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The Village Square: November 11, 2014

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[Ed. Note – Maybe you noticed, maybe you didn’t, but things have been changing around here quite frequently.  We’re in the middle of a transitional period as we work on expanding our content in new ways. We’re building a brand here, so we’ve dropped the old “news bits” title in favor of something more thematic.  So welcome to the first edition of the Village Square, our weekly roundup of community news!]

Last week I introduced you to some of my friends from around town and heard what they were up to.  This time out we’ll meet some new folks and revisit old friends. I heard that we may even be joined by other dragonslayers from time to time!

 

Community Talk

[fifth width=”30px”][/fifth][fifth width=”70px”]Portrait - Andrew[/fifth][three_quarters][plain]We’ll start our day at the magnificent Game Precipice.  You can see the whole village from up here.  Joining me are the fine folks that make this view possible. I heard that each month you introduce a topic and then explores it in the following weeks. What do you have in store for us?[/plain][/three_quarters] [full][/full]

Dimensions of Games

[fifth width=”30px”][/fifth][three_quarters][plain]We’ve got some extra-special topics on deck this month but first a quick re-introduction to where we left off. Earlier this year we introduced the first phase of our framework we call “dimensions of games”. Our initial three attributes you’re probably familiar with as they contribute to the label on the side of every game box: Complexity, Player Count and Game Length… This month we’re exploring the intersections of these attributes which are interesting topics also under the control of game designers.These are some key elements we’ll cover one by one in the coming weeks.[/plain][/three_quarters][fifth width=”20px”][/fifth][fifth width=”100px”]Community (Avatar) - Game Precipice

Alex Harkey
Games Precipice[/fifth]

[full][/full] [fifth width=”30px”][/fifth][fifth width=”70px”]Portrait - Andrew[/fifth][three_quarters][plain]That sounds like a great series, I’m particularly interested to hear you explore Player Control! I really like the visual representation of this topic and who doesn’t love a good venn diagram? We’ll make sure to check back in with you next week.

Come on into town and I’ll introduce you to one of the biggest teams around, The League of Gamemakers. These guys know a thing or two about game design and love to discuss their craft. Even if you aren’t a designer they often tackle what make games ticks and this week they’re discussing a very interesting mechanic.[/plain][/three_quarters] [full][/full]

Artificial Intelligence in Board Games

[fifth width=”30px”][/fifth][three_quarters][plain]Many of you will be thinking right now, “…but wait…isn’t artificial intelligence only used in computers?” Depends on your definition. AI, to me, is any set of rules that allows a system to make decisions on its own without human input… I’d like to take a quick review of a number of AI schemes that various designers have used, techniques to let the game-board make the decisions.[/plain][/three_quarters][fifth width=”20px”][/fifth][fifth width=”100px”]Community (Avatar) - League of Gamemakers

Tom Jolly
League of Gamemakers[/fifth]

[full][/full] [fifth width=”30px”][/fifth][fifth width=”70px”]Portrait - Andrew[/fifth][three_quarters][plain]I far prefer game systems that don’t rely on a game master in order to ensure that things run smoothly.  On the other hand allowing the game to automate itself can seem a bit unnatural, uneven, and still requires the players to help with the automation.  Some systems work better than others depending on what you’re looking for and it’s interesting to hear about what has been tried.

Right next door is a smaller crew that provide great design tips every couple of weeks or so. A little over a month ago they looked at the idea of how games can pack more fun into less time.  They’re back with a follow up that specifically addresses the time half of the equation.[/plain][/three_quarters] [full][/full]

Fun to Time Ratio part 2

[fifth width=”30px”][/fifth][three_quarters][plain]So isn’t it easy, just cut out a couple of rounds and voila shorter?

Yes, it does sound easy.  What you find when you cut rounds though is that sometimes your game doesn’t feel complete.  If you have a buildup to your game, people could feel cheated if they didn’t get to build up as much, or equally bad they could spend all this time building and not get to the payoff.[/plain][/three_quarters][fifth width=”20px”][/fifth][fifth width=”100px”]Community (Avatar) - MVP Boardgames

MVP Boardgames[/fifth]

[full][/full] [fifth width=”30px”][/fifth][fifth width=”70px”]Portrait - Andrew[/fifth][three_quarters][plain]Thanks for sharing those time saving tips! Do you mind if anyone sticks around to hear more of your thoughts on the topic? I heard there’s a third part that we didn’t quite get around too.

