Sunday Summary – Puzzling over 1979-2034 Rostov Submarine Barns (#wargame #boardgame #books @MultiManPub @HABA_usa @FoundationDietz @Bublublock @compassgamesllc @DanThurot @USNIBooks @Academy_Games)

Wargames

A very pleasant week of wargaming. I got Rostov ’41: Race to the Don (Ray Weiss, Multi-Man Publishing, 2020) to the gaming table for multiple plays. I really enjoy the Standard Combat Series and this title was truly a Rev to My Gaming Engine. Deeper thoughts will come in this weeks “#Wargame Wednesday” posting. I also pulled Steve Peek’s Submarine (Avalon Hill, 2nd Edition 1981) off the shelf to support a “Rocky Read for #Wargame” entry on The Enemy Below (Cdr D.A. Rayner, Henry Holt & Co., 1957) that will post later this week.

Boardgames

The Kickstarter campaign for 1979: Revolution in Iran (Dan Bullock, Dietz Foundation) successfully funded this week. This is the second game in what I (very informally) call the Axis of Evil Strategy Game Series. The first game, No Motherland Without: North Korea in Crisis and Cold War (Compass Games, 2020) was the subject of a very nice Space-Biff column this week.

Miss A brought her birthday present game, Barnyard Bunch (HABA, 2019) to the house this week when she came for her tutoring with Mrs. RMN. This is a very kid-friendly cooperative game that was really fun to play together with her and Mrs. RMN. The goal of the game is to keep the animals from running away. Every turn, a player rolls the die to see what animals advance (depends on color of die face), or retreats one space (the Farmer), or which is taken all the way back to the barn by the Dog. Then, you draw a card that will advance an animal, lure an animal back one space with food, or show the Farmer (choose one animal back one space) or Dog (one animal back to barn). Not much strategy needed as the game is played cooperatively with all players participating in the choice of animals moved by the Farmer or Dog. Given Miss A is 7-years old we thought that maybe the game is actually too simple for her. However, we were later told she took the game to a friends house and taught it to her friend. So…it was an obvious good choice by Mrs. RMN, right?

Puzzles

No, not puzzle games, but real honest-to-goodness jigsaw puzzles. Got notice this week that two historical puzzles I ordered through Academy Games arrived at the warehouse. For the RockyMountainNavy Boys summer enjoyment they will get to work on these 700mm x 500mm, 1000-piece puzzles featuring cover art from Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear and 878: Vikings. As I look at the pledge page I see very few puzzles ordered. I know we are coming out of COVID lockdowns but, hey, let’s show some love here!

Books

With the arrival of summer I decided to order “a few” more books for those lazy evening reads. I started off with Naval Institute Press (where I am a member) and ordered several from the Fall 2021 catalog. Stupid me, I failed to realize two of the books are “coming later this year” so I only got one book from this order in hand (Norman Friedman’s Network-Centric Warfare, 2009). I also ended up ordering seven more books from the “Clear the Decks” sale section—still awaiting delivery of those. I then ordered two titles from Amazon which is how 2034: A Novel of the Next World War by Elliot Ackerman with Admiral Jim Stavridis, USN (Ret.) and The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, A Temptation, and the Longest Night of World War Two by Malcolm Gladwell arrived on my bookshelf. Of the two, 2034 is very likely to feature in a near-future (no pun intended) posting of “Rocky Reads for #Wargame” since Compass Games is scheduled to release John Gorkowski’s Indian Ocean Region in the South China Sea series of wargames this month.

#Family Friday – A breath of fresh (hot?) #boardgame air with Dragons Breath: The Hatching (@HABA_usa, 2019)

If you are a follower of my blog, you might recall me making occasional references to Mrs. RockyMountainNavy and her students. In this year of COVID schooling she really leaned in to help the young daughter of a friend. Miss A is in first grade and, coming from a family that speaks nothing but Korean at home, is an at-risk learner. As a first-grader, this was the year she needed to really learn to read. So Mrs. RMN tutored her. Well, actually she did more than that. Miss A was at our house two of the four online school days each week while her parents worked and Mrs. RMN tutored her as well as helped her with online learning. We also played lots of games—but only after the school day or her tutoring was finished. But before I tell you about a game let me tell you a bit of the backstory.

Miss A started the year as an English as a Second Language (ESL) student in a Title I school. That’s a school where over 40% of the students qualify for reduced price or free lunches. Although Miss A’s teacher tried, online learning is NOT what those economically—and often educationally—disadvantaged children needed.


Fast Facts for Miss A’s School

Total Students: 726

English Learner Services: 372 (~51%)

Free or Reduced Fee Lunch: 476 (~65%) [No Fee Waiver: 326 (~45%)]


Mrs. RMN basically did all the teaching for Miss A this year—and it shows. She had taught all four of our children to read, even our Autism Spectrum boy. She went back to school to study Early Childhood Education. In other words she knows what she’s doing. She has a phonics reading program she knows and believes in. We have all the sight words cards a child needs. We have a children’s library with literally a thousand books (that’s just K-3…and I kid you not for we bought through the Scholastic Book Club for something like 15 years straight). All the books are marked with their Accelerated Reader level so we could make sure Miss A was reading the right books for her stage of learning.

