Vince: Hello, and welcome to yet another edition of Tabletop Tuesday! Before we get started, I think it’s worth mentioning that instead of writing one of these every week, we have decided to do them every other week, giving us a bit more time to pump out some reviews, as well as having enough time to get this done.
I trust that everybody had a fantastic Thanksgiving. Who can beat time with family eating turkey, pumpkin pie, and maybe (hopefully) playing a tabletop game or two?
What We’ve Been Playing
Vince: I did very little traveling for Thanksgiving this year, which is surprising considering I haven’t spent so little time with mine or my wife’s side of the family over a holiday in pretty much ever. However, that didn’t stop me from playing games with my sister and her husband who just recently moved to the area.
Chris: Nice! I love gaming with my siblings… Although, I really have to fight to get them to play anything.
Vince: We played a lot of Ticket To Ride and Takenoko over the holiday. Both are extremely fun, but I have to say that I prefer Takenoko over Ticket To Ride. We also played a quick round of one of my personal favorite tabletop games, Bang, in which I was the Sheriff and proceeded to wipe out the bad guys and win the game all on my own. I felt good about how the evening was going until I got stuck with two high value destination cards in Ticket To Ride. Still, not a bad way to spend Thanksgiving.
Derek: Dude, I’m so happy you played those, but also sad that you blasphemed. Ticket to Ride is way better than Takenoko! The latter is just fine, but I find the rules about distributing water to the hexes too fiddly. Ticket to Ride is a personal favorite—if you just played the base game, you might try the Mega Game using the 1910 expansion, or a different map. India/Switzerland is an excellent map pack for 2-3 players, while the recent UK/Pennsylvania has interesting advanced rules (Pennsylvania is my favorite map.)
Chris: Both have merits, although I will always choose Takenoko over Ticket. It’s like, do I want to play with a panda, or bore myself to death?
So, aside from a lot of Vinhos, Katie and I have started what we call the Lucky 30. We have hopes of some kind of personal brand down the road, so that’s the origins of the name. In terms of what it means for gaming: we are playing a game a day for the next 30 days… Well, that was the hope. We aren’t great at playing something everyday.
It’s daunting, but I’m stock full of review games lately, and somehow all of my review night buddies are having babies, late work nights, or having huge medical exams coming up, so Katie has really been stepping up to help me out. We should talk about marriage at some point down the road, because I see so much of Jesus in how she lives and loves me, and playing (and enjoying) games with me is only one small way she does it.
So, I’m really thankful for her, and I’m also getting to game a lot, which is huge with how far behind I am due to holidays and other things.
Derek: We had a “friendsgiving” on Black Friday, and it was wonderful. We had about ten people, and it was great to catch up with college and high school friends. We played two games of Captain Sonar, which was the highlight of the evening. You can read my original review here.
This is currently my game of the year, although I’ve got a few big titles still to play. My only change since the review is that I’m now experienced enough that I can control three roles, so I don’t mind four- or five-player games. They’re a still better experience than a lot of other games.
Chris: I really, really, really want to play this. Here’s hoping my BGG Secret Santa sees this, “HELLO, BGG SANTA PLS HELP.”
Derek: Tangentially related: I once was locked out of my house after getting off the bus when I was like 8, so I wrote “S.O.S.” in the snow. Didn’t work.
I’m amazed how deep and strategic Captain Sonar is, despite being a real-time shout-fest. Every game I’m discovering clever, new, subtle ways to improve our game—they’re just not the standard skills you’d expect. For example, I always have a hard time communicating with the radio operator as the captain. I don’t want the other team to know we have them pinpointed, but somehow I have to have that conversation and figure out how to seek them out. In the last game I played, the radio operator simply would write his guess at their location in the corner of his sheet when he felt sure of their location, updating as needed. While the information would quickly be outdated, I could notice him actually doing it out of the corner of my eye and it was a great way to get an extra edge.
For a game that’s played entirely on dry-erase boards, this is just brilliant. It’s thematic, evocative, skill-intensive, yet super silly and tons of fun. I LOVE IT!
