Geek and Sundry


Geek and Sundry

D&D AARPG: When Nona and Pappi Joins Your Party

Feb 24 2017

If you’ve ever wanted a reminder of how much fun D&D is for all, D&D AARPG is a part of Mothership on Alpha and G&S Twitch (5:30 PT on Thursdays). With writer Amy Vorpahl takes the role of DM in the game for joined by three older players, Annie Coty, Bobby Reed, and Art, with Hector Navarro (Mothership host) and Josh Flaum (Mothership writer) rounding out the party.

Pour yourself and old fashioned, check out the first episode, and watch weekly as this hootenanny as it unfolds.

Image Credit: Geek & Sundry

5 Mass Effect Aliens that You Do Not Want to Have Sex With

Feb 23 2017

Mass Effect: Andromeda is a month away and Bioware has been teasing fans with new bits about the story, gameplay, teammates, and new races of aliens. If you’re anything like me then this is driving you nuts because you just want to be playing the gosh-darn game already. You just have to remind yourself that March 21st isn’t that far way.

With all this teasing that Bioware is doing, they released a new race: the Angara. Naturally that means one should be a companion and that Angara is Jaal:


He looks like Unkar Plutt to me but to each their own.

People have gone nuts over this new alien and are already talking about wanting him to be super “bangable.” Anyone familiar with Bioware games knows that they can basically be in-depth dating simulators and that they’ve made some pretty sexy aliens in the past. Oh, Mordin. Why could I not experiment with thee?



But with all the sexy aliens, there are certainly some that give us the opposite reaction to wanting to bone. Here are 5 aliens in Mass Effect series that you seriously DO NOT want to get it on with. (Or maybe you do. We’re not here to judge.)

Vorcha (Mass Effect)


Vorcha are scummy, terrifying mercenaries, and usually enemy fodder in Mass Effect. They look like their flesh may be rotting, they often have beady red eyes, holes in their head, and sharp teeth that resemble the vampires from The Strain. These aliens are far from attractive and they usually don’t have smooth and sexy voices, so forget the possibility of any sexy talk or wooing because their personality is just that great. I’ll let you in on a secret, it’s not. They’re a bunch of jerks every time. The biggest benefit to being friends with these guys is using their mercenary groups to fight back in the final battle in Mass Effect 3.

Xeltan (Mass Effect)


In Mass Effect, you come across a species known as the Elcor, elephant-like creatures who speak in a monotone while describing the emotions they are expressing. It’s a long running joke in the franchise that they put on an entire production of Hamlet and the very thought of how painful that would be gives me one hell of a headache. But that doesn’t make them the worst thing and the descriptors they use makes them at least semi-endearing.

It’s really just one, annoying Elcor ambassador, Xeltan. When you first meet this guy, he doesn’t want to talk to you, at all because he went to see an Escort (called the consort in game). He is distraught, whiny, and thinks that she’s going to blackmail him (spoiler alert, she’s not). Not only did he go to see the most famous Escort on the Citadel, but he also complained about what it might do to his reputation. What did you think would happen when everyone is aware of who she and who her regulars are? Just what? Politicians, am I right?

Preaching Hanar (Mass Effect)


Hanar are a race of giant, Jellyfish-like creatures that have developed a religion devoted to an ancient alien race, the Protheans. Their sole purpose is to live a religious and pious life devoted to “The Enkindlers.” Once again, they are not the worst, but this Preaching Hanar was annoying. All he wants to do is yell at people in the Citadel about his religious beliefs (and if you’ve ever been to a convention then you know how well that does NOT work). Nothing is less sexy than a being who can’t do things for themselves. Also, this quest is tedious and boring.

Yahg (Mass Effect 2)


The Shadow Broker always sounded so mysterious and potentially a bit sexy. He knows everything there is in the galaxy, has agents everywhere to act as his eyes and ears, and he only trades in secrets. A man with that kind of power has to be ready to get down, right? Well, he might want to but you sure won’t. The Yahg is an older alien race that you don’t encounter much in the Mass Effect franchise but they ain’t pretty. They look like a J.J. Abrams dream of an alien infused with the devil from Legend. While that devil may be Tim Curry, remember that I said infused with a J.J. Abram style alien and those look like this:


The second you come across a Yahg, do not pass Go, do not collect 200 dollars; in fact, just remove yourself from that playing field entirely and Run. The. Hell. Away.

Volus (Mass Effect)


The Volus aren’t the most attractive race, as far as the eye can tell, as they are always in protective suits so they don’t get sick and literally die much like the Quarians (difference being that Quarians are super sexy). But what really makes them terrible is that a) a majority of them hate humans for incredibly petty reasons and b) they are greedy little buggers. They’re basically the antagonistic dwarves of the Milky Way.

Every single one you come across wants money from you or for you to help them get their money back. They’re also often racist. You come across one Volus who insists that a Quarian stole from him just because she’s a Quarian on her Pilgrimage (a trip to find new technology and bring it back to their homes). Then there’s Jahleed in Mass Effect 1 who insists that his partner, Chorban, is trying to murder him because the little prick actually stole from Chorban! They’re just super shady, greedy, and they’re unattractive.

Any Mass Effect aliens that grossed you out so bad that you thought about going back to humans for at least a second? Or who are your favorite aliens to romance? Let us know in the comments! 

Featured Image Credit: Bioware/EA.

Blog Image Credits: Bioware/EA, Paramount Pictures.

ForeverVerse – Out of the Light (Werewolf Episode 1)

Feb 23 2017

Coming out of Pugmire, we find our troop of adventurers enveloped by a white light and transported into a new world.

FOREVERVERSE Wednesday 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. Ivan Van Norman guides players through various RPGs. Every few weeks, the characters are sucked through a portal, drifting into a new universe (switching the game to a new RPG). Will our characters ever make it home?

Hollow Dice Were Made For Your Next Cyperpunk Adventure

Feb 23 2017

Two years ago, Cubble Dice successfully funded its signature set of perfectly balanced RPG D6 metal dice. Now, Cubble Dice is back with an even more intriguing project: Hollow Dice, the world’s first empty metal dice!

Cubble Dice has launched a Kickstarter campaign for its Hollow Dice, which has already far surpassed the initial fundraising goal. The Hollow Dice are very much an evolution of both standard dice and the previously created Cubble Dice. As explained on the campaign page, the Hollow Dice are made from anodized aluminum and they are truly hollow. Each dice weighs only 1.5 grams and they are perhaps the most modern concept dice to hit tabletop in years. Even the intricate designs are aesthetically pleasing to the eye while evoking a techno vibe. We can’t help but think think of Cyberpunk when we look at these dice, but they could easily be used for any number tabletop games.

Admittedly, the design takes some getting used to. But this image should illustrate how the new markings appear on the device. And somehow, we’re already feeling more cyborg!