Miss A is doing so well in reading that she left the ESL classes. She is doing so well in reading that she is at the top of her regular class—far ahead of many of her peers. The tutoring Mrs. RMN provided was certainly helpful, but also the environment we gave Miss A was very important. Where her fellow students lacked books to read because the school or local library was closed Miss A had hundreds to choose from (we try to get her to read 8-10 books a month – or or two or three each week). Where her fellow students lacked social opportunities, Miss A had “three older brothers” in the RMN Boys. Miss A also had plenty of opportunities to play games and benefit from all the great learning and socialization skills they build.

Last week Miss A completed the phonics readers that Mrs. RMN uses—all 68 books. It’s a great achievement so we decided to reward her. We made a nice certificate and printed it on heavier card stock. We also decided to buy her a game because as often as she is at our house she has picked up gaming too.

In a bit of a change of pace, Mrs. RMN went with me to the local FLGS, Huzzah Hobbies in Sterling, VA, to pick out a game. Huzzah stocks a small but nice selection of children’s games. Mrs. RMN easily recognized the bright yellow HABA boxes and quickly decided on Dragon’s Breath: The Hatching (2019).

Of course, after we gifted Dragon’s Breath: The Hatching to Miss A we had to play it with her. Actually, she had to play it with me as I am her “game teacher” while Mrs. RMN is her “school teacher.” Thus, it fell on me to quickly learn the game and teach it to Miss A and Mrs. RMN.

Here is how HABA describes the Dragon’s Breath: The Hatching:

“Oh no! The nest, complete with dragon egg and sparkling stones, is frozen inside an ice column! Help Dragon Mom melt the thick layer of ice, but be careful that the egg doesn’t fall out of the nest! Earn points by collecting the fallen sparkling stones and placing them on your amulet.”

Dragon’s Breath: The Hatching is a light dexterity, set-collection game. Players take turns being the Dragon Mom and melting the ice tower full of crystals and topped by the Dragon Egg. As the Dragon Mom blows (melts) the ice tower, the player removes a ring and watches as crystals fall. If the Egg drops then Dragon Mom covers one of two holes on the treasure box. The other players now take turns collecting the different color crystals that fell and place them on their cards. As a card is completed, it is retired for scoring and replaced by a new card. The Dragon Mom player does not have cards to collect, but instead can put one or two crystals in the treasure chest on their turn, effectively keeping them away from the other players. A round consists of removing the three levels of the ice tower, and the game ends after each player has been the Dragon Mom once. At the end of play, scored cards are added up with the winner being the player with the highest score.

The best review on BGG at the moment….

Miss A absolutely loved Dragon’s Breath: The Hatching because of the “cute” Dragon Mom wooden character and all the “pretty diamonds.” Both Mrs. RMN and myself realized the game could have a darker side since the Dragon Mom player effectively “hate-drafts” crystals to keep them away from others. Miss A realized that too, and was always very sad when she lost out on a crystal, but squealed with glee every time she kept a crystal away from me! In other words, she loves the game.

I am very proud of Miss A who has come so far in this horrible year of COVID schooling. I am also very proud of my wife and all she has done for Miss A this year. In a year where schools failed our children, Mrs. RMN has worked wonders to keep Miss A not only on track, but to push her ahead. Miss A is very proud of herself because she can read. She is also proud of herself because she does good in school. We constantly tell her she can do anything because she is smart. We also have given her a passion to play games. In this year of COVID, I think Miss A will not only enjoy Dragon’s Breath: The Hatching but also remember it for a long time.

Sunday Summary – Too busy to play but NEVER too busy to dream about new #wargame & #boardgame arrivals @FoundationDietz @msiggins @HABA_usa @compassgamesllc @gmtgames @Academy_Games @LeeBWood @Hobiecat18 @SchilMil @Bublublock

Like the title says, didn’t get much gaming in this week as I return to basically full-time in the office. After a year of semi-telework it’s a bit of a shock to the system but, honestly, I love to be back at the grind.

Wargaming

Ended up doing a deep-dive of Fifth Corps: The Soviet Breakthrough at Fulda (Jim Dunnigan, Strategy & Tactics Nr.. 82, Sept/Oct 1980). There is alot of “professional” in this “hobby” title! I also had a real fun trip down memory lane with the accompanying magazine.

Boardgaming

Supercharged (Mike Siggins, Dietz Foundation, 2021) raced to the table. Also gifted (and taught) Dragons Breath: The Hatching (HABA, 2019).

Incoming!

