Being a Parent and a Gamer: Part 2.

Making the most of your precious (little) free time.

As a continuation from my last post, I wanted to keep sharing perspectives from gamers who have become parents. We’ve written this article in conjunction with a snapshot survey of the Racketboy community (A fantastic, definitive retro gaming site) — I wanted to capture the responses of fellow gaming compatriots who have children. Have they continued to find enjoyment (and time) in gaming as a hobby? (You can read part one here.) Our interview questions focused on the intersections of being a parent and enjoying video games as a hobby. Outside of time spent gaming, have the types of games they’ve played changed? Do they see their children taking an interest in gaming? Their insights I really appreciated as a new parent, and I hope they are relatable or provide some take-away wisdom. Today, three new Racketboy forum members step up to the plate: Reprise, Marurun, and BogusMeatFactory. My own reflections will come in a follow-up conclusion to this article series.

Amount of Time Spent:

As a parent, has there been a change in how frequently you are able to play games?

Reprise: “Absolutely. Honestly, nothing prepares you for the huge change that is having a baby the first time. I don’t even think it’s naivety per se, it’s just nothing prepares you for it. It’s a huge change. Free time? Say goodbye to that for the first few months, especially the very first weeks. I used to game all the time (retro and modern), but don’t do as much anymore. I also cancelled my PSN subscription because I don’t feel I can justify paying for it anymore (I don’t even play any online games on my PS4 anymore).”

Marurun: “Yes. I can now only play games pretty much after the child is in bed, because he’s still too young to involve him in my game-playing.”

BogusMeatFactory: “There has absolutely been a change in how frequently I play games. When becoming a first time parent, a vast majority of my time was spent taking care of them versus spending personal time playing games. “

How many hours a week on average did you play before your kid(s) were born? Did this change when your kid(s) were just born or very young.

Reprise: “Several to be honest. I’d game most evenings and all weekends for the most parts. There were the odd patches when I wouldn’t game as much, but on an average week, I would play a game at 2 or 3 evenings in the week and then put in several hours over the weekend. When they were first born, I didn’t game anywhere near as much in the first few weeks. Then I slowly started building it up again. I feel like I still got plenty in as when they’re so young, you are quite limited with what you can do with them and they do sleep a lot. Does that sound terrible? Haha, I don’t mean it to.”

Marurun: “Between PC and consoles, maybe 7-20 hours a week, depending on what games I was involved with at the time.”

BogusMeatFactory: “I spent roughly 20-40 hours a week…I gamed a lot. After my first daughter was born, I spent roughly 8 hours a week at a maximum depending on the situation.”

How did this change as your children have gotten older?

Reprise: “As he got older, I started to manage more of a schedule. So during nap time, I’ll game a bit. Sometimes I put in a bit in the evenings after he’s asleep. I also stopped gaming in front of my son. Especially because I’m not comfortable with the more adult nature of a lot of my games (not just GTA or anything adult rated, but just the general levels of violence or bad language in a lot of normal games) and also because he needs me to be focussed on him and engaging with him.”

Marurun: “When the child was still a newborn I didn’t have time for almost any gaming that wasn’t on my phone. Once he was old enough to largely sleep through the night I was able to start playing some games again. I think I peaked at about 8 or 9 hours a week, and only because I was determined to finish a particular game. More casual gaming activity was less than 4-5 hours a week.”

BogusMeatFactory: “I have had a lot more time to play games as my daughter grew up. She is 3 now and I have more time to play games and more time to play games around her. My playtime is now around 20 hours-ish a week at maximum.”

Types of Games:

Before you were a parent, what were the most common genres you enjoyed?

Reprise: “I don’t know, as I like most genres and games. I guess adventure games, platformers, FPSs, cinematic games.”

Marurun: “I mostly played FPS shooters and action-RPGs on PC, occasionally taking time out to complete a recently acquired classic console title. I liked leveling and loot mechanics in games, so I did kind of gravitate to those for PC-fare.”

BogusMeatFactory: “I played a lot of multiplayer games, MMORPGs, Online Shooters and games with a heavy community focus. I also played a lot of co-op games with my wife. Usually I played a lot of games that were time extensive. That required a lot of focus and for long periods of time.”

Did you have a preferred platform for gaming?

Reprise: “PS4 and PS3 for modern gaming. Dreamcast, Saturn, Mega Drive and PS2 for retro. “

Marurun: “PC, 75-90%, other older classic consoles, 10-25%. Mostly PC Engine, Genesis, or Wii in recent years.”

BogusMeatFactory: “I played mostly PC and Nintendo platforms pre-child.”

Did becoming a parent change the types of games you enjoy or the types of platforms you play them on?

Reprise: “I play a lot less retro and the PS4 is no longer my preferred platform. Handhelds like the Vita and the hybrid Switch are now my preferred platforms because CONVENIENCE. I rarely play retro games now to be honest, just because it’s a bit more of a faff…”

Marurun: “I haven’t played enough games since to be able to say for genres, except that I’ve been largely handheld/mobile exclusive for the past year. Everything I’ve spent any real time with has been on DS or Switch. I will tentatively say no, except with PC largely out of the picture it has mixed up what’s available to me. There are lots of PC games on my Steam account that I would probably have played that I haven’t.”

BogusMeatFactory: “Having a child absolutely changed what platforms I play games on. I didn’t have a lot of time to play games on my PC, because it was not conducive to taking care of a child. Add to that, a lot of my playtime shifted away from online games so that I could pause or dedicate time to help out at a moments notice. If it was late at night and my daughter would wake up and cry, I could immediately stop what I was doing and help her. Having the Wii U was a huge help during that time though, as I could hold a sleeping baby and play certain Wii U titles.

As my daughter grew older, I had more opportunities to play online games thankfully. Using things like Steam Link to my TV and the Nintendo Switch have really opened up a lot of opportunities to play the types of games I used to enjoy late at night while also taking care of my second child. Also, a very strange thing occurred recently. Games have been more accommodating to people with disabilities and I have been able to use that to my advantage. Wearing headphones is difficult, because I can’t hear a baby cry and having sound on my games could easily disturb my family (my wife works as a nurse and needs to be asleep by 7 PM on nights). Some games, like Fortnite offer a hearing impaired mode where sound is simulated visually in the game and has been a boon to me, allowing me to play without restraint (and honestly it gives me a slight advantage to be fair).”

Enjoying Games with your Kids:

Have your children become interested in video games as a free-time activity?

Reprise: “My son is just 2, so he hasn’t seen a lot. When I used to do more gaming in front of him, he showed a lot of interest. I even had to give him his own controller as a toy (it’s a third party PS3 pad), although I’ve since taken it off him due to fears he’ll bite the sticks off and choke on them.”

Marurun: Not yet, he’s too young.

BogusMeatFactory: “My first daughter is only slightly interested. She cares more about physical activities than video games. She is 3 years old currently and I try to introduce her to some of the classic Nintendo games, which she shows a minor interest in. I even built levels in Mario Maker to help introduce her to the concept of running left to right, jumping to get coins etc. Each level ramped up and introduced new elements to help her. She didn’t show much interest. I think a lot of that is that I don’t spend a lot of time in the day time playing video games. I talk to her about them, because I am interested in them and she loves the Nintendo characters, but doesn’t really connect them to the games themselves.”

Was there an age that you started enjoying video games together?

Reprise: “He’s too young, but hopefully soon. Like I said, he has shown interest. Also, he LOVES the new Shenmue 3 trailer.”

BogusMeatFactory: “Only now have I started being able to enjoy any game time with my 3 year-old. We have played Dr. Mario and the original Mario Bros. She is just now starting to grasp the concept of inputting commands on the controller and seeing it appear on screen as an action. I hope that she gets into gaming, because I found it to be insanely helpful in critical thinking skills, problem solving and reading comprehension.”

Are there specific games that your kids enjoy that you now enjoy (perhaps even begrudgingly)?

Reprise: “See above. At 2, he’s still probably a bit too young.”

BogusMeatFactory: “Not at all. My 3 year-old hasn’t done much gaming without me and I am very open to new and different types of play.”

Are there any restrictions as a parent you place on the games your kids play, content specific or amount of time?

Reprise: “There will be when he starts gaming. Currently, he’s not allowed to watch too much TV. It’ll be the same for games. I’ll also try and avoid anything inappropriate or violent until he’s older.”

BogusMeatFactory: “My daughter gets 1 hour a day maximum to do Tablet time, using the Kindle Fire Kids Edition. It comes pre-loaded with software and learning tools and a very rich parental control settings. We set limitations on her using the tablet for videos and games and require a certain amount of time in her 1 hour to do reading and comprehension, basic math and writing skills.”

