What You Missed

30 11 2012

As this year’s holiday season rolls on, so do we! Here’s what we’ve been up to this week, just in case you’ve missed anything with the hustle and bustle of the season!

catan ornamentMonday – We started off the week with another installment to our 2012 Christmas Holiday Gift Guide. This time: Party Games!

We also wrote about Mayfair’s annual Catan Ornament series.

Tuesday – We brought you another Double-Take Review of the latest iteration of one of our favorite games: The Resistance: Avalon.

Wednesday – We interviewed Chris and Johnny from Otherwise Games—the masterminds behind the Kickstarter dynamo, Boss Monster.

Thursday – Our Kickstarter Weekly featured a nifty gaming accessory and an ancient art form all rolled into one. Origami Card Holders.

And earlier today we once again added to our 2012 Christmas Holiday Gift Guide! It’s the Gateway Games edition…

And in case you missed this, we’ve added a tab to the site where we’ve compiled all of our gift ideas in one handy place! Just click here!

Thanks so much for reading, and come back next week as we bring you more news, reviews, and finish our gift guide! Have a great weekend everyone!

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2012 Holiday Board Game Gift Guide—Gateway Games

30 11 2012

So it’s New Year’s Eve, and you and your spouse are having another couple over for “games.” It’s easy to pull out the old standbys—the games that everyone knows how to play. But you have a plan to foist some games on these unsuspecting people, but you don’t know where to start. We’re here to help. These are some games that are good introductions to the vast world of board games…we call them Gateway Games.

Ticket To Ride—I (Firestone) think this is the best gateway game out there. It’s colorful. It has great production values. The rules are easy to explain. And there’s just enough luck that the newcomers have a chance to win, too. Oh yeah, and it’s fun! And if they like this, there are a number of expansions and maps you can slowly add in.

Cost:~$40

Available From: Amazon, many department stores, and your friendly local game store.

Ages: 8 and up

Carcassonne—This tile-laying game is an excellent choice for newbies and nongamers. Draw a tile, place a tile, and decide whether to place a person down; that’s  it! It’s also the very first review we did here at Theology of Games!

Cost: ~$30

Available From: Amazon, some department stores, and your friendly local game store.

Ages: 8 and up.

Bohnanza—This card game sounds weird: You’re bean farmers and you’re trying to be a better bean farmer than your opponents. But you have to work with them to get your beans planted. I told you it sounds weird. But it’s a fun card game that’s cheap and portable.

Cost:~$20

Available From: Amazon and your friendly local game store.

Ages: 10 and up

Lost Cities: The Board Game—Based on the two-player game Lost Cities, this is a terrific board game that has plenty of interesting choices to make but is simple enough for nongamer friends.

Cost:~$30

Available From: Amazon and your friendly local game store.

Ages: 8 and up

Snow Tails—We talked about this game in our Family Games edition of the Holiday Gift Guide. And it’s just as true here: Race games are a fun and easy genre.

Cost: ~$35

Available From: Amazon
, and your friendly local game store

Ages: 8 and up

Kingdom Builder—This may be a step up for newcomers. Maybe you’ve played Ticket To Ride a bunch of times, and the other couple is ready for the next step. Kingdom Builder is that game. It’s still simple enough, so don’t be afraid. Here’s our review right here!

Cost:~$45

Available From: Amazon, some department stores, and your friendly local game store.

Ages: 8 and up

Mystery of the Abbey—Do your friends like Clue? Well Mystery is kind of like Clue but with fantastic production values, and much more interesting things to do. It’s better than Clue in every way…

Cost:~$50

Available From: Amazon
, and your friendly local game store.

Ages: 10 and up

Star Trek Catan—For lots of people, Settlers of Catan was their “gateway game”—the game that got them into the hobby. They now have a Star Trek-themed version, and it looks much more thematically fun than the original version.

Cost: ~$40

Available From: This is exclusively available at Target.

Ages: 10 and up





Hands Free Gaming! Kickstarter Weekly

29 11 2012

UPDATE: This project was cancelled on December 8. Hat tip to Sandra for letting us know.

