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A designer friend recently told me that my game group, Silk City Board Game Group, was legendary in Connecticut.
I laughed, and thanked him.
The board game group at my library is perhaps unlike many typical groups you will encounter. I did all of this very purposefully, knowing that I wanted it to be special, unique, and unlike other game groups meeting at friendly local game stores.
Here's a short synopsis of my group: We meet once a month on a Saturday from 12-4:30pm and are for adults 18+ and older. Each month there are now five learn to play games (there used to be four up until very recently) where myself, my FLGS liaison, Bryan, and three volunteer game masters teach attendees the selected games. No outside games are permitted. Our game library of over 150 plus titles are available for attendees to bring downstairs and learn on their own. My FLGS, The Time Machine, brings games to sell to attendees. We have free snacks for participants as well.
There were a couple of reasons why I decided to have the group meet once a month. First, on my end was a logistical and scheduling problem. I work every other Friday/Saturday and would not be able to run a program that long every Saturday that I work. Nights would have been a problem as well, since our program room is booked almost every night of the week with programs. Secondly, I wanted the event to be an experience, something that people look forward to.
The first month that we met was from 12-2:30. It became very clear after that first meeting that 2.5 hours was not long enough. For people to come out once a month it had to be a longer period of time, especially for those who wanted to play longer, chunkier titles. In the original time frame, only one or two short games could be played and taught. With 4.5 hours, long and multiple games were a possibility.
Why the focus on teaching? Think about it this way: how long does it take you when you are at home to learn to play a board game? This will of course, depend on the difficulty of the game, but if it is medium or heavy weight, the length of time it takes you to learn to play can be quite long. Here, five people have spent the last month learning how to play their assigned game and are ready to teach you in plain language. All you need to do is decide which one to sit down at! None of your precious time at the event is wasted on learning a new game- unless you pick up one from our circulating game library. As well, over the two and a half years I have run this group, I have noticed that people really enjoy being taught. It takes all the pressure off them to quickly learn something and correctly. People love knowing exactly what they are going to learn to play each month. They go online, watch videos, research the game, and best of all, get excited about that experience.
Perhaps the most unique in my group is bring just yourself rule. It is one that I have stuck by over the years, perhaps to many people's chagrin. Here's the reasoning behind it though: when you are heading out to a board game meet up, do you pack games? And when you arrive at that meet up, do you encourage and invite other people to play what you have brought? When people bring their own games, in my personal experience, they only want to play their own games. It is natural to want to share what you have with others, but when five people have spent a month learning how to play something to teach it, and you bring your own stuff, you have just wasted all of those people's time. The library also cannot be responsible if John spills his coffee on your rare copy of Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit, or if klutzy Susan rips a card in Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game.
In the recent past our group has hosted two board game publishers and several local designers, all to foster and encourage community. By partnering with our friendly local game store, we cross-pollinate gamers, introduce new people to both places, and support local business.
This format will not suit all libraries, librarians, and communities. I personally am a very structured individual, and organizing my program in this fashion worked for my brain. It also gives people clear and definite expectations for each event. I wanted to make it different than the local meet up groups, where they are very free form and people bring their own games (in other words, I did not want to make it more of the same- after all, what would make the program stand out? Why would people want to come?). Someone had commented on a different chapter post about poaching from other local game groups- I was very cognizant of this when creating this group.
If you are a librarian, how have you set up your group? What have you found that has worked, and did not work?
Wed Mar 28, 2018 12:45 am
Published by Floodgate Games
Designed by Daryl Andrews and Adrian Adamescu
30-45 minute playing time
Number of times played: 20? 25? I have lost track.
*Per usual there will be very little rules explanation in this review*
I have decided that I am a sucker for beautiful abstracts.
If you had asked me a year ago how I felt about abstract games, I would likely have made a face and said they were not among my favorite type of board game.
How a year can change things.
In my last review https://www.boardgamegeek.com/blog/6738 I wrote about three abstracts that changed that opinion: Santorini, Azul, and Sagrada. Abstracts and I have never been friends: thinking multiple moves ahead and planning long term strategies is not my wheelhouse.
Before we get any farther, yes, I know Sagrada is also a dice drafting game, but at its heart it is a puzzley abstract game.
This game was also one that I stalked on Instagram. Sagrada has everything that I would be looking for in an abstract game: beautiful components, different "theme", and easy gameplay.
Graphic design by Peter Wocken is spot on. From the box cover, to the individual player boards, to the round/score tracker, you feel as if you are in a cathedral, selecting colors for your masterpiece.
As someone who teaches games to people of all gaming skill levels, my appreciation and need for easy to understand rulebooks is climbing higher and higher. When you open Sagrada, you are greeted by a four page rulebook, with an overview that tells you what you need to win the game. The rulebook also recommends scanning a QR code to watch a video on how to play (even better!).
Components are generally wonderful. The player boards, with the slots for window pattern cards, are sturdy and vibrant. The only time I have had dice come out of the slots for dice in the player board was when my cat's fluffy tail swiped across it. The dice bag is well labeled and the favor tokens are good quality. We love that the round track is multiple purposed with the score track on the back, and flips over easily. Card quality is good, but score markers could be bigger, or a pawn instead. Dice are well... beautiful, but small. I understand that the player board and slots would have to be much larger for bigger dice, but for someone with large hands, the dice can be problematic. In not awesome lighting the blue and green dice can also blend in together. The pips on a small minority of my dice are starting to wear away, which after more than twenty plays, I really should not be too upset about.
