Reflecting on Extra Life with Brian Moats

In 2011, I lost my mother, and as I approached the first anniversary of her passing, I discovered Extra Life. Extra Life is a charity that raises funds for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals around the nation. I joined Extra Life as a way of remembering my mother and doing some good in her name.

-Brian Moats, speaking of why he joined Extra Life

I have enjoyed getting to know Brian and the work he is doing for Extra Life. We recently corresponded on Extra Life via Email. Enjoy!

TheCharityBoardgamer: Can you tell us about yourself and how you got into the gaming hobby?

Brian: I have been involved in gaming since about 1990 when I first played a Nintendo Entertainment System. I was always drawn to their stories, visuals, and the different mechanics they used. I was particularly drawn to platformers and roleplay games. This passion led me to pursue degrees in computer science, mathematics, and business with the hope of one day starting my own game development company. Currently, I am a software engineer working on a NASA contract.

In 2011, I lost my mother, and as I approached the first anniversary of her passing, I discovered Extra Life. Extra Life is a charity that raises funds for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals around the nation. I joined Extra Life as a way of remembering my mother and doing some good in her name. I created my team WVGamers along with a number of close friends who knew her. Every year we get together, play games, and do good for our community.

Around 2016, I discovered modern board games at a new friendly local game shop (FLGS) opened nearby; I had played a few such as Dungeon and Arkham Horror prior to this. This FLGS has allowed me to meet so many wonderful people who have taught me about so many wonderful games and have joined me on this Extra Life journey to help children and their families in need.

Someone has been playing too much Mega Man 2.

TheCharityBoardgamer: What has been a go-to game you have been playing a lot lately?

Brian: Honestly, I play 10-15 different games a month, but if I were to pick a couple games that are constant go-to games, I would say Ticket to Ride, Mystic Vale, and Splendor.

TheCharityBoardgamer: Any designer that you have great respect for or a publisher that you have enjoyed?

Brian: That is a tough question; I have great respect for all of those designers who have breathed life into these games we all love. The ideas for these games started as spark in their imagination, and they had the burning passion to take a risk and give these games form.

If I had to pick a couple publishers I constantly follow, that would probably be AEG, Smirk and Laughter/Dagger, and Stronghold Games. That said, there are so many smaller publishers make amazing games that may be easy to overlook. Swordcrafters by Adam’s Apple Games is one game I found so unique and led me to really enjoying their other titles. Kobold’s Ate My Babies introduced me to 9th Level Games and all of the other amazing games they have released and continue to release. Ambyria by Paw Warrior Games, Aetherium/Front Lines No Komrades by Anvil 8 Games, Fire in the Library by Weird Giraffe Games…ok…As I said, it is really hard to actually settle on a few because there are so many amazing gems hidden away in the ocean of games.

TheCharityBoardgamer: Tell me about Extra Life.

Brian: Extra Life, as I mentioned earlier, is a charity that raises funds for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. It does so in a marathon style where gamers will spend typically 24 hours straight gaming for the cause while asking for donation support from family and friends. There is no “right” way to handle these. Some Extra Lifers do 24 hour twitch streams, where people will tune in to see what games they are playing; others host centralized events to the public, where they have a schedule of games people can come and play as they wish during the 24 hour period. 24 hours may seem like too much to some; you are free to split the event across weekends or even event months. It is all about the spirit of the cause.

When you sign up, you have the opportunity to select which hospital you will be supporting, which means your donations stay local and support families you may know.

Our Extra Life team, WVGamers, host various events throughout the year to keep Extra Life in the mind of those in the community with the hopes that more people will get involved. We offer free gaming opportunities, raffles, bake sales, and other creative fundraising tactics.

TheCharityBoardgamer: Why is Extra Life important to you?