Our featured Kickstarter campaign this week isn’t a game, but instead a nifty little accessory for those of us who enjoy card games and a hot beverage during the winter months.

Another Springboard-powered campaign, these Origami Card Holders by GameBits come as a flat sheet of card stock with instructions on how to masterfully fold them into a 1- or 2-tiered free standing card holder. They’re decked out with some pretty fantastic art from several different gaming genres, and the backer levels are pretty reasonable! As with any good Kickstarter campaign there are also a fair amount of stretch goals and this one is no different: The higher the funding goes, the more artists, themes, and designs will be added and made available!

You can check out the campaign and all the different backer levels right here.

Thanks so much for reading, and have a great day!





Who’s the Boss Monster? An interview with Brotherwise Games

28 11 2012

Today we have the pleasure of chatting with Johnny and Chris, the masterminds behind Brotherwise Games, and the ridiculously successful Kickstarter campaign for their upcoming game, Boss Monster the Dungeon Building card game.

Hey guys, thanks for taking a few minutes to answer some questions for us!
For our readers who may not know who you are, could you introduce yourselves and tell us one random fact about yourselves?

Johnny: We are Johnny and Chris O’Neal, two brothers who share a lifelong love of all things geeky. Comics, novels, movies, video games… but especially tabletop games. A random fact about me is that I used to write for a video game review Web site called Nintendorks.

Chris: As the elder brother I like to take the credit for the nerdification of my younger sibling (although I can’t take all the credit). For years after I went to college we lived in separate states, but a common move to Southern California in 2009 put us within an hour of each other, and reinvigorated our common love of gaming.

How did you first get into gaming? What game was your first love?

Johnny: Growing up, of course I assumed that everything my big brother did was cool, which included playing D&D with his friends or video games on our family’s TI-994A. But it was our family’s acquisition of a NES and the original Super Mario Bros that really got me hooked.

Chris: Being almost a decade older, I was already playing a lot of tabletop games (Morrow Project, anyone?) when the first home video game systems came out. Video games derailed my investment in tabletop games for a while, but after college I got back into them pretty heavily. First love game? Probably D&D. I was one of those kids who would sit around and make character after character that would never see the daylight of an actual adventure. I loved it.

Is Boss Monster your first attempt at releasing a game through Kickstarter? If so how shocked are you at the number of backers the game has received?

Chris: Boss Monster is our first Kickstarter. Despite feeling like we had a solid game, a good look and theme, and a decent understanding of how to appeal to our gamer compatriots, I think it’s safe to say that we were pretty overwhelmed by Boss Monster’s success. I think it’s natural to keep your hopes and dreams a bit in check when you do this sort of thing. On launch day I called Johnny at six in the morning and said calmly, “don’t freak out if we don’t hit $1000 this week. We’ve got a month to raise $12,000. Chances are good we can pull this off.” Two hours later I was gibbering into the phone like an overexcited idiot as we passed through $3000. Even once it was clear that the campaign would be successful, we were still underestimating the final amount by a huge amount. Kickstarter is a strange and wondrous beast. Despite what could only be called a huge success, we made a truck-full of mistakes, and learned a number of lessons that we’ll take into our next campaign.

So if you would, take us through the creation and design process of the game. It seems to cross multiple genres; how did you put all of that together?

Johnny: It was a highly iterative process. In the very beginning, weirdly enough, it was a game about acquiring friends in high school instead of acquiring dead adventurers in a dungeon. When we stopped worrying about what game would be “marketable” and “mainstream,” and focused on making a game that we’d love to play, that’s when it came together.

Looks like Pixel Lincoln is making an appearance in Boss Monster; did you approach Jason Tagmire about putting that together, or did he come to you?

