All posts by Raelle Richard

"You are the best at blog. And dogs" - Gary Blebbins AKA Evan Ashby

A Tour of Japan Through Board Games

I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic lately. My Timehop keeps reminding me of all of the fun I was having exploring Japan last summer and I miss it. Japan is a fascinating and colorful country with a unique and multifaceted culture. It is a place where the traditions started thousands of years ago meet and intertwine with modern-day innovation. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Japan and long to return someday. Instead, I will revisit Japan through board games. With so much to draw inspiration from in this beautiful country, it’s no surprise that there are so many games that either take place in Japan or have a Japan-inspired theme.

Tokaido

The first game I want to talk about, Tokaido, takes a look at Japan from the same perspective that I saw Japan: as a tourist. In Tokaido, players take on the role of travelers in the days of old trying to make the most of their journey along the real-life “East Sea Road.” Known as Tokaido, this road was one of the most important as it connected two of Japan’s largest cities, Kyoto and Edo (a city you probably know as Tokyo). The goal of the game is simply to be the “best” traveler, which means that you need to see the sites, eat good food, and collect souvenirs.

If you’re in Japan and you travel between Tokyo and Kyoto (something I did twice), you’re probably traveling across the East Sea Road. My experience of modern-day Tokaido was probably quite different from that of the fictional travelers of the game as they’re traveling by foot over the course of several days and I traveled using the incredibly efficient train system that took less than four hours. However, the tradeoff is that they may be better tourists in this area than I was because, though you sometimes get some great views out of your window, it’s hard to fully experience the area from your train seat.

Sushi Go!

The next game centers on a staple of Japanese cuisine, sushi! Sushi Go is a game in our “breadstick” section, meaning that it is an easy game to learn and quick to play. The idea of the game is to continuously pass your hand of sushi cards around the table and collect the best combinations to gain the most points. The game is reminiscent of the infamous sushi conveyor belts where you pick up sushi as it passes by. I must admit that I did not make it into one of these restaurants as neither I nor my traveling companion are big into seafood, but it’s certainly something high on a lot of tourists’ lists of things to do.

Disclaimer: We do not serve sushi!
Hanabi

Japan is famous for their many festivals. I mean, if you’ve ever watched any sort of “slice of life” anime, there is always an episode where the main characters go to a festival. Ergo, checking out one of the many festivals should definitely be high on the priority list when visiting Japan. We were in Tokyo during the Adachi Fireworks festival, an hour-long display of over 12,000 fireworks. Thousands of people gathered along the banks of the Arakawa River, dressed in traditional yukata (a casual summer kimono), and lounging on picnic blankets. As far as I could see down the river, it was packed with people and food stands were set up throughout the area. My friend and I ended up pretty far away from where the action was taking place, but the fireworks were so big and magnificent that we could still see everything perfectly. We watched as thousands of fireworks lit up the night sky, listening to the sounds of hundreds of people around us “oohing” and “aahing” in unison. The commute back to our Airbnb was one of the most crowded subways I’ve been on (and I lived in NYC for four years), but it was well worth it.

Hanabi, the Japanese word for “fireworks,” is a game where players become firework manufacturers rushing at the last minute to make sure all of the fireworks are ready for an upcoming festival. Players work together to assemble fireworks in piles by color from number one to five. Each player has a hand of cards (each with a color and number) that you hold up with the back facing you, meaning that you don’t know what is in your hand, but other players do. You give each other clues to make sure that your teammates play the right card at the right time. If you make a mistake, the fireworks might explode on you!

Takenoko

I’m realizing now as I write this that we never saw any pandas in Japan. We saw monkeys and deer, but never made it to the Ueno Zoo to see a panda. Pandas are native to China, but China has been known to give pandas to other nations as diplomatic gifts. This practice is known as “Panda Diplomacy” and is a practice going back more than a thousand years. There are records from the Tang Dynasty that Empress Wu Zetian sent a pair of pandas to the Japanese emperor.

In Takenoko, the Chinese emperor has gifted the Japanese emperor with a panda as a symbol of peace and the players are now in charge of taking care of it by tending to the bamboo garden. With the help of the imperial gardener, players must plot the land, irrigate the soil, grow bamboo, and use it to feed the panda.  You get points based on how well you do all of those things and the player who manages the garden the best is the winner.

Machi Koro

Of course we can’t talk about Japan without talking about the bright lights of the big bustling cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Cities in Japan are unlike any cities I’ve visited before. They’re so fantastical and surreal. I remember being in Osaka and thinking that it seemed more like an amusement park than a city. Walking under the towering skyscrapers in Tokyo with their giant, brightly-lit signs and billboards surrounded by so many different people was reminiscent of Times Square, but instead of being just a few blocks in the most touristy part of the city, it was the whole city.

