Tag Archives: games

GABBO — i mean tabletopday — IS COMING!

Tomorrow is the second annual International Tabletop Day! It’s TableTop Day 2: The Tabeleoppening Return of the Gamers Tabletop Harder Electric Boogaloo!

As I write this, our fellow gamers in those parts of the world where it’s already tomorrow are playing more games, and I’m so excited to join them when we finally catch up, here in California.

There are thousands of events all over the world, and you can find one close to you by going to TableTopDay.com. Also, if you’re able to attend an event at one of the friendly local game shops who have partnered with us, you’ll have a chance to get some truly epic limited edition expansions to some of our favorite tabletop games.

If you’re going to be playing games at home, or you’re stuck at work and still want to get in on the action, you can watch our livestream, which begins at noon Pacific time, and you can follow the #TableTopDay hashtag on Twitter, for cool pictures and stories and big news all about Tabletop.

Also, I would love it if you would share your stories and pictures to the Tabletop Tumblr I run, As Seen On TableTop, so I can share your games with the world.

Also also, if you want to tell me what you’re planning to play tomorrow, or let me know what games you’d like to see on future episodes of Tabletop, use the comments here, for great justice.

Guest Post by Will Hindmarch: Funny Vs. Happy

Will Hindmarch is a writer and game designer. Find him online at Wordstudio or Gameplaywright.

On one of his spoken-word records, The Boxed Life, Henry Rollins talks a bit about being funny or happy all the time. If you could be funny or happy all the time, which would you pick?

I’ve been thinking about this since 1995. I first heard Boxed Life in 1995 and I’ve been thinking about this since then. I’ve been thinking about other things, too, but still. The question, it vexes me.

“I’m funny all the time, I’m not happy all the time,” Rollins said. “So, okay, but that’s all right, because I’d rather be funny than happy … all the time.”

Historically, I’ve found it easy to answer this question … but hard to shake it. If I had to choose, I’d choose to be funny.

“There’s not a lot to learn from being unfunny,” I used to tell people when I’d talk about this. That idea is plainly bullshit — there’s plenty to learn from bombing on stage or mucking up a joke — but it’s what I would say. People who are happy all the time irk me.

In part, I believe the lessons learned from being unhappy are valuable. I have to believe that. I have to believe that the time I spend feeling miserable will pay off somehow, maybe by informing my work, maybe in insights or wisdom. I want to believe that misery isn’t a waste of my time because I only have so much time and I don’t want to think that I’ve wasted so much of it.

The trouble is, I’ve cooked the question too long. I reduced out a lot of the nuance and the flavor and I’ve sometimes forgotten that the heart of the question is in that phrase “all the time.”

I think it’s easy to breeze through happy times without learning anything. Happiness feels easy even when it’s not easy. If you’re like me, good times can feel sustainable when you’re in them.

They’re not sustainable. Nothing lasts forever. And here’s the thing about misery: it doesn’t have to make sense.

This has been a great month for me, creatively. My new tabletop RPG, Dark, is doing well at Kickstarter. The new online storytelling game I’m working on, Storium, just entered a new phase of alpha testing. I’m designing a series of new Fiasco playsets I can’t tell you about yet. Lots of fun work happening at once.

Things are, measurably, good.

Last week, I couldn’t see that. Something grim settled over me like a glum fog, blocking out the light. I wanted to do good work but I couldn’t see straight — I hated everything I wrote not because it was bad, but because I wrote it. I put off work I wanted to do because I didn’t feel like I had earned the right to work on it yet. It was a dessert-and-vegetables thing, I told myself. But that’s bullshit, too. When I’m that miserable, I fear and resent happiness. I feel like I owe it nothing, like it’s betrayed me, like I have to learn how to function forever without it because I may never be happy again.

That’s the inherent, fascinating, dangerous fallacy inherent in the funny-or-happy equation. It’s in that phrase: all the time.

Happiness is impermanent. So is misery. What’s fleeting is often beautiful.

The trap I fell into was thinking that unhappiness, misery, and depression were somehow more revealing, more authentic than happiness. As if there’s less to learn from happiness than from misery. Look around and you’ll see people tripping on this idea all around us.

(It’s an easy mistake, I think, because misery ruminates, obsesses, and stares at itself. Depression warps time, pushing us to dwell on things that still exist when we’re happy — things that we just don’t fret about so much when things are good.)

