Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tis The Season for Games

Tis the season for family visits. With Thanksgiving this weekend and Christmas fast approaching, you are frantically trying to get things organized.  This year you are hosting and your in-laws are arriving tonight! Grab some games and liven things up a bit.

You start by perusing your game shelves. You may be very tempted to pull out your new copy of Firefly or Nothing Personal, two games you have been itching to play. Then it dawns on you that, while your in-laws are open to trying new things, they have had very little gaming experience. Most of their game play has been limited to the traditional games of your childhood.  The sum of their gaming experience consists of many games of chess, rummy, monopoly and the occasional game of Settlers of Catan. You envision their eyes glazing over as you try desperately to explain the complexities of Malcolm Reynolds and his crew. No, you need to find something you can all enjoy.

Choosing the right game is a very important task, particularly when you are playing with a group that isn't experienced, or has had a poor gaming experience in the past.  Those poor experiences can be very tricky to overcome.

So how do you ensure that this does not happen?

First, choose games that will provide a fun, light experience, and that suit the personalities of the group. If your family and friends find the experience enjoyable, they will be far more likely to want to play again the next time.  If you know that your in-laws prefer mental challenges (you always see them completing the crossword or Sudoku puzzle in the paper), then consider games that stimulate thought like Carcassonne or Ticket to Ride.  If they love word puzzles, try Quiddler, Kerflip!, or Word on the Street. And If they enjoy a more lighthearted type of game with lots of interaction and laughter consider party games such as Time's Up, Cover Your A$$ets, The Princess Bride: Prepare to Die, or (for those families with a more twisted sense of humor) Cards Against Humanity.
Second, look for games with simple, easy to follow rules that still challenge and offer interesting choices and strategies.  This will allow experienced gamers to feel challenged without overwhelming those with less experience.
Third, choose a forgiving game. One that will allow a few mistakes without costing a new player the game. This will help ensure that the experience is enjoyable.  Nothing is worse than losing a game due to a simple mistake that happened at the beginning of the game.  Especially when it is your first time playing.
And finally, Start Slow.  Only introduce one or two new games at your gathering.  By mixing them with games they know and love, you will help ease them into the new game.  Start with a game they love, get them laughing, then introduce the new game.

Even when you make an effort to choose games that fit your group, you may still run into objections.  Some people simply want to stick to tradition.  So when all else fails, grab that copy of Monopoly or Yahtzee.  You'll still be playing a game and at least it's themed out with Star Wars or Dr. Who, right??

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Doctor Who: The Night of the Doctor Mini-Episode Released. Brilliant!

A special 7 minute mini-episode of Doctor Who has been released online ahead of the full-length 50th anniversary episode The Day of the Doctor.

The Night of the Doctor stars Paul McGann as the Time Lord, who played the 8th Doctor in the 1996 TV Movie.  This mini episode answers both the question of the 8th Doctor's demise and the origins of the mystery Doctor played by John Hurt in the 50th anniversary special.  The Day of the Doctor airs globally on November 23rd.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Hands On Impressions: Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin

While I may never fully understand the reason behind AEG's choice to name their newest version of Thunderstone, Advance, I am happy to report that the advances made in this version are great improvements to the game. 

Similar to the recent release of Nightfall: The Coldest War, AEG has updated and improved Thunderstone's starting cards as well as updating the curses.  Each curse now has its own distinct way of removing itself from your deck.  While one curse might require you to discard cards, others might order you to lose gold, or worse yet, venture into the dungeon and risk defeat by lowering your attack value and become unable to equip weapons or use dungeon abilities for the rest of the turn. 

The starting cards are also new and Shiny!  If you recall, the old starting cards included Militia, Torch, Dagger, and Rations.  While the Torch remains, the other cards have received a pleasant update.  Militia are now called Regulars and can be leveled up for one fewer XP than before.  The Daggers have been upgraded to Longspears and provide Regulars with the advantage of drawing a card when equipped.  And the Rations have been replaced by Thunderstone Shards.  These thematic shards provide a nice strength boost to heroes while also providing a boost to XP when you gather your spoils in the dungeon.

Adding to the pile of improvements, Thunderstone Advance includes a larger, more dynamic board which holds not only the dungeon cards, but also provides spaces for the village.  Gone are the days when your party ends up with one spell and all weapons to choose from (or vice versa).  The new board has a set number of slots for weapons, heroes, spells, villagers, and items making it much more balanced when choosing your randomizers.

