Game Night

Game Night – August 26th, 2018



We had a slight delay for this Game Night review.  Life events happened and I wasn’t able to put anything that I was happy with posting.  I apologize for the delay.

This Game Night review is a jammed packed review.  We have a multitude of games we would like to share with you.  We have two new titles showcased in the analysis section of the review.  There is also a brand new installment from Eric Benac for “The Benac Briefing” about games that make you smarter.  I also have written a short piece on a close friend of mine and my thoughts about the players that you choose to share the table.

Enjoy and game happy.

Games Played




Location:  Earthen Ales

Dates Played:

Sunday, August 26th, 2018


Monday, August 27th, 2018



Jurassic Park: Danger!

Location: Earthen Ales

Date Played:

Sunday, August 26th, 2018



Bob Ross: Art of Chill Game

Location:  Earthen Ales

Date Played:

Sunday, August 26th, 2018




Location: Earthen Ales

Date Played:

Sunday, August 26th, 2018




Location: Earthen Ales

Date Played:

Sunday, August 26th, 2018




Location: Earthen Ales

Date Played:

Sunday, August 26th, 2018





The Village at the Grand Traverse Commons

Date Played:

Monday, August 27th, 2018







Earthen Ales

Date Played:

Monday, August 27th, 2018







The Benac Briefing

by Eric Benac


A good board game should offer multiple levels of joy and intellectual stimulation. For example, “Scythe” forces players to think fourth-dimensionally, as they plan not just the best ways to expand their empire, get resources, and battle but also look into the future to anticipate how their opponents will react against them. One recent gaming experience reminded me that board gaming could also be a visceral thrill that pushes you to not only think quickly but to respond to a changing environment.

It was while playing this game that I was reminded of the fact that board gaming is about more than having a laugh with some buddies or with your family. A well-designed board game can improve your mental health and even increase your understanding of the world around you. Don’t believe me? Well, let’s take a look at “Dimension” and the ways it baffled my brain to examine the ways you (and your children) can benefit from gaming.

Created by designer Lauge Luchau, “Dimension” is a stacking game that reminds me of “Tetris” if it was both more restrictive and more difficult. During each round of play, six rules are laid out for you and up to three other players. These dictate how you stack your balls in the play area. These instructions include dictates like “white must touch black,” “blue cannot touch orange,” and “blue cannot be underneath another ball.”

You then get one minute to stack your 15 balls into an 11-ball pyramid based on these rules. Sounds simple? That’s only because you haven’t played it! The real difficulty comes in the strict time length and the fact that you can lose points if you do not follow a rule. And as you get one-point per ball and lose two-points for every broken rule, you could walk away with a net loss of one if you aren’t careful enough with your stacking.

Even worse, rules can sometimes contradict each other and force the player to choose just one to follow. For example, more than once I was forced to decide if I wanted two colors to touch or if I wanted them to stay away from each other. Adding another layer of challenge to the game is the bonus tile. You can earn up to six bonus tiles every game and do so only if you followed every game rule and used every color in your stack.

To get an idea of how brutal this game is, you will lose six points and must earn three to avoid losing points. After that, every bonus tile adds more points to your score. I have to confess that I only received one tile in each of the games we played. The most anybody earned in a single game was three.

The strict time limit caused my inability to earn more of these tiles. On more than one occasion, I had to drop my hands and stare hopelessly at a pathetic failure of a pyramid. However, that fight against the falling sands of time quickly became the most critical element of the game. If you had two minutes to play during every round, the game would lack that sometimes frustrating, but always exhilarating, rush to somehow balance all of your balls without breaking any rules.

As the game progressed, it was clear that each player was finding it easier to understand the rules and to meet that goal. Scores went up with just about everybody in the second game because we had fully absorbed how quickly you needed to grasp the rules and apply them to your stacking. In more than one instance, two or more of us created the same stack, which showed that we all were getting much better. The scores, with the exception of the winner, were much tighter in the second game than in the first.

This increased gaming acuity is not an accident. In fact, an increase in skill is all but inevitable in these types of games due to the unique effects that they have on your brain. Geometric games like “Dimension” and “Tetris” are often highly praised by educators because they push people into new areas of visual and spatial comprehension. For example, a video by PBS Digital Studios highlighted several different studies into the effects that “Tetris” has on the mind. What they found was mindblowing (pardon the pun).

Check out this short Video “Your Brain on Tetris” from BrainCraft

During the video, you learn that playing “Tetris” for just 1.5 hours every week can thicken your cerebral cortex, make your brain more efficient, and even help with some symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. These benefits occur because of the unique ways that “Tetris” forces you to adjust your thinking. Anybody who has played “Tetris” knows how hard, but exciting, it is to nail a four-line Tetris for maximum points. What they may not know is that they are making themselves smarter.

