The Importance of Tabletop

Today, I am going to write a rousing article today about the importance of tabletop gaming. I could simply tell you that nothing beats a night of gaming with your friends and family. That’s more than enough of an argument. No elaboration needed. But what kind of fun would that be? Let me take you on a trip down memory lane…

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When I was young, I was admittedly a video game junkie. I spent my days holed up in my room with my controller in hand and snacks nearby. Loud digital noises assailed my ears, bright pixels assaulted my eyes. And life was good. It was a solitary one though.

Jump ahead to high school, where I picked up Magic the Gathering. I found that there was a certain magic (forgive the pun) that came from spending my time in the school foyer playing with other social outcasts. (Magic was very much a niche thing back then.) It  was the gateway to a lifetime of tabletop experiences.

In college a certain little anime known as Dragonball Z was a big deal. This was the Toonami era. Students of all kinds stuffed themselves into lounges to watch the next exciting installment, and we usually hung around to talk about it afterwards. So, you can imagine my excitement when I visited a local game store down the street from campus, and found that they had a Dragonball Z role-playing game! I had never run an RPG before, but I figured that it would be time to learn. We got a group together and had a blast. And that was it. Tabletop gaming was now a passion rather than a hobby.

I still take time to play, as often as I can. Every week, my friends and I get together, head out to fill our bellies with local Kent cuisine, (Have you ever had a slice of Ramella’s pizza?) and we settle in for a night of gaming. We typically cycle through Dungeons and Dragons one week, and Scion the next, with a smattering of board games for good measure. It’s the thing I look forward to the most every week.

Why? Because there’s something just flat out magical about tabletop gaming, something you just can’t get from a video game or anything else. A group of people playing a board game aren’t just playing, they’re in a battle of wits. Resources are bought and sold, territories are conquered, and deals are made. It brings out our ruthless sides, as well as our benevolent sides. We eliminate our rivals, or we work together to defeat a malicious threat.

Togetherness is the point.  It’s all about being there, in the moment with your hearty band of adventurers. It’s about looking around the table and wondering which of your friends is going to go turncoat and knock you out of the game. It’s about an experience you just can’t get with a headset and an Xbox live account.

As long as there are people who want to play together, to have fun together, and maybe throw down some dice (together!), there will always be a place in the world for tabletop games.

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Vera looks at CCGs!

Vera’s list of CCG/TCGs: Which one is the best choice?

As we all know, there are a TON of card games out there. From Magic the Gathering to newer Japanese-born cards games. But how do they stack up? Which one is right for the budding gamer? We’re going to take a look at the games, and rank them based on four criteria:

Accessibility: How easy is it to find?

Ease of learning: Can you pick it up with ease, or is work involved in learning it?

Price of entry: How expensive is the game to play, both casually and competitively?

Tournament Support: IS there organized play? How easy is it to sign up?

 

Please keep in mind this is all purely perspective and opinion, so if your favorite game isn’t presented in a way you agree with,  well…tough.

Alright, without further ado, HERE WE GO!

 

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1.)    Magic the Gathering

Availability: You can’t walk five feet without tripping over a Magic card. The game is everywhere that could POSSIBLY sell it, including supermarket shelves.

Ease of Learning: Magic is a game that is easy to learn, and tough to master. Higher level play will be a very daunting task for aspiring players

Price of Entry: I’m not gonna lie, Magic is pretty pricey. Even the “casual” formats such as Commander will set your wallet on fire. Standard decks will prove to be very expensive to invest in, only to find those cards unplayable even weeks later. Such is the life of the competitive Magic player.

Tournament Support: Hands down, best out of all the games. Wizards does right by its players, and provides ample kinds of tournament play, from casual to advanced.

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 2.)    Yu-Gi-Oh!

Availability: While Yu-Gi-Oh! Isn’t as prominent as Magic, it’s still not hard to find. Most retailers and FLGS carry it, making it an easy game to find.

