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by: World At Play Games
Monday, March 15, 2010
Hey all!

Some of you may have seen us a few weeks ago at Connooga 2010. For those of you who have never been, Connooga is a "multi-fandom" convention that takes place in Chattanooga, TN. If you're a fan of sci-fi, anime, gaming, horror, fantasy, role-playing, or just about anything else out of the ordinary, Connooga has something that should interest you.

We here at World at Play Games all have a little geek in us, so we couldn't resist setting up a booth at this year's Connooga. Patrick and I manned the booth, where we set up some of our damaged and slightly-used merchandise that we normally don't put out on the website, plus some of our more popular items like Fluxx, Pound Bags of Dice, and some large plush animals. Since we're strictly an online business, this is the closest Patrick or myself get to running a retail store. Add to the fact that this was my first time attending a convention whatsoever, and it was quite an experience for me.

It became quite an experience for Patrick as well. We were at the convention from Friday to Sunday. Sometime Friday night, Patrick was visiting one of the many room parties that went during the nights of the convention when he had a run-in with another convention attendee. And when I say run-in, I mean that the guy stumbled and fell onto Patrick, breaking his shin in 2 places. After a trip to the hospital to get pain medication and a cast, Patrick spent the rest of the convention rolling around one of the hotel's loaner wheelchairs.

The good news: The convention was a success. We sold some of our products, passed out a lot of business cards, and seemed to make a pretty good impression on the people who visited our booth.

The bad news: Patrick is still in a cast. His broken shin wasn't healing correctly, so he had to go back to the hospital and have surgery. He had an "intramedullary nailing of the left tibia", which is a fancy way of saying that they screwed a piece of metal to his shin bone to keep it from moving out of place. It'll be a while before his broken bone heals fully, but in the meantime he's back to his usual duties here - minus anything physical and plus a wheelchair.

Hopefully this experience will teach Patrick and the rest of you an important lesson: Be wary of drunk convention attendees.

by: World At Play Games
Friday, October 30, 2009
I'll admit, I wasn't sure what to think of Arkham Horror at first.  The game is pretty popular, and has done well enough that Fantasy Flight has created tons of expansions for it, so it couldn't be too bad.  However, as a very competitive person, I didn't like the idea of a cooperative board game.  After all, what fun is a game when you can't destroy your fellow players and gloat about your victory?

Turns out cooperative play is a TON of fun.  I'm still able to be the cutthroat player I love to be, the only difference is that I'm pouncing on a common enemy, not the other gamers playing with me.  In case you're not familiar with Arkham Horror, it's a board game based on the works of H. P. Lovecraft (who we took a look at in our previous blog post).  The players are investigators who are trying to stop a terrible beast from awakening.  Throughout the game, dimensional portals open up and other-worldly monsters appear.  The investigators have to battle the monsters, close the portals, all while trying to prevent the evil being from awakening.  Ultimately the game ends when either the monster is sealed away, or when it awakens and the investigators battle it to the death.

When you start the game, you're given a choice of investigators and monsters.  The game is playable by 1 - 8 players (yes, you can play it solo), but 16 investigators are included, so you have plenty of choices.  Also, you have a choice of 8 different monsters to pick.  You can hand-pick your team or just draw them at random.  The monster you picks has a huge impact on the game's difficulty, and the combination of team members and monster makes each game drastically different.  Combine that with the fact that the deck of event cards is much larger than what you'll go through in a typical game and you'll find that it's very hard to play two identical games.

All these options also mean you can change the difficulty and length of the game to suit your needs.  For example, on our first playthrough we decided to battle Yig, one of the very easy monsters.  If we want more of a challenge, though, we can swap in Cthulhu or one of the more difficult monsters.  This is especially helpful if you're limited on time, since struggles against the most difficult monsters take significantly longer than games where you fight an easy monster.

On the subject of length, be warned that this is not a short game.  While it doesn't take as long as some of the much larger games we sell, it can still take a few hours to play through.  Our first shot took Patrick and myself over 4 hours, although much of that was spent re-reading the rules and clarifying certain things.  The rules are fairly easy to grasp, with much of it making pretty good sense.  Once you've got a handle on the rules and get a good flow going, you can play games that last between 1 and 2 hours against the easier monsters.  Still, this is not an appetizer to satisfy your gaming urges for a short time, it's a full meal to be enjoyed on its own.

