Solo Board Gamer, Me?

One of the things that I like about analog gaming is that you get together and interact with real people, face to face. While the video game medium has come a long way in adding a social aspect to the gaming, it simply does not compare to the richness of a real-life experience with friends, sitting around the table and gaming together, albeit competitively.

Now, there are solo board games or, more commonly, multiplayer board games that have a solo play mode. Viticulture, Scythe, and Terraforming Mars are popular games in the hobby that can be played solo. In the past, I considered sitting at a table, playing a board game by oneself the equivalent of gaming masturbation. It just seemed sad to me and I didn’t see the point, particularly when many of my favorite games absolutely thrive on the interaction of the players.

34 - Fresco

Continue reading


As a card-carrying GEEK, it is my right… nay, it is my RESPONSIBILITY to complain about the most insignificant and trivial of details when it comes to movies, books, comics, video games, and particularly in my case, board games.

Look at the most passionate geeks out there and that’s what they do – criticize and complain and nit-pick.  I can only surmise that any geek worth his salt would do the same, right?

comicbookguy (1)

Continue reading

Complaints about the Kickstarter game Viceroy from Mayday Games

Viceroy is a board game of bidding and resource management set in the fantasy universe of the Russian CCG Berserk. As the players recruit a variety of allies and enact various laws, these cards allow players to develop their state’s military and magical might, increase their authority, and get precious gems they need to continue expanding their nation.


The game was brought to America by Mayday Games via an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign that raised over $267k. Promised for delivery in March of 2015, the game was finally delivered to backers in July. There was much whining from backers about the delays and shipping issues up to the time the game went out, but it was after the game shipped that the whining reached a new crescendo, albeit from a small number of backers.

Among the complaints are:

  • Disappointment with the card quality, thickness and linen finish. Thin and inequitable finish on the cards.
  • The box is a little grabby and hard to open.
  • The four zip lock baggies included in the game – because there are four “kinds” of chits in the game – are too small to actually contain the game bits. To add to this, shipment was delayed to add the stated baggies to the game, but were inadequate.
  • The playing mat is printed too dark.
  • The 4 promo cards exclusive to the Kickstarter backers turned out to be 2 new cards, printed twice.
  • Card size should be bigger.
  • 101 cards in the game but 100 card sleeves?

Mayday Games responded to these qualms in a FAQ, HERE.

They Lied

While every single complaint mentioned above is whiny and petty, they are not completely without merit:

Probably because of the upgraded linen finish, the box is a little difficult to open – it doesn’t slide easily. Also not a deal breaker but is a portent of the lack of attention to detail throughout this project.

The cards are printed on thin stock and the linen finish is inconsistent. Absolutely true, and when Mayday Games promised “Premium cards with linen finish on both cards and box,” this obviously was not delivered. Mayday also provided card sleeves as a stretch goal, but it was not clear at the time that it was to mitigate the inferior card quality.

The four plastic bags are too small – a joke when you consider putting the included game components in them.  Mayday did claim they delayed shipment to include the bags, which are inadequate to begin with, so it is yet another production flaw – not a big one but little stuff like this adds up.

Mayday admitted they lied about the promised “4 Unique Promo Cards”  which turned out to be 2 new cards, printed twice, but that doesn’t undo the fact that they promised something that they did not deliver.  Mayday made no comment about amending this.

That the card size should be bigger is merely an opinion. Considering that every player is building a pyramid with these cards, it already takes up a lot of table space. Bigger cards would take up even more, yet bigger cards would allow for larger print on the cards. Again, this is preference, and you can whine away about it – it is what it is.

The playing mat is printed too dark – Again, this is an opinion. I thought the playing mat looked good and even if it was too dark, nothing was impaired.  With so many more impairing flaws to this production, it is a testament to the ire and tenacity of how whiny gamers can be that this was even mentioned.

Including the 4 cards for auction, there are 101 cards, yet the game included sleeves for 100 cards. Most of the time, these packages of sleeves contain an overage of 1 or 2, so you will have enough and mine did – 102 sleeves. If that is not the case for you, cry me a river.

Dino-lieAll said,  the production qualms are not significant and the game is legitimately good, but Mayday Games was very dismissive in their responses to these issues as they failed to keep commitments. This was their official response:

Please also remember that the KS price of the game was $24, less than our Get Bit Tin Game, less than Incan Gold, and less than many games that have half the components.  We hope that even with some less than perfect results, you’ll remember that in terms of game play and components, this game is still an EXCELLENT value for our backers. In fact, we just announced the MSRP of the game (without the promo cards, sleeves, gems or playmats) will be $35 when it is released in August.  Yes this doesn’t mean we should slop through things, but we hope you will remember what a great game this is too.

I hope my gamer friends stop whining. I hope Mayday Games learns from this experience, and I assure you, I will not back another Mayday Games project on Kickstarter again.

You take my money.  Keep your promises.  Period.

It’s not a Comic Book, It’s a Graphic Novel

Comment:  I know there are some folks who are anxious for me to get on with part five of the Brain-Crab story (It Didn’t Have to End Like This), and I did sit down with the intention of writing the next 1000 words or so.  Something else was on my mind, and so I wrote it first.  I’ll get to the Brain-Crabs.  I will.  For now, read this.  It’s nice and kind of mushy.



