This past weekend gamers around the world took part in a charity gaming marathon called Extra Life. This huge gaming event raises money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
Here in Windsor, the entire Bellhop Team spent the entire weekend volunteering and taking part in our local Extra Life event held at The CG Realm.
Games were played, baked goods were sold, auctions happened and we raised a lot of money for a great cause.
Disclosure: Some of the games mentioned in this post were provided to me as review copies. Some links in this post are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. There is no additional cost to you and we get a small kickback if you buy something through one of these links.
What is Extra Life?
Extra Life is a worldwide charity gaming initiative that started in 2008 in the USA. It started off as a video gaming event where gamers would play games for 24 hours in order to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Since that time it has spread worldwide and has expanded to include all forms of gaming including tabletop gaming.
I was first introduced to Extra Life through local gamer Jamie Shepherd who participated in 2013. In 2014, I also took part and we invited other local gamers to join our Extra Life team.
2019 marked my 7th time taking part in Extra Life as a team captain, volunteering, promoting and supporting events here in Windsor. This year our main event was on November 2nd and 3rd and including having The CG Realm open for 33 hours straight with a variety of gaming events going on throughout the day. In addition this year we also had some “Road to Extra Life” events leading up to the big day in order to drum up interest and start fundraising early.
These events included our Extra Life Board Game Blitz board game tournament, our Level Up with Extra Life RPG event, and a 12 hour Extra Life Warm-Up event.
For more information about Extra Life check out the charity’s homepage here: https://www.extra-life.org/
How did we do during the Windsor Extra Life charity gaming weekend?
This past weekend the awesome gamers of Windsor (along with some very much appreciated online donations) managed to raise over $5000 at our charity gaming marathon.
The biggest fundraiser of the year is our geek and gaming auctions. These feature new and used games and other geeky items. This year we had lots of great donations from the local community as well as from 16 game publishers who provided sealed games for the auctions. This year’s live auction raised over $2400. The silent auction raised over $1200.
The local Artemis team was on site on Saturday. They were showing off the awesome Artemis Starship Bridge Simulator and raised over $200 for the cause.
Solon of Tabletop Renaissance hosted an X-Wing Tournament featuring prizes from Asmodee Canada which brought in over $180.
Kevin Doak and Jeff Szusz ran some great RPG tables and raised over $100, mostly from people cheating to keep their characters alive.
Then there was the bake sale, the escape room, the Board Game Bliss gift card raffle, cash donations and of course our Cheat Jars!
In total, we raised over $5100 this past weekend and I couldn’t be more proud.
A big thanks to our sponsors:
The CG Realm, Hidden Trail Escape Rooms, The Coffee Exchange, The Broadswords, The Tabletop Bellhop, Level 99 Games, First Frontier Logistics, EZY Mode, Geek Life, Spartan Sling, Board Game Bliss, Odd Bird, Industrial Tools & Supplies, Garphill Games, GMT Games, Parallel, Far off Games, MSI, Mindclash Games, Green Feet Games, Chip Theory Games, Ares Games, Atlas Games, Weird City Games, Leder Games, Aalbers Tool & Mold, Stronghold Games, 3D Game Shop, Steve Jackson Games and CLM.
What games got played at the Windsor Extra Life event?
While raising money is nice, the local Extra Life event is also an awesome chance to play some games. In addition, it’s a fantastic way to meet and game with new people. I met a bunch of local gamers I had never met before and got to play with a huge variety of gamers over the weekend. I hope to see some of them out at future events.
After getting everything unloaded and set up and ready to go Saturday, the first game I played was Go Cuckoo. I figured this was a fitting start to a charity gaming marathon. Yet again I was teaching this game to some experienced players who had never played it before. As expected it went over extremely well. Everyone loved it and I saw many games of Go Cuckoo get played over the weekend.
I saw many other games getting played that morning. There was a big game of Too Many Bones. Neil was setting up a game of Trickerion. There was a D&D Group that was dedicated to gaming for 24 hours straight just starting off their campaign. Kevin Doak had his huge Zigarut out on the table and was looking for players for his Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1e game. There was lots going on and plenty of options.
The next game I actually sat down and played was the new Minecraft: Builders & Biomes game from Ravensburger. This was a review copy that they sent me after Sean (from Hamilton) noted he really wanted to try it and hooked me up with a press contact.
Minecraft: Builders and Biomes is a rather solid game. It’s a tile drafting game where you are buying the tiles by having the right resources. These resources are “mined” from a big cube of individual blocks that you randomly create at the beginning of the game. The big thing here is long term planning. There are three scoring phases in the game, each which is looking for you to have different types of tiles in your playing area.
