Tag Archives: Gaming with Kids

Thankful for Pokemon Cube Redux

Introduction

I meant to write and post this article on Thursday. Regular readers of the page know that is one of the warning signs that I might be falling off on regular updates of the page. I promise you that’s not the case this time. I am cram studying for a placement test for a Master’s degree program in computer science. But, I took a break this morning to update the page with my thoughts about the Pokemon Cube Redux.

The actual sequel here is simply this article. I never actually finished the cube that I started a couple of years ago. What can I say? I searched for the cards on the list and started to put together a cart on eBay. And, I discovered that it’s not just Magic the Gathering cards. People pay quite a bit for these little rectangles of cardboard.

“Planning” the Cube

“Planning” the cube actually went very quickly. I searched “Pokemon Cube” and one of the links lead me to a Google sheet that I then looked through with our cards to see which ones we already owned. Perhaps surprisingly (and perhaps not), our collection included a good amount of the cards. Even so, I still needed to purchase three quarters of the cards to finish out the cube.

A bit on the nose that a nerd like me used a spreadsheet to build my cube. But, it’s incredibly detailed and well organized.

But, as I said above. Collectors know what they have in this day and age of the internet. They charge a lot even for Pokemon cards. So, my inspiration and drive to finish the cube waned and eventually died. What brought back the spark? I’m glad you asked.

Chris got married a few weeks ago. I even shouted out the website during my best man speech. Don’t worry. I promise it was sincere and not tacky. Anyway, in the months leading to the wedding, we put together a couple of text chains for the groomsmen. One of the guys in the chain actually has a history here on the page as part of a night out where Chris and I went over to his play to play some MTG. He talked about ordering a bunch of proxies for his own cube (possibly inspired by my talk of a Pokemon cube) and then I felt like a huge idiot. Circle of life and all that.

Building the Cube

Even ordering the proxies (which admittedly are of good quality) from the web page that he mentioned would be somewhat cost prohibitive for me. And so I went back to Google and searched a for a page that offered even lower cost, or free, proxies. I found Limitless and started typing cards into the search bar. I made it about two-thirds of the way through the list of cards before I needed to take a break.

From now, I need to finish the list, print out the cards (this will be tricky since we no longer own a printer again) maybe at Staples or one of the University libraries. I don’t want to misuse the resources at work for this project, obviously. Once I print everything out, I want to do a test run with the boys.

The Verdict

The only thing I worry about in this Pokemon Cube Redux is that I’ve chosen grey scale cards to save time and money. Just looking at them on the screen, some of the cards look like they might be difficult to read in that format. That’s not a deal breaker, but it is something to consider. Ultimately, though, come back in December or January for my report on our experience with the cube.

Curse of Strahd: Finale?

Introduction

At the beginning of the month, I realized that I needed to play the role as DM in our humble school Dungeons and Dragons club. Thanks to Stranger Things, the game blew up this year and everyone wants to play. In a flash of inspiration (or dorkiness…or both), I decided to pick up a Halloween related adventure to lead a group through. This is the last week in October, so I expected to go out with a bang with our Curse of Strahd finale.

Best laid plans and all that. The sixth grade and, my entire play group, went on a field trip to the Museum of Science in Boston. They told me the day before that the trip would end around 3:30, which is when the group usually started to get antsy and disbanded for the afternoon. So, imagine my surprise when I heard a knock on the door at about 3:15.

Sometimes Teaching is About Cutting Your Losses

Initially excited to be able to lead the group again, that quickly changed. They took almost 20 minutes to settle down. One would say, “Let’s get started.” to the others, then jump up and another would repeat the process. So, I should have known that things might not go well.

When we finally sat down to play, things initially went okay and my fears started to subside. Then, one of the players tried “massaging” a die roll here and there. I called him out on it once during a “hit roll”. Towards the end of the session, I let one go. It was only an initiative roll. It felt like the right thing to do, but it clearly wasn’t.

Other than this week, things went well. I’m probably just overthinking things.

Another player got angry about it and refused to roll for his turn during combat. When we finally convinced him to do so, he rolled a hit and then intentionally knocked the die over to a miss. I threw my hands up and said, “Sorry, guys, I can’t do this today.” They started some in fighting and I laid my cards on the table. “No, it’s all of us. This just isn’t working right now. We’ll try again next week.”

