All posts by Josher Lumpkin

DayCon, February 18 at Rona Banquet Hall

by Josher Lumpkin

“H.G. Wells wrote the first miniatures gaming rules, called Little Wars.” Randy Miller says enthusiastically, even manically.

The event Randy had been working on for the better part of a year, DayCon Game Day 2017, was about to finally go down, and he had reached the point in convention preparation where he was ready to drop knowledge about mini gaming.

“So the whole ‘tin soldiers’ kinda thing—where they were pouring tin into molds and that was a play toy for kids—that whole thing morphed into H.G. Wells saying, ‘Hey what happens if we made some rules and we played it with these on the living room floor?’”

You couldn’t meet a nicer guy than Miller, and does he ever know his stuff. He’s the kind of person you could just listen to talk for an hour.

“And so over the 20th century it really evolved into quite the hobby in the U.K., and they have a very strong gaming community there.” He continues, “Here in the United States, Dayton happened to have a nexus of gamers, but also guys who were willing to start casting miniatures and selling them. So that obviously created a community of gamers. That’s how I got exposed to it.”

“There’s a tradition here,” Randy says. “In the meantime, though, circumstances have changed. New generations have come in. It’s the golden age of the board game.”

Randy and his friends, who mostly play huge, table-sized battle games, wanted to put on a convention where tabletop enthusiasts of all types could bust on a table, regardless of what they get off on.

Turns out, he didn’t have to worry much about attendance at DayCon.  The show went off without a so much as a hiccough, with a good turnout, and people chucking dice on all kinds of stuff, from RPGs to historicals and tacticals, to games board and card and even euros. (Okay, those people were pushing cubes).

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DayCon had all the fixin’s of a hometown con. There were games of every conceivable genre and subgenre. Still, DayCon stayed true to its purpose, which was to hopefully attract other types of gamers to historical miniature war gaming and make HG Wells proud for once and for all. I mean, beyond that whole War of the Worlds thing.

I think Wells would have smiled upon DayCon. Every U.S. military conflict of the last 300 years was represented there. And many non-US military conflicts, too. (Like anybody gives a shit about those.)

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I found some real-life Vietnam veterans playing a cool-looking Vietnam mini game, and wondered if they found it somehow therapeutic. I should have asked those guys.

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Of course, some gamers prefer their battles to go down between fantasy races, instead of real-life military conflicts. There was plenty at DayCon for orc-and-dragon crowd to feast their eyes at!

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One person had built a massive table to represent the surface of the Death Star. They were playing Star Wars X-Wing, reenacting classic trench battles from Episode IV. The attention to detail and impressive. The guy told me he built it sturdy, “so fat guys like me can lean on it!”

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There were even people playing shit like this:

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I think it’s called “Hotwheels with a Ruleset.”

It was a gorgeous day outside, so of course, I had registered for long, boring euros. The belle of the ball was a gorgeous economic board game called The Gallerist, where the players use a simple worker placement mechanic to discover artists, take contracts, self-promote, and other actions. The victor will have a high reputation score and an appealing gallery. The money is the victory points.IMG_20170218_101543910 IMG_20170218_101608265 IMG_20170218_101554923

I lost my ass off, but it was fun AF.

Many game creators local to Dayton were at DayCon showing off their wares. The developers of the games Robot Rise, Galatune, Bellum, Daikaiju Director, and the role-playing game Cold Steel Wardens were all at DayCon, teaching people how to play. Here are pictures of two of them, Bellum and Cold Steel Wardens.IMG_20170218_123730384IMG_20170218_125659030_HDR

The people at DayCon were super interesting and welcoming. This guy had a cool hat!pjimage

I accidentally called the Mogwai a “Gismo” like some kind of idiot.

To round out the day, I taught 6 people how to play Lords of Waterdeep with the expansion.

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It was a really great day with a lot of incredibly cool and fun games going on. I can’t wait until next year!

http://www.daycongaming.com/

DUNGEON OF FORTUNE (Tasty Minstrel Games)

I am a big fan of the dungeon crawler genre of tabletop games. Anything involving fantasy races and classes like dwarves or mages usually tickles my fancy. If I had my druthers, there would probably only be two themes for board games: fantasy and sci-fi. So it was with great delight that I accepted the opportunity to review Dungeon of Fortune, which looked to be right up my alley—or should I say “right up my dripping, darkened tunnel infested with monsters?”