One game that captures that big city feel is Machi Koro, a city-building game based in the fictional city of “Dice Town.” Players become mayors of this up-and-coming city, tasked with the job of growing their cities as fast as they can to meet the demands of its citizens. There are six main landmarks that you must build in order to win, but throughout the game you will build a number of other establishments in order to generate income based on your dice rolls, so you can finish construction on your landmarks. The fast-paced growth of your city and the randomness of your rolls emulate the chaos of a real city. And you may wind up spending a lot of money eating out just like if you were living in a real city.

King of Tokyo

One of the most notable monsters in fictional history is Godzilla, a giant dinosaur-like creature that originated in Japan. Another monster, King Kong, has famously climbed the Tokyo Tower. Robots and robot suits are common themes in Japanese anime and manga. It only makes sense that Tokyo would be the perfect place for monsters to converge and battle it out to be the best of the best. The last game I want to talk about is King of Tokyo, a game where just that happens.

In King of Tokyo, players control a different monster trying to take over the city of Tokyo. Control of Tokyo will change throughout the game, as players fight each other, take damage, and gain victory points. Different things can happen to your monster to make you stronger and help you defeat your enemies and you may be able to heal your monster. Ultimately, you want to gather victory points as the first person to get to 20 victory points (or the last monster standing) is the one who destroys Tokyo and wins the game, becoming the King of Tokyo.

These and a few other Japan-inspired games can be found in our library. If you want a small taste of this incredible country come in and check one of them out!

If You Like Jenga Check Out These Games

If you have played Jenga, you have probably felt that tension as you very carefully pulled a block from a precariously balanced tower that’s ready to topple at any moment and you have probably felt that relief when it doesn’t fall after you place your block on the top of the tower and pass your turn. As the tower gets taller and taller you simultaneously want it to fall over and just get it over with, but also want to keep it growing ever taller to see how tall you can make it. And even though you know it’s coming, somehow it still shocks you when the tower finally topples and crashes to the floor. Today I want to talk about some games you might like if you enjoy Jenga.

Junk Art

The first game is Junk Art in which players take on the role of artists using obscure objects to create abstract sculptures. There are twelve different cities that you can exhibit in and each city is a different scenario to play through. Each scenario has a different win condition, but the gameplay is the same: you must use a variety of oddly-shaped pieces to build your art and try not to let it fall. There may even be a bonus for the tallest structure.

Junk Art requires a steady hand, balancing skills, and maybe even a little luck, just like Jenga.  The difference here is that you are building art. Junk Art requires a bit of creativity in addition to your ability to balance whereas Jenga is fairly straightforward in that you put the block you just pulled in the spot that will most evenly balance the tower. Also, in Junk Art, each player is creating his own tower, which makes it fun to compare your own art with your opponents’ art.

Lift It

Lift It is a similar concept to Junk Art in that you are building a structure with different shapes, but the catch here is that these structures must be built with a crane. Sometimes you will use your hand to maneuver the crane, but other times it might be attached to your head, making the game even more challenging.

In Lift It, everyone may be playing against everyone else, or you can form teams to challenge each other. When it is your turn to build, you choose a card that shows you what you are to build. You have a certain amount of time to build it and get a certain number of points based on how many pieces you placed correctly in the time limit. Lift It is a great game for larger groups of people and kids find it to be especially fun. I’ve tried to explain Lift It to groups of kids before and they really don’t even care how to play the game, they just want to try their hand (or head!) at building different structures with the crane. Lift It is a fun, silly, and surprisingly competitive game that everyone can enjoy.

Animal Upon Animal

The next game is more geared towards children, but still a fun game to test your balancing skills. In Animal Upon Animal players are trying to build a tower of animal figures. To start, each player takes a stock of animal pieces. On your turn, you roll a die and, depending on the result of the roll, you (or sometimes someone else) must stack a certain number of animals on top of the tower. The first player to get rid of their pieces wins, but you have to be careful because if the tower collapses, you may have to take some pieces back.

In my opinion, the best kids’ games are the ones that their parents can enjoy as well. Animal Upon Animal may technically be a children’s game, but the cute theme combined with the need for some balancing skills makes it a great game for everyone. I’ve even seen some of our “grown-up” patrons without children have a blast with it. This game is also probably the most like Jenga in that all players are building on the same tower, but unlike in Jenga, if the tower collapses on your turn, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you lose, giving players more chances to continue playing on an uneven tower.

Suspend

Suspend is the final game and perhaps the game that looks the most dissimilar from Jenga because of its use of rods instead of blocks. However, the balancing act required in the game is still the same. Starting with the base (a metal rod standing up, but slightly leaning), players take turns placing rods of differing lengths on the base. Each rod has notches in it that you use to place them and once a notch is used, it can’t be used again. The player who runs out of rods first wins.

Not gonna lie, but I think that Suspend may be the hardest of these games because the rods just don’t want to stay on very well sometimes. I remember playing this game with Tom’s daughter, but we kind of made up our own rules and played it cooperatively, trying to put all of the pieces on at the same time. We did it, but only because we didn’t know about the “each notch can only be used once” rule so we had multiple rods hanging from the same notch sometimes. I have yet to play it how it’s supposed to be played, but I’m sure that it’s difficult to find good places to hang certain rods—especially those pesky yellow ones!

