Gaming Stuff

(Editor’s Note: I’m posting this blog sans pictures for now, with the plans to add more later.)

New Hall of Shame:

I have games.  And excuses why I’ve never played them!

Last year’s hotness:

Terraforming Mars – conceptually, it’s Alien Frontiers but with tons of fiddly bits and resource management!  You turn Mars into a warmer, habitable climate!  That’s the goal and the end trigger.  How much your particular corporation contributes to that goal is how you determine the winner!

ScytheAgricola with Steampunk Mechs!  If your neighbor has some resources you want, you can just TAKE THEM.  This has a certain appeal.  Definitely on the short list for learning this one sooner rather than later, especially since I can sell Max on the idea.

By and large, space themed games aren’t a winner with some of my frequent gaming partners (i.e. Valerie and Lynn), which explains why I haven’t brought this one out just yet…

Charterstone is also made by Stonemaier Games, the same folks that made Scythe. It’s the first city legacy game I want try out with Max and Valerie. A legacy game is a board game that “remembers” the previous game with semi-permanence (usually stickers or writing on the board).

Donner Dinner Party – this one was graciously gifted to me in the hopes I would give it my two cents review.  However, I haven’t played it yet!  (Sorry, April!) Getting four adults in the room willing to PLAY such a game has been the challenge for this game.  (That said, I’m game if others are!)

Uwe Rosenberg corner:

Uwe Rosenberg is definitely my favorite designer.  His resource management/action selection games of Agricola and Caverna, along with Patchwork – line my shelves and occupy my iDevices.

That said, I’ve collected a few others of his and yet they still remain… on the hall of shame list.

Ora Et Labora – this seems like Agricola but mixed with a rotating structure for the resource chosen, which is a similar mechanic to T’Zolkin, but instead of gears, it’s a rhondell.  The manual seems well set up, but there are three of them, which is slightly intimating.

A Feast for Odin – I only picked this up on a sale impulse, but it’s basically the same deal as Agricola and Caverna mixed with the “fill these spaces up” puzzliness of Patchwork.  And there is a LOT of it.  A LOT.  I haven’t broken it out just yet, but considering the weight of the box I suspect a steep learning curve on this one.

Classic Shames on the Previous List that I still own (that I haven’t already traded out):

Police Precinct – 1st or 2nd on the “likely to be played by Max and I” during the vacation break.

Android Netrunner – now that Max is a little older, I could see pulling this one out finally.

Dead of Winter – because ZOMBIES.  Just haven’t had the right time or crew to play this, but I know it’ll happen eventually.

504 – I see Max and I pulling this one out soon enough.  I see 504 as more of an exercise in game design than an actual game and Max is getting more interested in the “how the games are designed” aspects of things.

Road to %^^&ING ENLIGHTENMENT – Do not get me started on this one again.  DO NOT.

(I will cut you.)

Here’s the good news – The last couple of years have been really good on YouTube in terms of play-through videos for games, so I expect this list to dwindle over 2018.

Max’s RPG and BG interests –

What’s been fun is taking the board-RPG trip with Max over the past year.  He’s been expanding his horizons.  Earlier Valerie and I made a pact with regards to Max and playing RPGs.  We both knew that since he was my kid he would eventually be attracted to this sort of game, but Valerie was concerned that he might be TOO much into them at a young age.

So the pact was this – I would only introduce him only to board games, and hold off on RPG introduction UNLESS a friend of his at school invited him to play RPGs.  In that case, it would be okay but only if (a) it was not too frequent and (b) I went along for the ride to help guide him and determine if this was something he’d enjoy.

So yes, he was invited by a friend (and his dad, playing the Gamemaster) to a regular game of Pathfinder.  There are a group of three kids and two “adults” – and we’ve played about four times so far over the last quarter, and it’s father-son nerd bonding at its finest.

For those wondering, he’s playing a neutral human rogue and I’m playing a chaotic good human barbarian.  His friends are playing a ranger, a cleric and a mage to round out the party.