I find Sagrada to have lots of replayability, as there are twelve window pattern cards, double-sided. So theoretically, you can play this game twenty four different times and not repeat a single window. The windows have great variety and provide easy, medium, and difficult challenges. Every game I have played has been different, as the combination of window pattern cards, private and public objectives, and tool cards have provided me with interesting and unique gameplay. I could however, use more of all these cards, for even more variety (I know the Kickstarter will provide that opportunity).
The one thing I wish came with the game we purchased at Gen Con, which is a dice tray for you to roll your dice and pass from player to player. This does not seem like a big difference in gameplay, but it made interactions between players smoother (and friendlier). I highly recommend that if you are at Con and you can purchase the dice tray do (it was a mere five dollars). It will also fit in the core box without a problem.
Gameplay, like Azul, can be quite competitive, but again perhaps I am the nicest gamer around, because I find Sagrada to be a zen game. In many games I will turn to my husband and say, "Which of these dice do you need? I can make any of them work." Being able to look down at a completed window is highly satisfying. Most times it is more important (to me anyway) to do better than I did last time.
Alright, but what about the luck of the dice, you may be asking. Yes, the first player does roll the dice, but you have the opportunity and ability to not only manipulate the dice from your favor tokens, but place them wherever you see fit.
Sagarada was taught at my January library board game event and was an enormous hit. Two tables were going at all times, with four players at each game. Comments were positive and participants enjoyed how quickly the game played, even at four players. This is so easy to teach and learn that it makes it a wonderful game for a library- something even non gamers would enjoy. I recommend Sagrada for use in a library setting.
I am looking forward to the Kickstarter that will add more players and more cards (yay!).
Published by Plan B Games
Designed by Michael Kiesling
30-45 minute playing time
Ages 8 and up
Number of times played: At least ten
*Per usual there will be very little rules explanation*
Oddly enough (or perhaps not), this is my second Plan B review in the short history of this blog. Anyone who has played either Century: Golem Edition or Century: Spice Road would become a convert to Plan B's games.
I had been stalking Azul on Instagram since it was announced in the fall of 2017. What caught my attention was the beautiful artwork and Starburst-like tiles. I knew as soon as I saw it that I needed this game in my life. For me to say that I wanted an abstract is pretty unheard of. We were lucky that our friend Chris was able to procure a copy for us for Christmas before it went out of stock seemingly everywhere.
So is this game deserving of the hype train that it has been riding? Yes. Here's the thing not only about Azul, but other abstracts like Sagrada and Santorini: they are getting non-abstract fans like me to love and appreciate them. Part of it is likely due to artwork, components, but a large part is in different "theming" and ease of play. All three of those examples are games that I would play any time of day and any number of times. I find all three of these games to be like candy (or potato chips in my case): you can't play just once.
I have played this game exclusively at two players but have taught it at four. What is nice is that the game seems to level nicely at the larger and smaller player count. Here again, like Century: Golem Edition, is a game that you can play twice in one sitting and have a completely different game and experience.
I have heard that game play in Azul can be quite mean sometimes, but I have not personally experienced that. I can see how it can be: you are playing with someone who you know is working towards filling in all of the light blue snowflakes and you steal them out from under them. Or you purposefully leave 8 tiles in the middle for someone to take mondo negative points. My times playing with my husband has been quite a zen experience- often when it comes down to the final tiles in the middle pool, I will ask him what he needs (perhaps this is why I am not winning?). At the start of each game I challenge myself to either collect all of one color for the ten end game bonus points, or fill in as many columns as possible for the seven end game bonus points. Sometimes I fail, sometimes I succeed. Neither my husband nor I have completely filled in our player board, and of all the posts on Instagram I have done, I have not seen anyone reach that achievement (sounds like a house rule mega end game bonus point). If you have filled in your player board on Azul, I would love to see it and hear your strategy!
Here are some things I have been loving about what Plan B is doing:
1. Publishing games that are easy to learn. You can learn how to play these games in less than 5 minutes. There are not complicated rules or concepts to learn.
2. Some of the best rulebooks in the board game industry. Easy, simple to follow, clear instructions. Granted, neither Azul nor the Century games are complex games and require huge rulebooks, but I have no doubt that if Plan B were to publish a more complex game their rulebooks would be equally stellar.
3. Vibrant, beautiful, colorful artwork. With Azul's artwork I feel as though I am truly in a Moorish palace. You can tell that the artist Chris Quilliams did his research on the design of the time period.
4. Games that are ridiculously easy to teach. I taught Azul at my last library game event, and not only did I have a steady crowd of people, but people who wanted to play it again and again. As someone who teaches a lot of games to a variety of skill levels, having a game that I can teach in easy terms quickly is very important.
5. Publishing games that you really only want to beat your previous score or personal best. Frankly, all I want to do is beat my last score with each of these games and try new strategies. In Azul's case, if you are looking for a challenge, you can always try the backside of your personal player board and fill in the tiles yourself.
Rating: 7.75 (a huge number for an abstract for me!)
I would highly recommend this for play in a library setting. It was extremely popular for my group and players sat down for multiple plays of the game. Easy to teach and each for people to catch on to.
I know what you are probably saying to yourself: Top 8 Jenn? Really?
