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Gaming on a Cruise Ship Pt. 2

Hunter Burdette
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What Went Wrong?
I'm not afraid to admit when I am wrong. I took some of the advice from one of the commenters from pt.1 and consolidated The Crew into the Splendor box and thought I would bring fewer games total. Then my love for the hobby and my hope to convert the unenlightened took over. I should have heeded Jake's warning (bgg user karrde), because I was wrong to bring all the games I did. Only three of the seven games brought on board saw the outside of the bag. I also chose to bring the game bag on board with me rather than checking it with the luggage handlers. My games were in the same condition this time but my back wasn't. I'm not old enough to complain about back problems but this was miserable to lug around. However, worst of all, I failed to pack Marvel Champions and Rocket Raccoon and I are still stuck in the middle of the Galaxy's Most Wanted campaign. Now, these aren't exactly "end-of-the-world" problems but they aren't oversights either. And even though there were some hiccups in my plan not everything was all that bad.

What Went Right?
The games that were played went over very well. My wife and I played Marvel United twice (a loss and a win) together while some folks got off the ships in St. Maarten. My whole family and I played Ticket to Ride twice. And we played Strike! an insane amount of times. My cousin is not a board gamer by any means. In the past he has decided to skip playing a game whenever it is suggested even though his wife is trying to find people to play games with all the time. She owns Pandemic, Mansions of Madness, and Villainous. But after trying out Strike! and Ticket to Ride he was excited to play both again. We played all three games on a standard sized pub/diner table and had an excellent server constantly coming around to see if we needed new drinks or some snacks. So the experience of gaming on a cruise was wonderful. There was also a books & games room on our ship (Carnival Magic) that had a much larger table that would easily accommodate even more games. So after this trip and with another cruise planned for June I have a question to ask myself that must be answered.

What Now?
What now indeed. The first step is, by far, fewer games. This group of family members is the most common group I cruise with. I intend on bringing three or four games total in two or three boxes max in the future. Secondly, I think that fitting them in either my luggage surrounded by cushy clothes or in a much smaller bag that I can carry would be ideal. Once again, Jake had the right idea. My natural ability to be overzealous took over. Thirdly, I think I am going to bring the exact same games that already worked back with me. Strike was a huge hit. Ticket to Ride went great as well. I might as well bring those along with me again. With my game group a new game every other week isn't an issue for them. But for non-gamers, playing the same thing over and over presents a familiarity that we all had when we all got into the hobby. So I might introduce one other game beyond Strike and Ticket to Ride in June. So what advice do I have to give about gaming on a cruise? I would start by reading Jake's comment from part 1. He's got a great idea on how to do it right. But from my personal experience, understand your playgroup well, pack light, and sit somewhere a server will come by. You'll have tons of fun and your back will thank you later.
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Thu Jan 6, 2022 10:00 pm
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Gaming on a Cruise Ship Pt. 1

Hunter Burdette
United States
Florida
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How Not to Bring Games on a Ship
This week I am scheduled to disembark on a Carnival cruise ship departing for the eastern Caribbean. There are some pros and cons for me on this trip but the biggest pro is the mounds food and the biggest con is the beach. You see, I am a moderately fair skinned red (ginger for some) haired man whos skin burns after about 45 minutes even with a high spf level sunscreen. Also, I live in Central Florida so if I wanted to go to the beach I could drive an hour and a half in either the eastern or western direction and my car will end up at a beach. So why go on a Caribbean cruise, then? Well, this has become my immediate family's favorite way of vacationing. So when my wife, my parents, my cousin and his wife, and occasionally my aunt and uncle get together I am tasked with bringing along some onboard entertainment. Last cruise, which feels like ages ago in the primitive year of 2019, I brought along Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar, Codenames: Pictures, Downforce, Disney Villainous, Dinosaur Tea Party, and Reef (how thematic). I packed them in a Chromacast cajon bag I got off of Amazon and brought them on board. Well, this turned out to be a bit of an issue as the games were smooshed underneath other luggage and my copy of Codenames: Pictures was crushed and the box exploded. Also, the corners of the already flimsy Fireball Island were crunched in and the same happened with the other games I had packed. I don't blame anyone for the treatment of the games except myself. I could have chosen to take them with me and I could have gotten a better bag. The Chromacast bag doesn't have a lot of padding. It's a great budget option for taking games to your friend's place but not for shipping or proper vacation travel. Also, it's not actually designed for board games but a percussion instrument that is durable on its own. Hopefully, someone here learns from my misfortune. But this leads into my next bit.

