Aggressive Ovens and Aggravating Cattle Pens: Hoyuk

Hey everyone! Today I have the pleasure of introducing a new contributor to the site. Shane is a fellow teacher at my wife’s school who runs the gifted program. He has built a fair portion of his program around board gaming, with no small amount of help from my wife Sarah. So when the MAGE Company sent me a couple of board games to review I knew I should send at least one of them his way to have for his kids. In return he offered to write the review, and after reading it I feel like I’d probably do a disservice if I had attempted to do the same. Shane wrote a strong review below.  If anyone else feels they would like their games reviewed by Shane let me know and we can work something out in order to put more copies in his classroom! -Melvs




In Hoyuk, players compete to develop blocks of families within a grid-based map. To do this, they lay down tile houses and wooden meeples representing resources. Each turn progresses from building (twice) to executing catastrophic scenario cards, awarding aspect cards for holding more resources than opponents, and then aspect card replenishment.

Dwellings are arranged by players in families (groups of one tribe) that are grouped together in blocks (groups of different families). While building, based on cards drawn twice per turn, each player attempts to have more of each resource (cattle, villagers, shrines, ovens, and pens) than his neighbors in each individual block. Controlling a resource in a block earns you aspect cards which can then be used to purchase more resources to place or victory points. Victory points are tracked on the outer border of the game board and determine the winner after all houses have been placed. A block doesn’t qualify for awarding aspect cards until it contains more than one family, which is an interesting and necessary mechanic.

Catastrophes are random events selected by cards and occur once a turn to work against the players, separating blocks and families and removing houses from the game. The shaman piece, however, can protect a block from these penalties and is placed using a construction card.

The intricacies of the block/ family dynamic are important and should be read  and discussed carefully before the game starts. This may seem like a given but there are some intricacies that are subtle and less obvious, like the splitting of families due to ruined houses, placement of houses in existing blocks, or the inability to connect blocks.

There are three levels of play ranging from 3 aspects judged per block (shrines, ovens, and pens) to 7 aspects judged (shrines, ovens, pens, stories, houses, cattle, and villagers) and there is an option to play with fewer than 25 houses speed up the game. It was nice to have these options outlined, but the full game is so much richer in strategy and not so long that the shorter versions seem necessary. A 60 minute play time, as suggested by the box, is pretty accurate from our trials. Honestly, even in a full game with all aspects and houses, I found myself wishing we could continue.

Classroom Application

As a gifted education teacher, I ask 3 things when I try a new game with my students;

  1. Do you need to be adaptive in coming up with a strategy?
  2. Is communication necessary, or at least helpful, to succeed?
  3. Will we be able to play this again with different results?

When my students and I journeyed back “some 10,000 years ago” with Hoyuk by Mage Company, we were able to answer a resounding “yes” to all these questions.

Some potential strategies to attempt were obvious after reading through the rules and the clear choices proved to be effective, but those who adapted to the placement of their opponents’ structures, negotiated with neighbors, and attempted multiple approaches benefited far more than those who chose an approach and dogmatically stuck to it.

I loved the communication aspect of this game, despite its lack of necessity during some playthroughs. Whereas communication can be brief and cold in some games that require or encourage trading, the negotiation in Hoyuk enhances the game and requires players to be tactful and clever. It is legitimately possible to be sneaky, supportive, underhanded, generous, or ambivalent in your diplomacy with neighbors and all these approaches have a place in seeking the most victory points.

Comparatively speaking, most games of this type seem restrictive in how far you can bend your conversation. That said, we finished a couple playthroughs with barely a word of discussion. It is hard to say communication is a necessary component, but imagine a game of Settlers of Catan with no trading. It would be possible, but far less engaging and entertaining.

After playing the game with 4 different groups of students of varying grade levels, I saw different results each time. Approaches worked for one group and were less effective for others based on opponents, catastrophes and chance. I personally tried different, and rather polarized, ideas from the start each time and saw relative success with each.


The individual clan powers were a disappointment. The Der’s house stealing ability and the Oleyli’s element theft are both helpful and powerful enough to base a strategy around, but the other 3 clans’ powers (extra resources and control of the shaman) feel like throwaways by comparison. I found it to be a disappointing implementation of a potentially exciting and game-changing element.

The requirement for 2 families to be in a block before it is scored works beautifully for forcing opponents to deal with one another instead of an independent free-for-all. It was satisfying to see players attempt to coax others over to their massive stronghold after turtling resources in a corner for a few turns only to see their efforts rot pointlessly when their negotiations failed. Give-and-take (or trickery cleverly woven into deals) won the day over brute, strength and lucky card draws.

I would also recommend more thorough catastrophe explanations on cards. The system adds an appropriate and welcome amount of recalculation and chaos to the game, but a more informative  graphic, much like the element “suits” on the aspect cards, would reduce dependency on the game manual during play. The current graphic explanations are clever, but not very clear.


Hoyuk delivered an experience that fired on all educational cylinders, ended before strategies grew stale, and used tile, resource, and trade mechanics in an interesting way. It is simple enough so anyone can come up with a strategy to try and have fun, but also complex and interpersonal enough to generate multiple playthroughs with different results. It’s greatest strengths in my experience were the need for adaptability and genuine communication. The only real weakness we noticed was imbalance in individual clan abilities, and even those are far from detrimental.

My students look forward to trying the Anatolia and Obstacles expansions, as do I. Even without expansions, I would deem this game worth the price tag of $50 on Amazon based on the replay value provided by the aforementioned strategic diversity and communication. I look forward to the next time I can take over a block with the thieving Oleyli, protect a large stronghold block with the Lebu and their shaman, or cause havoc with the angry Ders.



Market Price: $49.90


Game Enlightenment

Game Enlightenment is part two of a dual posting in honor of #TabletopDay, written by my wife and professional educator, Sarah Smith. To read part one, written by me, click here! -Melvs

Albert Einstein says, “Play is the highest form of research.” When I see quotes from Mr. Einstein, I always think that it might be slightly cliche to use them in my writing, but this just fit my perspective on gaming so well.

I truly believe that that through games we re-create ourselves. Through games we become able to do something we were never able to before. Tabletop games will always have a place in my classroom. Teaching through hobbies is a magical opportunity. I am honored to be a part of this community.

-Sarah Smith

Being a fourth grade teacher, I am constantly trying to find ways to appeal to the minds of learners. Today, more than ever, our learners yearn for new ways of thinking. So many of the strategies in teaching that have been used are timeless and will continue to be important. I will in no way negate the greatness of memorization, repeated exposure, pencil on paper, standard algorithm, or proper spelling and grammar. Yet, I find myself along with many of my colleagues, attempting to pull every learner’s mind into the crave of enlightenment.