The board also comes double sided and provides two different levels of play.  One side is the dungeon and the other the wilderness.  In the wilderness, the need for light becomes a one-to-one ratio making it a little easier to navigate and a great place for new players to start.

New to this set is the addition of Familiars.  This little twist allows players to draw one after their first victory in the dungeon.  Once drawn, the familiar stays in front of the player until used.  Then it gets shuffled into the players deck to be drawn again.  When drawn it is placed once again in front of the player to be used when the time is right.  Each familiar has several different abilities that improve with the number of XP that the player has accumulated.  For example, if a player drew the Battle Hawk, then that player can use it with 0 XP to gain 2 gold in the Village, with 3 XP in the Dungeon to gain +1 light, or with 6 XP to gain that light + draw a card and gain physical attack +1 in the Dungeon.  When used, the XP is not discarded, it's checked to see that the player has the required amount. 

Players who pre-ordered the set also received the mini Avatar Expansion.  This adds just a little more Dungeon crawl flavor to the game.  Each player chooses between Wizard, Cleric, Fighter, Thief, and Ranger.  All in all I could take or leave this expansion.  The avatars seem too unbalanced and did not add much to the rest of the game.  I think it might be more fun to play with them by randomly distributing the avatars, but that's just me :)

So that's about it! Lots of great new additions that add a lot to the theme and improve the Dungeon crawl feel.  For me this is by far the best version to date and one that has me thinking I need to move it up in my deck building ranks.  Who knows, this might just move up into second place, right under Nightfall!

If you want the full Impressions from our crew, listen to our Session Impressions for Thunderstone Advance, playing now on an iPod near you!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Game Salute to Host Dozens of Preview Events at Gen Con 2012!

Want the chance to try out some great new games BEFORE they hit the market?  This year, Game Salute will feature dozens of New Games in the Gen Con Event Hall along with many other titles.  Below is a list of all the Game Salute Preview Events you can attend at Gen Con 2012.  To get your tickets visit  Get them before they're gone!

Click on a picture to read more about each game :o)

Vici: The Die is Cast

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Hands On Impressions: Goblin's Drool, Fairies Rule!

I recently had the pleasure of playing this fantastic new children's game from Game-o-gami.  Goblin's Drool, Fairies Rule! is a quick little rhyming card game that takes between 15 and 20 minutes to play.  The suggested ages are 7 and up, but any child who is fluent with rhymes and can read (or has a sibling or parent to help) will pick it up rather quickly.  The game is comprised of 20 super-sized cards with double side illustrations.  One side features a cute little fairy and the other a mischievous goblin!  Each character has their own unique name which rhymes with seven other fairies and goblins.  On your turn, you play a card to the Fairy Circle and flip any cards that rhyme.  You then retrieve any cards that match the symbol of the card you played and place them in front of yourself.  There are 4 different symbols in the game: Suns, moons, frogs, and mushrooms.  The suns and moons are opposite each other and, like wise, the frogs and mushrooms.  Some Fairies and Goblins are extra special and are surrounded by stars.  These cards will flip all cards in the center when played.  You win the game if you get rid of all your goblins or obtain at least 6 fairies.
One of my favorite aspects of this game is the beautiful artwork which appeals to both boys and girls.  The fanciful names add even more to the fun.  Just listen to one of the rhyming sets.  Gooble T. Goop, Dastardly Droop, Salamander Snoop, Goblin Soup, Lemon Loop, Rainbow Swoop, Hula Hoop, and Vanilla Scoop.  Each illustration magnificently depicts the name in fairy or goblin form.  Just take a look!

So if you are looking for that next great family or kids game, or are a teacher looking for something new and educational for rainy classroom days, look no further.  Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule! has just launched on Kickstarter and you can pledge your support today.  Not only do you have the opportunity to get this great game, but depending on your pledge, you also can receive a book of the beautiful artwork and a double sided puzzle featuring a fairy and a goblin.  I personally have secured my pledge at the educator level (aka Dusty Dour) and can't wait to use it in the classroom.  Go Check it out!

Playing with the Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule! prototype at our weekly game night!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

PAX East Cosplay Mini Gallery and My Convention experience with a Toddler

This year I was lucky enough to make it to all 3 days of PAX East!  Trouble is, I was pretty much glued to our hopping Game Salute booth.  Amongst managing the volunteers, teaching demos, and getting photos of our team there was not much time to see the halls.  I did manage to get a few nice shots of some of this year's Cosplayers, though.  Enjoy!

