Pimp My Board Game

a pursuit of fruitless endeavors and endless refinements

Category: Reviews (Page 2 of 2)

Walking Dead comes to Grand Lake, Part 1

So I’ve talked a bit about my CabinCon prep for the Walking Dead minis game (All Out War) by Mantic Games but I got the chance to put the whole thing together and play two epic sessions.  The first session is below.

disclaimer: The Walking Dead: All Out War game has not been released as of this post. All miniatures, scenery, and components are either mocked up or proxies from other games.

Taco Troubles

As has been tradition since the first CabinCon, a group of friends head down to the local restaurant Pancho and Lefty’s for a chance to get out of the cabin and stretch their legs.

from Take My Trip dot com

The friends all take a seat at a large table on the side of the open restaurant.  Before the server can even take a drink order everyone sees a flash pass quickly by the restaurant front window followed by an explosion that rumbles the walls.


The group jumps up and starts to run through various emotional reactions, some running to the window to see what is going on, while others cower in the corner taking cover from an unseen threat.



Eventually some brave souls venture outside only to find carnage and mayhem have taken over the town of Grand Lake.


We find that the source of the explosion was the fiery wreck that once was our main mode of transportation, Reese’s Xterra.


Unfortunately, the fire and explosion brought some unwelcome guests… The Walking Dead.


Things start to get interesting as the Dead are now breaking into the back of the restaurant.


This forces our heroes into the street with only the most rudimentary weapons.  Don, the local Police Officer is a good shot but years of training to fire at center mass is hard to ignore.  Don is making a lot of noise and attracting more hungry dead.


The team starts to converge around the only intact vehicle in sight and start to make their stand.


Just when the heroes had scoured the area for a way to start the truck, a man stumbles out of the adjacent building.  He is wounded and being chased by several Walkers.


Too quickly, he falls and the heroes cannot save him.  Don is finally overwhelmed and pulled down by the undead and consumed.


In the wounded man’s hand are a set of Chevy keys. The heroes distract the walkers and grab the keys to make a run for the truck.  They are able to get in and get it started but the Walkers surround the vehicle.


Unfortunately, one friend had gone to check out the other side of the lot and was making a stand with newfound friend, Vincent “blade-y hands” and didn’t realize the party was over.


The heroes knock over the slow dead and make a bee-line to their comrade and newfound friend and drive off to the closest safe haven they know- the Cabin.


VICTORY for now…



The guys had a lot of fun with the new Walking Dead: All Out Wars rules and I found the system to be extremely flexible.  I ran it (and warned the players) that I would likely treat it more like an RPG and push/pull the events for maximum effect.  In this way, I would take a back seat to the decisions since I new how a lot of the scenario would play out and just ran around to help.

We were obviously playing the game under the “Solo” rules and I expanded it to a co-operative level with each player controlling their own avatar.  I didn’t worry too much about the NPCs and only really played them for story effect (to be eaten or cause “Mayhem”- the game’s way of escalating the dangerous encounters in the game and the main way the heroes can lose).

For each player’s avatar stats, I made a private quiz to find out a little more about each attendee and suit a 30 point character to match as close as possible within the limits of the system.  Then I created the personal standees after getting some “action shots” of the guys with various weapons. This really got the guys interested and had them feel that something was on the line as they played the game.

To help further immerse the group, I made some crude papercraft buildings loosely representing the restaurant we frequent and the surrounding area.  Google Earth came in handy as it made for a passable paper playmat with the street and parking lot outside. This also helped keep the guys interested as the game environment slowly evolved as the game progressed.  We started in the restaurant map and it could have easily stayed inside there for the whole game if I wanted but I knew I wanted this to feel somewhat like an RPG with exploration elements and unknown events triggering somewhat logically.

Speaking of events, the game comes with a deck of random events that trigger at the end of each round and working in special events that I randomly placed in the deck, made for a very organic story that developed.  The main “end scenario” event was placed in a random set of the last 6 event cards so even I didn’t know how far along we had to survive before we could leave and end the scenario.

