I told the story several times already. This year Christine asked the boys to put together Christmas lists. She requested several items needed and several items wanted. I never ask for anything for Christmas. While I love the spirit of Christmas, I find the actual holiday abhorrent. A day dedicated just to buying stuff? Gross. For some reason, though, I gave in this year and put together a list. On the list, I included Dungeons and Dragons books. I meant Shadow of the Dragon Queen.
Instead, Christine bought me Dragons of Deceit. Initially disappointed, I quickly recovered. Weis and Hickman, as you know, wrote the book. I love Weis and Hickman. Also, I got the idea to record the book club podcast and actually kept a schedule, more or less. Episode 3 comes out tomorrow or Saturday (pending a snow day) with Chapter 4 and 5.
From Disappointment…Hope, Then Disappointment
Because Santa dropped off the “wrong” present for me that actually ended up working out okay, I ordered the source book myself. I kept trying to talk myself out of the deluxe edition with the board game and ultimately failed. What can I say? I’m a sucker for those gimmick board games based on the other successful franchises I enjoy.
I can’t comment on the quality of the game. I haven’t had a chance to even look at it other than the box. It looks interesting and I always like to play those cooperative board games. We played Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time often and everyone joins in. I need to read the rules so that we have a chance to play over February break. Come back in March for my review.
The source book itself underwhelms. I expected a more robust campaign setting updated to 5th edition. Instead, they give us some rules on the special ancestries and subclasses of Krynn for the first few chapters. Then, the rest of the book is simply an adventure. Funny how things change. I remember wishing as a teenager that they released more adventure modules for the characters I built in Dragonlance.
Ultimately, like the novel, I like Shadow of the Dragon Queen in spite of potential warts. The adventure promises to bring some joy to a playgroup either at home or in school. At least Quinn and I will play through the board game once. Christine suggested that I try it with Quinn and his friend Tristan. Okay, plan on meeting here in about a month and a half for that recap.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This 2020 tabletop look back is going to be a bit one sided. As you will see, we branched out a bit from our traditional tabletop game of Magic the Gathering. However, in spite of our best efforts, my wife and I have not been able to get a board game night going for longer than a couple of weeks. The kids just have interests that are too varied right now.
Even so, we have been able to try some new games that became (temporarily and they might return) favorites for a time. Quinn, Aiden, and I went on an end of the summer camping trip and that led to us exploring two different games. I just have to be better about initiating. Then again, as I mentioned that doesn’t always work with our attempts at getting a board game night going. Okay, enough of the “woe is me” parenting. Let’s take a tabletop look back at 2020.
I will structure this article different from the mobile look back. The reason for this is two fold. One, there are only 3 games to discuss, so splitting them into categories doesn’t make sense. Also, I want to spend more time talking about each game.
Dungeons and Dragons
We tried to play Dungeons and Dragons as a family last year. It met with mixed results. Christine and Quinn said they had fun. Liam played along, but he could take it or leave it was my impression. Aiden, who I thought might enjoy the game the most, actually hated it. He complained that the game takes too long.
So, 3.5 out of 5 ain’t bad, right? Well, yes and no. I’m obviously glad that most of the family enjoyed the game. I grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons and have many great memories with my friends and even my brothers a few times. Being able to pass that on to my family is one of my dreams as a gaming dad. And, so, as we often do, I find myself obsessing over why Aiden didn’t enjoy himself. I downloaded some pictures and mood music on my laptop.
I even went so far as to develop my own adventure for the game. I wrote some dialogue, built the skeleton of a harbor city, and inhabited a village and abandoned mine with NPCs and monsters. Unfortunately, I’ve used none of it. We haven’t played a game since. Oh well, Christmas break is coming. Now that I wrote that, I’m furiously searching for the adventure that I wrote in order to have it for break.
Regular readers of the page probably remember when we played Dicemasters. I posted an article about the team that I built. I actually promised more Dicemasters content in that article. I have not delivered on that promise. We played once or twice after that. I even built a second team.