Brian: I wish I had a deep touching story of how the Children’s Hospital helped me personal or someone I knew. In all honesty, it started as a positive distraction to help with a hard time in my life after losing my mother and as a way to send positive karma into the universe. Over the years as I got to know the hospital representatives and others passionate about the charity, I really grew attached to it and wanted to do more each year. Each year, over 3 million children find themselves needing the aid of children’s hospital and many spend a lot of time there. I love the idea that the donations I raise goes to helping a local child. The donations are used to help make the child’s time spent at the hospital enjoyable through movie/game stations, cameras for families to check in on their children in the NICU after they have to return to work, and even to educate the children and families about whatever illness the child may be battling.

TheCharityBoardgamer: What is a way that we can help with the Extra Life?

Brian: There are a lot of ways individuals can help. Those with a gaming passion can sign up and seek donations from their community; there is always a need for more people with fresh ideas to get involved.

Those who don’t wish to sign up themselves, tell your friends and family about Extra Life; the more people who know about this wonderful charity, the more opportunities we have to help our community.

Finally, donate. Every dollar helps. You can do one-time payments or even setup re-occurring payments of whatever value; I hear a lot of people like to setup re-occurring donations for a few dollars a month because that adds up over the year and easily money they won’t even notice is gone.

Brian and Amanda rocking the game demos.

TheCharityBoardgamer: Where can we go to find more information about Extra Life?

Brian: The best place to learn more about Extra Life is their website: https://www.extra-life.org/. You can get information about the charity, how to join, and search for people you may know who are supporting the cause.

TheCharityBoardgamer: What were some things from 2019 that you enjoyed? What did you learn?

Brian: Our team is amazing. When I started, I had 1 person signed up for WVGamers and 10 fellow gamers. In 2019, I had over 30 people on the WVGamers team and most of them contributed in some way. Our core planning team consisted of about 6-9 people. They had wonderful ideas on how to get more people signed up across the state, new fundraising ideas (geek penny wars, t-shirt sales, local geek celebrities), and were typically self-driven. It was great knowing there was a supportive team that was always there helping out and took the pressure off my girlfriend and my shoulders.

I think there is a balance that we are trying to find between how many events we can successfully host. We hosted three major events, a couple dozen smaller events, and were all over the state throughout the year for various conventions. While it was great, it also put a strain on a few members of the team; so, I need to be more sensitive to these situations in future years.

Brian has gone mad, and I think he likes it…

TheCharityBoardgamer: What do you hope to accomplish this year?

Brian: On a team level, I want to surpass $9,000 raised again (partly because I want to use the OVER 9,000 meme from Dragonball Z), and I would love to draw in 3-5 more active members of the team to help attend a few of the events around the state that are just a little out of most of our teams’ range. I want to keep driving the fact that we are a team…no, a family, and everyone is equally important. I want to spend a little more time, as a captain, focusing on individual’s strengths and interests to help them find new ways to better themselves and push forward with their own ideas for the betterment of our teams ideals and the amazing cause we support.

If you would like to donate towards Brian and his campaign for Extra Life, click here.

Causeacon: Making an Impact with Desiree Christian

I think the Women’s Resource Center is an important charity since it provides shelter and counseling for not only women, but men and children too who suffer from domestic and sexual violence.

-Desiree Christian, talking about the Women’s Resource Center

I had the pleasure of speaking with Desiree about Causeacon, a charity based convention held in Beckley, West Virginia. The interview was conducted via email.

TheCharityBoardgamer: Can you tell us about yourself and how you got into the gaming hobby?

Desi: I’ve been playing games since I was a kid, starting with the classic SNES. I love all systems and game types as well as board games and D&D.

TheCharityBoardgamer: What has been a go-to game you have been playing a lot lately?

Desi: Lately my go-to games have been: Luigi’s Mansion 3 for Switch, Mario Kart Tour & Cookie Run for the phone and putting puzzles together.

Cosplay, games, guests and more and all for a good cause

TheCharityBoardgamer: Any designer that you have great respect for or a publisher that you have enjoyed?

Desi: As a music fan and musician myself, I’d like to give a shout out to my two favorite gaming composers: Yoko Shimomura & Nobuo Uematsu

TheCharityBoardgamer: Tell us about Causeacon. How did it get started?