It’s been awhile since I looked at my preorders. I presently am tracking 27 titles in my preorder GeekList. Here are some highlights:

Kickstarter

After complaining a few weeks back about the sheer number of Kickstarter campaigns and their costs I have not been doing a very good job controlling myself since. So far this month I added:

RockyMountainNavy’s influential #boardgame from the 2010’s

I want to thank all of you who took the time to make my post RockyMountainNavy’s influential #wargame from the 2010’s my most-read article this year. Sensing a good thing and wanting to keep try and keep the bandwagon going, I now will regal you with my fifteen most influential boardgames that I own or played that were published between 2010 and 2019.

Sorta.

Late Start

Like I said in my wargames of influence post, I ‘rediscovered’ the hobby boardgame industry in late 2016. Sure, I had some hobby boardgames, but I had not seriously tried to get the family into gaming. In late 2016 we started playing more games and by late 2017 we had instituted a Family Game Night on Saturdays.

As a grognard wargamer, moving from wargames to boardgames was a bit jarring. I mean, you often times play with more than one opponent? Although they were not new to me, I really came to understand the Ameritrash vs Eurogamer battle and started looking at games from both a thematic and mechanical perspective. Along the way, I never gave up on wargaming and introduced the RockyMountainNavy Boys to the wargame niche. The challenge was finding good multiplayer wargames that could be played in an evening.

Here comes the Waro

I needn’t have worried, for in late 2017 a new ‘genre’ of boardgames was starting to be talked about. Here came the waro, or wargame-Eurogame. There is no single definition of what a waro is, but to me it is a wargame that incorporates elements, be it mechanical or component-wise, of Eurogames. In 2019 Brian Train used the term, “militarized Eurogame” which I find both very simple and highly descriptive. So the list you are about to see has more than a few waro games on it. That is because as a wargamer these titles often speak to me and have brought gaming joy tot he RockyMountainNavy household.

Unlike my previous list which was presented in order of year of publication, this one will be a vain attempt by me to rank them. Please don’t ask me to define my criteria; this is really a ‘gut feel’ of how I rank these games. Like before, the list is light on pre-2016 games because it was then that I turned hard into the hobby. I am sure some real gems from earlier in the decade deserve to be here; I either don’t own them or simply missed them as I took in the later-half of the decade.

My 15 Influential Boardgames of the 2010’s

15. Agents of Mayhem: Pride of Babylon – Academy Games, 2019

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Courtesy Academy Games

The ‘dungeon crawl’ is a very popular boardgame format. In the RockyMountainNavy house we tend to stay away from fantasy but the RMN Boys are Star Wars fans so we own and played Star Wars: Imperial Assault after it came out. I recognize that the game is very popular (currently #37 overall on BoardGameGeek) but as big fans as the Boys were the game never really clicked. Indeed, the entire dungeon crawl gaming genre (as well as man-to-man scale skirmish games in general) seemed kinda lost on the Boys and myself. That is, until I played Agents of Mayhem: Pride of Babylon.

 

Maybe its the 3D terrain. Maybe its the fact I am not familiar with the setting and therefore more open minded. Maybe I am more accepting of modern superpowers vice always fighting Star Wars ‘canon.’ Whatever the reason, I really enjoy the game. I really like the character and unit tableaus and how they enable handling them in a very easy manner. There is no need to lookup a table or chart; its’ all really in front of you.

Agents of Mayhem: Pride of Babylon makes my influential list because it shows me how a skirmish / dungeon crawl-like game can be made fast, fun and furious (to steal another RPGs tagline).

14. AuZtralia – Stronghold Games, 2018

box-hero
Courtesy Stronghold Games

According to BGG and Stronghold Games, AuZtralia is an “adventure/exploration game.” To me, I think they forgot “wargame.” To me, AuZtralia is a waro but in a slightly different sense of the word. In the first part of the game, AuZtralia is a Eurogame of building railroads and seeking resources. At some point, however, it switches over to a wargame where your armed forces (supported by certain individuals) are fighting the Old Ones. I like this schizophrenic design approach. It is certainly one way to approach a waro; in this case one I really enjoy.

 

AuZtralia is influential because it shows the very direct marriage of a Eurogame and wargame. 

13. Cataclysm: A Second World War – GMT Games, 2018

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Courtesy GMT Games

I think Cataclysm has an identity crisis. Thematically, the game covers the Second World War periods. Published by GMT Games, it just must be a wargame since that is what GMT publishes, right? To all of you I say, wrong! To me Cataclysm is not a wargame of military conflict, but a game of politics where military action is one possible tool in your kit. Yes, I declare that Cataclysm is a political game. Like the ad copy says, “This is not your father’s panzer pusher.”

 

Cataclysm is influential because it forced me to stretch my definition of wargame and give serious consideration to the politics of conflict, not just the military confrontation.

