Extra Life!

I’m not as young as I used to be. 

On the front side of the Extra Life event, a 24-hour gaming marathon sounded like a really cool idea.  I was all giddy and happy and excited to play so many games with my gaming homies… 

Then 4:00am happened, and it was suddenly much less cool and exciting to be up all day and all night playing games.  Of course, maybe it wasn’t just the extreme fatigue of my aging brain at work, but also the building fever and eventual retroperistalsis (along with its messy end result) that developed a few hours later, that led to my less-than-fresh feeling by the end of the night. 

But regardless of exactly how it ended for me personally, our first Extra Life event was a pretty huge success both in terms of money raised and games played.

It’s about the Kids…

First off, the point of Extra Life is to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.  And specifically, my team was working for Duke Chilren’s Hospital in Durham.  A few weeks ago, many of us (okay, me mostly) hadn’t really done much of anything to actually raise money.  But then, over the last couple of weeks, it really started to take off.

I had set a personal goal of $300 and a team goal of $1,500.  I felt pretty good about the personal goal, but when I learned that a few of our “regulars” had conflicts on that day and couldn’t join the team, I was really afraid that I had set the team goal a little too high.  

However, by the end, we pushed well past that goal and have a current team total of $2,009.  And personally, I’ve been able to raise $956, which really both excites and humbles me.   And, just in case you’re sitting there reading this and thinking, “Oh crap! I missed it!”, there’s no need to fear.  You can still make donations right now if you want, just head over to my Extra Life page and click “Support Me!”

But What About the Games?

And in addition to helping sick kids, there were also most certainly a crap-ton of games at our Extra Life Event!  I didn’t really count them, but we had to have brought in well over a hundred games in addition to the game library at Hypermind.

Here’s the official team hiding behind the game table (left to right): Me, James Koutroulias, Tom Gurganus, Sceadeau D’Tela, Chris Ingersoll, and Shawn Kirkham

And like I had said before, we were going to take this whole “play games for 24 hours straight” thing really serious.  None of the actual team members ever left the premesis, and other than to choose a new game or take care of immediate personal needs, I don’t think that any of us ever really took a break from playing games.  So, right from the beginning at 8:00am, we started in by playing a game of…


Chris picked this up a couple of weeks ago, and while it had been played at game night at least once or twice, this was my first crack at it.  Divinare is a quick little hand-management/light deduction card game where you’re trying to simultaneously figure out how many of each color card are in the game (since not all the cards are used each hand) while you’re playing those same cards to the table.  And since you must move your little bidding/prediction marker for a color each time you play one of its cards, there’s also some nice little tactical choices about how to position yourself and when to play which cards.  There’s a lot of uncertainty along with a healthy dose of good, old-fashioned blind luck in the game, so it’s not something that I’m necessarily going to run right out and buyright now, but at the same time, it’s also pretty darn interesting, and I’d love to play a few more times to make up my mind a little more firmly.

Time: 31 minutes
Score: Shawn 24, James 22, Chris 9, Norton* 8
Ratings: Shawn 9, James 8.5, Chris 9, Norton 7.5



There’s not a heck of a lot to Tsuro, but it’s pretty darn fun for its length, especially when you can play up to 8 people…

Time: 11 minutes
Score: Chris & James – Tie for 1st; Shawn, Norton, Elaine, Sceadeau, & Ian – 3rd thru 7th
Ratings: ??



Somehow in my extensive history with boardgames, I’ve never actually played Medici before.  It’s gotten some play recently in the group, though, and I was really happy to finally sit down and try it out as well at Extra Life.  Of course, I had no foggy clue how to value lots or anything, so I had no real chance to win, but it was still a very interesting game.  Just the sheer efficiency and single-mindedness of having a pure auction game where you’re bidding with what are effectively your victory points is pretty impressive, and there are still enough bells and whistles thrown in to keep it interesting as well. 

The only real downside of the game is the horrible graphic design, with confusing colors and spaces that are too small for the tracking tokens.  And while we were playing the Rio Grande version, I understand that there isn’t really a “good” version of the game with regards to appearance.  So while I’ll be happy to play it almost anytime, maybe I’ll hold out on buying it until someone reprints a more usable version.

Time: 45 minutes
Score: Ian 108, Sceadeau 102, Tom* 95, Norton* 55, Shawn 55 
Ratings: Ian 8, Sceadeau 7, Tom 8, Norton 8, Shawn 8


Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures

I’ve missed way too many game nights recently, so I feel very behind on playing X-Wing Minis.  I brought along my stuff, though, and Shawn was happy to join me in a couple of games.  Even though he hadn’t played before, Neil also joined in our first one, taking some of Shawn’s forces on the Rebel side.

