#FamilyFriday – Fossilized in #Boardgame #GameNight by Neolithic #Kingdomino Origins fm @BlueOrangeGames (2021)

Kingdomino, designed by Bruno Cathala and published by Blue Orange Games in 2016 is a RockyMountainNavy family favorite. We use it as a gateway game to introduce others to hobby boardgaming. We have gifted it maybe a dozen times. Over the years we acquired several different versions; Queendomino (2017), Kingdomino, Age of Giants (Expansion, 2018), Dragomino (2020) and Kingdomino Origins (2021). So popular is the game that when RockyMountainNavy Jr. packed for college he took the family copy (not to worry, we have several extra on the gifting shelf).

With RMN Jr. off to college, RockyMountainNavy T and I now face off against each other on Saturday Game Nights. This last week we decided to bring out Kingdomino Origins and play a two-player game. We set up the game, and I took a quick glance at the rules for the first of the three gameplay modes in the box—Discovery Mode. There, in the very first lines of the rules, was something that I had totally missed before; “2 player game rules specifications can be found at the end of this booklet.”

Hey…I’ve got this!

Two player Kingdomino is very straightforward. Each player has two Kings and you remove 24 of the 48 tiles before play. When making a domino selection, you can choose any of the remaining tiles. Simple.

As I read, I discovered Kingdomino Origins uses, “Special two player rules – Neolithic.” There are two subtle rules changes that made a big difference in our play:

  • Use all 48 dominos to make a 7×7 territory (this is called the Mighty Duel variant in Kingdomino)
  • When choosing tiles at start, the Chief that goes first gets to choose tiles 1 and 3 OR tiles 2 and 4.

We rarely play Kingdomino with two-players (Kahuna by Gunter Cornett from Kosmos in 1998 being the usual 2-player go-to quick boardgame). The few times we played 2-player we usually don’t play the Mighty Duel variant. We also have never seen the alternate starting order as laid out in the Kingdomino Origins Neolithic gameplay mode. It was enough of a change to make this play far more challenging.

It has been years (and I mean years) since I have not completed a perfect 5×5 or 7×7 territory (called Homo Hablis in Kingdomino Origins or Harmony in Kingdomino). I picked wrong one round (!) and ended up with an unusable tile, thus missing my perfect 7×7. The five points missed was enough to give RMN T a 2-point win.

Disappointment hasn’t felt this good in a while.

We both haven’t played a brain-burner game of Kingdomino in years. The game is usually more a fun pastime than a serious thinking challenge. Not tonight. We both wracked our brains on a simple 7×7. It was glorious.

Welcome back, Game Night. You’re off to a great start!


Feature image by self

RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2022 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

2021 #Boardgame of the Year – or – No Motherland Without Supercharged 1979 Kingdomino: Origins with @FoundationDietz @BlueOrangeGames @compassgamesllc @Bublublock @msiggins

As my 2021 “By the Numbers” show, I really backed off on acquiring boardgames this year. While my overall acquisition rate was down 13% (and down nearly 52% for boardgames) compared to 2020, it would be worst if I did not do a trade for a collection of smaller games. That said, of the 18 core or standalone boardgames I acquired in 2021, only 4 were newly published in the year. Thus, my candidates for 2021 Boardgame of the Year are:

Well, I guess you can call 2021 the “Year of Dan Bullock” or the “Year of The Dietz Foundation” because both are in two of the four games eligible.

Dan Bullock amazed me this year with his “Axis of Evil” series. Well, that’s what I call his games on Iran and North Korea. Associating his games with the “Axis of Evil” meme is actually a bit of a disservice to his outstanding designs. No Motherland Without pits the North Korean player trying to build infrastructure and improve the North’s standard of living against a West that is trying to hinder that progress and bring about the Kim Dynasty’s collapse. 1979: Revolution in Iran actually covers Iranian history post-World War II and pits politicians against oil. Both are deep political games, but done in a way that avoids being in-your-face regarding a certain position.