Hollow Dice 2

For about $46, backers can get an early bird special of two Hollow Dice. Higher tier levels include as many as four, eight, and even ten Hollow Dice, some of which include Aluminum Cubble Dice or even a prime box to store the dice in. Because the project is being produced in Europe, the prices are listed in Euros instead of dollars. The projected shipping date for the Hollow Dice falls within August of this year.

The Hollow Dice Kickstarter will run until Wednesday, March 15. For more information or to make a pledge, you can visit the official campaign page here.

What do you think about the new Hollow Dice? Roll for initiative and share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Image Credit: Cubble Dice

Game Master Tips With Matt Mercer – Creating Homebrew Content

Feb 23 2017

Homebrew content allows you to bring your own ideas to life on the table. Matt Mercer returns to the table to let you know how to take on the task. Creating content for your adventure isn’t just the role of the GM, but players can take on the task of creating new spells, items, or even creatures to take on. Before you start throwing that singing sword or shaping your own dragon school into your campaign, check out some of Matt’s tips of how to do it right.


Check out more GM Tips here on Geek and Sundry. Stay tuned for more tips every Thursday.

New RPG Players: Everything You Need To Know About Character Building

Feb 23 2017

Getting into RPGs can be overwhelming. Here are some articles that will keep neophytes to RPGing from feeling like they’ve been dumped into the deep end. Creating playable characters is extremely important for new gamers as a character is the portal by which they experience the world in which they’ve stepped in.

  • RPG Character Tips For Beginners: The most basic advice for the most green RPG player is as simple as playing a slightly more fantastic version of yourself. While it may feel somewhat vanilla, for a first-time player still grasping the basic mechanics of the game and having to wrestle with proficiencies, modifiers and spellslots, keeping it simple means getting to the roleplaying elements with a character you know quite well.
  • How To Build An Amazing Character For Your Tabletop RPGs: Once you’ve got a firmer grasp on the mechanics of a game, building a character from a nuts-and-bolts in terms of rulebook stats and choices is the next level up. Not only will you learn how to read stats and understand what they mean, but you’ll also get a firmer grasp on the lore of the world you’re playing in and how your character fits into it.

Tell us about the most memorable roleplaying character you played in the comments below!

Featured Image Credit: Kent Davis @iDrawBagman

Critical Role Fan Art Gallery – New Inspiration For A New Adventure

Feb 23 2017

Every picture in this gallery is hand-picked by the Critical Role cast. How does one get their prints in front of Matt Mercer and the rest of the cast? You can throw it on Twitter and direct your drawings at #criticalrole. Sometimes it helps to include Twitter handle of your favorite cast member. You can also send your picture to Make sure you include your name or Twitter handle with the art. You can also head down to our forum page to post it as well for others to see and admire your talents.

Go forth and start fighting against that negative space. Keep your brushes and pencil at your side at all times. Maybe one day soon, you will see your own masterpiece on the wall.

Feature Image Credit: Kent Davis  @iDrawBagman

Heroes and Tricks Puts a Modern Twist On Classic Trick-Taking Games

Feb 23 2017

Trick-taking games are as old as dirt. Attempts at innovation in this genre are as old as, well, plastic or poly synthetics or something you know, old but not quite that old. Recent endeavors such as Diamonds and Joraku seek evolution by taking the output of a particular hand as input for an external process. Stuff like triggering special effects, gaining capital, and influencing a board state. Heroes and Tricks says “nuh-uh”, and does things its own way.

This is the most recent release from designers Eduardo Baraf (Lift Off!, Herbaceous) and Jonathan Gilmour (Dead of Winter, Vault Wars). It takes that idea of placing creative spin on the trick-taker by modifying the process in which you play cards. This is radically different as it provides a strong sense of identity and does a great job at separating the design from the pack. How do we get there? By combining hearts with the age-old playground activity telephone.

It sounds novel because it is. Setting up a trick where only the lead player possesses information pertaining to what suit and color needs to be played is a huge twist. The injection of mystery helps build up a sense of drama that’s atypical for this genre.

Players downstream have to use a dose of deduction along with a large helping of gut instinct in order to determine what to play. Near the end of the line the last participant is likely frowning and wrinkling their brow. There’s a good chance they’re expressing their sailor vocabulary at those earlier in turn order. The decision point here comes down to one of hand management–do you simply toss in a high card hoping to get lucky and win the trick? Maybe you bail on it altogether and just ditch a low card to keep your future options open.

The deduction element also has an effective curve of its own. Early in the game players will possess more cards in their hand and be able to better match the color/suit of the hero. Late game you have to make due with what you have and the experience becomes a little more loose and chaotic. At this point upsets are more likely to occur and the outcome of a particular hand is more up in the air.


This process and the intertwined emotions are the real fulcrum of this design. Much of your enjoyment will hinge on whether you can find a certain level of entertainment in those silly and sometimes random moments. In a six player game at times it can feel as though you have no shot at winning the hand and are merely tossing some dice at a craps table where the odds have been shifted in the dealer’s favor.

Those in the middle of the pack will be able to exercise a degree of strategy. You still will feel like you don’t have a great deal of control, but information is more meaningful at this stage. You can also take some delight in being an evil SOB and trying to throw those downstream off the scent by playing a card completely off the trail. There’s a certain amount of joy that arises from watching your friends squirm and flail about at your behest.

Much of this game is dealing and wrestling with that control. The best tool to get out in front of the maelstrom is also one of the most interesting elements of Heroes and Tricks. Gear cards are special one shot abilities you can play to tighten your fleeting grip on that swirling chaos at the heart of the design.


These gear cards are the strongest element of Heroes and Tricks because they inject a sense of drama and legitimate power. They bolster the fantasy aspect of the game and open up the play-space. They also make you feel extremely clever when you’re able to shift the color of your card to align with this round’s hero and sneak out a victory, all the while throwing others off the scent.

A primary quality of Heroes and Tricks is its beautiful sense of candor. This is an affordable 15 minute game that hides nothing. A hand or two in and the impression is already made. There’s definitely some Harvey Dent action going on here. Some will hate it and feel the overwhelming randomness is a waste of time. Others will dig into the silliness and tease out some of those strategic crumbs. To enjoy this game you really need to commit to the social aspect and bluffing, while not taking the experience too seriously.

Are you a fan of trick-taking card games? Have you played Heroes and Tricks? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credits: Pencil First Games

In addition to Geek & Sundry, Charlie Theel writes for Miniature Market’s The Review Corner and co-hosts the gaming podcast Ding & Dent. You can find him on twitter @CharlieTheel

Cards To Save Humanity: Cards Against Humanity and Mass Effect Team Up

Feb 23 2017

In a jaw-dropping team-up that probably no one saw coming, Cards Against Humanity and BioWare recently announced a Mass Effect expansion pack for the irreverent party game. Priced at just $1 with free shipping offered within the United States, if you’re a Mass Effect fan, you’re practically obligated to pick this pack up.