Playing games seems to be one way to inspire young learners. Board games, card, interactive sport games, and role playing games are proven ways that teach learners how things work. There are many strategies and skills that come from play. I want to address, that I also think unstructured play can be great for learners as well. Going outdoors and using imagination is simply amazing. But, in this piece I would like to stick to the “structured” form of play that I have had the pleasure of introducing in my classroom, and at a very recent dual school event. A few strategies, that I have experienced both for myself and observed with learners, include things like mental math, re-reading, problem solving, note taking, perseverance and collaboration. Ask any gamer, and the strategies would most likely go on and on. The skills that I have observed include interacting appropriately with others, using expansive language to communicate thoughts, goal setting and organization of materials. The increase in these strategies and skills have resulted in learners wanting to participate even in undesirable subjects. They experience increased reading and math levels. There is an obvious increase in classroom comradery, goal setting, and above all else FUN!

forbidden island


I have used games in my classroom from teaching Kindergarten in an inner city charter school to my current fourth grade classroom in a rural community. In all of my years I have been able to use a variety of games to teach life and academic skills, and how to have fun while learning. Last night was our first Mother/Son game night, that I organized with a group of parents at my school. It was one of most invigorating events I have organized this year. Playing games is always enjoyable for me, but to share it with learners and parents was like watching your D20 land on a critical hit!

game 2

The evening was a series of fun “carnival” like games in the gym, pizzas, snacks and conversations in the cafeteria, and (my biased favorite) tabletop games in the library. When you walked into the library it was a series of moms and their sons conversing with other moms and sons on goals and strategies of the games. Some of the most popular games were Forbidden Island, Machi Koro, SmashUp, King of Tokyo, Ticket to Ride, Chaos and Alchemy. There were of course some standards as well, Checkers, Candyland and Connect 4. My husband, Kevin Smith @sharndm and friend/colleague Shane Johnson @mrshanejohnson8 ran the room with ease. I have to say, I was super impressed with the amount of kids that were able to just pick up the goals of the games. Shane is the gifted instructor at our school, and I have seen him utilize his classroom for a way to use tabletop games to guide learning through multiple intelligence styles. Many of his students attended, and it was very obvious that they have made great strides in communication skills through tabletops. The evening ended in raffling off some games, a donated laptop computer, and lots of smiles. I drove home on cloud Valinor.

machi koro

I truly believe that that through games we re-create ourselves. Through games we become able to do something we were never able to before. Tabletop games will always have a place in my classroom. Teaching through hobbies is a magical opportunity. I am honored to be a part of this community.


Big Games, Small Learners

I can think of no finer subject on International Tabletop Day than stories of our younger generations being introduced to the joys of tabletop gaming! Many of you know that I spend at least one afternoon a month volunteering at my local library, teaching teenagers how to play, and run, Tabletop Roleplaying games. This isn’t a story about me though, I want to send up some accolades to the duel efforts of my wife, Sarah, and her co-worker Shane on their efforts to bring the joys of gaming to their students at Wright City West Elementary, here in Missouri, and find ways to encourage learning through these games as well.

shanes room

Just over a year ago Sarah began helping Shane develop a board-gaming curriculum in his Spectrum classes. See, Shane works with their district’s Gifted program. The only experience I have with children in such programs is having been in one myself. Many times these kids are incredibly bright, but may lack some of the social skills that make utilizing their gifts, in an effective manner, difficult. Shane has spent countless hours figuring out how collaborative board gaming, and even games where one needs to strategize against multiple opponents, into ways to develop social skills and analytical strategic reasoning. I think most of us realize, deep down, that tabletop gaming easily accomplishes these duel needs, and likely more. Personally I keep pestering Shane to write a piece for the blog with even more details surrounding his excellent program.

Shames room

Shane’s students love Machi Koro. Both the original & Bright Lights Big City

Sarah, being something of a board gaming guru herself, spent plenty of time introducing Shane to games she loves playing. Letting him know what she thought might be a good fit for his students. This wasn’t really enough for her though, she really wanted to devise a method to bring her love of gaming to the student en masse. She came upon an idea through her work with the Parent\Teacher committee that she helms as the teacher coordinator for the group. The last two years they had put on a successful Father\Daughter Dance but had never done anything for the mothers and the sons of their school. Sarah saw this as a perfect time to inject some gaming into the equation. She pitched the idea of a Mother\Son Game night, and the group took to the idea and I have to say, last night was a big success!

For a first time event, there was a large showing. Obviously games of all stripes were on the agenda, like the physical games in the gymnasium, but Shane and I ran a room with tables littered with board games for people to enjoy. One of the challenges we faced was the fact that the event was only going to last for two hours so we had to pick games we owned that would allow for multiple plays within that time frame. I ended up mostly helping introduce people to Gamewright’s Forbidden Island. I’m happy to say that both groups survived the sinking island and flew off to victory. Shane did a lot of floating around, assisting with multiple games and I spent a bit of time helping new players learn Iello’s King of Tokyo. Even got to help folks play a little of Michael Iachini’s Chaos and Alchemy (a game I was fortunate enough to playtest way back when!)

One of the best things about our board game room was hearing parents talk about how they had never known games like this existed. They expected the board game room to contain all the board games of their youth, and while we did provide games like Connect Four, Operation, Candyland, Sorry, etc., they typically wanted to try their hand at the new stuff. It is a testament to Sarah’s investment into this idea that many walked away intent on discovering more “games like this”. Especially because they could see how much their kids loved playing these new games. I sincerely hope we’ve created some burgeoning gamers out there!

game night library

The library for the Mother\Son Game Night!

Sarah has told me she wants to build on this, make it more than just a thing done for Mother\Son night, she trying to think on ways to build it up! Perhaps dedicate a full Saturday to inviting the families of surrounding communities to play games at one of the school buildings. The thought is fanciful of course, lots of logistics involved there, but it’s certainly a wonderful idea I’d love to see come to fruition. If anyone has the drive to see it done, of course, it’s my wife.

I just can’t wait to see the different ways Sarah and Shane bring tabletop gaming into the lives of their students. I know Shane wants to learn more about tabletop role playing games next, he’s only dabbled, and I’m excited at the prospect of assisting him in that goal. I know through personal experience that kids and teens can learn a lot from games like Dungeons and Dragons, thorough my work at the library, social skills, reading\writing, and arithmetic. It’s all there, packaged in a fun way that encourages collaborative teamwork as well. I’m only an amateur in the field of “teaching” with these tools though, in the hands of experts like Shane and Sarah it could do some really cool things.


If you enjoyed this article you are going to love Sarah’s. She delves into what teaching through learning means for her. I urge you to check it out!

Kickstart that Geek! Dragon Brew Boardgame


I’m fortunate enough to be friends with one of the team that worked on the development of Dragon Brew, Toby T. Gee.  You may recognize Toby from his blog, Roll and Groove, an excellent read that delves into his twin loves of board gaming and music. If you already follow his work, you may have noticed he hasn’t been as active of late (a loss to us all) but I choose to believe it’s because he has been diligently working with the team behind Dragon Brew to bring it to fruition. Toby helped them edit the rules and rulebook and has joined the rest of the team in marketing it to the masses prior to and during its Kickstarter run. It’s because of this welcomed relationship that I was able to play one of the prototypes of Dragon brew, back in May of last year, at Geekway to the West 2016.