I designed the little scenario to be a one-off in case people thought it was fun but not worth going through again the next night.  Lucky for me, everyone loved it and wanted more so I had the “part 2” as an optional continuation of the story.  Again, the rules really open this up for players as it deals with achievement and advancement in between the scenarios.  Before the next scenario, I had the guys “level up” their character and based on how well we did during Part 1, we received time to search the Cabin for weapons, arm up and prepare for what was coming up in Part 2.


Pimped Coins

One of the recent trends in game pimping is custom metal coins.  Long a staple of LARPing (Live-Action Role Playing), allowing players to help immerse themselves more fully into their game world, custom metal coins have been pushing into the board game arena both as separate game accessories and standard components offered by the publisher themselves.

Recently, I received my Kickstarter pledge for Fantasy Coins, LLC second run of gaming coins and picked up some great custom coins for a couple of games in my collection.

First up is a set of custom coins for Lords of Waterdeep.  Custom coins are available from other manufactures for Waterdeep but they tend to be pretty expensive.  Fantasy Coins’ Kickstarter made the set relatively inexpensive.

Waterdeep coins

At the top of the picture, you can see the standard cardboard coins that come with Waterdeep. The custom coins are a bit larger and definitely give you that weighted-coin feel that you are looking for in nice coins. The designs are great and it is a really great addition to the game.  Combined with the custom DnDeeples, my Waterdeep game is becoming as pimped out as my own custom creations.

Epic Coins has a different version of a coin set for Waterdeep.  I don’t have them but they look to have the same heft and detail (though a different design).  However, they are considerably more expensive.

I also picked up a set of Fantasy Coins’ “credit” coins that work well for sci-fi games like Netrunner and, specifically to me, Race for the Galaxy.  Race for the Galaxy has these cardboard chit victory point markers that, while unique to the game system, are actually awkward and a little difficult to use with new players.

rftg tokens

The Fantasy Coins credit coins give the player some heft to the victory point tokens and are large enough to easily spot how many victory points a player has.

coins credit 1

coins credit 5

coins credit 10

Publishers are noticing the appeal of custom metal coins as well and some are including them as standard options in the game. Space Cowboys‘ 2014 game, Black Fleet, came with metal coins as a standard and was one of the first games I saw that treated the concept as a standard practice.

image from Dylan Steiger on BGG

Most games that offered metal coins before offered them as part of a deluxe package or was announced with a lot of fanfare.  Black Fleet surprised customers without any announcement of the upgrade and it generated a lot of buzz when it was released.

Publishers like Cool Mini or Not (CMON) started offering the option of custom coins to a few of their games like Rum and Bones to get in on the custom coin trend.

Ironically enough, these metal coins are upgrading the already upgraded plastic coins that came with the kickstarter.  The retail copy comes with standard cardboard coins so CMON went a little overboard with the pimped coin options for their game.

Not quite in the same realm of usable coins for monetary mechanics or victory point tracking, some publishers are making custom metal coins in the style of the older “challenge coin” tradition.  I’ve seen this notably in a recent crop of Fantasy Flight Star Wars games.


These are massive coins with great detail and are quite heavy.  Since several of these games require a random way to determine which player has initiative, a coin flip is a nice pimped out way to accomplish it.  These coins were extremely rare when they came out several years ago as prize support but are getting a resurgence in a new crop of Organize Play support.

I’ll leave you with a nice link from Reddit user FlakyPieCrust that catalogs some great custom coin resources to pimp out your game with.

Reddit link

Pimpin’ Game Bits

I saw this Kickstarter project the other day (no affiliation) and it looks like a great collection of gaming bits to pimp out some of the dryer Eurogames that use static wooden blocks:

Treasure Chest Kickstarter

Treasure Chest

While Agricola is not a favorite game of mine, I will say that playing with pimped components can make it less dry. Eurogames seem to have this issue more than others where immersing yourself into the story the game develops is harder due to the multiple layers of abstraction and generally dull components. Honestly, Carcassonne came out 14 years ago and at least tried to capture some theme by using Meeples for components. New Eurogames coming out with dull wooden blocks is such a crime.

