#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

Kids Gaming by an Old Grognard

Gulo Gulo Box
Courtesy BGG?

Although I have been a wargamer since 1979, it was not until the mid-2000s that I started into family gaming. At the time the youngest RockyMountainNavy spawn was just born and the oldest was 8 years old. We made some great purchases; games that are still favorites like Gulo Gulo or Chicken Cha Cha Cha or The Magic Labyrinth. As the RMN Kids grew up, we (logically) moved away from children’s games.

(Of minor interest, Gulo Gulo was the subject of one of my first-ever posts on this blog…waaaay back in 2007.)

This year, Mrs. RMN has started tutoring English to young kids. She is also a strong believer in tabletop games as great teaching tools. This means the rest of the RMN family is occasionally called upon to play a game with the youngsters. Currently, there are two main students, a kindergarten and 4th grader. Playing with these kids means we have pulled out the older games listed above but also means we we are on the lookout for new games too.

As a result, the RMN Household has been adding children’s games to our collection. This past year saw us add Ghostbusters: Protect the Barrier which is really a reskinned version of the Board Game Geek #4 Children’s Game Ghostfightin’ Treasure Hunters. More recently, Ice Cool has entered the collection, and other family games that are well suited for kids, like Kingdomino, are getting played too. As a matter of fact, when I checked my BGG collection this morning I discovered that we actually have five of the top 25 Children’s Games. Similarly, we have 11 of the Top 100 Family Games. Not too bad for an Old Grognard!

ff%uGkctSBq47LbTDGNYwA
Playing Ice Cool from Brain Games Publishing

 

Hot #Boardgames in Winter

In preparation for the arrival of a few new games this Christmas, I was updating my BoardGameGeek collection pages and noticed my profile page. There are two lists given, one is my Top 10 and the other my Hot 10. Looking at the two lists, I realized I had a methodology for creating the Top 10 list (based on my personal BGG rating) but I did not have a system for the Hot 10. Giving it a bit of some thought, I decided to use my Logged Plays as a guide. The resulting list is actually a good reflection of my year in gaming.

My logged plays games are a bit unbalanced. From January to July it featured one or two wargames a month. Beginning in August, the RockyMountainNavy family started family game nights every weekend. In the last five months of the year my gaming changed from wargames to more family boardgames. The pace of gaming also accelerated; so far in December I have already played more games that all of January to July put together. So here is my Hot 10:

#10 – Agricola: Master of Britain

As much as I play wargames solo it is actually rare that I play solo games. Agricola: Master of Britain is an easy-to-learn yet hard-to-master game that uses interesting cup mechanics to reflect shifting allegiances of tribes. I also like the escalating victory conditions that constantly force you to achieve more – sometimes more than is possible.

#9 – 1775: Rebellion

A “lite” wargame that plays well with 2-4 players. In many ways 1775: Rebellion showed me that a “family wargame” should be.

#8 – Scythe

Scythe marked the real birth of family board gaming in the RockyMountainNavy this year. One of the heavier games we played this year, we have not played in a while and need to get this one back to the table soon.

#7 – Pandemic

An older game that we “discovered” this year, I am always amazed at the narrative power this game delivers.

#6 – Plan Orange: Pacific War 1930-1935

Probably the only “real” wargame in my Hot 10. At first I was a bit surprised this was in my Hot 10 but then I thought about it; I really enjoy this CDG-design and the shorter play time means it can land on the gaming table more often.

#5 – The Expanse Board Game

At first I was a bit negative on The Expanse Board Game but I have warmed to it. I want it to land on the table a bit more but in the last game Youngest RockyMountainNavy Boy was ruthless on his brother who swore revenge. So far he hasn’t had a chance, but when it comes I’m sure it will be glorious to watch.

#4 – Terraforming Mars

Another game that exemplifies the arrival of family board gaming in the RMN family. This will be played many more times and there may even be a few expansions purchased.

#3 – Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear (second edition)

If there is a wargame that connected my grognard past with my boys it is Conflict of Heroes. The Firefight Generator has led to several memorable games so far.

#2 – Ghostbusters: Protect the Barrier Game

A lucky thrift-store find, I posted earlier how this is actually a reskinning of the Kinderspiel des Jarhres-winning Ghost Fighting’ Treasure Hunters. A fun cooperative game, it probably will be superseded in a future Hot 10 by Pandemic and demoted to the kids collection for Mrs RMN to use in her teaching.