Now available for pre-order, the 14 card pack will ship in time for the release of Mass Effect: Andromeda on March 21. In the pack you’ll find a couple of cards about the Mass Effect games in general, and a lot of cards about making out with space friends.

Mass Effect (Cara McGee)

“Rest assured, there’s more than just jokes about kissing aliens in this pack,” said BioWare’s lead community manager, Conal Pierse. “There are also cards about getting to second, even third base.”

Cards Against Humanity previously worked with Netflix on a House of Cards expansion back, but this is their first collaboration on a video game. The team partnered with BioWare writers Karin Weekes, Ben Gelinas and Sam Maggs to create the perfect pack.

“We agreed to do this because Mass Effect is the only good AAA video game,” said Trin Garritano, the events director of Cards Against Humanity. “We usually don’t co-write expansion packs about video games, but we thought that if we made this pack of cards, they’d let us play Andromeda early. Unfortunately, that did not happen.”

Once the Mass Effect pack is sold out, it won’t be available again, so be sure to get yours before it’s too late.

You picked Garrus, right? Tell us about your Mass Effect relationships in the comments.

All Images: Cards Against Humanity (Illustration by Cara McGee)

Check Out These Everyday Fashion Designs With Fandom Flair

Feb 22 2017

It’s easier than ever to find entertainment themed clothing these days, with popular retailers carrying merchandise from the more sought-after fandoms like Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy, LEGO, and Harry Potter. That ease does come with a price, though, and that’s the same price that comes with shopping retail in general. Mass production.

For the fan more interested in standing out than blending in, artists have taken to the internet to sell their own items with far more individuality and creativity than what you’d find at the mall. For Catherine Elhoffer of Elhoffer Design, the leap into her online shop stemmed from a simple request from a friend.

“A friend approached me about making a dress that she could wear to the Force Awakens opening night, and I agreed,” Elhoffer told Geek & Sundry. “I posted a picture of her Captain Phasma dress and cape, and it kind of exploded my social. I had fifteen orders by the end of the week for that dress for women across the country.”

Elhoffer Hamilton

These designs concentrate on offering quality, fandom-inspired pieces to geeky ladies of all shapes and sizes. The store features pieces based off of Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Hamilton, and more, and not only is there a wide range of items, but every piece is just that much cooler than the next.

Elhoffer is currently planning an upcoming collection that is sure to be out of this world, highlighting the many exquisite looks of Padme Amidala. “It always bothered me that she got so overlooked in merchandise at the time,” she said. “I have always wanted her blue sweater that she wears on Tattoine in Attack of the Clones, the one that she wears with a Fortuny style pleated dress underneath, and I wanted to make an everyday take on that sweater.”

Elhoffer continued, “Seeing art turn into a sample, and turn into reality is a pleasure I really can’t explain. But, I love seeing my work come to life!”

Elhoffer Designs Cover Photo

When asked what her favorite piece in the shop was, the artist shared that it is always difficult it was to choose just one item, but that at the moment she’s enjoying The Duel Sweater, The Galactic Bromance Cardigan, and The Galactic Scavenger Dress. “I still love my Galactic Scavenger Dress, because it flatters so many body types, and I still get messages from customers about how they are so thankful I made it because they get compliments on it every day.”

There’s so much to respect about Catherine Elhoffer and her work, but nothing compares to her dedication to her customers. Not only does she have a ferociously feminist point of view regarding the variety of items she offers, but she truly listens to the requests and responses from those who purchase from her.

“I believe that, as well as having product made locally to help reduce the horrible impact that the fashion world makes on the environment and help grow local economies, I’m responsible for everything that comes out of my company,” Elhoffer stated. “And, I’m working hard to make sure that white is not a default, and that everyone in our favorite fandoms are represented, as they’re all crucial to telling these stories.”

If you’re interested in learning more about Elhoffer Design, you can find their work on the shop’s Instagram, and follow their Twitter page for store updates, as well as fan photos from the many happy customers.

See a gallery of my Elhoffer Design wishlist picks below, and find me on Twitter @bekahbabble to talk about your favorite fandom fashions!

Image Credits: Catherine Elhoffer, Elhoffer Design

Delve Into the Mice and Mystics Lost Chapters–For Free

Feb 22 2017

It’s time to dust off your Mice and Mystics box: There are incredible new journeys for Prince Collin and his allies that are yours for the taking. Mice and Mystics Lost Chapters are now available to download from the Plaid Hat Games web site. In these free chapters for the mice heroes you’ve come to know and love, you’ll meet new characters and go on original adventures in these stories that add even more excitement to the base game.

Mice and Mystics, if you’re not familiar with the game, is a tabletop RPG-in-a-box that comes complete with miniatures, dice, and a storybook full of chapters for you and your fellow adventurers to tackle. In each chapter, you’ll find the background story, enemies (known as minions) you’ll face, and the goal required to complete the dungeon crawl and meet the chapter’s objective.

Want a crash course on the game? Take some time to watch Wil Wheaton and his family face an onslaught of rats and spiders in an engrossing two-part episode of TableTop.

Mice and Mystics Lost Chapters

Once you and your companions have completed the campaign of the original Mice and Mystics (sometimes referred to by its subtitle, Sorrow and Remembrance), you can download and begin the first Lost Chapter, “Cats Cradle.” Each Lost Chapter, previously available for purchase in the Plaid Hat Games store, comes with new printable components and art.

The first two Lost Chapters, “Cats Cradle” and “The Ghost of Castle Adnon,” require only the original base game; the third Lost Chapter, “Portents of Importance,” needs the expansions Tail Feathers and Downwood Tales. Be careful not to read through”Portents of Importance” unless you’re not bothered by spoilers for the original game and expansions.

The three Lost Chapters are now ready for download, and physical copies will be available soon in the Plaid Hat Games online store.

Do you love Mice and Mystics? Tell us why in the comments.

All Images: Plaid Hat Games

ESCAPE! – With Felicia Day, Jessica Marzipan, Amy Okuda, and Robin Thorsen

Feb 22 2017

Do you have what it takes to ESCAPE!? Join Janet Varney as she sends a team of adventurers into rooms filled with mystery, false clues, and plenty of puzzles. Each celebrity team will then have just 30 minutes to make their way out. There will be puzzles to solve and things to find. Teams get one free hint, but each one after that will cost them 2 minutes. Will they get stumped by a clever clue or make it just in the nick of time? There’s only one way to find out. Watch this week’s episode and see if they can ESCAPE!

