#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.

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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.

September #Wargame #Boardgame Forecast – It’s Raining Games!

In late June I made a bold forecast that as any as nine (9) of 27 games I had on preorder or Kickstarter could deliver by the end of July. Alas, it didn’t quite turn out that way.

August looked much better. Let’s see what happened this month and look a bit ahead to September….

Delivered

  1. Undaunted: North Africa (Osprey Games, 2020)Preorder Waro. DELIVERED. Good game slightly marred by the printing errors….
  2. Fort (Leder Games, 2020): Publisher-direct Preorder. DELIVERED. Who are your friends? Only the ones you play with!
  3. Quartermaster General: The Cold War (PSC Games, 2018)Online Retailer Purchase. Strategy Wargame? – DELIVERED. BGG lists this as a wargame. Not so fast….
  4. Scythe Complete Rulebook (Stonemaier Games, 2020): Publisher-direct Preorder. DELIVERED. Having recently started replaying Scythe and nearing completion of our The Rise of Fenris campaign its good to get all the rules in one organized place. Email Update 28 Aug“To-date we have not found a single instance of a rules error impacting gameplay in the 136-page document. Except in one section. The Automa rules need some work. I apologize for this and we take full responsibility. We believe these errors are large enough to justify a reprint. The good news is that many of you don’t play using the Automa (solo mode), and may never reference this section of the rulebook. But if you use the Automa or plan to in the future, we will send you a new spiralbound Scythe Complete Rulebook for free.” Here’s what we’ll do. Simply fill out this form and we’ll send you another Scythe Complete Rulebook when it’s reprinted in a few months using the mailing address from your previous order.”
  5. Dragomino (Blue Orange Games, 2020): Bonus Purchase – DELIVERED. Billed as “My First Kingdomino” I was a bit dubious as to how they could accomplish this. After all, Kingdomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017) is already a very simple game. Ordered as part of the Gen Con Online specials. SO HAPPY! Mrs. RMN introduced this game to all her students; all love it. Even RMN Jr (Mr. Kingdomino in the RMN House) likes to play!
  6. Dig Dog Dig (Flying Meeple, 2019): Bonus Purchase – DELIVERED. Another game bought to support the younger students of Mrs. RMN. This title is criminally under-appreciated. At heart a memory game, the toy factor and play makes this perfect for the early reader or younger gamers in your family.

Still Waiting

  1. One Small Step (Academy Games, 2020)Kickstarter Boardgame. UPDATE from August 7– “The container ship Seaspan Raptor is currently off the coast of Mexico and will arrive at the Panama Canal today. It is expect it to arrive in Florida August 10th! Your games will be shipped to you by Quartermaster Logistics, located in Orlando, FL hopefully by the end of next week.” NOTHING SEEN/HEARD SINCE.
  2. The Shores of Tripoli (Fort Circle Games, 2020)Kickstarter Waro. August 10 Update: “I also have some bad news. The shipping date from China has been pushed back further – to September 7. Just as you all have shown patience with me, I know I have to show patience with the folks manufacturing the game. But it is still extremely frustrating. And, unfortunately, airmailing the games here is truly cost-prohibitive – sink the company, never to be seen again level of cost-prohibitive. So this means it won’t be in anyone’s hands until October.”
  3. French & Indian War 1757-1759 (Worthington Publishing): Kickstarter Wargame. From a July 29 Update “The ship carrying both CRUSADER KINGDOMS and FRENCH & INDIAN WAR will hit the port in New York August 13.  We should expect for us to receive the games within 2 weeks of that barring a customs snag. Thats means it is possible we may be shipping the last week of August, and if not then the first week of September!!!”
  4. Flying Colors 3rd Edition Update Kit (GMT Games): P500. Charged 05 August. To ship shortly thereafter. Enroute!

New Orders

  1. Empire of the Sun, 4th Edition (GMT Games, 202?): New to the P500 this month. Could. Not. Resist.
  2. Supercharged (The Dietz Foundation, 2021?): Kickstarter. Looks like a good racing game. As the husband of a mother that uses boardgames to teach I also like what the Dietz Foundation stands for. Here he talks about how to use racing games (like Supercharged) for learning. At the time of this post, it sits just under 80% funded with about 20 days to go. HEY, RACING FANS! LEt’s get behind this!

“Friends come in and out of your [#boardgame] life like busboys in a restaurant.” Or like cards in Fort (@LederGames, 2020) [Bonus – No Wil Wheaton!]