Then, and this is a familiar refrain around here, school started. We all got busy with school work, so many of our games fell to the side. I thought this one might persist because the games go quickly. Alas, it was not meant to be. Well, another game added to the revisit over Christmas break list.
Because I genuinely enjoy playing the game. Given the opportunity, I’d play once a week. I put it almost on par with Magic the Gathering and I play multiple games of MTGA every day. Both Quinn and Aiden played Dicemasters. Heck, Liam even put together a team in August. I’d much rather play a game with my children then against randos online.
Unlike the other games, I can’t remember how we ended up playing chess. I remember that I purchased a board for school because some of my students last year wanted to play during office hours. Unlike one of the other math teachers at the school, I’m no expert. I played some as a kid and a bit here and there as an adult.
I do enjoy the game, though. Therefore, when one of them expressed interest, I took advantage. Along with the Dicemasters, I brought the chess board with us camping. We played several games. I taught them some strategy about the game. Mainly, I showed them that you should be thinking several moves ahead and considering how your moves will impact future turns.
As with the others on the list, talking about chess has me wondering where I put the board. I will have to dig it out and play some games with the boys. Of the three, this is the most likely to hold their attention, followed by Dicemasters, and finally (unfortunately) Dungeons and Dragons. But, hey, a guy can dream.
I thought about doing an honorable mentions for our tabletop look back 2020, but I’ll just toss some names in here. We also played Ticket to Ride and the Europe(?) expansion that we just got for Christmas last year. Liam has this “flag game” that requires knowledge of geography. Quinn and I played Minecraft: Builders and Biomes a couple of times. Overall, it was a decent year of playing tabletop games. And, now, because it took me so long to write this article, I have negative one days to get the tabletop game of the year done. Well, join us tomorrow, hopefully, for that one.
A couple of months ago, I wrote about my brief subscription to Board Game Bento. They had some a discount code for the holidays and I always wanted to try the service. Unable to pass up a deal that gave me a chance to do just that, I signed up. I already wrote an article about the first month’s box. 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. I’m still not sure if I will and the subscription is currently on hiatus until I determine if it will be worth it. 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. 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. 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. You may have deduced, therefore, that this article is about the game that we played from that second box. Brilliant deduction, Sherlock!
The theme of the second box was time. There were two card games that looked interesting. One can even be played solitaire. However, we haven’t tried either of the card games yet. 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 game is a cooperative game, which is great for our family. None of us are really that competitive except for Aiden. 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. While it may not be effective for everyone, it has fostered a safe environment in which to play games. I’ve also been able to appeal to Chris’s charitable side and get him to adopt more friendly rules during our Magic games. 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. It was a pretty good game, but I think that this game captures the spirit of games better than that one ever did. You work together as a team in an attempt to recover stolen artifacts from the mansion of Professor Evil. There are several obstacles in your way; traps, time and the professor himself.
This seems like a common theme for board games that we’ve played recently and here we go again. 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. This game suffers from a similar issue. Christine took about 15-20 minutes to simply set up the game. 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. We all picked up on the turn order very quickly, used strategy and teamwork when necessary to win the game. It looked a bit grim and that we might lose. 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!
I said earlier that I was slightly leaning “no” with regards to signing up for a longer subscription for Board Game Bento. I haven’t changed my mind completely yet, but there currently is a bit of an ugly internal battle going on inside of me. Logically, I know that I probably shouldn’t. Inside my gamer’s heart, though, I’m pretty positive that I’m going to make the illogical decision.
I mean, really, we’ve gotten two boxes and have gotten at least two playable games from them. That’s all I’m looking for right now. 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. So, perhaps it isn’t such utter nonsense after all.
This was a fun game. Initially, we sold it to the boys and ourselves as a game similar to Clue. Since they all enjoy playing that game so much, it wasn’t hard to convince them to give this one a try. It wasn’t as much like Clue as we thought, but it was still a fun game. I especially liked both the cooperative nature of the game and that the game had a win condition. That was missing from the last cooperative game that we played. 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. 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. I’m not even leaning in any significant way towards “No”. For the reasons discussed above, I might just give it another few months to disappoint me. Then again, Aiden is a fan of the Tinker Crates, those are much cheaper, and we can work together on those, too. Plus, I just bought a whole bunch of ebooks about designing video games, building robotic Lego structures, and making drones. I have a feeling we’ll be quite busy for the foreseeable future.
