The Shut Up And Sit Down Board Game Conglomerate (aka a bunch of nerds who make game reviews) had their first convention at the start of October, and I went! It was in Vancouver! YAY!! 3 days (over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend) and about 800 people, and a heckload of fun. WHAT DID I DO??
There were so many panels. Like, all day every day so many panels. I went to only a few, because I gamed so many games the rest of the time. (See below.) I went to the opening ceremony to see the crew & their guests, and that was nice. The calm before the storm, or at least the calm before the sleep deprivation. The other two I just attended were the Cardboard! with Rich Sommer podcast & Tuesday Knight Games podcast recordings. Both were good fun! Rich had Rodney Smith, Paul Dean & Phillipa Warr up as guests and chatted a bit then did audience Q&A. I can’t find a link, though. Alan from TKG had a quick run through of guests come up and join him, with some chatting about games and sharing spooky stories. So fun! You can listen here.
THEN. I got to take part in a panel/event thing! Designer Grant Rodiek asked some industry friends, which somehow included me, to help out/”judge” his design jam panel “Design With Your Hair on Fire”. It was without a doubt the most fun design event I’ve been a part of. It was a packed room – split into about 8 or so groups of varying sizes. Each group got a stack of cards with words, had to combine two to end up with a title for their game, grab a bag of random components and then had 60 minutes to make a game. YEAAAAHHH!! So great. The overwhelming majority of attendees were gamers with no former experience in game design. They all took to it like naturals. At the end of it there were playable games! Vampire Weekend, Bearistocracy, Volcano Garden, Speedo Oligarchy, Breakfast Treachery.. and more. I was so impressed with so many! And the range of stuff was great – there was a dexterity game, a social negotiation game, some things that veered more towards light strategy. It was fantastic to see the results of this jam. I kinda want to see this sort of thing run at every convention.
I felt like I played a lot more than this, but BGStats tells me 24 plays, 10 new to me. I suppose for 3 days that’s not too shabby. I played a mix of stuff people had with them, a few titles from the library and a couple of things I brought. Overwhelming fave was Castles of Burgundy Dice Game still, because I am enamoured. Had a lot of fun teaching Broom Service the Card Game to folks too! And getting a game of Capital Lux in at least once that weekend – plus having the artist, Kwanchai Moriya, sign it! YAY.
So, new to me:
- London – oh my gosh this is punishing but excellent. Hard decisions and timing in a game of building up London after the great fire.
- Bruxelles 1893 – possibly the silliest fun I had playing during SHUX, which is kinda ridiculous considering this is a heavy-ish Euro game. But yeah. I love having goofy fun with friends while playing good solid games!! I enjoyed this quite a bit, with the spatial aspect and the worker placement and art sales and the like. Good things.
- Wind the Film – Evan describes this as Bohnanza meets Lost Cities which seems apt. Hand management to create sets of shots for points. Delightfully good.
- Okanagan: Valley of the Lakes – Nice mix of tile laying and area control with a bit of resource/goal management. I like the setting, just not keen on the total absence of any mention of indigenous people in that area…?
- Tokyo Highway – omg this dexterity game is maddeningly hard but also very good??
- News @ 11 – Such a fun social/improv game! Cards with random prompts are handed out and you’re then directed to give a quick news segment by the lead anchor using those words. HILARITY ENSUES.
- A Dog’s Life – of course I was gonna try this one. Delightful art, cute stuff, fun light pick up & deliver game.
- Between Two Cities – somehow I’d never tried this?? It was really good!
- Deadline – ooooh hardboiled cooperative fun! The way this plays out is very Grizzled-y in its card play, but unfolds like a mystery, giving you new leads whenever you successfully investigate. This was awesome. Would play again A++
Oh, and I also played Twin Peaks the Murder Mystery Game for the first time, and we definitely modified the rules a BUNCH as we played cos, ya know, early 90s roll and move.