The wonderful thing about our village is that we have visitors from all over the world. All the way from Sweden is Filip Wiltgren, one of our resident scholars and story tellers.  Do you have time to share a marvelous tale of camaraderie and cardboard bits?[/plain][/three_quarters] [full][/full]

Never Make Your Players Feel Cheated

[fifth width=”30px”][/fifth][three_quarters][plain]I once played a full campaign of EuroFront. The whole shebang, maps stretching the whole 6 meters from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural mountains, hundreds of blocks on the table, a World War II nerd’s dream… To me, the game built expectations of freedom. I wanted that freedom. I wanted to explore possibilities, not tactical choices and dice rolls. And when I realized that I’d spent 50+ hours playing a game that let me try but stacked the deck against me I was disappointed. Disappointed and angry.[/plain][/three_quarters][fifth width=”20px”][/fifth][fifth width=”100px”]Community (Avatar) - Wiltgren Media

Filip Wiltgren
Wiltgren Media[/fifth]

[full][/full] [fifth width=”30px”][/fifth][fifth width=”70px”]Portrait - Andrew[/fifth][three_quarters][plain]We’ve all been there. A game makes promises that it doesn’t follow through on and leaves a bad taste in your mouth.  I’m sure if FutureWolfie were here he’d suggest that we all just go play Twilight Imperium 5.  Oh look, there he is now. What’s new?[/plain][/three_quarters] [full][/full] [fifth width=”30px”][/fifth][fifth width=”70px”]Portrait - Wolfie[/fifth][three_quarters][plain]I’m a big fan of the LCG model. I think CCGs are neat, but they’re a tough buy-in – with all the randomized packs, you have to buy a lot to get the cards you need (and hope you get lucky enough to get powerful cards), while LCGs let you buy specific packs, or at least know the limit.[/plain][/three_quarters] [full][/full]

A New Stage of Growth

[fifth width=”30px”][/fifth][three_quarters][plain]The Living Card Game model is all about growth and evolution. Now, having recognized the problems inherent within the natures of constantly expanding card pools, we are moving forward with the next stage in the growth of our LCGs. In order to ensure the continued health and success of our games, we are introducing a rotation policy for all of our competitive LCGs[/plain][/three_quarters][fifth width=”20px”][/fifth][fifth width=”100px”]Community (Avatar) - Fantasy Flight Games

Fantasy Flight Games[/fifth]

[full][/full] [fifth width=”30px”][/fifth][fifth width=”70px”]Portrait - Wolfie[/fifth][three_quarters][plain]I’m curious to see how the greater fanbase will react to the Rotation announcement.  I think it’s a good thing. It may be a little rough for those planning to keep up with the game – knowing that the buying cycle, while perhaps not as rough as continual new releases of randomized packs – is still essentially infinite, but it allows someone like me the opportunity to bail out now with the knowledge that I can jump back in a few years down the road.

Netrunner, for example, is an amazing game, and the deck preparation aspect is an interesting challenge.  But you need to play games to test your decks, and you need opponents who build their own decks to play games. I just don’t have that right now, but I could see getting my nephew into the game a few years down the road, when he’s old enough to grasp the intricasies of strategy. I’m glad of the move and I hope it will keep LCGs economically viable for a long time to come.[/plain][/three_quarters]
[full][/full] [fifth width=”30px”][/fifth][fifth width=”70px”]Portrait - Andrew[/fifth][three_quarters][plain]Speaking of cards, we talked to Greg Carslaw last week about how they’re an excellent tool for adding randomness to games. Chances are we’ll be able to catch up with him over at 3DTotal Games to see if he has any further thoughts on the topic.[/plain][/three_quarters] [full][/full]

Action Cards

[fifth width=”30px”][/fifth][three_quarters][plain]The context in which a card becomes available dramatically changes its utility, so even if a deck of event cards are balanced *on average* a player can have their position significantly shifted by luck of the draw… If your idea contains a small pile of cardboard game changers, think about ways to let players meaningfully make decisions about how and when they come up and your game will be much more rewarding for it.[/plain][/three_quarters][fifth width=”20px”][/fifth][fifth width=”100px”]Community (Avatar) - 3DTotal Games

Greg Carslaw
3DTotal Games[/fifth]

[full][/full] [fifth width=”30px”][/fifth][fifth width=”70px”]Portrait - Andrew[/fifth][three_quarters][plain]I’ve found that games which utilize drafting or “stacking the deck” can introduce cards naturally into the current game state.  It isn’t always necessary though, from my experience I prefer to either be given meaningful decisions about how to acquire my cards or have a variety of ways to use them in order to mitigate draw luck.

