Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Top ten games that I play with my wife

Quite some time ago, Chris Norwood posted a list of his top ten games that he plays with his wife.  That list in turn was inspired by The Dice Tower podcast Episode 189, in which Tom Vasel and Eric Summerer shared their own top ten games that they play with their wives.  Those lists are both several years old, but the topic is timeless, so I thought I'd confer with my wife Kathy so that we could compile our own list.

Kathy and I had a very hard time narrowing ourselves down to ten favorite games.  We tend to play the following games the most often, and these are the ones we most enjoy.  There are others we wish we'd play more, but time does not always permit.  There are also others we used to play more often but that have made room for more recent interests; we still consider them old favorites, however.  So now, the top ten games that Kathy and I play together:

10.  Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age is a nice option when I've come home relatively late from work and we don't have time or mental energy for a serious game.

9.  7 Wonders gained some recent new life for us with the addition of the Leaders expansion.  We don't always like games that require a third "dummy" hand to facilitate a two-player game, but this one works for us.

8.  Chrononauts is a goofy Looney Labs title that we both like.  It's a much better light-hearted card game than any of the Fluxx titles, which still have their own appeal.

7.  Splendor is a recent addition to our collection that we really like, again as a relatively quick, undemanding game.

6.  Battle Line, by contrast, is the game we pull out when we really want to bash brains against each other.  We really love this taut card game, and the winner always feels as though he or she has earned it when the game ends.  Perhaps my favorite two-player card game of all time.

(c) Dice Hate Me Games
Used by permission
5.  Compounded, like 7 Wonders, requires a dummy third player, but it is very unobtrusive and actually introduces some interesting tactical decisions.  Another really fun one and surprisingly so even as a two-player.

4.  Puerto Rico is not intended as a two-player game at all, but I downloaded a variant from boardgamegeek that works very well for us.  We've played PR a lot and have never tired of this neo-classic.  We recently picked up the New Buildings expansion, so now this old favorite has new life.

3.  Love Letter doesn't really pose any deep tactical problems, but it is still a fun game and frequently provides the opportunity to get inside the head of the opponent, which really augments what would otherwise be a fairly simple logic puzzle into an interesting meta-game.

2.  Citadels is the other game of mutual mind-reading that we really love.  It plays very differently for two players compared to more typical, larger player counts, but the two-player rules work really well in their own right.  Kathy has become so proficient at second-guessing my secret roles - both in this game and in Love Letter -that I have come to refer to her as the "psychic assassin."

1.  Jaipur is our ultimate go-to two-player game.  We have played countless sessions and enjoyed every one of them.  At first glance, it would appear to have little gameplay depth or replay value, but in fact it is enormously fun and eminently enjoyable, at exactly the right point on the lightness-vs-depth spectrum for a late-afternoon cocktail game.

Honorable mentions - games we wish we could play more often, or old favorites that we don't play as much as we used to:

  • Le Havre
  • Mars Needs Mechanics
  • Robber Knights
  • Empyrean, Inc.
  • Ticket to Ride
  • Belle of the Ball - actually, I think this one is a rising star in our collection and will probably find itself in our top ten in the not-too-distant future
  • Agricola / Farmers of the Moor
  • Pirate Fluxx / Martian Fluxx / Star Fluxx
  • Ingenious
  • Perry Rhodan: The Cosmic League
One last list:  These are games that I bought with every expectation that Kathy and I would play them on a regular basis, games that I thought would join the ranks of the regular two-player games listed above.  Instead, they fell flat with Kathy (or with both of us) and have tended to gather dust (or to see action only as multi-player games).

  • Android: Netrunner
  • Dominion
  • Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
  • Council of Verona
  • Belfort
  • Hive
  • Race for the Galaxy
  • Salmon Run
  • Cold War: CIA vs KGB
  • Revolver

Friday, October 3, 2014

Spring and summer photos

As October begins and fall sets in, I thought I would look back at some of games I got to play over the last six months.

My friend Grant G. gave us Goa for Christmas, and Kathy and I really like this neo-classic Euro.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Feminism Discourse Part 3: Who else has asked this question?

I'm certainly not the first to question the disproportion of men to women in the boardgaming hobby.  Here are just a few recent efforts (and one not-so-recent) to shed light on the question in one form or another.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Feminism Discourse Part 2: Who are the women that design games?

Last week I started to consider the question about why it seemed that there were so few female game designers.  But that post admittedly begs the question:  Is it actually true that game designers are disproportionately male, or is it just that male designers are simply better known?  I decided to actively identify women designers and some of the games they've designed to see if I could validate the notion that they are rare - or if not, to investigate why they are not as well known as male designers.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Feminism discourse: Why are women the exception in boardgame design?

Susan McKinley Ross at
2013 New York Toy Fair
I've recently come to consider seriously why most of the game designers with which I'm familiar are male.  I became more aware of this observation when I learned of a couple of women who won game design awards over the last few years and realized how unusual it seemed to me at the time - specifically, Susan McKinley Ross, who won the 2011 Spiel des Jahres for Qwirkle (which I only learned of when Tom Vasel interviewed her last November), and Leslie Scott, who won the 2012 TAGIE for Excellence in Game Design for Jenga.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Confusion: Do I get it?

(c) Stronghold Games.  Used by permission
I've been enamored of Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War (designer Robert Abbott, artist David Ausloos, publisher Stronghold) for a long time - partly for the cold war theme, partly for the bakelite components, but mostly for the really clever "reverse Stratego" mechanic of knowing what your opponent's pieces can do, but not your own.  Keith Ferguson picked it up the last day of WBC 2011, and we've played it a few times since - most recently during open gaming at WBC earlier this month.