Dragon brew mixes two of my favorite things, board games and craft brewing. Add in the perfect fantasy setting and you have a recipe for good fun. Apparently in “Brumancia”, the fantasy setting for the game, years of bitter war and conflict have been replaced by a brewing competition. If only our world were so noble. As a worker placement game you choose a fantasy race, each with its own special forms of brewing prowess (perhaps they start with more resources, or more gold, etc.). All the players then proceed through a turn of the game, brewing their special beers that they will eventually put before a panel of judges to win victory points for the place earned at each competition. When I played the game I was informed it was still in development but what I played felt pretty polished, and I had a blast playing. The only thing missing in the equation was a nice cold brew to compliment my gameplay (though, if I recall it was like 8am… I mean, I’ve started earlier… but still).


This is August Games’ first product on Kickstarter but they’ve long been ingrained in the board gaming industry as lovers, and promoters, of the hobby. The man at the helm is Daniel G. George who was one of the founders of the Board Games and Brew podcast. Together with Kate Blevins, Jeff Cornelius, and Tom Lathos they’ve been podcasting about board games and beer since the fall of 2014. Daniel came up with the concept for Dragon Brew while chilling on the beach with his wife and a few brews on a rare sojourn from their children (I totally understand this). Reading his Designers Blog (an excellent read for those interested in the process of building a board game), things apparently just clicked in his head.

“Why not have a game where you take ingredient cards and lay them to make your own beers with custom names?  I grabbed my note book and sketched out cards lining up to create beers. I always ask myself “WHY” when I think of a new mechanic.  Why would players want to do this? What is the goal of the game?  To win prizes at a beer festival of course!  Judges with personalities and unique preferences!”

The wort was mashed, all that remained was a little fermentation of the core engine behind the game, and now of course we are at the bottling stage…ok, enough brewing puns, it might leave a bitter taste (ok, not sorry).

So let’s get into the pricing for the game, shall we? August Games keeps it simple. There are only three options remaining that get you the game.


At $49.00 this is your best bet to get the game at a reduced price. From what I understand the retail price will likely jump to $65.00 post Kickstarter. So basically it’s a good time to buy.


As you can see, buying in at the future retail price now will get you some extra goodies. Signed stuff is always cool, plus I dig the art!


Getting four copies for $190.00 is a great way for your FLGS to get a head start on shelving the game for future sale. Let them know about it!

At this point the game is already 94% funded, and could very well fund before I hit the “post” button. Backers will get this game, especially considering they’ve also partnered with Quartermaster Logistics (the sister company to Cool Stuff Inc.) for backer reward fulfillment and warehousing. Let’s take a gander at a few of the stretch goals that, while not inevitable, are certainly the next step once this funds! Here are the first three.

I’m a huge fan of the third Stretch Goal. It’s always a lot of fun when a game can boast it’s own style of Meeple. So like its first two stretches, most of the goals focus on adding a variety of playable races to the game. There are already a lot to choose from but adding more sounds like a ton of fun, and likely something you’ll only be able to get as an expansion to the game later on. Another nod toward the solid move it would be to back during the Kickstarter.


What’s in the box you ask?


As you can probably tell, I’m geeking out about this game. Get in there quick folks and get a copy. I’d love to see this game shoot through stretch goals! Take care folks!


P.S. With only a little more than one hundred tickets to Geekway to the West 2017 remaining, you might be able to corner Toby and I and force Toby to demo this lovely game for you!


The 2017 Geekery New Year’s Address!

Welcome 2017! Also, welcome back to the Geekery. I’ve been absent for quite some time, I know, but I feel refreshed and ready to bring you all the gaming news, reviews, and tidbits from my day to day gaming you desire. There are plenty of things in the pipe for this year for potential changes to the site, I’ll get to those in a moment.


I hope all my fellow gamers, who celebrate the holidays with gift giving, received gifts as cool as what I received. I figured I’d do a little bragging about these right up front, this is my blog and all.



This book is an interesting little bird (big thanks to my awesome sis in law for getting it for me!). Obviously it’s more for beginners or collectors of cool D&D books than for the use of a seasoned Dungeon Master, but it has some really cool features on the inside that bring me back to the days when the concepts of D&D were shiny and new. I’ll be giving this book a more thorough run down in a later post but it’s certainly a fun book to own. A great way to introduce new players to the concepts and challenges of a good dungeon delve.

Board Games!


Sarah and I love them, and you can never have too many. This year we received two and an expansion to one. Sarah made out huge in the board game arena, Machi Koro is one of her all time favs and as much as we both love Smash Up she typically has the edge on me so our good buddy Jake got her the Pretty Pretty Expansion. We also received Forbidden Island, which if you’ve never tried it it’s a great game for introducing others to the newer generation of games, especially because it’s cooperative.


Chessex Gaming Mat!


Thanks go to Uncle Grumps for this bad boy. My old mat was tiny, and stained to Hell. We’ve been using a dry erase board for a while now. Awesome to have this now.

Dice and Dice Bags

So my sister in law and my mother in law teamed up here. My mother in law is an enormously talented crafter, who actually has a crafting business now that she has retired. Well, she took some time to make me a bunch of dice bags and then they got me a Big Bag of Dice so I can put together some dice bags to hand out to the kids in my Library games who don’t have dice yet! Giving me the ability to gift to others makes this probably one of the best gifts I received this year.

Cool Notebook

I saw this cool little journal in a hole in the wall bookstore that Sarah and I love to visit near our church. I mentioned offhandedly that someone could use such a thing to keep notes on gaming campaigns, and look nerdily cool whilst doing so. She bought the thing right under my nose. I tried to take a pic of the note she wrote me but It’s hard to get it in focus. It reads:


With love and admiration, I give you this journel to keep your adventures, creativity, and words of a world full of wonder! Best wishes on all your journeys beyond our realms.


Your wife Sarah

I’m a lucky guy ♥.

Secret Gift

There’s one gift I’m not going to picture just yet but will at a later date. Suffice it to say it’s my favorite and I hope to premier it at Gen Con 50. May have tipped you off with that last sentence though ;P.


I haven’t spent much time talking about it but I’ve been running a game of Storm King’s Thunder for my group. It’s been a pretty fun experience so far, even if we have been plagued by the inability to truly string together consistent play time (people have lives apparently 😛). Despite our issues getting together we’ve moved along at a decent clip, just now beginning the gargantuan chapter three. It’ll be a challenging portion of the game, for a pre-made, there’s a lot of information for the would-be Dungeon Master to digest and organize for the players but, it’ll also be the most sandbox portion of the adventure and my players will certainly dig that. After all, it took a lot of convincing to get them to take a ride in Zephryos’ Tower (and after they were aboard they mentioned if they’d know about the wizard hat that crowned the thing they would have flat out refused on principle lol).