Johnny: As our Kickstarter campaign went live, we sent preview copies of the game to a number of Web sites. To our surprise, one of these copies was actually passed on to Jason. I’ll admit we were anxious to hear his opinion of the game, and thrilled when we heard he liked it. The crossover cards were his idea, but we embraced the idea wholeheartedly. Pixel Lincoln appears as a promo card for Kickstarter supporters, and it’s a card that can really shake up the game.

So what is it like designing games with a sibling? Who usually wins the arguments?

Chris: Every game that Brotherwise has in the pipeline has one of the brothers designated as a Lead Designer. The Lead Designer, in theory, wins every argument for that particular game, and we think it’s important to have one person who is ultimately in charge and on the hook for a game’s success. In reality, we’re very good at listening to one another, and relatively unabashed about criticizing work in progress. In almost every situation where we had a disagreement about a key decision, the resulting discussion led us to a good outcome.

Johnny: I have to say that Chris is awesome at keeping things positive and never letting discussions turn into arguments. My natural instinct in a game design debate is to stick to my guns and rarely concede a point right away, but often I’ll sleep on a decision and realize that Chris was right. From pointing out that we should use pixel art to removing dice-rolling as a core mechanic of the game, he managed to change my mind in some very important ways.

What are some of your favorite board/card games?

Chris: I am first and foremost a Heroclix player. I gravitate to complex games and they don’t get much more complex than that one. I’m also a wargamer, with World in Flames as my hands-down favorite. I’ve been playing a lot of Small World recently, and I just marvel at it. It’s my standard for what a quickie game should be: balanced, simple, thematically compelling, and a lot of variation in a small package.

Johnny: My favorite recent game is Ascension. I know some of the team at Gary Games and they’re a bunch of geniuses — I can’t wait to play SolForge. I also love the classics: Magic, D&D, and Settlers of Catan.

Are there any other games on the horizon you can talk about?

Chris: The success of Boss Monster: Master of the Dungeon allowed us to move forward our production time table for expansions considerably.  Summer 2013 will see our first Boss Monster mini-expansion, Tools of Hero-Kind, and in Fall we will launch a Kickstarter for our first full expansion, Crash Landing. Tools of Hero-Kind will add a whole layer of complexity to the game, turning our heroes from mere resources into honest threats. Crash Landing will riff on some famous fantasy/sci-fi crossovers and introduce sci-fi themed dungeons to the game. Crash Landing will work as a standalone game or as an expansion of the base game. If you missed out on some of our customize-your-card pledges this time around, we’ll repeat those sorts of pledges for the Crash Landing Kickstarter campaign.

2014 will see the release of our first non-Boss Monster title. We can’t say much about it now except that it’s a totally different genre and will introduce a novel card-play mechanic that comes right out of its theme.

One Word Response Time:

Favorite NES game?

Johnny: River City Ransom

Chris: The Legend of Zelda

Best villain of ALL TIME?

Johnny: When you put it that way, Darth Vader

Chris: Kaiser Söze

Megatron or Starscream?

Chris: Megatron (Starscream is soooo whiny)

Johnny: As a younger brother, I relate to Starscream’s constant efforts to overthrow his superior.

He-Man or Thundercats?

Chris: Thundercats HOOOOOO!

Johnny: He-Man. But I’m biased because I had the chance to work on He-Man toys when I was at Mattel.

Legolas or Gimli?

Chris: Gimli, son of Gloin, son of that other dwarf.

Johnny: Legolas and his flowing mane of golden locks.

Thanks, guys, for talking to us!

Make sure you check out Boss Monster, at www.bwisegames.com, pre-order your copy at shop.bwisegames.com and follow Boss Monster on Twitter @BossMonsterGame ! And thank you for reading!





A Double-Take Review—The Resistance: Avalon

27 11 2012

It’s no surprise that we love The Resistance here at TOG. So a new version with some special powers sounds great. Is The Resistance: Avalon as good as it sounds? Well let’s find out.

We’re not going to explain the mechanisms of the game. You can read our review of The Resistance here, where we explain the game in detail. The new game is identical in basic gameplay; the difference is that there are roles in this game.