Jim Dietz at The Dietz Foundation is the only non-profit boardgame publisher I know of. He has a mission of delivering games for learning. 1979 is highly educational and Supercharged is a great family game that encourages gamers of all ages coming together for easy fun with just a touch of history thrown in.

Supercharged fun!

All of which makes the my choice for my 2021 Boardgame of the Year quite difficult. So here goes…

…and the winner is…

I can’t decide!

For a FAMILY game, both Kingdomino: Origins and Supercharged are awesome. For a STRATEGY game I like both No Motherland Without and 1979 (though I have to give No Motherland Without a slight edge given the solo module).

Oh, boy…must pick one…[Squints eyes]…

Supercharged!

Supercharged from The Dietz Foundation

Visually, Supercharged is nothing special. Mechanically, it’s quite simple—just keep flipping cards. The history is there but a bit thin. Most importantly, the RockyMountainNavy Boys whole-heartedly embraced the game. Since it plays in about an hour, it is an easy after-dinner filler game to follow chores. They love playing using the financial scoring; while one expects an A-class team to win the top positions, the middle finishers become the real contest, especially if your C-class team (the slowest) can drive smart (lucky?) and finish in the top 6.

Supercharged is so easy to learn and play it can be a gateway game. Youngest RMN Boy already asked for a second copy to take to college. Then there is the non-profit Dietz Foundation reminding you that games exist for fun and learning. At the end of the day the game is a winner because everything comes together to make an excellent family game.


Notable Not Mentioned

While I limited my 2021 Boardgame of the Year to games published in 2021, there were two other “new to me” games this year that, though published outside the eligibility window, deserve to be talked about.

Tapestry by Jamie Stegmaier from Stonemaier Games (2019) is a game I see oft-criticized on BGG and really don’t understand why. It’s a perfectly fine civilization game. I wish I had acquired it earlier.

Tiny Epic Kingdoms from Gamelyn Games (2014) is another simple Tiny Epic-series game that is great for families. Again, I wish I had acquired this one earlier.


RockyMountainNavy.com © 2007-2021 by Ian B is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

#SundaySummary – Holiday organizing the @Mountain_Navy #wargame and #boardgame collection and resetting Foundation (@LeeBWood @gmtgames @Hobiecat18 @MultiManPub @BlueOrangeGames #Foundation #TravellerRPG)

Not much actual gaming this week but plenty of organization.

Wargame

I recently acquired designer Lee Brimmicombe-Wood’s Wing Leader: Supremacy 1943-1945 2nd Edition Upgrade Kit (GMT Games, 2021) and spent part of the week integrating the new components.

I also recently acquired Mike Bertucelli’s Tank Duel Expansion Nr. 1: North Africa and Tank Duel: Tank Pack #1 (both GMT Games, 2021) and spent some time integrating the new components and reviewing the rules. I played one solo game to help relearn the system. It’s still a great game!

Finally, I spent the week integrating the components of Jim Day’s Panzer: Game Expansion Set, Nr 1 – The Shape of Battle on the Eastern Front 1943-45 (GMT Games, Second Printing 2021) into my set. I now own all the published GMT Games Panzer series and am very eagerly awaiting Panzer: North Africa (currently on P500 and has “Made the Cut”).

After getting an older credit card straightened out my preorder for the Standard Combat Series game North Africa: Afrika Korps vs Desert Rats, 1940-42 from Multi-Man Publishing should be shipping this week. Merry Christmas to me!

Boardgame

Bruno Cathalla’s Kingdomino: Origins (Blue Orange Games, 2021) continues to be a great family hit. Several more plays and we all relish the simple new strategy challenges of the different game modes.

Role Playing Games

Unlike my wargames and boardgames, I’m kinda poor at tracking my RPG collection. So this week I worked on organizing what I took in this year.