Oh my gosh I saw a lot of great people. I got to introduce Evan to pals of mine, and see good friends at the same time. Friends from other cons I go to, from Twitter, a couple of listeners of Greatway Games (yay JC and Kayla!!) some of the SUSD crew, a couple even from the SUSD forums! I did a rubbish job of the latter in general, considering I was the one that started an “introduce yourself” thread and then just failed at meeting people because i’m terrible at remembering faces, and the like. I did meet the lovely Lisa Pope, one half of the behind the scenes organizing team, plus Alex & Michele a couple of cool volunteers though. The amount of people at the con was great, but I think I still just went “aaaah people everywhere who are they” most of the time. OOPS. Also thanks to Ben for the coffee hookups, hell yes.
Thinky thoughts to end on
I had a great time, but I have regrets! I wish I’d demo’d more games, seen more panels, had more time etc etc etc. It was all over in a flash, and there were a LOT of people I saw but just never played games with, which is the saddest thing. Sometimes my brain is all “they’re busy!!!” and sometimes it’s like “omg you’re not in the cool club nobody likes you!” which always comes up in the post-con sads. Gonna try and aim for that not to happen for BGGcon. Also on top of that all, saying goodbye to your long-distance sweetie at the same time as the con ends and all that, oof. I don’t recommend. I can.. not avoid that for BGGcon though. Oops.
Anyhow, despite all of that, I look forward to another SHUX. Perhaps next time I’ll do my Calgary/Banff visit in addition to soaking up the Vancouver goodness.
Oh boy, it’s been a while! About 6 months. Things have percolated a bit in my brain, but I have only just finally tried to get some of it out onto paper. I needed just few things as a basic structure to tangibly poke stuff around on a table. So these are really basic ideas, which will very much need tinkering and fine tuning, but so far I think it’s a reasonable start. Whether or not after the start it keeps going or gets scrapped, who knows!
To start with, I have decided on some random public goals, as well as the “mate” cards which will be private – players will get 3 of those and choose two (scoring their choice at the end of the game, this is my attempt to offer a little flexibility). I have a Patchwork-esque time track right now, in which players will move to gain certain values of food (representing the bird’s time spent finding better food). Those food tokens will be used in an auction phase bidding on objects to place in your “bower”.
This is the “time track” – with the available objects for the auction round. I also have a few spots along the time track that are similar to the single tile patches in Patchwork – I think in this I’d like them to be bonuses for the last player to pass them over as a bit of a balance for not taking so many food tokens.
There’s my attempts at the public goals and mate cards. These are all really off the top of my head so they need a lot of work. But it’s just to get an idea of what I’d have players aiming for. A little set collection, a little puzzley stuff.
And here’s the “object” tiles! The idea is to have 3 types of objects which would be worth different values, but I haven’t exactly worked that into any of the cards yet (other than generically mentioning type). I’d like them to represent different things like, the garbagey blue things like plastic caps etc, and then the shinier nice things like glass etc. I know I had an idea earlier about birds being able to use one of their own feathers in their bower, but right now I’m not sure what function that could have. Still thinking!
I guess it’s time to show this to people? aaaahhhhhhh!
So, much of the content I’ve been creating of late is surrounding board games. Back in the day I used to write a lot more about music & movies, but I feel like those things aren’t hobbies now but just part of life. Board games are a hobby, a passion, and I love to share my thoughts on all aspects of them, even though it’s not my job to do so. I say “creative” output because none of it’s really creative but I don’t know how to describe it? Ha! My nerd sprinklings? Geeky missives? Anyhow, here they are!
I’ve written a few articles here on this blog, where I feel like I can be as divisive as I like and own the responsibility for that – “Why I’m Not Here To Ruin Your Fun” and “Don’t Bring Gender into Board Games“. But I like to have somewhere a little more appropriate for long-form personal stuff like “I Guess Board Games are my Valentine” and personal con write-ups. And let’s not forget the languishing design series, ha!
For the last few years I’ve been a contributor at the Daily Worker Placement blog (as well as running the Twitter and helping a bit with the Facebook account). My writing is a bit all over the place there – some stuff about conventions, a little on apps, and some stuff like the series of survey infographics I published after taking a big survey of gamers. I like the freedom I have there to write about what I really want to, and I really like that we’re having the reach we do.
