FAMILY GAME NIGHT - EXIT: THE GAME

Comment

FAMILY GAME NIGHT - EXIT: THE GAME

If you haven’t had a chance to play, Don’t Panic! There are NO SPOILERS in this article.

  Exit: The Game -  "The Pharaoh's Tomb"

Exit: The Game - "The Pharaoh's Tomb"

Escape Rooms have got to be one of my favorite activities of all time. The pressure to solve a bunch of interconnected puzzles in a set time limit with friends, family, and sometimes complete strangers is money well spent in my book. That’s why I was so excited to bring the EXIT: THE GAME series to my family game nights!

If you aren’t familiar with the series, the games have a common (probably obvious) theme: you and up to three other people are trapped somewhere and need to escape. To do that, you’ll need to use a notebook, cards representing riddles and the answer cards to go along with them, a decoder disk for solving puzzles, and strange items that vary depending on the game you choose. Also, if you ever get stuck, there are hint cards you can use for each puzzle. Be careful though as every hint card you use will reduce your final score at the end!

The first time I played it was just me and my wife while our 10-week-old son hung out in his little swing. We chose “The Pharaoh’s Tomb” because we really loved the Egyptian theme and didn’t think it would entice other members of our family as much as “The Secret Lab” or “The Abandoned Cabin“. Set up was a breeze. There’s no board, so we just pulled out the book and decoder disk and set all the cards into their respective piles, leaving the strange items in the box until later told to grab them. We only needed to grab a couple pencils, some scrap paper, and a pair of scissors and we were off.

The whole experience was so much fun. We poured over the booklet, alternating between “Eureka!” and “I’m stuck!” moments. The nice thing about it just being the two of us was one could watch the baby while the other puzzled things out, then we could switch duties without skipping a beat. I’m not afraid to admit that we were stumped by one puzzle in particular and had to use up all the clue cards to solve it. Normally this would have been frustrating, but that revelation made us both go “Wow! Awesome!” That one puzzle gave us such an appreciation for the EXIT series that if you only ever play one of these, I highly recommend it. In the end, we passed the 2hr time limit and took hints so we ended with 4/10 stars. Honestly, not as bad as I thought it would be for a first time while watching a newborn!

 "The Pharaoh's Tomb" components

"The Pharaoh's Tomb" components

We went on to play “The Secret Lab” with family shortly after and had just as good of a time as the first go around. Everyone had a blast and adding two more people didn’t adversely affect the game. If anything, we did way better because of the extra sets of eyes, coming in under 1 hr and only needing to take two hints. It had just as many cool puzzles and seeing everyone’s interactions and different interpretations to riddles was amazing. During that game was when I fully appreciated why the EXIT: THE GAME series won the Kennerspiel des Jahres 2017.

I highly recommend everyone check these games out! They are fun, they are engaging and are an affordable way to experience an escape room from the comfort of home. More are constantly coming out so be on the look out at your local game store!

Comment

Winter is coming... this June!

Comment

Winter is coming... this June!

by Bobby Stickel

Maybe you've been living deep in a mine and you haven't heard about Smiths of Winterforge. Actually, that's not fair-- there are SO MANY games coming out, it's impossible to keep up with them, let alone know which are good. We get it, and we're here to sift through the grit to show you the diamond that really is Smiths of Winterforge. 

concrete-056.jpg

 

From Rule & Make:
The forges of the Dwarven city of Winterforge have fired up once more. The royal centenary contract is up for renewal and only one of the legendary guilds can win the favour of the royal family and claim the contract as their own.

In Smiths of Winterforge players take control of a guild that has to earn money and reputation to ensure they are chosen for the royal centenary contract. You earn money by:

  • Taking contracts from the guild precinct
  • Buying components from the market place
  • Using components to craft your contract in the forge and earning money

Don’t have enough money to buy the components you need? Get a loan from the bank. Just make sure you pay it back before the end of the game.

Need a hand finishing your contract? Head to the Tavern and grab some crew to join your guild.

There are many paths to riches and reputation, are you going to take the right one?


Ok, you now have a basic understanding of the flavor of the game. BUT HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: There is a 'Special Edition,' and it's very limited. Here are the details on it:

  • $59.99 MSRP
  • Includes 6th player expansion
  • Includes solo variant rules and cards
  • 4 modular 'alleyway' expansions
  • Again, just to compare, the regular version plays 2-5, the SPECIAL EDITION plays 1-6

Once this print run is sold out, these items won’t be available again in the base game or separately.

This is going to be one of the most talked-about games of 2018, and we want to review this checklist:

  • I understand that there is a 'base game' version, AND a Special Edition available
  • I understand that the Special Edition is limited, and when it's gone, it's gone
  • I also understand that the only way to play solo, or to add a 6th player, are in the Special Edition

We good? Ok, so if the Special Edition is for you, please ask your FLGS to order you a copy. That's the only way you'll get it. 

