Back to #Boardgame #FirstImpressions – Back to the Future: Back in Time (@OriginalFunko, 2020)

I can remember watching Back to the Future in a movie theater. As a matter of fact, I was working in that movie theater as an Assistant Manager/Projectionist so I actually saw it opening day and many times after. The RockyMountainNavy Boys have also seen the movie thanks to the magic of DVD/Blu-Ray/streaming and they like the story too. All of which makes bringing the boardgame Back to the Future: Back in Time (Funko Games, 2020) to the gaming table easier since the title appeals to all of us and we already know so much about the theme behind the game. Which is important because Back to the Future: Back in Time is totally built around translating theme into game play.

A Back to Theme Game

Back to the Future: Back in Time is a cooperative boardgame for 2-4 players where the players can play Marty McFly, Doc Brown, Jennifer Parker, or Einstein the Dog. Winning the game requires accomplishing two goals: acquiring all the parts for the Delorean Time Machine and moving it to a ready location while at the same time ensuring the Love Meter is positive so Lorraine and George are in love at the end of the game. Failing one, or both, goals is defeat. The game can also end if the Love Meter stays negative too long and the McFly Photo fades away. This occurs thanks to the bully Biff.

Box Back

Game play in Back to the Future: Back in Time is incredibly simple. Every turn the turn track is advanced and any actions on the track are resolved from top to bottom. This can be removing a part of the McFly Photo or placing a new Trouble on the board or movement. Each player will then use their character’s Powers which are different die to move and resolve Challenges. Each player also has a Special Power that is unique to them and may be used once per turn. Challenges are resolved by rolling different die: Courage, Speed, Knowledge, and Love. Each die is unique in that it usually has 1x “1 Type” side, 1 x “2 Type” side, 2x Wild sides, and 2x Biffs. The particular Challenge or Opportunity / Trouble Card will tell you the minimum die types that must be rolled, but a player can exhaust their Powers to roll other die, even different types (since there is a 1:3 chance of a Wild). There is a “push your luck” element in rolling where die can be rerolled as long as they are not Biffs. Biff results lock the die (no rerolling) and move Biff towards George or Lorraine. If Biff in in a space with either of the two lovebirds the Love Meter goes down.

Back to the Future: Back in Time 3-player set up

The most important challenge is probably the Love Challenge. If George and Lorraine are in the same space, the player can attempt a Love Challenge to move the Love Meter in a positive direction. Of course, Biff wants to get in the way and drives the Love Meter down if he is in a space with Lorraine or George (or both). Players can also fight Biff and try to “knock him down” which counteracts Biff actions.

Different player counts in Back to the Future: Back in Time change the game length. A 4-player game is 20 turns, the 3-player game 18 turns, and the 2-player game 14 turns. Regardless of the play length, the time to get everything taken care of is short and players will always feel the stress of the clock.

Like so many cooperative games, in Back to the Future: Back in Time players try to gain a menu of Powers to accomplish the goals together. Recognizing what a player can do best and working together to accomplish the goals before time runs out is the heart of the game, just like race against time Marty and Doc faced in the movie.

Looking Back

The components of Back to the Future: Back in Time are mostly of nice quality. I say “mostly” because I am suspect about the durability of the movers. My Jennifer Parker mover is already bent (she is literally “leaning in”) and the legs are so small that adjusting it threatens to break them off totally.

Jennifer Parker (blue mover) is really “leaning in” to help

I also question the real utility of the Clock Tower dice tower. Yeah, it looks good on the map (giving the otherwise plain 2-D board a third dimension beyond the movers) but I generally don’t like rolling die on the game board as it could upset the game state. So do I move the Clock Tower to me and roll off board? Why? I think this is a case where “bling” got ahead of functionality.

As a long time wargamer, I was also struck by the packaging of Back to the Future: Back in Time. I’m already use to Prospero Hall games being delivered in a non shrink-wrapped box with four little tape tabs. In Back to the Future: Back in Time all the cardboard bits come separated from their print sheet. This is great for a family game as it is playable literally out-of-the-box.

Ready-to-play out-of-the-box

“This is heavy”

Marty’s favorite line in the movie Back to the Future has nothing to do with the boardgame Back to the Future: Back in Time. Gameplay is easy and uncomplicated. This is a good family-weight game that even younger (but not the youngest) family members can learn. The game is a solid entry for game night when a cooperative game is wanted but Pandemic is to too close to reality.

