Why I play Board Games!

Tuesday was my third gaming session in four days. Each of these gaming sessions had it’s own personality. This personality is based on the location, the games, and most of all it is based on the people involved. People are what make board games fun.

This post is about a few of the people whom I game with.

Saturday was a regular get together at Game Empire with my wargamer mates; the SoCal Wargamers. We played a bunch of games, both old and new. After some games new to us: South China Sea, and Chile 73, it was not surprising that we next played a game that felt like a old comfy pair of slippers. Like a lot of gaming groups we do like to play new games, yet we also have our old standards that we can quickly jump into. One of these standards is Napoleonic Wars by GMT Games. This game is fondly known as Nappy Wars. It is a 2-5 player strategic card-driven game on the Napoleonic Wars from 1804 to 1815.

 

One of our regular Nappy Wars players is Greg Ticer. Among other things, Greg has given us a better understanding of how to play Nappy Wars. A game that I have played at least 30-40 times. This is because Greg has designed a game of his own, called The Seven Years War: Frederick’s Gamble, that is loosely based on Nappy Wars. In the process of adapting the Nappy Wars system it meant that Greg had to gain a full understanding of the rules. In the process Greg had found that we have been playing the game slightly wrong for.. well, for always. Oops. Thanks for pointing that out Greg!

Myself, Greg, Karl, Luis, and James
Myself, Greg, Karl, Luis, and James. Game Empire, Pasadena. 17th March 2018

Sadly, Greg will soon be moving to Texas. That Saturday was probably our last gaming session with Greg for a while. We have shared many fun times with Greg. He is always a serious gamer, yet he has a jovial side. Here are some pics that show his jovial nature. He had ordered the large burrito at a local Mexican cantina while we were at SDHIST Con 2016 in San Diego. The burrito was somewhat larger than anyone expected. It was so big that it overlapped the plate on both sides. Greg’s face is an absolute picture as he contemplated the behemoth that he was about to consume. He barely made a dent in the monster, and could not give the rest away. That was a lot of burrito for 10 bucks.

So we give our best wishes to Greg on his new adventures. May the dice roll high or low as appropriate. We hope to game with you again soon.

{shill} Check out Greg’s game, entitled The Seven Years War: Frederick’s Gamble. The game is on P500 preorder by publisher GMT Games. I wish Greg had stuck with the original title that I suggested aka “Greg’s Awesome Sauce 7 Years War Game“. That’s a snappy title, don’t you think? {end shill}


Monday night was at McGregors, in Moorpark. This weekly event has been going from strength to strength since it was first started just over 6 months ago. The core of the attendees on these Monday nights are old time VCSB regulars that I have known for years. It may take some time to get the word out to the locals so you have to persevere. The expectation, when launching a new event in a new area, is that we get some new locals to sign up.  A new event takes some time to get enough momentum to be self sustaining. It is a definite help when some of these new local people become regular attendees. It was good to meet Paul. Paul is a Moorpark local who quickly became a regular attendee.  Recently it has become clear that Paul has a game-crush. He has become smitten with a game about Vikings, namely Raiders Of The North Sea.

Raiders Of The North Sea box
Raiders Of The North Sea box

Don’t get me wrong. Paul is not the first gamer who has been smitten by a game. I have seen many a gamer fixated on a game. Some would jokingly point out my fixation with Battlestar Galactica. There will be more on BSG later.

What is great about this fixation is there is a genuine passion for a well crafted game. A game that both intrigues and entertains the player. A key element in spreading the joy of modern board games is to have genuine enthusiasm for the games. Genuine enthusiasm shows through and draws in the other players. It is great to see that enthusiasm in Paul. Well done that man.


A recent newcomer to the VCSB group, and to modern board games as well, is Brook. As the group organizer I act as gate keeper for the newcomers. I do my utmost to ensure that newcomers feel welcome. I also ensure the newcomers get into appropriate games, and by appropriate I mean that I try to gauge the persons game knowledge, interests, and their abilities to ensure they don’t get placed in a game that is a poor choice for them. Letting the person know the expected duration of a game, or how complicated it is, is only fair in case that does not suit them. On the odd occasion I have strongly suggested that a player should not play a specific game, as the game would not suit them. Over a few events you can begin to determine the newcomers likes, dislikes, and limitations. Now Brook has lapped up every game that has been thrown at him. From simple party games through to complicated strategy games he has taken them all in his stride.

