Thursday, November 24, 2016

Giving thanks

Happy Thanksgiving to you! Today is a day to reflect on what you're thankful for, so I wanted to take the time and share our thanks. 2016 has been a heck of a year for us and there's a lot to share, so try to stick with me!

The year started out with what was a life-changing experience for both Rob and I - Extra Life United. The national tournament for Extra Life gave us a chance to see how big an impact our fundraising can have. We met families from across North America who needed the services of Children's Miracle Network hospitals. It was a tearful, joyful few days. We also met fellow Extra Lifers and left with dozens of new friends.
The Extra Life United Gang

After ELU was the Chits & Bits Game Marathon- our big event for the year. It was a huge success, mostly due to the hard work of our team. We raised over $20,000 for The Barbara Bush Children's Hospital, and had a great time doing it. Over a hundred prizes were given away, and tons of games were played over the 24 hour marathon. Our team continues to do amazing things, and Rob and I are both so thankful for all their hard work.

Our thank you video gives a good overview of our past.

Just a few short weeks after the marathon, was my departure for the Appalachian Trail. It was another life-changing experience for me. It was one of the most difficult things I've ever done, and while it didn't end the way I hoped, it taught me a lot about myself. The support that I received from friends, family and strangers gave me a lot of strength.

When I returned from the trail, it was to the welcoming arms of my friends and family, which made the transition back to "normal" life much easier. I was able to find work from the generosity of Brenden and Chris Hill at Crossroad Games, and then started a new career with the UPS Store, which I'm very thankful for. Rob and I got right back into the swing of things, starting this blog, and new events like Brews & Board Games.

We just returned from BGGCon, which was a great experience, and promises to bring some new opportunities for us in the future. We played a ton of games, and made some great connections with some potential new sponsors.

We have some irons in the fire still for this year, including our Chits & Bits Christmas Party. We hope that you'll come celebrate with us on December 14th at Sebago Brewing Company. The details are in the Facebook event here.

This year has brought many changes to my life, and for that I'm thankful. Gaming and Extra Life has enriched my life and I want to thank you for being part of it. I'm thankful for Michelle; for Rob and Mike, who are the driving force behind Chits & Bits; for Kate and Meaghan, our incredible reps from BBCH; for Stephanie, Michael, and the rest of the ELU crew; Dave B, Brenden, Chris and the rest of my friends at Crossroad Games. I'm thankful for my Mom and stepfather John, who have always been there when I needed them. I'm thankful for every single person reading this, for the support you've given us, and continue to give. I look forward to 2017 and what the future will bring.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

BGGCon in review

The Con has come to a close and here we sit on our return flight. We'll get back to Maine at around 11:30pm and both of us have to work tomorrow. But all in all it was well worth it.

We were both first timers at BGGCon. I'd heard good things but honestly wasn't sure what to expect. Having been to GenCon a few times, I was curious to see how it compared. Numbers-wise BGG is much smaller, approximately 3,100 attendees as opposed to Gen Con'a 60,000+. This is a good difference, Gen Con is a frenetic experience with so much to see and crowds to fight through. BGG Con rarely felt like I had to fight through the crowds. Because of this, we were able to spend some quality time with some designers and vendors and really get to learn from them.

Another key difference is that at BGGCon, we played a TON of games. They have a huge lending library so we were able to try a number of things that we had heard about but hadn't had a chance to buy. I'd say at least half the time we were at the con, we were gaming.

Another wonderful thing happened at BGGCon- because of the size and intimacy of the event, and our ability to talk to people, we have potentially scored some really great new sponsors for the Chits & Bits marathon. I'm not going to jinx anything but we may have some big things coming down the pike as we get closer to next year's event.

Thanks again to our our hosts Michael Oliver and his family. It was exceedingly generous of them to put us up for the week. Extra Life has made us some great friends around the country and Michael is definitely one of them.

If you love hobby gaming, BGGCon is the one you need to attend. Get tickets if you can and maybe we'll see you there next year!


Thursday, November 17, 2016

It's been a while

Yes, it's been a while, I know. Life has a funny way of getting in the way of your best intentions. I've had a number of balls in the air over the past few months, and one of them that got dropped was this blog. I haven't had much time to write, or rather I haven't made much time to write, but that is changing. I'll be updating more frequently, now that some things have settled down

So what's new, you ask? Well right now, Rob and I are sitting on a plane headed for BGGCon in Dallas (Board Game Geek for the uninitiated). It's our reward for the hours we put in for the Chits & Bits Game Marathon. This will be four days of crazy gaming and spending time with friends from across the country.

Waiting for our flight.

Speaking of Extra Life, the national game day has come and gone, and by all accounts was a huge success. We made the trek up to Bangor, Maine to support our friends at Flip the Table for their marathon, since they were great enough to support ours. We had a blast, and they were very successful- raising over $10,000 for Eastern Maine Healthcare. A lot of friends from all over also held events, I wish we could have gone to them all. All in all, Extra Life has now raised over $8,000,000 this year for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals across North America. It feels exceptional to be part of such an amazing cause. And the year's not over yet.

We haven't had much time to play games, that pesky life thing again, but we did make it the Granite Game Summit in NH last month and that was also a great event. It is a new event, so it was great to see it do so well.

Since I'm typing this on my dying phone and my thumb is cramping up, I'll sign off for now. More soon I promise.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

tis the season

This weekend starts the Fall Gaming season for Jamison and I. We start off Saturday heading to Granite Game Summit. A 15 hour day of gaming. No vendor room just a bunch of people playing games and having a great time.  Then it's off to Bangor for an Extra Life 24 hour marathon on November 5th. This will be our first marathon that we are not organizing. It will be a different experience I'm sure, to just attend and take in all generosity of everyone with out the stress of running the show. Then we are jet setting of to Texas for BGGCON the middle on November. That week is shaping up to be amazing. Lots of games, seeing old friends, making new ones, huge vendor room, and who knows what else. Then when we get back we have more Brews and Boardgames nights. We are getting our monthly group up and firing on a regular schedule. And I haven't even mentioned all the new games coming out!

So with all these events and all the available games, where do you even begin when packing up your game bag? Do you take your favorite games in hopes to teach new players and get them hooked? Do you lean towards known favorites so that everyone is comfortable sitting down to play? Do you take the games that never hit the table so that you are forced to play them. Do you only take unplayed games and use this time to get in a few new plays. I'm in a conundrum. I know that no matter what I pack or don't pack I'll have a good time, but what should I take?