#Boardgame first place for NMBR 9 (@Zmangames_, 2017)

This Black Friday 2020 proved a winner for the RockyMountainNavy household. After the main part of our holiday shopping was completed, RMN T and myself paid a visit to our FLGS, Huzzah Hobbies in Ashburn, Virginia. Unbeknownst to me, they had 15% off everything and two deep discount areas of 50% and 75%. So I browsed and found a few games.

One game I picked up was NMBR 9 (Z-Man Games, 2017). I’ve actually had my eye on this title for a few years now but just never made the purchase until today. I was attracted to the game because, as a Tetris puzzler, I thought it might appeal to Mrs. RMN (because Tetris puzzlers are her thing). The box was slightly damaged but at 75% off I couldn’t pass it up this time.

I was right. I was wrong.

I was right because she really does enjoy NMBR 9. She actually played against me (and won, of course). I was then informed that I was wrong to have waited so long to get the game.

Not only does Mrs. RMN like NMBR 9 for herself, she also thinks it makes a good game for her older elementary and middle school students. The logical challenges of spatial orientation and trying to maximize points is a good combination for that age group. She even likes the scoring with simple addition and multiplication. NMBR 9 is easy to teach, plays fast, and is colorful on the table.

The RockyMountainNavy Boys also like NMBR 9. RMN T (my Autism Spectrum champion) really took a liking to it as he loves spatial puzzlers, maybe even more so than Mom does.

Abstract games form a small part of the RockyMountainNavy Family Game Collection but NMBR 9 is a very welcome addition. I think this game will be getting many more plays. Although Mrs. RMN has tried Azul: Summer Pavilion (Next Move Games, 2019) ranked the #2 Abstract on BoardGameGeek as well as Patchwork (Mayfair Games, 2014) which is ranked #4, NMBR 9 ranked at 47 will most likely be the one to end up on her gaming table.

I’ll be very happy to play right beside her.

Family Friday #Boardgame – Plucky family chickens in Chicken Cha Cha Cha (Rio Grande Games,1997)

Some of earliest posts on this blog covered family boardgames, and one of the more popular in the RockyMountainNavy house back in the late ‘oughts was Chicken Cha Cha Cha (Rio Grande Games, 1997). I am happy to report that this game has stood the test of time (over 10 years of play) and is still a favorite in the RMN home. This week Mrs. RockyMountainNavy pulled it out to play with one of her students and mother. I was fortunate enough to be home at the time and was able to capture a few pictures.

Chicken Cha Cha Cha. It’s just a simple memory game. Really! (Photo by RMN)

THIS is what boardgaming is.

The joy.

The expectation.

The nervousness.

This is why we play boardgames.

#FamilyFriday – King Me! with #Kingdomino from @BlueOrangeGames

Although I am a wargaming grognard at heart, in the course of the Family Game Nights this past year I now recognize that wargames are often a 2-player event.  This year, given that I usually game with two of the RockyMountainNavy Boys, finding a 3-player game has been a bit challenging. In place of wargames, we have turned to tabletop boardgames, like Scythe or Terraforming Mars. These games are a bit on the “heavier” side, sometime taking up to 3 hours to play! In looking for a lighter, maybe “filler” game, for the gaming shelf, I selected Kingdomino from Blue Orange Games

t355_b2138e70398567c86527fda049c52d5f
Courtesy Blue Orange Games

At the time of this writing Kingdomino is ranked #21 in Family Games on BoardGameGeek and #198 of all boardgames. It is also the 2017 Spiel des Jahres Winner. With these sorts of references it was sort of a no-brainer to purchase.

When the game arrived, I became a bit worried. Kingdomino is recommended for ages 6+ and the playtime is a very short 15 minutes? I asked myself, “could a game this simple really be that good?” I read the rulebook, watched a how-to video, and then sat down with my usual RockyMountainNavy Boy gaming partners. I started out playing each of them individually to teach them the game before we played a 3-player contest.

….and we played.

….and played.

…and played some more.

t700_x1_b2138e70398567c86527fda049c52d5f
Courtesy Blue Orange Games

The first night we I played a total of seven games (five as a group) and we all loved it. Kingdominio is a simple game, but the easy mechanics mask challenging decisions. The challenge of placing your property then selecting your next one is simple and genius. This simple mechanic makes for sometimes agonizing decisions. One could easily play a game of Kingdomino in 10 minutes, but those folks are missing out on the agony that happens when you realize that property you placed three rounds ago is not going to work out and you will not make that 5×5 grid and your castle will not be in the middle. The short play time is not a drawback; if you realize your grid is horrible no worries for the game will end soon and you can quickly try again.