A walk around town wouldn’t be complete without swinging by Grant’s place for a thought provoking chat. What’s on your mind this week buddy?[/plain][/three_quarters] [full][/full]

Design for FOMO

[fifth width=”30px”][/fifth][three_quarters][plain]A key to receiving funding is to convince potential investors of FOMO: Fear of Missing Out. As in, if they don’t invest, right here, right now, they’ll miss out on this incredible thing. They’ll regret it forever… I think our hobby has something special about it, oddly enough, that really allows for more FOMO. That special thing is our limited print runs.[/plain][/three_quarters][fifth width=”20px”][/fifth][fifth width=”100px”]Community (Avatar) - Hyperbole

Grant Rodiek
Hyperbole![/fifth]

[full][/full] [fifth width=”30px”][/fifth][fifth width=”70px”]Portrait - Andrew[/fifth][three_quarters][plain]Fascinating, I can immediately see the connection between FOMO and Kickstarter but it’s also true that it applies to our hobby as a whole.  You can add in game conventions, hot new releases, and the cult of the new among other aspects.  I’d like to think that we don’t need FOMO to keep our hobby intact but perhaps it’s not that unhealthy after all?

One last stop before we wrap things up. You can always count on the folks over at TGIK for a wealth of concise topics.  Do you have any stand outs for us this week?[/plain][/three_quarters] [full][/full]

Build Worlds to Create Games

[fifth width=”30px”][/fifth][three_quarters][plain]There are authors of books that will create worlds beyond the subject matter in the books they write. These worlds create the mythos and the back story to the characters and the motivations of the books we read that are associated with those larger worlds… Why can’t games be the same? And rather than start with a game and build a universe from there, start with a universe and use it to create games?[/plain][/three_quarters][fifth width=”20px”][/fifth][fifth width=”100px”]Community (Avatar) - TGIK Games

TGIK Games[/fifth]

[full][/full] [fifth width=”30px”][/fifth][fifth width=”70px”]Portrait - Andrew[/fifth][three_quarters][plain]I love the idea of exploring a world through games. One example that comes to mind is the Temptest series by AEG that has multiple games that share the same setting.  I love my share of dry euros but even within that realm I’m happy to see designers like Uwe Rosenberg that have been sharing a charming world through their games.

Thanks for joining me for my walk around town. Join me next week and we’ll do it again! Feel free to let me know if you’d like me to visit anyone that you haven’t seen around here before.[/plain][/three_quarters] [full][/full]

 

Dragon Slayer Roundup

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Reviews:

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Games On Our Table

Portrait - Andrew Andrew’s Plays

Play 2014-Nov-10 - MythotopiaMythotopia – I missed out on A Few Acres of Snow. It seems that by the time I got around to requesting it everyone had already dismissed it as being broken. I can understand that but it seems like a shame based on how many great things I heard about the game. I was very excited when I heard about it’s successor, Mythotopia, for two reasons.  It plays up to four so you don’t have the 2-player only barrier. And perhaps more importantly, it reimplements A Few Acres of Snow (hopefully with its predecessor’s fatal flaw in mind).

I’d described Mythotopia as a board game with deck-building. That’s compared to something like Trains which I think of as a deck-builder with a board. All that to say that deck building was utilized very naturally as a supportive mechanic. I really enjoyed my first play and felt like I had the freedom to focus on many different strategies regardless of what showed up in my hand. One of my favorite parts of this game is your Reserve which lets you save cards for later turns but takes one of your two actions to do.  On top of that you have the tried and true anti-snowballing mechanic of filling up your deck with cards as you gain points. In this case you get territory cards as you expand. These territory cards are still quite useful for many things but if you’ve got a sprawling empire then you’ll have to manage all those cards if you want to focus on specific regions or actions.  It’s a very clever system that I look forward to exploring with more plays.  Hopefully soon.

Play 2014-Nov-10 - Bora BoraBora Bora – I love Feld and this one is debatable my favorite of his designs. I started that game with three goals that all had to do with man/woman tiles so I decided to see if I could manage to get all my huts on the board and possibly complete all my buildings while I was at it.  I was able to pick up a couple men and women that could construct huts early and was able to get them all on the board with a round to spare.  I was one action shy of constructing all my buildings but overall was very happy with how many actions I managed to squeeze out of the game by utilizing my extra action well.  We’ve got Aquasphere on the deck for next week so hopefully I’ll have my thoughts on the latest heavy Feld for you then.  Here’s hoping it lives up to the excellent Bora Bora.

Play 2014-Nov-10 - Piece o CakePiece o’ Cake – There wasn’t much time left before we had to wrap things up so what could be better for five players than a delicious piece of cake. Wait, that looks an awful lot like pie to me! Either way this gem makes a whole game out of the “I cut, you choose” concept.  With five players there isn’t nearly as much control over what you’ll end up with and it’s mostly fascinating to see how the active player is going to divide the cake.  That’s fine for an entertaining little filler and I certainly had a blast even though I end up coming in dead last.

