31 August 2019

Educational Games

A man sits at a table with two children who appear to be in kindergarten or first grade, playing a board game with them. The game is a modular board made up of tiles containing roads through grassy fields, and the players are placing brightly coloured plastic pieces on the board.
This image is from the K-State Research and Extension, made available under a Creative Commons CC BY 2.0 license.
When I think of educational games, I tend to think of boring, clunky games that simply ask players to perform the task they're supposed to be learning. For example, a third grader who's supposed to be learning multiplication might play a game in which they draw a card with a multiplication problem on it, and if they correctly solve that equation, they get to move their piece along the track on the game board.

Boring. Clumsy. Essentially no different from flashcards.

Of course, a lot of games that exist teach valuable skills without making it the point of the game. Dungeons and Dragons gives players lots of practise at basic mathematics just as a result of the bonuses, penalties, buffs, and so on involved in rolling dice for task resolution. Abstract strategy games like Chess, Go, Santorini, and Hive hone players' planning, reasoning, and critical thinking skills. Most games offer opportunities to refine social skills. And so on...

24 August 2019

PinkFae Archive #45: How to GM Part 6: Beginning a Campaign or Session

Today we have another entry from the PinkFae Archives. This one is another installment in the 'How to GM' series. It was originally published on 10 December 2016.

A road, beginning at the bottom of the image and stretching away from the viewer into the background, fading in the distance. In the foreground, the word 'start' is stenciled on the road in large white letters.

Last time, we talked about running a game session. However, there is an important corollary that goes along with this idea. That is the the understanding of how to begin a game session. But this concept of a beginning doesn't apply exclusively to game sessions: the beginning of a campaign is just as important (in some ways, more so!). So we're going to talk about beginning things in today's session.

For those less familiar with gaming, a trope exists about most campaigns beginning in a tavern. The location of the beginning is less an issue than the nature of the characters themselves. I wrote an in-depth discussion of the concern on my other blog. In short, the first session of a campaign often starts with the characters, who have never met, in the same tavern. There are problems with this approach, which we will discuss later in this article. The important point here: the beginning of a campaign or game session is very important.

17 August 2019

PinkFae Archive #44: Board Game Review: Widow's Walk for Betrayal at House on the Hill

Today's entry is another PinkFae Archive. This one is another board game review, but unlike most of the reviews I've written, this one is a review of an expansion. It is thus far still the only review I've written for an expansion. It was originally published on 3 December 2016.

A display photo of the Widow's Walk box.The cover art shows a three-storey mansion in silhouette, with a pair of tombstones nearby, as a creepy old woman, perhaps a ghost or witch, looms over the mansion, grinning wickedly, as she reaches her hands down towards the mansion.

Back in 2004, Avalon Hill released an innovative board game called Betrayal at House on the Hill. A friend had a copy, and I got to play it, and loved it so much I bought a copy. It became popular, and many of my friends loved playing it. It soon went out of print, though... but demand increased. So in 2010, they released a second edition, with improved parts and corrections. It continued to be popular. So everyone continued to wonder why such a popular game had no expansions. Earlier this year, they announced the first expansion: Widow's Walk.

This review is going to be a little different. Instead of reviewing the game itself, I'm going to review an expansion. If you're not familiar with the base game, you can read my review over on my other site.

10 August 2019

PinkFae Archive #43: Fantasy: Defining a Genre

Today's entry is another article from the PinkFae Archives. It was originally published on 26 November 2016.

Fantasy: noun, plural fantasies. 1. imagination, especially when extravagant and unrestrained. 2. the forming of mental images, especially wondrous or strange fancies; imaginative conceptualizing. 3. a mental image, especially when unreal or fantastic; vision: a nightmare fantasy. 4. Psychology. an imagined or conjured up sequence fulfilling a psychological need; daydream. 5. a hallucination. 6. a supposition based on no solid foundation; visionary idea; illusion: dreams of Utopias and similar fantasies. 7. caprice; whim. 8. an ingenious or fanciful thought, design, or invention. 9. Also fantasia. Literature: an imaginative or fanciful work, especially one dealing with supernatural or unnatural events or characters: The stories of Poe are fantasies of horror. (Taken from dictionary dot com)

Normally, when someone says the word 'fantasy,' a person is most likely to think of one of two things:

  • A literary genre, or films and television shows in that same genre, involving magic in a world, most likely in the milieu of the European middle ages, that often includes elves, dwarves, goblins, and other semi-mythological beings.
  • A desired or preferred sexual activity.

Obviously, we're not going to talk about the second of these. But as gamers, we often find ourselves in games that fit the first.

03 August 2019

Board Game Review: Charon Inc.

The cover art for Charon Inc. Slightly simplistic crawing of various sci-fi buildings with different coloured domes for roofs, on the moon Charon, with pipes running along the surface subdividing the surface into areas, with flags of different colours at the junctions of these pipes. There are rocks and crystals in yellow, green, and blue lying on the surface. A rocket ship is seen blasting off in the background and an artificial satellite hovers in the distance.

John recently mentioned to me that he missed having a copy of Charon Inc. by Emanuele Ornella and Fred Binkitani, published by Eagle-Gryphon Games. He had had a copy previously, but had lost it recently. So I felt moved to buy him a copy. He was so excited when I gave it to him that we played it that very night. I'm so glad we did, because I really enjoyed it. Now I will review it for you!

The premise of this game is that players represent CEOs of mega-corporations exploiting Pluto's moon Charon for mineral resources to build various buildings, which score victory points. And with that, let's take a look at the ratings!