Game Reviews

March of the Machines-Release events–Plus Bonus Sunday Special event

This weekend we will have part two of the prerelease/release for March of the machines, and I can report that the set is hella fun!  (We actually had a near full house on last Friday).

Plus I’m gonna do something on Saturday at 2ish that is spectacularly stupid.*

Aside from pretty epic story-telling, the last couple of Magic sets see to be getting more and more fun to play, and March of the Machines looks to keep that trend going .  (If you wanna check out the set in a fun way, do some practices drafts/sealed using Draftsim.)  Remember to get tix in advance to save the extra $5…$35 day of event, $30 in advance, so get tix at store or online early)


*So about being purposefully stupid:

About 4 months ago, Wizards did an epically stupid thing in creating the $1000 30th Anniversary Edition with “reprints” of most of the important cards they promised they would never reprint.  About a month ago they sent us the copy they promised each of the local game stores.

What:  On Saturday I’m gonna take them and do something on camera that I’ve banned from the store.  We’re gonna play Rip it or Flip it.

Why!!!: I’m not actually being that “flip” about this.  With each pack we rip, I’m going to publicly call out Wizards for some things they are doing that are as bad to LGS’s as the Open License debacle was for D&D developers.  I’m hoping if this gets enough attention, it might spark some changes here as well.















D20 Trading Card Gift guide/advice

D20 Holiday Gift Guide-Trading Card Games

This guide is our best, most honest recommendations for gifts for the Magic or Pokemon player in your life; based on interest, experience level/age (and budget).

Parents cheat sheet:

TCG or CCG (Trading Card Games/Collectible Card Games)

Magic, Pokémon, h are all  are what are known as collectible card games.  (Think collecting baseball cards, where you could actually play those better cards in a game.)  The games are in their simplest form like the old card game War, where players put down two cards and the higher one wins.  Each player has a starting amount of life, and they play cards used to attack, defense and respond to try and get the other player to zero (or in the case of Pokémon, to get 6 of the other players Pokémon to get to sleep).  What is interesting about the game is that the cards themselves add and modify the rules of the game, creating an evolving set of game play. (That’s why the kids get excited about the new set of cards as they come out, each set adds new possibilities that they can puzzle out.)

From the parent’s point of view, the aspects of the games that are good are encouraging reading, math, and logic skills.  BTW…ignore the age recommendations on the boxes…Magic is listed as 13+ and Yugioh is 6+…whoever set those levels clearly had no clue about the reality of kids.   Pokémon is the usual game that starts kids playing, and it is very common for them to just enjoy collecting the cards without having a clue how to play it. Don’t worry…very normal. We do a Pokémon League on Saturdays where the kids get points for playing and actually get double points for helping the younger/new players figure it out.  It’s good to eventually get them to learn how to play the game, because that is when they will start reading the card for real and to start working on the math that is part of playing the game.  

It is also good for creating opportunities to learn fair play, though that benefits a lot from our help.  Some of the rarest cards can end up being valuable ($100 or more), so talk to your kids about keeping them safe at school, as well as being both careful and fair in their trading with others.  Keeping their cards in sleeves (usually between $3.5-$5 a pack) and in a deck box with their name on it ($3-5) will both keep the value of the cards intact and make it less likely for their cards to get mixed up with other kids by accident.

Players (kids and others) love opening up the packs, with that anticipation of finding some treasure within.  The individual packs are very fun as stocking suffers or small gifts, but have the possibility of being a disappointing choice as a primary gift, particularly on the Yugioh side where a box of 24 packs only comes with 9 of the “super” and above cards that the players get excited about.  See the list below for better choices.

 The recommendations below are from our staff (and me) and are our best, most honest advice.

Pokémon (age 6-up)

