Thursday, November 20, 2014

African Vacation

Thanks to my good friend Greg and my other good friend Jay, my kids and I were introduced to the fantastic family game called 10 Days in Africa. This game - and all of its other iterations, including 10 Days in Europe, 10 Days in Asia, 10 Days in the Americas, 10 Days in the USA - is a fantastic geography lesson on top of a strategy game deep enough for adults to enjoy but functionally simple enough for even my 6-year-olds to not only grasp, but beat me at!

Each player has 10 days in which to fulfill a trip across Africa by foot, by car, and by plane. Seems easy enough. But the complexity is this: you first fill each of your 10 slots with a random draw of countries and vehicles for travel. Then, in turns, you try to make sense of your jumble, organize the travel correctly, and draw new cards as-needed to make your trip work, all in-secret with your tiles facing away from your opponent. The first one to complete 10 days is the winner.

Players travel by foot to contiguous countries. A car tile allows the player to skip 1 country in between, and a plane tile allows a player to travel from one color of country to the same-colored country using that color of plane (a blue plane allows a player to travel from one blue country to another one anywhere on the continent, red for red, yellow for yellow). 

In Which Isaac and Dominic Conspire
The concept is so simple, but it really makes players think tactically, given your introductory jumble of tiles, about how to quickly put things in order. How does one know if one should start with one of or even any of the tiles they currently have, given what one could draw? 

Endlessly complex and engaging, this game also has given my kids a sense of geography. Each tile includes not only the name and shape (and color for game purposes) of each country in the massive continent, but population and capital as well! 

Tangentially: I tend to listen to NPR in the mornings as I prepare breakfast for the boys before school. With all of the news around ebola, we have played this game, and my kids were able to identify the countries threatened by the disease. They also got a sense of just how vast a continent Africa is, and just how far away other countries are from the threat. 

This is one of those games you can play as a family or even as a date-night couples game (2-4 players). 

One of these days, we'd love to get the other games and find a way to link each of them into one uber-game: 10 days around the world!

Monday, November 17, 2014

TableTop Season 3!

Many of the games I have purchased lately have come from one of my favorite YouTube shows, Wil Wheaton's TableTop (find information here and here). It is actually a ton of fun to watch Wheaton and his friends play board games, and it gives you a sense of what's fun and not, or your type of game or not.

Last Thursday marked the launch of TableTop Season 3! And the first game is one that intrigues me on a number of levels: Tokaido. The essence of this game is that you are all travelers on the famous East Sea Road leading from Kyoto to Edo (modern day Tokyo). The point of the game, however, is not simply to arrive at Edo first, like a race. Rather, the game is about which player has the most interesting journey along the way. From painting to shopping for valuables to swapping stories with samurai to praying at temples and on and on, players acquire points for doing interesting things and become a whole, balanced person. How Zen!

I'll get out of the way; do yourself a favor and watch the episode. I'm putting this on my Christmas list.

Also, do yourself another favor and tune-in every Thursday for a new episode of TableTop.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Game of the Path

Wil Wheaton's TableTop, soon to start its 3rd season on YouTube, is one of my sources of awesome games (and one of my sources of lazy Sunday morning entertainment). Manhy of the games I've played with my family and friends have come from either that channel or my good friend Greg (one of our contributors on Gamer Dad).

It was TableTop in which I discovered this morning's game: Tsuro: the Game of the Path.

Tsuro is an impressively elegant game that is easy enough for my 6-year-olds to learn and even be competitive. The premise is simple: each player controls a little dragon. Starting from the edges of the board, each player in turn simply places tiles and moves their dragon along the path the tile creates. The more tiles that are placed as the game goes along, the longer each meandering path takes. The goal is simple: through strategic placement of tiles, force your opponents' dragons off the edge of the board and be the last dragon standing.

Beware! The longer the paths get, the more and more likely it is for you to have no other choice but to move your own piece off the board! Being too clever by half is certainly a pitfall for players.

This is a wonderful family game. One game takes maybe 20 minutes to play, and the twins stayed engaged because they could participate directly (rather than "help mom and dad") and enjoyed the challenge of making winding paths and moving their pieces along (and ours if we were unlucky enough to be on a tile that their new tile touched). In one sitting, all 5 of us played twice and 3 of us played a third time, all in less than an hour.

The game is built for 2-8 players, which is perfect for our family of 5. Though the box says it is rated for ages 8+, again, the twins (at 6) were not only heavily engaged, but Jacob won the first game!

