11 Ways to Tell You’ve Got a Gamer on Your Christmas List

5 12 2013

Family-playing-board-game-007We understand that having a gamer in your life can lead to confusion during the holiday season. Chances are you’ve found yourself walking into a store, or looking at Web sites you never knew existed, and are wondering if someone is playing some sort of elaborate prank on you.

So we’ve taken it upon ourselves to explain some of the oddities you might be experiencing this year with that gamer in your life, and hopefully make this a joyous and bright Christmas for all.

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2013 Holiday Gift Guide—Kids Games!

2 12 2013

Whether you have kids of your own, know someone with kids, or were a kid once yourself, it can be hard to find just the right game for the tiny little snot factories in your life. So as we continue our gift guides, we’re going to

give you some of our favorite new and old games you can pick up for the kiddos—all of which are in print. And on a few of them we’ve linked to our review of the game, so you can investigate yourself if it’s a game you’d be interested in. We’ll give you the MSRP, and age/audience as it’s appropriate. So without further ado, here’s the list!

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Mayfair Makes History

26 08 2013

525695_10151633300925958_1966269745_nIt’s no secret that one of the biggest events in gaming happened just over a week ago, in Indianapolis. Yes, we are of course referring to Gencon. Mayfair Games, one of the world’s top publishers, and gatekeepers of the Catan franchise, had HUGE plans for the con this year. How huge? Well, let’s find out…

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Move Over Monopoly—Catan in the Classroom

27 03 2013

– by Jeremiah

image from BGG user kilroy_locke

image from BGG user kilroy_locke

For years, math, stats, and economics teachers have been trotting out the Monopoly board in their classrooms to help give students some hands-on, applicable life lessons. While the game is horrible, the idea is sound. From the get-go, gaming with my children has been chock full of teachable moments; at their current ages those lessons have been more about sportsmanship, being gracious while winning or losing, and learning to operate within the rules (or NOT cheating). As they grow older you can bet the lessons at the game table will grow with them.

A middle-school history teacher in Franklin, MA, has gone Euro with this concept in his classes. Teaching the struggles of early civilizations, and the conflict that can arise over scarce resources through The Settlers of Catan. A recent article in a local paper featuring the teacher and his students has caught the attention of Mayfair Games, and has gained some traction across the gaming community.

From the article:

“We can’t bring them back to Mesopotamia, Egypt or Greece, but this (Catan) brings it alive,” Brady said. “One student was so frustrated because he was winning at one point, and the other kids froze him out and wouldn’t trade with him. He said flat out, ‘I now understand why people go to war.’ ”

This is yet another step in not only promoting a great hobby, but also in breaking new ground in teaching future generations. So let’s have a discussion here about it! What games do you think should end up in the classroom? and Why? We would LOVE to hear your thoughts. And who knows…you just might inspire someone to break new ground in their classroom, too!

Thanks for reading, and leave your suggestions in the comments!





Fantasy Flight Announces a Steampunk Reboot of Borderlands!

11 02 2013

GearworldCoverLate Friday afternoon, Fantasy Flight announced their sequel to the classic game Borderlands is finally ready to go. Apparently the old game combines the heavy negotiation of Diplomacy with a resource market that inspired Settlers Of Catan.

The new game is called Gearworld: The Borderlands, and it’s got the speampunkiest cover you’ve ever seen.

From the announcement: “Fantasy Flight Games is excited to announce Gearworld: The Borderlands, a game of negotiation, conquest, and construction for two to four players! Players compete to gain the favor of the Sky People for their tribe of scavengers in a post apocalyptic landscape. Based on the classic board game Borderlands designed by Bill Eberle, Jack Kittredge and Peter Olotka, Gearworld: The Borderlands has streamlined the original rules and re-imagined the game’s setting while retaining its predecessor’s spirit and core mechanics.