So far so good!  The kids are enjoying the gameplay and I’m enjoying playing a barbarian for the first time but I now acutely see the dangers in playing a tank. I’ve hit negative hit points at least twice now (and was ONLY knocked out a third time).  It’s a good thing there’s a cleric around.

In terms of board games – there’s two that Max really likes playing.

Xia is still a favorite, even though it runs a bit long and is susceptible to dice swings.  The last game we had was memorable because of those die rolls.  Max tragically lost to a bad die roll at the wrong time and Lorin had the worst 3d6 die roll we have ever been witness to.

Another game Max has been enjoying lately is Galaxy Trucker, which is a modular game in which you take space junk, hastily assemble a spaceship and then throw it into space and see if it survives the experience.  (more often than not, it doesn’t)

Board Game Café visits (Ludo, Firefly)

So after previously visiting Draughts in London and Victory Point Games in Berkeley, I now try to make it a thing that if I’m traveling in a faraway place I try to find a board game café in that location to (a) play games (b) eat/drink the local cuisine, and (c) if friends/family can join in, I’ll try to pull them in as well. This year we were fortunate enough to go to two faraway locations – the Philippines and Spain!


Ludo gets the rank just behind Draughts for game selection but the food was FAR SUPERIOR due to my well known bias for authentic Filipino cuisine.  Their store, however, was significant in selection and pricing, so overall these folks get my 4.5 stars of awesome.  My only complaint would be to invest in better chairs and tables as the ones they had were a little on the worn side, but that’s a very minor ding.

(Pictures and food pron should go here later when I’m in an editing mood.)

Firefly Drinks and Games in Barcelona

Unlike Draughts and LudoFirefly Drinks and Games was not as much of a showstopper experience.

The game selection was … okay.  Condition of the games themselves were a bit on the worn side.

Tables weren’t anything fancy.  Things felt a little on the unclean side.

The game selection was of two types – gateway and light or SUPER HEAVY (think War of the Ring, Descent, that sort of thing) games.  Since I was with another family and with Val and Max and I didn’t see any gaming gurus, I opted toward the “introduce the light game(s) that I already knew” category.  So we played Dixit and Carcassonne.

We played Dixit minus the colored chits and substituted other color pieces for voting.  The reason for this was that the colored chits were SO worn out on Firefly’s Dixit copy that the color on them was difficult to sort out.  Fortunately the other family had played Apples to Apples, so my description of “it’s Apples to Apples but with art” clicked quickly and we all got up to speed quickly.

Then we played Carcassonne.  We didn’t finish the game (we had an evening event to get off to), but enough fun was had with the other family that they asked what we thought of the game.  Valerie gushed about it and I told them about the expansion rabbit hole of DOOM with regards to this game.  They seemed excited about it, I suspect we will be playing that game with them again later in 2018.

But probably at the house.  With wine.

Firefly also had drinks.  I had an unmemorable beer.  The kids had root beer.

Firefly Drinks and Games wasn’t bad.  It just wasn’t as AWESOME as Ludo, Draughts, and Victory Point Café and gets a MEH rating of 2 ½ stars of MEH.

(Editor’s extra notes: I also visited a board game cafe near Toledo, Ohio called Dragon’s Roost. Game condition was great, but it was a cafe first, then a board game store, but wasn’t cohesively a board game cafe to me.)

Barcelocked! Escape room

Despite the lukewarm experience at Firefly, we did manage to squeeze in something game related in Barcelona that was AWESOME.  And that was Barcelocked!

Barcelocked is a one hour escape room.  You are physically locked in a room for an hour and have to solve puzzles left in the room in order to find the code you need in order to escape.  This was our first escape room so we had no expectations of what we were going to face.

The theme for the locked two room experience was Big Brother-George Orwell and the props and puzzles were challenging but not impossible to resolve.  The TV screen Big Brother gave clues to puzzles that we clearly needed, and the tension was high toward the end.