A couple of cool things about this campaign in general is that one of my players, Nick (you may know him as Uncle Grumps from his previous contribution efforts), is running a descendant from a game we played together back in our High School days. In fact the way I got their party to board Zephryos’ flying tower was by having my old character (still alive because..elf) be already aboard and waiting to meet the grandson of Rizzen the Great. Another cool aspect of the game is the return of an old friend to our gaming group who’s been out of state for a long time as he is in the Navy. Somehow he landed a recruitment position here in Missouri and we are all very thankful to have him back with us.

I continue to run my once a month game at the local library for teens interested in learning about D&D and I’m happy to say that, despite the fact I still run the game for about 10-15 kids at a time, the legacy players are getting really adept at the game and are very capable of assisting newcomers. There were a number of times in the recent past I couldn’t make it to a session and they had no issue picking up the slack and running a game themselves. I’m now entering my third year of doing this and I’m happy to report that I’m probably not even necessary at this point. Still, I love going and the kids are enjoying my run through of Hoard of the Dragon Queen so I’ll keep at it! Now that I have some extra Dice Bags to hand out I can’t wait to see the kids again.


There are so many cool things coming this year that I’ll likely forget a bunch while putting them to print here. I’ll give it a go though.



Right off the bat I feel I need to mention Geekway to the West 2017. The 13th Annual Geekway to the West is set for May 18-21, 2017 at the St. Charles Convention Center in St. Charles, Missouri. If you love Board Games I can’t name a better convention to attend. They’ve only got a little over 400 badges remaining though, and considering badges went on sale on January 2nd they will sell out, and fast. For $60 you can attend the con all four days, you receive a random free board game (a quality one at that, twice now the game I received had a Market Price that matched my badge fee), and so much more. Seriously check out the site, make the trip and visit me in Missouri.


Gen Con 50 folks. I fully intend to be there this year and, with a  little pressure and luck, I might bring a few buddies with me this time (buddies beyond what twitter and the blog have helped me garner that is).


Really, Acadecon is one of the best little big cons out there. I truly wish I’d of been able to make it to Acadecon 2016, but I wasn’t going to miss the wedding of a good friend. Two of my best friends are getting married to some awesome gals in the fall of 2017, one wedding is in late October and then the other takes place the week after Acadecon 2017 so chances might be thin I can make it but I’m sure going to try! I love the good folks of the RPG Academy Network and the other attendees of this Con are fantastic as well. Here’s hoping!



After years of podcasting, and 300 episodes, the Gamerstable Podcast is ending its run. Back when I first started really getting into the world of folks gabbing about tabletop RPGs on social media it seemed crazy to me that regular folks were coming together and podcasting about this game I love so much. First it was the Monkey in the Cage podcast who really welcomed me into the fold (I will always have a special place in my heart for Matt, Robert, Karen, and Ramses) but soon to follow was a crazy group of gamers who I was surprised to find lived just across the river in Illinois. Matt Fuller introduced me to them, and they didn’t have to give me the time of day. Instead they became close friends.

The Gamerstable Podcast has put forth some of the coolest content over its run. Frankly I find their style of taking actual play content and editing it to sound like a radio drama to be the best in the business. That’s beyond the discussion roundtable style they cut their teeth on though, and you can find a ton of great gaming advice throughout their many episodes. Plus, I’ve always enjoyed their bite sized chunks (most eps. are about 30 mins in length). Feel free to catch their last episode here, and when you’re done check the rest of the site.


I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that this won’t be the complete disappearance of what I call the “Gamerstable Crew”. Eric Austley, the initiator and leader for Gamerstable, is going to pour more of his energy into his newest project that builds on the success of the Actual Plays put out by Gamerstable. Openly Gamer Theater currently houses a ton of great content and will more than likely feature many of the voices you heard over the years on Gamerstable too! Also, OGT is a yet another proud member of the RPG Academy Network, so you know it’s quality.


So I need to pull this article to a close and nothing fits better than detailing a few things about the site!


In late 2016 Privateer Press increased its level of involvement with my site for review of their materials and this means I will hopefully have even more Warmachine\Hordes models and products to review going into 2017. To help with this Nick, a.k.a. Uncle Grumps, has made mention of the desire to continue writing pieces on various items associated with WarmaHordes, and hopes to even run something big for our group of players. Also, if you’ve paid attention to the photo gallery on my Warmachine\Hordes page on the site you will have likely seen some of Mike “The Meatfist” Bortz’s excellent work painting his miniatures. Not only will he continue to send me photos of his art but he has promised me a step by step painting guide of one of the newer models to come out for the Trollbloods hordes unit, Madrak, Great Chieftain (Madrak 3). I hope to unveil this soon! Lastly, Topher has been talking about throwing a post or two on here about board games, an excellent candidate for such a thing. I hope he can get around to it (he is getting married this year, me might be somewhat busy).

Here’s to some great gaming in 2017! If you feel I missed some news, hit me up in the Comments. What are you excited about this year?



*Hey guys! Melvin here. So, the Acadecon 2016 Kickstarter has run its course…and FULLY FUNDED! So I will hopefully see you in November. If you missed the Kickstarter have no fear, you can still get a badge and attend. Just head over to the website and buy one. It’s also a good place to check out details for Dayton, look up hotel rooms, check the special guests, and even the schedule of events.*

Burning Games is back on the scene after successfully funding their 2015 Kickstarter run for FAITH: The Sci-Fi RPG. FAITH Core is one of the best example of blending your standard Tabletop RPG with board game elements like decks of cards and card stock character sheets. This time they are attempting to fund a Starter Set and full campaign path for FAITH named A Garden in Hell.


Typically I start plugging Kickstarters I like day one but I took a measured approach to this one because I had a good feeling from the start that they’d hit their fund mark easily. I’m most likely not wrong either. With 23 days to go they already sit at 87% funded, more likely a “when are they going to fund” than an “if” at this point. Given the quality of  the parent system, check out my unboxing video for more on that, I have no doubt that A Garden in Hell will be one solid game. A perfect addition to someone’s library of games that wants an intro into this system for their players.

This new addition to the FAITH line isn’t just a Starter Set for those new to the game, it comes packed with new content so those who already own FAITH: The Sci-Fi RPG are by no means left out.

Items like:

What's in it

I had the opportunity to see a preview copy of the actual Campaign book. The 30 pages previewed were detailed and helped explain gameplay well. Not to mention filled with the excellent artwork I’ve come to expect from Burning Games.

Scene 6

BACKER LEVELS OF NOTE (all prices are originally in Euros):

Skilled Gardner $33 ~ This is the first level that gets you a copy of the game, in addition to some preceding digital items. I like it because it creates a cheaper selection for a physical copy by removing any stretch goal rewards.

Relic Harvester $56 ~ Here’s the best choice for those truly interested in the game. You get a physical copy, all the digital items preceding, a comic book explaining the basic rules, and the RELIC stretch goals

There were some backer levels that got you a copy of the core game but those got snatched up pretty quick! Who knows, maybe a few more might open up. Keep tabs.


Please do yourself a favor and check out this excellent game system with A Garden in Hell!



I’m Back!


…and boy do I have some exciting articles\plans incoming over the next few days, weeks, and months!