The game should also be enjoyed with others.  Although you can play it solo, it's really best with 5 or 6 players.  Every round of play, a new monster spawns and begins roaming the town.  In addition, a gate opens that must be closed.  Closing a gate takes multiple turns, so when you're playing with fewer players, inevitably more goats open than can be dealt with.  When Patrick and I played with just the two of us, we found ourselves constantly struggling to fight off the monsters and work towards closing gates.  Because of this we weren't able to make any progress on sealing away the boss monster, so inevitably it awakened and we were forced into battle.  I would recommend, once you get the hang of the game, to simulate having more players by letting each player control multiple investigators.  It burdens the players with much more to keep track of, but gains your team the flexibility to do more than just battle an onslaught of monsters and survive.  Ultimately, though, there's nothing like having 5-6 people running all over Arkham trying to stop the looming evil.

All in all, I'd have to say that Arkham Horror has put to rest my fears about cooperative gaming.  I wish I had a regular group large enough to really enjoy Arkham Horror, but it's still quite fun playing with fewer people, even if it means a constant uphill struggle.  I'm anxious to get some of the expansions, which add new areas to explore, new monsters to fight, and new investigators to control.  I just wish I had 5 more people with a few hours to devote to battling evil!

by: World At Play Games
Thursday, October 15, 2009
This week we played Munchkin Bites. It's very similar to Munchkin, which we previously reviewed. This time, however, we've got our gaming on video! So check it out:

Can't watch the video? Well if you missed our review of Munchkin a while back, the game is incredibly similar. Munchkin Bites is one of several themed versions of Munchkin, with Bites being a horror-themed game with vampires and werewolves (whereas original Munchkin is fantasy-themed game with orcs and wizards). The game is very light and nonsensical, and its main purpose is humor. It's definitely not a game for serious gamers who want to strategize their way to victory, but with a group of people who just want to have fun and laugh at the jokes within the game, Munchkin Bites (or any version of Munchkin) can be tons of fun.

by: World At Play Games
Thursday, October 1, 2009
This post brought to you by Patrick, with editorial comments by Noah.

Yesterday it hit me that we sell more than a few Arkham Horror Board Games and Call of Cthulhu Card and Role Playing Games, so I've decided to explain where the story of Cthulhu  and Arkham Horror came from. I mean, come on ... what is a Cthulhu other than a funny-looking, misspelled word?  And don't even get me started on Arkham Horror.  That makes me think of a pig Noah ate on the Ark that gave everyone indigestion: 'Ark' 'Ham' Horror. [Editor's Note: He means the Biblical Noah, not me.]

Cheery fellow, isn't he?
Cthulhu is a creation of Howard Phillips Lovecraft.  H.P. Lovecraft was a fantasy and sci-fi horror writer in a time when such a genre didn't really exist.  At the time his books were written, they were known only as "weird fiction".  Lovecraft was certainly weird - just look at him!  Lovecraft was always a troubled child.  He was often sick when he was younger, never finished school, and was deeply affected when his grandfather and grandmother died.  In his younger years, he wrote many poems, but as he grew he began to write fiction. Many people believe that his horror stories were based on his night terrors, which he suffered from all his life.

One such horror that many Lovecraft fans are familiar with is Cthulhu.  Lovecraft first wrote of Cthulhu in 1926, with a short called "The Call of Cthulhu" and the story was published in Weird Tales, February 1928.   Suprisingly or not, this was the only story Lovecraft wrote that named Cthulhu as the main antagonist.

And I thought Lovecraft
looked scary!
While not strictly a character in the short story, Cthulhu does play a major role.  Cthulhu is the lord of R'lyeh and is the ancient being that came from the stars hundreds of millions of years ago to destroy the elder beings on our world. After the task was completed, the god retreated to R'lyeh and became trapped in his sunken tomb. A huge, octopoid sea monster, sleeping for ages at the bottom of the ocean, dreaming, and destined to emerge from his slumber in an apocalyptic age.

Lovecraft himself was rather unimpressed with his own writing, describing it as "rather middling - not as bad as the worst, but full of cheap and cumbrous touches".  It has since spawned a huge following, to the point that people have built an entire "mythos" around it, expanding and writing their own tales and stories of and about Cthulhu.

Now for Arkham.  

Arkham is a fictional city in Massachusetts, part of the setting created by H. P. Lovecraft and is featured in many of his stories, as well as those of other Cthulhu Mythos writers.

The precise location of Arkham is unknown, although many believe it to be near both Innsmouth and Dunwich. However, it may be surmised from Lovecraft's stories that it is some distance to the north of Boston. The real-life model for Arkham seems to be, in fact, Salem - its reputation for the occult making it appealing to one who dabbles in weird tales - although that was never confirmed nor denied by Lovecraft himself.