Ease of Learning: Now here’s where things get iffy. Yu-Gi-Oh’s core mechanics, playing monsters, traps, and spell cards, is very simple. But these days, card effects read like dictionary entries, and there are a lot of complex tricks and interactions. You can learn the core mechanics pretty quickly, but anything more advanced will be a slog.

Price of Entry: It’s not tough to pick up a few boosters, or a structure deck. If I said that Magic competitive play is horribly expensive, then I should say that Yu-Gi-Oh competitive play is ABSURDLY expensive! You can expect the best cards to go all the way up to over $100 in value for no really sensible reason, though if you’re super patient, Konami may inevitably reprint some of them.

Tournament Support: In my opinion, Konami needs to work on this a bit. There isn’t a lot of communication on their part, which makes store support tough. Tournaments can be confusing, as well as sign ups.

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3.)    Kaijudo

 

Availability: Kaijudo is still fairly new as far as card games go, and as such can be a bit harder to track down. At first it was fairly easy to find them at big box retailers, but then lack of sales likely pushed them back into FLGS where they belong. (Where ALL CCGs belong really!)  And not every store even supports it, so it can be tougher to find. But not TOO hard.

 

Ease of Learning: Kaijudo shares a lot of the same ideas as Magic the Gathering, but on a much simpler level. So it’s very safe to say you won’t have a hard time learning its mechanics.

 

Price of Entry: As I’ve echoed a couple of times before, if your goal is competitive play, you’ll be shelling out some money. But this is true of just about any game. 

 

Tournament Support: Just as good as Magic’s, but this is another Wizards of the Coast game! If more people played it, you’d really see it shine.

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4.)    The Spoils

Availability: Yeah, good luck with this one. I hadn’t even seen cards for the game until I went to GenCon, and it’s not even a game you’ll find on most local store’s shelves. It’s pretty obscure. We carry it, because we love it!

 

Ease of Learning: It’s not a tough game to learn how to play, but some of its intricacies might take a minute to get used to, particularly in combat. But once you figure it out, it’s smooth sailing.

 

Price of Entry: To be honest? Pretty low.  The Spoils is designed with sealed play in mind, so cards typically come with less garbage cards than other sets. I’ve even seen a lot of competitive decks running little more than some choice commons and uncommons. Some rares can go into the $10 range or so, but this certainly cheaper than $20+ cards in Magic’s standard scene, or Yugioh’s competitive scene. It’s pretty easy to build a good deck out of nonrare cards.

 

Tournament Support: Arcane Tinmen, the company behind the Spoils, really loves their game. They offer up all kinds of promos, tokens, and other cool swag to its players. It’s definitely worth playing in organized events if you can find one that has people participating!

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5.)    Pokemon

Availability: Pokemon is everywhere. Just like Magic. And that’s not a surprise, as Pokemon is a hit with kids and adults alike, and packs are often purchased as much for the cards themselves as for the game

 

Ease of Learning: Pokemon is not a tough game. Its mechanics are simple, and easy to understand. You won’t have any trouble here.

 

Price of Entry: Are you a fan of EX Pokemon? Well then prepare to shell out some bucks. Mewtwo EX in his prime was around $60. That’s pretty hefty. EX Pokemon that are widely used can be upwards of $30 a piece. But if you want to build a deck that doesn’t use them? Well then it’s actually a very affordable game to build decks around.

 

Tournament Support: Nebulous at best. Any official function requires a Pokemon Professor to run, and they can be a bit nomadic at times. If your store isn’t affiliated with a couple, it can be hard to get anything going. The Pokemon League does give out promos though…

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6.)    My Little Pony

Availability: It can be a bit tricky, actually. Sometimes you can find a flood of boosters and starters everywhere, sometimes it’s a ghost town. But in general, Enterplay like to make sure they can seed the market with as much as possible.

