Sunday, October 29, 2017

Kids' D&D Session Report: The Isle of Niln

Labyrinth is excited to announce a significant expansion to our youth Dungeons and Dragons program, incorporating the elements of a dynamic, long-term campaign. A major portion of this effort is the creation of an epic fantasy world that will be the center of our ongoing adventures. Our staff has been working diligently (and having a ton of fun) outlining some of the general aspects of the world, but most of the details will actually be developed by the players during the gaming sessions. On Sunday, October 22, 2017, during our last Kids' D&D event, two groups of young adventurers were first introduced to the Isle of Niln. Here are reports from Camilla and Ben, our staff who served as the DMs for the games. Eventually, we hope that some of the kids will help us record the games, and that they will be shared here on the Labyrinth blog, so that friends, families and other Guild members can stay updated on the stories.

Table 1: Camilla's Table

In their first quest in the Isle of Niln, one of our groups of adventurers set out to explore Fort Stonespur, a potential headquarters for the Guild. The party arranged a rendezvous with the ranger Davdri, deep in the Razorback forest. From there, they made their way along the riverbank to the fall where Stonespur was said to be found. They investigated the fort, finding it to be an ancient Elven outpost, overrun with troglodytes and a gelatinous cube. A magically sealed door was opened with a riddle, revealing a large arcane artifact installed inside. The adventurers decided that the fort was perfect, and preparations are underway to make it the Guild's first home.

Table 2: Ben's Table (They were unfortunately not quite as lucky.)

Our adventure began in the Muddy Mule, a cozy tavern in the middle of the Isle of Niln.  Our hearty band of adventurers was greeted by Ander Kingsley, a corpulent dwarf who serves as recruiter for the Guild of Heroes.  He told them the Guild needed their help winning over the population of Niln, who had thus far seen the newly formed organization as outsiders and conquerors.  The Guild seeks only to restore peace and justice to the impoverished Isle, so the willing assistance of the locals is necessary.

Thankfully, Ander had a plan to bring the people of Niln on board.  An ancient relic, the Horn of the Four Winds--an important symbol of the island’s resistance to Imperial conquest 1000 years ago--was rumored to rest nearby in the town of Gullsperch.  After some persuasion, Ander decided to accompany the group and the next morning they rode out, seeking the Horn.

The party arrived in Gullsperch and sought out Mama Gee, the village elder and keeper of the horn.  She brought them to an ancient amphitheater with a statue of the horn at its center.  In order to claim it, she told them, they had to prove themselves worthy of it.  They must pass three tests: the Test of Mind, the Test of Body, and the Test of Spirit.

The group elected to attempt the Test of Spirit first.  One by one, Mama Gee asked the group what they would do if they unlocked the ultimate power of the horn.  Some sought to destroy it, others to use it to end injustice, but most chose to hide it away, where it could do no harm, but where it could be called upon if there was ever great need.  Mama Gee found their answers truthful and wise, and the group passed their first test.

Next, the group attempted the Test of Body.  The plants overgrowing the arena came to life and attacked them.  A nail-biting fight ensued.  Several members of the party were knocked unconscious, but in the end (and thanks to some particularly effective fire spells) the party defeated the Blights and passed their second test.

Angered by the threat to their lives, the party refused to begin the third test, but instead interrogated Mama Gee, demanding to know the purpose of the trials she put them through.  At that moment, an envoy from the Empire appeared. 

Ser Bluto Vel Alrich, a fire giant, and Commandant of Fort Kraos, arrived with a coterie of a dozen armed guards.  He demanded the group stand aside while the Empire claimed the horn.  When pressed for explanations, Vel Alrich told the group the Empire sought to reestablish their foothold on Niln and that the seizure of the horn would be a potent symbol in the heart and minds of the locals.  Outnumbered and outmatched, the party stood aside while Vel Alrich ripped the statue from its plinth and carried it from the arena.

Before the empire could leave, though, the party spotted a dissident prisoner held by the guards.  Seeing an opportunity to gain favor with the empire and hopefully eventually figure out a way to get the Horn back, while also sparing the man a more painful end, one of the members of our party offered to execute him.  Others in the party disagreed, and Onox, the cleric, leaped in the way of the blow.  Wary of the groups' infighting, Vel Alrich carried out the sentence himself and told the group they had much to prove before they earned the trust of the empire.