“Build the most awesome fort while making friends and eating pizza.” – BGG description

This month the card game Fort (Leder Games, 2020) joined my collection and the RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself had a chance to try it several times during our week-long summer vacation. We enjoy the game, in no small part to the excellent marriage of theme and game mechanics.

Deck Building games are not my usual game mechanic-of-choice. Indeed, according to BoardGameGeek, I actually own only four games using the mechanic with two of them joining the collection in August 2020. I don’t consciously avoid deck builders; two others in my collection are Quarriors (Wiz Kids, 2011) and Trains (AEG, 2013). The RockyMountainNavy Boys really enjoy Quarriors (so much so they bought several expansions on their own) and Trains is usually a good time when it hits the table.

In Fort, players are the leader of a neighborhood club of kids. Your club starts with two best friends and eight other friends. The objective of the game is to ‘play’ with your friends to collect ‘stuff’ to build a fort and earn victory points.

The integration of theme and game play in Fort makes the entire play experience most fun. Every turn (day?) you start by gathering friends you didn’t play with but are in your Yard and move them to your Discard (telephone friends?) pile. Then you get to ‘play’ one friend from your Hand (your club can have as many as five friends in your hand). Each friend has two actions; a Public action and a Private action. You can do one, or both, actions as long as at least one of the actions is fully completed. You can also add other friends of the same ‘suit’ to play to increase the action. So if you play Patch (Add one Toy to Stuff for each Book) and add in Bones (both Book Suit) you get two toys. Regardless of if you played the Public or Private action, other players have the option of discarding a friend in their club/hand of the same suit and ‘following’ the Public action. Your club of friends may have been the first, but you are being mimicked by others! The actions you take will often lead to increasing the Stuff you have (Toys and Pizza) or can be used to build a bigger fort. Building a fort takes Stuff; the larger the fort the more Stuff needed. Larger forts also have more room for keeping Stuff in your Pack and more space for Look Outs (friends always available in your fort) that add cards to actions based on their suit. Sometimes that action might call for you to let a friend go because just like in real life sometimes that friend just isn’t right for you (or your game engine).

Next, you get the chance to ask new friends to join your club. Each turn you can recruit one new friend, chosen from either the Park or from another players Yard. This is the real deck-building aspect of Fort as you try to build a group of friends that power your ‘game engine’ strategy to victory.

After recruiting a new friend, you have to ‘go in’ for the day. Your Best Friends go to your Discard pile for they will never leave you except if you choose to Trash them like they moved away. Any other friends in your hand go into your Yard because you didn’t ‘play’ with them. Remember, friends in the Yard can be recruited away during other players turns! Finally, you replenish your hand from your Draw deck; these are the friends that will be with you as the other clubs execute their actions. These friends are going to be the ones allowing you to ‘follow the leader’ during other player’s turns and (hopefully) advance your scoring. End-game scoring is triggered when one player reaches Fort Level 5 or when their score passes 25 on the Victory Track.

I really enjoy the fact that the theme in Fort and game play build a natural narrative. We often find that in playing, we drop into using non-game terms for actions, like “Choose a new friend” instead of ‘recruit’ or “Send the friends you didn’t play with outside” instead of ‘discard.’ The use of toys and pizza for Stuff is brilliant. Indeed, the entire game builds upon the narrative of friends at play in a very natural way that makes playing Fort feel as if we’ve been playing it since we were little kids.

If there is a drawback to Fort, I have to say it’s grokking the iconography in your first play. It’s not hard, it just takes a bit getting used to it. Just like joining a new group of friends they already have their own ‘language’ and you need to catch up – which you will do quickly. The first play (or two) of Fort also can go on far longer than the 20-40 minute playtime on the box. That’s because all your friends are unique, and figuring out how to play with them takes a bit of time as you get to know them and see how they can help your club.

Finally, you can have fun in Fort by trying to pick which friend you are. Personally I feel like Bones. His Public Action of “Trash a card in your hand or discard pile Then Score VP times the number of Books” is like the friend who forms a study group that eventually helps you get better grades (VP?) but takes friends away from play. I can also see myself as Einstein (Public Action – Add a Pizza or Toy to your Stuff) but his Private Action (Score VP times number of Books Then Trash this card) seems a bit harsh. Then again, it sorta fits the nerd stereotype of the friend everybody wants to have in class but doesn’t really want to play with around the neighborhood (or maybe they can’t play with because he’s too busy studying).


Title quote (slightly modified!) from the movie Stand by Me.