Until next time,

-b

 Unreleased, alternate cover. Don't get this version, get the Special Edition!

Unreleased, alternate cover. Don't get this version, get the Special Edition!

Comment

The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31

Comment

The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31

By: Caelin Beaty


            I first saw John Carpenter’s The Thing when I was about 12 or so. Normally my parents wouldn’t have let me watch something so violent at that age, but I saw that it was going to air on HBO during a "free HBO weekends!", and so I set our VCR to record it. I later watched it, when no one was around, and it’s been one of my favorite horror movies ever since. 

 The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31

The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31

            I don’t think I had a very sophisticated understanding at the time of just what was so frightening about that movie. I loved the monster, the main characters, and, certainly, the gore. I even made a pretend bundle of dynamite out of some tape, yarn, and the cardboard tube from a wire coat hanger—cut up and taped together—and would reenact Kurt Russell’s final showdown with the monster—what a hero! I knew some of what made it so scary that the isolated setting (Antarctica) added to the eerie-loneliness of the story. I also knew that the monster’s ability to disguise itself as any human (the posters for the movie contained the tagline “man is the warmest place to hide”) made for an incredibly tense story full of paranoia. I don’t, however, think I realized the extent of just how effective that paranoia was until later. 

            I’ve seen the movie many times since then throughout the years, and I’ve realized that the paranoia the characters feel is really what makes the story hold up after all this time. It took me a while to realize this, but that's the driving force of the entire movie, and is captured perfectly in the game—I finally experienced just how frightening the paranoia, suspicion, and confusion was as I was sitting around the game table playing, laughing, and suspecting every one of my friends, as we played The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31. 

            Recently, USAopoly released The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31, based specifically on the 1982 John Carpenter movie. The game characters bare the likeness of the actors from the 1982 version (MacReady looks like Kurt Russell, and Blair like Wilford Brimley) as well as having the movie’s scenarios and settings (fun fact: in the original novella, the monster had blue hair that looked like worms and three “mad, hate-filled” red eyes). The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 is a hidden traitor game made for 4-8 players, with 8 players allowing for the best experience since it allows the monsters/infected to hide more easily. Players each control a character and are given a card, in secret, which lets them know if they are human or if they’re infected. The players then move from room-to-room within the Antarctic outpost, completing missions and gathering items needed to progress though the game. The infected, however, try and sabotage the missions without getting caught. The game is over when either the players completely sweep the base, gather the necessary items, and escape on the helicopter, or when the infected achieve one of their three win conditions. 

 Players either take the role of humans which try and escape, or infected which try and sabotage. 

Players either take the role of humans which try and escape, or infected which try and sabotage. 

            One of the things we noticed right away was that the monsters have a huge advantage over the humans. Not only do they have three ways to win, but the humans essentially have one, very difficult way of winning; the humans have to sweep the entire camp, escape in the helicopter—making sure none of the infected are aboard when they do—then get away in order to win. 

            Some have commented that the win conditions make the game unbalanced in favor of the monsters, but this seems to be more by design than by mistake—part of the horror, and effectiveness, of the movie is that there’s very little hope for the humans to stop the monster(s) from taking over the entire world. The game gets this, and creates what many of us felt was a welcome challenge to the players that were human—out of the three games we played, the humans only won once. We felt that this was a really effective translation of the movie. 

            One of the measurements of how well a licensed game reflects the original material is how well it captures the basic qualities of the source, and this is where The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 really shines. Sure, all the characters from the movie are there (we had a lot of fun with an intentional mispronunciation of the character name “Fuchs”), and all the moments from the movie are there, but what really makes the game a home run is the way it captured the paranoia the characters must have felt.

            The bluffing mechanics of the game allow for the monsters to lie about helping-out with a mission (then not actually help), secretly sabotage the mission, or even help out with the mission (in order to seem trustworthy). Since no one knows who’s human and who’s infected, this can cause everyone to turn on each other since no one knows who's helping and who's not—everyone develops their suspicions, but no one knows for sure. With a group of involved, engaged players, this opens the door for scenarios where one of the human players end up arguing their case to the rest of the group as to why they’re trustworthy and certainly human, whether they are or not. Who do you trust, and why? There were many times that the group became so paranoid that a human player ended up being targeted as infected, while the infected player went undiscovered. 

            We had nine different people play over three different games. Most hadn’t seen the movie (several didn’t know what it was about before playing) but all agreed it was an excellent game and a great example of how to use the hidden traitor mechanic effectively. As with any game it can all come down to the players, but The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 allows for a great gaming experience, no matter how familiar or not you are with the source material. The only tip we insist on leaving you with is this advice from Blair himself:

“Watch Clark. I said, watch Clark, and watch him close, you hear me?” 