What do you pack? What are your go to travel games? Help! Time is running out! -Rob

Sunday, October 16, 2016

15 Day Challenge

Anyone who has known me for even a short amount of time knows two things I'm very passionate about, Extra Life and my beard. I love my beard. It makes me feel whole. It keeps me warm and is a convenient place to keep snacks. Very few people have seen me beardless. My dad has one, and here I am carrying on the family tradition. I've had a beard since before it was "hip" to have one. 

In a mere 15 days the most glorious holiday takes place, no shave November. I participate year round but always encourage others to join this time of year. It a great way to come together with your friends. Extra Life is another great way to get people together. Raising money to help children by playing games. Every November people across the world take 24 hours of their time to help these kids. I figured why not combine these two passions of mine. So I present to you a challenge. If I can raise $150 in the next fifteen days I will shave my beard. That's right shave it all off. I will start Nov 1st bare as the day I came into this world. It truly is a sight to see. If you would like to see the public humiliation that is my pudgy bare face, then please donate at the link below. It's just an average of ten dollars a day. I know that you can all come together and make me proud, and cold, my face will be cold.

Rob's Extra Life Page

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The future?

The future of Random Acts of Gameness?
 It's been a bit between posts, our apologies for that. Life has a way of getting away from us, we get busy, and suddenly it's been 4 days since you last wrote a blog post. But we do have some exciting news to talk about, so here we go.

Last night, Rob and I met with a friend of mine. I met Jerry about 5 years ago, when we started playing D&D together at Crossroad Games. I left the group a few years back due to scheduling issues, but Jerry and I still cross paths at the store. One of these recent chance meetings, Jerry mentioned he was looking for people to work with on video projects (that being his background) and I told him about this blog, and what Rob and I were thinking of doing with it. We ended up talking for a good bit and decided to have the three of us sit down to see what we could put together.

Well, last night was that meeting. Rob and I had been discussing exactly which direction we wanted to take our foray into board game media, but neither of us had a really solid idea of where to start. This blog has been doing great, and we were very cognizant of not rushing into something that we didn't think would be good. Jerry helped narrow our focus tremendously. Once we had the chance to sit down with someone that knows how to produce and has the access to the equipment that we don't, we were able to come up with a solid game plan.

We have a pretty unique opportunity to work with Jerry, he brings a lot to the table. He's an accomplished TV producer, and he has a fully functional studio for us to record in. That means we can put out well-shot, well edited and consistent videos. We're going to start with a series of short 3-5 minute reviews on some of the hot hits and our favorite games. Last night, Jerry did a little screen test of us talking and interacting over The Grizzled, and he told us he liked what he saw - so here we go. Look for the Random Acts of Gameness YouTube channel to go live in the next week or two. We're excited for this new direction. Stay tuned and follow along with us!


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Fresh Cardboard

Sometimes opening a game can be almost as enjoyable as playing it.  Tearing off the cellophane. Dumping and sorting the bits just the way you like them. The endless struggle to unwrap the cards. Being the first one ever to unfold the board. And don't even get me started on the smell of fresh ink.  I'm not sure if it's a real thing, but I may be addicted to opening games.  I've always been an impulse buyer, every thing I get into, I go into head first.  Comics, movies, Lego's, action figures.

None of them give me the same joy as opening a new game.  Games have scratched my collectors itch over the last 6 years or so, I want to open more, more, more. It's great to be the first one on the block with a hot new game. The current trend of sending promos out with the first wave of a game doesn't hurt the addiction either. Kickstarter aside (I am a junkie) I have picked up around 3-5 new games in the last month or so. The excitement on the ride home is overwhelming. There it sits in the passengers seat staring at you longingly in the eyes.  "Open me", it whispers.  Yesterday I picked up two games that I have been very eagerly awaiting the arrival of.
Terraforming Mars and Codenames: Pictures
I kept getting a glare in my eye off the shiny packaging on the way home. I kept picking up the promo cards and holding them in my hand, the desire to open them building with every mile. Then the worst possible thing happened. I got home.  Today there is no time to free these beauties from their plastic tombs. We are headed out to go camping for the weekend with some of our closet friends. The woods are no place for fresh cardboard. It should come into this world in a safe and warm environment. One free of bugs, puddles, sticks, and the grossly tacky hands of a S'mores covered child. Soon my friends, soon, I will set you free.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Gearing up

The temperature has started falling a bit here. Nights are cooler and while the sun is still out, most of the humidity has gone. Fall is nearly here, and its my favorite time of the year. This year has been an amazing one for us. We had the life-altering experience of attending Extra Life United, we met new friends from all over, and then transitioned quickly into a full court press for the game marathon. The event went off to a huge success.

As fall approaches, Rob and I have to get our game faces back on. We're about 6 months away from the next marathon, and now is when we start. That may seem like it's a little extreme, but with the successes we've had this year, we don't want to lose our momentum. We want to get bigger and better, and that takes a conscious effort. So we'll start sitting down on a regular basis and putting together a plan. There are a long list of donors to contact, changes to the website to be made, people to talk to, emails to write, and a long list of little things to try to nail down.

At times, the amount of work can seem overwhelming or impossible, but as soon as we step back and look at the reason we're doing it - the reason behind everything, the focus snaps back into place. Logan (our CMN Champion last year) stopped by at the store with his grandmother, Heidi, a few weeks ago, and I played some games with them. Logan is an amazing little kid, he survived childhood cancer (neuroblastoma) and is in full recovery now. We might not have the pleasure of getting to know him and his family without the services provided by Children's Miracle Network hospitals like The Barbara Bush Children's Hospital.

Logan, Maine's CMN Champion, from Extra Life United
BBCH and CMN depend on us to make treatment and care possible. Helping kids like Logan are what drive Rob and I to put in the hours. The smiles and gratitude from his family every time we see them balance out the hard work. It's not just us alone either, we have the support of our friends and family, and that makes a world of difference. We are stronger and more successful by the network of support we've built. Thank you for helping us.


PS if you haven't seen it yet, we had the chance to talk about Chits & Bits in an interview by Granite Game Summit, an event we're attending next month. Check it out here. Get some tickets if you can, and come play some games with us!