The scavenging tribes of the Borderlands have mined the land for generations, are adept at extracting scrap from ruins, and have managed to raise horses in the wastes. Each resource is essential to building your tribe’s strength and, eventually, the skyworks. Resource Tokens represent sites where these valuable raw materials can be produced. Controlling as many of these areas as possible is one step to survival in the Borderlands, but it is only the first.

gearworld-layoutThere are many ways to gain the materials you need, and you may have to rely on your competition to get all the resources you require. Trading among the tribes is certainly not unheard of, and players can negotiate for resources to gain an edge. Take care to not be too generous with your exchanges, however, as your opponents will also stand to profit.

If diplomacy isn’t your tribe’s strong suit, then you can always take what you want by brute force. Battling an enemy is a game of numbers, and if you can overwhelm your opponent with weapons, steamboats, horses, or ships, you can take what you need. If you’re too aggressive, you may make some enemies in the Borderlands, and your opponents can team up against your tribe. Combine your strength to take down a tribe that is close to building all of its skyworks, or reinforce a weaker neighbor to cause problems for an aggressive rival. Forge and break alliances to get ahead in both battles and bartering. In the end, all that matters is the survival of your tribe.

resource-token-fanWhile building the skyworks is the end goal, each tribe must use its resources wisely in order to reinforce its strength and enhance its ability to transport goods. Combining resources into weapons, bridges, ships, and riverboats while conserving enough to build skyworks is the delicate balancing act that each tribe must undertake.

In order to build any developments, including the skyworks, all of the materials required for its construction must be in the same space, so the effective transportation of resources is essential to your success. Each tribe must produce, trade, or steal the materials they need to build new developments and protect what is theirs, but all the resources in the Borderlands will do them no good if they’re spread all over the map.

Ships, steamboats, and horses are used to strategically transport goods around the Borderlands, and can also add to your strength in battle. Bridges are a quick and inexpensive way to connect the islands of Claw, Ironside, and Locke to the main landmass of Haestus, potentially opening up new avenues for resources. Invest in developing Weapons to reinforce your military might; they’ll be extremely valuable when your tribe comes under attack. Take care when building, though. Skyworks are expensive to create and you don’t want to spread your already meager resources too thin.

Acquire resources by conquering your fellow scavengers, carefully defending your own lands, and the clever use of trade and diplomacy to gain an edge.”

They’re saying it’ll be out in the 2nd quarter of this year. I (Firestone) never had a chance to play this game, so I’m looking forward to trying it out. Check back for more updates. Thanks so much for reading, and make sure you “Like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!





Mayfair’s Catan Junior—A Double-Take Review

22 01 2013

catanjrWell it’s probably not a surprise to you that there were more than a few games found under the Christmas trees in our homes. We both ended up adding a copy of Mayfair’s Catan Junior to our growing collection of kids/family games, so we thought there’s no better time to post our thoughts in yet another Double-Take Review.

Let’s be honest: If you’re a gamer, you probably have friends who tell you how much they LOVE Settlers of Catan. Catan is to board gaming what Dark Side of the Moon is to Pink Floyd. Or Kleenex is to facial tissue. Or “Particle Man” is to They Might Be Giants. Or Coke is to Cola. Or, well…you get my point. Anyone who has had a close encounter with the geek level of gaming has played Settlers of Catan. It’s not a bad thing; Catan has probably done more for board gaming than any other title since (gah!) Monopoly. So we won’t go into much detail about the original version of the game; if you want to read about it, there are about seven million reviews, tutorials, and commentaries on the game scattered throughout the Internet.

Playing Catan Jr.Catan Junior isn’t just a simplifying of the already massive hit title. The rules are somewhat streamlined, for sure, but there is also a re-theming to the game. Instead of building settlements, cities and roads, players are now swashbuckling pirates, building pirate lairs (instead of settlements and cities), and pirate ships (instead of roads). The hexes are now represented by individual islands. You start with two lairs and one ship, and you can only build lairs next to ships, and ships next to lairs. The point of the game is to be the first to build seven lairs.

