Why You Need to Give Board Games a Chance

There’s been a recent resurgence in board games. If you were to walk into Heroes’ Beacon any given evening, you will probably find a table or two full of folks staring thoughtfully at a board covered in counters and meeples.

More and more people are cracking out board games and the variety of board games available seems to be growing steadily. But why should you bring a board game home?

#1 Unplugging from the Internet
Board games are far more social than their video game counterparts. Some games even require constant discussion and cooperation among players. There’s no LCD screens separating you from your peers. For families, it’s a good opportunity to sit down around a table and put the electronics down for a bit.

#2 No Longer About Chance
Dice-less games are becoming more and more common place. Sure, you can still find a die here or there, but most newer games are more about strategy and planning (and sometimes cooperation) than they are about random die rolls. There’s still room for the classic Hasbro games like Sorry, Monopoly and even Risk, but these days most games require more than just the luck of the die.

#3 The Family That Plays Together Doesn’t Die of Dehydration in a Desert
Forbidden Desert, Forbidden Island, Pandemic, Arkham Horror — there are a number of games out there that pit the players as a group against the game. These games require cooperation and teamwork yet still evoke a sense of challenge and excitement as you win or lose as a team.

#4 Cheaper Than a Movie
Sure, dropping $50 or so for a game sounds like a lot, but it’s certainly cheaper than taking the family out to the movies and it can be played over and over. There are also many enjoyable budget-friendly games that can be taken in.

#5 They Improve Your Math and Critical Thinking Skills
Researchers have found that children who play board games can achieve outstanding math skills. Even child psychologists have stated that they can have great impact on the child’s development. There are several benefits of playing board games which include various aspects of child development. That’s just what they can do for kids! Adults can enjoy keeping their wits sharp as well.

#6 They Can Help You Meet New People
Board games make for great ice breakers and can help you meet new people. If your family get-together is just a little too quiet, crack out a good party game. Board game cafes and comic stores like Heroes’ Beacon can offer a place to try new games with people you may not have played with before.
More and more people are finding new and entertaining board games to play. There’s more variety in games than there ever was before. Come on down and try some demos and find a game that you want to bring home. You might find some new friends or learn more about your family!

IWK Extra Life – Play Games, Heal Kids

A few months ago, Heroes’ Beacon participated in the IWK Extra Life 24 Hour Gaming Marathon to raise money for the IWK Children’s Hospital.

The next 25 Hour Gaming Event is set for October 25th 2014, but we’re not going to wait that long to start fundraising.  In fact, Heroes’ Beacon will continue to support the IWK Children’s Hospital and collect for Extra Life throughout the year.

If you are interested in helping to support the IWK, or want to find out more about Extra Life, please visit the Extra Life home page and keep an eye out for fundraising events throughout the year at Heroes’ Beacon!

IWK Children’s Foundation Home Page:
http://iwkfoundation.wordpress.com/about/

Extra Life Home Page:
http://www.extra-life.org/index.cfm?

Between the Panels’ February book – Maus

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is coming soon —  January 27th.  It is an international memorial day for the victims of the Holocaust, the genocide that resulted in the annihilation of 6 million Jews, 2 million Gypsies (Roma and Sinti), 15,000 homosexual people and millions of others by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.

It’s by a mere coincidence that the Between the Panels book club chose to read Maus during this time, but reading the book will certainly help many get an increased perspective of the tragedy of the Holocaust.  We will be reading the book over the coming weeks and we invite anyone interested to come and discuss the book with us at our book club sessions on February 7th and February 21st (6pm).  We will be holding two sessions to discuss this book and its contents at length and encourage everyone to attend (even if you have not had the chance to read the book).  If you have an interest in the graphic novel medium or in history you will find something to take away from these discussions.

Maus is  the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize and a fantastic example of what the medium can accomplish.

From Wikipedia:

Maus is a graphic novel completed in 1991 by American cartoonist Art Spiegelman. It depicts Spiegelman interviewing his father about his experiences as a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor. The book uses postmodern techniques—most strikingly in its depiction of races of humans as different kinds of animals, with Jews as mice, Germans as cats and non-Jewish Poles as pigs. Maus has been described as memoir, biography, history, fiction, autobiography, or a mix of genres. In 1992 it became the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize.

