Conspire by Cherry Picked Games

Greetings All,

Today we get to bring you a quick review for a deceptively fun game called Conspire.



4-12 Players

30-60 Minutes

Cherry Picked GamesCherry Picked Games

In Conspire all players create a or act out a situation from any time and place they choose, in this world you’ll be dealing with conspiracies and debating on different topics, essentially trying to sell your beliefs or complete your hidden objectives. Everyone creates characters with hidden objectives and those characters shuffled and passed out to players. You can choose to tell people what your objectives are, however, it is much more fun to keep them hidden. This game can end after you accomplish whatever you were going for or you can keep it going. You can literally play this in “chapters” of your story or you can completely start fresh and I think that is a vert cool concept. The replayability here is just insane.  I’m including a hyper link so that you can see this fun little 3 minute video of game play instruction from Alexander Jerbek (Cherry Picked Games), I found it very helpful and very entertaining.

This is a storytelling game that is so relaxed, we literally sat in the living room instead of around the table. There are so many topics I thought about using, I didn’t even want to make up my own story… do you have any Idea how many fun debate topics and conspiracy theories you can pick up from pop culture? things you’re reading or watching right now. I personally wanted to do this set in the Gravity Falls universe or The Time War from Doctor Who and if I’m being honest, it’s going to happen eventually. It’s too fun to pass up. Instead we ended up going with Mutants as our topic, please check out my husbands take below. 🙂

Imagine that you’re a regular, standard, mundane, innocuous, run-of-the-mill human.  Now imagine, that you exist in the USA.  Alright, now…imagine that you are all of those previous things, except that you exist in the Marvel Comics Universe.  One equipped with superheroes, super villains, space aliens, demigods, and all manner of general calamity.  Now, imagine that medical science has evolved to the point where humans can isolate every wrinkle of the human genome, and alter it whilst in utero…and that frightful humans in political office are seeking to utilize this technology to end one of the largest domestic scourges their great nation has ever seen: “MUTANTS.”  As private U.S. citizens in this reality, you’re tasked with voting for an upcoming bill that would allow mutation to be classified as an unwanted birth defect that can be permanently removed during pregnancy.  Do you believe that mutants should be permanently removed from existence via medical excision, or do you believe mutants are a natural byproduct of a human birth and should be protected?

The Husband’s Quick Take –
This was a lovely RPG experience!  There’s a certain elegance and simplicity to it that is just so appealing to anyone, regardless of their opinions on tabletop gaming.  This game could honestly be practiced in debate clubs across the country, to excellent effect.  It favors an almost contrarian outlook, so long as you have the charisma to back it up.  The added wrinkles this game provides when matched with people you’re extra familiar with can be very interesting, and certainly can provide a very engaging, very social experience.  I very much so recommend this game to anyone…so long as they don’t require their tabletop experiences to come with an actual board and pieces.
I hope you enjoyed this quick review, I promise there will be more frequent topics after Tabletop has ended. 🙂 Until next time… Live by the Board.