Felicia Day, Jessica Marzipan, Amy Okuda, and Robin Thorsen are all archeologists who might have gotten in over their heads. While exploring the tombs of some ancient pharaoh, walls of sand came crush down around them. Trapped within this ancient tomb, they have only 30 minutes to escape or the pyramids will take on four new permanent residents.  Will they be able to work together to solve the clues? Will they get tripped up on that red herring? Will the mummy’s curse take it’s revenge on these fine explorers? Check out this episode of ESCAPE! to find out what happens!

Check out ESCAPE! every other Wednesday on Geek & Sundry or head over to ALPHA to catch even more episodes.

The New Judge Dredd RPG is Comics-Inspired Butt-Kicking

Feb 22 2017

The Worlds of 2000 AD are coming to your table top! The grizzled Judge Dredd is the most recognizable icon “Britain’s longest running and most celebrated anthology comic,” but plenty of other heroes, villains, and anti-heroes are set to join the mighty Judges.

This new adventure RPG is powered by the What’s Old Is New (“WOIN”) system by EN Publishing; a system neatly designed to allow easy transitions between worlds with vastly different levels of technology. The fantasy worlds of Sláine and Nemesis the Warlock can seamlessly transition to the dystopian future of Judge Dredd or the steampunk world of Stickleback.


The first book being published in the 2000 AD role-playing line is titled “Judge Dredd & The Worlds of 2000 AD Tabletop Adventure Game,” and is a full-color RPG book with support for playing Judges, civilians, and perps alike in the grimy underbelly of Mega-City One.

2000ad_rpg_hcFollowing the release of the core rules, there are plans to release adventures based on classic Dredd storylines—starting with The Robot Wars. Nick Robinson, lead developer for the Dredd project, says, “The idea is to move chronologically through the classic story arcs in the 2000 AD Progs [comic issues] providing adventures for not only Judges, but for those players who may wish to explore the Dredd universe from a different perspective – that of a Civilian or even a Perp. Each book will contain a core adventure, mini-adventures based upon the other story arcs at the time, as well as expanded setting and rules information.”

A team of talented authors is working to bring the world of Dredd and co. to life. Darren Pearce (Doctor Who; Lone Wolf) is working on the core rulebook alongside Russ Morrissey and Nick Robinson, with additional content from Robert Schwalb (Dungeons & Dragons; Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay), and Andrew Peregrine (Doctor Who; Firefly; Buffy The Vampire Slayer) is writing The Robot Wars.

The release date of “Judge Dredd & The Worlds of 2000 AD Tabletop Adventure Game” is TBA 2017. For more information, check out the announcement thread on EN World. You can learn more about the many different worlds in this RPG on the Worlds of 2000 AD web page.


What are your favorite comics-inspired RPGs? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credits: EN Publishing & Rebellion

Munchkin Shakespeare Says “Huzzah!” To Kickstarter

Feb 22 2017

It seems inevitable that Steve Jackson Games would go to one of the original sources of pop culture—William Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s stories have been remade, rebooted and rewritten so many times it is easy to forget that many of his plays were also based on earlier works. The Munchkin Shakespeare Kickstarter offers theater geeks and tabletop nerds common ground where they can back stab, screw over and otherwise cackle madly at one another.

“The idea seemed amazing,” said John Kovalic, Munchkin creator and artist, “but a bit mad, to me. I’m a huge Shakespeare nerd, but I wasn’t sure a Munchkin set based around The Bard would be that popular.”

The Kickstarter funded in less than 24 hours.

“Being wrong about things is something I’m comfortable with at this point in my life,” said Kovalic.munchbil2

Munchkin’s reach across tabletop gaming is far and wide. For those unfamiliar with the game, Munchkin takes its name from a style of tabletop gaming that pushes storytelling to the side in favor of maximizing bonuses, minimizing penalties and winning a dungeon crawl. These players can be disruptive at the RPG table, but when everyone’s doing it, the experience becomes something else.  Munchkin explores these types of games as competitive tabletop experiences where players are encouraged to play dirty and then have a laugh about it after the game is over. Millions of copies sold show just how much gamers love Munchkin. The World of Munchkin website shows dozens of different genres that have received the deliciously evil touch of its satire.

A Shakespearean adaptation has been high on fan request lists for several years. It seemed like a perfect project for Kickstarter to fund. Backers can opt for the main set as well as an expansion with more characters and situations from Shakespeare’s plays. Add-ons—because otherwise it wouldn’t be Munchkin without them—include custom dice, a demo pack to show friends how to play, and a kill-o-meter illustrated by a mystery artist. Stretch goals have already contributed to more cards and upgrading the expansion to a full sized box.

Kovalic’s Shakespearean favorites include Much Ado About Nothing, Henry V and Hamlet. In addition to his trademark style and wit, he also brings a little experience from the stage working with a famous actor in a production of Tom Stoppard’s most famous play.

“In school,” said Kovalic, “in England, we did Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and I had a small role. It was directed by a kid a year below me – one Dominic Dromgoole, who later became something of an enfant terrible of British Theater, and then the artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe, in London. So I’m chuffed that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern appear as cards in this set.”

“I was once in a play that the Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe was in charge of,” said Kovalic. “Who knew it was preparing me for this set?”

The Munchkin Shakespeare Kickstarter runs till March 10th. Fans of The Bard and of Munchkin should exeunt this article as if pursued by a bear and check it out.

What is your favorite Shakespearean character? Tell us in the comments!

Image Credits: Steve Jackson Games

Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He writes about kaiju, Jedi, gangsters, elves, Vulcans and sometimes all of them at the same time. His blog is here, his Twitter is here and his meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.

The Terminator Strategy Board Game Pits the Past Against the Future

Feb 22 2017

While it’s unclear where the next Terminator film will fit into the timeline, the future is the past for the new board game based on the original movie. The Terminator: The Official Board Game was launched on Kickstarter earlier this month and it’s already blown away its funding goal of $120,000. Or should we say that the goal has been terminated?

The Terminator board game was designed by Lynnvander Studios and produced by Space Goat Productions. Because the license only covers characters and machines that were introduced in The Terminator, later creations like the T-1000 are absent from this game. But as you can see, the first film in the franchise offers more than enough material to build a game around.

One of the most intriguing aspects is the way that the asymmetrical board covers events in 1984 and in 2029, the Skynet dominated future that was only glimpsed in the original movie. One player will assume the role of Skynet and all of its lethal machines, including the Terminators, the Hunter Killer machines, and more. The rest of the players will make up the human resistance, and fight back in different ways. In 2029, the resistance will focus on using troops and their limited resources to stop the relentless march of the machines. But in 1984, the missions take on more personal stakes and even offer players a chance to change things in the past that will affect the unfolding events in the 2029 part of the game.

The Terminator Board Game 3
Each box includes the dual game boards, two cyber dice, 20 mission cards, 11 stat cards, 160 action cards, and 20 miniature figures of the characters and a few supporting players as they appeared in The Terminator.