Arkham’s most notable characteristics are its gambrel roofs and the dark legends surrounding the city for centuries. Occurrences such as the disappearance of children (presumably murdered in ritual sacrifices) at May Eve and other bad doings are accepted as a part of life for the poorer citizens of the city.

These horror stories of H.P. Lovecraft have inspired many horror writers.  Even to this day, Lovecraft's influence is felt in both horror writing and in popular culture.  Famous authors today, such as Stephen King, cite Lovecraft as a major influence.  And, of course, there are many board games, card games, and RPGs based on the Cthulhu mythos.

by: World At Play Games
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
This week's Fight brought to you by our newest Blogger, Patrick.

Steve Jackson's Munchkin is a light-hearted, satirical, funny, sacrilegious game aimed at Role Playing Games (RPGs) like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, or Castles & Crusades.  However, unlike your normal - or even the not so normal - RPGs, Munchkin is a card game.  If you have never played an RPG, that's ok.  This game makes fun of just about everything there is to poke fun at, so you'll get at least 85% of the humor involved.

For instance, The Wife, has never played an RPG - and most likely never will.  She is more into games like Monopoly: your basic, old school, so-called "Classic" board game.  Yet she has played Munchkin with me several times and beaten me every time (but only because there are dice rolls involved).  On top of that, she actually likes the game... not just the beating me part, although I'm willing to bet she enjoys that a great deal.  So, basing my opinion on that, I feel fairly confident saying that even if you have never played an RPG or a dungeon crawl board game you will still have fun playing Munchkin.

Sorry for the rambling intro... now on to the meat of the matter.   Well... actually meat is made up of matter so I guess technically it should be on to the matter of the meat... of the matter.

After a quick and rough rundown of the rules to Mr. Noah, I handed the actual rule page to him (mostly to show that I wasn't lying about them) and dealt out the cards.  Munchkin has 2 types of cards, Door Cards and Treasure Cards.  In a typical dungeon crawl and even most RPGs, there are lots of doors to go though and a lot of monsters on the other side of those doors needing to be fought and killed - Munchkin is no different in that respect.

So you kick down the door (Flip over a door card) and find something like the one I just turned over for the sake of this article:  A level 4 Leperchaun.  No, not a Leprechaun, the card quite literally says Level 4 Leperchaun  - "He's Gross!" - "+5 against Elves"

Munchkin works on a level system.  All items have a bonus.  For example, the Dagger of Treachery has a +3 bonus, but it is only usable by a Thief (there are classes and races that your character can be also... hold your horses and I'll get to that in a minute).

So if you were a level 2 thief and you had this dagger, then when you drew the level 4 leperchaun, you would win the fight: your level of 2, plus 3 for the dagger and tada, that makes your bonus level 5, which beats a level 4 monster.  Winning fights is how you win the game, and for winning a fight against ol' leppey here you go up a level and you also get 2 treasures, which brings us to the other stack of cards you're able to draw from: Treasure cards.
As in any good RPG or dungeon crawl, at the end of a long hard fight there is Treasure to be had and that's what the Treasure cards are for.  In traditional RPGs it is usually gold or magic items that you find on the bodies of slain enemies; in Munchkin it's things like Itching Powder and the Buckler of Swashing.

The Buckler of Swashing is a shield that provides a +2 bonus, so if you had drawn this card, then you would add your current level plus the +2 for the shield, when fighting monsters to see who won.

The Itching Powder is a different type of Treasure card.  It's the type you would use against another player.  It says, "Play during any combat.  The victim must discard any one item of clothing or armor, which YOU specify.  Usable only once."

In a game where the winner is the first person to reach level 10, you want to do whatever is in your power to prevent the other players (your so called friends) from getting to level 10 first, so the Itching Powder is a pretty good card. You could play it just as someone thought they were killing a monster and getting ready to loot the treasure and BAM ... you play Itching Powder and suddenly, they can't kill that poor little Leperchaun without help because, (unless you're a warrior class) if your level equals or is less than the level of the monster, you HAVE to attempt to run away.

Now is where the die roll comes into play: when attempting to run away you roll a die; if it is a 4 or greater, you are able to run away, but if it is less than 4 then you have to do what is called "Bad Stuff".  Bad Stuff is written at the bottom of monster cards and it lives up to its name.  It can be anything from losing a piece of armor or a weapon, to losing a level or even dying.

