What old is new

An interesting thing has been happening lately with my game collection. I’ve had a few games that previously left the collection make their way back into the house. It’s odd since I’m always reevaluating my collection and removing those that aren’t getting played. Two games have been added to the collection while a third is just on loan. Each have been added back for a different reason.

Takenoko (BGG link) is the one of the games that came back to the collection recently. This was a case of the right game at the wrong time. Like many people who enter the board game hobby, I went through an early buying spree. This was 3-4 years ago and I was always seeking out games that would appeal to my family. Takenoko kept popping up on the best games for families. As a result, I dutifully tracked down this game during a math trade.  At that time,  my kids were 6 and 9 years old. We played it a couple times but found that they got bored with the game after the 20 minute mark and didn’t quite grasp what they needed to do. As for my wife, gaming is not something she enjoys doing. Due to these circumstances Takenoko sat on my shelf until it was traded away during one of my seasonal purges.

Late in 2018, I took the kids to a demo day at the local game store. The demo day left much to be desired since it was comprised of demo copies of games sitting on tables. The employees were more interested in talking Magic than teaching or answering questions about the board games. As we looked through the stack of games I noticed Takenoko. Side bar, my daughter has become enamored with panda bears. (I assume you see where this is going.) The moment she saw the panda on the Takenoko box she asked to play it. I rarely turn down the kids when they show an interest in a game. We popped open the box and she quickly dug out the panda miniature while I refreshed myself on the rules. From my prior experience with the game, we decided to play to a lower number of completed objectives. At the end of the game, my daughter was ready to play again, but my son wanted to moved on to something else. After that day, every time we went to a game store my daughter would if they had the “panda” game. Needless to say, when I saw a copy of Takenoko show up at the local con flea market, I snapped it up to the excitement of my daughter. We’ve played it a handful of times so it was a good addition to bring back to the collection. Gaming still isn’t something that the kids will suggest often but if I suggest it I’ll usually get one to take me up on it.

Takenoko has proven to be a great game for the kids. We continue to play with the end game trigger being the lower completed objectives which limits the length of the game to something manageable for them. Recently, my daughter has mentioned how quickly the game ends. This is due to the kids focusing mainly on the plot objective cards and hoping to draw into an already completed objective. In the near future, I see a case where my daughter will ask to play to more objectives so she has more opportunities to complete other style of objective cards. I’m glad to have Takenoko back in the collection now that the kids are older and one kid has a connection with the theme.

Nemo’s War  (BGG link) is the next game that left my collection only to be reacquired. This all occurred in less than 6 months. I sold the game in November 2018 and repurchased it in April 2019. I had heard rumblings via BoardGameGeek of a new edition of Nemo’s War coming to Kickstarter late in 2018. The details on this “new edition” were scarce but I went out on a limb and sold my copy. I expected to be pledging the moment the campaign launched. The timing of the sale was great because the game was out of stock at most retailers which let me break even on the sale. The Kickstarter launched a week after I sold my copy so I finally got the details I was looking forward to. Turns out the campaign was for two more expansions to for the game and it included a new printing of the base game. This was far from the new edition I had in my head. From what I could glean from the Kickstarter, no major changes were being made to the game. The only significant change I could surmise was a bigger box to accommodate the expansions. I’m still a novice at this game and have yet to get a positive outcome to the game. Nemo’s War is similar to another game from Victory Point Games, Renegade, where surviving to the end of the game is considered a win, but then you tally up points to see how well you did. With Nemo’s War, I’ve made it to the end of the game a few times, but my scores have been abysmal. Needless to say, I’m not yet experienced enough with the game to entertain the idea of adding any expansions, so I wasn’t interested in what the Kickstarter was offering. The pricing on the campaign was retail pricing so there was no benefit to purchase it new during the Kickstarter. I added this to the list of games to keep an eye out for on the second hand market. I was surprised to see a few month’s later that someone selling a copy for a reasonable price. This copy included some Kickstarter bonuses from the first campaign which was a plus in my book. Nemo’s War was a case of runaway expectations of an upgraded and  new edition that didn’t pan out. I’ve since played it and have confirmed I still suck at the game.