We have a lot to learn from happiness and contentment and while it is sometimes harder to pause and glean the insights when you’re busy laughing and dancing and making merry, let’s do that more. We don’t have to be happy all the time (because, seriously, ugh) but we shouldn’t mix up happy with oblivious, either. I did that for too long.

Anyway, I still don’t want to be happy all the time because I think I’m ill-suited for that. I want to learn from happiness and misery, both. And if I could be funny all the time, I could bring  laughs and joy to others and that would rebound back to me. When other people laugh at my jokes? That makes me happy.

 

 

Ten great Tabletop games you can use to introduce your friends to gaming

Via Reddit, I saw this fantastic list at Board Game Geek, detailing the top 100 “gateway” games, which is how we describe a game you use as an infection vector for tabletop gaming.

Here’s the top ten, as voted on by Board Game Geek members:

1 Ticket to Ride/TTR Europe
2 Carcassonne (all)
3 King of Tokyo
4 Dixit
5 For Sale
6 Diamant/Incan Gold
7 Can’t Stop
8 Pandemic
9 Love Letter
10 Settlers of Catan

As I’ve written before, different games work for different people, and someone who loves Ticket To Ride may not like King of Tokyo at all, so ask your non-gamer or tabletop-curious friends questions, and choose their gateway game carefully. All of these games have a high ratio of luck to strategy, which makes it a lot of fun for experienced and new players alike to play together.

And, as luck would have it, a lot of these games have been played on Tabletop, so you can get an assist from Your Old Pal Wil Wheaton when you introduce one of them to a new gamer. Just use the links above.

Have fun, and PLAY MORE GAMES!

There’s a harbor lost within the reeds.

I was getting my things together to go downtown, when my phone buzzed in my pocket. I pulled it out and opened a text message from my son, Nolan, which read: #BURRITOWATCH2014?

I smiled, and replied that I had an appointment downtown, but would be up for #burritowatch2014 as soon as I was finished, if he didn’t mind waiting for me. He said that was fine, and a few hours later we were waiting at one of my favorite places for our food.

While we waited, we took a stupid selfie for Twitter

#BURRITOWATCH2014And then our food arrived. I had an Al Pastor with no rice, extra-spicy, and he had a pollo asada, no rice, with mild salsa.

Burrito Al Pastor

We ate our delicious burritos, and then I took him home. When I dropped him off, I said, “Hey, your mom is going to have dinner with Stephanie tonight, and I’ll be home doing nothing. So if you wanted to come over and watch a movie or something, you’re invited.”

“I may be hanging out with some friends, but if I’m not, that sounds great,” he said.

“Awesome,” I said. “I love you.”

“Love you too.”

He walked up to his apartment and I watched him. I know it’s silly, but whenever one of my kids walks away from me, whether we’re saying goodbye in an airport or train station, or even if they’re just walking to their cars from my house, I see them though this strange paternal vision that makes them look like 6 year-olds, going to their first day of school. They’re 24 and 22, now, and I don’t think that’s ever going to change for me.

I drove back to my house, running a few errands on the way, and when I got home, Nolan called me. “Hey, I’m going to see my friends, but not until later. I don’t have time to watch a movie, but do you want to play a game?”

“Yes, I would love that,” I said. “I have some really fun two player games here. Come over whenever you want.”

“Okay, I’ll be there soon.”

I hung up the phone,  and thought, “Holy. Shit.”

For years, I have struggled to close the gap between us that opened up when Nolan was a teenager and he pulled away from me. We had been so incredibly close when he was little, it hurt me a lot that he was so withdrawn from me, but I didn’t want to force a relationship on him that he didn’t want. Through it all, I continued to love him unconditionally, and I always hoped that one day he would come back to me. I always invited him to our house when we did things, and he usually declined. I’d ask him to hang out, or go for a bike ride, or play frisbee, and he wasn’t really interested. But, recently, something changed. He’s been coming over to see me more frequently, sitting with me in my house and talking with me about his life and the choices he’s making right now, asking for my advice, and closing that gap. It’s wonderful.

One thing I never thought would happen though? Gaming together. We played lots of games when he was a kid, but part of his character build during the teenager level was rejecting everything that was important to me, especially gaming.

