Tuesday, March 29, 2016

How to Pick the Right Game


MK here as your host again this week. Today we will tackle a tough topic!
I have been asked plenty of times by people who have been to our site at MKTabletop.com, "How do I pick the right game for (me/my child/my friends)?" So here are a few simple ways that you can feel confident that you are making the right purchase for your intended group or individual.
Short of going over the details of each game in depth, reading every single description and then combing through countless reviews online, you should start by narrowing your field of choices.

 Let’s get down to business and I will walk you through the easiest way I know to narrow down the field when choosing a Game. Just ask yourself these 5 questions.

1) Who are you playing with?

While most game publishers give you basic information listed on the box, these guidelines will not be everything you need to know about the game. The most common "target audience" identifiers include the number of players, recommended age of players, and the approximate amount of time the game should take to play. These are very important bits of information to have, but they are not the first thing to consider.
It can help you to know that you have six people to play, so a game that supports up to four will not be sufficient. Sure it gives you an age range, but this is based not on the game itself, just on the mental requirements to understand the game play. Yes, it is great to know you will be filling a 1 hour block of time, so a game that plays in two and a half hours is not worth breaking out as you will spend your entire time learning the game and not be able to enjoy it.
So for now, forget those numbers on the box. It's time to really ask who are you playing with?
Will it be your family? Some close friends? Are you bringing a game as a way to pass time with some classmates? How many people will be there? Think about exactly who might be there and willing to play a game. Now picture yourself actually sitting down to the table with them.
Got it? Now you are prepared for the next question!

2) What kind of game do those people prefer?

Let's leave the numbers on the box alone for another minute as we think about the group around the table. Playing a game in this manner is not about what game you have out to play. It is really all about the experience you have with the people playing the game! Again the manufacturer will have a few hints about the game on the box with elaborate artwork and some catch phrases on the front and a few shots of the game with some flavor text on the back. These might actually help you out a little!
If you know the group you will be playing with are big fans of Game of Thrones, looking at the numerous games based on the books and television series could be an easy way to get them interested. Knowing the interests of the people you plan to play with can really help, but do keep in mind that Tabletop Games, just like any other product on the market, has been designed the way it was in order to sell the product. Just like picking out your next Netflix title, or looking for a replacement novel series for the one you just finished, you are judging by the cover! This (as many of us know from MANY poor decisions based on the cover) method will not always pick you a winner.
If you have a game in mind that is based on the box or description this would be a good time to read one or two reviews, or watch one or two videos on YouTube about that specific game. You don't need more than a couple sources to get a basic feel for the game itself and be able to decide if the one you are looking at is still in the running. I do highly suggest that you look at more than one review! If you can find opposing reviews, even better! If one guy you have never met made a five minute video about how amazing this game is, he might have very different tastes than you, he might even be getting a kickback from the company he is reviewing the game for. If you find someone who almost always seems to recommend a winner, stick with them!
More important things to consider include game style. Do you think the people you are playing with would prefer a game of deep woven strategy where as long as they keep mentally ahead they can win, or is more fun to be had in the random-anything-can-happen stylings of games such as Quelf? Would they even like a game with a theme such as horror or superheroes? Perhaps an abstract game that is unattached to a theme?
Got it? Moving on to the next question!

3) When will the game be played?

Knowing the time of day is great and can be useful in some situations for example, a horror game would be best played at night. But the hour in which you play is not the only things to consider. How long will you be playing the game? Are you getting together for a few hours? Sitting in a secluded cabin all weekend and there is a chance of rain? Will you be playing regularly, or once with this group? Is this going to be your pre-bedtime game so you need to keep it calm, or are you looking to liven up a party?

Each of these situations might call for a different game. So ask yourself, how often will I be playing this game? If you plan to play the game a lot, you might want to make sure your game has plenty of replay value. You don't want to play the game half a dozen times and be over it, or have seen everything it has to offer. In the same vein, if you think it will only get played once, aim for something that is not overly pricey, and may not have any replay value. I once played a great game of puzzles and riddles that, while a whole ton of fun, only had one set of brain teasing situations to play through and therefore had no replay value.
Got it? Here comes the next question!

4. Is this game any different than the one I already have?

This might seem like a silly question, but if you are buying the game for yourself, or for someone you know that loves games, knowing what they/you already have is quite important. If your friend is always raving about how much they like Cards Against Humanity, than perhaps getting them Apples to Apples is not going to be the best choice. Not only do they already have a game that is very similar, but they have one that is far more edgy and can make the other one seem ...tame. On the other hand, if you know they prefer card games over board games, you have just eliminated a LOT of options! Find out what they have, or want and it becomes even easier.
If you are wanting to buy a game for a group get-together and you already have one at home very much like the one you are considering, can you not just bring the one you already have? Maybe you have already played the game so many times and are afraid it will get old? Have you checked to see if there is an expansion for it? This could be a cheaper choice than buying a whole new base game you know nothing about while giving longer, fuller life to one you already own and love.
Got it? Let's go ahead and hit the last question!