Overall it was rather solid for a licenced game. Far better than any other Minecraft game I’ve seen. I do worry that it may be a bit too crunchy for Minecraft fans that may not be into hobby board games and it may also be a bit too light for hardcore gamers. If you are a Minecraft fan I do recommend checking this one out.
Gold West was the next game I sat down to play. We played a four-player game that included both Seans (Sean from Hamilton and Sean Hamilton). This was only my second time playing Gold West, as well as my first play with more than two players, and I was very impressed. The game is surprisingly easy to teach.
My main complaint from the last time I played Gold West was that it features area control and that doesn’t work great with two players. With only two players every scoring goes to me or you, nothing gets split to other players. Having more than two players really made this game shine even more. There was rather fierce competition for both the Investment cards as well as the end game area majorities.
Everyone who played had positive things to say about the game and we all agreed we should play again later. Though that didn’t actually happen during the event.
At this point on Saturday, Doak’s Ziggurat was being explored. The local Artemis crew had shown up and had set up their bridge simulator. Bids were rolling in for the silent auction and we had pretty much a full house. A large group of casual gamers showed up and were having fun playing store copies of Monopoly and The Game of Life. A second D&D table started up and some Yu-Gi-Oh players took over part of The Windsor Sandwich Shop. We actually had one point where I had players looking for a table to be able to play. We managed to move some things around and find them a spot but the place was definitely hopping.
Just as Jeff’s Dungeon Crawl Classics game was getting started and Chad broke out Underwater Cities I sat down with local gamer Stacey and her granddaughter and taught them to play Monster Factory. While we didn’t get a ton of kids out to the event we did have some and I was very glad I had packed some kid-friendly games to play. Both Stacey and her granddaughter loved Monster Factory, though Stacey was a bit miffed at me for showing her another game she had to buy.
Shortly after that my own kids showed up to the event and joined their table. There my oldest taught them how to play Battle Sheep and other kids games. Other stuff I saw being played included Terraforming Mars, Quacks of Quedlinburg, Abomination Heir to Frankenstein and the Minecraft Card Game.
The next game for me was Horrified. The Universal Monsters board game from Ravensburger. This was my first time playing and teaching this hot new cooperative monster battling game. We set up a five-player game but then had to drop down to four as one of the players had to leave for a bit to go pick up a friend.
Horrified is a very well produced and neat game. Players are moving around a map trying to collect items in three different colours with various values. What they do with these items depends on which of the Universal Monsters are in that instance of the game. In our game, we were collecting red items to smash Dracula’s coffins and then eventually collecting yellow items to defeat him. At the same time, we were looking for sets of all three colours to try to discover the home of The Creature from the Black Lagoon in order to drive him off.
The game reminds me a bit of Shadows over Camelot, where each character does their thing but then has to draw from a Monster deck which causes new items to show up on the map, an event to happen (sometimes) and for the monsters to activate. There’s a ton of hype out there for this game right now and at this point, I have to say it’s justified.
Somewhere in here Brent from Hidden Trail Escape Rooms showed up and set up a portable escape room, challenging people to solve his puzzles while raising money for the cause. This was open right up until when the live auction started.
After Horrified, I met up with Dave Garbe from Wargaming Tradecraft. Dave used to be local but moved to Kitchener some years back. I love the fact that Dave comes back to Windsor for events like this and still keeps in touch with his old gaming community. The main thing Dave had signed up to do was to teach people to play Gaslands and that is what I played next.
Dave set up some rather neat looking scenery on a 3×3 wargaming table and had us each make basic Gaslands cars. We all had the same basic gear but got to pick where we wanted our one mounted machine gun to go. Front, Rear, Left or Right side. Other than that each of the five players vehicles were identical. He set up a three gate track and we got right down to playing.
Gaslands is a miniature skirmish game that has solid roots in template based games like X-Wing. The gear you are in determines which templates you can use. Dice are then rolled. These give you the chance to do things like change gears, add the potential to spin or slide and can cause you to take hazard tokens. The template you choose can also add these things. If you get too many hazard tokens you lose control.
The goal is to be the first player through all of the gates and touch the finish line or to be the last man standing. Unfortunately, we never got to see the end of the game as we had to pause it for the live auction. I had hoped to return to the game after the auction but by that point in the night it had gotten too late for some of the players, so we had to call that game a draw.
I really liked what I saw of Gaslands. The rules were more approachable than I expected and there’s also a lot more going on with the templates and dice than I expected. The way players can use things like skids and slides to their advantage, I found fascinating. I think I’m going to be trying to get out to some local Gaslands nights in the future.
As mentioned above our live auction is always a big draw. It’s also the unofficial end of the night for a lot of locals. Once the auction was done most of the crowd headed home. Many of the gamers who are there to game for 24 hours split up the time into two sessions and the auction is a good breaking point for day one. Plus, for those not committed to the marathon, it was getting late.