If you think that you have the steady hands of a surgeon then try out one of these games the next time you’re in the café! And don’t forget that we also have a giant version of Jenga available if you want to play a new twist on the classic game. The store record is 34 and 1/3 levels high, held by the Keegans themselves—maybe you can beat it!

The tower collapsed just one block after this one

 

Six Adorable Games Starring Cats

Cats are pretty great right? I mean, who doesn’t love cats? The Internet certainly does. They’re basically adorable little balls of fluff (that are sometimes crazy and evil, but that’s just part of their charm!) so how can anyone resist? I certainly can’t. So for today’s post I thought I’d combine two of my favorite things, cats and nerd stuff, and talk about some of the great games we have in the café that are all about cats.

I mean just look at this precious creature!
Rat-a-Tat Cat

The first of our cat games is a fun, light game for families with younger kids or new gamers. The goal of Rat-a-Tat Cat is the end the game with the lowest score. In order to do that, you’ll need to collect cards to make sure that the value of your four cards are lower than the values of your opponents’ four cards. However, everyone must keep their cards face down so you won’t even know what all of your starting cards are, much less what other players have.

Part of the fun of Rat-a-Tat Cat is the cute theme. All of the lower cards in the deck (aka the ones you want) have cats on them, while the higher cards have rats. This makes the goal of the game to get rid of the rats and go for the cats. Kids especially will enjoy the theme and it’s a great game to help them learn memory and number skills.

Meow

Another game that kids especially tend to enjoy is Meow, a light bluffing game that is very quick to play. In Meow, Not Meows have infiltrated the secret Meow meeting. You have to figure out who is a Meow and who isn’t. The deck is full of two different types of cards: Meows, (cats) and Not Meows (not cats). On your turn you draw a card and, no matter what is on the card, say “meow.” Other players then have the chance to accuse you of being a Not Meow. If you have any Not Meow cards in your hand, they win. If you don’t, they are eliminated. Other ways of winning include being the last player left after everyone else is eliminated or, if you have two Not Meow cards in your hand you automatically win.

There is no real strategy to Meow unless you’re really good at reading people (which is sometimes easier when you’re with friends), but it’s still a cute little game to pass the time. Kids definitely have fun trying to imitate cat noises to their best ability. Meow is also great if you want something super quick. I’ve seen a game of Meow end after only two turns. If you’re good at deciphering whether your friends are telling the truth when they meow then this is a game you’ll want to check out.

Cats

Cats is a programming game with a bit more strategy than the previous two games. In Cats each player gets a character (all cats of course!) and that character’s deck. Each deck is the same except each character has its own special ability. If you haven’t played programming games before, the way it works is that everyone secretly chooses what they’re going to do then everyone reveals their cards at the same time, meaning that you don’t get to see what other players are doing before you make your move. This, of course, is part of the strategy. You have to try to predict what your opponents will do so that you can make your move without worrying about any of them messing up your plans.

The goal of the game is to catch wild birds and eat them. Each deck comes with Action Cards and Targeting Cards. During the programming phase, players each chose an Action Card and a Targeting Card. Once everyone has chosen their cards, they are revealed and the cards take effect in a certain order. You can target wild birds (stalking or catching them) or you can target other players and steal their birds. Finally, you can target your own birds to play with them (which makes them worth more) or eat them. Each bird your cat manages to eat is worth a certain number of points. The player with the most points at the end wins.

Simon’s Cat

Simon’s Cat is a new game in our library. From Steve Jackson Games, Simon’s Cat is based on the popular Youtube series of the same name. In the game, you are a cat and you do cat things while trying to not get caught. If you get caught making messes by Simon you get closer and closer to losing.

Simon’s Cat is a fast-paced game similar to Uno in that players are trying to lay down cards that either match the color or number of the face-up card on the table. If you get stuck and can’t lay a card, you take all of the cards in the middle. This pile is a “mess” made by Simon. After all players have emptied their hands, the player who made the most “messes” gets caught by Simon and takes a Simon card. The first player to get three Simon cards loses. Everyone else wins! It’s simple and silly and great if you want a quick game to play with some friends.

Here Kitty, Kitty!

My personal favorite of the list, Here Kitty, Kitty is a kitty collecting game. I’m sure almost everyone remembers when Neko Atsume became a huge hit a few years ago (if you don’t check it out! It’s a phone app where different kitties will visit your yard and bring you presents!). Well, in my mind, Here Kitty, Kitty is what Neko Atsume would be like if you played with other people.

In Here Kitty, Kitty, there are a ton of stray kitties wandering around the neighborhood. You play as a person in the neighborhood trying to lure kitties from the neighborhood into your house. You can even try to steal cats from the houses of other players. At the end of the game you get points based on where the kitties are in your house and what color cats you have. The best part of this game is that it comes with mini cat figures. Unfortunately, while we do have this game available for sale, we do not currently carry it in the library for play. I can say that it’s a fun, light game that might be worth the $25 price tag. I even played it with my family (if you all remember from previous posts, they’re not at all gamers) and had no issues!