In December, I saw that Board Game Bento was having a sale. In case you don’t know, Board Game Bento is one of those subscriptions services that sends tabletop games every month. I’ve tried a few of the services. 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. 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. They have one for comics and another for anime. I have considered the comics one just because I like comics, but I’ve had to stop buying them again. A box of comics/TPB would be welcome. I never bit on it, though.
We play a lot of games as a family. You may remember my article about Ticket to Ride. The boys also like Clue, Stratego, Othello, and Scrabble. I want to teach them Backgammon and chess. 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. 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. The second box just came (even though I didn’t necessarily want it, so more on that later) and it also had three games. Two of them were board games and the third was a card game. The first game that we played was a board game called Flag Dash. The other game we played was the card game, which was called Water Balloon Washout. The third game, that we didn’t not play yet is called Cottage Garden. I suppose the theme of the box must have been spring or something.
(Note: I am going to go out of order for this particular article and do “The Bad” first. Always lead with the bad. Aside from that, “The Good” references “The Bad”, so it just makes sense.)
As I mentioned, we played Flag Dash first. Quinn wanted to play both that and the Water Balloon game, we had time on Sunday evening, and everyone else was busy. So, I grabbed the game and asked him to play. We sat down, I pulled out the instructions, and started to read. And I read, and I cross referenced, and I read some more. Quinn was getting antsy, so I started to set up the board to get him interested. That required me to read even more.
This is a bad sign. Sure the game recommended 8+ as the age range. 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. They simply don’t care about your stupid rules set and interactions. They just want to put their pawns on the board and roll the dice.
That’s the other thing. There aren’t dice in this game. It’s movement cards coupled with something known as a priority card. Basically, you establish turn order according to the priority cards and then move based on the move card. Call me old fashioned, but that is simply overly complicated. Quinn just kept wanting to move, but I had to keep reminding him that we had to establish turn order first. 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. There’s one present in D&D and we spent 4 hours playing that the other day. 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. 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. In other regards, there are just too many damn rules. I have no idea if we even played the game correctly because I just started ignoring the stupid rules and playing more simply. The game moved more smoothly and we finished quickly. 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. As a result, we had to both act for two players and that might have bogged the game down. I don’t know. 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.
We played the Water Balloon Washout game second. Okay, now this is more like it. I wish that we would have played it first. It was, by far, the better of the two games. I’ve often read that the best games are ones that don’t have a large rules book. While there might be exceptions, that was certainly the case with these games. 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. We were up and playing in no time at all.
Quinn enjoyed this game far more than the other one. He didn’t get a chance to get bored during set up because set up took no time at all. He was able to grasp all of the rules immediately because there weren’t that many. He was able to put together a strategy that allowed him to compete in the game and eventually beat me. It was just a much more well designed game for kids.
This game was also suggested for 8+ and 2-4 players. It scaled much better to only 2. Also, I can’t see why it would be 8+ other than the reading required. Apparently our 6 year old reads at an 8 year old level. I knew that, but I just wanted to write it to brag that my kid is a super genius.
You’d think that with three games and three sections that the last game would go here. It would line up neat and tidy, but we didn’t get a chance to play the last game. It is a board game, though, so hopefully it doesn’t have the rules book similar to Flag Dash. 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. 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. I only signed up for a month and I thought that I had canceled. Then, the charge appeared in my account again.
What the hell? I wondered. In case you are wondering, no, they aren’t the type of company to charge you without your consent. 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. 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.
One good, one bad, one unplayed. One additional box with three more games to try. Overall, I’m happy with the service, even if it is a bit on the expensive side when it comes to these subscription boxes. It is 50 dollars plus 12 dollars shipping and handling. But, you are getting 3 games. 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. 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. That’s a service that can’t be given a price. 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. 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.
