This was a great week for me, I finally broke my post Gen Con gaming drought by getting in a full day of board games with my awesome game group. To celebrate I’ve got a mega jam packed News Bits for you. Luckily there were some really great articles last week so you’d better get your link clicking finger and your reading glasses ready because here we go!
Articles From The Community
The Sentinels of the Multiverse: Wrath of the Cosmos preorder campaign ended earlier this month and they’ve started to tease content from the expansion. First up is the profile of a new Villain: Tarogath. Even if you’ve never played Sentinels or are not interested in playing it I’d still recommend checking this out for the fantastic story and excellent artwork. That’s him over there. He’s angry that you’re not clicking on the link. He’s going to destroy everything. Thanks a lot.
Jordan Goddard came up with the idea of a design contest where contestants would get an identical prototype kit and have 10 days to submit a game concept. Well, the 10 days are up and the submissions are in. It’s fascinating to see how differently all the designers approached the components. My personal favorites all stuck with pretty simple concepts that made the most intuitive use of the components – Proximity, Blend Off!, and Total Party Wipeout. After watching all of the videos Proximity was likely the game that I could explain the best from memory which meant they not only had clear rules but a good presentation of their concept. Perhaps more than any other design it didn’t over complicate what the components represented as it was very abstract in nature. Blend Off! took a different approach and injected some flavor into the components, had great graphical design, and very intuitive real time gameplay that looked like a blast to play. Total Party Wipeout was potentially the most creative (and cute) design. They ended up using the “dice” as markers and the cubes as dice which I thought was clever. They also used the cards as tiles with really impressive graphical design to clearly represent a dungeon that the players’ parties were exploring. I’d encourage you to watch all the videos and pick a favorite for yourself.
Perhaps you’ve come up with a good idea for a game, maybe even taken the time to write down the rules or make a prototype. Mark Major over at The League of Gamemakers has some great and practical advise for when to pursue your idea and turn it into a product. An absolute must read for anyone interested in making their great game idea a reality.
Last week’s BoardGameHour topic was all about introducing people into the hobby with the tagline “Try it, you Might Like it.” You can see the questions that were asked over on Ministry of Board Games and an excellent summary at Clever Move. There was a lot of really great discussion on a topic that is near and dear to most of us as we enthusiastically share the joys of board games with the world.
Artem from Altema Games shares his love (man-crush) for Ignacy Trzewiczek (51st State, Imperial Settlers, Robinson Crusoe) and I couldn’t agree with him more. It’s a great, uplifting, and personal article that represents the best part of our hobby: the community. As gamers we admire the designers that bring us the games that we spend so much time playing, enjoying, writing, and thinking about. But these designers are a very real part of our community: they write blogs, they are on Twitter, they play games just like us. It’s incredible to see the public and mutual admiration that our community is able to share.
We’ve all played games that overstayed their welcome. They start out really fun but at some point things just start to drag on a little to long and you’d wished it had ended an hour ago. MVP looks at Fun-to-time ratio with the first in a series looking at how to end your game at just the right moment. My favorite part of the articles boiled everything down to this simple advice when the ratio is off, “There are many ways to change this ratio, but the 2 main ones are change the length of the game or make it more fun.” They follow that up with “Well that was easy.” Luckily the article doesn’t end there, I’m very much looking forward to the rest of this promising series.
I really loved Voluspa and was very excited to see a guest column by designer Scott Caputo over at League of Gamemakers. He describes the humbling experience of pitching games at Essen following his success with Voluspa and coming away with no contracts and disheartening feedback like “Reiner Knizia showed me a game like this already.” In the following years he worked hard to figure out what changes needed to be made to improve his games and attract publishers with great success. I can’t wait to hear more about Scott’s upcoming games in the future.
It’s awesome to see people putting up pictures of the games they’re playing on Twitter. “I’m playing this awesome game right now” the Tweets say, “aren’t you jealous?” Maybe you’ve even looked at a tweet of someone else playing a game in between turns of a game that you were playing. Ignacy Trzewiczek challenges us to put away the technology and play. Simply enjoy the experience and don’t ruin it for anyone else because you couldn’t wait unti the game was over to check twitter or tell everyone how much fun you’re having. There’s also a great video from Gen Con where Ignacy talks about his book Board Games That Tell Stories which I hope to get a copy of shortly.