#Boardgame Vacation 2020 featuring @BlueOrangeGames @days_of_wonder @UnstbleUnicrns & @LederGames

My family was fortunate enough to escape away for a bit. We went to a location a long days drive from home. As an added bonus, Gavin, the best friend of RockyMountainNavy Jr., and his family also vacationed in the same area. Our two families got together quite a bit and a good deal of boardgame play ensued.

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Courtesy Blue Orange Games

Gavin’s family plays boardgames, but they are much more familiar with the mass market segment of the gaming market. That said, earlier this year RMN Jr. introduced Kingdomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017) to them* and they added it to their game collection. Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder, 2004) was already part of their gaming shelf along with Qwirkle (Mindware, 2006)

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Courtesy Blue Orange Games

Since they already played Kingdomino, we introduced them to Queendomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017). It was a restrained hit; they really like the speed and simplicity of Kingdomino and the added ‘gamer’ elements of Queendomino did not totally attract their attention.

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Courtesy Unstable Unicorns

The next game we introduced them to was Here to Slay (Unstable Unicorns, 2020). This title was THE HIT of our 2020 vacation gaming! The RMN Boys and brothers Gavin & Skyler played my Kickstarter Exclusive Edition of this game too many times for me to keep track of. Skyler in particular was taken with game and is seeking a retail copy as soon as it is available.

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Photo by RMN

The RMN Boys also took along Ticket to Ride: New York (Days of Wonder, 2018). Given that all the boys were already familiar with Ticket to Ride learning the ‘new’ game was easy. Once again, it was Skyler who was the most excited; he likes Ticket to Ride but feels that sometimes the game is too long. The quick-play Ticket to Ride: New York fits his need for a simple, quick game that friends can play once as a filler or as a short series. 

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Photo by RMN

The newly released game Fort by Leder Games arrived the day before we traveled and made the trip. The RMN Boys and myself played the game twice. The initial play was a bit slow as we all learned the iconography. Our second play was much better as now, understanding the iconography, we could start developing strategies for play. Thematically the game is pitch-perfect and will surely regularly find a place on our gaming table.

It was also very fun to talk to Gavin’s family about the hobby boardgame segment of the boardgame market. They had a bit of some insight, but really have had only a peek. We resolved to invite Gavin on occasion over to play with us in our Saturday Family Game Night which will make us an even four-players; thus opening up many more titles to play beyond our usual (and sometimes a bit awkward) three-players. It’s a bit unfortunate (but ultimately for the best) that Skyler is leaving for tech school shortly for he is the more ‘gamer’ of the two brothers. Nonetheless, I am sure the RMN Boys and Gavin & Skyler will be gaming buddies for a long time to come.

Which brings me to a moment of sadness, and joy. Sadness because the RMN Boys have found a gaming group that does not include me. Joy because I passed along to them a love of gaming that they are spreading to their friends.

Is that not what we play games for?


*RMN Jr. considers himself some kind of a superior Kingdomino player as he is usually the winner in our house. It drives him crazy that Gavin’s mom not only regularly beats him, but beats him handily!

Feature photo by RMN

UPDATED July #Wargame #Boardgame Forecast – HOT to NOT!

In late June I made a bold forecast that as any as nine (9) of 27 games I had on preorder or Kickstarter could deliver by the end of July.

Not so fast.

It looks like the boardgame/wargame publishing industry is coming back, but at a bit of a slower pace. Let’s look at my forecast and then discuss the reality.