Comment

Finding Your Escape in Tabletop Gaming

Comment

Finding Your Escape in Tabletop Gaming

By: Jayme Boucher
Special Thanks To: John Stephens, Total Escape Games
https://www.facebook.com/TotalEscapeGames/
http://totalescapegames.com/


When I first dipped my toes into the world of tabletop gaming, I was filled to the brim with conflicting emotions. While the giddiness of having stumbled upon something new and wonderful usually took the spotlight, there was, for a long time, also a persistent undercurrent of fear and doubt that couldn’t be ignored no matter how hard I tried.

All around me were opportunities to learn, the chance to meet new people from different walks of life, and a seemingly unlimited supply of games ripe for the picking… But there was also a voice deep within me, whispering, “I don’t know if you belong here. You aren’t cool. Everyone else learns faster than you do. There are too many games you’ve never even heard of before, and everyone but you already knows them.”

And so, ever the champion of the path of least resistance, I sincerely considered backing away from the hobby to salvage my tender self-worth via preventative measure. I’d probably have succeeded had I not been working at game conventions as part of my job at the time. It was purely thanks to being in the right place at the right time that I first encountered the mighty force that is the FLGS, which completely up-ended my attempts to back away with my tail between my legs.  

I’m going to save you the time I wasted trying to crack the acronym: FLGS stands for ‘Friendly Local Game Store’. As someone first discovering tabletop gaming, you, like myself, might not know that there are thousands of specialty stores devoted to the hobby, and that they are much more than a place to browse and purchase games. In fact, most contain the priceless tools needed for a reluctant newcomer to jump headfirst into proudly professing, “I’m a gamer!”

The confidence it took to use that word, “gamer”, to describe myself can be wholly attributed to my having met people who either own or work at these incredible stores. Through visiting several across the country, I not only gained a better understanding of the hobby at large, but also of the types of amazing and passionate people who have chosen to make a career out of being a hobby ambassador. Whether I was being introduced to new games to help me discover what I did or didn’t enjoy in my play experience, seeing and touching hands-on demos set up throughout the floor, or attending after-hours events that introduced me to people I truly enjoy being around, the FLGS experience was the missing piece that I’d felt the absence of when first entering the hobby.

 Devoted FLGS employee Jacinda teaches a group of three how to play one of our favorite games: King of Tokyo!

Devoted FLGS employee Jacinda teaches a group of three how to play one of our favorite games: King of Tokyo!

I recently reflected upon my personal experience with the General Manager of Total Escape Games in Broomfield, Colorado, John Stephens, and he acknowledged knowingly how overwhelming it can be for new customers to enter his store, let alone the hobby in general. When I picked his brain as to how he combats the obstacles that new gamers face, he explained that finding out WHY someone enters his space is key, since it serves not only to gauge their experiences thus far (and potentially apologize/rectify them), but also sets expectations of how to best serve them moving forward. While I understand that this all sounds perfectly reasonable and simple in theory, consider the last time you went shopping and were either harassed by pushy salespeople or worse- completely ignored when you wanted nothing more than someone to assist you.

The defining characteristic of employees at an FLGS is that they love to play. They understand the products and the culture of gaming, and because they value it so, they sincerely strive to share it with the rest of the world. John interacts with every member of his seven-person team on a weekly basis, ensuring that they understand how to play and teach new games being carried in-store. This greatly increases the likelihood that every single customer walking in the door will have a positive experience, since they are probably going to leave knowing something they didn’t when they arrived. What is it about this hobby that motivates people to be knowledge-hungry and crave the experience of gaming?

“For a set amount of time, we get to forget about reality.” John explained. “Being able to join a group hallucination is cool.”

He’s right, obviously. As I considered his sentiment, it really struck a chord with me. Most people I know, myself included, are exhausted by the amount of work, negativity, and responsibility weighing down our lives. Gaming fills a void that many aren’t able to articulate before experiencing something that counter-acts it, and I really do believe that this “missing piece” phenomenon explains the surge in popularity of tabletop gaming over the last few years.

 A small sample of the product offerings in store at Total Escape Games in Broomfield, Colorado. 

A small sample of the product offerings in store at Total Escape Games in Broomfield, Colorado. 

As I eyed photographs of Total Escape that John shared with me, marveling at the nearly thousand different games available to purchase, I asked John how he decides what titles to bring in store. With more than 3,000 new games a year being released into the market, he admits that picking what to sell can be a real challenge. A huge chunk of his time is spent doing research online and in gaming magazines, consulting with a network of other store owners across the country, and frequently traveling to conventions and trade shows to physically see and test new games coming soon. In fact, all his travel totaled up currently has him away from the store for nearly four months out of the year!