Television

I finished watching the Apple TV series Foundation this week. Yes, I know Season 1 ended a few weeks ago but I needed to reset my approach to the show. I initially started watching the series expecting a story close to the books. When that wasn’t there I was a bit confused and, frankly, unaccepting. So I laid off watching for a few weeks and recalibrated my thinking. I decided I was going to watch Foundation “as-is” and try to set all my preconceived notions aside. It also helped that with all the episodes out now I could binge-watch the season. Much better this go around…am looking forward to Season 2. While I still think Foundation and the Traveller Role Playing Game are closely related, I am glad to see the Genetic Dynasty from Foundation which is very different from Traveller’s Third Imperium.

#FamilyFriday #Boardgame – New beginnings with Kingdomino: Origins (@BlueOrangeGames, 2021)

Kingdomino: Origins by Bruno Cathala from Blue Orange Games (2021) is the newest version of the Kingdomino family that breathes a welcome freshness into the design without losing the essential fun elements of the game.

Bruno Cathala’s Kingdomino (Blue Orange Games, 2016) is a RockyMountainNavy family favorite. Not only do we play the game ourselves, we have gifted maybe a dozen copies to other families over the years. It is a great gateway (foundational?) boardgame that is easy to learn and fun to play. However, while the game is often brought out when new gamers come over, the truth is the RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself are sort burned out on Kingdomino.

We own and play Queendomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017), the second member of the Kingdomino family which I have heard described as “the gamer’s Kingdomino.” We enjoy it, but it has never matched the popularity of the core Kingdomino game for us. We also have the Kingdomino: Age of Giants expansion (Blue Orange Games, 2018) but it gets played even less than Queendomino. It’s not a bad expansion; it just doesn’t really grab us.

Yet, when I first saw the box art for Kingdomino: Origins the game was an auto-buy from that moment. I didn’t even look to see what rules changed…it was a new Kingdomino game and that was enough to sell me.

Courtesy Blue Orange Games

Evolution Gaming

Kingdomino: Origins is actually three games in one. The first game, Discovery Mode, is classic Kingdomino with the addition of volcanoes that can throw fires. In Origins fires are the “crowns” of earlier versions and how you multiply your regions for scoring. Taking volcanos give you fires to throw to add bonus scoring. For long-time Kingdomino players this shook us up from our staid ways; whereas before we understood that certain tiles were lesser in number but more valuable, now a volcano can take that low-value tile and make it worth much more. A truly new level of strategy originated in this mode of play.

Totem Mode is the second game of Kingdomino: Origins. Here the game uses the volcano rules and adds resources. The player who has the most of a given resource gains a Totem which is an endgame scoring bonus. But watch out; placing those fires from the volcanos destroys resources in that space. This uncovers another level of strategy; placing fires for bonus scoring weighed against destroying a resource that can also be a bonus score. Simple rule change—deep strategic shift.

Tribe Mode in Kingdomino: Origins builds again on the previous two modes and adds tribal members as a bonus. In this mode you have volcanos and resources (but no Totems). The new rule addition is the ability to recruit a caveman by spending resources and placing the caveperson on your hunting ground. Depending on who the caveman is they score you a different bonus depending upon the surrounding tiles. The strategic challenge of the game goes up a (small) step as now you must find places to throw fires, take resources from, and place cavemen to maximize your scoring.

Origin(al) Fun

The first RockyMountainNavy family playthru of Kingdomino: Origins was actually three games; one each Discovery, Totem, and Tribe modes played back-to-back-to-back. As experienced Kingdomino players learning the new rules was easy; on the other hand discovering and implementing new strategies was challenging (in a very good way). I can easily imagine Kingdomino: Origins becoming the new “Kingdomino gateway” game for our family and friends as learning/teaching Discovery Mode is not that much more difficult than classic Kingdomino. Totem Mode is not a huge step up, and even going to Tribe Mode is an easy learning curve. Even at full-on Tribe Mode I still feel this game is easier to play than Queendomino. While learning Kingdomino: Origins is easy the new strategy challenges make it very interesting and engaging—both for veteran gamers and novices alike. As an added bonus the graphic art is tremendous fun too.

Revolution Evolution?

