Category Archives: On the Tabletop

Adventures from cards, miniatures, pencil and paper RPGs, and other old fashioned games from before the internet ruined everything.

Cards I Love: Forgotten Realms Miscellany

Introduction

First Esper, then Gruul, now the Forgotten Realms Miscellany article. I am on a damn roll this week with content. Fear not, though, I have nothing planned for next week and the following week is the annual Cape Cod trip. So, the page will be languishing again in no time. Look forward to that!

Rest In Peace – 2 Guys Gaming (2014-2021)?

But, for now, revel in the fact that we are here and providing you with at least second tier content. Chris texted me yesterday, “There’s a lot of good cards in the set.” I replied, “Yeah, it’s a fun set.” Of course, that reply came before I reviewed green, so I was grading on a bit of a curve. Nevertheless, I like the set and I agree with myself that they’ll probably make another D&D set once they see how popular this one is. Let’s see what fun cards are in Forgotten Realms miscellany.

Forgotten Realms Miscellany: Dungeons and Artifacts

I already touched on dungeons in one of the other articles, but I only showed one of them at that time. These three cards represent some of the most recognizable dungeons in the game Dungeons and Dragons. I can’t wait to put together my dungeon themed Tiny Leaders deck.

Speaking of dungeons, here’s a map! Plus, 50 feet of rope! But, watch out for that Mimic! Ah, mimic, the reason that generations of Dungeons and Dragons players have trust issues.

Forgotten Realms Miscellany: Multicolored

This section became a showcase for some of the most iconic names in Dungeons and Dragons history. Tiamat fills two purposes, one as a major geek-gasm and the other as a flavor win by being 5 colors. The alt art isn’t for Xanathar, but I wish it was. Maybe I will commission an alter to make it so. Finally, I never read nor played any of the Forgotten Realms setting, but even I know Drizzt.

Forgotten Realms Miscellany Gives Us Some Fun Cards

I love the dungeon concept. I wish they gave us more of them, but three gives enough variety now. Who knows? Perhaps they will make more or the MTG/D&D community will make more for us to use. Every single one of those artifact cards is going in my dungeon themed tiny leaders deck. I told Chris that I’m going to have fun opening my box of this set and I will. I just hope they make another D&D set and selfishly, I hope they base it on Dragonlance next time.

Cards I Love: Forgotten Realms Gruul Edition

Introduction

Yesterday, I rolled up into your life after 2 months like nothing ever happened with the first of my MTG Forgotten Realms articles. Today, I bring you Forgotten Realms Gruul Edition. These colors are always the most difficult for me to pick cards. I am in no way shape or form a red or green mage. Chris is, which is what makes our one-on-one duels so much fun. We end up on opposite ends of the color wheel almost every single time.

Unless we’re doing sealed. Then, I always go 5-color good stuff. Picture courtesy of TCG Player.

Though Chris has rubbed off on me a bit through our games and conversations, keep this in mind as you read the article. I pick red and green cards through they eyes of a blue (and sometimes black and white) mage. Don’t expect any one turn kills or massive mana spikes. No, for this Forgotten Realms Gruul edition, you may have to suffer through card draw and counter spells. It could happen! Red got Tibalt’s Trickery after all.

Red: Give me a quest, a baby Embercleave, and a possible 2 turn kill

Honorable Mention (You Find Some Prisoners/Dueling Rapier): I sent both of these cards to Chris. I like You Find Some Prisoners because it again illustrates a facet of Dungeons and Dragons. Since it is basically a cooperative storytelling game, as I explained to Chris, you often find yourself faced with decisions like this that are introduced in such a manner as “The party…”

When I texted Chris, I captioned “Dueling Rapier” with “Baby Embercleave”. Now that I look at it again, it is more like fetus Embercleave. Still, a fun card, just not the tiny broken weapon I initially rated it as. Now that I say that, someone will break it, most likely against me.

Minion of the Mighty: Yep, you guessed it again. I texted this one to Chris. My exact quote: “This is going to be a problem.” Sure enough, the next day, some web pages wrote articles about how it enabled turn 2 kill in some formats. Granted, it requires a specific set of cards, but most combos do. I just like to pat myself on the back when I get a card right.

Green: Give me a cursed idol, a neat trick, and a tiny leader

Honorable Mention (You Find a Cursed Idol/Wild Shape): Green cards in this set are pretty lame. I consider none of them good or even fun. These three represent the most fun and they are pretty damn awful. Cursed Idol, at least, has some versatility. Wild Shape, too, and it can be a fun trick to play at the end of the game to give you another turn to find an answer. I wish one of the options gave you deathtouch, but that’s neither here nor there.

Varis, Silverymoon Ranger: I have a tiny leaders deck with Yisan, the Wanderer Bard. It’s a fun deck that isn’t terribly tuned, but it was able to beat Chris’s even less tuned deck. As soon as I saw this card, I wanted to build a tiny leaders deck around a dungeon theme. Again, not a great card, but I guess if pressed I could call this one fun.

