Boardgame Appstravaganza

I’ve been spending quite a bit of time lately playing the app versions of board games. Especially a few of the competitive 2-player ones like Star Realms and Summoner Wars. I bought the Master Set for Summoner Wars at GenCon last year but never got a chance to play it, and I’d been eyeing the iTunes App Store jealously for months because Playdek had an app version of the game but wasn’t supporting Android until recently. Star Realms is one of the hot games right now, so when I found out about it no one had a copy in stock. While I was waiting on a restock to come in, I found that they had an app and shockingly it was available on Android and not on iOS yet. So I actually played Star Realms for a couple of weeks before my physical copy showed up while I was down at GenCon.

Star Realms is done in Unity, which is why was available for Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac. The original iOS delay was due to the normal Apple approval delay. For $5 you get access to the game on all four platforms and can play games against anyone regardless of what device they’re on. That’s a pretty good deal. Summoner Wars isn’t Unity, so supporting multiple platforms is a lot more work (or so I imagine). The app is free with in-app purchases to unlock additional factions, I went with a bundle that unlocked them all for $8, and have been enjoying the game a lot.

It appears that the board game apps trend is picking up more momentum. Paizo announced a partnership with Obsidian just before GenCon to bring their Pathfinder Adventure Card Game to devices. Fantasy Flight is developing a game based on Battlelore : Second Edition, a miniatures game I’ve wanted to get but haven’t because I knew I’d rarely get to play it. Czech Games is making an app version of Galaxy Trucker, and Handelabra Games is making a digital version of Sentinels of the Multiverse. Even cooler is that two of these games Battlelore Tactics and Sentinels of the Multiverse: the Video Game are already announce for both iOS and Android. The Pathfinder teaser site doesn’t say anything about platforms, but they were demoing the current prototype on iPads at GenCon, and the Obsidian person I talked to said it was being developed in Unity, so I expect it will come to Android as well. Czech Games has stated that they are developing for multiple platforms but are planning to release on iOS first and then other platforms.

While I do enjoy the analog experience of board games, it’s hard to beat the convenience of the app versions of games. Not only can I play with people regardless of location, I can have multiple asynchronous games going at once.

Day 27 of Blaugust

Mondays and Shadowrun


  • Monday’s aren’t all bad.
  • Kids don’t have limitless energy, they drain it from their parents.

Home Ownership

One of the elusive achievements in home ownership has always been completing a repair or improvement project in one trip the to the hardware store. In twenty or so years of owning a home and somewhere over 40 projects undertaken, I have never managed to complete a project in exactly one trip to the store. Either I have to go back and get something additional, or I have to go back afterwards to return something I didn’t need.

This weekend I completed the very minor fix of replacing the toilet seat in the master bathroom. Probably about the simplest repair possible, but I’m counting it. I got a seat that matched in color, and that my wife was happy with when I got home. Neither of those are easy tasks.

Shadowrun: Crossfire

Crossfire Job CardLast night I got out my copy of Shadowrun: Crossfire to try a solo play. I had originally planned to try the Extraction job that’s included with the game since I’d seen it was geared for 1-4 players, but it is marked as advanced difficulty recommended for runners with 5 or more points in upgrades (more on that in a future post). So instead, I set up for the Crossfire job and planned to play with two runners.

My first play through started well enough but I ended up losing the just before the halfway point. I retried after swapping in a Troll for the Elf I was using for the second runner and going from a character with 4 hitpoints available to one with 9 made a massive difference, even if the Troll had a limited initial hand of cards.

I enjoyed the game, although not as much as I did the one I played at GenCon for the release event. Partly just because it is more fun with more player cooperation, and partly because we had a fifth person managing the game and teaching us the rules. I know I made a few mistakes last night and that always drives me nuts, even though it’s pretty much a part of the board gaming experience.

I’m planning a full impressions post sometime soon. I just really need to get a few more games in and get a better handle on the rules. In the meantime though, here’s a picture of the setup from the first game last night with a brief description.