Fair warning: Kingdomino: Origins cannot be combined with Kingdomino or Queendomino. I have seen criticism of that game design decision. My message to those naysayers—play Kingdomino: Origins, all three modes. I think you’ll discover that there is enough game here that you don’t need to combine it with the earlier versions. Kingdomino: Origins stands on its own—you don’t need to go bigger to have an easy to learn, deep strategic game experience.

#SundaySummary – From cavemen in KINGDOMINO: ORIGINS to Tigers of Normandy during a DARK SUMMER and a new SITREP @BlueOrangeGames @BrunoCathala @gmtgames @tdraicer admiraltytrilogy.com #boardgame #wargame

Boardgames

New Arrival Kingdomino: Origins by Bruno Cathala from Blue Orange Games (2021). I really like the changes in this Kingdomino. Thoughts coming this week.

Wargames

It took a while, but hitting the gaming table this week is The Dark Summer: Normandy, 1944 by Ted S. Raicer from GMT Games (2021). This is the latest entry in the GMT Games Dark-series that uses a chit pull mechanic making it excellent for solo play.

For all you naval wargamers out there the latest edition of The Naval SITREP: The Journal of the Admiralty Trilogy Game System dropped this week. Available via wargamevault.com, at a mere $3 The Naval SITREP is a bargain not only for players but naval history lovers too. This issue includes a long-form article, “Combat Ships of the People’s Liberation Army Navy in the 20th Century” by the ATG’s China editor Chang Lei that is a good history lesson. I also appreciate that ATG is finally breaking from deadtree publishing thinking and will be marking changes in the pdf copies of their rules in red.

Professional Wargaming

Recently been reading several article on nuclear wargaming. This has got me thinking…

Gaming Social Media

Hmm. As I put together this post I see that designer Bruno Cathala “protects” his tweets. That’s ok; he very likely has good reasons to not allow random follows. I also see that designer Ted S. Raicer blocks me. Well, fortunately for his royalty checks I don’t have to agree with a designer’s politics to play their games.

Sunday Summary – Commanding Napoleonic colors, 2 Minutes to Midnight launches, Kickstarter sputterings, & moving to the IO #wargame #boardgame @gmtgames @stuarttonge @Academy_Games @DietzFoundation @PatrickLeder @compassgamesllc

Game of the Week

My Game of the Week was Commands and Colors Napoleonics (GMT Games, 2019). I really enjoyed the game this week as I got to play both the Battle of Quatre Bras and the Battle of Waterloo on their anniversary week. Look for my extended comments on the game forthcoming in the week ahead.

2 Minutes to Midnight

Stuart Tonge’s kickstarter for 2 Minutes to Midnight (Plague Island Games, forthcoming) launched this week and quickly funded. The game has already passed through several stretch goals and is still going. I was one of the previewers of this game and really like it. It’s not too late for you to check it out!

2 Minutes to Midnight (Plague Island Games)

Kickstarter

Sigh. Reality Shift from Academy Games is now mid-August delivery, several months removed from the planned May date. On the plus side, 1979: Revolution in Iran by Dan Bullock from The Dietz Foundation is moving along nicely but shipping problems may add some delay. Patrick Leder of Leder Games tweeted about that this week:

Family Boardgaming

I am very happy to see Dragomino (Blue Orange Games, 2020) win the children’s Game of the Year Kinderspiel des Jahres 2021 award. This game is a favorite of Mrs. RockyMountainNavy and her student, Miss A. I am also very pleased that after a recent play of Dragomino, Mrs. RMN asked me to teach her Kingdomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017) which was the 2017 Spiel de Jahres (Game of the Year) winner. It was a pleasant game though Mrs. RMN wracked her brain (over)thinking all the different combinations. Her Verdict—She liked it!

Books

I was pleased with the (small) reception my Rocky Reads for Wargame post on Meade at Gettysburg: A Study in Command by Kent Masterson Brown received. I hope to do more of that style of book to wargame (maybe even boardgame or even roleplaying game) comparisons.

