Friday, September 17, 2010

2.24: Teaching Games - The Technical Side

Quite a lot of gaming recently--I managed to get out to game with Brian and Joseph, where we played Isis & Osiris, Tomb, and Circus Flohcati.  I also attended Strategicon in Los Angeles for the first time, and for a local convention, I have to say I was impressed.  I went with Brian and Robert, and though I can't share many of the comments made during that weekend, it was an excellent time.  We expanded Robert's horizons, met some cool people (that's "normal cool", not just "gamer cool"), and even got to play with play-doh. 

This is a post I've been meaning to do for some time, but the week I planned on writing it up, several of the boardgaming podcasts I listen to covered the same topic.  I figure the statute of limitations has passed, and I've got a two-parter in mind, so let's get this thing on the road.

I was going to start this with, "First..." but we should start with some important pre-teaching concerns, so...

Zero-th:  know your audience, and be prepared to teach the game.  If you want to play with a specific person, don't pick a game you believe a person is going to hate.  If a person hates direct conflict, or Eurogames, or games with dice, don't pick those types of games.  As far as being prepared, read the rules ahead of time, a couple times if possible; maybe even set up the game and play a few mock-turns.  Some people complain about a teacher reading the rules to a group--I personally believe this is a bad idea and somewhat boring, plus most of the ruleset can be condensed.  I'd imagine it would take 30-60 minutes to read the Agricola rules out loud, but these can be explained verbally in 10-15 minutes. 

(Finally) First, I cover the theme of the game--we're bank robbers, space ship captains, ninja toilet paper rolls--something that gives the players an initial reference and hopefully draws their interest.  I'll also throw in some particulars on the type of game and interactions between the players, again to create interest, but at this point a player can also decide they don't want to play this type of game, and saving us both a lot of effort.  If we're playing a game about throwing frogs in blenders, and someone has a problem with that, I'd rather they leave at the beginning than suffer through a rules explanation and leave when I'm done.  (Note:  I don't actually have a game about...oh, nevermind.)  If the players are more experienced, I'll also throw in the type of mechanics in the game--set collection, area control, roll and move--or name another game that has some similarities. 

From here, I jump all the way to the end, explaining the goal of the game. "You win by collecting the most points.  You get points for each full jar of pickled pigs feet you have in your fridge at the end of the game."  From this the player knows what their ultimate goal is, and get a sense of the road they take to get there; in the example above, they know the rest of the rules will cover where they get the pigs feet from, and the steps needed to pickle these feet and put them in your fridge.

Next, back to the beginning.  It helps to have the board set up or mostly set up, and the pieces out on the board.  I explain the basics of the game while pointing out the associated pieces.  If there are cards in the game, I try to remove a few of each type of card to explain their affects in the game before I shuffle the deck.  It's a good idea to incorporate visual and verbal information (ever hear of "The five ways of learning"?  It's the idea that people learn information differently, and often retain information better in one of these five ways:  verbal, visual, tactile, kinesthetic, and aural), though depending on your group, you may want to wait on "tactile, handing pieces to players--I've seen more than one "Meeple Tower" or "Happy Meeple Circle" created while I'm trying to explain Carcassonne.

I usually go through a game turn, state any special rules, and end with "how the game ends."  This is particularly important in Eurogames, where the end could be more obtuse:  collecting X points, after a number of turns, or when there aren't enough animals to fill the pens.  Really, that's is an endgame situation. 

If there are more complex rules or special situations, I'll explain these at this point.  Ideally these naturally grow out of the rules, or are what happens at points of potential conflict within the rules--if you're lucky your players will pick up on these and point them out, and you can address them naturally.

Finally, in many Eurogames there is some special way scoring is handled--if you've ever played a Knizia game, you'll understand.  Scoring may be for resources you've been collecting the whole game and scored one way, but score differently at the end of the game.  You may have been collecting a number of different colored cubes or points, but your final score is the one you collected the least of.  You may have to collect a number of X equal to the number of Y for the points to count.  Whatever it is, I try to explain how scoring works in general, then do a visual example of final scoring, placing and moving pieces around, and tallying score.  After a discussion with Danny, he pointed out that it might be best to start with a "final board layout," to allow a better visual example of how scoring works (in Agricola you score for a dozen different things, and can gain or lose points depending on how well you managed your farm).

This is a general outline for teaching a game, but I will change this around depending on the game.  For instance, when teaching Fluxx, I usually just deal out the cards, inform the new player that there are only four types of cards, and show them the starting rule, "Draw one, Play one."  This works because the game is simple, basically teaches itself, and the learning and playing are part of the whole experience.  On the other hand, when teaching Agricola, I tend to backtrack several times, and expect to reexplain during the game, as there are so many moving parts to the game.


That's it, a little late in the week, but it's here!  Since I covered the technical side of teaching games this week, you can expect something similar but different in the coming weeks.

Take care, all.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

2:23: How I got into gaming (and other things I can blame on Lucio) - By Danny B.

I have to apologize for this late update--I initially started this blog with two goals:  I wanted to talk about games, and I wanted to keep a regular writing schedule.  The idea behind the latter was to train myself to keep writing, writing anything, so that it was a natural part of my week.  When I went on vacation in August, I decided to have something pre-loaded (we all know how well that went), and it instantly took me out of my good habit.  Go vacation, make me lazy.

This week--our first guest post!  This post is written by my brother-in-law, a guy all-around inferior to me, Danny.  I'm happy to say I'm largely responsible for Danny's introduction to gaming, though he took to it quite easily.  I used to think of Danny as my gaming Padawan, but I now have to be careful when introducing him to new games--most recently I recall teaching him X-bugs, a tiddly-winks combat game, where he annihilated me in the fastest game I've yet played.  Yes, he's become a Gamer Jedi.