Chris texted me a few weeks ago saying that he had been playing some chess. I chuckled and responded that I had downloaded an app for the New York Times crossword puzzle. More recently, I teted to him, “Speaking of old man games, I found my APBA Baseball game in a closet and started playing it.” He probably had no idea what I meant because he didn’t even reply. It made no difference. I was, and remain, excited by my discovery.
So, what’s the big deal? Well, my interest in sports replay/simulation started in high school. It would appear that the new year has me reminiscing. A trip to my old high school hangout in the Quarters, a year in review post, and now reliving my tie as a hockey league founder.
Inspired by my lack of a social life, I created a competitor hockey league to the NHL. I envisioned it like the USFL (another of my past and maybe future sports sim projects), but more ambitious. I went way back to the origin of the NHL and started my league there. In addition to games, I created rosters, rivals, and even dynasties.
With all of that in mind, you have probably deduced that the APBA baseball sim is right in my wheelhouse. You have deduced correctly. There is so much that I love about this game. Some of you might wonder why I prefer dice to computer simulations. While the computer games allow you to simulate many more games at once, there’s just something about rolling dice that brings me back to my wild and crazy high school days. Admittedly, I did simulate a season of the USFL on the computer, but the pace of baseball, as the saying goes, is much more deliberate and it fits in with the slow roll (so to speak) of the board game.
Plus, the game is very easy for as complex as it can be. I haven’t played it in probably 10 years, but I was able to pick it back up and play through a best of 5-game series in a few hours spread out over two days. While not at the level of simulating entire seasons in a couple of hours, it’s still a quick game and I could probably do an entire team’s season in a couple of weeks.
Aside from those, the game combines the two things that I enjoy about sports. I’ve played sports in middle and high school. I coached Aiden’s soccer team this past fall and might do it again in the spring. But, my interest in sports starts with watching games with my father and it is a legacy that I, sadly, haven’t yet been able to pass on to my children. Both Quinn and Aiden have sat with me during this most recent bowl season, but their heart isn’t really in it.
I watch sports to have fun and unwind. I simulate sports to satiate my need for statistics. I’m so happy to have grown up in the era of advanced metrics, better statistics (both in the predictive and measuring sense of the word), and GPS on players. As a math guy, the more the merrier when it comes to numbers. APBA lets me get as deep as I want into the statistics. I didn’t think to do it this time, but my next simulation I’m going to keep score like it was a real baseball game. That score sheet tells the whole story of the game and keeping score when I was a kid was when I first started to fall in love with the game.
But, it’s not all about numbers. Even though I’m not much of a history person, I can appreciate the history of sports. I can’t tell you why I hate the Browns, their players, and their fans. Well, that’s not entirely true anymore. The Browns have been so terrible for so long that I don’t feel anything but pity for them lately.
APBA Baseball allows me to either rewrite or relive that history. I can explore “what if” scenarios. The one that haunts me to this day is “Slow” Sid Bream crossing home plate in the NLCS to beat my juggernaut Pirates. If only I could replay that game and the subsequent series. Oh, wait! I can! I haven’t yet, but it’s time to research the 1992 season card set and get to changing that result.
I could witness history. Maybe that game was just meant to be and no matter how many times I replay it, the Braves will always win. I would also love to be able to watch those same Pirates. Well, not really the same, but you get the point. Maybe I could watch them win either of the 70s World Series or the one against the Yankees with Bill Mazeroski getting the game winning home run.
Or, I could just mash a whole bunch of players together in an attempt to create an all-time all star team. I sort of did that with the games that I played to acclimate myself with the rules again. I didn’t create either team, but I found all star teams for both the MLB and NeL from 1933. I got the idea to play them against each other in a series because I’ve always heard about how great the Negro League players were and what a tragedy it is that none of the players ever got to play against major league competition. Not that I ever doubted it, but I wanted to see for myself. I will include a link to that recap at the end of this article.