You Gotta Be Kitten Me!

The only game on this list that I have not played is You Gotta Be Kitten Me. The only reason for this is that the game is only in our retail section so I am unable to open it. However, I do know that the game is similar to Liar’s Dice (a game you may know from the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie). The cards consist of pictures of cute animals decked out in adorable accessories. On your turn you have to try to guess how many cards are in play of either a certain color or accessory. You can up the bid or challenge another player if you think their bid is too high. With each challenge someone will lose a card. The last person with cards is the winner. It seems to me that if you want a cute bluffing game, this could be a good option!

If you’re a fan of cats like me you’ll definitely want to check out these games the next time you’re in. The first four can be found in the Breadstick section and the last two can be found in the retail section. Now if only it weren’t a health code violation to bring real cats into the cafe….

Our Favorite Games: Party Games

Our Favorite Games: Party Games

Some great examples of party games that almost everyone knows are Jenga, Taboo, and Apples to Apples. These are games that are very simple to learn and play so a wide variety of gamer types can play them. They tend to work best with a larger amount of people (the more the merrier!) and they exist for the sole purpose of being loads of fun. These are the types of games that will have you smiling and laughing the whole time you’re playing them. Chances are you’ve played at least one of games I previously listed, but there are a lot more games that fall into the “party” category that you may want to check out the next time you need a game for a bigger group of people!

Codenames

Pick by Evan

Winner of 2016’s Spiel des Jahres, Codenames is a spy-themed word association game. Players split up into two teams and one member of each team becomes the Spymaster. The game consists of a 5×5 grid of words with each word corresponding to either the red team, blue team, brown civilians, or the black assassin. However, only the Spymasters know which words are what color. Their job is to get their teammates to guess their team’s words faster than the other team. The catch is that the Spymaster’s only clue is a single word and a number of how many cards that word applies to. If either team guesses the assassin, that team immediately loses.

 

One of my favorite parts of this game is playing as the Spymaster. I find it really enjoyable to try to come up with good clues for my teammates. Of course, it also helps to know your teammates. For example, I was once playing Codenames with a group of my college friends and I was trying to get them to guess the words “tower” and “hotel.” I couldn’t simply give the clue “building, 2” as there was another building in the grid that belonged to the opposing team so I had to come up with something more clever. Instead, I gave the clue “terror, 2” knowing that one of my teammates, a huge Disney-lover, would make the connection between my clue and the words I wanted her to guess because they all apply to the “Tower of Terror” Disney park ride.

Codenames has been called the greatest party game of all time—and with good reason! Even if you think you aren’t very good with words, I promise it’s tons of fun. There have been many times that we’ve taught Codenames to a group only to find them still playing it hours later. It’s great for any type of group as well whether it’s a group of adults, teenagers, or even a family. As the back of the box says, “win or lose, it’s fun to figure out the clues” which really is what Codenames is all about.

Cash ‘n Guns

Pick by Raelle

When suggesting Cash ‘n Guns to people, the first thing I tell them is that they get to shoot at their friends with foam guns; needless to say, people are instantly interested. After completing the “robbery of the century,” the gangsters of Cash ‘n Guns now have to share the loot. Each player takes on the role of one of these gangsters and, after eight rounds, the gangster with the most loot wins.

The first thing players do each round is choose whether or not they are going to be using a real bullet or a blank; however, each player only has three bullets to last them the whole game. After choosing a blank or a bullet, players simultaneously choose another player to point their guns at. At this point, you may or may not have a gun pointed at you and you have to decide if you want to stay in the round and risk getting shot or duck out of the round and forfeit any loot. If you choose to stay in the round and get shot, you take a wound (three wounds and you’re out of the game!) and are unable to take loot. Players still in the round after everyone reveals their bullets or blanks are then allowed to take from the pile of loot.

When it boils down to it, Cash ‘n Guns is a bluffing game. Just because one of your opponents is pointing a gun at you doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get shot and that’s what you have to figure out. The reason I like Cash ‘n Guns so much is that it’s very easy to play (and easy to teach!) and everyone I’ve recommended it to ends up having a great time. You can always hear a lot of laughter coming from a table where Cash ‘n Guns is being played.

Flick ’em Up

Pick by John

Flick ’em Up is a game set in the old west and, just as the name implies, the main mechanic of the game is using your finger to flick small discs across the table. Players split into two teams-either the outlaws or the cowboys-and play out one of ten scenarios (or you can make up your own!). The game comes with cardboard stand-ups of different buildings to populate your western town as well as small cowboy figures.

Each scenario is different. In one you may be tasked with killing a certain number of the opposing team while in another you may be trying to collect a certain amount of gold. No matter the scenario, the flicking mechanic remains the same. Players will use a brown disc to move their characters in order to pick up items. Some of these items will be guns which you can then use to “shoot” (flick another disc) at your opponents.

