Thursday, December 14, 2017

Dave’s Top 10 Gift Guide

Here are Dave’s Top 10 gifts for the gamer in your life.

1. Deep Cuts - $4.99

Unpainted miniatures by Wizkids.  Great stocking stuffers.

2. Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire - $60.00 (plus a 10% discount on all Games Workshop)

Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire is an action-packed combat game for two players. Build your warband, construct your deck, and defeat your rivals.  Play at Huscarl every Tuesday night.

3. Dice - $1.39 each or by the Set

There are a wide variety of colors and sides available.

4. Huscarl T-Shirt - $15.00

Show your pride and support your Favorite Local Games Store.

5. WWI Wings of Glory Starter Set - $29.80

The set contains two WWI flyers and everything you need to start playing.

6. Destiny Starter Box - $29.95

The Star Wars: Destiny Two-Player Game features two twenty-three card decks, rules, and all the resource, shield, and damage tokens needed for a game of Star Wars: Destiny, allowing you and a friend to begin playing almost immediately.

7. Tsuro - $30.00

Create your own journey with Tsuro: The Game of the Path! Place a tile and slide your stone along the path created, but take care. Other players’ paths can lead you in the wrong direction—or off the board entirely! Paths will cross and connect, and the choices you make affect all the journeys across the board.

8. Ticket to Ride - $49.99

Ticket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure where players collect cards of various types of train cars that enable them to claim railway routes connecting cities in various countries around the world.

9. Start Collecting - $85.00 (plus a 10% discount on all Games Workshop)

Choose from a wide variety of armies.

10. Mansion of Madness Second Edition - $99.95

Fight for your life in Mansions of Madness Second Edition, the app-assisted horror game inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft. This fully cooperative game takes you and up to four other players on a harrowing adventure through the dark and desolate halls and alleyways of Arkham. The second edition offers a number of thrilling and confounding scenarios, each with a unique and unpredictable map, intricate puzzles, and bloodthirsty monsters.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Players Green and Blue Terraforming Mars Review

Terraforming Mars, by Stronghold Games, is an economic hand and resource management game about terraforming Mars over 5-15 generations.  In order to make the planet livable, your and some friend's corporations will utilize all of humanity's resources on patents for projects that will raise the oxygen, increase the temperature, and place oceans on the face of Mars, as well as build cities, raise animals, and potentially crash a moon in to the planet (just Deimos, not Phobos).

We have mostly played the game co-op, but we have had the game for less than a month and we have played 36 co-op games.  The game is primarily a competitive game, but it does have solo rules, and we found these easily adapted to co-op.  We have both played competitive as well, and we'll make sure to talk about how our opinions differ on each aspect of the game.

First Impressions
Gabe (Green):  I was intrigued by the resource management of this game instantly, and the way you buy patents (cards) before you play them was an interesting insight to the economic aspect of the value of a dollar today versus a dollar tomorrow.  I can spend lots of money to hold on to more patents, but then I won't be able to afford to enact any of them; or I can spend less money, but then if I have 3 extra Space Bucks at the end of the turn, I'll regret not keeping a really powerful card I ditched and could've saved for later.  The board itself didn't do much for me originally, but I've grown to appreciate the tile placement aspect of the game.

Ashley (Blue):  At first, I thought the game was so-so, but my first experience was competitive and I prefer co-op games.  After getting a lot of co-op games under my belt, playing competitive again was much more enjoyable.  In the first game I played Saturn Systems, which exploits outer space cards and uses Titanium as its primary resource.  This steered me towards certain cards and towards prioritizing certain goals, which helped me pick cards, but it also does not directly lend itself towards terraforming the planet, which made me try to get victory points in other ways.

Favorite Part
Ashley:  The game is easy to learn, but it has plenty of variety in it.  For the first 20 or so games, you are always learning something new and finding more depth.  For example, the microorganisms are a little complex for the first couple games, but they aren't necessary either, and you can just not play those cards.  Early on, you are just focusing on how to terraform, especially in co-op where you have a time limit.  As you play more games, you can delve into strategies that are more complex and net you more victory points.

