Category Archives: Board Games

Lords of Waterdeep

+Jared Randall, his wife Karen, and their five kids hosted a housewarming/tabletop game party at their new house Saturday.

It was a fun time!

I played a board game I had heard of but not seen or played before, Lords of Waterdeep. Waterdeep being one of the cities in Forgotten Realms.

It looks complex for all the various cards and pieces, but is fairly simple once you understand. I do not recall the man’s name and his son who showed Jared’s oldest daughter and I how to play. But he said that by the third turn you will understand it. He was right.

There are enough options to it that a beginning player can do well against seasoned players. Yet there is enough complexity and depth that one could play a lot of games and not grow bored. Shuffling of decks and drawing random cards that define how to focus your play make each game unique.

Both the quick play and full rules are available in PDF from WotC. WotC has a quick start video and also links to Wil Wheaton’s Table Top episode where they played the game.

At the end of eight turns, a final tally is made and the person with the high score wins.

It says for ages 12+. I think some younger players that get it could do well at this game.

There are a couple of expansions for it, but I can’t see running out of options unless you played this game all the time.

I liked it and had fun. If I thought I would play it even a few times a year, I would get it. It is fairly fast to play. With four players, my guess is that it took an hour, but I wasn’t timing it, and did not check start and stop times.

It is not an introduction to RPG’s as there is no role playing and no characters. There is no way for players to operate outside the rules as written, since it is  within the realm of a “standard” board game.

$49.99 suggested retail price seems a bit steep, but it is not as simple or straightforward as the old standbys, like Monopoly or Scrabble, that you can get at the major chain store for $9.99. If you play it often, it can soon seem like a bargain. With a cost like that, I can understand if you want to see it played, or better yet play it yourself, before buying. There’s nothing worse than getting a board game, getting it home, and it being either too complex, or too simple, or something that you wouldn’t get had you only known.

I don’t have a lot of board games, and don’t play them often. Most are designed for two or more people, so when you live alone, they gather dust on the shelf. Are there any single/solo player board games?

If your family likes board games, they might want to give this one a try. I can see a marathon weekend series being an option, if I were still in high school, with no responsibilities.

Side note: There were a couple of kids,none of them Jared’s, there who did not know how to shuffle cards. It makes total sense why this is: computers and solitaire. Not many kids play card games anymore, unless they are in a household that plays them. I was younger than these kids when I was halfway competent at card shuffling. My suggestions for teaching them were not accepted. Oh, well, kids these days…. I wonder how long until the skill of shuffling cards is lost to all but the dealers at casinos.


Battle of Waterloo – 200 Year Anniversary June 18, 2015

It’s approaching 200 years since the founding of three communities in Missouri, since it is also 200 years since the Battle of Waterloo, on June 18. I assume these three towns were founded or named not long after the battle. I wonder if any other groupings of 3 communities happened after that battle.

One time, my mom related how she was talking with her father’s aunt Elsie, and were talking about Wellington, MO. When my mom asked where it was, Elsie replied, “Between Napoleon and Waterloo.” My mom broke out laughing to an unamused blank stare.

Napoleon and 600 troops escaped Elba on February 26, 1815, and landed on the south coast of France on March 1, 1815. Napoleon entered Paris on March 20, 1815, which marked the beginning of the Hundred Days, which were actually 111 days, that ended July 8, 1815.

I want to break out my Avalon Hill board game, Waterloo. I haven’t played it in decades. My brother, Robert, and I played somewhat frequently, back in the 80’s, and took turns as the French or the Allies, and were tied at who won as each side.

The movie, Waterloo, with Rod Steiger, Christopher Plummer, and Orson Welles is an interesting look and details many of the major events of the battle. I’m in the mood to watch it again. I haven’t tried very hard, but I’m not finding this movie online in one complete piece that I can watch in one go. I am considering buying a copy on DVD, if they are available. {Yikes! $52.00 on Amazon, or $21.00 for a used one! I’m not sure I want to watch it that badly! ]

Here is an interesting article on a diorama built in the 1970’s and restored in time for the 200th anniversary.

I was 11, almost 12 on July 4th, 1976. The Bicentennial was a big deal, and in 5th grade we had a unit on the American Revolution. I’ll be a few months shy of 51 in June. Thinking about the 39 years since 1976 and how much has happened, helps put in perspective how much happened between 1776 and 1815. February marked the 200th anniversary of the end of the War of 1812. Some have argued that if not for the British being tied up with the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, that the young American Republic would have once again been a colony of Britain. Speculative fiction and setting an RPG in such a situation could be interesting.