Now, I don’t want to overstate the benefits that this type of gaming experience has on the brain. Playing “Tetris” or even “Dimension” for two hours a week isn’t going to transform you into a genius. However, it can strengthen the way that your brain operates and provide a multitude of other benefits, particularly for younger players who are still maturing.

In fact, I’ll close out by discussing the fact that our two youngest players, both in their early teens, are the undisputed champions of one of our toughest games, “Terraforming Mars.” Both have been playing games with their parents from a young age, and one of these players almost always wins while the other has the highest ever group score.

And while “Terraforming Mars” is not a geometric stacking game like “Dimension” or “Tetris,” it is clear that playing board games that expand beyond “Monopoly” or “Skip-Bo” do affect the mental health and cognitive abilities of anybody who plays them. So why not fire up a game of “Tetris” on the Switch and give your child a little bit of brain fuel? You might give them a mental edge that makes their school and career success a bit easier.


My Thoughts


David Lynch once said, “Stories hold conflict and contrast, highs and lows, life and death, and the human struggle and all kinds of things.”  I’m unaware of the context of this quote. I’m sure it was directed toward his own movie making process, but there is something more here. Something relevant in this scene of my life at the moment.


Almost 20 years ago, I met a person who would become very influential in my life. His name is Jason. We were both in high school and shared a level of social awkwardness.  Not uncommon for high school folk, but it was at least something to start a connection.

I’ll flash forward a bit to our 20’s,  when our friendship really solidified. We started playing video games together and watching really bad movies.  We would often get pizza delivered from Crusted Creations and enjoy the finest stout beers we could find. We called it P.B.S. night which stood for Pizza, Beer, and Satan.  No, we didn’t do anything that involved devil worship, so you can keep reading. It was simply a name that embodied what the night was all about: drinking beers, eating pizza, and watching crap films with a poorly developed horror narrative (i.e., Satan).

This friendship moved beyond the living room couch and into all avenues of life.  We started going to concerts together. We shared countless experiences at concerts.  Concerts from bands like Mustard Plug. We made sure to always watch the latest Marvel movie release.  If I was going out to the bar, then he was coming with me. Parties, get-togethers, and trips were all better with Jason included.    

Life happened, and it always does, and we seemed to grow apart.  

I started what would become my obsessions with board games playing board games. He played quite a bit at first as I wanted to take this journey with him.  It was a hobby I was excited to be a part of. He even bought himself a copy of King of Tokyo. This dice chucking game made appearances constantly when we went out.  Soon, I found myself looking to the horizon for new games to play. It was this drive to find the latest and greatest games and start up this group seemed to separate us a bit. I spent more time with the friends that I was meeting at the table and less time with him.  The games were always more of a interest for me than for him. Then, further life events exasperated the issue.

Through all of this, I still wanted him in my life.  I always called him first for anything going on with mutual friends.  He was important to me, and I couldn’t not have him be a part of my life.

This Monday, he died, and my heart broke.

In his youth, he developed leukemia and underwent a stem cell transplant.  This stopped the cancer but caused something else. A side effect that can occur through this procedure is decreased lung functionality.   He suffered this throughout much of our friendship. He always kept up and made the best of a bad situation. He never let that hold him back from being with me.  We did everything regardless of his issues. Those issues didn’t matter as much as his presence.
Reflecting on my life this week has been very difficult.  The number of unfair accusations you make against yourself just plays hell on your emotions.  I know it’s nothing that one should do, but it is something that I need to realize is apart of the healing process.  Another step.

The people I share the table with every week for Game Night are people just like him  They have lives. They have stories. Stories that carry conflict and contrast, highs and lows, life and death, and the human struggle.  You know…all kinds of things. Which brings me to the point of this long story.

Everyone is a unique human being who deserves your attention.  Each one is like my friend with a long story. A story that is worthy of being told.  A story that will inspire you to do new things. A story that will change the way you think.  A story that you will never know without a conversation. A conversation you can have over a game.  Engaging with your fellow gamers while you play is special feeling. It connects you on a personal level and creates a lifelong bond.  A bond that lets you share something beyond the game in front of you.

Board Games are great and I love what they facilitate.  A social interaction between people that may have little in common otherwise.  A friend that you may share a connection with on the level that I had with Jason.  Be present and enjoy the company you share.



Total Plays –  2

Total Players Played –  6

First Played –  May 24th, 2018

Top Ranked Player –  Matt Archibald (1 Win, 100% Win Percentage)

Most Total Plays –  Kyle Delgado (2 Plays)


Games based on intellectual properties (I.P.) can be a loaded gun.  Loaded with sadness. They usually consist of lots of pictures and direct quotes from the property and has little to no quality gameplay.  The nostalgia is intended to carry the weight. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make for a quality game that is deserves attention. Bob Ross: Art of Chill Game is not one of those games.  It deserves your attention and admiration. Even if you don’t have any love for the TV show, this game has legs to stand on so that your nostalgia for the I.P. isn’t necessary.

