As one of the last members of my core group of friends to get married, I’ve had no shortage of advice on how to handle holidays. I’ve long heard that eventually the magic runs out on Valentine’s Day. The gifts lose their luster and expectations sink until you’re knocking back Little Ceasers and box wine. Fortunately for my legions of loyal readers, the Awesome family isn’t there yet!

The wifey and I have been together since Dec. 4, 2011. This was our ninth Valentine’s Day together. We have a nearly-two-year-old so a romantic dinner isn’t usually in the cards. Sure, we could find a sitter, but most of our friends and family are in committed relationships. They don’t want to spend their evening watching my little ladybug, they have their own needs (bom-chicka-bom-bom) to pursue. If a romantic adults-only evening is out of the question, there’s only one other option: day date. We both took Thursday the 13th off from work for a MARVEL-ous adventure.

It’s not the first time we have dropped the kiddo off at daycare so we could have an adult day together. Last time we watched Spider-Man Far From Home, went out to lunch and took a nap. This time we took the Marvel theme to new heights. We visited three different board game stores looking for expansions for Marvel Champions and bought Thanos Rising: Avengers Infinity War.

Shopping and lunch took up most of our day but it was totally worth it. When you have an active toddler, you get so used to shepherding them through the store with a chorus of, “don’t touch that,” “put that back” and “oh my God get that out of your mouth” you kind of forget what it’s like to peruse a game store at your leisure. When we did get home, we squared off against the mad titan in an epic showdown.

I’ll save expansive details for an upcoming review, but in a nutshell Thanos Rising is a deck and dicebuilding game. You recruit heroes and try to stop the titan before he can collect all six infinity stones. We had played a handful of four-player games. This was the first time we took on Thanos as a duo.

The game took several hours and had to be resumed after the little munchkin was home from daycare and safely tucked in bed, but we carried the day. By that point, we didn’t have the heart to do much with Champions other than set it up and feel our way through the first couple rounds. Stopping Rhino will have to wait for another day.

You may think that this day sounds like an average day in the life for your favorite blogcaster, but here’s the kicker: it was all the wife’s plan. I hit the jackpot.

What’s New at OiO?

Episode 21 of Outside is Overrated – The Final Fantasies

In the latest episode of the podcast, Tom, Joey and Brandon turn off the microphones to talk about all 15 mainline Final Fantasy titles.  

 

First Impressions: Wingspan

Ever since Hobby Box Burns brought up Wingspan in Episode 18 of the podcast, it’s been a running joke among my friends. Who would dedicate their precious gaming time to a game about North American birds? It turns out I would, and I can’t wait to do it again.

Wingspan is an engine building game where you try to outpace your friends by drawing and playing birds. On your turn you will either gain food, draw bird cards, play birds or lay eggs. As you play birds in each of the three habitats, you gain assorted bonuses that allow you do more with each of the basic actions. Birds also have assorted bonuses – you have no idea how satisfying it is to get an extra egg because someone else took a particular action. I would have fared much better if I played a bird that generated some additional resources.

Victory is pretty straightforward. Everything you do is worth victory points and whoever has the most at the end wins. Each player has a secret objective, for my first game I got bonus points for each bird of prey I played. Each bird has a value and you get points for eggs as well. Each round of play also has an opportunity for bonus points. The math at the end got a little complicated – you have to count and add several different things. It turned out to be a remarkably close game.

The core mechanics are really fun. I had a really hard time buying into the avian theme, but it does make the experience stand out from other options on the tabletop. If you like dice- or deck-building games, there is a lot to like.

Falling in Love with Hearthstone

Hearthstone is a free-to-play collectible card game from Blizzard set in the Warcraft universe. You choose one of nine heroes (classes) and battle against strangers on the Internet. Originally released in March of 2014, I had dabbled in Hearthstone a couple times but it never really grabbed me – I’ve never been a big fan of playing things online against strangers. It didn’t seem very easy to earn new packs and I failed to grasp a rhythm for deckbuilding.

Blizzard started rolling out some interesting single player content in 2017. It was a fun diversion, but I wound up bouncing off again. I opened Hearthstone on a whim earlier this month to see what was new and this time the game got me.

I had a couple daily quests that offered new packs as a reward, so I jumped into a casual game. I had some success and I started to get a feel for the priest deck. I played enough games to get the new packs. I had no idea if I was getting good cards or not. I just kept hoping for priest cards. I tinkered with my deck a little bit and jumped back into casual play. I won some games and got waxed in others, but it laid the foundation for my newfound love of this game.

You start each game with a hand of cards and you draw a new card each turn. Each card has a mana crystal cost from 1-10. Each turn you have a number of crystals to spend. On your first turn you get one crystal, on your fourth you get four crystals and so on until you max out at 10 crystals. You can play as many cards as you can afford – if you have 10 crystals, you could play two cards that cost four crystals apiece and one two-cost card. Each hero also has a unique ability that costs crystals. My priest, for example, does healing.

There are several different types of cards: minions that you play in front of you, spells that can heal or hurt either side and secrets that trigger when a specific condition is met. Minions have a variety of mechanics – some force you to attack them before you can hurt the opposing hero or other minions, some give you a benefit when they are summoned and others give you a boon when they are defeated.

After kicking around in casual play for a bit, I put on my big boy hands and headed into ranked play. Results were mixed – I battled some opponents with vastly superior decks and I fought some who quit early on. The more games you win the higher the rank you achieve, and they give out rewards based on your rank every month. I am very excited for my first season rewards tomorrow.

As I played more, I’ve grown to appreciate some of the clever decks people build. My main deck focuses on low-cost spells and characters who get stronger when you heal. The current expansion is all about dragons so there are some sweet decks that give you bonuses if you have a dragon in your hand. My favorite that I’ve seen focuses on mechs with a “Magnetic” ability. Basically, these low-power cards will combine to become something more powerful. If you let them attach a handful of these little buggers get together, the match is over.

Hearthstone is available on Apple, Android and PC and I believe your accounts are linked between all three. For me, it’s the best game that’s available on a phone. I still play Marvel Strike Force and Stars Wars Galaxy of Heroes every day, but that’s because I’m riding the coattails of better guildmates (except Casey) to keep getting rewards. If I stopped logging in, they would kick me. So I log on, do the daily stuff and hope I have enough time to get a couple extra games of Hearthstone in.

I also tried their Beta for a new Battlegrounds mode where eight players duke it out, and it’s my favorite way to play. I’ll save the explanation for another day, but if you are familiar with the core mechanics of Hearthstone you should definitely check it out.

Support OiO on Patreon

Earlier this month, Outside is Overrated launched a Patreon page. The podcast and web content will always remain free. If you have the means and would like to help defray the costs for recording equipment, web hosting and other OiO-related expenses, I would truly appreciate your support.

Thank you so much for reading my column this month. Until next time, stay inside kids!