The trading has been changed to be a little more kid friendly. There is a marketplace on one end of the board, and one of each of the five resources (now Goats, Wood, Gold, Molasses, and Cutlasses) are placed at a booth in the marketplace. Players can trade 1:1 with those resources (only once per turn), or 2:1 for anything not in the marketplace—or for an advanced variant, you ditch the marketplace and trade with other players. And you can also purchase Coco Cards, which feature Coco the parrot on the back. These give you various free goods, or allow you a free move of the Ghost Pirate Captain (which we’ll explain in a second), and one that allows you to build a lair or a ship for free! In addition to the great stuff you get, having the most Coco cards will allow you to build a lair on Spooky Island (which is the Desert in this retheme), putting you one closer to the seven lairs you need.

The thief has been replaced by the Ghost Pirate Captain (who starts on Spooky Island), and rolling a 6 (in this game there’s a single d6) allows players to move the Ghost Captain to an island and take two resources of the type that matches the hex he was placed on. And like the thief he stops production from that hex until he’s moved again.

Your turn consists of:

  • Roll to produce goods on islands
  • Trade
  • Build

And that’s it. They move along quickly, so there’s little downtime.

Firestone—The components are great. The resources are big and chunky and perfect for my kids’ little hands to grab. The ships and lairs are small, but they do the job. It’s very colorful, and the pirate theme is a hit with kids.

Jeremiah—Yeah, I totally agree; we love the resource tokens (although my wife got a little flustered because the cutlasses were tough to stack), I suppose I would have preferred wooden ships and lairs—the plastic ones seem a little fragile to me. But I will say they have survived at least four plays thus far, so they are surprisingly durable. The retheme is great, although I’ve taken to calling the Ghost Pirate Caption the Dread Pirate Roberts, but we’ll just call that a house rule for now…

Firestone—I’ve played three games: a 2-player, a 3-player, and a 4-player, and it seems to scale well, though people were getting cut off right and left in our 4-player game. And by people, I mean me.

Jeremiah—I actually haven’t played a 2-player game yet, because every time we pull it out both of my boys jump at the chance to play it. So most of my plays have been 3-player, and once the boys talked mommy into playing, so we played 4-player. With 4 it does get a little crowded, but I agree: It’s a short game, and it’s actually about perfect in play time, so before it gets too cut-throat it’s over.

Firestone—One downside I’ve seen in my three games is that it seems practically impossible to come back once someone gets ahead of you. And if they’re building lairs that are cutting you off, it’s just that much harder to come back. But since it’s short, I can live with this one complaint about it. Oddly, in my house, my 8-year-old isn’t all that excited about playing this—he’ll play, but it’s not his first choice. I’m not sure if that’s because he’s used to playing “deeper” games with me and this one seems too simple, or what. I do know that my almost-5-year-old LOVES this one. He needs some help with decisions and strategies and the whys and wherefores, but he has a blast playing. He’s cuckoo for Coco.

Jeremiah—Both my 4- and 6-year-olds are all about this game. I do have to help the youngest one pretty often. The strategy to buy CoCo cards seems to be the choice of youngsters everywhere! They’ve figured out the value of getting a free lair on Spooky Island and have exploited it very well. In fact, both of my sons have figured this out, and it somehow works, because most of the time they pull out the win.

Firestone—This is a great, great family game. It’s ideal for introducing kids to Euros, and the process of creating engines where you get this, to turn into that, to get you VPs. And one of the best things is that you won’t feel as though you have to dumb down your play—the kids have just as much chance to win as you—but the game is still interesting for adults. Am I going to bring this to game night with the fellas? Of course not. But it’s a game for kids, and it’s very good at it.

Jeremiah—Yeah, we both pretty much agree on this one, the rules and theme are super accessible for kids. I will say that I “renamed” the Ghost Pirate Captain because my oldest son lately has been super tweaky about anything remotely scary. (Like when his younger brother impersonates zombie carrots… Yes, zombie carrots weird him out.) Spooky Island he’s okay with. But I felt like I needed to hold back on the ost-ghay irate-pay. The game is close enough to the original that it also holds my interest and isn’t total kids-game fodder. And as I said, it’s short enough to hold the attention of my 4-year old!

Firestone Final Rating—As a game for adults, it’s maybe a 6 or 7—it’s fine, but I don’t much like that it uses dice to control resources…so if people don’t roll your number, yer outta luck. BUT, as a kids game I give it a 10. It’s the perfect game to introduce kids to Euro-game concepts.