Without giving away any spoilers online (since that’s considered extremely uncool by the escape room community/owners) – we solved the room with less than 30 seconds to spare, which was a big rush.

(Editors note -a picture of our success goes here)

(Editors note – we also recently went to another escape room, this one closer to home in Richmond called Omescape. They have three rooms and we got out of the room with 13 minutes of an hour left and felt like bosses.)

Dave’s NEW Top Ten Games

My top ten games of late.



TTR 10th edition (Honorable mention: TTR Rails & Sails)


Lords of Waterdeep


Flash Point Fire Rescue

Castles of Mad King Ludwig




Action selection and resource games seem to be my jam, as do games that at least two, and sometimes the three of us, enjoy playing together.


These are the hangers-on. All gamers have them, and often refer to this list as a “shame list”. These are games that were purchased with the full intent of playing them at a table, but for whatever reason, they haven’t made it to the table. I haven’t given up on any of them, and I have excuses … ummm…REASONS for why this is the case!

(1) Battlestar Galactica/Dead of Winter

(2) Road to Enlightenment

(3) $how Manager

(4) NetRunner

(5) Castles of Burgundy/Canterbury

(6) Nothing Personal

(7) Ora Et Labora

(8) Police Precinct

(9) Spyfall

(10)Ca$H N Guns!


All of these games have one major issue – I haven’t played them yet myself. So teaching them to other people becomes a challenge. And some of them have daunting manuals.


Games in the 1,2,4 and 7 slots have at least 24-32 page of manual(s) – yes, some games have the “plural” of manual. However, most of them require the right group of people – those that will not only “get” the game but actually WANT to play it!



More specifically, however…


So in my last blog entry, I wrote about visiting a board game café in London called Draughts. Draughts was awesome, we had a great time and Valerie and I listed a few metrics that made the experience awesomer:

“…it is possible to create a board game cafe that I can get Valerie into for a period of time.  Said board game cafe needs to be well lit, possess good airflow, a decent amount of space, friendly staff, good food and drink, and have a nice library of good to great games kept in a clean condition”

Now, what I did know is that the folks over at Endgame, a game store in downtown Oakland have been working on expanding into an adjacent space to have their own board game café, appropriately called “EndGame Board Game Café” since some time last year.

I missed contributing to their Kickstarter but it’s safe to say that despite the delays with their building permits with the city of Oakland that I’m still doing my rendition of the lady in the old Mervyn’s commercial.

I’ve been watching them struggle, and hoping and wishing… that someday, I would have a board game café within driving distance of our house.

Additionally, after our family Draughts experience, both Max and Valerie are on board with this as well, providing that the previously mentioned metrics held.

Sadly, the EndGame Café is still not yet open. Last I heard was “maybe December” from folks at the store a couple of weeks ago.

But then… lightning hit! Another first in the Steelaraza Household!

Valerie scooped me on board game news.

As Yoda once said: “No, there is another.”

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 10.02.15 PM

Two board game cafes in the Bay Area…? WHAT?!?


(with apologies to Jesus Jones for the title)

Recently I discovered that the Canadian dollar vs. the US dollar was soft. If anybody wants to know why, this is what I was able to locate.

Previously in a blog entry I mentioned that our family love for Carcassonne. Yes, Carcassonne is more Valerie’s game than mine, but I vainly continue to search for a new expansion that’ll give me an edge to victory.

To that end, I continue the never ending search for esoteric Carcassonne expansions that have not yet been released in the United States. I started with godboma solely on (a) availability, (b) they had done me right on the Carcassonne mini expansions a few months before they saw print in the US and (c) shipping from Canada to the United States is a lot cheaper than other countries. 

Sadly, I discovered that was internet dead.  😦

Over the last year, I discovered a liking for the worker placement games made by Uwe Rosenberg (Agricola, Caverna) and decided after a failed attempt to get the at-that-time out of print game Ora Et Labora at a game auction that I would attempt to try to find a copy of it.

