Chicago Geek Guy

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#8: The Gazelle Gets Lost

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Dede uncurled from the chair of the tiny bridge to get a better look. The plastic end of the straw flattened and split as the first mate rolled it between her teeth. She took a sip, letting the liquid spill out of the tube in unexpected and delightful directions. The engineer peered over her display and heard plastic crack in her mouth again as she reviewed the data.

The packages were all there. Then they were gone. And now two of the three were back. The firing signal had been jammed. But how could they have been jammed if the bad guys didn’t about the bombs?

Dede set down her drink as the pieces clicked together in her mind. Her fingers followed the Gazelle’s pre-ignition sequence. Firing up the ship would leave her open to detection by any air breathing aircraft passing overhead. Captain Gili had gone dark a few hours ago. When she came back up, Dede had a feeling she would need to find her fast.

If things totally went to the Nine Hells, she still had two packages to deliver.

******

Professor Arleth stirred where he lay on the cot. His eye fluttered, then opened. Dry lips croaked a low groan. Giselle lifted his head slightly and offered him something to drink from an open cup.

“You’re safe, Professor,” she told him. “My name is Giselle Gili. You’re in a safe house in the Catar Rift region of Hasmyke.” The grey haired figured nodded as he slowly drained the glass. She helped him to a sitting position. “Take it slow. Let the quick heal do its work.” Gili left the bed to refill the glass.

She crossed a thick carpet laid out on a flagstone floor. Tapestries hung from the walls, their threads outlining the forms of hunters astride some unrecognizable quadruped. The stuffed head of a four-eyed ungulate watched them from its perch above an unlit, stone fireplace.

“You’re military?” the older man asked. Gili lifted a heavy, crystal pitcher and poured water into the glass.

“In a previous life,” she answered as she returned to his side and offered the cup. “The university hired my ship to rescue you.”

Arleth nodded before slowly lifting two freshly re-bandaged hands to hold the glass. “I should have figured you’d notice,” Giselle remarked, “I read your record from your time in the Alliance Army. You ground pounders sure know how to get into trouble.”

“That’s why we have you space squids to save us?” The two shared a smile as the professor struggled to take another drink. “What gave me away?” Giselle asked.

“The submachine gun,” Arleth answered, slowly nodding towards the weapon where it rested nearby. “Roberts Model VII. Standard naval issue.”

“I’m a woman of habit. Besides they use the Model…”

“Where’s Keven?” the professor asked abruptly, trying to sluff the bed coverings off his body.

“Slow down there, professor,” Giselle cautioned. “Keven’s in good hands. He’s uninjured, and unless I misread the look on their faces, helping themselves to a drink from this place’s liquor cabinet.”

“Them?”

“The university hired two rescue teams,” the captain explained. “We ran into each other at the base. Lothar,” Giselle couldn’t prevent an eyebrow from lifting, “is seeing to Keven while I take care of you. It seems that Lothar’s med kit and training is not up to snuff.” A smile punctuated her snark.

“Does that happen often?” Arleth asked her as he settled back onto the pillows.

“It’s unusual,” Captain Gili confessed. “Clients usually offer a job to multiple outfits when time is short and the risk it high. Rescues pay on delivery.”

She paused to purse her lips. “For this job, I demanded three quarters up front.”

The professor nodded. “Smart woman, but offering that much up front to two teams doesn’t sound much like President Garsdale.”

“You must be pretty important to retrieve in one piece,” Giselle remarked.

He lifted his arms and held the them in front of his face. Tightly wound bandages covered the bruises and cuts. “How bad was it?”

“Mostly damage to soft tissue,” the Captain explained. “They hadn’t started to break any bones, yet. With the meds I’ve given you, you should be able to get on your feet right now. But let’s not rush anything.”

“I don’t know why they tortured me,” the professor continued. “I told them the location of any dig I worked on in the last four years on this planet. I must have sent them halfway around the continent every time they hurt me.” A weak smile rose to his lips. “Torture doesn’t work on everybody. I told them what would get them to stop, but I never gave up the location of the Ruins of Kabreth.”

Giselle’s head tilted as she took the empty glass from the professor. “If torture doesn’t work, what does?”

