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!
Video gaming’s had a lot of shit-flinging over the last year or so with G*merG*te stepping up to not only tell people they don’t belong in the industry/hobby, but also a whole lot of other just generally terrible, life-threatening things. Luckily, we haven’t reached such levels of awful in the tabletop gaming hobby – most likely because the numbers are smaller, and it’s not as mainstream a hobby.
Not to be down on the folks I share a hobby with at all – there’s fantastic, wonderful people there! But some attitudes and commentary of late – some specific, some just popping up vaguely here and there – have me thinking about how exclusivity, feelings of seniority and also sexism can play a part in pushing people away. I’m lucky to know some awesome folks who speak out about stuff like this and I am lucky to call them friends, and share the hobby with them.
As in life, remember in your hobby: you are not better than anyone. You are on the same level as people, and you should treat them accordingly. So, here’s some thoughts..
No matter how long you’ve been in the hobby, you have no more right to it than someone that started into it this past weekend.
Just because someone doesn’t like the same kinds of games as you doesn’t make them inferior to the hobby.
It’s hard to believe this needs to be said, but women are gamers too. With a variety of interests as far as theme and game-play go, and you should never assume any differently.
Related, don’t speak in terms of “I got beaten by a girl!” whether that’s a 7 year old girl, or a 50 year old woman. Just.. don’t.
Oh right, and also don’t go asking for recommendations for your significant in other in terms of “they’re my wife lol” – speak about that person in terms of their interest in gaming, their non-gaming hobbies, and the games they may have tried/liked already and you will not only get a better round of recommendations but you’re also not distilling your partner down to their relationship to you only.
When you wonder why there’s not enough women in the hobby, or taking the leap to design games – don’t put the onus on them to do it. Make the industry and hobby welcoming, encourage without belittling, and it’ll be good for all.
If you’re an industry-type, don’t let it go to your head. I feel like this hobby lends itself to a wonderful co-mingling of both, especially when it comes to playtesting and support. Don’t push people away because they’re “not at your level”.
Size doesn’t matter. So what if you’ve got 500 board games, and someone else only has 5? You shouldn’t believe that makes you a higher level gamer. Life circumstances are often behind the ability – or lack thereof – to build a collection, and nobody should be judged for that.
Opinions – and a variety of them – should be encouraged and welcomed in the hobby! Don’t shut someone down just because they have their own opinions that may differ from yours. Discuss it like adults, please! Or step away if you’ve nothing constructive to say.
Don’t diss out gateway games like Settlers of Catan, or Splendor (for example) for the sake of it just to sound superior! Just because you don’t play it or you might hate it doesn’t devalue the game as something that can introduce a person to tabletop gaming. And if you don’t like gateway games like that, find something else you think might work. Even something like For Sale, or Ghost Blitz, for example, can be an irresistible introduction to games.
Kickstarter: if people don’t want to, or can’t, back Kickstarter projects, so be it.
Never assume you are better than anyone. Be excited, be enthusiastic, and enjoy gaming. That excitement and enthusiasm will be welcoming and encouraging, and can only make the hobby better.
Over at BGG, I frequent the “Women & Gaming” forum, where ladies in the hobby get together to chat about games, and life, and stuff (and also non-lady friends, parters, allies are encouraged to take part too!). Someone was curious what everyone’s 2015 gaming ‘resolutions’ (more goals/plans) for gaming in the year would be. So here’s mine – slightly edited to add another one I put on there after I’d posted. Do you, as a board gamer, have any goals for the year?
1. Scale back buying new games; I can’t say no new games coming in because Adam gets some free copies of stuff through his translation work, but our choices to buy can definitely go down. Plus Adam will always buy Netrunner stuff.
2. Go back to our system (stolen 100% from Steve & Leslie Wolfhard) of putting a few coins in a jar every time we play a game and when there’s enough there, put it toward something new; that way we’re forcing ourselves to play what’s in our collection, and also rewarding ourselves for it! It helps with slowing down buying too.
3. Cull the collection! For a while Adam’s been hesitant to do this, but I think he realizes it’s time now; we have a big job with it, but it’ll be worth it to trim the fat. (As you can see from the hectic shelves below, it needs trimming and tidying!)