In the past two days I have personally played Kingdomino ten times already making it the most-played game of my year. The RMN Boys “appropriated” the box and have played uncounted-many more times. The RMN Boys and I play the Dynasty variant which is three games in-a-row with the highest cumulative score the winner. We enjoy the game so much that Mrs. RMN “recommended” we buy another copy to take to Korea to give to our niece next summer.

Although my grognard heart really wants to wargame, the family/parent side of me absolutely enjoys playing games with my boys. Wargames don’t always make it to the table, but with games like Kingdomino we all get great pleasure in gaming together and having fun.

And that’s the real goal; having fun. Kingdomino delivers royal fun and I am happy to add it to my gaming collection.

 

Busting Out Laughing with #GhostbustersProtecttheBarrierGame

Here in the RockyMountainNavy household games are usually serious matters. We play #wargames for the strategy and history, #boardgames for the wonder and learning, and #RPGs for the adventure. I admit that sometimes we lose track of the fact that games should also be fun. Ghostbusters: Protect the Barrier Game (Mattel Games, 2016) reminded us that games can – and should be – fun!

I wrote before how I found this game at Tuesday Morning and was intrigued by its provenance, having originated in a 2014 Kinderspiel-des Jahres winner. We missed our usual Saturday night gaming (hey, after a long all-day home improvement project we were all wiped out) and instead pulled G:PtB out on Sunday afternoon. Feeling a bit sadistic, we using the Advanced Rules with the exception of removing the Paranormal Energy Devices (PED) in numerical order.

We lost our first game quickly but reset for a second game. The second game went longer and looked better with seven of eight PED out and a race to get the last one. Unfortunately, a series of Rowan events triggered the last Haunting and we (barely) lost. Resetting for a third go, we tried again. This time we changed strategy and had two hunters (er, Ghostbusters) removing PEDs while a third tried to beat back ghosts.

Middle RockyMountainNavy Boy entered a room with two ghosts and tried to fight them. For three rounds he fought, and missed. Eventually the room was haunted and he was joined by his younger brother. Again they fought, and again they missed. It took too many precious rounds to knock back the haunting.

As we raced to get several PEDs out, the Middle RMN Boy tried to stop by and join me to fight back a haunting. He was almost at the door when his brother pulled Green Doors Locked and cut off his path. No problem. Just go around the other way. But as he reached the other door his brother pulled out Blue Doors Locked and cut him off. Turing around, he went back the other way only to see his brother pull another card which said…you guessed it…Green Doors Locked!

At this point we were all laughing out loud. Youngest RMN Boy could only say, “Damn!” Middle RMN couldn’t take it any more and tackled his younger brother. As we all laughed and the boys wrestled even Mrs. RMN joined in by shouting, “What’s happening?!”

We lost the game, going 0-3 for the afternoon. We played all three games in about 40 minutes total. Ghostbusters: Protect the Barrier Game gets the RockyMountainNavy family seal of approval as a good family filler game. The RMN Boys want to dial-back the advanced rules and see if they can win at the Basic Game. They want to refine their strategy first before trying the uber-advanced variant. They want to make all this effort because…

…the game is fun. Belly-aching, laugh-out-loud fun. 

Ignore the theme and play the game. It’s just a plain good, clean, silly family fun game.

#FamilyGameNight – First play of #Scythe (@stonemaiergames)

pic2323719_md
Courtesy BGG

After several weeks of rules review and study, finally got Scythe (Stonemaier Games, 2016) to the table for Family Game Night. To summarize the night, it was a great hit!

IMG_1901We played a three-player setup. After random draws of Factions and Player mats, Little I was Polania-Patriotic, T was Saxony-Engineering, and I was Khanate-Agricultural. Play started off a bit slow as  I was teaching the boys how to play. I was actually getting worried when one hour into the game only one Achievement Star had been placed. Up to this point the boys and myself had been learning more than playing.

I need not have worried; Little I quickly understood the special faction power for Polania (“Meander”) and took advantage of it to the greatest degree possible. T also started understanding the in-and-outs of the engine-building game mechanics and started optimizing his actions. Both T and myself got a fire lit under out collective a$$es when Little I completed an Objective Card at the same time he placed two other Achievement Stars for a clear 4-star to 1-star/0-star advantage. The last 90 minutes of the game (we took about 150 minutes  total – longer than advertised but we were -slowly – learning) turned a bit frantic as the action passed around the table rather quickly. A misplay on my part handed the final star to Little I who was able to complete his achievements. Final Score – Little I- 74, T- 38, Dad- 37.

