Gaming Breaks

In the course of being a gamer, we sometimes get completely engrossed in one game and ignore all others.  This is why, in a video I will be posting later, I mention that I haven’t had much time, if any, to play games on my various consoles.  I got completely engrossed in Elite: Dangerous on top of actively tackling garrison missions daily in WoW.  However, my recent vacation to the great cities of Boston and New York City allowed me to get away from gaming.  I could have gamed while there, but I didn’t bring a laptop that could handle those games and I was far too tired after waking around all day to even think of playing a game.  I have been back now for a two weeks and I still haven’t thought about online gaming.

Image Credit: http://www.arabianbusiness.com/should-i-have-any-free-time--540228.html
Image Credit: http://www.arabianbusiness.com/should-i-have-any-free-time–540228.html

This brings me to the topic I wanted to talk about, taking a break.  Taking a break from our regular routine of gaming can be quite refreshing.  It opened up more free time than I thought and I found myself looking for things to do.  I caught up on some TV shows (I can now say I have watched all of Breaking Bad), but I really was kind of bored and didn’t know what to do.  Kind of a good problem to have, no?

The added benefit of my new found free time is that I was finally able to look towards playing some console games again.  I truly have a huge backlog of games I still have to play.  While I will most likely continue playing Dragon Age: Inquisition until I beat it, I still have the original Assassin’s Creed to beat (just need to do the last couple kills).  I even bought a PS4 and Bloodborne because I kept reading so many good things about it.  If I was still spending all my time online gaming, Dragon Age and Bloodborne, along with a couple other Xbox One games I have, would still be unopened.

This doesn’t just apply to video gaming.  Sometimes we need to take a break from our board game groups and our tabletop roleplaying groups.  The break helps us realize how much we enjoy and how much we get out of our gaming groups.  Fortunately for me, the breaks I get from my board gaming and roleplaying groups are because people are out of town.  I really enjoy these groups, and believe I could go without the breaks (not regularly gaming during the week completely throws my schedule off), however it is most likely that these shorts breaks I get keep everything fresh and fun when we get to game again.

What do you think?  Do you take breaks from your gaming routine and find yourself with a lot of free time to enjoy something else?  Do those breaks allow you to go back to other games that you still need to play?  Please leave a comment and/or share on Twitter.

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Learning to Adapt

We all game differently.  While playing a board game, roleplaying it up, or playing a video game online, chances are we are playing something while in a group.  And not all groups are the same.  In my board gaming group (going on nine years now) everyone at the table has a fairly strong personality.  This carries over to my roleplaying group as a lot of us are in both groups.  However, this isn’t the case for all groups all the time.  Sometimes we are thrown into a different situation and we have to adapt to those around us.

This adaptation can be as simple as toning down the amount of curse words; I admit, I have a pretty dirty vocabulary at the gaming table.  However, if I am with a group where they don’t appreciate colorful language, or there are kids around, I need to tone it down and I do.  I do not complain about it and the group doesn’t need to keep reminding me about it either.  I do it because it is polite and I want to keep gaming.

This carries over into roleplaying groups as well.  Not everyone in the group can be super boisterous all the time.  Depending on what everyone is playing, we might need to drastically tone down our conversations in and out of character so someone else can have their turn in the spotlight.  Some GMs might not appreciate a lot of side talk while roleplaying is happening.  Others might require you to pay very close attention to what is going on as they will only give you a few seconds to decide what your character is going to do on their turn.  Again, this requires us to adapt to the situation.

This carries over into games like WoW too.  During MoP while we were working on taking down Garrosh for the first time, the guild, as a whole, was on edge and didn’t appreciate screw-ups.  There was very little chatter at all while we were attempting bosses we hadn’t killed yet.  However, after we took down Garrosh and everyone one else quit until WoD, the new guild I joined was all about messing around.  They had taken down everything on a more difficult tier so they were more about having fun and helping everyone else out.  It was incredibly fun raiding with them.  Everyone was constantly throwing out jokes or saying complete nonsensical things to get a laugh.  The raid leader would even modulate his voice to add to the entertainment.  Had I ran with them with the mindset I during my old guild’s first Garrosh kill, I wouldn’t have had as much fun.  I had to adapt to their playstyle.

A picture of the Settlers map my friend took when she was at Strateicon this past February.
A picture of the Settlers map my friend took when she was at Strategicon this past February.