A little under a year ago, Games on the Rocks started up – I’d been inspired by certain pub meetups (Vegan Drinks, and Drinking About Museums) to try something similar. But instead of in-person, I’d be doing it with my far-away pals Suz, Maggi & Steph via the internet! So each week we have a bit of a chat about what we’ve been playing, and a topic of some sort (game themes, conventions, and the like) – we even had a live play through of an app (Mysterium) on our last episode which was really cool. Every (other-ish) Friday we go live on the Meeples Included Twitch and there’s an archive of broadcasts on YouTube. We even managed to live-Periscope an episode of the show from BGGcon which was one of my highlights of the trip.
My most recent project is a podcast, Greatway Games. This is my “different” style of content regarding board gaming as a hobby, which is so refreshing! Along with pals Erin & Adrienne, we spend about an hour each episode (1 per month) on a topic that is broadly about the hobby rather than reviewing games & the like. For instance, conventions, teaching games or comfort games! We also approach recording a little differently than most, adding a personal touch with a mood check-in at the start of each episode, a Pet Corner where we update you on all our lil cutie pies, and a segment we definitely took straight out of Pop Culture Happy Hour – what’s making us happy! Recording these is one of the highlights of my month. We’ve also been doing mini episodes to come out mid-month for Patreon backers too, if you can’t get enough. Almost all include Jake barking in the background at some point *facepalm* OH! And I run the Twitter for us too 🙂
Earlier this week during debate in the US Senate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren was silenced during a speech in which she read a letter by Coretta Scott King (civil rights activist and Martin Luther King’s widow). After the incident, a comment was made: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” That last part really rang true for me and got me thinking about how I persist in my life – and quite often within board gaming. I speak out frequently regarding making board games an inclusive hobby, where everyone feels included and can play without feeling shut out. Warren’s example has inspired and motivated me to share – and keep sharing – my views on board games, safe spaces, and pushing for inclusivity without alienating the creators of content that we love so much, and fellow gamers.
Now, here’s the thing: there’s this hierarchy of privilege – and if you don’t see it, then you’re likely up near the top. I readily admit I’m up there as a white, middle class person. And when you’re up near the top it is tough to hear and believe criticism without it feeling like it’s being aimed at you personally. Believe me, I know what this feels like. And by golly do I ever try and be so diplomatic much of the time when I’m offering up criticism of board gaming. So recently I reached this brick wall moment where I realized, no – I have to persist. So I went off on a bit of a ramble on Twitter:
Of course it’s difficult to hear criticism of the hobby you love. But gosh, please understand we love it too. We want positive change.
If a woman says “It’s unfortunate how the women are portrayed in this game”, LISTEN TO HER. You can still hear that AND play the game.
It’s tough going on a ramble on a platform with a 140 character limit, but this succession of tweets got a lot of my point across. We are at a point in board games where media’s reached this sort of critical mass of overwhelmingly positive representation in reviews, etc, and it’s because so many of us are in it for the passion of it – we play the games we’re likely to love, and spend the time writing about/making videos and podcasts about the games we enjoyed. We want to spread the love. This isn’t our day job.
And then, people like me come along with the “hmm, doesn’t the representation of women in this game seem problematic to you?” or, “I understand the need for a resource in this game but it’s not “historical” so perhaps we could look at something other than slaves.” And then, as a man, or as a white person you automatically think “I’m not the bad one here!” I know you’re not. I’ve met a lot of people through board gaming and dog’s honest truth there are very very few deliberately malicious people. However, we’re a pretty homogeneous group of folks, so bringing up issues of race, gender and otherwise can put people on edge in their safe hobby space.
Did you know this hobby’s my safe space, too? The place that I go to have fun, enjoy a game and generally ignore the societal and political structure of the world? So when I see a game like – as an example – Conan.. Do you not think that it drags me back into the real world, where women are still treated as objects? Sexually vilified and seen as conquests? Where I’ve broken out of the having fun part to the “oh this is how the real world works too” part. You probably don’t think that. And you probably think, “Why can’t she just realize this is a game?” Therein lies the magical mutual inclusivity of being able to have fun playing a game but also being critical of it, as mentioned above. I will persist in mentioning these things until the people with privilege will start to notice them too. And maybe their purchasing habits will change, or they’ll start talking to other gamers about the content and portrayal of people in games. Or even giving publishers feedback!