So for the first session, we played out Mission #1, which has the rebel squadron escorting a diplomatic shuttle across the board while the Imperial forces try to destroy it.  Shawn’s squadron list looked like this: Luke (X-Wing), Rookie Pilot (X-Wing), Gold Squadron Pilot (Y-Wing), Gray Squadron Pilot (Y-Wing) with R2-D2, Marksmanship, Ion Cannon, and the R2 Astromech.  On my side, I ran: Darth Vader (TIE Advanced), Howlrunner, Mauler Mithel, Backstabber, & Academy Pilot (all TIE’s) with Concussion Missiles, Squad Leader, & Swarm Tactics.


It was pretty brutal.  Since the Empire gets to replace any lost ships with more Academy Pilots, I was pretty reckless in advancing and single-mindedly attacking the shuttle.  Shawn did a good job of taking out two of my special pilots, with Luke blowing one out of the sky with one freaking shot!  But Shawn probably got a little too aggressive overall with his X-Wings (and Luke couldn’t hit a thing for the rest of the game), working too much to kill me off and not enough to protect the shuttle.  So in the end, Vader and Backstabber got in some point-blank shots that blew the shuttle to pieces only about 1/3 of its way across the board.


Neil then bowed out, so Shawn and I just set up a 1:1 battle using pretty much the same forces in an asteroid field.  We didn’t really use any scenario, but just planned on blowing each other up.  Despite Luke flying a lot better and tailing Vader all game long, I still managed to get the advantage and pick off the Rebel scum one by one.

Time: 51 & 91 minutes
Mission #1: Norton (Empire) – Win; Shawn & Neil* (Rebels) – Lose
Asteroid Battle: Norton (Empire) – Win; Shawn (Rebels) – Lose
Ratings: Norton 9, Shawn 10, Neil* 7

I’m really loving X-Wing Minis.  I’m also learning that there’s a really good reason that real pilots fly in formation.  The ability to fight as one concerted force, rather than a bunch of single, smaller threats, is just amazing.  And the speed and maneuverability of the TIE’s is amazing, and along with the superior numbers that they also usually have, they seem to be at least a match for the stronger and better-armored rebel ships.  But I definitely need to play more on the Rebel side to see what I can do from over there as well…



Tom had never had the chance to play Strasbourg, so that’s what we pulled out next. I’ve talked a lot about it on my podcast, so I won’t get into it very much here, other than to say that I was just brutalized after losing a couple of critical auctions that left me penniless and impotent for most of the 4th and 5th rounds.  It was still fun, but man did I get abused.

Time: 65 minutes
Score: Sceadeau 62, Ian 56, Shawn 27, Norton 25, Tom* 22
Ratings: Sceadeau 9, Ian 9, Shawn 7.5, Norton 8, Tom 8



Shawn had a copy of the relatively new Fleet card game, so a few of us jumped in to give it a try as the afternoon went on.  After one mis-start due to getting a few rules wrong, we reset things and tried again.  And in general, Fleet turned out to be a pretty cool little engine-building card game.  But unfortunately, Sceadeau (as he’s wont to do) found a pretty abusive combo right from the beginning that he exploited over and over to launch 2 ships a turn and draw cards for them (using the Cod license), then use those new cards to Captain both ships, which let him draw even more cards (using the Lobster licenses). 

So by the end, he had a metric crap-ton of ships with a lot of fish, and his card-drawing also let him pick up at least two of the big-money licenses to score bonus points as well (and would have scored another one if Shawn hadn’t taken one for the team and outbid him for another King Crab license that Shawn himself didn’t really need).

Again, it seemed like Fleet was a pretty cool game, but that combo (2x Cod + 2x Lobster) seems really powerful, and I fear that maybe it’s overpowered.  I could certainly be wrong after just one play, but it’s enough to make me wary right now.
Time: 40 minutes
Score: Sceadeau* 100, Norton* 56, Shawn 43, Tom 39
Ratings: Sceadeau 6, Norton 7, Shawn 8, Tom 7


Now, I technically own Innovation and have played exactly one time before.  Sceadeau is apparently pretty smitten with it, though, and he wanted to introduce it (again, I suppose) to a few of us.  We started with a regular 4-player game basically to just teach it to us, because he really wanted us to try out the 4-player partnership game, which he thinks is a lot better.