So when he called me — didn’t text me, but called me — to ask if I wanted to play games, I was as happy as I was caught completely off-guard.

Much sooner than I expected, Nolan came walking into the house. Our dogs adore him, so Marlowe immediately ran laps, while Riley did her happy “rooooooooooOOoOOOOOOooooOOO” noise. Seamus just leaned into him and demanded scritches behind his ears.

Once the dogs had expressed their love for him, Nolan and I went to my nearly-completed gameroom, where all of my games are on a series of bookshelves that takes up almost one entire wall.

“So I have Hive, which is really fun and kind of like chess, All Creatures Big and Small which is like Agricola but for 2 people, Battlelore, which is a minis game with really cool movement rules, OGRE, which is the first wargame I ever played, Carcassonne, which I can teach you in about 5 minutes …”

“You also have all these decks of Magic cards,” he said, showing me a box that does, in fact, have several hundred Magic cards in it, collected from the first edition I ever owned, to the most recent release.

“Dude, let’s play Magic!” I said. We used to play Magic a lot when he was younger, and it was one of those things that, while it didn’t close the gap, certainly bridged it from time to time. In fact, during that time, I gave him unfettered access to my Magic cards, which he used to duel kids in his school. On day, he came home and was really upset that kids were printing cards from the Internet, and using them in sleeves, which he (correctly) interpreted as cheating. “I’ll never use sleeves,” he declared, “because I want everyone I duel to know that I’m not cheating.”

“This is an excellent idea,” I told him, both because it was, and because I really hate playing any game that has cards in sleeves. I mean, that’s like putting plastic on your couch, for fuck’s sake. Andrew.

Nolan took some of my cards with him to Game Empire to play in an open dueling thing, and an ur-gamer of my generation refused to play with him, because, in the ur-gamer’s words, the cards Nolan was using — my cards — were “far too valuable” to be used unless they were in sleeves. He gave Nolan sleeves for those cards, which Nolan used, but then returned when the duel was over, if I recall correctly.

Back in the present, he said, “Let’s play two-out-of-three with random decks.”

We grabbed a couple decks, including some Mirrodin Besieged decks, the Knights and Dragons duel decks, and two Planeswalker decks that I got at GenCon or PAX or some con a couple years ago.

Now, I am not the greatest Magic player in the world, and I don’t spend nearly as much time playing it now as I did when I was much younger and had more time (and money) to invest in keeping up with the latest rules and releases, but I still have a good time whenever I play. I also believe that, generally, fast decks that kill with one thousand cuts are usually more successful than slow decks that count on defending yourself a lot while you wait for a big bad to show up and smack the other guy into dust with two or three big hits. I could be wrong, but that’s my general experience.

I mention this because we randomly pulled decks, and Nolan got a fast deck each time, while I got a slow deck. They weren’t especially balanced, and he immediately took the first two games from me, basically by stabbing me a bunch of times with goblin spears, using the Dragons half of the Knights and Dragons duel decks.

We switched to the Planeswalker decks for the second match. I got Garruk (green), and he got Chandra (red). These little decks are really fun. They’re 30 cards each, a very simple build, and lend themselves to really quick duels … which is pretty terrible if you’re the guy with the green deck who needs to get 7 freaking mana out to play his Wurms, while the other guy’s red deck slowly murders you with goblins. Again.

I did win a single game, because Nolan should have taken a Mulligan on his draw, and after five games, it was Nolan 4, Wil 1.

“I just realized that your decks have both been fast decks, while mine were built around withstanding a lot of small hits until I can smack you a couple times for lots of life,” I said.

“I prefer fast decks,” he said.

“So do I,” I said.

He cocked his head to one side, which he’s done since he was little whenever he’s about to get serious, and said, “do you mind that I’m killing you? Like, is it still fun for you?”

When Ryan and Nolan were little, they played Little League. They were coached by their hypercompetitive dad, whose winning-is-the-only-thing attitude ruined the experience for both of them. At one point during one of their seasons, I had to stop going to games because I couldn’t stomach watching their biodad yell at them, oblivious (or uncaring) to how much it was upsetting them. And, Jesus Fuck Shit, Little League Parents: get some fucking perspective, will you? They are 8 year-olds, playing a game, on a weekend. If those little kids winning those games is the most important thing in your life, you fail at parenting, and life in general.

