4 Things I Learned Moving with 3&UP

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Greetings, my people, it’s been a while.

It’s also been quite a year for upheaval.

I’m sure I don’t need to spend much time explaining myself. The past few years have showcased our human ability to uproot any sort of stability and let Disney control both Marvel and Star Wars. Despite the fact that so far they’ve made films of passable quality, how long can we continue to let that mouse-eared giant produce our popular culture?

But hey, I’m not here to make grand sweeping statements about the way of things.  I’m just here to write about board games…or pretty much anything I want, but that particular Venn Diagram is pretty narrow.

So for those of you who don’t know, we’ve actually moved locations.

Now, don’t worry too much. A healthy amount of worry is what ultimately led to the development of civilization. But back to me writing about whatever I want. In this case, it’s a list of scattered thoughts organized into an easily-digestible listicle. Ugh, I take that back. That’s an awful word. Let’s just call it a list.

1. Introducing Our New Spot

I guess I can’t write a listicle (gross) about our move without including some basic information.

The new address is 774 Starkweather. We’re located in beautiful Old Town Plymouth, about equidistant between Station 885 and Hermann’s Olde Towne Grille. With that many gratuitous extra letters we couldn’t spell out the 3 on our new signs.

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Say hello to 774 Starkweather, the NEW best place for board games.

2. Driving a Giant Yellow Dinosaur

“Which of you wants to drive the Penske?” Let me tell you, I didn’t cause a single scratch. Now, I was raised in Ohio and Michigan possessed a reputation for drivers of a certain persuasion.

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Just another day on 23 North.

Now that I’m closing out my fourth year in the state I feel pretty confident in saying that reputation holds up.

For those of you who haven’t experienced the fun of driving a 16 foot Penske truck, imagine you’re behind the wheel of your car, except it’s three times the size and takes turns like a toddler who hasn’t had a nap yet.

Plymouth is a beautiful, historic town and I’m always very surprised at the amount of people enjoying the outdoors…but the issue which arises from that is the roads were probably originally built for horse-and-buggy. I’m not a history nut, but I’m pretty confident the original city planners hadn’t taken moving trucks into consideration.

3. Moving a Business is Far Easier Than Moving a House.

Take this one with a grain of salt, because I’m sure there are plenty of you who read that and scoffed.

But let me explain myself. At the risk of this becoming my own personal blog, this summer has especially been one full of large moves. In the past month I’ve helped three separate groups of people move; two of those groups were simple cross-town moves, and the other was a peril-fraught trek through Ohio and Kentucky marked by a broken tire and near-detonation of the moving van.

Long story. Anyway, the point is that when you’re primarily moving lots of smaller, individual boxes it really cuts back on the stress of trying to fit a whole dining room table in the back of a trailer.

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Tetris skills on point.

4. It’s Not the Place, It’s the People

And now it’s time for the saccharine ending where I outline how it’s not the establishment or the store-front that makes 3 & Up what it is, but you, the people.

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Ah, you think diceness your ally!

Because we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you, dear readers. Those of you who live nearby, who come out from Ypsilanti or Ann Arbor or Canton, or California (you know who you are, you beautiful madfolk). It’s been a few weeks since the end of the physical move, and despite our grand re-opening proceeding with full steam ahead, we’ve already had a consistent stream of people, both old and new express how happy they are that we’re open.

Because for real, refer to #4 up there. In the end we’re here for you, and we’re glad you’re here for us.

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Because none of us know what we’re doing.

Dylan Terry is a professional starving artist and part-time board game geek, and consistently surprised at just how much everyone else puts up with him.

5 Best Board Game Movies

Hello my people, it’s your friendly neighborhood board game geek with your semi-regular post rambling on about all things board-games. With the summer blockbuster season coming up just around the corner and recent political happenings driving the need for constant escapism, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about something we all hold near and dear to our hearts: big screen adaptations of things you’d never expect.

In that vein, I decided to watch five film adaptations of popular board games and give my first impressions, honest opinions, and some general thoughts regarding their quality.