The professor blinked twice. “Please help me to my feet. We need to find Keven.”

******

The brown liquor spilled over the edge of the crystal glass. “Opps,” Lothar chuckled as he brought the glass to his mouth. His tongue darted out to lick up the overflow. “We don’t want this to go to waste.”

“No. No we don’t.” Keven laughed as he took a long drink. His body shivered with its warm. “They definitely didn’t serve this at the dig sites.” The student’s tongue slowed around the s’ like a car trying to navigate a sharp curve.

“Here’s to rich hunters and their dens!” Lothar raised his glass then took a sip. Keven gulped down a larger swallow. “Here, here.”

Keven looked around the room, the well-appointed furnishing, hardwood cabinets and trim, the think plush of a dark carpet. “I’m surprised something like this still exists on Hasmyke. It’s nice to know the To’kath Karaa hasn’t destroyed everything on this planet.”

“Like your work?”

“Like my work.” Keven’s head nodded slowly. “Dig after dig destroyed. Not reburied. Just blown up. So much history, just… poof.”

“Not Kabreth,” Lothar said, his head tilting as he took a sip.

“No. No Kabreth.” Keven agreed.

“What makes Kabreth so special?”

The student finished his glass then held it out for a refill. “Everything. It’s condition. It’s location as….”

“Keven!”

Keven failed his first attempt to stand. Wrapping his fingers around the arms of his chair, he succeeded on his second try. “Professor? I didn’t expect…. How are you?”

Captain Gili guided the older man to the vacated chair, helping him slowly shift his weight from her shoulders to the seat. “I’m fine, lad. I’m fine.” The Professor lifted his head to address Lothar. “I understand we have you to thank for our rescue.”

The swarthy gentleman stood across the table from the older man. “Yes. I was contracted…”

“Hey, I helped, too!” Giselle interjected.

Professor Arleth nodded. “Lothar, Captain Gili,” he began. “To prevent deception in kidnapping situations, the university was to give out a pass phrase to potential rescuers to identify themselves.” His eyes traveled from potential savior to savior. “What is that secret code?”

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Midwinter Gaming Convention: Scythe

I will admit. The vibrant colors of the plastic miniatures first caught my eye; then, the gorgeous art of the game board. It took a second to sink in. Oh, that’s that game my friend Dan’s been raving about.

The Midwinter Gaming Convention gave me my first opportunity to block out enough time, sit down and play Scythe, a worker placement game set in an alternate 1920’s from Stonemaier Games. The game takes its tone from the works of artist Jakub Rozalski and feels a lot like the world of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan Trilogy.

The game looks intimidating. Plastic miniatures, cards, wooden blocks, a large map, and cardboard playmats fill the box. Laid out, the materials take up more table space than there might be table. All these parts serve a noble purpose. Once set up and briefly explained, Scythe offers a relatively easy to play experience. The blocks and plastic simplify bookkeeping, allowing the player to focus on the game itself.

The combination of two different player boards per participant and hidden objective card make the game different in each playthrough. Playing the same faction will feel different from game to game, and strategies and tactics need to reflect the current setting. This game allows for all sort of different game play. Players may explore, produce, or fight their way to victory.

I greatly enjoyed my introduction to the game. Host Kevin Jung and his crew understood the rules well and conveyed them effectively. This session’s players each approached the game differently. One tried to win through conquest. Another though production. I completely failed to utilize my faction’s special abilities and flailed through the playthrough. I don’t think I impressed anyone with my gaming acumen.

Still, the group let me flounder pleasantly, providing help, support, and a sense of humor when needed. Overall, the experience left me ordering my own copy of the game right after the session so I can practice in private. Scythe calls for ONE to five players. After a few rounds with the automation, I figure I’ll be ready to face real people again.

Midwinter Gaming Convention: Vendor Room

From my perspective, one of the highlights of every con is the vendor room.  As usual, I was pulled in by the vendors’ siren song of at Midwinter.  At first glance, I wasn’t all that impressed with the vendor room.  When compared to other cons I’ve attended, like Anime Boston, which has a giant hall with hundreds of tables, the smallish ballroom of 38 vendors was unimpressive. Upon further examination, I changed my mind.