When heading to a gaming convention or trying to get into competitive play, multiply this need to adapt 100 fold as you will encounter all sorts of different people with a wide variety of personalities.  My friends who go to gaming conventions always share stories about some of the people they met at the gaming table.  They would go from wisecracking at one table to complete silence at the next.  They were always adapting to their fluctuating situation.

The adaptability you can learn from gaming with different groups is invaluable in everyday life.  If you are trying to branch out and experience new things and meet new people, finding a gaming group might be the way to go.  You’ll have something in common with the new people and you all will be there for the same thing; gaming.

What is your experience with different gaming groups?  Were some very open and joking often, while others were very on point and serious?  Please leave a comment and/or share on Twitter.

Risks versus Rewards

Last night was my board gaming night, and because our group has gotten slightly large, think eight in total if everyone shows up, we have started splitting the group to play two different games (there aren’t many games out there that comfortably plays eight).  However, the group splitting allows for two smaller games to be played, which opens up the gates to almost everything.  The group I ended up in was playing King of Tokyo, which is a fantastically fun, simple, and quick game (I was very thankful for the quick because I just flew in from the East Coast).

Image credit: http://www.iellogames.com/KingOfTokyo.html
Image credit: http://www.iellogames.com/KingOfTokyo.html

The objective of the game is to score 20 points before any of the other city destroying monsters do.  The most straight forward way to get points is to take Tokyo and stay there as long as you possibly can.  The longer you are able to stay, the more points you get.  There are other ways to get points; by rolling three 1s, 2s, or 3s (which yields 1, 2, and 3 points respectively), or by cards, though those are random.  So, typically, you will try your best to take and stay in Tokyo.

The other results on the dice are claws for attacks, lightning bolts for energy, and hearts for health.  You get a total, not counting abilities from cards, of three rolls to try to get your desired rolls.  You need energy to buy cards, so those are always good to save.  You generally want to keep pairs of numbers, hoping a reroll will get you a third so you can get points.  And attacks allow for, well, attacking.  Each monster starts with 10 health and each claw will take one away.  When you are in Tokyo, your attack dice apply to every monster outside.  However, every monster outside will only attack the one in Tokyo.

So, you need to weigh the risks versus rewards of staying in Tokyo.  I feel that this game explains risks and rewards quite well, and quite simply.  Staying in Tokyo will give you guaranteed points.  However, everyone else wants to get their monster into Tokyo as well, so they are going to keep a lot of their attack dice, hoping to make you yield (once any monster hits you when you are in Tokyo, you can yield Tokyo to them).

It is important to keep in mind that heart dice do not count when you are rolling while in Tokyo, so you need to constantly pay attention to your health and how much damage everyone else is looking to keep.  If you stay in Tokyo too long, you will die and thus are out for the rest of the game.  If you get out too soon, you forfeit points you could have gotten.  So, it is a constant weighing of the risks of staying versus the rewards of staying.  If you are like me, you will stay too long and get killed very quickly in the game.

This, however, brings up another avenue to winning: killing all the other monsters.  This is usually more difficult to do, but if you can manage to get a good combination of powers from the cards, then your damage output will increase dramatically.  This makes eliminating all the other monsters much simpler.  But, it does require you to keep more lightning bolt dice in the beginning and the cards are completely random.  So, do you risk stockpiling energy with the hope that good power cards will be drawn and thus reward you?  Or do you hop into Tokyo and see how long you can survive?

If you haven’t had a chance to play King of Tokyo, you should definitely check it out.  If you know of other fun, simple, and quick games that are similar to King of Tokyo, please leave a comment and/or share on Twitter.

Another look at Paying Attention

In a previous blog I wrote about how not paying attention in WoW could lead to your group all dying during a particular boss fight.  However, in WoW, there are always signals that out, warning you what is to come so then you can respond appropriately.  However, in a game like RoboRally, you need to pay attention to everything going on, because elements on the board will affect your robot and help dictate what happens to them.

This is the full game board for the last RoboRally game I played.  After 90  minutes, I was still in the upper left corner...the starting board.
This is the full game board for the last RoboRally game I played. After 90 minutes, I was still in the upper left corner…the starting board.