Monday, September 12, 2016


I don't really expect you all to be sitting there clicking the refresh button, waiting for our new post. It would be cool if you were, or if it ever gets to that point. For today though, let's just talk about what I, we, and you ARE waiting for. I'm currently waiting for my son to get home. Jamie is waiting for work to end. You? Well you'll have to let us know what you're waiting for, we can discuss that next time. I'm waiting for Wednesday and the arrival of Terraforming Mars. Then, down the not so distant road, Codenames:Pictures, New Bedford, Villages of Valeria, and picking up some Dice City Expansions. Jamie on the game front, was waiting for Retreat to Darkmoor, which arrived today, as well as future pickups of, The Scythe expansion, Mystic Vale expansion, and the Arkham Horror card game

Collectively we have a bunch of games we are waiting to get to the table. Either for the first time or for repeat plays. The North Sea Trilogy is high on our list, as well as City of Iron, Ancient World, and Artifacts Inc, all by Ryan Lauket. Captain Sonar, I think will hit the table again very soon. More Pokemon TCG is in the near future. And we still haven't broken out The official version of Secret Hitler.

Soon my friend, Soon.

We also can't wait to attend Granite State Game Summit on October 22nd. It's shaping up to be an amazing day of gaming. Math Trade, Auction, Some old friends, and we will be spreading word of our charity efforts. Hopefully we will make some new friends, and get a whole new group of gamers to attend next years marathon. 

Then we have more Brews and Boardgames nights planned. More Five Guys Benefit nights planned. And the big finish; BGG Con in November. Which I can personally not wait for, just so I can give some friends long overdue hugs, share stories since the last time we've seen each other, and try to make Jamie uncomfortable and cry. Which I know he can't wait for either. Oh, and I bet we'll probably play some games there too.. I can't wait!!! -Rob

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Game of Life, Second Edition

Rob's life- juggling a lot of balls.
We all choose to play the game. I've chosen the role of the Juggler.  Jamie and I love to fight, well at least I do.  Everything is a competition, even me buying a couple packs of Pokemon yesterday caused him to buy a couple, just so he didn't get left out.  This was right before our Brews and Boardgames night, where we played games with another great group of friends both old and new.

We use these nights to build up friendships, spread the word about Extra Life and try to raise a little money.  Last night pushed us even closer to $23,000 for the year. Unbelievable!!! Man am I tired, but it's all worth it.  We spend a good amount of time planning and attending events both for fun and for business.  I have a four year old at home, who is always in the go.  My family loves to go out Four Wheeling. I play Disc Golf on a regular basis. Two dogs to feed and play with.  Plus work, chores, hobbies, and hanging with friends who don't play games (shame, shame).  It never lets up. But I make the best of it. Always full of energy, a quip in the holster ready to fire.  Thankfully I get a ton of support from my wife, whom I think just loves to sleep with the bed to herself.  Last night was the sixth night in a row up way past my bedtime. On a school night none the less.  I think that today requires a nap. So I'm going to pass this turn, and when it gets back around to me, look out. I'm gonna be ready to go.

 Rob definitely has a lot more on his plate than I do, so I guess I can put up with him being a little whiny about being tired. I mean, I was up just as late as he was last night, but I was perfectly fine when I got to work at noon. No big deal. Rob is also right, he does like to fight. He's very much the instigator, I think he really just likes to stir the pot. Which can be good from time to time. I believe I referred to him as a "Machiavellian bastard" the other day, when he was pitting our buddy Michael and I against each other in a text war.  It keeps me from getting complacent. You always need to be on your toes when you're around Rob.
How I feel when I'm writing sometimes

 So yes, Rob has a lot going on, I have a lot going on, as well, but my obligations are by choice rather than situation. I write a lot of stuff, which I'm hoping will turn into a career sooner than later. Let's see - a novel, this blog, contract work for FASA Games, posts for Crossroad Games where I work, stuff for EL national and our local hospital from time to time, and entries into multiple writing contests. I usually also work out the actual details and logistics for many of our events. Most of my time is taken up by those things. The nice thing about filling your time by choice is that I can back off when I feel like I need to.

One of the things we've noticed as we've started doing more and more stuff for Extra Life, and all of our extra-curricular activities, is that we've lost a lot of our actual time to play games. Last night at Brews & Board Games, it was nice to capture that feeling again. Sometimes it's easy to forget what brought us to this place we're at. But as soon as we sit down at a table, it all comes flooding back. Our next Brews & Board Games event is October 5th. You should sit down with us, grab a drink, and we'll play some games.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Game of Life

Rob and I have an interesting dynamic. We're very much at odds most of the time, vying for control. As he just told me, even when we're not playing games, we're playing the game of life. Most of it involves verbal sparring, insults and his attempts to physically touch me in awkward ways. And as he adds from across the table, his constant quest to try to make me cry. Our friends are constantly egging us on, which leads to more and more ridiculous interactions. Here's what a few of our friends have to say about out our interpersonal struggles -

"The only thing bigger than their hearts is - oh, wait, nevermind. They have big hearts" -Sean Rooney, our pal from Extra Life United

 "Two great tastes that taste a little funky together..." Mike Oliver, another friend from ELU

And our personal favorite - "Rob and Jamie are like the delightful, definitive duo act of our board gaming community. Think of your favorite classic team-up, something like Newman and Redford, Calvin and Hobbes, or Han and Chewie. Now imagine sitting around a table playing a long-beloved (or maybe a new favorite) boardgame with them. Think Bert & Ernie, if it were directed by Kevin Smith." - Matt Keith, long time friend.

The last bit of Matt's quote nails it right on the head in our eyes. We have a very brotherly relationship, and it's most of the time completely inappropriate. We strive to make our friends laugh, but we balance it with our desire to look out for them - well at least most of the time. If they're going to do something stupid and we'll get a laugh from it, we usually just let it happen. We'll totally help them recover, but we're laughing in their face the whole time.

 We're gearing up for our 2nd Brews & Board Games event tomorrow night at Sebago Brewing in Scarborough. We talked about the last event and what a big success it was after the fact. We found a bigger space, so that hopefully more people can show up and play some games. Many of the people that showed up last time will be returning, and as they get to know us, they'll get a taste of what we're all about. The good ones will stick around and take part. We do a good thing, and it's for a good reason, but there's always room for laughter. And we are always funnier after a few drinks.

-Jamison & Rob

Sunday, September 4, 2016

It's Back!!!!!

Jamie has called it a "Board Game Renaissance". A lot of people are discovering the hobby of board gaming. At almost every event we attend there is always at least one new face, who in turn brings a new face to the next one. Some people aren't "new" to gaming just new to the modern age games. We've all played Chutes and Ladders, Dominos and Monolopy at some point in our life. Those things come and go when you are a "legacy board game player". We never stopped playing, I've never stopped playing. I started as a young kid, playing the usual kid games, Ant in the Pants, Sorry, you know the ones. Then I got older, Cribbage, Hearts, Tock. Then I was introduced to MtG, Catan, and some of the party games like Scattergories and Balderdash. Now today we are fighting zombies, collecting gems, and conquering space. Games have evolved ( see what I did there? You will.) People jumping into gaming now think they have it made. They get all the new shiny games delivered right to their door. Or even worse download them to their "device".  But they've missed out on so many great games over the years. So many great interactions across the table.