The vendors were a variety of mostly smaller, individual crafters as opposed to larger retailers selling mass produced products like posters, magic cards, etc. They were selling all types of wares that would be of interest to gamers with a variety of interests including stuffed dice, weaponry and various steampunk items.  I will admit to being a girly-girl, so my own personal focus was more toward the ornamental as opposed to weaponry. 

I purchased items from a number of vendors, and sharing my favorites with you.  In my opinion, the most talented vendor was LisaSell, a 2D and 3D artist who is a magician with resin.  Lisa Sell, the owner, makes gorgeous resin masks from obviously laboriously hand-carved molds, with breathtaking results.  I had spent most of my money by the time I arrived at her table, but I happily plunked down $25 for two smaller pieces (a beautiful steampunk metal fascinator and a resin steampunk charm).  Luckily, Lisa also has an ETSY store (also called LisaSell) where I can purchase one of her lovely masks once I’ve saved up my pennies.

Another favorite vendor was Tops It Off – Custom Crochet Shop, owned by Mimi Refici, from Kenosha, Wisconsin. She makes and sells wonderful, winter, geeky creations including but certainly not limited to pokeball hats, a batman hat complete with a mask to cover the wearer’s eyes, and a variety of other characters.  If she doesn’t have the exact item you want, I understand that she can make anything (based upon what I saw, I believe it).  I fell in love with an adorable hippo hat and hard warmers that I’ve worn pretty much every day.  If you can’t wait until the 2018 Midwinter Gaming Convention, you can contact her on her Facebook Page, Tops it Off – Custom Crochet. 

If I had one complaint about the vendor room, it would be the jewelry.  Practically every vendor selling jewelry carried some form of chainmail necklaces and bracelets.  There was else to choose from, other than the not necessarily geeky beaded jewelry, although I did see one vendor selling a variety of jewelry with bones (or resin looking bones).   

My final shout out goes to the Mobile Stress Relief Unit, who did a fabulous job of massaging away my aches and pains.  In general, I have to declare the vendor room a success.

Midwinter Gaming Convention: Tokaido

I did not expect to play Tokaido at Midwinter. I bought a copy at my FLGS  six months ago and haven’t even had a chance to open it.  However, Saturday evening as we headed over to the board game library checkout desk, we saw a group of three geeky hipsters opening the Tokaido box. Trusting the friendly environment fostered by Midwinter, we took a risk and asked if we could join them.

The game and the company did not disappoint.

We found Tokaido remarkably chill and seriously fun. Each player takes the role of a traveler walking the “East Sea Road.” Temples, farms, picturesque panoramas, souvenir shops, and inns dot the trail, each offering a unique experience. There’s no dice rolling, fighting, or killing. The players just walk a beautifully rendered game board, soaking up as much culture as they can. At the end of the journey, the player collecting the most local knickknacks, donating the most to the temples, eating the most expensive foods, and viewing the most beautiful landscapes wins the game.

It’s a well-constructed game, easy to understand and lovely to look at. I offer only one complaint. The subtle color scheme of the game makes it difficult to tell the difference between different experiences. The color used for hot springs looks awfully close to the color used for the panoramas.

Sharing the travels with others adds a full measure of enjoyment to the game. Our group of players chose a freewheeling ronin, a geisha, an itinerant monk, and a starving artist. Together, we carved a fun story of adventure and involvement, all in less than 60 minutes.

Tokaido, from Passport Game Studios, for 2 to 5 players, age 8 and up.

Midwinter Has Come! (and Gone!) – First Impressions

2017 marked Chicago Geek Guy’s first visit to the Midwinter Gaming Convention, but not that last. The two of us enjoyed ourselves immensely across two floors of the beautiful Milwaukee Hilton City Center, playing games, shopping, and making new friends. 

Over the next few days, we plan to share our impressions of the convention, the games we played, and thoughts raised by participating. Today, we’ll focus on the Con’s organization.

“We found the size of Midwinter a perfect fit.”

Small when compared to industry power houses like Gen Con and Origins, we found the size of Midwinter a perfect fit. The con grouped registration, events, and the exhibition hall close together, with food and drink offerings just a short elevator hop away.