Initially, when Christine saw me looking at the game, she mentioned that Aiden might be able to play it with me. I said, “No, it’s just a one player game.” It technically might be and everything that I’ve seen about the game would suggest that many people only play one player. And, that goes to show how much I know. I just looked up the game on the web page and they are designed for 2 players. It’s just that most of us must be loners and play solitaire. So, I missed out on an opportunity to play a new game with Aiden. That one is easily remedied.
The only other negative is my fault, too. There’s a master set to the game that allows you to do things like account for wind and park effects. I used to have the master set, but I must have misplaced it. All I could find was the wind effects chart and that made almost no sense to me. If I’m going to keep playing the game, that’s definitely something that I want. It stinks that I will have to pay for it again.
Speaking of paying for things, this is where I discuss the worst part of the game. Usually, this is price and it’s no different this time. The game itself isn’t too expensive. You pay 50 dollars and get everything you need to play the game, plus you get the previous year’s two World Series teams to get used to the card layout. Even the Master rules are only 25 extra dollars.
After that, though, is when the cost starts to add up and become slightly prohibitive. Each replay season costs anywhere from 40-75 dollars depending on the number of player cards. Granted, you get all players for all teams plus any updates that might happen later, but that’s a crazy cost for some cards. I haven’t found any place that pirates them and I doubt that I would even take advantage if they did. It’s not that I’m above that sort of thing, as we’ve seen. I ‘m just impressed that they are still this little company plugging away at something they love and haven’t had to sell out like many of the other games from my childhood.
This game is so much fun. I had a blast simulating that series that I talked about earlier. I think that it could even be more fun playing against someone else and I plan to test that with one of the boys this week. Tomorrow might be good as everyone has a snow day. I don’t know how much historical replay I will be doing as the 75 dollar price tag is a bit too rich for me right now. However, I will probably get the 1992 season to replay that dang NLCS and I’ll keep on looking for free cards to keep me occupied in the meantime.
Click here for the 1933 MLB/NeL All-Star Series recap.
Several years ago, Lego ran three or four Kids Fest events across the country. We visited the local one in Connecticut three years in a row. Then, they moved that one to Ohio for a year. It must not have done well there because they brought it back. We missed that revival, but no big deal. We figured that we could just catch it the next year.
Surely, by now, you must know us well enough that when a paragraph ends like that the next one is most likely going to begin with the tragic story of how we did not get to go the next year. And, so it was. After that event, Lego killed the Kids Fest. We have our suspicions that they stopped sponsoring the event because they put one of their Discovery Centers in Boston.
I can’t confirm that it’s true that the Discovery Center is the reason for no more Kids Fest. However, Aide, Quinn, and I ended up visiting the Discovery Center one day during the spring and it doesn’t compare at all to the Kids Fest. Don’t get me wrong. They had a blast and there was plenty of Lego fun to be had. However, we often spent the entire day at Kids Fest. We covered the Discovery Center in less than three hours. We could have stretched it, but not by much. Second, we went to several times to the Kids Fest. I don’t foresee us ever going back to the Discovery Center. Of course, we might. I just don’t see a reason. Perhaps over the winter when we are all in full “Shining” mode.
The reason that I even mention all of this is that Kids Fest introduced us to a wide variety of new products and may have gotten the boys started on their interest in the toy. Yay, Capitalism! We learned about Ninjago during that first Kids Fest. Aiden and Quinn both still love the show and sets to this day. We went to the movie in the theater on opening weekend for family movie night. However, more relevant to this article is that is also when we discovered Heroica.
Lego sold the game as a family event with the strategy of a board game and the creativity of Lego. You probably think that this is where I counter argue against the claim. First, you will probably never hear me disparage Lego. Second, this is the “good” section and those are both very goo things about the game.
At the heart of Heroica is a board game. You roll dice and move pawns. Aside from that, there are RPG elements to the game. You collect weapons and armor. Enemies guard treasure chests full of gold and potions. Ultimately, the winner is the one who defeats the “boss” of the level.