Let me tell you an unlikely but true story.

My wife, Lynn,  is enamored with the classics by Jane Austen – particularly Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Emma.  She has the novels and has seen all of the movies based on those novels.  Knowing this, I wanted to surprise her with a series of Austen-themed items.

Amazon making all of this easy, I proceeded to place my order.

Jane Austen Note Cards.  These contained quotes from the novels and had themed artwork.  They were also a complete flop with my wife, who does not write notes to people.  She sends email, like the rest of the world.


 Accoutrements Jane Austen Action Figure.  This one was silly – an action figure of the author, complete with book and quill.  Still, my wife adores I Love Lucy and has several of the Lucy Barbie dolls, so I gave it a shot.  This was also a flop.


I bought her a Kickstarter card game, Marrying Mr. Darcy, based on Jane Austen’s classic novel, Pride and Prejudice.  Each of the players is a heroine who is attempting to marry well.  She liked the game and read the rules, but we have yet to play it.  I am in no rush.


Pride and Prejudice (Marvel Classics) Graphic Novel.   Lynn has read the novels several times.  She has seen the movies dozens of times.  This was a graphic novel –  comic book – based on the classic novel.  It was a complete and absolute hit. 


She devoured it, commenting on what an interesting medium the graphic novel is.  Then she wanted more.  I promptly ordered the Marvel versions of Sense and Sensibility and Emma.  These were also read immediately, with her interest growing in the different artists and unique approach to telling the stories that are so familiar to her.  So I ordered Jayne Eyre: The Graphic Novel,  written by Charlotte Bronte, but also a story I know my life loves and in the same genre as Austen’s work. 

Next was a trip to Half Price Books, where I directed my dear wife to the shelves with graphic novels.  We have been in the store at least twenty times before but she didn’t know where this section was.  I then perused the store and an hour later, she emerged from aisle with a stack of six graphic novels she wanted to try out.  None were classics – though two were based on the Sherlock Holmes character.  There was an X-Men (which I could have never predicted) and several Star Trek themed ones.  On our first date, I learned that she liked Star Trek – The Next Generation.  Knowing what a rarity it is to find a pretty girl who likes Sci-Fi, I married her.  Now, I’ve got her reading comics.  I think I can get her into a Princess Leia slave girl outfit in another year or two.  If I do – I won’t be telling you about it.

Anyway, Lynn has taken to ordering the books for herself, either from HPB online or Amazon, and she’s developed quite a habit.  It’s one I thoroughly encourage.  I’ve always appreciated the comic medium, though that is just part of my childhood I never outgrew.   I’m an avid collector of Jim Steranko art.  Now, my wife has developed a similar appreciation for the genre.

One night, as we lay in bed with Big Bang Theory re-runs playing on the TV, she leaned over and said, “Thank you for my graphic novels.” 

She then opened Star Trek Volume 4 and was lost within the frames. 

I watched her and smiled.  It’s just like the first date, when I found out she liked Star Trek.  I’m going to make her mine. 

Oh, wait.  She is.

BANG! The Dice Game – Table Top Game Review

BANG! The Dice Game by dV Giochi takes the basic formula from BANG! The Card Game, and provides a simplified and faster play experience.  Personally, I never played the card game, but almost universally, players and game reviewers have said BANG! TDG is so much better, they won’t play the card game version again.


To start the game, players will be dealt a card with a character and a role with different victory conditions. Outlaw kills the Sheriff, Sheriff kills the Outlaws and Renegade, Renegade to be the last man standing; and characters have different special abilities.  Except for the Sheriff, these identities are concealed from the other players.


On each turn, you get five dice, and three rolls, Yahtzee-style.  After each role, you have the option to re-roll any of the dice except dynamite, but whatever you have rolled at the end of the third roll must be kept.  Players take turns rolling dice and shooting at each other until one of the victory conditions is achieved.


The different faces on the dice are:

Gatling gun – puts one hit on all other players if you have rolled three of them, and you get rid of all your arrows.

One distance attack – allows an attack on a player one seat away from you.

Two distance attack – allows an attack on a player one seat away from you.

Beer – heals a player by one (yourself or another player of your choosing).

Dynamite – cannot be rerolled and if three are rolled in your turn, immediately end your turn, causing one point of damage to the rolling player.

Arrowsimmediately upon rolling an arrow, player must take an arrow from the middle (you take wounds equal to your number of arrow once the arrow pile is exhausted and the Indians attack). 

The game sets up and plays fast. Things are always happening and games rarely last 15 minutes, slightly longer for more players. Unlike so many other games that utilize the Yahtzee mechanic of roll three times, keep the result, BANG! TDG has player interaction.


Consider Yahtzee, Zombie Dice, Roll Through the Ages, Dungeon Roll or any number of other games with this mechanic. They are single player games that can be played with others, but you are essentially taking a turn, waiting while other players play, and take your turn again. You do not attack, defend or collaborate with other players. BANG! TDG allows for attacks on other players, arrows which must be resolved immediately when rolled and quite possibly the rolling player doing themselves in. This was a welcome change, and one of the things that set BANG! TDG apart and gave it a fresh feel.

The rules are simple and after one play-through that takes 15 minutes, players understand the dynamics and options.