So, the party returned home, having lost the relic to the empire, having betrayed the trust of the local islanders by attempting to murder one of their own, and having failed to gain favor with the dangerous Vel Alrich.  The Guild has more work to do now than ever before.  But the adventure is just beginning, and who knows where the story might lead.

Our next Kids' D&D adventures will be held on Sunday, November 26 from 2:30 to 5:30pm. Registration is now open on Eventbrite.

Dungeons and Dragons is a legendary, fantasy, "pen and paper" role-playing game played by millions worldwide. Players take on the role of a fantasy hero and help tell a story in collaboration with their fellow players and a Dungeon Master. For more information about Labyrinth's D&D sessions for kids, birthday parties, and camps, please contact the store via e-mail or phone: 202-544-1059.

Friday, October 27, 2017

What We're Playing: Photosynthesis

Image result for photosynthesis board game

By Ben Hain.  Position: Sorcerer Supreme.  Years working at Labyrinth: 1 year

I never really liked chess.  It’s too old, and too dry, and too studied.  I like trees though, and it turns out trees can make me like chess.

I’m talking about Photosynthesis, a brilliant, gorgeous new abstract strategy game from Blue Orange (the company behind the Spiel De Jahres-winning Kingdomino).  Players compete to absorb the most sunlight, grow the biggest trees, and harvest them for the most points.  Careful positioning is key, as a well-placed tree can block the sun from reaching your opponent’s saplings.  But be careful, when the sun swings around to the other side of the board, your tree may be blocked in turn.

The game is deceptively complex.  I was taken in by the beautiful aesthetics and simple layout, thinking I was in for something like a tree-based tic-tac-toe.  What I got instead was a brain-crunching combination of spatial strategy and economic engine building.  Trying to balance the development of my copse while obstructing my opponent was a study in compromises and half-measures.  The game is impeccably balanced, with the most valuable growing plots the easiest to cast in shadow, and you are forced to make difficult decision after difficult decision.  Do I plant in a good spot to shadow my opponent or go for the high-scoring space in the center of the board?  Do I hold a chokepoint with my massive conifer, or harvest it to bank the points?

Photosynthesis is one of the year’s worst kept secrets.  Supplies are limited, so pick up your copy today.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

New Arrrivals and Restocks

We have a ton of highly anticipated new arrivals this week including the second season of Pandemic Legacy - on sale 10/26/17! It is recommended that you play Season 1 first if possible. It's not required, but there are story lines that will reference things that occur in the first game.

 For those who do not know, this is one of the most popular games currently on the market. It is a cooperative game that is fashioned after the super popular Pandemic, but in this game you play through a changing story and face new challenges with each game. Stop by and we can explain in further details. No spoilers allowed!

Lots of other highly anticipated new stuff, like Ex Libris, Clank in Space, a new expansion for Mystic Vale, new expansions for the LCGs Arkham Horror Card game and Game of Thrones Card game, and the long awaited Guns for Hire for the Star Wars X-Wing game!

Commander 2017 decks are back in stock for the time being. We didn't get a ton, so if you want one, come and get them quickly.

We received a restock of Tegu blocks, cute puzzles, and sticker books for kids.

Some really great items for early holiday shopping: 

We received a restock of the super cool new Lego robotics kit for younger children, Boost.

Amazingly cool, big boxes of fancy Pok√©mon. 

A new Carcassonne Big Box.

A restock of The Networks and Trekking the National Parks.

Restocks on Pub Quiz and puzzle books for kids and adults!

Just in time for Halloween, a restock of one of our favorite large group games, Mascarade. It can support up to 13 players.

There's a new gift pack for Magic: the Gathering that makes a perfect gift for someone you know who plays the game. 

We are definitely opening a copy of this one as a demo. Neat, 3D, abstract strategy game that supports up to 5 players.

Very beautiful, magnetic desk toy from Tegu. A perfect gift for the person that has everything, and suffers through long conference calls.

Speaking of which, we also got a huge restock of wooden puzzles. They make excellent holiday gifts. Start making your lists now. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

New Arrivals, Restocks, and Reprints 10/20

New Arrivals!

Look how shiny they are. Come down and get a closer look!