  1. One Small Step (Academy Games, 2020)Kickstarter Boardgame. An update from mid-May stated that shipping in July was expected. I have not seen an update since. Academy Games does not have the best track record for keeping to timelines but that negative is more than compensated by the top-quality game that usually ends up being delivered. UPDATE from July 8 – “August 11, 2020 Arrival Date: Jacksonville, FL, USA. Note, that shipping to Florida takes 10 days longer than to our normal shipping destination in Cleveland. To Cleveland, the product is shipped to Seattle, WA and then transported by rail to Cleveland. Whereas to Florida, the ship needs to steam to Panama, cross through the Panama Canal, and them make its way up to Florida. USA and Canadian pledges will be shipped from Quartermaster Logistics, which is based in Orlando, FL.”
  2. Wing Leader: Origins 1936-1942 (GMT Games, 2020)P500 Preorder Wargame. This one is a lock as I already have my UPS tracking number with delivery scheduled for 1 July. UPDATE: DELIVERED July 3.
  3. Philadelphia 1777 (Worthington Games, 2020)Kickstarter Wargame. A late June update reported the game is arriving at the freight-forwarder and Worthington expects to take possession early in July and start shipping immediately. UPDATE: Delivered July 17.
  4. The Shores of Tripoli (Fort Circle Games, 2020)Kickstarter Waro. Coronavirus delays have pushed this one back from April, but it looks like July is seriously in play. UPDATE from July 21 – “My post-pandemic expectation was that our print run would be ready to ship from China in early July. Because of a bottleneck at one of the factories (our manufacturer, Panda, uses three different factories for our game – one for the dice, one for the wood pieces and one for the printing and final assembly), the games will not be ready to ship from China until mid-August. The slow boat from China takes five to six weeks, so I am looking at alternatives – mainly, having enough copies airmailed to our distribution points (we are using Quartermaster Logistics and their overseas partners) so we can ship to all of our backers before the end of August. If it is not cost-prohibitive, that is the plan. But if it is cost-prohibitive, then we are looking at delivery in late September. Ugh, I do not even want to contemplate that. As I know more, I will keep all of you updated.”
  5. Here to Slay (Unstable Games, 2020)Kickstarter Card Game. Late June update reported game is out of production and on way to publisher for fulfillment. DELIVERED July 25.
  6. Undaunted: North Africa (Osprey Games, 2020)Preorder Waro. All looks to be on track for an early July release. UPDATE: Bought through a 3rd Party seller who expects it to their location “late-July.”
  7. Heights of Courage: The Battle for the Golan Heights, October 1973 (MMP, 2013)Sale Wargame. Bought as part of an amazing MMP sale in June. Having never ordered before from MMP I don’t know how fast they usually fulfill orders and realize coronavirus restrictions may be slowing them down. I had hoped to have these games in hand before July but it looks like they will not arrive until after the new month starts. DELIVERED JUNE 30.
  8. Panzer Battles: 11th Panzer on the Chir River (MMP, 2016)Sale Wargame. Like Heights of Courage above, this is another Standard Combat Series game. I have little experience with MMP so these two games will serve as my introduction to SCS. DELIVERED JUNE 30.
  9. Operation Mercury: The Invasion of Crete (MMP, 2017)Sale Wargame. On sale for an incredible $40 versus the usual $172. Will be my first foray into the MMP Grand Tactical Series (GTS) of games. DELIVERED JUNE 30.

It appears to me that shipping, not actual production of games, is a new long pole in the tent. Not surprising given the lack of air transportation worldwide. I know that many games are not airshipped, but the maritime shipping, rail, and truck industries are picking up other cargoes that air shipping used to handle leading in turn to a general slow down of those transportation modes. If you look close even Amazon Prime is sometimes backordered.

How about the look ahead to August? Here are what games may be in play (pun fully intended).

First, my Preorder & Kickstarter GeekList sits at 23 games. Of the three carry-overs from July (One Small Step, Shores of Tripoli, and Undaunted: North Africa) there is a good chance that all but Shores of Tripoli will deliver in August. Of the remaining 20 games:

  1. French & Indian War 1757-1759 (Worthington Publishing): Kickstarter Wargame. From a July 29 Update – “The ship carrying both CRUSADER KINGDOMS and FRENCH & INDIAN WAR will hit the port in New York Auugust 13.  We should expect for us to receive the games within 2 weeks of that barring a customs snag.  Thats means it is possible we may be shipping the last week of August, and if not then the first week of September!!!”
  2. Flying Colors 3rd Edition Update Kit (GMT Games): P500. Per July 23 Newsletter – “Charging August 5. Shipping roughly mid-August.”
  3. The Battle of Rhode Island (GMT Games): P500. Scheduled delivery 31 JULY.
  4. Fort (Leder Games): Publisher-direct Preorder. Scheduled for August release.

Of note, these are the three games I added this month:

  1. Buffalo Wings 2nd Edition (Against the Odds): Kickstarter Wargame. As the economy tanked I backed out of Wings of the Motherland from Clash of Arms. Mistake. Need to get that one too.
  2. Fort (Leder Games): Publisher-direct Preorder. After reading Dan Thurot’s review on Space-Biff this became a must-buy.
  3. Wing Leader Supremacy 2nd Edition Upgrade Kit (GMT Games): P500. I am a sucker for the Wing Leader Series. I have barely gotten Wing Leader: Origins to the table and Wing Leader: Legends is not quite to 500 orders. But. Must. Buy.

Looking ahead to the end of the year, it is possible that as many as eight or nine of the games on my current Preorder & Kickstarter GeekList could deliver. Like I said before, that would not only be good for me, but more importantly good for the gaming industry.


Feature image “United fleet grounded in Washington Dulles” James Dingell Photography