 ...take it away, Danny!

I’m not a gamer. 

Well, I’m not a gamer insofar as a person can be who has 33 board games in their closet (anyone up for a little Jenseits von Theben??), whose wife is the Pacific Region Ticket to Ride Champion, and who will be attending next year’s super-secret-bordering-on-clandestine board game convention code-named “The Separation of Foes.”

It’s not that I don’t enjoy gaming – actually it’s quite the opposite.  It’s that I don’t think I’m entrenched deep enough into the hobby to have warranted the label.  When I’m around people who are obviously gamers I see major differences between us, most notably the presence of color in my wardrobe.  (Yes, I know that black and dark gray are colors. Technically.).  I also see that gamers have played or are at least familiar with a seemingly-countless number of games.  If I had to guess, I’d say that I’ve played about 100 different board games in my life. In comparison, the mastermind behind this blog has more than 600 games in his collection.

What bona fide gamers and I do have in common, though, is that we take great enjoyment in playing board games.

I have fond memories of playing certain games as a child, namely, Monopoly, Yahtzee and Trivial Pursuit.  I mean, what wasn’t there to love about having to write down copious notes on how much money each person had, what properties they owned, and where everyone was on the board in order to complete a marathon game of Monopoly (redundant?) the following day…or days? 

It wasn’t until high school, though, that I was introduced to a world of board games that didn’t all have “Parker Bros.” stamped on the box.  I remember one of the first games I played was a card game (I want to say it was Poison but I know that wasn’t it…arrgh!).  I remember thinking “this game is different, kind of weird, but fun.”  As time passed and I spent more evenings and weekends at my then-girlfriend-now-wife’s house I was introduced to more games by her cool weirdo older brother, Lucio.

Now, 12 years later, I still look at a board game as something enjoyable.  It’s a time to be with family and friends.  It’s a time for friendly competition (unless, of course, Mychael and Jackie are in the same game, in which case, back very slowly away from the table, careful not to make any eye contact).  It’s a time for good-natured ribbing (or flat-out vulgar trash-talking if David or Randy is involved).  I’ve also learned to appreciate the greater nuances of games – the design of a board or card, the quality of the game pieces, the various game play mechanics, and more.

I picked most of this up over the past two years, the period when I’ve done more gaming than at any other time.  It was also during this time that my wife’s and my game collection has swelled to its current size.  At present, I usually squeeze in at least one board game most weekends.  I’ve also introduced gaming to other people in my family including two brothers.  One brother has two daughters that absolutely love Ticket to Ride.  In fact, during one recent family party, a group of us took over a table to play TtR and introduced yet another non-gamer to the hobby.

I have not, however, done any of the following gamer-staples:  become a member of BGG (I live vicariously through my wife’s account); attend a board game convention specifically to game (that won’t happen until The Separation of Foes); or set aside a specific area of my house for games (I’ve only used about half of the space in the largest closet in the house).   

Now, if all of this makes me a gamer – or not – so be it. 

At least I’m no RPG, LARP or wargamer. 

Now those folks are dweebs.

Some words of wisdom from Danny.  In case anyone has decrypted the name of the convention he has cleverly disguised, yes, he is going there next year.  And, yes, I am jealous.  

More regular updates planned, including some information on HomeCon!  Most of you are my friends and are probably going anyway, but I thought I'd share some of our ideas and plans for our first home-convention attempt.  

Take care, all.

Monday, August 9, 2010

2.22: Play in Public Campaign...join us...join us...

Man, did I call it.  Limited internet access while I was away, and then some things went wonky--I never thought AT&T wouldn't permit me to buy another day of access.  Anyhow, this post is late, as I wanted it up the first week of August.

So, you may have guessed that I enjoy boardgaming.  I enjoy the simple fun that classic games and many modern games provide.  I enjoy the challenge to myself and my opponents.  Most of all I enjoy the social aspect of gaming--it is a meeting place, an even playing field.  Thanks to my parents I was exposed to some classic boardgames, but it's taken a far larger number of people to expose me to the boardgames I play currently--from family and friends, all the way to the numerous people in the BGG ( community.  This has become a reflexive hobby, as I now expose and share multiple facets of this hobby with my own friends and family.

But boardgaming is such a niche hobby.  This past weekend GenCon was held in Indianapolis, Indiana; over 125,000 gamers were gathered into one place with the purpose of celebrating our hobby.  Last month was Origins in Ohio, and several other conventions are held across the country--there can't be a lack of gamers.  Unfortunately, this is the case.  For a number of years I had a "convention family," the people I would visit with every year and at every convention I went to.  There aren't a lot of gamers; worse, there aren't a lot of people outside the hobby that are aware of this enormous event that occurs every year.

Our hobby needs more exposure, plain and simple. 

Kevin E. Schlabach of has suggested a Play in Public campaign aimed at exposing more people to the hobby.  There are a lot of reasons, and I will admit that some of them are purely economic (ie, they have to do with money), but I'll sum it up by saying that it's good for our hobby.  I'll be pushing this at least through August.

If you want more information, read this excellent piece written by Kevin.  If you don't read it, I'm coming for you.  Whatever, Lucioman, you don't scare me!  You're one of those non-athletic, overweight, downright wimpy gamers!  Okay, let me advise you, read this article.  Somewhere around here I have a photo of me at a Shotokan tournament, wearing my gi, kicking a good friend full force in the balls.  Now, GO READ THE DAMN ARTICLE!  (I really need to find that picture.)