Battleship (2012)

Battleship

Directed by: Peter Burg

Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard, Rihanna

I remember when the first trailer for Battleship dropped and the internet burst into flames. 2012 was still early in the prime of reboots, remakes, and weird adaptations, so there was plenty of ill-will directed towards Universal, considering we were still in the midst of Michael Bay’s Transformers cataclysm.

The basic plot of Battleship is pretty…basic. In essence, an alien spaceship crash-lands near a beacon in Hawaii and it’s up to a series of battleships to take them on and prevent them from signaling the mothership. Overall the movie is fairly unexceptional, managing to capture the blind-fire of the game it is based on while having top-notch visual effects and alien designs.

One thing to note is that the parts of the White Pegs were played by actual US Navy sailors, though they tend to make better shots than I do whenever I play the actual game.

Life (2017)

Life

Directed by: Daniel Espinosa

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds.

One thing most film watchers will admit is that most adaptations require some twisting in order to make it appropriate for the screen. It’s not uncommon for most adaptations to mutate the premise somewhat to better fit a dramatic structure…of course, it’s also not uncommon for it to be taken too far.

For those of you who haven’t played the classic Milton-Bradley board game Life, it primarily concerns a cluster of yuppies who wander around their town buying things they can’t afford, having children they can’t support, and otherwise experience all the wonder of post-graduate life in the modern era. It seems like the perfect setup for a Pleasantville-style send-up of modern suburbia, so I’m not sure why we got a space-station horror film.

Now, depending on the version of Life you’re playing I think it’s probably reasonable to expect a player or two to have a career related to space or exobiology, but it’s obvious this film went through some changes between conception and release. The most obvious change is from an Earth suburb to a space station, which is understandable; changing the setting to a more exotic location makes sense to draw in audiences, and if it sells copies of the outer-space version of Life, all the power to them.

Without getting too far into spoilers, I will just say that I had to work to identify aspects of the board game within the movie. The alien lifeform, Calvin, obviously represents the ever-present Life spinner, determining the fate and moves made by the crew as they collect what they need to live the titular…Life. As Calvin moves through the station and eliminates players (removing them from the game in the process) we see the original message of the board game play out on the big screen: Life is unfair, and none of us get out alive.

Twister (1996)

Twister

Directed by: Jan de Bont

Starring: Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Jami Gertz

Twister is a game that consistently sees play, and it’s no wonder why: people like the tension of facing a growing catastrophe and planning ahead for when the world crashes down around their ears. The spinner, which informs players of the position they must twist themselves into, presents an ever-increasing source of tension for all involved, until the mass of humanity collapses in upon itself.

The movie adaptation of this board game classic decides to embody the circular motion of the board’s spinner as a massive tornado, which Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton chase around in a car, risking life and limb to collect info and perhaps, just perhaps, anticipate the game’s next move.

Second only to Jenga in terms of mounting tension, Twister was perfect for a film adaptation, and what a surprise to have had this movie in the American film canon for more than 20 years.

The supporting cast of characters is quite colorful, a subtle reference to the collection of various colors on the Twister game mat. Cary Elwes is quite worth the experience as Dr. Jonas Miller, a storm-chaser who is only in it for the money; indeed a biting retort against the type of player who only opens a game to win.

The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice (1952)

Othello

Directed by: Orson Welles

Starring: Osron Welles, Michael MacLiammoir

It is a little-known fact that William Shakespeare and Orson Welles both shared a love of board games. Separated by more than four centuries, these two titans of their craft were linked across time and space by a single game: Othello.

It is another little-known fact that Shakespeare’s contemplative exploration of race and romance was an adaptation of a simple game focusing on flipping little circular markers on a green board.

