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!

March Gaming Madness – Month in Review for March 2018

fullsizeoutput_5b1Comparing raw numbers, I played 40% less games in March 2018 (26 plays) than compared to February (45 plays). The major reason is a drop off of the very lite children’s games since my schedule meant that I was not around as often with my wife’s students to catch a few quick pick-up games. That said, lighter games, be it children’s or family filler games, still accounted for half of the game plays in the month. Previously, we kept all the games in the basement, but this month we moved several lighter titles to the family room. Rhino Hero or Kingdomino are now “at the ready” and can be brought out for the quick filler game. Perfect for that 20 minutes before dinner or as the evening winds down!

Aside from the Weekly Family Night (4 games –  Air Force, 1754, Battlelore, and Pandemic) a third of my plays this month were associated with my new Game of the Week. I got to play a few old grognard-y titles like Air Force, Battle Stations, and 7th Fleet. The Game of the Week is having several positive spin-off effects; it keeps me off social media, fosters more reading, and engages the RockyMountainNavy Boys as they look over the games and we discuss what they are simulating.

Happy Salmon was the only new game purchased this month and that was in the last two days. Party games are not the RockyMountainNavy style, but Happy Salmon is just so silly and appealing. The first four-player game with all the RMN Boys and myself took place around the dining room table, and it was a riot as we all shouted louder and louder. Mrs. RMN looked on in mild shock, shaking her head and muttering about “those crazy boys.” Checking in on her later she admitted it was hilarious watching and listening to us as we shouted and jumped and threw cards. She is looking forward to seeing how we do against her students!

Toys as Games? Or not? Commentary on the 2018 Toy of the Year – Game of the Year

Is a game a toy? Or can a toy be a game? Last night I finally realized the difference.

In the past few months, I started following The Toy Association on Twitter (@TheToy Assoc). As they identify themselves:

Founded in 1916, The Toy Association™, Inc. is the not-for-profit trade association representing all businesses that design, produce, license, and deliver toys and youth entertainment products for kids of all ages. Our 950+ members drive the annual $27 billion U.S. domestic toy market, and our organization has a long history of propelling the health and growth of the toy industry, which has an annual U.S. economic impact of $107.5 billion.

Of interest to me is their Toy of the Year Awards:

Known as the “Oscars” of the toy industry, the Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards are presented annually to the top toys, games, and properties of the year. Administered by The Toy Association, the awards program supports the philanthropic work of the Toy Industry Foundation, which delivers new toys to children in need.

The toy, game, and license finalists were unveiled Friday, November 3. One winner in each category, as well as the coveted “Toy of the Year” award winner and the “People’s Choice” winner (based solely on consumer votes), were announced at a dazzling TOTY Awards gala on February 16, 2018. The celebration kicked-off the 115th North American International Toy Fair, and included the induction of toy industry trailblazers into the esteemed Toy Industry Hall of Fame.

So last night was their Awards gala with winners announced. Of particular interest to me  was the category Game of the Year which covers, “Children’s board, card, electronic or other physical game formats and puzzles.” There were seven nominees in this category.

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Courtesy North Star Games

The ones that personally interest me are Happy Salmon by North Star Games and Roller Coaster Challenge by Thinkfun. Happy Salmon is rated a solid 7.0 on BoardGameGeek (with 1.8K ratings) and ranked the #53 Party Game. Roller Coaster Challenge is not currently on BoardGameGeek but, as a solo logic puzzle, these games don’t always appear there. Games like Roller Coaster Challenge are beloved by the RockyMountainNavy household because they are easy, yet challenging, thinking games. I cannot even start to count how many times the RMN family has given away Thinkfun games as presents. Personally, we use them as filler games, games for teaching kids, and even with adult family members with Alzheimers or the like.

Of the other five games, I kinda like Ultra Dash by PlayMonster because it’s at least a physical activity game that promotes a healthy, non-couch potato lifestyle. Beasts of Balance looks to me like an augmented reality version of Animal Upon Animal. At $99.99 retail I am sure that buying Animal Upon Animal or any of its variants is a much better bargain!

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Courtesy toyawards.org

The absolute last game I payed any attention to was the winner; Soggy Doggy from Spin Master, Inc. The game actually is on BGG with a provisional 5.3 rating (after 3 ratings). The publisher’s blurb sums it all up:

Players roll the die and move their playing pieces around the game board, taking turns washing Soggy Doggy. But watch out! You never know when he will shake to dry off… and you’ll get a little wet! First one around the board and back to the doggy basket wins.

To me, Soggy Doggy is not a game but a toy. This toy offers no useful gaming actions that will help kids (ok, maybe taking turns, roll a die, count spaces is helpful for very little kids). Learning value? Very minimal. Replay value? Meh.

I should not be surprised Soggy Doggy was the winner. Last year, the Toy Association Game of the Year was Yeti in My Spaghetti. Check out the Tom Vasel review; it won’t take long as its only 4:32.

Compare this to the list of the top Children’s Games on BoardGameGeek. A fairly new arrival at the RockyMountainNavy domicile is the current #1; Rhino Hero: Super Battle. Now, I don’t want to sound elitist or the like (I shake my head at the old Ameritrash vs Eurogame arguments) but there is just no comparison between Rhino Hero: Super Battle and Soggy Doggy. One is a game and the other a toy.

After this experience, I am going to unfollow @TheToyAssoc on Twitter because, as much as I admire their mission, their awards just don’t align with the interests of the RockyMountainNavy family. It’s not only in the Game of the Year category; in other categories I see a dominance of Star Wars (License of the Year) and Lego (winner in multiple categories like Construction Toy of the Year). I like Lego, but view the over abundance of Star Wars licensed toys as a negative. We should be nurturing creativity in our kids, not making them slavishly beholden to one form of entertainment (from Di$ney no less). Games area a category of toys, but this year’s Game of the Year shows me that not all toys are games.