A Very Busy Game Salute Booth!!

Also, since this year we celebrated PAX Easter, I had the unique experience of bringing my 2 year old son to the show. (no one wants to babysit on Easter!) He was an angel the entire day! Spending a large amount of time in the ergo and the rest of the time running around the wide open space of the food court next to us, he never really complained.  Why would he?  There's so much to see and observe.  Needless to say, I got a great work out and he got to experience his first real Con! :0) He even spent some time playing his own version of BEARS! by Fireside Games.  Can't wait till he is old enough to really experience the true spectacle of gaming conventions.

Logan, tired after a LONG day at PAX East.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Going Cardboard with Lorien Green


Lorien Green is a social media manager with a background in community management for Turbine Entertainment and a passion for documentaries, Geekumentaries, specifically, and the creative mind behind the exciting new Geekumentary: Going Cardboard.  I checked in with Lorien recently to see what's been happening since the film's debut.

American Geek Mom: For those who don't know, why choose a Geekumentary about board games?

Lorien Green: I fell into the designer board gaming hobby about the same time I started passionately blogging about indie documentaries, and that combination eventually made me want to do my own film on designer board games, because the topic flat-out deserved it.

AGM: What was it that hooked you into the culture of board games?

LG: I'm a very geeky person myself.  I was one of those quiet shy kids in high school that just couldn't wait to get home, grab the latest copy of Nintendo Power, and get to playing.  In college, it was Magic: the Gathering.  Senior year at Boston University, I became president and founder of the BU Magic: the Gathering club.  After college, it was all about MMOs, starting with Asheron's Call.  So I've got a history of bouncing from one geek sphere to another, gaining appreciation for those sub-cultures.  My husband was responsible for bringing the designer board gaming sphere to light, but once he got into it, I certainly followed.

AGM: What was the first game he introduced you too?

LG: I think the first designer game we played was Catan, but it was Bohnanza that really won me over.  Some of the really early ones we played included Balloon Cup and Lost Cities, too.  Lost Cities remains probably my favorite two-player game.  And the first game I ever taught to other friends was Poison.
AGM: My husband and I also enjoy Lost Cities.  It's definitely a good one for 2 Players. What is your current Favorite Table Top Game?
LG: As far as current favorites, I had a lot of fun at PAX playing Spot It, I've got a copy of that on order, and I have yet to tire of Dominion, especially Dominion Prosperity, which I haven't had enough chances to play.  When four of us get together, Small World is always fun.

AGM: From one geek mom to another, how were you able to balance work, family, and your passion to create this documentary?

LG: For the editing, All Nighters, and that was actually the easy part.  And that was essential, because editing is a thought process; it requires focus.  I did some of it during weekends, with the kids around, but that's not ideal for them or for me.  An all nighter means that it's not taking away from family time or work time, it's only taking away from sleep.  
     For the interviewing work, I was able to do things like take a vacation day from work during the week, drop the kids off at daycare, and drive on down to Salem to do an interview.  The grandparents looked after the kids one weekend so I could go to Essen and film there.  It was definitely a challenge, and restrictive, it made it impossible to do a LOT of traveling and time away for this film, but fortunately the designer board gaming scene is very active in New England.  There were definitely additional trips I would have taken, and interviews I would have done if I'd had the freedom to do so.  I'd love to see someone from another part of the country do their interpretation of a board game documentary.  Because just one isn't enough anyway, not for a hobby this size.
     Bottom line, the family was very supportive, but it IS a sacrifice for them, and they had to do without me sometimes.  Working moms are busy these days, and the idea of, "I've got too much going on as a Mom, I can't do this" is a very common and understandable fear.  But it shouldn't stop you, because if you've got a dream, you can't just bury your dreams and take care of everyone else.  It's not healthy for you, and it's not ultimately good for them either.  And Americans watch, what, 6 hours of TV a day or something?  If you want to make the time, you can make the time.

AGM: What was the most exciting/terrifying part of meeting and interviewing board game designers and other insiders?

