Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Holiday gaming

The holidays provide plenty of opportunity for gaming time with friends and family.  (Sadly, for all the gaming we did in the last week, I have no pictures.  What's wrong with me?)

(c) Lookout Games.  Used by permission
Last Friday our friend Theresa H. came over for a game.  We had several options, and when I described Le Havre (designer Uwe Rosenberg, artists Klemens Franz and Uwe Rosenberg, publisher Lookout Games [website in German]) as a "deeper version of Agricola," Theresa chose that to play.  We played the three-player shortened version, which has a few different buildings from the two-player that Kathy and I usually play.  This time Kathy really got her coal-coke-shipping engine going and made all kinds of money, but I was hot on the building strategy and constructed enough high-value buildings to eke out a win by five points.  Theresa made a good showing for her first game and had a good time.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Boardgames by candlelight

Early this week a sequence of winter storms came through northern Virginia, and my house lost power for about 45 hours.  My kids were pretty bored without their usual sources of electronic entertainment, but one nice thing about boardgames is that you don't have to plug them into the wall.  So as we sat by the fireplace trying to stay warm, we broke out the games and had a reasonably good time by lanterns and candlelight.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Susan McKinley Ross at Speil des Jahres 2011
Recently I've been catching up on podcasts, including Tom Vasel's Boardgame University.  Back on Episode 16, he interviewed Susan McKinley Ross, designer of 2011 Spiel des Jahres winner Qwirkle (Mindware Games).  I was fascinated by the evolution story of Qwirkle, which started in "specialty toys," evolved through the "gamer market," and ended up in "mass market games."

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saturday afternoon Triumvirate

Joe C. (l.) and Frank H.
My friends Joe C. and Frank H. joined me this afternoon for my favorite three-player game of all time, The End of the Triumvirate (designers Johannes Ackva and Max Gabrian, artist Andrea Boekhoff, publisher Z-Man Games).  Frank had played twice before, but it was Joe's first time.  We went over the rules, and he picked it right up.  Joe drew Caesar, Frank was Crassus, and I played Pompeius.  Joe keyed on the significance of the political competence and pushed himself immediately down that track, although Frank kept up with him and bought votes early.  I tried to bolster my military position and thought I'd left my civil servant adequately defended.  Joe proved me wrong and took it from me on, I think, the fourth turn, and I was never able to recover another one.  Frank maintained his political lead and won the first election.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Dice Tower News Interview - the uncut version

Chris Kirkman (l.) of Dice Hate Me Games is introduced
to Brew Crafters for the first time by designer Ben
Rosset at UnPub 3 in January, 2013
On Dice Tower News Episode 180, I included a severely edited version of an interview with designer Ben Rosset and publisher Chris Kirkman of Dice Hate Me Games to talk about their current Kickstarter project, Brew Crafters.  But I didn't want anyone to miss out on the rich experience I had speaking with these two enthusiasts just because of the time constraints of a news podcast.  So I have posted the entire interview on boardgamegeek so that everyone can hear Ben describe the experience that inspired him to design Brew Crafters in the first place.  Also not to be missed is Chris waxing on the passion that he brings to every game that Dice Hate Me Games publishes.  I always enjoy every minute I spend with these guys, and I hope you do, too.

[Update:  I'd previously tried to post the interview here on this page, but due to technical difficulties, I am just including a link to the interview posted on boardgamegeek instead.]

Friday, November 8, 2013

Latest micro-game addition - Council of Verona

Earlier this week I received my Kickstarter reward copy of Council of Verona (designer Michael Eskue, artists Darrell Louder and Adam P. McIver, publisher Crash Games).  I was intrigued by the description of this game as soon as I read it, both for the Shakespearean theme and for the apparently tactical gameplay in such a small package.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Boardgame marketing in the 1960s

3M edition, 1968
A few weeks ago, our friend Jeff invited my wife Kathy and me over for dinner and a boardgame along with our friends Rebecca and Sheila.  Rebecca had expressed an interest in playing Acquire (designer Sid Sackson), and I had obtained a copy on eBay of the 1968 edition published by 3M, so after dinner, we pulled it out and started to set it up.  When Sheila saw the box, she commented on the atmosphere that the cover art conveyed, a sophisticated 1960s image.  The connotation was very strong - almost like a Sean Connery 007 film - and very different from the typical boardgame published today.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Revisiting Brew Crafters