Gabe:  One of my bigger fears the first time I played the game is that there are only just over 200 cards, and when you play with 5 people you see the entire deck.  I was worried that the gameplay would get repetitive and boring after replaying it.  I can soundly say that after playing the game over 40 times (not counting solo plays), I've never had a game feel the exact same twice.  A single card's value changes so much based on how early or late the game is, what your corporation's power is, what your other cards are, what your resources are, and how you are personally trying to score points that game, that even getting the exact same card in multiple games, I will value it differently in each situation.  In any given game you see at least 40 cards that you can have a unique analysis and value on, making every game feel different, whether I'm exploring a strategy in the game I rarely try or if I'm going with one of my staple strategies that I always enjoy.

Worst Bits
Ashley and Gabe:  The production quality of the game is definitely a problem.  The pieces that represent the oceans, forests, and cities feel cheap and the paper over the cardboard has started to peel on some (which is especially bad for the oceans, because you use all 9 oceans every game), and the board has some writing where the board folds that becomes creased and illegible after being used.  The writing itself is not a large factor; it is mostly flavor, telling you what the names of those regions of Mars are, but it still feels bad to have a product we enjoy so much and put so much time in to that doesn't hold up even after a month.  The player boards that come with the game do not hold the pieces of the game very well, and are made out of the flimsiest of cardstock.  We had to solve this problem by buying overlays, which there are a variety of kinds available if you google “Terraforming Mars player board overlays”, and those have been worth their weight in Space Bucks.  Also, there will be a double-sided game board as the new map for the first expansion; while I wouldn't expect the product quality to necessarily improve, more boards will mean we're using each board less.

Ashley:  The co-op feels like a race against time.  For 2 players, you have 10 generations to try to terraform the planet, and it makes an hour of real life go by very quickly.  There's an exponential effect:  it is not uncommon for the first four or five turns to have very little happening as you're getting your systems online.  However, once you get started on turns six or seven, a game that seemed unwinnable can suddenly turn into a solid victory.  It's especially nice to combine resources by drafting out the cards, so that each player can specialize in either heat or plant production and really feel like they own their half of the gameplay.

Gabe:  The competitive gameplay is a whole different beast.  It is surprisingly more relaxing, as there is no inherent turn limit, and you can sit back and play around with different engines.  Since I spend so much time of co-op trying to actively terraform the planet, when I switch to competitive I try to use strategies in which I minimize actual terraforming for points and just try to get points off of the greedy victory point cards.  Once you've played the game enough to get a glimpse of all of the strategies, in a competitive game you can pick any one you like and do well with it.  The cards themselves are very well balanced, and most of the corporations seem like they're on an even playing field.  The actual terraforming of the planet can become a much smaller aspect of the game, as everyone at the table is busy exploring their own corner of the gameplay.

Ashley and Gabe:  Clearly this game is a winner in our books, and we've gotten a lot of play out of it.  Our enjoyment is not diminishing, and we don't feel like we're almost “over” this board game and on to the next game.  Another board game might take its spot later, but we haven't played that game yet.  To compare it to the other big names of 2016, being Scythe and Great Western Trail, Terraforming Mars is the easiest to teach and the easiest to set up, and even if you play competitive, it does not feel as “in-your-face” as some of the others.  I, Gabe, enjoy all three, and am not sure Terraforming Mars is my favorite, but it is certainly the easiest for me to break out and play with Ashley in a timely manner, so that adds a lot of value right there.

A few recommendations on gameplay:  the game has a “starter mode” with “beginner corporations”; this mode should be ignored.  If you play with the normal corporations, they each have special powers and will steer the players in certain directions, whereas the beginner corporations open the new players up to being competent at everything without being great at anything, and will have them wanting to play too many cards and not focus on any strategy.  Also, the game has a drafting variant; we strongly suggest not using this when teaching players for the very first time, and using it every other game after that.  While players are learning the cards and how to value patents, drafting adds a lot of time and complexity, but after one game of understanding the mechanics players should be better suited to make good drafting decisions.  Finally, for our custom co-op mode, we follow the rules in the rulebook for Solo, with a few minor exceptions.  We put the turn limit at 10 turns instead of 14, and we also draft each hand (including the first 10).  We've been keeping track of all of our games with the turn we finished and our scores, and we consider a Turn 9 win to be superior to any Turn 10 win, regardless of how many points we scored.