Epilogue

If this ends up being the Curse of Strahd finale, it ends not with a bang but a whimper. I knew from the beginning that things might go sideways and they ended up doing just that. The fear that I ruined D&D for my family by not being a great Dungeon Master the one time that we tried to play is now rising with these guys. They asked the last couple of weeks to play more on Friday and now I leave them with this bad taste for week. Maybe I’m overthinking things. Even so, I think I might try to find another adventure to run for next week. One of them said that they wanted to fight dragons.

Curse of Strahd Part 2: For Real This Time

Introduction

Last week, our intrepid group played without two of their players. So, instead of continuing our adventures in Ravenloft, I convinced the remaining player to hack and slash his way through some goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears. Other than a mishap with another player who joined the ranks, he enjoyed the experience. Check out that article for that summary. This week, our party plays Curse of Strahd Part 2 for real this time.

In fact, he enjoyed it so much that he asked for another hack and slash after one of their group got picked up early. They tried to convince me to let them keep playing the main adventure, but I got them to abandon that idea with some slick DMing. I’m getting the hang of this. But, join me for a quick recap of the adventures for this week.

Session 2: To the Attic to Get to the Basement

In anticipation of this week’s (it might have even been last week) session, I reviewed the map and where our party explored already. Since they are young, they don’t always think to check for traps or secret doors. So, this time I gave them some grace and more or less pushed them through those secret doors. Being a Dungeon Master is sometimes a delicate balancing act between rules guru and storyteller. Not with this group. With this group, I’m all storyteller and as a result, I sometimes need to dispense with the rules and take matters into my own hands.

So it became that they “found” the secret door to get to the attic and then “found” the secret door to get to the basement. I actually screwed up and needed to improvise by saying that one of them bumped the second secret door with their butt while searching the room. Of course, that got a laugh from all of them.

They also experienced a wider range of combat this time. Fighting both a specter and an animated broomstick got them some experience points and closer to leveling. And, isn’t that the real reason we all play this game? To grow ever more powerful and eventually challenge the gods themselves? Okay, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But, by the end of their senior year, I expect that to happen.

The Verdict

Playing Curse of Strahd Part 2 (for real) went rockier than last time. I continually needed to remind them not to touch each other’s dice, not to hit one another, and not to swear. Honestly, much more on par with how I expected a Dungeons and Dragons group with middle school aged kids to go, so not a huge deal there. We only have one session left in October, but if they finish the introduction, maybe I can get them to play another theme adventure for November and December.

Curse of Strahd Part 2: Noob DMs in Middle School…Again

Introduction

Last week, I played the role of dungeon master for three middle school students in my Dungeons and Dragons club at school. I got the idea to play through the Curse of Strahd module with them because…Halloween. Later in the week, I then worried that they might get bored with the adventure because it is mostly story and, being middle school age, they’d want to beat stuff up. I need not have worried as they enjoyed it so much, they wanted to play again on Friday. Alas, I told them to wait until this week for Curse of Strahd Part 2.

Well, cut to this week. Because, well, middle school, many of them never showed up for the club this week. In my group alone, two of the three ended up as no shows. To his credit, the one who came still tried to convince me to let him play the adventure by himself. Granted, I probably could have pulled it off, but that’s bad D&D etiquette to play without your group.

Hack and Slash One Shot

Looking through the resource books I brought to school, I stumbled on a map for a goblonoid war camp. I quickly came up with the idea to allow the player to hack and slash his way through some goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears in a one off adventure. I know this doesn’t have a Halloween theme, and halfway through the adventure, I could have added Halloween and made it funny by making the hobgoblins throw pumpkins like the comic character. But, I kept it straight.

Curse of Strahd Part 2? LOLJK

The player appreciated my efforts and played along with the bare bones story that I told to keep the narrative going. I even got two other players to join us briefly. I told one he couldn’t play because his character was too high level. The other played a level 1 character but ended up meeting his ultimate fate at the hands of two bugbears. These kids are too young to watch “Stranger Things”, so I should have given them the advice. You never split up the party!