Today one of those games from the past is coming back with a frenzy. Pokemon (now you see what I did). Pokemon is taking over the world, much like it did when it came out in the 90's. Kids are wearing the shirts, backpacks, and lunchboxes. The original episodes are on Netflix.  The new Pokemon Go app has rekindled the love with the older crowd, My crowd. And the 20th anniversary of the franchise has spawned another set of The Pokemon Trading Card Game.

I've talked to few local comic and game store owners and they all say the same thing "it comes and goes in phases" "A few years it's popular, then it dies off again"  Then, like a HO-OH from the ashes it rises again. That's just what happened yesterday for me. Jamie never played Pokemon before, he was a game snob when it originally came out. So he missed out on the craze of collecting, trading and evolving them all. Thanks to his job, he has started the journey to became a Pokemon Professor.

This got Jamie the basic how to's and what for's. Then a magical thing happened, I climbed up into the attic and pulled out my old cards. I went through them remembering all the fun times and fun people that I played it with. It was time, Lets play this. I threatened Jamie that we were going to play. He seemed onboard, a little.  But then he played a few games at our FLGS's Anniversary Party. Then he bought some cards.Now it's really time. He has setup at the store a Pokemon Play Day. I decided to go. So did some of the people I used to play with. There I was, a 38 year old playing Pokemon. Some of the kids that came to play were like 12 when I last played with them. They're way older than that now. But the real funny thing is, Some 12 year old's came to play too. 12-41, that's the age range of people that sat for hours, playing this game, a game from the past. I literally had to wipe dust off of my stuff, and here I am shuffling old cards with new. Old players with new ones who just learned how to play, the same day. So I played, for 6 hours I played. I lost, I won, I traded, I made a new deck. Just like old times. The vibe in the room was great. I can't wait to play again. I think Jamie can't wait to play again. He had a rough start to it, He lost a couple games (cough 4) then I revamped his deck for him and the sparkle in his eye came out. Or he was starting to cry cause he finally won a game. I'm not sure, but either way, we had a really fun day.  -Rob

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Brain Storm!

Last night, we (Rob & I) got together, ostensibly to play some games. We did play one, The Ancient World by one of our current favorite designers, Ryan Laukat. It was quite good, there was a lot to absorb the first time through. Very much a game that needs a few more plays before I can really relate where it falls on my list of games. I already know that it hasn't supplanted Laukat's other more recent games Islebound and Above & Below. Those games are quite high on my favorites list.

After I managed to eke out a win against Rob at The Ancient World, things turned- as they normally do- to all the things we have going on. We were well into our cups, which always helps with the creative process. We have a lot planned and we're starting to get down to crunch time. Extra Life is always high on the list of things we talk about. There's still 3 months of the year left for our fundraising efforts, so we made some plans for returning to Five Guys Burgers, which was a lot of fun when we did it in the spring. Look for an announcement to come soon on that.

From our Extra Life talk, things turned to this adventure that we've embarked on. We reviewed some of the topics from the blog, and talked about the format and frequency of our podcast. By nailing down some specifics, we're actually ready to start recording content! This is really exciting to both of us. We did some Twitch streams before the Chits & Bits game marathon, and after Extra Life United, we did some guest spots on a couple shows. We enjoyed it thoroughly, so the prospect of doing our own is both exhilarating and terrifying.

We want to cull the best topics from this blog, and talk about them further. Rob and I have a lot of stuff lined up to discuss, some special guests and ideas. We want you, our audience to tell us what you'd like US to talk about. We're looking to build a community of active listeners that we can inspire to do great things, and in turn inspire us. What are you looking for in a podcast? Share your thoughts, we want to hear them.

We start recording this coming week, and we'll be doing that for a few weeks. Look for our first episode to drop around the beginning of October. We'll keep you posted on our progress!


Thursday, September 1, 2016


As most of us do, I spend a lot of time cruising Facebook and Twitter, checking out the latest news from friends, acquaintances and people that I have something in common with. A lot of the things I read directly correlate to my interest in gaming and charity. I get to see the latest news from designers, publishers, and thoughts from other gamers. I follow the fundraising efforts of my fellow Extra Lifers. and often piggyback on their ideas.

Much of what I read inspires me. Never has it been easier to share your talents and passions with the world. Every well written piece I read makes me strive to improve my own writing. I've written more in the past year than I have ever written in my entire life, and that alone makes me feel good. Putting yourself out there, taking a chance on something that you like to do can serve as an inspiration to others. This is evident in our Extra Life events- we would not have the success that we do without the help of others, which in turn inspires us to try to do better. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you strive to do great things for others, they will strive to do great things for you.

I know that some of our friends have picked up the mantle of blogger, hopefully in some small part from that same inspiration. Reward them for their efforts - give them a read, give them some feedback, and maybe pick up some inspiration of your own. What inspires you? Share something in the comments!

Here's some suggestions -
FezFlip - A few friends of mine including my hiking partner CoinFlip started this blog just recently, about gaming. They have some good insights, and I look forward to seeing more from them.

100 Days of Comics - Our buddy Nick Shaw has been writing this blog on comic books, it's a good way to pick up some ideas for stuff to read.

Everything's Lacey - Our friend Lacey writes this blog on her life and experiences. It's a really good read, and I look forward to seeing more from her!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Terraforming Mars Review

I've been trying to find a way to tell you how good of a game Terraforming Mars is without getting all squealy and giddy. I'm starting to think that it is impossible. I have played this game once. Once. I don't want to play any other game right now except TM.

This game hits every high point for me that I love in a game.

  • Resource management          
  • Tile placement
  • Great art
  • Great theme
  • Messing with your friends strategy
  • Multiple options to earn victory points
  • Card drafting (in a way)
  • Creating long term goals
  • Engine building

Everything is executed so seamlessly, the theme is there at every corner of the game. Most games lose sight of the theme somewhere in the game. Be it mechanic, how things are acquired, interaction with the opponents, something always feels a little off with most games. Terraforming has everything tightly connected. At no point I felt like I wasn't a company racing to take hold of the planet. The resources are perfect. The O2 and temp track are perfect. The project names are perfect. Interaction with other players tiles are perfect. Let's face it, a lot of time went into the theme of this game. They nailed it in every way.

