Author Archives: braggjs

Top 100 Games of All Time: 100-91 (plus honorable mentions)

At the Dice Tower it is time for their Semi-Annual listing of the top 100 games of all time to coincide with their annual Kickstarter. So on their YouTube channel you can now watch their Top 100 countdown.

It got me thinking “with the work I do for/in/around games people ask me frequently for game recommendations, my thoughts on games, my favorite games, etc. Could I create a listing of my top 100 games of all times? The answer: Yes. So the next question that came up was: will anyone care to read it? The answer? I guess we will find out soon.

So without further ado…the bottom 10 for my list. Some of these are prospects I’ve only played a few times, others are good but just weren’t quite enough to make the list. But first, let’s start with a quick listing of 10 Honorable Mentions in alphabetical order:

Colt Express – Fun, old west programming game.
Crokinole – Dexterity/disc flicking game
Kingdomino – Tile placement/pattern building game
Ladies & Gentlemen – Card Drafting/Set Collection Game you can read a lot about in past blogs
Photosynthesis – Action Point tree growing strategy game (I’ve only played once…could get higher or drop if I play more)
Pirate’s Cove – Pirate themed pick-up-and-deliver game.
Qwirkle – Tile Placement/Pattern Building Game
Sunflower Valley – Roll and Draw/Village Building game
Tussie Mussie – Card drafting/bluffing game
Witches of the Revolution – Cooperative Deck Building

100. Qwinto
Pandasaurus Games
Designer: Bernhard Lach, Uwe Rapp
Owned: Yes

Why it is on the list: Jennifer (my wife) and I have been playing a lot of roll-and-writes lately. This, for now, is the top of my list. We have played more of Qwixx, but I prefer Qwinto because I think it adds a bit more strategy to the game than Qwixx does.

Who may like it: fans of similar games of course. People who like simple roll-and-writes but with a bit more strategy. Fans of abstracts.

99. Ca$h ‘n Guns (Second Edition)
Asterion Press
Designer: Ludovic Maublanc
Owned: Yes

Why it is on the list: It is no secret: I am not a big party-gamer. The top partly party-game on my list is number 24…and there aren’t a ton on the list total. In this game you are returning after a heist and need to split the loot. The problem: you’re still all armed. Using foam guns you determine who is the challenge and who you want to go after? This is a simple party game-easy to teach, fun to play…but also with good strategy. I’ve rarely played a bad game of this…although (and this is one of the reasons I rarely play this, The Resistance, etc….I am one of those players that is always targeted by everyone so it makes it less fun for me.

Who may like it: Fans of the Oceans Movies. People who like to have a silly time and aren’t offended by the silly foam guns. This is a serious concern. Will someone have issues with the guns? Will they cause an unwanted trauma? Are you in a place where people won’t get upset? All legitimate issues you may need to consider.
Image of the components to Ca$h 'n Guns including cards, guns, and character standees

98. Machi Koro
Pandasaurus Games
Designer: Masao Suganuma
Owned: Yes

Why it is on the list: I remember the first time I played Machi Koro at a friends house. I immediately wanted to play again and again and wanted to buy the game. That doesn’t happen often. At the same point, I had an immediate issue with the game…which was fixed in the first expansion. (I did not like the set-line-up of cards.) We have Machi Koro Legacy we plan to start soon so we will see how that goes. This would potentially be higher…but this year I found a game with similar mechanics that does almost everything better than Machi Koro that makes this game drop to where it is…and at risk of leaving the list altogether. But you won’t see that game until #13…

Who may like it: People who like building a tableau. People who enjoy building a city. People who don’t mind that randomness will really control your game.

97. Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game
Upper Deck
Designer: Devin Low
Owned: Yes

Why it is on the list: I love deck builders. I remember the first one I played (Star Realms, actually) and I was hooked. One based on Marvel characters? Definitely intrigued. This is a great semi-cooperative game that is just held by back a few issues from being much higher. Set-up and tear down is a beast and often take as long as the game. Also the “semi-cooperative” part. I won’t play the game that way. “We work together but if we succeed we total points and only one of us wins” isn’t fun to me. I like it as a strict co-op. The other issue…it is Marvel themed and not DC. (hint for something to come…but not for a long time…)

Who may like it: Marvel fans. Deck building fans.

96. Code of Nine
Z-Man Games
Designer: BakaFire
Owned: No

Why it is on the list: This is a fun anime-esque sci-fi game. I don’t know what it is with this game…I’ve played twice and it just clicked with me. I did great both games and really enjoyed the experience.

Who may like it: Anime fans. People who like puzzles and strategy.

95. Lanterns: The Harvest Festival
Renegade Game Studios
Designer: Christopher Chung
Owned: Yes

Why it is on the list: It is a gorgeous tile placement/set collection/pattern building game. I really enjoy tile placement it seems. It is more of a filler to me but a ton of fun.

Photo of the game Lanterns and game components

Who may like it: People who love pretty games. People who enjoy pattern buildings, games like Bejeweled, etc.

94. Santorini
Designer: Gord!
Owned: Yes

Why it is on the list: The top person I play games with is with my wife, so great two player games are awesome. I like games that force you to think, plan, and think of what others are going to do. I’ve only played a couple of times but seems like one I will enjoy playing against different people.

Who may like it: People who like Chess.

93. HeroQuest
Milton Bradley
Stephen Baker
Owned: Yes

Why it is on the list: All you need to know is what the best part about Hero Quest is….and why HeroQuest is so great.

Who may like it: Fans of nostalgia. Fans of RPGs who are willing to be silly and have fun. Is it the best game mechanically? No. Can it be a ton of fun still? YES!

92. Spirit Island
Greater Than Games
Designer: R. Eric Reuss
Owned: No

Why it is on the list: I’ve played it once…and am not usually a huge co-op fan. The easies way to describe the game? Reverse Catan. In this game you are the island fighting back against the pesky settlers who are trying to invade you. This was a great time the one time I played and I look forward to playing more.

Who may like it: Fans of hard strategic cooperative games.

91. Citadels
Fantasy Flight Games
Designer: Bruno Faidutti
Owned: No

Why it is on the list: I like city/town building, even if it is based on cards. I like variable powers and hidden information. Also: this game’s money looks like butterscotch. What isn’t to like? Fun every time I’ve played…the best part of the game is the drafting and revealing of the roles and what they do over the actual building of the buildings.

Who may like it: Fans of bluffing and deduction games or city building.

So that is the bottom 10 for today. Next 10 coming in a day or two. Feel free to comment your thoughts on any of these/this list! Also-I would love to see both your top 10 and people’s guesses of what may be in MY top 10! Leave them in the comments!

EDL 290T: Origins, Trailers, and more!

Yesterday something awesome happened that relates to the class and I decided I would blog about it today. I’m glad I didn’t last night, because something new happened today that I also need to share!

Last summer I blogged twice about my experience at Origins Game Fair and how I could relate some of the things to the class. I later blogged about how a connection I made there helped to improve the class.

Bethany and I discussed things earlier this semester and decided we wanted to try something new. We know Origins does educators passes and wants to start doing more educational programming. So we decided to submit a session about how we use board games for leadership. Well, in short…we were selected and if you look in the event grid you can come see Bethany and I presenting at Origins! For us going to one of the largest board game conventions in the world and talking about this little class we created based on a dream is just amazing. The question remains: will anyone care and want to see what we have done based on a NASAGA dream and Bethany forcing it into reality…but just the fact we are part of the program amazes me.

Origins Session

So as I was preparing to write the blog a student from when Aidyn taught a session of the class emailed me. His name is Jeremy Gunsett and he came into class when John and I were teaching to film things about our class for a class project. He created a preview for the class and gave me permission to use it to promote the class! So…in addition to the awesome news about Origins, I can also now present a video showing what EDL 290T is like! The video showcases the game demo day where students last semester were showing the games they created for the class and letting others play them. Jeremy did an excellent job of capturing exactly what makes this class such a special experiment. Check it out!