While those added elements alone give Heroica a leg up on traditional board games, I haven’t even touched on the Lego aspect of the game. We have three or four of the sets. They come with instructions to build them and all of the pieces just like all Lego sets. Also, like Lego sets, you can choose to build them differently or set them up in a different order. Quinn, most recently, took the opportunity to show off his creativity by building his own levels for his own game. Usually, though, we set the game up as indicated by the instructions. Still, it is nice to know that the option exists.
It appears as if we were only of only a few families that thought the game looked intriguing enough to buy because it was discontinued shortly after release. I remember looking for new sets and finding that there were new sets and the old sets were only available on eBay. If there’s one thing I know about Lego, it is that they will not pass up an opportunity to make money. So, unless there is a secret underground of Lego builders that has been developing new Heroica levels, the game is most likely dead. Come to think of it, after I finish this article, I might take a look to see if that exists.
It’s a shame that the game got killed so early. Because, it really is a fun game. We haven’t played it for a few years, but after buying it, we were playing one every other week. I already mentioned in the previous paragraph that we liked it so much that we wanted more only to make that terrible discovery that it had been killed.(Note: I couldn’t even make it to the end of the article. Homebrew Heroica may exist!)
That development makes the sting less severe. Knowing that there might still be life in the old game inspires me to dig out the other levels and see what pieces are still intact. As I mentioned, Quinn was playing with them a few weeks ago, so who knows the condition of any of the games. But, you may hear/see Heroica being played in the 2GG household soon enough. From every bad, there is a good.
I mentioned that before we play, I will have to make sure that all of the pieces are there. I have ordered replacements before and they were less than what people are charging on eBay for the sets, so it isn’t that big of a deal. That brings me to a thought. Perhaps people didn’t buy the games because they realized that they could build each set with Legos that they had lying around the house and didn’t need to spend the extra cash on the game itself.
That may be why the game fell out of favor with us. We were going to Lego Kids Fest when the big boys were much younger and they didn’t exactly treat the games with the utmost of respect. Being around Quinn’s age, they lost pieces and as parents, we lost our patience more than once at opening the box and not having the proper pieces for the game. It’s the ages old story told in the Lego movie where parents easily lose sight of the forest for the trees when it comes to everybody’s favorite building toy. Still, the game isn’t as much fun when there aren’t enough potions to collect or ogres to defeat. It’s just built into the enjoyment of the game, in my opinion.
Having lost all of those pieces in such a short time, replaced them, and then lost them again was frustrating. We put the games up in the game closet, forgot about them, and I honestly haven’t thought about it until this weekend when I was digging through the closet looking for games to bring to our weekend away and saw them in there. At first, I though, “I should bring Heroica.” Then, I remembered the possible missing pieces and left them behind.
Heroica was a fun game. We got many hours of playtime from the game even as pieces went missing due to kids having too much fun! It has been a few years since we’ve played as a family. However, I got inspired to play it again when I saw it in the closet. That led me to write the article, discover that there are possible homebrew sets for the game, and this all means that what I said earlier was true. Keep an eye and an ear out for more Heroica coming soon!
(Editor’s Note: That title works on two levels. First, it is accurate. Second, it is a cheesy Beatles reference. Aren’t we so clever?!)
I don’t remember either how we ended up on the subject of the game “Ticket to Ride” nor how we got someone to buy it for us. Wait, that last part sort of makes it sound like a con, which it isn’t. I mean, I know that her mother bought it for us for Christmas, but that’s not the point. It’s just that we had never discussed the game, it came up in conversation once, and then her mother agreed to buy it for us for Christmas. The whole sequence of events happened so rapidly that it felt sort of surreal. It was like an episode of the X-Files except the big reveal at the end is that a chain smoking conspiracy theorist purchased a popular board game for our family.
I do remember that I read about the game through my various online gaming groups. As with anything on the internet, some enjoyed it and some hated it. However, many more enjoyed it than not. In addition, those that enjoyed it almost universally loved it. It seemed like a good game and one that we could play as a family. It must have gotten stored somewhere and not accessed for some reason or another. Then, we got to talking about Christmas, the Cigarette Smoking Man intervened, and we own a copy of “Ticket to Ride”.