The size of the convention helped foster a greater sense of intimacy and friendliness. One would likely have an opportunity to game with the same folks multiple times, helping to foster a budding acquaintance or even friendship. Special guest mingled freely among participants. John Wick talked to people in character at the 7th Sea LARPS. Danielle Lauzon deftly led tabletop and live action sessions of the system. All the special guests felt approachable and took care to remember names and offer guidance based on a player’s experience and familiarity with the game.

“It was not difficult to find convention organizer Anne Holms…”

Event staff kept a watchful eye on the proceedings, doing their best to find answers when asked. It was not difficult to find convention organizer Anne Holms lurking the hallways and play area, chatting people up and listening to feedback. Anne and staff member Meredith Gerber welcomed criticism, often anticipating it, ready with suggestions for next year that would address the problems. Working the registration desk, Jonathon offered an immediate solution to a pressing problem and helped relieve a potential heap of confusion. JR Cillian Green kept things flowing smoothly in the board game library. Nearly constantly filled with happy gamers, we think the convention can count the board game room a growing success.

“I can’t believe how nice people are.”

We got to learn a new game with these friendly folks.

“I can’t believe how nice people are.” We heard this refrain constantly throughout the convention areas. People treated each other with respect and civility. Gamers of different ages blended seamlessly in a safe environment. Hotel staff greeted each participate warmly and felt ready to engage us individually about our hobby.

We believe Midwinter Gaming Convention offers something for all gamers in a healthy milieu.  We’ll dig into the specifics over the next few days.

12 Days of Holiday Gaming – Vampire: the Masquerade

And we’re at the end of the line for my 2016 Holiday Gaming Suggestions! I hope people have appreciated these three bonus days of more complicated games, because we’re ending with a seriously complicated one: The newest edition of the Vampire: the Masquerade Live Action RPG, by By Night Studios.

Vampire, and all of the other World of Darkness LARPs, use a ruleset called Mind’s Eye Theatre (or MET). Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of my LARPing experience has been with the MET system, I wasn’t actually a big fan of the previous editions. (For the sake of brevity, I’m not including the nWoD/Chronicles of Darkness MET rules in any of this.) While the original rules were undoubtably revolutionary in the early 1990s when they were first published, by the beginning of the 2000s they had become a hot mess. Too much content had been added without really reexamining the system’s roots, in part because the World of Darkness setting was in a state of rapid expansion across its myriad of titles. Ultimately I felt like MET had too many vague rules, exceptions, and downright contradictions in it. This turned the Rock/Paper/Scissors mechanic into a slog that easily broke the flow of the game when narrative tension should have been getting to its highest. MET had started as a yacht, and through a series of jury-rigs was trying to perform the job of an ocean liner. It really wasn’t working out.

Somehow, By Night Studios has managed to do what I thought was nearly impossible. They have taken that hot mess and turned it into something grand. This is the facelift MET needed. Not only is it relevant again, but it’s a reminder of why, for a long time, it was the industry standard for Live Action rules.

Here’s where this suggestion gets tricky: It would take way too much time to describe all of the differences between the old MET system and this one. So I’m only going to provide the most bare bones description below. If it sounds interesting to you, check out the free quickstart guide. I highly recommend that anyone who’s every tried previous editions of MET give it a once-over, too. (http://pegasus.rpgnow.com/product/132185/Minds-Eye-Theatre-Vampire-The-Masquerade-Quickstart-Guide)

At its core, the MET system has become simpler than ever. Characters have three different attribute sets rated 1-10: Physical, Mental, and Social. They also have a series of skills rated 0-5, and a pool of Willpower that fluctuates from 0-6. When a character attempts to do something, they play Rock/Paper/Scissors (against the game’s Storyteller, or sometimes against another player) rather than rolling dice. If they lose, they fail. If they tie, they compare their relevant attribute + relevant skill against the difficulty. If the character has a higher number, they succeed. If they win the R/P/S check, they succeed. If they win and their relevant attribute + relevant skill is higher than the task’s difficulty, they get an exception success.

Willpower provides an avenue of hope for the loser of a R/P/S check. At the cost of a Willpower point, the loser can force a retest. This can only be done once per challenge. Given that Willpower also provides a defensive bonus against certain attacks, players must use this limited resource very carefully.