The Terminator Board Game 2

Fans who pledge $60 will get the core game and any additional items that are unlocked through the stretch goals. But for an $80 pledge, fans will get the game, the stretch goals, and the exclusive Termination Box Set; which includes five additional characters. It’s a refreshingly simple reward tier, as the only other option is geared towards retailers.

The Terminator Kickstarter campaign will run until Thursday, March 16. And if you visit the official campaign page, you can actually download the free print-and-play demo of the game to get a taste of what to expect. Space Goat has said that the demo is not the final version of the game, but it is taking feedback from fans into account while finalizing the official release.

Are you excited about The Terminator‘s official board game? Let us know in the comment section below!

Image Credits: Space Goat Productions

Infinite Lives – Learning How To Survive Social Situations

Feb 21 2017

Today, we’re exploring social situations with Daniel Wendler, a social skill contributor for Take This and author of Visit Take This Org to find out more about the organization and how you can get involved.


In most classic games, you had a limited number of lives. Run out of lives, and it was game over – start back at the beginning. This design feature was inspired by arcade gaming, because it was in an arcade owner’s best interest to force you to pony up more quarters for more lives.

But as arcades became less relevant for gaming, game developers started to reconsider the idea of limited lives. Why force a player to start over just because they used up their last life? So developers started phasing out the life system, and nowadays it’s very rare to find a game that will show you a “Game Over” screen. In most modern games, dying just drops you back at your latest checkpoint, with no further consequence.

Of course, there are benefits to more high-stakes gameplay. In recent years rougelike games (where you get a single life and dying means starting from scratch) have become increasingly popular. When every decision counts, the game becomes much more engrossing.

But rougelikes can be exhausting to play. When a single mistake could mean that all of my progress is lost, I tend to anxiously ponder every decision. And when I do make a mistake, it can be deeply frustrating. I’ve yelled at my poor computer more than once when playing Don’t Starve (and I still have unresolved anger towards those darn swamp tentacles.)

Social Survival

In social settings, most people act like they’re playing a rougelike. They assume that a single mistake will DOOM THEM FOREVER, so social interaction becomes about avoiding mistakes instead of having fun and connecting with others.

But here’s the reality. In most social interactions, it’s totally fine to make mistakes. In fact, everyone makes mistakes pretty much all the time in social interaction.

Don’t believe me? Just listen in to everyone else next time you’re in a group conversation. You’ll hear the other people in the group interrupt each other, tell jokes that fall flat, share boring stories – all sorts of mistakes. And for the most part, everyone moves along with skipping a beat when those mistakes happen. Sure, maybe there’s a moment of awkwardness, but then someone changes topics and the conversation moves along.


Respawn Ready

In other words, social interaction is more like a game with infinite lives than a rougelike game. Of course, it’s better to avoid social mistakes if possible, and if you hurt or offended someone, you should definitely apologize and make amends.

But if you make a mistake, you get to try again. Even in a worst case scenario where you mess up a conversation so badly that the person doesn’t want to talk to you anymore, you can always talk to someone else. There’s always another social respawn waiting.

And that means you don’t have to be afraid. You can let yourself relax, and maybe even be a little playful. If you make a mistake, it’s okay – just apologize, and do your best to not repeat that mistake in the future.

Not convinced? I have a little challenge that will change your mind:

Step One: Make ten deliberate social mistakes

Step Two: See if the world ends

If you’re like many people, your fear of social failure is much bigger than it needs to be. When you spend so much time avoiding failure, you never get the chance to really enjoy social interaction. Who is going to have more fun – someone trying to make it through a game without losing a single life, or someone trying to explore all of the cool features the game designers programmed?

The cool thing about fear is that if you deliberately confront it, it tends to back down. The first time you ride a roller coaster, it’s terrifying. The tenth time you ride it, it’s probably not scary at all. That’s what this quest is all about.

Of course, you should only do harmless mistakes. The goal is to choose social mistakes that feel scary, but that won’t actually cause any harm to you or anyone else.


Here are some ideas:

  • Deliberately tell a joke that isn’t very funny. (Aka, Google for “dad jokes”)
  • Make plans with a friend. After making the plans, call back in an hour or so and ask to change some minor detail of the plans (for instance, ask to meet at 4 PM instead of 3 PM.)
  • Leave your wallet in the car before entering a grocery store. Pick out something to buy, bring it to the register, then “realize” that you forgot your wallet when it’s time to pay. Apologize, get the wallet, and pay as normal.

You probably noticed that these ideas range from small mistakes (unfunny joke) to bigger mistakes (lost wallet.) When you try this yourself, I recommend starting with small mistakes, and working your way up to bigger and bigger mistakes. Just remember to never risk mistakes that could cause anyone real harm.

Also, if social interaction in general is very scary for you, I strongly encourage you to talk to a therapist. Therapists are great at helping you overcome social anxiety, and a good therapist will help you significantly reduce your anxiety.

Image Credits: Don’t Starve/Klei Entertainment


Daniel Wendler, M.A. is a social skill contributor for Take This and author of and the books Improve Your Social Skills and Level Up Your Social Life. He writes about social skills because he used to be the kid sitting alone in the cafeteria and he wants to help everyone find a place to belong. He is pursuing a doctorate in clinical psychology from George Fox University and he wrote a poem about his bed. He fervently believes that Bulbasaur will always be the best starter.

Take This is an informational organization. The resources we provide are for informational purposes only, and should not be used to replace the specialized training and professional judgment of a health care or mental health care professional. For more information about these resources, please visit our website.

Crowdfunding, Board Games, and Claiming Duke: An Interview with Nate Murray

Feb 21 2017

Indiegogo has recently taken on a new Head of Gaming. While, that title may sound daunting and unattainable, in reality, Nate Murray is just like the rest of us, but he has a really friggin’ awesome job. I had the pleasure of getting to interview the man behind Indiegogo’s gaming division and let me tell you, he’s just as awesome as his job title says.

Like many of us, Murray began playing tabletop games at a young age with the wonderful world of Dungeons & Dragons. At the time, it was the only game to sate his imagination and allow him to participate in a whole new world that was far different from the real one.

But there was one thing that brought him back to the table time and time again, it was the relationships he made both in and out of the game.  “Leveling up a character and creating long-standing relationships or even leaving marks on this world you spent so much time in was an amazing feeling. That so many of us started in D&D may be why you’re seeing a growing trend in Legacy style games. The feeling of making something your own, unique adventure is very compelling.” This love is what drove Murray to begin working in producing tabletop games, and it’s the creativity and amazing people that make him keep coming back.