5) Will this game give me my moneys' worth?

I hope by applying the first four questions to your wish list it has shortened. Maybe it wasn't that long to begin with! Regardless it is time to apply everything you have put together so far. By now you should have a decent idea what kind of game you are looking for. If you haven't applied those numbers on the box yet, now would be the time!
Take a look at your remaining list. Now that you know it will fit your group, that it will properly fill your time slot, and that it it is a game that does not duplicate something you/they already have, it is time to put a price tag on entertainment.
DO NOT look at the price tag on the game yet. Take a moment to think. What is it worth to you to have this game on the table? When it comes to your pricing, think what you would pay for a piece of entertainment that either is a one shot deal (price of a movie with popcorn and a soda) or is this something you want to settle in and play for a while (a TV series lasting many hours over numerous sittings)? If the game has a lot of replay value, has some amazing artwork and quality game pieces that you know will keep you playing it for years it will be worth more to you than another game you might play once and let live in the closet for years before it again sees the light of day. Do not consider the price a separate topic! It is a part of the whole process in determining the perfect game to buy. You should be willing to pay more for a game you will want to play a lot. So if you know it is going to be a good game, what is that worth to you?
Do you have a price in mind? Now compare your price to the one listed. If it is equal or below what you had in mind, go for it! If it is above your price you can either remove it from the options, or ask yourself why. Does it offer an experience above what you thought it did? Is it just overpriced? Have you compared the price to other games? How does it compare? Sometimes the quality of the game and the pieces within it make a big price difference. Sometimes the difference is that they payed for the ability to put (insert favorite trade marked theme here) on the box.

I would suggest when your list gets small enough to not feel too daunting, hit the web for reviews. Nothing will give you a better idea of what is in the box than a detailed breakdown of the contents and the game play. The review might also affect the price that you personally give the game! It might make you more excited, or less enthusiastic.

I do hope this has been helpful. I know with all of the different options out there it can be a touch intimidating. But next time you face the issue, just think of these five questions and see how well it works for you!

 With all of this said there are flow charts that can help. There is no way that anyone could conceivably create an all inclusive version as games are released almost daily worldwide, and many thousands of games already exist. But here is a good one from Silver Oak Casino!

 Until Next time ...Game On!


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Firefly Tall Card Game: Review


Welcome to this weeks installment of MK Tabletop Talk! This is MK and I will be your host this week as we take a look at and review the Firefly Tall Card Game! I personally wanted to review this one as I am quite a huge fan of Firefly.

The game was created based on the Tall Card game you see the crew playing on the ship, Serenity. They are playing what looks like a betting style card game and using ship chores as currency. If you have seen the show, you know exactly what I am talking about! If you haven't, I won't judge. But you need to go watch the show NOW. Rather than waiting for you to spend almost eleven hours experiencing what is quite possibly the best show ever to air on television (yes, it is that good!) only to come back angry that there is no more to watch and be hungry for anything Firefly, I will continue.

This game has been described by many as "a complicated version of Texas Hold'em Poker" some even say it has been "bred with Mahjong". There is a detailed set of rules and suggested variations within them straight out of the box. There is also some strong encouragement for creating your own set of house rules, and many people have. You can find variations of them all over the net. I have read many reviews in preparation for this one to assure I am not just saying the same thing you have already read a bunch of times. A lot of people (I assume fans of the show not Tabletop enthusiasts) complain about the complexity of the game and end up saying things like "I'd rather just play poker". I am of another opinion.

If you play the base game straight out of the box, not the extended content (also in the box!) it is not much harder to play than poker. The hardest part is remembering which hand wins when the cards hit the table, and they have included a card-stock layout that makes it very clear. The only thing not included in the box, that you need to play, is a way to keep score. So grab some poker chips, a piece of paper and a pen, or perhaps some household chores written on bits of paper and you are ready to go!

The extended content basically adds more possible hand combinations. These are also included on the hand ranking sheet to keep it easy should be playing with them. Does it complicate things? Not really. If you have been playing the base game and are ready to add another level to your game play, it actually gives the game extended life! You don't get board playing the game after a dozen times due to the ability to continually adjust the deck itself, the rules that drive the game, and the people you play with. All of these elements do add to the game. Nothing takes away from it other than possibly playing with a sore loser, or someone who has no patience for learning a new game.