D&D Tomb of Annihilation Board Game, Cutthroat Kingdoms, 4D Map Puzzles, Starfinder: Alien Archive, Star Wars Force and Destiny: Ghosts of Dathomir, Mysterium: Secrets and Lies, Alphabet Go Fish, Pokemon Mad Libs, Ultra Pro Eclipse Sleeves, Legendary Marvel: Spider-Man Homecoming, 10 Minute Heist: Wizard's Tower

Photosynthesis, Ethnos, Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty, Chess, Go, Backgammon

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Welcome to the New Blog and What We're Playing

The blog is back and better than ever!

After the sad departure of our beloved blogger, Alex, we've been laying low on the whole regular internet journaling thing.  Well, today we burst forth from our cocoon.  The Labyrinth blog will once again be the best place to see what's new and exciting in the store.  We're also introducing a slew of new features and posts, including a new segment on what we're playing.  This week, the woman who puts the "Queen" in Queendomino, the incomprable Kathleen Donahue herself kicks us off with her thoughts.

By Kathleen Donahue, Position: owner, Years working at Labyrinth: 6 years and 11 months

With the new (and hopefully improved) format of Labyrinth’s newsletter and the reinvigoration of our blog, we wanted to start a regular feature where our awesome employees share information about some of the games that we’re currently playing. The staff thought I should start us off. As usual, I’ve been playing a lot of different games. I try to play several new games each week, and I often do not replay them, because I want to know ALL the games. However, every once in a while there are games that catch my fancy and I can’t stop thinking about them and I must play them MORE. This month there are two that I just want to play again and again.

The first is Sidereal Confluence. I honestly have no idea how to actually pronounce the name of this game, but I’m completely obsessed with it. This game is complex, and there’s a chance that it may be overwhelming to someone who doesn’t have much gaming experience. Once understood, however, it is actually pretty easy to play. It is an asymmetrical trading and negotiation game for 4 to 9 players. Each player plays an alien race who must trade with others in an intergalactic trading federation to survive. The game is competitive, but it is set up so that you must collaborate with others because no race can function on its own. Pretty much the entire game is played simultaneously, so there is very little down time. You are trying to make profitable trades to earn resources to run converters to gain more resources that can then be used to develop technologies and colonize planets. The game consists of a set number of rounds, with each round being made up of a trading phase, an economy phase, and a confluence phase (where you can bid and win planets and technologies). You earn victory points in multiple ways but mostly from discovering technologies. There is a lot of engine building and resource management, but the heart and soul of the game is negotiation. I cannot think of another negotiation game that I’ve enjoyed more. I absolutely love it. We’ve played several times now, with 4 to 6 players. The game takes a while, averaging about 2 to 2.5 hours for us, but the duration is very dependent on how long you allow the negotiation phases to last. If trading bricks for sheep thrills you, but is getting a bit old, and you’re ready to settle something much larger than Catan, this might just be the game for you.

The second game that I currently can’t stop thinking about is Raiders of the North Sea. We just got this in, and so far I’ve only played it once. This was one of this year’s nominees for the Kennerspiel des Jahres award (the German award for the year’s best gamers’ game). While it may also be slightly complicated for a beginning gamer, I found it to be very straight forward in actual game mechanics. Basically everyone starts the game with some cards (you get 5 and must keep 3), some silver, and a pawn. BTW, they included real metal coins which is awesome! During the game, you place the pawn on action spaces in the town to do things like getting silver, more cards, provisions, etc., arming your Viking ship, hiring crew, or making offerings to the chief. If you decide to go to town, you will get two actions, one when you place your pawn, and one when you remove a pawn from another space. As soon as you have the appropriate provisions and crew, you can go raiding instead of going to town. To do this, you will place your pawn on one of the raiding locations, you’ll get plunder and a new pawn that may be a different color. Only certain colors of pawns can be used to raid some of the locations on the board. I did really horribly when I played this game, but I found it to be absolutely fascinating. I loved the variation on a worker placement game, and I thought that it really suited the theme even though, like Lords of Waterdeep, it is mostly about the mechanics and the actions you take and the theme is pretty secondary. As a matter of fact, this game reminds me of the feeling I had the first time I played Lords of Waterdeep, so if you like that one, you may really like Raiders of the North Sea, too. I’ll be playing again soon, and hopefully, I will redeem myself as a better Viking.