The whole thing has an Arthurian legend theme, so the roles are characters from the mythology. The game seems to assume you’ll play with at least the Merlin and Assassin cards. Merlin gets to know exactly who the Minions of Mordred are. When everyone’s eyes are closed, the evil players raise their thumbs, and Merlin opens his or her eyes. So they have perfect knowledge in the game…but, they can’t be too obvious about letting their teammates know who the baddies are, because at the end of the game, if the Servants of Arthur have won, the Assassin gets one last chance. He can talk things over with the other baddies, and then he assassinates the person he thinks is Merlin. If he’s right, the bad guys win.

Ever since I heard about that, I was troubled. It seemed awful that the baddies could win based on a complete blind guess. After playing, I’m less concerned. Usually the Assassin seems to be basing the decision on the way people acted, but there have been a few times when it’s a blind guess that happens to be correct. It’s really frustrating. Yes, the Loyal Knights who aren’t Merlin need to be doing more to make themselves seem like Merlin, but that doesn’t take the sting away.

There are some other roles, too.

Percival is a Servant of Arthur, and he gets to know who Merlin is.

Mordred is a Minion of Mordred (duh). He doesn’t reveal himself to Merlin at the beginning of the game.

Oberon is a Minion of Mordred, but he doesn’t show himself to the other Minions—nor does he get to know who the other Minions are.

Morgana is a Minion of Mordred, and she gets to show herself as Merlin when Percival is in the game. So both Merlin and Morgana will have their thumbs extended, but Percival won’t know which of them is Merlin and which is Morgana.

The Kickstarter copy also came with Lancelot, who might change allegiances halfway through the game.

Firestone—The first thing I have to comment on are the components. First, a couple of the cards have a misprint on them: the word unknown is spelled unkown. This is a small mistake that doesn’t affect the game at all. It’s just shocking that it wasn’t caught. The other problem is this: Instead of voting cards, as you have in the original Resistance, you have tiles you vote with. After just one game, these were showing considerable wear—and after many games they’re in awful shape. I’m not sure why they went with tiles over cards, but it seems like a terrible idea in retrospect.

Jeremiah—I couldn’t agree less! The first thing that I loved about the new version of the game was the tactile feel of the new voting tiles; it seems to  streamline the hands-on feel and it’s easier (along with the Leader tile) to keep track of each different component and stage of a round. With the first version, cards always seem to get shuffled into the wrong pile or mixed up, etc. The durability of the tiles is questionable, but even my sleeved cards from the first set are showing signs of wear (and they don’t fit in the box as well). I also really enjoyed the new set of tableaus that are included. There is now a separate tableau for your game dependent on the amount of players, and each quest is labeled with how many knights are to go on that particular quest. It again streamlines the gameplay and requires less squinting from across the table to see how many folks you are selecting for the next quest.

Firestone—Madness! 🙂 But I do agree about the tableaus. Those are super helpful and convey just the sort of info they need to.

The roles are interesting. I like the uncertainty Morgana creates. Percival seems hard to play well; there are times when he really should reveal himself—or help in some way—and new people still seem hesitant for some reason.

Oberon creates some fun situations: In one game I was Merlin, so knew the baddies, but didn’t know who was who. At one point a baddie put two Minions on a mission and I realized he had no idea he’d done that because one was Oberon. Of course, I voted that mission to go because I was more than happy to see them both on it; even if it failed they would almost certainly both vote to fail it, and now the group had a lot of information. The problem was that everyone noted that I’d voted for the failed mission to go forward, so now I was suspect! At any rate, I liked the mayhem that character caused.

The Lancelot promo comes with a few variants, and we’ve only played one so far, but I didn’t like it. Two people are dealt Lancelot cards—one of which is a Minion and one of which is Loyal. You play as your card, just like normal, but starting on the third mission you draw cards from a deck and there’s a chance the loyalties will switch. Sounds cool, but if you’re on the last mission, and your side is about to win, and you suddenly have to switch to the losing side because of a card flip? Blech. What should have been interesting was just frustrating for whomever was winning (and now suddenly wasn’t), and a cheap victory for the person who was losing, and suddenly wins.