How I Plan to Bring Games on a Ship
So this year I have upgraded to one of those fancy board game bags from https://www.boardgametables.com/. They are far more padded than the cajon bag and are designed for games with multiple carrying options. Also, instead of giving the bag up to be stacked and slammed around on its way to my stateroom, I will be carrying it with me. Will it be a pain to bring along, sure, but it's better than the games ending up in pieces. Also, I plan on changing up the games I am bring along with me. In two in a half years, I have accumulated far more games and have had the opportunity to play them with more people or solo. This cruise I am going to be bringing a number of different games along with me to play with my family and to play by myself. Yeah, that's right, SOLO! I have succumbed to the LCG Marvel Champions: The Card Game and will be bringing it with me to finish the Galaxy's Most Wanted campaign expansion. As everyone is toasting in the sun or slamming down stacks of fat cash in the casino, I plan on taking a couple of hours to relax in the library/game room to beat the absolute crap out of The Collector and his goons. For my family, I also plan on bringing games that will work for multiple player counts and multiple skill levels. Unfortunately, there are not very large tables onboard the ship. Fireball Island barely fit on the table we played at so table hogs like Dinosaur Island aren't gonna work out, and that game is a bit too complicated anyway. So that leaves me with light to mid-weight strategy games and party games. I have decided on a list of games to bring along but plan on cutting down the list to fit in the bag and not be a burden to lug around on the ship when I know only three or four of them might get some playtime. These include:

Horrified (because Pandemic feels too real at the moment)
The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
Splendor
Strike
Lords of Vegas
Marvel United
Stone Age
Cosmic Encounter
Ticket to Ride
Disney Villainous (again)
and Marvel Champions.

We've played some of these games together and others my family has yet to play. When I return from my cruise, I plan to share what my final list was, discuss how the games were with mostly non-gamers, and provide some more tips on how to find a place to play and how to prep for an excellent family game night at sea. Thanks for stopping by and reading!

Hunter
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Tue Dec 21, 2021 10:00 pm
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My Top 50 Games of All Time

Hunter Burdette
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The end of the year is fast approaching which means it's holiday season and top list season! As many gamers and game media outlets do this time of year, I have put together my top board games of all time! Could I do 100? Sure. Do I want to for my first top list? Nope, so 50 it is. I love to see others gamers' lists to discover new or unknown games to me that I might want to try out or add to the collection. My favorite part about ranking all the games I own/have played also helps me cull my collection and make some space for the new year's incoming games! So lets get to the list! I have included the game and a quick one/two sentence summary explaining my enjoyment of the games!