Too many people I could thank that keeps the train rolling on this class but thank you to everyone who continues to make this class a reality!

Queen Games, Escape, & RECON!

A huge thank you to Queen Games!

Last summer at Origins I met Travis from Queen Games and we started discussing the class. I showed him a list of games we used. His response: “I see a big problem with the games you have…none of ours are listed.” I told him I wanted to add Escape: Curse of the the Temple for the class but didn’t have enough money in my grant I received to purchase it. Fast forward to today and the copies arrived in my office!

Queen Games: Escape: Curse of the Temple

Escape is a game I wanted for the class because I think it shows many key aspects of leadership. One I want to focus on right now is the urgency and quick decision making that are often required in leadership. Frequently in leadership snap decisions must be made. With those decisions come consequences. Escape simulates that with the real-time frantic dice rolling mechanic and the decisions that must be made. “Should I dive deeper to get more treasure? Should we all stick together or split up? What will be best for the team to succeed?” Tied to that is a risk taking element which is also critical to leadership.

They also donated a copy for RECON. RECON is the annual convention for the League of Geeks. The League is an umbrella student organization working with 16 other student organizations to bring together people of many different geeky interests. RECON celebrates all things that make being a geek awesome. There will be board game areas (including a Play-and-Win section, video games, anime, pro wrestling games and viewings and much, much more! The highlight of the weekend for many will be a performance by hit musician Jonathan Coulton. RECON will be held Friday, February 22 through Sunday, February 24th in the Armstrong Student Center on Miami’s campus and is free for all to attend!

Wingspan and Leadership

As promised I’m going to occasionally review how games I’ve played tie in to learning and/or leadership development in one way or another. Some will have leadership demonstrated in game. Others will help improve skills that I feel are important to leadership. I suppose an example would be beneficial here. In Werewolf you will see people step up and use their leadership skills both to deceive others and/or to help them make decisions. You clearly see the First Follower concept showing up in Werewolf.  In Escape: The Curse of the Temple people will enhance their quick decision making skills. There are many more aspects I could use for those and other games but wanted to use that as a quick example.

So today’s game? Wingspan by Stonemaier Games, designed by Elizabeth Hargrave.

Wingspan by Stonemaier Games.

Wingspan by Stonemaier Games.

I won’t be providing a traditional review for the game nor a how to play. There are others that can do that much better than I can so linking to them will have to prove to be enough for me for that. Instead what I want to provide is how I see this game being used for educational purposes, and in particular for leadership. Before I get there I will say a few words about the game.

Wingspan is an engine-building game for 1-5 players. The game focuses on attracting birds to your wildlife preserve. I’ve played several two player games, one three player and one five player game. I’ve found it excellent at all player counts (though better in person than the one time I played on Tabletopia, but I think that can be said for most games).  Wingspan has proven to be extremely popular every time I’ve played it. The most recent time was the five player game I played this past Tuesday with members of Miami’s Strategy Gaming Club. Not only did the group playing the game enjoy the game, many other members of the group stopped over, watched and wanted to play. Wingspan is beautiful, has a unique theme, and they could tell we were loving every minute of playing it. Wingspan, in my experience, has also been a very balanced game. There are games I thought I was getting destroyed in that would come down 5 points or less either way.

So-how can Wingspan be used in an educational setting and how do I see leadership being developed through Wingspan?

For the first part I can go the easiest of potential ways first. When we were playing people were reading and occasionally sharing the facts about the birds. Each bird in the game is unique and they all have facts on them to learn about that bird. They all have different nest types, number of eggs, preferred or required food and habitats and more. People were discussing the behavior of the birds (My owl sure is eating a lot.) This can lead to great discussions about the birds. However, as I mentioned, that is the easy and most obvious aspect of learning that can be done. It is a very important part as Elizabeth Hargrave clearly put in a lot of time and effort to work on making this game and it shows in these details. She did the research and it comes through. I never thought of the varied number of birds in North America until I saw just how many cards there were in the game.