To me, both games seemed to go very similarly.  We all built up in different ways, until someone got something out that ended the game in one way or another, causing someone to win on points rather than through achievements.  They both felt really chaotic and unpredictable, but they were also pretty fun as well.  So I don’t exactly know what I feel about Innovation after this second encounter with it.  I’ve heard that most people think it’s essentially a 2-player game, but I don’t have much use for 2-player games.  And while the 4-player game is fun and interesting, it’s also sort of Fluxx-like in how chaotic the whole winning and losing thing can be.  But I also do own it, so maybe I’ll try to give it a little more attention for a while, just to see if it grows on me and the group.  We’ll see… 

Time: 49 & 40 minutes
Game 1: Tom* 39, Norton* 23, Sceadeau 0, Shawn* 0
Game 2 (Partner version): Norton & Sceadeau 41, Tom & Shawn <41
Ratings: Tom 7, Norton 7.5, Sceadeau 9, Shawn 7.5

Hansa Teutonica (w/Expansion Map)

Evening was approaching by this point, and Ian suggested that we pull out Hansa Teutonica.  Now, I really love Hansa Teutonica, but I just don’t ever seem to play it anymore.  But for the most part, gameplay and basic strategy came back to me pretty well.  Even though we played the expansion board (which makes the game even better, by the way), I was still able to get things done pretty effectively and take the win.  And again, I’d say more, but there are a lot of games left to cover, and I’ve already written a Review – Hansa Teutonica of this before.

Time: 85 minutes
Score: Norton 78, Tom* 52, Shawn 45, Ian 29
Ratings: Norton 9, Tom 8, Shawn 6, Ian 8



A few of us ordered supper from the new Jimmy John’s in town, and pulled out Farmageddon while we stuffed down our sammiches.  It seemed somewhat appropriate to play a game about farming while we ate, and I had a really good time with it, especially since I won pretty handily.

Time: 46 minutes
Score: Norton $80, Shawn* $30, Tom* $20
Ratings: Norton 7.5, Shawn 7.5, Tom 6.5


Twilight Struggle

After that, Kenny and I managed to connect to finally play a game of Twilight Struggle together.  He’s played a few games of it recently with Adam (and maybe Keith?), while I haven’t played it for almost 5 years now.  But despite that, we both had a pretty decent handle on how to work it out.

Kenny took the USA since he had mostly played the USSR before, which I wasn’t unhappy about at all.  And much like happened in my first play, I managed to get the win.  In this game, though, it only lasted until sometime in the mid-war before I was able to score both Europe and the MIddle East in the same turn to get to 20 VP and end it.

Afterwards, Kenny expressed some frustration about the game.  Mostly, he just couldn’t see what he had done that led to his demise.  I couldn’t really offer him much in the way of advice (since it was practically my first play), though.  He did invest pretty heavily in the Space Race (and was way ahead of me there), but that was partially due to him wanting to bury cards that were good for me (and due to me rolling terribly on the cards that I dumped into it). 


I get the feeling that the main “skill” in the game is knowing how to prioritize playing out your hand and then making the best choices with how you play them, but I don’t really have a clue which sorts of things are the “best” or “most efficient” for a typical play.  I found myself usually playing things for their event or just to add influence on the board, while he invested a little more in coups, but I don’t know that the difference there was as significant as I see it now.  There’s also quite a bit of randomness with die rolls and all, but I don’t even know that I had a much better time with that either. 

So anyway, I had a good time with it, and hope that he and I can play it again soon on the other sides of the Iron Curtain, just to see if it might turn out a little differently next time.      

Time: 80 minutes
Score: Norton (USSR) – Win (20 VP), Kenny (USA) – Lose
Ratings: Norton 7.5, Kenny 7.5

Castles of Burgundy

Since our game ended so “quickly” and others were all tied up in games, Kenny and I pulled out The Castles of Burgundy, which I was happy to try out as a 2-player game.  And if anything, it actually seems a lot tighter and more restrictive with 2, since so many less tiles are placed out each phase.  That’s not a bad thing, though. 

But if there were any “complaint” I’d have about the 2-player experience, it’d be that it seemed to be very balanced with a lot of parity, where pretty much whatever one of us would do, the other would have something they could do to more-or-less get an equivalent number of points.  And even when it looked like I was going to be able to get a little distance by completing a large farm in the last phase, Kenny still ended up finishing just 7 points behind me, which isn’t all that significant a difference in score.


 81 minutes
Score: Norton 187, Kenny 180
Ratings: Norton 8, Kenny 8

1960: The Making of the President

It was then past 1:00 am, and I perhaps made my worst choice of the night: I tried to teach 1960: The Making of the President to Tom when both of us were already getting pretty fatigued.  I had good intentions, though, wanting to play 1960 and Twilight Struggle in the same night, but I was just too shaky on the rules of 1960 (having also not played it in a few years) to be really coherent in teaching it, and then not being able to give Tom enough to go on in planning his strategy for the game.

So in the end, it was a pretty ugly landslide in the final tally, and Tom didn’t have much fun at all.  So I’m sorry, Tom, please don’t judge the game too harshly based on this one play at 2am with a dude who was barely able to speak at the time, let alone teach such a beautiful and complex game. 