Flick ’em Up can be a lot of fun for bigger groups of people. We tend to set the game up on one of our larger tables so players have plenty of space to move around and flick their discs. Everyone who has played it seems to have a lot of fun with it. If you’re interested in playing this fun game, join us on April 1st for our Anniversary Party where we’ll be hosting an Epic version of Flick ’em Up with more space, more terrain, and more fun!

The Best Games to Introduce Non-Gamers to Board Games

My mom really likes playing board games with the family, but, of course, the games she wants to play are the same old games that we’ve been playing forever. Slowly, but surely, I’ve been trying to introduce them to more and more games. Let’s face it: playing board games with non-gamers can be… well, frustrating. They’re used to games like Life, Monopoly, or Sorry where the rules of the game are basically “Roll, move, complete anything that must be done on the space you have landed on.” Anything more complicated than that can be confusing for them if you try to introduce it too quickly. But there are a lot of games that make for great introduction games for people who never have ventured beyond Clue and Scrabble territory. Here are some of my favorite games to play with my own family of non-gamers.

Settlers of Catan

Somewhere down the line, gamers pretty much unanimously decided that Catan is the game to play when introducing non-gamers to the world of board gaming. The reason for this is that it is incredibly simple to understand, but also surprisingly very strategic, making it fun for both newbies and more experienced gamers. Over the course of the past two decades, Catan has sold nearly 25 million copies worldwide, making it one of the most popular games since Risk or Monopoly.

Catan Map Board changes every time you play it.

In Catan, each player controls a group of setters trying to develop their settlements on the island of Catan. Players gather resources then use those resources to build their settlements and cities. The first person to gain ten victory points wins. Simple, right? I promise it is! I have even played Catan with my family before and I think it was one of the quickest games that they managed to pick up. There aren’t very many rules or actions that you need to complete on your turn, which makes it perfect for people like my family.

Carcassonne

Carcassonne was my introduction to gaming and I didn’t even know it at the time. One of my good friends in high school owned it so we would play it frequently when we hung out. I certainly wouldn’t call most of my high school friends “gamers” so Carcassonne was perfect for our group. The idea behind Carcassonne is that players are taking on the role of the founders of the historic city, Carcassonne. Players use tiles depicting parts of cities, roads, fields, and monasteries to build the city. They place their “followers” (aka meeples) on the tiles to help with development.

Carcassonne: build your kingdom, put your meeples to work

The concept of Carcassonne is even simpler than Catan. All you need to do is pick a tile at random, place it on the table to connect it with the rest of the board, then deploy one of your followers and score points. The player with the most points at the end wins. This is the only game on this list that I haven’t played with my family of non-gamers (aka, my very own guinea pigs for this post), but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we play it together.

Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride is one of my favorite games. It is yet another simple concept with a lot of strategy involved. The board is set up like a map of the United States and your goal is to connect different cities through a train route using cards that you receive in the beginning of the game. On your turn you are doing one of three things: picking up cards, placing trains, or choosing a new route. You score points based on the length of your trains in addition to the point value of your routes. Any routes you do not finish at the end of the game is worth negative points. And if you ever get tired of using the United States map, Days of Wonder has created several other maps that each add something new to the game.

Ticket to Ride is a must for families.
Ticket to Ride is a must for families.

The first time my family came into the café I taught them Ticket to Ride. They liked it enough that we bought it and took it on our beach vacation last summer. My brother, Ridge, was acting very overconfident throughout the game, claiming that he had the greatest strategy. He even kept taking new route tickets.  We get to the end of the game and, as we’re going through his routes to double-check that he completed them, we realize that he didn’t finish a single of his routes. In each one, he forgot just a small section, but ultimately never finished any of them. We were all laughing as we subtracted his points and his response was “why are you all laughing?” He ended up with negative forty-one points.

Tsuro

Perhaps the simplest of all the games on this list is Tsuro. Tsuro is a game in which the last man standing wins. In it, players place tiles on the board and follow the path on it until they reach the end. If your path takes you off the edge of the board, you lose. If you run into another player, you both lose. The catch is, you may only place tiles in front of your piece. You must strategically place your tiles in a way that you can not only defensively play and avoid the other players, but also offensively play and try to connect your path with another player’s path in a way that forces them to run off the board.

Tsuro (pronounced Suro)a beautiful & simple game to play.

When I taught my mom and grandma Tsuro, the strategy part of it simply went over their heads, but it was still a simple enough concept that they didn’t ask very many questions while I was explaining it. I think one of them may have inadvertently run herself off the board due to a combination of bad tiles and not thinking ahead, but I think they still enjoyed it.

 

If you are new to gaming, but want to learn more, try one of these games! I can guarantee that everyone on staff knows how to play at least one of these and would be more than willing to teach you.