The Verdict

We were both bummed that the other kids didn’t show up. But, thinking quickly, I made the best of it and enjoyed my experience being a DM with limited preparation. I need to take in some of my other resource books, though, so I have more ideas for when these things inevitably happen again.

I can also write down ideas as I get them and flesh them out over time to make them more entertaining and engaging. Sure, I got away with it this time, but I might not be so lucky next time. So, with all of this being said, hope for Curse of Strahd Part 2 next week.

Curse of Strahd: Noob DM’s in Middle School

Introduction

I teach middle school and high school this year. Granted, I have more middle school classes than high school, but I prefer high school for now. I taught middle school over a dozen years ago and that ended in disaster, so maybe there is some residual processing that still needs to be done on that end. Last year, I took over for the Dungeons and Dragons club in the high school. This year, I also took on the middle school. A couple of the newbies wanted me to DM for them. I took advantage of Spooktober to lead them in a campaign with the adventure Curse of Strahd.

Session 1: Tarokka Cards and Creepy Kids

Another kid decided to join us for the session this week, so I had three players to DM. Even though they are all relatively new to the game and middle school kids, I felt nervous. When I tried to DM for my family, it went poorly and only Quinn asked to play again. I wanted to make sure that wouldn’t be repeated this time.

So, I took about an hour to read through the adventure ahead of time. I’m glad I took the time. I set the mood by reading from the Tarokka cards for them during the introduction. They loved it. I then wasted no time in getting them to Barovia by using the shortest method and dropping them right into the Death House mini adventure.

I worried I might lose them because, as the introduction says, “Curse of Strahd is more of a story driven than combat driven adventure” and they seem more like a hack and slash group. Plus, they missed many of the secrets in the beginning of the house. However, they got fixated on the stairs and ended up on the balcony fighting an animated armor. I also allowed them to loot the rooms along the way. That kept them going.

I finally got them to the point where they knew to look for secrets as much as possible. They got one of their partners to squeeze into a dumbwaiter to go up to the master bedroom. They looted the bedroom and are now in possession of almost 1000 gold worth of jewelry. I had so much fun and they did, too. They actually asked me to stay after today to continue the adventure.

The Verdict

I took the books home to do more research into the adventure so that it goes more smoothly next time. I ended up searching a little bit too much. Granted, they didn’t mind at all, but I want to get better as a Dungeon Master. Aiden said he’d play again if we got the Stranger Thing module. Of course, it now is a collector’s item, but I (*shhhh*) found a PDF of it. So, now I can use Curse of Strahd (and Quinn’s ghost pirate adventure) to continue to hone my skills for the next time we play as a family.

Introducing Spooktober 2022

Introduction

Our better half got married last night. I served as the best man and had to give my second speech of the year. I also spoke at the graduation for my school at the beginning of summer. As someone who doesn’t like public speaking (yeah, weird for a teacher to say), that’s a new record. During the speech, I used the introduction of the page. And, now, I’m back with our Introducing Spooktober 2022 post.

Introducing Spooktober 2022?

Ever since I started the page, I wanted to do theme months. Spooktober goes all the way back to the start of the page. I might have even done a post like this all the way back then and never followed up on it. I’m took lazy to check right now. Okay, my curiosity is stronger than my laziness. I found no evidence of Spooktober 8 years ago during the month of October, but I found my old Zombie Mill Deck post.

So, now, kids older, working less than I ever have (even if I have taken on a ridiculous amount of stipends this year), I feel ready to unleash the magic of Spooktober onto the page. It will start with a redesign, including new graphics and a new color scheme at some point over the next week. It will continue throughout the month with themed posts, including my first foray into DMing my middle school D&D group through the Curse of Strahd module.

He awaits…

Quinn and I still have to play the ghost pirates adventure that I wrote over the summer. I have one horror novella that I wrote and I can pepper in some teasers from that and also planned on writing some Dungeons and Dragons or Magic the Gathering fan fiction.

The Verdict.

I have plenty of content planned for the month. Who knows, maybe I will come up with more and try to expand into YouTube or TikTok videos to help expand our reach. As I also said in my speech last night, things happen in their own time. Stay tuned.

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.