Mice and Mystics (BGG link) is the most recent game to come back to me. This is not a true addition since I’m borrowing it from someone. With Mice and Mystics, it was a case of burnout which led it to leave the collection. I was fairly active with a demo program that would send me games as long as I demoed them with game groups and conventions. I received Mice and Mystics free of charge and jumped into teaching the game. Easy enough, right? Mice and Mystics is story driven with a dedicate book to tell the story. The game unfolds through a set of chapters. Teaching this to new players meant running through the first chapter or two over and over. I quickly became bored of the game and lost interest in playing the game. During this time, I tried to play the game with my kids so see if the story caught them, but it didn’t grab their attention. I was so burnt out on the first two chapters that I didn’t have motivation to explore any further story. I sold it off once I had completed all my required plays and didn’t think I’d ever reconsider it.

Well, I guess time does heal some wounds. My co-worker and I  were discussing the collection of games he bought and he mentioned Mice and Mystics. I got a pang of guilt for never delving deeper into the story. He offered to lend me the copy he had purchased to see if my feelings on the game had changed. I accepted and was surprised to have him hand me a new in shrink copy of Mice and Mystics a couple days later. I’ve since opened the game and perused the rules waiting for a night to start the adventure. My goal is to get through more of the story than I had previously and see how the story unfolds. We’ll see if the story changes the game enough to avoid the burn out I experienced before. Since this is on loan, I feel some urgency to get it played and back to my co-worker in a timely manner. I’ll follow up with another post to let you know my feelings after giving Mice and Mystics another go.

I’d like to think that my purchases of games has slowed down in the past year, but it seems like I’m treading water at around 30 games (excluding expansions). I do feel I am more thoughtful about my purchases and try to ensure that the games I’m buying will hit the table. This means that if it is a meatier game, it will probably have a strong solo rule set. I’m still a sucker for games that I think may be a hit with my family so those seem to show up at the house when there is a sale. Usually these games are lower price points, so I’m content with playing them a couple times and then selling them if they aren’t a hit. I still expect to take a critical look at what is considered a keeper, but with each purge these decisions are harder to make.

2018 10×10 recap

2018 ended with the failure of my 10×10 Challenge. I ended up getting in 87% of the way there. I completed the plays for 6 of the games. I was hoping to get in 5 more plays the week of Christmas but I came down with a cold that left me with no drive for gaming. Even with those additional plays I would have missed the 10×10 challenge by 8 plays. I started off pretty strong with the 10×10 challenge but things petered out at the end of the year. I was surprised to see that through the challenge three games were culled from my collection. I intended the the challenge to be a way of reintroducing me to some of the games that weren’t hitting the table. Earlier in the year this was very much true. If you wanted to here more about the reasons why I selected them, check out my post from the start of 2018.

I’ll run through the games I had in the 10×10 Challenge and let you know how I faired.