Gabe Schmidt (Green player) and Ashley Grubb (Blue player) are a power board gaming couple.  They enjoy how much board games give them time to think and play together instead of staring at a screen in the same room as each other.  We're frequent fliers at Huscarl Hobbies and Games, and if you have any questions for us, feel free to contact us at

Monday, November 28, 2016

Top 5 games to help make it through the Holidays!

Hi there my name is Paulo. This time of year can get pretty hectic, so I’ll save you time by doing a proper introduction later.  For now, know that I love playing games and from time to time I will contributing my thoughts on those games here at Huscarl Hobbies and Games.

Here are my top 5 games to help get friends, family, and yourself through this holiday season.

I picked these games because they are fairly inexpensive, short on the rules, easy to explain to non-gamers, and my family and I genuinely enjoys them.

5. Monikers - This is the classic holiday game known by most as Celebrity.   What makes this game fun is it is accessible, good for large groups, it’s familiar, and  gets the whole group laughing together.  Monikers takes a lot of the pain out of setting up celebrity by providing you a box full of cards (TANGENT! I love this game’s box).  On each card, is a  “type” of celebrity (from past and to present) with a brief bio.  Monikers is played over 3 rounds with two teams.   To start each player on a team gets a hand full of cards.  Each player then selects only a few of these cards.  Everyone’s cards are then added to a common pile, these are the cards used in each round.  Players take turns attempting to get their team to guess famous people .  In round 1, players can say anything they want, except the name of the of the celebrity.   In round 2, players can only provide their team 1 word clues.  In round 3, players can only use charades.  Additionally, there are internet rumors of super-secret rounds however I leave that for you to explore and discover.

4. Sushi Go – A card game good for 3 to 4 players with cute art.  Is a simple game about having a hand full of cards, picking one card from that hand, playing it in front of you to score points by “building the best sushi plate”, then passing your hand to the next player, and gaining another players hand to begin the process all over again.  Cards that you play in front of you can be combo’ed together to score a greater number of points.  You will find yourself watching the other players "plates" to possible take a card they could use on a future turn to mess with their sushi plate/points.  UPGRADE: Gamewright released a bigger version, called Sushi Go Party, that allows for up to 8 players and different decks that can be mixed and matched to change up how points are scored to add a greater variety to the game. If you can find Party, I believe it is an excellent value.

3. The Resistance: Avalon – This game puts the fun in dysfunction (and holds one of my favorite gaming memories).  It is based on psychology research done in the mid80s at Moscow State University (yes, the one in Russia).  This is good game for 5 to 10 players.  This is a social deduction game that is intense, filled with deceit, betrayal, manipulation, and wild accusations!   There are several themes of this game available, in my opinion “Avalon” which is based on the Arthurian legends, seems to be the best themed and easiest for newer players to understand.  It is a team based game in which a group of people (Team Good) are trying to successfully complete some tasks, however among these players, is secretly a minority of players (Team Evil) attempting to get the group to fail.  If 3 of 5 tasks are completed successfully Team Good wins, if not Team Evil wins. Once the game is over all players reveal which team they were on, which provides its own amount of entertainment.  The first time we played with my family, I (on Team Evil) pitted my mother and father (both on Team Good ) against each other, and sat back as they began to make wild accusations against each other.  Setup can be more "involved" and a little tricky on this one compared to the other games, so I recommend reading and understanding the rules before trying to “Jump into this one”   BONUS TIP: Players on Team Good never, ever, under no circumstance should ever fail a mission.