Racketboy Honorable Mentions: Any favorite classics that you enjoyed as a younger version of yourself that you’ve gently nudged them into trying? How were the results?

Reprise: “Shenmue as mentioned above haha.”

BogusMeatFactory: “I’ve been trying hard to get my daughter in Mario and it has had mixed results. She loves Mario and Luigi as a character, but shows a minor interest in the games themselves. She has loved the colors and action of Splatoon (not to play, but to watch) and is my personal cheerleader when I play. I am looking to get her introduced into Animal Crossing when it comes to the switch and really hope that is her first game to really get into. It really encourages reading and writing skills, socialization and problem solving. Plus it allows me to indirectly interact with her townsperson and her world in fun and exciting ways.

I also got her to play some of URU: Ages Beyond Myst, having her run the character around, which she enjoyed, but had no idea what was going on. Mostly I want her to be comfortable with the idea of moving an avatar without fear of death so that I won’t discourage her. I do not backseat game as I want her to experience it at her own pace. Also, some of the games I treasure the most, I want her to experience without me being there, so that she can process it at her own pace and share with me. I am excited to see if she gets into games, but will not in any way be disappointed if she doesn’t. She is her own person who has a love and passion for things already. She knows I love to play games and the last thing I want to do is pressure her into thinking she needs to like them in order to bond with me. We will see how things turn out as she grows up.”

Thanks so much to Reprise, Marurun, and BogusMeatFactory for sharing their thoughts and perspectives on being a gamer and parent. I’ve really learned a lot from hearing their stories, from their own personal tastes, takes on how to purposefully engage their children on gaming, and making time for gaming despite having a family. In the next (and for now, final) post, I’ll share how gaming has changed for me with having a very young baby.

You can read part one of this article series here! Thanks for reading and please share your own story and journey with gaming and parenting in the comments below.

Being a Parent and a Gamer.

How to be a tightwad with your (little) free time. Part 1!

Photo Credit: Mrs. Tightwad Gamer.

It has been a great while since my last article, but this week’s article will open up as to why there’s not been a lot of content posted on the site. It’s my goal to get back to a regular posting schedule and publish an article every other Wednesday. I have a lot of hopefully cool content that readers will enjoy.

We welcomed our first child in October, and that brought a world of changes. It has been a truly life-changing moment for us. We love our little one so much and it’s been challenging, heartwarming, and full of awesome memories already. One emerging thought I had during the months prior to our son’s birth was if/how I’ll still enjoy gaming as a parent. Our site is really about being frugally minded while enjoying video games — frequently focusing on the financial side of things. Now several months into being a parent to a wonderful kiddo I’ve come to understand my free time is my most scarce resource.

I am writing this article in conjunction with a snapshot survey of the Racketboy Community — I wanted to capture the responses of fellow gaming compatriots who have children and continue to find time to enjoy video games. Our interview questions focused on the intersections of being a parent and enjoying video games as a hobby. Outside of time spent gaming, have the types of games they’ve played changed? Do they see their children taking an interest in gaming? Their insights I really appreciated as a new parent, and I hope either they are relatable or provide some take-away wisdom. Today, I’ll be sharing the responses of three people: Racketboy Nick, Tanooki, and BoneSnapDeez. Additionally, I’ll share three additional member’s responses and my own reflections in two separate follow-up articles.

Amount of Time Spent:

As a parent, has there been a change in how frequently you are able to play games?

Racketboy: “My little guy turned five this week — we’ve been playing games together here and there for a couple years. We probably play a little bit even other day together.”

Tanooki writes: “Yes, once she was old enough to start wanting to do things and not just play alone, and earlier when she was a baby or toddler. A lot more basic things were needed and lots of sleep at that age so time was more available than now.”

BoneSnapDeez: “Slightly. I actually never sank a ton of time into gaming in the first place, to be honest. I will say this: the potential to have an all-day lazy gaming day on a Sunday or whatever has been destroyed since having kids. That’s the only “big” difference I’ve noticed.”

How many hours a week on average did you play before your kid(s) were born? Did this change when your kid(s) were just born or very young.

RB: “Right before he was born, I actually wasn’t playing a bunch as I was in the middle of a lot of work/business stuff. I’ve picked up more in the last few years as work stuff has changed and I also share with him. I honestly don’t think it changed too much — sometimes you stay up late with the baby and play games or watch Netflix”

T: “I really don’t remember, it kind of depends on what game(s) I was into at the time. I had a best friend at work then though too so in the evening I’d put an hour or a few into the Guild Wars games until he died suddenly on Christmas a few years back. But during the day 1-2 hours, sometimes more if the game demanded it. I got lucky I had a baby/toddler that didn’t need to be fed, changed, and handled every hour of the day and night, good eater and sleeper so there was minimal impact.”

BSD: “Maybe 12-15 before. Dropped down to 7-10 after. Maybe less. When my daughters were newborns I don’t think I played anything for the first month or so of their lives.”

How did this change as your children have gotten older?

Racketboy: “As they have gotten older, I team up with them on games more. We just got a Wii U, so we are loving Nintendo Land together.”

T: “I’m mostly the go-to to take her to her activities after school and I do pick up so I’m up at 6 to work, off at 2 and head over that way at that point. Mostly I can game on a mobile device (Gameboy to 3DS or likely iPhone) unless it’s after 7 or so when it’s bedtime. I do play games with her though so there are times.”

BSD: “Gradually risen. Back to 12 weekly hours or so.“

Types of Games:

Before you were a parent, what were the most common genres you enjoyed?

RB: “Fighting games, strategy, platforms.”

T: “I don’t have a set taste, so nothing has changed about my choice, just when and where I can get away with it.”

BSD: “RPGs, platformers, simplistic old arcade and Atari type games. This is simply what I’ve always enjoyed.”

Did you have a preferred platform for gaming?

RB: “Mostly Sega stuff.”

T: “Primarily handheld, has been since N64 had issues 20 years ago. So right now it’s Switch, other mobile devices, my PC, then retro consoles.”

BSD: “Mainly 2nd-4th gen. Atari 2600, NES, SNES, PCE, and Genesis seem to get the most use.”

Did becoming a parent change the types of games you enjoy or the types of platforms you play them on?

RB: “I still enjoy the same [genres], but I play more platforms and party type games now.”

T: “Not at all. If I were a console gamer more than handheld it would have, it’s easier when you’re on the go, but since I wasn’t it hasn’t changed.”

BSD: “Platforms remain relatively consistent. I now play a lot more two-player stuff with my eldest daughter. Or, I should say, the two-player mode of games I previously always played solo — Contra, Mario Bros., Bubble Bobble, and so on.”

Enjoying Games with your Kids:

Have your children become interested in video games as a free-time activity?

RB: “Yup!”

T: “Yes. Funny little story I would play them when she was old enough to sit up after age one in my lap, and one day I was playing River City Ransom EX on my GB Micro and she grabbed it out of my hand. She mashed on the button a bunch and took a dude out, and it did the classic BARF! I never really got her into it, but she saw my stuff and got curious.”

BSD: “My oldest wants to do it most every day, yes.”

Was there an age that you started enjoying video games together?

RB: “Probably like 3 years old. But he would chime in on Guitar Hero when he was 2.”

T: “Aside from the story above, two years ago I got her her first device, a really sweet deal on a clean girl owned Gameboy Color berry colored handheld with a pokemon pikachu pouch and a stash of games on Labor Day. She enjoyed it a lot so it grew from there as my mom gave her her barely used pink DS Lite, and as they came out I got her both the NES and SNES Classic Edition which she does the Mario and Kirby games on. I now have a Neo-Geo arcade cabinet, a modern cocktail 60in1 iCade, and Pin-Bot and she loves that stuff. Really on the MVS she loves the Bust-A-Move games, various games like Pac-Man to Burgertime on the iCade, and Pin-Bot would be obvious as it’s real pinball. She can do tablet gaming as well, likes both.”

BSD: “Probably when she was 3 (almost 4?) or so.”

Are there specific games that your kids enjoy that you now enjoy (perhaps even begrudgingly)?

RB: “My son likes Guitar Hero/Rock Band more frequently than I would play. We like similar games (although he’s not old enough for all the stuff I like). It’s more about the convenient timing of the day (especially when you work from home)”

T: “She loves the 8bit and 16bit Super Mario and Kirby games console and handheld. As I pointed out already too Bust-A-Move games on the Neo-Geo and I got her a GBC version as well. A typical kid she loves the childrens games on GBA and DS usually licensed but thankfully some of the better items around Hello Kitty, Ponies, Nick stuff, and definitely those pet/horse care type games. She even likes those decent Famicom based Hello Kitty games too so I’ll pull those out as she likes to use my import games/kits on my consoles too.”