I'll be planning some time to be in public playing a game, and I'll post that here.  Further threats to follow.


I plan on posting again later this week in order to get back on schedule.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

2.21: Review: God Dice

Another game review, can it be?  This week I review God Dice, a quick dice game, great for when you're short on time and don't want to play Willow.

One of the benefits of going to conventions is the opportunity to view and try games one might not otherwise have found.  By walking up and down the many aisles, I've stumbled upon many a small publishers with only one or two games in their catalog.  Every year there is some sleeper hit hidden among the crowd of larger publishers, such as the game I'm reviewing today. 

God Dice was designed by Rick Maxey and published by Maxveld Games in 2008; it supports 2-4 players, and takes 30 minutes to an hour to play.  The game comes with 12 character cards, 9 attack dice, 2 "God Dice," a set of rules, and some counters.  This game is dice geared combat, so if you're not a fan of dice games or games with heavy randomness, you probably won't be interested in this one.  If, however, you enjoy a quick combat game and trash-talk, pick this one up. 

Friday, July 23, 2010

"There are better games?" Really?

Apparently I missed announcing this blog's one-year birthaversary, which was the 24th of June.  So, uh, Happy Birthaversary, Lucioman's Boardgaming Blog; maybe we'll get you a real name instead of this lazy nonsense.  

Extra post this week because I've been slacking.  I'm considering changing the schedule up, but we'll keep it the same for now, and I also realized I need to review some actual GAMES on this blog, so we'll definitely see more of those in the near future. 

My cousin Randy visited on the weekend and asked me attempted to goad me into playing a boardgame I wasn't interested in playing.  He told me it's a great game; I told him it took too long to set up (an issue, as they had limited time to visit), was one-sided, and there are better games to play.  Admittedly, the last point may not have been entirely fair, but I was also watching my two toddlers, who require a certain level of attention.  One of them does have the middle name "Danger," after all.

My cousin's retort:  "So we'll never play this game again."  I was taken aback.  First, Randy was on the verge of breaking Rule #6--then again, Randy's basically always on the verge of breaking Rule #6, but I love him--he's my cousin, but may as well be a brother.  Second, it isn't a bad game, but I was confused by my own statement, "There are better games."  Third, if I really believed that, shouldn't I trade the game away?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

2.20: Dominion!

Hope everyone had a great 4th of July weekend.  We spent time with friends and family, went to the beach, set some explosives on fire, and played 1000 boardgames.  Or ten.  Biggest hit of the weekend, Dominion; I personally got in three plays of the game, but it hit the table far more than that.  We also played a 4+ hour game of Shogun, in which I took second; Danny, despite having no money and no income on the last turn, was able to hold onto his empire and take the win.  

An interesting piece of information--last year I played a total of 105 games (not different games, total games played).  As of today, I've played 86 games this year--looks like I'm on track to beat last year by 50%.

Dominion was designed by Donald X. Vaccarino and published in the US by Rio Grande Games in 2008.  Since then it has won a number of awards, including the Spiel des Jahres in 2009.  A number of standalone games which can be combined with the original have been released since, as well as a number of expansion cards.  It is a card game with a first-of-its-kind mechanic--everyone starts with the same 10 cards, and during the course of the game you purchase cards for your deck, which provide you with additional abilities on future turns.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

2.19: Game Room Rules - Rule #7

Jackie got me Dominion for Father's Week.  A friend played this when it was in its late prototype stage, and spoke positively of it, and since its release I've heard a vast number of positive comments, though the game does seem polarizing--people either like it a lot or not at all.  I really like this game, despite the fact that I can't win a game when my wife plays.  

Until last night!  Ha, take that, Jackie! 

Rule #1:  Have fun.
Rule #2:  Let your opponent(s) have fun.
Rule #3:  Play appropriately.
Rule #4:  Remember, it's just a game.
Rule #5: Take care of my crap/other people's crap.
Rule #6:  D.B.A.  Don't be an Ass.

Rule #7:  Take your turn, already!

Friday, June 18, 2010

2.19: Game Room Rules - Rule #6

This week I'm plugging Scott Sigler's soon-to-be-released book, Ancestor.  In Ancestor, a biotech company is attempting to create a herd animal that has human-compatible organs for the purpose of organ donation.  Their experiments go awry, and hilarity ensues.  Well, hilarity in the form of an edge-of-your-seat thriller involving not-so-herbivorous creatures snuggling up to the novel's characters--with their teeth.

Scott Sigler has been giving his books away in the form of a free weekly podcast (audio file); over the past several years he has built up a significant audience, and signed with a big time publishing company.  Ancestor is being released in hardcover on June 22, and Sigler is attempting to reach the top ten on the NY Times Bestseller list.  Any pre-orders count toward the first week's sales, and thus aid the effort to reach the aforementioned bestseller list. 

The rules so far, and a totally appropriate picture:

Rule #1:  Have fun.
Rule #2:  Let your opponent(s) have fun.
Rule #3:  Play appropriately.
Rule #4:  Remember, it's just a game.
Rule #5: Take care of my crap/other people's crap.

Rule #6:  D.B.A.  Don't be an Ass.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

2.18: Game Room Rules - Rule #5

I'm trying not to be rude or opinionated as I present these rules, well, I'm trying to be as objective as possible.  I'm normally a mellow guy (and I'll kill anyone who says otherwise!), but I think this and some of the following rules will come off a little...grumpy.  Probably because the next few involve common courtesy, and I'm cultivating my "get off my lawn" voice in preparation for retirement. You know, thirty years from now.