In the frame tale timeline in the narrative present, beginning in 1978 in the Rego Park section of New York City, Spiegelman talks with his father about his Holocaust experiences, gathering material for the Maus project he is preparing. In the narrative past, Spiegelman depicts these experiences, starting in the years leading up to World War II. Much of the story revolves around Spiegelman’s troubled relationship with his father, and the absence of his mother who committed suicide when he was 20. Her grief-stricken husband destroyed her written accounts of Auschwitz. The book uses a minimalist drawing style while displaying innovation in its page and panel layouts, pacing, and structure.

A three-page 1972 strip by Spiegelman, also called “Maus”, was the impetus for Spiegelman to interview his father about his life during World War II. The recorded interviews became the basis for the graphic novel, which Spiegelman began in 1978. Maus was serialized from 1980 until 1991 as an insert in Raw, an avant-garde comics and graphics magazine published by Spiegelman and his wife, Françoise Mouly. It was one of the first graphic novels to receive academic attention in the English-speaking world.

 

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Card Game Review: Legendary – A Marvel Deck Building Game

Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game
Upper Deck Entertainment
2-5 Players
45 Minutes
14yrs and up
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Legendary was one of the two deck building games I had the opportunity to play this past New Year’s Eve.  I thought I’d give my thoughts on the game based on my first two playthroughs.  It’s not so different from other deck building games but it does add some complexities and mechanics that make the game both more engaging and interactive as well as more time consuming to play and set up.

If you have played other deck building games then you will know the basics of Legendary.  Use the cards in your cards to buy new cards to add to your deck.  Rinse, repeat.  Legendary adds some complexity to it — so much so that the game includes a game boards to outline where each of your cards, decks and discard piles will need to go.  Compared to the DC Deck Buildin Game or Lord of the Rings Deck Building Game (which are both fairly quick to set up and play) Legendary is much more involved.  This is both its greatest strength and its biggest weakness.

Each player will be given a starting deck consisting of SHIELD Agents and Commandos and they will work on improving their deck to defeat the mastermind.  Unlike other games, all of your starting cards will be of some use to you.  Each card provides a different form of “currency” to buy new cards.  Agents provide you with recruitment points while Commandos provide you with attack power.  You will be able to recruit new hero cards from the five face-up heroes in the HQ area or the upgraded SHIELD Agent card using your recruitment points and then add those cards to their deck.  To this point, the game feels like most other deck builders.

Unlike DC and LotR, Legendary provides two main decks — a hero deck that populates the HQ and a villain deck.  Each turn, a card is revealed from the villain deck.  It may be a villain, bystander, Master Strike or Scheme Twist.  Revealed villains move across the five spaces of the city area and can eventually escape — triggering negative effects that may KO hero cards and remove them from the game.  Bystanders may be revealed and captured by the villains or the mastermind.  Scheme Twists and Master Strikes can also be drawn that will further the mastermind’s plan.

The mastermind himself sits separate from other cards and is the main opponent that players will want to defeat.  Defeating him requires the players to successfully attack him a number of times, gaining a card each time they are successful.  The mastermind is randomly selected and possesses his own ability that, when triggered from a Master Strike card drawn from the villain deck, will cause setbacks to the players.  There is also a randomly selected scheme which presents the mastermind’ goals.  Drawing a scheme twist card from the villain deck advances the villain’s plot and moves them closer to victory.

