Table Top Home Brew

I’m actually working on a couple of posts that are taking a bit more oomph than expected so I thought I’d post something my friend Mike and I made a few months ago and we just last week starting up again.

With the growing popularity of Wil Wheaton’s TableTop and board gaming in general, a lot of YouTube Let’s Players are moving to the real world and out of the digital one.  There are a number of channels that play a variety of table top games on video and we, as avid fans and gamers ourselves, decided to start doing some of our own.

It’s VERY amateurish and has 0 production value (I used my Sony SLR which can only shoot 29:57 before it shuts off) and we had to set up a fixed position for the games we’ve played.  We had some good runs at this game of Castle Panic though and we hope to do some more with actual editing and shots.  Not to compete or become a “thing” just because we have a lot of “moments” in these games that are worht capturing, as many gamers do, and we feel it’s fun to share with the gamer community at large!

Beware there’s the language of a couple of people playing games…and not always so successfully in these vids!

 

Building the New Gaming Room

As I mentioned in my Gaming Table post after discovering Warhammer 40k I developed a new love for table top gaming.

After finally getting to move to a new, bigger place, I decided to dedicate my second bedroom to my hobbies, one of the first and foremost being table top gaming.  With my new 6’x4′ table ready to go I put it in my smaller, auxiliary room and made what I think will be a great space for gaming! (And as I recently found out also a good place for building, painting, and going over rules!)

20140719_100117The room had a strange 45 degree angle, but the table fits in nicely with only one corner not really accessible.  It can easily seat six players I believe, and maybe eight if everyone crams in!  This shows a the old poster I had between the two curio cabinets (The one on the left is full of 40k armies, the one on the right is MOSTLY Warhammer Fantasy, though the bottom shelf is my little Blood Angels army.  The poster in the middle is an old Codex: Armageddon poster I got on eBay.  It features Ghazghkull Thraka and Commissar Yarrick in combat!

20140719_100127The two book cases at the bottom of the frame I’ve had since I was a kid.  One was my sister’s and one was mine.  My dad stripped and refinished them for me.  The posters here I got from a guy on eBay who I believe used to work in a Games Workshop store or retailer.  On the far left is a diagram of a Stompa (baneblade on the reverse) the diagrams of a Predator tank and Land Raider.  The one nearest is the great Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes and the ones above that came in White Dwarf Weekly during the 7th Edition launch.

20140719_100155The bookcases house all my Black Library fictions, audio dramas, old codexes, and magazines.  A BIT of room to spare.  That’s my Danish War Axe on the left.

20140726_211504I replaced the Codex: Armageddon poster (it moved to a wall left of this frame under a Dark Angels poster that features the cover of the 5th Edition Codex) with my Imperial Aquila flag.  The small poster under it is the famous Emperor confronting Horus.  I love the Burn In Designs painting and supplies station.  it’s been great for housing ALL modelling tools with my bigger stuff in the cart underneath.

20140719_100206Last but not least my gaming closet. These metal cubes are fantastic and are perfect for game storage as they easily fit MOST standard games and are sturdy enough to hold big box games on top.  My bits bin is right underneath Fortune and Glory and the Horus Heresy!

What kind of gaming space does everyone out there prefer to game in?

 

 

 

Building the New Gaming Table

After discovering the world of Warhammer 40k and later the proliferation of board games stemming from Wil Wheaton’s Table Top I have discovered a love for table top gaming as a hobby that greatly surpasses any other purely entertainment hobby I currently have.

Moving into a new place I shed the limitations of space and decided I wanted to have the proper environment to play all the games I love. To do so I needed a gaming table. And since I have yet to find enough money tree seeds or magic beans enough to buy one, I turned to making one as the next best thing with the added bonus of making it to my personal specs rather than finding one that’s “close enough.”

My own carpentry skills are minimal at best. My friend Mike and I once tried to make a smaller skateboard from a bigger one and created something that was somehow completely incapable to be placed in either the “skate” or “board” category. Mike said we wouldn’t even be able to make a 2×4. In his words we would end up with a “2×4-5-6.”

My dad however is quite skilled so I enlisted him to do a lot of the woodworking, with me there to support and guide design.