I will try my best not to spoil this story, but one only has to watch the Orson Welles adaptation from the 50s to see the trademark themes present in the game: of course the chaos presented between Iago and Othello represent the eternal, silent struggle of white and black pieces on the board, but the green hills of Venice serve as a backdrop for the enduring inspection of love, betrayal, and revenge. Shakespeare (and Welles) highlighted the subterfuge and skullduggery inherent in the game by ending the film with a scenario with which most gamers are familiar: one party strangling the other to death in their bed.

MouseHunt (1997)

MouseHunt

Directed by: Gore Verbinski (wait, what?)

Starring: Nathan Lane, Lee Evans, Christopher Walken

I’m not entirely convinced this movie exists outside my immediate family. I know there’s information about it online, so obviously other people have seen it, but I’ve never actually met anybody in person who’s even heard of this movie.

Which isn’t that unusual, for an adaptation of the hit game Mouse Trap.

Hasbro’s Mouse Trap is one of those games everybody thinks they’ve played, but haven’t really. The rules are one of the least-read pamphlets ever published, because all we ever did was set it up and watch it fall down.

This is pretty much all that happens in the movie. The core story of Mouse Hunt remains nearly untouched: a pair of men inherit a mansion and plan to renovate and flip it to collectors who seek out antique homes. Their efforts are stymied, however, by a single persistent mouse who evades their traps, brutalizes a pet cat, and eventually is indirectly responsible for demolishing the entire home around the pair’s ears.

The original themes of the game are embodied throughout, from the idea of a simple plan unraveled by chaos, the persistence of life in the face of adversity, and destruction of the old as the new is ushered in. Unfortunately, the socialist and anti-capitalist ideals in which the original Mouse Trap was steeped have been toned down to a single auction scene near the end, where the fat cats and industrialists are swept from the home by the rising tide of a populist uprising (represented in standard Verbinski fashion by a wave of sewage overflowing the walls).

 

And there we have it: five examples of Hollywood’s ability to adapt even something as abstract as a board game into a functional film while keeping the core messages and themes in-tact. I think this should put to rest any concerns people may have about the upcoming Catan, Tetris¸ or Emoji films, which should all be released within the next year or two.

 

What a world!

 

Dylan Terry is a board game and movie enthusiast with too much time and not enough productive ideas to fill his days. He is also an April Fools apologist.

Gaming for Two

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought I would take a moment to answer the question we see most here at 3 & Up: “Do you have any good games for two players?”

That’s a good question! The magic number tends to hover at around four players; it’s the number of ravenous hippos, cardinal directions, and temperaments making up the Ninja Turtles. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that most games get the best mileage out of having a full ensemble of teenage mutants.

Of course, you could meet people at our Monday Meetups

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But let’s get this out of the way: it’s 2017. Having enough friends to fill a two-door sedan is a luxury few of us can afford while juggling our jet-setting glamorous lifestyle. In an era where Facebook and other social media has turned friendship into a commodity, it’s increasingly difficult to find a good group willing to sit for gaming sessions. If it sounds like I’m projecting, it’s because I am.

Anyway, we here at 3 & Up like pulling people together, no matter the number, so I’ve gone through our collection and hand-picked a selection of games befitting a pair, whether romantically involved, friendly, or hostile; I’ve done my best to make sure there’s something for all tastes represented:

Kamisado

Let’s admit it: checkers is played out. Some computer scientists solved the game back in 2007, so with a bit of light reading you can ruin the fun for your friends. Simplicity in game design is something to be admired, but there’s only a certain number of times you can watch your friend chain-jump their way to your end of the board and proceed to wipe you out from behind with their king. We need something that puts all players on an even field.

Cue Kamisado. The game consists of 16 “dragon towers,” eight per player, on a checkered board of 64 squares of eight colors in a regular pattern. Each dragon tower has a color that matches to the squares which determines where it starts on its player’s row. In turns, each player moves their dragon towers any number of squares forward, either straight or diagonally. The winner is whomever moves one of his towers onto the other’s home row.

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The twist is that each tower will land on a certain color, and that color determines the dragon tower your opponent is required to move. For example, if Player One moves his tower onto an orange square, Player Two has to move her Orange Tower.