The scheme is a biggest departure from most other deck building games.  The players are not directly competing against each other.  Instead, they must actively work to defeat the villain and prevent him from completing his scheme.  If you win, you can award a player Legendary hero status based on the victory points they’ve earned, but there is a risk that all of the players will lose — that he villain will complete his scheme and win.  This gives the game a semi-cooperative feel and applies some pressure to the players.  In the first game we played, The Red Skull (mastermind) was looking to unleash the Legacy Virus (Scheme).  With each Scheme Twist card that was revealed, we gained a wound card thanks to the Legacy Virus scheme and added our decks.  The wound card is a dead card of no value that only weakens your deck.  If the wound deck was depleted, then the mastermind’s scheme was complete and the heroes lost.  We came one wound from losing.  In our second game, we played against Dr Doom (Mastermind) as he worked with the Skrulls to complete the Skrull Invasion (Scheme).  With this scheme, we shuffled a number of hero cards into the villain deck.  These heroes were disguised Skrulls and if enough of them escaped, the heroes would lose the game.  We again found ourselves coming close to losing.

The variety of masterminds, schemes, henchmen, villains and heroes that can be found in the game add a lot of variety and replay value.  Unlike other deck building games, each game can play very differently.  Different schemes present different win condtions and mechanics.  They force players to consider different strategies as well.  Tech-typed hero cards, for example, can defend against the Legacy virus.  This changes how players choose their cards.  Will you recruit an Iron Man tech card to help you defend from the legacy virus, or will you allow one of your allies to buy it to help bolster their own defenses.  Your victory points mean little if the villain wins.

The addition of the mastermind and his scheme added a great mechanic that gave the game a sense of urgency.  The early game will leave you feeling weak and powerless as the villains will almost always seem to overwhelm you — particularly if you have a large number of players.  The situation gradually improves and eventually snowballs to the point that you will find yourselves whupping the mastermind in short order and shaking the  cards out of him like a pinata.

The hero cards are fairly complex having a type (strength, ranged, tech, etc) and affiliation (X-Men, Avengers, SHIELD) as well as their ability and the boost to your attack or recruitment points that they provide. Some cards also provide mechanics that are triggered based on cards played earlier in that same hand.  Your Iron Man card may allow you to draw an additional card if you played a tech-typed hero card earlier that hand.  Hawkeye may allow you to gain an additional power if you played an Avenger team member earlier that round.  This means that you will want to select cards that will trigger abilities on other cards and make them more powerful.

Setting up the game is a lengthy process.  The heroes used in the hero deck are selected at random and all cards associated with the chosen heroes are then added to that deck.  The same is done with the villains deck with the villains and henchmen cards.  This requires a fair bit of sifting through your different stacks of cards.  It’s also a pain to pull out one of each card type so you can select those you need at random and then put back the ones you pulled and then add the selected types to your main decks.   There are also additional groups of cards to manage — a deck of wounds, bystanders and your various agents.  Each mastermind has five cards associated with it.  You have a stack of schemes, scheme twists and master strikes to keep organized.  This means you will need a lot of dividers to keep things organized (supplied, thankfully).  It also means that putting the game away will require a bit of post-game sorting as well.  You will likely only use about 2/3rds of the cards supplied (500) in your game.  Add in the expansions and you could find yourself with a painful bit of setup and sorting.

Still, this gives you a significant amount of variety and can give you some unexpected challenges.  No tech heroes?  Then you could be in over your head if the mastermind is plotting to unleash the Legacy Virus.

Another key difference between this game and the Cryptezoic games is that players are not assigned a hero.  You are simply someone (perhaps a SHIELD director?) who is organizing a team of heroes to fend off the mastermind and his scheme.  This isn’t quite as exciting as playing Batman (DC) or Legolas (Lord of the Rings) or Tycho (Penny Arcade: Gamers vs Evil) but it does put everyone on even footing.

The artwork in the game is rather nice though some variety in the hero card artwork would have been appreciated (addressed in the subsequent Dark City expansion).  The box gives you ample room for the game’s cards as well as more than enough room for the expansions and is wide enough to accomodate sleeves.

While setting up and putting away the game will be a huge pain it is worth the time.  The variety provided by the randomly built main decks and the random mastermind and scheme will give you a lot of replay value.  Cards interact in a variety of ways adding a really nice layer of strategy that is much stronger than most other games of this type.  The interaction with the mastermind and his scheme give the game a nice cooperative feel and gives the mastermind a sense of presence in the game.  He’s not just a card waiting for you to buy up.  The mastermind has a goal and he is actively playing against you.  Do you work with the team to beat him or do you risk losing to the mastermind by chasing down the extra points that might give you a higher victory point score making you the Legendary hero should the mastermind be defeated?