 

Ease of Learning: Honestly? This is probably the most complex game on this list. It’s a fun and innovative system for sure, but the mechanics can be very hard to explain to new players, and the rulebooks can be pretty vague. But once you get it down, it’s a blast, and you’ll definitely get a different feel from it than any other CCG

 

Price of Entry: MLP’s foil Ultra Rares are stupid expensive at times, and they are typically of fan-favorite characters, which helps drive up those prices. Also, if you want to build a deck, you NEED a Mane Character card, which can only be found in decks currently. (This changes when the first expansion, Canterlot Nights, comes out!)

 

Tournament Support: Oh man, I know my mother said if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all, but it’s important to remember that Enterplay is NOT a game company. And it shows. Only the biggest venues get any real support, and they’re very poor communicators. If your store runs it, it likely is providing its own prizes, as there isn’t much from Enterplay, which is tragic. My Little Pony has a devoted fanbase, and more MLP swag would be very appreciated.

 

So there you have it. If you want my opinion, which you must if you’re reading this, I’d say that the Spoils is the best bang for your buck. But Magic does have the biggest tournament scene out there. All of these games are great  though, and worth taking a look at!

A Little Post About Magic the Gathering

Hey, now, I’m going to talk about Magic the Gathering! You should know that game, right? Biggest CCG ever, makes tons of dough. You’d have to live in a cave not to know the game. Well I’m going to talk about it for a minute. Even if you’re not a Magic fan, stick around, because you and I, we’ve come a long way together, and you’ve read my posts so far, so read this one too. It might be entertaining?

Anyway, a little personal history: I’ve been playing Magic since Alpha was released. Yep. I’ve owned and sold and owned copies of all of the super holy grail cards back when they weren’t as holy. (But certainly still broken!) So you could say we’ve got a history. I remember the day before Planeswalker cards, before Eldrazi, before AFFINITY. (Boo…hisss)

In the day, you’d be amazed at what constituted a good deck. Brassclaw Orcs? Hell yeah. Ironclaw Orcs? Yes. These guys would be your go-tos in any red deck out there. Now? They’re not awesome. They don’t see love. Because much better cards have come along.

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We’ll always remember you, whatever your name was.

I won my first Magic tournament around the time of Urza’s Saga. four Gilded Drakes, a bunch of counters and bounce spells. Win. And I rolled people with that deck, made some money, and had a blast. And that was the key, having a blast. I continued winning locally, rolling every game store I played in. It might have been luck, it might have been skill, but I know that I was far too socially awkward and shy to be a jerk to anyone. I didn’t think I was awesome, I just wanted to play and have fun.

And then I went to my first BIG tournament. Hundreds of people (yes, you say thousands NOW, but Magic wasn’t as mainstream then.) And I was faced with an image pretty similar to this:

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You can hear the crickets chirping

Yes, it was a big hall full of people, but none of them seemed to be having any FUN. It was serious. Diehard serious. And while I did really freaking well, I walked away from it with a sense that I never wanted to do it again. Yeah, I won some stuff, enough to warrant my trip, but still. I was all smiles and sunshine, and most people just glowered at me from across the table. No, I’m not a chatty Magic player, and I respect that its a tournament, but it was still so intense.

Can I do intense? Oh yeah, watch me play a good fighting game online. I will swear up a storm and go white-knuckle. I get that. But with Magic, it was always about fun with me. So I slid out of the tournament scene like a ninja, and never looked back. I stuck to playing a few games here and there locally, and I kept up with the game for years, but as the game became more mainstream, more people came to it, treating it like a sport, which turned me away from playing them. (I mean, ESPN even covered Magic tournaments.)

Come a few years down the line, I’ve come and gone from Magic so many times, and amassed a collection that would make people green with envy. I’ll never talk about what lies in the darkest reaches of my collection, because well, it’s kind of like a time capsule of awesome in a way. I’ve really gotten into sets like Lorwyn and Kamigawa, because they offer up a different world, and cards based on European and Japanese Mythology. And that’s awesome. Theros is the current block, and it’s a Greek/Roman Mythology inspired block, with Hydras, Cyclopses, Gorgons, and all the big awesome tropes from those Myths. And I love the set.