Unfortunately, Dungeon of Fortune is a classic case of a game with a cool theme and neat artwork that lacks real substance. Though the concept is cool (I mean, c’mon—delving through dungeons… slaughtering evil beats… what’s not to like?), there are several small problems that all add up to a game that sadly just isn’t all that great. Let’s examine some of these problems.

First of all, the rulebook certainly could have undergone a revision or two. For what is a relatively simple game, it took my group several read-throughs of the rulebook before we figured out that some of the information simply was not there. It was intensely frustrating! We had to get online to find some answers on the Geek to start playing. A related gripe is that there is no rundown of gameplay like many games nowadays include. The game comes with like 20 thousand different character cards. There is no useful information on the back side of these cards. The fact that the publisher did not include a synopsis of gameplay on the flipside was a missed opportunity.

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Tasty Minstrel also bills this game as a “press your luck” type game, but the whole excitement of wondering what’s under the next card just wasn’t there for my group. You see, when it’s your turn you can either flip a card over and resolve it or you can stash your treasure and leave the dungeon for the rest of that delve. Once you’ve used up all your guys, you won’t be able to fight anymore, so if you flip a card with monsters on it, you will have to flee. When your guys are all exhausted, there’s no reason to flip a card. You’ll just stash your treasure and peace out instead. The “press your luck” element stops on a whammy.

If you’re looking for something really yummy from Tasty Minstrel, I’d pass on Dungeon of Fortune and go for a winner like Scoville or Orléans instead. If you’re looking for a really great “press your luck” game, I’d suggest Asmodee’s Ra, which totally nails the mechanic.

Maybe with an expansion or two and a revised rulebook, Dungeon of Fortune could be a really great game. If that happens, we’ll let you know. In the meantime, may your treasure be bountiful and may your enemies all be slimes. (Tasty Minstrel Games) by Josher Lumpkin

One of the biggest gripes hobby board gamers have about games like Monopoly is the so-called “roll and move” mechanic. I roll a die or two and move that number of spaces. Around and around the board we go in perpetuity, leaving the length of each movement entirely up to chance.

The games I’ve listed here are some of the best scenario-based board games. Rather than rolling-and-moving, players work to complete some objective, which will differ from game to game. While this is not, by any mean, an all-inclusive list, the games here will give you somewhere to start on your journey for a more fulfilling tabletop experience.

1. Descent: Journeys in the Dark—This wonderful semi-cooperative dungeon crawl pits up to four hero players up against one bad guy player known as “The Overlord.” While the heroes are hoping to complete their objective, the Overlord is setting traps and setting out monsters in attempt to thwart them. Gameplay is made up of several quests (one session each) that make up an entire campaign. The success or failure of the heroes determine subsequent quests. The recent creation of a Descent app means you no longer require the Overlord player to play cooperatively, and you can also play solo.

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2. Dungeons & Dragons: Temple of Elemental Evil—This game, in my opinion, is the best of the bunch when it comes to the D&D “big box” dungeon crawler games. Fully cooperative, ToEE is played over the course of 12 scenarios, some of which take place in a spooky dungeon, while others go down in the town. Your scenario might call for you to obtain some relic and survive long enough to get it out of the dungeon. This was one of my favorite games from 2015.

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3. Last Night on Earth—I don’t see this game getting a whole lot of love, and that’s a shame, because it can be a lot of fun. In Last Night On Earth, there are two teams of players—one plays as a horge of undead zombies, and the other are the heroes trying save the day. The scenarios in this game are a blast. There’s one where the heroes have to gas up a truck and find its keys in order to flee the town. Meanwhile, the zombie players are trying to eat the heroes’ brains. The standalone expansion, Timber Peak, adds a bunch more scenarios and makes the game even more fun by adding elements such as fire, which can burn of control. One of the best things about this game is it can play up to six, so if you have a big group, this one’s for you.

4. Dead of Winter—You’ve probably already heard of this semi-cooperative anxiety attack in a box. In Dead of Winter, players take the role of survivors of a zombie cataclysm. The team of players will have a group objective for each scenario. It might be something like, “collect 10 gallons of water for your camp.” But then, each player has their own individual hidden objective. Hidden objectives might be helpful for the camp, or they might be completely at odds with the group objective. A player might have a hidden objective of “poison the camp’s water supply,” which would screw all the other players. Dead of Winter is a serious nail-biter. The release of Dead of Winter: The Long Night earlier this year means there are even more scenarios to play with.