As for the game components, they are excellent. The dice are large and brightly colored, the cards have cool artwork, and the counters are thick die-cut. The cards, counters and box also have a semi-gloss, linen finish, and the box has a molded insert to hold the various components. Instructions are a single sheet, and that is all that is needed. And all of this for under $20.


Gameplay is involving because of the secret identities of the players and the randomness of the dice rolls. Because you are forced to use the dice, you can sometimes get away with shooting the sheriff and calling it an accident.  Not knowing for sure what the goal of the other player really is keeps the game edgy and has a Werewolf-like feel to it.

I will say that the roll you get matters. The Outlaw has an easier goal than either the Sheriff or the Renegade – to eliminate the Sheriff. The Renegade role is difficult to play because the goal is to be the last man standing, and the Sheriff is stronger than the other players, but everyone knows who has the Sheriff and they are an easy mark. In games of 5-8 players, there are also deputies who are concealed (even from the Sheriff) but have the same goal as the Sheriff – eliminate the outlaws and renegades.


The other variable is the randomly dealt character cards, some of which have very powerful abilities, such as being able to reroll dynamite or only take 1 point of damage from arrows, no matter how many they may be holding. Certain combinations of these cards can result in some very imbalanced games.

All said, the game is big fun. Sure, this is a game of chance with a little strategy and cunning in how you use your dice and interact with the other players. If you attack the Sheriff at every chance you get, it’s pretty obvious you are the Outlaw. Play it crafty and spread it around, and you might fly under the radar. The fast play and interaction keeps everyone involved.


I rate BANG! The Dice Game (scale from 1-5)

Ingenuity – 4 The fresh twist on a common game mechanic works very well, making the game feel familiar and fresh at the same time.

Strategy – 3 There is a lot of luck involved in this game, but there are also choices to make, and that helps offset the chance a bit.

Social – 5 The interactivity of play keeps players engaged, with actions being made that affect other players, even when it is not their turn.

Theme – 5 The Old West shoot-out scenario is supported perfectly, here. A shootout is fast and furious, and that is the way the game plays.

Fun – 5 We love this game. It’s become a go-to game for us when longer games are not an option. It’s also a good gateway game to introduce players to the hobby.

Components – 5 Everything in the box was top-notch, including the box.

Overall – 4.5 We’ll be playing this one for a long time.

Board Game Review: Undead by Steve Jackson Games

Note: This is a revisit of a game I played in the 1980s and it is no longer in print, though copies are still for sale on eBay. In The Day, it sold for about $6, came in a plastic 4.5”x7.5” pocket box with a paper map and cardboard counters that had to be cut out with scissors. Dice required but not included.

photo 2

Undead by Steve Jackson Games is based on the classic novel, Dracula by Bram Stoker. Skipping the first part of the story, the game picks up where Dracula has reached London with fifty earth-filled coffins. He has killed Lucy and seeking more prey, but Van Helsing and his party are out to stop him once and for all.

In Undead, one player plays as Dracula, moving around and conducting sinister business at night. The other players play cooperatively as Van Helsing and his party, hunting him down. Lastly, there must be a game master (GM) who is the neutral party and referee. (Note the game rules state the game can be played as a 2-player game without the GM. My experience with this mode is not very good and I do not recommend it.)

The game is played on a map of 1890’s London, separated into regions for movement. Counters representing Dracula’s coffins or dummy counters are placed around the map, at least one in each area. These counters are upside down, so the Helsing players do not know which are dummies and which are coffins. The Dracula Player and the GM do, of course.

The players take alternating turns, with the non-moving player(s) physically leaving the room so they are unaware of what transpires in the opponent’s turn. Dracula makes his moves and actions such as distributing coffins to other areas, searching for a servant (Renfield), attempting to bite a victim, and so on with the GM. When his turn ends, he leaves the room. The Vampire Hunters enter the room, make their move and actions, such as searching for coffins, investigating victims, and generally trying to find Dracula before he raises enough female vampires to make an attack on them. The game proceeds like this until the Hunters and Dracula wind up at the same location on the map. Then, all players enter the room and combat is played out with dice on a smaller map, representing a single room. They can fight to the death or one or more members may flee the room, escaping (unless it’s Dracula and it’s day-time combat, in which case he can’t escape).


The game is over when one of the victory conditions is met, but usually, this means Dracula and the Hunters wound up in the same place and fight until one of the parties is eliminated.

There are advanced and sometimes risky options for the players as well. For Dracula – doing a day-move, hunting the Hunters, raising female vampires or shape-changing into a wolf, bat or mist. The Vampire Hunters can likewise do a night-move, perform a transfusion on a victim (to prevent them from turning into a vampire), and hold a vigil or death watch over a victim.

photo 1

The secret moves and hunting for the bad-guy mechanic, using a map with turned-over counters was the first game of its type that I played in the 1980s. Using a GM for a board game is unique as well, and I recall play morphing into some role-playing, particularly with the players faced each other.

Dracula is a powerful and iconic antagonist, deploying his coffins around the city, thus making more places for him to hide during the day, and raising an undead army of female vampires. Hey, who doesn’t want their own army of female vampires? But board-gaming is a social activity, and as Dracula, you are never in the same room with the other players until there is combat. This can take hours before it happens.

The Vampire Hunters (assuming there is more than one person) at least have each other to interact with during this time. And the GM, well he is the all-knowing, all-seeing, friend to all, enemy to no one, but he doesn’t get to play. He just oversees the play.