Ben Rosset and Kathy Owen in a
three-player round of "Brew Crafters"
Last January, at UnPub 3, Chris Kirkman (Dice Hate Me Games) and I had the opportunity to playtest Ben Rosset's beer-brewing themed worker-placement game, "Brew Crafters" (at the time under the working title "Brewmasters").  About a month later, Chris and Ben reached agreement to publish "Brew Crafters" under the Dice Hate Me label.  Ben has continued to playtest "Brew Crafters" throughout the year in anticipation of a Kickstarter campaign later this month to fund the initial print run.  A couple of weeks ago, my wife Kathy and I participated in a playtest of the most current version of "Brew Crafters" with Ben.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Congress of Gamers 2013 Part 5: Five-player "East India Company"

Wrapping up my Congress of Gamers coverage from almost three weeks ago, I've got a five-player playtest of "East India Company" and just a few other odds and ends to close things out.

Clockwise from left foreground:  Jason Tagmire, Marty, myself, Alf Shadowsong, Kiva Fecteau, and John Weber as I facilitate a five-player playtest of  "East India Company" - Photo by Mike Mullins

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Congress of Gamers 2013 Part 4: Tiny Battles and Big Battleships

Tiny Epic Battles
One of the cool things about the UnPub ProtoZones is that you get to meet new designers and discover their creations.  I met Alf Shadowsong and Kiva Fecteau, who had a couple of prototypes, and the one I got to try is called "Tiny Epic Battles."  The way Alf tells it, he designed this little card game as a method to teach tactics to Kiva.  The exercise evolved into a stand-alone two-player deck-construction game.  Each player starts with an action deck, a resource deck, and three "houses" face up in a tableau that he needs to defend.  A player loses if he exhausts either deck or loses all of his "houses."

Monday, October 14, 2013

Congress of Gamers 2013 Part 3: "New Bedford"

Anna Rutledge and Nathaniel Levan
demonstrate "New Bedford"
I had been looking forward to playing "New Bedford" since I first heard of it on the UnPub.net website.  My family has deep attachments to that old Massachusetts whaling town.  Nathaniel Levan is the designer of this worker placement prototype, and I got to meet him in the UnPub ProtoZone at Congress of Gamers a couple of weeks ago.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Congress of Gamers 2013 Part 2: "Firebreak"

At the World Boardgaming Championships last August, I met up briefly with Charlie Hoopes but never got a chance to play his game Fill the Barn.  I had also missed out on playing "AtataT" at UnPub 3 last January.  Fortunately, I was able to make up for it at Congress of Gamers last week by playing his latest co-op prototype, "Firebreak."  We were joined by Bruce Voge of The Party Gamecast and Aaron Honsowetz and Austin Smokowicz, designers of "Post Position."
Bruce Voge, Charlie Hoopes, Austin Smocowicz, and Paul Owen playtesting "Firebreak."
Photo by Aaron Honsowetz

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Congress of Gamers 2013 Part 1: Mares and Mariners

Last weekend I made my annual trek to nearby Rockville, Maryland, to participate in Congress of Gamers, a friendly little weekend convention run by Eric Englemann of the Games Club of Maryland.  A series of Eurogame tournaments make up the convention's big draw, but CoG also features a number of other events, including the "Copyright Office," a game designer's prototype playtest room run by UnPub.net as a "ProtoZone" event.  That's where I spent virtually all of my time during CoG.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Summer game photos

Now that summer is over, I thought I'd compile some photos of games we've played over the last three months.