I know I’ve been gone a while, but I needed the break. I’m a lone writer out here folks and though I endeavor to keep the posts flowing week to week I needed the downtime to recharge. You probably want to hear more about the teased plans mentioned above though right? Well, I can’t spill all the details just yet but I can offer a taste.

  • in just TWO days the Kickstarter for AcadeCon 2016 will launch. Most of you are aware that I am a proud member of the RPG Academy Network. Due to this I am heavily interested in seeing this convention fund. Though honestly I’m probably less involved in the process than you’d assume due to my membership and I stand to gain less than you likely believe from its funding. When I write my article later this week know that my cheer leading for Michael & Caleb’s little-big convention is coming more from a place of love for the convention and its leadership itself than from anything I actually stand to gain from its funding. I want it to succeed so I have an awesome convention to go to in November, and I want to see you there. As many of you as can make the trip. Let’s sell this thing out folks! I’ll be putting some of my hard earned money toward it even though I don’t have to, I believe in seeing it succeed that much!
  • I have an article to write for Wizards of the Coast. It has taken me a while but I finally finished looking over Curse of Strahd. You may have caught some of my thought’s on Twitter recently but they deserve a full spread.
  • Privateer Press is rolling out a new edition of Warmachine and Hordes. This is huge, the latest edition was released back in 2010 people, it is time for an update. Details are flying around about this new edition and I want to get on top of things and begin to parse down the nitty gritty that you need to know in case you’re interested in how it’ll effect your factions now or, even better, you are just taking notice of this tabletop skirmish game and want to know the best time to get into it (hint: soon).
  • Speaking of WarmaHordes. I’m currently embroiled in an exciting Map Based Campaign titled “The Battle for the Athanc” (basically a high octane version of Risk where actual battles are fought using our WarmaHordes factions). I and my buddy who is running the Campaign have been keeping some battle report type notes and if we actually get our business together I hope to set up a bit of a battlelog for what we’ve done thus far and for how the remaining turns play out. It’s been a blast, even if I’ve had some of the the worst die rolling luck ever throughout.
  • A few fastballs here. I’ll be back at Gencon this year, once more rising with the Gamerstable crew. I’ll be rocking some games at Geekway to the West with Toby from Roll and Groove. I hope to get a bit more serious about writing some helpful essays on how volunteering and\or just gaming with the youth in your community can help foster growth in our hobby. I might even sneak in a post about The Division since that game currently has its talons in me.
  • This last one is going to be vague and for that I’m sorry (well…only a little sorry). I have some plans for the site, I want to become a little more polished. The one thing I can say is I want to drop that pesky little “dot wordpress dot com” from the tail end of my web address. Other than that there are just some things I want to work at for making this site a better place to get gaming information, and more frequent information. Hopefully I can fulfill these self-imposed demands, but one good thing about not running a Patreon or some other form of “actually getting paid for any of this” is I am only really beholden to myself eh?

So there you have it folks. Hope you’re excited to have me back, I’m at least excited to be writing again whether or not you all are happy to have me! 😛






AcadeCon 2015: Into the Wilds


I had been eagerly awaiting AcadeCon 2015 for longer than it had even existed in its current format. Back about a year ago it was slated to be a convention in only name as it was likely going to be held in a basement in Ohio in either Michael or Caleb’s basement, I can’t recall who’s. To think it has now come and gone, and supported a group of roughly 150 badgeholders, faculty and Network members, and VIPs, is frankly staggering. The RPG Academy crowd is beaming, and have all rights to do so.

Since the day their Kickstarter funded I had a good feeling about the con (if I’m to be honest I had assumed they’d fund from day one). I wasn’t let down in the least, well worth the nearly six hour drive from Missouri to Ohio. When I arrived late Thursday night I was immediately impressed with the venue, the Hueston Woods Lodge and Conference Center provided a gorgeous, rustic vibe that only added to the feeling that I was “getting away from it all” for some solid gaming. I arrived at the cabin I was sharing with the creators of the con and was thrown headlong into a game of Mysterium right away.

Very rustic... plenty of "well fed" vultures atop roofs!

Very rustic… plenty of “well fed” vultures atop roofs!

For those who may have missed my recap of Geekway 2015, Mysterium was easily one of my favorite board games. At Geekway I played the Polish version of the game, it hadn’t been ported to the States yet. The game places one player as the ghost of a murder victim attempting to encourage others to solve their murder. Using cards to represent images sent during the player’s dreams the ghost is essentially sending clues as to the place they were murdered, the person and the weapon. The ghost cannot communicate in any other fashion and has to hope the players interpret the image cards correctly. This copy was the Asmodee version of the game, made for english speaking players, and I have to say I was impressed with the little touches they added to the game. Especially adding a shield for the ghost to use that keeps the various places, people, and weapons organized behind it. We won the game solidly, I made for a much better ghost than I have in the past!

After Mysterium we played a game of King of Tokyo and chatted until about 2 am and the next thing I knew it was Friday morning, time to start the con! I helped set things up a bit and, after the opening ceremonies, I got ready to run what would end up being my only game GM’ing during the con (despite bringing just about every game I own). I simply had to run it though as it was one of the adventure concepts sent in for my contest back in August. I ended up using Garrett Weinstein’s Savage Worlds Deadlands Reloaded adventure The Lady and the Caskett rather than Aaron Tudyk’s The Leeching Jug for 5th Edition D&D because there were already a ton of 5e games being run this year. I plan to craft a One Sheet for the adventure I crafted using Garrett’s concept of a woman collapsing in a small town, handcuffed to a coffin she’d been dragging through the wilds. The concept remains great and I hope I did it justice! Just you wait for the One Sheet.


I swear they aren’t bored. At this point they thought they’d been beat! They were scrounging for ideas and lamenting their fate. (No worries, they pulled it off)

My game

Running my game, which I think went pretty well, was the only planned activity I had for the rest of the weekend so I was free to pursue games run by others. I ended up running into some friends from Gencon (Dani and John) and was invited into John’s Numenera game for that evening. Highlights include Dani’s animal loving character constantly learning the hard lesson that animals in the world of Numenera don’t love you back, they only hurt you, my Nano evolving into a foodie interested in preparing, and serving, inter-dimensional cuisine, and many other laugh out loud moments. It was the best game of Numenera I’ve ever had occasion to play.

John, you ran a damn fine game sah'!

John, you ran a damn fine game sah’!

To round out Friday night Lucas, one of the creators of City of Brass and fellow member of the RPG Academy Network, and his buddy Aaron, joined me for a game of Arkham Horror. I didn’t have a lot of hope, there were only the three of us, but surprisingly we pulled it off! I believe by the end of the game we had a total of five rumors going and the next turn spelled certain doom. Not sure if I can ever top that game of Arkham Horror to be honest. I called it a night once more at roughly 2 am, knowing I had to be up again in roughly four hours. It was worth it though.