Planetary Strike

Hello Readers,
Recently, the Wife and I came in to a copy of a space themed indie game called: “Planetary Strike.”  Upon asking Claim to Fame Games to review it, we received a copy for free for our unbiased honest review. At first glance, this game seems very minimal in its presentation, and difficult to immediately critique.  But, once you dive into this title, you’ll find that it’s just a thrifty abstract game…not exactly what I expected.
2-6 Players
10-20 Minutes
Planetary Strike plays like a mix between chess and checks played out on a circular (but checkered) board.  Your goal is to utilize your pieces to capture another player’s “planet” piece, not unlike a king piece in chess.  Pieces move in different patterns and for different lengths dependent upon the pieces chosen to move.  For instance, pieces with “1” and “3” symbols on them move diagonally, and pieces with “2” and “4” move in straight lines.  Also, pieces can only move the amount of spaces as are indicated by the numbers listed on them, with “4” being able to move 4 spaces, et cetera.  Not reinventing the wheel here, just solid abstract game mechanics.  It should be noted that I only played this using 2 factions, with just a single faction per player.
I’m gonna be transparent and direct here readers, the actual gameplay itself was “okay.”  It felt very much so like I was playing a modified game of chess while I was reviewing this…and that’s not a compliment.  Abstract games typically aren’t my taste, I enjoy a few quite a bit but not many, and this did not thrill me in the slightest.  Don’t misconstrue what I’m saying here, this is an adequate game at its core, it’s just very “vanilla.”  It doesn’t stand out in any major way, it doesn’t really utilize it’s theme, the gameplay itself feels antiquated…none of it evokes any feeling other than “meh.”
Let’s touch on the pros.  Easily the biggest pro in the whole game for me was the rulebook.  It was really well done, and clearly articulated everything it needed to EXTREMELY well.  This was a digest sized, FOURTEEN page rulebook that was a breeze to read and understand. It contained rules, tips, online information, company information…this might be one of the best rulebooks I’ve ever encountered. Also, the game board itself contained a number of diagrams on it to help remind players of the rules regarding how to move specific pieces.  Always a nice feature to see in any game.
Let’s move onto the cons.  First, and easily the most apparent knock against this game: the packaging.  The game and it’s components come in a what I can only describe as a shipping box, that is 12×12 inches, while being 2 inches thick…it almost looks like a hard pizza box.  Beyond it’s cardboard exterior, it possesses a single (albeit large) sticker on the front with its logo.   I’m not going to lie readers, this is not an ideal setup…it’s woefully aesthetically compromised.  It’s difficult to properly articulate, it’s just all very underwhelming, and certainly not something I’d accept from other companies.  Now, let’s discuss the components of the game…they too suffer from a similar problem to the packaging.  They are sturdy pieces of plastic that all have individual shapes, with numbers on them.  Nothing to really knock here, just nothing to phone home about either.  I only found one part of the game itself to be lacking: the game board.  I’m being very nitpicky here I admit, but the board itself is relatively thin and needs bent into shape in order to flatten.  I just found it slightly peevish, but definitely enough to mention.
Alright readers, this is a tricky situation.  Part of doing reviews of anything (in my opinion) is to be objective.  To view, evaluate, and convey information without any sort of framework to the best of your estimation.  But when is an evaluation supposed to account for the totality of a product, from its mental conception all of the way to its final production?  I’ve yet to do that with any other games that have come across my table.  I’ve not taken a copy an Asmodee game and said: “This game is good, but with their vast resources, they could’ve done even better!” as I fiercely spike the game into the Earth before scurrying off to some internet message boards to bemoan how the sky is falling and how woeful my existence has become.  No, what I do is attempt to critically comb over a product to distill out it’s better qualities…and not so better qualities.  That’s the hitch with Planetary Strike, if Level 99 Games, or Asmodee, or Fantasy Flight Games released this game…I’d not recommend this game.  But this game ISN’T a major company release, literally EVERYTHING is done at the creator’s home.  That’s a serious endeavor, and one that deserves merit…serious friggin’ merit.  But, if we’re being objective and I’m keeping my integrity, I wouldn’t recommend Planetary Strike to anyone except for hardcore abstract gaming enthusiasts.  That said, I hope to see more independent games like this in the future, it’s a great sign for the hobby as a whole and gives me hope for the future.
Perhaps I’ve become a cynic, but I simply cannot recommend this game guys.  But, I can highly recommend you keep an eye on this company.  Just because some hypercritical jerk online doesn’t like a product doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just means a difference in taste, and I hope this negative review doesn’t sour you on this plucky little company. There is a review page on the company site with plenty of positive reviews, so please make sure to stop by there before making your final decision. Livingbytheboard is very much so hoping to an interview with this company, because we loved their story so much. Hopefully this review hasn’t stifled this plan. As always, we’d like to thank Claim to Fame Games for the chance to review this game and for a look into their neat little company. Thank you for stopping by readers.
-The Husband

Industry Interviews – Plaid Hat Games, Colby Dauch interview!

Greetings All,

Today I get to bring an interesting little interview from Plaid Hat Games own Colby Dauch! Did you know that he used to work for Hasboro and Wizard’s of the Coast? Well… now ya do! Keep reading for more info! Enjoy!