The Verdict (Forgotten Realms Gruul Edition weighs heavily in favor of red)

Red gets some of the most fun and powerful cards in the set. Green is all but forgotten in both cases. I suppose not all colors can be winners in every set, but they’ve actually been pretty good about printing powerful cards and balancing all colors in that regard. Maybe I’m missing something. It wouldn’t be the first time. However, thinking back on it, Chris and I didn’t share many green cards during our spoiler texts, so maybe green is just bad this time around. Thanks for reading my Forgotten Realms Gruul Edition and come back tomorrow for the miscellaneous cards.

Cards I Love: Forgotten Realms Esper Edition

Introduction

Welcome back (after an unintended and extended layoff) to my Forgotten Realms Esper Edition article. Those of you who frequent the page on a semi-regular (as I make it difficult to visit on a regular basis due to not having a proper posting schedule the last couple of years) basis know that these articles are ways for me to highlight the “notable cards” of a set. If you want competitive cards, search for them. There are plenty of those articles.

No shortage of wanna be Spikes out there.

Okay, now for a quick explanation of where I’ve been. Again, those who are regular readers of the page know that I get busy at the end of school, so that is often a time that the page is lacking content. Usually, though, I make up for it by starting my summer blitz that lasts until about February, where updates become sparse again. This year, my wife and I went to the Florida Keys almost as soon as school ended. So, the dark period lasted a bit longer this year.

Know that we still thought and cared about you. And, yes, I meant to say “we” there. Twice, Chris and I planned to talk about the new Modern Horizons set. The first time, I flaked on the recording and the second, we planned it for Father’s Day, which interfered with my plans. And, so, unofficially, 2 Guys Gaming is dead. But, I put a few hundred dollars into this page, so why not continue to throw bad money after bad and keep seeing if something ever happens here. Besides, I like writing and I like writing about games. On to Forgotten Realms Esper Edition.

White: I want removal, a planeswalker that turns into a dragon, and a pet gargoyle that enters the dungeon

Honorable Mention: (Cloister Gargoyle and Minimus Containment): I start with containment, even though it is right most in the preview. I sent this card to Chris and he replied about not liking giving the other person mana. I can respect that, but it hits literally everything. Having played against far too many Ugins in MTGA, I replied, “Eff your Ugin.” “Ooooh, he said, that can be powerful.”

I chose Cloister Gargoyle because I don’t think I’ve ever previewed/reviewed a gargoyle card, but I often think the cards are neat. This one also showcases a new mechanic in Forgotten Realms, the dungeon. After all, the set is named after the iconic RPG, Dungeons and Dragons. How are you not going to incorporate both into the set? Well, they have, as you’ll see in future installments of this series.

Grand Master of Flowers: I doubt this card has very much utility. However, I became enamored with the fact that it turns into a big old indestructible dragon god. I also thought, what if we combined this with the new Kasmina in a Bant deck. Oh, what the heck, my Timmy mind went crazy. Why not put together a five color EDH Superfriends deck and have all the Planeswalkers. Look for that deck in the coming weeks.

Blue: Give me another planeswalker, an almost lich, and some card draw

Honorable Mention (Mordenkainen/Contact Other Plane): I also sent Mordenkainen to Chris, this time with the comment, “Overcosted as hell, but a fun card.” This one is definitely going in my Superfriends deck. I mentioned in a previous article (and never finished the cycle) that I like drawing cards. Contact Other Plane lets me draw cards. It also brings another iconic D&D action to MTG. Roll a d20. Not a spindown counter. An actual, factual d20.

Demilich: You guessed it. This one went to Chris. I actually sent it to him while we were walking through Laguardia airport to catch our connection to Key West. That’s how much I liked this card. I said something along the lines of, “It’s not Legendary, either, so you can chain them.” I don’t think it will be as powerful as Narcomeba or anything, but it is going to be a fun, fun card to play in many formats.

Black: Give me a warlock, an indestructible zombie god, and some card draw.

Honorable Mention (Warlock Class and Deadly Dispute): Another mechanic integral to D&D is the class system. After picking your character’s race, you inevitably pick their class. This card showcases one of those classes and also a leveling curve to improve the quality of the card. Very cool design.

This episode of “this card is black?” features Deadly Dispute. Look, I understand that they’ve adjusted the color wheel recently to include different strategies for each of the colors. I’m just having some difficulty adjusting, I suppose. This card is really just Village Rites with upside. Even so, I still think it should be blue. Of course, I do.

The Book of Vile Darkness: I might have shared this card first with Chris. I definitely shared it early in the spoiler cycle. They took until the end of the cycle to share the Hand and Eye of Vecna, so I had no idea even what abilities that zombie might have. As you see, they’re pretty damn good abilities. Fun stuff!