It is January 11th, 2018 when I am writing this. I gave myself enough time in to the new year to play any lingering games we had received as Christmas gifts, went through my 2017 games, and rated what was left. I ended up with eight games that all had the same rating of 8 and then a larger chunk that were rated at 7.75. And yes, I am ridiculously cheap with my ratings; even my favorite game of all time, War of the Ring (Second Edition) is 8.75. So the fact that I had eight games rated at an 8 is not bad for me (most games fall in at 7.5).
2017 was a pretty good year not only for board games, but for the work that I do in my job as a gaming librarian and on social media. I presented at three conferences on gaming in libraries, including Trade Day at Gen Con, and was picked to be one of three columnists on gaming in libraries for Library Journal, a professional magazine for libraries, a highly prestigious honor. I joined Favorite Game Friday in January, saw my Instagram followers climb from around 200 to 1500, started this blog, and was named Geek of the Week in October by Lindsay, AKA Shiny Happy Meeples. I had a wonderful article in the Hartford Courant on my game collection at my library and appeared on television in November to talk about my game program. We launched our circulating board game collection of over 125 titles in October at my library, a monumental task, which has been a huge success. I made so many new gaming friends, new networks, and opportunities. Matt and I are truly blessed to know so many good and generous people in this industry. We are thankful to you all who have had positive comments, feedback, shared, liked, and supported us throughout the year- it is wonderful to know the impact of what I do has touched you in some way. May your 2018 be joyous, healthy, and full of happy gaming experiences with loved ones.
Without further ado, here in my Top 8 games of 2017, in no particular order, except for my number one game.
8. 878: Vikings – Invasions of England
When Academy Games, Inc. publishes a game, my husband and I take note. Known in the industry for their quality, high attention to detail, and historical accuracy, we eagerly anticipate their games.
878- Viking was no exception and took much of what we loved from 1775: Rebellion and made it one of our favorite games of the year. With the addition of the leader mechanic, as well as the rich and different theme, 878- Vikings provided some of our best gaming experiences of 2017 (including a memorable play where our cat Stonewall flicked his tail across the game mat and all the miniatures went flying. It was a giant cat invasion instead of a Viking invasion.).
We jokingly call this Uhtred the Board Game in our house, due to our love of Bernard Cornwall's book series The Saxon Tales and the Netflix series The Last Kingdom.
7. Dinosaur Island
Dinosaur Island is everything I wanted in a dinosaur theme park board game and never knew I wanted: Pink dinos? Check. Chunky amber dice? Check. Theme park guests that get eaten by dinosaurs? Check! Zany, neon artwork? Check, check!
I received this for Christmas and have admittedly only played the short game once. The game was over before I even knew it and I wanted to play again as soon as we were done. That does not happen super often.
Without this being Jurassic Park: The Board Game, it certainly provides a similar experience. For people who grew up loving the Jurassic Park franchise and books, expectations were high for this board game and Pandasarus delivers.
I can't wait to play the medium and long options for Dinosaur Island and build an even better park, with fewer guests being om nomed by dinos.
6. Doctor Who: Time of the Daleks
Doctor Who: Time of the Daleks was one of our most anticipated games of 2017, as both my husband and I are Doctor Who fans. It was well worth the wait, as we have played it three times since receiving it at Christmastime.
This is a much less complex game than I anticipated it would be, which is not a bad thing. It makes a game with a popular and familiar IP more accessible to fans of all skill levels. It is essentially a dice chucker in the same style as Elder Sign (some of the similarities are a little too similar at times). The randomness of the dice rolls can be mitigated by procuring Timey Wimey cards and curating your dice pool appropriately. And like in the show, the Tardis can have a mind of its own, taking you to planets you did not want to adventure to.
Currently with the four Doctors provided, I like it best at two players- the regeneration aspect I think would be tricky with more- but with the planned expansions (don't keep me waiting too long Gale Force Nine, LLC) I think it will be a good balance.
And have the 10th Doctor.
5. Ex Libris
I reviewed Ex Libris back at the beginning of December 2017: https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1894136/revew-ex-libris-lib... and my thoughts have not changed regarding it.
4. Fate of the Elder Gods
Fate of the Elder Gods was Matt's most anticipated game of Gen Con, and it was one that did not disappoint us.
After this game came out it received a fair amount of disparaging comments, which is too bad, as I feel like it shines among other Cthulhu games (frankly I am tiring of the FFG Cthulhu games). So much so that we got rid of Arkham Horror to make room for this in our collection. It has a lot of clever mechanics in it, including the use of the spells and movement from location to location. Excellent artwork and graphic design, miniatures, options for Elder Gods, and gameplay. It was different, and we knew it was a work of love from the designers Richard Launius, Christopher Kirkman, and Darrell Louder.
This particular game brought up many conversations in my household about what it means for a game to be "broken" and people's first impressions blogs/videos. Neither Matt nor I are fans of that term "broken". But that is a blog post for another day.
3. Legendary: Buffy The Vampire Slayer
As a teenager, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was one of my favorite television shows. So imagine my glee at Gen Con 2016 when it was announced that Upper Deck Entertainment was doing a Legendary version. There *may* have been jumping up and down.
I have played and own several versions of the Legendary and Legendary Encounters games, and by far, the Buffy set is my favorite. It probably has a lot to do with the theme, but the additions of the Light/Dark track, and the Courage tokens added just enough difference for us to consider selling other versions.
I am thankful for stock artwork (coughFireflycough) and the fact that I purchase all my new cards in the Library (thank you Upper Deck, thank you!).
This game makes me happy.