 

Portrait - Wolfie FutureWolfie’s Plays

Sid Meier's Civilization - ThumbSid Meier’s Civilization – A plan for an RPG session fell through thanks to too few players. So, one of the guys suggested giving Civilization a try. It was a rough start – I’d only read the rules, and hadn’t planned to play that night so I hadn’t refreshed my memory – but once we got all the pieces set out and sorted and got a round of play under our belts, things went pretty smoothly.  Civ looks pretty complex from the outset – after all, it is a 4X game with a lot of bits and pieces – but the rules are actually pretty straightforward with very few “edge case” rules, which was pleasantly surprising. The game does a lot of neat things to bring the Civilization PC game to the world of cardboard.  Although keeping track of trade and production gets a little tedious (we all had scratch paper to keep track of our numbers), the fact that you can put buildings around your cities to expand them is pretty neat. I also like the simpleness of the tech tree, and the 4 possible paths to victory (military, technology, economic, culture) and the unique ways of approaching those. Since we were all new to the game and had no idea what we were doing from the start, I decided to just stick with my nation (germany’s) biggest strength, combat. I focused on tech that enhanced my fighting skills and upgraded my units (which had the benefit of giving me free units), and quickly sent armies across the map to collect resources from villages. This early aggressiveness paid off as I quickly had an excellent cycle of trade resources to keep upgrading my tech, while the others scrambled to find a focus.  In the end I researched Flight, and in the next turn I devoted all of my cities to building a fleet of airplanes. With flight I could bypass my opponent’s defenses with a large army to attack their home city. With significants amount of training – and of course the fact that I had a bunch of airplanes in my army against, y’know, guys with swords – I mashed his defense to bits and claimed victory!

Overall, the first game felt a little imbalanced – like Military was all that mattered. The others weren’t even close to achieving other forms of victory (although to be fair, if they had build up their tech tree to higher levels, instead of building a wide spread of level 1 techs, they both would both have been extremely close to a tech victory), and Germany seemed to have a lot of favor regarding combat. However after chatting about it on twitter, it seems that military isn’t quite so powerful when everyone learns how to use it, giving other avenues to victory a chance to shine. I really enjoyed the game and I look forward to trying it again with experience, and it will be interesting to compare to other 4X games I have on my playlist.

 

Portrait - Jason Jason’s Plays

Red November - Thumb Red November – I’m a big Faidutti fan and this is one of his crazier, funnier, and decidedly more chaotic designs. We return to it many times and it’s one of the most played games in our collection. This voyage was very brief – we succumbed in the 29th minute to a timed event in which we perilously descended too deep.  Alas, we couldn’t get to the engine room because the whole front half of the sub was on fire – thanks to untimely fire spreads event cards that came out early and often!

Battle Cry - Thumb Battle Cry – In honor of Veterans Day, one of my boys and I played two of Richard Borg’s light tactical war games over the weekend. Battle Cry canvases the American Civil War and is the lightest in all of Borg’s “Commands and Colors” series. Brendon picked out the Winchester scenario.  I quickly made some very nice gains as the Confederates, routing the Union center and creating a massive hole in his line.  Alas, I was not able to draw the cards further needed to move in and exploit it and completely divide his forces.  Meanwhile, he was chipping away at my right flank until he drew some card that let him basically launch an assault across the entire battlefield. He easily rolled my right flank and captured his last flag by forcing a unit to retreat off the board.  Rolling two flag icons against me and, with nowhere to go, I had to suffer those in casualties.  He won 6 flags to 4. I did successfully pick off one of his officers with the Sharpshooter card, however, which was the first time I remember that ever happening in one of our games!

Memoir 44 - Thumb Memoir ’44 – This one is slightly more complex than Battle Cry, but not a lot.  While there are something like 638 expansions, add-ons, extra maps, and campaign books for this title, we only have the Air Pack, which we’ve only played with once. I picked the scenario this time, choosing Sainte-Mère-Église. It’s mostly all Infantry, except for one German Panzer unit.  But it’s really cool, because during set-up the American player literally gets to drop 4 Infantry minis onto the board from a foot high, to stimulate the scattered and haphazard paratroop landings which historically occurred in the battle. I commanded the Yanks and got pretty lucky.  My first two turns, I was able to play the Air Power and Bombardment tactical cards which weakened his Panzer battalion.  I then quickly invested Sainte-Mère-Église itself and he unwisely lost two more Infantry trying to retake it.  He did have success on the my left, ousting my lone American unit there. And his weakened armor was able to do some damage on my right. Unfortunately for him, I had a few cards that allowed me to move some troops form my center, where the bulk of GI’s started, over to my right and finish of the Panzers for the win, 4 victory medals to 2.

 

 

I love optimization and engine games with tableau builders and card driven ones being my favorite. This usually means medium-heavy euros and medium-light card games.

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