12. Pandemic: Fall of Rome  – Z-Man Games, 2018

zgLVeSk8Tn+CXkchMq7sMwThe RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself are not really into cooperative games. That said, we always have fun playing the original Pandemic and have used it to introduce hobby boardgaming to others. That said, we are not huge fans so have not sought out other Pandemic titles. That is, until Pandemic: Fall of Rome came out. At first I bought the game because I had dreams of enticing the oldest RMN Boy (the non-tabletop gamer) to play because he loves ancients. That didn’t work, but I discovered a new Pandemic, one that included ‘battles.’ Like AuZtralia, I categorize Pandemic: Fall of Rome as a waro because it very successfully mixes both Eurogame and wargame.

Pandemic: Fall of Rome is influential because it demonstrates the power of mixing a very cooperative ‘stop the spread’ Eurogame with key wargame (battle) mechanics.

11. Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection – GMT Games, 2016

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Courtesy GMT Games

As I really discovered hobby boardgaming (and wargaming for that matter) in late 2016 I heard about this thing called the COIN-series. At first I was not interested because professionally I tend to pay more attention to rogue nations and peer competitors and never really got into the counterterrorism or counterinsurgency areas. At the same time I also had moved to the East Coast of the US and was studying more Revolutionary history. I passed on COIN until I saw GMT Games getting ready for a second reprint of Liberty or Death. The approach of the game was intriguing; framing the American Revolution as an insurgency? I bought it and was confused at first. This is a complex game! But I persevered and eventually, after several plays, it started to click.

 

Liberty or Death is influential because this game showed me that games can be used to teach and explore very serious political topics.

10. Nights of Fire: Battle of Budapest – Mighty Board Games, 2019

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Courtesy Mighty Boards

Brian Train, co-designer of Nights of Fire: Battle of Budapest, writes in the designer’s notes how this title is a “militarized Eurogame.” I adit I bought this game at first because it is a Brian Train design and I like how he sheds light on smaller or less known conflicts in history. The topic of Nights of Fire is very niche, the Soviet invasion of Budapest in 1956. Nights of Fire, however, uses a very Eurogame-approach to model this battle with cards and area control and blocks and tokens. This is really a card game with hand/action management and block wargame put together. I also respect the designers that were able to make the same game play competitive, cooperative, or solo.

 

Nights of Fire: Battle of Budapest is influential because I consider it the best example of the ‘bleeding edge’ of waro design.

9. Root: A Woodland Game of Might & Right – Leder Games, 2018

 

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Courtesy Leder Games

Root is a wargame, right? Look at BoardGameGeek where as I write this it is the 19th-ranked wargame (as well as the #33 Strategy Game and #39 overall). With all the battling in the game it must be a wargame, right? As much as I want to agree, I see two games here, but neither of them are truly a wargame. On the mechanical level, I am in awe of the design of Root that incorporates so many different game mechanisms into a well integrated package. Every faction plays differently, be it set collection or action-selection or hand management. I am totally amazed that Cole Wehrle makes this all work together. But none of those mechanisms are ‘wargame.’

 

IMG_0084On the second level, I see Root as a political game. Each faction has a different way to victory and battling is just one lever of power a faction can wield. Once again, you can play Root as a ‘wargame’ but, like Cataclysm before, this is really a political battle where fighting is a tool that can be chosen.

Root is influential because it shows me how one integrates many different game engines into a political game that is vicious despite the cute and fuzzy animals. Truly a wild kingdom!

8. Queendomino – Blue Orange Games, 2017

 

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Courtesy Blue Orange Games

Spoiler Alert – you’re going to see Kingdomino a bit later in this list. As much as we like that game, the RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself also really enjoy Queendomino. That is because we view Queendomino as the ‘gamers version’ of Kingdomino. We really enjoy how the designers took the simplicity of Kingdomino and added jus the right amount of new mechanisms to make the game vastly more interesting yet still simple to play.

 

Influential because Queendomino demonstrates how to take a great simple game, add a bit of complexity, but still keep it easy and fun to to play.

7. Quarriors! – WizKids, 2011

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Courtesy WizKids

Finally, you say! A game from before 2016! I think I actually bought this game in 2011 from Petrie’s Family Games when I lived in Colorado Springs. I seem to remember the owner, Cameron, giving me a strong recommendation and, seeking a game to play with the RockyMountainNavy Boys, I purchased it. Then life got in the way and I moved to the East Coast for a job while the RMN Family stayed in Colorado. It was not until 2013 that we were all back together again, but then I was concerned that all the reading on the cards and how to put a strategy together would be too much for my middle boy who is on the Autism Spectrum. As a result, we really didn’t get this game to the table until 2017.

Suffice it to say I was stupid. The RMN Boys can handle this game quite well. They love it so much they both put their own money forth to buy expansions.

Quarriors! is influential because it is one of the most-played games in the RockyMountainNavy collection and often used by the Boys to beat up on old Dad because they are much faster at building synergistic dice pools than I am.