Jeremiah Final Rating—Completely agree, I’d say a solid 7 for adults playing with kids, the board is laid out well enough that you shouldn’t get hosed for resources even though you’re relying on the dice. And yeah score it a 10 for kids: awesome gateway into euro style games, great theme, perfect rules scaling of a classic game, and solid re-playability.

Get Catan: Junior on Amazon here!

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, and Like us on Facebook!





We Interview Jeremiah Isley!

9 01 2013

Jeremiah2Jeremiah is one half of the team here at Theology Of Games, and since Reiner Knizia won’t return our emails, we thought it would be fun to interview each other! (We haven’t actually tried to contact Reiner. I’m sure he’s a nice guy who replies to every email he receives. Seriously, Reiner…email us.)

Thanks for agreeing to answer some questions, Jeremiah. So tell us a little about yourself.

Sure thing! My interests in life are about as varied and polarizing at times as you could think of. I love live theatre, and professional dance; I studied dance for over 13 years and still appear as a guest artist annually in the Nutcracker for a local professional company. I also worked for many years as a stagehand both in the local stagehand’s union, and as a freelancer. I’m also a trained audio engineer and have mixed for a few pretty big names over the years. I’m a huge football fan, and a glutton for the punishment of being a Cleveland sports fan. I’ve been married very happily for over 10 years, and have two sons, ages 4 and 6, who are the craziest, most awesome, and caring boys ever! We enjoy the outdoors, and like to canoe, hike, raft, and camp whenever the opportunity presents itself. We love to geocache too—nothing like using billion-dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods! I also play guitar, drums, bass, and a smidgen of keys. My current day job is in the AV department at a satellite campus for a local state university, and for the last three years I was the youth director at my church until I recently stepped down. Oh, and I co-write this blog.

How did you first get mixed up in these type of board games?

My path to board gaming really came through the collectible card game craze of the nineties, when everything was turned into a collectible card game. My brother and I played Marvel Overpower (which in hindsight is a terrible game!) and then we got into Middle Earth (which is an awesome game!). I loved the depth of strategy it took to do well at games like that. Middle Earth was also a great multiplayer game so we could have a few friends over, put the animated version of LotR on TV and play all night. (No, we weren’t the cool kids in town.) I then went through a long period of time of playing only video games, specifically Socom Navy Seals (shout out to my old clan SV!). I enjoyed video games, but the draw of Socom for me was the social side of being in a clan and working together as a team; it was more of a social activity than a gaming habit. I think that’s what I really enjoy about board games: The games themselves are great fun and all, but sitting down and having face-to-face interaction with good folks is better than any game I’ve played. For me the world of board games, like so many others, came through Catan; once that gateway opened up, all bets were off… I pretty much exclusively play board and card games now; the ps3 is basically a Netflix machine.

How has your faith affected you as a gamer?

I’d say pretty heavily. A lot of times it gets easy as a Christian to try and make your faith or your beliefs fit the mold of your interests, or political or social practices, when we should really be holding those things we enjoy up to the light of scripture and see them for what they are. The gaming world is full of thematic elements that dabble in the fantastic or supernatural—that’s part of its allure. It’s for this reason I tread lightly when checking out games, and especially before buying them. Many times a game is pretty benign, but other times I’ll have to pass on a particular title. I try not to get hung up on those titles I won’t play. There are literally hundreds of great games being published each year, so there are plenty of games to choose from that don’t give me pause.

You have two boys. What are some of your favorite games to play with them?

Well, we got them Loopin’ Louie for Christmas, or “Woopy Wooin” as my 4-year-old calls it, and they haven’t stopped playing it. They also really enjoy Forbidden Island a lot! My oldest is six and has a pretty good handle on playing Carcassonne and Castle Panic, too.

Does your wife enjoy board games?