4. Log more plays! Right now I just log new-to-me games the first time I play so I remember at year-end, but I think more stats on what I play would be fun.
5. More W&G participation and more online games at BAJ/BGA/Yucata with W&G forum folks!
6. More blogging about games.
[Aforementioned shelves – click through for larger messy versions.]
In case you missed it, I wrote about my favourite 2014 releases here, and I wrote a bit more of an article on my top 5 2014 releases over at the Daily Worker Placement! And now..
My 2014 gaming wrap-up part 2, honourable mentions: Stuff that didn’t necessarily come out in 2014, but I tried out for the first time! (Many from last year’s wishlist.) It’s not all about the new to the market, but also new to me! Some of this is fairly recent, but there’s a few oldies in here.
* Concept: A party game of guessing – but instead of a charades-type scenario, you have a board of icons/symbols/shapes/colours etc to use to explain the ‘concept’ of what you’re trying to get the other players to guess. (Chosen from a card with some easy/medium/hard things listed.) I can’t get enough of this game! I don’t understand why it didn’t win the SdJ, it’s such a solid game. One of my favourite group/party games now!
* Star Realms: Honestly, I play this more through the app than actually sitting down to the card game. Great deck building with aspects of Ascension (buying from a single pool of replenishing cards) but also the fun of attacking your opponent, as it’s the last spaceship standing wins. (Nice to have something that’s not just points for a change!)
* Arkadia: This is a really lovely game, with beautiful components. That makes it quite a pleasure to play. I enjoyed the unique aspects of the gameplay, building up the structures and using cards/builders for progressing – but I didn’t feel drawn to it enough to really want to play it again some time, unfortunately.
* Kreta: Quite an interesting mix of hand management & area control – timing things right so you’ve got helpful resources and are in the regions that will score, and trying to make that scoring happen when it’ll benefit you most. I think I would like to try this one again as I really liked the gameplay, but was terribly void of strategic understanding.
* Goa: This is definitely one of those times I learnt a game when I was too tired to really understand it, and by the end I realized that was a bad idea, but want to try it again. I love the way the tiles are laid out, and accessed through auctioning, and you need to strategically gain things through those auctions to power up your own player board/tech tree thing. All the things about it are cool, and I want to make sure my impressions aren’t coloured by a bad first-time play for this one.
* Boss Monster: There’s some rad stuff about this game – the throwback pixel art, the concept that you’re a dungeon boss trying to lure unsuspecting adventurers into your dungeon so you can whack ’em, how easy it is to learn/teach.. But unfortunately this just didn’t click for me – it’s something that seems like it should, but it just sits there on the shelf overlooked now.
* Legends of Andor: I love Michael Menzel’s art! So it’s nice to see a game he made AND did art for! There’s not a lot of cooperative fantasy-themed games, and this one’s got a nice balance of genders for characters to play, so I was excited to try this out finally after it’d been on our shelf for too long in shrink. I do like the gameplay – the way you get around the map, the way combat etc plays out, all of that was good. But we played through a bunch of scenarios and I just haven’t been interested in getting it back out again. I guess I was expecting something more engaging, and was disappointed it wasn’t D&D in a board game.
* Cuatro: Yahtzee meets four-in-a-row on a flat board – but you can also stack on top of other player’s pieces to get your four-in-a-row! We played this at the Board Room and it’s an excellent quick filler, with buckets of dice rolling. Just the ticket if you’re in the mood.
* Mai-Star: I believe I’ve mentioned at some point that I really enjoy games that have cards with multiple uses, and Mai-Star really does that well! Become the most famed Geisha by attracting the best and most demanding guests – playing down character cards and attracting them with the values of other cards – performance, service and intelligence. Those guests will then give you benefits as the round goes on. I really liked this – I can’t see if it’s got a place in our collection because it doesn’t really fill any gaps as far as small quick card games, but I’d play it again at an event for sure!
* Auf Teufel Komm Raus: What an enormously fun betting/push your luck game! All the ‘coal’ in the middle are printed on the other side – either numeric values, or a devil symbol. At the start of each round, everyone reveals the value of coal they think they’ll be able to turn over without busting (ie. revealing a devil). Even if you hit your amount you can keep going! Or you can pass out to make sure you get a return. SO GOOD. I wish this was an English release, but we had fun playing with our friends in Halifax who own it.
