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Posts about Board Games

Catlilli Games – When Science meets Board Gaming

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I had the good fortune to meet the driving force behind Catlilli Games at my first game demo at WashingCon last month. I was immediately hooked by Tacto, a programming in the guise of Tic-Tac-Toe that both teaches programming AND is genuinely fun to play. Catlilli Games has successfully bridged the gap between learning AND fun, developing educational games that are exciting to play in addition to teaching STEM.  Since the company was formed they’ve won numerous awards including awards from the Imagination Gaming Awards and three International Serious Play Awards this year. This week I sat down again with Catherine Swanwick to talk about women in games and game development.

What prompted you to get into game design, and why educational games?
I’ve loved board games my whole life.  I used to collect them and my parents would become exasperated when they took up so much room.  When I became a teacher, I started creating them (simple, short ones) whenever I could for the classroom.  One of my colleagues, Jon Nardolilli, did the same thing, and I discovered that not only was he a board game lover, too, but that he had designed his own actual full-length game.  I became inspired and started to design games, also.  We decided to form our own company, Catlilli Games (part of my first name and part of his last name).  We are both STEM teachers, and as a former scientist, I am passionate about educating the public about STEM concepts.  It’s the reason I became a teacher.  My company, Catlilli Games, is extremely mission-driven.  We want to transform STEM education with gaming.

How long have you been gaming?
I’ve collected/played/loved board games my entire life. I only started designing games in Jan. 2015 when Catlilli Games was founded.

Do you feel like the game design industry and tabletop community is positive towards women? Why?
Overall, I have to say that no, I don’t feel the game design industry/tabletop community is welcoming towards women.  I haven’t experienced outright animosity, but I am naturally excluded from gaming groups, and I do feel slightly uncomfortable when I want to attend game nights at stores but they are mostly men.  However, there are pockets of very welcoming communities, such as Labyrinth on Capitol Hill (Washington DC), where I have found men and women present in equal numbers and I have always felt a warm, friendly, accepting vibe toward women.

Whats your favorite game? Least favorite?
My favorite game is so very difficult to choose!  In general, I like cooperative games (Pandemic, Forbidden Desert, Mole Rats in Space – basically anything by Matt Leacock), although I do have a special place in my heart for Machi Koro.  My absolute LEAST favorite game is PieFace – I call it my archenemy.  It goes against everything I stand for as a game designer.

Why do you think educational games are beneficial/important?
Games are important for education because they are a natural way of engaging students.  They automatically stimulate their attention, and they let them interact with the material in a hands-on, creative, exciting way.  Even better, they allow students to talk through questions/problems and learn from each other in many ways.  I also believe that gaming experiences will help them retain the material for longer periods of time.

Whats your favorite stage of the design process?
My favorite part of the design process are the very earliest stages, when I or my former partner had the seed of an idea and knew it has the potential to make a great game, so we would sit for hours going through all the permutations to set up an initial prototype.  The excitement is indescribable.

Looking for an entertaining way to help a kid in your life with science? You can purchase Catlilli Games from their website. (And try Tacto – its outstanding!)

The Wrath of Ashardalon Review

The Wrath of Ashardalon Review

Game Designed by Peter Lee
Published by Wizards of the Coast
Release date: February 15, 2011

Dungeons & Dragons is best known as a tabletop RPG where a group of players sit around a table and role play as their previously created character. They listen to a Dungeon Master, who writes the story, describes scenery, invents situations and stands in as NPCs. It’s been the experience of many a D&D player that a good DM is hard to find (I’ve been blessed with amazing DMs, but I hear other people have this problem). Well, with the invention of Dungeon & Dragons board games, this isn’t a problem anymore.

Just over a year ago – right after I moved to Los Angeles and right before I met my current DM – I bought a board game called The Wrath of Ashardalon. It’s a cooperative game for 1 – 5 players with 5 pre-made characters and 13 build-as-you-go dungeon adventures. Each adventure is more difficult than the last, with the 13th and final being an assault on Firestorm Peak to find and defeat the dragon Ashardalon. The game is part of the D&D Adventure System, which means it can be combined with other D&D games, such as Castle Ravenloft, The Legend of Drizzt, and the newest game The Temple of Elemental Evil.Wrath of ashardalon unboxed

I originally bought this game for two reasons: 1) I was missing my D&D group back in Pennsylvania; and 2) I was excited that it has the option to play alone. When I got the game, however, I was disappointed that there is only one adventure tailored to the single player. This is the first adventure, which is designed to show you how to play the game and doesn’t have much replayability.

The rest of the adventures suggest 2 – 5 players. This is another disappointment because it’s nearly impossible to defeat any of the dungeons with just two players. Even Adventure 2 proved to be too difficult for just me and a friend. We were able to defeat it easily with four players, though, so it’s not all bad.