The yellow plague outbreak gets away from us.
We love Pandemic, but we have such a hard time winning.  Late last June, the yellow plague took root in remote Santiago, and we neglected to deal with it until the outbreak counter reached the critical point.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Game Theory: A simple multi-player case

Earlier this week I was listening to Episode 36 of the Flip the Table podcast, which discussed the obscure 1979 Bruce Jenner Decathlon Game (publisher Parker Brothers).  The game consists of ten mini-games using an eclectic variety of mechanics.  One of them caught my attention as an elegant bluffing and second-guessing procedure used to resolve the "foot races" in the decathlon.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Podcast debut: The return of Dice Tower News

Last June, on the Dice Tower Network, podcaster Remy Gibson signed off his 150th and last episode of "Dice Tower News."  He mentioned that he and Tom Vasel hadn't found a replacement, so it looked like there wasn't going to be any more DTN after that episode.  Well, as it happened, I'd been wondering in the back of my mind for several weeks about whether I would enjoy podcasting, but I didn't want to get into an hour-long format like so many popular shows do.  I liked Remy's ten-minute three-times-a-week format, and I thought it would be fun to do a news spot like that.  So when the opportunity opened up, I decided to contact Remy and Tom and see whether I might be able to step up and do the show.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Friends of Mars

Ben Rosset (l.) and Stephen Craig
UnPub 3, in January 2013
Many years ago at our engagement party, my wife Kathy introduced me to a close family friend she'd known since grade school, Stephen Craig.  He and I developed a great mutual respect and friendship over the years since then.  Not terribly long ago, we discovered that we share a common passion - designing boardgames.  At one design convention, he'd met Ben Rossett and convinced him to part with a prototype copy of his work in progress at the time, "The Market."

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Targi: The women prevail among the Tuaregs

At the World Boardgaming Championships, I'd picked up a copy of Targi (designer Andreas Steiger, artist Franz Vohwinkel, publisher Z-Man) at the Z-Man booth.  As I mentioned at the time, this title was on my wish list because the French blog Gus and Co. listed it among their top two-player games of 2012, so I picked it up as something Kathy and I would like to try out.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

WBC 2013 Sunday: Convention wrap-up

First, a shout-out to Charlie Hoopes, whom I mistakenly failed to mention in my "WBC 2013 Thursday" post.  Charlie is the designer of the family game Fill the Barn and has a work-in-progress abstract two-player called "AtataT."  I'd seen "AtataT" at UnPub 3 but missed out on playing it.  Charlie made a point of catching up with me during the Trains Planes and Automobiles tournament, and we had a nice chat about our respective game designs.  I look forward to seeing more of him.

Sunday morning provided an opportunity to catch up with the representatives from one of the vendors and talk a little about "East India Company."  This company is a well-known publisher with a line of games to which I think "EIC" would make a valuable contribution.  The fellows I spoke with weren't the people who make decisions about which submissions to evaluate, but they do much of the playtesting.  We talked a little about the wide variety of quality and maturity they see in some of the game designs that they are given to check out.  I thought it might be valuable to pass on to them a copy of the rules of "EIC" with my contact information, just as an indicator of how far along I've developed the game and to help with their company's evaluation of whether to get a closer look at it.  There's no telling what will come of this contact, but I was glad at least to have reached out and pursued a potential relationship.

Friday, August 9, 2013

WBC 2013 Saturday: Wooden Ships fleet action and semifinal

Saturday at the World Boardgaming Championships was the day I'd been preparing for - the Wooden Ships and Iron Men fleet action and, if I qualified, the semifinals with a goal of reaching the final and competing for the championship.

My fellow Dutch players, Admiral
Ron (l.) and Commodore Tim H.
Wooden Ships fleet action
Tim Hitchings always puts on a great fleet action at WBC.  This year, the scenario involved a meeting engagement in the Dogger Banks between a British fleet of six ships-of-the-line and six frigates escorting nine merchant vessels against a similarly outfitted Dutch fleet.  The goal of each fleet was to escort its merchants safely off the opposite side of the board.  I served as the rear commodore of the Dutch fleet, with the ship-of-the-line Holland and a frigate under my command, as well as three of the merchants.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

WBC 2013 Friday: Gryphon and Avalon Hill

Continuing my saga from yesterday's post...