2. Rum & Bones: Second Tide
Rum and Bones 2nd Tide was the first Kickstarter we had ever done (can you imagine!!!) and it arrived just in time for Matt's birthday last March.
Rum and Bones 2nd Tide is the kind of game I can play over and over again and never get sick of. It was on our 20 by 5 last year and was perhaps the first game to get crossed off the list as completed. Definitely a beer and pretzel game, definitely a dice chucker, definitely fun.
I love the variety of characters and factions you can play as and the miniatures that scream to be painted. We also love the changes made from Rum & Bones. Rum and Bones 2nd Tide is not the type of game that I need to play right away in the morning after my cup of coffee and requires little refresher of rules. It is also the kind of game where it is ok to slap your opponent around.
Any time we are looking to have a fun experience with a game, we pull out Rum and Bones.
1. The Godfather: Corleone's Empire
My husband's heritage is mostly Sicilian, and the likelihood of him having mafia connections is fairly high. Of course, one of his favorite movies is The Godfather, and the book is not bad either.
When he described gameplay to me and said that miniatures could go sleep with the fishes, I thought he was joking.
And then we played the game. And figures of mine went sleeping with the fishes.
It was one of the funniest moments of our gaming in 2017.
Everyone we have taught this game to loves it and adopts an accent. Even if you have never seen the movies or read the books, just about everyone knows the phrase "An offer you can't refuse". One of my most popular Instagram pictures last year was of me acting like a "Godmother", petting my cat like in the movies. And just in case you did not notice, one of the miniatures has a strong resemblance to Eric Lang.
Like Fate of the Elder Gods, this game got hate too, I think because of the "Car Bomb" card. That is such a small part of the game and depending on card shuffles may never appear. This game also brought one of my favorite gaming reads of the year from designer Ignacy Trzewiczek in defense of friend and Godfather designer Eric M. Lang. That post made me admire Ignacy even more (if that was possible). Unfortunately we live in a world of Internet trolls where people feel empowered to comment in negative ways without feeling like there are no consequences. There are consequences, and I admire Ignacy's bravery to stand up to them.
Alright Internet friends! What were your favorites of 2017?
Greetings! If you have wandered to this article and are looking for recommendations for your personal board game library, alas, I shall disappoint thee (I have also gone very formal and old-school all of a sudden). This article is aimed at librarians and educators who are starting a board game collection at their establishment.
I get asked very frequently what I think are good choices for a starter board game collection at a library. The answer for this is going to vary greatly on several factors:
1. What age range are you looking to build your library for? Adults? Teens? Children? Families?
2. What is your budget?
3. What kinds of games does your community like to play already? Are they in to the heavy Euro-style games? Do they like lighter, party-style games? Having a gauge on this is fairly important.
This of course will not be a comprehensive list, and will focus on board games that are appropriate for adults. I work exclusively with adult board gamers, and feel it would be remiss to give recommendations for groups I do not work with. You could also ask five different gaming librarians what their recommendations are, and likely get five different responses. So much of curating a collection can be dependent on that librarian's personal taste and style. These recommendations as well may not reflect my favorites, or even be games that I like. Remember that this is a collection for the general public, not seasoned gamers, and there will be titles that will appeal to someone who has not played a designer game before. The library that I work at does not even own all of these titles, as the vast majority of my collection was procured via donations, and some were purchased from a distribution center.
In no particular order:
1. King of Tokyo A light, fun, easy to teach and learn Yahtzee style game where you compete as classic monsters from films (ala King Kong). One of the best gateway games on the market, appealing to gamers of all skill levels. Very family friendly as well, playing well at all player counts.
2. Ticket to Ride Trains! Sometimes that I all I need to say for people's antennae to pop up. A great game to teach beginner set collection (gathering cards of a defined type together). And people love playing with the plastic trains.
3. Carcassonne An excellent introductory tile laying game (you get to build the "board") with excellent replayability. If patrons like the game, there are oodles of expansions for them to try, providing variation on the classic.
4. Small World One of the things people love most about Small World is the variety and variation of fantasy races you can mix and match when playing. Huge replayability and humorous artwork.
5. Catan Whether you love or hate Catan and all of its expansions and variations, many people come to tabletop board gaming because of it. Catan's influence in gaming cannot be avoided and while it was not popular with my regular library game group, it has been hugely popular in my circulating collection. It has even been optioned for movie rights, so patrons will be looking for the game when the movie eventually does out.
6. Dominion Dominion was the first game to popularize deck building, a concept where people start off with identical decks of cards and purchase new cards throughout the game. Excellent way to teach deck building, with a multitude of expansions patrons can explore if they like the game.
7. Betrayal at House on the Hill A fun game to bring out at Halloween time, Betrayal at House on the Hill can be a great step beyond Pandemic (listed below) in teaching cooperative game play, but with a twist. Players like that they build the house as they explore it.
8. Codenames Codenames has taken the gaming world by storm, with spin-off version including Disney, Marvel, Duet, and Pictures. A party-style word game, people love guessing the connections between the clues given the words available.
9. Forbidden Island A great light cooperative game that is appropriate for all ages, Forbidden Island captures that feeling of urgency one would feel on a sinking island. With individual player abilities, players also love the plastic treasure you are attempting to save.
10. Lords of Waterdeep Lords of Waterdeep is technically a Dungeons and Dragons game, but if you knew nothing about D&D, you would still enjoy this worker placement (putting meeples on the board and performing related actions) game. One of the more involved and heavier games on this list, but still reachable for non-gamers (and there is a great TableTop with Wil Wheaton episode to watch while playing).