What I did learn is that the game was going to be reprinted this year. So rather than shell out 2-5x for it’s out-of-print status, I decided to be patient and wait.

So… where do these things all align?


Our TRIP! We’re heading on a cruise to the Nordic Countries later in 2015! The trip will start in London, go over a wide range of stops in the north from Dover to Dover, and the trip will conclude in Paris!

Watching Max grow! Max’s intelligent and sharp observations about his day, life, and the universe are really something. His latest kid obsessions are Minecraft and his new Linux Lego-Guide-Simple-To-Build Kano computer. Once he clears the Kano blocks, I suspect he’ll be programming in python in short order.

New stores nearby! Both Safeway and The Habit are coming to Alameda Landing, which is within a long walking distance of our Bayport community…Safeway is, well, Safeway. But it’ll make getting the essentials a LOT easier than driving to the other side of the island to get them. The Habit is my “mid-range burger joint” (above FiveGuys and InNOut, to be sure) – their mocha shake is great as is the BBQ Charburger.

The EndGame Café! I love the idea of a eat-n-hang out board game area.  Additionally, I may be able to learn the rules of stuff I already have… and that leads me to…

Learning about games I already own! Caverna, Castles of Burgundy, Show Manager and Junkyard Racers, I’m looking at you!

Drooling Over Games I want to own! Xia: Legends of a Drift System, Dead of Winter and Police Precinct, I’m looking at you!

Looking at Board Games coming to iOS that I’m interested in! Galaxy Trucker and Twilight Struggle, I’m looking at you!

and other stuff in the works! As Max would say, 2015 is going to be “epically awesome”!

Yee hah!

So the first Saturday in April has been dubbed International Tabletop Day, a faux holiday in the vein of Star Wars Day (May the 4th be with you!).  I wish I could say I’m spreading the word today, but this day I’m keeping it closer to home.

However, I did get my seasonly (semi-monthly?) board game evangelism on early. Last weekend I enjoyed two rousing sets of gaming of Agricola and Suburbia with a couple of friends. I’ve raved about these games before, but this one was a bit special in that I got to teach these two games to the board game enthusiast friend who set me on my path at the tender age of five with Monopoly and later, he created variants that featured a ROAD THROUGH THE CENTER OF THE BOARD featuring our own neighborhood streets.  (This was the 80s, folks.  It was either D&D, computers or inventing your own fun.  But it was way before Monopoly ended up with 9 million other flavors, so he just had licensing lightning in a bottle and didn’t know it.)  🙂

In terms of Agricola – he enjoyed both of them, finding Agricola a little thinky (it is but it’s just so much fun, even when I lose!) and he won Suburbia handily with a series of heavy factories that easily took the other business borough and my suburbs with a bad reputation.

To them I say “Lots of fun, guys! Let’s do it again sometime!”  But in order to properly honor the ACTUAL International TableTop Day, I have a brief list of games I want to try out in 2014… (more…)

A few weeks back, the iOS version of Agricola hit the iPad world, and I, long owning the original game and finding the manual indecipherable, was hoping that I would finally figure out how to play this game.

And to my pleasant surprise, I did. I understood the worker placement, the setting up of the engine, the multiple resources, and at last, I got the mechanics of the game.

However, before I sat down with the iPad to play this, so did Max.

And I’ll also be blunt — I’m not sure if I’m writing this because I’m impressed or terrified of his ability to understand the rules to this game. It’s a game that, right on the box, is rated 13+.

However, before you call me a bad dad for even THINKING of teaching this game to him, let me offer an explanation in my defense. While driving him to school, I let him play with my iPad. It motivates him in the morning to eat, get dressed and get a move on. Besides, if he does it in a timely fashion, he may get an extra minute or two of playing.

Aside from arm chairing when Valerie or I use our iPads, this is his ONLY game time.

So what does he do?

Over the course of a few car trips to school, he figures out how to play “daddy’s new game of Agricola”… by himself.

(Remember, I’m driving and assuming he’s playing Pitfall or Minion Rush.) (more…)

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