Rule #1:  Have fun.
Rule #2:  Let your opponent(s) have fun.
Rule #3:  Play appropriately.

Rule #4:  Remember, it's just a game.

Rule #5: Take care of my crap/other people's crap. 

Friday, May 28, 2010

2.17: Game Room Rules - Rule #4

 Ptbbbbbbbbt!  Frrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrb!  Plblblblblblbblblblbllbbblblb!  Plt!  Brrrrrrrrrpbggt.  Vrrrreeeeessssst!  Pblllbrct!  --A message from my intestine.

Let's just say that I've had better weeks.  

Rule #1:  Have fun.
Rule #2:  Let your opponent(s) have fun.
Rule #3:  Play appropriately.

Rule #4:  Remember, it's just a game.

"Oh, you M----- F---er's, this game is stupid!  I can't believe you did that, you ruined the game!  I'm going to beat your a--!"

One, if you are a boardgamer, chances are you can not beat my anything, what with your pasty eternal indoors-ness and all.  (Okay, that's not a fair assessment of boardgamers, most actually do stuff outside the house, not like those computer gamers...)

Two, apparently you couldn't even beat me in the boardgame.  So bleh (that's the sound I make when I stick out my tongue mockingly).

Three, it's just a game.  I don't remember putting any money on it, and I definitely don't remember putting any personal property or lives on the game. 

Four, eat some fiber and chill out.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

2.16: Game Room Rules - Rule #3

Elfenland.  One game--that was all my gaming this week, and, WOW.  I was among the many people who have heard of Elfenland, Elfengold, and Elfenroads, but had never actually played it.  Needless to say (if you read the first sentence of this post), I was impressed.  I'm sure a full review is in the future. 

Rule #1:  Have fun.
Rule #2:  Let your opponent(s) have fun.

Rule #3:  Play appropriately.

Play your best.
Play leisurely. 
Play nice.
Play hard.
Play jovially.
Play appropriately.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

2.15: Game Room Rules - Rule #2

I played Uno yesterday.  Uno.  Albeit it was with my little brothers, and they're not exactly gamers yet.  That's probably something I should work on.  Anyway, we were waiting at a restaurant, they had a copy of Uno.  We played, I lost.  Can't seem to catch a break this week.

Also, with a 1:3 record I lost the first round of the 4th Annual Hive tournament on  My opponent, Groo, was an excellent player and I wish him luck--and I'll feel better if he wins the whole thing.  I do, however, have an empty space on my shelf now.  You know, the space I cleared for that trophy...

I also ate tacos yesterday, in case anyone wanted to know.  The slogan goes:  Taco Tuesday, every Wednesday night.  Not really, but that would be awesome.

Rule #1:  Have fun.

Rule #2:  Let your opponent(s) have fun.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

2.14: Game Room Rules - Rule #1

As if I don't already have unfinished multi-part posts, let's just start another one, one that will probably be 10 or more parts.  Awesome!  Little gaming this week, despite another effort to teach my brother Agricola--instead we played the "raise an enormous aluminum garage and use all day" game.  At least that's almost done; still, I'm beginning to thing that if we ever do teach David how to play Agricola, the world will come to an end.

I've been contemplating posting some "Rules of gaming" in my loft.  It started a couple years back with a great gift from my wife, a long frame with a antiqued game theme (more poker/checkers, but it still looks nice), and a poem that reads:

Game Room Rules
Welcome to the place where we like to play our games...
We want you to enjoy yourself, and we'll try to do the same.
No cheating
No fighting
No Temper Tantrums Please!
Don't be a sore loser, and...
Don't brag too much if you win.
It's only a game, so just Have Fun!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

2.13: So you've decided to design a game?

D had the Ticket to Ride tournament this past week at Alan Moon's Gathering of Friends.  There were 16 competitors, and in the first round only the top eight would proceed into Day 2 of the tournament.  D took 9th place; while I'm proud to say she even made it this far, as her older brother I am required by law to point out that this makes her the first loser.  Regardless, she apparently had a great time, and met some fun people, and has continued to spend a good amount of time mocking me.  On the other hand, she and Danny are now even further ensconced in the boardgaming hobby, so in reality, I win.  

Neener, neener.

I mentioned in last week's post that many gamers add or alter the rules to games they play, or even go so far as to design their own games.  Well, me too.  On the last one. 

I'm not actually sure how much information I should be sharing right now, though as I approach a final product I'll be happy to chat it up as much as possible.  So, instead, I'll discuss a little of the process so far.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

To anyone attending The Gathering

My sister, Mychael (pronounced just like the male "Michael"), is apparently enjoying herself quite a lot at The Gathering, and has been kind enough to continue taunting me (all in good fun), and has even gotten a few people to start sending me messages through

So, to anyone currently attending The Gathering, please lend me a hand to return the taunting.  Don't worry, none of this will hurt her feelings, and she'll instantly know that I put you up to this.  First, here's  a photo of her (the gal on the left, obviously).  If you're having trouble finding her, she's apparently being called "The girl with the guy's name."

You can help me simply by telling her someone told you to say one of the following things:
(I'll be adding more as I think of them)

1.  Mychael, Mychael, Motorcycle.  

2.  "What's gonna work?"  (She should respond, "Team work!")

3.  Ask her about Safety goggles and Rukshuk.

Hope you all are enjoying your time at The Gathering.  Don't worry about me, I'm just sitting at home.  Alone.  With no one to game with this weekend.  Excuse me, I have something in both my eyes.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Good Luck, D!