The Verdict (Forgotten Realms Esper Edition is good, but not great)

A few of the cards previewed here are fun. I definitely want to build that Superfriends deck now and go off with some Planeswalkers. Also, I love the idea of building a stupid Vecna deck and trolling MTGA players with that one. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones to see me in casual with it. Until then (and until next time for the Gruul cards), have fun out there, fellow MTG nerds!

Strixhaven Gruul: Cards I Love

Introduction

Yesterday’s Strixhaven Esper review marked a triumphant return to the page for me. Today, we look at the Strixhaven Gruul cards. Traditionally, as you all know, these colors have been my strong suit. Nevertheless, I soldier on and do my duty to pick the cards for this article.

If you read yesterday’s article, you know that many of the cards I picked fit right in with nonexistent, as of today, commander decks. I suppose that it’s time to brush off the old, “I’m a Commander player that has never played a single game of Commander.” Sooner or later, I’m going to have to stop saying that. But, not today, true believers!

Today, I pick the best cards from my worst colors. Red and Green are Chris’s thing. Maybe I should get his input for this article. Too bad he swore off this set completely in one of our last text chains. Oh well, I guess you’re stuck with my Strixhaven Gruul cards.

Red (Play a better color like black or blue)

Honorable Mention (Draoconic Intervention/Retriever Phoenix): The requisite phoenix in the set dies to all removal. However, it gives us another use for our Learn mechanic as long as it isn’t exiled. Being a blue player, I don’t know why you wouldn’t use Learn to cycle, but that is between you and your god. The other is just mass removal because, if I’m forced to play red, I’m playing it like black.

Conspiracy Theorist: This card is simply amazing. I honestly have no idea why this card is not blue. It does blue things. Everything it does is blue. I get that WotC switched up the color wheel and moved some things into new colors. It adds much needed diversity to the strategy of the game. Even so, I operate under the assumption that this card is blue.

Green (Some Johnny, Some Timmy, Some Spike?)

Honorable Mention (Accomplished Alchemist/Bayou Groff): That plant dog looks like he’s not a good boi. However, he hits the board pretty quickly in a token deck. If you get it out there and give it trample, it does some serious damage. Meanwhile, the elf shows up because the Johnny Combo that lives deep in the recesses of my brain wants it to be there.

Leyline Invocation: Admittedly, few universes exist where this card excites Spike. I wanted to complete the trilogy, but Spike avoids me. And so, I present a Timmy/Johnny bastard child that ultimately does nothing. What can I say? I like the Fractal token.

It’s so cute!

The Verdict (I warned you)

I told you from the beginning. I despise red and green. Okay, that’s not entirely true. However, I treated red like blue or black and basically memed all over green. If you want red or green picks this time, I guess we wait to see if Chris responds with his picks. Since he already said he wants nothing to do with this set, don’t hold your breaths.

Note: Spoilers courtesy of Mythic Spoiler. Check them out for all your spoiler needs!

Strixhaven Esper: Cards I Love

Intrroduction

Welcome to our Strixhaven Esper review. I tried something different with my most recent Hearthstone reviews. Unfortunately, that format isn’t conducive to Magic the Gathering reviews simply because of the number of cards in the average MTG set. Therefore, MTG reviews remain a single card (with two honorable mention) for each color, mult-colored, and colorless (plus land, if applicable). Chris chose to pass on Strixhaven. I ordered my usual box/bundle combo. However, I have yet to even open my Zendikar Rising product. Granted, I am on vacation this week. Even so, I have no motivation.

I promised to put up at least one YouTube video this week to try to build some momentum there. I noticed that my Shadowlands reaction video got 190 views. It gave me the idea to post some gameplay from the new Atari 2600 game, Circus Convoy. I ordered two copies because the cartridges don’t work with my emulator. I was going to give the non-collector copy away in an attempt to drive traffic/subscribers.

Chris agrees that the idea has both merit and potential. I still have time during the vacation. I just have to hope that the motivation loads before vacation ends. But, that’s a discussion for another time. Let’s take a look at these Strixhaven Esper cards.

White (Fun Police and Invisible Decks)

Honorable Mention (Study Break/Expel): The two honorable mention cards work well together in a fun police deck. We all know those are my favorite decks to play. Even alone they have some utility. Plus, Study Break gives me the opportunity to talk about a new mechanic, Learn. I like the flexibility of Learn.

Secret Rendezvous: This card combos quite nicely with Narset, Parter of Veils in my nonexistent Dragonlord Ojutai EDH deck. One of these day, surprise! Deck built and used to terrorize opponents on MTGO. More likely, look for the deck on xMage since I’m already invested in physical cards and MTGA. Who knows? Maybe if FNM in person ever returns, the deck makes an appearance there.

