This Saturday after Thanksgiving turned into a boardgame family night at the RockyMountainNavy hacienda. Actually, the entire day had gaming moments for the family. Here are a few of the highlights.
RockyMountainNavy Jr. pulled NMBR 9 (Z-Man Games, 2017) out as he was eating breakfast and played a solo game with one hand as he munched away with the other; he didn’t score well but he did comment that it was an enjoyable pairing.
Late afternoon RMN Jr. asked if we could host a boardgame night with his best buddy, Gavin. Then it was for Gavin and his brother Skylar. Then it was for Gavin, Skylar, and Gavin’s Dad. No problem!
As we waited after dinner NMBR 9 made another appearance. After four plays I finally won! The scores for all were fairly low showing the difficult draws that this particular game produced.
Going into the evening we had a few choices ready for Game Night. Six players is a much larger player count than usual for us so we had to curate a selection. Gaming candidates included:
Abandon Ship (AEG, 2008) – Semi-cooperative game of saving your rats while sacrificing others as the ship sinks (bonus – one of the best game boards ever!); supports up to seven player.
Since I am usually the Boardgame Teacher I spent a little bit of the afternoon going through the rules for the games one more time to quickly refamiliarize myself. Good thing I did because when the night started Castle Panic was the first to land on the table.
We played Castle Panic in full cooperative mode with open hands. We had to explain to Gavin’s Dad what a cooperative game was. He quickly bought into the game and he and his boys caught onto the rules fast. We were able to win after a fun 80-minute battle. That’s a bit longer than the 30-60 minutes advertised play time but that included a quick teach and some slow first rounds as they felt out the game. Verdict – FUN, willing to play again.
Interestingly, of my two boys it was RMN T, my Autism Spectrum hero, that recalled the rules and flow of the game best. I was surprised as he was fully aware during the game about the Boss Monsters and the danger they represent. We haven’t played Castle Panic in a while and if I had not reread the rule book earlier I would have not thought about it that way at all. I don’t think we give him enough credit because, once again, when it comes to gaming he showed he really is ‘on the ball’; perhaps more so than anyone else in the family.
The second game of the night was Abandon Ship. Gavin’s Dad immediately bought into the theme of the game – first for the awesome board and second when I explained that the first rat to the top deck scores no points because it gets trampled to death. He literally laughed out loud at that. Unlike the full cooperative play of Castle Panic, Abandon Ship is played in a semi-cooperative manner. At the end of the night RMN Jr. won but all the others were close behind in scoring. Verdict – DEFINITE HIT; must play again.
Tonight was also the full debut of the my BBO Poker World Traveler Game Mat. This is a VERY important piece of gaming kit in the RMN Home given Mrs. RMN just got a new dining room table and it is important we keep it looking good. Again, it was Gavin’s Dad who was the most complimentary of the game mat. He’s absolutely right; it looks really good on the table!
WITHIN THE ROCKYMOUTAINNAVY GAMING COLLECTION, cooperative games have 11 places on the shelf. As part of my 2019 Gold Geek Awards Challenge I recently pulled out Pandemic (Z-Man Games, 2008) to replay. A lot has been written about Pandemic and I have nothing really new to add. That said, recent events in the neighborhood have got me thinking about cooperative games in general.
Pandemic, however, occupies a special place in the heart of myself and the RockyMountainNavy Boys. It has this special place based on two particular games we played. The first loved game is the first time we beat the game. We were literally down to the last card and all of us were standing around the table. When we cured the last disease and won we all jumped and high-fived each other. It was maybe the most satisfying moment of family board gaming ever. The second special game was where Middle RMN Boy, my Autism Spectrum angel, awed us beyond belief when he laid out the path to victory that none of us saw. Pandemic literally has brought us together as a gaming family.
During the Memorial Day weekend we were invited to a neighbors house for a barbecue. I had heard from my Boys that this family was getting into modern board gaming. My Boys had played Survive: Escape from Atlantis! (Stronghold, 2012) with the other boys and they had purchased the game. When talking to the parents, they steered the conversation to board gaming. They were curious about what games we played. Then they mentioned they had purchased Pandemic and all but invited us to play together in the near future.
It’s already established that I love Pandemic, but I am not sure this is actually a good game for that family. Their boys are very competitive; I doubt they can cooperate enough for Pandemic. A “take-that” game like Survive is much more up their alley.