My sister called today--I expected a snotty conversation full of mockery, but instead it was just moderate mockery, as she had just arrived at The Gathering of Friends.  My assumption was that she would have arrived much sooner than when she called, but apparently she slept through her flight.  While not yet on the plane. 

This was my chance for mockery.  Apparently she had a couple hours before her plane departed, so she decided to nap in the terminal right next to the boarding door.  She woke and asked if her plane was boarding, and the lady at the counter told her it had left 20 minutes earlier. 

No problem, D, it's just a once-in-a-lifetime invitation, oh, and you have a tournament you're supposed to attend. 

Right now she's probably playing something really awesome with boardgame industry people.  Curse her.

I'm not sure exactly when the tournament starts, but I wish her luck. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

2.12: A convoluted and over the top closing.

Last week I proposed a fictitious but highly realistic scenario in which my house had caught fire, and I had only a short moment to grab three games and escape the house.  I had mentioned that Danny, my brother in law who had proposed this predicament, offered this question in two parts.  My 100% completely successful April Fool's joke took the place of the second post last week, so I'm going to cover the second half of Danny's question this week, starting where we left off.

I have a small armful of games, and now find myself trapped in the loft, a wall of flame separating me from the staircase.  I turn around, already certain that I'll find the same thing keeping me from the window.  Walled in, smoldering pieces of ceiling begin to fall around me--the roof won't hold much longer.  I know I have one chance:  I'll have to sacrifice a few games to distract the fire. 

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Monk-like Life

Well, I've made a decision.  I've cluttered my life with too many things, I have a family to care for, bills to pay, a job I have to attend to every day--sometimes even during the holidays.  There are things that can be trimmed, and less important things go first.

I present you with a photo from my game room:

That's right, I've decided to give my game collection away.  It not only consumes part of my income, but also many hours of my week.  I have donated my collection, so hopefully a number of orphaned children and stray animals will be aided by this act as well.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2.11: A convoluted and over the top opening

"Lucio, you suck.  Your update is late again, I can't believe I'm paying for this."  Yeah, yeah.  To make up for last week's missed post, I'll be doing two posts this week--since this was originally intended to be a two-part post, it should work out quite well. 

I'll set the stage.  While preparing a 47 course meal heavy in caviar and saffron, some Komodo Dragon grease spills over my saute pan and onto the stove, erupting into a six-foot gout of flame.  The Picasso above the stove catches and explodes, cubist shards of flaming death hurtling across the kitchen and dining room.  I roll with the explosion, and as I rise, patting out small flames on my clothing, I hear our car pull up; I had sent my family away so I could scour the house spotless and cook my wife this fantastic dinner.

Rushing out the door I wave them away, quickly informing my wife of what had just happened, and dashing back in to get our family keepsakes:  Photos (both physical and digital), a carving of a boot done my my grandfather, two pocket watches, my wife's bouquet, and my daughter's umbilical cord (just kidding, that's gross).  Dumping these outside, I turn back to the house; flames curl upward from the doorway and I can see by the pulsating yellow glow from the upstairs windows that the fire has spread upstairs.  The second floor windows explode outward, glass shattering around me--the fire has apparently reached our second Picasso (why these were done with explosive paint is beyond me).  My family and I are safe, but one last thing pulls me inside--in my mind I hear the whimpering of my boardgames.  I'll have one chance, just enough time to grab a few games, so what do I take?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

2.10: Scrabble and more - Word games

Alas, I have missed my first post of the year. This was due almost entirely to my family being sick—first the girls, then my wife and I, and then the girls again. Regardless, we’ve had the opportunity to play a number of games I the past couple of weeks; we also had a small get-together for my wife’s birthday, during which even more games were played. We also barbecued some carne asada, but if you want to hear about that, you have to read my other blog, “Asada Quest.”

I don’t know how it happened, looking back over the last month or two, I realized we had played a large number of word games.  Most people are familiar with Scrabble—this is an excellent game, and an excellent example of many of the mechanics in a word game.  You get a random assortment of letters, and must arrange them to form a word—in Scrabble you often want the longest word or the word that uses the rarer letters (those letters worth more points--), but you also have to watch board position. A common mechanic among the games covered today, words are built upon each other in a crossword type fashion, interlocked by a single shared letter. 

One of the biggest drawbacks to playing word games is that they favor people with large vocabularies and people that spell well.  While I'm no slouch in either of these areas, I've played people that put me to horrible shame.  Did you know that Ibex is a word?  Did you know it scores ten-gazillion points if placed on the correct spot on a Scrabble board.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

2.9: Game Review: Ruin

I haven't done a simple game review in a while, sure, why not.  

Ruin is listed as being designed by "Terry Miller Associates;" it was published by Buffalo Games, Inc. in 2008.  It supports 2-4 players, and takes 45 minutes to play (though I suspect it could be much, much longer).  Retail price is $25, but if you recently visited Borders, you may have been able to pick this up for a whole dollar.  That's right, $1.  So we'll pose a question, "Was this game worth $1?"

First we'll talk about the components.  Ruin comes with a board, eight pawns in 4 colors (two for each player), a deck of cards, a large d20 (that's a 20-sided die) specific to this game, and two interlocking clear plastic...things.  These two plastic pieces cover all but the corners of the board, and create the most interesting part of the game's mechanic.

Gameplay is simple, and reminiscent of many games you've probably played in your youth--on your turn you roll the die and move a pawn clockwise around the board, ultimately hoping to get to the "safe area" (in this game, the center of the board) first to win the game.  The clever part of this game is the modular path--along each edge of the board (under the plastic cover) there is a slot for three cards; if you roll a number with a red background, you can replace one of the cards along the board edge, replacing it with one from your hand.  These cards have a 3x3 grid of brick spaces or black "hole" spaces, and some of the cards have an assortment of colored masks that match the pawn colors.