I originally wanted a large 4×6 table (standard games of 40k, big enough for full Arkham Horror) with pull-out player places and shelves underneath. The realities of moving a table that size quickly set in and I went with basic 4 legs, solid top, moulding on the edges. All in all it worked very well and after a coat of red chestnut stain, it has a nice antique furniture look to it:

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The top is sanded ply, light, strong, and surprisingly attractive.

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My dad’s design for the legs made them right angles that wedged into the corners of the table. This makes them very strong and prevents shaking or bowing as much as possible.

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The moulding on the top is actually crown or window moulding. It gives the table an attractive finished edge and provides a natural lip to prevent cards, board, or game pieces from sliding off and even a place to firmly hold a Realm of Battle should I ever buy one.

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The legs are bolted on with two decorative bolts each. This makes them removable so the table can fit through doors and down hallways.

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By forgoing shelving underneath it ended up being very spacious and it’s a comfortable 30” high.

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After all was said and done the cost was between 150-175 after stain and brushes. The largest single expense was the sanded ply, which was $49.99 the rest of the wood pieces being pretty inexpensive, especially seeing as how several of each were needed.

It was a great project and will hopefully be the home for many good gaming sessions to come!

Off the Top of My Head: Arkham Horror Advice from a Beginner

Off The Top of My Head

Arkham Horror Advice from a Beginner

I am by no means an Arkham Horror expert. With less than ten full games, none of them played to the letter of the rules, it’d be ridiculous for me to claim it. However, as a relative novice I feel I can offer some helpful advice to other novices and other newbies to the world of Arkham Horror. These simple concepts certainly helped my friends and I get over the steepest parts of the learning curve, though mastering the intricacies of the rules can only come from multiple play throughs.

Mighty Tower of Arkham Horror
Mighty Tower of Arkham Horror

1.)    Watch Tutorial Videos: Buying, storing, and playing Arkham Horror is a monetary, space, and time investment. Before investing it would be wise to watch many of the YouTube videos available to see what the game is about. It is best to start with short intro videos; many good-quality videos explain the premise and gameplay in 5-10 minutes. Then work your way up to rules and set-up descriptions before finally moving on to multi-hour play-through videos. It should be pointed out that I’ve never seen a video where they didn’t get at least one rule wrong. It goes to show even those most comfortable with the game can still mess up.

Mike found this short review.  It’s very brief but gets the basics across.

2.)    Organize the Game Components: For many of my games I use small ziplock bags to store the pieces. Arkham Horror has a stupendously long set up time and this can be drastically reduced by getting some kind of containers to hold the all the clues, money, elder signs, and other tokens needed for the game. I recommend stackable beading containers like these. They come in a big set of multiple sizes for about $5 and you can stack a pillar of them and only need one lid so you just unstuck them and all the pieces are set up. I’ve seen some use card holders, but I find these difficult to store so I still do take the time to shuffle and deploy the cards.

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3.)    Keep the Rules Handy When Playing: This might sound basic but you’ll be surprised how often it comes up… Fantasy Flight makes incredible games that can be very thick in rules with instruction books that can feel vague and difficult to navigate. You’ll only learn the rules while playing but you’ll have to consult them a lot, especially during your earliest games or when something uncommon occurs. Keep them close by. Mark the pages, because the citation for Blessings and Curses is on one page in the index but how they behave during upkeep isn’t in the same citation. Eventually you’ll get them memorized but it never hurts to have them close by if needed. As an aside the Miskatonic Horror expansion isn’t a true expansion as it’s more an add-on to the base game and all the other expansions. It DOES come with great little reference cards that explain how many monsters, gates, etc are allowed based on the number of players. They’re awesome.