Alas, it looks like my exploration of the Battle of Gettysburg is not finished yet. Father’s Day also saw the arrival of Longstreet at Gettysburg: A Critical Reassessment by Cory M. Pharr (Jefferson: McFarland & Co., 2019). So now to look at a study of command on the Confederate side….

Longstreet at Gettysburg

Up Next

Indian Ocean: South China Sea Vol. II (Compass Games, 2020) moves from the Shelf of Shame to the Game of the Week.

IOR: SCS vII

#SundaySummary – Some new #wargame arrivals to play thanks to www.atomagazine.com, @RBMStudio1, & @Hollandspiele

Wargames & Boardgames

FINALLY, after waiting several weeks in some cases, the last of my 2020 shipments arrived. Buffalo Wings 2 – The Deluxe Reprint, a 2020 Kickstarter campaign by Against the Odds Magazine, arrived. It’s beautiful! Then C3i Magazine Nr. 34 from RBM Studios arrived with the feature game Battle for Kursk. Both these games were unboxed and rules deeply explored though the first true playthru’s are still pending.

As much as I keep talking about the feature game in C3i Magazine, it’s always good to remember that there is other gaming goodness in every issue. The latest issue is no exception as a solo folio game, Firebase Vietnam by Pascal Toupy is included and also needs to be explored.

Firebase Vietnam from RBM Studios

Of course, we all know that we don’t just get C3i Magazine “just for the game,” we read it too, right? The latest edition has the first of a new column by Harold Buchanan (Liberty or Death, Campaigns of 1777) called “Harold Buchanan’s Snakes and Ladders.” In this column he discusses wargamer archetypes. I have problems with his taxonomy and since he invited comments I am working on just a few. Look for them in the coming weeks!

My first “true” wargame of 2021 also arrived this week. Empire at Sunrise is a new Hollandspiele title designed by John Gorkowski. This look at the early days of World War I in the Pacific features three “nested” maps and telescoping scales. I enjoyed several of Mr. Gorkowski’s previous designs, especially South China Sea (Compass Games, 2017) and even The Lost Provinces: The Thai Blitzkrieg in French Indo-China, Janauary 10-28, 1941, another Hollandspiele title of his published in 2018. I always enjoy the “experimentation” I get when playing Hollandspiele games and Empire at Sunrise looks to keep that fine tradition going.

Empire at Sunrise from Hollandspeile

Boardgaming this week was very slow as wargames dominated my gaming time. I did get to play a fun game of Dragomino (Blue Orange Games, 2020) with young Miss A. She’s 6 years old; almost 7, and sometimes is too anxious to see the best connections. A gentle “Are you sure?” comment near the beginning of the game is usually enough to get her to stop, relook at her tableau, and grin as she realizes she needs to slow down a bit and think to get a better score.

Books

While I keep plowing through the huge The Secret Horsepower Race: Western Front Fighter Engine Development by Calum Douglas I also took the time this week to revisit some of my older US Constitutional Law texts from college because of recent national events. Along the way I stumbled upon “The Case of the Smuggled Bombers” in Quarrels That Have Shaped the Constitution (Harper Row, First Perennial Library Edition, 1987) which discusses U.S. v. Curtis Wright Export Corp, et al., 299 US 304. In this Supreme Court case, the Curtis Wright Corporation in the 1930’s was selling warplanes to various South American countries (sometimes even to BOTH sides of the same conflict!). The US Government wanted to stop these arms sales but Curtis tried an end-around and was caught violating the Chaco Arms Embargo. Being a wargamer who thoroughly enjoys Wing Leader: Origins 1936-1942 from GMT Games (2020) the topic really interested me. Plus, I learned a bit more about some 1930’s aircraft!

#SundaySummary – Jan 03, 2021

Wargames

Shores of Tripoli (Fort Circle Games, 2020) arrived just before the new year. That made it eligible for (and the winner of) my 2020 Wargame of the Year. Really, I can’t extol the virtues of this game enough. Really a great first-outing for new designer Kevin Betram and his Fort Circle Games label.