You may be wondering why, at the opening of this review, I wrote that this was going to be a seriously complicated suggestion, then I went on to praise how simple the rules had become. That’s because the complexity is in everything else the book provides. This is simultaneously the newest MET rules, tailored for the Vampire game; a history of the various vampire political movements; an update of the state of the world since the start of the new millennium; the player’s guide for Camarilla, Sabbat, and Anarch chronicles; and a write-up of nearly every vampire clan and bloodline that White Wolf has published since 1991. This book has over 20 years of content; revised, updated, and streamlined! While it is a truly Herculean feat, it also means that the book is incredibly intimidating to new players. There’s just so much stuff! And while the above quickstart guide is nice, it’s a really big of leap from it to the full book. An intermediate resource would be a welcome addition.

To be completely clear, I love this 440 plus page book. I’m amazed by the work that went in to updating both the rules and the fiction of the Vampire: the Masquerade world, and I’m very excited to see what By Night Studios does with the other World of Darkness lines, especially with this kind of quality. (Changeling, please!) But there’s no way I would recommend the book to beginners, not unless I knew they had a strong community of LARPers who would guide them through the steep learning curve.

Good thing I live in a city full of great LARPers.

(PS/Shameless plug: If you do find yourself wanting to buy this book, please consider purchasing it from the Pegasus Games sub-store of DriveThruRPG Thank you!) — with By Night Studios.

About the Author

James Nettum started playing RPG’s while in fourth grade, sneaking in sessions of AD&D on the playground of his Catholic school. He went pro at the age of 25 when he took a position at Pegasus Games in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been there 10 years and plays every sort of game, except collectibles.

James started posting a 12 Days of Holiday Gaming via Facebook on Black Friday. I enjoyed the recommendations and wanted to share them. With his permission, I’m reblogging the series here at Chicago Geek Guy.

12 Days of Holiday Gaming – Ravingspire

And now the second bonus day of my Holiday Game Suggestions is here, and it’s a doozy! Today’s bonus game is Ravingspire, by Vorpal Chainsword Games. And yes, I know the game designer on this one. No, I’m not getting a whole bunch of money for raving about it. (Hahahaha… sorry.)

Much like Mystic Vale, Ravingspire takes the idea of a deck building game and does something new with it. Actually, it does a few new things with it. The biggest is that it merges deck building with dungeon crawl board games. This game is–by one of the creator’s own admission–Dominion meets Talisman.

The dungeon crawl feel starts at the beginning of the game, when each player picks a their own character. Each character’s starting deck is a different mix of the game’s three currencies: Fight, Skill, and Charm. Additionally, each character gets a unique special ability, and a personalized mix of card types they can hold in between turns. Hello, varied playstyle right out of the gate!

This being a dungeon crawl, of course there are multiple levels to the dungeon and mat. (Three, to be exact.) Each level will have its own group of cards, which are items to be acquired, monsters to be killed, and traps to be overcome. Where your character is on the map affects what they can interact with.

Cards are acquired or defeated by paying their cost in one (or more) of the game’s three currencies. But most cards have an optional cost that’s much higher, but can be paid with a mix of any of the currencies. It’s a great rule that helps speed up the deck building process.

And the dungeon itself is always changing, thanks to a rotating board that the players can fight over control of.

And there are deadly foes that will chase the characters all over the dungeon.

And there are sanity mechanics, which serves not only as each character’s hit points, but also the timer for the game as a whole.

And the end game is determined randomly by drawing one of five possibilities at the start of the game. And for maximum intrigue the endings are sealed. No peeking!

In case it’s not clear enough, Ravingspire is a game with a lot of crunch! This one is for experienced gamers, no two ways about it. But here is no other game quite like it, so if you need to get a game from someone who seemingly has all of them, here’s a great choice.

Special praise must be made for how the game is being sold. It was funded on Kickstarter, and is only available from a few brick-and-mortar stores across the US because it’s not at distributors yet. So it’s also being sold on Amazon… for the same price most FLGSs will be selling it for. It’s a nice gesture that deserves to be called out.