It’s something like an intermediate step between checkers and chess, without requiring a Master’s Degree in Sun Tzu to master. It’s a nice warm-up game, good for oiling up the whetstones of the brain for something a little more complex.

Mr. Jack

There’s a surprising number of Jack the Ripper board games out right now, and while we unfortunately don’t have the exceptional Letters From Whitechapel (go play Letters From Whitechapel if you ever get the chance, seriously), Mr. Jack is the second-best experience you can have escaping the law after murdering prostitutes. In Mr. Jack one player is the eponymous Jack the Ripper, while the other controls the constables trying to stop him from escaping Whitechapel District.

The game board is a stylized depiction of London’s foggy streets, with lamp-posts, police barricades, and sewer entries providing plenty of opportunities to skulk about in top-hat and cloak. At the beginning of the game, Jack assumes an identity at random, and it is the other player’s job to determine just who it is before he escapes. Over the course of eight rounds each player controls a handful of characters, each with a unique movement ability, and the Constable has to puzzle out who has blood on his hands.

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The key mechanic is Visibility, which drives Jack to utilize misdirection and the extinguishing lamp-posts to distract the Constable. With both Jack and the Constable alternating their choices in moving characters, it’s a great example of having to outwit your opponent while puzzling out just who is whom.

The Magic Labyrinth

Every once in a while you come across a game with a really unique concept and the design to back it up. This is one of those. The Magic Labyrinth is a game for 2 (to 4, but I’m pretending nobody reading this has more than one friend) consisting of a multi-level board, some magnets and player tokens, and a bunch of wooden walls. Before the game is started a maze is built in the board with the slots, the game rotated a few times (to throw off the players) and everybody gets a magnet and token. Starting from opposite corners, the players have to navigate the labyrinth and collect tokens to win.

The cool part comes when a player hits one of the invisible walls: the token keeps moving, but the magnet detaches. It’s a little difficult to illustrate, so here’s a picture:

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First player to collect five tokens is the winner. I particularly like this game for the innovative way it simulates invisible walls. In the immortal words of the modern-day philosophers Insane Clown Posse: “Water, fire, air, and dirt, freaking magnets, how do they work?”

I might be paraphrasing, but you get the basic idea.

Jaipur

Jaipur is a game about market capitalists hoarding camels in order to secure the most points. There are some other rules, but in my experience that tends to be what players focus on.

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No, but really, it’s a game about players going to a market, buying up as much product as they can, and becoming the grand trader for the Maharaja. This is done through exchanging various cards, gathering point chips, and out-witting your opponent. It’s a fun, simple-to-learn game where the competition is more through thinking and outplaying, rather than direct conflict.

Or by collecting the most camels.

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Majestic

Scythe

This one’s just a little self-serving because this game is beautiful.

Scythe is a grand strategy game featuring some of the best art you will ever see depicting an alternate-history where World War I was fought with giant walking mechs. In the aftermath of the conflict the remaining nations are resettling a devastated countryside, where the possibility of violence looms over their heads like an ever-present smog.

Players play as rulers of various nations, leading their people in establishing some semblance of normal life as the tension grows thick. Playable with 1 to 5 people, you go about placing workers, moving mechs, and resolving encounters across the board.

Getting too far into Scythe could take up this entire post, so I won’t bore you with my rambling about a game I’m enthusiastic about. Just know that if you’re seeking a deep two-player experience with absolutely beautiful art, top-notch components, and mechanics allowing for a fully encompassing experience. Each turn you choose a single action you did not perform the past game, so there’s a bit of planning involved in making sure you out-manufacture your opponent.

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Of course, Scythe is the game you should pick if you want to spend as much time learning the game as playing. There’s a reason it’s the only epic strategy game on this list, though most of them are playable with only two players. If you’re looking for something a little more than Risk and are willing to put in the effort, this will reward the effort.

So, there’s a shortish list of games playable for two folks. I tried to keep it focused on games we don’t see played very often here at the Lounge, though there’s always the classics like Guess Who and Operation available.