Desi: My sister-in-law tagged me in a post on Facebook about someone wanting to start a convention in Beckley. I immediately sent emails back and forth with Dee Sizemore from the Women’s Resource Center and we met that night. I wanted to be involved since I have helped in different areas of other conventions before. She flat out asked me, “Do you want to run it?” and without hesitation, I said “Yes!” I found out later on that Causeacon was the brain-child of a parent who would take her kids to other conventions but wanted one that was closer to home (Libby Massey). That idea was brought to the WRC as a fundraising idea and 4 years later we’re still going strong.


TheCharityBoardgamer: Why is charity important to you?

Desi: I think the Women’s Resource Center is an important charity since it provides shelter and counseling for not only women, but men and children too who suffer from domestic and sexual violence. It gives those people a chance to get away from their abusers in a safe environment. I’m also an animal lover and support the humane society, they do good work there.

TheCharityBoardgamer: What is a way that we can help with the charity?

Desi: You can help out both the WRC just be attending Causeacon! All of the proceeds made at the convention from the ticket sales to selling merchandise are donated WRC. We also fundraise for Causeacon all year round, so attending any of our side events like Nerd Trivia Night and Late Night Gaming will also benefit WRC & Causeacon. We also host a Cosplay Dog Show at Causeacon where we dress the adoptable dogs from the Humane Society in costumes and walk them down the “cat-walk” in hopes that attendees would want to adopt some of the dogs.

TheCharityBoardgamer: What are some events or activities we can look forward to at Causeacon?

Desi: The most popular events would be the Cosplay Contest and our Otaku Bingo. We also host several video game and table top gaming tournaments as well as game shows all weekend including the Mario Party Game Show and Name That Video Game Tune. If you’re looking for something exciting, the Sleeping Samurai battle room, Nerf War and Galactic Rave is bound to get your heart racing. Then you can chill out at a more relaxing events like our Cosplay Ball and Zen Room where you can watch anime and read manga.

A father and daughter playing War Chest at the event

TheCharityBoardgamer: Where can we go to find more information about Causeacon?

Desi: We have a website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!
www.causeaccon.com or look up Causeacon on our other platforms. Facebook is a great place to find out about upcoming events we host all year.

All throughout the month of April, The Charity Boardgamer is donating 60% of its profits towards Causeacon and the efforts it is making for the WRC. You can click here to go to our Merch Store.

Lift-Off! Get me off this Planet!

These aliens are adorable, even though their planet is about to explode with whoever is left.

Game: Lift Off! Get me off this Planet!

  • Publisher: Pencil First Games, LLC
  • Designed by: Eduardo Baraf
  • Illustrated by: Dustin Foust, Sebastian Koziner, Keith Matejka and Helen Zhu
  • Ages 13+
  • 1-6 players
  • 45 minutes

“The planet is getting hot, like totally critical. It was 62 degrees in Winter… yeah that is not winter. It’s getting hotter…”

“How many rotations of the moon do we have left?”

“Not many. If the moon is full we have a chance of evacuation…”

You have the ability to get on some timey-wimey police box to lift off.
Each move you make is a race against the destruction of your world.

There is something magical when the moon aligns with your path. It leads to getting off a planet that is doomed to destruction. This is what Lift Off! Get me off this Planet! is all about.

Pink Team, Day 5: The kids have kept me from lifting off this planet. My looks to me to help them off, but I think we may not make it off in time. Our only hope is some extra move cards and a Garglore…

The game plays over so many solar days where the moon’s rotation around the planet triggers effects that can help the aliens find their way off before meeting their end. The game originally came out in 2015, and is coming out with an Expanded Deluxe Edition which adds a solo mode and a new player count. Some of the things that I will talk about may not be in the final copy as they will be stretch goals, but I want to cover how it plays, some new features and what our family thought of this one.

You can tell there is some sci-fi love here. Does this take us to P4-3687? Will we meet the Ancients? Probably not, but the game references some fun pop culture.