50. Star Wars: Outer Rim- Smuggling goods across the galaxy never felt so good.
49. The Isle of Cats- A wonderful tile-laying experience that feels like putting together a personal puzzle.
48. Star Trek: Catan- Like Catan but with a better theme and the addition of variable player powers.
47. Pandemic- Used to be higher but now it feels to real. Either way its the first game I played cooperatively and the first game I teach to new friends.
46. Wingspan- A great engine building experience made even better with the Oceania Expansion.
45. Everdell- The card play blows my mind and the components are wonderful.
44. Pie Town- A highly underrated dice placement experience that is just as sweet as the pies you bake.
43. Imperial Settlers- So far, the best civilization building game I've played with innovative card play and tight decision making.
42. Smartphone Inc.- A very competitive game for two players with the Status Update 1.1 Expansion. Also has fun components and a unique, modern theme.
41. Agricola- A classic yet tight worker placement game that requires careful concentration and just enough stress is induced when having to feed your family.
40. Raccoon Tycoon- CUTE ANIMALS IN THE GILDED AGE, WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED?!? Oh, and the stock market mechanism is perfect.
39. Ankh: Gods of Egypt- The only person in my playgroup that likes this game. The merge is frightening but the theme, gameplay, and sick components keep me wanting to play.
38. The Crew: Quest for Planet Nine- An unbelievable blend of trick taking and cooperation. I can play it with gamers and non-gamers with everyone enjoying this new instant classic.
37. Teotihuacan: City of Gods- The heaviest game on this list that provides a wealth of decisions to make but they have to be made carefully. Still haven't won a game though...
36. Cyclades- A game I liked but now love due to the Titans Expansion. Much lighter in difficulty than many other large box area control games.
35. Lords of Waterdeep- The first worker placement game I played that still holds strong on my list every year. Easy to teach to others to get them into the hobby.
34. Concordia- A unique game for my collection with a not very unique theme. Also, the cover art isn't nearly as bad as other people say.
33. Horrified- Like Pandemic but even better for me. Having worked at/living near the Universal Orlando parks it reminds me of watching the Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue (R.I.P.)
32. Project: ELITE- ABSOLUTE MADNESS. Tossing exploded alien carcasses left and right while feverishly chucking dice is quite fun and stressful.
31. Mansions of Madness: Second Edition- A mystifyingly spooky and thematic cooperative game.
30. Cosmic Encounter- Phenomenal 5 player game that has, unfortunately, had far less playtime post-shutdown.
29. The Quest for El Dorado- A game with my favorite mechanism (deck-building) where every race has gone down to the wire.
28. Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion- A clever card based action system driving a great cooperative dungeon crawl experience. I would be done with it if I didn't have a crippling shelf of opportunity.
27. Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure- Another deck builder that I rarely win but have tons of fun playing everytime.
26. Galaxy Trucker- Just when you think you've got it all figured out here comes another asteroid. Hilariously crawling to the end with whatever cargo I've got left every time.
25. Zombicide: Black Plague- One of my favorite cooperative games that perfectly captures a creative twist and mashup of the Medieval/Arthurian/High Fantasy genre.
24. 51st State: Master Set- A better Imperial Settlers that gives me Mad Max vibes and clever card play.
23. Western Legends- Help arrest the bad guys then go rob a bank if you want! Be the legend you wish to be in the wild wild west.
22. Blood Rage-A wonderfully thematic area control masterpiece with just the right amount of Eurogame goodness.
21. Star Wars: Imperial Assault- Some of my favorite moments in gaming have come from this game. An entire campaign's ending came down to a single die roll. Also the first game I (mostly) painted.
20. Champions of Midgard- Another great Viking themed game that becomes my "next step" worker placement game I teach to new players.
19. The Godfather: Corleone's Empire- Another criminally (ha) unappreciated game with a fun way to knock out other players workers and keep your points/money a secret.
18. Lost Ruins of Arnak- A great mix of worker placement and deck building that embraces its theme wonderfully.
17. Dune: Imperium- A great mix of worker placement and deck building that embraces its theme wonderfully. Woah, Deja Vu...
16. Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated- I have a permanent reminder of how this campaign ended. How cool is that? Not cool since it reminds me I lost.
15. Coimbra- An unexpectedly great game with a fun dice drafting mechanism that surprisingly works with two players.
14. Terraforming Mars- A game I've enjoyed for years that I still haven't played any expansions for because I know I've yet to see everything the base game has to offer.
13. The Castles of Burgundy- Not a beautiful game to look at but the best tile placement game I've ever played.
12. Forgotten Waters- By far the most thematic game I've ever played. A wonderful app with perfect voice acting. I have never laughed so hard from playing a hobby board game.
11. Viticulture: Essential Edition- My favorite traditional style worker placement game. A great system of aging grapes and wine and fulfilling many unique orders.
10. Orleans- A fantastic bag building game that provides a lot of decision making that never fails to satisfy.
9. The Quacks of Quedlinburg- An even better bag building game that is just tons of fun. And if you didn't blow up, did you even play?
8. Underwater Cities- Like Terraforming Mars yet more personable and includes a worker placement element that pushes it higher up on my list.
7. Dinosaur Island I AM JOHN HAMMOND WATCH ME SPARE NO EXPENSE or watch my visitors get eaten. It's whatever works best for you.
6. Terra Mystica The game that Ticket to Ride, Catan, and almost every other game mentally prepared me for. Not easy to play but so satisfying to see what you accomplished in the end.
5. Marvel Champions: The Card Game- My first real dive into solo gaming. Brings me back to wanting to play Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh! as a kid but never did as an only child/never found friends also interested (wow, that was kinda sad).
4. Dinosaur World I AM SIMON MASRANI LET ME RUN MY PARK HOW I WANT. ALSO MORE TEETH.
3. Great Western Trail A bunch of pseudo mechanisms that all come together to make a wonderful game. Not really deck building, not really worker placement, not totally economic, but a wonderful mix that works perfectly.
2. Root- Our game group's most played non-campaign game. A perfect mix of asymmetry and area control that provides lots of tension and has a steep learning curve that is unfortunately intimidating. Lucky we all learned the game together.
1. Scythe- Still my number one for the past five years. Scythe guaranteed my love for the board game hobby with wonderful (definitely upgraded) components, great mechanisms, and unbelievable art.

Well there you have it! I want to thank you for stopping by to read and to thank the wonderful people at PubMeeple for creating the ranking engine program that helped me sort out my list. If you want to make your own top list import your BGG collection at rankingengine.pubmeeple.com What is your top list? How do you rank the games? Any games on here you can't stand? I'd love to hear all about it!

Hunter
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Thu Dec 16, 2021 10:30 pm
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How to Pick a Game for Game Night

Hunter Burdette
United States
Florida
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Many of us have been faced with answering the same question before a game night: what game are we going to play? This question can stump even the most seasoned gamer. I wanted to provide some tips on how to find a great game for game night based on multiple scenarios I have come across.

The Big Friends/Family Gathering
On many occasions I have been asked to bring a couple of games to a large gathering of friends or family. Whether it be a holiday or just a fun get together I have two games that have always been a hit with everyone (well almost everyone). These are Wits & Wagers and Time's Up! Title Recall!. The best part about Wits & Wagers is that you don't really need to know the answers to win. If you know absolutely nothing about sports but someone at the table does, it might be in your best interest to go all-in on their answer. I have the Vegas Wits & Wagers playmat version that is huge and gives players bigger payouts and gives players the feeling they are high rollers at the casino without actually shelling out $1,000 at a table. In Time's Up, everyone has to stay engaged in the gameplay or risk letting their team down. Players are given a card to describe like charades but with words, too. But with each subsequent round restrictions are added to make guessing the card more difficult, unless you were paying attention to others' actions on your and your opposing teams' turns. The acting becomes frantic and the sand timer seems to end faster and faster as chaos takes over before the end of the game. Beyond these two titles I think Codenames (or Codenames: Pictures) would work for this setting as well. Any of these games brings me to the conclusion that finding easy to teach and highly accommodating games is a must for any event with a large amount of guests attending.