* Tokaido: I seriously fell in love with this game this year, I wish I’d tried it earlier! One of the great pleasures of this game is in the relaxing play and that it’s a different enough little journey every time that it’s still nice to come back to over and over, similar to something like Carcassonne. The premise is that you’re a traveler on the East Sea road in Japan, moving along the action spots and stopping for meals at particular junctures. Actions range from painting landscapes, to visiting hot springs, encountering other travellers, visiting temples and collecting souvenirs. You can choose to poke along slowly, or jump ahead to take the action you really want – remembering that it’s always the person in the last spot who’ll take the current turn. It’s truly wonderful – depending on the ‘traveler’ you have each game (they all have special abilities/benefits) and how many people you play with, it’s always a new, yet familiar experience. I will always be up for a game of Tokaido!
* MarraCash – All these little coloured wooden customers line up around the outside of the board waiting to come in and shop – you need to try and bid to purchase the right coloured stores in order to attract them as they enter the neighbourhood. The premise seems simple, but it was actually a terrifically hard game to make the most of (or at least I found it that way!). Interesting, but not enough to play again.
* Campanile – This was a pretty interesting little card game! You are aiming to build up towers of different types, but the amount you build (1, 2 or 3 cards) determines the amount you can bid on what towers you think will win, and affects the new building type cards you’ll take. It really gives you some tough decisions to make on what is otherwise a very simple little game.
* Luchador! Mexican Wrestling Dice – Rolling dice! Flipping out! PINNING!! I played a tag-team 4 player game of this and it was ridiculously fun. You roll dice to see if you hit your opponent, and there’s a variety of special moves you can pull off if you roll with luck. Light and a fun filler, especially when you just want to let loose and roll dice.
* New Haven: Players share a resource board, which they build up during the game by placing tiles strategically to collect an optimum amount of resources on each of their turns (bordering your tile with similar resources bumps up the amount). The number of resources are indicated on a track, and spent immediately to place numbered tiles on your own player mat in order to try and fill up rows and columns for completion points. A nice light game with a balance of strategy, luck & player interaction. Lovely!
* Concordia: I really enjoyed the interesting mix of hand-building and working that together with the map & gaining resources/currency. There was a fine balance there that I tried to get, yet failed. I think had I been paying more attention to the end game card bonus scoring then I might have fared better. I’m not sure I’ll get this to the table again to see how it plays multiple times – there’s many more heavier games I want to try first.
* Ab in die Tonne – Look, if someone had sat me down and said I’d have a great time playing a game about stacking garbage in a can I’d have thought they were having me on. But it’s seriously great! Each player has a hand of three cards (from a deck ranging from 1 – 10), and each round reveals one simultaneously with the other players. Then from lowest to highest, each player picks one type of trash (milk cartons, apple cores, cans, bottles) and places a number of pieces equal to the number revealed into the garbage can. If you make everything collapse, you take a penalty token. If you happen to place the last piece of trash in/on the can without it collapsing, you get a bonus! SO MUCH FUN. German kid’s dexterity games are so, so good.
* Robinson Crusoe – I really like this, but don’t own it – so it’s hard to get back to the table, especially when gaming with new releases to try and different people with different tastes. I think this is a really finely balanced, challenging game. If you like how tough Pandemic could be, this might be something you’d like to try – everyone struggling along together to eke it out to make it through to the end of the scenario. I’ve only tried the one scenario so I’m not sure I can 100% thumbs up the game, but I like the gameplay and the art/theme really ties it all together!
* Pathfinder Card Game – An adventure/rpg-ish card game based on the actual RPG Pathfinder system. I’m not sure how it compares to the RPG itself, but it’s a pretty neat structure for an adventure card game. I especially like the fact you can level up your character and develop your deck if you want to play a sort of ‘campaign’! I’ve got to try and get this to the table again, perhaps just for me and Adam to play through our own mini-campaign, because it’s not likely we’ll play past the first scenario with anyone else. I want to make sure that it can really give the feeling of playing through an adventure too, because I haven’t felt that so much with the little experience I’ve had (but that was a confusing new game where I didn’t really get to immerse myself).
