Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

2015 Holiday Gift Meta-guide

Plenty of people have plenty of gift ideas for the holidays, so rather than compile my own list to add to the rest, I've assembled my second annual collection of holiday gift guides with recommendations from all over the blogosphere.  At the end, I'll highlight the most frequently recommended games from all these lists.

SAHMReviews posts a number of gift guides, including a couple of game-focused categories:
Board Game Family has posted eleven categories of gift recommendations:
 Theology of Games has posted a series of five gift guides:
 Board Game Quest posted their recommendations in nine categories:
Dice Hate Me always has a unique take on gift categories:
  • Best Game for Ye Olde Salty Dog
  • Best Game For Those Who Prefer Nightmare Before Christmas Over Holiday Inn
  • Best Game with Dice for Players Who Hate Dice
  • Best Stuffer for the Stocking
  • Best Game to Buy the Kids and Then Play It More Than They Do
  • Best Game to Move ‘Em On Up From Ticket to Ride
  • Best Classic Game That Your Euro-Loving Cousin Eddie Will Absolutely Adore
  • Best Game for Your Uncle Steve Who’s Always in Atlantic City
  • Best Game for Your Favorite Sports Freak
  • Best Game That’ll Satisfy Just About Everyone
  • Best Game That’s Bigger Than Your Tree for Your Favorite Space Marine
  • Best Train Game That They’ll NEVER See Coming
  • Best Game for Those iOS-Addicted Relatives
  • Best Game For When the Eggnog Starts Hitting Hard 
Aint It Cool's Eric "Quint" Vespe buried his idiosyncratic game recommendations deep into his Part 2 of Holiday Gift Guides.  Search for "game section" to jump straight down to the boardgames.  He has a fascination with IP-themed mass-market games, from Back to the Future Monopoly to Star Wars Sorry.

Anton Olsen from GeekDad returns this year with a full slate of 19 game recommendations.

And Jenny Bristol from GeekMom returns as well with her own 13 recommendations.

So among these lists, 175 different games are recommended, of which a few received multiple mentions.  Here are the most-frequently recommended games:
  1. Codenames as a party game that will appeal to everyone (and I will second that recommendation)
  2. Pandemic Legacy as a cooperative game for gamers
  3. Camel Up (or as I prefer, Camel Cup) as a family game that involves friendly (?) wagers
  4. Castles of Mad King Ludwig for gamers
  5. Colt Express as a family strategy game
  6. Mysterium as a cooperative deduction game (or as Dice Hate Me puts it, "for those who prefer Nightmare Before Christmas over Holiday Inn")

Friday, October 23, 2015

Controversial themes

This week I happened across an old State of Games podcast in which Chris Kirkman, Nat Levan, and the Dice Hate Me crew discussed the potential backlash from Nat's whaling-themed game, New Bedford.  The discussion addressed why people might have difficulty with a game based on hunting and killing whales.  For my part, I'm very fond of the game, and I think its historical setting and the chit-pull mechanic that models the depletion of the whale population lend the proper respect to the topic.  In short, it's not a controversial theme for me.

I've come to realize, though, that pursuing the question of whether a given game has an inherently objectionable theme is futile and perhaps misguided, as if appropriateness or correctness is a universally-applicable standard.  Offensiveness is in the eye of the offended.  Some people will object to a game based on whaling and won't buy it.  That's okay.  Some people find the theme appropriate and will play it.  That's okay, too.

I enjoy wargames, but I know someone who stays away from them on the principle that war is inherently destructive, so that games based on war are inappropriate.  I respect that, and he respects my enjoyment of them.  Years ago, people objected to Dungeons and Dragons because they felt that its focus on magic, demons, and undead was spiritually compromising.  That's okay.  I don't have an issue with the "colonists" in Puerto Rico that would historically have been slaves.  I don't feel compelled to argue with someone who objects to a genre of game I enjoy.  I respect the fact that they don't like it, whether or not they respect the fact that I do.

There are a few games I won't play.  I will stay away from Letters from Whitechapel because one character takes active steps that represent the violent assault and murder of women.  I won't play Nuclear War because the satirical humor doesn't overcome the cards representing the annihilation of tens of millions of people.  And I find Cards Against Humanity and Lap Dance simply in poor taste.  But I recognize that people like those games.  I don't start arguments over them.  I just don't play them myself.