Tomorrow, the last bonus game and the real end to my 12 Days of Holiday Game Suggestions

About the Author

James Nettum started playing RPG’s while in fourth grade, sneaking in sessions of AD&D on the playground of his Catholic school. He went pro at the age of 25 when he took a position at Pegasus Games in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been there 10 years and plays every sort of game, except collectibles.

James started posting a 12 Days of Holiday Gaming via Facebook on Black Friday. I enjoyed the recommendations and wanted to share them. With his permission, I’m reblogging the series here at Chicago Geek Guy.

12 Days of Holiday Gaming – Mystic Vale

Hello, first ever bonus day of Holiday Gaming Suggestions! These three days will cover games that are for the more experienced gamer, which is why I didn’t include them in the original 12. But they’re still excellent games that aren’t getting as much fanfare as I think they deserve, so here we are.

We start with Mystic Vale, by Alderac Entertainment Group. (See my post on Lost Legacy about my connections to AEG employees. Nothing’s changed in a week!) Mystic Vale is a much needed upgrade to the deck building game genre for two to four players. Before I heap on the praise I want to be clear that it wasn’t part of my original 12 suggestions because I would never suggest it to people who weren’t familiar with deck building games. I would start people on games like Star Realms, or classic Ascension, and move on to games like Dominion before tackling Mystic Vale.

Now that that’s out of the way, let me explain why Mystic Vale is great. Each player with start with a deck of 20 cards, and each deck is identical. The main marketplace for the rest of cards (called “Advancements”) features three decks of different levels of cost. Three cards from each deck are face up, and available for purchase. So far, this probably reads like your typical deck building game.

So now I should mention that all 20 cards in each of the four starting decks are sleeved. And all of the Advancement are printed on transparent plastic. After Advancements are purchased, they are added to the sleeves of the cards used during a player’s turn, thus modifying the effect of the card itself. Because of this, decks will always be 20 cards. What each of those 20 cards can do is what changes during the course of the game. And this is how Mystic Vale alters the very nature of a deck building game, making it what AEG calls a “Card Crafting Game”.

Cool card mechanics aside, most of Mystic Vale’s rules will seem familiar to most deck building enthusiasts. The number of players determines how many Victory Point tokens are put into the pool at the start of the game. The final round is when the last of the points is gone. There are no cards that hurt another player’s deck. Individual advancements may also be worth points at the end of the game.

But there are some unusual rules aside from the card crafting. Players will never have a hand of cards hidden from each other. Instead available cards are put face up in their play area before their turn begins, using a cool push-your-luck mechanic I haven’t seen before. In addition to Advancements, players can also purchase a type of card called Vales. But Vales don’t go into a players deck, and they aren’t bought with the basic resource every deck starts with. Players can’t buy Vales without having the right Advancements first.

As a nice added bonus, not only does Mystic Vale come with all of the sleeves you’ll need to play (plus 20 extra), it also has a very well designed storage tray right in the box. It’s an important thing, especially considering that all of the cards are tarot sized.

Dominion started a creative boom in card games when it introduced the concept of deck building. I’m excited to see if the same thing happens with Mystic Vale’s system. If you’re a deck building aficionado, make sure you check out Mystic Vale, and see if you share my hopeful eagerness for the future of these types of games.

About the Author

James Nettum started playing RPG’s while in fourth grade, sneaking in sessions of AD&D on the playground of his Catholic school. He went pro at the age of 25 when he took a position at Pegasus Games in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been there 10 years and plays every sort of game, except collectibles.

James started posting a 12 Days of Holiday Gaming via Facebook on Black Friday. I enjoyed the recommendations and wanted to share them. With his permission, I’m reblogging the series here at Chicago Geek Guy.

12 Days of Holiday Gaming – The Guardians Explore

This is it! (Kinda.) This is the last day of my 12 Days of Holiday Gaming Suggestions. (Other than the three bonus days, starting tomorrow.) So, what’s my most overlooked, but highest suggested game this year? … you already know it’s The Guardians: Explore because you saw the picture.

Alright, yet again disclosure time; I know the game designer of this one, too. As was the case in all previous posts, he did not pay me for this, or ask me to write it.