6. Rhino Hero – HABA, 2016

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Courtesy HABA

A yellow- box game from HABA is for kids only, right? Sure, the box says for ages 5-99 but we all just know its really a kids game. WRONG! I cannot even start to count all the hours (and I mean hours) of fun play this game has occupied int he RockyMountainNavy house. Not only hours of fun for the RMN Family, but Rhino Hero is a title we use to introduce others to hobby gaming.

Rhino Hero is influential because it has opened the eyes of many non-gamer friends to a different type of family game and shown them good family fun.

5. Kingdomino – Blue Orange Games, 2017

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Courtesy Blue Orange Games

When I pulled Kingdomino out the first time the RockyMountainNavy Boys were dubious. After all, how hard could it be to place dominos on a 5×5 grid? Years later this game is often the go-to when we need a quick filler game before dinner. Or when we want to introduce somebody to gaming. It is very easy to teach. I also enjoy watching a new player as they play their first game; you can literally see the lightbulb go on in their head as they realize what they can do when selecting a tile. You can see their eyes dart between the tiles and their kingdom, and eventually the other players, as the strategy develops in their head.

Kingdomino is influential because not only do we enjoy every play, it is our gateway game of choice to introduce others to hobby boardgaming.

4. Terraforming Mars – Stronghold Games, 2016

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Courtesy Stronghold Games

Somewhere I think I heard that Terraforming Mars was a good science lesson. Wanting to encourage the youngest RMN Boy to pursue the sciences I purchased this game. At first I was doubtful as the sheer number of cards seemed overwhelming. I also was concerned (again) whether my middle boy could handle all the reading and assemble a strategy. Well, the youngest was taken by the game (“See Mom, it teaches me!”) while the middle boy caught on (maybe faster than I did). Once we added the Prelude expansion that jump-starts your Corporations we find ourselves playing this game even more often than we did before. Now our neighbors have the game, making a inter-family game night a real possibility.

Terraforming Mars is influential because it showed that we all can enjoy a good middle-weight Eurogame and are not limited to simpler titles or wargames.

3. 1775: Rebellion – Academy Games, 2013

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Courtesy Academy Games

(Yes, another pre-2016 title!) Alas, I did not discover this game until I had a conversation with Uwe Eickert of Academy Games at the wargaming conference CONNECTIONS 2017. While discussing his excellent Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear second edition (Academy Games, 2012) I mentioned I was always looking for a good family wargame. Uwe immediately sold me on his Birth of America series so we soon had 1775: Rebellion on the table. We now own the entire Birth of America and Birth of Europe series and we will surely buy any new game in the future.

1775: Rebellion is influential because showed us that a lite family strategy/wargame does not have to be Risk; indeed, there is much better out there that not only is fun to play but also teaches good history.

2. Enemies of Rome – Worthington Publishing, 2017

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Courtesy Worthington Publishing

The lite family strategy/wargames of the Birth of America series (Academy Games) were such a big hit in the RockyMountainNavy house I went looking for more. Given the oldest RMN Boy’s interest in Ancients I chose Enemies of Rome as a good candidate game. Little did I realize how much the other Boys (especially the youngest) would be taken with the game. Enemies of Rome is one of the most-played games in the RMN collection and there is no sign the Boys are going to lose interest. Heck, even I will probably not lose interest because every play has been different. Just last week, I started out in Syria and halted my expansion across Africa because I was sure that card that brings hoards of ‘Enemies of Rome’ out across North Africa was going to come out next. It never did because it was one of the cards removed at setup. But I was so sure it was going to come I I followed a strategy that defended against a non-existent threat. Now the RMN Boys are looking to use this game for the Neighborhood Gaming Gang since it plays up to five.

Enemies of Rome is influential because it is our most-played lite family strategy/wargame that is simple to learn yet offers deep play time and time again.

1. Scythe – Stonemaier Games, 2016

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Courtesy Stonemaier Games

Another recommendation from Uwe Eickert at CONNECTIONS 2017. I had never played a Eurogame of this sort before and my first reading of the rules were daunting. I played it solo a few times then tried to teach it to the RMN Boys.

We all fell in love with it.

First it was the art. Jakub Rozalski is incredible.

Second is the game mechanics. Middle-Heavy Eurogames are not in our usual wheelhouse. Scythe was so different than anything we played before. But the asymmetric powers of the factions and economies makes no two games alike. The expansions are clean and add good flavor; the campaign is an incredible journey.

Scythe is influential because it opened our eyes to a whole new type of boardgame and it keeps us coming back with innovative expansions and endless replayability. I think we will still be playing this game in 20 years.


Feature image from teedep.com

An August-less #boardgame #wargame month

SUMMER IS NOT THE BEST TIME for boardgames or wargames in the RockyMountainNavy house. There are so many outdoor activities to be had and family events on the weekend that games get pushed to the back burner. So it was for August in the RockyMountainNavy home. I recorded a measly 13 plays of 9 different games…my worst month in almost two years of recording plays.