Weekday Game Nights
My friends and I all have jobs with a consistent schedule that allows us to meet once a night on a weekday. However, like many jobs, we are very tired after work and eating dinner together. So what do we do? We play a huge three-four hour epic still in shrink, right? WRONG. We rarely play a new game on our weekday game nights. We usually play a favorite game that falls in the light to medium complexity range. Or, if the game is fairly heavy, we've played it enough to set it up and get through it in an hour and a half or so. Great examples of this for our group are Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure, The Quacks of Quedlinburg, and Horrified. So my recommendation for a weekday game night is to play something familiar to most of the players in the group. I usually shoot a message to the group about what they are interested in playing, too. It's easy to forget that not everyone has the same game interests as you. Taking that one extra step to ask what others are interested in also will have a positive impact on your game nights as everyone gets the opportunity to have their voice be heard.

Experienced Game Day/Night
I'll start where the last tip left off. Even if you are the host of your game day or night, it is nice for the other guests you have to get the opportunity to voice their opinion. I have an expansive game collection in comparison to my playgroup but I get their feedback constantly in regards to what we are going to play every Sunday. Sometimes it's D&D and other days its The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine. How we feel going into the weekend determines our willingness to play a complex game or a light weight game. The biggest advice I can give to any game night host is to try to be less controlling over game selection. Now, if you rotate houses or locations maybe an agreement on the host choosing the game works best for your group. But I am the host of all our tabletop game days so I get input from the other players. Some days we go to another guy's house and play retro games together but we have agreed Super Smash Bros. Melee is the game we (most likely) will always play. My second suggestion is one that many other gamers use or that I have seen used. Thinking like a hike up a mountain, players start the day/night playing something light to warm-up with, then build up to a complex game at the peak of the mountain followed by another relaxing or simple game to end on coming down the mountain. Now, to be fair, I have yet to pull this trio off successfully. Time becomes our enemy in 9/10 attempts to do this. But the one-two punch of a warm up game followed by something more intense has worked flawlessly for me in the past. I will continue this method and (hopefully) one day will pull of the three game trifecta.

These three scenarios are common in our hobby. Hopefully I was able to help at least one person plan their next game filled adventure in the future. Thanks for stopping by and reading!

Hunter
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Tue Nov 30, 2021 10:00 pm
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Board Game Prep and a Session Zero

Hunter Burdette
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Florida
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I have had the opportunity to play many games with many different people over the years and I always have anxiety about teaching a new game to others. Fortunately, I have my wonderful wife to thank for reducing some of this anxiety. She enjoys playing most games and her hard work and determination really pays off when trying to learn rules and later help teach them. However, she isn't always available and doesn't find every game I own very appealing (anything Cthulhu or having a box similar in size to Mansions of Madness is a hard pass). And this is where today's topic stems. The, possible, need for a Session Zero.

What is Session Zero?
Session Zero is a term used by tabletop RPG players to describe a first meeting of players to discuss the upcoming campaign. They also have the chance for players to introduce, or even create, the characters they will be role-playing during the experience. Having DMed and played in a few campaigns myself, I have had a number of Session Zeroes. I have since considered adding the concept of a Session Zero to my future gameplays of increasingly complex games.

How to have a Session Zero?
Like many of us do here, I read through the rulebook before I am going to play a new game. However, some games just have a complex and concise set of rules. This is where my idea for a Session Zero comes into play. I've considered setting up games prior to a first play and dummy as the other players in a two or higher player situation. This way I can manipulate the components as if I was taking a turn and get a better feel for the game. Is it extra work? Yeah. However, if you really are wanting to play this game with your group, its best to put in the extra work to iron out the details. If you're really lucky, you can rope someone into doing a first play with you to try and help learn the rules. But you might ask, "Isn't that just playing the game?" Maybe, but I'm sure it won't be perfect and many rules will be missed so was the game actually played? Some games have solo variants but how you interact with the A.I. player isn't always as intuitive as another human opponent or the end goal of the game can be different than the main game. Alternatively, I have sent a how to play video (a la "Watch It Played") to the players to have them familiarize themselves with the gameplay and the rules. Either way, getting some extra prep time and a preview of the critical content of the game will make that first true playthrough, and teaching the game, far easier.

Why Have a Session Zero?
Many rules get forgotten mid-game or overlooked while playing the first time. Also, its difficult to understand some of the concepts described in a rulebook without seeing them played out. Furthermore, players have many questions that need to be answered throughout the game. We shouldn't have to settle for this every first full play of a game. With a well thought out plan, and a better grasp of the rules, playing any game will go smoother. The real question once again is are you willing to put in the work?

