News Bits: 8/4/2014


This week’s NEWS:

This American Life tackles Diplomacy [LinkThis is a fantastic segment on the volatile board game Diplomacy–and playing like a real diplomat.

Sen-Foong Lim (Belfort) details what makes a game worthy of the Spiel des Jahres [LinkThis isn’t idle speculation–it’s based on a conversation with Tom Felber of the SdJ jury. Of note: rulebooks are important, and the smallest print run for an SdJ title is 200,000. SdJ is the Oprah’s Book Club for board games.

Mechanics and Meeples discusses evolutions in deck building [LinkThis is an interesting discussion. What  is essential to the deck-building mechanism, and what have been its uses?

James Ernest (Kill Doctor Lucky) offers probability for game designers [LinkA lot of this is basic math stuff that you’ve probably picked up if you’ve paid attention in school (or were forced to take statistics in college), but it’s a good refresher, and Ernest is a good teacher.

Last week on iSlaytheDragon [News Bits, Wanted: The Outlaws preview, Sultaniya review, For the Crown: Shock and Awe review, Why it’s not cool to hate on classic games]


Kickstarters of Note

  • Flash Point: Honor and Duty: The newest expansion to Flash Point is on Kickstarter. I’ve not played the game, but Futurewolfie likes it. $15.
  • Aquasphere: The newest Stefan Feld brain burner point salad is on Kickstarter from Tasty Minstrel Games. This is a copublishing venture with Pegasus Spiele. Looks a little busy for my tastes, but Feld isn’t my favorite. $40.
  • Casual Game Insider: This campaign is to Kickstart the next year of Casual Game Insider magazine, a magazine for enthusiasts of, well, casual games. The magazine targets the Spiel des Jahres-loving crowd and in general is getting exposure for the hobby. Various pledge levels.
  • Core Worlds digital: Stronghold Games’s Core Worlds is being ported to iOS and Android. I played Core Worlds recently and really enjoyed it. It’s a deck-building game that’s really more of a resource management game. Feels Euroy but has a great space theme. Various pledge levels.
  • The Resistance: Hostile Intent & Hidden Agenda: The first expansions for The Resistance! Of course, many of these modules were available in The Resistance: Avalon, but now they’ve been rethemed and imported back into the original game (whose setting I prefer), along with some new material. $20 for both expansions.
  • Fidelitas: Fidelitas is a game of “medieval meddling,” the first release from Green Couch Games. It’s from designers Jason Kotarski (The Great Heartland Hauling Company) and Phillip duBarry (Revolution). Looks great and the price is right. $19.


What We’ve Been Playing

  • Libertalia: We had a midweek game at lunch this week, and five of us showed, so we broke out Libertalia. Libertalia was our Game of the Year last year, and I’ve played it quite a bit. The thing I love about the game is that you have to guess, outguess, bluff, and hope for the best in order to win. Well, in this game, I wasn’t very good at any of these. The first two campaigns were disastrous, and I was the clear loser at the end of them. However, going into the third campaign, I had built a decent hand with mostly high cards, hoping for a landslide in my favor. And…I botched it. With both beggars and brutes still at the table, none of my high cards were safe, and I knew it. I finished the game in dead last. It’s okay. You can’t be the pirate king every time you play. (FarmerLenny)
  • Coup: This Friday we had six people at lunch, and the game of choice was Coup. This was an odd match, since there was one player who was completely new to the game and another player who was new to us (a coworker’s sister joined us for lunch, but he had introduced his family to the game). I was quickly eliminated from the first game (other players ganging up on the teacher!) and the second game (poor challenges…), but in the fourth game, I decided to play for the long game. I still didn’t win, but I managed to bluff a Captain for most of the round, extorting from another player the funds to launch a coup against her. Even though I didn’t win, I was reminded why Coup is great. I’m looking forward to the Reformation expansion I backed on Kickstarter. I’m pretty sure my group is ready to play again soon. (FarmerLenny)
  • Mad City: I’ve had this game for a while, but I’ve been waiting for the right group to play it with. When my niece and nephew came this weekend for cousins’ weekend, I let them choose the games, and this was their first choice. I was surprised at how simple it was to explain the (basic) game. They didn’t do so well the first few rounds, working as they were almost exclusively for the longest road points. Then my nephew had an epiphany: those 3 points are nothing compared to a well-built city. He changed his strategy, and while he didn’t win, it was a win for me to see him play better than he had. I’m eager to try the game again and see how it works with the standard game. (FarmerLenny)
  • Hanabi: My ten-year-old nephew selected Hanabi as a game to play, and while I knew it would be a stretch for him and his eight-year-old sister, I was curious how it would go. It went, but with a lot of coaching and a lot of strategizing. They were clear on the rules, and they caught on to some of the intricacies (namely, that the timing of a clue is a key piece of information), but I was surprised at how deductive logic was a stretch for them. It was as if clues were stored in different compartments of their brains, and those compartments couldn’t communicate. I had given my nephew the clue, “These two cards are yellow,” and then, “These three cards are 3s.” One card was in both camps–the yellow 3–but he said he didn’t have enough information about it to know what the card was. I walked him through what I had told him and what he knew, but even then I had to explain the logic to him. It was baffling to me until I talked to my wife. “Why do you think we had to do all those logic problems in school? A lot of it doesn’t come naturally.” I think the game might have been valuable to them, but I don’t think it was fun. I might bust it out sometime in the future and measure the progress, but for now, I don’t think they’ll be requesting it again soon. (FarmerLenny)
  • Animal upon Animal: My niece and nephew, after several other games, eventually requested this animal-stacking game…and this was the last game we played. We just kept playing over and over, mainly because it’s hard to quit playing when you’re laughing so hard. It’s also hard to take a game too seriously that has as its premise placing animals onto a growing stack. After a few games, I broke out the “advanced” animals from Balancing Bridge–the giraffes, bats, panthers, flamingos, and iguanas–and the game was even funnier because we were having such trouble with them. Animal upon Animal is excellent for kids or adults, and especially for mixed groups. I’m not convinced it was worth it for me to buy Balancing Bridge for the additional animals, but the game is fun nonetheless. (FarmerLenny)

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

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