The month did blast off with Tranquility Base (Worthington Publishing, 2019) being the definite winner with four plays in the month. This included one play with the Soviet Moon Expansion.

Nights of Fire: Battle of Budapest (Mighty Boards, 2019) is a new game that found its way to my table. This “militarized Eurogame,” as co-designer Brian Train puts it, is most enjoyable.

The best family night game was a long overdue session of 1812: Invasion of Canada (Academy Games, 2012). With the beginning of the school year and a return to a somewhat normal cycle of weekend family games I am sure that the many Birth of America / Birth of Europe-series titles will land on the table regularly.

It finally released! Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel – Kursk 1943 3rd Edition (Academy Games, 2019) arrived. This is supposed to be our next weekend family night game. Spoiler Alert: I really like the Spent Die Mechanic and encourage all the naysayers to actually try it before they knock it.

I found myself at home on some days that Mrs. RMN’s summer daycare girl was here so we got a few children’s games in. Unicorn Glitterluck: Cloud Stacking (HABA, 2019) is a real winner!

On a recommendation at CONNECTIONS 2019 I picked up Cowboy Bebop: Boardgame Boogie (Jasco Games, 2019). I haven’t written up my thought yet but (spoiler alert…again) this tune is a bit flat to me.

I attended CONNECTIONS 2019, the professional wargaming conference in mid-August. I have yet to compose all my thoughts but I did get to see a bit of wargame history with Upton’s US Infantry Tactical Apparatus.

Looking ahead, designer John Gorkowski was kind enough to send me an e-kit to playtest with for the next game in South China Sea-series from Compass Games. Indian Ocean Region is already available for preorder and this is my chance to try and influence the game and make it better for everyone.

As mentioned before, the return to school means a return to a more regular schedule of gaming. I also still have several games in my 2019 CSR, Origins, and GameGeek Challenges to complete before the end of the year.

So..back to gaming!

A little girls #boardgame (and that’s a good thing) – Unicorn Glitterluck: Cloud Stacking (@HABA_usa, 2019)

MRS. ROCKYMOUNTAINNAVY leaned in to help a friend this summer, meaning that we quite literally had a 5-year old little girl running around Casa RockyMountainNavy many days. With school back in session, Mrs. RMN wanted to give her a present. Naturally, she turned to me and asked for boardgame suggestions. I recommended Unicorn Glitterluck: Cloud Stacking (HABA, 2019). Little Ms. A played the game and she, her mother, and Mrs. RMN all give it a giant 5 UNICORNS!

Although our kids are older, Mrs. RMN tutors younger ones meaning we have a collection of children’s games on hand. These include perennial favorites from HABA like Rhino Hero (2016) and Animal Upon Animal (2005). Little Ms. A only plays boardgames when she is at our house so she has lots to learn. She has played Animal Upon Animal and liked it, but we (OK, me…) was looking for something similar yet different. Unicorn Glitterluck: Cloud Stacking combines both a dexterity and cooperative game into one. Perfect for small children. Don’t believe me? Check out this video from Game Trade Media filmed at Origins Games Fair 2019 for a great explanation of the game and example of play.

We played Unicorn Glitterluck: Cloud Stacking with Little Ms. A today. Actually, we played three times. We won all three games (although one was really close) and Little Ms. A really enjoyed it. She still needs to be guided (she occasionally throws the die instead of rolling it) but she caught on quickly. Mrs. RMN declared we are going to purchase at least two more copies (one for another student and one for our collection) because it takes the best of Animal Upon Animal and adds the cooperative play element. She also points out that the pink box is key.

Huh?

Courtesy BGG

OK, we all need to stop adulting for a minute and remember that Mrs. RMN wants these games for young girls. Little girls that Want to be little girls and don’t understand anything about gender neutrality packaging. Sure, they like the yellow HABA boxes but Little Ms A was very proud to show the box to her mother and proclaim, “Look! A girl’s game!”

To be clear, HABA does not market any of their Unicorn Glitterdrift games specifically towards girls. Even so, the pink box and colorful unicorns screams this is a “girls game.” So, am I evil to allow this sort of gender gaming? Too bad; the game is great and if it helps bring a little girl into the hobby then so be it. More importantly, Little Ms. A also sees the RMN Boys playing the game with her. If they don’t want to play a game because “it’s for girls” THEN we have a problem. But they don’t, and Little Ms. A earns not only a sense of ownership (“Let’s play MY game”) but also a reason to keep playing in the hobby. We can worry about gender neutral games later.

In the meantime, I have a unicorn castle to build.


Feature image Unicorn Glitterluck: Cloud Stacking components courtesy BGG

Postscript: Kudos to HABA for providing a multi-lingual rulebook in this game. Surprisingly, one of the languages is Korean – the primary language of the families Mrs. RMN teaches. Little Ms A was tickled pink (pun intended) with the Korean title of the game which translates as “Twinkle, Twinkle Unicorn.” Yet another way she was able to connect to the game and find an inviting hobby waiting for her to explore.