Final Thoughts
So where do I go from here? Do I attempt setting up dummy games to learn the rules? Keep watching multiple playthroughs and rules explanations? Or, do we just continue going into a new game cold and try to learn straight from the book? The latter then makes me consider the first play a Session Zero. It gives players an opportunity to learn the rules, ask questions about the game, and determine a strategy to base their play on for next time. That way the next time the game is played we have most, if not all, the rules figured out and we can focus on our decision making. What do you think? How do you go about preparing to teach a new game? Does your group thrive on a quick explanation with various clarifications or a line by line breakdown of the rules? I'd love to hear from others about their best practices when coming across this. Thanks for stopping by and reading!

-Hunter
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Wed Nov 17, 2021 9:00 pm
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Visiting Friendly Not-So-Local Game Stores

Hunter Burdette
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Florida
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On occasion, a friend of mine and I embrace our inner Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle and have a "Treat Yo Self" day. If you have no idea what I am referring to, I suggest you go ahead and stop here and view the first 35 seconds of the clip below.



Anyways, during these awesome days we meet up, eat breakfast at the finest establishment in town (Waffle House of course), and embark on a journey to find game stores beyond our usual FLGS (CoolStuffGames in South Orlando) to go hunting for games and deals. Now, we not only go to board/card game stores but we also stop by retro game stores and the occasional flea market. They have a surprising number of retro games as well. While driving around Central Florida, we have visited stores in over 15 cities. I thought I'd take a moment to shout out three retro game stores and three board game stores with the best selections, friendliest staff, and are spread between east, central, and west Florida. I'm going to start with retro game stores, get those out of the way, and then hit up the board/card game stores.

Retro Video Game Stores (in alphabetical order)

1. Blue Dragon Video Games, Ormond Beach, FL
This is by far the cleanest retro game store we have ever visited. We've only had the opportunity to interact with one employee for the few times we have been there but he is very knowledgeable and helpful. The games are priced competitively and fair. We have picked up NES, SNES, N64, SEGA Genesis, and PS1 titles here of varying rarity. Their selection is massive ranging from Atari cartridges to PS5 AAA titles. I highly recommend visiting Blue Dragon Video Games.

2. Cybertron Video Games, Sanford, FL
There are two Cybertron Video Games stores in the Orlando area and this is by far the better of the two. The selection isn't as large as its Winter Park counterpart but we've yet to have a negative experience at this store. We got good values on a trade in Snaford, found great retro games (Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine anyone?!?), and the store had very kind and knowledgeable staff. If you're in the north Orlando area, hit up Cybertron Video Games Sanford.

3. M&M Video Games, Multiple Locations, West Florida
There are not one, not two, but THREE M&M Video Games stores all within 30 minutes of each other. The cleanest of the stores is the Largo store where I found a deluxe copy of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (which I purchased) next to a copy of Conker's Bad Fur Day. The second largest collection of games is found at the Clearwater location. But the wildest location is the Pinellas Park store. Apparently a former hobby train store, it is now two thirds retail location and one third all you can play arcade. Just pay the cover and enjoy large cabinet games and console games with sodas, water, and snacks for sale too. At any of the three locations, you're sure to find something worth purchasing.

Now, onto the Board and Card Game stores (again in alphabetical order):

1. Coliseum of Comics, Multiple Locations Central Florida
There are many Coliseum of Comics stores in the state of Florida. These include: Millenia (Orlando), Lakeland, East Colonial (East Orlando), Clermont, Tampa, three in Jacksonville, and the closest to me Kissimmee. They sell a mix of comics (naturally), games, and other pop culture collectables. They always have a phenomenal selection of games at each location I have visited (which is all but the Jacksonville locations). They have a nice rewards program where you are given a stamp card and you receive a stamp for every $10 you spend. After ten stamps you can turn in the card for $10 off. The only minor drawback of the stores is that they, mostly, price the games right at MSRP and are rarely on sale. Other than that a great store with knowledgeable and helpful staff.

2. Get Your Fun On, Melbourne, FL
There is no better board game store I have ever visited. An unbelievable stock of games that are always at an excellent price and sorted by publisher! They also have a small collection of Kickstarter bundles in stock in case folks missed out on the campaign (you'll pay a bit more but if you really want it you'll believe the price is fair). I have bought almost as many games at this store as I have at my local FLGS, CoolStuffGames. Which is crazy as Get Your Fun On is just under an hours drive away. I have driven that drive after work on occasion just to BROWSE THE STORE. The staff is friendly and it shares a space with a comic and collectables store and a Magic: The Gathering dealer as well. I can't say enough great things about this store and I rarely leave empty handed. After all I did drive an hour to get there.

