of a fan of the Eldrazi as maybe Chris is, but I’ve developed a soft spot since these sets for the big lugs.

Emrakul, in particular, has a goofy triggered ability that I enjoy.

The revisit to Innistrad wasn’t as much fun as the first. Guess you really can’t go home again. The Eldrazi only partly played a role in making the Innistrad not as fun. I actually enjoyed the story and some of the weird creatures that came as a result. It was just too much of a good thing perhaps. That’s what I fear from a Return to Return to Ravnica. This will be the third time on the plane in just over a decade of time. What could they possibly have that will make it worth it? I suppose time will tell.

3 down, 2 to go. Next time, we visit the 3 newer planes introduced recently; Kaladesh, Amonkhet, and Ixalan. After that, it is Dominaria and Return to Ravnica to finish the series. I hope you all have been enjoying reading this as much as I’ve been writing it. See you in a couple of days.

Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time

Introduction

A couple of months ago, I wrote about my brief subscription to Board Game Bento.A� They had some a discount code for the holidays and I always wanted to try the service.A� Unable to pass up a deal that gave me a chance to do just that, I signed up.A� I already wrote an article about the first month’s box.A� Due to a mix up with my Paypal account, I got subscribed for a second box even though I meant to cancel after only one.

As Bob Ross is fond of saying, that was a happy little accident. I wasn’t sure that I would continue with the subscription beyond that first month.A� I’m still not sure if I will and the subscription is currently on hiatus until I determine if it will be worth it.A� I think that I might have mentioned that the dollar value more or less checks out, but maybe not all of the games are ones that our family will play.A� In addition, Christine made the point that we already have a ton of games and not much room for storage right now.

As a result, the current answer is leaning not very heavily in the “no” column.A� Even if only one of the games is playable by the family (and so far, we have found at least one from the first two boxes that we’ve received.A� You may have deduced, therefore, that this article is about the game that we played from that second box.A� Brilliant deduction, Sherlock!

Yes, you are also correct in assuming that I only said that so that I could post a picture of my man crush.

The theme of the second box was time.A� There were two card games that looked interesting.A� One can even be played solitaire.A� However, we haven’t tried either of the card games yet.A� Christine noticed the board game, Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time, said that it looked interesting, and she, Aiden, Quinn, and I played through the game.

The Good

The game is a cooperative game, which is great for our family.A� None of us are really that competitive except for Aiden.A� I mean, we all have our competitive streaks as all people do, but we temper it with an overall attitude of just have fun with it.A� While it may not be effective for everyone, it has fostered a safe environment in which to play games.A� I’ve also been able to appeal to Chris’s charitable side and get him to adopt more friendly rules during our Magic games.A� I also think that he gets a lot of his competitive juices out during his games against Darren, so he’s often just looking for kitchen table fun when we sit down together.

My mother got us a game for Christmas a few years ago that was a cooperative game that we played a few times.A� It was a pretty good game, but I think that this game captures the spirit of games better than that one ever did.A� You work together as a team in an attempt to recover stolen artifacts from the mansion of Professor Evil.A� There are several obstacles in your way; traps, time and the professor himself.

But, if you are successful, you win one million dollars.

The Bad

This seems like a common theme for board games that we’ve played recently and here we go again.A� When Quinn and I played Flag Dash, the set up for the game took longer than our play through and the payoff was not worth the time invested.A� This game suffers from a similar issue.A� Christine took about 15-20 minutes to simply set up the game.A� I thought that was a bad sign and that we’d be in for another disappointing experience.

Luckily, unlike Flag Dash, once the game was set up, it was much more intuitive to play the game.A� We all picked up on the turn order very quickly, used strategy and teamwork when necessary to win the game.A� It looked a bit grim and that we might lose.A� Instead of giving up, though, we formulated a plan that worked and got us the victory just before the Professor escaped with his stolen goods!

The Ugly

I said earlier that I was slightly leaning “no” with regards to signing up for a longer subscription for Board Game Bento.A� I haven’t changed my mind completely yet, but there currently is a bit of an ugly internal battle going on inside of me.A� Logically, I know that I probably shouldn’t.A� Inside my gamer’s heart, though, I’m pretty positive that I’m going to make the illogical decision.

Nonsense is so much more fun.

I mean, really, we’ve gotten two boxes and have gotten at least two playable games from them.A� That’s all I’m looking for right now.A� As the boys get older and get involved in more things, as I work two jobs that keeps me out of the house for 12-16 hours a day, and as we all enter that time in our lives when we all are drifting apart for a few years, the time that we do get together is precious and I’m always thinking of ways to increase that time and make it more memorable.A� So, perhaps it isn’t such utter nonsense after all.