#TeachingTuesday – #Boardgames we use in early childhood education

AS A BOARDGAME FAMILY the hobby has influenced many parts of our life. One influence I often don’t recognize is the role boardgames play in the education of children. This goes far beyond the very simple “be patient and await your turn” and is more that just “that game taught me a bit of history/science, etc.” In the RockyMountainNavy house, boardgames have long played an important role in educating our children through “active learning.”

Mrs. RockyMountainNavy loves to teach young children. She has found a niche where we live by teaching English and Math to pre-school and early elementary-age children of Korean parents. Often these kids come from one language (Korean) or dual-language (Korean/English) households and the parents are struggling to keep up with the kids English. This is where Mrs. RMN steps in to assist the children.

As much as Mrs. RMN teaches English and math she also has come to realize, based on our experiences with our kids, that play is an important part of learning. That is why she always factors in some “play” time for kids when she teaches them. Sometimes it is physical play (like going to a nearby playground). Other times it is imaginative play (we still have lots of Playmobil figures and accessories about) but just as often it is “play” using boardgames.

We tend to shy away from “educational” games as they often come across as “work” not “play” to the little ones. Sure, we have plenty of puzzle games that we can use. Instead, Mrs. RMN looks to boardgames to compliment and support learning. In pre-school kids, this often means games are used to build fine motor skills, spatial awareness, foster social interactions, and introduce strategy thinking.

One of Mrs. RMN’s current students is Miss A. Little Miss A is getting ready to enter kindergarten but she has trouble holding a pencil. It’s a combination of weak fingers and fine motor skills. To help little Miss A build up her finger strength and fine motor skill, Mrs. RMN plays Animal Upon Animal or Rhino Hero (both from HABA) with her. The need to stack the animals or cards means she has to control her fingers and hands. Best of all, she sees this as a game not an exercise. Animal Upon Animal also builds spatial awareness. In the case of Miss A, she struggles to imagine how pieces can stack. It appears that she has trouble “rotating” pieces in her mind. We also use jigsaw puzzles but those are inherently a solo activity and she instead of doing it by herself she relies on others. Games like Animal Upon Animal give her the learning support she needs while doubling as social interaction.

Two other games Mrs. RMN often uses are Chicken Cha Cha Cha and Gulo Gulo. Chicken Cha Cha Cha is really a simple memory game, but it introduces the kids to early counting and taking turns (a much needed social skill). In the case of Miss A, she is an only child and often just pushes ahead with a game by repeating her turn over and over again. Whereas Chicken Cha Cha Cha emphasizes the social, Gulo Gulo adds in fine motor skills (manual dexterity getting the eggs out of the nest) as well as early strategic thinking (push ahead with the next tile or maybe go a bit easier and get that color on the tile already face up and ahead of you). Admittedly, this is much harder to teach but it never ceases to amaze us when we see that “ah ha” moment where the child sees the strategy. Additionally, over the years we have discovered that young kids really love the appearance and tactile feel of wooden games – often with chunky components – which encourages them to manipulate the pieces.

One of the more recent games that brings together many of the skills being built is ICECOOL. ICECOOL builds fine motor skills (flicking), spatial awareness (chose your path), social interaction (take your turn), and strategic thinking (I’m going this way to avoid the hall monitor AND get my next fish). It also is good for early elementary kids as it uses simple counting.

Courtesy Brain Games

There are plenty of more boardgames we use, along with many puzzle games. This is only a sampling of the ones we use the most often. The most important lesson is to be open-mined about what a boardgame can teach. An added side benefit is that we know we are grooming the next generation of boardgamers by showing these kids that entertainment comes from places other than a smartphone or tablet.


Feature image HABAusa. Chicken Cha Cha Cha and Gulo Gulo images courtesy BoardGameGeek.

Conquering Rhino Hero (@HABA_usa, 2011)

Rhino Hero (HABA, 2011) is not a wargame. It is a dexterity card game that can be played in less than 15 minutes. It features a cute Rhino with a cape. Why on earth would such a kids game be popular in the Grognard RockyMountainNavy house?

Because it’s a GREAT game. And after nearly 40 plays it continues to amaze.

Case in point. This weekend the RockyMountainNavy Boys wanted to play a game after Sunday dinner. Being a school night we couldn’t get into something too deep as they still needed to do their evening chores and otherwise get ready. So we pulled Rhino Hero out.

The last time we played we set a new family record of 13 levels. This time we started out reaching 12 levels before collapse. We then reset for another round.

6fgk0zi8qymvof7yhamzeaAs we started the next building, it quickly became obvious that many 2-wall cards were coming out with very few Rhino cards (which forces placement of the Rhino pawn). We kept building and building until we got to the 15th level…and ran out of walls.