3. Nerdy Needs, Brandon, FL
The easiest way to describe this store is as a mini Get Your Fun On. Another well stocked store with a solid variety of games to choose from and a friendly, knowledgeable staff. The prices are closer to MSRP here but with how kind the store's employees are and with how clean and well kept the store is I still suggest stopping by. Speaking of well kept, the games are nicely displayed on Kallax shelves which, obviously, is a win. If you happen to be out in West Florida losing money at the Hard Rock Casino or checking out an outdoor concert, I suggest taking home a souvenir from Nerdy Needs.

Six great stores, six great places to find a new addition to a hobby. If you find yourself in the vacation capital of the world, Orlando, FL, stop by any of these places for a great time and a great selection.

Hunter
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Sat Nov 13, 2021 10:00 pm
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How Often Theming Influences A Game Purchase

Hunter Burdette
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Florida
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From an early age I have been a fan of theme parks. Might be because I grew up in Central Florida and my house is 25 minutes from the world's most visited parks. I have grown up understanding the idea of themed entertainment and even had a job working at Universal Orlando Resort. I made music video history at Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rock-it, opened The Wizarding World: Diagon Alley and helped muggles open bank accounts at Harry Potter: Escape from Gringotts, ran Bruce Banner's final gamma experiments at the original Incredible Hulk Coaster, and worked for the most despicable man on Earth, Gru, turning guests into Minions at Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem. When I started getting into the hobby I didn't realize that many games had such fantastic and unique themes just like a theme park.

I have mentioned before that Ticket to Ride helped get me into the hobby. I have always dreamed of having a model train set in my home and this is still the closest I've gotten to it. And while I enjoy the train route theme, turning in sets of cards to lay down train routes isn't very thematic. This is where gamers that enjoy theme find a discrepancy between a thematic game and a game with a "pasted-on theme." Personally, I don't think a game needs to be overly thematic for me to get a feel for the theme itself. One of my favorite games of all time is Great Western Trail and I don't particularly think the game is very thematic based on the mechanisms. I'm selling cows here but still have more to sell from my hand after I draw more? Where did the new cows come from? Why am I stopping at buildings that I hired someone to build? And how did I make it back to the ranch so quickly after getting to Kansas City so slowly? But through these thematic quirks I still love the gameplay and the theme itself. Its fun to imagine wandering the land on a cattle drive trading with locals and avoiding hazards along the way. But one thing many of us forget in such a digital heavy, VR integrated, and entertainment forward world is that there is only so far the paper, plastic, and cardboard can take us.

This is where our imaginations come into play. That's right, our imaginations. The last time many of us were asked to use it were in grade school. But game designers are planning on players to activate their imaginations to engage in gameplay. Sometimes this is more than others. The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine is a perfect example of this. The Crew is just a trick-taking game with limited communication that was given a narrative book to try and tie in a theme with the different challenges. This year they basically re-released the game with new challenges and a different theme with The Crew: Mission Deep Sea. Its not a thematic game, but the tension of trying to solve the challenge works well with the thematic narrative included in the campaign booklet. As players of these less thematic games, the story and narrative that we are sometimes begging for might have to come from ourselves.

But some of us are just too lazy and want the theme to be evident in every action taken, every die drafted, and every worker placed. But we must think realistically. We are manipulating abstract objects on a two-(occasionally three-)dimensional board. Immersion and theming has dominated the hyper-realistic video games that sell millions more copies than even our most popular board game titles. And while it may look like I am really fighting off monsters and grabbing the loot, we know the story was already coded into the program and our decisions rarely mattered. Life isn't planned out like a script that we have to follow so why should we expect the same from our games? I know my decisions in Clank! will carry more weight in the narrative of the game being played than most video game titles. So whether or not the game is "thematic" if the theme even remotely appeals to me I'm willing to give it a try, I'll just have to work a bit more to really be in tune with the story being told. Thanks for stopping by and reading! What is your favorite theme for a game? Do you have a favorite themed game that doesn't feel thematic? Let me know!

Hunter
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Thu Nov 11, 2021 9:00 pm
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Why the Best Game I Own is Not My Favorite Game

Hunter Burdette
United States
Florida
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"It's kind of fun to do the impossible."
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I'd rather be at a theme/amusement park
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Microbadge: Fan of Disneyland Park in Anaheim, CAMicrobadge: Cedar Point fanMicrobadge: Roller Coaster fanMicrobadge: I love my Prusa!
Scythe is a phenomenal game by Jamey Stegmaier with unique art by Jakub Rozalski published by Stegmaier's own Stonemaier Games. I won't waste time putting a review up here as I am not a seasoned veteran of game reviews and I'm sure no one needs to read another one. I wanted to present some insight on how it is my favorite board game but isn't the best game in my collection.

The first thing that drew me into Scythe was the theme. Rebuilding a war-torn Europe in an alternate timeline where mechs are used for agriculture and/or warfare was far beyond anything I could have imagined. The second thing was the art. It was interesting to say the least and after seeing the full game set up on a table for the first time I needed to get a chance to play. Prior to my first playthrough I was unfamiliar with Stonemaier Games, Kickstarter, and most of the mechanisms that made up the gameplay. Regardless, it was a great time that led to an immediate purchase of the game. Then I proceeded to upgrade the game to get it as close to the Kickstarter edition as possible. I then picked up the metal coins, realistic resources, a Broken Token organizer, and the first two expansions "Invaders from Afar" and "The Wind Gambit" very quickly. I was still buying games out of control left and right but I always came back to Scythe.