Sorry. I still get angry about how much those games upset my kids, and how I couldn’t do anything to protect them from it at the time. The point is, during that time, I tried my best to support them and provide a counter weight to their biodad’s crap. I told them, “It’s fun to win, sure, but if you only have fun when you win, you completely lose the joy of just playing a game, and being part of a team that works together. You’re not going to win every game you play, so if winning is the only way you have fun, you’re going to have a bad time pretty often.”

I think they intuitively understood that, and I think their understanding of that, coupled with a desire to meet their biological father’s demands, made the entire Little League experience very difficult for them. I know that they internalized my lessons, though, because they’ve both told me as much at one time or another in recent years.

“Yes,” I said. “I’m having a really great time playing with you. Winning just doesn’t matter to me.”

I paused. Then: “Are you ready for the greatest comeback in the history of life?” I asked him, “because it’s about to happen.”

He looked silently back at me, and raised his eyebrows.

“Shut up! It can totally happen.”

More of the look, and we both laughed.

“Okay, which of these decks do you want?” I asked him. One was called Into The Breach, which had a pretty cool-looking, H.R. Geigeresque insectoid creature on the cover. The other was called Infect & Defile, which had a dimilar, H.R. Geigeresque creature on its cover, but more bird-like.

“I’ll take, uh …” he looked at them both, and reached for Into The Breach. “I’ll take this one.”

I took the other, and he said, “No! Wait! This is green, and that is black and blue. I want the black and blue deck.”

“Normally, I’d say it’s not a big deal and you can have it, but you’re destroying me so much I’m going to keep it and consider it a minor victory.”

“Dude. That’s harsh.”

“I know. I’m terrible.”

We opened the boxes, and pulled out the decks inside. They are Event Decks, which I’d never played with before. It’s a pretty cool idea: you get a deck that’s constructed from a bunch of different sets, built around a particular theme, that’s theoretically tough enough to withstand tournament play.

“Hey, this is really cool,” I said, “and there’s even a little insert that tells you how to play the deck.”

I took my insert out and opened it up.

“Are you fucking serious?” I said.

He looked up at me, and I read the first sentence to him: “To win with the ‘Infect & Defile’ deck, you’ll need to be patient.” I skipped a bit and continued: “…given enough time, you’ll draw more cards…”

“Oh man, that’s hilarious.”

“Well, I’ve certainly been training up for this deck,” I said. “Let’s do this!”

We started our duel, and Nolan just ruined me, quickly, in back-to-back games. In the second game, he used a devastating series of instants to cut me down to four life, then a sorcery to finish me off, all on the fourth or fifth round.  “I’m not even angry, ” I said, “that was amazing.”

“You are the undisputed master of Magic,” I said. “You may do The March, if you wish.”

The March is this silly victory thing we’ve been doing in our family since we first played one of the DVD versions of Trivial Pursuit in the early 2000s. Anne loves to do it, and I’ll admit that it feels pretty good to do when you’ve earned it, especially if you’re extremely obnoxious in the marching and saluting.

“No, I’m good,” he smiled. “I think these decks weren’t very balanced.”

I shrugged. “I don’t play enough to know, and if we were really super serious I guess we could switch decks and play again, but I know you’ve got to get to your friend’s house, and I don’t want to monopolize your Friday night.”

We cleaned up the game, and he said, “I had a really good time playing with you, and I’m not just saying that because I won.”

“I know,” I said, “I had a great time playing with you, too. I’m really glad you came over.”

He bent down and hugged me (he’s almost 6’2″, now, and has giant arms, so he pretty much engulfs my tiny 5’11″ person when he hugs me). There was a sincerity and warmth to his hug that I didn’t realize had been missing for a very long time. I hugged him back.

“I love you, Nolan,” I said.

“I love you, too, Wil,” he said.

I pulled away and patted his chest with my palm. “Have fun with your friends, and be good. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Okay. Let’s do this again.”

“I’d like that a lot,” I said.

He went out the front door, and I closed it behind him. Through the glass, I watched my little boy walk down the driveway, towards his first day of school.

Escape From Waterdeep

When we’re in production on Tabletop, we shoot two episodes a day. Each episode takes around five hours to film, and by the end of the fourth or fifth day in a week, we all get a little silly from sleep deprivation.