Replacing the card changes the path, possibly separating one part of the path from another, or as we discovered this weekend, could also move a pawn (like your opponent's pawns) from a brick space to a hole space, causing that pawn to fall back along the path.  Here's where the colored masks come into play--when you fall in a hole (or a player ends their turn by stepping on you), you fall back to the closest mask space in your pawn color.  If you've passed the halfway point, there is an Ah Kinchil mask in your color; since the corner spaces can't be changed, it becomes important to pass the halfway point. This is actually an excellent design choice, since this alone does a lot to keep this game from going on forever.

Jackie, D, Danny and I played this over the weekend on a lark--it was on the table and the rules were short.  Despite it's simple roll and move mechanic, the game was hilarious.  Eventually Jackie and Danny were within a few turns of victory, and spent every opportunity thwarting each other.  I was horribly behind, so D and I were locked in mortal combat one card away from my start area.  Ultimately it was Jackie who won, distracting us with Danny's misfortune (he'd been separated from his stair area by a card which had no path to them, and repeatedly failed to roll a red-background number).

Overall I was surprised and pleased by this game--while I'm probably not going to insist on playing it, in instances where I'd play a traditional game, such as Sorry!, this will be high on the list of candidates.  My concerns about the game potentially taking forever still stand, though this was assuaged by the placement of the Ah Kinchil masks at the halfway point of each player's path.  The game was only slightly longer than the stated 45 minutes.  Of course my opinion of the game was largely influenced by the group I was playing with--everyone realized this game had a good bit of randomness, and took it as a simple and funny experience, not a challenge to be won.

Final verdict?  "I'll buy that for a dollar!"

Sorry, I had to do it.

If anyone didn't get that joke, you need to spend less time doing important things, and more time watching crappy 80's robot cop movies.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

2.8: Know your Gamer - Gamer OCD

A little late on this post, as work is keeping me rather busy--at least they're feeding me well.  

Got some gaming in this week, playing Puerto Rico, Ingenious, and Agricola with D and Danny.  I managed to walk away with a victory in all three, largely because it was D and Danny's first games of Ingenious and Puerto Rico; still, I only won each game by a very few points.   Agricola was great fun but awful; we all seemed to be doing poorly the entire game, and it was only because of a large number of bonus points I gained at the end (and a large amount of baby-making) that won me the game.  In my opinion Danny did the best, especially considering he only had two family members (and thus only two actions) the entire game. 

I'm still doing a little work in the loft, aka my game room, so hopefully I'll have pictures of that in the near future.

This is our hobby, so it makes sense to take care of one's games; there is also a collecting aspect to the hobby, so one may want to display their games; games are also for playing, so making that easier and more enjoyable is reconcilable.  However, we gamers may sometimes take it a bit too far. 

I don't know where or how this has developed into an aspect of the gaming hobby; perhaps people drawn to gaming are naturally inclined toward categorization and order, just as they must don black t-shirts.  Perhaps it is a behavioral remnant of our long-ago gaming ancestors, who had to have the shiniest pebbles organized in the best woven basket.  Whatever the reason, many a gamer exhibits some form of Gamer OCD.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Being bored isn't safe for me...or my family


Something additional, and strange for this week--I realized this week's post was short, so I figured I'd throw this up here.  No comments about sloppiness, I can do better, but did this in about ten minutes; the enlarged jaw on Danny was intentional.  I almost thought about going bigger.

Jackie and I did play a game of Agricola with D and Danny (our second, their first)--the game was longer than expected, partly because we were trying to remember the rules and partly because the game was new to all of us.  I won by a large margin, but don't doubt that the next game will be closer.  Best moment of the game, about half-way through D looks at the board and her cards, and suddenly shouts out, "I just got the game!"

Looking at this, I'm tempted to do a "good" one, print it at Kinkos and hang it on the wall of our loft.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

2.7: Congrats to my sister...

Who won the Ticket to Ride Regional Championship this past weekend.  She was given a gold-plated scoring marker, and will be traveling to The Gathering of Friends in beautiful Columbus, Ohio this April to participate in the National Championships.

Color me jealous.

At my excited declaration that my sister was now invited to the GoF, she initially asked "What's the Gathering of Friends?"--a question that almost resulted in her murder.  I am aware of a number of people that entered the tournament simply for this opportunity.

For those of you who aren't familiar, the Gathering of Friends is a invitation-only convention, attended by less than 500 people.  Many of the regular attendees are industry professionals, be they game designers, publishers, or whatnot.  The event is held by Alan Moon, the designer of the Ticket to Ride series of games--hence why the championships are being held there.  In addition to the general gaming that occurs over the week-plus long event, there are special events, tournaments, a flea market, the opportunity to play game prototypes and games before their official release.  Invitation to this event is sought after; every year a number of people on BGG ask "How do I get invited to the GoF?  PLEEEEEESE!"  However, it's not something you can just ask for, as stated before it is invitation only, though regular attendees can sometimes bring a guest.

Now my sister is training and thankfully has looked into the GoF, and is now excited.  She's been looking online and seen video taken by Rick Thornquist of the 2006 event, and I believe now is beginning to understand the significance of this invitation.

So, once again, congratulations to my sister.  And, if she gets to take a guest, she better take me.  I think Danny (her husband) has something to do that day, and he probably wouldn't enjoy himself there anyway.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

2.6: You guessed it, Dexterity Games!