Lords of Waterdeep is a great game but also came with exceedingly dull pieces. Luckily, a BGG user, Danny Perello, made these awesome bits for the game:

There is a site to pick up official copies of these bits here:

The Broken Token

A friend of mine has the original wooden versions from Danny and they are a great addition to the game. It was interesting how this little change in the game bit affected how our group talked during the game. Previously, we broke into a habit of just asking for “white” or “orange” cubes, thereby killing all sense of theme or story to go with the game. The game because a number crunching game and, while still fun, it didn’t really feel like anything more than a complete abstraction. The addition of DnDeeples, as they are known, started changing the way players were requesting resources. Soon, “I need two white and one purple” became “here are two priests and one wizard.” It didn’t completely replace the vocabulary but even some of the holdout players will ask for a “couple of white dudes and an orange guy.” Baby steps I guess.

Back to the Treasure Chest Kickstarter, I plan on picking up a set for my favorite Euro: Kingsburg. I’ve been looking for a set of nice wooden bits for that game and it looks like this one fits the bill quite nicely. The Kickstarter ends in 3 days so you’ll want to act fast if this is something you’re interested in.

Ticket to Ride: 10th Anniversary

One of the first hobby board games I came to appreciate was Ticket to Ride by Alan Moon.  Such a simple, yet effective game, I’ve found that very few casual games elicit the nervous end game anxiety that this one can. Being a great game that can be shared with gamers and non-gamers alike, I was happy to see Days of Wonder (DoW) produce an upgraded “Anniversary” edition.  I’ve often wanted to create a larger scaled version of the game and pimp out it’s contents like I’ve seen at GenCon (taken from Tony Hope Romero’s post on io9):

Thanks to DoW, I don’t have to:

The new 10th Anniversary edition has a lot of upgraded components including new card art and a larger board (also with new art) but the most striking upgrade is the new plastic train pieces. DoW provides a new theme to each of the player colors by introducing detailed train cars and holding them all in a thematic tin:
little giraffe heads sticking out? That's pimp
We count only blue cars...
ah, the obligatory coal-train
those were the days, a whole car for the hobos
brown is, and now always will be, the new yellow

Along with a larger board and reworked art, the publisher decided to have a little fun with the new art and put in quite a few easter eggs (I heard rumored to be about 20-25 fun little things on the map). My favorites include the geographical Duluth paradox being acknowledged:
ahhhh so THAT'S where it is...
And the reference to a favorite guilty pleasure movie, Stardust, based on the short story of the same name by Neil Gaiman:
I’m thinking Great English wordsmith, my enemies and crew are thinking Shake! Spear!

Overall, the quality is great and the reworked art, detailed trains, and larger board size make the anniversary edition a great addition to my game collection. There are a few weird production missteps like the omission of the 1910 expansion rules when they included all the 1910 game components, the mismatched color of the “yellow” player and the corresponding Brown train cars, and the box insert not being able to accommodate sleeved cards. Since I’ve played Ticket to Ride with the 1910 expansion in upwards of 50 times, the rules omission doesn’t bother me. The Yellow score tracker not matching the brown train cars is funny but will give me something to quick pimp soon. The insert not accommodating sleeved cards is pretty annoying though. I’m not a compulsive card sleever but for a board game that has an MSRP of $100, I’d like to make sure I keep the cards in good condition (especially a game that has seen as much play as my previous version of Ticket to Ride). Looks like I’ll have another game in needing of some pimping soon.

Ticket to Ride: 10th Anniversary edition
$100.00 (US MSRP)
Available: Now
Pro: great new components, awesome new card and board art, larger game board
Con: rules omissions, non-sleevable insert

Pimpin’?: 4.5/5   Outtasight!

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