A key reason I enjoy board games is the conflict\collaboration with other people that occurs in playing a tabletop game and this can take a while for Dracula and the Hunters to wind up in a situation where they interact.

Addressing the actual gameplay, there is enough variety to make it fun. Yes, Dracula will probably shuffle coffins around and bite someone during his turn, but he could try to do a day move, or hunt the hunters. Hunters might try a vigil or night move, and it’s when these big risks are taken that the game gains tension.

Still, there are typical actions that have no real strategy, such as randomly hunting for coffins. You get lucky and find coffins (or Dracula!), or you don’t. Regardless, it is luck-based. This can result in a game that lasts 30 minutes, or likewise, 4 hours. It just depends.

I loved everything about this game back in the ’80s. Now, seeing the game with fresh eyes, I rate it a little differently. The score below is on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being best.


Ingenuity – 4 The game mechanic is unique though dated, and play is unlike other games. It almost has a party game feel to it but with more depth.

Strategy – 3 There is a lot of luck involved in this game but there are also a lot of choices to make, and that helps offset the chance a bit.

Social – 3 There’s some isolation of players while playing, but even the jibes at each other as Dracula and Hunters pass in the doorway between turns can be fun.

Theme – 5 Dracula. This is classic, gothic horror and it does it very, very well.

Fun – 3 I still think Undead is fun and while it can go on too long with turn after turn of not much happening, it has some incredibly tense moments that other games never achieve.

Components – 1 Come on. A paper map with thin, cardboard counters I have cut out myself? No dice? What do you expect for  $6 in the ’80s!! The plastic box was literally the best component, but considering that I’ve paid much, much more for a game with nicer components, and enjoyed a lot less, I have to give props to Undead. It’s fun based on the game not on the pretty plastic pieces. Still, speaking solely about the components, I have print and play games that look better.  Just sayin’.

Overall – 3.5 (rounded to the half) With the right group of players, this game can be loads of fun and even memorable. It’s much better than playing a game of Risk, and probably will take less time. Probably.

Microgames are making a comeback, thanks to Kickstarter. Unfortunately, SJGames has made no announcements that indicate it will rerelease Undead, even as a Print and Play. That’s too bad because the components make it an excellent candidate for the PnP model and I if it were re-released with better components, I’d snatch it up in a heartbeat.

Regardless, the game held up for me. Through my nostalgic eyes, I miss the days of the cheap, SJG Pocket games. Hell, I recently paid $100 for the Designer Release of Ogre which was another, $6 pocket-box game from the ’80s. Is this what it is coming to?

I’d be OK with that.

Game Review: NUCLEAR WAR Card Game – A Blast from the Past

Let me be absolutely transparent: This is a review that is heavily weighted by nostalgia.

Nuclear War.  I was regularly playing this game with my gaming group in the early 1980’s, before a game about blowing up millions of people to win might be considered “politically incorrect” (finger quotes mandatory). It was a go-to game to play before or after a more lengthy game with heavier strategy and I recall we played a lot of it with both of the expansion packs. We loved Nuke War.


Cut to today.  Surprised it is still in print, I purchased a brand new copy of Nuclear War. The box is almost identical to the copy I had in the 80’s and the cards and spinner have not changed much, either.

You read that correctly – the game has a spinner. The only other game I have played that had a spinner is Twister when I was thirteen and reaching to put left hand on green while rubbing body parts with Caroline in the process when I was still figuring out what the body parts were for, so… huzzah for spinners.

In Nuke War, each player plays as a nameless country, embroiled in global propaganda, where population is stolen from other player’s countries to join your own. This can only go on so long before someone launches a missile and then propaganda means nothing and the cold war is over – all countries start blowing each other up. The game’s goal is to be the last player with remaining population cards, and there are other random events that shake things up, such as the Super Germ, where 25 million people die from an epidemic.

Nuke War touted it was, “One of the few games where it is possible to have no winners (often everybody loses!).” This is true, and there were quite a few games where we annihilated each other, with no player having any remaining population. In a way, this abstract game felt real. Back in the 1980’s, we worried a lot about someone pushing The Button and starting a global nuclear war.


Jump to now and I play the game again, 30 years later. I’m playing with a 14-year-old son. I watch him and judge his reaction to the cards, spinner, and game play. To me, this is old school gaming and I am almost giddy. We blew each other up with nuclear weapons. Lo and behold, neither of us won. We destroyed each other.

My son said, “Seems like the way to win a nuclear war is not to play.”

He’d never seen the movie, Wargames, (a parental failing of mine that I will soon rectify) so he arrived at that conclusion on his own. But I thought I had to get it across to him that this is ONLY A GAME. We played again.

This time, I won, but not but much – just 6 million population, after my son’s nation had final retaliation.

We played two more games.

He won one of them and wasn’t very talkative during these games.  We’d been playing for a couple of hours.

“What do you think about the game?” I asked.  It was a fair question after he played four games in a row.

“Next game, let’s only do propaganda until the end; until everyone has defected from one country or another. That way, no nukes and nobody gets blown up.”

He doesn’t want to play a game where millions of people are wantonly killed. Despite myself, I am raising a boy that is better than me. I could not hope for more.  Unfortunately, the game is very dull unless you do blow each other up but we gave a “cold war only” version of the game a chance.