Blue (Draw Cards, then Draw More Cards)

Honorable Mention (Ingenious Mastery/Teachings of the Archaics): I like drawing cards. I know. We all like drawing cards. Drawing cards gives us more cards to draw more cards. But, me, I really like drawing cards. I like drawing cards so much that if they gave an award for drawing cards, I wouldn’t win the award because I’d be too busy drawing more cards.

Multiple Choice: This card is hilarious. From the ridiculous design to the apt name, this card is going into every single deck I run that’s blue. Those of you who visit the page often know that’s every single one of my decks. Especially that Dragonlord Ojutai deck. Maybe if I say it enough, I can manifest the deck from thin air.

Black (Show Some Love for Liliana)

Honorable Mention (Go Blank/Plumb the Forbidden): Go Blank is Mind Rot with upside! Plumb the Forbidden might actually overtake Ms. Liliana as my choice card. I just came up with an idea for another nonexistent EDH deck. This one builds around an as of now unknown Esper commander, but uses Bastion of Remembrance and possibly Jace, Wielder of Mysteries. Is there an Esper commander that creates tokens? Did I mention that I like drawing cards?

Professor Onyx: Have I declared my love for Liliana on the page yet? If not, let this serve as that declaration. She and Jace repeatedly top my list of favorite Planeswalkers. Sure, there was that brief fling with Teferi (3,4, and 5 mana cost all) and Narset plays in my MTGA decks. But, I have an Instagram post from a couple of years ago with both Jace and Liliana on the field. Hell, I used this card as an example of why I was excited for the set in a text to Chris. Toss it into my imaginary Esper EDH deck as well.

The Verdict

The Strixhaven Esper cards I picked for the article look very fun. All of them give me ideas for decks. I’m currently texting Chris about some NFL news and I’ve considered telling him that I want to deck doctor, especially these imaginary EDH decks I keep talking about. Join us next time for the Gruul colors!

Cards I love: Kaldheim Gruul Edition

Introduction

In my previous article, I came to the conclusion that my assessment of Kaldheim as a lackluster set was correct. Seeing as how those are my favorite colors in MTG, I don’t see anything changing in this article. Nevertheless, in the name of journalism and completionism, join me as I review Kaldheim Gruul Edition. Perhaps I will call it Christmas edition.

No. I feel weird calling it “Christmas edition” two months later.

Red used to be a minor nuisance to me. Now, I actively hate the color and feel rage building behind my temples when I see a mountain played. I texted Chris about my irrational disdain for snow lands. He correctly chastised me for my irrationality. “They’re lands…covered in snow.” He replied.

While I can’t explain the snow lands thing, my hatred for red is organic. Being a blue mage, red is a natural enemy color. Furthermore, all the try hard kids on MTGA play red. Every now and then they slip by my defenses (or I draw a seemingly infinite number of lands and/or uncastable cards). Most of the time, I destroy them and feel great about it. With all of that being said, I promise to be unbiased and choose some great Kaldheim Gruul edition cards.

Red (Tuskeri, Treasures, and Trickeration!)

Mechanic Spotlight (Tuskeri Firewalker): I said in the last article that I try to highlight the keywords included in any set. Boast is sort of like Raid from Ixalan in that you have to attack with a creature to trigger it. Of the cards with Boast in red, this one is the best, which should give you an idea of how terrible the mechanic actually is.

Honorable Mention (Goldspan Dragon): Chris texted about this card during spoiler season. Not a surprise as he is our resident dragoon guy. I responded, “That’s a damn red questing beast!” While not quite on that power level, I have had it played against me in MTGA. It is a problem if you don’t remove it quickly.

Red Card I Love (Tibalt’s Trickery): I truly love this card. It does blue things by countering a spell. It also does black things by milling cards. Then, it cascades into potentially stupid and broken things. The first time someone played this card against me, I refused to read it, simply waiting to see if I had to concede against this stupid combo. My opponent bricked, I won the game, and then I went searching for the potential of the card.

Green (Praetor, Poison and Ptroll – the P is silent)

Honorable Mention (Old-Growth Troll): In keeping with the theme of this set, the writers of this card made their money. Okay, okay, I promise to stop beating that dead horse. Seriously, though, FNM (if they ever happen again) matches are all going to go to time because people need to read the cards. I like this card because it does just about everything that green wants to do.

Honorable Mention (Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider): I texted Chris when I saw this card, “Looks like Praetors are back.” Well, I was partially right. One praetor is back. One is enough to continue the conversation. “Thank goodness they decided Phyrexian mana was a mistake.” Granted, they walked back other decisions in an attempt to make them more “fair”. Eldrazi, Part 2 anyone?

Green Card I Love (Fynn, the Fangbearer): Speaking of Phyrexia and annoying old mechanics that I hoped never to see again, I actually hate this card. When someone first played it against me, I texted Chris (of course), poison is back in Kaldheim. He expressed surprise and I texted him a copy of the card. First time, I never drew removal. Congrats to that person on their well earned win. /s Ever since, I’ve had removal and this guy folds like a cheap card table. Once I even stole it and used it against my opponent.