So ultimately my thesis is that there are enough games in the world that everyone can find something that they enjoy, and there are enough people in the world that different people will feel differently about different themes.  Some people will object to some topics in some games.  We don't need to argue about which are acceptable and which are not.  We only need to respect each other as gamers, and to find a game that everyone around the table will play.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Boardgames in the Backyard 2015

Today is probably the last pleasant day in northern Virginia for a while - perhaps our final opportunity for a boardgame in the backyard this year.  Here's a reflection on games we played out back this season.

19 June - Mr. Jack, a terrific deductive duel

Friday, October 9, 2015

Bachelor weekend

My wife is at a writers' conference in North Carolina this weekend, which means it's just us guys in my house - my 19- and 14-year-old sons and me.  I'm thinking Friday night is Star Wars X-wing, with the 19-year-old as Boba Fett in the Slave I against the 14-year-old and me flying X-wing and Z-95s against him.  Two against one, but we're not afraid.  [Update:  We did indeed play X-wing, although I flew a Y-wing rather than Z-95s.  There was no escape for Boba Fett this time, as a proton torpedo from my pursuing Y-wing delivered the fatal blow, even as he deployed a mine in my path.]

Friday, September 25, 2015

Kickstarters that should have funded

The proliferation of boardgames on Kickstarter is no secret.  In preparing the Dice Tower News Kickstarter report, week in and week out, I find countless boardgames and card games that don't fund.  Many fail to fund for understandable reasons - many never coming close - but from time to time a campaign that seems to have everything going for it somehow falls short of the mark, goes unfunded, and has to return to the drawing board.  I thought it would be interesting to reflect on a few of those "projects that should have funded" as cautionary tales that remind us that nothing on Kickstarter is a sure thing - and perhaps to begin to understand why.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Fourth annual-ish "What to pack for a vacation"

Each summer I'm in charge of deciding which boardgames to take on family summer vacation.  The last time I looked at this question was August last year.  This year we are going on our first cruise, so packing space is a premium (and perhaps table space as well). My first thought for games that are easy to pack are card games, and then I brainstormed a few other ideas.  I shopped the list around my family and dropped the ones they weren't interested in.  We settled on the following:

Friday, August 14, 2015

WBC 2015

Keith Ferguson and I drove up to Lancaster, Pennsylvania last Thursday for our annual pilgrimage to the World Boardgaming Championships.

Friday, July 24, 2015

UnPub 5 Saturday - playtesting other prototypes

[Apparently I'd written this entry last February after UnPub 5 but never posted it.  Then this evening I accidentally published it.  For better or for worse, here it is.]

After two playtest sessions of "East India Company," it was time for me to make the rounds at UnPub 5.  The great thing about a convention like UnPub is the people you meet.  I spent a good part of the weekend chatting with Bruce and Mike of The Party Gamecast and playing a few games with them, including Red 7 and Marcus Ross's Discount Salmon (which was fun though not my style of card game).  I had the opportunity to talk with Chris Kirkman of Dice Hate Me Games, Andy Looney of Looney Labs, Luke Peterschmidt of Fun to 11 Games, Mike Lee of Panda Game Manufacturing, and Diamonds designer Mike Fitzgerald.  That is what a convention experience is all about.  But I also played some games:

Friday, June 5, 2015

Importance of theme in a cooperative game

Future Wolfie of iSlayTheDragon recently reviewed Samurai Spirit (designer Antoine Bauza, artist Victor P. Corbella, publisher FunForge).  It seems like an interesting game - I've got it on my wishlist - but a couple of sentences in Future Wolfie's review jumped out at me:
In a way it’s like a cooperative version of Blackjack, with much better art and a few special powers thrown in the mix. But that’s what it really boils down to in a sense: trying to hit a maximum total card value without going over.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Enchanted Grounds

I was on business travel again this week, so I did a little research beforehand and found that there is a boardgame cafe in Denver called Enchanted Grounds.  Moreover, on Monday night they were hosting Star Wars X-wing, so I made a point of heading over there after work.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Star Wars X-wing family shoot-'em-up

Last week my oldest son was in town to visit, and I was glad to get to the table Star Wars: X-wing (designers Steven Kimball, James Kniffen, Corey Konieczka, Jason Little, Brady Sadler, and Adam Sadler; publisher Fantasy Flight Games) for the first time since I acquired it last December with a Christmas gift card.  My whole family enjoys Star Wars, so I was optimistic that I could get them interested in playing.  I’d supplemented the base game with Slave I and two Z-95 Headhunters, and my wife gave me a Y-wing for my birthday, so we had enough ships for all five of us. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