When supporting a game on Kickstarter it has become common to expect that you will inevitably get your game late. It’s usually not a matter of whether it will be late, rather how late it will be. I kid… kind of. Well, there are big changes coming to Kickstarter’s Terms of Service which intend to address this issue before everyone gets fed up. The bottom line is that creators will be more responsible for delivering their products on time. But the language isn’t quite as clear as people initially made it seem and there are great articles from Giant Fire Breathing Robot and Stonemaier Games that help explain exactly what this means and how it will affect the future of Kickstarter.
It’s impressive how quickly Victory Point Games has expanded their catalog over the last year. It’s also impressive that they’ve been able to sustain a print-on-demand business model. But they’ve started facing problems with retailers telling them that they’re offering too many new games. Their solution to the problem is a new “P-500” system which allows their loyal customers to determine which games end up in stores by waiting to release games to retailers until they’ve directly sold 500 copies. It’s an interesting solution to a problem that not too many companies have and will hopefully prove fruitful for “The Little Game Company That Could”.
During my recap of Gen Con I mentioned that I saw Bruno Cathala setting up a game of Abyss to explain it. In anticipation I leaned in to hear him explain it and quickly realized that he was doing so in french. This was unfortunate for me and so I had to learn it, like everyone else, from the rules. Fortunately he has taken the time to write an entry for Ignacy’s book, in English, about several of his first times in board game designing. It’s an excellent retelling of many personal experiences from a seasoned designer.
I was a math major in college. I love math. Math is fun! If you can relate to any of those statements then chances are you might enjoy this great article about the probability of Yahtzee. We’re talking Markov analysis, Transition Matrices, charts, graphs, diagrams, numbers, dice, and FUN! You probably already know whether you want to read this article but I’ll go ahead and say “do it” anyways because go math! It almost makes me want to play Yahtzee… almost.
The Games Precipice sat down with Vital Lacerda for an extensive interview about his previous work, the design community around Portugal, and his upcoming designs – Kanban and The Gallerist. They also get his perspective on the topic of integrating theme and mechanics which they’ve been tackling for the last couple of weeks.
We don’t just share articles that the community is writing here on the News Bits, we also like to share what awesome board game related things are being made. Over at Mercantile 519, Nicole Drouillard has crafted a comfy home for all of your loose dice. If you’re in need of a bag of holding for all your component holding needs then head over to her site and check them out. Use the code dragon15 for 15% off dice bags and make sure to tell Nicole that she’s doing fantastic work!
Last Week on iSlayTheDragon
Another great batch of articles last week with a review, preview, another entry in our Shelf Wear series, and my personal labor of love Dragon’s Peak. We’ve got more great articles on the way with this week with at least one exciting Gen Con review and the third installment of Dragon’s Peak.
What We’ve Been Playing
Race For The Galaxy: Alien Artifacts – I got to my game group at the same time as my friend Todd and we found everyone else already setting up a game of Among The Stars. Not to fear! We turned to our filler of choice, Race For The Galaxy. While we were waiting for more people to show up we managed to get two games in and Todd squeezed out the victory in both games with varying degrees of Alien and Uplift.
Hyperborea – This was my big Gen Con goodie that I brought along and I suggested it with a heavy dose of persuasion. I played with the Coral Kingdom since I haven’t tried them out yet and selected the power that lets you use grey cubes as if they were orange cubes. This worked out pretty well as I was able to pick up a technology that took two permanent orange cubes and let me get an extra development every time I developed. I followed that up with another permanent technology that let me draw an extra cube every turn. I actually ran into the point where I had extra cubes left over before my reset that I couldn’t do anything with because I had activate every single possible spot already. I enjoy how this game encourages balance between the different colors.