Question of the Week
Derek: Our question this week is: “What kind of gamer are you?” We’re hoping this discussion can give you context for our reviews. If you know I won’t usually play games over 90 minutes, then it won’t be surprising if I pan a 3-hour game, for example.
And that’s a true statement—the older I get, the less time I have. I also find that I’d rather play 3 shorter games than one long one, and my cap is around 90 minutes.
Chris: Which is too bad, really. Games only get fun after 91 minutes.
Derek: I also really, really love card games. I played Magic: the Gathering exclusively for about a decade, and my family has always played Euchre and Rummy. It’s no surprise that I have a natural affinity for deck builders like Dominion and Star Realms. Even if we’re talking about a big game with a board, I would much prefer it to be card-driven—examples would be Cosmic Encounter, Viticulture, and Blood Rage. I don’t hate dice, but I prefer cards every time. I just love having those secret powers (the card effects) that no one else has.
I also wholly embrace party games and bluffing games. It’s funny to hear other board games dismiss those as child’s play—we’re already talking about board games, after all. Some of the funniest memories of my entire life come from games of Time’s Up!. As a mathematician, I love the puzzle-y aspect of games like Resistance: Avalon and Captain Sonar. I also think communication games like Codenames and Dixit let us tickle parts of our brain and use skills normally not present in traditional board games. That makes them great fun, and great teaching tools, too.
Chris: I share sentiment with Derek of games being worth your time. As far as shorter games go, I’m okay with the occasional shorter/party-style game like Codenames or Love Letter or Blokus or something, but if I leave a game night having only played quick 10-15 minute games, or just one hour long game, I didn’t have fun. If it’s a game that plays in under a half hour, it needs to have good complexity and important decision-making.
Sure, I’m a short gameist, but I really enjoy games with lots of long-term decisions, lots of interaction (both direct and indirect), and lots of purpose to every mechanic and decision. I’ve not gamed the likes of Twilight Imperium 3, or anything beyond Sid Meier’s Civilization: The Board Game, but I know for sure I don’t want to spend more than even 30 minutes playing a game of Munchkin, or something ridiculous like that. There’s no weight to my time at the table with that.
I also love games like Blood Rage, Acquire, Brewcrafters, and even Lords of Vegas. While I don’t love random dice rolling to decide my fate, I love rolling in Castles of Burgundy, or even Favor of the Pharaoh. Yeah, you might not roll what you wanted to, but you can mitigate it. There are mechanics in place to resolve the unluckiness of a bad die roll.
I also just love playing new games. It’s so wonderful trying out a new game, as long as someone knows the rules ahead of time. On that note, I love/hate reading the rules to a game, but it’s awesome to learn a mechanic in one game, and then seeing that same aspect play out in another in a slightly different way. It’s rewarding, and makes you a better gamer overall. You start to see patterns, and that’s neat, especially when teaching to new players.
Vince: I also share that same sentiment. Games need to be worth it. I enjoy a game of Coup every now and then, but I think I would rather play something a little longer. Something like Imhotep is a little more my speed. Something that can be played around 45 minutes.
I’m also a fan of cooperative or team-based games. Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert are a couple of my favorite co-op games, though Shadows Over Camelot is probably my number one favorite co-op right now.
There are extremely few games that I will not play as long as the people that I’m playing with are the right crowd. I hope I don’t get too much heat for what I’m about to say, but just the other night, I played one of my least favorite games for the sole reason that everybody else wanted to play it; it was Monopoly. My family burned me on Monopoly and I’ve just never been a big fan ever since, but like I said, I’ll play it if that’s the consensus.
As for my favorite types of games, it would have to be card and bluffing games. I, like Derek, enjoy the ability to have the powers in my hand as opposed to rely on a roll of the dice to decide my fate. I’m not opposed to dice games, but I prefer to play with cards.
Derek: Bro, no heat. I just played Catan with some students a few weeks ago, and it was great, even though I had pretty much sworn the game off. Ultimately, I think it’s best to have a “host” attitude: if everyone else at the table is having a great time, you should be too! With my gaming group I might be a bit more choosy, but with family, non-gamer friends, and students, I’m just happy to be spending time with them playing games.
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