Info Cards from Miskatonic Horror
Info Cards from Miskatonic Horror

4.)    Be Patient…: Maybe the hardest of all of these rules is to be patient. A game the size and scope of Arkham Horror has tons of rules for a reason. It’s incredibly in-depth and absorbing. It can really draw you in for hours and hours. But it also means it takes a lot of time to gain even a basic understanding of it all. In our first game Mike and I essentially quit in frustration. We didn’t understand it so we gave up for the day and came back to game another day. Every time we do a bit better, and every time gain a greater respect for it. Also even as you get better the game is punishingly difficult. It WILL beat you almost every time. If you are pathological about losing don’t even try it, but for me it makes the eventual victory mean that much more…you KNOW you earned that one…

5.)    The Most Important Rule! Every rulebook for Warhammer 40k I’ve ever read comes with this rule and it’s very valuable in EVERY game. I’ll quote them directly, “The most important rule then is that the rules aren’t all that important! So long as…players agree, you can treat them as sacrosanct or mere guidelines, the choice is entirely yours.” Of course 40k is a lot more open than Arkham Horror, but the spirit of this remains the same. The purpose of ANY game is to have fun. Especially while learning don’t let the rules get in the way of the fun!

Arkham Horror is definitely my favorite board game and it’s one I’d like to play more of with more players. It’s not for the timid and inexperienced gamers might be intimidated by its scale and scope, but if you stick with it you’ll have the most absorbing, difficult, and satisfying board game experience you’re likely to have. And in the famous words of Wil Wheaton: Play More Games!

Want more Arkham Horror? Check our the Story of the Month!

The game’s page on Fantasy Flight.

Feel like diving in?  Here are the rules.

Story of the Month: Arkham Horror and the Story of Our Learning Curve

StoryoftheMonth

Arkham Horror: The Story of Our Learning Curve

Table top gaming is a near every day thing for some of us.  So to continue the excitement brought about by International TableTop Day this month, the story of the month for April is actually several micro stories of how my friend Mike and I have navigated the learning curve of the infamous and glorious board game masterpiece: Arkham Horror.

Arkham Horror is one of those games that popped up frequently enough in my various “you might also like” lists and got such stellar reviews I had to try it. It comes with two main warnings: It is very rules heavy and punishingly difficult.

Those warnings are to be heeded.

Below is a basic timeline of the Arkham Horror learning curve my friend Mike and I experienced while learning the game. It’s steep, and full of lots of stupid; but just when you think you’ve figured the game out, it throws you a curve:

Play Through #1: We totally messed this up. We read the rules wrong and counted every player turn as a game turn. Meaning we performed BAD actions after every individual turn instead of at the end of all player turns like we were supposed to. The game is hard enough and we somehow made it harder…actually we made it impossible. We gave up in frustration.

Play Through #2: We decided to play again when killing a day. We battled Nyarlathotep this time. Among the stuff we messed up: we kept forgetting the lingering effects of the ancient one “stirring in his slumber,” did all the player turns out of order (fought monsters whenever, went through gates and had encounters whenever, didn’t really know what it meant to be delayed…), and TOTALLY screwed up the boss battle once the big bad awoke. We took a doom token off for ever successful roll…instead of taking one off for every six successes.

Play Through #3: We always randomize the options so we ended up fighting Nyarlathotep again a few months later. We got a lot of the rules right this time, we watched a few videos, learned a few new things. Did MUCH better on player turn order, fought monsters better, understood the “outskirts” and “surge” rules better, and even got owned by the big bad when he awoke this time… BUT…we still messed up combat rules. And a couple important monster rules we continued to mess up for the next few play throughs…

Play Through #4: The same night we fought Nyarlathotep the second time we played Elder Signs against Hastur and got burninated, owninated, and decimated(ed). When we played Arkham Horror the fourth time we drew random again and Hastur was our ancient one. We got almost everything right here. Player turns, actions, play order, surges, and sealed that mo-fo with six elder signs. BUT…there was still one VERY important rule we messed up…we didn’t even realize it…

Play Through #5: This was an afternoon game day. We battled Cthulhu whose “stirring in his slumber” effect is brutal. It was our best game yet though. We didn’t seal the bastard but by closing all open gates we still won and defeated Cthulhu sending him back to R’lyeh forever…BUUUUT! It was after this game Mike discovered we were playing monsters ALL wrong. For the last three games we forgot to spawn monsters EVERY time gates opened. A major and foolish oversight and one that plagued our next play through too. Furthermore, we always played six characters…which means anytime you draw a monster you draw TWO monsters…which we weren’t doing. We only drew one. Making the game that much easier. We desperately needed to see how this critical error would affect us when corrected. Which we did on…

 

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Our Cthulhu playthrough in progress.
Our “victory” over the most famous of Great Old Ones.