BSD: “I play certain puzzle games with my daughter now that I previously didn’t have much interest in — Bust-a-Move comes to mind, along with that Hello Kitty game on PSX.”

Are there any restrictions as a parent you place on the games your kids play, content specific or amount of time?

RB: “We are trying to work in a time system, but he gets to play maybe 30 min to an hour a day but then gets to watch if me or my wife play.”

T: “She has attention issues with focus, is exceptionally smart and gets stuff done, but a talker. So besides punishments for behavior slip ups at home or school, she’s allowed time to play and even has a kids fire tablet which on there it has a set cut off time for non-reading type fun stuff. The other it’s monitored, kind of just depends how it goes but she doesn’t waste hours on it so there’s currently no need to say you get 30 minutes and it’s over or you lose it. Content, we buy the stuff, so obviously it’s the K rated level stuff, nothing E10/T/M with the ESRB.”

BSD: “Content isn’t an issue with the older stuff, generally, though my wife got ticked when she saw us playing Streets of Rage, haha. Generally when I play a game with my daughter we won’t go beyond 30 minutes or so.”

Racketboy Honorable Mentions: Any favorite classics that you enjoyed as a younger version of yourself that you’ve gently nudged them into trying? How were the results?

RB: “Sonic and Mario were great successes! He’s enjoyed a lot of 16-bit stuff, but he’s also enjoyed NES and certain Atari 2600 stuff!”

T: “Well yeah, why do you think I got her the NES and SNES Classic Edition? The NES was a surprise got it the day they canceled the original run, and the SNES I smuggled into a closet as a just from me Christmas gift last year. I know her current limits so I got her more focused on the various Mario and Kirby games listed, and I’ll have her do others as she loves Kirby’s Dream Land 3 on my console. As I see her skills go I’ll throw her something on her system like Balloon Fight, Mario Kart, Dr Mario and see how it works out as a test and to spread it out. The results are mixed, just depends what she’s capable of. I got the NES in 1985 (dating myself) when I was 7 almost 8, so I can’t quite expect the same proficiency from a 5 and 6 year old around those things but she’s improving.”

BSD: “Actually, my daughter has recently been getting into RPGs. She’s made it through the first hour or so of Final Fantasy. Since I don’t want to torture her I’m having her play the GBA port rather than the NES original.”

I want to personally thank Racketboy, Tanooki, and BoneSnapDeez for sharing their stories and experiences. I’m signing off now to go give my kiddo a bottle, then perhaps when we’re done playing and reading I’ll fire up my PS4 and play through some Spiderman. Let’s hope he cooperates with naptime! If you’re a parent, going to become a parent, or if you have some thoughts, I’d love to hear you sound off in the comment section below.

Sizzling Summer Special – Traveling Tightwad

Summer Travels? Check out an arcade!

Hey Everyone! I must apologize for the lapse in content over the past months. Other aspects of life seemed to catch up with me and work and other projects outside of Tightwad Gamer took precedent. So, without a moment’s notice, I wanted to share with you part one of a summer-themed article I’ve had on my mind for a while. The first covers some gaming-related venues you should visit during your summer travels. The second article, published soon after, will center around great handheld games you can indulge during your journey.

Summertime trips often come with a final destination in mind. Yellowstone National Park. San Francisco. Denver. Boston. New York. Regardless of your destination, you may have a few stops along the way. Why not make a local arcade one of them? For me, arcades were the beginning moments of the hobby. Arcade trips as a kid were exciting, and is fun to look back on those warm memories. However, arcades aren’t a relic of the past; though video games have changed drastically, arcades have popped up in a lot of major cities (and others never left!). Visiting an arcade allows you to explore or re-experience wonderful gaming history, supports a local business, and is an enjoyable social experience that deserves to be an excursion during your journey. Finally, it also doesn’t break your vacation budget. Need some further convincing? Read on!

Reason 1: Affordable, charming fun.

Arcades are often a great venue for gamers of all ages. Whether it’s giving the kids (and yourselves) a break from the drive, or allowing the parents to hop on a favorite arcade cabinet from their childhood, an arcade can be a cheap part of your day out or a pit stop along the way. Depending on what your price range is, arcades usually have two different pricing models: an admission fee (machines on free-play) or coin-operated, either by token or quarters. Some also offer food and special packages that combine food and games in one price. Soon after, you can jump into the excitement of different sights, sounds, and feels of arcade games. These machines are usually well maintained and locally owned and operated. You’re likely to get an afternoon of enjoyable gaming and some good memories over the shared experience. Finally, it won’t be the same level of expense that buying a new game for your home console.

Reason 2: Exploring gaming genres

Arcade games come in all types of exciting varieties, each posing a unique challenge. Be it shooters, beat-em ups, puzzle games, or racing, you can dabble in a lot of different video games. The novelty of sitting down and racing a group of friends or family members in Daytona (DAAAYYYTONNNAAA!) USA on a linked cabinet comes to mind. Experiencing the six-person X-Men cabinet (though unforgiving if you’re playing with quarters) is certainly an awesome experience, too. Maybe it’s a winner-stays tournament of Capcom vs. SNK, Street Fighter, or Tekken. Your trip to the arcade can be a time to jump into a new gaming experience or a time to rekindle a love for a favorite game. I was able to play a Sega Astro City cabinet during my wife and I’s honeymoon, something I’ll always remember. You’ll be sure to find something that will surprise you.

Reason 3: Bond over video game history

As the next generation of kids settles into gaming as a hobby, it can be a great time to experience the history of gaming. After all, arcades represent a golden age of gaming, prior to the popularity of home consoles. There’s something timeless and enjoyable about playing Galaga with my Dad. Likewise, letting your kids experience gaming the way you remember it can be a fun way to enjoy gaming together. Whether it’s your favorite Ninja Turtles stopping Shredder and the Foot Clan, Jumpman (not Mario) saving Pauline from Donkey Kong, or the timeless challenge of avoiding Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde, a trip to the Arcade is a great way to immerse yourself and the little ones over the rich history of video games.

Bonus Stage: Barcade.

A novelty that’s popped up in the past decade or so is the phenomenon known as a Barcade. If you like a social environment that lets you play awesome games and sample the local brews of the area, a Barcade can’t be beat. I love Barcades. I’ve played (and trash talked) during a NBA Jam tournament at my bachelor party. I’ve relaxed and played Ms. Pac Man over a nice summer ale. I like the social environment that also allows me to kick back, enjoy some games and a nice cold beer. A positive is the machines almost always have cup holders or drink tables near the cabinets, so there’s less risk to the machines in the event of a spill. And it’s always worth saying, please remember to drink responsibly!

Wrap-Up:

Wherever your travels (or stay-cation) may lead you, I hope you consider dropping into an arcade in the near future. Check out Yelp or do a friendly internet search for arcades in the area prior to your trip. Hours, admission/prices, and a list of games are usually listed. I’ve also had good experiences contacting the business owners via Facebook if I have any questions. Shout out to the The Coin Slot in Traverse City, Michigan, for giving me the inspiration to write this article shortly after a family vacation of our own. Thanks for reading and safe travels!

Tightwad Gamer Reviews – Star Wars Destiny: RIvals.

Draft play is on the way. We gave it a spin!

Today, we’d like to review an exciting new addition to the Star Wars Destiny dice and card game, the Rivals Draft Set. This set releases on February 15, 2018. We will be evaluating if the new draft format adds depth, enjoyability, and value to Destiny.

If you’re unfamiliar with Star Wars Destiny, this is a dice and card game that was released in 2016. From Fantasy Flight Games’ website: “Star Wars™: Destiny is a collectible dice and card game of epic battles across the Star Wars universe. In the game, two players must gather a team of heroes or villains from throughout the saga, pitting them in battle against your opponent. With a set of premium dice and a deck of cards to support your characters, you must build your forces, launch cunning tactics, and deal damage to your enemies. The last player with characters left standing wins the game.”

A game of Destiny plays by alternating turns between players, each making decisions from choosing from a set of actions spelled out in the rules. Many of the characters from the Star Wars series are represented with their own unique abilities and dice. The game itself is designed to play as if you’re in a duel on the battlefield, in true Star Wars fashion. It was something that drew me to the game initially, and is what still holds my interest in the game, being a fan of the Star Wars universe.