The Verdict

This was a fun game.A� Initially, we sold it to the boys and ourselves as a game similar to Clue.A� Since they all enjoy playing that game so much, it wasn’t hard to convince them to give this one a try.A� It wasn’t as much like Clue as we thought, but it was still a fun game.A� I especially liked both the cooperative nature of the game and that the game had a win condition.A� That was missing from the last cooperative game that we played.A� Though, to be fair, that game was mostly just for little kids to teach them about good sportsmanship and sharing, so probably not the best comparison.A� We haven’t played it again since that first time, but it should become a regular in our rotation for family game nights.

As far as the overall subscription, I’m no longer certain that I won’t sign up.A� I’m not even leaning in any significant way towards “No”.A� For the reasons discussed above, I might just give it another few months to disappoint me.A� Then again, Aiden is a fan of the Tinker Crates,A� those are much cheaper, and we can work together on those, too.A� Plus, I just bought a whole bunch of ebooks about designing video games, building robotic Lego structures, and making drones.A� I have a feeling we’ll be quite busy for the foreseeable future.

Yep…

Board Game Bento Impressions

Introduction

In December, I saw that Board Game Bento was having a sale.A� In case you don’t know, Board Game Bento is one of those subscriptions services that sends tabletop games every month.A� I’ve tried a few of the services.A� Some (the original Minechest and Tinker Crate) have been worth it, while others (Loot Crate and the Loot Crate Minechest) have not endured for longer than the initial shipments.A� Mostly, unless you like those Pop! vinyl figures, nothing from Loot Crate is worth it in my opinion.

I have seen the various “Bento” subscriptions come across my social media feeds.A� They have one for comics and another for anime.A� I have considered the comics one just because I like comics, but I’ve had to stop buying them again.A� A box of comics/TPB would be welcome.A� I never bit on it, though.

Unless, maybe, it’s this comic book. I Googled “comic book sad” and got this. I, I’m not even going to argue.

We play a lot of games as a family.A� You may remember my article about Ticket to Ride.A� The boys also like Clue, Stratego, Othello, and Scrabble.A� I want to teach them Backgammon and chess.A� Always looking at things through the lens of how it will affect us as a family, that was enough to get me to consider the board game subscription.A� When they ran the sale, there was little reason not to give it a try.

The first box that I got came with three games.A� The second box just came (even though I didn’t necessarily want it, so more on that later) and it also had three games.A� Two of them were board games and the third was a card game.A� The first game that we played was a board game called Flag Dash.A� The other game we played was the card game, which was called Water Balloon Washout.A� The third game, that we didn’t not play yet is called Cottage Garden.A� I suppose the theme of the box must have been spring or something.

Oh, Spring, how I’ve missed you. Please come back soon.

(Note:A� I am going to go out of order for this particular article and do “The Bad” first.A� Always lead with the bad.A� Aside from that, “The Good” references “The Bad”, so it just makes sense.)

The Bad

As I mentioned, we played Flag Dash first.A� Quinn wanted to play both that and the Water Balloon game, we had time on Sunday evening, and everyone else was busy.A� So, I grabbed the game and asked him to play.A� We sat down, I pulled out the instructions, and started to read.A� And I read, and I cross referenced, and I read some more.A� Quinn was getting antsy, so I started to set up the board to get him interested.A� That required me to read even more.

This is a bad sign.A� Sure the game recommended 8+ as the age range.A� But, any game that requires you to spend more than 5 minutes setting it up is not a game meant for children of any age.A� They simply don’t care about your stupid rules set and interactions.A� They just want to put their pawns on the board and roll the dice.

That’s the other thing.A� There aren’t dice in this game.A� It’s movement cards coupled with something known as a priority card.A� Basically, you establish turn order according to the priority cards and then move based on the move card.A� Call me old fashioned, but that is simply overly complicated.A� Quinn just kept wanting to move, but I had to keep reminding him that we had to establish turn order first.A� He got frustrated and it almost got to the point where I just put the game away to prevent a Sunday evening meltdown.

I’m not against a priority system.A� There’s one present in D&D and we spent 4 hours playing that the other day.A� It’s just that for a game that is supposed to mimic capture the flag, you’d think that they wouldn’t want to interrupt the flow of the game so much.A� I mean, capture the flag is about running around like crazy people and trying to grab a flag.

In that regard, it is a poor simulation of the game that it supposedly simulates.A� In other regards, there are just too many damn rules.A� I have no idea if we even played the game correctly because I just started ignoring the stupid rules and playing more simply.A� The game moved more smoothly and we finished quickly.A� Thank goodness because I didn’t want to spend a ton of time on a game that could ruin the last free hours of my weekend.