All of the resources are great also. They are crude but at the same time elegant and again very tied into the theme. Cubes right? We all have games with cubes. But these cubes are beautiful. They feel alien and rare. Something like you'd expect to find on Mars. Another aspect that I love about the resources in this game are "thresholds". It's great that I just created a plant, but when I have to have 8 of them to use them, that really makes you think long term in regards to this and subsequent actions.

The tiles for the game are simplistic as are the cards, but they are beautiful to look at all the same. The cards have great names as I mentioned before, lending more to the theme. They play off each other allowing you to create an engine to build up your resources. Some even play off of your opponents actions, always putting that little bit of doubt in your next move. I love when I have to think about not only how an action affects me, but others as well. The iconography can be a bit overwhelming when you first get started, but it all makes sense after you see a few cards. They are tied in very well to the types of cards and actions that they represent and are managed nicely by the action descriptions right on the cards. Again, lots of thinking went into this game. I mentioned a type of card drafting in the beginning. It's not really drafting, but it's not just drawing a new hand either. Being given four new options of projects to build each turn just wasn't enough. You have to make right up front the choice to purchase these project cards. Then if in a later turn you decide to build them you have to pay again. I LOVE this!!! Playing as corporations, this is like buying the plans for your new Aquifer, Then later you decide to actually fund the project. You may buy something early and hold it till the end, you may discard it later, it may just be taking up valuable space in your hand. All decisions made in this game reflect the level of success you achieve in the later rounds. There are so many options to choose from.

I love it. This game hits all my sweet spots. It's beautiful. It's theme is on point. The mechanics work beautifully. The board, bits, and cards are easy to understand. There is enough strategy and routes to victory that there is something here for every type of gamer. You can really tell that the designers spent the time to make this game the best it could be. You can tell they were excited about it because they put a lot of love into it. When my copy arrives I'm going to show it just as much love. This game may never leave my game table. -Rob

Monday, August 29, 2016

Garage Con 3

This weekend was a busy one, with a couple very special events going on. The first was the 17th anniversary of the game store that I work at, Crossroad Games. Crossroads has been our hangout for many, many years. It's the place where I've made friends with almost everyone I play games with, and has played host to our Chits & Bits Game Marathon. This anniversary was the first that I attended as an employee, which was a bit of a different perspective. I got to assist with the hosting end of making sure people sat down to play some of the games we were featuring and the events we had planned. I got to teach some games, learned to play Pokemon and also ran a short D&D game.

On Sunday, Rob and I attended Garage Con 3, which is a small exclusive "convention" held by our friends at Booze & Boardgames, a fellow gaming club. We basically get together for a day of food, cocktails, and most importantly playing some games. This year our hosts decided to make it a fundraiser for Extra Life, which was mighty nice of them. They held a raffle with some great prizes and ultimately raised over $260 for the children's hospital.

The theme of this year's Garage Con was a tropical theme, and we went all out for it. One of our greatest joys is messing with the host of Garage Con, Al. You might remember Al from his post on us here. Al is a pretty straight laced guy who is particularly sensitive to our shenanigans. So as a special surprise for him, Rob, our buddy Dave, and I secured some Hawaiian hulu girl outfits, and wore them to his place. We sprang from Rob's truck and Al (and everyone else) nearly died from laughter.

Rob as usual, doing everything he can to make me uncomfortable.
After all the silliness, we set out to do our favorite - play some games. We started with a massive custom arena style Battletech battle created by our friend Rob Marden. Battletech is a miniatures game featuring giant robots also called Mechs. It was a good way to start out the day, as everyone got to play together, and it was easy to learn.

Battletech Arena Battle
 After that, we ate some lunch, and moved onto a new game called Captain Sonar, which was an absolute blast. Captain Sonar pits two submarine crews against each other, with each member of the crew having a unique role- Captain, First Mate, Radio Operator and Engineer. Each sub is trying to find and sink the other sub before being sunk themselves. Think a giant more intricate game of Battleship. I can't wait to get this one back to the table.

Captain Sonar - each seat is a different station on the sub.
After Captain Sonar, I set up and taught a game of Scythe, which we've talked about in some of our earlier posts. It's a interesting game to teach, as the board setup looks incredibly imposing, with lots of different pieces and iconography. However, once everything is setup and explained, it's a very simple game to play. It generally clicks with people after a few turns, and I love to see that happen. They usually sit there for a second, looking at the game board, and then I can see the light appear above their head.

Scythe. Note the looks of confusion. It was early in the game
We finished up the day with a couple rounds of a really fun, light game called Camel Up. Camel Up is a camel racing game, with players betting on different camels to win or lose. Very easy to learn, quick to play, and a ton of fun. A good way to tie everything up at the end of the day. We had a great day, for a great cause. You really can't ask for more than that.


Camel Up! What other game can you stack camels?

Saturday, August 27, 2016

These are a few...

There are lists all over the interwebs about what the top 10 best board games are. The top 10 to have in your collection. The top 10 to introduce people to board gaming. The lists go on and on. Some of these lists seem very biased towards the recent hot game or a company that has proven time and time that their games are great. Some of these entrys are valid. Some just seem to show up no matter what the topic of the list is. The problem with these lists are the wide range of gamers, the wide range of games, and the wide range of who you play games with. You can have a list of the best games that you and your friends love to play. but what if my friends aren't like your friends? (and I bet they aren't). What if there are three of us and all your games are two player games? What if I don't like co-op games? It's hard to find a "top" anything list for board games that really are a consistent level of "top". I find a new list, usually to research into new games, and am quickly disappointed. Most of the time I've played 3-4 of the games. Some are usually what we call "gateway games". These are the games you use to get people into board games before you get them to play the heavier stuff.
(Some examples of gateway games)

Heavy games you ask? Not necessarily meaning a heavier box ,but sometimes. Heavy games are games where there is a lot to think about. Strategy, Resources, Workers, Cards, Tiles, the list can go on. Usually a heavier game is very thematical, takes longer to play, and can play more people. Not always though. These games can also vary just like any other. It's not always the size of the package that counts. 

(Here's the setup of one of our favorite "heavier games" Caverna)

So if there are heavy games, there must be light games too? Right! Light games usually encompass some of the gateway games. Games that are easy to teach with minimal rules. Often these games have no direct player interaction. Meaning you can't really screw with your opponents strategy. They are fun little games that don't take too long to play and  usually don't take up too much space. These games are often used as "filler games". Light games come in all shapes and sizes as well. Some fit in your jacket pocket, while others come in giant boxes.