Unlike some of the other games we own, we specifically put aside a family game night to play this one. During that first play through, we experienced some of the growing pains mentioned by people who didn’t like the game. However, instead of letting it affect our enjoyment of the game, we adapted the rules slightly to learn some of the nuance of the game. For instance, we played with all cards face up, helped one another make decisions on each turn, and probably messed up the final scoring a bit.
However, the game was fun. In our house, ultimately, that’s all that matters. Sure we have our competitive sides, but we try to temper them during family game night. The last thing we need is another ER visit, especially one due to a fist fight over Connect 4. So, sometimes we play by house rules to add to the fun and enjoyment of the game. Thankfully, understands this and he is also willing to put some of his competitive streak to the side when we play Magic. Otherwise, he’d wipe the floor with me using his more finely tuned Modern decks that he put together to hang during Modern nights with his other play group.
While it isn’t quite so dramatic as Brokeback Mountain, can you tell I miss the other guy gaming? I think I’ve mentioned him at least once in each article that I’ve written since this attempted reboot. We tried to get together a couple of weeks ago for some AER draft and Modern action (I’ve built 2 semi-viable decks), but life got in the way. Life seems to get in the way of far too much. I think I think life needs a solid punch in the face. Maybe I need to stop making excuses and just put “game time” into the schedule. Ugh, I just miss my gaming buddies. But, I digress.
Perhaps “But, I Digress” should be the name of a podcast. File it away if I ever get so popular that this is my job. So, look for that in my next life. “But, I Digress”, streaming–or whatever they call that technology–into your brain in whatever year I’m old enough after having been reincarnated. I smell a hit.
For now, I need to focus on “Ticket to Ride”. In case you don’t know, the game involves up to four players who attempt to build a railroad between cities on a map of America. I know! Sounds thrilling, right? You’d be surprised. The version that we have is America. The game is so popular that it has spawned several expansions (sequels? I’m not sure what to call them.) that take place all over the world. Crazy, right?
Believe me, I thought the same things as I did research after hearing how popular it was. You build trains cross country? Really? That’s the game? Well, okay, if you insist. I fail to see how that will sustain a family for one game night. Forget the multiple plays necessary to justify the price tag. As you read this, also consider that our family are some of the biggest train fans that you will meet. I mean, we’re not on par with Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory, but we do attend an annual train hobby show and have taken a couple of trips by train. The second trip was much better than the first.
So, when I tell you that was my initial reaction to the game, you can believe me when I say that I understand your skepticism. The concept is very simple, almost to the point that you wonder if there is enough to sustain a game. Well, put that thought to rest. This game might be simple, but it is fun.
Well, you might argue in an attempt to play devil’s advocate, some of the best and most fun games are simple. Isn’t Hearthstone’s motto, “Deceptively simple, insanely fun”? Well, first, that’s a terrible example, because we barely tolerate Hearthstone around here. I certainly don’t find it insanely fun. Second, that motto seems to follow the rather dubious Blizzard tradition of stealing ideas and changing them only ever so slightly to avoid litigation. Seriously, that sounds very much like the slogan on the Othello box. Not exactly, but close enough that’s immediately what I thought when I first heard it.
Nevertheless, your point stands. Games that you can play right out of the box with little to no reference to the rules are some of the most fun. While our initial play through of Ticket to ride led to more than one glance at the rulebook for clarification, it didn’t interrupt the flow of the game much and we were back in business quickly.
The fun in the game comes in the form of strategy. Do you build your own routes? do you attempt to block your opponents? Do you split the difference? Furthermore, how do you execute your strategy once you settle on one? It all makes for an intense game experience and one that we recommend.
One final thought. Maybe the price tag is too intimidating for you to invest in just for “a try”. I can appreciate that. It is quite the investment, especially if you don’t like the game. You are not guaranteed to get any return on your investment if you have to resell it. Luckily, an app has been developed that lets you play the game solo or in a group using play and pass. I bought the app because I like the game and so that I could play and practice, but you could buy it to see if the game is something you’d enjoy. At only 2 bucks, it’s a lot less money than the actual game.
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