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News Bits: 1/6/2014

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Ah, back on track after all of the holiday slowness. This week’s NEWS:

Grant Rodiek looks at new ways to teach board games [Link] As my group’s usual game explainer, I’m always eager for new methods to use (or at least for aids that will make my job easier). Grant highlights some methods that specifically designers and publishers can use to make teaching their games easier, even for rules explainers. For me, I’m still fine with a rulebook (I like to learn by reading), as long as the rulebook is well written.
Jamey Stegmaier (Euphoria, Viticulture) talks about ten design discoveries in 2013 [Link] This is a good look at things that make game designs enjoyable. I appreciate Jamey’s candor and humility in discussing this.

Bruno Faidutti (Citadels) discusses Japanese minimalism in games [Link] While others are talking about the rise of the microgame, Faidutti discusses a new, Japanese school of game design (in contrast to the German and American schools).

17 signs you’re a board game monster [Link] I’ve heard that if you don’t know who the class know-it-all is after the first week, it’s you. While it’s not true that every game group has “that guy,” this is a good test to see if you are…in true BuzzFeed fashion, with GIFs.

Seth Jaffee (Eminent Domain) discusses balancing game elements [Link] I don’t envy designers’ task of balancing game elements, but Jaffee gives a good guide to how one might go about doing it.

Board game designers list games that are not Coin Age [Link] Last week a campaign launched on Kickstarter that looks somewhat reminiscent of the uber-successful microgame Coin Age. The designer took to the Board Game Geek community, and the community, in typical fashion, began this Geeklist. Regardless of your feelings about the original situation, some of these entries are funny.

Futurewolfie interviewed about iSlaytheDragon [Link] As I said on Twitter, Futurewolfie was asked a lot of good questions and got every one of them wrong. Not really. If you’ve ever been curious about iSlaytheDragon, what we do, how we choose what to review, and so on, Wolfie reveals all of our trade secrets and blabs about the whole operation.

Last week on iSlaytheDragon [News Bits, 7 Wonders: Leaders review, 7 Wonders: Cities review, Andrew’s Christmas games session report, Shelf Wear: seasoned review of 7 Wonders, Interview with Chaosmos designer Joey Vigour] Last week while we got our bearings after the Christmas break, I took a look at 7 Wonders and its expansions. (Andrew also talked about his Christmas plays, which included several new games.) This week we’ll have three reviews as well as my annual retrospective on what I’ve played. Keep slaying!