Our Favorite Games: Co-op Games

Our Favorite Games: Co-op Games

A large majority of board games are competitive; in most of these games, you and your opponents are generally in a race to gain the most victory points or make it to the end of a track. These types of games are great for competitive people, but sometimes players want something a little bit different. For any group looking to work on their team-building skills, trying out a cooperative game might be the way to go. Here are two of our favorites!

Marvel Legendary

Pick by Jarrett

I have talked about Marvel Legendary in a previous post, but it’s just that great that it deserves another shout-out here. Marvel Legendary is a cooperative deck-building game featuring all of your favorite Marvel characters. We love Legendary and not just because of the Marvel superhero theme (although it certainly is a plus!).

Legendary plays a lot like most deck-building games, but, although you are each building your own deck, you are working together to take down one central villain (the “Mastermind”) and his henchmen. Either everyone wins when you defeat the main villain, or everyone loses if the Mastermind completes his evil scheme before you can defeat him. You can also make the difficulty easier or harder depending on what Mastermind and scheme you choose. And, if your group wants to be competitive, each villain you defeat has a certain number of victory points that you can compare at the end in order to determine the “ultimate winner.”

The base game comes with a variety of characters to choose from so there are a lot of combinations you can make when setting up the game as you choose the heroes you want to add to your deck and the villains you want to fight. The game can be different every time you play, giving it great replay value. In addition, if you were to, for whatever reason, get bored with the options available in the base game, there are plenty of expansions to add even more variety to your game.

Legendary has many expansions available

The only downside to this game is the long set-up time, especially the first time you set it up, and the equally long clean-up time. Luckily, the more you play, the easier all of that will get. Otherwise, Marvel Legendary is a great game, no matter whether you like deck-building games, are a fan of the Marvel Universe, or are simply looking for a fun cooperative game.

Castle Panic

Pick by John

Anytime I teach Castle Panic in the café, I make sure to give players the following disclaimer: “Chances are very high that you will lose this game.” Most of the time, this turns out to be true, but there are those rare occasions where I return to a group when they’ve finished and they excitedly inform me that they won. Still, win or lose, Castle Panic is a great cooperative game that people tend to have a lot of fun with.   

In Castle Panic, players are working together to defend their castle from invading trolls, goblins, and orcs. The board is set up in a circle with your castle in the middle. The monsters start on the outer ring of the circle and slowly move closer to your castle until you either defeat it or it hits your castle. You win when you have defeated all of the monsters and you lose when the monsters have destroyed all of your castle pieces. Players use cards to attack the monsters depending on what sector of the board they are in and you must work together as a team to plan ahead based on what cards other players have.

It seems simple enough, right? Simple until you have trolls closing in on you, ready to take down your defenses, and suddenly a tile is drawn that causes you and your teammates to lose half of your cards and worse still, you draw a boss tile that heals up all of the monsters on the board. Sometimes even the best planning isn’t enough to win this game; having a lot of luck with your draws is definitely part of it.

Someone had better take out that troll!

Most of the time it seems like Castle Panic is not enough “castle” and too much “panic,” but it’s still a really fun game. In addition to the base game, there are also a few expansions that you can add to your game and even a few different versions like Star Trek Panic or Munchkin Panic, just in case you aren’t “panicked” enough. Even still, the base game is plenty to keep you coming back for more.

Be sure to check out one of these games the next time you stop in!

Magic Talk: Aether Revolt

Even if you don’t consider yourself a gamer, you probably know about Magic: The Gathering. Ever since its creation in 1993, Magic: The Gathering has taken the world by storm as the most popular collectible card game. An estimated twenty million people play Magic. How seriously all of these people play, I do not know, but twenty million is still an impressive number nonetheless. Our regular player base here at the café is only a teeny tiny little fraction of that, but we still boast a fairly decent number. I can say with certainty that our Magic events consistently have the highest turnout of any of our events. Our Aether Revolt Pre-Release event was at max capacity and we already have a lot of people signed up for our Game Day event this coming Saturday.

I don’t know who the fire lady is, but she looks pretty cool

Aether Revolt is the newest set of Magic cards that was released in January. The story behind the new set is that after Kaladesh (aka the set before this one) the government began confiscating inventions and arresting inventors, causing discontent among the people. These new cards have been available for a bit less than a month and they seem to be doing well. However, as we are all very aware, I am not a Magic player. So I asked some of our regular players to offer their opinions:

“The flavor and story of the newest block as a whole is probably my favorite to date. Around the café it’s no secret that I’m trying to collect the Masterpiece cards. They are elusive, but I’ll get them, just watch.” –Colby B

“At first I wasn’t super excited, but the more I play with the cards, the better it gets! The new “revolt” ability adds a really cool element to the game. I really like the new card Paradox Engine. It really combos well with a card from an older set, making some crazy standard decks!” –Colton E

“I really enjoy the card Heart of Kiran. It’s a two cost vehicle and its stats are way better than Smuggler’s Copter.” –Bobby J

“It’s a good set. It’s a lot of fun. The cards are pretty. There are no squirrels.” Bill H

If you’d like to check out the new set, we have plenty available in the café. And, of course, Game Day is coming up this Saturday, the 11th so sign-up now to ensure your spot!

https://www.facebook.com/events/1042371595892114/

Our Favorite Games: Two Player Games

Part One

Patchwork

Pick by Laura (and basically everyone else)

If you have ever wandered into our café with a date, unsure of what you want to play, chances are you’ve been presented with one of our most popular two-player games: Patchwork. Patchwork is one of those games that every game guru knows how to play because it is a great game for us to teach. In fact, as I type this, I just heard Tom say to a pair currently in the café, “I’d really love to teach you Patchwork; I think you guys would enjoy it.”