11. Love Letter One of my first modern board games, Love Letter is a simple 16 card game that is portable and easy to play. If players like the original version, this too has a variety of spin-offs for almost any taste or interest.
12. Power Grid After your patrons try Ticket to Ride, they might be interested in trying Power Grid, which also has a route building mechanism. Players will enjoy the bidding aspect of this game.
13. Puerto Rico A classic city building and economic game, players look to get the most victory points by shipping goods from Puerto Rico to Europe. Some players may gravitate to San Juan after playing this.
14. The Castles of Burgundy While The Castles of Burgundy may look like a snooze-fest (artwork is very drab and bland), it can be a very exciting game of dice placement and dice manipulation. Players love building their princedom and having just five rounds to do the best they can.
15. The Resistance: Avalon Excellent as a filler or party game, The Resistance: Avalon challenges how well you can bluff and deduce among your friends and family. Will your Aunt deceive you in to thinking she is on the side of Good? Friendships made and broken (I joke, of course) in this game.
16. Smash Up Silly, fun, humorous, irreverent, puny, are all adjectives I use when talking about Smash Up. The idea of taking two faction of cards (think vampires and space knights), shuffling them together, and playing a game with them, can be very appealing to people. Plus side: huge variety of expansions for all interests.
17. Takenoko One of the selling points of Takenoko is the adorable panda. And then he eats your bamboo that you have worked so hard to build, and then maybe he is not quite so cute anymore. Another tile laying and board building game with a cute theme.
18. Pandemic Perhaps the most realistic theme on this list, Pandemic is a cooperative game where you are teaming up to save the world from four outbreaks of diseases. Sometimes chillingly pertinent to what is going on in the real world. Another game where there are other spin-offs that appeal to different tastes.
19. Tokaido Beautiful artwork and a zen theme keep Tokaido a popular choice at my library. Beyond that, patrons love moving down the track and getting to certain action spaces. Looks can be deceiving on this game, as players compete to be the first to desired spaces.
20. Tsuro Tsuro has some of the easiest to follow directions on this list and combines some of the same mechanisms as previously mentioned games: route building and tile laying. Excellent at all player counts (2-8 players), players enjoy thinking of ways of pushing competitors off the path.
21. Splendor In Splendor, you collect gems (poker chips) to purchase cards, and build your engine. Patrons comment on how much they enjoy how quick the game plays, the chunky poker chips, and artwork.
22. Happy Salmon All I ever have to say about Happy Salmon is that it is life changing, and you need to play it to experience the wondrous joy of it. Try the Salmon. You won't be disappointed.
23. 7 Wonders 7 Wonders is one of the best games to learn card drafting (picking one card and passing the rest of your hand to other players). What's nice about 7 Wonders is that it plays up to seven people (and really is best at a higher player count) and has a theme most can enjoy.
There are so many more I could have included! Comment below some of your favorites, or ones you have included in your library's board game collection.
Do you have people in your life that are incredibly difficult to purchase gifts for? Do they happen to be board gamers and readers (my kind of people)?
All of the games on this list are ones that I personally own and would recommend not only to anyone who loves reading, but someone who loves to play board games as well. If possible, I tried to make sure that they were titles that are readily available, and not super expensive.
Surprisingly, we have a small number of board games that star everyone's favorite detective, Sherlock Holmes. One we have not played yet, Watson & Holmes. After seeing the Shut Up & Sit Down review of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases, we knew it was a game we would enjoy. For some people putting the title "game" on Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective is a stretch, and I can't say I disagree. More Choose Your Own Adventure than game, Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective is easily accessible for non-gamers in your life, as it requires zero gaming skills. Pure deduction, logic, and mystery, you are racing against Sherlock Holmes in solving one of ten cases. Some may argue that there is no replayability in the game once you are done with the ten cases, but you figure if you spend $40 USD on it, divided by ten cases, divided by four players, you are getting your money's worth.
Cases range in difficulty, beating Sherlock Holmes is near to impossible, and it is easy to fall down rabbit holes with the cases, but it can provide some of the best cooperative gaming experiences you will have. We have played five of the cases with our friends Chris and Jenny, and enjoyed sharing this game with them. Not necessarily family-friendly as there are murders and scintillating material.
H. P. Lovecraft
This is perhaps the most difficult category to select a favorite for, as there are so many Lovecraft themed board games. My favorite (although it may be replaced by another with more plays of the other game), is Eldritch Horror.
If you have noticed a trend with me and my preferences with board gaming, any time I can play a game that has a library or librarian in it I am down! Eldritch Horror has a vast variety of investigators as well as Elder Gods, giving it wonderful replayability. What is also appealing to many gamers is that Eldritch Horror can be done solo, or up to eight players.
What is nice about Eldritch Horror is that it is still being supported by Fantasy Flight Games, with small and big box expansions released several times a year. We owned both Arkham Horror and Arkham Horror: The Card Game and sold both of them. Why? Eldritch Horror was the one that we brought to the table most often, were excited to play, and didn't take forever to play (Arkham Horror). Some of our closest calls in our shared gaming has been with Eldritch Horror- making it almost to the end of the game and just missing. I suppose that can either be infuriating to some, or appealing to others. One of the things that I like most about Eldritch Horror is that you truly need to be cooperative in this game: talk over plans, routes, who will tackle what. Otherwise, you will end up with a dead investigator.