There are other games that are certainly easier to set up and a blast to play — but Legendary offers more advanced mechanics and a different experience that can be worth it if you have the time.

At the end of the day, the sign of a good game is your desire to play it again.  I’d really like to play it again!

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

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Magneto mastermind card.  Drawing a Master Strike from the villain deck will force players to reveal an X-Men card from their hand or discard cards.  Masterminds will typically list a set of villains that must be included and shuffled into the villain deck.

Card Game Review: Lord of the Rings Deck Building Game

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Deck Building Game
Cryptozoic Entertainment
2-5 Players
30 Minutes
10yrs and up
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

We recently held a New Year’s Eve party at Heroes’ Beacon that had the group of us playing a variety of board games and card games.  It was a good opportunity for everyone to try a few new games.  I thought I’d would post some reviews of some of the deck building games that we tried.

The first is the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring deck building game by Cryptozoic Entertainment.  This game is nearly identical to Cryptozoic’s DC deck building game — so if you have played that one you should know exactly what you are in for.  Deck building games for the most part have players starting with a bare-bones deck of cards that they use to purchase new cards to add to their deck and increase their score.  I’ve played a variety of deck building games and they all tend to hold to that premise and the each tend to award some quick, fun game play.

With the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (LotR:FotR) deck building game each player takes on the role of one of the story’s heroes.  Depending on the hero (distributed at random) that player will receive one card to add to their deck that represents the special power, item or ability that their particular hero possesses.  For example, Samwise grants you the card “Samwise’s Courage” which increases in power depending on the number of cards in your discard pile.  You then each get a number of despair and courage cards to create a small starting deck.  Despair cards are essentially “dead” cards while courage cards give you 1 power each.

Players draw a hand of 5 cards and from that they each try to accumulate as much power as they possibly can.  Power is used to purchase one of the five face up cards on “the path”, purchase a plain “valor” card that can grant 2 power or defeat an archenemy card and add that to their deck.  You won’t be able to defeat archenemies from your starting hand, but you will be able to purchase cards from the path or valor cards to increase the potency of your deck and build up to the point that you can defeat your archenemies and slow down the other players.

Once a player purchases a card or defeats an enemy, a new card is revealed to replace it — either added to the path or revealed as the new archenemy.  There are a variety of cards that will come into play — maneuvers, enemies, allies, luck and locations — each with their own abilities and effects.  Some cards will complement each other or play better in different deck types.  Some cards have an ambush or attack mechanic that will cause negative affects against one or more players leading them to discarding cards, removing cards from their deck entirely or adding corruption cards to their deck that will weaken it and reduce their score.

Defeating archenemies is the key to victory.  Defeated archenemies are added to the player’s deck and carry with them potent effects and a higher score value that will help lead the player to victory.  Once the last archenemy is defeated, players tally up their point totals to determine who has won.

Game play is fast and the rules are easy to pick up.  Your starting deck will be a bit dull but as you add new cards your deck will become more and more interesting.  Trying to find the best cards to purchase is the key strategy to the game.  You want a deck of cards that complement each other well and at times it can be better to not spend the points if it means adding a card that would only weaken your deck.  Luck will often play a huge factor though, as you won’t have any direct control over what cards get dropped onto the path for you to choose from and an ambush or attack can have you discarding to the point of being unable to purchase the cards you had your eye on.

The card types are easily identifiable and it is just a really nice game to look at.   The cards use stills taken from the film and everything is clear and easy to read.  The card mechanics are generally pretty engaging as well and at no point did a mechanic have us really scratching our heads.   The packaging itself is quite nice.    The box is set up to help you keep your cards organized with sections for each of the card types which is a big bonus that helps you get a game started quickly.

There’s nothing really negative to say about the game other than perhaps its general simplicity.  At times, your card purchases will be pretty straightforward.  It’s also very similar to the DC deck building game.  In fact, it is practically identical in terms of mechanics.   There is also not a huge difference between the characters — not so much that it will have any noticeable impact on game play (which is good) but also little impact on your strategy (which is not quite so good).