I think the more important educational or training benefit (and how it ties to leadership) is the strategic planning the engine building requires. There are a lot of decisions that need to be made in the game that require you to think sometimes 10 steps ahead with limited knowledge. That is what leadership is often. You have to make decisions and set a plan with only part of what you need to know and adapt as you go. Repeated plays of this game help you develop those skills.

When I was introducing the game Tuesday I said that it was “easy to learn but tough to master” and that is true. Tuesday was my second lowest scoring of the six games I’ve played of Wingspan and it leads largely to me not planning properly. Whereas Abbey, the player to my immediate right developed a plan from her initial hand of cards and plotted out a plan for how to play her birds she kept that took two rounds to fully develop but lead to her winning the game (by the biggest scoring margin I have seen in the game) I gave my plays less thought and it showed in the final scores.

A game of Wingspan near conclusion

The decisions and risks that must be taken are easily transferable to leadership. “Do I put this bird that gives me eggs in the grasslands which produce eggs to increase egg production even more or do I place it in my forest so I may never have to visit the grasslands?” “Playing this bird that requires an egg to trigger an effect and immediately after playing a bird in the same habitat that gives me eggs will help me tremendously.” “Should I focus on my goal, the public goals, eggs, points from large birds, or another strategy?” Working through these decisions (and the discussions I saw about the strategies throughout the game and after the game was completed are critical practice for real life leadership in any area.

Wingspan is an excellent addition to any game collection and I dare say schools and libraries should consider adding this to their collection. Not only is it a well made game that is fun to play, it is a great tool for skill development and helps people learn and be more interested in learning more about birds (which admittedly outside of knowing we had a bird watching club – Birders of Miami University– I had never given much thought to).

Tabletop Game Benefits

Clearly I’m a strong believer in the benefit of Tabletop Games for different aspects of personal growth including leadership. Here is a story I found that shows people discussing how a local gaming establishment has helped them in a number of ways.

This semester I’ll be starting my fourth semester of teaching this class and we will have a number of blogs and assignments on here from students. At the same point, I haven’t been contributing as much as I should and I intend to start doing more here again.

One thing I’m thinking about doing is doing some reviews about how I can see different leadership lessons in different games. So kind of a break down of what we do in the class but also other games. What leadership concepts do I see arise in Dinosaur Island? In Wingspan? Or other games I play. Not sure the frequency but hope that will be interesting content for people who stumble across this corner of the world to consider.


Origins Game Fair 2018 and Roll Player

As I mentioned in our last blog I recently attended Origins 2018. I attended this with the mindset less about me personally this year but much more about how I could use this opportunity both for the EDL 290T class as well as for the various student organizations I work with. We have made several connections that will be beneficial for one or the other (or, in the case of a couple I’ll be blogging about soon beneficial for both.)

Today, however, I wanted to continue blogging with a second game I found that could be an awesome addition to the class. While walking around talking to different companies about the class I got almost fully positive reactions. (There was really only one negative reaction my whole time.) One of the best was from Keith Matejka from Thunderworks Games.  Keith is the designer of Roll Player.

Roll Player

Roll Player

Roll Player is a dice rollin game for 2-4 players where you create a character for a Role Playing Game. I’ve played some RPGs were that is the most fun part, so I was intrigued by this game. In Roll Player you choose (in player order) your race and are randomly dealt your class, alignment, etc. However, Tom Vasel can do a much better job explaining the game in the following video than I could.


Back to Origins. I told Keith about my class and he told me “you should consider Roll Player for your class about “building your character.” In that class we talk about the basic building blocks of what makes you who you are-setting up the following two classes on values and identity. Keith offered a copy of the game to try to see what I thought about using it as an addition for the class.