Mechanically, Destiny requires a constructed deck of 30 cards. These 30 cards do not include the character, plot, or battlefield cards you also pick from you collection. Players can build these decks through purchasing starter sets for $15, or booster packs, which retail for $3 each. A starter set includes everything necessary to experience the game: rules, cards, dice, and tokens. Boosters are purchased for $3 each and contain 5 cards, and 1 die. These are used to build up a player’s choices in building a deck. Cards that have dice are often choices of characters, weapons, abilities, vehicles, and titles used to build synergy with other cards. Like Magic: The Gathering or other Customizable Card Games (CCG’s), Destiny players build custom decks for a format called constructed. Often in building decks, players seek the strongest cards suited for their playstyle.

Players looking to be competitive in organized play often seek to purchase individual cards that are pulled from packs, sometimes at a premium price, or purchasing packs whose contents are randomized. This can quickly add up if you’re looking for specific cards to add to your deck. For around $100, a box of 36 packs, or $3 a pack, you’re possibly dropping some serious cash without a guarantee of getting the cards you want. This is where I believe Rivals was a necessary addition for those who don’t want to purchase boatloads of packs.

Rivals allows for two ways to play: Draft Play and Sealed Play. Draft requires the Rivals set and six booster packs, and Sealed requires the Rivals set and eight booster packs. Draft is what you would expect for a draft — players open their packs, choose a card, and pass the remainder until all cards have been chosen. The player then makes a deck of 20-30 cards from rounds of drafting and the cards contained in the Rivals set. Sealed requires a player to open all eight packs and assemble a deck from the packs they opened.. My review highlights my experience with a night of playing Draft Play.

(Courtesy FFG) All rights reserved.

I was able to play at my favorite local game store, with 7 other players participating in our first draft. Everyone arrived, bought their packs and draft set, in total we each spent $31. We all sat down and began the process of drafting. This was my first draft experience and I found it really exciting, trying to be strategic around what cards I selected to construct my deck. I ended up with a deck that went 2-2 in four matches. Here are my reflections:

  • The Rivals set: There’s a good variety of cards that are included: some excellent characters, battlefields, and other cards that help supplement what you’ve already drafted. Many of these cards I believe will end up in constructed play as well. My one criticism is that there are no tokens included. This is not inviting for new players who may want to learn through a draft.
  • Draft: Overall, this adds a new degree of dimension. You can have as many of the same card in your deck as you want, as long as you draft them, which is exciting. A minor gripe I have is that 6 packs out of 36 in a box contain a legendary card, which can include some great characters and upgrades. Additionally, during our draft, characters were rare, and may limit variety across matchups.
  • Number of players: In hindsight, having one additional round of draft may have allow for some greater choices in drafting. This adds a little to the cost, but should be a consideration if you’re playing with more than six players..
  • Price: $31 for an initial start in the game is decent. Later drafts don’t require anything more than the packs required. Having the ability to draft cards that I need in my collection is a way to mitigate cost and build a collection.
  • Enjoyability: This was a really fun experience. It was a fun evening. Drafting is a fun strategic element. Our decks were all over the place. Sometimes they were comically bad and didn’t work the way we have intended. I felt this was a fun new way to play the game with a whole new set of dimensions added.

Overall, this set does add a really interesting way to jump into Destiny. I believe that it adds a lot of variety to the game, and is something new, compared to the meta of constructed play. If amassing a large collection of cards doesn’t seem interesting to you, if you enjoy the fun factor of a draft, then I think it’s worth giving the Rivals set a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I rate the Rivals set 8/10.

Enjoy Star Wars Destiny (or any CCG) on a Budget

A not so long time ago, in a local game story nearby…

Jumping into a Customizable Card Game can be an expensive endeavor. This can be exacerbated if you want to stack up to other players. CCG’s often have a valid criticism that the games can be pay to win; someone shelling out the most cash can afford decks that dominate constructed play. In my experience, Star Wars Destiny helps alleviate some of these concerns. Whereas Magic: The Gathering relies only on cards that are expensive and powerful, Destiny adds a dimension of play by adding dice rolls to cards in play that helps level the playing field. In this article, I share some positive experiences I’ve had while playing Star Wars Destiny, through the lens of a competitive player with a budget in mind.

If you’re unfamiliar with Star Wars Destiny, it is a dice and card game that was released in 2016. From Fantasy Flight Games’ website: “Star Wars™: Destiny is a collectible dice and card game of epic battles across the Star Wars universe. In the game, two players must gather a team of heroes or villains from throughout the saga, pitting them in battle against your opponent. With a set of premium dice and a deck of cards to support your characters, you must build your forces, launch cunning tactics, and deal damage to your enemies. The last player with characters left standing wins the game.”

A friend and I first decided to jump into Destiny in April of 2017. My friend Sam had recently taught me how to play Magic. However I was overwhelmed with the amount of mechanics involved in the game. Instead, we decided to try out Star Wars Destiny, since it was a new game and a local player base was popping up in our area. One thing great about Destiny is that the community in our area has been excellent. The game brings together Star Wars fans, card game lovers, and board game lovers alike.

We started by purchasing a starter set each (approx. $15.00), and played a few games to grasp the basics. Afterward, we collectively bought three boxes, one each and splitting the third ($150). I decided on exclusively wanting to play hero themed decks, and Sam decided on playing (not exclusively) villain decks. After trading around some duplicates, we had assembled some pretty solid decks and began to be competitive in our area. I managed to take third place in a local store Championship in June and won a cool playmat (see image). In total, I spent a huge sum of around $900 into the game. That’s a ton of cash spent that I simply would not be okay with. But I didn’t spend this out of my own pocket. I used a number of strategies to think frugally, come out $250 ahead by the end of the year, and still enjoy a really fun game. Here are my tips and tricks, which may be applied to other card games as well:  

  1. Decide on what your spending limit. Set your budget.
  2. Decide on what you want to play. I exclusively play hero decks, simply because the characters appeal to me. This put any villain cards I pull right into a sell/trade pile.
  3. Decide on 1-2 decks to play. I wish I could put more time to it, but picking two decks to play has reduced how much time and money I put into the game. Who wins each week tends to rotate around. I at least have a good time with the people I’m with and win a fair amount of matches.
  4. If possible, sell and trade to reduce what you pay from your own pocket. I feel like this is an essential step. I understand that people may have different amounts of disposable income, and different ways of purchasing items for the game. I have a local game store that buys and sells video games, card games, and board games that accepts trades for store credit. This was a huge win for me. I had some old MtG cards, and traded some rares for $40 store credit. I found a large bunch of video games through a local moving sale and sold and traded those for far more than what I paid for them. In total, I spent nothing out of my own pockets during 2017 for anything gaming related, but amassed a good set of cards to play with. I don’t anticipate replicating this each year, but I do try and keep my budget for gaming as close to $0 as possible. It might require a little work on your end, but it has been rewarding knowing that I am enjoying gaming virtually for free.
  5. Be strategic and capitalize on release day of new card sets. Dovetailing with #4, people tend to want cards that you may pull from the newest packs. Trade for cards you want for decks you’re building. Sell any cards you don’t need when demand is at its highest.
  6. Enjoy the ride. Enjoy the games.

Interestingly enough, a draft format of Destiny is arriving on February 15, for which I’ve drafted an accompanying article. Since this article focused on constructed play, I think it may offer some additional insights on enjoying the game, one that doesn’t result in purchasing boatloads of packs. Check it out next week! Thanks for reading!

The Do-It-Yourself Solution for Storing and Displaying Video Games.

Storage and display should not cost a fortune.

You’ve spent hard-earned money on games. Now how will you go about displaying them? Some gamers proudly display their expansive collection of games in their library. There’s something charming about perusing shelves and reading the titles on the spines. Others go for a sleek minimalist look, desiring ways to keep the collection out of sight. The truth is if you’re going to dedicate a space in your home where you play games, you should enjoy the look of it.  This article discusses some of the benefits of do-it-yourself projects that cleanly display your collection without busting your budget.

The art of woodworking.

An average shelf at Ikea will cost you around $40-60. Carpentry is an incredibly useful skill in contrast. You can make a variety of practical pieces of furniture at a very affordable price, often with better craftsmanship. The best part is the satisfaction that comes from building something yourself, learning new skills in the process, and later admiring your handiwork. For these reasons, I often choose to build things on my own, using sturdy but cheap (sometimes even free) building materials, borrowing tools, and assembling and finishing pieces, often with a good friend. The only costs incurred are the time designing, building, and finishing the product, along with some of the materials that I don’t have on hand.

You may be thinking, “TWG, I don’t have any tools or equipment!” I will let you in on a little secret: neither do I. Beside your basic home all-in-one tool set, I personally don’t own any saws, clamps, drills, etc. I’ve asked friends or family to jump in and help with projects, and in return do a favor or chore to help out. If that’s not an option, you can see if there’s a local woodworkers guild or workshop where you can rent tools. Whether you’re a novice or experienced, it is highly recommend to take health and safety precautions, like wearing proper personal protection equipment like gloves, goggles, and earmuffs. Make sure that if you’re a beginner you’re doing the construction with someone, this includes getting instructions on how to use the tools safely and effectively. For example, I didn’t make any of the initial cuts with the table saw we used on my first woodworking project. I was able to observe proper cutting technique and safety measures, before practicing myself. Be sure to consult someone with experience if you’re unsure!