Puzzled, Youngest RMN asked, “What do we do now?” I consulted the rulebook and discovered – we won! None of us knew this rule because we had NEVER reached this situation before!

Feeling giddy with excitement, Middle RMN Boy pulled out a Rhino card he was still holding. Placing it gently upon the top of the tower, he then just as carefully placed Rhino Hero atop the tower. We all then basked in the glory of the win.

So…now that we know we can “beat” Rhino Hero the next challenge is to do the same in Rhino Hero – Super Battle. Wish us luck!


Feature image courtesy HABA USA

 

Record Rhino Hero (HABA, 2011)

The main game for Game Night was finished but the RockyMountainNavy Boys were not quite ready to hit the sack. Youngest RMN asked, “How about a short game?”

After a short discussion, we pulled Rhino Hero (HABA, 2011) out. Rhino Hero is a dexterity game where you place floors atop walls to build the tallest building with the Rhino Hero pawn inside and not knock it over.

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Leaning & shaking with 13 floors. Rhino is hidden within near the middle…

In the first game we built the structure up 13 stories. The RMN Boys cannot ever remember a Rhino Hero building this high. Of course, it was me who knocked it over on the 14th-level!

We ended up playing three games total but none of the other buildings got near the height of the first game. The last game came close and was all-the-more-difficult because we started with the single-wall base structure instead of the usual (and more stable) two-wall first floor.

According to my BGStats appRhino Hero is my most-played game of 2018 with 36 recorded plays. No wonder; a short, fun game where everyone laughs. Don’t let the kiddie graphics fool you, Rhino Hero is a serious game that deserves to be in a family game collection.

July Gaming Festivities – or – A Good Month of #Wargaming but Better to Have Family Back After Travel

This past July should not have been a good gaming month.

My “regular gaming group” (aka the RockyMountainNavy Boys) were on international travel the entire month. Before they left, we played one game, Queendomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017) together.We didn’t play another game together until they got back and Tiny Epic Galaxies (Gamelyn Games, 2015) launched.

Yet somehow in between I played 23 other games. Better yet, 20 plays were of WARGAMES! Yet even better, and uncounted in my BGG Played log, the RockyMountainNavy Boys shared games with the family in Korea and made some lasting memories along the way.

fullsizeoutput_609The top played wargame of the month was Cataclysm: A Second World War (GMT Games, 2018). I call Cataclysm a wargame though I actually see it as a strategy game of politics. When I tried to play Cataclysm as a wargame it was disappointing; as a strategy game I love it!

Another notable play of the month was the first full scenario run of Battle Hymn Vol. 1: Gettysburg and Pea Ridge (Compass Games, 2018). The chit-pull activation mechanic makes this game very interesting by showing the friction of war. Additionally, it can’t be the Fourth of July without Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection (GMT Games, 2016) making a rebellious appearance on the table. GMT Games also offered a Fourth of July Holiday Sale where I picked up Washington’s War (GMT Games, 2015 reprint). I am lucky I did so because it is now out-of-stock.

It was on travel this month that I picked up Tiny Epic Galaxies. Played it solo a few times in the hotel. As much fun as it is in the solo mode I enjoy it even more when playing against the RockyMountainNavy Boys.

Alas, July 2018 was also a month of wargaming disappointments. I was supposed to go to the CONNECTIONS 2018 wargaming conference but was pulled off at the last minute by work. I was supposed to go to the World Boardgaming Championships (WBC) but waved off after traveling on official business and getting home late the night before I was supposed to drive. I sorta owe an apology to Alexander and Grant of The Player’s Aid (@playersaidblog on Twitter) because I had planned to meet them. From the looks of it they certainly didn’t miss me as they tweeted and blogged about all the great talks and games at WBC!

When the RockyMountainNavy Boys returned home they brought lots of good stories about playing games with the family in Korea. They took along (and left behind) copies of:

  • Kingdomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017) – Very popular with cousins
  • Quartto Mini (Gigamic Edition, 2017) – Good brain game for older family and especially an Uncle who is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Chicken Cha Cha Cha (Rio Grande Games Edition, 2011) – Mrs. RockyMountainNavy wanted to get this great game for her nephew’s daughter; she is a bit too young right now but the game will be there when she is ready!
  • Rhino Hero (Haba, 2011) – What is marketed as a kid’s game was the most popular game amongst the adults; so popular the RockyMountainNavy Boys surrendered their copy to their cousin so she could take it to play with her friends (all mid-late 20’s)
  • Happy Salmon (North Star Games, 2016) – I keep hearing stories of an epic night there all the adults stood around and played a game of Happy Salmon; the youngest RMN Boy tells me everyone – players and observers alike – were laughing so hard he couldn’t even record the game.

Though I was able to get alot of good wargaming in by myself this past month, I really and glad the RockyMountainNavy Boys are back. They want to play a game every day in August until school starts.

I like that idea; will keep you posted!