C3i Magazine Nr 34 is inbound. Thanks to USPS it will arrive sometime in this new year.

Likewise the Kickstarter fulfillment of Buffalo Wings 2 – The Deluxe Reprint is shipping and my copy is somewhere between the publisher (Against the Odds in Philadelphia, PA) and me.

Boardgames

Been playing only very casual, short games with Mrs. RockyMountainNavy and the Boys. Santorini (Roxley Games, 2016) and Crab Stack (Blue Orange Games, 2015) have landed multiple times mostly as we prepare for next semester of Mrs. RMN’s tutoring.

Roleplaying Games

I worked on more than a few posts for the coming year. I am starting a series on ground combat in the Traveller RPG universe. Keep an eye out.

I also dug deep into The Expanse Roleplaying Game. My plan is for an overview impressions post and then a short narrative replay of sorts. I also see that the Bundle of Holding has an offering; very tempted!

#RockyReads

I’m going to try to track more of my reading this year. To that end I started a new hashtag/segment of my blog I’m calling RockyReads. The first one covering Alfred Price’s Instruments of Darkness is already posted.


Feature image: A gull is perched amid the reflection of the Capitol on Dec. 4. (Miki Jourdan/Flickr) via Washington Post

Let me tell you a tale of longships and woe – A #boardgame story from 878: Vikings – Invasions of England (@Academy_Games, 2017)

The ships. I remember the ships.

The first sign of the Invasion was when the longships filled with helmeted warriors sailed up to Winchester. After they came ashore it was barbaric as they pillaged the land. It was not long before most of the south of Wessex, including Exeter and Canterbury were to fall to the invading hordes.

We English tried to fight. We struck back where able. Led by Housecarl and stiffened by the Thegn we fought – and died. Many a Fryd-man suffered but it didn’t turn back the Norsemand tide.

London and Thetford and most of the Kingdom of Guthrie fell. There were few rebellions; most were brutally put down. Even attempts to turn the Vikings warriors from their pagan beliefs failed. Then another wave arrived and Manchester fell. Only English and Danish Merica held.

Desperately seeking a new leader, we raised an army for King Alfred. He fought well, but not well enough. When he fell in battle, it was clear to all that the Treaty of Wedmore was the only answer.


This past Saturday Night Game Night in the RockyMountainHouse saw a return of an old friend and the joining of a newer one. The new friend was Gavin, best buddy of RockyMountainNavy Jr., who joined us for Game Night. The old friend was 878: Vikings – Invasions of England, the very family-friendly, area control, team lite wargame from Academy Games (2017).

Being bestest buds, RMN Jr. and Gavin took the Norseman and Berserkers, respectively. RockyMountainNavy T and myself took the English with T playing Housecarl and myself playing Thegn.

Teaching 878 or any of the Birth of America/Europe series games is easy. The fact that a new player plays on a team makes it even easier with experienced teammates. Gavin had no problem learning the rules and the few questions he had during gameplay mostly related to understanding Event Cards and their unique effects. That, and the fact the Vikings started out with a very aggressive move that cost the English dearly from the beginning didn’t hurt them either.

The aggressive move was to play Card 12 – Viking Ships (Norseman) on the first turn. The card reads:

The Norsemen may play this Event during their Movement Phase to move an Army from one Coastal Shire to any other Shire located on the same sea coast if they have a Unit participating in the move. This sea move costs the Army or Leader one Move, the same as if it had moved into an adjacent Shire. The Army may continue moving if it has any moves remaining.

Norseman Card 12 – Viking Ships

Normally, the first Viking invaders must enter from the North Sea. RMN Jr. landed at Canterbury and then pointed to the fact the shire adjoins both the North Sea and English Channel. After easily defeating the defenders of Canterbury in the first Battle Round, the Viking proceeded to Winchester as their second move using the Viking Ships card. We debated the interpretation of the card but in an attempt not not derail the game out of the gate we ended up allowing it. The result was a very uphill game for the English who lost their best reinforcement cities right out of the gate. This made massing of forces difficult for defense of the realm.