While I won’t make him play Nuke War again, I make it a point to play games with my son and cultivate the simple enjoyment of sitting at a table and interacting with people over a game.  We just don’t do these sort of things enough.

While the theme is not politically correct, I still love the Nuke War card game

· Game: Nuclear War

· Publisher: Flying Buffalo Games

· Designer: Doug Malewicki

· Year Originally Published: 1965

· Players: 2-6

· Ages: “players of all ages” but realistically, 8+

· Playing Time: 30-45 Minutes

· Retail Price: $29.95

· Serious Game Rating: 4 of 10

· Family Game Rating: 7 of 10

· Component Quality: Excellent except for the population cards, which suck and have to be cut out with scissors.  (I later bought improved population cards from Flying Buffalo at a convention for $10)

· In the Box: 100 playing cards, 40 population cards, 1 Bomb Effect Spinner, Rules and 4 playing mats

· Expansions Available: Nuclear Escalation, Nuclear Proliferation and Weapons of Mass Destruction

Kickstarter Games I’m Backing

I think Kickstarter is a great way for startups to build capital to develop their project. Essentially, the consumer pays up front for an item before it’s actually produced. It could be a movie, book, game, device, service, event – really, anything.

It’s hard not to get caught up in the infectious ambition of entrepreneurs. Admittedly, I pay more for a haircut than I have backing any one Kickstarter project, and that makes it fun for me without risk, but there are some Kickstarters where the initial investment is over $100, and I do not play at those tables. That’s just me, but I don’t.

I usually back tabletop games because I’m a gamer and there are some really interesting concepts that pop up on Kickstarter. Someone comes up with a game idea and needs the funds to make it a reality. I get a copy of the game in return for my early investment, before it ever hits retail and often, they include stretch goals – bonus components when the project exceeds its goal.

Here are the recent projects I have backed on Kickstarter. Each link has the Kickstarter details, videos, images, etc. In some cases, they are over, successful and are now available in retail. I include links to the ones I know about.

Tiny Epic Kingdoms

A 4X/Euro MICROGAME for 2-4 players! Do you have what it takes to create the greatest pocket-sized Kingdom!? Tiny Epic Kingdoms has all the strategy of a traditional 4x game without the cost or the long playing time. Tiny Epic Kingdoms is only $16 and takes only 30-60 minutes to play.


2-4 players run tiny kingdoms with big ambitions. You want to expand your population throughout the realms, learn powerful magic, build grand towers, and have your neighbors quiver in fear at the mention of your name. The conflict? All of the other kingdoms want the same thing and there’s not enough room for everyone to succeed.

This game had a goal of $15k and is currently over $170k in backer pledges. 6 days to go as of this writing.

The Dice Tower – 2014 (Season 10)

The Dice Tower is one of the best gaming podcasts available, reviewing and demoing table top games. They do this for free – everything is on Youtube. I really enjoy the reviews and the goofy antics, and it was a no-brainer to support them.

Dice Tower had a goal of $40k, and raised over $134k. Clearly, I am not the only one who appreciates what these guys do for the gaming community.

Dice Tower can be seen, here: Dice Tower

Double-Six Dice

Six-sided dice do not roll well – they are cubes. There are even books available that teach you how to manipulate the roll of such dice. Double-Six dice are 12-sided, numbered 1-6 twice. They roll more easily and are far more difficult to manipulate.

I don’t play with any gamers that are trying to manipulate the dice roll (except when trying to use The Force, which is completely legitimate), and I use a handcrafted dice tower for rolling, anyway. Still, I love this concept and the price was right to buy in.


This Kickstarter had a goal of $3,246 and finished with over #133k in backer pledges. I’m looking forward to these, and I already am seeing other games popping up on Kickstarter, offering Double-Six dice as components.

Coin Age – A Pay-What-You-Want Area Control Micro-Game

In Coin Age (published by TMG), two players attempt to control the land of Agea using a single card map and a handful of pocket change. Players take turns placing their forces (coins) on the map to control spaces, outmaneuver their opponent, and score victory points.

This Kickstarter has ended, but with a goal of $5k, it achieved an amazing $65k+, all based on a “pay as little as $3 for the game” concept.

They even have a “Print and Play” version of the game for free, HERE.

Burgoo – A-Pay-What-You-Want game of Community Stews

Burgoo is a game designed by Dan Manfredini (produced by TMG) for 2-5 aspiring stew chefs which takes 15-30 minutes depending on the number of players.

Each cook (player) starts the game with 12 stew ingredients randomly formed into a mixing line (2 sets of 6 ingredients).  And a hand of ingredients that allow them to manipulate their mixing line, or add ingredients to the stew from every mixing line.

On a cook’s turn they may sample the stew, taking one ingredient of their choice from the stew into their hand.  Or they may spend an ingredient from their hand to divide their cooking line, gaining access to more of their ingredients, or to add ingredients from their line into the stew, but be wise because if you add an ingredient that other cooks are ready to add, they too can add to the stew on your turn.

This Kickstarter has ended, but it more than quadrupled its goal of $5000, all based on a “pay as little as $3 for the game” concept.

Where Art Thou, Romeo?