Thinking ahead to a board game night with the neighbors, I’m struggling to come up with a good group game. Something like Happy Salmon (Northstar Games, 2016) is good for a few minutes of laughter but I need something that lasts longer.
Looking through my collection, I came across Abandon Ship (AEG, 2008). Although not listed in BGG by this mechanic, I term the game a semi-coop. From the publisher’s blurb:
Abandon Ship is a game in which you play to move your group of rats off the ship before the rising water drowns them. The S.S. Nvrsnks is also loaded with valuable points-earning cheese, but don’t let desire for that lovely food send your rats to the watery depths. Your opponents may also share some of the rats in your group; they may want to move the rats in a different manner from you.
Abandon Ship plays up to seven players; perfect for a larger game night. It also covers both areas the other family wants (although they may not know it). For Mom & Dad they get their coop; for the boys they get their take-that.
So, here is to hoping that Neversinks floats the neighbor’s boat (ok, that was a bad pun but you gotta just live with it).
In the most recent Star Trek Adventures RPG living playtest email from Chris Birch at Modiphius he wrote, “Hope you like this new image!” I usually don’t have any real opinion of art in RPG products. Honestly, I rarely even think about it. But this time I did and I definitely have a reaction to it. But before I tell you what I think about this picture a little of my Star Trek RPG history may help you understand where I am coming from.
had a “new” Klingon on the cover. The art content fell broadly falls into two categories; people and ships. The people art was generally staid with little dynamic action; what I term “poser” art. Then, like now, I find the artwork very neutral – indeed almost too neutral – and not exciting or deeply inspirational.
Call to Action – Prime Directive
As I was a fan of the board game (and miniatures) of Star Fleet Battles, when Task Force Games brought out their RPG for that universe I scooped it up – with mild disappointment. But looking back on the artwork of Prime Directive, I see a few things that I like. For instance, the cover has action. Here I see what is likely a Federation Prime Team, with jackets on and phasers ready, in a temple-like structure being attacked (?) by an alien wielding a long spear with a bladed end. Take note that the team is facing the threat. Later versions on Prime Directive, especially the more recent d20 and d20 Modern variants, went to a style of art that I am not a fan of, but still harken back to core themes of the Trek universe. Like this cover from D20 Modern.
Here I see another Prime Team with each character acting in an iconic fashion; the blue-shirted scientist is pointing out something, the red-shirted security guy is getting ready to die, and the gold-shirted commander is leading. Not a lot of action, but each character captures (inspires) a role to play.
The Vanguard of My Imagination
There is another influence on my “expectation” of a Star Trek RPG, coming from the Star Trek Vanguardseries of books. This series appeals to me because it is an Original Series-era setting but with a more confrontational and mysterious adventure. In terms of their book covers, they all consist of ship art and are full of action. I especially like Reap the Whirlwindwhich shows off the small USS Sagittarius daringly passing in front of a much larger (and dangerous?) Klingon ship. Now that is adventure inspiration!
A Call to New Star Trek Adventures
Which brings me back to the new Star Trek Adventures. Much like FASA Trek before, the art shown to date consists of ships and people. In this case the ships are trying to evoke a nostalgic reaction as they portray the iconic Enterpriseacross the TV series’ and movies. But it is the people art that catches my attention. To me, the people art shows how the writers and publishers of this game see their own game. Through those images they show me, the player (and customer), how they think the game should inspire me to play.
The first people image I saw was a crew on the bridge of what appears to be a Original Series ship. I like that it is Original Series and that it is full of action. But to me it is the wrong action. I see a Federation ship that has been boarded by Klingons with at least two injured (dead?) already. The Captain is desperately fighting another ship even as the Klingons board his ship and threaten his bridge. This doesn’t look like it will end well. Indeed, this image reminds me what I see as an overused trope in too many Star Trek movies; Abandon Ship! How many times has the Enterprise now been destroyed? I personally am tired of the trope and it infuriates me because I see it as lazy writing for it has been used too many times to do nothing more than generate emotions (nostalgic longing for the ship) move the adventure off the to a different location.
The next image very different. It changes eras (to theNext Generation) which I am only “meh” to (except if we are talking about the alternate Federation found in Yesterday’s Enterprise). There is a lot of action going on here; from an exploding planet above to collapsing towers in the background to explosions. I also see a blue-shirted scientist studying a mystical hologram while two gold-shirted security guards are near a mysteriously glowing obelisk. A red-shirted officer is pointing, probably commanding the group since she is the only one wearing the red-shirt of command. On the far left we see a second blue-shirt scientist racing towards the group. That is a lot of action, and I see this as the moment the plan has gone sideways and the PCs are faced with a choice. It is the classic “Oh, Crap!” moment.