Filler games are what I think make a successful game night. Filler games are usually played in between games or while waiting for someone to show up. These games keep the flow of the night going when someone needs to fire up the grill or run to the store. Often game nights start out with a filler game waiting for the last person to arrive, or when trying to decide what game to play next. Filler games kind of depend on your group. Everyone's games are different. Our filler games are fast, everyone in the group already knows the rules, and they are easily played at the game table or the kitchen island. That way we can keep the party going while mixing a new round of drinks or chopping up veggies for a salad. (who am I kidding, we don't eat salad). We also play these games when someone needs a break and wants to get up and stretch for a minute. The number of players don't usually affect a filler game.

(Dig Down Dwarf is one of our favorite filler games, actually one of our favorite games in general)

The sweet spot for our game group, are the medium games. The ones right in the middle. Well, leaning towards the medium-heavy side. These are the games you play once and immediately want to play again. They have direct interaction with your opponents, A bunch of pieces, take around an hour to play and seat 3-5 people. Often we play these games week after week before we give them a break. We use these games to introduce new players into our group. We easily get excited over these games. I often like to just watch people play these games. learning about peoples strategies and tendencies.    


Then there are tons of other types of games within these categories. Worker placement, hidden role, resource management, card drafting, co-op, press your luck, tile placement, set collection, it goes on and on and on. SO, how can anyone make a top 10 board game list? There are just too many variables to take into account. Too many unknowns in the audience. What I can do though is give you a list of some of my favorite games. Not the best, just my favorites Just some not all. In no particular order either (I'd hate to have jealous meeples in my games)

Terraforming Mars Hand Management, Tile Placement
Valeria Card Kingdoms  Card drafting, Dice Rolling
Bottom of the 9th  Dice Rolling, Press you Luck
Keyflower  Tile/worker placement, Auction/bidding
Above and Below  Card Drafting, Storytelling
-Robinson Crusoe  Co-op, Worker/tile Placement

These are just a few of the games I am currently in love with. In the next few weeks I have some new games incoming. I'm sure we will talk about those soon. -Rob

Tell us what some of your favorite games are. Maybe we can start a list.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Intro series - The Shaws

Here's the latest in our "views from the outside" Intro series. Today's post is courtesy of our friends Nick and Katie Shaw. We first met Nick through Crossroad Games, and after befriending him, we got to meet his better half, Katie, who must be a saint to put up with Nick (Just kidding, buddy, we love you too!). Here's what they had to say about us.
From Katie:Alright I hope this is okay.
I would say that Rob is sarcastic and can be dirty minded, but he is really friendly and a great dad. He's pretty dedicated to Extra Life and I'm glad we are friends. Rob yours was easy FYI and don't ask Nick to do this he has not nice things to say LOL
For Jamie I'd have to say he's probably the quieter of the two but no less sarcastic or friendly. I'm also kinda in awe of how dedicated he is to Extra Life and also glad we are friends. You both make life interesting and fun. I might have almost added you both have a soft spot for baked goods.
(editorial note: Katie makes awesome baked goods. She's right, we both have a soft spot for them!)

From Nick (who also writes a blog about comic books here)
How can you describe someone one in just a couple of sentences? I'm not entirely sure it's possible considering who these two are but I will do the best I can.
Jamison can only be described as a genuinely good person. He may not think so but he has proven it with how much care and dedication he puts into Extra Life and making sure sick kids and their families are helped. He is an all around good guy that loves to have fun and the world needs more people like him.
Rob, however is Rob, which is the best way to describe him. Is he a good guy? Absolutely. He does just as much for Extra Life as Jamison, but he also loves to screw with people. A quality I actually enjoy even though I am often on the receiving end. I think he may feed on the souls of those he makes fun of and without them would shrivel and die.
I consider them both to be great friends and I always love spending time with them. Even though I'm fairly certain they only invite me over so they have an excuse to hang out with my wife, who they claim they like better. I guess I can't disagree she certainly is better than me.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Mistakes were made

If you haven't figured out by now I enjoy the misery of others. Not just in life, but while playing games as well. My favorite styles are the ones where you get to backstab or directly interfere with an opponent's plans. I'm not a sore winner, or loser for that matter. I just enjoy the turmoil that ensues during the game. Last night I realized how much I enjoy when you screw yourself over as well. We have a common saying amongst our gaming friends, "mistakes were made". It always fun to proclaim it and we always laugh at the aftermath of our screw ups. Last night we played Scythe again. We introduced a new player to it. To protect the ignorant we won't name names. Let's call him..."Messer". We play games with Messer quite a bit. He's a great target for our daily hijinks. He gives it right back too. Scythe is a pretty straight forward game in my mind. Here are the victory conditions, here's how you achieve them, Go! Messer is no dub when it comes to following along with the rules and grasping concepts. But that first time he shook his head and said "well I messed that up" brought a smile to my face. I was that guy last week. Then it happened again and again. Mistakes were made. There are a bunch of different things to keep track of in Scythe. I understand how he got tied up in his mind, it's not hard to do, it doesn't always mean that you're gonna lose the game. Messer lost the game. Jamie and I didn't have to do a thing to disrupt his plans, it was all on him. He is eager for a second game (as was I after my first play) he knows what he's going to do different. Well, he thinks he does, I'm gonna mess with him so bad next time.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Extra Life and the CMN

Meaghan & Kate, our reps from BBCH. Also Cameron, an Extra Lifer.

As we've mentioned a few times Jamison and I do charity work through our Gaming to benefit The Barbara Bush Children's Hospital, our local Children's Miracle Network Hospital. It has been an amazing endovour that we have started. Thanks to our connection with Extra Life and BBCH we have been able to hear some amazing stories, help out at some great events, and most of all we have connected with so many other people that share our passion for gaming and helping sick kids. Two people in particular that we have become great friends with are our local hospital reps, Kate and Meaghan. Over the past few years we have been able to spend time with them prepping for our game marathon, working events, and sometimes enjoying an adult beverage. They have come to know us quite well too, I know they think we are a little weird, they in fact have said it to my face. But after all the cardboard dust settles from an intense game session they know that we are in it for the kids. We asked them to say a few things about us, I'm starting to think they might be a little weird too.