Where Art Thou Romeo? is a nano-game in which 3-5 players take turns taking on the role of Juliet, who is attempting to find Romeo amongst the others players. Each card, other than Juliet, has two different roles from which to choose. Players holding these cards choose one of the two roles, which will subsequently make them want to convince the Juliet player that they either are or are not Romeo or perhaps point out who they think Romeo might be.

The game lasts 3-5 rounds depending upon the number of players with each player taking on the role of Juliet once. The player with the most influence points at the end of the game wins.

This game had a backer goal of as little as $1 to get a copy of the game, mailed. With a modest goal of $250, it raised $5723. I’ve gotten my copy, and the cards looks great. I haven’t played it yet.


In HOST, the world has reached the first great apocalypse, You are either a brain munching zombie, an interstellar alien, or one of the few keeping them at bay… for now. Collect and trade matching cards to complete your mission for either an alien invasion, wide spread infection, or be humanity’s last hope, and cure them all. But every card you draw has a negative and positive value. Will you inadvertently let the enemy win by passing the wrong card? Deception is just as important as luck.


I’ve received my copy of the game and want to play it a few more times before I review it, but I like it. It had a goal of $2k and raised over $4k in backer pledges.

The deluxe version of game can be purchased here: TheGameCrafter

Marrying Mr. Darcy – The Pride and Prejudice Card Game

Marrying Mr. Darcy is a strategy card game where players are one of the female characters from Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. Players work to earn points and attract the attention of available suitors. Our heroines do this by attending events and improving their characters, but advantage can be gained by the use of cunning. All of their efforts are in hopes of marrying well and becoming the most satisfied character at the end of the game!


I backed this one for my wife, who is a huge fan of Jane Austen. I love playing games with her, and she’s played Zombies!!! and Talisman with me, so I guess I can play this once in a while, too. Apparently, there are no shortage of Austen fans as the goal was set at $10k, and it achieved well over $57k.

The Game can also be bought here: Marrying Mr. Darcy

Bocce Dice

Though Bocce Dice only takes a minute or two to learn, you will find yourself honing your skills and coming up with new strategies every time you play. The combination of skill and chance mean that, with some luck, even a beginner can challenge a master. It’s simple and adaptable structure encourages you to customize the game with your own rules.

Straight up, I loved this game concept and was so happy with the components when the game arrived. It’s a regular in our family game rotation. I did a full review of it HERE.

The game can be purchased here: Bocce Dice Game

Board Game Review: Halo Risk Legendary Edition

Risk has always been one of those games that  sounds like a good idea to play, and then two hours in, with no end in sight, I regret ever buying it. Still, it’s a classic game and there is a lot to be said for the simple strategy to chance ratio and the way a roll-off of dice between players feels a little like battle.

Halo Risk Legendary Edition, Hasbro – $39.99 is another in the line of many themed versions of Risk already on the market. In this case, it is the world of Halo, the wildly popular video game franchise on the Xbox platform, featuring USMC units, Covenant and the dreaded Flood.

Halo-Risk1These themed editions are often nothing more than the same old game with a different map and different models for the playing pieces. Halo Risk is in this vein, but there are some surprisingly fresh differences that affect strategy and how the game is played.

The introduction of mobile teleports to move troops quickly to a different map area adds new tactics to game. The campaign cards offer objectives beyond wiping out the other players, such as, “Conquer seven territories in one turn.” Finally, there are three different maps to choose from, each different from the others and one is a Halo Ring map, which spans 5 feet!


The game pieces are cool, you are given lots of them and overall, I thought they were well-modeled (with the exception of the Scorpion tank on the UNSC side, which lacked detail) and it was easy to tell what was what on the board. The maps are interesting and beautifully drawn, and the box has a plastic insert with places to store the pieces without getting them all mixed up. From that standpoint, it’s a quality game.

That said, it is still Risk. That means long games (particularly if you play on the huge Halo Ring map) with lots of dice-rolling. Underneath the Halo theme and minor tweaks to gameplay, it is still just Risk.

If you hate Risk but love Halo – I’d recommend you steer clear unless you just want to add it to your collection. If you love Risk, this is a will be a version you are likely to play again and again.

Game Review–Dungeon Roll

In Dungeon Roll by Tasty Minstrel Games, $19.95 – The players are adventurers, entering the dungeon with goal is to collect the most experience points by defeating monsters, battling the dragon, and amassing treasure. Each player selects a Hero avatar, such as a Mercenary, Half-Goblin, or Enchantress, which provides them with unique powers. Then players take turns being the Adventurer, who boldly enters the dungeon seeking glory.

Each Adventurer assembles their party by rolling seven Party Dice, while another player serves as the Dungeon Lord and rolls a number of Dungeon Dice based on how far the Adventurer has progressed through the dungeon. The Adventurer uses Champion, Fighter, Cleric, Mage, Thief, and Scroll faces on the Party Dice to defeat monsters such as goblins and skeletons, claim treasure chests, and revive downed companions with potions.


The game components are excellent, and I love the custom dice and that they matched the colors on each die to coordinate with what character is most effective against what monster (Clerics are the same color as skeletons, for example). The cards have nice artwork, the counters are thick and double-sided, and the box looks like a little (3”W x 3”L x 3”T) treasure chest and is used to store and draw from for treasure tokens during the game.