I think Roll Player could very well be an excellent addition to the class. Students have to make very strategic choices based on several aspects of the game. They want to get their values aligned. They have a class with requirements they want to match and a character history to match. These basically show the goals, values and the aspects of personality they need to have. What is important to you and what do you need to let go to accomplish a more pressing goal you may have? What is important to you and what do you need to do to accomplish that goal. The use of the cards in the card drafting portion of the game again exemplifies these. This is an excellent way to look at “what are the building blocks of your character” and transition into the much more in depth look at values and identity over the coming weeks.

In short-I think Roll Player may be an addition that we may be making if things work out for the future in EDL 290T.

Origins Game Fair 2018 and The Mind

I have been attending Origins Game Fair this year with several students-three of which have taken the class (one of those, John, is teaching with me this spring) and one who taught the class with Aidyn this spring. While we are primarily attending simply because we love games, as I mentioned in an earlier post it is impossible for me not to make connections and ties and such while doing things. Because of that, while at Origins we have been looking for ideas and consider things in the lens of the class as well.

Origins Game Fair

Origins Game Fair

Origins is a game convention in Columbus, OH. This is my second time attending and it is fantastic to get to come to a fair that is actually so much about the games and keeps the focus exactly there-the games. We got to playtest a large number of games over the weekend and discuss with creators and others the games while we were here.

I want to briefly discuss one of those now. The first is a game we played (and John is one of the few who got to buy because it was just on pre-release) and that we are considering adding in to the class in week two when students currently play Hanabi (as a second option, not a replacement). That game is The Mind.

The Mind

The Mind was one of, if not the, hottest games at Origins 2018.

The Mind is a cooperative hand management game by Wolfgang Warsch and published by Pandasaurus Games for 2-4 players.  It is a card game where the primary component is a deck of 100 cards numbered 1-100.  The Mind takes place over a series of rounds or levels, depending on the number of players. The number of the level corresponds to how many cards the players get. The goal each level is to play all of the cards in your hand in ascending order. So say a person has card number one and another card number 2-the person with number one would have to play before the person with number 2. (This is a rare case, as the deck is shuffled so it is more likely someone has number 3 and another number 11.) The challenge here is that the players cannot talk, hint, or in anyway indicate what numbers they have in most ways through the course of playing the cards.  This particularly gets hard at higher levels when, for example, in a four player game on level 4 you have 16 cards you are trying to play. This is a very simple explanation, and I believe people want to watch more than listen-so here is a video from our friends at The Dice Tower that explains more on how it works and gives you their opinions on the game:

This game has many similarities to Hanabi in the discussions we could have, but adds new and different layers to things. If we end up adding this to the class we would ideally have everyone play both games (which would be a rarity but they are both shorter games) and then discuss the concepts of the day. This day we are talking about how teams and groups work and the challenges of leading in teams and groups. The Mind would be an excellent addition to that and I believe will help students see how some of the concepts that week come to life. One of the two supplemental readings that week is Kouzes and Posner’s Student Leadership Challenge and this game will really help bring to life some of the five practices and ten commitments of exemplary student leadership. As an example the third practice is Challenge the Process and the two related commitments are “search for opportunities by seeking innovative ways to change, grow and improve” and “experiment and take risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from mistakes.” This game exemplifies those statements and really will help students discussions go far in those areas.

I look forward to bringing you more of these snippets and short reviews of how I see leadership lessons learned through the class.

Games in Schools and Libraries Podcast

This is going to be the most casual, conversational blog I write most likely. Just because…well…I am blown away.