The Verdict (Kaldheim Gruul edition plays out as you’d expect)

Red cards stink. Green cards have some utility and can be fun. I doubt I will actually play any of them. Right now my only deck with Red and Green is a Historic sacrifice Jund deck that I only use to complete quests on MTGA. But, I did my diligence and wrote the article. Don’t say I never did anything for you all.

Spoiler images courtesy of Mythic Spoiler. Check them out for all your MTG spoiler needs.

Cards I Love Kaldheim: Esper Edition

Introduction

Do you want to say it? Or, should I? I guess I have the floor. I will say it. What’s this? Actual gaming content on this gaming web page? Yeah, I know. Cheap joke. I still chuckle every time I write it. Okay, with the silliness over, I can concentrate on Kaldheim: Esper edition preview.

An NFL/MTG crossover set seems ambitious. Oh, not those kind of Vikings?

Well, maybe just a little bit more of silliness. If you’re new here, don’t fret. I promise we offer more than terrible Dad jokes. Admittedly, not much more, but this article reviews white, black, and blue cards for the latest Magic the Gathering set, Kaldheim. It comes after the set already released for several reasons. I apologize for that.

Instead of rehashing those reasons in detail (mostly that school keeps kicking my butt on a weekly basis), let’s concentrate on the positive. Of the recent releases, Kaldheim grabbed my interest the least. I have not embraced the lore of Vikings as much as the average geek. You probably expect me to say, “Boy, was I wrong.” Usually when I set it up like that, I then respond with the opposite. However, the truth is that I’m basically holding out for the MTG/D&D set. In the meantime, join me as I take a look at Kaldheim Esper edition.

White (A Wrath, Exile, and Big Butt Oxen, Oh My!)

Honorable Mention (Giant Ox): An ox with a giant butt that can pilot vehicles? How can I not pick this card as one of my favorites from the set? That answer, of course, is that I can’t not pick it. This card is so much fun that I just committed a double negative on its behalf.

Honorable Mention (Divine Gambit): Regular readers of the page know that I often speak out against the fun police. This represents a do as I say and not as I do situation. I absolutely love playing the fun police. Therefore, I allow nobody else to play this strategy.

White Card I Love (Doomskar): I usually try to highlight some of the new mechanics with my picks. This one has Fortell, which is probably my favorite new mechanic from this set. I won’t insult your intelligence by explaining it since they literally wrote it on the card. Chris and I both agree that the designers got paid by the word in this set.

Blue (Draw Cards, Punish Timmies, and Storm Crow?)

Honorable Mention (Alrund, God of the Cosmos and Hakka, Whispering Raven): Speaking of getting paid by the word. There’s eight words in the name of this card alone. Aside from that, you said, “You’re not usually one for god cards.” That’s true. Chris is our Spike/Timmy and he goes for the god and dragon cards. I just couldn’t resist having “Storm Crow” in my review article.

Honorable Mention (Icebind Pillar): I just said to Chris yesterday, “I don’t know why, but snow lands trigger me terribly.” I feel like he lost some respect for me after I said that. That’s neither here nor there, of course. I like this card because it messes with other people’s plans. It’s no Winter Orb. But it can make for a bad day for the occasional Timmy that sneaks one big creature by my counterspells and removal.

Blue Card I Love (Behold the Multiverse): This is probably my favorite card from the entire set. It fortells. Scries. Draws cards. In a standard where blue cards blue, this one probably blues the hardest. Granted, the requisite 1BB counterspell exists and that also fortells. However, that fortell is much less versatile in my opinion. Hence, this cards gets the edge.

Black (Can this be reduced? An enchantment? A good card?)

Honorable Mention (Blood on the Snow): I wish this card got mana reduced with devotion or something. I know that isn’t a mechanic in this set, but they have gods. They could easily break the rules. They have in more recent sets. Yes, I realize that would make this card extremely broken. That hasn’t stopped them. Oh well, it’s still a symmetric wrath that I want to see the animation on MTGA.

Honorable Mention (Draugr Necromancer): In keeping with my theme of “I wish”, I wish this card was an enchantment. Again, I know that makes it terribly broken. Isn’t it about time that black gets a completely broken card that they threaten to ban before it’s even released?

Black Card I Love (Withercrown): I really don’t love this card. I just hate it the least out of all of the black cards in this set. I mean, I’ve seen some stupid combos out of black in this set, but I’m not a combo player. I’d rather just kill you with a thousand cuts from a thousand pieces of paper. Yes, I’m sadistic when it comes to MTG. But, you already knew that.