1) I understand that before Plaid Hat you did game design for Hasboro and Wizards of the Coast. Did you enjoy your time with said companies and can you please list a memorable game you worked on for each company?
The work I did for Hasbro and Wizards was as a freelance game designer.  I did enjoy it, especially working under the tutelage of the great Craig VanNess.  Heroscape would be the most notable game I worked on. In fact that’s the only work I did at Wizards after having followed the game there from Hasbro.
2) Have you had any employment outside of the gaming industry?
Yes, I worked doing in home service with the mentally impaired, I worked at an after school program for at risk youth and I worked media director for a church.
3) Why did you choose the gaming industry for a career?
There was no point at which I made  firm choice to make a career in the gaming industry.  Rather it was something that evolved over time.  Started doing development work as a hobby, then kind of became a community ambassador and organizer around Heroscape, then picked up some freelance work, then developed a game of my own, started a game company to publish it, then over time Plaid Hat Games great to the point where I was able to quit my day job and do it full-time.
4)You’re often seen sporting a plaid hat. What came first the company name or the hat? (Where did the company name from?)
That hat came first.  It kind of became an identity marker for me in the Heroscape community and a member of that community suggested the name Plaid Hat Games.  I like the quirkiness of it so I ran with it.
5)What was the first game you ever designed and the first game published under the name Plaid Hat?
The first game I ever designed from scratch was called Summoner Quest.  I scrapped it early on because it was a mess.  I followed it up with Summoner Wars, which was the first game I published under Plaid Hat.
6)A few years ago Plaid Hat joined F2Z, how has the company changed since then?
We joined F2Z, that then joined Asmodee, so we had a couple of years there where we were in a state of flux.  Through most of the life of Plaid Hat it has felt like a scrappy little studio just kind of winging it at every turn.  Now Plaid Hat feels more like it has grown and matured and it now has the support of the Asmodee group.  Our decisions feel more thoughtful and our work is more focused as we are now a game design studio rather than a full publishing company.
7)How do you see the gaming industry (as a whole) fairing in the coming years?
Oh man, I wish I had the power to scry that out.  The trend has been up and up year over year for a long time and I have no solid reason to believe that won’t continue.  There are still a whole lot of people out there that don’t know how fun hobby games are.
8)What is your favorite Plaid Hat game and your favorite non Plaid Hat game?
My favorite Plaid Hat game is Dead of Winter.  It never fails to immerse me in an emergent narrative each time I play it.  My favorite non Plaid Hat game has to go to Heroscape.  It will always hold a special place in my heart.  It’s a spectacle on the table and is just good rambunctious fun.
9)Is your family also big into tabletop gaming?
I found games as an adult.  I’ve spread games to some of my family, but I don’t think many of them are engaging in-game play without my initiating it and they don’t exactly have Board Game Geek profiles.
10)Do you have any advice for someone aspiring to be in the gaming industry?
I get this question a fair bit.  I wish I was better at answering it.  The question has only really existed for about a half-dozen years, so I don’t think anyone has a good answer.  There are questions like it surrounding other media: “How do I get into the Book – Comics – Film – Video Game industry?”  The answers professionals of those industries give to those questions are often nebulous and the question of getting into board games is an even tougher one because all of those other industries have the advantage of being larger and having been around for some time.  You can take college courses in them.  
I really need to develop a quippier answer to this question. It wouldn’t be anymore helpful, but it would sound more helpful and you won’t have gotten bored reading it.
I hope you guys enjoyed this interview. I want to say thank you to Plaid Hat Games and Mr. Dauch for this chance, it is much appreciated. Keep sharing these things on social media, so I can keep getting interviews! Thank you guys for tuning in! And until next time..  Live by the Board.

Industry Interviews – Level 99 Games, D. Brad Talton Jr. interview!

Greetings All,

I’m happy to bring you an interview from the head of Level 99 Games today. Mr. Talton is a really down to earth guy and it was a pleasure talking to him about the digital conversion of the Level 99 game library. I am hoping to see a Disc Duelers conversion. Level 99 has a new game out called I Can’t Even With These Monsters, it looks like a really different game then what I am used to from Level 99 so I am super excited about it! Could you tell that Mr. Talton is an anime and manga fan by the art? Read on to see!


