Electrifying #boardgame with Forbidden Sky: Height of Danger (@Gamewright, 2018)

COOPERATIVE GAMES HAVE A SMALL PLACE IN THE RockyMountainNavy game collection. We own several Matt Leacock titles, going back to Forbidden Island (Gamewright, 2010) and of course Pandemic (Z-Man Games, 2008) as well as the wargamer version, Pandemic: Fall of Rome (Z-Man Games, 2018). Back in 2018, I almost pulled the trigger on the then-hotness, Forbidden Sky (Gamewright, 2018) but ultimately didn’t do so. Maybe it was because of some of the mixed reviews at the time. Several weeks back I had the chance to trade on BoardGameGeek for a copy of Forbidden Sky and it arrived and made it to the gaming table this weekend.

Boy, did we miss out on a great game – but no more!

In Forbidden Sky the players are adventurers who are stranded on a strange platform in the middle of a great storm. They must explore/build the platform to complete a circuit and launch the Rocketship before they are either electrocuted to death or blown away. Game play is very typical of many cooperative games; on your turn you take up to four Actions (Move, Scout, Explore, Wire) after which you draw a number of Storm Cards based on the current Storm Intensity. Every Adventurer has a special skill and a variable amount of Health and Rope. Truth be told, there is little exciting in the game play.

Instead, the tension builds as your team literally builds the platform. Along the way you must put together the Launch Platform and a requisite number of Large and Small Capacitors and Lightning Rods all connected by Wires. Not only do you have to have the right components, but they must be connected in a proper circuit. Forbidden Sky really is the ultimate hotwire game!

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Courtesy Gamewright

The combination of puzzle and circuit building sets Forbidden Sky apart from the other Forbidden titles and totally distinguishes it from the Pandemic series. The need to Explore (build) the platform and Wire it all together is challenging, but the rewards at the end is much more tangible than the ‘save the world’ of Pandemic or ‘whew, we made it’ of Forbidden Island.

Most importantly, RockyMountainNavy T, my Autism Spectrum boy who is working towards an Electrical Apprenticeship, totally fell in love with the game. He could not say it, but I can tell the game spoke to him. This game, themed around electricity, really is about him. Can he puzzle through a problem, build the circuit, and complete the job?

Although we lost our first game, RockyMountainNavy T was totally gushing about it. He studied all the Adventurers and looked through all the tiles and even put together a few circuits based on the different Blueprint Cards (challenge levels). He is very anxious to get this game to the table again, and again. I for one will be very happy to indulge him because playing games together and having an enjoyable time is ultimately what our hobby is about. Best of all, its good for the family.

Forbidden Sky has jumped to the top of the Saturday Game Night line up not because its a good game (it is), but it is a game that the entire RockyMountainNavy family enjoys together.

Forbidden Island makes a great Father’s Day present…from this Dad to the family.

#FamilyFriday – 2019 Golden Geek #Boardgame Challenge Update – Forbidden Island (@Gamewright, 2010)

THE RECOMMENDED AGE ON THE BOX FOR FORBIDDEN ISLAND (Gamewright, 2010) is 10+. That is not an age range that I usually associate with children’s games, yet it is the category that Forbidden Island won in the 2010 Golden Geek Awards. As part of my 2019 Golden Geek Boardgame Challenge we recently played the game and took a new measure of the title.

These days Forbidden Island sits on our shelf of shame, unplayed and surpassed another cooperative game title, Pandemic (Z-Man Games, 2008). In some ways that is very sad as both games are by Matt Leacock, the godfather of cooperative games, and both are good at what they do. Interestingly, I see that Pandemic is rated for ages 8+, yet I don’t think anybody calls Pandemic a children’s game. So why does Forbidden Island not get more love at our gaming table?

Forbidden Island was the first cooperative game that reached the RockyMountainNavy house. It is not a bad game, but in this house a cooperative game needs to build a strong narrative for it to reach our gaming table more often. Alas, this is a weakness of Forbidden Island. Of the several cooperative games in the RMN collection, Pandemic and Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game (Fantasy Flight Games, 2008) are well regarded, and played more often, because of the highly dramatic story that plays out in the game. Other cooperative games, like Forbidden Island or Ghostbusters: Protect the Barrier Game (Mattel, 2016) are more like puzzles with a thin story behind the game mechanics. They aren’t bad games, just not dramatic enough. For us, it is the thought (expectation?) of a great narrative that brings certain cooperative games to the table.