Patchwork is a game in which you and your opponent are competing to create the best quilt. “A game about quilting?” you may ask. Don’t be fooled by the game’s theme and adorable artwork; Patchwork is an abstract puzzle game that requires surprising amount of thought and decision-making. In it you use buttons to purchase new patches to place on your quilt, trying to leave as little empty space as possible. The patches on your quilt will also earn you buttons and by the end of the game, the player with the most buttons is the winner. Any empty space left on your quilt will be subtracted from your button total.

It’s probably a miracle if your board looks as nice as this one

We love Patchwork because the concept is incredibly simple, but there is a surprising amount of strategy involved in purchasing your patches and placing them on the board. The patches are shaped in a way that is reminiscent of the shapes in Tetris so fitting them together without leaving empty spaces (you don’t want empty spaces because they are worth negative points at the end) is a large part of the strategy. You also want to try to plan your own purchases and movement in a way that impedes your opponent from purchasing future patches you think you may want.

A lot of people end up having negative points the first time they play, but people still enjoy the game in spite of that and are generally eager to try again and get a better score. And it has a great replay value as the order of the patches you can purchase will always be different. In fact, there have been several times where people have come into the café and say to us, “We want to play the game we played last time we were here with patches and buttons.” Not only is it a favorite of ours, but it seems to be a customer favorite as well.

Battleline

Pick by Evan

For a pair of two looking for a more intensive strategy game, Battleline is probably what will be suggested to you. Battleline is a favorite of Evan’s who believes that there is no better one on one strategy game than Battleline. In Battleline, you create different combinations of cards in order to best your opponent and capture flags. The combinations exist in a hierarchy of power, similar to poker hands in that a flush is going to beat a straight; for example, having three cards of the same value will beat having three cards with the same color. Each flag on the “battlefield” will have cards added to it by each player until three cards are on either side and that flag is claimed by one player. In addition, there is a separate deck of cards with different abilities that can help you.

The Battalion Order would lose to the Phalanx across the table

The strategy is in knowing where and when to place your cards and trying to anticipate what combinations your opponent is creating so that you can create one that will beat theirs. Almost everyone who has played it here has enjoyed it, especially players who love higher level strategy games. People enjoy trying to out-think their opponent as they fight over the flags. Remember that pair I mentioned earlier in this post? A woman and her son who had been in previously in the week and had learned Battleline from Evan. They enjoyed it so much that they returned to play again and see if they could get a better grasp on the game.

These can currently be found on the “Staff Picks” shelf in the cafe!

Next time you’re in the café and need a game for two, whether you’re on a date or hanging with a friend or family member, be sure to check out one of these great games for two!

Star Wars Destiny: The Next Big Thing

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of years, you know that the Star Wars franchise has been rejuvenated with the addition of new stories in the form of a new trilogy and plenty of spin-off movies in the works over the course of the next several years. Of course, this means that now is the perfect time to cash in on the series’ newfound popularity (not that Star Wars has ever not been popular, mind you). That means new merchandise—and lots of it. There are new tee-shirts, posters, toys, LEGO sets, and, most importantly from our perspective, games. There of course have been new Star Wars themed Monopoly’s and Life’s and plenty of video games, but a game that we have seen become a huge hit in our café is Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars Destiny.

Star Wars Destiny was first released not long after Thanksgiving and almost immediately we ran out of booster packs. There was a seemingly long period of time between that and our next shipment of booster packs in which many of our customers (and even some employees) waited in agony. We got frequent calls wondering if we’d finally gotten more boosters in and even some people wanting to reserve a whole box. We even investigated other gaming stores in the area, but it was the same story everywhere we went: sold out. Finally, just before Christmas, we got the shipment in and once again, the boosters were gone in a few days.

The highly sought-after booster box

So what is this new game? Star Wars Destiny is a collectible card game similar to Magic: The Gathering in which you build a deck consisting of characters, weapons, vehicles, and abilities and use it to battle your opponent. In addition, there is a dice component to the game in the same vein of Dice Masters. Certain cards come with a die that you must use with the card in order to attack your opponent.