[The next day I searched the BGG forums for any comments and noted a very similar move was played at the 2018 WBC tournament – so it appears legal.]

The Vikings actually played both Treaty of Wedmore cards in Round IV but we had to play through Round V and the arrival of King Alfred before the game end. Going into Round V the Vikings held 12 Shires (three more than necessary for the win). After back-to-back activations of Norseman and Berserkers to start Round V they held 14 Shires. The English used the arrival of King Alfred to take back two shires but it was not enough and he fell in the last battle of the game. With 12 shires held at the Treaty the Vikings won.

This was Gavin’s first “wargame” that he has played (“other than Risk“). He liked it and was curious about the other titles in the Birth of America series. As much as we want to play more wargames with him, RockyMountainNavy Jr. also realizes Gavin is more of a mass-market gamer. That said, he does have experience in some hobby games like Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder, 2004), Kingdomino (Blue Orange Games, 2016) and Here to Slay (Unstable Games, 2020). With that thought in mind, Jr. asked that we consider other games, like maybe starting with the deck-builder Trains (AEG, 2012) for another game night.

Most importantly, we also reaffirmed in the RMN Home that Weekend Games Nights are ESSENTIAL. In the past six weeks we have let Game Night slide in a combination of apathy and depression from the social situations surrounding COVID-19. We all enjoyed Game Night and we realized it is an essential part of our mental happiness. We agreed that we MUST get back to regular play – and we will!


Feature image courtesy ancientpages.com

#Boardgame Education – 2020 #COVID Back to (Virtual) School Special Edition featuring @BlueOrangeGames, @FlyingMeeple, @playrooment, @Academy_Games, @SJGames

The local school district here chose online (virtual) school for this year. I’m not going to go into the absolute disaster the superintendent and school board have wrought upon our youth, but instead try to find something positive to say using boardgames and wargames. I will try my best to keep political rants out of here but, oh boy, things here are so screwed up it’s hard!

Mrs. RockyMountainNavy, who is an Early Childhood educator, strongly believes that learning comes from doing. Unfortunately, as we observe our own high schooler (11th Grade), a friends middle schooler (6th Grade), and another friends elementary schooler (1st Grade) in their online classrooms we are disappointed in the amount of actual learning taking place. In response, we have looked for games to support learning.

Mrs. RMN and I strongly believe that games help educate in many different ways. First, there is the social aspect. I am proud to say that my kids actually look at your face when they talk to you not down at a phone screen. In great part we believe this is because we always push the most important social aspect of gaming; playing with others. Just the other day, Miss A, the 1st grader, lost a game of Dragomino (Blue Orange Games, 2020). She immediately declared she didn’t like the game AT ALL. We reminded her that she actually won the previous three games, and asked her to remember those. She sheepishly smiled and challenged us to another game (which she won).

Mrs. RMN believes that when learning is made tangible it means so much more. We are fortunate to live in the Washington D.C. area so we take advantage of the many museums and historical sites to help teach. In these COVID times and online schooling, finding the tangible is so much harder. We see the younger grades losing the most as they are unable to really learn from passively watching a checkerboard of faces on a small screen for hours on end. To learn they need more than listen; learning from an interactive experience is often the strongest way to imprint something in the brain.

With the first grader suffering the most, we try to find games that challenge her to think logically. She is an emergent reader right now and pretty good at math, but ‘putting it all together’ is a bit harder. Recently, we introduced her to Dragomino (already mentioned) and Dig Dog Dig (Flying Meeples, 2019). She likes both, but Mrs. RMN wanted to gift her a copy of Dig Dog Dig because it is one of the rare games that really engages a 5 or 6 year old child. When the game arrived, we sat down to teach her mother how to play so they could play at home. We need’t have worried because Miss A quickly took control and taught the game to her mother! Sure, her teach was not perfect but she got all the gross mechanics correct. This was all the more impressive given she had played the game with us maybe a half-dozen times. Most importantly, it showed she engaged with the game and internalized it. She ‘learned’ how to learn, and teach, the game.