What are the benefits of building your own furniture?

Customization:

You can design and build to any specification your heart desires. Are you trying to fit your complete GameCube collection on a shelf? No problem! NES carts? Easy-peasy. You can build storage and display units that have the perfect amount of space in between shelves for any type of game case, etc. Simply measure the height of the case, add xxx inches for some wiggle room, and you’re good to go.

Beyond shelf height, you can also customize the overall size of the piece of furniture. Most of us don’t have unlimited space for our video game collections. By building your own custom shelving, you can tailor your design to the specific height, width, or depth that you need for your unique gaming space.

Finally, how many times have you brought home a bookshelf, only to find that it matches none of your other furniture? One of my favorite aspects of custom built game storage is  finishing, which includes staining and applying polyurethane to the untreated wood. You can choose what look you’re going for that matches your room, and create multiple pieces with exactly the same aesthetic.

The customization factor is awesome.

Durability:

Depending on the materials you use, what you build has greater strength and will most likely last longer than anything you can buy in a furniture store. Most bookcases and media stands you can buy are a thin layer of veneer underneath MDF (particle board). They are prone to damage from moisture and over time begin to sag if there’s a lot of weight rested on them. When choosing materials for your custom project, consider oak or maple. These types of materials will ensure your storage will stand the test of time, which will also save you money in the long-run.

Price: On average, building your own will be much cheaper than most manufactured furniture. As long as you’re not using super-expensive cuts of hardwood, you’ll find you can build cheap, durable and good-looking furniture at a portion of the cost. See below for some specifics on pricing and materials.

Skills:

Carpentry is a wonderful skill to learn, if you’re willing to be patient and take your time. It’s both relaxing and gratifying to build something with your hands. It will make you think more about the items you own and make you more likely to build something that will last, rather than something you are likely to throw away. There’s a wealth of resources on YouTube to make it simple and demonstrate before you begin.

Any drawbacks?

Time.

This is the biggest con, so weigh this out. If your time is valuable to you and sacrificing it is too costly, this might not be for you. Most projects can be completed in a couple of days but some range to a week or two, depending on how much time you have available. However, it can be well worth the time to have a beautiful, custom storage solution that may come in well below retail price.

Waste. 

Waste can be a potential drawback, so it needs to be mentioned. If you don’t plan well, or double check your measurements, this is what can run you into trouble. There is tons of wisdom in the saying, “measure twice, cut once.” If you’re not paying attention and don’t double check your math, you can venture into territory that will incur extra cost. So, make sure your measurements add up, have someone spot check your measurements and how much material you’ll need.

Tightwad Gamer Budget Categories for DIY Furniture:

Ultra Low-Budget Category: Re-purposed Pallets.

Most often, groceries, retailers, and other businesses receive their goods via shipping pallet. If you’re polite and ask, they’ll be willing to let you take a few off your hands for free. Most are made from safe, treated wood that can be used in a woodworking project. Before you use a pallet, check to make sure it’s not treated with formaldehyde or methyl bromide. This website provides a good guide. I’ve found excellent pallets that are made of maple, pine, and oak.

A caveat to using pallets is that the wood is rough cut and is often not planed or sanded. If you’re using a sander, however, you’ll make short work of this issue. Sometimes the pallets can become warped from repeated use, so check to make sure you’re grabbing pallets that are nice and even. Last, be careful of removing nails from the pallets; sometimes the elements can eventually rust the nails, so take proper precautions like wearing gloves (and having an up-to-date tetanus shot!) It’s for your health. 🙂

I’ve used pallets in several woodworking projects, leading to some awesome shelves that display my entire video game collection. I built these for around $10 each, where all I purchased was a box of screws, a can of stain, and some polyurethane.

(I built this shelf on the left out of a single pallet, to display my Dreamcast games)

Low-budget Category: Pre-cut lumber at your hardware store.

If you’re not all about the pallet option, you can also pick up higher quality, finished boards that you can assemble into a quality storage unit, entertainment center, or battlestation. Your local hardware store will have a variety of both hardwood (birch, poplar, maple and oak) along with softwood (usually white or red pine). If we’re sticking with the theme of a shelf, you might need a two 10’ 2×4’s or 2×6’s, a ¼ “ sheet of plywood for a backing. Most Lowes and Home Depot will actually rough cut the boards you need on site, so past that all you’ll likely need to do is assemble and finish. When all is said and done,, you might be in the ballpark of $20-$30 a shelf, depending on size..

Mid-range Category: Hardwood veneer plywood.

Now we’re starting to venture into the pricier options. Hardwood is it if you want a board that takes stain well, is heavier and heftier, and is less prone to dents and damage. You have the choice of buying specific lengths and cuts of hardwood boards. You can find decent deals on hardwood veneer plywoods. You get an excellent piece of wood that is affordable and is able to be finished with stain and poly. You can often find oak, birch, poplar, and maple plywoods. For this option, I choose birch plywood. A 4’x8’ sheet at Lowes  costs around $55. A single sheet allowed me to build a “consolecade,” which looks like a classic arcade machine that I use to play and display all my gaming consoles. I also used a second sheet to build both a computer desk and entertainment center for our TV. For around $120, I was able to assemble an entire set of furniture in the gameroom. These are quality cherished pieces that I’ll be able to keep for the long-run.

Parting thoughts:

I hope this article helps inspire you to get started on your next project. I’ve been able to build some functional, durable, and affordable custom storage at the cost of my own time at a vastly cheaper expense. For around $150, I’ve been able to piece together all the furniture I wanted for our gameroom: it’s custom, fits our collection and my space perfectly, and it matches everything else. If you have any ideas for projects, or perhaps you’ve actually built something that you’d like to share, please leave a thought in the discussion below!

 

PlayStation+ vs. Xbox Live Gold. A 2017 Tightwad Year in Review

Which Online Service Offered the Most Value?

2018 brings a new year for gaming, and for many of us, a new year for gaming resolutions. Maybe you will set out to beat more games than you buy. Or perhaps you’d like to be more present with family and friends by implementing a monthly game night. Regardless, we at Tightwad Gamer hope one of your resolutions is to PAY LESS, and PLAY MORE and this article aims to do just that! Today, we have a face-off: PS+ vs. Xbox Live Gold. Which service provides the most value?

One possibility to consider (or reconsider) when assessing your frugal gaming needs are online subscription-based services. These are typically required for online play if you have either a Sony or Microsoft console. But who has time to figure out whether these services are really worth it? (hint: we do).Today, specifically, we’d like to offer a detailed comparison on PlayStation Plus vs. Xbox Live Gold (PS+ vs. Live Gold). Plus and Gold are premium subscription services for Sony and Microsoft consoles. Xbox Live and PlayStation Network each provide access to messaging and apps, including video streaming like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Ultimately, games on both consoles require Plus and Gold to take advantage of online play and communication services. Each service however does offer another unique perk: free games and special discounts offered each month. This article intends to examine both services and make an conclusion on which offered the most value in 2017.

Let’s cover pricing and terms. PS Plus and Xbox Live Gold both have the same pricing structure: $9.99 for one month, $24.99 for three months, or $59.99 for one full year. Free games span the following platforms: Xbox 360, Xbox One for Xbox Live Gold and PS3, PS4, PSVR, and PSVita for PS Plus. All games can be played with an active subscription, but cannot be accessed if a subscription expires. There is one exception: 360 games are retained permanently once “purchased” through the Xbox store.

Methods:

Before we jump into all the details that follow, here are the overall questions I focused on in this comparison:

  1. Which service delivers the most value in free games based on Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)?
  2. Which service provides the highest quality games based on Metacritic aggregate scores, as part of the free games it offers each month?

Calculating total retail cost provides an objective variable to determine overall value. This will not include the price of the same game bought in physical format, either new or used (as these prices are variable). Discounts on purchases will be omitted in this comparison. Another variable we’ll use is Metacritic aggregate scores to provide broad insight on the quality of these games. The intention is to see if any differences emerge. Games lacking a metascore will not be calculated into the final average, for fairness sake.