Why is this game so popular? Well, first of all, it’s new. As with most “new” things, there is a bit of hype surrounding it. People are curious and gamers especially have a desire to check out the newest games. Secondly, as I’ve talked about before in regards to Dice Masters, people are attracted to collectible card games because of the excitement they feel from collecting new cards and building new decks. But perhaps most importantly, it is a new Star Wars game. Star Wars is one of the biggest, most beloved stories to ever grace the big screen. Players enjoy opening booster packs and looking for their favorite Star Wars characters to add to their teams. And, as with Dice Masters, trying out different combinations of characters is part of the fun. Do you want Darth Vader to team up with Kylo Ren against Han Solo and Boba Fett? Star Wars Destiny will let you do that.

The first booster opened in our cafe contained the one and only Darth Vader

Although this game has only been out for a little more than a month, it already seems to me that it is a big hit. Only time will tell if it continues to grow in popularity or eventually dies out. Plenty of other collectible card games have come out in the past, all trying to emulate the success of Magic: The Gathering. Few have succeeded, but it seems that, at least for now, Star Wars Destiny just might.

The Popularity of Dice Masters

“The latest Dice Masters set includes cards from the popular Green Arrow and Flash series.”
“The latest Dice Masters set includes cards from the popular Green Arrow and Flash series.”

At The Game Table Café we believe in combining great food (sandwiches, baked goods and Coffee) with great board games.  One of the games that gets a great deal of play in the Café is Dice Masters.  We always have a great turnout for our tournaments and see plenty of boosters being opened. But what is it about Dice Masters that makes it such a popular game? What about the game attracts players? While I do not regularly play myself, there is a genuine interest in the game and our players from Central Pennsylvania truly enjoy playing it.

“Here are some of the Dice Masters starter sets we have at The Game Table Café”
“Here are some of the Dice Masters starter sets we have at The Game Table Café”

So what is Dice Masters? Dice Masters is a collectible, dice-drafting game for two players. It combines characters from many different franchises from DC and Marvel Comics to Dungeons and Dragons to Yu-Gi-Oh.  You collect cards and matching dice and assemble a team of characters to battle other players.  You play by rolling your dice and then either using them to draft character-specific dice to add to your pool or deploying them to attack your opponent. The player who depletes their opponent’s 20 life points wins.

“Raelle’s Favorite”
“Raelle’s Favorite”

When I first started working at The Game Table Café, I briefly ventured into Dice Masters, buying the booster packs in the hopes of owning the Nightwing card. Nightwing is my favorite superhero and with boosters being only a dollar, why not try for him? This desire to own my favorite character’s card is something that I have in common with a lot of Dice Masters players. I have watched as customers bought dozens of packs and then sat down and opened them, excited to see what they would get and eager to trade with friends. With the rise of Magic the Gathering in the 90’s, many have tried to emulate the success of the collectible card game and few have succeeded. Dice Masters is one of those few. There is a great deal of fun simply buying boosters and collecting your favorite characters. With so many different characters to choose from, there are hundreds of different combinations you can try when creating your Dice Master team.

“Just Imagine Avengers fighting it out with X-Men”
“Just Imagine Avengers fighting it out with X-Men”

For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of Dice Masters is that you can finally answer this age-old question: “Who would win in a fight?” For whatever reason, superhero fans love pitting their favorite characters against each other. While Captain America and Superman can’t exactly fight to the death in comics, in Dice Masters, you can make that happen. What if Harley Quinn and Iron Man teamed up to take on Wonder Woman and Doctor Octopus? What would happen if we pitted all of the Bat family characters against all of Earth’s Green Lanterns? What if all of the superheroes suddenly had monsters from Yu-Gi-Oh cards at their disposal? These questions may never be answered in comics, but you can play out these and many other exciting scenarios in Dice Masters.

But enough from me. I asked our resident Dice Masters expert and some of our regular players what they enjoy about the game. Of course, one of the popular answers was collecting characters and Dice Masters is fairly inexpensive compared to other popular CCGs. Dice Masters players enjoy using these characters to experiment with different teams and then see how their teams stack up against the teams of other players. The strategy element of the game was cited as another important aspect of the game. There is a bit of luck involved in the game between the blind drawing of dice from your bag and then rolling said dice, but the strategy comes in when deciding what to do with those dice. Do you want to spend energy to buy more dice or send dice out to the field? Do you want to risk re-rolling dice? Do you want to attack even if you know you’ll get blocked? There are many choices to make during play so that players can turn even a bad roll into good, strategic gameplay.

“Add to your team using boosters like these in the booster box display at The Game Table Café”
“Add to your team using boosters like these in the booster box display at The Game Table Café”

Well, there you have it! If you enjoy strategic, nerdy, collectible, battling games for two people then Dice Masters would be great for you. Over the past few months, I’ve seen many different types of people playing this game—men and women, adults and children. Families come in and play together. Only two weeks ago a father and his daughter came in wanting to learn to play. While Dice Masters may be a strategic or even competitive game, it can be learned by anyone and anyone can have fun playing it. We have a starter set in our library so if you fancy a game of Dice Masters come to The Game Table Café and we would be more than happy to teach it to you!