Does anyone out there have children?  I have two daughters, and this week my oldest has decided that she's going to take her naps at the end of the day, and then keep us up until midnight.  The end of the day is when I usually write, so that has caused me a few difficulties--beyond the fact that I've been perpetually tired for the last week.  I'm not complaining, but...okay, I am complaining.  I can't wait until my daughter is a teenager, I really need to keep a log I'll call "What you did," and as she complains about whatever horrible parent-thing I do, I'll allow her to check off one comparable item.  I'm certain I'll still owe her after she's moved out.

As I mentioned in my last post, while I do enjoy many types of games, Speed games and Dexterity games have a special draw for me.  A dexterity game is a game in which play requires some kind of physical manipulation of the pieces.  This can be stacking blocks, flicking pieces, etc.  This can be turn-based, which is what I'd call a pure-dexterity game (such as the mass market classic, Jenga), and can include a more real-time manipulation of the pieces, which we'll call an Action-dexterity game (something along the lines of Foosball would fit in this category).

You might be surprised to hear that a dexterity game was made into an epic war game.  It's a personal favorite of mine, a game of heroes, daring attacks, sabotage, and willing sacrifice for your cause.  A game who's deep theme and elaborate conflict resolution system can be pared down to two sentences. 

Insects.  And Tiddly-winks.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

2.5: Simultanous action speed Games

Down to the wire, but it's here and on time.  Not much gaming this week, but I did do a little work in the loft, aka My Game Room.  See if you can guess what next week's topic is.

Also, you may have noticed that the posts include a number, for instance, this post is "2.5".  This simply means this is the 5th post of the second year of this blog, and I hope this serves as a way to keep track of each post.  I'll probably spend a little time in the near future numbering all the old posts as 1.whatever. 

Most games require that players take turns--Player A rolls the dice and moves his pieces, Player B rolls the dice and moves her pieces, Player C, Player D...  The type of games I'll talk about today are Simultaneous action speed games, sometimes simply called "Speed Games" or "Real Time" games.

These function exactly as they sound--all players act at the same time, and attempt to do so quickly.  Many may be familiar with a card game using a standard deck of cards, I learned it as "Speed;" in this game the deck of cards is dealt between two players, and players attempt to get rid of their cards by playing to a common pile, playing numbers in sequence.  This game is frenzied, fast and fun (sorry, that alliteration was unintended), and perhaps best of all it takes only a few minutes to set up and  play--this is a general trend in these types of games.

Interestingly, both games I'm covering today are by the same company, Cheapass Games. A quick note on Cheapass Games--they have an interesting concept for their games, that is, you can get dice, pawns, money, and other stuff that makes a game expensive from your other games.  As such, if you purchase one of their games, you are basically buying rules, cards and a board (printed in black and white on cardstock).  The games are  clever and quite humorous, and usually run $6 or less.  That said, they did have a line of games that were printed in color, as are the two games presented here.

Monday, January 25, 2010

2.4: Know your Gamer - Conventions

I mentioned in this post what a convention is, and since I have some family members attending their first boardgaming convention in February, I decided to go through some suggestions for them and any other convention newbies.

1.  Bring snacks and water.  You'll be indoors for an unknown period of time, and if you're unfamiliar with the area or building you're in, there may be no water faucets or food-providing venues nearby.  If you're attending an event at the convention, it may be scheduled for two hours and run for four.  You may be heading out to eat, and find a "can't miss" even that you pass by and find you're interested in participating in.  Best to be prepared, even if it's just a few granola bars to tide you over.

2.  Parking.  Find out as much as you can about parking, before and after arriving at your destination.  Some parking lots may be closed on the weekend, or cost a stupid amount to use.  You may find, as a few of my friends did too late, that the parking lot with the suns painted on the wall is closed at night, and the one with the owls painted on the walls is open late.  Because there wasn't anywhere actually informing them of this, they had an ordeal finding someone who was able to open the garage and let them out.

3.  Events.  You're probably going with something in mind, but don't be afraid to try something besides this.  Many conventions will have a schedule or program, online or on-site; glance through this, see if anything catches your interest.  Likewise, if you're walking around the convention, and see something interesting, don't be afraid to stop and watch--no one is going to yell at you for watching, and they may invite you to participate.  And if they do yell at you, you have my permission to kick them in the nuts.  Also, keep an eye out for special guests--you never know who may have been invited to attend the convention.

4.  Walk the convention.  There is probably a lot to look at, participate in, there may be convention-specials on games, game demonstrations, whatever.  Don't just stay in the main hall, either--there are probably a number of other events going on in nearby rooms. 

5.  DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING!  Okay, perhaps not so serious, but some people are a little too anal-retentive about their gaming.  It's generally best to engage in conversation or simply ask if it's okay to look at whatever may have caught your eye.  Also, some games (particularly miniature wargames--if you see dozens of inch-tall models on a table, that's probably what you're looking at) are very measurement-sensitive, and moving a model even a quarter-inch could alter a game.  This isn't meant to scare you, but to try to ease you into the convention experience.  Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

6.  Socially...akward?  Gamers are brilliant, sexy, well-groomed, charismatic orators.  Perhaps not--not all gamers are as lucky as I am.  Most are just normal people, and then this wouldn't even be worth mentioning, but...some gamers.  Let's just say someone may approach you and tell you about their D&D character.  This may mean nothing to you now, but if it happens you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.  I do my best to take it in stride; my suggestion is to handle it as positively as possible--you're all at the convention to have a good time, you don't want to ruin anyone's day.