2. Love Letter – A beautifully simple designed game made up of only 16 cards, good for a player count of 4 (also plays well with 3).  I can teach this game to new players, like Dave at Huscarls, in about 2 minutes.  It is a great “filler” or lite game, offering a combination of risk, luck, and deduction mechanics.  This game gets so much love and is played so often, people have been known to wear out the cards in the deck.  The object of this game is to be last player standing or have the highest value card at the end of the game. Each player starts with only one card in hand; one card is removed from play. On your turn you take a card from the deck, compare it to the one already in your hand, then play one of those cards in front of you and perform that cards affects in an effort to eliminate other players or protect yourself. UPGARDE: AEG just released a Premium version of Love Letter that can expand the player count up to 8.  I just picked up a copy of it at Huscarls and I plan to write up a review on it soon.  However, I can tell you what comes in the box.  The premium version contains larger, Tarot sized cards on really thick cardstock, and custom card sleeves; all of which should help keep this game from wearing out for a while, as it tends to get played a lot. It contains the original 16 cards in the base game plus several new cards when you need to expand the player count past 4.

1. Las Vegas – Top on my list is “Las Vegas”.  This is one of those games that reminds me of the old adage; not to judge a book by its cover.  It looks so simple and unassuming, however it offers so much in terms of mechanics, like area control, push your luck, and in my family, negotiation. My family gets into this game, encouraging table talk to influence others decisions.  This is a fun and exciting game.  All this and all players are doing is rolling eight dice, picking dice with matching results from the roll and placing those dice on one of six spaces that match the results of those dice to win a predetermined amount of moneys.  Played over 4 rounds with an in box max player count of 5.  PRO TIP: We were able to expand the player count to 8 players by simply adding 3 more sets of colored dice to the game.  This is a family favorite and I cannot wait to sit down and play it with mine.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Book Review - War Without End

The Horus Hersey:  War Without End 

War Without End – Heresy Begets Retribution, the 33rd book in the Horus Heresy series, is a collection of 21 short stories by 11 authors including: Graham McNeill, Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Nick Kyme, Gav Thorpe, and James Swallow.  At 535 pages, this book is chock-full of good stuff.  Want to hear about Space Wolves, World Eaters, Salamanders, Iron Hands, Dark Angels, Alpha Legion, Thousand Sons, White Scars, Blood Angels, Ultramarines, Emperor’s Children, Night Lords, or Sons of Horus? They’re all in there. What about the Primarchs?  Can’t forget them!  This collection contains stories about Horus, Mortarion, Sanguinius, Guilliman, Lion El’Jonson, Ferrus Manus, Fulgrim, and Vulkan (pre-crazy).  But wait! There’s more!  Imperial Knights, Legio Custodes, Vindacare Assassins, Malcador the Sigillite, and mysterious Space Marines in unmarked grey armor. (Hmmmm, I wonder who they could be…)  And where would a book in the Horus Heresy be without a myriad of daemons and denizens of the warp?

Each story made me want to head straight to Huscarl Hobbies and Games and talk about it with whoever would listen (remembering to mention “spoiler alert” before every sentence, of course).  Of all the stories in this book, my favorite was about the Ultramarines.  Before the Battle of Calth, the Ultramarines were a bunch of set-in-their-way, closed-minded, stuck-up jerks.  After the Battle of Calth, and the subsequent destruction of the 500 worlds brought on by the Word Bearers and World Eaters, a select few Ultramarines get over themselves and learn to adapt.  This story is about a captain that does just that, which makes this story stand out for me.  Granted, I would never want to play the Ultramarines, but you kind of have to feel for them, at least a little.

As for me, I am on to the next book, Pharos – The Dying of the Light.  Who knows? If I like it, I may write a blog post about it.  If I don’t like it, I may write a blog post about it.  You never know.

Good reading!

Jason H   

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Grand Opening Celebration!

We had our Grand Opening on August 13th and had a great turnout for our Warhammer 40K Team Tournament. A day of fun and carnage was had by all!  Congrats to our winners for Best General, Best Painted Army, and Best Overall Team.
Congrats also to the winners of our door prizes. 
Thanks to AJ's NY Pizzeria for opening the doors between us and serving the BEST pizza in Topeka.  Adam and his team are awesome.
Thanks to Luke Ranker from the Topeka Capital Journal for the coverage.
Thanks again for a great day and an absolutely wonderful Grand Opening! I appreciate everyone coming.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Welcome to our new Blog!

Welcome to the Huscarl Hobbies and Games Blog!

We will be talking about random stuff that pops into our heads dealing with tabletop gaming so check back here often.