Splat Attack! box cover

Splat Attack! Is a new miniatures combat board game put out by IDW Games. It features characters from four different Nickelodeon cartoons (SpongeBob Squarepants, Rugrats, Hey Arnold!, and Invader Zim) in the base game. It may serve as an easy introduction to the genre of grid-based miniatures combat gaming. As such it is entering the arena of Shadespire and Aristeia, for older players, as well as Krosmaster Arena, HeroClix, and Super Dungeon Explore PVP Arena, for younger players. So how does it compare to the other members of this growing segment of board gaming? What do my own children think of it? Is it suitable for school clubs? Read on to find out!

Blitz Bowl Cover

Blitz Bowl is one of Games Workshop’s three new family oriented games that are being sold exclusively for the time being in Barnes and Nobles. These games are part of GW’s push to expand their customer base into the family market. The other two games are Space Marine Adventures: Labyrinth of the Necrons and The Lord of the Rings: Quest for Mount Doom. Each of these games can be seen as a gateway game for younger players to be exposed to the worlds of GW’s standard line of games for older customers. In each case, the miniatures are the same style and size of the miniatures used in their main games and are completely interchangeable with those games. These new games for families are accompanied by a line of fiction books, written for pre-teen children, set in the 40K and Age of Sigmar universes of GW’s two most popular games. As a parent of pre-teen children and a teacher who runs a school gaming club, I’m very happy to see GW pushing in this direction. So how do they do with their new family friendly initiative and Blitz Bowl? Do I recommend it to other teachers running school gaming clubs and parents looking for beginning miniatures games to play with their children? How do my own children like it? Let’s take a look!

ancient board game 58 holes

Here's a very cool archeological finding in Azerbaijan. It's a copy of the ancient game called 58 Holes or Hounds and Jackals today. This instance of the game appears to be about 4000 years old. An example of the game was found earlier in the tomb Egyptian Pharaoh Amenemhat IV from 1800 BCE. So the game was apparently a popular one, as it obviously spread around the ancient world throughout the Middle East.

No one is exactly sure what the rules were, but it appears to have been some sort of racing game with markers moving around a track. It looks somewhat like backgammon, although it has no real relationship to that game. Backgammon comes from a Roman game much later on.

I like what Walter Crist has to say about the role of games in society:

"People are using the games to interact with one another," he said. Games were "kind of a uniquely human thing, kind of an abstraction — moving stones in blank spaces on the ground has no real effect on your daily life, except for the fact that it helps you interact with another person.

"So, a game is a tool for interaction, kind of like language — a shared way of being able to interact with people," Crist said.

Check out the article here.

Riot Quest is a new grid-based skirmish game being released next fall. It is being put out by Privateer Press. In it players will have a squad of around 10 "trigger-happy, fortune-hunting mercenary characters with an aresenal of insane gear" that they can pull from to field a 4 character team. The goal will be to run around the grid map battling and collecting "piles and piles of shiny loot" while also completing changing bounty objectives. The characters will be mercenaries in the Iron Kingdom realm and will thus be compatible with the Warmachine and Hordes games. It will allow 2 to 4 players to compete in a game that lasts a little over half an hour.

This sounds like it may be the perfect game to introduce to an afterschool gaming club that wants to bring in a game with real paintable miniatures. Hopefully they keep the game at the same school and family friendly level of thematic content as their other grid-based game, Monsterpocalypse. Monsterpocalypse is my current favorite grid-based, family and school friendly, skirmish game, so I have high hopes for this one. It looks like Privateer Press is keeping the game firmly in the humorous, yet still cool, camp of Mosterpocalypse, where the theme and gameplay push players of all ages to end up genuinely laughing, giggling, and joking while playing. They are describing Riot Quest as a "hilarious and chaotic brawl." This is exactly what I and my children love about Monsterpocalypse. My children think the concept art looks very cool and the gameplay description sounds fun. Mosterpocalypse nailed that approach to a miniatures game.

Riot Quest Tinkerer concept art Riot Quest Pygmie Tank
Riot Quest Necrotech

War Chest box

War Chest is a new chess-influenced abstract game by Trevor Benjamin and David Thompson, distributed by AEG. I happened to find it on a ding and dent table in my local store and picked it up. I'm very glad I did. It has added in a modern deck-building mechanic to classic gameplay, among other things. It sports high component production values and easy to understand rules with strategic depth. I'm always interested in modern variants of classic abstract games for my after school gaming club. It has some similarities with two earlier chess-like abstract games which are favorites of my children and I, The Duke and Onitama. So how does it compare with its closest modern cousins? Which one do I and my children like the best? Read on to find out!

A new version of Krosmaster is on kickstarter now called Krosmaster Blast. My children love Krosmaster Arena, the earlier version. It looks like the new version is somewhat streamlined over the Arena version. We'll have to see. If you want to get your younger children into playing miniatures games, this is a good option. The figures come pre-painted. There is a cartoon named Wakfu, on Netflix, that is related to this game. This is a step up from Heroclix in terms of miniature quality. But the rules are simpler to grasp than Heroclix. If your children like the chibi type characters, but want to paint their figures, then go with Super Dungeon Explore PVP Arena instead.

Army Logo

It looks like the army and RAND Corporation are bringing back tabletop war gaming again. After the invention of the atomic bomb, tabletop miniature war games were seen as largely pointless for real military strategy training. They had been in use since the late 1700s in Prussia (and subsequently spread worldwide) for that purpose. They were created through slowly evolving chess to be more and more realistic. But after the atomic bomb, miniatures wargaming was consigned to the tabletop hobby world alone. Hobbyists continued playing tabletop war games simply because they were very fun and extremely challenging. Meanwhile RAND came up with the idea of "role playing" games as the best way to simulate modern warfare for the purpose of military training. Participants would now play the roles of leaders of countries with nuclear weapons at their disposal. Then the participants would basically negotiate their way to victory. No table or miniatures were required. The most popular hobbyist tabletop game to come out of this idea was Diplomacy.

First Edition of Dungeons and Dragons

In 1974, Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson applied the role play idea to miniatures medieval wargaming rules Gygax had developed earlier (which included Tolkien (Lord of the Rings) fantasy creatures as options for combatants). They also added in the idea of characters improving through experience (which had already been in miniatures wargaming in somewhat embryonic forms). And boom! Dungeons and Dragons was born, changing hobby tabletop gaming (and the electronic gaming that arrived soon after) forever.

And now the circle is completing itself as tabletop wargaming, with role playing involved, is going to be used once again in the military. Contrary to the predictions after World War II, the world still does conventional war these days, and thus tabletop wargaming is still applicable in a nuclear world for strategic modeling and training. Of course this new generation of tabletop wargames the military is doing will be highly advanced compared with the games they were playing pre-WWII, and will have computers sitting nearby crunching numbers... History is fascinating in how it so often follows spiraling paths.

Here is an article about it: link

Here is a cool graphic made by fun.com which shows an overview of the history of board games in North America,

history of board games graphic

Here's another graphic showing sales of the entire hobby board gaming market versus the sales of mass market game maker Hasbro.

north american game sales graph

Here's a nicely presented video on being a good gamer. "Uncle Atom" has some excellent words of wisdom here.