Or you could make a New Year’s resolution to make new friends and come by Mondays from 7 to close for Meetup Mondays.

Just a thought.

Game Review: Betrayal at the House on the Hill

*Photos and review by: Dylan Terry

Note: This review contains minor spoilers for a game which values secrecy, mystery, and surprise. I try to minimize the amount of information revealed, but keep that in mind.

Betrayal at House on the Hill is a game for three to six players with an estimated playtime of one hour. The players explore the house by drawing and placing Room tiles, which can fit into either the Basement, Main Floor, or Second Floor of the house. Most of these rooms feature one to three symbols, indicating the discovering player draws an event, item, or omen card. Events tend to require a dice roll to overcome, items grant a bonus or malus, and omens tend towards special, unique effects. Draw enough Omen cards, and you trigger the Haunt, which turns one player traitor and begins the end-game. 

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Published by Avalon Hill and Wizards of the Coast, Betrayal truly shines when experienced by a full group of six. Unlike most other games which remain mostly static throughout a playthrough, Betrayal is noteworthy for the mid-game twist called the Haunt. During the exploration of the house players will sometimes draw Omen cards, ranging from things like “Bitten” or “The Spear.” After each Omen is drawn that player makes a Haunt roll; if the number showing on the dice is less than the total number of Omen cards drawn that game, the Haunt begins.

This introduces a substantial amount of tension from the very first turn, as the inevitability of the Haunt looms over the players and reaches a high point whenever that raven symbol appears. Your stomach drops as you count the numbers on the dice and realize that one (or in some case, more than one) of your friends will soon turn traitor. The player who performed the fatal Haunt roll consults the table in the rulebook, comparing the room, Omen, and listed traitor, hands the Traitor Tome to that player, and takes the Survival manual. Each party reads the relevant rules and play continues with new items, actions, and objectives.

For example: in my most recent play with my gaming group, one of the players moved into the Gymnasium, which requires an Omen draw. She drew the Bite card, rolled the dice, and ended up getting underneath the required number, triggering the Haunt. After looking at the relevant charts, the listed Haunt was number 35, called “Small Change.”

We had all been shrunken down to mouse size and the cats were hungry. Our goal was the find the Toy Airplane, gather the survivors, and flee the house.

The Traitor and his cats devoured us, one by one.

This was my fifth game, and the fourth time the traitor succeeded. Other scenarios have included killing a dragon, finding hidden treasure, and escaping from a pocket dimension. There are 50 Haunts included in the main game, with enough variety to make nearly every game different. It would take a dedicated group of gamers to experience all of the content this game has to offer.

As with most Wizards games, characters have stat arrays, represented by tracks and plastic markers. There’s a large assortment of cardboard tokens representing everything from monsters to items to hidden staircases. Sometimes it’s a bit to sort through, but everything is clearly marked with legible text. If you take some time beforehand to implement some minor organization the components sort themselves out. 

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Of course, not everything is so clear-cut. With as much content as this game contains, the rulebooks often struggle to keep up and many, many rules questions are left for the players to figure. My own group has implemented a “logic houserule” where any rules question left unanswered are resolved by majority based on what feels right. Oftentimes this question is “who controls the monsters,” and the answer is almost always “the traitor.” If you have any experience with tabletop or hobby gaming, you know that rulesets aren’t always the most intuitive.

If your group prefers a rulebook which answers all the questions you might have, you might have a little more trouble with this. I recommend this game based on the atmosphere (turn the lights down, put on some ambient music), variety of content (five games in and each has been a significantly different experience), and stories it can generate (eaten by cats? How often does that happen?). While the experience is sometimes interrupted by rules questions, vague descriptions, and searches for just the right token, Betrayal at House on the Hill deserves a spot right next to the other games that encourage you to kill your friends.