This devotion allowed him to gain a job at IDW and crowdfund many of their games. One such game is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shadows of the Past, which was successfully funded through Kickstarter. But this experience is what makes him believe in Indiegogo and their services. “I think the services Indiegogo offers are simpler for creators and backers to use. As to why I left an absolutely amazing job at IDW Games to take this leap, I felt like I had reached a point where I could do more good for the industry by switching from making games for one company to helping multiple companies at once. So far it’s been amazing.”


And that’s the thing, Indiegogo is all about connecting consumers and creators into one copacetic ecosystem. Crowdfunding allows for an open-conversation with the people who are buying these products. In some ways, it allows for a more beneficial relationship than even social media can, as the fans are the ones helping the creative process along. Sometimes these fans can become friends (Pete Walsh, Nate says hi!) Indiegogo has even recently implemented “Equity Crowdfunding” that will allow users to become investors in start-up companies.

According to Murray, this will influence the types of games we see on the market: “Fans are voting with their dollars and telling the market which direction they want to see tabletop (and video games) go. I think soon you’ll see major awards given to crowd-funded games. And I look forward to seeing those awards given to games born on Indiegogo.” I think we can all agree that there are definite upsides to crowdfunding and that it shows that we don’t have to give up on ideas that we once believed to be pipe dreams. Get out there and create! Maybe even start an Indiegogo?

And with International TableTop Day on April 29th this year, we couldn’t let him get away just yet without getting the inside scoop about what he would be doing this year.

“I’ll be at my favorite game shop Villainous Lair in San Diego that day and looking to get into as many games of Coup as possible. It’s actually a running gag how much I love that game. If you know the game you may appreciate that my Twitter bio’s last line is ‘I claim Duke’, and I’ve been drawn into other games by fans and given the ‘Duke’ ability.”

TMNT Nate Murray

Be sure to follow Nate Murray and his wacky board game ventures over on the Twitter machine.

What do you think of crowdfunding and how it connects consumers to business? Are you getting excited for International Tabletop Day? Let us know in the comments! 

Featured Image Credit: Indiegogo, Overlyaed by: Blythe Wiedemann

Blog Image Credits: Nate Murray, Tony Vargas.

Signal Boost! – Eric Finally Gets to Host!

Feb 21 2017

Transmission incoming! Signal Boost! is our weekly love letter to all fandoms, be it books, podcasts, indie games, Etsy shops, soundtracks, websites, or events. Come see what wonderful, crazy stuff is out there and connect with a community of fans who knows what it’s like to like the wonderful, crazy, and unknown.

IT’S ERIC CAMPBELL TIME! Maybe you’ve seen him on Eric’s TBD RPG or simply lurking behind the scenes of Signal Boost! as one of the show’s creators and head writer, but for one night only, Eric will be boosting all of his favorite things. (Note: Eric only likes three things. Maybe four.) Find out gaming music turned classical, an RPG unlike any other, and understanding what it takes to be an artist on this week’s Signal Boost!

Check out Eric’s Recommendations this week:

Jonas Lefvert
Changeling the Dreaming
A Director Prepares: Seven Essays on Art and Theatre by Anne Bogart

Bonus Boost: MASS EFFECT

What things would you want to Signal Boost? Let us know in the comments below and tune in every Tuesday to find out what’s hot and potentially unheard of in the land of geekdom.

Epic Card Game Goes Digital with Your Help

Feb 21 2017

Epic Card Game is moving to a brand new digital format and is using Kickstarter to make it all happen. With only days to go in their Kickstarter, Epic Digital Card Game has earned over $110k toward making and improving their digital tabletop card trading game.

Pairing beautiful artwork and game play that Magic: The Gathering players will be familiar with, Epic Digital now offers unlimited copies of every card for as little as $25 with this Kickstarter. On top of that, Epic is also offering Alpha Access to their iOS and Android app a full six months ahead of time. By investing a minimal amount of money, you get so many perks, including being part of the evolution of this game; provide feedback and help create a better playing experience on your phone or tablet.

If you haven’t popped open an Epic deck before, you’ll find a lot of similarities to games like Star Realms, but also elements very familiar to anyone who has swiped their finger over a Hearthstone card. Players summon heroes and monsters to the board to send screaming into their opponent’s life score or to protect their own from villainous beasts coming from the other side of the table. Little differences such as recruit costs, loyalty, and getting to respond to attacks keep you on your toes, but won’t bog you down with long chains of cards resolving at various speeds. Check out the above video and you’ll get the handle of it in just a couple of turns.

If you thought that was enough, Epic is also releasing every card in the Base Game, as well as the Tyrants and Uprising expansion packs. This means you’ll possess over 200 unique cards in-game (including a few limited release cards and image updates only to Kickstarter investors), that you can play in any legal deck of Epic.

Finally, you’ll receive “Event Tickets” which can be used in the app to unlock cosmetic and campaign features only accessible to Kickstarter investors. You’ll also be able to use these tickets to play in leagues or tournaments with in-app prizes.

Want to get into this awesome game? You only have a few days left to sign up, otherwise you’ll have to wait until Fall 2017! Sign up for the Kickstarter here. 

Do you have experience playing Epic Card Game? Leave us a comments with what you’re most looking forward to in the App! 

5 Cooperative Games to Play With Kids Who Hate to Lose

Feb 21 2017

Losing graciously is a tough skill to master for children–and, let’s be honest, for some adults as well. Cooperative board games with everyone working together to reach a goal can help ease the disappointment of competitive kids who always want to win.

If you’d like to avoid sending anyone to timeout this International Tabletop Day, here are five suggestions for family-friendly cooperative games to play for a tantrum-free day.


Outfoxed!It’s a whodunit for detectives as young as preschoolers as players search for clues to unmask a pie thief. Players work together to roll dice and move around the board, uncovering clues to the thief’s identity. With the help of an ingenious clue decoder, players can rule out suspects based on what those wily foxes are wearing. (They really do know how to accessorize.)

The thief is also on the move, however, so the rolls of the dice can also move him or her ever closer to their escape. Can all of the detectives find out the identity of the thief in time?

Ages 5+, 2-4 Players

Ranglin’ Rabbits

Ranglin' RabbitsThere are rabbits running wild, and it’s up to you and the other players to round them up in this dexterity dice game. Set up the fence pieces in a square and drop the rabbit dice into the pen. The rabbits are loose!

A turn begins by rolling the action dice. A fence piece or a rabbit dice is moved based on the roll. Depending on the face showing on the rabbit dice, players can wrangle that rabbit into the middle of the fences. Players aren’t just setting rabbits gently into the pen; they’ll also be flicking them across the table to make them bounce just as enthusiastically as a real rabbit. Everyone works together to get those rascally rabbits into the pen in this unique game from Gamewright.

Ages 6+, 2-4 Players

Mice and Mystics

Mice and MysticsIf you’re planning a longer gaming session with the kids on International Tabletop Day, look no further than Mice and Mystics for your game of choice. As a bonus family activity, paint the miniatures that come in the box before game day.