7.  Make...friends?  Years ago Brian, Joseph and I attended Origins in Columbus, Ohio.  While eating lunch, we gestured at a girl sitting alone with this really pissed-off look on her face, and made comments about how friendly she appeared and such.  We also mentioned that she probably had no MarioKart skills, and would suck and the Metroid video game series.  Joseph was the one to introduce himself later, and now I consider her and her group of friends (whom we met the next day) my convention family, and great friends.

8.  Participate in a demo.  There may be individuals or even a publisher giving demonstrations of their games.  Give it a shot--you may find something you like.  Or, just as good, something you don't like, and perhaps save yourself a purchase you'd regret.  

9.  Have fun.  Or don't.  I really don't care.


That's it for this week, for those interested, my sister D is participating in the Ticket to Ride tournament in February.  Wish her luck--or don't.  I, personally, am somewhere in the middle, only because it frustrates the poo out her when she loses that game.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

2.3: AGE!

Alas, the streak is broken.  Now we'll see how long it takes before I miss a week's post.  We've been getting a surprising amount of gaming in during the last week, despite our newly busy schedules.  We even goaded Jackie into "spending time with the family," and got her to join in a game of Stone Age recently.

Stone Age has been getting a lot of play around here lately--At around two hours a play, I think it needs a review here. Also, if you take a look at the picture, you'll see the jazzy Chief's crown I'm wearing, which, unfortunately, I've recently had to surrender.  You may recall that my brother David declared himself Chief after our New Year's game, but within a few days of that, I beat he and Danny in a rematch, and then followed that up with a slaughter of these two and Robert; this picture was sent in an email to both David and Danny.  Unfortunately, all that mocking brought me was failure, as recently we played another game where I defeated Danny and my sister D, but was finally defeated soundly by Danny (a 40 point loss) in a 4-player game.

Stone Age was designed by Bernd Brunnhofer and Michael Tummelhofer.  It was released in 2008 by several publishers; domestically the publisher is Rio Grande Games.  It plays 2-4, and though it's play time is listed as 60 minutes, it's more like 90-120 minutes.

The primary mechanism of Stone Age is worker-placement--you begin the game with five meeples (wooden people), the allocation of which determines what you are able to do on your turn.  Players alternate placing groups of their meeples to collect the four resources (lumber, brick, stone, gold), to collect food, hut tiles or cards, to advance agriculture, build tools, or make babies.

Really, that's one of the actions--you can place two meeples on the love shack, er, hut space; strangely, a fully grown, able-bodied person is formed by this union.  I guess this is the stone age, there really weren't child labor laws, so I guess it could be a working-age child.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2.2: What is this gaming thing? Part 5 - Where did I go wrong?

That's right, two, count them, two posts on time in a row!  Time for a new "What is this gaming thing?" segment, and now there's an end in sight.  This is part 5 of the ongoing series, "What is this gaming thing?"  Click here for parts One, Two, Three, and Four.

There used to be stores in the mall called either The Game Keeper or Wizards of the Coast--here they sold, obviously, Wizards of the Coast products, but also products from other companies.  The walls were filled with wargames, modern and traditional boardgames, collectible card games, dice of many types, and other gaming related paraphernalia.  I don't recall how I found this place, it's very possible my best friend Brian took me along to this place of wonder; inevitably, this became a place I'd regularly visit on any trip to the mall.

My spending was meager, I'm sure; I was in high school and college when the stores were open, and though I got my first job as soon as I graduated high school, most of the money I made went to tuition.  Still, I picked up a few things--Lunch Money, a card game about fighting on the playground; Knightmare Chess, an addition to standard chess that makes things really chaotic; Plague and Pestilence, a game about, well, plague and pestillence, and which is now strangely worth $200-300; and a game that remains among my favorites, RoboRally, a race game where you program robots to navigate a dangerous factory floor.  There were other purchases, including some of the "collectable" variety--we won't talk about those.  Let's just say new gamers are often excited to play whatever they can get their hands on, and when your game group consists of three people, you're going to have to take some chances.

My collection was small, but even if it was at 25 games, it crushes that of the average household, where ten games would be a large collection.  But one day something horrible happened.  The last months of 2003, Wizards of the Coast announced they would be closing all their stores...and I had saved up a little money.

Monday, January 4, 2010

2.1: A most unwinning beginning of 2010

or "Starting the new year in the middle of the Stone Age"

It's been a busy holiday season; I wish I could say it was 100% restful, but it seems that being away from work brings with it a whole new set of obligations.

On the plus side, time off and time with family means more time for gaming.  We did a bit of gaming on the 25th, had friends and family over for a game day on the 26th, and after an exellent dinner of roast beef on the 31st, we brought in the new year with a game of Stone Age, followed by a very close 5-player game of Small World, where we had a tie for first at 66 points (Jackie and David), a tie for last at 62 points (D and myself), and Danny sitting in the middle with 64 points. 

I should also point out that of the four games played during the transition from 2009 to "Twenty-ten," not only did I not lose three of the four games, but I came in last in every one of the games I lost.  My lone victory was in a filler, a ten minute game called No Thanks!  The biggest loss was a game of Stone Age that began in 2009 and ended in 2010--okay, it was actually two hours, but I lost to two people that had never played the game.  I don't expect to win every game that I play against inexperienced players (though experience can be an advantage), but it's not even as if I can say it was a close game.  Well, it was a close game, for David and Danny, who took first and second, each having around 160 points.  I was around 40 points behind Danny.

Perhaps the worst part, however, was my brother David proclaiming that he was the Chief for the next few days.