Before they leave for the day, we ask all the players to sign a few copies of the game they played. We keep these signed games in a vault at Geek and Sundry, and give them out as prizes, or offer them for select charity auctions.

Last season, when we were shooting Lords of Waterdeep, I went to sign the cover of the game, and thought that the artwork sort of looked like Escape From New York. I was feeling a little silly, so this happened:

Lords of Waterdeep

Escape from Waterdeep

This copy of the game lives in the Geek and Sundry offices, and will remain part of our permanent collection.

Speaking of Tabletop, here’s what’s coming up for the rest of this season. If you own a game shop, you may want to talk to your distributor about getting extra copies of these upcoming games, if you experience what I’m told is called The Tabletop Effect:

  • December 26th – Carcassonne
  • January 9th - Tsuro of the Seas
  • January 23rd - Ticket to Ride Europe
  • February 6th - Fortune and Glory
  • February 20th - Lords of Vegas

Oh! And speaking of Lords of Waterdeep, which is one of my very favourite games of this year, the iOS version is really great.

Make your own Zombie Dice Brain Counters

One of the most frequently asked questions about Tabletop is: "How do I get those awesome brains you used as counters in Zombie Dice?"

They were made by our AMAZING art director and prop master, Nick, (who made the show look incredible, and still came in under his budget) out of some kind of foam that apparently kills you if you eat it, so I can't exactly tell people to go and do the same thing we did.

…but look at what Mel From Hell showed me on Twitter just now!

image from i.imgur.com
This was made with Sculpey, and is awesome. So now you know how to make your own cool Zombie Dice brain counters. 

Get Excited and Make Something!

Live action Interactive Fiction games

Remember those old text adventure games from the 80s, like Zork and Leather Goddesses of Phobos and Planetfall and Lurking Horror? I loved them, and I loved how they engaged my imagination while they encouraged me to solve puzzles.

When I was at Origins, I saw this game called JUNGLE ADVENTURE, which uses a system called Parsely. It's essentially a live version of the old text adventure games. A GM plays the part of the computer, reading descriptions and giving responses to a group of any number of players who are trying to solve the adventure.

I haven't played it at a con, yet, but I've read stories from people who played it in a room of a hundred or more people, with delightful and hilarious results.

I've had such a good time reading JUNGLE ADVENTURE and SPACE STATION, I went to RPGnow and bought ACTION CASTLE, the very first game that was released using this game engine. (Note: I didn't realize, until I started writing this post, that mementomori sells the games directly, so I've linked to those pages here; shut up and give them your money!)

I'm not entirely sure it would work on Tabletop, but I'm going to try it with my friends at our next game day. 

I'm just going to throw this out there: I bet it would be really easy to design your own games using this system… get excited and make something, Internet!!

The Minecraft Marathon is awesome, made a giant Evil Wil Wheaton, and raised money for Child’s Play

Some of my friends raised money for Child's Play Charity by doing a Minecraft Marathon. I meant to link to it when it was happening, but mumblemumblesomething.

Anyway, here are two of the many amazeballs things they got excited and made:

Minecraft_marathon_8_bit_wil_wheaton

Minecraft_marathon_evil_wil_wheaton_and_codex
(Click images to embiggen at Flickr)

I wish I hadn't mumblemumblesomethingcough, because it would have been awesome to see this happen in real time, but if you like what you see here (and here and here and here), then please consider making a donation to Child's Play Charity.

From The Vault: Cross the Blazing Bridge of Fire!

Did you know that I used to write a weekly column called The Games of Our Lives for The AV Club? It was about classic arcade (and occasionally console) video games that were just far enough off the mainstream radar for Gen Xers to realize that they remembered playing or seeing them, even if they hadn't thought about them since the 80s.

I worked very hard to keep it funny, nostalgic, and even a little informative. Though I didn't always come up with heartbreaking works of staggering genius, I'm really happy with about 95% of the columns I turned in … like this one for Satan's Hollow:

The flyer from Bally advertises "The hot new battle game that dares you to cross the blazing Bridge of Fire to do battle with the Master of Darkness-Satan of the Hollow!" After languishing for years in the obscurity of role-playing games, Satan finally crossed into the mainstream of arcades everywhere. Parents panicked as kids eagerly coughed up pocketfuls of quarters to dance with the devil in the pale moonlight.