I recently revisited the first edition of the game London. This game took a few plays before I got the game.  Others experienced gamers have struggled to play the game well in the first attempt. Brook, on the other hand, demolished us in his first play. On Monday night Brook expressed an interest in learning to play Battlestar Galactica.

London
London (1st Edition) box cover

For the last few weeks we have held the Tuesday Night VCSB Meetup at Ted’s house in Newbury Park. We are limited to a maximum of 24 while at Ted’s place. There is just not enough space to cram in more people without being overcrowded. We have even had to turn people away; which is something that I hate to do. Having a smaller attendance means it is harder to get the 5 players that is optimal for a game of BSG (Battlestar Galactica). Luckily there was fresh meat Brook who wanted to learn the game. Mwwhhhaaa. We had a fresh victim for the airlock. So Say We All.

BSG is not an easy game to explain, nor is it an quick and easy game to learn. Experienced players tend to have low expectations of new players. You can see where this is going. Early in the game there was a Skill Check that was obviously sabotaged by a unrevealed cylon. More importantly, it was not sabotaged by me, and I was the other unrevealed cylon. Although I had played a card into the Skill Check I could prove it was not sabotaged by me. Human Eric helpfully backed up my story. It was now that the game took an interesting course. Experienced players Chris, and Dodgy John, immediately started to blame each other. Each were convinced the other was the cylon who had sabotaged the Skill Check. I was not sure which one of them was on my side, I was quite convinced it was one of those two. Our deliberations were so passionate that we were told to keep the noise down. The game effectively stopped for 10 minutes while people argued back and forth. Then fate intervened and I got thrown in the brig under the premise that I could have determined who the cylon was, and I did not do so. Later in the game it was clear that both John and Chris were human, along with the innocent Eric. For a while the table was convinced that I was the lone cylon. In fact, I was not alone. It was Brook who had sabotaged the Skill Check. No one had suspected him. Not even me. Inexperienced players are never so sneaky, so quickly.  How he kept a straight face through all of this, I do not know. Well done Brook.

 

My last game of the night was The Mind. A game that is not yet released in the USA. Here two people, both I have known for ten or more years, come into play. First, Jennifer posted that she thought The Mind was the stupidest game ever. This brash statement meant that Jonathon had to check the game out for himself. As the game is not yet available he had to concoct a version using the cards from another game.

The Mind is a co-operative game. A co-operative game where you cannot communicate with your fellow players. A game where the players do not take turns playing the cards.

It is a stupid game.

It is a fun and stupid game.

It is a fun and stupid game, where we had four grown men grunting, wincing, and laughing at each other. We played The Mind twice. We lost twice. That did not matter as we had fun. Thanks to Jonathon for introducing me to a stupid game.

Games are fun. Games are more fun with people. Games are more fun because of people. Enjoy the games, enjoy the clever mechanics, enjoy the story the game creates, enjoy the game art, and enjoy the time spent with people.

Tim

22nd March 2018

Board Games And Beer on 25th June 2017 – After Action Report

Last Sunday, the Ventura County Strategy Boardgamers held an event at McGregors Craft Beer & Wine, in Moorpark, CA from 2pm until closing time. Although this is not the first time we have held an event at a commercial location. This is the first time we had held an event at an establishment that primarily serves alcohol. In addition, this was the first time we had held an event in Moorpark. I was interested if this was a draw or if it would put people off.

 

McGregors was chosen as it has all the attributes of a good public gaming location. It is clean, and bright; there are plenty of large normal-height tables. It serves beer, wine, and bar friendly snack foods. Having plenty of parking is a big plus.

As it was a public event I am expecting, and hoping, that some of the bars patrons would join in with the games. In reality, we had a few interested patrons looking at the games, and asking a few questions.

 

As an introductory game we played several rounds of Concept, both as a warm up game, and as a closer to wind down. I even got in a game of Battlestar Galactica.

concept pic1907628
Image from BGG

We will have plenty of games at hand as we were not sure what types of gamers we would have attending. It is always best to be prepared with a mixture of games, both in game length, and in complexity. With 8 people gathered around a big table we broke out Ca$h n Guns as a ice breaker. Soon people settled into a mixture of longer, and more involved games.