1) I understand that you started designing games at a young age and a great deal of them were collectible card games. Have any of your childhood games made appearances with Level 99 or influenced their designs?
 Most of my childhood designs were inspired by specific video games that I played, and were somewhat derivative. There are a few that were pretty good, and which I might want to bring back and tune up someday–but none that are on the market at present.
2) Your games have such a distinct art style, what was it that made you decide these styles were right for your games?
I’ve always been a fan of anime and manga art styles, and I used to do a lot of my own art (though not anymore these days). This has influenced how we contract with and partner up with artists. All of our artists get larger project contracts over months, instead of individual pieces, and they get a cover credit alongside the designer as one of the principle creators of the game. Furthermore, we ask our artists to help out when building character designs, worlds, and storylines, so that everything is a unified vision. I think this is what helps our games to feel distinctive.
3) BattleCON was he first to be published through Level 99 in 2011, how have you been able to keep the series alive and well for 6 years?
 I mostly have the fans to thank for the popularity of the series. We’re had a lot of attempts and fumbles at creating organized play, online play versions, communities, and information websites. We’re finally getting the hang of all that stuff nowadays, but a lot of it has been about the fans who keep the community together, run events, and create content like tutorials and original character designs.
4) What work did you do before your gaming career?
*Please see #5.
5) What was the deciding factor for creating Level 99?
I was involved with iOS app development (my formal training is in computer programming), but I was a junior programmer at my company and so was laid off in the big financial crisis of 2008. I started doing freelance work, and making some apps on my own, and that became a regular source of revenue. From there, I discovered Kickstarter and saw the success of early KS board games. I thought “hey, I can do this!” and so I decided to try my hand at publishing. The rest is history!
6) You’ve done several Kickstarter campaigns. Do you feel crowdfunding has been essential to your company?
Absolutely. Crowdfunding is more than just an essential tool for us at this point–its the way that fans expect to find and get involved in our new projects. I would say its an important part of the company’s identity at this point.
7) You have games online as well through Mac, PC, IOS, and Android. Have you enjoyed converting your games digitally?
We’re still in the process of converting our most popular games, but we anticipate that the reception will be good. Look out for them later this year! 😀
8)What are your favorite games? One Level 99 and one non level 99 please.
I really love Libertalia, a game about pirate crews raiding ships. It’s the board game I’ll always be interested in playing. As for my own stuff, I really enjoy the development process, so my favorite game is whatever’s in development right now! For the moment, that’s our castle-exploration adventure game, Seventh Cross, which is scheduled as a next year release.
9)Is your family also involved with tabletop gaming?
Not too much, actually. It’s something that I pursue with friends, while for family (just my wife and I) we enjoy travel, hiking, cooking, and reading/discussing fantasy novels.
10)Do you have any advice for someone who aspires have a career in the gaming industry?
Think about what you want to be doing, and go do it. Don’t wait to start on your own projects, but as you’re building that portfolio, also look for ways that you can work into the industry with your skillset. Make sure you’re making things that you want to play, and then look at the skills those creations have forced you to learn, and find a way to integrate those talents into team efforts and professional projects.
I hope everyone enjoyed this mini interview! I want to say thank you to Mr. Talton and Level 99 games for giving me the chance to do this interview and I look forward to more game releases! 🙂 Thank you guys for reading and until next time… Live by the Board.

Industry Interviews – Cheapass Games, James Ernest interview!