The game plays very much like a D&D campaign, but your actions are limited and the game itself is the Dungeon Master. Reading the rules of the game caused a lot of controversy, though. They are vague and leave a lot to interpretation. This caused arguments within the group with whom I played the game. Eventually, I was able to quell any confusion my group had by explaining how things worked in a D&D campaign, as I was the only person who’d played before.

Wrath of Ashardalon playingThe adventures themselves are fun once you get the hang of it. The monsters have varying degrees of difficulty, allowing for some experiences to be more challenging than others. The game requires your group to pull together and defeat each dungeon, which gives you the same feeling of accomplishment as a normal D&D campaign. It’s a good substitute for when your DM is sick or just can’t make it for one reason or another.

Do I recommend it? Yes. It’s a fun substitute for an actual campaign. However, I would suggest that you try to get four or five players, including at least one who has played a D&D campaign before who can clarify or make executive decisions in regards to the vague rulebook. That will make the transition much smoother and your adventures much more interesting.

This is also a good choice as a Christmas present for the gamer in your life!

-Vanri the Rogue

Dungeons and Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon

Giving Thanks to Games

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Since this is the time of the year for reflection and thankfulness, I thought I’d ask my fellow admins what games they were thankful for. This is what we had to say:

 

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My sister has always been my best friend but, as we get older and life becomes increasingly more hectic and stressful, our time together is precious. For the last couple months, we have started playing Hearthstone together. It’s almost a tradition now, where we play the latest Tavern Brawl and chat with each other. I spam the emotes and she gets annoyed. It’s a good time, really! It can be so easy to be consumed with all of the stuff around us that we get disconnected with some of the people that make life great. So thank you, Hearthstone, for being a wonderful part of our friendship and helping us connect around brutally hitting each other’s faces with beasts and mechs and stuff.

~ Avenue

Dungeons & Dragons has been ever-present in my life. Even though I didn’t start playing until I was in my early 20s, I’ve found that D&D has always had a special place in my heart. My brother and his friends played it weekly and two of my older sisters would join in every once in awhile. My brother was always talking to me about it and telling me all about the monsters and the races, etc. By the time I was old enough to play, my oldest siblings were already out of the house, so I had nobody to play with. Fast forward to 2013, when Crymson invited me to play in my first campaign. I’ve been playing ever since. Not only has it brought me closer to many of my good friends, but it’s also allowed me to connect with my siblings in a way I couldn’t before. So, thank you Dungeons & Dragons. I hope you continue to bring people together.

~ Vanri the Rogue

I have had one game that has been a constant in my life. My whole family plays it. We trash talk and make bets. It is mini golf. I know, I know. This doesn’t sound like the type of game that we would normally be blogging about, but it is a game that I love to play. My mom, dad, younger brother and I played a lot of mini golf. It was affordable and fun. My dad used to patiently try to teach me how to line up a shot while reminding me to just stay calm. It was good practice for life and playing other games, since I get so frustrated with myself.

My older cousins and their kids play with us now and there is a lot of competition. We go in a big group and split up in different teams. We play, we tease each other and then we eat ice cream. It is always fun. We tell stories about playing on the same courses when we were kids. Most importantly, we all get to be together.

~ Thia the Bard

The first video game that I ever got for myself was Pokemon: Yellow for the GameB
oy back in the year 2000. I had been collecting the cards, so getting the game just seemed like a natural outgrowth of that CCG obsession (I managed to snag 5 Charizard cards over my collecting career, by the way, all booster pack pulls. I still have three of them). Ever since then, the Pokemon series has held an important place in my gamer heart. I got at least one game from each generation. While I may not have caught ’em all since the early days of the games (I mean, really, who has time to catch over 700 ‘mons these days?), there is something exhilarating about that ‘click!’ when a pokeball successfully loc photo gt2gRINSHI_zpsq9jrztt7.pngks tight around a rare pokemon, even after all these years. It makes me so happy when I can help my friends by breeding pokemon that I have and they need. Most importantly, though, Pokemon led me to be a gamer, and, without that, I may never have made the wonderful relationships that I have, including my husband, my best friend, and many of my closest friends. So thank you, Pokemon, for turning me into a Real Woman of Gaming, and for making my life complete.

~ Rinshi

I have to say the game I am most thankful for is EverQuest. It was my first MMO. The people I met through that game and the experiences I had there helped build my beliefs on how women can be just as included in games as men.

I had a good guild and was never harassed. I made great friends and, even though we all went separate ways, I still remember the experience as a great one and always strive to find it again in anything I play.