I fell out of close touch with a few friends that led me to my current closest friends and regular playgroup. After our first game night together at our FLGS (CoolStuffGames South Orlando), I knew they were capable of a large game but I didn't want to intimidate them immediately. I introduced core mechanics of large games with smaller lighter titles. I wanted them to get to the point that if I laid out Scythe, or my second favorite game at the time Dinosaur Island, they could have something to relate to. But when the faithful day came to play Scythe only one of the three of them found it enjoyable. I was crushed. I tried playing with another group using the same idea and they also didn't find the experience nearly as breathtaking as I did. All of them praised the production of the game but that was where most of the positives ended. Needless to say my playthroughs of Scythe have become non-existant.

I don't track plays of games consistently (I tried once but would forget to log games some weeks and couldn't keep up) but I know the last time I played Scythe was over a year ago. In that time, my tastes in games has changed from enjoying mostly low interaction light to mid-weight Eurogames to high interaction minis on a map or cooperative dungeon crawlers. This change in taste came with the change in the game group. The old group loved to play Dinosaur Island, Lords of Waterdeep, and Sagrada. These guys liked Blood Rage, Star Wars: Imperial Assault, and Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion. I didn't stop trying to introduce a few Eurogames here and there though and the group started to turn around on their thoughts. Now games like Clank!, Underwater Cities, and Orleans have started to grace their top games lists. And this is when a little game known as Root came into our group.

During the rapid expansion of my game collection, I picked up a copy of Root at my FLGS. I had heard a number of amazing things through BGG threads and video reviews. It didn't hurt that I was drawn in by the fun and engaging art, the theme looked unique and enjoyable, and the components looked great. Sound familiar? Yeah, this game gave me the same feeling Scythe first did. The exception was it sat on my shelf unopened from July 24 2019 to February or March of this year. The rules and complex factions seemed like a daunting task to attempt to learn so I hid the game amongst the lighter ones hoping to play it maybe someday down the road. While reorganizing the shelves my buddy asked about the game. He seems to be the best in our group at trying out new stuff so we found a video for everyone to watch, encouraged each other to read about which faction we would play, and would reconvene next game day and try it out. It went very well and it has become the third most played game amongst us behind Clank! Legacy and Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion. It was the perfect blend of Euro and player interaction, area control and tactical strategy. We love the game and it is by far the best game I own.

But Root isn't my favorite game. I can openly admit that Root is the best game I own but Scythe still tops my list as my favorite game (even if Root is ranked #27 and Scythe is #14 at the time of writing). Scythe led me to the games I love the most today in a weird way. It was so much fun to play and then it was gone from my game days/nights. But I have the loss of Scythe gameplays and my new game group to thank for all the great games I would have otherwise missed out on. I guess Scythe just brings great memories of getting deeper into the hobby and finding new games to play. I'd love to hear from other folks about their favorite games. Is the best game you own your favorite game? What game has continually topped your list even though so many great games have come out since? Let me know! Thanks for stopping by and reading!

Hunter
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Tue Nov 9, 2021 9:00 pm
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Starting to Get Out of Control

Hunter Burdette
United States
Florida
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"It's kind of fun to do the impossible."
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I'd rather be at a theme/amusement park
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Microbadge: Fan of Disneyland Park in Anaheim, CAMicrobadge: Cedar Point fanMicrobadge: Roller Coaster fanMicrobadge: I love my Prusa!
Continuing on with the chronicle of my gaming journey, I had last picked up Scythe at my FLGS after day one of Dice Tower Con 2017 and was beginning to build up a collection. CoolStuffInc. was present at the convention selling some ding and dent titles ranging in age and amount of box damage. I quickly began to stack games in my hands without looking up reviews or doing any research. It was truly judging a game by its cover. It wasn't a total mistake in terms of what I picked up but the euphoria of having more games in my collection took over quickly. From 2013 to late summer of 2016 I had worked at Universal Orlando Resort in attractions. However, after finishing college I obtained my current job and had salary money to spend now. From that moment on I began to wildly spend more and more on games from all sort of retailers. And I would usually just buy what was on sale. No prior knowledge about the games or anything. And as a public school teacher, I didn't really have the finances to fund this addictive personality of mine so Chase bank would have to spot me the money.

It didn't stop at Amazon, CoolStuff, Miniature Market, or the like. I was then drawn into the largest gamble in the industry, Kickstarter. The first game I backed was Potato Pirates, it seemed fun. I never played it and it's no longer in my collection. Next was Speakeasy Blues from Artana Games, Masque of the Red Death by IDW and Re-Chord from Yanaguana Games. They suffered the same fate as Potato Pirates. But I didn't really know I wasn't going to like them or that I wouldn't have other people interested when I backed them. But I kept backing projects. And Chase Bank was gonna back me up on Kickstarter, too. I was good on paying the bill but the bills got high and the limits kept increasing. It was miserable. Within two years I had backed 20+ projects averaging $120 before shipping...