Jeremiah—We haven’t delved too deeply into the different roles; it is stressed very clearly in the rules that you shouldn’t start adding more roles to the game if there are too many new/inexperienced players in the game, and as of yet, every time I have played there have been several folks new to the game. And grasping the roles, along with Merlin and the Assassin and how to play off of those roles, is quite the task, without muddying the waters too much.

Firestone—Overall, this is a mixed bag for me. I like this version better than regular Resistance. But I don’t think I like this better than regular Resistance with the plot cards. You can play Avalon with the plot cards from the original game (we haven’t done that yet), but it makes no thematic or aesthetic sense to mix the two. I’m not sure why they didn’t create plot cards for Avalon that fit that theme. They could be the same exact ones, just with new names and art.

I’m glad I have both, and we’ve certainly been playing Avalon exclusively since we got it, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see us return to the original over time.

Jeremiah—With this I agree; I thought I would be more excited about this game than I actually am. I enjoy the level of strategy that Merlin brings to being a good guy; in the original it becomes a chore to hide your disappointment when you’ve been dealt an operative role. Trying to figure out who Merlin is, and then act as if you are Merlin definitely makes it fun for everyone at the table. The absence of the plot cards is palpable, even more so is the stark contrast in the theme when you try to add them in. The way the plot cards are played is a HUGE part of my strategy when playing a baddie, so I would LOVE to see them re-themed and offered as an add-on sometime soon.

At its core Avalon is The Resistance, with more options and different aesthetics; I have yet to introduce the game to someone who didn’t want to play again as soon as the first one was over. And Avalon is no different.

Thanks for reading!

Firestone Update—Well, we’ve played this a bunch more, and have had no desire to return to the original yet. Still lots to be explored with just the roles, and we’re having a great time. I recommend this completely.
You can find Resistance Avalon on Amazon here.

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Deck the Halls with…Bales of Wool?

26 11 2012

Last week, Mayfair Games announced their Catan Ornament for 2012; this year is their third release in the line, and the featured resource is wool.

It’s a cut brass ornament featuring iconic symbols from the island of Catan. For more information and a sneak peek at another ornament offered this year just follow this link.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned this week for more from our 2012 Christmas Holiday Gift Guide!





2012 Holiday Board Game Gift Guide—Party Games

26 11 2012

Today’s category for the Gift Guide is Party Games! These are the ones you bring out when everyone’s crashed your pad for Christmas. Or when your adult small group gets together for New Year’s and someone wants to play Catch Phrase for the millionth time… Or when you have a group of restless teenagers wanting to burn off some energy.

The Resistance—This is hands down one of our favorite games of the year. It’s also a great game for larger groups and supports play with up to 10 people! Take all of the elements you like about Mafia, or Werewolf, and leave out the bad, and you have The Resistance. Players are members of the Resistance trying to topple the evil oppressive government, but there are spies among them trying to sabotage them at every turn! The Resistance is a quick playing highly interactive game, that will have players wanting to play again as soon as the first game ends! We seriously can’t get enough of this game! You can read our review here. There’s also a new version called The Resistance: Avalon that has some special powers, and is a good next-step after the original.)

Cost: $20

Available From: Amazon, your local game store, and soon big box department stores.

Ages: Probably 14 and up for this one.

Fluxx—This signature game from Looney Labs has become a staple game for larger groups. It’s easy to learn, but hard to win—in fact when the game begins there is literally no way to win! Players take turns drawing and playing cards. As cards are played new rules, goals, and items are added to the game; once a goal is met, then the game is over. The game is always changing, and planning a turn in advance is nearly impossible; it’s high on luck, and low on strategy, which makes the game both fun and frustrating at times. Fluxx comes in many different flavors, including Pirate, Wizard of Oz, Zombie, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail! Check out our review of Fluxx right here!

Cost: $15

Ages: 8 & up

Available From: Amazon, most department stores and your local game shop.