This is the result I usually end up with because as we all know, dice stay up late at night telling each other funny stories about this time and that, when I was only 1 die roll away from winning a game and ... 6 turns later, I was still trying to make that one roll I needed.

Ok. Back to the show.

So say you played itching powder on another player and made them take off their armor.  Now that they don't have the levels needed to kill the monster, they would have to ask for help from another player. Yes, asking for help is legal and often your only chance of winning a fight.  For elves, that is all well and good because players who have the Elven race card always go up a level when they help someone else win a fight.  On the other hand, people who are something other than an Elf will be doing all they can to stop you from getting the help you need, to the point of bribes and open threats.  They want to win too... not just watch you win.

Besides race cards, there are also class cards.   When you first start the game you have no class (Get it?  You have no class!). Class cards consist of Warrior, Cleric, Wizard and Thief.  As I stated before, being a warrior allows you to win the fight when your level plus bonuses is equal to the level of the monster being fought. All other classes would have to attempt to run away if their level equals the level of the monster.

At this point I also want to add that the rules specifically state that cheating is allowed, not only allowed, but encouraged... as long as you can get away with it.  I spent most of the game we played cheating.  Unless you're a dwarf, you're only allowed 1 big item to be on your character at a time.  I had 2 big items throughout most of the game because I was sneaky and hid the part of the card that said big item underneath another card.

The game between Mr. Noah, The Wife, and myself, was what I believe Steve Jackson had in mind when he created the game.  We were all neck and neck up to about level 8 when The Wife pulled ahead of us and went on to ruin ... err ... Win the game.

Every review I've read about Munchkin goes on and on about how great it is and I can understand why they rave about it. It's fun, fast paced, funny, you get to do mean things to your friends and you're allowed to cheat as much as you can get away with (which I did, but due to my lack of success with Dice, I lost anyways).

All in all we had a very good time.  I believe next time we are going to give Munchkin Bites a try and see if the game play is the same when you are a Vampire instead of a Halfling.  Who knows where we might go after that? Total I believe there are something like 9 different stand-alone Munchkin games and untold hordes of expansions you can add to them, and that's not even going into the fact that you can put all of them together, or mix and match.

Who knows, maybe one day I'll be writing about having a Half Dwarf, Half Vampire, Gunslinger/Cultist that can fly like Superman yet is charming and sophisticated like 007.  "I'll have a gallon Bloody Mary, on the rocks, shaken, not stirred, hold the kryptonite and hurry because Cthulhu is calling."


by: World At Play Games
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Ever since we got that demo kit of Monty Python Fluxx I've been trying to get my wife to play Fluxx with me.  She's not much of a gamer, so I try to find games that are easy to learn and fun to play.  Everything I'd read about Fluxx suggested that it was an incredibly easy to understand game, and that we could learn the rules and play together easily.  I did a poor job explaining how simple the rules are, which scared her off, so I've been searching for a person to try Fluxx.  Now that Patrick and I are gaming every week, I decided to bring the Monty Python Fluxx deck along and give it a shot.

How It's Played
Every game of Fluxx is unique because the game changes constantly.  To start the game, you place the Basic Rules card in the center of the table.  As the card instructs, each player gets 3 cards.  On your turn, you do as the Basic Rules say: Draw 1 card, Play 1 card.  Each card is one of several different types: Action, New Rule, Keeper, Creeper, and Goal.  Each type of card does a different thing, but they all have instructions for how to 'Play' it if it needs explaining.  The 'New Rule' cards and the 'Goal' cards are what make the game so dynamic.

The Rules, or Lack Thereof
'New Rule' cards change what you can and can't do in your turn.  As stated before, the 'Basic Rules' card that you set down at first tells you to Draw 1 and Play 1.  Later on, when 'New Rule' cards are played, this could be changed to Draw 5, Play 3.  There are also rule cards for Hand Limits, which keeps you from holding more than a certain number of cards.  And then there are the whacky rules, which can be especially crazy in the themed expansions like Monty Python Fluxx.  For example, there is one rule that instructs you to speak in an accent, which lets you pull more cards if you keep it up during or in-between your turns.

When a rule card affects the same thing (for example, one of the rules in play is 'Draw 3' and I play a 'Draw 2' card), the old rule is discarded and the new one takes effect immediately.  As such, the rules constantly change.  This is the part that scared my wife away from playing.  However, the wonderful part is that all the cards (and therefore, the rules themselves) are always on the table.  So if you're ever confused or wondering what to do, you just look at the rule cards that are currently in play and follow along.