Russian Railroads – Next up I suggested Russian Railroads and the couple that we were playing with ended up having to leave so Todd and I ended up back at two. He mentioned that he heard it played well with just 2 players so we decided to give it a try. I was surprised at how well it did end up working although I didn’t feel quite as much tension as I have with more players. I ended up pursuing Engineers, Factories, and the bottom line while picking up the bonuses from the middle line. I was going to max out both Factories and the bottom line so I had to decide what else to do and humorously decided to get to the doubler spot on the second track despite not being able to move my brown goods. I ended up scoring the factory that gives you points for Engineers with about 40 points in Engineers. Along with the 40 points (effectively 20 points in a 2-player game) I ended up beating out Todd’s Trans Siberian heavy strategy. I really enjoy this one but am still debating whether or not I’m going to pick it up for my own collection.
Ra – That picture right there was my final set of tiles at the end of the third epoch and helped me get up to a ridiculous 77 points in a 5 player game. It was probably the craziest game of Ra I have ever played. Things progressed pretty normally through the firs epoch with tight auctioning and the Ra track moving along pretty quickly. Then the second epoch started and one of the players had three low tiles so he was calling auctions rapidly. But the Ra tiles simply weren’t showing up so one of the players ended up out of the round with only 1 Ra tile on the track. I managed to get everyone out with the 16 in the middle, two sun tiles left , and only 5 Ra tiles showing. I filled up with two great lots (only 1 disaster) which netted me pretty every type of tile and plenty of monuments. I had the 16-13-6 sun tiles going into the last round and the tiles fell so perfectly that I still managed to pick up another 4 unique people, 2 gold, and a flood on top of more monuments. I did feel like my opponents were either too aggressive with calling auction (2nd epoch) or not aggressive enough (3rd epoch) but I still ended up having tiles show up at just the right time to give me the most memorable game of Ra I likely will ever play.
Villager & Villains – Didn’t get a chance to add this to last week’s NEWS, but we took this on our packed trip to my daughter’s college for Family Weekend. This is the only game we managed to squeeze in. It’s a great for us and sees a ton of plays at our house. It works even for my 1st grade daughter. All of the cards are played as open information, so we can easily assist her with any reading, if necessary. It does have a metric butt-ton of randomness, so if you’re averse to luck, stay far away. But it’s quick, action-packed, and lots of fun. Accessible to lots of ages and an even playing field for all. It’s one of the few games I let my kids pull down off the shelf and play on their own – even when *gulp* I’m not home!
Fill the Barn – This is a light economic game for kids. The goal is to sow crops at a low price and harvest them for a hefty profit. It is random, as it’s card based. But it moves quickly and doesn’t out-stay its welcome, so that adults can honestly enjoy it with their kids. It does have some “take-that” interaction, as well, but those cards can be easily removed if your child has trouble dealing with spite.
Black Fleet – Another hit from the “group of games associated with Asmodee.” This time, Space Cowboys, publisher of the Spiel des Jahres nominee Splendor. The two games couldn’t be any more different! Black Fleet is loosely pirate themed, great components, awesome art, and lots of interaction – but not in a cutthroat, tear-you-down sort of way. I’ll not say more because my review will come out this week. Stay tuned.
War & Peace – One of my boys really really likes this game. I’d like to trade it away. Instead, I think I’ll have to look at implementing some house rules, because he won’t let me get rid of it. Napoleon meets Axis & Allies certainly sounds really cool. But alas, there’s not enough variation or room for nuanced strategy. There’s also a really cool gem of an idea in a political alliance system, but it’s too expensive and way random to really work right. As is, this one just plays too scripted and the French, if you play them a certain way, wins about 6 out of 7 times. It went pretty quick, at least, relatively speaking – in an afternoon.
Samurai Swords – I can’t believe we got in another dudes-on-a-map game on the same weekend, but my other son wanted to play our old GameMasters version of Ikusa, back when it was called Samurai Swords. So we’re in a 3-player match right now and haven’t finished. Which is usually more the scenario with us and these trashy war games of plastic goodness. I really like this title and it has all kinds of strategic potential. Unfortunately, every time we play, my boys just pretty much bull rush me and also assassinate me to death with the ninja. Sigh.