  1. Burgle Bros.– I got to 6 plays of this games. This is the game that I was hoping to blitz through the last week of the year. I thought that this game would be a slam dunk since it was something that hit the table during game nights. But in 2018, my attendance of the game nights was spotty at best so majority of these plays were at home either solo or with the kids. For some reason, this is one that is overlooked when I’m selecting games to play at home. Only reason I can figure it an “out of sight, out of mind” problem since it is an odd shaped box and it ends up being stored in a bin with card games. Without it being directly in front of me, I don’t think of it. I’m accused of this same action when looking for items in the fridge so there is some validity to this statement.
  2. Ex Libris – This is the first of 3 games that has left the collection. This was a new game to me when the year started so I was looking forward to exploring the game. It turned out that the play of the game was shallower than I had hoped so it quickly lost its luster and was sold early in the year. The game play of Ex Libris is a mix of worker placement and tableau building. This are two things that are up my alley. For the multi-player game, there are great options to interact with the other players without completely ruining their plans. This game played well the handful of times I played with a group. The game truly fell flat in the solo experience though. I’ve discussed that in a previous post when I talk about why Ex Libris exited the building.
  3. Legendary: Marvel, for example, was a game that was seeing reduced plays in the last couple years but finished the year with a solid 21 plays. This may have been aided by one of my favorite characters being included in the Champions expansion. A great deal also led me to pick up the two Aecret Wars expansions. This increase content gave me a lot to explore and discover in Legendary. This was the only game on my 10×10 that got in more than the 10 plays.
  4. Fallout was the second game that left collection, but unlike Ex Libris, I only got in 7 out of the 10 plays. I got a fair amount of plays in early in the year due to Con of the North in February. This was a great game if you like the exploring the story of a game. The game play itself was pretty straight forward and had some good variability in setup of the tiles. I found that the game was good at the 3 player count but the excitement seemed to dwindle when it was played solo. The solo game was fine but it was hard to progress the story lines fast enough before the end game was triggered. With more players, the story lines emerged quicker and provided a better play experience. For this reason, this game lost its momentum when I started playing it as a solo game. The length of the game prevented it from being a game night game. I decided to sell it when I looked through my 10×10 Challenge and felt that I “had” to play it rather than excitement of “Sweet! I have a free evening to play Fallout!”.
  5. Flash Point: Fire Rescue like Legendary is a classic of my collection. I got it early and have since acquired almost all the expansions. The one big upgrade I did this year was getting the Broken Token box or the game. In addition to the box, I took the extra time to stain and varnish the box so it feels more like a collector’s piece now. This was one of the games that were impacted by the end of year sickness. I got to 9 plays and was expecting to get my last one in before the year end. That didn’t happen when I came down with the cold. The new storage solution helped speed up setup, but Flash Point suffers from the expansion fatigue. Each expansion adds new mechanism and there is always a little needed to do a refresher on the various rule changes for the chosen maps. One of the best plays I had of Flash Point in 2018 was with the work gaming group where we had 6 people playing the game. There was a mix of people familiar with the game and brand new to the game. We played a version somewhere between the family game and the advanced rules. It was a great to see the excitement the new players had for one of my favorite games. We ended up losing the game but it was great to see how the group came together to try to figure out a way to save the building on our last turn.
  6. Imperial Settlers is an example of a game where the additional content was preventing me from playing the game. I had the small box, Why Can’t We Be Friends, and the larger Atlantans expansions. With these expansions you could just through them into the decks but there were some situations where the game wasn’t balanced for this. For the best experience time needed to be spent steering up the decks based of which expansion was going to be used. This was a killed my desire to play since it felt like a chore just to get started. I ended up selling the expansions early in the year and playing just the base game. This was great for me since I wasn’t sorting through cards and looking up rules. I was able to sit down, shuffle the cards and play. After getting back to the basics for this game, I was reminded why I love this game. There are so many choices you can make during the game but they are presented in such a way that you are not overwhelmed. You are limited by the cards you have in your hand and what resources you have. Based on those factors you need to puzzle out how best to convert those into victory points. All my plays of this game was solo and played mostly with the Barbarians which let me start thinking about the game a little differently and identity which cards are setup or early game cards. Then trying to get the combo cards that would ring up the victory points each turn.
  7. Nemo’s War was the third game that left my collection in the year. I only got 5 plays completed during the year. With the low amount of plays and the fact that I sold it, gives the wrong impression of my thoughts on the game. The time commitment along with the thought requirement is what limited my plays of the game. This is one game that I required 2-3 hours of focused time to play. This game rewards repeated plays in order to get a “winning” outcome. The goal of the game is to survive to the end of the adventure deck. If you achieve that goal, you then move onto the scoring phase to see how well you did. I was batting 85% on surviving but when it came to scoring I never scored anything above the base tier. With my last couple plays, I was finally beginning to understand what I was doing wrong. In late 2018, I heard that there was going to be a Kickstarter for the 3rd printing of the game with some minor improvements. These were mostly box size and organization improvements, but I took this as a chance to liquidate my old copy in order to offset some other new game purchases. I got rid of it, but odds are this will come back to the collection once the 3rd printing his retail.
  8. Pandemic: The Cure – This game has been a mainstay and ranks up there as one of my favorite games of all time. This co-op game offers great play-ability as a solo game since there is no hidden information and there is no resources or cards controlled by each player. Each player has a set of dice that determines their actions. This game hit the 10 plays relatively early in the year. The Experimental Meds expansion added 2 unique modules to the game. One of the expansions is one that I play with most often since it adds a little more variability to the dice, in both good and bad ways depending on when you roll the new dice. This made the game more fun for me. The second module makes the game harder by putting up additional barriers and challenges that the players need to take into account. Learning these two new modules made it an easy for me to get my plays in throughout 2018.
  9. Scythe and its expansions are edging towards complicating setup so much that it prevents the game from coming out. However, in this case, I will put the time to get this game to the table. I have all three expansions for this game: Invaders from Afar, Wind Gambit, and Rise of Fenris. The expansions aren’t the only challenge with this one. This one that takes up significant space so I’m physically limited where and when I play it. I don’t have the space where I can leave games setup and play over a day or two. The game comes out only when I have a large enough window to finish the game. The Rise of Fenris expansion has been awesome so far through episode 5. This specific expansion adds to the setup time since I have to do a refresher of the rules as well as the story before I start. This is one part I enjoy in being reintroduced to the world and picking up the story. I’ve gotten more than the 10 plays in 2018 if you include the digital plays. I had held out on purchasing the digital version but I picked it up when it was on sale and found it to be a great way to get a game in without the setup issues. It’s great just to be able to fire up and play the game. With the digital version, I do miss the social interaction since that is one of the draws of gaming for me.
  10. Viticulture: Essential Ediction is one game where the only way I play is with its expansion, Tuscany. The Tuscany introduces a couple elements I consider essential. It is a modular expansion in that the expansion changes the board and then allows you to add other modules if you like. At the start of 2018, Viticulture was relatively new to me so I was just playing with the expansion board and the mechanic that went along with that. Majority of my plays were solo and the game was brutal in that I never logged a solo win with just the expansion board. Things turned around on the win front when I added in the remaining modules. This new modules added in new abilities which could be linked to get some great combos. The game is still very dependent on the card draws but the modules give you more opportunities to cycle through cards to find what you need. This is almost the opposite in terms of setup and space to Scythe. This game fits nicely on my coffee table so am able to setup and play the game over a day or two without much complaint from the family. Also in regards to focus, I can play this with the TV on or a movie is playing. With Scythe, I may have some music going but other than that I need to be distraction free. I feel this is one game that I improved at during the course of 2018.