The Guardians: Explore is a delightful mix of various genres, both in its mechanics and flavor. It’s heavy with worker placement mechanics, but with a dungeon-crawl feel. It’s mostly cooperative, but at the advanced levels only one person will be the greatest hero. There are decks for each character class, or you can draft your deck at the beginning of the game. Deck building comes into play as monsters are defeated, and the heroes get stronger. And the setting is a lovely mix of children’s make-believe fantasy in a modern world where the monsters are real. Even the monsters come from a variety of genres, from fantasy orcs to murderous Roomba vacuum cleaners.

It’s this variety that makes The Guardians: Explore such an accessible game for so many people. Children playing in blanket forts, with wooden swords and trash lid shields is a theme that so many younger and older gamers can universally relate to. The option to play a simplified version of the game and slowly introduce the card-drafting and non-cooperative mechanics later means that the entry to the game is lower than the final complexity would suggest. And the sheer variety of mechanics means that The Guardians: Explore is a gateway to different types of games. Like the worker placement rules? Try Lords of Waterdeep next. Best part was the card drafting? Here’s 7 Wonders. Did you like the secret quests, which keep your ultimate end game hidden from the other players until the game is over? Let me tell you about Dead of Winter. The Guardians: Explore is the game that can hook your non-gamer friends into the deeper possibilities of this hobby.

It’s the wonderful mix of mechanics, the artwork that perfectly conveys a world that is both unique and evocative of childhood, and the scaling complexity that makes The Guardians: Explore my top game in my Holiday Game Suggestions.

So what’s tomorrow going to start? Those will be the games that are for a slightly narrower audience than the 12 I’ve discussed here.

About the Author

James Nettum started playing RPG’s while in fourth grade, sneaking in sessions of AD&D on the playground of his Catholic school. He went pro at the age of 25 when he took a position at Pegasus Games in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been there 10 years and plays every sort of game, except collectibles.

James started posting a 12 Days of Holiday Gaming via Facebook on Black Friday. I enjoyed the recommendations and wanted to share them. With his permission, I’m reblogging the series here at Chicago Geek Guy.

12 Days of Holiday Gaming – Wizard

I have a few “go to” games when it comes to groups with mixed gaming experience, as often happens over the holidays. The one I’ve had some of the best success with is Wizard, currently punished by US Game Systems, and it’s my second to last (regular) recommendation in my 12 Days of Holiday Suggestions.

Wizard is a trick-taking card game for three to six people. It plays along the lines of Hearts or Spades, but with a few twists. For starters, the deck is 60 cards. There are the standard 52 playing cards, plus a blue suit of 4 wizards, and 4 jesters. The first wizard played on a trick will automatically win it, and the jester will always count as the lowest card of the trick.

The next twist is a variable hand size. Players will be dealt a number of cards equal to which round the game is currently in: 1 on the first round, 2 in the second, etc. The final round of the game is when the entire deck is dealt out, meaning the that more players, the less rounds in the game. In all rounds but the last, after the hands are dealt the top remaining card of the deck is flipped face up to determine which suit is trump.

The final twist on the classic trick-taking formula is the bet. After hands have been dealt and trump is revealed, each player bets how many tricks they will take. (Zero is a perfectly valid answer.) Players must hit that number. If they do, they score 20 points, plus 10 for each trick they took. If they go under or over, they lose 10 points for every trick they were off. This means that you must lose tricks one you’ve reached your bet!

And… that’s it. This is a short entry because Wizard is a simple game to learn. But it’s highly strategic, very inexpensive, and because it’s played with a poker deck with only a few extra bells and whistles, it’s doesn’t intimidate non-gamers. If you grew up playing Hearts with your family, bring Wizard to the next get together.

About the Author

James Nettum started playing RPG’s while in fourth grade, sneaking in sessions of AD&D on the playground of his Catholic school. He went pro at the age of 25 when he took a position at Pegasus Games in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been there 10 years and plays every sort of game, except collectibles.

James started posting a 12 Days of Holiday Gaming via Facebook on Black Friday. I enjoyed the recommendations and wanted to share them. With his permission, I’m reblogging the series here at Chicago Geek Guy.

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