It’s easy to recommend the Lord of the Rings deck building game.  It’s an easy game to pick up and play yet engaging enough to keep everyone interested.  The expansion — Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers deck building game — can be played alone or added into the existing game, adding new cards and mechanics.  The second expansion — The Return of the King — is due out early this year.  If you already have the DC deck building game, then you may find the Lord of the Rings game to be almost too similar.  Otherwise, it’s a great purchase.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
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Gifts Ideas to Celebrate 50 Years of Dr Who

Looking for the perfect gift ideas to help celebrate Dr. Who’s 50th Anniversary?  Looking for something to tuck under the Christmas tree for your favorite Whovian?

IMG_4820Dr Who Talking Soft Toy Dalek 
The Dalek may be the most perfect evil ever created, and on a million worlds the very name ‘Dalek’ is spoken in hushed tones as billions cower at their approach. But you don’t need to fear Underground Toys’ Talking Dalek Plushes, which bring Davros’ ultimate killing machine to life in a cute and cuddly form! Plus, give it a squeeze and it will tell you how much it wants to exterminate you!
This Dalek plush says “Exterminate!” and “You would make a good Dalek” when you squeeze him!

Dr Who T-Shirts 
Share your love of Dr. Who with a Dr Who t-shirt.  “Don’t Blink”, “It Seems to Me…” and “Future Companion” graphic Ts available.

Dr Who Volume 1, Fugitive 
An anomaly in the space-time continuum brings the Doctor to Hollywood during the Roaring Twenties, where he makes new friends and new enemies.  But his actions attract the attention of the Shadow Proclamation, which puts him on trial for his life!  This book collects the first six issues of the ongoing series.

Dr Who Omnibus, Volume 1 
The Dr Who Omnibus, Volume 1 collects three tales involving the Tenth Doctor — Agent Provocateur, Through Time and Space and The Forgotten.

Dr Who Knee High Socks 
Because Dr Who Socks are cool, and what better way to keep a time traveler’s feet warm?

Dr Who Mugs 
Start your morning with your favorite warm beverage in a Dr Who mug!  “St John Ambulance” logo and “It’s Bigger On the Inside” mugs.

Dr Who Sticky Notes 
Six different sticky note pads for keeping track of all your time traveling ways.
Over 300 sticky notes in all.
4 Dalek Pads (Black, Yellow, Blue, Red), 1 TARDIS Pad, and 1 Doctor To Do List.

Doctor Who Titans 3″ Mystery Vinyls (Series 2) 
From Titan Entertainment! Celebrate the world’s favorite space-and-time-traveling adventurer with this 10th Doctor set of Doctor Who TITANS, the latest in our multiverse of figures to collect! This 12 character set features David Tennant’s 10th Doctor, his amazing time-traveling spaceship the TARDIS, and some of his most notorious foes, including the fearsome Daleks, a battle-hungry Sontaran, the chilling Vashta Nerada, the unnerving Clockwork Robot and the ruthlessly inhuman Cyber Leader. Each figure is 3″ blind-boxed and certain figures come with a character-specific accessory. Plus: 4 hidden chase figures for you to hunt and collect! Blind mystery box packaging.


*Some items may no longer be available. Please contact us for price and availability.

Citadel Technical Paints

Games Workshop has released a new range of Technical Paints to aid in giving some depth and grime to your models.

If your looking to add rust to tanks, blood to weapons, or ooze to some daemons these paints will make your life easier and your models look great.

I’ve already tried out 3 of the 6 and they work exactly like the videos show!

Check out these videos to see how each works.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TRBq7GVnJM

Card Game Review: S’Quarrels

S’Quarrels
2+ Players
15 Minutes
8yrs and up
RECOMMENDED

Looking for a quick, fun game for the whole family?  You can’t really go wrong with S’Quarrels.  The game was featured as one of the store’s Staff Picks and we’ve cleared through a number of copies we’ve had in stock.