“I never have to sell a product I don’t believe in.” he explained. “There are always good products in the pile!”   

In addition to the robust play space available at his store (which can seat up to 70 people and which boasts an impressive schedule of events – one for every single night of the week!), John also brings games to people in the outside world to boost awareness of the hobby. At a local Gifted & Talented school, he hosts Magic: The Gathering Tournaments, and teaches game design classes to those eager to create projects of their own.

He told me, “If you can teach a kid to play games, you’re training the next generation of gamers. They’ll train others for you!” This description of the snowball effect resonated with me, and I chuckled thinking about how much of a gaming advocate I’ve morphed into since I was at first too afraid to even ask to sit down at a table with someone I didn’t know.

To combat the chance of customers feeling unwelcome, Total Escape employs a strict inclusivity policy. His customers range in age from children to senior citizens, and when I asked about the participants at events, he beamed describing the diverse groups he gets in store, squashing the image media has painted in our heads of the type of people expected to hang out playing D&D in a dingy basement.

“Every time we allow messaging or an experience that isn’t inclusive, we don’t only hurt our own store – we hurt the hobby.” He went on, “Every time we live up to the stereotype of the ‘unwashed nerd’, we fail.” This message, this mission, is that of an FLGS that is going to ensure that people like me return for more.

In the span of a couple of years, my tabletop journey has oscillated between the rush of discovering something new and wonderful to the crushing anxiety of feeling like an ill-prepared imposter, to finally finding a space where I felt welcome, supported, and even empowered. The discovery of the resource that is the Friendly Local Game Store has allowed me to experience tabletop gaming in a way that reassured me that I did, in fact, have a place in this hobby, and that even I can escape reality whenever I choose.

I strongly encourage anybody feeling reluctant about gaming to be transparent about it. Tell your friends, tell the owners of the stores you shop at. Tell us, and maybe we can help you find an FLGS near you! Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed, because the truth is: you could be missing out on the best part of your life, and now that the hobby has it’s hooks in me, I’m here to help you find your place beside me. -JB

Comment

Active Player Network: The Beginning

Comment

Active Player Network: The Beginning

By: Bobby Stickel


"Empowering our community to prioritize play." That’s the mission statement that launched every project we outlined for building this brand. And it’s one that means a lot to our team, and to me personally. At the start of the brainstorming process, we narrowed down a long list of words that we wanted the Active Player Network to communicate and represent. We settled on the following:

  • Multifaceted
  • Modern
  • Energetic
  • Welcoming
  • Imaginative
  • Dynamic
  • Progressive

We spent several hours over several meetings over several days, each person sharing their vision and their personal experiences that they felt would add to our mission.

Next, we needed a logo, and I want to give a little insight as to how the logo was born. I had a lot of prerequisites for the team going into this process. One of them was ‘no meeples.’ It seems like every logo has a meeple in it, and we simply didn’t want to add to that noise. At the same time, this logo needed to be very identifiable by our audience, so the iconography needed to make our target audience ‘feel at home.’ Yes, d20s are also common, but in the end we made it our own when we merged the d20 with a pineapple (like you do).

Wait, what?! Pull up a chair and hear me out.

I’ll spare you all the research I did and will just pare it down for you: The pineapple has been an American and European symbol- in architecture, in international trade, and in the home- as a symbol of ‘welcoming, community, hospitality, and prosperity.’ Author Lynn Means writes:

pineapples.png

Warmth, welcome, friendship and hospitality.

Today you can find fine examples of this detail throughout many historic homes and estates in the South. Be sure to particularly look around main entrances and walkways, where guests would be most likely to pass or linger. Two favorite pineapple locations were the pediment or transom over the front door, and finials on or around the front gate. And if you look carefully around the inside of these old homes, it’s not uncommon to find the pineapple cleverly carved in areas around the main foyer, staircase and fireplace mantles – again, places where visitors would tend to gather.”

There was our connection! Our hobby, at its core, is about gathering together and sharing a good time with one another. We’ve all read countless articles about how the tabletop gaming hobby fosters social networking, communication skills, stronger relationships, etc.  We wanted our new brand to be a living ambassador of all those qualities. But we also wanted anyone NOT currently in our hobby to feel welcome. Remove barriers to entry, take down walls of social stigma, bring people of all walks of life together using the best tool we all have access to: Play!

With centuries of symbolism already a part of our logo, and the ubiquitous d20 to help everyone understand our very social hobby, we felt like we finally had proper representation of the Active Player Network’s mission of ‘empowering our community to prioritize play', which brings us to today.

Welcome to the Active Player Network!

apn-block.png

Comment