Gameplay: It's 1982, so of course you have to enter Satan's Hollow in a spaceship. To pull this off, you build a bridge across a river of fire by picking up pieces from the left side of the screen and dropping them onto the right side of the screen. You have a shield that will protect you (for about .08 seconds) from the gargoyles and demons dropping World War II-style bombs. When the bridge is completed, you cross into the game's eponymous locale and face down Satan himself. If you avoid his magic pitchforks and destroy him, you won't save mankind from eternal damnation, but you will earn bonus points and an extra laser blaster for your space ship.

Before you complain that none of this makes sense, please remember that the number-one song of 1982 was "Centerfold" by J. Geils Band, and the number-one film was Tootsie.

Could be mistaken for: Galaxian, Dark Tower, Phoenix

Kids today may not like it because: Satan looks more like a sea monkey than like the Prince Of Darkness.

Kids today may like it because: Freaking your parents out because you're playing a game with Satan in it is always cool, whether it's 1982 or 2005.

Enduring contribution to gaming history: Doom wouldn't have been able to take players right into Hell in 1993 if Satan's Hollow hadn't opened the portal 11 years earlier. 

Every column had a different byline, which I tried very hard to make some kind of clever "nobody's going to get this, except for those few people who do and totally love it" joke: 

.mraf ynnuf eht, notaehW liW ot seilper rouy dnes esaelP .egassem terces eht dnuof ev'uoY !snoitalutargnoC

See what I did there? It's a game with SATAN in the title, so I put at BACKWARDS MESSAGE in the column. Ha! Ha! Ha! I am using the Internet!

I loved doing this column, and deliberately retired it while it was still going strong, so it didn't turn into [Pick some series that should have ended years ago while it was still funny. This is not a placeholder note to myself, it's a free option for you, dear reader. Merry Christmas.]

A few geeky games that are worth setting aside some Geek Time to play

I've discovered that, unless I specifically set aside Geek Time for me, Wil Wheaton, I end up doing nothing but work. This isn't entirely bad, because most of the work I do is geek-related, but I eventually run out of HP, and I have to recharge. by doing some private geeky thing, like reading comics, playing a little Xbox, or getting together with my friends 

Think of it this way: reading a comic book gives me a little HP, like 1d4. Reading a graphic novel gives me 1d6+2. Settling in with a good book (Currently reading Spook Country) gives me 1d10, but I can't do anything else for several turns and have to save versus distractions at -2. Playing a video game gives me 1d8+1, unless it's Rock Band with my friends or family, which gives me 2d10+5.

In fact, doing any geeky thing with friends is an automatic additional d10, which is why I like to get together with my friends at least once a month to play hobby games. During these gatherings, I can usually count on going all the way back to my starting HP, and if I'm especially lucky, I'll gain 1d10 additional HP that is lost at a rate of about 1 point every two hours after we've all gone back to our regular lives.

(Incidentally, writing those three paragraphs gave me 1d6-2, in addition to the 3d6+10 I got earlier today when I got to be a voice actor for four hours.)

So recently, I had a bunch of friends over for a game day, and we played some games I loved so much, I wanted to share them with the rest of the class, in case some of you are dangerously low on HP and need some healing:

Dominion

This is a card game that plays like a CCG (think Magic: The Gathering) without requiring you to buy a bunch of booster packs and participate in the deck-building arms race that makes most CCGs a meta game of "who can spend the most on cards." BoardGameGeek says: 

In Dominion, each player starts with an identical, very small deck of cards. In the center of the table is a selection of other cards the players can "buy" as they can afford them. Through their selection of cards to buy, and how they play their hands as they draw them, the players construct their deck on the fly, striving for the most efficient path to the precious victory points by game end.

Dominion is not a CCG, but the play of the game is similar to the construction and play of a CCG deck. The game comes with 500 cards. You select 10 of the 25 Kingdom card types to include in any given play — leading to immense variety.

Dominion plays very fast, and is one of those games that you can play while drinking a beer (or three) and still play (mostly) competently. 

There are expansions, but I won't buy them on principle, because that path leads to the CCG stuff I'm trying to avoid or at least limit.

Revolution!