Friday, August 22, 2014

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

I like looking into which boardgames work for taking on family summer vacations.  The last time I looked at this question was July 2012.  This year we have plans to visit points of interest in southwest Virginia - the Skyline Drive, Lexington, the Natural Bridge, and Monticello.  We specifically will be leaving laptops at home.  Anticipating some quality family downtime, of course that means boardgames.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

WBC 2014 Saturday and Sunday: WS&IM fleet action, Acquire semifinal, and demos

One quick go-back on my earlier posts recounting my World Boardgaming Championships experience this year:  The very first thing that Keith Ferguson and I did Thursday morning, on our way to the registration desk, was to bump into Josh Tempkin of Tall Tower Games.  He spent a good part of the convention demonstrating several of his games:
  • "WarTime," which I've written about before as a fascinating, innovative real-time wargame involving sand timers
  • "Throne Dice," which surprisingly I still haven't taken the time to play
  • "Commissioner," which I learned at UnPub 4 as "Lesser Evil"

Thursday, August 14, 2014

WBC 2014 Friday: WS&IM loss, Acquire victory, and EIC demo

(c) Rio Grande Games - used by
permission
Friday August 8 was the day that the Vendors' Area opened at the World Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, so Keith Ferguson and I headed there as soon as the doors opened to see what we could find.  I had a few specific games in mind, and I was fortunate to find immediately the one at the top of my list, Concordia, designed by Mac Gerdts and published in the U.S. by Rio Grande.  I was initially attracted to this game simply because the title, after the Roman goddess of harmony, shares the name of the protagonist in my wife Kathy's series of historical murder mysteries.  Reviews led me to believe that I would appreciate this game in its own right, so I look forward to giving it a try.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

WBC 2014 Thursday: TPA and a day of not winning

Last week I conducted my fourth annual pilgrimage to the World Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the summer highlight of my gaming year.  I had a fairly loose schedule in mind, with only a few key tournaments that I specifically wanted to hit.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Second annual List of Shame: The Unplayed Games of 2014

Last year about this time, inspired by Chris "GamerChris" Norwood, I posted my "secret shame" - a list of unplayed games sitting on my shelves.  When I did that, I thought surely, I am now motivated to work my way down this list and play all these games - or pass them along to someone else who will.  Surely, in the next year, say, I will have played nearly all my games and the list will be shorter.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

UnPub Mini Chantilly Recap

Last Saturday, Keith Ferguson ran an UnPub Mini event at Game Parlor Chantilly.  (I helped a little.)  We had about twelve designers and about 20 gamers playtesting over the course of the 11 hours that the store was open that day.  It was about as successful as we could have wanted.  For my part, I got to playtest "East India Company" and "Reactor Scram" one time each, as well as to play about four other games, though there were many more I wish I could have played.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

More designers for 21 June UnPub Mini in Chantilly, Virginia

As I mentioned in a post on May 8, there will be an UnPub Mini event this Saturday 21 June at
Game Parlor
13936 Metrotech Drive
Chantilly, VA 20151
We now have a full slate of eleven designers lined up, so we have plenty of opportunities for gamers to come and try out new game design prototypes and provide feedback to the designers.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Leaner, meaner "Company"

I've been giving some thought as to how to streamline "East India Company."  There are a few approaches I can take.  The scientist in me wants to make one change at a time and test each change independently.  I've heard at least one designer specifically recommend that approach so that you always know the effect of each specific design change.  But my gut tells me to identify the essential core elements of the game, eliminate everything else in one big purge, and then see if anything should be added back in, painstakingly, one element at a time.

Monday, May 26, 2014

East India Company returns to the shipyard

Last February I mentioned that I'd submitted a prototype of "East India Company" to a publisher at UnPub 4 to evaluate for publication.  I just heard back from them, and they
do not find it to be a good fit for our upcoming releases. At the end of the day, the play time and complexity does not create a conducive product for a broad success, as the trends are leading away from complex play and longer play times.
I can certainly accept that evaluation.  Game length has been a challenge with "EIC" since its inception, and it certainly is complex.  Given the nature of today's game market, I agree that its appeal as it currently stands would probably be somewhat narrow.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Luck, skill, and research

Last week I opened a discussion on my effort to quantify game characteristics.  I had in mind that I would explore this question on my own, somewhat in a vacuum, based on my own experience and opinions, as something of an exercise to see what defensible conclusions I might reach.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Thoughts on quantifying game characteristics

Gamers tend to characterize games in terms of luck vs. skill, replayability, lightness vs. depth, and so forth.  These qualitative assessments help us to evaluate what we might like or dislike about a game before we've played it ourselves, or help to consider which games might be appropriate for a specific social, tournament, or convention setting.  These characterizations also help in establishing design goals and parameters as well as assist publishers in determining which potential titles will fit within their product line.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Reactor Scram: early playtesting

I have finally started working in earnest on a co-op idea I've had percolating in my mind for the last few weeks.  The theme is that the players are workers in a nuclear reactor plant whose maintenance has been neglected, until finally the bad day comes when everything seems to break at once.  The goal is to get the plant into a "safe condition" without melting down a core or irradiating any of the workers.

First prototype of "Reactor Scram"
I ran a couple of solo playtests.  I won one and lost one, which made me think that I've got the initial balance at least coarsely in the right neighborhood.  What surprised me was how quickly each game completed - roughly ten or fifteen minutes per game.  I usually have the opposite problem with the games I design - play times that run way too long.  Right now I've got a game that takes more time to explain than it does to play.  So I want to figure out some way of extending the gameplay as well as the "story arc" so that I'm not just "making it longer" for the sake of making it last.