Kickstarters of Note

  • The Game Designer’s Toolkit: This is an interesting campaign for, basically, a box of bits to help you as you design board games. I’m not sure the usefulness for this (there are usually extra bits you can commandeer from other games), but I’ll let the reader judge for him- or herself. Various prices.
  • Ruckus: The Goblin Army Game: This is a tactical skirmish game in a fantasy setting with whimsical art. Looks interesting. $29.
  • Space Junk: This project relaunched, but it looks interesting (although maybe similar to Galaxy Trucker?). 39 CAD.
  • Chaosmos: This game looks pretty cool, and I like the theme. $60. (And check out our interview with the designer here.)
What We’ve Been Playing
  • Impulse: I bought the prerelease version of this game from the Asmadi preorder, and I’ve slowly been teaching my coworkers how to play (when I can lure them away from Innovation, which is no easy task these days). They love Carl Chudyk games (see: Innovation, Glory to Rome), so I thought for sure they’d love this one, too. And some do. But in Tuesday’s game, one of the players really didn’t like it. He thought there were too many options to feel that any was better than the others. And it’s true: Impulse is probably the most open-ended of the Chudyk games I’ve played. He ended up winning our short game (we had to end early), but I’m not sure he’ll join us for another round. I am, by the way, undeterred by this experience. I still love the game and look forward to when I no longer have to teach it. (FarmerLenny)
  • Stone Age: My wife and I stayed in for New Year’s Eve (and a good thing, too: we got tons of snow that night), so we played board games until midnight. After our son went to bed, we broke out Stone Age. It had been over a year since we last played–I lent the game out for six months, and then we kept forgetting I got it back. This one is a fun, lighthearted back-and-forth. I had some very lucky rolls, especially when going for gold, that let me stay ahead of her for the game. By the time the last building from a stack was built, it was too much for her to overtake me. I still like Stone Age and am glad to have played it again. (FarmerLenny)
  • Parade: I got this one recently in my BGG secret Santa gift. It’s a very clever filler. My wife managed to get revenge on me from Stone Age by beating me by a slim margin in our first game. I insisted we play again (mainly to keep us both awake), and she absolutely trounced me. I don’t know what I did wrong, but I think my wife just has an eye for this game (or I don’t). In any case, all dignity was lost in the second game, so I insisted we play once more for all the Parade. (In the parlance of the FarmerLenny household, this is a big deal: the crowning achievement of a game session.) My wife accepted the challenge, though she downgraded it to playing for only “a lot of the Parade.” Thank goodness, because she walloped me again. After that, we decided to just wait patiently until midnight while I licked my wounds. This is still a really fun game, and I hope to play with more players soon. (FarmerLenny)
  • Innovation: Remember how I said my coworkers love this one? This was the choice for our Friday game. We had four players, so we played a team game. I am now of the opinion that teams are the best way to play with four, to the point that I don’t think I’ll play four-player without them. Four-player team play might even be my favorite way to play the game, period. Anyway, in this game, my teammate and I were able to snag an early achievement lead which was quickly matched by our opponents (who secured one of the special achievements by a back-door means). But after this, my teammate and I hit our stride. We played cards that benefited us much more than our opponents, and our icons were in perfect sync. Most of our colors were splayed, and we had four of our necessary six achievements. The opposing team was on damage control to try to stop us, using a dogma that depleted our score piles, but it wasn’t enough. We were able to earn all six of our achievements before the opponents (who had larger score piles) could run out the clock. It’s not just my coworkers who love this one. I do too. (FarmerLenny)
  • Firenze: This was another gift from my BGG secret Santa, and my wife was willing to learn it this weekend. In Firenze players are builders working for the nobility in Florence to construct towers in their honor. The game has a neat card-buy mechanism similar to choosing powers in Small World. The currency and resources in the game are the same: bricks. My strategy in the game was to work toward building whichever towers were giving bonuses, and building lots of them. My wife’s strategy was collecting celebration cards (worth VPs at the end of the game) and building rare and big towers. The game was very close throughout, but she managed to secure most of the end-game tower bonuses, and she ended up besting me by two measly points. This one was a lot of fun, and I’m eager to try again. (FarmerLenny)
  • Ginkgopolis: I had heard raves about this game from numerous sources (most recently our own Andrew), so despite the oddball theme that kept me away at first, I looked up the rules. It seemed like the kind of game I would enjoy, so I scrounged for a copy to play. It arrived on Saturday, and about two minutes after it was punched, my wife asked if I wanted to play. (Note: this has to be the fastest a game has ever made it to my table after being opened.) She seemed overwhelmed at first, but the game is very smooth, and within a few rounds, she was making excellent plays and giving me a run for my money. Once again, she took a strategy that would give lots of endgame points on cards, whereas I went for area control scoring. On her last turn, she had planned a sweet move that would have won her the game–if she had had one more available resource! But she didn’t, and had to settle for something that wasn’t quite as good. As a result, I won by a very narrow seven points. We both laughed at the ridiculousness of the theme and enjoyed ourselves. I’ve been thinking about this one since I played it and really can’t wait to get it back to the table. (FarmerLenny)

I'll try anything once, but my favorite games are generally middleweight Euros.

Discussion2 Comments

  1. Yeah Ginkgopolis, I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts after more plays! I found myself thinking about it after my games as well, there’s a lot going on but not in an overwhelming way since it all works together so nicely. I was also very excited that it worked so well with 2 players since area control can fall flat with just 2.

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