The week was a bit slow in Casa RockyMountainNavy. This is the first holiday we celebrated in our “new” nuclear family configuration since Eldest RMN Boy is in Tech School for the U.S. Air Farce. It also follows three months with the Mother-in-Law in town and a simultaneous major health challenge for Mrs. RMN (not COVID…but while the vaccine might of protected it appears it brought on other health issues). So we have much to be thankful for. For my part, much of the Christmas shopping is also complete, at least as the major presents for each RMN Boy and especially Mrs. RMN go.
Huzzah Hobbies, my FLGS, had a 50% off sale this weekend. I didn’t make it up there but the RMN Boys did and sent me a photo of the shelves and asked for suggestions. We’ll see if anything shows up under the tree this Christmas.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In my local area social distancing has been in force for about a week now.
Schools are closed thru mid-April.
Mass transit is “essential travel only.”
Office is teleworking to maximize social distancing.
The nature of my job does not lend itself well to social distancing as in-person ‘collaboration’ is a vital part of the business. The nature of our product is not also conducive to working from home. So my coworkers and I have to make do.
Luckily for me, gaming crosses both work and family. The past week I conducted ‘deep analysis’ of a conflict simulation involving the Korean Peninsula. Here I used Next War: Korea 2nd Ed (GMT Games, 2019) along withNext War: Series Supplement #1(although I didn’t use the Cyber Warfare rules) and Next War: Series Supplement #2to go in depth. I played two scenarios; a Standard Scenario to familiarize myself with the basics of the Next War game system and an Advanced Scenario to go more in depth. I didn’t really keep up on Victory Conditions as I mostly used the game to explore the order-of-battle and relative combat potential of the major combatants. I noted some professional qualms with a few rules; I will dig into those deeper at a later time. All in all a good ‘deep dive’ into the military situation on the Korean Peninsula. I also ordered a Next War: Korea poster from C3i Ops Center. I’m not sure it will arrive anytime soon as it looks like I just missed getting it shipped before the Coronavirus shutdown order in California started.
On a more personal note, RockyMountainNavy T and I restarted our playthrough of all the scenarios in Hold the Line: The American Civil War (Worthington Publishing, 2019). We played two scenarios; Little Round Top and Chickamauga. This time RockyMountainNavy T took the Confederates while I took the Union. Didn’t matter; he still soundly trounced me at Little Round Top (0-7) and although I did better at Chickamauga (3-7) he continued his unbeaten streak. The game mechanics in the Hold the Line series definitely seem to favor the defender – in each game he has not only tenaciously defended his lines but also rolled quite well for Bonus Action Points and when attacking or making a Morale Roll. Myself on the other hand….
One evening, the oldest Boy, Big A, joined us for a rare 4-player session of Enemies of Rome (Worthington Publishing, 2017). [EoR is on sale for $37.50…a real steal for a great family lite-waro]If there was one negative it was that Big A is not aware of our usual no cellphones at the table rule. He rarely plays a boardgame with us so rather than make it an issue I let it slide. After the game the other RMN Boys mentioned how distracted he was, missing changes in the game state and not thinking much about his moves. No wonder he placed last. We agreed that family boardgames are supposed to be for family togetherness and cellphones just distract.
I ordered Azul: Summer Pavilion (Next Move Games, 2019) from Miniatures Market for a family-friendly abstract boardgame. Mrs. RMN is occasionally helping take care of a few kids when their parents have to work. One of them, a fifth grader named Miss Courtney, is anxious to play boardgames. She is an only child but really enjoys sitting down at a table to play games. I think can tell she really craves the social interaction. She is also a great artist so a game like Azul should capture her imagination (much like Kingdomino from Blue Orange Games has already).
I also tried to help local retailers a bit this week. I visited our FLGS, Huzzah Hobbies, and picked up the Terraforming Mars: Folded Space Insert v2 (Folded Space, 2019). The RMN Boys also used the trip to stock up on paints and other supplies for their plastic model building hobby (looks like they have LOTS of time to work off a few projects – as I should too). I encourage everyone to do what you can for small local businesses during this challenging situation. For ourselves, when getting to-go food we are bypassing the chains and making a dedicated effort to use local Mom & Pop restaurants instead. Not only is the food better but you can also see how much they really appreciate your business. Further, the entire community will be better if they are around in the future!
AS OF THIS MORNING (15 MARCH), my local county health department is reporting 10 ‘presumptive positive’ cases of COVID-19. The school district has already shut down thru 10 April and many events are cancelled to encourage ‘social distancing.’
In the RockyMountainNavy household, we have dealt with COVID-19 since Mrs. RMN returned from Korea right as the epidemic was breaking out there. She laid low for 14 days not because of self-isolation but because others avoided her (the worst ‘racists’ are often from one’s own race). Now there is panic in the wider community (why are people hoarding toilet paper?) and much is being cancelled. One aspect of social distancing we are practicing is to distance ourselves from social media. Frankly, its all doom and gloom with lots of disinformation. In a practical response this means that wargames and boardgames are hitting the gaming table more often.
I THINK 2020 WILL GO DOWN AS THE YEAR I TRULY BECAME A GEEKY BOARDGAMER.
I mean, I have many good hobby boardgames, and amongst the favorites at the RockyMountainNavy hacienda is Scythe (Stonemaier Games, 2016). We started playing it in 2017 and since then have acquired nearly all the expansions including Invaders from Afar (2017), The Wind Gambit (2018), Rise of Fenris (2018), and the Modular Board (2019). That’s alot of bits, and as organized as we tried to be it was hard getting all that into the box(es).