With this information, let’s take a look at the list of complementary games made available by participating in PS Plus or Xbox Live Gold:

Xbox Live Gold

PlayStation Plus

Name: Price (MSRP): Metacritic Score: Name: Price (MSRP): Metacritic Score:
World of Van Helsing: Deathtrap $19.99 80 Day of the Tentacle* $14.99 84

January

The Cave $14.99 70 This War of Mine $29.99 78
Killer Instinct Season 2 Ultra Edition $34.99 85 Blazerush (PS3) $9.99 70
Rayman Origins $19.99 87 The Swindle* $14.99 73
Azkend 2* $7.99 67
Titan Souls* $14.99 74
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime $14.99 82 LittleBigPlanet 3 $19.99 79

February

Monkey Island 2 Special Edition $9.99 85 Not a Hero $12.99 74
Project Cars Digital Edition $29.99 81 Starwhal $11.99 78
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed $19.99 73 Anna: Extended Edition (PS3) $9.99 75
Ninja Senki DX* $4.99 64
TorqueL* $9.99
Layers of Fear $19.99 78 Disc Jam $14.99 72

March

Evolve: Ultimate Edition $39.99 74 Tearaway: Unfolded $19.99 81
Borderlands 2 $19.99 89 Earth Defense Force 2025 (PS3) $49.99 69
Heavy Weapon $9.99 77 Under Night: In-Birth (PS3) $39.99 80
Severed (Vita) $14.99 82
Lumo* $19.99 73
Ryse: Son of Rome $19.99 60 Drawn to Death $19.99 56

April

The Walking Dead: Season 2 $24.99 79 Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime $14.99 82
Darksiders $19.99 83 Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom (PS3) $14.99 50
Assassins Creed: Revelations $19.99 80 Alien Rage (PS3) $14.99 52
10-Second Ninja X* $9.99 76
Curses’N’Chaos* $9.99 70
Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams $14.99 77 Tales from the Borderlands $14.99 86

May

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris $19.99 72 Abzu $19.99 78
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 $19.99 61 Blood Knights (PS3) $9.99 43
LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga $19.99 80 Port Royale 3: Pirates and Merchants (PS3) $19.99 54
Laser Disco Defenders* $9.99 80
Type: Rider* $7.99
Speedrunners $14.99 84 Killing Floor 2 $39.99 75

June

Dragon Age: Origins $14.99 86 Life is Strange $19.99 85
Watch Dogs $29.99 78 Abyss Odyssey (PS3) $14.99 70
Assassin’s Creed 3 $19.99 84 WRC 5 FIA World Rally Championship (PS3) $29.99 62
Phantom Dust $14.99 81 Neon Chrome* $14.99 63
Spy Chameleon* $4.99 71
Grow Up $9.99 74 Until Dawn $19.99 79

July

Runbow $14.99 82 Game of Thrones $19.99 69
Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days $14.99 63 Tokyo Jungle (PS3) $14.99 74
LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean $19.99 73 Darkstalkers Resurrection (PS3) $14.99 80
Element4l (Vita) $9.99 62
Don’t Die, Mr. Robot* $3.99 76
Slime Rancher $19.99 81 Just Cause 3 $59.99 73

August

Bayonetta $19.99 90 Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry $14.99 71
Trials Fusion $19.99 80 Super Motherload $14.99 65
Red Faction: Armageddon $29.99 71 Snakeball (PS3) $9.99 65
Downwell* $4.99 80
Level 22 (Vita) $6.99 69
Forza Motorsport 5 $39.99 79 Infamous: Second Son $19.99 80

September

Oxenfree $19.99 78 Strike Vector Ex $14.99 75
Hydro Thunder Hurricane $14.99 75 Truck Racer (PS3) $9.99
Battlefield 3 $19.99 84 Handball 16 (PS3) $19.99
We Are Doomed* $9.99 61
Hatoful Boyfriend* $9.99 72
Gone Home $19.99 85 Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain $19.99 93

October

The Turing Test $19.99 80 Amnesia: Collection $29.99 78
Rayman 3 HD $9.99 69 Monster Jam Battlegrounds (PS3) $9.99
Medal of Honor: Airborne $19.99 73 Hustle Kings (PS3) $9.99 81
Hue* $14.99 77
Sky Force Anniversary* $9.99 77
Trackmania Turbo $39.99 76 Worms Battlegrounds $24.99 62

November

Tales from the Borderlands $14.99 88 Bound $19.99 71
Nights Into Dreams $9.99 72 R-Type Dimensions (PS3) $9.99 82
Deadfall Adventures $39.99 43 Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic (PS3) $9.99 68
Dungeon Punks* $14.99 71
Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse (Vita) $24.99 72
Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide $39.99 77 Darksiders 2: Deathinitive Edition $29.99 72

December

Back to the Future: The Game $19.99 75 Kung Fu Panda: Showdown… $9.99 63
Child of Eden $29.99 84 Syberia Collection (PS3) $29.99
Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death $14.99 66 Xblaze Lost: Memories (PS3) $39.99 63
Forma.8 $9.99 78
Wanted Corp $11.99 59
Total: $1,034.51 Total: $1,228.28

Results

Average $/Month $86.21 Average $/Month $102.36
Average Metacritic Score: 77.22 Average Metacritic Score: 71.88
Results:

Plus:

  • (+): PlayStation Plus, in terms of retail value and quantity, offered 72 games at an estimated $1228.28 for various consoles on the PlayStation Network. This is a difference of $193.77, which is a clear margin between Xbox Live Gold.
  • (+): A unique factor for Plus is the Crossplay function that allows certain games to be played on both the PlayStation Vita and the PlayStation 4 through Cross Buy. Offers some additional games on the Vita that let you play on the go, as long as you have a Vita.
  • (+/-): Some games released each month are solely for PS3 or Vita (25 in 2017). If you don’t either of these, you’re out of luck. Still, six games a month free on average across PS3, PS4, Vita, and PSVR is pretty nice.
  • (-): PlayStation had a slightly lower Metacritic aggregate score of 71.88 for all free games offered in 2017.

Gold:

  •  Xbox Live Games With Gold offered 49 games for an estimated retail cost of $1034.51. In the comparison of retail price of free games, Gold was edged out by Plus, but $1000 of games is hardly something to scoff at. Still, for comparison’s sake, this results in a mark against Gold.
  • (+): All Xbox 360 games provided through Gold in 2017 are backwards compatible through the Xbox One console. They’re also free to keep if your membership expires.
  • (+): Gold edged out Plus in the metacritic comparison, winning with an aggregate score of 77.22.

Some of the finer details are noteworthy: both services offered a comparable number of quality first and third party games as well as large and small studio games. Multiple genres of games are also well-represented. However, the conclusions are still fairly subjective. If you’re on a budget and have one of these consoles, the value from free games you get from having one of these premium services is considerable. You’ll often get a number of quality games for your consoles each month.

Determination: 

  • If you have PS3, PS4, and Vita, then clearly you’ll get more mileage out of Plus. Annually, you may get more retail value than Gold, but you’ll still get 50% more games than Gold. Six games a month might be plenty for PlayStation gamers to enjoy.
  • If you’re looking for slightly better quality of games offered, Gold provided this in 2017. To be fair, 2018 might be a different story. However, if you also want to play all the games offered on a single console, The Xbox One with Gold is a worthy choice with its backwards compatibility.

Overall, this decision seems like a no-brainer if you already enjoy online console gaming. If not, you still get quite a good deal for only $60/year. Regardless, I’d love to hear your experiences about PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold and any other thoughts you might have in the comments below! Happy 2018 to you all! Have a New Year’s resolution? Perhaps starting a budget? The Tightwad Gamer Guide to Budgeting may be of use!

5 Affordable (and Awesome) Card Games Worth Your Time!

You won’t pay a lot, but you’ll get a lot out of these games.

You might say we’re in a renaissance of board and card games. There’s no shortage of quality games, but the amount of choices can lead sometime be a bad thing. You may be spending time with friends and there’s interest for playing a new game together. It can be hard to introduce a new game to a group of family and friends. You often want games that at their core, they are fun, has straightforward rules, and has an easy learning curve. Games that are simple to pick up and play, even for a newcomer are wonderful and inviting. If after playing the first time, your first instinct is to play again, merely from enjoyment factor, different strategies to try, or there’s still time for another round, then you’ve got a great game on your hands. Today we’ll focus on some affordable card games that are easy to learn, are awesome, and can be enjoyed in a relatively span of short time. They’re all ones I’ve personally enjoyed and I hope this is a helpful article.

Sushi Go (GameWright)

MSRP: $12 (2-5 Player); $22 (2-8 Player)

This is a great little card game that can be learned in the span of about 5-10 minutes, which is really playing through a single round. Sushi Go is all about assembling an ideal hand of different sushi cards that reward points based on the combinations you can assemble. Everyone is dealt an equal number of cards. The game starts by everyone choosing a card they’d like to keep.. Everyone then reveals the card they chose, and passes the leftover cards to the left. The round ends when everyone chooses the last card, and points are tallied for the round. At the end of the third round, the person with the highest score wins.