As an aside, I love the artwork for this game. The simple, elegant lines of the cards and even the script suggest the swooping, graceful paths of flight of birds of prey, and the drawings and colors are rich and vivid. The game is as much a pleasure to look at as it is to play.

Simple, fast enough for short attention spans, and strategic enough to be puzzling and interesting, I highly recommend Tsuro.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Playing with Acid

Not so much a game today, as playing with science!

Thanks and hat-tip to the Geek Dad Book for Aspiring Mad Scientists, as today we took one of the projects therein: stripping copper from pennies and plating it onto paper clips!

The process is simple, and rather than outline it all here, how about this: buy the book, and watch this vid.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Modeling Behavior - old school DnD

As a fairly old-school DnD gamer (I played  bit of original basic DnD in high school, a full 1st edition campaign in college, and then persisted with playing and then DMing a long-running 2nd edition campaign well into the 2000s), I have tried on several occasions to introduce my kids to RPG style gaming.  As 6-year olds, I broke out the dice and ran them through a little mini-adventure that amused them (and me).  But they were not really ready for the full-on character generation, turn-based combat, and movement rules of a "proper DnD campaign".  I have also done years of interactive storytelling  with them, where they have input into the actions and reactions of alter-ego kids who go through a series of adventures when they move to a new house on the edge of a large, strange forest.

But we never really got back to trying DnD again, and I honestly was starting to wonder if the  Minecraft/Teen Fortress 2/HALO progression had moved my 13-year old beyond the sweet spot where he and his friends could maintain interest in sitting around a table with nothing but dice, paper, and imagination to keep the game going.

But I figured I would give it a shot anyway.  A couple of months ago, as school was winding down, I planted the seeds.  I told my son I would be willing to run him and his friends through a one-off adventure to introduce them to the idea of how DnD works.  He remembered what we did before, but I pointed out that there are a lot more rules, etc, that we glossed over when he was in the 1st grade.  So he grabbed a book, read a bit (his eyes widening), and then he started working on his friends.  Two agreed immediately (their parents had both played in the past or were familiar with the game).  Two others said "what's dungeons and dragons?" but were at least interested in the concept.  He invited them over one by one, showed them how to roll up characters, and arranged a weekend when no one was traveling to bring everyone together and see how this would work out.

I decided to set the adventure at the tail end of a LONG-running, deeply political and (at times) cataclysmic DnD campaign I ran for my wife and friends in the Greyhawk setting. While I knew the guys would want danger and swinging swords and epic battles, I also did not want to just drop them in a dungeon and say "start crawling".  For me, an RPG is about story first, and then swinging swords and splattering orcs second. So I came up with a "your trainers send all of your 1st level characters out to investigate something strange happening in a nearby town" hook.  I spent about 5 minutes with each of the players explaining to them where they are from, how they wound up where they are, a brief hint of history and sociopolitical stuff (you are an elf, you will be traveling to human lands, it will be weird for you, etc), formed up the party, and off they went.

To say they bit hard on this would be an understatement.  As they were getting ready to hit the road, I told them their sponsor had given them 100 gp to spend on equipment beyond their weapons and armor they would need for the journey.  Cue an hour of intense discussion about the relative merits of normal rations vs. iron rations, whether 200 feet of rope is enough or whether they should splurge for an extra 50 feet of silk rope, how many extra arrows they could fit in a backpack and whether the bowyer/fletcher non-weapon proficiency would keep them from running out, and whether they would have enough sacks to carry any loot they come across.

I finally managed to get them on the road (my wife played a slightly higher level character in the party, to help push things along), and they arrived in the town for the adventure.  They promptly ignored the large crowd of worried people gathered in the middle of town, and instead just found an inn to go to sleep for the night.  The next morning, they split up, started to investigate things, and soon found the four different possible sources of trouble in and around town.  The game was afoot.

Eight hours of sugar and caffeine-fueled insanity later, they had discovered and conquered an underground area crawling with goblins, rats, lizards, and other nasties as well as inscrutable magical runes, pools, and rooms.  The thief had gone in first on his own to scout, and for some reason he started tapping on and randomly opening doors ("you do realize that no good can come of this, right?"), and had been bitten by and then splattered a giant rat (natural 20) across the wall of a corridor.  For the rest of the adventure, "splattered rat" served as a convenient landmark ("Okay, we go down this hallway, turn left, go past the splattered rat, then look around the corner.  What do we see?").  In the end, they planned and executed an epic fire-bomb attack using flasks of oil, an Enlarge spell, and Produce Flame that won the day.  One of the guys said "in my brain, this is like the most epic movie scene I have ever seen!"  They also managed to do the one thing they were told NOT to do by their sponsor ("Whatever you do, do NOT attack any servants of Iuz you come across!") and they may well have sparked an international incident that could lead to a minor war.  But they came away with a pile of gold, platinum, and gems as well as a number of magic items of various shapes and sizes, so it's all good.

