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 🙂
- 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
Don’t bring gender into (board) gaming – or, why I’m sick of seeing dudes ask what games their wives might like.
On Boardgame Geek (in various forums), or even occasionally on Reddit or on Twitter, I’ll see requests from (usually) male boardgamers asking what games they should get to play with/buy for their wives/daughters/girlfriends. I want to look a little at this to see why it’s problematic to frame your questioning this way, and how it can only further drive the divide between the perceived binary of genders in gaming.
I want to state up front: I am not opposed to people seeking out recommendations for games to play with their significant others or children. I am all for bringing people to the hobby, regardless of if they stay a casual player or become very much a more frequent gamer. If the person you’re trying to encourage is willing to try out stuff, then great! If not, then you can’t magically make them enjoy games, no matter how great you think those games are (this is hard to swallow! I know!) and just asking for recommendations based solely on gender will certainly not help with that. I’ve had great success by playing accessible, casual games with people, leading to a great and enthusiastic response – rather than saying something akin to, “Oh hey! You’re a lady therefore you most likely sew, and therefore will enjoy this game Patchwork”, which is never a safe assumption (although that person may end up enjoying that fantastic 2p mostly abstract game with challenging decisions because it’s awesome).
So, let’s move on. The most important point here is gender. Within gender as the focal point here, the false assumption that gender identity is binary and the essentialism that goes along with that assumption. Essentialism is the concept that something (an object, an animal, a group of people, etc) is marked by an unchanging, assumed state of being, that something has an “ultimate reality” – for instance, that cultural practices are static and unchanging, or that the earth is definitely flat and that can never be different.
This gender essentialism – 2 options, unchanging, unmalleable – tends to plague a lot of questions about what games to recommend to a person (usually without meaning to, or realizing). Gender essentialism when asking these questions is, by its very nature, quite reductionist. That is, thinking that every man shares the same interests and wants to play certain games, and that women would have a different set of interests and therefore different needs out of game playing, means you have 2 narrow definitions of people. What this doesn’t take into account is the spectrum of gender that all of us exist on – no one woman is precisely performative of the ideal “feminine” concept of what a woman should be, nor is any man entirely representative of the “masculine” concept for men. On top of this all, the gendered questioning regarding game recommendations completely ignores those who are non-binary, gender fluid or trans*.
When I see a request for game recommendations for “my wife/girlfriend/daughter”, it very rarely comes with any qualifying factors such as “has this person played games before at all?” “has this person has enjoyed (x) type of game?” or “this person enjoys (y) type of theme or (z) type of gameplay”. What these sorts of gender-based queries assume is that women who aren’t gamers (or at least game infrequently) will all be interested in the same kinds of games. That’s a presumption that shouldn’t be made about anyone – even if they’ve not played board games before, or even if they have!
I understand, of course, that nouns such as wife/husband, daughter/son are useful in a way that defines the poster’s relationship to this person rather than saying something like “I’m looking for games Betty might like”, a less helpful pointer as to who the person is. Unfortunately, this use of nouns then lands us in the waters of murky gendered assumptions, where the “wife” must be understood in feminine terms as must the “son” or “daughter” in terms of what games they’d be interested in (where, with children, I believe age is a far more important category to use for game recommendations, on top of interests/games enjoyed previously).
Personally, I would hate to be stereotyped into a box of what “women” are, and should like as far as board games go. My interests are varied outside of board games, and that drives me to be interested in trying all sorts of games, especially when theme is involved. But it must also be realized that my interests don’t define me entirely. I’ve certainly never been interested in building an estate in medieval France, but heck if one of my favourite games isn’t Castles of Burgundy. I love the gameplay so much!
If you had a partner who had assumed on behalf of your gender presentation alone that a particular game might not be up your alley, you might never know what games you’re missing out on. Make the effort to consider someone as a whole person – their interests, the types of fun they like to have, what games they’ve liked before – and you will likely be far more successful in encouraging that person to game, and have fun while doing it. And – as a bonus – come back for more!