For Fans of: Twilight Creations Zombies!!!, Steve Jackson’s Munchkin, Fantasy Flight’s Mansions of Madness

Evocative of: Twilight Zone, Insidious, Goosebumps

Available at 3 & Up: Yes!

CONdensed LIVE from GenCon: Thoughts on JunkArt

*Photos and article by: Dylan Terry

When I was younger, I had a set of hand-made wooden blocks of various shape and color. I have fond memories sitting on the floor with my dad, building towers of these things and then laughing maniacally when I channeled my inner Godzilla.

JunkArt was dangerously close to reawakening that in me.

This is a tower-building game with competitive elements, slight randomization, and a serious need for trust between players to not bump the table, Tyler, what are you doing?

You play Junk Art like this:

Draw ten cards, which correspond to a block of a specific color and shape.

You take that shape and put it on your base.

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You go through your ten cards, take the pieces, and stack a tower. If you lose a piece you lose a point, if you lose your tower you lose the game.

That may sound like it would get repetitive pretty quick, and you would be right if there weren’t other game modes than standard building. Each is named after a specific city (the first one we played was, fittingly, Indianapolis). I can’t recall the actual name of the one we did second, but I enjoyed it significantly more.

In this particular game mode, you give three of your block pieces to the person on your left. They place those pieces, then each player moves to the left and has to add on to the mess you tried to force on someone else.

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I didn’t see what other game modes there were, but I imagine this would be a fun one to play with a group of friends. Just make sure you aren’t playing with someone who intentionally shakes the table, Tyler.

CONdensed LIVE from GenCon: Thoughts on Bears!

*Photos and article by: Dylan Terry

GenCon may officially have ended, but when have I ever let an expiration date stop me?

Bears! is one of the numerous entries in the rapidly-growing dice game genre. These tend to be self-contained little games consisting of some dice and an instructional booklet. You roll the dice, determine what each face means in context, tally your score, and there you have it.

I have just detailed how to play 90% of these games.

But this isn’t about that.

Bears! takes you on a camping trip in a dangerous woodland wonderland where each player is a park ranger doing his or her best to keep the sleepy campers safe. There are player dice (black) and camp dice (white). The pool of camp dice is rolled, each player rolls his or her dice, and you go about pairing them as quickly as possible.

These pairs vary in point value: bear and rifle, bear and running person, bear and tent/sleeping bad…those are it. Improperly or unpaired dice are worth negative point values, and the game goes until a preset point value is reached, at which point the winner can brag about being better at rolling dice than his or her peers.

Bears! makes a good choice for a light travel game, perfectly playable in an airport terminal, train station, or, if you like to tempt fate, a camping trip.

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For extra fun, make sure you leave all your food out while you play.

 

CONdensed LIVE from GenCon: Thoughts on Box of Rocks

Photos and article by: Dylan Terry

Box of Rocks is a competitive trivia game where you answer questions against a literal box of rocks.

BoxORocks.jpg

The answer to every question is either 0, 1, or 2.

The box contains three flat-ish rocks, each marked on one side with a 1 and the other with a 0.

You read the question on the card, you give an answer, and you shake the box.

If you’re correct, you get a point.

If the rocks are correct, the rocks get a point.

The first to 3 points win.

Seriously, that’s it. The novelty is pretty great, and I can imagine it’s far more entertaining with certain…adult substances involved. I could also see kids enjoying the fun of competing against a literal box of rocks.

…wait, the recommended age is 12+? Huh, alright.

CONdensed LIVE from GenCon: Thoughts on Flash Dash

Photos and article by: Dylan Terry

You remember playing Capture the Flag in gym class, when the more athletic, popular kids could seemingly duck and dip between your clumsy grabs, snatch that t-shirt off its perch, and receive adulation and admiration from your fellow classmates while you eat your lunch alone in the corner?

            No?

            Huh, maybe it’s just me.

Flag Dash is a cute little game where you play teams of adults getting together to play Capture the Flag. With two members to a team, you control one runner each and share control of the Keeper to run across the no-man’s-land, steal the opposing flag, and take it back to your part of the board.