Bob Ross: Art of Chill Game is a set collection game with a timing mechanism.  The game’s theme is of painting a Bob Ross classic. These paintings will be on display on a cute plastic easel on the table with a timer.  This timer tracks Bob’s progress as he paints. Your goal is to finish the painting along with Bob or quicker. You will receive points for completing the different parts of the painting like “Happy Little Trees” or “Charming Cabins”.  Players will also receive bonuses for completing these before Bob does. Players will have 3 actions per turn to try to complete this task. Play will end when one player is completely “Chill” (a.k.a. 30 points).

There is much to breakdown here.  Elements of this game seems borrowed but all of them add something more which makes it feel unique.  It’s what elevates this game beyond being just another mass market game with a nostalgic theme.

The set collection aspect has been compared to games like Ticket to Ride.  It makes sense as each element of the painting requires certain color paints and a particular brush.  The unique element here as the cards you collect all have a dual purpose. They can be used for either a particular brush or a certain color of paint.  A element of decision making every time you pick up a card.

The timing mechanism is also something that brings uniqueness.   At the beginning of your turn, players will roll the Bob dice which can have 4 different outcomes.  3 of the 6 sides will progress Bob on the current painting. It also causes the next “Chill” card to be drawn which changes the rules of play.  One side of the Bob die let’s players play a paint from their hand for free. Another side gives the player that rolled it a 4th action. Finally, the last side let’s active player draw a free art supplies card.  This small game aspect makes for a perfect balance of luck and strategy as you must plan for the unexpected and when to simply hold onto cards.

This game has a lot to offer new players and veterans.  The gameplay is engaging, fun, and challenging. A lot of which sets itself apart from games of its genre with innovative and unique elements.  They add something for players to really sink their teeth into. It won’t have your brain burning but it does deserves a place in a game collection.  A solid family style game for Bob Ross lovers.

Learn how to play Bob Ross: Art of Chill Game with this short video from Big G Creative.


Total Plays –  3

Total Players Played –  6

First Played –  August 19th, 2018

Top Ranked Player –  Morgan Miller (1 Win, 100% Win Percentage)

Top Score –  Bryan Allen (26 Points)

Most Total Plays –  Kyle Delgado (3 Plays)




Target seems to be the place to grab some games lately.  They recently posted in a statement that they will be releasing 95 new exclusive games.  I wasn’t very optimistic at first with this news. The caliber of games that big box stores carry is usually of the mass market quality.  Nothing to be excited about.

I recently took a trip to our local Target store to see what they had on their shelves and was pleased to see some of these titles.  Two of which we will be talking about today. One of these was Megaland from Red Raven Games. I am a Red Raven Games addict so naturally I couldn’t resist the urge to immediately purchase the game.  I’ve heard a few things from podcasters and bloggers that the game was a good family weight game which is perfect for our diverse game group.

Megaland is a “Press Your Luck” game with a tableau building element.  The goal of the game is to be the first player with 20 coins. These coins will be collected by running through a level.  Thematically, the game sets itself up as being a side scrolling video game in a board game form. That theme is a bit abstracted in my opinion but more on that later.  Each player, at the start of every round, will enter the level and draw the first room of the level. The level could contain a monster, treasure, or nothing. The monsters will do each player damage.  The treasure will give each player a treasure of course. If nothing happens then nothing happens. The players will either perish, retreat, or complete entire level. Simple enough but the game comes in after the level run is complete.  

Each completed room in the dungeon will provide the player who survived it a treasure.  These treasures are forfeit if they perish in the level. If they choose to retreat or are able to complete the entire level then they will return home with a bunch of treasure cards.  These cards can then be cashed in to build building or increase their maximum health. Buildings give the player who built them various abilities that will aid them in the next levels they run or give them coins.  The available buildings to grab change from game to game so the strategy of building them changes as well.

I really enjoyed this title quite a bit.  The theme was a bit tacked on. It didn’t really stand out as a key feature like other Red Raven games.  The artwork was amazing but that’s what most people come to expect from Red Raven. The “Press Your luck” mechanic on its own is very generic and bland but is saved by the addition of the buying phase.  Being able to outfit your character and develop a strategy brings this game to an older audience without leaving behind a younger player. Each game changes with the multitude of building cards available so you can make a custom game and you can make the game exactly what you want it to be.  It’s one that you should ask about at your next Game Night.

Learn how Megaland is played using this short video from Watch it Played.



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