The rules are similar to Texas Hold'em Poker in that each player has an opportunity to wager each round on the card hand they hold. However, instead of having the river cards (it was so hard not to make a River Tam reference here ...oh I guess I just did. lol) that everyone plays off, going around the table each player has an opportunity to add the Tall Card to their hand, once a player has decided to add it to their hand it is their card. No other player can play off it. If no player takes the Tall Card, the "Leader" takes it. The game ends when everyone has had a chance to be the "Leader" twice, or one player holds all the credits at the end of any given round.

So for all those folks out there who have slammed the game for being overly complicated ...get over it! If you can learn the hands and flow of Poker, you can learn this game just as easy. It is fun to play and with the extended deck options you could play with more than the recommended maximum of 6 players. Basic rules, each game lasts about a half an hour so it can be a great way to kill some time, or create a whole game night out of it and have a Firefly themed "Poker"-party!

While I am not truly an advocate of Poker, I give this game a solid 3 stars. If you are interested in adding this game to your collection, head on over here!

Thank you for reading! I am calling game on this one. ;)
Until next time ...Game On.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Welcome to our Tabletop!


Welcome to the introdutory Blog for MKTabletop.com: MK Tabletop Talk. I will be your host for the evening, MK. Before we get down to any serious topics, just a word about myself and my passion for all things tabletop.

I was born and raised in California. I was born child number 6, boy number 5 to an eventual total of 8 with 6B/2G split. I am a father of two amazing little girls (currently six months and 2.5 years). I am married to one of the most amazing women ever to grace the earth with her presence (shameless plug ...hey she will read this too)! I have hit a point in my life where I would rather be with my family more than working up a sweat to make someone else a dollar. Thus the birth of MKTabletop.com where I try to make a living while embracing one of my longest living passions; Tabletop Games!

While I have found myself employed in many different walks of life including, but not limited to, Oak Furniture Construction, Certified Nursing Assistant, Customer Service Leadership, and most recently a Wine Specialist (including the Sommelier Certification), one thing that has always remained constant is my love of sitting around a table with a group of friends and playing a game. Nothing can top that type of social interaction. Keep your MMOs, and your "Live" play from around the world via your gaming station, I would rather open a box, or bust out the source books and some dice any day.

I can remember playing simple games like Memory, Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Connect Four, etc. with my brothers and sisters from an age I can not define. It didn't take long, partially due to my older siblings, before I wanted to move on to bigger and more complex games. I learned all about Clue, Monopoly, Chess, Risk and so many others! With every new game I played my passion became stronger. My brothers and I were known to open a risk game and continue to play it for weeks at a time. We would wake up, get ready, play a turn or two, then go to school, come home, play until mom called us away for food, then play until she ushered us into bed. Those days were fun! However the same games played over and over can get a touch old. I needed ...something else.

Pass a few more years with a blur because ...well, you know... hormones. Next I find myself sitting around a living room floor with my older brother and a bunch of his friends as they introduce me to what has propelled my love of games back into a fiery passion for years since, and many more on the way; Dungeons & Dragons. Here I am a young 12-14 year old kid who has just found out that I can pick up a sword and fight an evil Dragon! I can study the ways of magic and sling fireballs at the approaching Orc army! I can stealthily maneuver to just the right spot to deliver a critical shot to the tyrannical Duke from the shadows! I can wield the powers of the Gods to both heal my companions and destroy the Undead plaguing the city! Now, don't get me wrong, there are many other games I have played and still love to this day (think Hero-Quest, Munchkin, Fate and Sentinels of the Multiverse just to name a few), but it was that very moment when I was able to see a game with endless possibilities. It was that moment my deep hunger for games was reinstated.

Since then I have enjoyed so many Board Games, Card Games, Role Playing Games and anything in between that I do not believe I could remember them all to name. I have also played a few that I found ...less entertaining. I won't take the time to go over all of the different games I have played, what campaigns I have completed, or any other details. Not here and now. In the many blogs to come I will go over game reviews that will go over these in detail. I will bring some ideas that I have either found very entertaining, or just down-right awesome that have helped me bring my game to the next level. Maybe you too will find them as exciting as I have!

But not now. This is just the Hello (or Hull-o! as I like to say). This is just me letting you catch a glimpse of how I came to write this blog. I will be here next week with a more specific topic, or perhaps a game review. If you have a specific Topic you would like to have my input on, please feel free to let me know. I am always happy to cater to a fellow Tabletop Games lover!

Until next time ...Game On.