The Verdict (Kaldheim Esper edition cards are mostly underwhelming)

I think the only Esper card I’ve played from the set with any regularity is Behold the Multiverse. As I just said, I have seen some combos with the Tergrid cards. Also, I got got by double vision and the card that makes 1/1s and gives you extra turns. I just don’t like playing combo decks. The point is that some of you out there might find some cards that you enjoy better. That’s the great thing about MTG and the reason it’s still going after over 25 years. There’s something there for every play style. Join me in a couple of days for the Gruul cards from the set.

Spoiler images courtesy of Mythic Spoiler. Check them out for all your MTG spoiler needs.

Pathfinder Introduction: A New RPG To Love

Introduction

Last night, I finally received my official Pathfinder introduction. A few months ago, Humble Bundle ran a deal that included a coupon for the Pathfinder Core Rule Book. I forgot about it until nearly the expiration date, then finally ordered the book. Yesterday afternoon, I pulled into my driveway. Several packages waited on the porch.

Due to the holidays, several packages on the porch has been a consistent sight over the last few weeks.

I assumed they both belonged to my wife. I thought one of them might finally be the anime Loot Crate that we ordered for Aiden for Christmas. He didn’t receive the one for Christmas because they were back ordered. The box read Pazio.com and a slogan that had something to do with an ogre or orc. I could look it up, but the box is all the way downstairs in the pantry waiting for dump day. I don’t have the time or energy to walk down there right now.

That only strengthened my assumption that it belonged to Aiden. Then, as I carried in the groceries and put them away, a thought occurred. Oh, this must be my Pathfinder book. Sure enough, that’s exactly what was in the box. Admit it, you read it in Brad Pitt’s voice. And, so, during dinner I read through the book to get my Pathfinder introduction.

The Great

Additions: Spoiler Alert: I’m going to talk about how familiar Pathfinder feels to D&D in the next section. You will see that I consider that to be a strength. However, why would I play this in addition to D&D (as I plan) if it was just a complete clone? Answer: I would not.

The first thing I noticed about the difference between Pathfinder and Dungeons and Dragons was the player character classes. More or less, the races are the same in both games. Also, Dungeons and Dragons expanded their offering of character classes, especially with some of the new Magic the Gathering worlds. While reading through the book, the alchemist and champion classes both jumped out to me. I mean, the champion is basically just a paladin. Perhaps I’m grasping at straws with this one. What can I say? Sometimes I’m an easy mark.

Is one class strong enough to propel this section? I leave it too you to decide, but give you the following as evidence. “The alchemist throws alchemical bombs and drinks concoctions of their own making.” That sounds pretty sweet to me.

Additionally, I enjoyed reading about the various subraces in the game. Finally, skimming the spells excited me at the possibilities. Yes, Pathfinder is a D&D clone. However, there is enough new content in the game to make it feel less like and expansion and more like another game I want to introduce to the family to see if I can get them to become a regular RPG play group. Yes, I refuse to stop trying to make fetch happen.

The Good

Familiarity: Regular readers of the page know all about my history with Dungeons and Dragons. So, please, bear with me while I catch up the newbies. I received a novel from my mother as a gift, Firstborn. It is the first book of the Dragonlance trilogy, The Elven Nations. Fun fact: I originally, for weeks, read that title as The Eleven Nations. Imagine how much more sense it made when I figured out what it really said.

That book led to me discovering the game upon which it was based. As is my personality, I became obsessed. I purchased the 2nd edition Player’s Guide and Dungeon Master’s Guide. Then, I got several of the monster manuals and other supporting books. I branched out into Spelljammer and Dark Sun. A friend and I played several of the MS-DOS games released at the time.

As I experienced my Pathfinder introduction, it took me back to those simpler times. I often say that I’m above nostalgia, but it’s simply not true. While I don’t experience it often, when I do it is strong. Pathfinder triggered that nostalgia strongly. I don’t want to say that it is a rip off of D&D, because that has a negative connotation. But, the similarities are strong. I believe that to be a good thing in this case.

The Decent

Complexity: Dungeons and Dragons simplified their rules over the years. They removed some things completely and tweaked others. I believe most of it is in the service of the player experience. At least, they explained most of the changes in that context.

I refuse to be one of those “things were better during D&D edition *fill in the blank*”. I grew up and played mostly 2nd edition, but I have dabbled in 3, 3.5, and most recently 5 when I played with the family. All I have to say is every edition feels like D&D, except for the d20 phase. I never could understand the reasoning behind that. Give me all the polyhedral dice.

The point of all this is that Pathfinder seems to have kept most of the complexity from D&D. I remember when I first learned of Pathfinder, via another Humble Bundle with adventures that I purchased, a friend told me that the game was more complex than current Dungeons and Dragons. Again, while not a deterrent to me, I found that even the minor bit of rules enforcing that I did during our family’s play group slowed the game down and made it feel like they weren’t having fun. Perhaps, it’s just something I needed to learn as a DM of a first time group. For now, Pathfinder will remain a game that I research until the family can put together an entire adventure in D&D.