So How Do You Win?
This is the next question that tends to confuse people who ask.  When you start playing a game of Fluxx, there is no condition for victory.  Only after a 'Goal' card is played is there a way to win the game.  Goals generally consist of you collecting a pair of Keepers.  So, for example, in Monty Python Fluxx one of the goals is to have both the Holy Grail and the Holy Hand Grenade.  Another requires that you have at least 3 Knights of the Round Table in your hand.

However, some cards, called 'Creepers', keep you from winning.  Unlike Goals, which must be played as part of your turn, anytime you pick up a Creeper you must immediately play it in front of you.  Until you get rid of that Creeper, you're unable to win, even if you have the Keepers needed for the current Goal.  The only exception is if the Goal requires that particular Creeper.  As with all the other rules, this is clearly stated on the Creepers themselves.  The "This is an Ex-Parrot" goal pictured left is an example of this.

You can get rid of undesirable Creepers several ways.  Certain cards have special abilities written on them.  For example, you can use the Holy Hand Grenade (a Keeper) to eliminate a Creeper, although this means you have to discard the grenade itself.  The other way to get rid of Creepers (and other things) is to use 'Action' cards.

This Game is Action-Packed
'Action' cards cause all sorts of trouble.  When played, you do whatever 'Action' is described on the card.  These Actions range from the simple "Draw 3 Cards and Play Them" to the oddly complicated "And Now For Something Completely Different", which instructs all players to push their Keepers right, their Creepers left, discard their hands and redraw a new hand of 3 cards.  Actions add to the "screw your opponents" style of Fluxx by letting you do all sorts of disastrous things to the people playing with you.  Move Creepers to your buddy, steal all his Keepers, give your Creepers to somebody else, force people with tons of cards to discard them all.  It's impossible to plan ahead because every turn somebody could forcibly take all of your cards or steal the Keepers you were planning on using to score a victory.

The End Result
Just to be clear, this is not a serious game.  If you're going into this trying to strategize and insure your victory, you may as well find a different game to play.  The chaotic and random nature of Fluxx makes it a perfect time-waster.  Unlike other games, where at the conclusion I feel proud that I've won or dissappointed about a move I made that caused defeat, after our games of Fluxx I didn't have any hard feelings.  Most of the time nobody had any idea the game was going to end, it was just a matter of looking at our hand and realizing "Oh wow, I happen to have the 2 Keepers needed for this Goal!" and suddenly the game ended.

In fact, it's almost anti-climactic, because after a while the game gets somewhat dramatic.  At one point we had about 7 rules on the table.  Hand limits, draw rules, play rules, the "1, 2, 5!" rule (which tells you to replace every 3 in instructions with a 5), requirements to speak with an accent, etc.  Every turn you're drawing and playing cards, trying to undermine your opponents with Actions, bending the rules and goals to your favor, and then out of nowhere somebody lays down a few cards and the game is over.  At the end of every game we all just kind of looked around like "Wait, that's it?  That was quick!"  At the same time, though, if the winning combination just happens to not show up, the game can drag on for way too long, again with an abrupt ending that nobody expects.

Expanding the Game
One cool thing about Fluxx is that you can expand it over and over.  All the Fluxx games (Fluxx 4.0, Zombie Fluxx, Monty Python Fluxx, etc) have the same, plain cardbacks.  This means that you can mix and match any number of Fluxx decks to create a truly ridiculous game.  However, as the Monty Python rules advise, combining different expansions can prove "extremely perilous."  As it is, there is a rather lengthy FAQ on the back of the Monty Python Fluxx rules to cover odd situations that come up, so when you add different Fluxx games together there are more of these strange possibilities.  In fact, these FAQs can all be found at the official fanpage for Looney Labs games.  Once you get the hang of it, though, the rules that aren't printed directly on the cards are all pretty simple to remember, so you could theoretically combine every Fluxx deck ever created, plus all the promo cards, and have one gigantic, confusing, but playable Fluxx deck.

I'd love to see such a thing.

If you're a serious gamer, stay away from Fluxx.  If you like silly games where anybody can win, or if you're looking for something simple to get your wife to play with you, Fluxx is great (as long as you don't over-explain the rules).  Also, if you're a big fan of Monty Python, the Monty Python Fluxx deck contains tons of funny references to the Holy Grail movie, and you'll enjoy the challenges related to quoting Monty Python dialogue or singing songs from the movie.  If you hate Monty Python, there are plenty of other versions of Fluxx to try out.

And if you decide to get a deck of Fluxx cards, make sure to add one of the free promo cards from our Free Stuff section to your order!

by: World At Play Games