Time’s Up: Deluxe—I’ve (Firestone) played this charades variant a RIDICULOUS number of times, and I love it. We play in teams, and everyone is given the same 40 names of famous people. You play in three rounds: In the first one you can use words and actions and sounds and pretty much whatever to get your team to guess the name. In the second round you’re all playing with the same exact words, but this time you can only use one word (but still actions and sounds). And finally, in the third round, again using the same batch of words, you can only use actions and sounds. So much fun.

Cost: ~20

Available From: Amazon, and your friendly local game store.

Ages: Adults (I don’t think this would be a good game for teenagers—too many names they’ve never heard of.)

Wits & Wagers—The great thing about this “trivia” game is that you don’t have to know a lot of trivia to do well. The game asks a question—such as “How tall is the Statue of Liberty?” Everyone answers, and then you bet on whose answer you think is actually closest. You do get points for having the answer closest to the actual answer, but you can still do well by betting well.

Cost: ~$20

Available From: Amazon, Target, and your friendly local game store.

Ages: 10 and up (There’s also Wits & Wagers Family, which removes the “gambling” element and has questions that are appropriate for kids and the whole family.)

Dixit—Bring your creativity for this game. There are lots and lots of wild and interesting pictures. Everyone is dealt a hand of the cards. On your turn, you pick a card from your hand, place it facedown, and say a word or phrase that describes that picture in some way. Then everyone picks a card from their hand that could also describe the word or phrase you said and adds it to the facedown pile. You shuffle the cards, place them faceup, and guess which card you think was the original card. You don’t want to be too obvious in your descriptive word(s), because if everyone guesses correctly, you get no points. And anyone who played a card that was guessed (incorrectly) gets points, too. I really like how this stretches me creatively.

Cost: ~$25

Available From: Amazon, Target, and your friendly local game store.

Ages: 8 & up

Spot It!—This might be a little short for a party game, but if your group likes short games, this is perfect for large groups. Everyone is trying to be the first to spot the symbol on the middle card that matches one in front of them. It’s harder than it sounds. This game is cheap, portable, and easily explained—perfect for a party! Check out our full review here!

Cost: ~$14

Available From: Amazon, Target, and your friendly local game store.

Ages: 5 and up. This would work great with any group.

Jungle Speed—Everyone has a pile of cards. Each person in turn flips the top card of their pile. If the pattern matches someone else’s, there’s a duel where you both try to grab the stick in the middle. Bandage everyone up, and continue! We reviewed the whole game a few weeks ago.

Cost: ~$15

Available From: Amazon, department stores, and your friendly local game store.

Ages: 7 and up

Say Anything—You’re asked a question, such as “What is the most overrated band of all time?” People write down what they think your answer would be. You secretly pick one of the given answers as the “correct” answer. Then everyone bets on which of those answers they think you picked. (BTW, the correct answer is The Dave Matthews Band.)

Cost: ~$20

Available From: Amazon, Target, and your friendly local game store.

Ages: 8 & up (Like Wits & Wagers, this one has a Family version with more family friendly questions.)

Bang!—The Spaghetti Western card game, another fun “role” based game in which players are dealt a role card that determines how they play and win the game. Lots of finger pointing, dueling, and just plain taking pot shots at your friends! Check out our full review here.

Cost: $20

Available From: Amazon and your local game store

Ages: 8 & up

We Didn’t Playtest This at All—A game that not only rivals the quirkiness of Fluxx, it surpasses it! WDPTAA is a very fast-playing game for larger groups. The goal is simple: win. There are a few ways to win, but the best way is to not lose. And there are a TON of ways to lose. Players can lose one at a time, or in large fell swoops, depending on the card played. It’s totally random, but totally fun! Every time we play it there are a ton of laughs! And you can read the full review on the game right here!

Cost: $15 (On Amazon, although my copy was $8 at my local game store)

Available from: Amazon, and local game stores

Ages: 8 & up

So what did we miss? Leave a comment and let us know. And thanks for reading!








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