The scoring is very simple, with the point values and how they are earned clearly printed on the card. There’s a few variables to keep in mind. Some sushi require specific numbers of cards (that other players might be keeping tabs) in order to get some or all of the points. For example, sashimi rewards a player with 10 points if three sashimi cards are revealed. If you don’t assemble three of those cards, you receive no points. Additionally, a player may reveal chopsticks, shout “Sushi Go!” and then choose two cards from their hand. After, they place the chopsticks back in the hand from which they were chosen. By watching what others are playing, you get a good idea of what strategy you should use to win.

The illustrations on these cards are absolutely charming and adorable. There’s sashimi, nigiri, maki, tempura, wasabi, chopsticks, and pudding. The play is fun and lighthearted, and is fairly simple to pick up and learn quickly. This is an outstanding game that is easily enjoyed by players of all skills and abilities. Sushi Go retails for $11 for a 2-5 person game, and the deluxe 2-8 party version retails for $22.

Tightwad Gamer Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars. Fun, enjoyable, and definitely affordable, Sushi-Go is an amazing little card game.

 

Love Letter (Alderac Entertainment Group)

MSRP: $11.99

Love Letter is a simple game of deduction, reasoning, risk-reward, and a little bit of luck, built for 2-4 players. The player’s goal is to pass a love letter while at a party, and beat out the other players trying to do the same. You do this by enlisting the help of others at the party, by playing cards from a very small number of cards. The game consists of a 16 card deck. Each card has a character, corresponding value that ranges from 1 to 8, and a specific ability printed on it, complete with elegant illustrations of the characters.

At the start, every person is dealt a card, which they look at and keep in secret. Play starts to the left of the dealer. On their turn, a player will draw a card, then play a card from their hand face up. Playing a card means performing the exact action that is written on the card. For example, playing a “Guard” card allows you to name another player and the type of card they are holding (I think so-and-so is with the Baron!). If you’re correct, that player discards their card and is out of the round. The round ends when either the last card from the deck has been played, to which all remaining players compare the card in their hand with everyone else’s — the highest value held wins, or when only one player remains after everyone else has been eliminated. The first player to win three rounds wins!

With the limited number of cards in the deck there’s a finite number of each card, which feeds into the deduction and reasoning aspect of the game. The risk-reward comes from the choice you have to make during your turn on which card to play. It’s really easy to learn, the rounds go pretty quickly, and I’ve never had a bad time playing it. When I want to break the ice with folks who are usually not too keen on board games, this one almost always does the trick. Love Letter Retails for $12.00, but you can usually find a great deal online. (Not an affiliate link). There’s some fun edition, such as The Hobbit, Batman, and Archer, which incorporate the same premise with a few slight twists.

Tightwad Gamer Rating: 4 / 5 Stars. Love Letter is a nice little compact game that’s sure to delight. It’s simple yet refined, and I enjoy the card-counting and strategy elements.

 

Lost Cities (Thames & Kosmos)

MSRP: $20

Lost Cities is a tremendously fun card game for two people. Coming from a person who adores strategy games like Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan, Lost Cities offers similar gameplay of planning and tactics that can result in an enjoyable experience in a very short amount of time.

Each player represents an adventurer about to set off on one of five different expeditions, with each expedition represented as a color of cards within the deck. Each player is dealt 8 cards at random from the deck, and the cards have either a number value between 2 and 10, or a $, which denotes an investment card. Play is simple: play a card, then draw a card. You play a card by either laying it down on an expedition in ascending order, where it remains, or by discarding a card to a respective discard pile (there’s one for each color). Starting an expedition has a cost value, which you hope to negate by playing additional cards from your hand and drawing into others you can play. Investment cards allow you to double, triple, or quadruple the profits or losses of your expedition, but can only be played prior to starting the expedition. The game ends when the last card of the deck is drawn, and score is tallied.

I personally enjoy lost cities for the quick rounds, something that usually results in, “C’mon, one more!” types of exchanges. It’s a great game for couples during a weeknight where something fun and simple comes to mind. I also love the simple thrill of strategy of which expeditions they’d like to pursue. It’s a little less involved than planning your routes in conjunction with your destination tickets in Ticket to Ride for example. So given with how short the games can be, how easy it is to pick up and play, and an overall fun playing experience, Lost Cities is one that you should definitely have in your cabinet.

Tightwad Gamer Rating: 5 / 5 Stars.

 

Utter Nonsense (Utter Nonsense, LLC)

MSRP: $25

This a game we recently enjoyed. Utter Nonsense is a fantastic card/party game in gameplay that is similar to Apples to Apples or Cards against Humanity. There’s two card types, accent cards and phrase cards. At the start of the game, all cards are shuffled and all players are dealt 7 phrase cards. A player is chosen to start as the Nonsense Judge, and chooses a card from the accents deck. This is the chosen accent from the round, and each player will choose and read aloud a phrase card in that specific accent. Some of the phrase cards pair well with the accent card, but more often than not they don’t. After each phrase is read aloud, the Nonsense Judge deems which accent and phrase was the funniest. A player wins when they have won five accent cards.

I haven’t enjoyed a game this much in years. In the first round, I was in tears. A half an hour into the game, I had received a full ab workout from my fits of laughter. The game balances a good sense of humor and interactiveness. Some people are good at accents, and then hilariously bad at others. As long as you’re comfortable in your own skin and don’t mind being ridiculed, you’ll probably enjoy yourself. I watched my brother in law give a passionate speech in the accent of chicken. He later had to do an Australian accent which came out sounding more like someone from New Jersey, which we didn’t let him live down. I had the pleasure of entertaining everyone with a French accent and an awesome phrase card: I shared about my recent trip to Kalamazoo where I played the Kazoo for all of my zoo friends. Very often the cards are just fun to act out, watch people really go for it, and laugh together in the process.

The accents seldom veer into the inappropriate/harmful territory. I think the designers had this in mind. The phrases, at least in the adult “Naughty Edition” version of the game, are definitely offensive. I haven’t played the “Family Edition” but can imagine it’s toned down a little bit more for younger players, ages 8 and up. The game is purchasable online and in store through Target, retailing for $25.

Tightwad Gamer Rating:  4.5 / 5 Stars. Utter Nonsense is downright hilarious. My first few plays have been some of the most fun I’ve had in years with a card game. I am hoping the creators start to add little expansions here and there.

 

Star Realms (White Wizard Games)

MSRP $14.99 (base game, expansions available).

Star Realms is a fantastic two player spaceship, combat, deck-building card game. This is similar in some respects to many deckbuilding games like Dominion, but combines elements from games like Magic the Gathering or Hearthstone, in having a set number of health to start, labeled authority points. The first person to drop down to 0 authority points loses.

Each player starts with a set number of cards representing different spaceships you control that either have a trade value or a combat value. Combat values make people lose authority points, whereas trade values help you build up your deck through purchasing more valuable and powerful ships, outposts, and base, which come from a shared deck both players purchase from on their turns. As you buy new cards for your armada, they are placed in your discard pile, then reshuffled back into your deck to play once you draw the last card from your deck. As the game progresses, you acquire a bigger fleet which can branch into different factions with their own color, abilities, and play style. It really becomes about outlasting your opponent by battling it out!

I really appreciate Star Realms for a fun sci-fi setting and exciting gameplay. It’s straightforward to learn and still challenging to master. This is a great game for someone who wants to have a fun card game experience at a fraction of the cost for a constructed card game such as Magic or Hearthstone, or other deck building games like Dominion, Ascension, or Legendary. But if you want to have a unique card-game experience at a fraction of the cost, Star Realms can’t be beat. (Also not an affiliate link!) It does have some additional expansions you can pick up as you go on and want some new space adventures!

Tightwad Gamer Rating: 4.25 / 5

Honorable Mention: Joking Hazard.

Since Utter Nonsense was already mentioned, I still want to tip my hat and give Joking Hazard an honorable mention. Joking Hazard is another game to be successfully Kickstarted. Joking Hazard plays very similar to Apples to Apples and Cards against Humanity. However, it comes from the popular webcomic Cyanide and Happiness and a round consists of making a three-panel comic. In this awesomely funny game, everyone has 7 cards which resemble a single frame of a comic. The cards have funny illustrations, complete with expressions or dialogue written on them. A judge flips a card from the top of the deck, and then takes one of their own cards and adds a second frame to the comic. All players then play a card of their own face down. The judge flips up each remaining panel, and chooses the winner of the round. Play then rotates. There’s plenty of other play variants too. It’s hilarious, it’s obscene, and it’s great. Joking Hazard sells for around $25, has lots of replayability, and has a few expansions out already. It’s worth it.