Game of Thrones
I was pretty upset when FFG announced A Game of Thrones: The Card Game. A Game of Thrones: The Card Game holds a soft spot in my heart, not only because we had gotten all of the house expansions for it, but it was one of the first games we played together that I competitively wanted to win. I am not a very competitive person by nature when it comes to playing games, but boy, I was using my House Martell deck and I wanted to win. And we had spent all that money on the first edition. Sigh.
I finally got over my grumpiness and am thankful we have the second edition. The second edition fixed much of the wonkiness and weird rules that was in the first edition. We don't get to play it as often as I would probably like to, but when we do, I am always happy. So happy that one time we brought it to the beach and I forgot to put on sunscreen and got second-degree burns. #lifefail
I don't love to build my own deck in CCGs or LCGs (I generally go with the prescribed decks), but I appreciate people who do and can. What is nice about the House expansions and chapter packs is that every single one is the same, so each person buying that expansion will get the same cards- no advantages. I find that aspect very appealing, as I am not a fan of the exclusivity of "rare" cards, especially in games that can be played competitively.
What is nice about this game is that it takes more of its content from the books than from the television show and uses wonderful illustrations that are not indicative of an actor/actress. While also an excellent game, A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (Second Edition) requires three or more players and can be a multi-hour event. One game of Game of Thrones: LCG has take a half an hour.
Game of Thrones: The Card Game Second Edition has a bigger learning curve than the two games I have mentioned previously. I would not purchase the base game for a non-gamer, but recommend it for someone who is familiar with gaming and more particularly with CCGs/LCGs. Best news is that if they like the game, you have future gifts with expansions!
Well this is an easy recommendation, as there is only one good Harry Potter game: Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle. I wouldn't say that Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is revolutionary or even a wonderful game, but it is the best Harry Potter themed game on the market right now (please make more!). What would have made this game better would have been use of the new artwork in the illustrated versions of Harry Potter, but stock photos suffice just fine.
One of the best things about Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is that is can be very family friendly, especially for children who have read the books. Years 6 and 7 may be a bit too scary for them, but prior years would be ok content-wise. It is also a game that starts out as a simple deck builder and adds complexity along the way, increasing difficulty and mechanics. It is a deceptively easy game to start off with, but by Year 7, can be challenging.
This certainly is not a game where you are going to get a lot of theme, but if that does not bother you, then you will like this game. I like that it is easy enough for non-gamers to pick up and you can learn along the way!
And of course, Ex Libris has to be on my list for gifts for the book lover in your life. I won't go in to great detail about it, since I just posted a review on it https://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/71290/review-ex-libri.... But it truly is a wonderful board game for book and library lovers.
Happiest of holidays to you all!
Published by Renegade Game Studios
Designed by Adam P. McIver
30-60 minute playing time
Ages 12 and up
Number of times played: 4, but also taught two additional times
*Per usual there will be very little rules explanation in this review*
says that this game is rigged for me to win. I can't say I disagree, after all, I get to be a magical Grand Librarian 37.5 hours a week.
You can imagine my excitement when Renegade Game Studios announced a board game about building a library. I'm pretty sure I jumped up and down. A game about being a librarian? What! Sold. I'm not sure I was ever as excited about a board game as I was at that moment.
Here is what initially appealed to me besides the obvious: the adorable and colorful artwork. I was pleased to see the colors and people reflect libraries today and not so many stereotypical "librarians" (although there is one stereotypical librarian on one card). I stalked teaser pictures posted on Renegade's Facebook and Instagram pages, eating up each image. Books! Libraries!
In Ex Libris you are competing to be named your town's Grand Librarian. You will achieve this by having a certain amount of books in your library, having a very stable and secure bookshelf, and maximizing the genres prescribed for prominent works, special collection, avoiding banned books (I joke that what if you went rogue and had just banned books in your library...?), and having variety. Not only must you do all of these things, but you must also make sure that your library is in alphabetical and numerical order. This warmed the cockles of my heart. I was gonna rock this game.
At the start of the game you will chose between two different special workers, of which there are twelve total in the game. This special worker will provide you with unique opportunities throughout the game. The meeples for the special workers are ridiculously adorable, ranging from a witch (The Swamp of Scholarship), to a snowman (The Igloo of Information), to a gelatinous cube (The Dungeon of Deep Thought). Some of the special workers are way better and over powered than others, especially in larger games when workers can be blocked from certain locations (i.e. the Snowman).
A variety of locations will be available to you besides your home location throughout the game, either permanently or round-based. Locations have very practical and librarianish functions: Shelfmason's Guild (AKA pages in library land): shift any number of adjacent cards in a single row of your library any number of spaces in one direction. That is an actual function that pages do in a library. Donation Centre: Discard one or more cards, then shelve up to two cards from your hand. If you donate books, you are likely making more space on your shelves to put other books. Book Seller (with the "Mirian"): take one card from this location. You may shelve it. You are purchasing a book, and then shelving it.
In terms of the fantasy theme of Ex Libris (you essentially are gnomes in the village working to be chosen as Grand Librarian), that did not bother me at all, and frankly, Ex Libris may not have been as exciting, cute, or tongue-in-cheek as it is if it had been a real-life library setting or situation. If someone who is not a library user or been to a library in a long time gets excited about playing Ex Libris and starts utilizing a library again, then all the more power to this game. I do sometime bemoan the plethora of fantasy themed games in our collection, but this is done in a way that is not over the top or excessive fantasy.