UnPub Mini Fredericksburg

Saturday Jarrett Melville organized an UnPub Mini event at The Game Vault in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  This event was a nice informal gathering of game designers and playtesters at a friendly local game store that turned into a solid success.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Worker placement inventory

Part of Kathy's killer combination
This afternoon my wife Kathy just wanted to play a worker placement game.  We settled on our old favorite Agricola (designer Uwe Rosenberg, artist Klemens Franz, publisher Z-Man).  We played with the 'K' Deck, which we haven't done in a while.  She had a killer combination of Plowman, Market Woman, and Greenhouse, which together meant she was swimming in grain and vegetables by the end of the game. She also had two big pastures and a lot of animals at the end, plus a large wooden hut.  My big points came from major improvements that included the well and the stone oven, a stone hut, and a lot of grain thanks to Acreage.  But my unused spaces and neglect of animals meant that she won the game, 40 to 31. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Shep's Games

Work has been crazy lately.  It interferes with my gaming at home, playing with my friends after work, my weekend gaming opportunities, my podcasting, and my blogging.  I spent the last week on business travel in Denver, Colorado, and I was determined to find some way to get some gaming contact after-hours.  A little internet searching turned up Shep's Games, and on blind faith I showed up there at about 6:00 pm last Thursday hoping to find some open gaming.

Monday, February 16, 2015

UnPub 5 Saturday - East India Company

Saturday 7 February was the first full day of UnPub 5, the unpublished game prototype playtesting convention that has grown dramatically in the last four years.  I split a Tag Table with Tony Miller, and by mutual agreement, I took the table first on Saturday.  I was glad to do so because I really wanted Lesley Louder to get a chance to play "East India Company" before she had to leave the convention early.  When Lesley's husband Darrell, the convention director, heard that I was setting up a game of "EIC," he had Richard Launius (Arkham Horror, Elder Sign) join us.  Rob Weaver made our fourth.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

UnPub 5: Friday

Keith Ferguson and I are at UnPub 5, presented by Ad Magic at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland.  Darrell Louder has really cranked up the gain on UnPub this year, with a terrific new location and a slate of activities for the pre-convention Designer Day, which just concluded Friday night.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Boardgame news of the week: Exploding Kittens

Okay, stop the presses.  This is the news item that we'll be talking about all year.  Out of nowhere, a card game has taken Kickstarter by storm and attracted (at this writing) over 106,000 backers to drop a modest $20 to $35 each - totaling over $4.1 million - on what amounts to a wacky-themed push-your-luck game - Exploding Kittens (designed and published by Matthew InmanElan Lee, and Shane Small).  It has already broken crowdfunding records for board and card games and shows no sign of slowing.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thinking ahead

Our first game of Legacy: Gears
of Time
My beautiful wife Kathy gave me a copy of Legacy: Gears of Time (designer Ben Harkins, publisher Floodgate Games) for Christmas.  She trounced me in our first game, and last night I eked out a one-point victory in our second game.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Statistical review of seasonal effects on Kickstarter funding

Lately, as I've been compiling notes each week for the Kickstarter report on the Dice Tower News podcast, I've come to notice an evident seasonal pattern:  fewer boardgame projects tend to fund on Kickstarter this time of year.  In recent weeks, the number of projects likely to fund has been particularly low.  Do longer-term statistics bear out my recent observations?

Friday, December 12, 2014

The game time conundrum revisited

A couple of years ago, I looked over my game collection and sighed at the number of games that hadn't seen the attention they deserved.  I wrote a post listing games that I wanted to spend more time on, even as I realized that as long as leisure time is limited and the game collection is big, there will always be neglected games on my shelves.  It's a topic worth revisiting from time to time - both because it's interesting to see how the list has changed (and how it hasn't) and because it's helpful to look at the collection with fresh eyes and think about resurrecting a few titles that might bear dusting off and playing again.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Holiday gift meta-guide

The reader looking for boardgame gift ideas for the upcoming holidays may find recommendations from an overwhelming variety of sources.  Rather than add to the noise, I thought I would help organize it with my own meta-guide of boardgame holiday gift guides.  What follows is a consolidated list of sources, including the categories for which they provide recommendations, as well as a summary of highlights at the end.  I hope the reader finds this meta-guide helpful.