Play Through #6: We included Mike’s fiancée Bekah in the game. We all played two characters each and had the rules down, save for that important monster+gate one, and battled Shub Niggurath. We fought maybe one or two monsters out of sequence and had five elder signs on the board sealing gates. THEN…monster surge, with two gates open. Brought TWELVE monsters out. Filling the outskirts several times and raising the terror track. That happened at least four times, again, with only two gates open there was a monster mash party around the two gates (which were in adjacent areas). The terror track reached ten, Shubby-kuns awoke, immediately devoured both of Mike’s characters and one of mine (no monster trophies…) and my remaining and Beckah’s two characters did battle. We took her down to half damage before I couldn’t sneak anymore and was devoured. Without me there to cure her sanity Beckah was offed in short order and we lost. We did so much right this game EXCEPT… We still hadn’t remembered to spawn two monsters every gate opening and, Mike, during the final battle (he was managing the Ancient One since his characters were, ya know, dead) said, “Oh…I’ll..uh tell you later..” “Later” was the next day when he texted me and told me Shubby-wubby was Physically Immune. Meaning only my one holy water usage and Beckah’s spell (which I was healing sanity so she could use) and her magic knife would’ve caused damage. So we just lost WORSE than we actually did.

What’s the lesson here? Arkham Horror might be my favorite board game. It’s huge, involving, in-depth, and once the rules are understood fit perfectly. The point is, if there is one, that despite all the screw ups, Mike and I kept playing. Looked for others to play with. Kept playing. And we never cheated on purpose.  Anyone playing a big game like this WILL mess up the rules. But keep playing. Mess up the rules more. Make house rules if you have to. Gaming is about having fun. Being inclusive. Bringing new gamers in and helping them learn (and maybe learning something you missed!) Gaming is about fun. Win or lose, co-op or competitive. Have fun out there. It’s why we play!

For fun and to show how big this game can get... This is Arkham Horror with the three expansion boards in place.  It's as long as my couch.
For fun and to show how big this game can get… This is Arkham Horror with the three expansion boards in place. It’s as long as my couch.

The game’s page on Fantasy Flight.

Feel like diving in?  Here are the rules.

5 Reasons to Play Board Games

“The way a man plays a game shows some of his character. The way he loses shows all of it.” — Unknown

Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In honor of the second annual International Tabletop Game Day and all the fun we had, here are the top reasons to play board games:

1. Have fun. This is most important. It’s not about winning or ego, and there shouldn’t be any drama. We have a rule in our house: If you start to get upset or cop an attitude, we quit. It keeps things (and people) from getting emotional and ruining a good game.
Examples: Any board game as long as everyone stays cool

2. Get together. Guess what? It’s REALLY hard to play a board game and stay attached to your phone. Board games get everyone off their devices and allow people to spend time together. Many board games involve teams or strategies, so you have to work together to accomplish a goal or win. This may create a bond between people who normally would not connect.
Examples: Pandemic, Ticket to Ride, Castle Panic

3. Be mean. This is probably my favorite reason. I LOVE to screw people over in board games. It’s nothing personal, and I expect the same thing in return. Most times, you like the people playing with you, and you wouldn’t try to really hurt them, but sometimes they deserve a game back stab. And most times, they know they do. Harmful vindictiveness can be very therapeutic, too.
Examples: Zombies!, Small World, Sorry!

4. Meet new people. I’ve met at least one person every game day we’ve attended. I may or may not have something in common with them, but it doesn’t matter because we’re just playing the game. You also learn a lot about people while tabletop gaming. You learn their interests, strategies, and weaknesses. People tend to open up a little, which helps you learn about them without the awkwardness.

5. Make memories. We spend so much time documenting every miniscule moment to social media sites, but will your best friend remember what you had for dinner last week? Probably not. Will they remember you sending 20 zombies after them in a game? Oh yeah. Making memories and having a story to tell is what life should be about – not the daily grind.

As far as game titles, play anything you want. Don’t be afraid to get creative and try something new! The TableTop series produces great videos showing the game play, and you can buy most of the games online.

Feel free to share your favorite games in the comments below!