Looking back it feels that the 10×10 Challenge was more of an expansion challenge. Through 2018, I found that expansions don’t always improve the game. The added complexity puts up barriers for me to get the game to the table. The additional overhead of relearning rules and unique setups for expansions were something that also prevented games from coming out. Story elements are something that may overcome this problem. This is exactly what occurred with Rise of Fenris, but I’m have not seen it replicated by any other expansion.

When I finished 2018, I was 100% sure I wasn’t going to do a challenge in 2019. After getting this recap done though, I’m thinking of a smaller scale challenge but something that would allow me explore the some new games or some that were left off last year..  The top contenders there are: Renegade, Too Many Bones: Undertow,  and Pandemic: Fall of Rome.

One Run Through Megaland

DISCLAIMER: I work for Target and was able to play Megaland at a recent board game event held for employees. Megaland is a Target exclusive which will be available starting August 2018. I believe it was a production copy but I’m not 100% sure on that. Below are my own thoughts and in no way represent Target.


Megaland is a family friendly press your luck game from Ryan and Malorie Laukat published by Red Raven Games. I am familiar with Ryan’s prior work on Above and Below as well as Near and Far. The art in Megaland is in the same vein as his previous games. Ryan’s artwork has a great way of drawing people into his games. This is why I’ve only been able to play Near and Far once. Near and Far has been in rotation in my game group but the games fill up pretty fast so I’ve missed out a couple times.

Even though the artwork feels similar other Red Raven Games, Megaland’s theme is completely different from them. Megaland has a light video game theme in that each player is enters the level of Megaland to fight monsters and collect treasures along the way. Players will need to decide if they want to continue adventuring or take their treasure and leave the level. If a player loses all their health they will lose the treasures they acquired in the round. Players are collecting treasures in order to buy buildings,  which provide power-ups, or purchase additional health . The winner is the player with the most coins at the end of the game. The game end is triggered when one or more players accumulate 20 coins.

Check out the Watch It Played video if you want the nitty gritty details on how to play.


Initial Thoughts

The artwork and the reputation of high quality games from Red Raven were the two things the drew my attention to Megaland. Both those delivered once I was able to test out the game. The added bonus was the insert that was included with the game.

