International TableTop Day — Reactions, Day One

I attended two TableTop events this weekend in (relatively) nearby towns. One was on Saturday, the other, Sunday. Both ran for four hours, from noon on and were organized by the Game Master himself, Wayne Moulton. This man likely has more board games than any twenty of your friends. His basement is a veritable museum of tabletop fun, strategy and variations on the concept of what a game is.

Personally, I played a handful of games at each event. I’d like to review each briefly and recommend them all. Bear in mind a proper game review would require running through the game a few times, at least. I only had the opportunity with most of these to see the game once, from one player’s point of view.

Day 1: Langdon Public Library in Newington, NH

The Resistance: Avalon
This is a mafia/werewolf style hidden role game where each player is dealt a card setting them to the role of Merlin, one of Arthur’s good and true knights, or Mordred and his evil cabal.
The Good: For those who have played this type of game before at parties with handmade cards, this game offers both a step up in production value and complexity, as it has cards and tiles with nice art for use in dealing out characters, voting on teams to be sent on quests (the presence of an evil character may cause the quest to fail, telling you that there’s someone working for Mordred in that group, but they can also vote to let the quest succeed, so it takes deduction to determine who is working against Arthur.)
The Bad: The learning curve is steeper than with other games of this type I’ve played. One game was not enough to create a strategy, so I was just flailing about, trying to be observant until it was over. Also, the bad guys get the chance to gang up, because instead of one at the start of the game, there were three, and they all immediately knew who the others were, having the advantage from turn one.

Love Letter
My first exposure to this game was with a thematic shift one might not expect: Breaking Bad. I’m not a TV watcher these days, and it’s not one of the shows I’ve taken to watching online, but the game is straightforward and quick enough that it didn’t matter. The next day, I got to play the original.
Game play was dictated entirely by the cards, of which there are a mere 16. There are varying numbers of each cards, each of which has a power, such as ‘compare cards with another player, the player with the lower card is out of the game.’ Seems harsh, right? Well, the game moves pretty quickly and you play a number of games/hands based on the number of players to determine the final winner.
The Good: Quick play, straightforward rules, even when you’re out, you’ll be playing again in two minutes unless someone gets the final point and wins, then you can play again or do something else.
The Bad: There’s nothing really bad about the game, it’s quick and easy to learn. For more depth, there are thousands of other games. For those five minutes waiting until that game of Munchkin is over so you can regroup into new games, it’s perfect.

Anomia
This is a card/ knowledge/paying attention game. Essentially, everyone takes turns drawing cards. Most of the cards will have a symbol and a subject on them. The symbol links you to any other player with the same symbol in front of them and you have to name something from _the_other_person’s_ subject when your symbols match. You have to pay attention to see when your symbol comes up (or in the case of a wild card being in play, your symbol or the other symbol on the wild card.)
The Good: It’s an information based game. Much of it is trivia centered around things you may learn in everyday life or at school. Types of fish, cities in various countries, etc. Thus, it’s accessible to people of similar age groups.
The Bad: Less ‘bad’ and more a weakness of any trivia game, the very young often haven’t been exposed to the information, though they do have fun trying most of the time. Also, by the same token, information can sometimes be questioned, which slows down the game during discussion/hitting up the Internet or some other reference.

Bodger Mania
This was a very different kind of game for me. It centers (nominally, the theme has little to do with actual game play, unfortunately) on goblin wrestlers. Each round, players are dealt cards, from which they choose one to keep and one to play on one of four ‘matches’ with different win requirements and rewards. This is a drafting games, so the cards are then passed to the left and the process continues.
The Good: Once you get the rules, it would be pretty quick to play. The first time it was just about stumbling through, as with many of these games.
The Bad: The developers missed an opportunity to home in on their chosen theme and add more than flavor text to the game play. There’s also almost no player interaction.

Dixit
This French game requires no language but that of emotion and facial expression. The cards have only pictures on them, from which can be interpreted many scenarios and emotions. The art is beautiful, with each expansion featuring a different artist. Game play is similar to Apples to Apples or Malarkey in that one person chooses/has the ‘right’ answer and others guess what that is while trying to get others to choose their answer.
The Good: It’s lighter and set up a bit more democratically than Apples to Apples, as well as inviting interpretation of the images and allowing for creativity in making up a sounds, story or gesture to represent what you think the card evokes.
The Bad: Unlike some games where you can limp along even if you’re not very good at the particular mechanic the game uses, one can easily be left in the dust.

Overall, I believe a good time was had by all. We played cool games and interacted with people of varying ages for good socialization.

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Come play with me

As previously posted, I will be running games at the TableTop events in Portsmouth at the end of the month. I plan on running Farmageddon and CREATURES, both Kickstarter games I backed in the last year and therefore, probably games you haven’t seen. If I am not too distracted by the day job and getting my current volley of stories ready, I may find time to bring my own card game as well. We shall see.

Farmageddon is a cool little game about growing crops for points, stealing your neighbor’s crops and trashing their crops to keep them from getting points. It has some cool mechanics including…

Creatures is a quick, fun game about building the best creature you can from the cards in your hand, which consist of heads, bodies and tails. Each creature gets one of each part and does battle with other creatures for supremacy. Mechanics like getting a part you want from defeated creatures and partial names and descriptions on each card which are read aloud when the creature is played, add to the fun.

I’ll post again between now and then with the details of the events – when and where the action will take place and how to sign up.

Would you like to play a game?

Games, like reading, are fundamental. Often treated by recent generations as “simply” play, wasting time, slacking off, games actually provide us with a number of benefits. By playing games, especially a wide variety of games, we learn stratagems for approaching various situations, teamwork, dealing with both winning and losing properly, new terminology and general socialization.

To honor this huge part of many of our lives, and at least some part of almost everyone’s lives, I introduce a new holiday of sorts, International TableTop Day. Apparently it also has something to do with Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day…

In addition to watching the video and assailing your local gaming store, those of you in southern New Hampshire can drop by the Port City Makerspace in lovely, tax-free Portsmouth New Hampshire for a gaming event. You can even do both the gaming store events and the PCMS event as due to a scheduling conflict, the PCMS event is on Sunday, the 31st! I’ll be there, likely running a game, as mentioned on my new, shiny, FaceBook page. Here’s the eventbrite page, just to let us keep track of how many might be showing and give you details about our event. Thanks!