I approach each set with a sense of wonder and excitement. I pick up cards that other people shun. I made a self-mill green blue deck in Innistrad that I played casually, and I never lost a match with it. It was awesome. Because after all this time, I can still build decks that surprise folks. And that makes me happy as a clam.

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Oh hi there! We didn’t see you come in. No, we’re not doing anything, don’t mind us…

And now we have so many new formats we didn’t have then. Planechase, Archenemy, Commander, Modern, etc. There are tons of ways to play the game. And sometimes, it still feels restrictive. Nobody typically wants to play Archenemy or Planechase, despite them being lots of fun. Modern is so based on money cards that it’s super restrictive. Legacy is too, but for some of us who’ve played for years, not so much. Commander is tons of fun, but people will always tell you there’s a giant pile of staple cards you HAVE to use. because they win games.

Well, don’t listen to them. The point of Magic, and any other game, is to find your own fun. If you’re a casual player, there are tons of fun cards out there to build with. If you build a fun deck, and go to FNM and get your head kicked in each week by hardcore players, you’ve got three choices: Play more meta decks, quit going or be creative and use it as a testing ground for amazing homebrew decks. If competitive play isn’t your thing, play casually with friends. March to the beat of your own drum. Do what makes YOU happy. If that means competing to win, then do it. If that means screwing around and having a ball, do it. There’s no right or wrong way to play Magic, and never let anyone tell you otherwise. This is true of all games, of course, because they all have both sides of the player spectrum. Have you ever played Candy Land against a person determined to win? That’s the stuff of nightmares.
If it was recently, and not with children, I’m a little worried about ya though.

But hey, whatever floats your boat.

 

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The humorist in me loves this, the Magic player in me looks at the card type line and cringes.

 

Stay frosty till next time everyone.

 

Variety is the spice of life!

There are a lot of people out there who really love their games. Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh, D&D, Warhammer, Settlers of Catan. all of these are beloved staples of gaming that collectively have sucked more hours out of people’s day than pretty much ANYTHING else. And that’s fine and dandy. They’re good games for a reason. But SOMETIMES, people can get a bit of tunnel vision with their favorite games, excluding pretty much anything else for what’s safe and reliable.

And as a gamer myself, that drives me nuts, simply put. I used to be a Magic player, in fact I’m certain it was the first major non-video game I really got into. But for my competitive leanings at the time, I was still a casual. But then Pokemon came out, and I played it for awhile. And I still love it to this day. I played D&D, and moved on to love dozens of other RPGs over time. I love the games that got me into gaming, but while I love them, they were probably even more useful to me as springboards to other games.

So in the spirit of variety, I’m going to offer up some cool alternatives to games you may already play. Because if you ever get that itch to try something new, there’s a LOT out there to play!

 

Alternatives to Magic: The Gathering

1.) The Spoils

We’ll start with a game I hype up quite a bit. The Spoils is basically my go-to CCG these days. Take a lot of the best aspects of Magic, toss out the worst, and you’ve got the Spoils. It’s hard to get mana screwed, or have an awful opening hand derail your deck in this game, with generous rules for both resources and mulligans. And of course, the game doesn’t take itself seriously at all. It’s a little juvenile, but hilarious all the same. And of course, the game is FUN!

2.) My Little Pony Collectible Card Game

A new entry in the CCG universe, MLP is a unique beast. Many people who think it’s a simplistic game for kids are in for a surprise. It’s probably more complex than a few games I’ve played. The game eschews the violent confrontations of most games, opting to have players solve problems to win the game. Problems have their own deck, and solving them scores points that help you win the game. And of course, for the fans of the series, there are tons of references, in-jokes, and a lot more. I’ll do a review of the game later, but it’s a good one!