Tightwad Gamer Rating: 4.5/5

 

If you have any other enjoyable games that you’d like to recommend or think I should give a shot, please let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!

All games and images referenced in this article are the respective intellectual property of their owners, and this article and all content this site is generated for entertainment and informative purposes only. Thank you!

Free Yourself From Gaming Debt, Slash Your Backlog!

Cut the backlog. Play games. Save money.

Through many years of enjoying video games, one issue has quietly and slowly crept up on me. This little villain is called a backlog. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? My backlog didn’t really emerge until I was out in the workforce, earning more disposable income. I would buy games that I was really excited for, usually at full price upon release. My backlog gleefully accepted my wallet’s sacrifice in its name. In the midst of earning this money, I found I had less time to enjoy these newly purchased games. Bit by bit, I found myself finishing fewer games and getting less enjoyment, but still purchasing more and more. By that time, my backlog had grown to a point where I had to set aside  considerable amounts of time to try and conquer. Has this ever happened to you? I, for one, am tired of backlogs.

Your experience might be vastly different from mine. Let’s visit a time in my past. Growing up, I had a Sega Genesis and my friend down the street had a Super Nintendo. Out of necessity, we simply played whatever game we had on hand, be it rented, borrowed, or owned. This wasn’t a bad thing by any stretch. I can recall moments being glued to the TV while marathon sessions of Super Mario World, NBA Jam, Street Fighter II, and Streets of Rage 2 dominated the living room. It was very easy to learn the ins and outs of games due to the amount of time you’d spend trying to master them. Regardless, new games weren’t something that I acquired very often. I only ever received new games from three possible special occasions:

  1. A birthday.
  2. Lengthy saving of an allowance.
  3. Christmas.

So, if the celestial bodies aligned, I might see three new games in the span of a year if I was lucky. To be fair, back then there was also the opportunity to rent games from your video store or borrow one from a friend. But, there was no such thing as a backlog. I played everything I had.

Getting my first job in high school opened up a world of possibilities. With no relative expenses to worry about (other than gas & car insurance), my newly found disposable income increased the number of games I could play through in the span of a year. This was undoubtedly awesome; I started working at the end of the Dreamcast and the rise of PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube. Still, I found very little competition for my time, with school, sports, and work being the only priorities over gaming. College didn’t feel that much different either, with LAN Halo nights on the campus network being a highlight.

Back to the original point. Now that I’m working full-time, have a career, and married, I have more responsibilities in life. I wish I could play more, but I can’t. There’s no way I can match my pace in playing with the pace games are released. The lesson I wish I would’ve learned earlier is not to go overboard in my spending, steadily increasing my backlog. Because of this, I’ve been seeking a new budget-friendly model, which led me to the goal I created for myself this year:

This year, I will beat more games than I buy.  I will channel those simpler times, getting the most out of one game at a time, and playing games off a backlog I’m determined to shrink (it’s right around 20% of what I own). Combined with my approach to setting a budget and sticking to it, I’ve actually managed to earn $270 on my gaming hobbies from flips and trades, while only purchasing 6 games this year and beating 9. If you have a backlog and decide to play through games from it instead of buying and playing new games, think of the money you’ll save! Perhaps it’s time to show some love to those games that have been collecting dust.

What are your opinions of backlogs? Do you have games piling up? Or is your backlog nonexistent? Is it easy to pick a game in it and dive right in? Or do you find it difficult to play what’s next? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments!

Spend $0 of Your Money on Gaming

Embrace the Flip, Master the Trade.

(Updated April 4, 2020)

Hobbies are expensive. Rather, they can be. What do you think the average gamer spends on their hobbies a month? $50? $100? What if I told you that I have spent $0 of my own money the past four years on gaming? This has been a goal I have been pursuing, and I’m willing to share my simple strategy with you. The premise is this: I think any person should embrace the practice of flipping. So, if you’re patient and willing to stick to a strategy, you can self-fund your own hobbies from selling and trading, and in turn cut down on the amount of cash that comes from your own pockets. Perhaps this can lead you to a path where you break even – or find yourself with extra cash in your pockets – at the end of the year. This guide is meant to share some tricks with this in mind.

A brief overview first. Flipping is the act of purchasing something, then selling it to turn a profit from your original investment. There is money to be made on items in demand. This can be as simple as flipping games you find, as they say, “in the wild,” or locally. Within this approach I include trading games into my local mom & pop game store, always for store credit. There is also value in flipping something you purchased cheap or on sale that might be a treasure in the rough. I think there’s often a resentful attitude towards flipping. The term “filthy reseller” gets freely tossed around by many. Suspending my own judgment; some people make their living from reselling electronics, places in line, and/or the latest must-have item. Their livelihoods may rely on flipping and reselling — I acknowledge that. With that said, it’s not in my or others’ best interest to gouge people. But, there’s a fair way to go about it. I’ll use a few examples.

Simple Strategy: Buy Low, Sell…Reasonably

Story time: throughout 2013 & 2014, I went on a bit of a spending spree. I stepped up my playing and collecting for the Sega Dreamcast, trying to fill out my collection and play a ton of games I never played when I got the console in high school. On eBay at the time, you could purchase cheaply priced lots consisting of games and console for under $100. Once it arrived, I pulled out any of the games that I wanted, then recouped most of my costs from individually selling the remaining games back on eBay. My net result on average: anywhere from $5-$10 out of pocket; sometimes $10-$20 profit. It was nice to fill out my favorite console of all time, but I was still going out of pocket.

Consider another tactic. With the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PS4 in full swing (though the latter two are making way for their successors: the Xbox Series X and PS5), the Wii U, PS3, and Xbox 360 have made their way into the last generation of consoles. There are plenty of rare games for these systems that collectors are trying to get their hands on now that they’re harder to find. Some of these are priced at GameStop below their actual value. It’s time to take advantage of your Power Up Rewards Pro memberships. You can help people fill in their collections, and be compensated for your finders fee.

Expand your flipping horizons!

In the past few years, I’ve refined this strategy a bit more. I’ve found decent deals at local antique malls, used book store, and the occasional yard or moving sale. I’ve picked up games for a buck or two, and done one of two things: sell them online, or take them to a local game shop. Mrs. Tightwad Gamer found 50 PS3 games for $50 from a colleague who was moving out of town. I hung onto a few, played them, and traded the rest to my local store. The end result: $50 spent amounted to $120 in store credit. We helped a friend lighten their load for a cross-country move. I played some games and made some trades. Lovely!

Also, occasionally scout around for a deal. Seriously. The best deals I’ve had were local finds I later sold online. I found an old antique oak flower seed box in a booth at a local antique mall. It looked old, but the wood and metal clasp looked to be in great shape. The booth had 25% sale. I bought it for $5.75, not knowing if it was worth anything. I found later these seeds boxes are particularly sought after by collectors, made in the late 1800’s and into the 1920’s. They regularly sell anywhere from $40 to $75. The one I found didn’t appear in completed/sold auctions, so I listed it for $40. The auction ended at $135.49. Unbelievable.

I found a copy of Brave Fencer Musashi for PlayStation 1, sealed at a local book store. After trading in some old books and CDs, and using a coupon, I bought it for $30. I sold it for $200. I netted $135 in profit. The deals are out there, sometimes it does boil down to luck.

The point from these three stories: always keep your eyes peeled for a deal. If you’re patient, you’ll find a great treasure that can net you some cash!

Keep it reasonable. Keep your dignity.

Don’t rip off the folks hosting the yard sale. If someone’s got something particularly valuable and it’s priced pretty low, let them know what they have. Be honest about it. Buy the whole lot (if there is one). Offer a few extra dollars if they change their price. Make it so that the seller and you, the buyer, gets a fair deal. Buying things at yard sales and moving sales helps clear space in someone’s house, so be polite, fair, and move along. Bottom line, be respectful about it all.

Manage your time well. If you’re always on the hunt, it’s more likely you’ll burn out or feel compelled to make an impulsive, costly purchase. Watch out for decision fatigue. If you’re spending every single weekend hunting, you’re burning time, money, and energy. Can it take away some of your enjoyment? I think so. So, when I run errands, I relax, suspend my expectations and enjoy the random drop-in to my local store. I’ve been more surprised and grateful over what pops up along the way. That, and making time to play what I already have.

If I had to share a final thought, stick to your budget. I’ve felt the urge to splurge after netting some deals, but fight that impulse. Thanks for reading. Do you have any tips and tricks to your hobby-related purchases? I’d love to hear what works for you.