 All in all, it was a blast.  I had fun (although I am beat this's been quite a while since I last DMed, and it takes a lot out of me) and the boys all want to get together again next week to divide loot and figure out what happens next.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Lesson in Extinction

The by-line of the game is: It's a World of (S)Laughter After All!

And that pretty much sets the tone for the game Small World; one simple letter spells the difference between humor and death. 

In this fantastic game, each player (from 2 - 6) controls one randomly-drawn "race" of beings that has one randomly-drawn special ability. Players go head-to-head, conquering open territories and accumulating victory points. The player with the most victory points at the end of the appointed number of turns (5 turns for a 2 player game, 10 for a 3 player game, etc) is the winner. Simple game, simple rules.

The nuances are anything but simple. In fact, they're complex and change a great deal all depending on the race and special ability each player draws. Uniquely, and entirely unlike most strategy games whereby leaving yourself too thin is a sure way to lose, Small World almost encourages players to over-extend their reach. Go ahead and take multiple territories! March your Orc Commandos or Halfling Berserkers into as many open or occupied territories as you wish! Spread out! Conquering empty territories is easy - you just need 2 troops. Conquering enemy territories is easy - you just need one more troop attacking than they have in the territory. 

And then, here's the fun part: make your race go extinct. Overextend your Dragon Master Amazons on purpose, and then flip them over to "put them in decline." You get a new race the next turn...and you still get the victory points from the territories your old race occupies while your new race gobbles up more!

Isaac's Ghouls battle my Sorcerer's and my brother's Halflings
This world gets really crowded, really quickly. Small World.

The basic box gives you 4 different game boards (for the 2, 3, 4, and 5 & 6 player games), a load of races and everything you need to get greedy. A few expansions are available with some new, fun races and special abilities and expanded game boards for an even more crowded little world.

Backstab your buddies. Backstab yourself! This game is no end of fun, especially given all of the possible combinations between races and abilities. Diplomat Skeletons? Been there. Bivouacking Trolls? Done that.

Isaac, my 9 year old, completely understands the game and is quite good at it (we started playing when he was 8). It's still juuust a bit beyond my 6 year olds, but they like to "help" another older player, and they like to laugh at the utterly ridiculous race/ability combos. At 6, they miss some strategic points and honestly don't read quite well enough to read the race and ability cards. A lot of reading in this game.

I highly recommend this game for families, especially with gamer kids starting around 8 years old. It is perfectly absurd, hilarious, a great intro to turn-based strategy games, and a wonderful way to pass an hour to an hour and a half on  rainy day.

The picture above is a wonderful view of the game. Humans in decline as Berserk Halflings rise, Sorcerers in decline just before a new race is picked, and some Ghouls pre-decline. You see a whole list of available races/abilities to the right of the board, from which players pick as they put their current race in decline.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Golden Era of Gaming

Many of the games of our youth were...abysmal. Seriously, going back in history, some kids at some point in time thought that the catch a ball in a cup game was fun (note: follow that link; some poor sod had to try to make it sound fun and appealing to office workers, whose lives must be so steeped in misery that the game is indeed a wild reprieve from soul-crushing duties, which really says something about this "game"). Some kids thought that hoop rolling was wild amounts of party-time fun. In our youth, we had to suffer Monopoly, Connect Four and those insufferable wooden triangle peg games that you can still find a Cracker Barrel (the place where taste goes to die - and I mean every variation of the word 'taste').

[note: holy moley...follow that last link. Someone actually devoted a web site to solving the peg game and 'amazing your friends,' which leaves me...there are no words]

Seriously, no wonder gaming took me a minute to get into when I was growing up. The root of this was the soft bigotry of lowered expectations. Adults didn't care to understand what really drives kids, and never treated them like they had brains that can comprehend and thrive in competitive environments which require creative thought. So ultimately a kid would play for hours with catch-a-ball-in-a-cup...because that's all they were given. there really any comparison??
But then along came Axis and Allies, Conquest of Empire, Fortress America, Shogun (now renamed Ikusa), Dungeons and Dragons, and Car Wars, just to name a few...and gaming was suddenly never going to be the same.