Granted the game is made for 4 players and we played two with one of them being below the age limit.A� As a result, we had to both act for two players and that might have bogged the game down.A� I don’t know.A� All I know is that this game was not an enjoyable experience and there’s no way I would pay the $17.50 that I saw quoted when I went searching for the game picture earlier.

The Good

We played the Water Balloon Washout game second.A� Okay, now this is more like it.A� I wish that we would have played it first.A� It was, by far, the better of the two games.A� I’ve often read that the best games are ones that don’t have a large rules book.A� While there might be exceptions, that was certainly the case with these games.A� Unlike the complicated rules of Flag Dash, the rules of this game were so simple as to be printed on a pamphlet that fit inside of the card box.A� We were up and playing in no time at all.

Quinn enjoyed this game far more than the other one.A� He didn’t get a chance to get bored during set up because set up took no time at all.A� He was able to grasp all of the rules immediately because there weren’t that many.A� He was able to put together a strategy that allowed him to compete in the game and eventually beat me.A� It was just a much more well designed game for kids.

This game was also suggested for 8+ and 2-4 players.A� It scaled much better to only 2.A� Also, I can’t see why it would be 8+ other than the reading required.A� Apparently our 6 year old reads at an 8 year old level.A� I knew that, but I just wanted to write it to brag that my kid is a super genius.

The Ugly

You’d think that with three games and three sections that the last game would go here.A� It would line up neat and tidy, but we didn’t get a chance to play the last game.A� It is a board game, though, so hopefully it doesn’t have the rules book similar to Flag Dash.A� It’s something about building gardens, though, so I doubt that there can be that many rules to placing garden tiles on a board.

No, the ugly of this service is the same as most of these other services.A� They set you up for autorenewal and you have to go in to the page to actively cancel it and avoid being charged for a second subscription.A� I only signed up for a month and I thought that I had canceled.A� Then, the charge appeared in my account again.

What the hell?A� I wondered.A� In case you are wondering, no, they aren’t the type of company to charge you without your consent.A� I had signed up via PayPal and while I had changed my subscription status on the Bento website, I never did so through PayPal, so I got hit with a second charge and a second box.A� It’s my fault and I could look at it as a positive because now I have a second box to weigh and decide if I want to continue with the service.

The Verdict

One good, one bad, one unplayed.A� One additional box with three more games to try.A� Overall, I’m happy with the service, even if it is a bit on the expensive side when it comes to these subscription boxes.A� It is 50 dollars plus 12 dollars shipping and handling.A� But, you are getting 3 games.A� The MSRP of the 3 games in the “Spring” box was 17.50 for Flag Dash, 39.99 for Cottage Garden, and the Water Balloon Washout isn’t commercially available right now.A� So, just taking the two games into consideration, you are getting almost your money’s worth from the box.

It also introduces new games into a house that sometimes can’t decide what games to play because we’ve played them all multiple times.A� That’s a service that can’t be given a price.A� While I haven’t kept the subscription to every service (I just don’t like what Loot Crate has to offer monthly), I do keep the ones that I enjoy and that seems worth it.A� I can’t say yet whether this one seems worth it, but we did get great enjoyment from one of the games and I’ll be able to make a more informed decision after trying the latest box.

On Trains and Childhood

Introduction

I’ve talked on my One Guy Outdoors page recently about how much tradition means to me and our family.A� We aren’t bound by traditions, necessarily.A� It’s just that when we find something that we enjoy doing, we tend to put it into a routine that becomes tradition from year to year.A� One of those traditions is the Hobby Railroad Show at the Big E.A� I don’t remember how we discovered it.A� It was definitely during Liam’s Thomas phase.A� Looking for something to do with a train obsessed preschooler during the long and gray months of December and January, we stumbled on the train show.A� It didn’t hurt that it was near my birthday and I don’t often ask for anything for my birthday.

Those first years we went as a family.A� It was even as recently as maybe 3 or 4 years ago that all five of us took the trip.A� Last year or the year before, it was just the boys and I.A� This year, the only one that was able to make the trip with me was Aiden.A� Christine made plans for Quinn to do a “Cookies and Canvas” event put on by their school’s PTO.A� Originally, Aiden was supposed to join him, but he backed out.A� She suggested that he come along with me to the train show since I was a bit upset that it looked like we might not make it this year.A� To my surprise, he said that he’d rather do that.

Journal

I started to hedge a bit this morning, saying things like that I didn’t want to pay $20 for two people to go since we used to pay $30 for 5 people to go and trying to push Aiden to go to the Cookies and Canvas.A� He held steadfast that he didn’t want to go and wanted to go to the train show.A� I finally relented as part of my newly found attitude of saying “yes, and…” when faced with a decision like that. A�I’m glad that I did.