Spencer and I have played this a dozen or so times now, and it’s a simple and fun game. Playing time for two players is about 15 minutes, and only slightly more for 3 or 4 players, so it’s definitely a quick-play game, suitable as a warm-up game for something longer, or to play while waiting for other players to arrive. It also has a solo mode which plays exactly like the multiplayer, and that strength is the biggest failing of Dungeon Roll.

Playing the game is really just the player doing hand-control with his party dice vs. the monster dice he is facing, pressing their luck as far as they can without being defeated and having to flee the dungeon. There is no interaction between the players. Yes, another player rolls the monster dice each round and keeps up with what dungeon level you are on, but there is no point where a player can take an action in their turn that affects another player. You are multiple players taking turns playing a solo game, and it feels that way. The only competition at all is when you add up Experience Points at the end of the game to see who had the most and therefore won.

Still, Dungeon Roll is fast, well-themed, well made and despite the lack of interaction, it is still fun. For the price, it’s worth picking up if you play games like Zombie Dice or Cthulhu Dice, or just want a simple filler game with nice components.

We will continue to play this one, but the lack of player interaction kneecaps it severely.

Dungeon Roll
© 2013 by Tasty Minstrel Games
Designed by Chris Darden
1-4 Players
Ages 8+
15-30 minutes play time
Recommended RSP, $19.95

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock! dice game

Rock, Paper Scissors, Lizard, Spock! is a five-gesture expansion of the classic hand gesture selection method game, Rock, Paper, Scissors. By adding two additional gestures, the chance of ending in a tie is reduced.


Sam Kass and Karen Bryla are credited with creating Rock, Paper Scissors, Lizard, Spock! but it was not until it appeared in Big Bang Theory that it took off, quickly becoming a household reference in geek-homes everywhere.

Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock

It’s spawned numerous t-shirts, posters, memes and so on, so it’s not surprising to see it appear as a licensed dice game from Cardinal Games.

Big Bang Theory – Rock, Paper Scissors, Lizard, Spock! dice game from Cardinal, $3.99

The game consists of 4 custom, 6-sided dice, with each facet one of the possible game. It also includes 24 small chips to track score. The instructions are short and easy to comprehend. The dice are low quality. I am a bit of a dice-geek, so they are fine, just not exceptional. The chips are small but fulfill the limited needs of the game, and all the components are very portable, packaged with a clear plastic tube to carry it in, so that is nice.

WP_000516 (1)

While the premise of the game is fun, this is a game of complete chance, offering no opportunities for planning, strategy or odds. Each player rolls the dice and either wins or doesn’t, passing the dice to the next player.

I suppose you could make it more interesting by betting on each round, or turning it into a frat party type of drinking game, but otherwise, I can see no reason to play a game like this, nor can I recommend it to anyone.

As much as I love Big Bang Theory, give this one a pass. Note that there is another variation of this called Geek Dice, which I have not played. It adds a betting aspect, and the components appear to be high quality. I’ll have to give it a closer look.

I am Looking Forward to Of Dice and Men by David Ewalt

The year was 1980, and I was  seventeen years old and carried D&D books in a brown, vinyl briefcase.  If you think carrying a Trapper Keeper attracted bullies, just try carrying a briefcase.   I caused myself a lot of unnecessary trouble and anxiety – something my awkward teenage self did not need, but I survived.  Now, I proudly acknowledge that I played D&D back when it was uncool.  It’s still uncool, but less so than say – Pokémon players.  Now, those guys are geeks!  I mean, C’mon!  A Beholder could take out Pikachu any day of the week.

Yeah baby.  I was a Dungeon Master when Dungeon Master wasn’t cool (and didn’t have S&M connotations).  I rolled my weird dice behind my cardboard DM shield with ratio tables on it, and I took my player characters – my friends – through an adventure the likes of which Tolkien’s Frodo or Bilbo might have undertaken, or even Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser.

I loved the escapism Role Playing Games offered, and Gary Gygax’s D&D created the genre.  It was the shoulders that so many after it stood upon.  I knew D&D when it was just a game – not a franchise.  And despite the beatings from bullies, I fondly remember the times playing D&D.  I remember how I felt – how it unlocked a dimension between reality and fantasy, unlike anything movies or books could do.  In this place, you could make your own decisions how the story would unfold.  You would not merely observe – you would be a participant.

Those were the days, and that’s why I’m looking forward to David Ewalt’s new book: Of Dice and Men

ODAMThe promo for Of Dice and Men reads:

Ancient red dragons with 527 hit points, +44 to attack, and a 20d10 breath weapon, to be specific. In the world of fantasy role-playing, those numbers describe a winged serpent with immense strength and the ability to spit fire. There are few beasts more powerful—just like there are few games more important than Dungeons & Dragons.

Even if you’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons, you probably know someone who has: the game has had a profound influence on our culture. Released in 1974—decades before the Internet and social media—Dungeons & Dragons inspired one of the original nerd subcultures, and is still revered by millions of fans around the world. Now the authoritative history and magic of the game are revealed by an award-winning journalist and lifelong D&D player.

In Of Dice and Men, David Ewalt recounts the development of Dungeons & Dragons from the game’s roots on the battlefields of ancient Europe, through the hysteria that linked it to satanic rituals and teen suicides, to its apotheosis as father of the modern video-game industry. As he chronicles the surprising history of the game’s origins (a history largely unknown even to hardcore players) and examines D&D’s profound impact, Ewalt weaves laser-sharp subculture analysis with his own present-day gaming experiences. An enticing blend of history, journalism, narrative, and memoir, Of Dice and Men sheds light on America’s most popular (and widely misunderstood) form of collaborative entertainment.