Your family’s dungeon crawl begins with one of the chapters in the included storybook. Choose your characters and their miniatures, select their abilities, and your family is ready to enter the kingdom of Prince Collin and his loyal companions. Mouse and enemy minis are placed on the board, and the initiative cards are shuffled and laid out so battle can begin. Mice can move, fight, scurry, search, and more on their quest to meet the chapter objective.

Wil, Anne, and Ryan Wheaton and Nolan Kopp played Mice and Mystics as a family on TableTop. Watch their adventure unfold to get an idea of how to play this cooperative game.

Age 7+, 1-4 Players

Dungeon Fighter

Dungeon FighterDungeon Fighter is another cooperative adventure for the family, but one that you can finish in an hour or less. It’s also not your typical dungeon crawl. Rather than simply rolling dice to defeat monsters in the dark depths, you and the kids will be tossing dice in all sorts of hilarious ways at a game board target to land an attack.

Each monster faced has different values for health, attack, and gold. A toss of the colorful dice at the target reveals how much damage the hero inflicts by where it lands on the board, and possibly activates the character’s special abilities.

But it’s not as easy as chucking the dice at the target; players have to toss the die while jumping, with their eyes closed, under a leg, and more. Make it all the way through the dungeon as allies and defeat the final boss to win the game.

Age 10+, 1-6 Players

Castle Panic

Castle PanicCastle Panic is a cooperative tower defense game that has players working together to defend the castle against an approaching horde of monsters. The board is divided into colorful zones and specific areas for the encroaching army, with the castle in the center.

As trolls, orcs, and goblins approach from the forest on the edges of the game board, players attack with the cards face up on the table and turn the monster tokens to show the current hit points.

Wil Wheaton and friends take on the monstrous attackers in a 2012 episode of TableTop. Will they survive the approaching invasion?

Age 10+, 1-6 Players

What’s your family’s favorite cooperative game? Tell us about it in the comments.

Featured Photo: Plaid Hat Games

Other Images: Gamewright, Plaid Hat Games, iello games, and Fireside Games 

Enter a World of Shadowy Spies With This Cold War RPG

Feb 21 2017

If there is one genre that’s as flexible as fantasy, it’s espionage. It’s easy to see the exotic locations, impossible devices and world-shaking stakes of an epic fantasy novel in a modern setting with just a few scant details changed. Spies also have a long, storied history in the RPG genre. Top Secret was one of TSR’s first successful forays into RPGs outside of sci-fi and fantasy. Spycraft pushed the boundaries of the d20 OGL into a style of game of its own. Night’s Black Agents took the classic story of Dracula and turned it into a technothriller that made players question what was real and what was part of the game. Gallant Knight Games and Nocturnal Media hope to continue that fine tradition with a new RPG called Cold Shadows that’s currently up on Kickstarter.

Cold Shadows Cover - Art by Shen Fei, Logo by Robert DentonCold Shadows focuses on spy stories in the style of John LeCarre or Robert Ludlum. These are stories of intrigue, betrayal, brutal violence and no easy solutions to the problems put in front of the protagonists. The players make not just their characters but also assemble the agency where those spies belong. Creating the agency shapes the style of play, making it easier for players to communicate to their GMs how they want to solve situations. The book also comes with historical information for those groups who want to play during the height of the Cold War in the 60’s, the thawing near the end of the 80’s, or even in the new world of espionage in the early 00’s.

The RPG uses a shared narrative approach first seen in games like Blood & Honor and World of Dew. The underlying system is simple: players roll a certain amount of six-sided dice to beat a target number of 10. If they beat that number, they get to narrate what happens. If they don’t, the GM controls the story. The twists come in setting aside dice for Wagers. The more dice a player sets aside before they roll, the more impressive the effect they can add to their narration. If a player wants to take out the double agent with a head shot, they need to set aside enough dice to do so while still hitting the target number on the remaining dice. The player must balance effectiveness against success on every roll, because if the GM grabs the narrative, it is unlikely things will go according to play for the player’s agent. The game also comes with some variant rules for one-on-one play and GMless play for a game style similar to Fiasco. The system is built for games that run on paranoia, trusting people that don’t deserve it and short brutal moments of violence.

Cold Shadows Dice (by Chessex)The Kickstarter has already racked up several stretch goals, each one either adding Storypath cards that twist the story in unexpected ways or an in-depth look at a real world city that’s rife with intrigue. Backers can get in at a digital level that offers PDFs, a physical level which includes a hard copy of the book and tokens in the game that indicate trust and a deluxe level that included a regular and faux leather hardcover copies, tokens, dice and print editions of all the unlocked stretch goals. The Kickstarter ends on Thursday, March 2nd, should you choose to accept this mission.

What is your favorite spy story? Tell us in the comments!

Images courtesy of Gallant Knight Games and pixabay

Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He writes about kaiju, Jedi, gangsters, elves, Vulcans and sometimes all of them at the same time. His blog is here, his Twitter is here and his meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.

Perdition’s Mouth: The Innovative Euro-Style Dungeon Crawler

Feb 21 2017

Perdition’s Mouth: Abyssal Rift is a mouthful. That title also serves as a solid forewarning of this game being mentally demanding. This is not your typical Descent clone. This is an innovative Euro-style dungeon crawl board game that is all about hitting you with a combination of mechanisms and surprises you’ve never seen before. Engaging and cognitively stimulating are the two most appropriate adjectives I’d ascribe.

First of all, this box is enormous. It’s a heavy thing chock full of plastic miniatures, dungeon boards, and hundreds of cards. What you will notice is the lack of dice. The game does retain a sense of drama and uncertainty from an enemy-utilized reaction deck, but player actions are supported via playing cards from your hand to set the value of the attack. You can mitigate luck by dumping extra points into your mighty swing or vicious spell. This, combined with knowledge gained from the reaction deck as it is depleted, means luck is minimized as strategy and optimization come to the fore.IMG_1690

The most interesting aspect of the game is the action rondel. Players each have a small token they place on this round board which serves as an action matrix. You move along the spokes clockwise, and perform the action of the space you land in. This includes standard fare such as attacking or moving, but also includes more interesting items like a special ability, bash, and guard space. You can hop over players as well as utilize action points you are allotted each round to push farther along the rondel and control your destiny to some degree.

The action wheel is the heart of Perdition’s Mouth. It is the focal point of strategy and prompts legitimate teamwork and discussion. It interlocks eloquently with the asymmetrical character’s action cards and serves as a filter that you must work through in order to manipulate the state of the board. In this way, there is a strong strategic parallel to the Mage Knight board game in spirit. That sense of feeling like you need to do several things but having to work within your current limitations is engaging. For those who favor the more free-wheeling do what you want play of the typical dungeon crawler, this can also be maddening.