The Verdict

It sounds like I already gave the verdict in the previous paragraph. So, what will I write here? That’s a good question. I honestly don’t know. My Pathfinder introduction was a positive one. Until we become more used to D&D and each other as a play group, I won’t try to play the game with the family. However, maybe I can use the game in the meantime to generate content for the page and try to extend reach.

D&D Horror Bundles: Great, Good, Decent

Introduction

Okay, this one is a lie, too. Sort of. Remember last time when I said that I would take this week to discuss games that we received for Christmas. Well, that’s not strictly true. I actually just pressed purchase on the D&D horror bundles from The Arcane Library about an hour ago. Since then, I’ve been looking at the adventures to see if they will, in fact, be good to try to get the family to play D&D again.

I mean, they do look pretty spoopy, not gonna lie. Picture cropped from The Arcane Library.

If this all seems to have come out of left field, you’re not entirely wrong. I mean, if you followed us on Twitter, you’d have seen that I was searching for an appropriate adventure to try to get the family hooked on Dungeons and Dragons. I want to get a weekly session going, if possible. This led me to purchase The Lost Mine of Phandelver on D&D Beyond before realizing that was the adventure we tried to play last year from the beginner’s set. Oh well, WotC can use the cash, I’m sure.

Well, Facebook ads finally got me this time. I saw an ad for The Arcane Library and visited it. Rarely does this ever result in me purchasing anything. However, this time it did. First, I downloaded the free adventure to see if the writing was any good. It’s very well designed. More on that in the review, obviously. Then, I bought the bundle meant to follow characters from 1 until level 20, I think. There may be some gaps needed to fill. Not entirely sure on that one. However, I then saw the D&D horror bundles. As the lone hold out from the first time, I think Aiden will get a kick out of some horror RPG. Let’s see if I’m right.

The Great

Writing: This doesn’t come as a surprise now that I’ve read the author’s biography on the web page. She’s a former journalist and English teacher. Nevertheless, and this will come as rich from someone who hasn’t edited a single post on this web page in several years, it is good to find web based content that isn’t riddled with spelling and grammar errors. Especially in a D&D adventure, that takes you right out of the fiction.

I did edit my 2 books. But, I wouldn’t call myself a good editor. Wait, you didn’t know I wrote two books?

Well Organized: Along with the good writing, the adventures follow the well established outline for adventures set by the official versions. Each adventure starts with a synopsis and some background. This is followed by some nuts and bolts to further explain. Each encounter flows smoothly, building a rich tapestry of the story. As I read, I saw how the encounters worked and, more importantly, how they worked together.

The Good

Minimalist: Piggy backing off that last point, the books contain only the information needed to continue the story. I feel like part of the reason our play session last year got bogged down was all of the reading necessary to run the adventure. As a DM, I try not to be a rules extremist when playing D&D, but I think I might have just been nervous. I really wanted my family to enjoy playing D&D with me. It just felt like a natural play group.

Maybe I just need to stop trying to make “fetch” happen. I won’t, though.

Horror: Granted, it is mostly up to me to set the proper mood. However, if you’re going to advertise an adventure as horror, there should obviously be the seeds of that horror in the adventure. These accomplish that quite nicely. I already said that I saw the story grow as I read the notes. The same can be said for the horror setting. These stories have great creep factor.

The Decent

Story: This may seem strange given all the nice things I’ve already said. However, even as a criticism, please understand that this is minor. To be fair, it’s said that there are only 7 types of stories that can be told anyway. This may even be more limited in science fiction and fantasy settings. Even the official adventures are limited in their scope. Just know that these stories aren’t terribly original. But, they are still very good.

How well did I straddle that fence? Eh? Eh? Meh…

Not beginner friendly: Look, I also understand that if you are considering a non paying career as a D&D DM, you probably aren’t a beginner. With that being said, everyone gets their start somewhere. But, if you are getting your start as a DM, I wouldn’t recommend these adventures as your first campaign. They’re just so sparse in their notes for DMs.

The Verdict

The D&D horror bundles from The Arcane Library are, overall, very good. The stories are compelling enough. They have a definite horror vibe, even just from reading through them. That can, obviously, be tuned to your individual play group. I don’t regret purchasing them or the other bundle one bit. Now, I just have to get my family to want to play them. Stay tuned for that.

Tabletop Game of the Year 2020: Magic the Gathering

Introduction

The tabletop game of the year 2020 should not be a surprise. I don’t remember if I gave it away in the last article, but I suppose I did by omission. Chris and I have recently shown an interest in Commander. Those who frequent the page know by now that I play Magic the Gathering Arena nearly daily.

Though I’m getting better, it’s more accurate that I swear at MTGA daily.