Let’s not think that being critical is negative. Please let me make clear to you that when I see a publisher doing the inclusive thing by using neutral pronouns in their rules, or having a great balance of genders to play (bonus points for a non-binary selection), I will go out of my way to tell them. I want them to know that the choices they’re making mean something to me, a hobby gamer. I want to see me in games. I want to see the world I live in portrayed in games. I want to see everyone given a fair chance in games. And that’s at the table, too – be it as players, or designers.
Luckily, there’s a lot of industry folks who are actively encouraging women to get into game design. Groups such as the Game Artisans of Canada, UnPub and the like are willing and open and encouraging of all sorts of folks to get involved in the design process, and are there to support them with advice and help. Getting a diverse group of people involved in game design will be a slow burn, but I hope to see it have a positive impact on the industry overall.
I’m not here to ruin your fun. It’s my fun, too. But we all have to realize that things change. And that means our hobby, too. Listen to the people at the table with you when they have a criticism. Listen to your pals on Board Game Twitter when they mention something that bugs them about a game because of the portrayal of race or gender (and the like). Like I have said many times, and definitely in the above – that doesn’t mean we have to trash a game right there and then! Learn to take on those criticisms and think broadly about them – especially how they fit into the larger context of the world outside our hobby. We need thoughtful, honest and critical views of the hobby right now, before it becomes a homogeneous mass that can never be cracked and enjoyed by anyone who presents differently to the norm.
Let’s face it – we’re all likely to learn something from these experiences, while still being able to enjoy board games. Maybe you’ll learn more about the people of colour in medieval periods, or the role of women in Istanbul’s grand bazaar! Honestly, maybe you’ll just enjoy laying some tiles, placing some workers and rolling some dice – because we’re all here for that. But some of us want to be seen and heard, too.
- What would be the basic turn structure?
My basic idea would be for players to spend (x) time (on the track) foraging for food (sort of the currency of the game) until each player passes. Then, spending food values, players can bid on a selection of treasure (nest) tiles – once a player wins a bid to pick a tile, they pay and the auction round goes to the other players (or once one player is left they pay minimum bid of one food for the tile left).
- What, if any, ways could a player interact or affect another player?
Bidding highest to get the first take of a tile, mostly. And making it to a public bonus goal first.
- Why are the objectives secret if you’re fighting over the same mate?
Each player would have a unique mate hidden in their hand – possibly more, if it would work out like tickets in Ticket to Ride where you could possibly take more mates and score some of their points later in the game? But yeah, there’d be a chance to have different mates each time you play, anyhow.
- How can you use the secret objectives to create tension?
This is a tough one. Tension in the auction, and the race to succeed at the public goals? (i.e. who makes X shape first, who hits 7×7 filled nest spots first, for example?)
- What information is hidden?
The goals you’re aiming at for your mates to successfully lure them.
- How does that hidden information inform game play?
Definitely directs what tiles you’re bidding for, and also the patterns/size of the nest you’re decorating.
- Can you move tiles/remove tiles after being played?
Perhaps if I allowed during-game scoring of mates? But that doesn’t seem quite as thematic (that also leads to the thought of does having multiple mates to score mean it isn’t as thematic? But the male birds have many females come by to inspect their nests before one chooses, so…) So I’m guessing most likely no, once they’re played they stay.
- Are/is the tile pool/s singular or player specific?
The tile pool (nest treasures) would be shared – drawn from a bag (perhaps each auction round would have player number +2 tiles as a range to bid on?).
- Where, if any, would you incorporate randomness?
The bag draw for the nest treasure tiles for sure, and I suppose the allocation of the hidden mates (even if they’re drafted to start the game, and especially if more come out during the game). I know a game like Patchwork has everything visible to start the game, but I think that might be a bit much for this? Maybe to mitigate the randomness of the bag draw, the tiles would be visible during the food collection phase.
- Where would you say the interesting decisions are?
This is the tough part as I don’t have the game quite fully realized. I want the public and hidden goals to be challenging, but not so random they’re not obtainable. I want players to take their goals and use those as their guide on how to bid, when to let other players win certain phases and the like in order to most efficiently gather together what you need.
- What type of experience would you like this game to invoke?
A feeling of making the best puzzle, collecting sets to maximize points and having fun making something pretty!