I almost skipped Saturday morning’s game, but I’m so glad I didn’t. I was fortunate enough to get a seat at Rob Schwalb’s table to play in a game run via his newest Tabletop RPG Shadow of the Demon Lord. The game was raunchy fun, and downright difficult to survive. If you get a chance to play a game of this run by Rob, I say go for it. Great times… though my Goblin PC had to change his pants after the game was over.

Shadow of the Demon Lord

Middle of the day antics included me joining a game currently in beta testing called Measure of a Badass. The concept is that you play iterations of action heroes, not specific ones but their aspects. This game was loads of fun. Our GM was was Heather Brooks, one of the Co-Creators of the game. I didn’t know it at the time but this was her first experience running the game solo for a group and I’m not certain she was expecting just how much we were willing to run with the concept of being 80’s action heroes. Many times we took the most outrageous approaches to resolving even the smallest of problems our characters faced, simply to add that 80’s action star gleam to things. The best part hands down was how utterly ridiculous our Wheelman flying our helicopter and our Eagle Eye on board with him handled things. They were all over the place, no helicopter should have been able to do the things they made it do. It was great!

Measure of a Badass

Heather Brooks everybody

So sadly I had to work on Monday, and part of me really wanted to get home and go deer hunting the next day so I made the difficult decision to cancel playing in a game run by a new friend Rob Stith, a horror game using a system he was designing. By all accounts it sounded great, but if I’d left at 10 pm I wouldn’t have gotten home until  4 am. I’m adding that to a pile of regrets actually.

Biggest regrets, beyond canceling on Rob last minute, would include missing Rohit’s game Sunday morning due to having to leave Saturday night (something I’ll avoid next year hopefully),  not taking advantage of the celebrity game designers more, and only gaming with one other RPG Academy Network member (Lucas played in my Deadlands game). Being part of the Network granted me Faculty privileges but other than a few short conversations with the likes of John Wick and Rich Baker, I only really got to meet with Rob Schwalb (no small thing mind you). Even then I didn’t really make huge use of the time for this blog’s purposes. Oh well, I spend Gencon hitting things up for the blog. I was happy to just game at AcadeCon. I was also put out that i once again missed a chance to play a game with the You Too Can Cthulhu gang! I try to get in one of their games every Gencon and fail. Here I had a much better chance and missed it again!

One last regret, I swear. I had really wanted to run a game of ODAM (Of Dream And Magic). Ever since they fulfilled their obligations from their successful Kickstarter I’ve really wanted to either play in a game or run one. I thought about it too late to schedule a game and it just didn’t work out to run a pickup game either. I need to rectify my lack of playing and/or running this system. It looks awesome!

Bottom line I had a blast, I really enjoyed the rustic setting and even the hordes of vultures perched atop the conference center. The lodge was the only source of food nearby, and they made you pay for it, but having a bar on site was pretty slick. The cell service was awful but free WiFi made that manageable. I made a lot of new friends and feel like I deepened my relationships with my network colleagues and friends of cons past. 100% intend to attend again next year. I hope you join me! I feel like AcadeCon can only grow, it’s got a strong team backing it. Trust me when I say they are already planning 2016. Our network channels are humming!

Some epic games of Dread were had

Some epic games of Dread were had

-Melvin Smif

P.S. Thanks especially go to Tressa who not only came through with Ibuprofen to cure an impending migraine but also purchased some metallic markers so I could get the network members to sign the copy of Hoard of the Dragon Queen I still need to send off to Aaron Tudyk! Thanks Tressa!!!


P.P.S If I played a game with you and neglected to mention you by name drop me a line in the comments!

Playing it Forward

When I was just starting Junior High I was on the cusp of truly beginning my path into tabletop gaming. I had already been introduced, thanks to my good buddy Nick, to Dungeons and Dragons. We barely knew how to actually play that game though and it wasn’t until a few years later that we’d really get into it. However, we had also discovered Magic the Gathering, and the barrier to entry for the trading card game was quite a bit lower. Assuming you had a place to play, and people to play with.

This Logo meant a lot to me in my younger days.

This Logo meant a lot to me in my younger days.

Our town didn’t have a game shop. I had to beg my parents to drive me to one that was roughly 30 mins away, and it would only be to buy things I could certainly never expect them to wait around while I played with other kids. I mean, my mother had lived through the days when games like D&D and Magic the Gathering were considered anti-christian so she had reservations about the whole business anyway (To her credit, she and I had a long conversation about it and she opted to trust my judgment over simply putting the kibosh on it). Needless to say, finding a place to play Magic the Gathering was tough. Enter Mr. Reeb. He was an art teacher at my Junior High School who, to my knowledge, knew nothing about Magic the Gathering beyond that it was a card game a few of us enjoyed, but he was willing to sacrifice his time every Thursday after school to let us play. Due to his volunteering spirit we had a much larger pool of fellow players, and it was during this time I really got to meet a larger swathe of kids who loved the same games I did. Of the many moments that led to me really loving tabletop games, Mr. Reeb’s MtG Thursdays can easily vie for top spot. It made for some really good times, I even got to know my first true Dungeon Master at those games (Shout out to Mike “The Meatfist” Bortz!).

I’m well over a decade removed from those days but the memories have obviously held a little permanency within me so last year I started thinking of a way I could “Pay Forward” the good deed done unto me by Mr. Reeb, even though he may not even know what it meant to me (Looking forward to Thursdays helped me get over much of the drudgery associated with Junior High). It’s obvious I hold a candle for this type of gaming, and how it’s helped me over the years, so when I looked into doing something for the youth of my city I knew it would involve tabletop gaming of some sort, I just didn’t know what it would be. So I made a move to do so, and it has been really succesful thus far. I’ve mentioned it a bit on the blog but didn’t want to come across braggadocious, or make it look like I wanted some claps on the back, so I’ve largely held what I’ve done close to the chest. Recently though I had a friend tell me that I should talk about it, not to garner praise (as I’m not interested in touting myself) but just in case it inspires others to try what I’ve done and my experiences starting the program could help them do so. So, let me tell you how I’ve been going about “Playing it Forward”!

I should probably apologize for this…:P

I should probably apologize for this…:P

Last year I reached out to my local library with an idea to start a club that met either once monthly or bi-monthly to create a safe place where kids could come and play games. Not that game shops are unsafe mind you, but I recall being intimidated by the adults who played there when i was younger and felt other kids may feel the same. It was as simple as that, I imagined they could come and play trading card games, use my board games or bring their own, or use my various roleplaying books to learn and play Tabletop RPG. I heard back a bit later from the Teen Outreach leader, Maggie, who told me that my timing was impeccable. It just so happened that in a month

Last year's Panel

Last year’s Panel

or two they would be holding their 1st (hopefully annual) Teen Fandom Convention. It was her idea, and you have seen me write about this, for me to come and do a panel on tabletop gaming. This way we could see what sort of interest was out there. The panel was a hit, as was the con actually, and we started making plans to start the club I’d initially envisioned.