Perhaps the best part of Ex Libris are the book cards. If you were to take all of the A cards, put them in numerical order, and start reading them from left to right, they are in absolute alphabetical order. This level of attention to detail to what goes on in a library blew my mind and game me huge admiration to the research the designer put in. The titles of the books are also insanely clever as well, and there are no repeats in the titles of the books. For example, card I 1/8 has: I Dare You To Read This Book, Identify Who Is Lying, Ignoring Unimportant Portents, and An Illustrated Guide To Invisible Illustrations. Half of the fun to me was reading the titles out loud after you had placed them in your library.
At its heart, Ex Libris is a worker placement, set collection, and honestly, racing game. You are trying to get out the most book cards in your personal library, based on player count, to trigger the final round. This can be done either slowly or quickly, but you need to be paying attention to how many books your competitors have, otherwise you will be left in the proverbial dust. I taught this game twice at my last library game event. The first game was a full four and had two librarians in the group, one of whom won. Almost all of them had their twelve books in their library by the final round and were able to maximize points. The second group was also a full four, but just one or two had the full twelve books for the final round. This game could be a prime example of analysis paralysis for some players, who will agonize over what to put where in their tableau. My comment on that is to work with what you have in your starting hand, go from there, and build off that. Wasting time looking for the perfect card (Z 1/2 anyone?) can be liking playing Go Fish, when you could be building your library and earning points. Those who agonize less about min-maxing the game will have a more enjoyable time. Comments from the two groups who played were positive, and almost all wanted to try again to see how they could do better or set up their library differently. That to me is always a win, as that means that participants enjoyed not only the game, but the experience as well.
Ex Libris was one of my most anticipated games of 2017 and it did not disappoint. Each game has been unique and different, owing to the variety of special workers and locations. It levels nicely at two and four players (I have no experience with solo or three players) and has a good level of difficulty. I would put Ex Libris in my Top 5 of 2017, but then again, I am biased.
Rating: 8/8.25 out of 10
My husband Matt and I came back from Gen Con thinking we were done with gaming conventions for the rest of the year. Gen Con requires a lot of planning, traveling, and money saving, so going to a convention so soon afterwards did not seem in the plans.
After we returned from Gen Con I had gotten in touch with several publishers about donating board games to my library's collection. They had asked if I was going to PAX Unplugged, and if so, I could pick up donation requests there. And then more publishers and designers asked to me stop in and check out their new games. And gaming friends from our Meetup and Instagram were asking if we were heading down to Philadelphia.
I talked it over with Matt and after determining that it was financially viable and that I had enough vacation time left (always a problem for me), we decided PAX Unplugged was a go! We purchased our three day badges and were able to secure a room at a bed and breakfast I had stayed at for a library convention several years ago.
One of the things both Matt and I are looking forward to most is the opportunity to game more and relax. While we love Gen Con, it is a very hectic and planned convention for us. We are shoppers and love looking at what publishers are offering in the exhibition hall, but that can often leave us little time to game during the convention.
We have made plans to play Clans of Caledonia with some Instagram friends and Vinhos Deluxe Edition with another set of Instagram friends. Other plans include dinner with Christian from Osprey Games, who has been so generous with our board game group at my library, a whiskey meet up, the Shut Up and Sit Down show and meet up at night, as well as the Dice Tower Top 10.
Places I hope to stop at include:
1. Fowers Games Tim has generously offered to donate to our library.
2. Grand Gamers Guild They have also generously offered to donate to our library.
3. Yanaguana Games Stop in and see Rechord, their latest Kickstarter.
We do not have plans to buy a lot (I hope!), but some if these particular items were at PAX Unplugged, we would be interested:
1. Hunt for the Ring
2. Richard the Lionheart
3. Heaven & Ale
We hope to see lots of new games, make new friends, see old friends, and do a lot of gaming! If you see me out and about, please stop by and say hello! Now time to pack (can't forget my business cards!) and get rid of this cold!
I have talked a lot in my chapter blog posts about knowing your community when you work in a library. It is perhaps one of the most crucial things you need to know, and this is no exception when you are looking to set up a board game group.
My husband Matt and I had been customers of The Time Machine in Manchester several years before I started working at the Manchester Public Library and when the board game division of the store, The Portal, opened up, we patronized that store as well. In Manchester there are at least two board and card game stores and a very healthy Meetup group called Game On, which meets Sunday afternoons and Thursday evenings. For me, setting up a group at the library seemed like a home run, but I needed to make sure that it was different than what was already being offered.
You will need to assess what your community does or does not offer. If you have a game store in town with a vibrant gaming community, you will need to think about how you can make your program different and unique. If you work at a library with no already established gaming community, you may become the gaming center and hub, but getting something going could prove more challenging.
Next, you will want to decide what age group you want to focus on for your group. Since I am not a children's or teen librarian, my only option at the time was to focus on an adults-only group. If you are a children's librarian, you will want to consider what age range the program will focus on: Pre-K to Kindergarten? Younger or older school-aged children? Teen librarians may want to focus on a middle school group versus a high school group (or visa versa) as well. Librarians who work with adults could specialize in a senior gaming group, or adults with special needs group. Another option could be a cross-generational group, focusing on all ages and families, but be sure to stress that your program will be an interactive program for everyone, and not babysitting (I have heard that this has happened in some multi-generational groups). All of these different age groups can work at any given library, but it depends on what group you normally work with or have an interest working with.