This week I took a trip to our FLGS, Huzzah Hobbies in Loudon, VA. The main purpose of the trip was for RockyMountainNavy T to buy new paints for his models. RMN Jr. also wanted to look over the model shelves to see if there was something like a Zvezda 1/100-scale tank he could add to his collection. For myself, I was the driver.
I have been eyeing an insert for my Scythe collection but, oh boy, is can get really expensive really fast. I realize this insert only organizes the base game and the Invaders from Afar expansion but it looks good and the price seemed reasonable. So I got it.
I am so glad I did.
Assembly took about 30 minutes after dinner using nothing more than white school glue. All the pieces punched out cleanly. By now the RMN Boys were interested so they helped me reorganize the box.
The Folded Space inserts are logical and fit snuggly in the box. It will make set up and clean up so much easier! They also make for a more organized gaming table during play as the boxes can be used directly on the table too.
I see that Folded Space has a second Scythe organizer that puts The Wind Gambit and Rise of Fenris together in the Fenris box. That’s going on my Must Have wishlist!
For the longest time (ok, since forever), I was satisfied with baggies for organizing games. This usually works for wargames where most of the bits are chits but with the rise of hobby boardgames and more luxury components the baggies are not always suitable. I am glad to see excellent, affordable insert organizers available. Maybe it’s about time I organize my games this way.
Nearby where I live, there are four “Friendly Local Game Stores” or FLGS. There used to be five but one closed a few years back. Let me tell you a little about each.
FLGS #1 is the best for wargame selection but it is small and impossible to navigate on a weekend with gaming tables occupied in the middle. If there is a game going on then good luck getting the cashier to pay attention! The RPG section is in a dark back area with sagging shelves. They still writes out sales invoices. My wife refuses to enter the place because the regular clientele creeps her out; probably because they hit so many of the negative gamer tropes. If I want to buy a wargame this is not the place I really want come to, much less bring my boys to.
FLGS #2 is right in my neighborhood. It’s within walking distance. If I want to play Magic: The Gathering or in an X-Wing Tournament this is the place to go. If I was competitive. I say that because the players I see are hyper-competitive and this is not the place for a friendly pick-up game. That said, they did support a game outreach event at the local library, but it came and went quickly. Last year I walked in looking for card sleeves and they were helpful. This year I walked in with a card from Academy Games 1775 – Rebellion and asked for help finding the right size card sleeve. The store owner asked what game it was for and I told him. He acknowledged he didn’t know the game but after looking at (not examining) the card in my hand he declared, “We don’t have sleeves for that card.” I asked if he could measure the card (I know they have a sizing mat) and maybe find something close. He got up from behind the counter (out of his comfort zone?), walked to one display, roughly compared the card to a few packages and declared, “We don’t have any sleeves for those really old games.” I looked behind the counter at his more premium line of card sleeves but he totally missed my hint. Probably for the better as he obviously didn’t want to sell me any sleeves and I now felt like I was sullying his place with a non-MTG card. I left. I have not been back since.
FLGS #3, Huzzah Hobbies, is a real FLGS. Huzzah is the most balanced store in the area. It does have a focus on MTG and Flames of War, but also has a nice stock of new tabletop games and a few RPGs. This store actually spawned FLGS #4, Huzzah Junior, which is the “kids” version. We are patrons at both and the staff is very helpful and friendly. They usually have at least one new-ish game open and ready to demo. Huzzah sponsors many game nights (even at a local brewery) and contests. The problem is – as friendly as they are – the prices online are just so much better than they can offer. So we use these two stores mostly for game accessories, plastic models, and an occasional game purchase.
FLGS # 5, now closed, was the old veteran that had been around over 25 years. It had a fair selection of wargames and RPGs. Problem was their new item section was very small and their shelves were full of old backstock…in some cases very old. I had a love-hate relationship with the place. At first I went on weekends but came to despise the staff that always seemed to look down on my boys and I because we were not there to play MTG. I eventually figured out that the owners covered weekdays and they were much friendlier. I even made a package-deal with the owner to relieve them of several items that had been on the shelf for years (literally). The store closed because the owners wanted to be closer to their grandkids, though one candidly told me that online sales had taken a big bite out of their business.
For a good example of another real FLGS, I point you to Petrie’s Family Games in Colorado Springs. Petrie’s is a real family game shop. When we lived there it had a very small selection of wargames and RPGs but was blessed with the friendliest owners. Petrie’s also had an awesome game library and they were often willing to break open a game, even a newly released one, to look and play with it. The owners are just good people and they made this the only game store my wife ever willingly entered.
You may be offended by Tom Vasel’s tone, but you have to listen to the message. FLGS are not automatically “friendly;” it is an honor they must earn. A major part of earning the “F” in FLGS is by creating a welcoming, inviting atmosphere. If my little corner of the world is any indication, two out of five understand that, one struggled with it but is now gone, and two others are missing the opportunity. That’s a 50% failure rate amongst the existing shops. That leaves two stores doing their best to support the hobby. It’s an uphill battle against online retailers and Kickstarter, but by being Friendly they get me through the door.
This is what Tom was really trying to say. The FLGS problem I see starts when a store feels that the “F” in FLGS is their entitlement and they stop earning it. Get me through the door and they are more likely to make some sort of sale. Without the “F” it is far less likely I will enter the store. If I don’t enter, I can’t buy.