S’Quarrels has you and your friends collecting nuts by matching numbered cards.  Having 3-of-a-kind of any specific numbered nuts and you can place the matched set in front of you for points.  At the end of the game, each matched set counts for points equal to the face value of the card.  If your lucky, you can find a Golden Acorn card.  Keeping it in your hand at the end of the turn nets you 5 points.  Get stuck with the Rotten Acorn in your hand and you loose 5 points.

The basic premise and scoring is pretty simple.  Each player draws a hand of 7 cards and plays their matched sets.  The trick is the few action cards you may find.  Pulling one of the five action cards when you draw will have you immediately performing actions against your opponents such as taking their cards, competing for nuts, or tossing everyone’s hand into a whirlwind and redistributing the cards.  Pull the Winter card and the game ends — everyone tally’s up their collection of nuts.

The game is pretty straightforward and fun to boot.  It takes no time to teach a new player how to play and it’s an easy game for kids and parents to pick up and share.

If you are looking for a quick and easy alternative to some of the classic family card games, you can’t go wrong with S’Quarrels.

Still unsure?  S’Quarrels is one of Heroes’ Beacon’s featured demo games — pop in and give it a spin!

RECOMMENDED

Between the Panels book club kicks off with Sandman!

Heroes’ Beacon will soon be home to a new bi-weekly event!  The Between the Panels book club will be meeting every other week, starting Thursday November 14th at 6PM, to discuss different graphic novel titles!

This month, the club will be focusing their attention on Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes.  The book club will be discussing how a graphic novel might be reviewed compared to a traditional book and their own thoughts on the themes, art and story of each book they cover.

The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes will be discussed through the month of November.  First published in 1991, the Sandman was one of Vertigo’s flagship titles.  New readers will get an introduction to this well known series and old readers will be able to share their thoughts on this tale.

After The Sandman, the book club will be moving on to cover the first volume of The Walking DeadHush will start off the new year with the Pulitzer Prize and Eisner Award wining graphic novel Maus following shortly after.

Between the Panels members who attend one of the book club sessions will be able to order upcoming book club books at a 10% discount (only available during Between the Panel events).

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Card Game Review: Kittens in a Blender

Kittens in a Blender
Closet Nerd Games/Redshift Games
2-4 Players
30 Minutes
6yrs and up
RECOMMENDED

There were more than a few games I got to try for the first time at our IWK Extra Life Fundraiser. Kittens in a Blender had to be one of the more… twisted… games.

Good, simple fun – Kittens in a Blender has you trying to save your kittens while also working to “blend” your opponents’. Kitten cards come in four colors and each player will choose one of those colors as their own. Each player is dealt a hand of cards that may contain kittens of any of the four colors, and various event cards. During your turn, you can play two cards. Kitten cards are played to either “the box” where they are nice and safe, “the blender” where they are not at all safe, and “the counter” in between. Other cards are played to the discard pile – though you’ll want to track how many times you played a “blend” card in case there is a tie breaker. “Move” cards help you move kittens from the blender to the counter, the counter to the box, or the box to the counter. Blend cards blend the kittens in the blender and save the kittens in the box and move kittens on the counter into the blender (because kittens are curious, apparently, and they think there is a party in the blender). Pulse cards can blend or stop a blend. Other cards can be use to affect play as well, moving kittens between the different areas.

You want kittens of your color safe in the box while moving your opponents’ kittens into the blender and blending them.

Once you have blended all you can blend, players count up their saved kittens for points and then deduct points for kittens that got blended.

It sounds simple because it is. The theme is a bit sadistic, but it makes saving your favorite cute kitten feel that much more desperate. Watching your opponent wince or cry out “nooooo” when you blend a blender full of their favorite kittens feels more than a bit a bit satisfying.

The simple nature of the game might hinder its longevity – but the theme will raise eyebrows and certainly motivate your friends to give it a try…

…then you can reduce them to tears as you blend their favorite kittens.

RECOMMENDED*

Kittens In A Blender
“STAY AWAY MR. KITTY!”

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“Aw, look at poor Mr. Mittens…  INTO THE BLENDER!”

*Blending real kittens NOT RECOMMENDED.

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