Crossfire Solo Game LayoutOn the left side are the two runners I was using, a Human and an Elf. Each runner has two role cards, in a four person game each runner would have one role, and in a three person game one runner would have two roles. Next to the race and role cards are the runner’s draw deck and current hand. On the right side at the top are the six Black Market cards which can be purchased and added to a runner’s hand. As cards are bought, they are replaced from the Black Market deck. Below the Market are three more decks: Crossfire Events, Normal Obstacles (one bullet hole), Hard Obstacles (two bullet holes). Obstacles are dealt out to runners to defeat and Events are used to add additional hurdles to the game.

Day 24 of Blaugust


GenCon Loot and Recovery


GenCon is over and I can say now that I spent more than I should have, but not as much as I wanted to, so I count that as a win.

The Loot

The card boxes on top are Bug Out and My Word from Out of the Box. Bug Out is a basic matching game that has funny pictures of bugs on them, for instance a termite dress as a construction worked eating a wooden board. It’s not particularly deep, but that’s great for a five year old with a short attention span. My Word is one that I’m going to use differently than intended. You’re supposed to draw cards and make words out of them, but I’m going to use them as letter flash cards and to make specific words he’s supposed to be learning to sight read in kindergarten/

The next one down is The Hare & the Tortoise from iello and is part of their Tales & Games series. The box is made to look like a book and has a nice insert and magnetic closure. It’s a racing game, obviously based on the title, and just a little on the advanced side for my son, which is good since he can grow into it. I’ve played it once with him so far and he had fun moving pieces and drawing cards even though he wasn’t grasping any of the strategy involved yet.

The blue box is the Blue Sun expansion for Filefly: The Game from Gale Force Nine. This includes and add-on board which will make the table space required a little bit more ridiculous than it already is and adds Rim Space to the game, which is the area that the movie took place in. Mr. Universe, Reaver Space, and the planet Miranda. I didn’t get to demo this one, but I couldn’t pass up Firefly related product even if it’s related to the movie part of the franchise.

The two white boxes are the Durani and Guldana factions for Golem Aranca and the white banded stack of cardboard below those is the second tileset. I got the other two factions and the first tileset as part of my original Kickstarter pledge, but I decided after running through the tutorial that I wanted to pick up the other two. I’ve not played enough yet to really comment on how different each of the factions works. I got to play two games at GenCon and I’ve been through one of the tutorial games twice. I’m planning to post some unboxing photos and more thoughts on the game after I get more time with it. I will say that I really like what I’ve played so far and I appreciate being able to off load all of the book keeping to an app. Sometimes I enjoy doing that kind of thing and there’s other miniatures games like Galaxy Defenders for that, but Golem Arcana will be really nice for times when I don’t want to do everything myself.

Downwood Tales is the latest expansion for Mice and Mystics from Plaid Hat. Mice and Mystics is a coop miniatures game, provides a strong narrative experience, and is very family friendly. While I haven’t played the expansion at all yet, I have played the base game twice and quite enjoyed it. I hope to sit down with my oldest sometime in the next year and start a playthrough, so I couldn’t pass up the chance to get the expansion without having to worry about shipping. Having a few promo card included didn’t hurt either. Plus Plaid Hat is one of two small game publishers that I’m a big fan of and I like to support them as directly as possible.

Shadowrun: Crossfire is at the bottom of the stack. It’s a cooperative deck builder from Catalyst Game Labs. I got the chance to play a full game at the release party on Thursday night and really loved it. Being a fan of deck builders and coop games as well as the Shadowrun setting, this was a game that I was fully expecting to buy coming into GenCon. I’m still a little unsure about the character progression aspect as it involves using stickers, but that’s a personal hangup on my part. It feels too much like marking in a book, which I never do except for getting an author’s signature.

Pig and Creeper I also picked up two Minecraft plushies. The Creeper for my oldest and the baby pig for my youngest. They were a big hit, although I started regretting the Creeper choice immediately after getting home as Thing One started chasing Thing Two around the house hissing and then shouting, “Boom!”