All of that to say: read this article from Though I do have a quibble with one of their "ruined it for everyone" board games, I largely agree with their assessment of older soul-crushing games, and games you should be playing instead. Some Gamer Dad favorites are on the "play this instead" list.

I am thrilled that my kids are coming-of-gaming-age in an era with so many really challenging but totally fun games on the market. Game makers have realized for some time now that kids aren't stupid, that kids thrive on imagination and challenge, and that people want to be entertained when they play games. I don't have to goad and cajole my kids to play Candy Land or Hungry Hippos; they want to crush giant robots with giant aliens over Tokyo, slowly drive each other mad by calling on Old Ones, and eat braaaaaaaaiiiiins. This may be the golden era of gaming. And now I get to play games like a kid...because I have kids who want to play games.

Monday, April 14, 2014

I am the King of Tokyo

From atop the smoldering ruins of Edo castle, Meka Dragon lets forth a fiery blast of mechanically made flame.

For once, the dice favor me.  I have rolled four little claws to deal damage to all the other monsters battling me over Tokyo.  With a sinister glare I remind my kids, my opponents, that I have the Fire Breathing card in play and my neighbors both take an extra point of damage.  With a sigh of relief they think they'll get another turn to unseat me.  Then I reveal my evolution,  Mecha Blast, which adds two more points of damage to my attack, for a total of seven damage.  Alienoid was resting on 7 health, and now he rests in peace.  Boogey Woogey still felt safe sitting on 6 health, but he too was reduced to ash, leaving only Meka Dragon standing.  Neither of my kids could deny that I was the King of Tokyo....Well, at least for a few minutes.

I picked up King of Tokyo a couple months ago and my family and I have been playing ever since.  We enjoy it so much that I carried it to Florida in my carry on and we played several games every morning for a week.  And everyone played, my wife, all four kids and myself.  Not in every game, but we all played!

The premise is easy, everyone is playing a giant monster attacking Tokyo.  Two stats define your monsters Health and Victory points.  Your health hits Zero and you're out. Your Victory points hit 20, you win.  Now, during the game you can purchase cards which affect how your monster plays.

Game play is driven by dice..  Each turn you start with six dice, all of which are the same.  The sides  are 1,2,3, Energy, Damage and Health. Yatchzee style, you get an original throw of all the dice and two rerolls of any or all dice.  When you are done rolling you collect what you rolled. EAMPLE: You end with two dice showing Energy, three dice showing twos and the last die showing three, (E, E, 2, 2, 2, 3) you would collect two Energy tokens and two victory points as the Numbers on the dice need to be collected in triplicate.  So the last die showing three is wasted.  (In one lucky roll, my wife rolled 1,1,2,2,3,3 and earned nothing and discovered the worst possible roll of the dice...!)

So you damage your foes, heal yourself, collect victory points and energy.  Energy is used to buy cards.  The cards are what make the monsters different.  With enough energy collected you can purchase cards like Extra Head, roll an extra die on your turn...(The game comes with two extra dice.)...Nova Breath which allows your attacks to damage all other monsters...Rapid Healing allows you to swap Energy for Health.

And that is about it, there are a couple mechanics I didn't cover like controlling Tokyo, but when it all boils down it is FUN, simple game that the whole family can enjoy.  Roll the dice and spend your resources to become the King of Tokyo!

Since the game release, two expansions have been released to add to the original game.

The first one is Power Up!

In Power Up!, we find a new character Pandakai (Who owns the Evolution, Eats, Shoots and Leaves.) and a new set of cards, Evolutions.

The Power Up expansion adds Evolution cards which help define each monster - The basic game has every monster identical except for cards, the expansion helps give each monster a "feel"...Meka-Dragon is much better at dealing damage.  The Kraken (A Cthulhu type monster.) can take advantage of his sunken temple.  The King (Only missing the Kong.) brings all monkey themed evolutions and Cyber Bunny can wield the Electric Carrot if he plays his dice right...Evolutions add a simple rule, if you roll three Hearts/Health on one turn, you draw an evolution.

The second expansion is going to be hard to find soon, as it was a limited printing for LAST Halloween.   In King of Tokyo: Halloween we find two new characters (The Pumpkin King and Boogey Woogey) complete with their own sets of Evolution cards.  There is also an orange set of dice.  At first this seemed totally frivolous to me, but after so many four player games played on the floor having a spare set of dice on the other side of the board was pretty nice.