In total we had 17 people actually play the games, two were newcomers to the group. The event was a success, and everyone had good things to say about the location. I had expected more newcomers, but I am happy with the way the event went overall.

I was introduced to a young lad called Calvin, from the nearby Game Development Meetup group. They hold monthly events to create, collaborate and develop games.

Let me know if you have an ideas, or suggestions, for the next McGregors event. I am thinking it could be a monthly event. Is Sunday the best day for such an event ?

30th June 2017

Links:

Ventura County Strategy Boardgamers event page on Meetup.

Event page on Facebook.

McGregors website and Facebook page.

144 Los Angeles Ave, Moorpark, CA 93021

Tel 805-553-9818

A Staggered Start, and Dice Still Hate Me

It is frustrating when people show up late, and people are already firmly set into long games. It’s frustrating for me as a group organizer, and I know it’s annoying for those who rushed to get there, and then find it is hurry up and wait. Wait until a game finishes, or hope someone else turns up late too. Even worse than that is when people stop showing up if they think that arriving late will not allow them to get into a game.

The staggered/delayed start was implemented for the first time on Tuesday night. To understand the problem, see a previous blog post. Basically, some people were having a problem getting to the meetup for an earlier start time of 6:00pm. With 28 in attendance this Tuesday, compared to 21 last week, I regard that as a promising increase in numbers. At least 4 people said they could benefit by having the option to start a little later. The key to making it work is communication, it’s people letting the rest of us know that they will be arriving later than the 6:00pm normal start time.

Games played of Tuesday included: Loco, World Monuments, Ticket To Ride, Circus Flohcati, Eclipse, Terra Mystica, Terraforming Mars, Archer Love Letter, Speicherstadt, Legendary Encounters (Alien) x2, Crimson Creek, Hawaii, Boss Monster, Steam, Castles of Burgundy, Clank!, and Battlestar Galactica x2.

The expected side effect of delaying our start of Battlestar Galactica was that we had a full quorum. We had an option to play 5 or 6 player. We went with the 5 experienced players.  BSG is a tough, and time consuming, game to teach. So we were happy to crack on, and simply start playing with the experienced players. BSG is one of the go-to games on a Tuesday night, a familiar friend that allows people to simply play the game without fuss, or delay.

Both myself and Dodgy John, were cylons in both games. We won both games too. In the first game it was obvious that Morale was the Resource to target. That allows you to focus on lowering that Resource. In the second game, however, there were multiple paths to victory. There were multiple Centurions on the boarding track, Galactica was suffering from damage, the Resources were getting hit, and there were plenty of cylon Raiders milling around Galactica itself. This is one of the reasons why BSG is such an engaging game. Whether you are a human, or a cylon, each player must decide what is the priority, both in the short term, and the log term. Ignore the wrong thing and it could be disaster for your side. Sometimes, discussing the threats, and openly co-operating is a good idea. In other times you do not want to reveal your options to the other side. This is especially so when you do not know the allegiance of the other players. Paranoia over who you can trust is a key part of the game.

With multiple threats to the humans, each of them had a possibility to bring victory to the cylons. What does a cylon do ? You have to weigh up the choices to see what strategy, or strategies, are most likely to work. This is where you have to use your experience of the game, coupled with the current game state, and analyze the characters around the table to make your choice. Then you do all you can to make it work for your side.

Five damaged location on Galactica
Five damaged locations on Galactica.

With lot’s of cylon Raiders around Galactica, 18 to be precise, we went for causing damage on Galactica: I rolled the d8 (the game uses only eight sided dice) the required 18 times. Each 8 rolled would cause Damage on Galactica. I rolled zero (0) 8’s on 18 dice. I laughed, the other players laughed. John, my fellow cylon, exclaimed about how useless I was. He then rolled the same number of dice, and got four 8’s. Human Mike, playing the Chief character negated two of the four 8’s by playing Calculations cards from his hand. Galactica was still alive, but only just.

The cylons still won the game, we advanced the Centurions and vented the atmosphere of Galactica. The humans needed air, they had none.

The cylons won!

Dice still hate me!

I am ok with that.


A new board game Meetup group has started in nearby Agoura Hills. It is called Conejo Valley Boardgames. They are meeting for the first time this coming Saturday at a cafe in Agoura Hills. The organizer, Patrick, has also signed up for next Tuesday night.