#1 – Kingdomino

t355_b2138e70398567c86527fda049c52d5f
Courtesy Blue Orange Games

Given the short play time and our usual Dynasty play where we play three games in a sitting one could argue that this game is artificially high in my Hot 10. I disagree; Kingdomino fully deserves to be the Hot 10 leader not only because of my logged plays, but it is landing on the table with the RMN Boys even without me. Even the video-gaming oldest RMN Boy will join in!

So there is my Hot 10. This list helps me recognize what I have sensed all year; as much as I am a wargaming grognard this year I became more of a family gamer. This has resulted in many positive changes in the family. Not only do we spend more time socializing together, we also use games to guide our learning. The boys have learned so much more about the American Revolution and space exploration thanks to gaming. Even Mrs. RMN,  a non-gamer, is touting the value of board gaming to the parents of her students.

#GamesPlayed November 2017

IMG_0244
From BoardGameGeek

November proved to be a weird gaming month. Due to family visiting I actually lost out on two (2!) weekends worth of gaming!

The obvious hit game of the month was Ghostbusters: Protect the Barrier Game which we played with our visitors. We still have not beaten this game, though we came close in a full-up four player session. I personally played a pick-up game of Bananagramsagainst the niece. Not shown her are the several Ticket to Ride games the RockyMountainNavy Boys played with the niece and her friend. As usual, TtR served as a excellent gateway game to introduce tabletop boardgaming to a new player.

The RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself got in good games of The Expanse Board Game and Terraforming Mars. We have seen online where some players have substituted small painted miniature ships for the token in The Expanse Board Game. We might look into that as a small winter project. I also pulled out Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game and think this may make a good Game Night event in the near-future, even with just three players.

I didn’t get nearly enough wargaming in during the month, but did get the American Revolution Tri-Pack to the table and am waiting for a chance to bring it out on Game Night.

Looking ahead to December, I have a sneaky feeling that after Christmas Day there may just be a few new games to play.

No Turkeys on Mars – #TurkeyGameDay17

The RockyMountainNavy household is a bit busy this holiday with family visiting. Unfortunately, this means the last weekend Game Night was cancelled due to travel. However, this week (and especially thanksgiving Day) saw some games landing on the table. For some reason, the Red Planet Mars seemed to be our theme….

IMG_2055Thanksgiving Eve the RMNBoys and myself played a 3-player game of The Expanse Board Game. The game was slow with some analysis paralysis as the boys tried to get their heads wrapped around the game. The game ended a bit early when the sixth Scoring Card came out before the fourth or fifth had been played. At the end of the game I was a bit worried because Middle RMN Boy (on the Autism Spectrum) reacted a bit negatively to the ruthless play of his brother. I (belatedly) realized that The Expanse Board Game is a bit more on the “ruthless” side of gaming and not like other games we have played recently. The contrast was all-the-more apparent since the previous games Middle RMN Boy had played were the cooperative Ghostbusters: Protect the Barrier Game or the very family-friendly Ticket to Ride. To further exacerbate his loss, he had played the OPA which probably has the most “indirect” asymmetry of the three factions. Maybe I should have encouraged him to take the more militant MCR or the diplomatic UN. Thus, it was with some trepidation that I agreed to another play of The Expanse Board Game on Thanksgiving Day. Middle RMN insisted that he play the OPA again and I did not get in his way.

After the first game, we had talked about how the game encouraged being ruthless and how it was not his brother being mean, but the design of the game. I was hoping he understood. After the game it was very apparent that I had little to worry about for he was just as ruthless as his brother. In the end, Little RMN ran away with a victory but Middle RMN and myself were in a virtual tie. The boys both want to play again, and I too am more comfortable playing with them as Middle RMN Boy now seems to “understand” the game and not take it personally.

pic2891964_md
Courtesy BGG

Thanksgiving Night ended with a full game of Terraforming Mars. Little RMN again proved to be ruthless and gave us no mercy with another runaway win. This was the second full-play of Terraforming Mars using the regular Corporations and the boys are exploring various strategies and getting better at playing Action Cards. As we were putting away the game, we looked at the Corporate Era cards. The rule book states that using the Corporate Era cards will result in an extended game; elsewhere I have read using these cards results in a more “confrontational” game. For that reason I was not planning on introducing these cards until after a few more plays. However, after The Expanse Board Game the RMN Boys are in a bit of a “confrontational” gaming mood and want to play the Corporate Era variant.

Although our Thanksgiving games ended well enough, it reminded me that playing with Autism Spectrum must always be in the back of my mind. When introducing a new game, I need to ensure that the tone of the game is presented up front to avoid negative emotions. I am happy to do this because – at the end of the day – I get to game with two of my greatest gaming partners.

(Featured image courtesy stellasplace1.com)

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.

#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!