The Halloween expansions also introduces costumes.  A monster can wear one costume at any given time, and each costume changes your monster a little.  Wearing the Astronaut?  You win at 17 victory points instead of 20.  Wearing a Vampire costume?  Then you heal one point when you damage another monster.

Overall, I cannot recommend this game enough...Easy..Fun..Accessible for all the gamer levels in your house.

On Greg's recommendation, the Smitty clan bought the game as well.  Since then, less than a week ago, we've played several times already.  This game is an absolute hoot.
Giga Zaur wins the day
Thing 2 was the Smitty clan's first official winner, with Thing 1 being the most recent.  I...still haven't beat my kids.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Fhtagn!

Gale-force winds blew chilling rain at steep, stinging angles. The gray sky overhead managed to be both depressing and menacing, inspiring a general sense of loathing that only Michigan weather can achieve.

Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Fhtagn!
The recipe was perfect, then, for chaos in the house.  Boys on the edge, casting sideways glances mixed with mistrustful snarls. The situation needed to be defused.

What better way, then, to head-off chaos and insanity and back-stabbing than by a game which is based on: chaos and insanity and back-stabbing! Steve Jackson Games Cthulhu Dice (the maker of one of our family-favorite games, Zombie Dice) saved the interior of our house while simultaneously destroying our collective sanity - more constructively than where the boys were headed!

The goal of the game is simple: you try to destroy or steal your enemy cultists' sanity (those red stones) while hoarding and protecting your own.  All it takes is to declare your target cultist, and a simple roll of the beautiful metal die. The symbol that comes up defines what happens to your prey.  But beware: your target...gets to retaliate! Worse: every now and then, nobody wins but Cthulhu himself.

The boys - as young as they are - easily understand this game, and in a household with the propensity to explode into testosterone-laden violence when too pent-up, this game is a hilarious way to get "revenge" on all of the perceived breakfast table slights, back seat sitting-too-closes, and room entrance violations.  Highly recommended; a single game takes 5 - 10 minutes so it's easy to do a best-of-5 or best-of-7.

FYI: one of the twins - 5 (nearly 6) years old - was the winner of our best-of-7 challenge.  The rest of us were driven insane as J towered above us, a paragon of sanity...and cruelty.

I'm so proud.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hollow Mountain Comics

Not an epic post by any means, but one that I feel is important!

With the loss of 21st Century Comics & Games we were left with only the Fortress.  (Which after listening to Wil Wheaton, I need to NOT comment on...)

Luckily two local guys shared my opinion of the Fortress and decided to fill the void of comic shops here in East Lansing.  Gabe and Aaron have opened a new shop in town, Hollow Mountain Comics.  The shop is really nice and really small, maybe 1/4 of what 21st was.  But these guys have packed a bunch in and are super easy to work with, they are cool on special orders and holds and are "normal" gamers.  In fact, I saw a girl in the shop once...If you don't know the importance of that find that Big Bang Theory that has Penny going to buy Spider Man comics...comic BOOKS...for her nephew.

Anyway, stop by and visit Hollow Mountain!  Maybe I'll see you there!

Here is their web site:

And where are they?  The are on the eastern end of Grand River, where it is still the student area.  They are below that Chinese restaurant that apparently everyone except me has eaten at....Here is the official address:

611 East Grand River Ave, Downstairs, East Lansing, MI

The Down - But Up Again - Side of Gaming

Wil Wheaton - of Star Trek, Big Bang Theory, and YouTube's TableTop host - attended (as he often does) a gaming convention in Denver.  As he states in his post on the topic, a young woman asked him if he was ever ridiculed for being a gamer, or, a "nerd."  She was apparently being bullied in school for things that seem so silly now in our adult years: having the audacity to like school, or being interested in science, or for enjoying games that aren't sports.

His reply has gone viral.  Here's the vid, with the transcript below:

When I was a boy I was called a nerd all the time—because I didn’t like sports, I loved to read, I liked math and science, I thought school was really cool—and it hurt a lot. Because it’s never ok when a person makes fun of you for something you didn’t choose. You know, we don’t choose to be nerds. We can’t help it that we like these things—and we shouldn’t apologize for liking these things.
I wish that I could tell you that there is really easy way to just not care, but the truth is it hurts. But here’s the thing that you might be able to understand—as a matter of fact I’m confident you will be able to understand this because you asked this question…
When a person makes fun of you, when a person is cruel to you, it has nothing to do with you. It’s not about what you said. It’s not about what you did. It’s not about what you love. It’s about them feeling bad about themselves. They feel sad.
They don’t get positive attention from their parents. They don’t feel as smart as you. They don’t understand the things that you understand. Maybe one of their parents is pushing them to be a cheerleader or a baseball player or an engineer or something they just don’t want to do. So they take that out on you because they can’t go and be mean to the person who’s actually hurting them.
So, when a person is cruel to you like that, I know that this is hard, but honestly the kind and best reaction is to pity them. And don’t let them make you feel bad because you love a thing.
Maybe find out what they love and talk about how they love it. I bet you find out that a person who loves tetherball, loves tetherball in exactly the same way that you love Dr. Who, but you just love different things.
And I will tell you this — it absolutely gets better as you get older.
I know it’s really hard in school when you’re surrounded by the same 400 people a day that pick on you and make you feel bad about yourself. But there’s 50,000 people here this weekend who went through the exact same thing—and we’re all doing really well.
So don’t you ever let a person make you feel bad because you love something they decided is only for nerds. You’re loving a thing that’s for you.

I was...lucky.  I was good at - and liked - Teh Sports (Go Sports! Yay!), and hung out with gamers and "jocks" alike. I never had to suffer what some of my friends did, and I spoke up and spoke out.  In retrospect, I should have done it even more.  In retrospect, nobody should ever have to apologize for or have someone stick up for loving what (OR WHOM) they love.

I hope my kids don't GAF, and love what they love, and stay interested in what they are interested in. But it was nice to hear Wheaton's remarks, because he really worked to encourage the young woman.  I feel like there's a cultural shift under way, where being nerdy is cool.  Knowing stuff is popular, and gaming is just recreation, not a stigma.  May this shift grow exponentially.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Not Your Father's Risk

It's a "gateway game."

It's the game from whence all other strategy games derive.

It's Axis and Allies' dad.  It's Smallworld's grandpa.  It's Settlers of Catan's great uncle.

It's Risk.  And my oldest is finally old enough to play it. This was a momentous day. He's actually younger than what the box says the recommended age is, but Gamers know those recommendations to be lies.  The moment one of our offspring shows interest in a Big Game and the capacity to think even remotely strategically, we're busting-out dice.

Classic Throwdown
But we know it's delicate.  We can't scare them off right away with Axis and Allies; too young, and all they want to do is play with (and lose) all the airplanes and tanks and ships. But clearly, Monopoly is for weaklings and people who really don't enjoy gaming. It's not about easing them into it; for Gamers, it's all-in. It's about finding the right game that takes their mild interest in gaming and explodes it into weekend-long Diplomacy sessions over Christmas break. Risk is one of those perfect "gateway games."

Now: that's an older pic. That was taken well before Christmas, 2013.  But true to its "gateway" nature, Smitty Junior took one look at the next level of game, and insisted on jumping in.  No longer content with simple Risk (though we still play it and he's giving me runs for my money, which freaks me out), we've now entered a whole new world of complicating factors with:
Risk GodStorm.

With a third, neutral army, this contest is a confrontation between the Egyptian pantheon - unfortunately ousted from Egypt - and the Norse pantheon - unfortunately with Thule stricken by the loathed Plague marker.  Minor setbacks for Ra and Odin as they battle over 5 short epochs for control of humanity (I was surprised; I thought Ike would have picked the Greeks, and I was torn between the Norse and the Celts. Nobody GAF about the Babylonians).

This is the first time I've opened this game in 6 or 7 years, and Junior's first time ever.  I've made a few tactical mistakes, and that little bugger has taken advantage of them.  But like the title of the post says: this ain't your daddy's Risk. This version has twists and turns: gods can change the tide of a battle, and can bestow a number of enchanted artifacts and miracles. Just when the age-old Risk tactics seem to have your opponent on the ropes...BAM: the dead walk again, the living crumple to dust, sea lanes become impassable, just to name a few. And this kid? He gets it.  He sees when it's time to deploy a miracle.  Heck, he spread himself thin just to take a serious beating, which in turn put enough of his troops into the Underworld (on the left side of the game board with the colored blobs around it) that he commands it completely. Shrewd move, padawan.

In which I nearly lost to a kid under 10
But alas.  The game lasted every step of the 5 Epoch game - by points alone, it was a tie - but ultimately the Vikings prevailed over the Egyptians. Ra and Set, Osiris and Isis; that venerable quatrain were forced to kneel to the might of Odin's power, Loki's secrets and tricks, Freya's mystery...and Thor's hammer.

Better luck next time, bud.  And I'm sure "next time" isn't far off...