Neither Maggie or I were sure what to expect initially. In fact Maggie, despite displaying a strong nerdy slant herself, had never dabbled too much into tabletop gaming beyond some board games. So this was mostly an experiment. Day one arrived and I only had a few signed up, I didn’t know what they wanted to play so I brought most everything I owned. That was the day I first met PhandelverKaleab and Kya, two kids who would become the backbone of the group. I pitched everything I had brought to the group just to see what they would be interested in and it was soon apparent they wanted to try out Dungeons and Dragons, they’d heard the name before but knew nothing about it. I was ecstatic, I love D&D obviously and they wanted to play. Honestly I was thankful for the small group because it meant I could just open the 5th Edition Starter Set, containing the adventure “The Lost Mine of Phandelver”, and get right down to business. To my great joy they were smitten.

For the next year I continued to run the adventure, the kids battled the goblins who’d been marauding along the road, they removed the scourge of the Red Cloak gang in the town of Phandalin, and they even gathered information from the likes of Banshees and Necromancers to help find their missing dwarven friend. Kya and Kaleab were always there, and there were occasionally a few other kids who would show. A girl named Deva had become a regular by December as well. For Christmas I got three sets of dice for my three regulars, I wanted to buy them all Player’s Handbooks but it just wasn’t something I could afford to do. However, gifted dice are always the best dice as I’ve been told.

During the last year my little group inspired another branch to open their doors to gamers, this time specifically with tabletop roleplaying in mind, and not limited to teens. I attended the first session just to say hi to some fellow gamers I’d never met and I left it at that and simply advised a bit through email with the library employee in charge of that one, Melissa.  soon it became apparent that there was more interest than there were Game Masters so Melissa asked me if I’d come be a GM for a session or two. Months later, I’m still sitting in! To my delight I found out that Kya and Kaleab were some of the new attendees that drove up the numbers. Add to that some adults named Gary and Bill would become regulars as well. We are now four sessions into a story I came up with on my own and Kaleab has even told me he likes my adventure more than Lost Mine (sorry Wizards of the Coast ;P!).

Last month Kaleab, Kya, and Deva lost their PCs in The Lost Mine of Phandelver to a TPK (Total Party Kill). I didn’t want it to happen any more than they did, but sometimes the dice fall where they fall. I did let them know that this wasn’t all bad though, it just meant we got to make new characters and start a brand new adventure! Trouble is, they wanted to make their own this time and with only two hours a month to play I knew it might take a while to make three characters, with three newish players, using one Player’s Handbook. So I did what any social media addict would do, I put my lament on Twitter. I received a lot of good advice, most of which I already knew, regarding the free rules out there that WotC was kind enough to give us but I knew that wasn’t enough. They’d had a taste of the full spectrum of options and the characters they wanted to play were simply not available in the free set of rules. Out of nowhere I was sent a Direct Message from my friend Jerry Behrendt (@Dungeonleft), he dismissed all pleasantries and simply said “what’s your address, I’m buying and mailing you a Player’s Handbook”. I was floored by his kind offer and quickly took him up on it. I gave him praise on Twitter and, not to be outdone, @TheAngryGM himself, Scott Rehm, immediately asked if he could also supply a book. I was once again touched by the generosity of our community. I realized that though I couldn’t afford to buy three books I could certainly afford one so I bought the remaining PHB and completed the set.


I received the books in the mail. The Angry GM even supplied three sets of dice, mirroring my own belief that gifted dice are special things. Inside the cover of Scott’s book he’d even written a very un-Angry message to the kids, though don’t spread that around too much, the man does have a reputation to uphold.

I was all set to present the books to the kids yesterday. I was honestly giddy about it and, admittedly, a bit misty eyed (I’m a big softy). Turns out though, I didn’t just have my three regulars, I had in attendance for the first time EIGHT KIDS! Turns out when school lets out kids and their parents tend to look for things to do, I hadn’t even considered I’d see an uptick like this. I was… well, I was a bit unprepared. I didn’t have time to generate pre-mades, or even use the ones already out there, plus I didn’t even know what game(s) they would want to play. There came a moment when all eight pairs of eyes were on me that I actually got a bit nervous, a rare thing for this ex Theater guy, what kind of games were they expecting from me? Once again, like I had roughly a year ago, I’d brought everything. Board games, all my RPGs, even some card protectors in case there were some trading card lovers in attendance. I knew Kaleab and Kya still wanted to play D&D (Deva couldn’t make it), and we’d picked up another player from Saturday named Aaron but I wanted to let the other kids know that they could play whatever they wanted. Well, one kid saw Kya’s character sheet and asked what they were getting ready to play. I told him about D&D, his eyes lit and he simply said “I want to play that!” Just like that I had eight kids, four PHBs and a lot of explaining to do.

Hard at work crafting legends.

The kids are hard at work crafting legends.

Mostly I’m going to just finish up the kids’ characters for them, with the exception of a few who know a bit more about what they are doing, and we are going to play next month. I’ve toyed with the idea of bringing Topher along with me so we run two games, he’s expressed plenty of interest in helping, but figure I’d see if the new kids stick around first. I’ll also have the added benefit of seeing most of them next Saturday at the 2nd annual Teen Fandom Con, hopefully it helps keep their interest sparked!

So glad to see year #2!

So glad to see year #2!

I want this to grow, I’d love to see it grow. One day I’d love to see a huge group of kids playing games, and even see the older kids running games for the new batches coming in. As much as I adore running the games myself the next step is seeing it all become self-sufficient. If that means I become more like my inspiration, Mr. Reeb, where I simply hang back to act as a mentor and overseer of the whole deal I am more than willing to step away from the actual table. I’ll never forget the early days running games for just Kaleab and Kya though, or the generosity of those first two donated books (I’ll get mine to Deva eventually I hope, or it may find itself in the hands of another young recruit). If I can help even one kid have something cool to look forward to the first Thursday of every month that helps them forget some of the struggles they face, I feel like I’ve done enough. Plus, my favorite hobby gets to grow, and I love that!

For those wondering this is Kaleab and Kya with their new books! Sadly Deva didn't make it but I still have hers.

For those wondering this is Kaleab and Kya with their new books! Sadly Deva didn’t make it but I still have hers.

Good gaming to you all – Melvs

P.S. If you have any desire to mirror in your community what I’m doing here and think I could help you do that in some way, please let me know. I will help in any way I can!

Geekway to the West 2015


A little con in St. Louis, Missouri turned 11, and it did so in a big way. Perhaps it’s not even accurate to use “little” anymore as Geekway to the West smashed through all of its own numbers from years past. With this gathering Geekway has firmly placed its stamp of existence in the board gaming realm. I can’t think of a past year where I’ve seen more before and after buzz about the con on social media and even in dead tree form. Frankly, the biggest question that has to be on the minds of this con’s crew is whether to continue to grow, or decide on an optimum size.

This was my third year at Geekway, and easily my favorite. Not only because they put on their best con yet but this is the first year I actually got to hit it up every day. Add to that, the fact that I was finally able to bring my wife Sarah to Geekway and a number of good buddies showed up including Dave Ferguson, creator of The Great Debate, Topher, one of the contributors to this site, and my fellow blogger pal Toby Gee from Roll and Groove. I’ve enjoyed previous years a lot, because I enjoy gaming and have never had issues gaming with strangers, but there is something great about having a group of friends present. Also, it’s always good to have Sarah around in order to humble me. I’ve rarely seen someone pick up on the rules of a game faster than she, and thus she tends to beat me…a lot. I did get her good once though, more on that later!