Way back in college, I wrote a paper about how Europe would be much different had Napoleon not risen to power. Napoleon’s actions led to the end of the Holy Roman Empire and the rise of Austria-Hungary. The rest of the German states were consolidated into far fewer separate countries, which simplified the rise of Prussian power and influence, and German unification in the 1870’s. The list of such things is a long one. One can easily see how the actions of The Congress of Vienna helped set the stage for events that would lead to WWI, and 100 years later the incomplete resolution of WWI leading to WWII. The Cold War after WWII has lead to the current problems in Europe, and the potential powder keg of Ukraine, which is 100 years after WWI. Three, four, or five generations is all it takes for major events to seem to “repeat” themselves.

In any RPG setting, one can see how the short-lived humans can muck things up by not remembering lessons from the past. In the lead up to WWI they had telegraph, telephone, trans Atlantic cables, and early radio for communication; and the lag time of getting news out was hours or less, and still things escalated. In a fantasy setting, there might be long lived gnomes, dwarves, and elves, but humans are wont to ignore the wisdom of elders.

If the races that were involved in issues 100 years ago are still represented by living eyewitnesses, it does not stop us from ignoring it. Some groups led by wise rulers, might listen, but there could be all sorts of reasons to ignore such advice. While real history has lots of complex issues involved, there is still a tendency to forget or ignore similar issues in the past, and familiar patterns emerge. One need not detail lots of historical events, but develop a general series of wars, invasions, and other disagreements that ebb and flow in similar patterns over the ages. Mix in how humanoids and demi-humans affect the mix, and you can come up with your own interesting blend that explains why your world is the way it is.

Other posts touching on my use of the board game Waterloo: No.1, No. 2.

Arcade Games

Pinball was the only game in town until about the same time I found out about D&D.

A restaurant in the small town where I grew up had Pong. Simple, a dial to make the “paddle” on the screen go up and down to return the ball. Many quarters went into that machine.

Then Space Invaders came out and was at a convenience store about a mile from school and we would go a put in more quarters.

The annual fair with a carnival had a tent full of all kinds of games. I loved Battlezone with its 3-D tanks, terrain, and projectiles. I would blow through twenty dollars in a weekend. That was back when I charge ten dollars to mow a lawn.

The movie theaters had games, where we’d take turns or play cooperatively in Galaga and Centipede, and Asteroids.

There was an arcade near the closest movie theater about 20 miles away. We could get our parents to drop us off and play all the games we wanted, and as we got old enough to drive, we’d all pile in the car together.

About the same time, the big mall that was closer than the arcade, had an arcade with all the same games.

Also about that time, Atari came out with its first game system. Kids might laugh at all those games now, but they were cool because that was all there was.

When I got married and had kids of my own, they had games with so many buttons on the controls that when we played in player vs. player, they had me dead just as I was finally figuring out which button did what.

I got my revenge. When those joysticks that plug into the TV with several old games came out, we got to Galaga and Centipede, and I kicked their butts! When it comes to those old fashioned “simple” games, the old man rules!

I can play those games with all the buttons, etc. but it takes me a lot longer to figure out which buttons do what and where the buttons are, then the game system changes or become totally obsolete.

I had the most fun with Asteroids when someone put out a Java version about 12 or 13 years ago with the source code. I fiddled with the source code and made the bullets as big as the screen, so no danger of anything hitting my ship. I have that around here somewhere on a disk, if the disk is still good and I have a drive that works…. Ah the joys of obsolete tech.

I’d rather spend my money on a game that I can play without electricity or the internet. If the internet went away, I could still play RPGs. I have enough sets of dice for at least 5 or 6 players. I also have real old school games like chess, checkers, and backgammon, and a few board games that might interest more than a niche.

In person is the best way to play a game, but I do like the ability to mimic that feel with Roll20 and Google Hangouts. I have been in a weekly Wednesday night game that just passed 30 sessions. I keep toying with taking my campaign world for a spin online, but I have a lot of polish to make it flow online like what I can do in person. I am sure that assessment will change after a few sessions. The biggest hurdle is figuring out when I could do it…. Someday….


Using Game Boards from Boardgames for Other Games

I ran across this post today that reminded me that my brother, Robert, and I used the game board from Avalon Hill’s Waterloo as a star map for a science fiction space combat exploration game we made up in the 80’s.

My planet/system had the brilliant name of Erloowat, I don’t recall what Robert named his.

There were two or three games we made up back then. A Science Fiction/Space RPG we called Scout, and a space pirate game centered around ship capture/combat. I don’t recall now if our space combat game built on the rules from our space pirate game. The rules for all of them were pretty broad. The space/interplanetary war game was actually more like an RPG without a GM. We didn’t have enough rules to cover certain scenarios to make it truly playable the way we intended. I think we just played at it for an afternoon or two and it faded away.

The problem with making your own game is defining the parameters and limitations of it so that there is an agreed upon framework to make it playable without a GM or the creators on standby to deal with scenarios as they develop.