It started in the car ride. A�When it is just me and one of the boys, I try to find podcasts that they will enjoy, too. A�Aiden is a pop culture freak and he likes all of the current music, so I could have gotten away with the radio. A�I, on the other hand, abhor most of today’s music, so I compromised with the podcasts again. A�I chose the “Playing with Science” episode about soccer and the leftovers of an “Only a Game” episode about Gene Mingo, a football player that I had never know before hearing the episode.

He was only slightly interested in the soccer episode, but it was mainly because he was reading a book. A�He did laugh a few times. A�However, the Gene Mingo episode hooked him and he flipped off the radio when they reported on Mingo’s accidental shooting of his wife. A�We talked about guns and the drugs that led to the accident. A�It was a good talk.

After the episode, he agreed that it was compelling. A�I told him how I like that show because it isn’t like most of sports media. A�Chris told me that he was going to go off on sports media in his latest articleA�and he didn’t hold back. A�While Chris has a valid point about WEEI, ESPN, and much of sports media these days, that wasn’t exactly my point when talking to Aiden. A�I only listen to two podcasts that qualify as sports, “Only A Game” and “Hang Up and Listen.” A�”Hang Up” occasionally gets into the regular stories of the day, but they often give a fresh take. A�”Only a Game” more regularly goes off the beaten track and tells compelling stories that I’d have never heard otherwise. A�I like that. A�Much like the Patriots, sports media just bores me. A�I’m glad that Aiden was able to enjoy the show, too.

Aside from the ride, it was nice to have one on one time with Aiden. A�I don’t know when the last time that happened. A�As the boys get older, they become busier with friends and activities and it becomes more difficult to spend any time with them, never mind hours of uninterrupted time. A�It was time that he volunteered, at the sake of spending time with his friends, and that makes it even more valuable. A�Aside from that, it brought us together with a common interest.

This surprised me. A�Aiden is a “cool kid” in the purest sense of the word. A�He wants the latest sneakers, listens exclusively to popular music, wants to be with the in crowd. A�I never expected that he would be the kid who became the one most interested in model railroads. A�But, here we are. A�He said that he really wanted a train set and even had plans for where he would put it. A�In talking with Christine, I wondered out loud if it might end up being a Paddington 2 scenario where he eventually gets too cool for them and we’ll be left holding all of these expensive train cars. A�But, she said that he asked for one for Christmas last year, but waited until the last minute to do so.

He will grow out of them eventually. A�He may come back to them after he’s done with his teenage years and when he has kids of his own. A�But, and this goes along with why I went to the train show with him even though I wasn’t feeling it initially, he is interested now. A�I want to seize upon that interest and have something that we can have together. A�Something that will let us hold on to his rapidly dwindling time as a kid for just a little while longer.

Well, that got a bit heavy there. A�Sorry. A�The show itself was fun and informative. A�As soon as we walked into the first building, Aiden started looking at trains and I mentioned how they weren’t very expensive. A�The guy at the booth started talking to us about the different kinds of trains. A�I suspect that they don’t get much interaction from people outside of the community. A�Other than kids who just want to see the trains, when someone comes in and shows a serious effort to enter the hobby, they go out of their way to explain things and welcome them. A�We would do well to learn from that attitude, fellow nerds.

For the rest of the show, I was looking at various types of trains to figure out which one I want to get to let him try his hand at building. A�Another couple of people made us feel very welcome and answered our questions. A�We ended, as always, and as you may suspect, at a Lego display. A�I wondered aloud if they still made the powered Lego trains. A�He confirmed that they did, so that might be where we start.

Epilogue

I don’t know the last time that Aiden and I had one on one time that wasn’t interrupted by technology. A�It was an experience that I won’t soon forget and hopefully it had the same effect on him. A�As I stated earlier, you have kids and they are initially with you 24/7. A�They get older and go off to school, meet other people, and get other interests. A�You never know when that mythical “Cats in the Cradle” moment might happen, but you know it’s coming.

I’d like to put it off for as long as humanly possible. A�We have plans to go to at least one hockey game over the next two weeks before the season ends. A�I might just splurge and get tickets to both games because they have a buy one get on free deal going on now. A�I think Christine might have gotten it via email because she bought the tickets. A�A bit surprisingly (but perhaps not because it was Saturday night and college students have better things to do), the game wasn’t very well attended, so they’re pulling out all of the stops to get people to come.

Well, I’ll take advantage of their misfortune and get some time with Aiden as well. A�People tend to only take a look at those around them during times of tragedy. A�The Facebook posts “Hold your kids extra tight tonight and tell them you love them” only come after a terrorist attack or tragic fire. A�I don’t understand why you wouldn’t do those things each and every night. A�We only have a limited amount of time and don’t know when it’s up. A�Tell the people you love them every single day and just do the damn thing.