This picture, the one that that started all my ramblings, appears to take place shortly after the previous “Oh, Crap!” moment. The scientist previously seen racing towards the group is now racing away. He is being followed by a somewhat acrobatic gold-shirt security man. Our intrepid red-shirt leader is also on the run with the blue-shirt scientist previously studying the hologram(?) now also sprinting away. In the right top, two more characters not seen in the previous image are visible; a red-shirt being rescued by a gold-shirt. There are also at four characters in the left background; two (?) gold, a blue and a red-shirt.
There’s at least ten people in this scene. I’m going to assume the blue-shirt hippie dude, the acrobatic blue-skin gold-shirt, red-shirt leader and blue-shirt hologram scientist are player characters. A fifth PC may be the other gold-shirt security in the previous picture. That means this scene has a PC party of five with five supporting NPCs. To use the words of the man in the White House, “That’s yuge!” I have to wonder if Star Trek Adventures is playable only by large groups. Is there something in the game mechanics that makes this necessary or desirable or is it optional?
In a bit that I find very important all the characters seem to be running awayfrom the threat. This runs (no joke intended) counter to what I see as a core tenet of the Star Trek universe; characters always face the threat. I am not saying that a strategic withdrawal is never in order but to show me a scene where everyone is running away – it makes me think of Doctor Who where the characters are always running. If I want to play game with running, I’ll play Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space (11th Doctor) which I already own.
I can already hear some critics saying, “It’s your game. Play it like YOU want to play!” I heartily agree, and will do so, as long as the mechanics of the game allow me to!
“How do you like this image?”
Sorry, Chris. I don’t.
I don’t like it because although it looks Star Trek (the uniforms and alien species) it doesn’t look like the heroic Star Trek I expect – and want – to play.
This holiday we were blessed to have my niece and nephew visit from Korea. Looking for games to play that required little English, we pulled out Ticket to Ride. The game was a huge hit. I myself played six games of the original Ticket to Ride, Ticket to Ride Europe, the 1910 and 1912 expansions, as well as TTR Asia. The kids played literally EVERY day; sometimes more than once! This was definitely THE HIT GAME of the holidays.
Other games that got much play included Qwirkle, Fundomino, Rush Hour, Abandon Ship, and even Bananagrams (yes, I know that one requires English but put my 4th grader up against an international college student was a bit unfair – for the international student!)
Invited friends over and hosted a family game night. It was a real success. We had four adults and six kids ranging in age from 1st grade through high school.
First game up was Qwirkle. This was played amongst the adults. Interestingly, this was Mrs. RMN’s first game (though she has watched/helped in many) as well as the intro game for our guest couple. Game took about 45 minutes to play. Verdict: SUCCESS.
For a quick filler before dessert we played Fundomino. Three kids versus guest father. Game went fast with good action right up to the last plays. Playing time: 15 minutes. Verdict: Success.
Another game played was Dragonheart. This was played by the Dads first as a teaching game. Afterward, I stepped out and let some of the kids play against the guest Dad. Verdict: SUCCESS!
While the adults were playing Qwirkle the kids played Magic Labyrinth. This proved very popular; so much so that when the adults were finished the kids challenged guest father to a match. Playing time for a four player game was about 30 minutes. Verdict: SUCCESS!
The night finished up with a large seven-player game of Abandon Ship. All six kids played (the high schooler helped the new younger player) against the two Dads. The game was a good race all the way to the end; I think five of the original seven rats were within reach of the top. As it turned out, one of the youngest players won a close race. All wanted to play again but the hour was getting late. Playing time: 30 minutes. Verdict: RESOUNDING SUCCESS.
This was the first Family Game Night we ever hosted with another family. It was a great time and no TVs or computers were turned on all night. All the kids, big and small, and all the adults had a great time. Even Mrs. RMN joined in a game instead of just being an observer. From the kids perspective it was a blast with interesting games. From the adult perspective it was good friends, conversation, (a wee bit of drinking) and tons of enjoyment playing with the kids. It also helps that our guest family is game friendly (we have introduced them to several games before) and were anxious to play. They left with a list of new games that they will eventually get.