Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Stuff I’m Actually Playing

Space Rumsfeld threw down the gauntlet today with this:

Sorry, Rummie. That’s not how we do things around here! I mean… who has the time or even the shelf space for stuff they’re never even going to play?!

Here are five games that I’ve worn out this year, in order of total time at the tabletop!

1. Illuminati with the Y2K expansion set from Steve Jackson Games — My son and I play this one to death. It’s not even designed to work well with two players, but we don’t care. Playing an Illuminati organization using guile and subterfuge to take over group after group? It never gets old! Pushing piles of cash along the pipelines of your tentacles of power? Pure bliss! Action that comes straight from the pages of The Weekly World News? Still hilarious even thirty years later. Those rare occasions that we do get a third or fourth player into the mix…? There’s always some first-rate backstabbing involved. (“Hey, if you do this thing that looks like it would benefit you more than me, I’d totally help you do it!”) Steve Jackson calls this one of their “evergreen” titles because it has never dropped from the top seller lists. Fifteen years ago it would have been on the higher end of the complexity scale, but with the advent of heavy Euros and Living Card Games, it’s now dropped down to being relatively straightforward in comparison. Finally, the inclusion of blank cards allow you to keep the game up to date by adding in Gamergate, Sad Puppies, File 770, and DiGRA to the gameplay. A classic.

2. Wizard Kings with two Heroes & Treasures expansions — Columbia Games is known for the exquisitely well-crafted block wargames. This is not one of their designs that pulls down rave reviews while soaking up tournament slots at the big game conventions. If you’re looking for a quick playing fantasy-themed battle game, though, this is the one you want! The Stratego-style fog of war means you have to make gutsy moves to win. The geo-morphic maps and the seven factions means no two games ever have to be alike. And the game design mojo of the Columbia crew means that there are paths to victory that require you to be very, very evil. Yep, this game is insane for applying “collectibility” to an old school wargame. And you won’t get a substantial amount of play out of this one unless you go ahead and buy a couple of expansions. But I think you’ll find that the excitement involved in planning out how to dole out the stickers to each faction is exactly the sort of insane fun that’s been missing from your life. (Note that I have more notes along with a complete scenario here, here, and here.)

3. 7 Ages — This is the monster game to end all monster games. I played this one with six other people for seven sessions straight and let me tell you… it was epic. Each player typically plays two empires at once. They spring up all over the world and grow and fight and collapse and break apart. All sorts of technology is in play at once. There are special leaders, special units– and the cards are all used for a half dozen things. Players build the seven wonders of the world, trigger acts of god, raid, pillage, burn, usurp, and invent. It’s insane. This game is more like a role-playing game in some ways because players end up coming up with their own personal objectives rather than simply playing for a straight ahead win. Some people do things just because they might be incredibly awesome. Other people spend the game punishing anyone that crosses them. The complexity level is high and it will be a rare group that decides to actually bust this one out, but those that do are in for an unparalleled gaming experience. (Note you can find extensive documentation of my 7 Ages game over on the Castalia House photo stream.)

4. Adventurer Conqueror King System and The Sinister Stone of Sakkara — A lot of people ask me what version of D&D I recommend, and yeah… I feel pretty strongly about the classic Moldvay Basic sets with the Erol Otus covers. ACKS takes those D&D rules that are the arguably most played of all time and develops them further. Here you’ll find extensive rules for the domain game that was only given cursory treatment in AD&D. You’ll also find a diverse range of character classes that accommodate modern sensibilities without sacrificing the old school aesthetic. And with the Sakkara adventure module, the line now has something to fill the niche that Gary Gygax’s Keep on the Borderlands established. The variety of beasties populating this dungeon makes sense and there is a wild situation brewing that has some awesome weird horror angles. Finally, there are a couple of encounters here that don’t tend to end up in most peoples’ introductory modules but that really ought to be done. There is the potential for true gaming glory within these pages. (For more in this see my posts here, here, and here.)

5. Sea Kings by Lewis Pulsipher — This one is a light board game that’s easy to teach, easy to set up, and quick to play. I had no problem getting my son (age 13) and his friends to play it. I even got a six player game together with some kids that were even younger. Unlike a lot of euros, there is an element of direct conflict in the advanced rules. The inclusion of rules that allow players to settle without using a card in order to take over over players settlements makes the gameplay much more dynamic. There’s also just enough history baked into the game to inspire young people to do some further reading about the world the Viking raiders lived in.

And there you have it! There are some lovely games that have come out this year, but none of them quite had the staying power of these five. Check ’em out! (And if you pick up a copy of your own, please purchase them through the links on this post in order to support my blogging efforts.)

3 responses to “Stuff I’m Actually Playing

  1. pcbushi October 17, 2016 at 8:01 am

    Man, I wish I had people within my social circles to play games with. I’ve got to work on that.

    • jeffro October 17, 2016 at 8:45 am

      Having kids is the best way around that. I learned to game master with mine. And my son isn’t just my most reliable opponent now– he’s what makes original game development possible!

  2. Karl Gallagher October 17, 2016 at 10:26 am

    My actually played pile is about that size. The larger piles are ones that looked cool but I can’t drag people away from Warcraft to play, and ones I was given as gifts by people who are too busy to play.

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