By the end of 2019/start of 2020 my Chase Bank card was almost maxed out at $6,000 on board game purchases or board game accessories. Custom wood inserts, component upgrades, and the like. You can guess where the "No Empty Shelves" name came from. But I found a way to slow down my purchases from two to three games a week to two or three a month. Then to one a month and now one every couple months or so (minus a super sweet surprise ding and dent sale at CoolStuffGames two weeks ago). I paid massive chunks off my bill and now have brought it down to a zero balance on a couple occasions this year. I also have significantly slowed down on backing projects on crowdfunding sites. I do think part of this is linked to the global shipping delays that make me realize I won't see this game for possibly two years or more. But, I still get that FOMO publishers profit off of, but I take a lot more time reading through the campaigns watching previews online and getting a virtual feel for the game.

I guess what I am getting at here in a TL;DR fashion is that we should take time finding what we like from games we play before picking up new ones. And not being a slave to the Hotness, too. Otherwise, I'll be back to chasing the high of buying games with no real satisfaction in the end. And most of the games I picked up on quick sales to fill my collection have already left it either played once or not at all. Punched and un-played. A true waste of money and my well-being. A bit more serious this time around but thanks again for stopping and reading!

Hunter
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Sat Nov 6, 2021 10:00 pm
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Where to Go Now?

Hunter Burdette
United States
Florida
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"It's kind of fun to do the impossible."
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I'd rather be at a theme/amusement park
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Microbadge: Fan of Disneyland Park in Anaheim, CAMicrobadge: Cedar Point fanMicrobadge: Roller Coaster fanMicrobadge: I love my Prusa!
Last I left off, I had mentioned how Dice Tower Con 2017 really unlocked the world of board gaming as a true hobby. My buddy and I (the same guy that showed me Ticket to Ride and all the other great gateway/welcoming games) took a chance on going to a convention after I came across BoardGameGeek. I searched for a list of cons around the U.S. and hoped to find one near me. It turned out that Dice Tower Con was only 20 minutes from my front door. I couldn't believe it! I could see Tom Vasel, Zee Garcia, and Sam Healy in the flesh and play some new and "new to me" games. But after discovering the dates were only months away I needed to hurry up and get tickets. And after a quick text, and $100+ spent, we had them. I then became fascinated by the the BGG site where I found the list.

A gamble on finding a convention led me here to BGG. I found the ranked games list and my mind could not keep up with the sudden flow of information. My favorite game was Ticket to Ride at the time and I couldn't understand how there were over 100 games that a community considered better than it. Including an alternate version of the game that was set in Europe. I had so many questions. How was there more than one Ticket to Ride game? What are all of these other games I've never heard of? What is Pandemic Legacy and how is it different from my Pandemic game? I can keep track of my collection without using a spreadsheet? And the hardest question of all, how do I own and play all of these? I began researching the games that were most interesting to me and began to watch review after review. I then had a mental list of all the games I wanted to try at Dice Tower Con, if they were available.

So Dice Tower Con comes and I am pumped. I get there early and wait in a massive line on a Wednesday for me and my buddy's badges. Eric Lang came by and introduced himself walking alongside Stephen Buonocore welcoming the attendees. Then Tom Vasel walks by towering above everyone else. I had no idea he was so tall! After grabbing the badge I was given a free game! I still have that game, too. A simple card game about birds on a wire known as "What's Up?" that isn't great but I have held onto for memory's sake. I begin to walk around the Caribe Royal in Orlando and check out booths from publishers, look at the schedule of events for the weekend, and started browsing the library binder for games I wanted to play. The hot games section was slammed with players playing the newest big titles Terraforming Mars, Scythe, and Sagrada were the heavy hitters that stood out. I was however far too shy to try and hop in on a game I didn't know and left early so that my buddy and I could get a fresh early start the next day.

Scythe was at the top of my must play list and they were hosting a demo with multiple copies and multiple teachers. I was interested in the game based on the theme and the stunning artwork. We jumped on a five player game where I played the Nordic Kingdoms. All of the miniatures were painted professionally, there were metal coins, and realistic resources to use as well. I couldn't believe the production in this game. I also was amazed by the gameplay. I got stomped by the lady that taught us (who played the Republic of Polania) but I didn't care. This was the second time within a year that my eyes were opened to the wonders of the hobby. After we found some other games to play I rushed to my FLGS CoolStuffGames and bought a copy of Scythe for myself. There was no way I wasn't going to make it through the weekend without it.

Seems like a good stop there. I haven't even gotten to my Kickstarter habits and the sudden explosive growth of my collection. Anyway thanks for stopping by and reading!

Hunter
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Thu Nov 4, 2021 10:00 pm
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