Following on from this, I need to make a firm decision on the structure of the game, most importantly:
- Will players draft mate cards?
- Will there be opportunities to partially score mate cards throughout the game? (Or in drawing new ones, perhaps take 3, keep 1 for instance)
- How the timing track/food collection will affect the phases/progress/length of the game, and if that makes a difference for player turn order
- How many treasure tiles, what their shapes and types will be, as well as point values if that’s necessary (for public goals perhaps?)
- Draft up some shared goals for shapes, sizes, and set collections for treasure types
I’m sure more will come up, but I believe this little brainstorm and following up on those particular points will help direct me further into this game and the process.
Most of you are aware that I’m super into board games. I love playing them, talking about them, and even writing about them sometimes. In the past few years I’ve gotten to try game prototypes at various stages of design, and it’s a fascinating process to gain insight into. I’ve become intrigued with ideas for games, myself – but I wouldn’t fancy myself a game designer. The first game I had an idea for was all about running a museum (and I still have ideas and notes for that, but it’s a really big idea that’s a bit much to tackle right now). One day at work I was randomly chatting with a colleague about a game jam coming up, and how it might be fun to make a natural history-themed game somehow and my brain started percolating.
My first idea was pretty simple, because I’d thought I might approach it at a game jam – it was basically to reskin the 2 player tile-placement game Patchwork as a game where you played a male Bowerbird, laying tiles down to decorate your nest. (I even went to the library at work to read a bit about Bowerbirds, folks!) As time went on, the idea was still there in the back of my head and on the drive home from a convention earlier this year I was chatting with friends about it. We threw ideas about left, right and centre; I tried to hold on to as much of that brainstorming as possible, and one evening while chatting with my other half, threw some more brainstorming notes down on paper. A little while ago I found them while looking through a notebook and figured I should start more work on this!
I was able to decipher most of the notes, and as I typed things out I fleshed out ideas and organized things a little better. The idea has come a long way from just the blatant reskinning of another game – while I’d still be using a tile-laying element, the game itself has taken on a little more of a life of its own. What do I do now, though? I have a bunch of ideas that seem to go together, but little idea of how to start executing them physically to try them out. So, I’m going to try and take it a little at a time – parcel out little pieces of it to figure them out, and see how that goes. And I figured writing about it might motivate me to get my shit together, too! Haha.
So, you wanna see what I have so far for the summary? I think I need to work on how the rounds of the game might progress, and then think about developing a series of the secret goal (mate) cards first up!
You are a male Satin bowerbird (P. violaceus) living in the Eucalypt forests of eastern Australia. Nesting season is approaching, and you need to attract a mate to your bower. Your bower begins as a structure of stones and sticks – you will, over (x) rounds, collect (hopefully) beautiful blue objects to decorate your bower with. The more beautiful your bower is to female Satin bowerbirds, the better you will do!
How to get points
- Sets of objects – either same or different
- Size of nest (have penalties for empty spaces, or bonuses for certain sizes met?)
- Optical illusion patterns (Bowerbirds lay out objects in patterns to make optical illusions to look extra amazing to potential mates)
- Dancing bonus, sound bonus (these could come up as cards among food resources, perhaps?) – not sure where these would come in!
- Leftover resources (food, objects etc.)
If you have met the (secret) conditions of what your mate is looking for, you perform a courtship dance and are successful in attracting your mate. Check the conditions of your mate cards, and any bonus goal points you may have attained – whoever has the most points has made the best bower and pleased their mate above all other birds.
I’d love to hear your thoughts – leave a comment, or ping me over on Twitter at @iheartmuseums
I don’t have preorders or anything right now, but here’s what I’ve got my eye on to play once they’re released after this year’s Spiel board game event in Essen, Germany! And if you don’t feel like reading, here’s my rambles in a video.
What’s on my hot list to try:
Key to the City: London – R&D Games: I love Keyflower, but I think the game could do with a better setting (a not so generic one) so I’m looking forward to seeing what this game does!
Cottage Garden – Spielwiese: Uwe Rosenberg’s riding the tile placement train and so far what I’ve tried of it has been great, so it’s no surprise I’m looking forward to this one. I wonder how it’ll compare to Patchwork, being 2 – 4 players!