3.) Kaijudo

Kaijudo is basically Magic/Yugioh lite. Monsters fight, mana helps you play them, and all you have to do is break the opponent’s shields to win! Cool monsters and an easy to understand ruleset with a ton of unique abilities helps Kaijudo really shine.

 

Alternatives to Dungeons and Dragons

1.) ANY World of Darkness book

I’m not going to lie, I love WOD. Doesn’t matter which game in the line. I love everything. It’s the quintessential horror RPG, and while it’s not a fringe game or one that’s obscure, a lot of people haven’t really tried it. You like Vampires, Werewolves, Changelings, or a variety of other horror tropes? Here you go. And of course, while not WOD, Scion and Exalted are hands down two of the BEST RPGs ever printed, flaws and all.

2.) Don’t Rest Your Head

A game about not sleeping, madness, and everything in between, this game is awesome, easy to learn, and the book is no more than $15. I’d say more, but I think it’s going to get its own blog post soon! Aside from this, a lot of indie RPGs are worth taking a look at. They’re often cheaper than most books, and offer adventures that go far beyond the average dungeon crawl game.

3.) Dark Heresy/Rogue Trader/Black Crusade/etc.

Warhammer is a wonderful minis game, but it also makes for a brutal and horrifying RPG. Death, mutilation, madness, and all other sorts of terrible things can happen. I’ve found that combat typically winds up quick and brutal, and an oopsie on the part of a party’s Psyker can pretty much kill everyone. And yes, this is fun.

 

Alternatives to well, ANY POPULAR BOARD GAME

1.) Krosmaster Arena

Yep, I’ve mentioned Krosmaster before. It’s basically a miniatures game with a board. But it’s also fun, and requires no painting or assembly. Open the box, pull out the millions of tokens, grab your figures, and play in an arena-style battle game! If you want to know more, go back a bit and read my review. But it’s awesome!

2.) Boss Monster

Heralding back to the 8-bit gaming days of yore, Boss Monster has one simple premise: You have a dungeon, and pesky heroes want to get in there and kill the boss monster for the juicy loot and EXP that all heroes crave. In this card game, you basically play rooms full of deathtraps and try to kill off heroes before they get to your boss monster. It’s fast paced, easy to learn, and tons of fun!

3.) Telestrations

A favorite party game here at Gaming Grounds. Each player starts with a word, then draws it. Then the next person guesses what the drawing is, and hands it off to the next player, who draws that guess. Repeat until your booklet makes its way back to you. It’s basically a game of telephone, but with drawing! It’s fun to see how completely jacked up your word becomes, and depending on the group, can be so very not safe for kids, or a family hit!

 

Alternatives to Warhammer

1.) Warmachine/Hordes

It’s popular, sure, but it is an alternative, and a lot of fun. It’s small scale, suited more for skirmishes, and isn’t terribly expensive to get into. Well, not as much as Warhammer anyway. There are lots of choices for factions, and all are very interesting and unique. I love warbeasts/warjacks. It’s fun to be able to use big dudes to put wrestling moves on each other. Heck, one of the Gatormen Warbeasts IS a wrestler.

2.) Malifaux

I’ve gushed about Malifaux before. Play it. just look at ANY other post on this blog, and you’ll see.

3.) Relic Knights

Relic Knights isnt out yet, or is, I dont really know. I put into the Kickstarter two years ago, and havent seen anything yet. But what I have seen and demoed is a game with a very anime feel to it. I love the minis, and the gameplay is unique and interesting too. I hope everything makes it out soon so we can cover it more and sell it here.

 

 

Note: In offering alternatives to games, some people may suddenly scream “HEY! WHATS WRONG WITH MY GAME?” and the answer is nothing. Nothing is wrong. But there are other games out there to play, and sometimes they deserve their time in the light too. Calm down, don’t be THAT GUY. (Because I will totally do a blog post about you later. promise.)

Game companies and designers work very hard to get their games out there, and some of them are better than the popular games. And we here at GG love the lesser known stuff too!