Item Name Cost Description/comment
Just Collecting for fun
Good Bundle boxes $10-20 each These have a number of booster packs and either a full art cool card, little Album or toy figure that matches the cool card.  These are great for little kids…lot of “oh, ahh” per inch and there is at least one great card in each.  For little girls, the Keldeo box will make their heads explode from the sheer cuteness of it. (this from the dad of an 8 year old girl)
New/learning players (6 and up)
Good Pokémon Intro decks $12.99-13.99 When they first start to play, they really need a deck that has been built for them that works together well.  If you want to play with them (which is actually pretty fun), get a second one.  (Dad advice…get a set of sleeves for each deck so when the cards get spilled all over, it’s easier to get them back to be usable.)
Knows how to play
Better Hidden Fates Pin packs $21.99 These big stocking stuffers have 3 packs and a bonus card.  The Hidden Fates is a more rare set that has been hard to find.
Best Hidden Fates Collections $79.99-120 These boxes have special rare promo cards and sets of the Hidden Fates Packs. We have about 10 in stock.
Intermediate-Advanced Players
Better Pokemon Tins-boxes $21.99-27.99 These latest tin’s contain Ex (really good) versions of some of the best cards as well as a number of booster packs.
Better Ultropro Premium Side loading binders $24-29 These binders load the cards from the sides instead of the tops.  Because of that, the cards don’t fall out and it is much harder for other light fingers to take things out without being noticed
Best Full art Single cards or Ex-Cards or a box of boosters $15-50 for the singles, $110 for the booster box (36 boosters) If you know the cool card they are looking for, we can usually help. Otherwise, get them a gift certificate so they can come in and really trick out their decks.  Or get them a full box of boosters.  While no one really knows what is in each booster, generally each box has a few of the prized full art cards and they WILL be happy.  Let us know if you want these since we don’t always have a lot in stock.
Stocking Stuffers
Single Packs. $ 4 each More fun for new players or kid collectors then advanced players. The more advanced the player the more they will be happy if the pack has good stuff and otherwise it’s a scratcher. Good for stocking stuffers only.
Card Protectors (Sleeves) $3.50-$5 Price is based on style and maker. Keep cards protected and from getting mixed up with other players-They come in units of 50 which is dumb since the decks are 60.  (We try and keep extra sleeves to make up for this…)
Pokémon Binders $4-9 Either smaller 4 card per page or larger 9 card per page binders, always a good choice, particularly for younger players.
Deck boxes $3-5 Available with lots of colors and styles, pick their favorite


Magic The Gathering

Background: There is a new set of Magic cards printed every 3 months, with some special sets printed in between.  They are all still part of the same game.

Beginning Players
Good Intro Packs $15 60 card pre-made, ready to play decks and a booster pack.  The decks are good for playing with other players, but not good for learning from scratch.
Better Deck Builder’s Toolkit $20 A great mini-collection for new players (and one that kids particularly love).  Contains 125 semi-random cards good for building decks, 4 booster packs from recent Magic sets, 100 basic land cards, deck-builder’s guide and learn to lay guide, and a storage box.
Very cool Holiday Gift Box $20-25 4 Return to packspacks, a special bonus card and the coolest storage box we’ve ever seen.  This is a great goodie for any Magic player.
Beginners and Intermediate Players
Best Fat-Pack Buldles $42.99-54.99 Special box with 9 booster-packs, land, life counting die, and most fun for the kids, a full color booklet that shows all the cards in the set as well as having the backstory for the series and some special hints and combinations. (Unfortunately most of these were lost in the theft so we won’t have as many as usual.)
Intermediate Players
Good Draft Gift Certificate $15 Gift certificate for one of our Draft events.  Good for Friday Night Magic or the kid’s Date Night Magic, these events include three packs of cards and an evening playing with the decks built from them.  Lots of fun for kids from 9-14 or for experienced players ready for the big time on Fridays.
Better Izzet vs. Golgari dual decks $30 Two great decks in one package.  We only have a few left
Better Magic Event Decks $20-40 These are interesting collections of competitive cards.  We have these from a number of sets.
Stocking Stuffers/Small Gift ideas
Single Packs. $ 4 each Always fun to open, Return to Ravnica is the latest, M13 is a good staple and there are great cards in the Innistrad set.
Card Protectors (Sleeves) $3.50-$5 Price is based on style and maker. Keep cards protected and from getting mixed up with other players
Deck boxes $3-5 Available with lots of colors and styles, pick their favorite
HUGE D20 Life counting dice $8 An oversized 20 sided die used to keep count of life totals.  Available in the 5 different magic colors.
Box of Mini-dice $7-12 These mini-dice are loved by experienced player to use for counters on the cards
Play-mats $16-20 Providing a great surface to play on, these mats come in a number of great designs.



Cover Your Assets Review, D20 Games Alameda

Cover Your Assets by Grampa Beck Games..

Ben’s Review:  (Store owner Guy)

Summery:  Deceptively great game in a goofy box.  Great for virtually all player levels, and good social fun.  Best played with 3-6 players.  Extremely easy to learn, but stays fun for a long time.  Play time, 20-30 minutes a round, usually needs two rounds to get to a winner. 

