Nerds on Earth editor Papa Nerd Clave is great at building people up, helping them feel special and important. He’s constantly sharing things he loves and encouraging us to share the things we love.
Whether you’re slogging through a stressful time in your life or sitting on top of the world, we all have things that we love that provide an escape or otherwise keep us grounded or centered. So as is the custom at Nerds on Earth, here is my list of 7 things on my shelves that let me spend hit dice and heal up.
7 Nerdy Things You Need in Your Life: Fields’ Shelfie
Flashpoint: Fire Rescue
What it is. My love of cooperative games is not something that embarrasses me. Flashpoint is probably one of the most frequently played games around my house and when I run my developmental gaming groups.
Flashpoint allows each player to choose a unique firefighter “with a particular set of skills.” Then the players all work together to use their firefighting, medical, hazmat, and leadership skills to check points of interest to rescue people (and pets) from a house engulfed in flames.
Why you might like it. The game uses dice, different maps, different player roles, basic or advanced rules, and expansion sets to make each game unique. Co-op games are great for pulling new gamers into the hobby because, not only do you learn as you play, but everyone wins or loses together. Games like Flashpoint help teach planning and sequencing, strategy, and social problem solving just to name a few.
The in-game stakes are high in this one though. Do you chop through a wall and risk having the house collapse to reach that poor kitty trapped in the bathroom quicker, or take your chances going the long way around?
Where you can get your hands on it. You can snag this one online, but swing by your FLGS where you can probably have someone help you learn to play… and paint up those firefighter minis.
What it is. It’s another co-op game. Sorry, not sorry. My wife is a nurse and my mom used to work at the CDC so this one is popular around here for the theme alone. This is another one where you win or lose together. Can you and your fellow scientists, each with their own unique abilities, discover cures and stop the spread of diseases before it’s too late?
Why you might like it. This game is an award winner that’s spawned lots of different variations (Pandemic, Reign of Cthulhu anyone?) and expansions. The Legacy variation is available in multiple “seasons” where each game affects the rules and conditions in the next game. You can even order custom meeples and tokens that look like a microscopic viruses.
Where you can get your hands on it. You can pick this one up just about anywhere–book stores, even Target and Walmart will typically have some version of Pandemic sitting on the shelves. But don’t forget your trusty FLGS.
What it is. This one is more of a party game. It’s competitive, but also absurd which can help take the sting out of defeat. Also, the winner is decided by voting. There are rules for a battle royal version, but I like playing two players at a time.
You draw cards that identify your character which can be anything from “Me” to “Michael Jackson” or “Godzilla”. Then you draw cards which describe you abilities. Those could be things like “is invisible,” “has a flame thrower,” or “is afraid of the dark.”
Then the two players have to explain why they would win. Everyone else votes for the winner. Then the winner stays, draws new powers, and faces a different challenger.
Why you might like it. The game comes in a relatively small box so it travels easy, and works well with any number of players. Again, there are expansion decks for this one, but it comes with some blank cards so you can add your own flavor to the game.
I like this one because it is competitive but even when you lose a fight, you’ll get another turn. The ridiculous characters and abilities can make for some great laughs. Add to that, Superfight helps develop critical thinking and self advocacy, and you’ve got another game that I love both personally and as a therapist.
Where you can get your hands on it. This is another one you can find at most big box type stores, Amazon, and of course your FLGS.
What it is. Legendary is a deck building game. Of course it’s another co-op, but this one does have victory points, so while everyone wins or loses as a team, one hero will end the game with more points.
The premise is pretty simple, you have a deck of bad guys and a deck of good guys, as well as an evil scheme that provides rules for how the game progresses and what the conditions are for victory and defeat. Each turn, a new villain or plot twist will be revealed, and then the players will get to play cards that allow them to either recruit new heroes into their personal deck, or to fight the baddies that are wreaking havoc on the city.
Why you might like it. I’m a big fan of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. It’s a fundamental theme in my work as a therapist–strengths, self identity, growth… Plus, I just love superheroes (so do my wife and son). While this is a co-op game, the mechanics of a deck builder are really different from the others I’ve included. So this let’s my family and individuals I see in my practice share an experience where we work together to learn and grow but use different mechanics and a different genre/setting.
Which reminds me, the Legendary series of games is yet another one where there are lots of versions and variations (including an Aliens version, a villains version, and many others).
Where you can get your hands on it. You can grab this one online at Amazon or check out your FLGS for different variations and expansion sets.
What it is. Pugmire is an RPG from Onyx Path Publishing. It is a d20 system where you play as “uplifted dogs” sometime in the future after man has disappeared. No-one knows where man has gone, but as a “good dog” it’s your duty to follow the code of man.
The code of man includes obeying the master, be loyal to those who are true, and protect all from the unseen. It’s a fantasy setting (because what do dogs know about technology, right?). So think knights and wizards… except they’re talking dogs.
Why you might like it. The mechanics should be familiar enough if you play RPGs, and the setting and themes are appropriate for all ages. Want to have a fun game with your nieces and nephews, or maybe a dark and gritty adventure with some friends? Pugmire has it in spaders (which you won’t need to clean up after an uplifted dog).
If you love dogs, this one is for you.
I have to admit though, I’m not really a dog lover. But there’s a companion book (which could also be played alone) coming out in the next month or so called Monarchies of Mau, and that’s REALLY why I’m into this one. Monarchies of Mau is all about cats! My buddy Jack Berkenstock and the Bodhana Group uses this game in a lot of their therapeutic gaming groups, so I credit him for introducing me to this one.
Where you can get your hands on it. You can order this one from Onyx Path, Drive Thru RPG, or Amazon.
Kids on Bikes
What it is. Kids on Bikes is my favorite RPG right now (although there are quite a few – like Pugmire –
that are not far behind). Kids on Bikes is a game that is set back in the 80’s. If you loved Goonies, ET, Stranger Things, or even Scooby Doo, this is your jam.
I got to play in a game run by Doug Levendowski (one of the designers) recently, and he talked about
his love for D&D and wanting to create a game that paid homage to it. He also talked about wanting to create something that really dug into a kind of duality of good and bad, success and failure. In Kids on Bikes, when you fail a roll you gain an adversity token. Those can be used to activate abilities or to modify future rolls.
Why you might like it. 80’s nostalgia! Experience what it’s like to be an adventurous kid, bravely exploring, doing good, and just trying to do the right thing and help those who are being oppressed by an evil organization… or a ghost, or swamp creature, or alien. There’s a powered character that the players will discover and have shared control over (think Eleven in Stranger Things, ET, or even Sloth in Goonies).
This is another one that can be dark and scary for adults, or fun and silly enough for kids to play too. I use this one in my groups because I love the adversity token mechanic that encourages kids to try something. Even if they fail, they fail forward. They’re rewarded for taking a risk and putting themselves out there.
What it is. My Addiction. I love dice, I just can’t have enough. Different sizes, different colors, custom branded dice, foam, metal, plastic. Not much to really say here, except they are the simple tools that help us create stories of triumph and tragedy. When failure is an option, or you need to generate something random, you need dice. (I love technology and gadgets, but I gotta have the sight, sound, and feel of real dice in my grubby little hands.)
Why you might like it. If you play games you probably need them. And sometime they betray you, and need to know they can be easily replaced. And sometimes you just want your dice to match your mood, or your rulebook.
Where you can get your hands on them. Go see them and touch them in person at your FLGS. I like to meet my dice before I make a commitment to them. But that’s just me.
So there’s a look at my shelf and the things that… get me rolling (see what I did there?). What’s on your shelf?