Heck, I even diligently posted notable card articles throughout the year. Continued to buy sets (including far too many cards of Zendikar Rising) in spite of the fact that I haven’t played paper Magic the Gathering in at least a year. So, yes, if you have read the page at all, it will come as no surprise that Magic the Gathering is our tabletop game of the year 2020.

Similar to the mobile game of the year article, I will present the top 5 reasons for the choice. While I could give 10 or even 20 reasons, I will keep it at 5 (7, tops!)

#5 – Commander

I’ve been saying for several months now that I’m a Commander player who never played Commander. Sure, I goldfished a deck here and there on xMage. But, I never got into a regular playgroup and Chris and I never really dabbled in the format all that much. The closest we got was a few games of Tiny Leaders a few years ago.

That all changed last month. Well, not all of it. I still haven’t played a game of paper Commander. I goldfished each one of my decks that I now own. How do I own decks, you might ask. I’m glad you did. I purchased a Commander gift box from Channel Fireball that contained two of the prebuilt decks and some other goodies.

Then, I bought a super epic mega bundle of Zendikar rising that contained two other decks. I’ve already told this story. For those of you who haven’t read that post, the short story is that I now own 3 Commander decks. Chris, perhaps inspired by my purchase and definitely inspired by the cool cards in the set, bought a box of Commander Legends. He’s built a couple of decks, too. Now, we wait the time that we can get together and play and record.

#4 – Nostalgia

Regular readers of the page know that I’m not much of a nostalgia guy in general. I often scoffed in my teenage years when they kept trying to make Woodstock work again. I cackled audibly when the last one flamed out in violence. Talk about missing the point.

Nerd nostalgia, on the other hand, always works on me. Chris said something the other day about Commander feeling like when he first started playing the game with his buddy. I don’t have that same feeling yet with Commander. However, there are times that I’ll see a card in Legacy or Vintage and it will take me back to my freshman year in college when I learned how to play the game by borrowing a friend’s deck. So, like comics, as long as there is that attachment, I’ll keep coming back for more.

#3 – Finally a Viable Digital Alternative

Chris adamantly fights against our digital overlords. I stood by his side for as long as I could before finally caving last year. I’m now all in with the next generation consoles. I mean, if I can get the latest tech for 400 or 500 bucks? I’m wiling to trade off the physical medium. They mostly just take up space in my closets at this point. I don’t have a room like Chris does to show off the artwork.

How does this relate to Magic the Gathering? Well, my longest holdout against digital was our favorite collectible card game. MTGO still required real currency to buy digital cards. The economy of the game was the exact same but you didn’t get to keep the cards if the servers ended up getting shut down. xMage costs nothing. However, you have access to all cards. It’s great for messing around with limited strategies, but feels stupid for any type of constructed since there’s rarely any jank.

MTGA fixed that with the wild card system. I can buy cards with gold that I gain by playing the game and finishing quests. Most cards that I can’t find, I can craft using wild cards. No actual money is needed to play the game. Best of all, there is plenty of jank. Disclaimer: I have spent money on the game, though. I told you I’m all in.

#2 – Kids

Look at those happy kids playing soccer in a group without masks.

Kids are usually higher on my lists. However, similar to Dungeons and Dragons, I haven’t been able to hook the older boys on Magic the Gathering. Liam prefers Pokemon. Once upon a time, Aiden played Yu Gi Oh and as recently as a couple of months ago, he organized the cards again. So, while I don’t consider them completely lost causes, it has been a struggle to get them interested.

Quinn, on the other hand, loves Magic. Christine calls him my little buddy and it’s not far from the truth. He and I have even played the board games Arena of the Planeswalkers on more than one occasion. Every now and then, he takes out his dinosaur deck that he created to tinker with it a bit. Part of the reason I stay in the game is to keep his interest until he’s old enough to play with some strategery.

#1 – The Game is Just Healthy Right Now

Many, including myself, have decried the power level of the game. However, having played MTGA repeatedly over the last year and a half, I can say that the power level of Standard and Historic are right about where they want them. You get to play with powerful cards, but you don’t often get blown out in games.

I joked earlier that I swear at the game and that’s not entirely untrue. I do still get frustrated by the perpetual issues of mana screw or flood. But, those games are honestly few and far between. Plus, the developers have gone a long way to trying to fix them with new ideas like higher conditional fetches and flip lands.

Or, whatever they’re calling these things.

Of course, oldbies will argue that the game is completely different from when they played. This always progresses to the game is not as much fun as when they played. I argue this is part of the health of a game that lasted over 25 years. You want to play old school? By all means, do it. Let us poorer nerds have our overpowered Standard so we can pretend we’re as cool as you.

The Verdict

Hopefully I’ve made my case for Magic the Gathering as our tabletop game of the year 2020. While there have been times that I thought I might stop collecting, I’ve always come back. I’m glad that I did. The game is fun. It has a vibrant and growing community. Next year, they are releasing a set based on Dungeons and Dragons. What more could I ask for?