The benefit of RPGs is that you only need enough rules to build enough framework to be able to have fun, and as play develops, the players and GM work together to fill in the gaps, thus the prevalence of house rules and homebrew games that are a freankensteinian combination of multiple ideas from other RPGs and the experience of actual play and house rules. Our Scout game was just such a one. We took ideas from Traveller, Star Frontiers, Metamorphosis Alpha, Gamma World, and probably others I don’t recall to get mechanics/rules for things we had trouble fleshing out ourselves. Robert also wrote great short stories that tied into Scout. We passed them around in high school and kept asking for more. (I wish he would publish his writings, he could even do the artwork for the book covers.)

As I was writing this I recalled another RPG we had was based on Androids, I think that was more of what would be a LARP. However, we did not run around in costume, it was more a sit around and talk about things our characters did. We drew ships and different kinds of androids and robots and wrote little scenarios and stories. I don’t recall if this preceded our discovery of Blue Box Holmes Basic D&D or not. I know one guy involved moved away at some point, and I don’t recall what grade. It was spring of 7th grade we discovered D&D, I don’t recall when David moved away.

The Awful Green Things From Outer Space

The Awful Green Things From Outer Space is a TSR board game by Tom Wham. I have my original game. I only lost one weapon effect chit over the 30+ years I have had it. I just made one from the boarder for the card stock chits. Tip: Always keep the boarder for cardstock chits so if you lose some, you can easily make new ones that are the same thickness. All the pieces are still in the pre-ziplock sandwich bags from the 80’s. All the original five red minidice are still there too.

When looking for a Wikipedia link, I discovered that the game is back in print, thanks to Steve Jackson Games. the SJG version is here. You can find a PDF of the SJG rules online. They have added other combat options for outside the ship. I have not read the full rules, but it looks like it takes some of the devastating effects of a totally random game out of the mix and gives the crew more options.

My son, David, came over Saturday to spend the day with me, since his girlfriend is out of town for ten days. Also his dog, Picard, a pit bull, and my dog, Lucy, a lab-pit mix were both going stir crazy because of all the cold and snow. When they get together an play, they are quiet and peaceful for the next two days.

David wanted to spend the day playing boardgames. He did not want to try rolling up a new character and try solo adventuring. He did not want to try Waterloo (It is only in a list of Avalon Hill Games on Wikipedia, there is no separate article.), or Imperium. I always beat him at Risk, so he wanted to try Awful Green Things.

So while he took the dogs out to do their business and run and play, I got out the rules and read them quickly and got out the crew pieces and made placements. I would have let him change the placement of the crew for those that had alternate placement options, but David wanted to be the green things. So he separated them into adults, babies, eggs and fragments and rolled a die for starting, and he rolled a 5, then rolled a die for placement. The AGT basically cut the ship in two. One of my crew was trapped in a room with the only exit into the area with the AGT. David knows strategy pretty well and he played the AGT very well. He grew the right group of AGT into the best next category for continued expansion.

Every game is different in such a way that any advantage of the AGT starting with a lot of adults can easily be offset by weapons effects. However, the weapons effects are random for every game. There are some great area of effect weapons, but they can either have no effect or make fragments, which is another way for the AGT to spread. I had a couple crew grab rocket fuel, but I drew the “no effect” chit. At least that was better than fragments. For the Comm Beamer I drew “3 dice to kill”. Unfortunately, he only had adults in most of the areas I could get those crew to and I could never roll a 16+ on 3d6.

Since we just jumped in and started playing, and we had only played the game once together over five years ago, the last time I had played; I did not pay attention to the Electric Fence and Fire Extinguisher being available in any area. I finally noticed this towards the end of the game when the AGT had trapped the captain and three other crew in the central corridor with them totally surrounded and cut off from the means of escape. I did have the Mascot and two crew get away in saucer and the scout ship saved another crew member. I drew well for the Electric Fence and Fire Extinguisher effects. The Fire Extinguisher did “5 dice to stun”, and the Electric Fence did “4 dice to kill”, but it was about two rounds to late to make a difference.

Once the AGT had eaten the surrounded crew, I then had to roll to determine the fate of the crew that escaped. The crew in the saucer were within a year of running out of food when they contracted a fatal disease and died. The crew member in the scout ship managed to make it home.

David was amazed at how easily he beat me. He usually doesn’t beat me very quickly or easily. I pointed out that the totally random nature of the effects of weapons and number and placement of AGT’s made every instance of the game unique.

We only played the one game, but I suspect we might play it again sometime.

My brother, Robert, and I played this game non stop for dozens of games in a row. We laughed at how ridiculous it was for some of the random effects. Robert is an artist and he even made a few of his own comics about the crew and AGT. I remember one where he had all the crew amazed that something killed all the AGT, and one crew said, “Sarge farted.”, and it showed Sarge blushing. LOL good times.

Below are some pictures of the setup from Saturday’s game:



Game Board
Game Board
State Of Game Before The Effects Of Fence And Extinguisher Known
State Of Game Before The Effects Of Fence And Extinguisher Known
Weapons Effects
Weapons Effects