The first game I played after the auction was Jaws. This is another new game from Ravensburger (who were awesome enough to send me a review copy). Jaws is a one vs. many board game similar to games like Letters from Whitechapel or Scotland Yard. It plays a max of four players with one player playing the shark. The game is split over two separate phases, that actually felt like playing two separate games. How well the players do in the first phase directly affects the second phase.
In phase one the players are trying to find the shark and attach two barrels to it. Meanwhile the shark is trying to eat as many swimmers as possible. This phase uses a hidden screen and pad to track the shark movement while the players work together to try to determine the shark’s location. The second phase has the shark trying to either eat the other characters or destroy their boat while the characters are trying to kill the shark.
Overall I thought Jaws was interesting. It felt like playing two different games in a row and that was neat. I could see how years ago each of this game’s component parts would’ve been a separate game.
I played the shark this time and am saving my final thoughts on the game for when I’ve gotten a chance to play on the other team.
When Jaws finished up, it was getting late. The Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying game finally finished with the group clearing out the final floor of the ziggurat after 11 hours of play! I’ve got to thank Doak for bringing that awesome 3D dungeon out to the event. It was epic.
Personally, I was feeling rough. Every year the auction takes a lot out of me and this year was no exception. At this point in the night I swapped over to playing mostly silly party games and kids games. The first of which was Rhino Hero.
I’ve never had a game of Rhino Hero go over as well as this game did with Tori (who you will know from our Gloomhaven videos). Tori was absolutely enthralled by Rhino Hero. This is a kids’ dexterity game where you are building an apartment building out of cardboard walls and floors. The goal is to play all of your floors or to be the player with the least floors left when the tower topples. All I think I need to say is that no one ever ran out of floors.
This game kept coming back out during the night and was a hit each time. Something about lack of sleep just made it far too amusing.
Sticking with the dexterity game theme, the next game I grabbed was Hamsterolle. We talk about this game a lot on the podcast and here on the blog and for a good reason. Hamsterrolle is still one of the best dexterity games ever made.
What made things interesting at the event on the weekend was how not level the table we played on was. This meant that the wheel didn’t roll all that often but when it did finally start moving it tended to move a lot.
We played so many rounds of Hamsterolle that I actually lost track. Personally, I went from feeling like a dexterity game master to feeling like I had my own personal win condition of collecting every single piece. A good time was had by all.
At around this point, we got hit with the time change. Blurry eyed we realized it was 1am, once again.
I thought a good way to wake everyone up would be to play a party game that would get everyone involved and talking. That’s when I broke out But Wait There’s More.
This is a game where all of the players are given a product they have to pitch. They combine that with a feature in their hand and start trying to sell the product infomercial style. The neat bit is that partway through their pitch they have to say “but wait, there’s more…” and flip over a random feature from the deck and incorporate that into their pitch. After each round, players blind vote for the players they think gave the best pitches. After three products you tally up your votes to determine the winner.
I haven’t broken out But Wait There’s More in a long time, and I’m regretting that now. I don’t like a lot of party games but this one is solid. I had a great time playing it Saturday night. No sorry, Sunday morning.
Ghost Fightin’ Treasure hunters came out next. I’ve been playing Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters a lot at local Halloween themed events so the rules were nice and fresh in my mind. Not that the rules are at all complicated. As I talked about last time, this game we dove right in with the advanced rules.
I’m still loving this game, as did everyone who played it. Sean hadn’t had a chance to play it since our Gaming In The New Year party and was really excited to play it again. This was his first time trying out the advanced rules and he agreed with me that it’s a better game with them. We had a great time playing, even though we didn’t win. After one round of Treasure Hunters the group set up a second game and I went off on my own to get something else ready.
There’s nothing better than a 3am game of Pitchcar. Learning from the mistakes I made when setting up Pitchcar at our warmup event, I set up a fairly simple track with a couple of easy jumps and we played a five-player game. I even got Ian, who was staffing the store so we could be there overnight, to join in.
I love Pitchcar so much. It’s such a great flicking game. I decided to make things interesting by using one of the variant rules that encourages players to be mean and play more cutthroat. That rule is that if you can manage to knock another “car” off the track it goes to the spot you just flicked from. I thought that would add a layer of good natured competition to the match and encourage some cheating and use of our Cheat Jars. It worked on both counts.
It ends up that while Tori may not be able to put a Rhino meeple into a card tower he’s really good at flicking crokinole style wooden discs around a race track.
After Pitchcar we moved on to something heavier: Operation. Tori and Kat had won a copy of Operation during the Live Auction. They bought it mostly just to support the cause but also because Tori had never played it. At this point in the morning, it seemed like the perfect game to play.