Yes, she gets incredibly frustrated when I teach them to her, but once we get through that she usually enjoys playing them. However, she does have her limits; she told our sons the other day that she doesn’t play “Star Wars games,” but she enjoys Carcassonne, Kingdom Builder, The Resistance, and a good deal more. As long as it doesn’t have a terribly nerdy theme, or a billion rules, she’s a gamer. She won’t sit and play an LCG, but Catan, yes.

Is it true you shaved your head so you’d look more like me?

There’s not a shred of truth to that rumor. Although I did convince my sons that it would be cool because I would look like the Silver Surfer. My poor wife had gone to the grocery store one evening and left us home alone; when she returned I was completely clean shaven. I’m enjoying the new look, although the first winter has been a little rough.

Jeremiah1Yeah…hair—even if there’s not much there, insulates your head more than you think…

What are your Top 5 games…and tell us a about why you like them so much.

This is in no particular order, because I don’t think I could actually pick a favorite.

  1. Lord of the Rings the Card Game—When I picked this up, I thought, “I don’t know about this whole co-op thing…” But one play through it and I was hooked! We played through the whole first cycle of expansions and are part way through the Khazad-Dum quests. It’s great, really deep game play, scales great for 1-4 players, and has a continuous story line. It’s almost like playing a role playing game without having to put in all the work to set it up. The down side to this game is the money to keep up with the quest packs, and they don’t feel that replayable after you’ve defeated a quest.
  2. The Resistance—I love this game because it is everything that LOTR is not. Really simple game mechanics and tons of backstabbing and chicanery! I’ve never played this game and not had people ask me to play it again—and ask where they can get their own copy. I love that you can play up to 10 people at once, although it’s hard to find 10 people that play it well all at the same time. I’m REALLY hoping they retheme the plot cards for Avalon because using the original ones really kills the mood.
  3. Carcassonne—Although recently this game is getting a little overplayed for me right now. I still love the game, and it took about 784 game plays to feel overplayed. There’s a solid base of expansions to keep it fresh, mix it up, and throw you for a loop. It’s a very good game to act as a next step for my friends who are ready to move on from Catan, and it plays up to 6 very well.
  4. Pirates of the Spanish Main—I know, this is kind of an oddball title, and no they don’t still make the game. But building those little pirate ship and sailing them around the dinner table looking for treasure is just a lot of fun. I have a HUGE fleet of literally thousands of ships. My gaming friends and I haven’t played in a while (which is very unfortunate), but it’s a really fun game with very high replayability!
  5. Fluxx—It’s an old standby with lots of different versions that add to the craziness of it. I’m probably most partial to Zombie Fluxx. We’ve had a lot of good times and good laughs over this game, as well as some frustrating defeats. Just a good time all around.

What are some games you’re looking forward to playing in 2013?

One of the titles I’m really looking forward to is Boss Monster; it kind of crept under our radar last year, as we didn’t find out about it until their Kickstarter was almost finished, but playing the bad guy is always fun. I’m also really looking forward to the multiplayer expansion for the new Star Wars The Card Game. I like the game as it is, but I think it will really come into its own when it supports 2-3 light side players teaming up against a very powerful dark side player. I’m also REALLY hoping that Wizkids gets the Lord of the Rings dice building game to market soon! Quarriors just barely slipped out of my top 5, and I’m of course a fanboy when it comes to Tolkien. And my boys will be very excited to hear that Forbidden Desert is on its way!
One-Word Answers:

Favorite Doctor? Tom Baker

Grail game you’d like to find a copy of? My old 1st edition of Fluxx.

Favorite superhero? Spider-Man

Favorite major Star Wars character? Han Solo

Favorite minor Star Wars character? Dengar, the fiercest of the bounty hunters!!

On a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being how you feel while watching Bambi, and 10 being blind, seething, murderous rage), how did you feel toward George Lucas immediately after watching The Phantom Menace for the 1st time? The 1st time? 4.5 (I was blinded by the shiny new toy.)

Favorite LEGO line? Star Wars

Last good book you read? Shrewd by Rick Lawrence

Thanks, Jeremiah!
No no, thank you.

We hope you enjoyed this. Stay tuned for Jeremiah’s questions for me! (Unless Reiner emails us back. We’d totally bump that for you, Reiner…)








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