Return to Real Life

Today I got back to my real life again. This morning was a real struggle trying to get my kids ready for school/daycare while my body had only started to recover from too much walking and not enough sleep. Coffee was just enough to let me function. The rest of the day was spent trying to remember what I was doing at work last week, catching up on chores around the house, and digging into the massive backlog on my RSS reader. Not much fun but I have no regrets whatsoever. GenCon was absolutely worth it. Totally fun.

Day 18 of Blaugust

GenCon Day Four, Little Kae’s Button Quest

Little KaeToday was the last day for GenCon for me, but it was the first day and only day for my son. This is his actually his third GenCon although I doubt he remembers the first one since he was only three. He’s five now, nearly six, and just starting to get to the point where he really gets something from the experience.

We got to the convention about 10:30. I had planned to hit some of the kid’s games booths in the Exhibit Hall first and then figured we would wander a bit and check out some of the family activities. That changed though when a the first person we see after entering the convention center was a man handing out buttons. We found out that there were eight more people scattered around GenCon with more buttons and that became the quest for the day.

We did still manage to hit the big children friendly publishers: Blue Orange, IELLO, and HABA. I also found a new one call Out of the Box which had several fun (and cheap) educational games. The big purchase in my son’s opinion though was the latest Tales and Games volume: The Hare and the Tortoise. Which I realized after about the fifth time he asked to go somewhere and find a spot on the floor to play.

The other big hit for him was the food trucks next door to the convention. He couldn’t believe that there was a whole street blocked off for people to walk on, or that there were real trucks with people inside of them cooking food for him to eat.

I’m never sure how plans will turn out, but he did a great job walking all over the convention center and following directions. We made it until 3pm before he decided he was ready to go home, which was two hours longer than I expected. He’s still not real sure about cosplayers. On the way down he was talking a lot about wanting to see Darth Vader, but that changed once we actually started seeing people in costumes.

Day 17 of Blaugust

GenCon Day Three

Today didn’t zip by quite as fast as yesterday but it was still a very good day. I took the morning off from GenCon to follow my usual Saturday morning routine of taking my sons’ for their swimming lessons, so I didn’t head downtown until about 11:30. That meant there was zero parking in any of the usual places and I ended up walking a half dozen more blocks than usual. My feet weren’t too pleased about that, although my wallet was happy since it was half as expensive as either or the previous two days.

IMG_20140816_124830I spent the first couple of hours in the Exhibit Hall, which I’d barely seen much of before then. I scouted out a few children’s games so I knew where to take my son tomorrow.

I got to see a prototype of the app version of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game being developed by Obsidian. The prototype itself was very good looking. I was slightly disappointed but not surprised that they’re current initial target platform is just iOS but it is being developed in Unity so an Android version shouldn’t be more effort. It’s relatively early in the development process for them so that could easily change between now and the release sometime next year.

After cruising the Exhibit Hall, I played some more Golem Arcana, which was a lot of fun even though I lost the match, before heading out to dinner with friends.

I got to wrap up the evening by seeing a writer’s session on storytelling in new media (mostly games) which had Christine Thompson, aka Kestrel, the lead writer for Star Trek Online on it. Afterwards she hung around for a bit with her husband, Frost from STO’s QA team, to chat with me and two other STO players. She was nice enough to sign the Path to 2409 appendix in my copy of Needs of the Many, and gave out Delta Rising t-shirts and Holo Leeta codes to the three of us. Made my night.



Day 16 of Blaugust

GenCon Day Two

You know you’re having fun when the time jumps from 10 am to 5 pm in the blink of an eye. What turned out, I thought, to be a mostly free day to cruise the exhibit hall got surprisingly busy. I only managed to demo one game, Sentinels Tactics, which was a ton of fun and was an opportunity to have someone teach me a game I already own and avoid reading the rule book. But I also got to play a prototype that my friend Todd’s been working on and I’ve been playtesting off and on, which was a blast to see the progress that he’s made.

I also watched two writing panels that had Jim Butcher on them, one on adapting story series to games and the other on how to write long running series. Both panels covered topics I was interested in but it was also great getting a chance to see Jim talk live. Ed Greenwood, of Elminster and Forgotten Realms fame, and Bill Willingham, Fables comic series, were also on the second panel and very entertaining.

I’m having a great time at GenCon, but I’m really going to pay (already am paying) with my feet and legs all next week I think.

Day 15 of Blaugust

GenCon Day One

I’m hanging out in a playhall late on day one of GenCon watching a board game while I wait for the Shadowrun: Crossfire event, blogging from my phone. Like just about every instance in the past all of the social anxiety I’ve been feeling was unfounded. Today was a lot of fun, and busy.

I had a little adventure finding a parking space in the morning, followed by a massive line at will call to pick up my event tickets. I figured I’d be smart and spend an hour in the dealer hall so the line would go down only to have it get even longer. It ended up being about 40 minutes to get through which left me some time before my first event. Conventions are an odd mix of fun and waiting.

Playing some Star Realms and Golem Arcana was great but the highlight so far was getting to have beers with friends at dinner.

My gaming budget for the con is already busted too, I think. I’ll try to avoid paying attention to that until Monday.

Day 14 of Blaugust

Zen Cardboard

With GenCon coming up this week I’ve been thinking a bit about why I play both board games and computer games. The obvious difference is of course with board games you’re sitting across the table from people you’re playing with, but that’s been changing in recent years. Solitaire gaming has been popular for a while and is starting to become more accepted. Some games include solo variants in the box, like the re-release of Merchants of Venus, but there are also lots of games with good player made variants on BoardGameGeek. The rise in popularity of cooperative board games has helped a lot with this as well.

So why play a board game by yourself? Why not just sit down at the computer? For one it means instead of gaming in my office, I’m sitting at the kitchen table. More importantly board gaming is a zen experience for me. Putting decks of cards together and getting things shuffled well. Setting up the board. Not just thinking about strategy during the game but keeping track of rules, trying to make sure I don’t make any mistakes. The experience tends to be quite a bit like reading as part of my brain usually starts making up a story about what’s happening in the game. I do that a bit in MMOs as well but I tend to get more vivid pictures from board games because there’s no other visual or auditory input.

Board games don’t have to be something you only get into if you have the time to dedicate to getting together with friends once or twice a month to play.

Day 10 of Blaugust

Books and Board Games


I’m up to 10 books read for the year so far, which puts me 3 ahead of schedule for my GoodReads goal of 50 and leaves me with 152 (I moved a few books from the wishlist over and added a few shorts, so the math doesn’t match up with my last progress post). Looking at a big number like that, 10 books read doesn’t seem like a big deal except I’ve finished two series in those ten, Lindsay Buroker’s excellent Emperor’s Edge series and Glen Cook’s wonderful Garrett P.I. series, which actually makes it feel like a lot of progress.

Board Games

I bought Pathfinder ACG last October and wasn’t really impressed with my first two plays. My first game I made the mistake of playing solo using only one character, which really limits game play. I also made the mistake of using Ezren (a human wizard) and one of the first cards he encountered was a barrier requiring a strength check which was impossible for him. My second game was with a buddy where we each ran one character, and that was quite a bit more fun, but it wasn’t until I recently got the game out again and played with four characters that it was really fun.

The other game that’s been sitting on my shelf for a long time which I finally got out is Thunderstone Advance. This was fun but very difficult at least for the card draws I was getting. I need to play some more but right now Pathfinder is keeping my interest much more.

Before my recent resurgence of interest in Pathfinder, I’d been playing either Marvel Legendary for the Online League I’ve been participating in on BoardGameGeek or Sentinels of the Multiverse.

Other Stuff

I’ve unfortunately done very little with my comics or movies lists, I’m still working on training myself to switch back and forth between my different goals for the year. Multitasking like that is not something I’ve ever been good at. I’m much more of a serial obsessive, where I go on a month-long kick of just reading or just playing games.

I have been playing some MMOs a bit more regularly though. Star Trek Online has been a nearly daily thing. I’ve been making sure to at least hop in long enough to do the daily for the Anniversary ship. While I prefer the old way where you just have to finish a mission, I do understand that it makes more sense for Cryptic to entice people to logon more regularly. At least the Q daily missions are quick so it’s a pretty painless grind.

I’ve also picked Neverwinter back up, it was surprisingly easy to pick back up where I left off.  This is one of those games that I don’t think I stopped playing for any particular reason other than I got distracted by something else. I started back up both because of that and because the Multiplaying group is having a weekly Wednesday night game. In typical fashion though I’ve not actually joined in on a Wednesday night yet.

Despite getting back into two MMOs, I still don’t feel like I’m really back into the genre and I’m ambivalent at best about the new games that are supposed to release this year.

Looking Back at 2013

What a weird year 2013 has been. I started the year looking forward to several MMOs none of which lasted. City of Stream imploded, Defiance and Neverwinter both fizzled for me, and Elder Scrolls Online didn’t release. Defiance turned out to be the least social MMO I’ve ever played, and add to that the bugginess of the interface after launch, and I lost interest after the first month or two. I’m still not sure why Neverwinter didn’t click for me, I was very excited for the game and really enjoyed the demo I played, but somehow I shifted from mostly playing to mostly doing offline crafting to not doing anything. This year was also the first time I didn’t buy the Lord of the Rings Online expansion, and even now I’ve not logged in to try out the class changes that came along with Helm’s Deep. I just didn’t have that moment of nostalgia this time around like I did when Isengard was being released.

Star Trek Online was the only MMO I played regularly this year, and I think that this past year was probably STO’s best year to date. Romulans have always been one of my least favorite non-Federation factions, so when Cryptic announced their expansion plan at the beginning of the year I was ambivalent. I did get excited though after I got a change to try some of the new Romulan content on Tribble. Cryptic really hit a home run with the mission content for Romulan characters and the upgraded tutorial missions for the Klingons, so much so that updating the Federation tutorial became a priority. I was very surprised that Cryptic had decided to add a new faction but allowing them to ally with either the Federation of Empire allowed people to play as Romulans without further splintering the PvP community, as well as fitting with existing canon. Then in the second half of the year with the Season 8 update and the incredible visuals of getting to fly my ship inside a Dyson Sphere. I’ve enjoyed the space adventure zone much more than the ground zone of New Romulus, and I’ve especially enjoyed the more streamlined and far grindy Dyson reputation. I’m hoping that Season 9 includes a redesign of the other reputations along the same lines.

Besides STO my other main game this year has been modded Minecraft. I started with the Direwolf20 pack from Feed the Beast but eventually moved on to making my own mod pack in order to stay on the most current releases of Minecraft and mods as possible. I haven’t tried yet, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to enjoy playing standard Minecraft again. I enjoy designing and building automated systems too much, and exploring the different magic systems, alternate dimensions, and building with a wider array of cosmetic blocks than vanilla Minecraft provides. Minecraft has always been a favorite game of mine, but generally I’d always get to a point where I was bored with a map and move on to something else. Having mods available changes that. Minecraft is always changing now as mods add new features or new mods become available, there’s always something to try, and starting over in a new world also means a chance to make big changes to which mods I’m using.

This year I’ve also added board/card gaming to my collection of hobbies. After going to GenCon and picking up Firefly, I realized that there were board games out there that would play well solo as well as in a group. Since October I’ve been spending a lot of time on BoardGameGeek and started collecting some games. Ironically, I’m playing board games now much the way I play MMOs. Solo. So far, in addition to Firefly I’ve picked up Space Hulk Death Angel, Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, Thunderstone, Marvel Legendary, and Pathfinder the Adventure Card Game.

My proudest achievement this year though has to be finally winning National Novel Writing Month. Not only has it motivated me to spend March doing a first revision but it’s heavily influenced my plans and resolutions for 2014.