RockyMountainNavy Jr. recently expressed an interest in Forbidden Sky (Gamewright, 2018). The game is the third in the Forbidden Island/Desert/Sky trilogy and claims to carry the narrative of the first two games forward. Not owning or playing Forbidden Desert I cannot comment on the carried-narrative portion. Maybe, just maybe, there is something to this. The question will be is the lure of carried-narrative enought to get a new game, much less two older ones, to the gaming table?


Feature image courtesy Gamewright

#FridayFamily #Boardgame Thoughts – Cooperative Games

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 was not the first cooperative game in the RMN gaming collection. I think that honor goes to Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game (FFG, 2008) although that game sat on the Shelf of Shame unplayed for many years. The first cooperative game the RMN family played that I expressly recognized as cooperative was Forbidden Island (Gamewright, 2010). Other cooperative games played include:

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.

I’m worried.

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).


Feature image TheBoardGameFamily on BGG

Tough Game Night Moments – thoughts on rules, factions, and “take that”

After missing the RockyMountainNavy Game Night for two weeks the boardgame Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing, 2017) landed on the table. Although there are other games unplayed waiting for a slot at the table, like AuZtralia (Stronghold Games, 2018) we pulled Enemies of Rome out at the request of the youngest RMN Boy as it matches what he is studying in history at school.

It did not go so well.

I have said before that Enemies of Rome is not the game it appears to be. What looks like an area control game is actually a Battle Royale. Glory Points are scored by winning battles which means one must think very offensively. Although the RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself have played Enemies of Rome ten times now, and even discussed the victory demands, it has yet to fully sink in to the Middle RMN Boy. In tonights game, like the last one, he “turtled” early and fell far behind in points as he built up his forces without attacking any of the enemies of Rome. Unfortunately, the enemies of Rome also were building up their forces right in his neighborhood. It also did not help that the Youngest RMN Boy chose to lash out at his brothers outposts and seized several provinces. As a result, Middle RMN fell far behind in points and was very sullen and not fully into the game.

It would be very easy for me to blame this on his Autism Spectrum condition but that’s too easy. Tonight was a good reminder that, no matter how familiar one is with a game, it behooves players to review some of the basic rules and mechanics of a game. In this case, a gentle reminder to all that Glory Points are earned by attacking is only part of it. A review of the die odds is also helpful. If one waits for overwhelming odds in their favor they will fall behind. I know that I often gamble with 2:1 or 3:2 attacks because I recognize the need to generate Glory Points. I save the 3:1 or 4:1 attacks for battles against other Legions because the penalty for losing those battles is loss of Glory Points.

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Courtesy Z-Man Games

I think Enemies of Rome will sit on the shelf for a bit and cool off. This doesn’t mean we will be hurting for games; indeed, it clears the way (and maybe even creates a demand) to get the semi-cooperative AuZtralia to the table. All the RMN Boys are also excited that the cooperative Pandemic: Fall of Rome (Z-Man Games, 2018) has been shipped. As a family, we really enjoy Pandemic and the Middle RMN Boy has proven to be a bit of a whiz at playing. I hope that these games in particular bring joy to the gaming table.

Dk_yqCEWsAki4_HIn the same vein, this weekends events have forced me to reconsider introducing Root (Leder Games, 2018) to the RMN Boys. The asymmetric nature of the different player factions in Root demands that each player play a bit differently. For the Middle RMN Boy this may be challenging. I remember the first time we played with the Invaders from Afar Expansion to Scythe (Stonemaier Games, 2016) and the Middle RMN Boy got a whole new faction. He struggled mightily to figure out how the faction worked. When he tried to watch his brother and I play our factions it was of little help because every faction plays differently. Root may work if I can convince him to play the first time the using the Marquis de Cat as I think that faction is mechanically the most straight forward.

As a wargamer, a game with a “take that” mechanic doesn’t offend me. However, events like this weekend’s game reminds me that not all players are like me. I don’t think I will ever fully turn into a Eurogamer with their “let’s just all get along and make a farm” attitude but bringing out more games with less “take that” for the Family Game Night probably won’t hurt.

Featured image courtesy Worthington Publishing.