Friday at the World Boardgaming Championships was the first day that the vendors set up shop, and my friend Keith Ferguson was eager to be there when the doors opened.  Somehow I got the Friday morning schedule wrong and missed out on competing in a morning tournament, so I went to the vendors' hall instead.  As soon as I walked in, I saw the Gaming Nomads booth with Incan Gold (designers Bruno Faidutti and Alan R. Moon, artist Matthias Catrein, publisher Gryphon), which my family had been playing using a makeshift homemade version.  For $20, it seemed reasonable to get a copy of the real thing, since it gets some play in my house.  I overheard someone ask for Salmon Run (designer Jesse Catron  artist Eric J. Carter, publisher Gryphon), which I didn't even know they had until they pulled it out from under a low shelf, so I picked that up, too.  Finally, I decided to get Pergamon (designers Stefan Dorra and Ralf zur Linde, artist Klemens Franz, publisher Gryphon Games), which has been on my wishlist for a long time but which I just never picked up until now.  So I bought three Gryphon games from the first vendor I saw.  I decided discretion was the better part of valor at that point, and turned around and walked out again before my credit card got any other bright ideas.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

WBC 2013 Thursday: "Small" tournaments and second-hand buys

Last week I spent four days at the World Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  WBC is one of my favorite conventions, and this one had a few highlights that I hope to share over the next few posts.

Monday, July 29, 2013

A promising new business contact

I've been struggling to assemble additional prototypes for "East India Company," and I had been stymied by an unfortunate failed transaction with a printing company that set me back about two and a half months with nothing to show for it except a refund.

Looking for a new source for print-on-demand services that could do what I needed, I browsed an old resource page that I'd bookmarked at Spotlight on Games.  There I found a reference to Print and Play Productions, which seemed to fit the bill perfectly.  On Wednesday, I placed an order and sent a note to the owner, Andrew Tullsen, just to let him know where I'd found out about his company and that I looked forward to doing business with him.  He responded the next day to say that he had checked my files, that everything looked good, and that he hoped to ship my order that week.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

HistoriCon 2013 Saturday - USMC in the ACW

Last Saturday at HistoriCon, my friend Frank Hodge and I spent the morning in seminars and then joined our friend Grant Greffey for his latest WarZone scenario in his Dr. Orenstein series.  What follows are a few notes that I took from the first seminar, with others to follow in subsequent posts.  Any errors in this account with respect to the history of the Marine Corps and surrounding events are my own.  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

HistoriCon 2013 Friday - DBA and GHQ

De Bellis Antiquitatis 3.0
Today at HistoriCon, I was reminded of what I like about the elegant miniatures game De Bellis
Pike refusing the flank against a knight charge
 (designers Philip and Sue Barker and Richard Bodley Scott, publisher Wargamers Research Group), colloquially known as DBA.   Years ago, my friends and I would play earlier versions of DBA avidly.  We closely followed rules changes and army list updates as they came out, the latest edition being DBA Version 2.2.  Over time we fell away from DBA in favor of boardgames and other distractions.  Occasionally we'd say, "We should play DBA again some time," and another of us would say, "Yes, that's a good idea.  I like DBA.  We should do that."  And then we wouldn't.

Friday, July 19, 2013

HistoriCon 2013 Thursday - New Orleans and Warrenton Junction

Although my primary interest is boardgames, I've been known to push lead around the table from time to time.  With last year's move to Fredericksburg, Virginia, of HistoriCon, the biggest Historical Miniatures Gaming Society (HMGS) event of the year, I've had a golden opportunity to revisit miniatures gaming and see the latest in the hobby.  Today was the first day of HistoriCon 2013, and for me it was "Leo Walsh" day, as I participated in back-to-back games run by the co-designer of High Noon and Age of Iron.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

East India Company: Two-player playtest holds up well

My current game design work-in-progress, "East India Company," is intended for two to five players.  My
"East India Company" two-player session.  The prototype
board might be too "busy" and need some toning down
for clarity.
very earliest solo playtests were set for two players, and many of the coarse physical mechanics that I developed came directly from those very early sessions.  Since then, however, nearly every playtest has been with three or more players, and over time I worried that I had neglected the two-player case and that perhaps EIC would come up short in that smaller format.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Midway: The brown shoe is on the other foot