~ KinkedNitemare

I can’t say that I am thankful for any one game, really. Everquest was my first MMO, and it did make an impact on my life. I was first introduced to it when I stopped by a buddy’s room in the barracks while I was stationed in Alaska. I was amazed at the game. I would just hang out and watch him play for hours a night. Eventually, he let me make a character and try it out for myself. I was hooked at that point. I got my own account and would play for hours after work and all weekend long, many times pulling 24+ hour marathons. For $15 a month, I was transported into a new world, making friends from all over the planet. I played steadily until 2005 when a bunch of us in Afghanistan got into playing WoW, which ended up taking the place of Everquest for a few years (though I would still jump into it every so often). Eventually, I got burned out on the daily grind of WoW and moved back to EQ. MMO’s were my escape from the daily grind of work and deployment.

~ Fluffy the Necromancer
When I was a kid, my grandmother worked at Kiddy City and the Nintendo was the newest thing, so she bought it for us that Christmas. At first, I really wasn’t sure what to make of it, but I got my

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Credit: Victoria Mallon

hands on Super Mario Bros and was hooked. Mario was not my first love, though, Final Fantasy was. My father had picked it up and helped me play. It got to the point where we would talk about things that happened in the game. It was exciting and new and a great bond I had with my father. That is what got me into gaming but, all these years after his passing, I have those memories to look back on and remember him and all the fun we had together so fondly. I often wonder what he would think of the games out today. I hope that one day I can share a bond like that with my daughter.

~Crymson Pleasure~

What games are you thankful for? We’d love to hear your stories. Thank you for reading and have a great holiday!

Halloween Game Recommendations: Part Two

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HR2

Since it is the Halloween season we’ve rounded up some more games to play for all your spooky needs. Here is what some of the admins had to offer!

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Halloween Game Recommendations: Part One

Posted on

HRP1

Since it is the Halloween season we’ve rounded up some games to play for all your spooky needs. Here is what some of the admins had to offer!

Read the rest of this entry

Understanding the question

Gaia LogoSo many times I have sat and had the same conversation with Vanri the Rogue and that conversation might surprise you. It’s a conversation that I am sure happens a lot; a conversation that should happen if you don’t understand the topic.

I didn’t understand feminism. I didn’t get it. I innocently thought it wasn’t for me in any way, shape or form. I thought, like so many others, that it was a bunch of – pardon the phrase – feminazis who were demanding everything in the world be un-girly. We honestly have such screwed up views as to what it actually is because there is no positive explanation of it in our everyday lives. When it’s brought up or portrayed, it is always given a negative undertone or worse (to me), chalked up to ‘girl power.’ *shudder* Not everything females do can be summed up in a Spice Girls song.

Well, Vanri sat me down and schooled me. She did this after I had said for the millionth time, ‘I’m not a feminist.’ She looked at me and said, ‘Oh, dear, Crymson but you are.’ Ok, maybe not just like that, but you get the gist. She sat there and listed off all of the feminist things that I do on a daily basis. You know what #1 was? If you guessed Real Women of Gaming, you’d be right. Talk about a wake up call.

This is what she explained or, more importantly, how I understood what she explained.

Feminism is the right to choose, to decide. She explained that it isn’t unfeminine to be a stripper (which I totally assumed), it’s oppressive to not have the ability to decide if you want to be a stripper or not.

I was seriously floored. Was it really that simple? Yeah, apparently it is. When we lack the ability to make those decisions, the same ability men have, then it is oppression.

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Gaming Couples

It's Dangerous There seems to be a lot of stigma surrounding the ever elusive creature known as the ‘gaming couple.’ I have heard a lot of negative things about gaming couples and very little positive. I also hear a lot of crap directed at one person or the other in the relationship. “Oh she only plays X because he does;” “Oh he plays Y because his girlfriend/wife made him.” I am here to clear up more than a few things about the mysteriousness around it, but one more than anything else.

Everything you’ve heard is utter bullshit.

Lets start off with a bit of background. I’ve ALWAYS been into video games; my husband has ALWAYS been into video games. We have ALWAYS been into Trading Card Games; we have ALWAYS been into board games. He doesn’t force me to play anything and I don’t force him to play anything. Out of respect for our bond, we will totally try something that the other one is into, but that doesn’t mean we are totally into it.

I can’t play any of the Ghost Recon/Call of Duty games for shit. I’ve tried on several occasions. I like them enough but I don’t like the realistic aspect of it (not to mention the fact that I REALLY suck at them). Now, give me Gears of War or Halo and I will beat a bitch’s ass whilst trash talkin’ ‘bout your Mom (a habit I am really trying to break), but I try every game he asks me to. He tries every game I ask him to, also. This doesn’t stop at gaming. I got him into Doctor Who; he got me into Hell’s Kitchen. I got him (kinda) into Anime; he got me (kinda) into sports.

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