Jamison and Rob-

J: Joy to work with (and we’re not being sarcastic when we say that, Rob)
A: Always (ALWAYS and All Ways) looking for new ways to fundraise #ForTheKids. It all adds up!
M: Makes us Twitch. (not like creepy-twitch, like Twitch streaming… bear with us, we’re still learning the proper lingo).
I: Inspiring
S: Semi-finalist representing the BBCH at Extra Life United
O: On the Trail Gamer… #respect for attempting the Appalachian Trail #FTK
N: Needs to carry tissues, because the dude is always crying (he’s got a big heart, y ’all)

B: Better known as “Rob” (but we had to use “Butter” here because you know Rob would never let us hear the end of it if we only used 3 letters for him, compared to Jamison’s 7 letters…)
U: Undeniably #FTK
T: Took on the Guild Presidency when it became vacant… leading the Portland Guild to (ahem, no pressure) greatness
T: Totally Terrific Dad to the amazing Sawyer!
E: Excellent woodworker
R: Ridiculously fun to travel to Disney World with

Oh and an FYI, they call me Butter cause I'm smooth. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Then and now

Promotion image of Freaks & Geeks. Or my childhood.

Growing up a gamer isn't like it used to be. The generations after mine (I'm a Gen-Xer) have been indoctrinated in the the subculture of geek. Comic book movies, video games, & RPGs are all commonplace and they've grown up with them. It's part of their world in a way that is completely unlike my experience growing up.

When I was growing up, I was a social outcast. Not in a stuffed in the locker or beaten up every day kind of way. More of a staying on the periphery kind of way. I had plenty of friends, and they were great friends, but we definitely weren't the "cool kids". We did things like stay up all night playing D&D, riding our bikes to the comic book store, or having dart gun fights in K-mart. We watched anime. Video games were a central part of our existence. We played board games like Axis and Allies, Battle Masters and Dungeon. What we didn't do was party in the woods, get in fights, or get in trouble at school (well most of us). We were the nerds. People today wear that badge with pride.

I see the younger generations come into the store I work at. There are a wide variety of different social classes, and cliques but they sit across the table from each other and play Magic the Gathering or Warhammer 40k, or board games. And there are a growing number of female gamers, which is a great trend. We want the store to be an inclusive, safe environment for everyone. Traditionally, gaming has been a very male-dominated hobby, which is unfortunate. I've heard horror stories of the mistreatment of my female counterparts, and even witnessed first hand. It can be disheartening to watch someone dismiss a very knowledgeable co-worker, simply because she's a woman. Thankfully it doesn't happen often, and I hope that I'm consistent in pointing it out, to try to correct the behavior. Gaming is changing for the better- it's a slow battle but one that needs fighting.

If you're a member of the younger generations, take a moment and be thankful that gaming is now more accessible and popular than it ever has been. If you're one of those that grew up with the label of nerd, or even labelled others, think about that. Self professed geeks like Joss Whedon, Vin Diesel, and Wil Wheaton have not been ashamed to admit their passion for the things they love. Thousands and thousands of us talk about what we love to do every single day, and shrug off the judgement of the closed minded. It can be a cruel world, and you never know when your time is up. Don't waste your time hiding things. Let your geek flag fly. Live your life, more importantly, love your life.I'm pretty sure you only get one shot at it.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Yeah Books, Covers, and all that nonsense.

For your reading enjoyment today, we have another one of our peer reviews on who Rob and I are.  This comes from another member of the Booze & Boardgames Crew, Al Butler. Al is a consummate wordsmith. He's also a man with very strong views on the world- which he's not afraid to share. He never pulls punches, and Rob and I both have the utmost respect for him. We also like to make him uncomfortable as often as possible.
- Jamison 

I was approached by my friend Jamison to write a synopsis of how I perceive both himself and our other friend Rob. It is to be used as some sort of introduction to the world on their new blog so their readers have a better understanding of who they are etc. etc. etc. I found the request odd, for I am not a gentle being by any stretch of the imagination. In fact I'm not a very nice person at all. However as these two gentlemen are among the very small circle I consider friends I agreed to help, in my own way of course.

The old adage "One cannot judge a book by its cover" applies when it comes to Rob and Jamie, for with but a cursory glance they seem to be nothing special at all. Upon meeting Jamie the first time and listening to him speak I could not help but see him as a real life version of South Park's Sexual Harassment Panda. ( oh yeah did I mention that I hate Panda's ? ) His voice was so soft I had to strain to hear what he was trying to say and, of course, I took this as a lack of confidence on his part. I smelled fear and would have dismissed him out of hand yet I had made a promise to my friend Mike that I would hear him out and so was stuck standing there, half snarling, half smiling politely as Jamie talked about his charity work and the games he liked to play. But then, somewhere in the middle of his speech, I looked into his eyes and was surprised by what I saw.

Instead of the timidity, and weakness I was expecting there was a muted strength and confidence which contradicted everything standing before me. Jamie though quiet, emotional, (to the point of being annoying at times) and gentle, is above all things genuine. His strength, and determination to help others has manifested into something I don't think even he could see happening. Through his work with Extra Life and the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital he has inspired hundreds of people, myself included, to step outside of their comfort zones and look beyond themselves. Jamie may be something of a Hippie, but at least he is a decent human being, which is a rare thing to find these days.

Rob...... well he's a wee bit of a different story. 
Rob wears dark framed glasses which I always associate with a childhood memory. When I was a wee boy I watched Captain Kangaroo every morning. I disliked most of it but in each episode the Captain had to talk with Bunny Rabbit about some mischief the rabbit had gotten into. That bunny was always up to something and he made me laugh. He marched to his own drummer, and was constantly on the go. And yes that little white bunny wore dark framed glasses just like Rob. And true to form Rob is much like that bunny, full of life, mischief and laughter. Qualities I find agreeable on many levels.

But again, no man is one dimensional, and Rob definitely has levels and depths hidden beneath a veneer of laughter. And if one was to plumb those depths they would find that the Prankster's heart is full of compassion, care, and devotion not unlike Jamie, sans the tears. Rob has been a driving force in the Extra Life efforts as well as a consummate organizer. His boundless energy and sacrifice are amazing especially as he always manages to pull it off with panache, style and a laugh or two. Rob is someone worth knowing and listening to for there is more than meets the eye behind the eyes of this Rabbit. 
Both of these men, opposites in so many ways yet alike at the core, strong, compassionate and caring, are my friends. For which I am not only grateful for they have enriched my life, but also proud.

Allen R. Butler

Saturday, August 20, 2016

What I do

How I feel as a writer and Dungeon Master
I would imagine that you've gotten the idea by now that I enjoy writing. You're saying to yourself, "Duh, if you didn't like writing, you probably wouldn't be blogging." Kudos to you, you nailed it on the head. I've been in love with writing since I was old enough to read. It's always been a dream of mine to be a real writer. As if, there's this magical level of writing that makes it real. There really isn't, but having people read what you're writing and reacting to it is what makes it real to me. I started blogging last year when I decided to try my Appalachian Trail adventure.