Steve Jackson Games is famous for putting out the classic RPG GURPS, irreverent card games like Munchkin and the Chez games, and war games like Ogre and Car Wars. This is the company's first offering that could be considered a Eurogame, and I absolutely love it. Quoth BGG:

In Revolution! players take advantage of the fluid political situation by secretly bidding for a number of characters, each yielding a combination of territory control, points (popular support) and more currency with which to bid next round. Players win by gaining the support of the people (the most points). Players can gain bonus points by controlling an area of the city at the end of the game. This game is for 3-4 players and takes 60 minutes to play.

What I love about Revolution! is the lack of one clear perfect strategy to win the game. In many respects, it's like poker: you win by playing against the other players as much (if not more) than you play the actual game. It's very simple to pick up (I'd say it takes about 5 minutes to teach) and really needs four players, though you can play with three.

Bonus soon-to-be-released SJ Games: Cthulhu Dice (I played this at RinCon and loved it) and Zombie Dice (which I haven't played, but looks like a whole lot of fun.)

Pandemic

I love cooperative games, where the players are working together against the game itself. Some games, like Shadows Over Camelot, toss the uncertainty of a traitor into the game, while others, like Arkham Horror, are so purely cooperative, they can even be played as solo games. Pandemic is a purely cooperative game that BGG describes thusly:

You are specialists at the CDC/Atlanta where you watch several virulent diseases break out simultaneously all over the world. The team mission is to prevent a world-wide pandemic outbreak, treating hotspots while researching cures for each of the four plagues before they get out of hand.

Players must plan their strategy to mesh their specialist's strengths before the diseases overwhelm the world. For example, the Operations Specialist can build research stations, which are needed to find cures for the diseases. The Scientist needs only 4 cards of a particular disease to cure it instead of the normal 5. But the diseases are breaking out fast and time is running out: the team must try to stem the tide of infection in diseased areas while developing cures. If disease spreads uncontrolled, the players all lose. If they can cure all four diseases, they win.

This game looks and feels beautiful, and though it's probably the most complicated to learn on this list, it's not nearly as complicated as an RPG, a historical wargame, or understanding one of us geeks. You can adjust the level of difficulty (from easy to legendary) and if you get the expansion, On The Brink, you can add mutations and virulent strains of the various diseases, as well as a bioterrorist who is working against the other players. You rarely breeze through a game of Pandemic, and even though you start out sort of losing, victory is almost always decided by a razor-thin margin. 

Pandemic is so frakking hard to beat, it shouldn't be fun, but I have had more fun losing games of Pandemic than I've had winning a huge list of other games.

Small World 

Days of Wonder is probably best-known for games like Ticket To Ride and its sequels, Battlelore and its sequels, and Memoir '44 and its sequels. Small World is a very recent release from Days of Wonder, and I think it's one of the best games they've ever published. One more time, let's borrow from Board Game Geek:

Small World is inhabited by a zany cast of characters such as dwarves, wizards, amazons, giants, orcs and even humans; who use their troops to occupy territory and conquer adjacent lands in order to push the other races off the face of the earth.

Picking the right combination from the 14 different fantasy races and 20 unique special powers, players rush to expand their empires – often at the expense of weaker neighbors. Yet they must also know when to push their own over-extended civilization into decline and ride a new one to victory!

Okay, so that description doesn't really capture what's awesome about this game. Let me try to explain why I love it so much: first, it's a map conquest game that comes with different maps for different numbers of players, so you get a balanced game whether you're playing head-to-head or with three or four other friends. Second, the zany characters get different unique special powers every time you play, so there's no point in developing a strategy (or counter strategy) exclusively for Flying Amazons or Dragonmaster Ghouls, because you may not get to use it that often. Third, it employs an elegant scoring system that tends to keep the games close (are you sensing some commonality among the games I really like?). Fourth, it just looks beautiful. The counters and the boards feature great artwork, so it's easy to buy into the theme. Finally, it's a relatively quick game, which is important to a guy like me who doesn't have nearly enough time to play all the games he wants to play.

All of these games are suitable for ages 12 and up, with the exception of Pandemic, which I think is >just< a little to complex for the under-14 set.

Now that I've spent enough time on this post to have actually played one of these games, I'd like to close with three RPGs that I haven't played, but desperately want to play:

Okay, now that I've regained some of my HP, I think I'm ready to go ahead and attempt the Drop Off Packages At The Post Office quest. If I don't come back, avenge my death and immortalize me in song.