I knew we were in for a good year when I noticed that Geekway sold out months ahead of time. In previous years there was always the option for people to walk up and get a day pass but that wasn’t to be the case this go around. 1300 badges were sold, over 100 badges were handed out to staff, volunteers, and guests, and even a handful of temporary badges were handed out to press and judges. One thing to note too, Geekway hands out a free board game to every paid attendee, well over 1400 games were handed out there alone. For those wondering, these weren’t simply packs of Uno Cards either (apologies to the Uno fans) these were full on Board Games. I received a copy of a game called Skyscrapers that I traded to another attendee for Privateer Press’ High Command. A few other attendee games I saw were Constantinople, King of Tokyo, Locke and Key: The Game, and many more.


One needs to consider the fact that the con’s library of games stands at just over 1500, so the 1400 given away at check in would already be an admirable number to bandy about. They don’t stop there however. Geekway holds daily door prizes, where they gave away 75 games, and then there’s the Play and Win games. I’m not certain how long Geekway has had a Play and Win category but I’ve never seen it handled with more finesse or scale than this year’s iteration of the event. In the past the Play and Win slips were placed inside the game box and if you were privy to what games fit the category you, the other players, and anyone who helps teach the game were able to place these signed slips back in the box to potentially be drawn as a winner of the game. This year the con team set aside an entire room for the Play and Win area, games were placed on tables for ready play and a large bookshelf held copies of the games for people to grab and play within the room or check out if they wished to wander. The slips were placed into already crafted bins labeled clearly on one side of the room. Easily the best set-up I’ve seen thus far and it truly made the Play and Win area the place to be. In fact I don’t think I played a single game that wasn’t designated as a Play and Win, and I played roughly 30+ unique games over those four days!


One stand out game grabbed my attention above all others, not to mention the majority of the Geekway attendees for that matter. The Polish game Tajemnicze Domostwo (Mysterious Mansion), or Mysterium as it will be named once it’s released in the States, was hands down the Bell of the Ball. This Play and Win was played over 200 times over the four days, easily the most played in the Play and Win category. The game is fantastic. One player takes on the role of a murder victim, now a ghost, communicating with the other players through symbolism within their dreams in order to whittle down a list of suspects, potential places, and murder weapons. If you call it “Better Clue” I wouldn’t argue with you. Take the fact that the gameplay is fun, unique, and co-operative and couple that with the intrigue of a game that isn’t even available in English yet and it’s easy to see the allure. I even got a chance to be the ghost once but, wpid-20150514_113930.jpgas Dave F. will tell you openly, I did not make for a good one. If you played the game at the con and were lucky enough to have English rules inside the box you can thank me for bringing it to the attention of the con staff by the way *winking face*.


I had a number of other stand out games at the con.

LanternsLanterns was a game where I initially beat Toby, thus giving me the false impression I was actually good at the game, only to be proven wrong by Sarah multiple times. The mechanics are simple, if explained a bit poorly in the rulebook, match colored lanterns to gain them and be careful because every tile you lay down could help a competitor!

ScovilleScoville was a really cool resource collection game where you plant and harvest different peppers to fuel the ever-expanding pepper market! It was made cooler for me because I just walked in on Friday morning, sat down, and played with two strangers. I won that first game of Scoville, we were all three new to it, but the second time around I wasn’t so lucky as, once again, Sarah crushed me on her first time ever playing the game.

Look at that Camel stack!

Look at that Camel stack!

Camel Up! was a blast, I didn’t even care that I never won. Betting on those camels was a treat! It has a really fun mechanic where you roll and drop your dice from a pyramid. Attempting to get just one die out of that pyramid did take a bit finesse but it was still fun stuff, the stacking mechanism of the camels and how that changes their place in the race really shook thins up often. Never won a game of it but I did have the pleasure of witnessing Toby’s eldest daughter take us to task with her camel betting skills.

My biggest triumph of the Con though came when playing The Worst Game Ever (actual title). The main game-play is simple, roll a die and make a bet that it’ll roll higher than you guessed and then take that many tokens away from whoever you were targeting. As soon as someone loses all their tokens the game ends and the winner is the one with the most (barring the humorous “if there’s a tie” rule). The cards are what shake things up, and it is here that I discovered Sarah’s weakness! You see, every card changes the rules somehow, and many times in humorous ways. Sarah likes consistent rules, she’d tell you this herself. Anyway, I had a card in my hand through most of the game where you play it if someone is caught “mooching’ food or drink from someone else. There was none to be had but I remembered they were selling food in the hall. When I excused myself to use the restroom (honestly fearing there was a card out there that someone could use when i did so) I purchased a cookie on the way back. Long story short, Sarah soon took a bite and I used the mooching card, ending the game. It was fantastic!

The winning card!

The winning card!

There were a ton of activities I didn’t get the chance to join in on.  Tournaments of local popularity like Crokinole and Battling Tops, or more widespread appeal with Settlers of Catan and King of Tokyo/New York. The latter gaining the victors free passes* to Gen Con (*Edit: The victors won an invitation to the Gen Con World Championships, not passes to Gen Con). There was a game design contest, which my good friend Toby was actually a guest judge for (I’m very envious of that fact but can’t say it wasn’t a well deserved nod to his board gaming cred). I’m sure he’ll be able to elaborate more on the contest in his post over at Roll and Groove. There was even a Guest of Honor I, sadly, never had the chance to meet. The one and only Zev Shlasinger, President of Z-Man Games!

You can barely see it but there was a rainbow over Geekway when my wife and I drove in on Saturday.

You can barely see it but there was a rainbow over Geekway when my wife and I drove in on Saturday.

Geekway to the West has some real potential to grow into a mighty con, I’m honestly wondering whether they will choose to do so. Their current venue can’t take much, if any, more, and I’m loathe to see it move because that would likely mean a move away from me, and into the city (St. Louis) to meet expanding space requirements. There is a part of me that wants nothing more than to see it grow to a size of behemoth proportions, just because it damn well deserves to! I only have a few complaints. First, the con takes place right in the prime of graduation ceremonies. I had to miss a good chunk of it last year, and narrowly missed it next year (yes I already checked). Lastly,…I didn’t win a single game from Play and Win or Door Prizes! I mean c’mon!.. Ok, that last one isn’t really fair because I guess I did win a game last year…but still! All joking aside I would suggest you get a jump on your badge next year because there is no telling if they intend to grow the con. It’s a lot of fun as is, and if it continues to garner the growth of popularity I’ve seen thus far and they decide to keep things small, you may start missing your chance to get in earlier and earlier!

It just keeps growin.

It just keeps growing.

Take care folks, and keep gaming! Also, just remember… Istanbul was Constantinople.