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5. Pandemic Legacy—This game is an absolute treasure to play with family. If you like the original Pandemic, Pandemic Legacy will only enhance your love of the franchise. The game is played over 12 to 24 sessions, each adding a new element to the gameplay. So, while the first session is basically just regular Pandemic, the next session you’ll add something, then something else, until the game becomes quite heavy. It’s almost like a game that includes 11 expansions right in the box it comes in. While not scenario-based in the same way as the games mentioned above, each session does have its own goal. The way that it plays out, I could really see this game being a movie or book, which makes me wonder if there is Pandemic Legacy fan fiction. If there isn’t, there should be!

 

TINY EPIC WESTERN (Gamelyn Games)

Well, howdy there, partner. You ain’t from around these here parts, are ya? Well, saddle up. We’re gunna talk about Gamelyn Games’ new one, Tiny Epic Western.

I’ve been a fan of the “Tiny Epic” series for quite a while now. These are small-box games that play in a half hour and have surprising depth of play. Notable entries in the series include 4x fantasy area-controller Tiny Epic Kingdoms and sci-fi dice masher Tiny Epic Galaxies.

With Tiny Epic Western, one can see that designer Scott Almes has improved at his craft in the years since the series launched. There’s a bit more going on with this one. The game is alive with its theme. From the wagon wheel layout of the play area to the characters’ special abilities, you can practically hear the spurs rattling.

At its heart, TEW is a worker placement game. Of course, like all such games, players have meeples (here called the “posse”) that they will assign to spaces on the play area to collect resources. Resources include law, force, and gold, and are used to purchase buildings where posse members could be placed in future rounds. These purchased buildings are also worth victory points.

Before you groan at the buzzwords “worker placement” (I’m getting sick of the mechanic, too), let me explain the ways in which TEW is different. First of all, many of the placement spots allow players to choose between taking either an immediate effect or waiting until the end of the phase. If instant gratification is your thing, you collect just a little something. If you prefer the long game, waiting til the end of the phase will result in a tastier reward than going for the immediate effect.

Unlike other games in the genre, cowpokes also have the option to duel if they want to try and steal a spot away from a player who has already placed their posse member there. The deluxe edition comes with four d6s that are shaped like bullets, for the purpose of gunning down your opponents. Dueling is mostly a contest of who rolls the higher number, with some opportunities to reroll or modify your roll.

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There is also this whole poker element that makes TEW quite unique. At the beginning of each round, poker cards are dealt face-up between each building. Players are dealt two cards. They pick the one they want and discard the other. After the placement phase, each player uses their poker card to make a 3-card hand with the cards on either side of any buildings where they have posse members assigned. Though the hands are typical poker fare—pairs, straights, flushes, etc—the suits are unique to TEW. Players compare hands if there is more than one posse member assigned to a building. If only one player’s posse in on a building, their hand is compared to that of the “rival,” a dummy player who also gets a card at the beginning of the round.

During the final play phase of each round, players make a 3-card hand out of their card and the cards shouldered on the sides of the building that matches their posse color. Whoever has the highest hand gets to advance one of three industries, which will give players bonus victory points at the end of the game.

Tiny Epic Western is played over the course of 6 rounds. Once players are acquainted with the rules, a game takes about 30 to 40 minutes.

I very much enjoy Tiny Epic Western. Fans of poker will certainly take the most satisfaction from the game, but even those who’ve never gambled can get into it. There are a few rules that I personally found a little shaky and weak, but for the most part, TEW is a solid game with smooth gameplay. Though I was hoping it would be my new favorite in the series, I’d rank TEW as much better than Tiny Epic Kingdoms, but not quite as good as Tiny Epic Galaxies. With Gamelyn’s Zelda knockoff, Tiny Epic Quest, coming to Kickstarter on October 28, we may have a new contender for best Tiny Epic game.