There is no way, looking at the box to have even the vaguest clue how fun this game is.  The first time I saw it was at a special game store owners game night.  All the heavy hitters were there, and one look at the goofy guy in his bowler hat and my nose went up in the air and I walked right past.  After an hour, I realized that all the laughter in the room was coming from that table, so finally I went over.  There were a ton of the game makers there, so I was spending 10-15 minutes just to get the feel of each game.  So imagine my surprise when I  realized I’d been playing the game for an hour and a half.  Since then, we’ve played the game probably over a hundred times in the store.

How to play: The game play is simple, and works for ALL levels of players above 8 or so.  It’s like a stealing version of Gin Rummy.  Each player puts down matching pairs of cards (Jewels, Cars, Homes, Baseball Cards, Cash Under the Mattress) worth a fixed amount of $$ (The Assets), and works to build up a $1,00,000 to win the game. The twist is that there are about 10 of each type of card, and once you put down that $20,000 pair of homes, anyone else who has a single card that matches it can steal it on their turn, (grrr). BUT..if you have another copy in your hand (hand size is always 4 and your redraw to fill your hand whenever it gets below that) you can slap that card down and say “I don’t THINK so, buddy” and than not only do you get to keep your Homes in the family, but you get to add their card, and the card you defended with to that same pile (now worth 4x$20,000).  Yay…you are the happy winner of that raid on your assets—oh damn, they have ANOTHER Homes in their hand to answer your defense, and now the steal is successful.  UNLESS…look in your hand…that $25,000 Silver wild card (or $50,000 Gold), is itching to come out and play, and it stays yours…now a big fat $125,000 pile.  (Why are all the other players looking at my stack with such “gimmie” in their eyes?)  Until it gets to be my turn again, and I can put a different pair crossways on top of it to keep it safe (Covering your Assets…hence the name of the game) everybody else gets their shot at taking it, and they will.  Once a stack is covered, it can’t be gone after until someone else steals off the covering stacks.

Two things:  Because the game is all about stealing, it removes the feeling of  “getting picked on” that can happen with games like Risk and Sorry.  The only group I wouldn’t suggest this game for are kids who really get sore when things get taken from them in games.  You can’t count your chickens in this game, and I’ve often gone from the big pile to stripped down to my card shaped undies, and little kids who are learning to handle that kind of stuff may have problems with that.  (On the other hand, I just played with a 5 year old who had more fun taking stuff away from his dad’s pile then I’ve ever seen.)  Second, the game is virtually impossible to get to the required $1,00,000 in the first round.  That turns out to be a very good feature, because the first time around, people are figuring out the game, and their fortunes, so to speak, are never the same in the second game so by the time the two rounds are done, everyone had had a good time.

Games tend to appeal differently to different types of players and a big part of my job is helping people figure out which of the games they will like.  This is one of the cheapest games I sell, and the only game I feel utterly confident in recommending to everyone (except for the tykes as listed above).  I feel strongly enough about this game that it is the only one in the store that I’ve given an unconditional “fun” guarantee to bring it back.  So far, lots of takers, and zero returners.



The following is a review from an  11 year old player in the store.  Name is being kept private for kid safety reasons.


Cover Your A$$ETS

Cover Your Assets is a game slightly like gin rummy but with stealing or Go Fish where you can take from your opponents. The object of the game is to get $1,000,000 dollars’ worth of Assets (cards) by making pairs of cards and putting them on your Stack (a stack of cards.(OMG)) You can also steal cards from your opponents by making groups if you have a card that matches using their top pair or threesome or foursome. The twist is that you can counter or defend cards by playing another match. There are also Gold and Silver cards, which are wild and are worth $50,000 and $25,000, respectively.  It seems to work best for kids of 10 and up, in terms of maturity. It has surprising strategy and depth for a game that’s object is to steal people’s stuff to become a millionaire. This game is no fun for poor sports and hard losers, but is probably for the whole family if Junior is mature enough. This is a very good game with a singular way to win but many ways to achieve victory and many more ways to fail. It is very hard to win and equally easy to win for grizzled veterans of card games as it is for wet-eared novices of card games.  It is for 2-4 players, so it allows for a reasonable amount of unstable alliances. The estimated time is around half an hour to 45 minutes, so it takes fairly long to play.


Its fast and simple gameplay, easy-to-understand rules, complex strategy and depth earn an A+ in game design, although it is not for the whole family. Its estimated average time of gameplay also helped it earn the A+.

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