Once you have those basic ideas figured out, you will need to decide what day of the week and time you want to host your event. Do you want to do an after school program for children/teens, or try to compete with weekend events? Do you have better attendance for adult events during weeknights or on the weekends? Program length will likely vary by age range as well. For children, I would recommend an hour (younger children) to 1.5 hours (older children) to capture their full attention, and for teens, anywhere from 1.5 hours to two hours. Adults can game for longer, and depending on the complexity of the games you are playing I would recommend starting at two hours. My group started at two hours, but it became clear after the first event that longer was in order. Silk City Board Game Group games once a month on a Saturday from 12-4:30, but that length of time is not always possible for staffing purposes.
In terms of frequency, how often are you able to host an event? Do you want to meet every week, every other week, twice a month, or once a month? Again, this can often depend on staffing, interest, and personal schedule. At my library we work every other Saturday, so I decided on once a month. This also had to do with the availability of my friendly local game store liaison, and how often they could collaborate. I also wanted to make the event an experience for people, where they could come for a whole afternoon and have something to look forward to. Many members of my library group are involved with other gaming groups, so more frequent would not have worked in our case. Others I know have had success with weekly groups and their members like the frequency at which they meet.
A huge consideration for me was whether or not I was going to allow people to bring their own games to the group. In my personal experience, when people go to gaming events and bring their own games, they only want to play their own games. I also did not want to have liability issues with damage to personal games. As well, I also wanted to encourage attendees to play with our huge collection of donated games from board game publishers.
Finally, what kinds of games do you want to have at your events? Are you going to focus on classic games or modern games? This will certainly depend on your personal tastes and interests of your community and group. When choosing modern board games, I went with new, hot games that I thought would draw a crowd. If you decide on classic games, I would market it as a classic or traditional gaming night so there is no confusion for the patron. You will get different crowds for either option, so again, it depends on what your target market is. You will also need to think about teaching the games, if you need helpers to assist you teaching, and how you are going to procure games if you do not own them already. Most of the games that we teach at our library I or my FLGS liaison own already, and between the three of us (me, my FLGS liaison, and my husband in the summer) and some helpers, we are able to teach four games.
So what if you do not work at a library and want to set up a program at your local library? I certainly cannot speak for other libraries and librarians, but if there is no one on staff who has an interest in setting up a program, they may welcome someone outside the staff offering. Other circumstances may be involved, including if they allow volunteers (not all libraries do), space, and time, but it does not hurt to give your local library a call with a detailed plan of what you would like to offer and how you can help (adding for free is always good!).
There are likely topics I have missed in this post, but hopefully I have touched on major points that may be helpful. Librarians with specific questions or looking to chat more about this topic may e-mail me at: email@example.com.
Witches of the Revolution
Published by Atlas Games
Designed by M. Craig Stockwell
30-60 minutes playing time
Ages 13 and up
Times I have played: 5
*Per usual, there will be very little rules explanation in this review*
We purchased Witches of the Revolution at Gen Con 2017 after seeing it on the Gen Con list here on BGG. What was initially appealing about the game was the unique theme: a coven of witches working to fight for American independence. Before we left for Gen Con we also watched the BGG feature video on YouTube from the GAMA Trade Show.
When you open the box, the storage for Witches of the Revolution is pretty good, with spaces for each of the objective markers and event decks. The rulebook tells you right away how to win (seriously, why don't more rulebook writers make that their first priority?), and goes in to card anatomy in detail before explaining the rules.
While the game does not come with individual player turn order cards, the game board does, and clearly explains the steps in one turn. Each player picks from a diverse group of witches to be their starting Seekers (did I mention I can play as a librarian witch in this game?) and set up of objectives is variable, as well as event difficulty.
One of the things that I like most about Witches of the Revolution is that this is a fully cooperative game, and it encourages you to help each other on another player's turn. In games that we have lost, I have found a key reason to losing was that we did not help each other (by playing card with appropriate magic icons) enough.
The main mechanic of Witches of the Revolution is deck building, but it is not a standard deck builder. It employs a very unique mechanic of penalizing you for shuffling your discard pile- by moving the Moon Track. The higher the Moon Track goes, the number of magic icons is increased, making it more difficult to overcome events. As well, when you recruit witches, you have to discard whatever witches you used to purchase the new witch. I have never played a deck builder where you you lose cards in order to purchase new ones. There is, therefore, a fine balance between using your deck to defeat events, purchasing new recruits, and helping your fellow players.
The artwork for Witches of the Revolution is fine, as I can see that they were trying to match the time period with the style of art. Component quality is also fine, with the cards made of good grade cardstock. Symbology is clear and not difficult to understand.
I have played four games at two players and one at three players and won three out of five times. The three times were on easy mode, and the other two times mixed difficulty. My husband has played solo and we agree that we enjoy the game best at two players. When we taught a gaming friend how to play, three was almost a little too easy to beat (we also did not play with the harder events in that play).
Gameplay in Witches of the Revolution can be very quick if you do not keep the event line from filling up. Some events require immediate attention, others you can hold off from defeating right away.
The theme in Witches of the Revolution is non-existant unfortunately, as is the case in so many deck-builders. Deck-builders are in my wheelhouse, but they often fall in to the having no theme category.
In terms of playing this game at the library, I think with the right crowd it would be enjoyed. People playing need to keep in mind that this is alternative history and not something that happened. The game mechanics are not difficult to teach or understand, and for those who have never played a deck-builder before, this could serve as an introductory game.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
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