It felt good to stretch those writing muscles. I've been writing off and on since high school, but never consistently. A lot of people followed the trials I went through on the trail, and that was satisfying. It also translated into a paid writing contract with FASA games on one of their lines, a role-playing game called Earthdawn. When I was on the trail, it wasn't easy to write, as I all I had to write with was my iPhone. Composition isn't ideal in that environment. But my days didn't feel complete without getting that post up, and sharing my thoughts. When I left the trail, I quickly realized how much I missed that part of it (not the utter, filthy misery of living in the woods for weeks). So here we are.

A fairly obvious statement about me is that I enjoy playing games. I got my start early, playing Dungeons & Dragons. I think I was probably 8 or 9 when I picked it up. I don't even remember from where, but I do remember it mesmerized me. I wanted to live in the stories I read in the rule books. As I read more and more of the fiction that was inspired by D&D and Lord of the Rings, all I wanted was more and more. I read voraciously - the Dragonlance Chronicles, Icewind Dale trilogy, anything and everything. Out of all this came the desire to be the teller of these epic tales. I wanted to create the stories that inspired others.

I have a new friend, who is completely new to the subculture of gaming and she's been asking me questions that I haven't reflected on for years. Some of these are about Dungeons & Dragons. Almost everyone I see regularly knows what I do as a hobby, so relating the experience of being a Dungeon Master is something I'd probably done years ago, or they play themselves so they already knew. I think that being a good DM (and I like to think that I'm at least a decent one) relates directly to my writing. Being a DM is to be the one guiding the story. It's like writing on the fly, reacting to what other people (the players) are saying and doing; crafting a response almost instantaneously. The DM plays all the parts of the game, except the players themselves. The innkeeper where the party is resting, the leader of the highwaymen that have set up a roadblock the players have to deal with; the fearsome dragon asleep on a hoard of treasure.

It's a great feeling to see immediate reaction to a story that I'm telling. I've evoked laughter, dread and loathing by painting a verbal picture. It's not an easy job, and it's usually thankless, but as any good DM will tell you, it's worth it. Some of my fondest memories of gaming are those times when things happened just how I wanted them to; the look of stunned amazement when a player figures out just how deep the plot I've been weaving for session upon session goes. I urge you, if you've never had the experience of playing an RPG, it should be something to try. It's not as hard as you think. With the right guide, you might find out that there are worlds out there that exist solely in the imagination, and they're pretty cool places to visit.


Friday, August 19, 2016

True friends

Jamie and I both had hesitation when we asked our friends to help introduce us. We know too many people that are the same as us. Cynical, evil, jokers who would go to the ends of the world to make fun of one another. But underlying amidst those crazy thoughts are how much you truly cherish those friendships.  Mike was a dark horse in my mind to write a review of us. He is the silent type sometimes when it comes to joking around. But when he unleashes, look out. After I read Mike's words it really hit home how he sees us. We have more reviews to share with you guys in the coming days. Jamison and I have read some of them already (we promise we are not editing them) and they all fill us with a very warm feeling. Jamie has even cried already, which you will learn is one of his signature moves.

One of the greatest feelings I have experienced in my "gaming life" is the satisfaction from the charity work that we do. A very close second to that are the feelings I get reading these peer reviews. I realize that all the joking and taunting aside that we have a very strong family of gamers surrounding us. They believe in us and us in them. We feed off the excitement that each other brings to the table on game night. We wouldn't be half as successful as we are for Extra Life if we didn't surround ourselves with these same friends.

We have been raising money for Children's Hospitals for four years now.  I equate our growth and success to the team that we have built. Jamie and I do get a lot of the credit for making our 24 Gaming Marathon a great event. But the true hero is teamwork. The key to building something as amazing as we have, is to be able to lean on others when you need help. We have run into many roadblocks in our planning and execution, but every time without fail, someone steps in to help. Having people around you that you can count on is a cornerstone to success. Ones that don't seek recognition and do it just because they see that you need a hand. Friends that will listen to your ideas and tell you that they are good or bad. Friends that stick around to help execute those ideas and make them better. People that will drop whatever they are doing to help someone else.

If you can somehow fill your life with these types of people, then you can set out and accomplish anything.  I feel like Jamie and I found that in each other, and we have then in turn found an entire family to do amazing things with.

Besides crying, Jamie also enjoys hugs.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

On Perspective

 As we've said before, we've been asking people who know us to give us a statement on how they see us. It's an exercise that is both terrifying and immensely satisfying. It's not often that you get to hear how other people view you. Sit back and ask yourself what you think your friends would say if they were asked to do the same.

I'm not going to pretend that every time one of these reviews come in, that I'm not terrified to read it. I know that these are my friends and that I shouldn't be scared to hear what they say about me. I have always struggled with self-doubt, so that feeling is a natural extension of those old demons. I don't know how Rob feels about these reviews, but I suspect he doesn't have the same issues that I do with them. Let me tell you how I got to where I'm at.

I've lived a fairly selfish lifestyle up until the past few years. Not that I was a bad person, I just didn't really think about the bigger world and my impact on it. I did my thing, and pretty much ignored people outside of my immediate view. It's a fairly common way to be I think. A lot of people get caught in the day to day grind. Hours slip into days into weeks and so on. I blinked and suddenly I was rushing towards forty with nothing to show for it. Divorced, no children, a job I didn't particularly care for. I was living alone in a tiny apartment in New Hampshire.You've heard about how involved I am in Extra Life- however, when things started out it was for a different charity called Child's Play. Child's Play was founded by the creators of Penny Arcade, the web comic. It fills a similar function as Extra Life, benefiting children's hospitals around the country. The guys from Penny Arcade used their influence to make the world better. Seeing the impact they had woke me up. It was then I decided to try to change myself.

Putting together a charity board game marathon was a huge hurdle to attempt, and I was sure it was going to fail. I had to overcome my introversion (which at that time was almost pathological) to even talk to people about it. But it happened, and what's more, it was a success that spawned excitement and involvement in a community that I was only on the fringe of at the time. Doing good things engages people. It gave me a reason to come out of my shell. Once I was out of it, I realized how much I missed by keeping my head down and ignoring the world.

Reading reviews of us from my friends reminds me of who I was before. I didn't like being that guy very much. Every moment of my life since then has been richer and more satisfying. I don't know that I would have been strong enough to get through the challenges of the past few years without the community that I have surrounding me. As you read these posts, I hope you'll reflect on how you impact the people around you. It's not hard to make an positive impact, and it doesn't need to be a big change. Sometimes it's just going out of your way to make someone else's day a little bit better. Small changes can add up to big things. And changes can lead you some great places.

Just one of the places Extra Life has lead me.