I won’t lie…in 2012 when I had the idea for this class after attending the NASAGA conference (which you should absolutely attend this October) it was little more than a dream I thought was a cool idea. The EDL department (and in particular Dr. Kathleen Knight Abowitz) supported the idea. It was really Bethany MacMillan who made the idea a reality. Dr. Bob De Schutter and the IMS Department supported us as we got started in making it happen. It couldn’t have happened without CTE and the grant we received through them. Thankful for Jennifer, my wife, always supporting what I do. However…all of that said it still feels like a dream that this is a thing we did…even though the class is very much a reality that around 70 students have taken so far and another batch is prepared to take this fall.

It seemed so weird to me I still have the screen shot when the course list first came out and I saw the class listed. I had been teaching classes for a decade but this was something totally different.

Course Listing

This is the original course listing for EDL 290T for the first time.

I was surprised when the university wanted to send in a photographer to take pictures for use in marketing materials to show the awesome classes we have at Miami. Now another step that seemed dream like but isn’t: at the end of March Bethany and I were recorded as guests for the Games in Schools and Libraries podcast. Really…why would anyone care about this little class we created? But people seemed to and now we were being recorded for a podcast.

That podcast is now live. Which just doesn’t seem real to me. I won’t lie…it always baffles me when people consider me knowledgeable or an expert on any type of content…primarily because I know me and I don’t consider me an expert on anything, for the most part. People asking me for advice or looking to me as this great wise person just baffles and humbles me. However, I’ll ride this train (I have a Ticket to Ride!) for as long as I can and enjoy it while I can.

Games in Schools and Libraries Website

Feel free to follow the link/click the picture to go to the GSL website to hear our podcast.

Thanks to all those that have taken the class, helped make the class possible, and that have believed in me! Don’t worry…this is just the beginning!

Assignment: Choose Your Own Adventure Stories

First, this semester we have two sections of this class instead of just one. So there will be even more awesome learning about games and leadership. That also means a new pair of teachers. The Wednesday section will feature Aidyn Scott and Nick Hutchison. JS and Bethany MacMillan will be teaching the Thursday section. That also means many more updates to the blog.

As we prepare for this semester, here is another look back at assignments from last semester. One of the assignments was to create a Choose Your Own Adventure story. People did this in a number of fun, creative ways. Some used Powerpoint, others used Twine (a storytelling tool Aidyn discovered at NASAGA, for more about NASAGA see our earlier blog), and some just told narrative stories.

Naturally this makes sharing these slightly more challenging. However, I will do my best to share these in as usable of a form as I can.  Again, we had many excellent submissions and I am just including four of them as samples.

The House by David Helbling (Twine HTML Link)

I Have A Game For You by Casey Scoggins (Prezi)

Ilosia by Emily Waugh (Twine HTML Link)

Race to Class by Emily Brennan (Word document download)

So again, just a few samples of the amazing creative work done by the students in Tabletop Games and Leadership. Now as we start a new semester we have a new batch of amazing students to work with. I may still share some of the assignments from last semester but there will be ones from this semester joining in as well!

Assignment: Game Written and Video Review

What a semester it has been! Teaching this class has been amazing. For me the worst part of a class is typically grading. This semester, however, it has been a treat, as the new assignments that students have submitted have wowed me. Some of the best have been watching students who came into the class with limited knowledge of playing board games create actually fun prototypes at the end of the class, many of which could stand up in today’s competitive tabletop game market.

Over the next few weeks I plan to share some of the assignments turned in by students (with their permission) on our humble blog. I think these submissions will go a long way in showing some of the amazing things students have done this semester.  While all of the students did stellar work on different assignments, I’ll be limiting to a few submissions for each assignment.

I’m starting today with the assignment for written and video game review. All I’ll be sharing is the video part of their review. As with many of the assignments in class they were not limited to tabletop games and could also do any other type of game they chose. I think these will be a nice start to showing some of the amazing work of students in EDL 290T.

Ali Hancock: Review of Animal Crossing Pocket Camp

Nolin Hamlin: Review of BIONICLE: The Quest For Makuta

I hope you enjoy the hard work Ali and Nolin put in! I look forward to showing you more amazing work over the next two months!