There is not much that I can add to what has been said about the Ryan Laukat’s artwork. Megaland’s  artwork is reminiscent of his prior games so I had initially assumed it was all part of the same world created for Above and Below. As I learned more about the game, I was surprised to hear the theme was a video game world. Players get to choose for a selection of whimsical characters to represent themselves on the game. If you are feeling animalistic (not a word, I know), you can choose between a frog or cat. Both dressed for adventure, of course. If you want to keep it human, you will have a choice of 3 characters which run the gamut of young adventuring female to old male scientist. Not sure if those tropes are the right description, but that is what my group called them. Nice to see a variety of skin tones and genders offered as part of the game. The minimalist treasure cards serve their purpose by providing important distribution info on each card. The player boards are identical to each other and offer the card distribution of monsters. This is a nice touch which allows players to know how dangerous the remaining monsters are. One improvement related to the player board adding a way to match a player to their character. There was some confusion toward the end of the game as players were trying to figure out how much treasure each person was collecting. This could have been address by adding the character image to the otherwise identical player boards. The monster cards are in line with the character cards with them feeling a pleasant mix of fun and danger. I’ll say it again, but I’m a huge fan of Ryan’s artwork and Megaland provided a new

I had some hesitation after watching the rules video from the friendly Canadian, Rodney Smith. There seemed to be a lot of rules for what was being touted as a family game. My wife has a low tolerance for intricate rules so many games get pushed aside for the Qwirkles and Skip-Bos. This fear was eliminated after I learning to play the game. Megaland falls into the category of games that should only be taught by playing. The game teaches all the rules as you go through the different parts of a round. Players only need to know two things when they start the game: 1) Collect as much coins as possible and 2) Game ends once someone has 20 coins in total. After introducing those two concepts to the players,  the game starts right away. The decisions that you have during the game change depending on what phase of the round you are in. The first choice that players are confronted with is to continue into the level or run home with the loot they’ve already collect. At the start of the game, everyone has the same amount of health so many of the group made similar decisions. However, as the game played out and players purchased buildings and extra health the decisions made by each person differed. This first phase of the game was where most the fun was had due to the friendly smack talk. There may have been some encouragement for players to stay in the level and then some laughs as the next revealed monsters took away their last health causing them to lose all the loot they had.  The next decision players had was how to spend all this loot that had been acquired.  The purchase phase had a great way of encouraging people to stay in the level longer by the cost structure of the buildings and extra health. Buildings had to be purchased with unique sets of items while the extra health was by sets of items.  The health was an increasing costs so the first extra heart was only a pair, but the 2nd heart was three of a kind and so on.  These costs will drive players to stay in the level a little longer if they don’t have the cards needed to purchase what they wanted. Another incentive, or maybe dis-incentive, is that all the treasures spoil at the end round unless you store it in the basement of the building. The spoiling of treasures has a lower impact later in the game due to the storage capacity of the buildings. This storage ability offers the option for players to collect treasures and leave the level to effectively bank the treasures in order to setup a purchase of an expensive building the following round. The simple decision of stay or go  at the start of the round becomes more complex over time as you accumulate buildings that provide additional powers and increased health. The game comes with a set many types of buildings and you will only use a subset of them each game. This leads me to believe that players will be able to explore strategies based on the combination of buildings that are available to buy.


The one item that is usually overlooked at games carried by the mass market retailers is the insert. Megaland has an awesome insert that allows the cards to be easily sorted in the box. This makes setup easy since you don’t have to dig through a stack of cards to pull out the subset of buildings being used for the current game.  There is also a smaller insert that holds the tokens that are used during the game. This is a great addition since you can just place this out on the table and it doesn’t take up much room. I guessed that a gamer must have been part of the insert discussion because they were so cool. This was confirmed when I looked closer at the insert and saw the GameTrayz name on both inserts. This company is the one behind the awesome insert for the behemoth of a game, Mechs vs. Minions. I hope that this is a start to a trend across the industry to consider how setup and tear-down of games can be made easier by designing a good insert.


Ryan and Malorie Laukat have delivered a great push your luck game that I’m looking forward to playing with my family after it is release later this summer. The engaging artwork and simple rules make it a great way to spend an evening with the family. Through the progression of the game, the decisions become more interesting as the options open up so it does provide fun for those who enjoy a meatier game. This would be a great option for an appetizer or a nightcap game where you have 30 minutes to burn at the start or end of the night.