I was a bit worried that Scythe would be too complex and challenging for the RMN Boys to quickly learn. After all, there are four Top-Row Actions, four Botton-Row Actions, and four Mech Abilities as well as a special faction ability for a total of 13 Actions/Abilites that need to be understood to play. And that’s before one could add a Factory Card (two more Actions), and the Structure Bonus (a scoring consideration).

I need not have worried for the outstanding graphical design of the player tableaus made all that easy. It took the first hour for all of us to become comfortable interpreting the symbology on the boards, but once it all (and I mean ALL) clicked then the real game was on. For such a heavy, thinky, complex game it was amazingly easy to teach – and learn – the game mechanics and get over the “learning curve” and start playing (i.e. strategizing) the game.

Little I has especially taken to Scythe. He has always liked puzzles and the multiple combinations of Faction-Player mats intrigues him. The two boys generated enough buzz about the game that even the oldest RMN Boy, a bit of a none-boardgamer (hey, I keep trying) who sat out the night is interested.

Our plan for Family Game Night (Saturday nights in our house) was to play a rotation of games. Maybe a wargame one week, a family tabletop game the next, and throw in a RPG campaign session too. Little I loves Scythe so much right now he has asked to preempt the kick-off of the next RPG campaign and repeat Scythe. We will have to see; Compass Games’ Command & Colors Tricorne: The American Revolution is supposedly enroute.* I also want to play around with the Automa (solo variant) to see how it works as well as the experimental rules for playing a mix of Automa and different player-counts.

Scythe has won many awards, but most importantly it has won the RockyMountainNavy family’s admiration and respect for the enjoyment we all have playing the game. Even Mrs. RMN appreciates how Scythe has captured the intense interest of Little I. The RMNBoys are already pooling their money to purchase expansions though, to be honest, Dad will probably spring for it because, well, he wants to!


* </RANT ON> I am a bit disappointed with Compass Games. I backed C&C Tricorne on Kickstarter and now hear that it was on sale at WBC in late-July. It is being sold on-line at Compass Games since August 17, but I have not seen any shipping notice that my copy is on the way (nor have I received my game). There are some customers indicating they received their order already but is is unclear if they were KS-backers or just ordered from the site once it went on sale. Perception is reality, and my perception is that the KS-backers are being ignored. Overall, not a very positive experience. </RANT OFF>

#Codenames – Why the Hype?

I PICKED up Codenames while on a trip recently. In Codenames, two teams compete to see who can make contact with all of their agents first. Spymasters give one-word clues (with a number) that can point to words in the array. Their teammates (the Operative) tries to guess the words while avoiding those that belong to the opposing team and especially avoiding the assassin!

This a very celebrated game, with many awards and nominations such as:

But I don’t get it.

I mean, its an OK game that I rate a 6.0…far below the 8.0 it carries on BoardGameGeek. I have played it with my kids and I think they agree with me; the game is more “meh” than “wow!”

#FLGS @GameParlor Closing

They don’t have an real robust social media presence but let it be known that Game Parlor (@GameParlor) in Chantilly, VA is closing. I had the day off today and planned to drop by, but was very surprised to see that the store will be closing by Thanksgiving. Having been in business for 24 years, the owners want to be closer to their daughter who doesn’t live in the local area.

It is always sad to see a FLGS close. I admit that I provided a mixed level of support for Game Parlor; on one hand I liked the owners (always friendly and willing to help) but some of the staff occasionally irritated me. In the last few years, the shelves would be stocked with just a few of the latest items, and many older items (like PC video games on 5 1/2″ disks) remained unsold with faded covers. Although they won’t blame online retailers or big merchants, I have had a few conversations with the owners that relate disappointment and apprehension at the way the games industry does business. The rise of digital retailers like DriveThruRPG have put a dent in RPG sales, and deals like FFG had to sell Star Wars-related games exclusively on Sept 4 (weeks before small merchants could even order items) make it hard on the small merchant who watches money that used to be destined for them go another way. This has been happening for a while now. I remember conversations at Petries Family Games (@PetriesFG) in Colorado Springs back when TableTop got their exclusive Target deal and took business away. The FLGS is in danger and won’t survive unless they get our support.

As Game Parlor closes out, the owners are having an inventory clearance sale with progressively greater discounts the closer to closing they get. Today I went ahead and got a few items before they disappear. Sorta felt bad because I was going to buy several things…eventually.

As gamers, we can help our FLGS by making it a point to support them. It doesn’t have to be much; anything is better than nothing. If we don’t, the FLGS will go the way of the Dodo bird – and that would be really stupid!