The book releases in all formats from Simon and Schuster on August 20, 2013.

I’m in – preordered.  Make me proud, David Ewalt, and I will open up my Trapper Keeper, take out my Monster Manual v1 and ask you to autograph it.  But not in ink – I’m trying to maintain it’s near mint condition.


Of Mice and Men by David M. Ewalt on Amazon.

Review: Rory’s Story Cubes

Rory’s Story Cubes have been around for a few years,  sold as a game for ages 8 and up. It consists of 9, quality dice with different images on each facet. The object is to roll the dice and then create a story based on the images on the cubes  rolled. 9 cubes with 6 images on each one for a total 54 images and over 10,000,000 possible combinations.


Now, this is not the great story-telling machine. At least in my case, the stories I create from what is rolled are simplistic and not really usable as a storyline for anything I will write. But playing through a few rolls of Story Cubes and creating a story from the random pictures does seem to break my brain out of idle and get me thinking outside of my comfort zone.

I tend to get in a weird funk where I’m not excited about what I’m writing about. I’m churning out words, knowing well that in the editorial pass, most of it is too mundane and will be cut. I find this most common with something I’ve been working on for a long time – I get bored with what I’m doing, but it’s not finished so I keep working on it.

Of course, you can just play the game with Story Cubes. It’s a lot of fun to play with a creative group of people.

Here is an example session with Story Cubes in which I tell a completely absurd and boring story despite the fact that I cheated a little bit.

You get the idea.

Rory’s Story Cubes sell for less than $10 on Amazon, and I’ve seen them in Barnes and Noble and other stores, too.  Things like this can help get the creative juices flowing, sometimes.  Aside from that, it can be a really fun drinking game.

Flying RC Car – Just take my money and shut up.

I dig Kickstarter – a site that lets individuals build funding for their creative projects.  I usually check it out to see what projects from authors and game creators are looking for funding, but sometimes I come across something unexpected and cool that has nothing to do with writing or games, and that’s the case with ‘B’ the Flying Car.

First of all, it’s not a full-sized car.  It’s a (~1/10 scale) Remote-Controlled hybrid car-helicopter with very cool design.  My son is big into RC Cars right now, and he flipped out over this one.  I did, too.



Swing on over to Kickstarter and check out the video of ‘B’ The Flying Car.  It’s one of the cooler things I’ve seen in a long time.  Yes, I’m probably getting one.  For my son, of course.

Hyper-Short Fiction

Some writers (myself included) are drawn to the short-form story idea, and I think it’s that the imposed brevity forces you to make every word count and say something. The luxury of verbosity is gone.

Let’s quickly go down the list of Fiction Types by length:

Novel Usually 40,000 words or more, and can be much longer.
Novella Usually between 17,500 words and 39,999 words.
Novelette Usually between 7,500 and 17,499 words.
Short Story Usually between 1000 and 7,499 words.
Flash Fiction Usually less than 999 words.


Then there are the really short forms: dabbles, dibbles, micro-fiction, Twiction, six-word Stories, six-sentence stories, and so on. All of these are recognized forms of fiction as well but usually have specific constraints – i.e., a dabble is exactly 100 words long, or Twiction is short enough to fit in a tweet, etc.


When it comes to the hyper-short fiction forms, fewer doesn’t mean less.

Hemingway was accredited with writing an entire story with no title, in only six-words:

For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.

It’s considered a complete story because it has a beginning, middle and end. I blogged about it in 2011, here.

Hint-Fiction-CoverI recently picked up a small, unassuming book at Barnes and Noble.

Hint Fiction, Edited by Robert Swartwood. (paperback, published by W. W. Norton & Company, $13.95)

I was introduced to yet another, short-short format. Hint fiction is, “A story of 25 words or fewer that suggests a larger, more complex story.”

Before this book, I would have said it was not publishable. I am wrong because, well, here is the published  book of stories, 25 or fewer words long, each – really not complete stories, but fiction that hints at a story. I consumed the entire book in an hour, and that was reading the introduction and slowly perusing the stories. Some were very good, and I enjoyed what the author did – clever twists or word-play. Others were less inspired, and that is the case with anthologies – it’s a mixed bag.

Hint Fiction (the book) is interesting, but light reading. I would only recommend it to fans of the hyper-short fiction form. I might play around with the format in my own writing, just for fun. Regardless, hyper-short fiction is a good exercise to tighten prose.

Granted, these brief stories – even the one that Hemingway is recognized for having written – are not a complete story-telling experience in their own right. By not immersing the reader in details, the mind is left to fill in the blanks. In this way, it is an exercise for the reader as well.

They are the Haiku of the fiction world.

If this interests you, take a look at Hint Fiction, and these links:

Six Sentences – What can you say in six sentences? Great community on the 6S Social network, too.

Microfiction on Twitter – Twiction, conveying a story in 140 characters. Also look for #twiction on Twitter to see what others are doing with the format.

And here is a MSNBC article on the hyper-short fiction format:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

If the video does not work, go to the source, here: