Posts tagged ‘Game Night’

When Good Gaming Goes Bad – Lessons Learned

Since about January, we have had guest writers for our articles and they have been doing a wonderful job! Thanks guys! However, something happened at Friday Night Game Night that caused me to pause and wonder “What Happened? We had eager players and a great game…yet it crumbled.”

Given that Best Dang Games is about the gaming experience, we thought it would be appropriate to share our really bad game session with you, to help you know when it is time to bail on a game and just try again another time.

How NOT to Play Arkham Horror

We had played a few rounds of two-player versions, and a solo play or two. Everyone wanted to give it a go, so we decided to try it. We had a eight players (three had played it at least once) – one of which was a young teenager.

Given that I had the most experience with the game (that’s not saying a whole lot), I decided not to play and act as “game master”. My role was to oversee the game and make sure everyone understood the rules.

Lessons Learned

Lesson #1 – The “game master” is a good idea for big games like Arkham. This person needs to have done this a few times and understand the game. This person needs to be able to control a crowd and handle questions effectively. Understand, not only were we new to Arkham, but it was my first time as a “game master”.

Lesson #2 – You need a few players that have played Arkham Horror when you try it out with new players. There is a lot of information for new players to grasp – because it is more like a role playing game, rather than a strategy game. They had to understand their cards, the character’s abilities, the monster’s abilities, the locations on the board, and on and on. This leads to about an hour up front of answering questions and repeating things several times.

Lesson #3 – Table-talk is good…but too much table-talk is BAD! When you have a co-operative game, part of the nature of the game is table-talk and to work out how the team will beat the game (and the traitor – if that is part of the game). However, larger groups having lots of choices create an “analysis paralysis” situation. Sometimes people get mired down in making the right decision that they don’t make any decision. They start analyzing every move they can make. You start seeing the other players roll their eyes or get up for drinks and snacks. These are your clues. If you are in a game that starts showing these signs, speak up and start a house rule stating only 1 minute or so per person – or they skip their turn.

Lesson #4 – Know when to “Cut and Run”. Many times, games go bad. It just happens…and it is alright. Sometimes it is better to quit while you are in a good spot, rather than drag the game all the way through the mud. There seems to be an unwritten rule that says “Finish the game, no matter what!” This is sometimes not the best policy. We ran Arkham Horror from about 8:00 until 12:30 or so. At 11:30, we lost our first player – he wanted to leave and was not having fun anymore. Instead of calling it then, everyone wanted to keep going out of pride.

Lesson #5 – Be careful who you play with. Sometimes, the age level of the people at the table is VERY important. We had a pre-teen with us and she is typically fine to play with. However, because there were so many things to think about and decide, she kept repeating the questions after we answered it several times. There was a constant “Oh, I have another question” being spoken over the other players. This really disrupted the flow of the discussions. “What was the monster limit?” “Can I close that gate?” “If I go there, can I do X?” “How many spaces can I move again?” or whatever.

Lesson #6 – There are some cool variations you can do with Arkham as a “game master”. The players never got to read their cards (unless it was a special skill of theirs and they had to pick the one they wanted). This created a sense of adventure, and they players never knew what was coming. This was a hit and I would do it again, whenever possible. Also, when I placed gates down, they were flipped so you could not see where the gate went. This created a level of mystery and decisions for the players to ponder as they made decisions about what to do.

Lesson #7 – When you play a long game with a “full boat” of people, it just takes a long time to play. Arkham Horror is one of those big Fantasy Flight games. It typically takes a few hours to play. Add eight new players and it WILL take longer. Expect it and plan for it. Notify everyone playing that this is going to happen. Otherwise, you will be having a lt of people looking at their watches and wondering if the game will ever end. 

Needless to say, we were not playing a bad game. The event turned into a bad event due to the situation that developed. Had I been a better GM, I probably would have handled it better. We chalk it up to a learning event and we do it all again some other time.

Thankfully, our players are understanding. But if you are playing with non-gamers, or new gamers, be careful that you don’t sour the experience for them.

Bonus Lesson

One other lesson we learned from a different game night worth mentioning as a bonus lesson involves alcohol and gaming. They really don’t mix well – unless you are playing party games. But, strategy games and new games require a good amount of attention. This does not happen if everyone has been to happy hour and brings more beer to the game party. The game will take second-fiddle to the social aspect of the party. The game is supposed to enhance the social environment, not be overshadowed by it. Also, don’t even think about drinking and then attempting to learn a new game – we tried this with Munchkin Quest. It was very hard to concentrate on the game and comprehend some of the weird Munchkin rules.

I hope our screw-ups and lessons learned help you develop a better game night experience for your friends – and don’t let our experience scare you away from Arkham…let the Great Old Ones do that.

February 17, 2009 at 3:32 am 4 comments

Hosting a Gaming Night with Non-Gamers

Author:  Seth Brown – The Rising Pun

Board games are fun. You know this; that’s why you play them.

But many of your friends probably don’t know this. It isn’t their fault, it’s just how they were raised.

Most people who think of board games think of childhood games like Candyland or Life, or abstract games like Chess. And when you get together for a little party, most of them wouldn’t necessarily suggest board games as the evening’s activity. That’s where you come in.

Set Up an Evening

Tell a few friends that you’d like to have them over for gaming and dinner. Even if they’re not sure they like gaming, they’ll probably want to come over for the dinner, and you’ll be able to convince them to play. Don’t invite too many people at once; 3-5 people is a good number.

“Board Games? Aren’t Those for Kids?”

Explain to your friends that board games have improved a whole lot since their childhood. Just like video games, computers, and cars have evolved tremendously in the past few decades, board games have come a long way as well.

It’s worth making the point to your friends that the difference between today’s video games and Pong is similar to the difference between today’s board games and Candyland. Innovation has made games a lot more complex, and a lot more fun.

“But will it be too complicated for me?”

Assure your friends that you’ll start off with easy games that they’ll have no trouble getting the hang of. And then follow up on it; don’t promise them easy games and then drag out a complex war game. You’ll want to make sure that any games you play on your first gaming night will be easy to teach to a group of non-gamers.

Remember, a game moves at the speed of the slowest player, so set the difficulty level of your games accordingly.

Choosing The Right Games

Game selection is absolutely essential when planning a game night with non-gamers. If someone has never played board games as an adult before, and his first experience is a bad one, he’s not likely to want to play again.

When sharing games with non-gamers, you’ve got to have something that’s likely to make them appreciate the hobby, or at the very least, not scare them away.

Avoid long games. Someone who hasn’t gamed before probably won’t want to commit an entire evening to a single game, even if they understand the rules perfectly and aren’t losing. Throwing three non-gamers into a complicated four-hour game where they feel at a loss is likely to make them stay non-gamers.

Games with quick explanations are essential. Non-gamers don’t want to learn a whole book of new rules on their first night out, so stick to games with simple rules and fast play times. Most importantly, keep the personalities of your friends in mind. If your friends enjoy things that are silly and random, they might have a great time playing Fluxx. If they hate randomness and can’t stand not controlling their own destiny, they might be better off with Blokus.

On The Gaming Night

You should plan to eat dinner first if you’re cooking, otherwise you’ll have a lot of hungry people sitting around the gaming table ignoring the game while you keep running to the kitchen. Unless your friends are very, very neat, do not play a game over dinner. You’re much better off cleaning up first, clearing the table, and then setting up for some gaming.

You may want to start with a party game, like Charades or Apples to Apples. These are mostly non-competitive and unlikely to intimidate anyone. This will draw in some people, and cause others to hunger for games with a bit more meat.

That’s when you can bring out a game like Fluxx or Blokus. Try a few different games if possible, but if a friend likes a game enough to want a rematch, go for it. You may want to sit out for a game. If you have more people over than can play the chosen game, be willing to let your friends play the game while you comment on their options during their turn. If there is enough room for you to play in the game as well, don’t play a cut-throat game or attack other players too harshly. You should view your role in the first game as that of a teacher.

With any luck, they’ll want a second game, and then you can kick things into higher gear.

Games mentioned in this post:

February 1, 2009 at 2:21 am 1 comment

Jamaica Board Game Review

Jamaica is a pirate-themed board game.

In the board game, Jamaica, players take the roles of several famous pirates racing around the island of Jamaica collecting gold, treasures, and resources.

The players go around the board by using action cards that are modified by dice rolled by the first player to move that turn (the “captain”). The pirates must contend with finding food to feed their crew in the open sea, getting gold to pay port taxes, and their fellow pirates trying to steal their stuff.

Winning the Game

This game ends when one player completes a circuit of the island of Jamaica and ends up back at Port Royal. The winner is decided by a point system, based on where you are on the board and the amount of gold in your hull. This two to six player game takes anywhere from 45 minutes to 60 minutes to play.

Jamaica is a essentially a roll and move game. Experienced gamers may start rolling their eyes now. But, you should probably take a chance with this game. There is some subtle strategy involved in this game that makes it interesting.

Sample Turn

A sample turn has the first player of the round (the “captain”) rolling a pair of six sided dice. The player compares to the result to a hand of three action cards that they draw from a personal deck of 11 cards.

Each player has the same 11 cards but only have three in hand at any given time. The action cards each have two actions. The actions include moving forward on the board, moving backward on the board, and collecting resources (gold, food, or gunpowder). The number on each die corresponds to the two actions on the card. For example, if a card says to go forward, then go backward and the dice read 4 and 6, the “captain” determines which action relates to which die number. Therefore, the card could mean either move forwards 4 and then move backwards 6 or vice versa. The captain decides the order of the dice based on what he has in his hand and how it benefits him the most. The other players then choose their own action cards based on the captain’s choice and then act them out in turn.

Using Resources – Gold and Food

As the player’s move around the board, they may have to pay resources based on where they land. If they land on a space occupied by another player, a fight takes place. This is resolved by a rolling a large die with the winner of the battle determined by the highest die roll. As with any good pirate game, there are treasure chests around the board which may either add points, remove points, or grant players special abilities such as extra storage, the ability to hold more action cards in hand, or bonuses in battle.

Would I Like This Game?

This game is appropriate for a wide variety of players. New gamers will appreciate the ease of use and familiar roll and move mechanic. Experienced gamers will appreciate the strategy and the give and take of collecting resources. Players of Monopoly, Sorry!, Parcheesi, or other roll and move type games will fit right in and will feel at home playing this game.

Another benefit of Jamaica is that it is a relatively short game and is a good start to a game night.

For those of you interested in award-winning games, this game was nominated for the 2008 Spiel Des Jahres, so from that standpoint, it is truely a stand-out game.

We played it at our game night at The Daily Grind two weeks ago with seven people (it happened to be National Talk Like a Pirate Day) and the game went by fast, it was enjoyable, and we all were very willing to play Jamaica again.

Here is an online game store where you can buy Jamaica.

October 4, 2008 at 4:14 pm 1 comment

Blokus – The Abstract Board Game Surprised Us

We had our first game night at Infusion Tea, in College Park, in Orlando. There were three of us, plus a guy we hope will come back as a fellow gamer. He saw our sign on the door and thought he would see what we were doing.

So, it was my friends Pam and Gary, along with me. We tried a game that was new to all of us – the abstract board game, Blokus.

I wanted to try it because everyone gives this game high marks, and this was the game I gave the owners to try out. The e-mail I received back from them was “We Love Blokus!”. So, now I was curious.

This is a very unassuming game. It is a gray plastic board with each player getting a set of 21 colored tile pieces that are similar to what you would see in the game Tetris. There are four seperate colors.

The goal of the game is to place as many of your pieces as possible. The player with the least amount of pieces in the end is the winner. Sounds like a no brainer, right…

That’s what we thought. We all said “That’s it? There has to be more.” Well, the catch is that when you place your piece, it can only touch a corner of your other pieces – not a side.

About half-way through the game, it gets evil. By that time, everyone is spreading into each other’s territory and you are losing valuable real estate pretty quickly. A wrong placement will mess you up for the rest of the game – as will larger tiles.

We found that playing into the angles seemed to work really well. I tried a pattern that looked like “fingers” but it did not work so well. I had five pieces left over and both Pam and Gary went out and tied with no pieces left.

This game is ADDICTING! Watch OUT! We played two games and were prepared for a third, but wanted to get a solid game of Ticket To Ride: Nordic Countries in.

At one point in the evening, one of us actually said “Oh, I get it! Block Us! The name makes perfect sense. What a great name.”

We did not play the special Three-Player variant. This gets even more tough. It adds a fourth player that each player makes moves for. So, not only does it take up more real estate on the board, but it also allows the other players to work against each other with one extra set of colors they are playing tug-of-war with. There are several other variants as well.

If you like abstract types of games that really make you think, we highly reccomend this one. As I stated in the title, we were greatly surprised by the addictivness of this game – and part of it is because it is quick to play.

If you have kids that are of about 7-10 years old or know someone looking for something to strain the brain muscles – look no further than this game. It is going to be a perfect board game gift for the holidays.

September 9, 2008 at 10:00 pm Leave a comment

Friday Night Board Game Night at Daily Grind Coffee Shop

So, last Friday night, we had our fourth Friday Night Game Night at Daily Grind. We are very excited because it is starting to gain a little steam.

As you can see there were a few people there. Many playing board games – not all from Best Dang Games, but that is not the point! People are coming out and enjoying a local gaming establishment – that is not a hobby shop.

We had some of our more common faces come out – and bring a new game we had not played. There were also several other folks that said they would come, but due to circumstnces out of thier control, did not make it. Gary, his wife, and his daughter came out – with Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries and Shadows Over Camelot in tow. We had one extra player for an introductory game of Settlers, so Gary and his daughter played their game.

Along with Gary and his family, we also had my fellow gamer buddy, John – he is in a lot of our other photos. And I am excited to say we hooked another friend on the gaming hobby. Shawn came out. He was out with John and I for a game night, on a Monday. We introduced him to the card games Munchkin and Fluxx. Both were a big hit with him and John. So, we decided to step it up. Settlers of Catan.

Once Gary and his daughter were done playing, they came over to Settlers. Gary tried to advise Shawn, while his daughter was learning how to play.

In a surprise upset, I won! The cool part was that I did not own the Longest Road or the Largest Army. Those went back and forth between John and Shawn. I won on sheer might! I upgraded all my settlements to cities and had a few point-oriented development cards.

So, after that, we were going to introduce Shawn to Carcassonne, but we decided to play a game that everyone could enjoy. Shadows Over Camelot won. This was a bit more complex than should would have preferred, until he got the hang of it. We all thought that the littlest Bacchus was the Traitor and set ourselves up with six siege engines on the board so we could call her out. I called her and low and behold, it was not her.

The traitor ended up being John, which is perfect for him. He loves to taunt us with his dry humor.

We ended up closing down Daily Grind – and we lost to the forces of evil…and the horrid traitor, John.

So, until next time, keep on gaming and we hope to see some more fellow gamers next time.

September 4, 2008 at 10:30 pm 1 comment

Monday Night Game Night at Infusion Tea in College Park

Best Dang Games has partnered with another tea shop in Orlando to provide you with yet another option for attending a game night. This is an ongoing event!

Infusion Tea – An eclectic organic tea shop with an art store
http://www.infusionorlando.com/ – We are the top news item on their site.

They have two locations – one in College Park and another downtown.

We will be providing them with a library of games for anyone to play at their leisure.

I believe the plan is to have Monday nights be game night in College Park and Tuesday nights be game night at their downtown shop.

I have committed to hosting the game night for them on Monday, September 8 – College Park and the game night on Tuesday, Sept. 30 in downtown.

This is a free event, so come out and enjoy some organic tea while you enjoy some great games, like Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Puerto Rico, Ticket to Ride Card Game, Blokus, Fluxx, and many others of this style. If you have a favorite, let us know so we can try to have it…or bring your own.

The locations are:
1600 Edgewater Drive
Orlando, FL 32804
407-999-5255

Downtown:
625 E Central Blvd
Orlando, FL 32801
(407) 849-5004

If you call them about this, ask for Christina – the Owner.

Yet again, GAME ON! We hope to see you there!

If you would be interested in hosting a game night at these locations, let us know, so we can work it out and make it happen.

Please support these local establishments that are stepping up to support your hobby of gaming!

Barry Nadler
Best Dang Games

September 4, 2008 at 9:11 pm Leave a comment


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