Greetings All,
Today I get to bring you a great interview with Mr. James Ernest from Cheapass Games! My favorite game form Cheapass is Kill Doctor Lucky, although I am more partial to the card game version of the game. Kill Doctor Lucky is a great game and is best played with the maximum amount of players. Please check out the Cheapass Games site and their awesome free games section! Did you know that James Ernest wrote a book about juggling? Check it out! Enjoy!
1)Your gaming career started as a writer for Wizards of the Coast, during your time with them, when did you decide that you were meant for bigger things?
Honestly, nothing would have been bigger than a chance to work in Wizards R&D. Some very successful game designers have come out of that place. But my work for Wizards was mostly writing and graphic design, not game design. Wizards had a round of layoffs and a change of direction in 1995, and I took that opportunity to jump ship and (eventually) start my own game company. 
2)What was the inspiration for the name “Cheapass Games,” and your first game: “Kill Doctor Lucky?”
“Cheapass Games” was based on the idea that our games were cheap, our company was small, and we were proud of it! I saw a lot of smaller game companies pretending to be huge, but that just wasn’t my style. So we made a big deal out of how small we were, and the name “Cheapass” was part of that strategy.
The inspiration for Kill Doctor Lucky actually predated Cheapass by a few months. I had written a “mystery” story in College, where a detective grills a bunch of murderers in the front room of a mansion while their victim is still alive, and when the lights go out, they all murder him in a matter of seconds. In turn this was inspired by games and movies from the mystery genre, including “Clue” in both cases, as well as many others. 
One day while I was driving across town, the name “Kill Doctor Lucky” came into my head, and a nearly complete picture of the game wasn’t far behind. I had made a few board games already and this seemed like a perfect way to launch my own company, once I had failed to sell it to a few existing publishers. 
3)Kill Doctor Lucky was your flagship game, was it the first game you created?
I’ve been making games since I was very young. My first formal design project was in high school, when I wrote an abstract game (basically a chess variant) as a core element in a fantasy novel. I never finished the novel but my design partner and I thoroughly and enthusiastically finished the game. Before starting Cheapass I had also sold some games to Games Magazine, and had created several other board games and even a few trading card games.
4)How do you think the break in game production affected the company in the long run?
When we closed down (in about 2006) it was the right thing to do. I had too many employees, and too much inventory, and there wasn’t much for it but to spend a few years on hiatus. The break gave us a chance to reinvent the company, and for the world to invent crowdfunding. When we came back with a site full of free games in 2011, many of our customers hadn’t even noticed that we were missing. 
5)What did you do before your gaming career started?
I have part of an engineering degree, and I had a short career as a professional juggler. All of this leads naturally to a game publishing career. I guess. From 1984 to about 1993, my main business was promoting my own juggling act, and publishing an instructional book called Contact Juggling. I also did freelance graphic design and technical writing, as well as comic book writing and illustration. And the kind of odd jobs that jugglers have, like scooping ice cream.
6)What made you want to be involved in the gaming industry?
I saw the success of Richard Garfield and Wizards of the Coast and realized that game inventing could be a paying job. I’ve got a passion for entertainment and mathematics, and I’m not bad at publishing, so it took a while to make sense of it all but I think I was destined for this career for a long time. 
7)What is your favorite game in the Cheapass line and what is your favorite non-Cheapass game?
My favorite non-Cheapass game is poker, if you measure by hours spent playing. I learned a lot from Magic:the Gathering at a critical time in my career, but I also learned by watching that game’s imitators that I would rather create something new than make incremental changes to a thing I know. There’s less money in innovation, but it’s where I would rather be.
Of all the games I’ve invented, I am most fond of Tak, but that’s not technically in the “Cheapass” line… we put a “James Ernest” logo on that box. Other favorites are Lords of Vegas and Pirates of the Spanish Main, also not from Cheapass. My favorite CAG branded game might be Diceland, a quirky little game that never really got off the ground. 
8)Is your family also heavily involved with tabletop gaming?
My wife Carol is VP of Cheapass Games, so yeah. Our daughter Nora is fifteen, and she’s more of a console gamer than a tabletop gamer, but we will rope her into working the booth at Gen Con this year, and then she will either be hooked, or vow to escape at the earliest opportunity. Either way, we win.
9)Your company has some of the (in my opinion) best customer interaction out there, what would you say is the reasoning behind that?
Everyone will tell you that customer service is important, but I think our approach to it comes from a time when we didn’t have the budget for anything else. Our customers are our greatest advocates, and board games spread by word of mouth, so we figure that one happy customer can lead to many more.
10)For anyone out there that is hoping to be a part of the gaming industry, what would be your advice?
Nobody gets into this business for the money. Our industry is populated by people who have a deep passion for games and for gaming, and who create, promote, and sell games because they love it. If you feel like that describes you, then you can probably find a home here.
I hope all of you enjoyed this great, mini in-depth interview! I want to say thank you to Mr. James Ernest and Cheapass Games for this interview, it means the world to me that great companies like yourselves have time for us little guys. Until next time… Live by the Board.