* A Study in Emerald – I am ashamed to admit that I got this as a belated giftmas present last year from Adam and it’s sat on our shelf in shrink since then (we’d played it through on a friends copy and been interested by it). Part of the problem, I think, is the complexity of it, and how long ago we played – it means that we’re going in as newbies again and really need to familiarize ourselves. This is a goal for 2015 (sooner rather than later, I hope) because I really do enjoy the game and theme!
* Forbidden Desert – It’s hard to believe that I tried this out as a prototype a few years ago now! I love the final published copy (it didn’t vary too much from the prototype if I recall correctly) – a nice fresh take on this style of light co-op game, while still keeping it fun and challenging. I love the new gameplay with the sand, and the ominous feeling of trying to keep up with that! So great. Highly recommend this.
* Amun Re – Quite a blast from the past (well, 2003) – I’d never tried this before, and played it a few times this year. A balancing act of trying to bid on juicy territories, and also make sure to get points from where you’re at on the board and how your pyramids are coming along.. and how you do in making sacrifices to Amun Re! This one’s a keeper.
* Blood Bowl Team Manager – Here is a little known fact: I love the Bloodbowl board game. I used to play it endlessly when me and my BFF lived with our friend Jamie, who owned a very rare copy (and I never did get my own because it was so filthy expensive to Ebay one and have it shipped to Australia). So when I heard about this, I got pretty excited! While it’s not moving minis around a board, passing an actual wee ball, it’s the closest a card game could get. It’s a great port of the original game, with all of the theme and ideas baked in – it’s terrific! Criminal we haven’t played this one more, but I sometimes just don’t feel in the mood for it. I must change that in 2015.
* Trains: I don’t have any problems with deck building (unlike some who are fatigued on that game type), so I’m always willing to give a new one a try. I really liked the role the board played in this game – it felt like it really gave some purpose to how you build your deck and gave a little more structure to the game. I wasn’t quite sure of the strategy, so I think going back for multiple plays would be far more rewarding – but I haven’t had a chance to play it again.
* 8 Minute Empire – I want to rave about this game because I really do like its simplicity, and that it’s a nice little puzzly light strategy game to play. But I don’t LOVE love it. It’s good, but for some reason just not good enough that it hasn’t hit our table more than a couple of times. Maybe I should rectify this in the new year to see if my feelings change about it. Not ready to get rid of it just yet. We’ll see!
* Space Cadets Dice Duel – I have never played the full game of Space Cadets, because it seemed like such an investment of time. Dice Duel has the same flavour, and adds in a frantic Galaxy Trucker/Space Alert feeling with the hasty rolling of dice to beat your opponents to the punch. We played with 6, and I can’t help feeling it might have been better with 8. I was the captain on my side, and felt a little disassociated from actually doing anything, rather than just enabling my team mates to get stuff done. But it was a fun/funny experience!
* Two Rooms and a Boom: I played a round of this social deduction game and was kinda flummoxed by it. I was a basic member of the red team, so there was really not a lot for me to do. Plus, the president and bomber both started in the other room – so there wasn’t much we could do! I think had I tried it again I’d have found some fun & depth to it after trying different roles, etc. Alas, I will have to wait for another chance to play it again and see what it can do.
* Going Going Gone: It’s criminal it took me so long to try this game. Madly tossing cubes in cups to bid in auctions is the best! Set collection is good, secondary fun. A great, easy to understand game with a lot of excellent action going on. I must try this again to see if it’s worth getting.
* Blueprints – So simple in design, but with enough going on to make it interesting and fun to play. You get a ‘blueprint’ for a structure to build with dice. Each round you take a die from a publicly available pool and play it to your structure behind your screen. Each type of die has different scoring benefits that will come into effect once everyone has 6 dice on their blueprint. Really solid, but unfortunately not great with 2 players.
So, I gamed a WHOLE BUNCH this year, obviously. I’m hoping to really do the same in 2015 – getting to the Gathering of Friends and hopefully BGGcon, making sure to put an emphasis on playing what is in our collection, and also writing more about games as a contributor to my friend’s site the Daily Worker Placement should help! Thanks for reading, folks. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this year in gaming.