It’s a Co-op with a Traitor Mechanic – A RockyMountainNavy play of Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game (Fantasy Flight Games, 2008)

pic354500Something awesome happened this gaming weekend. The RockyMountainNavy house got Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game (Fantasy Flight Games, 2008) to the gaming table in a 3-player event. I played Tom Zarek (Political Leader, President) while MiddleRockyMountainNavy Boy played Helo (Military Leader, Admiral) and LittleRockyMountainNavy was Apollo (Pilot).

There were many Cylon ships on the board before the first jump and both Helo & Apollo ended up in lots of space combat. Galactica herself was in a poor way with four hits (six needed to destroy – and lose) as well as a Boarding Party aboard. We were eventually able to jump, clearing the board of threats and made repairs. The time up to the second jump proceeded without any real trouble and it looked like we were going to do fine.

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Courtesy Dynamite.com

As it turned out, none of us was a Cylon though the Sleeper Phase because I drew the “You Are a Cylon” card at that time! Before the Sleeper Phase, I had made the statement that I thought Middle RMN/Helo was a Cylon so I kept pushing that thought even as he protested his innocence. Little RMN/Apollo was not sure. Using the power of the President, I stripped the Admiral title from Helo. Eventually, the Boys grew suspicious at my actions and I had to reveal myself as the Cylon before they could Brig me.

The game then switched from a 3-player co-op to a competitive race to human victory or death. As the Cylon player I almost made it but the Boys were able to face down several Super Crisis Cards and (barely) survived a final jump. They won the game with Fuel 3 / Food 1 / Morale 6 / Population 1.

Overall, the RMN Boys found the game fun. If we have one complaint it is that the game takes time to play. Including rules explanation our game took nearly three hours – putting it at the long end of our usual gaming nights. Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game is not a heavy game as the rules are actually quite easy to learn and execute. In our game the slow play was a combination of first time and the paranoid-induced analysis paralysis that is part of the experience.

Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game will land on the table again, I am just not sure when. As the winter months approach, there are several new game due to arrive and other longer games (like Scythe) need to get back out too. At least we all know that this”shelf queen” is worth the space.

Featured Image: Ralph McQuarrie concept art for BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (1978) via @HumanoidHistory on Twitter

#FamilyFriday – #GhostbustersProtecttheBarrier (Mattel Games, 2016)

In high school I was lucky enough to be a projectionist in a movie theater. One of the blockbuster movies of 1984 was Ghostbusters which I watched again and again not just because it was my job, but it is a good movie! Year later, I sat down with my kids and watched the movie together. We were not diassapointed.

In 2016, Ghostbusters was rebooted with an all-female cast. It carries a Tomataometer score of 73% and an audience score of only 52%. So why would I pick up a game based on that movie?

Well, price is just part of it. I was in the local Tuesday Morning store and was walking the games isle. Seeing this game, something made me pull out my smartphone and check BoardGameGeek. Turns out that Ghostbusters: Protect the Barrier is a remake of the 2014 Kinderspiel des Jahres-winning cooperative Geister, Geister, Schatzsuchmeister! (or Ghost Fighting’ Treasure Hunters).

Now, my boys should be too old to play “children’s games” but the reviews on BGG mentioned advanced rules. Advanced rules that make it tough to beat. Tough to beat even for adults. So I picked up Ghostbusters: Protect the Barrier and am going to give it a try. On the advanced level. Will let you all know how it turns out!

To Boldly Go. . .on a STAR TREK Expedition!

STAR TREK Expeditions (Courtesy BGG)

My Father’s Day present to myself was to purchase STAR TREK Expeditions. After a quick read through the rules I set up the game board and daughter G joined in to play a learning game.

What I Like: THEME. Star Trek is all about the team. What better theme for a cooperative mission game? The clix sculpts are nice and add to the setting. The game plays very much like an episode for TV with a good amount of pressure to get it done now! The three sub-missions have enough variety that replay value is not lost too quickly.

What I Don’t Like: The rulebook is not clearly written and downright difficult to follow at times. This is a game that really does require a demo or play-to-learn session followed by more consultations with the rulebook. I see WizKids already has errata up on their website too.

Bottom Line: I am a late-comer to co-op games but it is a game genre that I have quickly warmed up to. I am sure STAR TREK Expeditions will get a heavy workout this summer!