All the available boards for RoboRally are different in their layouts, but they all will throw you curveball after curveball as you try to navigate them.  Some elements push your robot forward, others send them back, some will rotate your robot, while others push you into pits.  You have to pay attention to all the belts, lasers, smashers, pits, and, of course, other player’s robots.  You are, essentially, at the mercy of everything else that is going on with the board, and thus, without the proper concentration, you will spend the large amount of time on the starting board not really going anywhere.

You must understand all aspects of the game in order to navigate it effectively.  While you do get dealt nine cards at the start of the round, you only get to keep five of them, and those five are all played one by one.  So, it is very easy to get completely lost if you didn’t factor in the board elements.  One misstep could send you down a pit, and thus to the start of the game (or your last waypoint).  After every card you play, the board elements, those appropriate, will trigger and do their thing.  So, even though you may have only played a move forward 1, the board elements might send you another two spaces forward.

This is perhaps the most confusing board I have ever seen in a RoboRally game.
This is perhaps the most confusing board I have ever seen in a RoboRally game.

This messes most people up, per my experience, as they do not always consider what the board is going to do in between their cards.  Another difficult aspect are the rotating board elements and cards.  It is very easy to completely lose track of which way your robot is facing.  Since you can only move forward (or backwards), many people accidentally line themselves up with a pit and instead of moving around it, they inadvertently rotate towards it and them step right out over the void.

Then there are the other players’ robots.  If one happens to be facing you, they will shoot you; they have no choice.  Any damage you take affects the amount of cards you are dealt, so it is very important to pay attention to where all the other robots are.  This is especially important if you happen to be close to another robot.  When this happens, you need to pay very close attention to how they are moving because they can move you.  If you are touching another robot, if their movement card has a higher number, they will go first, and that can end up moving your robot over.  Having this happen once will completely ruin your planned route.

This is my robot, Hulk X90, the last time I played RoboRally.  As you can see, I have 4 damage and thus only get 5 cards to plan my route.
This is my robot, Hulk X90, the last time I played RoboRally. As you can see, I have 4 damage and thus only get 5 cards to plan my route.

It is really quite frustrating when this happens.  Last time I played this game, I ended up getting stuck in the starting area for around four turns due to getting pushed by a couple players’ robots.  I had the perfect route all planned out where I could get a nice jump on everyone, but a simple shift of one square to the left made my entire plan worthless.  I was not paying attention to the routes available to the others and thus we all ended up trying for the same one.

Similar to WoW, RoboRally requires you to dedicate a good portion of your attention to the board and what is going on.  Unlike WoW, when I trigger happens, you cannot adjust your route, but instead need to suffer the consequences.  If you want to train your brain to pay attention and WoW is not your thing, check out RoboRally.

Have you ever played RoboRally?  What are your thoughts on it?  Please leave a comment below and/or share on Twitter.

Learning Money Management

Budgeting our money is very important.  It’s something we all do.  We try to save it while we plan for that next purchase, be it a vacation or a new TV.  However, if you are like me, then saving and budgeting are both boring and not as easy as we thought.  When we try to break all of our expenses down, there’s always some unexpected purchase, or something we didn’t put much thought into but cost quite a bit.  So, how can we learn to be better with our money?  If you have come to this site before, you know where this is going.

This is a photo I took of my friends Power Grid game.  The map is the default one, that of Germany, and the power plant auction stand is one I made for them for their birthday.
This is a photo I took of my friends Power Grid game. The map is the default one, that of Germany, and the power plant auction stand is one I made for them for their birthday.

The board game Power Grid can help teach you about money management.

Simply put, Power Grid is a game where you buy power stations and use them to power your cities.  However, there is quite a bit more to it than that.  First, you set up an auction board with eight power plants that span two rows.  All power plants have a number associated with them, and they are placed in numerical order.  The power plants in the top row are the ones that are currently up for auction, and you can only bid on any one plant in the top row.  Once that plant is purchased, a new one is drawn and it is placed in the correct order per its number.  This is where plants from the bottom row can move up to the top, bidding row.

Whomever is first player selects the power plant they wish to bid on, the starting price is the number of the plant.  Once they have selected a power plant, the bidding then goes around the table clockwise.  Anyone can bid on the plant, however if you pass, you cannot make any bids on the current power plant. It is a good idea to have a set budget for buying power plants and to pay attention to how much money you currently have.  Since each player can only buy one power plant in a round, if the current plant exceeds you budget, simply pass and wait for the next plant.