So YEE-HAW! Don’t miss out on this fun little game. It fits in your pocket and plays fast. You can’t really go wrong with Tiny Epic Western. I give it 4 out of 5 cattle prods. (Gamelyn Games) by Josher Lumpkin

RICK AND MORTY: TOTAL RICKALL (Cryptozoic Entertainment)

In preparation for this review, I felt the need to view the source material: Rick and Morty Season 2 – “Total Rickall.” Having not watched much Adult Swim since my teen years I was happy to find it much more funny than I remembered most of the shows being. Basically, the jist is that crazy alien parasites have come into the Rick and Morty home disguised as family and friends. Using powerful memory implantation, they are able to convince the family that they’ve always been around. The wacky parasite characters are mildly amusing. There’s the pork-adorned Japanese military noble, Hamurai; the anthropomorphic pencil man, Pencilvester; and the magical lamb with a rainbow unicorn horn, Tinkles. Need I go on? For the Rick and Morty gang, the only way to tell if these silly characters (and each other) are real-life friends or if they’re parasites is to shoot them. Are you seeing the dilemma here? If they’re parasites, they’ll die, but if they really are family, well, they’ll die. And that’s what Total Rickall card game is all about.

There are two variants included in the box. “Standard Mode” is fully cooperative. “Real” and Parasite” identity cards are randomly laid face down on the table, to be kept secret from players. Character cards are then placed on top of the identity cards. These are characters from the episode—there’s Hamurai, Pencilvester, Tinkles, and all the other zany characters. Character cards each have one of three different color backgrounds. Every round, players play action cards that correspond with one of the three colors (or are wild). Actions only work on characters of the matching color. Action cards might allow you to look at a character’s identity or mix up the identity cards underneath the characters. Players use deduction and memory to determine whether a character is real or a parasite. And of course, they can just start shooting, too—if they have an action card that allows them to do so, that is.

“Advanced Mode” switches things up a bit and makes the game semi-cooperative, adding secret roles into the mix. In this variant, each player randomly draws a character and an identity card and becomes part of the story. They will either be a parasite or real, which adds a bluffing element that definitely enhances the game. Does the person sitting next to you really want to help you take out the parasites, or are they full of shit?

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Ultimately, I found myself pleasantly surprised with Rick and Morty both as a game and as a show. While Total Rickall is far from essential to anyone’s collection, save for the late-night bong-on-the-table Adult Swim diehards, this simple card game makes for an amusing and fun little hidden-role filler while you’re waiting for the rest of your group to show up. (Cryptozoic Entertainment) by Josher Lumpkin

KLASK (Oy Marektoy)

I have to say, I’m not a major fan of games that require me to overcome my deficit of physical prowess in order to win. Often, my own hand-eye coordination takes on an adversarial quality when I attempt to harness it as a tool toward victory. If I were a D&D character, my dex modifier would be like -2. However, I am able to see past my deficiencies when it comes to the game Klask.

Klask is basically like air hockey or foosball in that it is played on a table and expects players to shoot a ball into their opponent’s goal. It is different from those games, though, in that players use high-powered magnets to whack a marble back and forth across the court. Now you’re probably asking yourself, “Magnets? How the fuck does that work?” Each player gets two magnets: one shaped like an oversized Sorry! pawn, and a second, cylindrical rod. Players control the Sorry! pawn, which sits on the table, by moving the rod under it. It basically looks like a haunted game controlled by ghosts or players’ telepathy, as the pawns appear to move hands-free.

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There are four ways in which players score points in Klask. Obviously, one of those ways is by hitting the ball into your opponent’s goal. However, this is a game played with magnets, and therefore requires some magnet-centric ways to screw yourself. Therefore, if you erroneously navigate your pawn into your own goal (a folly known as a “Klask”) your opponent scores a point. There are also three small white magnets that start the game in the middle of the table. During the course of normal play, these magnets will get banged about and will end up all over the place. Where you do not want them is stuck to your pawn. If you get two white magnets stuck to you, your opponent scores a point. Finally, if you lose control of your pawn to the point where you are unable to retrieve it using your magnet (like if it flies over to the other side of the table), your opponent scores a point. First player to 6 points wins.

The table is quality, too. My wife (who is the reigning Klask champion in my house) posited that if the designer had stained the wood a darker color and opted for Helvetica or Times New Roman instead of the whimsical scrawled-on-in-white-Sharpie font, they could easily market an expensive version to affluent boardgame hipsters.

Klask is a shockingly simple kind of game. I admit, my first glance at the box had me thinking, “this is stupid.” But once I got it out, it was surprisingly fun and addictive. So much fun, that I completely disregard my ineptitude when it comes to these types of games. I suck at Klask and I don’t care. This is a five-minute game that you can play all night. I can see Klask tournaments happening at parties and game nights everywhere. Highly recommended. (Oy Marektoy) by Josher Lumpkin