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Character movement is planned and revealed simultaneously by assigning Order tokens (rated 1-6). The later tokens allow you to take special actions, like moving twice, playing another action card from your hand, or taking a Boost token (spent to immediately move 1 spot in any direction).

The demo I played lasted just ten minutes or so, but that was long enough for us to finish a game, and I enjoyed it. While it’s not really my cup of tea (give me Blood Bowl any day), this is a cute little game perfect for a family game night or for those looking for something tactical without being overwhelming.

CONdensed LIVE from GenCon: Thoughts on Jarl- The Vikings Tile Laying Game

*Photos and article by: Dylan Terry

Just to start, I haven’t seen a single episode of the Vikings TV show. While I hear it’s good, that didn’t affect my enjoyment of this demo at all.

“Hey you, want to pillage some villages?”

How can you ignore a call like that?

Jarl is a game about sailing around, making sure your warriors don’t starve, and pillaging the crap out of the countryside. The game board starts with the Viking village, a half-ring of face-down water tiles, and a Ship card. You collect resources, erect runestones, and vie for Influence by raiding hapless villages.

The game is played over the course of four seasons, which are divided into Days. Each action you take reduced the number of Days you have, and the player with the highest number of Days remaining takes their action first. It’s a great simulation of staggered passage of time, and in our game the four players were very rarely taking more than one turn at a time.

Your ship card has a number of spots on it for resources, warriors, food, loot, etc. Most of these resources only take up a single square, but as I started raiding I had to make the ever-present decision regarding the benefit of taking more gold and having enough food for my men.

The boys went hungry, but the ones who didn’t starve to death sure enjoyed a payday bonus.

Jarl

Though I only played a single season of gameplay, the demo guy said that in later rounds the map would expand, the ocean would be redistributed (so finding an efficient path one season may not be the same during the next), goals would be redealt, and Influence would shuffle to change who can do what, and when.

This was probably the game I enjoyed the most during my first day demoing stuff at the con, and it felt reminiscent of a Vikings-style game of Catan, where you take resources instead of rolling for them randomly. The exploration mechanics and how Days determined turn order and game length felt natural and organic. I’d probably recommend this to people who haven’t watched the TV show as well. I was certainly able to get in the pillaging mindset without having any prior experience.

CONdensed LIVE from GenCon: Thoughts on Dark Mages

*Photos and article by: Dylan Terry

Dark Mages is a card-battling game for 2 to 8 players, which immediately drew my attention. As a social butterfly with a wide network of friends who play board games, sometimes it can be difficult to find something that engages every player, or even allows for that many. How often do you see “Suitable for 2-6 players” and have to tell Jimmy that he has to go home because he drew the short straw?

Well now Jimmy can join in on the fireball-slinging, skeleton-summoning, potion-chugging mayhem that comes from being a dark wizard.

At the start of the game every player chooses a wizard, ranging from the classic four elements (Fire Summoner, Water Summoner, etc) to the standard (Wizard, Magician) to the esoteric (Darkness Wizard?). Each one has a number of stats; health, armor class, mastery, and resistance.

You draw a hand of spell and item cards, representing the gamut of fantasy spell casting standards and some fun additions, and you get to casting. Everybody starts with 60 health and the last player standing is the winner.

DarkMages

The game descended into chaos at the beginning when I infected half the board with a poison liable to kill them within three turns, and each of them responded in kind by raining destruction down around my head. Gameplay is simple: play a card, roll a die, deal damage, repeat. Certain cards introduce special abilities or alternate rules, but everything is explained in the game and unless you are a complete newbie to the concept, players should catch on pretty quick.

Dark Mages reminded me of another game with a similar premise, Battle Wizards, but whereas Battle Wizards treats the genre like a comedy, Dark Mages is definitely darker and grittier. I can’t really recommend one over the other, but depending on whether your group likes dour, frowny mages or cartoony, Munchkin-style wizards, either of those would be a good choice for your next party.