In the game your goal is to get your ten alien meeples off the planet before the solar days come to an end. The game ends when either a player is able to get all of their alien meeples off the planet or the planet explodes. Rounds of the game are dependent of the number of players for solar days and a round is a full rotation of the moon.

The board has different pieces that can be put together to create an entirely different experience and replayability.
The cards you are dealt can help you get extra moves, resources, cause havoc or move the moon to your will and more.

Each player can play can move twice along the path, either twice with one alien or once with another. The other action they can take is playing cards in hopes to enter a launch location or Lift Off. Some conditions may require a Screw or Fuel Card to enter a launch zone. They also may require certain payments based on where the moon is on the board. The moon can be a full moon (above your location), new moon (opposite of your location), and half moon (the other moon locations). Lifting off may also cost resources and moon location as well. One launch pad may not lift off unless the moon is full, while another may need the Garglore and maybe an alien of a different color along for the ride.

Lifting off cost resources and may depend on where the moon is located, but beware! The Garglore is out to get you and stop you from getting off the planet.

Garglore? What is that? It is an alien bent on keeping your meeples on the planet for destruction. I think he just wants some attention. There are cards you can play that let you put the Garglore on someone’s launchpad, causing them to not be able to lift off. This is the trick-taking nature that is part of the game. There also are cards that make it possible to move the moon during your turn rather than at the end.

The Gurglore just wants some hugs. What’s so wrong with that…other than the impending doom that lies ahead?

One neat feature that Ed has added is the Gurglore. The Garglore must have been lonely, so the Gurglore was created. Instead of moving the alien, you can use one of your move actions to move the Gurglore and give some meeples some hugs and attention, acting similarly to the Garglore.

Components
Climbing a ladder seems like a fun way to get off the planet.

The alien meeples are beautiful and the board has a great deal of variety. Let’s say you get a terraform card. This card allows you to change a lift off point of the game. The lift-offs have opposite sides so there is plenty of variety.

The dice in the game can help you get off the planet or terraform into another lift-off location, causing you to go back to the planet’s core.

The dice are nicely made with great detail and the rulebook has plenty on information to help along the way.

The tokens and cards are also a nice touch. What has me excited are what could be a possible stretch goal, the little space ships for each color. Each has their own personality and style.

These little ships can be a stretch goal worth having. I love the detail and work that went into these.

One other thing to note is that the rules also have variations in play. Some could be more cooperative in nature and others quicker to play or family-friendly. This is a nice touch for our family as it can help eliminate some of the competitive nature.

Let’s get off this planet together. This will help prevent an all out attack on Daddy…
Our Family’s Thoughts

Abigail, 13: “I like how they put a lot of thought and how the board has different ways that you can get off the planet. I like the characters. I like how each individual way to get off, that the surface has its own little cost or rule.”


Beth: “The obviously themed exit points add a little bit of fun and the fact that you can change which ones are used will always keep the game different. The game is cute and fun, but at the same time includes strategy and a challenge. There is something for everyone in the family. That’s what I like about it.”

The art and detail makes this game one I recommend for families. Elijah, age 8 was able to grasp it and won. I was close with my eight pink aliens.


Chris: “This game has a great family feel to it with beautiful colors and the meeples are adorable. I love that feeling of seeing science fiction references on the board and moving the Garglore over to stop my opponents. Relying on the location of the moon also is a fun factor to how one will place their aliens. I find the game to have a solid experience worth bringing to the table.”


Daniel, 11: “I like how the little figures look. I like the little thing that you put them on when they are off the planet. My favorite thing to use to get them off is the slingshot, and you can basically keep using the slingshot to get your guys off.”


Elijah, 8: “The blue one is my favorite, or orange, or both. I like getting on the slingshot so that other people will slingshot me. One time Daddy slingshot me.”

Elijah in his Superman Pajamas, ready to fly off the planet.

Overall we loved this game and hope you will love it too. Lift Off! Get me off this Planet! hits Kickstarter January 7th, 2020.