LG: One of the most terrifying moments was at the Gathering of Friends.  I couldn't find a good location to interview, and I had an interview scheduled very soon after arriving.  I was in a panic, looking at different conference room options that just weren't working.  In the end, I did the interviews in my hotel room.  I had to do the same thing interviewing Reiner Knizia at Essen, and once again that was an interview scheduled to take place just a few hours after my flight landed.  I was pretty sure I looked like a nervous amateur during that interview, and I really wanted to give him a favorable impression of my skills, to put him at ease that he was working with someone who was going to do something serious and of good quality, and I felt like I wasn't oozing confidence during that.  Until the end of the interview, where he said I asked very good interesting questions.  I think a lot of the time we're more nervous inside than out.
     One of the most exciting parts was of course being able to interview Klaus Teuber.  That was another under the gun moment, because I had to meet up with Klaus and his son Guido, do the interview, then sprint back to the hotel and get out of there because my flight was leaving that morning, and I once again had a serious time crunch.  It all went off smoothly, thank goodness!

AGM: Those do sound like some stressful moments. On the flip side,what was your favorite moment during the film?

LG: For the finished film, it's the final update card for Bryan Johnson, and the way the audiences at two screenings have burst into applause at that spot.  I also have to say, one of my favorite lines in the whole film is Phil Alberg describing Reef Encounter, and saying, "You take ownership by putting a shrimp on it."  It might just be my marine biology background, but something about that line just makes me grin every time.

AGM: Did you have a favorite convention or location you visited?

LG: Definitely Essen.  The only drawback was, it was such a high investment trip for the film (not just financially; it was really important to get amazing footage of that and I had a TON of very important interviews scheduled), and so I was just filming, filming, filming the entire time.  I didn't PLAY anything, and I didn't even BUY anything (well, I got Savannah Tails, autographed :).  That was torture.  I hope someday I can go back there and experience that event as a gamer, and grab some of the really unique games that show there.  I had a ton of filming gear with me, so my travel luggage just wouldn't accommodate purchases.  Alas.

AGM: Do you hope to go back to any of them and bring the whole family?

LG: Oh yes, Essen, since it is SO family-friendly.  I think when the kids are maybe in their early teens (they are 5 and 6 right now), they will have a blast there.  But people definitely were bringing kids their current age to the show, so who knows, it might be sooner.  I wouldn't be opposed.
     More locally, we're getting very close to being able to bring them to things like Unity Games and PAX East, we almost did that this year.  I really can't wait.  Very young kids sort of force a cryogenic period into a gamer's life, but once they get a little older, you have a built-in gaming group at home, and that makes it well worth the wait. :)

AGM: We are definitely counting the days until our son can play games with us.  He is currently a fan of organizing all the pieces in our games and rolling dice.  He actually made it to PAX East with us this year purely due to the fact that Sunday was Easter and it's near impossible to find a sitter for that day ;0)  So, what's next for T-cat productions?

LG: I've got plans, oh yes, I've got some plans.  There are a couple things I want to put in place before I look at filming another feature, but there are also tons of cool local things that I'd like to put to film that might not become documentaries.  Right now things are still really busy with promoting and supporting the marketing for the film (I thought time would free up once it was completed, but no, there is a LOT more work to do now than when I was making it).

AGM: Finally, were there any "AH HA!" moments that you will take with you for future projects or advice you would give to others who want to put on their own director's hat?

LG: My advice, without hesitation, is just DO IT.  Try to find a mentor who can help guide you past some of the pitfalls and newbie mistakes, but don't be afraid of newbie mistakes.  I made many.  It doesn't have to be perfect, and nothing ever is anyway.  If you have a topic that you feel passionate about, and are willing to see it through (this took 3 years for me) then the final product will reflect that passion, and people will pick up on it, and no matter WHAT your topic is, other people out there are going to be interested, and are going to appreciate your effort.  That's one thing the internet has done; niche sub-culture communities can connect in a way that they could not before.
        My own learning moment, and there were many, but one of the big take-a ways was, be fearless.  I spent most of my life shy and quiet, so this whole thing has been outside my comfort zone.  I got butterflies and anxiety at almost every step, I wish I could say that went away with repeated exposure, but it doesn't.  And if you truly feel an idea has merit, pursue it and don't listen to anyone saying it can't be done.  And honestly, even if this project failed or wasn't well-received, that would be a bummer, but I would still have the experience, and have met all these great people, and have learned so much.  That alone would have made it worthwhile and nobody can take that away from you.

I would like to thank Lorien for sharing her passion for board games with all of us and for giving us a little insight into what makes her such a great geek mom.  You can purchase Going Cardboard through many friendly local game stores, the Going Cardboard website, and Amazon.  For Local readers, Going Cardboard will be a screening at Myriad Games in Manchester, NH this Saturday April 21st at 6:00 PM.  Come join us and meet the woman behind this amazing look at table top gaming. You can also keep up with Lorien on Twitter @LorienGreen.