Great Western Trail – Stronghold Games: To be honest, not super stoked on the theme of this one, but I love love LOVE the designer Alexander Pfister.
Terraforming Mars – Stronghold Games: I’ve heard many great things about this game, so it’s on my list to try for BGGcon (plus, someone posted a pic of a card that’s got a puppy, so I’m on board!)
Mystic Vale expansion – AEG: I loved Mystic Vale but, like many others, felt it needed more. Can’t wait to see what’s going on in this expansion.
Oh My Goods expansion – Mayfair/Lookout: An expansion for another Alexander Pfister gem. One of my fave releases from the last year, Oh My Goods is a great small Euro in a card game package. Excited to see what the expansion will do.
Clank! – Renegade Games: I always love trying fun dungeon raiding types of games (Welcome to the Dungeon, Dungeon Raiders, Claustrophobia to name a few) and I’ve heard fun things about this, so now it’s on my list to seek out.
The Last Friday – Ares Games: I am still kicking myself for missing out on this at Gen Con! I have a preorder, and even if the disappointment I’ve heard about the game is warranted, I still can’t wait to see what it’s like!
Games i’m interested in but could wait:
Dragon & Flagon – Stronghold Games: Heard many good things out of Gen Con and want to try it, but I am not sure about picking this one up
Pandemic Iberia – Z-Man Games: I haven’t even finished my Pandemic: Legacy campaign yet, so the other Pandemic flavours have to wait 😦
La Granja the Dice Game – No Siesta! – Stronghold Games: Loved La Granja, but the time investment means it’s hard to get to the table. Intrigued by this, wonder if it could make it more accessible.
Jorvik! – Eggertspiele: I mostly want to see how the new theme’s been implemented over the Speicherstadt! Curious if it’d be a better play than I had of the original.
Inis – Matagot: Having tried Kemet & Cyclades, and hearing this is similar, it makes me a little hesitant (I like Kemet for sure but don’t like it enough to own it) – but it does sound interesting. Plus, the art looks really neat.
Pandemic the Cure: Experimental Meds – Z-Man Games: I got to try a prototype of this a while back, so I’m excited it’s finally coming out! MORE THE CURE! One of the best dice implementations of a board game ever ever ever.
Finally, what I’ve tried and recommend:
7 Wonders Duel: Pantheon – Repos Productions: 7 Wonders Duel is one of the best 2 player games out there, and this adds some cool unique player abilities in the form of God cards players can obtain. Very awesome addition.
Adrenaline – Czech Games Edition: A first person shooter Euro! Truly fantastic fun. Move around a board to attack your opponents, but also try to make the most of those attacks by taking up the most area on their damage tracker. Looking forward to grabbing this one.
Feast for Odin – Z-Man Games: This is a hefty game. The box is almost the size of my 15lb dog. It’s a great Euro worker placement/tile placement game that has so much complex strategy I haven’t scratched the surface in even a few plays. Love it so far though!
Colony – Bezier Games: A lovely twist on a city building game with tableau-building and the use of dice as resources! BONUS: post-apocalyptic setting. Woo!
Cry Havoc – Portal Games: If you hadn’t guessed from my Inis blurb above, i’m not too much of a fan of “dude on map” games, but this invasion/area control combat game has a really fresh approach with the ‘factions’ you play and the unique combat resolution. I actually had fun playing a combat game! Best.
Captain Sonar – Matagot Games: Real-time Battleship with dry-erase sheets. Get in.
Networks – Formal Ferret Games: I love this game – medium strategy card playing and a hell of a fun sense of humour. Make sure to preorder if you’re going to Essen!
Oceanos – Iello Games: Everything about this game is wonderful. It’s pretty, it’s light and fun, and you have a submarine. Just get it.
Vanuatu 2nd ed – Quined Games: We have an older version, and the game’s terrific (role selection, interesting decisions to kinda maximize for yourself and block other players). If they’ve updated the art, that’s great!
If you’re looking for a great tool to help make sense of and sort through all of the releases for Spiel, head to Tabletop Together’s “Spiel Together” tool. (Which couldn’t be useful at all without the amazing work that is put in over at BGG by W. Eric Martin on the BGG Spiel Preview!)