Dig Dog Dig (Flying Meeples, 2019)

The sixth grader is much more challenging. Miss C came to us because she was falling far behind in math. RockyMountainNavy Jr. actually tutored her as his summer job since she had so many negative experiences with older tutors that she was rebelling. With a focus on math we tried some math games we had around, like Math Dice (ThinkFun, 2003), but it is too ‘school-like’ and she refused it. Digging deeper into the drawers of the gaming collection, we found a copy of Top Dogs (Playroom Entertainment, 2005). When we first brought the game out, she was immediately taken by the cute artwork. For us, the fact you need to do three-factor multiplication meant it hit exactly at a weakpoint of her learning. When we played the game she enjoyed it, even though she was a bit slower at calculating than others. Unlike Math Dice, she continued to play Top Dogs because she saw it more as a game and less as a lesson.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is pic448118.jpg
Top Dogs (Playroom Entertainment, 2005)

More recently, we discovered that Miss C actually is very weak at quickly adding and subtracting numbers. We tried increasing her speed by using flash cards but, again, she rebelled because that feels too much like school. Digging through our shelves (again) I came across Sumoku (Blue Orange Games, 2010). This game hit several needs for Miss C; she needs to know factors of certain numbers and she needs to add groups of numbers. More importantly, she likes to play the game, especially against RockyMountainNavy Jr. (I admit there is a certain degree of ‘puppy love’ in play here too).

Sumoko (Blue Orange Games, 2010)

Speaking of RockyMountainNavy Jr., boardgames and wargames fully support his learning environment. He first real learning of American geography came from Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder, 2004) to Air Force (Battleline, 1976) where he learned the very basic of flight. This school year his US/Virginia history class started with an online quiz of the 13 colonies. The teacher challenged the class to beat his time of 14 seconds. RockyMountainNavy T quickly clocked times of 13 and 12 seconds. He also freely admitted that the reason he knows his colonies so well is the many times we played 1775: Rebellion (Academy Games, 2013).

1775: Rebellion (Academy Games, 2013)

Just the other night RockyMountainNavy Jr. was talking to me about learning vectors in his Physics class. Not only was he learning about vectors in Physics, but Miss C had asked him a question about her science homework earlier in the day (the question concerned movement is space). As he talked to me, I calmly walked to the game shelves and returned with a copy of Triplanetary: The Classic Game of Space Combat – Third Edition (Steve Jackson Games, 2018). I proceeded to pull out the contents and we sketched a few vectors about. He instantly grasped the basics of 2d vectors (and asked that we add Triplanetary to the Saturday Game Night rotation).

Triplanetary – Third Edition (Steve Jackson Games, 2018)

As much as we play games for learning, we also play games for relaxation. With great number of hours the kids are spending online during the day it becomes important for them to have offscreen activities. Here is where boardgames and wargames really shine. We are of course a gaming family, but we have also brought games to others (especially younger families) and are always on the lookout to share good games for families. Recent hits in the RockyMountainNavy home include Here to Slay (Unstable Games, 2020) and Fort (Leder Games, 2020).

In several ways COVID has ruined dreams plans I had for introducing boardgames into history classes at RockyMountainNavy Jr’s high school. Last year, right as the plandemic pandemic hit I was in contact with Jr’s history teacher about introducing 1775: Rebellion into the classroom. In particular, we were looking at some sort of implementation of the based on the Teaching the American Revolution through Play – 1775 Teacher’s Manual available through Academy Games.

1775: Rebellion Teachers Manual

In these COVID times boardgames and wargames serve as a very helpful coping mechanism not only for the immediate RockyMountainNavy family but also for our ‘extended’ family of students and friends. I don’t see that ever stopping.


Feature image Plan Orange: Pacific War 1930-1032 (C3iMagazine Nr. 29, 2016) and related reading.