The rondel feels very dynamic and a strong representation of a fluid poetic flow to the events on the table, as if you’re trying to insert your presence in the middle of a symphonic piece and hang on for dear life. It can also feel disconnected to the situation on the board as it’s very external. This dual-edged sword is really one of perception and is not inherently right or wrong. This is the hard edge Perdition’s Mouth sits upon as it offers a compelling and altogether unique experience, but its challenge and limitations need to be fully embraced to get the most out of it.

The word challenge is apropos to the discussion as this game is brutal. It’s not so much about powering up and gaining strength over a narrative curve, as it is about outright challenge and overcoming difficulty. The later scenarios in the game throw wave after wave of difficult enemies your way and you will need to optimize your action selection and be on top of your hand management if you want to survive. If you come with the right attitude this style of game is phenomenal. It will have you craving more and immediately setting the scenario up again after a failure, intent on fixing your mistakes and righting your wrongs.


Part of the inherent difficulty of Perdition’s Mouth lies in the enemy rondel. They have their own wheel which governs unique AI behavior. A card draw each round dictates how far along the spokes the enemy token moves, and what actions each enemy figure performs. Some rounds will be more lackadaisical as your foes just perform a move action or maybe simply spawn a couple new units. Others they will charge across the battlefield and attack incessantly. You have a rough idea of what their capabilities are based around averages of that reaction deck, but you’re never exactly sure and there’s consistently an air of tension permeating the atmosphere.

All this talk of action wheels and hand management certainly conveys the heavy mechanical nature of the game. While the mechanisms are at the forefront of the design, the narrative has not been neglected. There is definitely a sense of story here as the group of adventurers descend underground into a swarming cult of humans and demonic insects. You are trying to halt the summoning of a hellish beast, and you must fight the denizens of the darkness with tooth, nail, and claw. Scenarios build upon each other from a story perspective and you can even play a campaign mode where wounds and treasure carry over.


In addition to a solid story, there are little pieces of narrative inflections that continually rise to the surface. Wounds are not simply points of damage, but realized through punitive cards that are placed in your player deck and continually rear their head to haunt you. With descriptors such as missing digit and vasectomy, you will definitely receive a strong visual to the acute pain that arachnid mutant just threw your way. The player action cards also afford interesting powers built upon solid thematic tones as you can build walls, teleport across the board, and give way to barbaric rage.

This game is a hybrid of design schools that has much to offer. It’s mechanically thoughtful and truly innovative. It pairs those compelling systems with an atypical setting of an insectoid cult attempting to ravage the world and the end result is delicious. If you want something truly different, something that stands apart from the pack and offers a wild and uncertain ride, then open your arms and prepare to be swallowed by Perdition’s Mouth.

How do you feel about mixing Euro-style mechanisms with traditionally thematic games? Are you excited to try Perdition’s Mouth? Let us know in the comments below!

Featured Image Credit: Dragon Dawn Productions

Article Image Credit: Charlie Theel

In addition to Geek & Sundry, Charlie Theel writes for Miniature Market’s The Review Corner and co-hosts the gaming podcast Ding & Dent. You can find him on twitter @CharlieTheel

Three Incredible Board Games with Real World Themes

Feb 20 2017

In board gaming, fantasy, future, and historical games draw the lion’s share of thematic space. I can’t tell you how many orcs I’ve killed, space ships I’ve destroyed, or goods I’ve grown. But there are some games that go very much off the beaten path. And a rare few that focus on real world or more somber themes. Here are three of the best.

… and then we held hands

held handsIn this two player game, you take on the role of a failing relationship. The goal is to move toward the emotional center and find balance. Only by doing so – and doing it together – can you win the game. But if you treat your partner’s feelings lightly, or if you can’t come together, the game is lost.

… and then we held hands incorporates a number of intriguing elements that really elevate the experience. For instance, each player has a hand of cards that can be used to move from emotion to emotion. And you can use the cards from either player. But if your play results in your partner being unable to move, then you’ve just lost. Plus, you aren’t allowed to talk about strategy or game elements with your partner. As a result, you constantly have to intuit what the impact of your move will be on both of you. It produces a reasonable facsimile of gaming empathy.

Another interesting element is that you have to keep yourself in “balance.” Each move affects your mood. Negative emotions like sadness and anger tip your balance one way, while happiness and calm go the other. If you get too far from center, you lose.

…and then we held hands can be deviously difficult. But when successful, the players have a genuine feeling of accomplishment.


CO2The world is warming and it’s up to the players to address the issue. They start as companies trying to create clean energy solutions to slow the amount of carbon entering the atmosphere. Players ultimately want to avoid the carbon levels getting too high – while also making a tidy profit and gaining prestige. If the carbon levels get too high, though, everyone loses. Otherwise, only one winner is declared.

In the early game of CO2, carbon emissions are a serious threat. Players have to work quickly to put green energy solutions on the board before the various countries decide to go all in on traditional energy.  Once they get that done, though, it’s easy for the players to turn on each other. One might research a new technology, but another player sees it and builds the plant – reaping the rewards.

The result is an interesting semi-cooperative game where the players are free to push the limits. In fact, sometimes a trailing player will take actions that result in more carbon in the atmosphere. Which forces other leading players to adjust. It’s an interesting system, and a fine representative of the genre.

Freedom: The Underground Railroad

freedom-map-boardAlthough historical in nature, Freedom tackles slavery straight on – something other games fail to do. Games like Five Tribes and Puerto Rico are sometimes chastised for their light treatment of historical slavery. Freedom, however, doesn’t shy away from the issue and ultimately comes away with an amazing cooperative experience.

Taking place in the antebellum United States, the players’ goal is to hide and move fleeing slaves from the South to the North and eventually into Canada. As they do so, players will use safe houses, move the individuals only when it is safe, and avoid the bands of slave catchers seeking to return escapees to the plantations.

If you step back from the theme, Freedom is a mechanically decent game. But it’s the theme that really drives the experience. If I lose Pandemic I say ‘oh well’ and try again. Losing Flash Point results in a curse of the dice and nothing more. But every play of Freedom feels meaningful in a way that other titles simply lack. If you have the chance to play it, definitely give this one a try.

What other games have real-world or somber themes?  Tell us about it in the comments.

Image Credits: LudiCreations, Stronghold Games, Academy Games

Featured Image Credit: Academy Games

Critical Role: Episode 86 – “Daring Days”

Feb 20 2017

Vox Machina get to know Terry, and prepare for an ocean voyage!

This week’s episode of Critical Role was brought to you by Loot Crate! December’s theme is BUILD. You can get your very own Loot Crate subscription or pick up a Loot Crate DX subscription (which has even cooler goodies) right here. And for fans of geeky fashion; check out Loot Wear, which takes the incredible style and apparel that you’ve come to know and love from Loot Crate’s other Crates to the next level!

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