Gen Con 50

Greetings All,

Today I just wanted to complain a bit about missing out on Gen Con. Feel free to ignore my angry, womanly ranting. This makes the second year in a row that I’ve had to cancel. Last year we got caught up in court for the frustrating shared parenting that we have and this year my boss that I had a two-year contract with just decided he couldn’t pay me anymore. He hasn’t paid me since March and after yesterday, that work relationship is over.

This year I was really excited about going, I have good communication with multiple game companies, I was going to volunteer with several companies, I had great tickets for events at Gen Con, and my blog is doing well. I had my tickets purchased, a unrefundable hotel, and a friend was going with my husband and I as well. I even bought this adorable Gen Con journal for my adventures.

In the end I had to cancel my tickets, that I couldn’t actually get refunded… they just got put into the Gen Con site for future purchases. I had to cancel all of my cards because the hotel wouldn’t tell me which one I used for my reservation, and I had to tell my friend that we could no longer go.

I know it’s childish, but man I am so tired of not being able to go to things like this. I haven’t had a “vacation” since I was a kid and my last driving trip was just to take my grandmother-in-law home to Illinois. I want a break from the real world and Gen Con seemed perfect for that. Here I am, anxiety riddled and all… and I still wanted to go to the 50th anniversary of Gen Con. That’s huge for me.

I even got offered a game masters badge from a game company. I had to tell them I’m sorry, but I can’t afford to go. I realize that this post is just a great big whiney list of complaints, but it’s gets to the point where you don’t know where to complain about things like this.

Board games are such an essential part of my life and Gen Con sounds amazing. I know that I’ll get there one day and it will have been worth the wait. I really do hope that all of you attending this year have a blast and all of those sitting on the bench like me get there one day too. For the time being, I am just going to sit here and enviously/angrily stare at all of my friends that have yearly vacations and really consider smacking the ones that have multiple vacations every year…

Sorry for having my outburst today, thank you for hanging in there and reading. I’ll be less angry during my next post. Until next time… Live by the board.


This is where it all started.

Greetings All,

I was looking through my memories on Facebook and I found a picture of the start of mine and my husbands board game collection back in 2013. Back then, we had less than 30 games and now we have over 300!

It started with some of your standard card games like Uno, Phase 10, and Skip-Bo and some not so standard ones like Fluxx and Dixit. We had your standard Yahtzee dice game and some fun dice games in Cthulhu dice and King of Tokyo. We went a little crazy with Catan and got three different Catan games.

This is an unpopular opinion, but I don’t particularly care for standard Catan, however, I really enjoy Catan dice and Rivals for Catan. I remember sitting in bed with my husband and playing Catan Dice all of the time, but if I’m being honest Rivals made a bigger impact on me. We had two player games like Chess and Mancala, but Rivals was the first big experience with two player only games.

I think that Dixit and King of Tokyo were probably the biggest inspirations to us embracing board games as a way of life. To this day both get good play. Of course, we had our games that just didn’t stick with us enough. We got rid of Apples to Apples and Story Cubes pretty quickly and with that followed quite a few others from this original collection. We try to go through our games before Christmas every year to see what we are getting rid of and the weird thing is that no matter when the last time we played… it always hurts to say goodbye to a game. We still have Catan Family Edition and I’m certain that we haven’t played it since 2013, but my husband insists on keeping it. He says it’s because it’s a classic, but I know it’s because it was from the start of our wonderous hobby.

The great thing about this collection is that most of it came from a shop called Yottaquest. It was our FLGS until they closed it down. It was wonderful being able to go and physically browse shelves of games that could and for some, would one day be ours. Having a FLGS was a great feeling because even though they were greatly overpriced, it was almost like another home. I believe I was always nervous and shy when I would go, but I knew that I didn’t have to be… I knew that those were my people. What a greatly missed feeling… I am hoping that my first trip to Gen Con brings back that neat little feeling.

I know that this post was random and all over the place, but I just felt like chatting about it a bit. Do you remember when your collection started? Tell me about it!! Thank you for stopping by and until next time… Live by the board.