Time: 105 minutes
Score: Norton 408, Tom* 129
Ratings: Norton 8, Tom 6.5



Feeling the fatigue really settling in on me by this point, I decided that I would usher in the dexterity portion of the night to try and get our blood pumping and keep us awake.  So I set up a nice little track with my PitchCar set using the jump from the Extension.

I didn’t even write down who all was involved or who won the games, but we had a lot of fun.  We ran through one race on the track and then went in the opposite direction for a second race.  Then Tom and I set up another track (with two chained jumps over nothing but table) which was also a blast.


Time: 102 minutes for 3 races
Score: Scores
Ratings: a really freaking good time was had by all

Tier auf Tier (Animal Upon Animal)

And from there, being mostly brain-dead by this point, I pulled out some chunky wooden animals and played with them for a while…

Time: 15 minutes
Score: Shawn* – win; Tom* & Norton – Lose
Ratings: All 8’s


Animal Upon Animal: Balancing Bridge

And a little longer still.

Time: 9 & 6 minutes
Score: Norton – 2 wins; Shawn & Tom – 0 wins
Ratings: All 8’s


For Sale

So then as the sun started to come up and we could see the finish line up ahead, we played a couple of fillers to get us through…

Time: 14 minutes
Score: Shawn* $66k, Norton $62k, James* $56k, Tom* $50k
Ratings: Shawn 8, Norton 8, James 7, Tom 8

No Thanks!

Finishing up with No Thanks!, my favorite filler of all time.   

Time: 35 minutes (for 4 hands)
Score: Shawn 85, Tom 148, Norton 162, James* 254
Ratings: Shawn 9, Tom 9, Norton 9, James ?

Technically, this finished up about 20 minutes before 8am, but most of us decided to play the dexterity/spatial arrangement game called “fit all the games back into my trunk” to finish off the event.

And in addition to all that I played, other games that saw play at other tables included:

Sentinels of the Multiverse – Chris and James committed to playing a 15-game sub-marathon where they faced off against every single villian released to date.  It was pretty awesome, especially since they won 14 of the 15 games!

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Letters from Whitechapel
Ghost Stories
Space Hulk
Agricola (the drafting portion, anyway)
7 Wonders
Smash Up
Lords of Waterdeep
Isla Dorada
Shadow Hunters
The Downfall of Pompeii

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Overall, it was a pretty incredible event!  While I’m not sure that the exact format will be the same next year, I’m already thinking about how to make it better.  And I’m also hoping that we can work even more closely with Jim and Adrienne of the Great Big Table podcast, as well as with a few other podcasters and bloggers to make it even more incredible both for us and for the kids that we’re able to help.


  1. Chris-

    Thank you for picking up the gauntlet of joining the Extra Life effort this year. I admit that I pulled a dirty trick by invoking sick kids, but you were gentleman enough to look past that blatant ploy and step up.

    That’s to your credit.

    We’re still processing our Extra Life experience and Adrienne is recovering from a multi-week illness, but we should get our Extra Life recap episode recorded soon in order to add to the knowledge of what we all learned and played this year.

    Ultimately we broke $2100 dollars. I can’t help but think that it is in no small part due to our friendly competition. I also believe that we are on to something potentially big and I am looking forward to doing something bigger and better next year.

    Adrienne pointed out that before this, before our individual efforts and the efforts of our team mates there was that much less money available to families with real life needs in the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (yours at Duke and ours at Riley). Though those families will never know who that helping hand came from when they needed it the most, to give them financial aid in some of the most emotionally and financially terrifying moments in any family’s life, it is something to truly be proud of.

    You and your team has made the world a little bit better. Take solace and have pride in that. There is always more to do, but I believe these are the first steps of many and I am honored to be on that path alongside good people like all of you.

    Thank you.

    Jim Jones
    co-host, Great Big Table podcast

  2. Chris Norwood

    Okay Jim, you keep throwing around this “$2,100” number, but I just don’t see it.  Sick kids are important and all, but we all know that the really important question here is “who won?”  And from what I see, you’ve only made $1,418 between your two teams, while my team raked in a whopping $1,941.

    Now, I don’t know how long it takes people up there in Indiana to count money, but we’ve been all tallied and squared up here for some time now.  So when will the “recount” be over so we can declare a winner?

    All joking aside (since, of course, all that above was just joking around… mostly), I think that the area we have the most room to improve on would be the on-site fundraising.  I’ve heard about a lot of groups and stores having give-aways and raffles and other sorts of contests, and I’d definitely like to consider more of those sorts of things next year.  And, of course, if I actually started fundraising earlier that 2 weeks before the event, that might help as well.  But we’ve got a long time before all that needs to be decided, I suppose.


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