What shocked me most about Operation was that it wasn’t the game I remember playing as a kid. That was an actual game, this was more of an activity. Back when I played you would flip up cards showing various ailments you had to try to cure. You got different money depending on which you picked. If you failed in pulling out the right piece, another player could volunteer to come in as a specialist and if they succeeded they got double the money. What this all meant is that the original Operation actually had some strategy and tactical choices in it. Not a lot, but some.
All of that is gone from the modern version of Operation. In this game you just each take turns pulling out bits, trying not to make the game buzz. If you do, you pass to the next player. Once everything is out whoever has the most pieces wins. That’s it. I was highly disappointed and feel sorry for kids having to grow up with this inferior version of Operation.
Sticking with lighter kid and 5am brain friendly games I next taught King of the Dice from Haba. That went over pretty well but wow did we have a terrible spread of citizens partway through the game. The entire tableau were cards that required six dice in certain patterns and none of those patterns overlapped. So basically you had to roll once, pick a card to aim for and shoot for the moon. What this meant is that a lot of Scoundrels were handed out until the citizen row become more dice friendly.
It was the lowest scoring game of King of the Dice I’ve ever played and the first one to end due to the Scoundrel cards running out. This wasn’t a bad thing, just a thing. I found it interesting that this could even happen in King of the Dice.
It has been a few years since I’ve gotten Dead Man’s Draw to the table. I won a copy of it during one of the Geek & Sundry Tabletop Day events and used to play it a ton. Enough that I got sick of it and put it away and kind of forgot about it. While packing for Extra Life I spotted it and thought it would be a good game for non-gamers or late at night.
So here it was, hitting the table rather early in the morning. Despite the fact that we spent the first half of the game asking “what’s this do” as we turned up a new suit for the first time, I think we had a pretty good time playing Dead Man’s Draw. It’s an excellent card based push your luck game with a lot of catch up and take that mechanics.
The final game(s) of the day (night, morning, whatever) for me was multiple rounds of Concept.
Concept is a great icon-driven word guessing game that is fantastic fun, as long as you toss out the scoring rules. We just play this game as an activity, where one player draws a clue and then tries to get the concept across to the other players. When a player guesses correctly they get to the next one to draw a clue. At this point, the sun was coming up and we had a good crowd sitting in a circle and standing around the Concept board each taking turns being the clue giver. I still really dig Concept and it was a good end of the day game for me.
At this point, it was about 8am which felt like 9am because of the time change. Deanna had headed home after doing some accounting after the auction. She slept overnight and it was now time for me to tag off and let her take over while I got some sleep.
After a much needed snooze, I got back to The CG Realm around 3pm on Sunday. There was a ton of X-Wing going on. Solon was in the middle of running his X-Wing tournament and it seemed to be going really well. There was a big game of But Wait There’s More going on in one corner. The epic overnight D&D game had recently wrapped up and I’m sad to say the store was a bit empty feeling. I can’t really complain based on how packed we were on Saturday but I was hoping for more people on Sunday.
Fresh from my nap I was looking forward to playing something with some meat on it and broke out Vinhos Deluxe Edition and set up a four-player game. Jeff and Sheila joined me as did Chad. This was, by a significant amount, the heaviest game Jeff and Sheila had ever tried, so I took extra long with the teach. I spent more time than usual explaining various terms and the effects of actions on top of just how they worked mechanically. I also added in some tips I’ve learned from my previous plays (like try to make sure you always have at least $1 on hand or you may be forced to pass).
While teaching Vinhos, I took a quick break to teach another table how to play Dead Man’s Draw. This went much better than me trying to teach the game at whatever time it was earlier in the morning. Seems sleep really helps with my rule retention abilities. I played one quick round with a couple of local gamers I hadn’t met before who heard about the event from some other locals. That was cool.
Then it was back to Vinhos. We played 5 of the 6 rounds and then decided to pack the game up. Technically the store was still going to be open for another 45 minutes but I wanted to make sure I had all our stuff packed up and ready to leave right at closing time. The store had already stayed open overnight for us and I wanted to be out on time.
The unfortunately short game of Vinhos was going really well. Jeff was really loving it and may have discovered a new love of heavier games. He noted that it really helped that the theme was something he knew something about and that the mechanics tied in really well with the theme. He liked how it felt like every mechanic was there for a reason and that reason could be tied to something that made sense for winemaking.
We had everything packed out and were out of the door by 6pm, 33.5 hours after we showed up Saturday morning and with over $5000 collected in donations for Extra Life.
Do you take part in Extra Life? How did your fundraising go this year?
Care to support this great charity event? There’s still time to donate. CLICK HERE TO DONATE.