The next thing that you need to pay attention to is what resource your plant consumes to provide power and what the current price of said resource is.  If you can afford the plant but cannot afford to fuel it, then you have budgeted incorrectly.  You must also pay attention to what resources your opponents’ power plants require, as when they buy their fuel, it increases the price of the fuel going forward.  So, again, you must budget accordingly.

Now you must buy your cities.  All cities, for each round cost the exact same amount of money.  However, the routes you take to get to those cities vary in cost.  You must plan your routes according to how much money you have.  You cannot buy a city without buying the route to said city, so you always have to factor in that extra cost.

Once you have bought all your cities, it is time to power them.  Powering cities is where you get money to buy more power plants, fuel, and cities.  The main idea is to try to power as many cities as you can for as little as you can.  As the rounds go on everything will get more expensive, so it is important to plan out your expenses for a couple rounds.  At a competitive table, making one major mistake, like not having enough money to purchase one of the three items, can lead you to not winning the game.  Therefore, you must always know exactly how much you have and spend it in the most economical way.

Power Grid is a great game as it gets your mind thinking about budgeting.  It is also a fantastically fun game to play.  If you haven’t tried it out, I highly recommend that you do and then leave a comment below and/or share on Twitter about your experience.

Strategy with Eclipse

Let’s talk about strategy.  Strategy is important in several aspects of life and, most definitely, at work.  We are constantly coming up with new strategies to deal pretty much everything, always seeking to find a new, more effective way to do something.  I strategize my time and how I am going to manage my MBA classwork while working full-time all the while maintaining my regular routines throughout the week.  However, coming up with new strategies for everything is very tough and very time consuming.  Fortunately, there are several board games out there that require a heavy dose of planning and strategy to play and win.  Eclipse is one of those games.

This was taken from the Eclipse game I played on March 12th.  I am the red player, and as you can see, it looks like I am doing ok.  I have several planets generating a decent amount of money and research.
This was taken from the Eclipse game I played on March 12th. I am the red player, and as you can see, it looks like I am doing ok. I have several planets generating a decent amount of money and research.

Eclipse is a relatively new board game that came out only four short years ago.  It is an incredibly popular game that is enjoyed in households and conventions a like.  There are numerous ways to win the game, which galactic domination being the most common.  While the game is quite fun, It can also be an incredibly frustrating game.

My player sheet.  As you can see, at this point, I was doing fairly decent in money and research but terrible in resources.
My player sheet. As you can see, at this point, I was doing fairly decent in money and research but terrible in resources.

I have played Eclipse a couple dozen times.  Each time, everyone around the table, except for a few, try to employ a different method of obtaining points and eventually winning the game.  Some races you can select in the beginning have an advantage with developing technologies, and through those technologies gain several points.  Another option is to develop nothing but warships and start invading your neighbors.  This seems to be the most common strategy employed, and it does have, in the games I have played, a decent winning percentage.

However, there’s a bit more to this game, and its strategies, than just tech or war.  If you play with the maximum number of players, which is six, it is imperative to know and understand what everyone else is doing and realize that it is almost impossible to win by yourself.  A simple strategy of building warships and acting aggressively towards everyone is a quick way to get everyone else at the table to, possibly briefly, join forces and crush you.  Another simple strategy that will get you into trouble is trying to remain removed from everyone else and try to explore and gain more and more territory.  That will also cause a few of your opponents to join forces to crush you.

So, what to do?  Typically, the best strategies involve more than one player, each working with their strengths.  In Eclipse, alliances can be formed where two to three players join forces.  These alliances only work if all parties bring something to the table.  One person can focus on building nothing but warships, while another builds nothing but technology.  In this case, both are generating points for their team while focusing on their respective strengths.

As you can see, the person playing black invaded me and I couldn't do anything about it.
As you can see, the person playing black invaded me and I couldn’t do anything about it.  I lost all but two small systems.

While Eclipse explicitly states what each race is more proficient at, which enables you to develop a good strategy around that, in the real world you aren’t going to be that lucky.  By looking at your team, understanding each of their strengths, a potent strategy can be crafted leading to victory or achievement.  This could be a strategy towards achieving the company goals more efficiently and reliably, to managing your personal spending better.  The point is this fantastic game can help you understand strategy and how to use it in everyday life.

Have you ever played Eclipse?  What is your favorite or most used strategy?  Please leave a comment below and/or on Twitter.

For all the information you could ever hope to know about Eclipse, click here.