I’d like to leave you with an image that I keep going back to when I see all sorts of gendered marketing and gendered questions when it comes to finding toys/games etc. While it is pretty basic (it tends towards biological assumptions rather than gender identity) I still think it makes a great point. Don’t boil your decisions down to something you’re assuming one “type” of person is – in all areas of your life, it will be a great way to go forward.
So it’s been almost a couple of weeks since the Gathering of Friends convention wrapped up. This year, as last, we had to come back for some of the weekdays in between the weekends because of Real Life. But we managed to pack in a lot of gaming in those long weekends. A whirlwind of not realizing what day it was, and not remembering when we’d been outside last.
You can head to the Daily Worker Placement to read mine and my friend Sean’s kinda general wrap-up of the con here. I also did a big ol’ geeklist on Boardgame Geek like each year I’ve been, mostly to have my remarks all in one place so I can refer to it!
For me, the Gathering is not an experience I take part in so I can rub people’s noses in it. It’s great fun for me and my other half, and it’s not often we get the chance to attend something like this. I’ve heard a lot of guff from folks post-Gathering that they hate hearing about it because it’s an invite-only convention. I’m gonna say to you all reading right now – sorry, but suck it. This is the only board game-focused convention I get to go to (although this year I will be attending BGGcon for the first time, so there’s more games for me!). I like going because I get to see friends I don’t get to see often, I get to make new friends, I get to play games, and I get to try some games that will be upcoming soon. Almost everything there you can get out of any other board game convention; perhaps the last part only if you go to one of the Unpub events, but sitting down to play prototypes is getting much easier as a gamer in North America, there’s a few cities here in Canada that run designer/testing nights on a regular basis too!
That being said, I want to wrap up with my main thoughts on games I played, experiences I had. It was great to have Tabletop Day fall on the first weekend!
* Japanese/Taiwanese games – I tried a few games that I had never seen, given how tough it can be to get a hold of them in North America, and they were great!! Three faves were Doggy Go!, Colors of Kasane and Deep Sea Adventure. Such streamlined game design, great gameplay, and wonderful graphic design for all three. All gifts of these games to me are welcomed 😀
* Prototypes – there are some of these that I can’t really say much about – two of my favourites were being shopped around for a publisher: Vlaada Chvatil has a word game, and Matt Leacock made a party game. They’re both amazing, and will surely be published soon. The other secret stuff I really enjoyed was some Werewolf-y related stuff from Bezier, and also the prototype of One Night Resistance that they had also. So good! Most ridiculously fun party game prototype was Josh Cappell’s “X While Z” which better get published or I’m gonna be SO MAD. Possibly my most anticipated or one I really want to dive back into was CGE’s Castaways Club, a spiritual successor to Last Will. And I’m curious to see where the development of the awesome Space Cowboys title TIME Stories will end up!
* Fun events/tournaments – I partook in the ‘Game of the Afternoon’ which is a fun afternoon of game designers mocking up small/short games all in one area of the con to try – this year’s theme was cars/racing! It was great fun, and I ended up coming first out of my team in the set of races we went through. I missed the other tournaments I wanted to take part in (Caffeine Rush, Loopin’ Louie) and realized too late there was a cool puzzle hunt as well. And the customary last tournament of the weekend is for Can’t Stop – I didn’t last the first round! As always.
* Prize table – if you contribute to the prize table at the GOF, then you get to pick from it, too. This year, Adam gave a couple of games, and I put in two sets of Meeple tree ornaments – the couple that got them from the table are going to make them into a baby mobile for their twins which is ACE. If you’re a tournament winner you get an earlier pick from the table (really many tables – see below). For first picks, I grabbed Sherriff of Nottingham, Adam got Dead of Winter, and then more stuff towards the end when it was a free for all. I love seeing the creativity on the ‘special’ prizes table – someone made an amazing playable Pandemic globe! And some great painted minis, custom wooden Dominion card box, a set of plates with game boards/covers, and much more. I gotta step up my game next year.
BGGcon will tide me over, and let me see some of my GOF folks, but I do truly look forward to next year’s Gathering and all the fun, games and atmosphere it offers.
Hello! Here’s an excuse to share cute pictures of Jake putting up with the gaming we do. Poor tortured soul.
Then there was that one time he just gave up and slept on the shelf.
But sometimes he comes to conventions with us!