My father was a naval aviator, and for whatever reason, whereas the rest of the Navy wore black shoes with their khaki uniforms, aviators always wore brown shoes.  This "brown shoe" image has a great deal of history and pride associated with it.  Well, today after work, Frank Hodge did well by that tradition in our game of Midway (designerLarry Pinsky and Lindsley Schutz, publisher Avalon Hill).  Unlike so many of our previous games, Frank assumed the role of commander of the U.S. Navy forces, while I took those of the Imperial Japanese Navy with the goal of invading Midway Island.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Reflecting on the symmetry of abstracts

(c) Queen Games
Used by permission
My good friend Grant Greffey recently gave me a copy of Sparta (designer Yannick Holtkamp, artist Claus Stephan, publisher Queen), a rather clever abstract in the category of perfect-information zero-luck two-player games.  My wife Kathy and I tried it out last night, and we confirmed something that we've observed with other games in this category:  There are many games in which Kathy and I go toe-to-toe, and a few in which she can wipe the floor with me, but I pretty much have the advantage in these pure two-player abstracts.  She's good at them, but I usually win, which makes them imperfect candidates for our cocktail hour gaming.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Farmers and hoplites

Two quick game accounts:

(c) Z-man Games.  Used by permission
Farmers of the Moor
Last evening, Kathy and I played Agricola: Farmers of the Moor (designer Uwe Rosenberg, artist Klemens Franz, publisher Z-Man Games).  We used the "Advanced (F)" deck of minor improvements.  We took completely different approaches to our farms.  Kathy was immediately disgusted with her hand and dismissed the idea of pursuing any of her minor improvements.  In fact, the only major improvement she paid for was a fireplace, which she later upgraded to a cooking hearth.  She was the first to build an extra room and grow her family.  She built fences like crazy and had quite the sheep/boar farm going before long.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Spring game photos

I've been gaming, and photographing, but not posting so much over the last month, so I thought I'd do a little catch-up with a sampling of the things my wife and I have been playing.

Pinot grigio, Anchor Steam, and Traders of Carthage
Traders of Carthage
I've mentioned this obscure favorite a few times and actually posted about this game, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to include my photographic effort to incorporate the juxtaposition of the drinks, the game, and my lovely opponent across the table.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Unplayed games coming out of the closet

The more I read of Chris "GamerChris" Norwood's blog and the more I hear of his podcast, the more I appreciate his thoughtful take on boardgaming.  Most recently, he posted an admission of his "secret shame" - a list of unplayed games.  I recognized a number of games on his list, and was just about to chastise him for having neglected some particularly good ones ... and then I thought that perhaps I ought to see just how much glass there was in my own house before casting stones in his direction.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Showdown at Guadalcanal

My good friend Frank Hodge and I sat down after work for the last scenario in our "Pacific Theatre via Midway" series - the Battle of Guadalcanal - or more correctly perhaps, the Battle Around Guadalcanal (since we didn't worry too much about how the troops in the mud on the island itself fared - with apologies to my brother Pete the Marine).  This scenario for the first time presents the U.S. player with the same problem that faces the Japanese player in almost every other scenario - having to land transports on an objective.  In this case, both the Japanese and the Americans are trying to land forces on Guadalcanal to reinforce troops already there so as to secure control of the island.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

War and Peace in an afternoon

(c) Worthington Publishing
Used by permission

After work today, my friends Frank Hodge and Grant Greffey and I got together to break in Grant's new copy of War & Peace (designer Grant Wylie, publisher Worthington Games).  This game covers the campaign of Napoleon in Europe in an Axis and Allies format with some interesting rules to handle shifting alliances of some of the second-tier powers of the war.  Normally a two-player game, we used the optional rule for a three-player game, so that Grant played the French as Napoleon Bonaparte, Frank played the English, and I played the Russians.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Backyard 24/7

Just a picture this time:  As the weather improves, the backyard boardgaming becomes more frequent.  Friday after work it was 24/7: The Game (designer Carey Grayson, publisher Sunriver Games).

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Undiscovered Carthage?

(c) Z-man.  Used by permission
Last Friday, I wrote about the underappreciated game Alexandros.  I remarked that I never run across any mention of it in blogs, podcasts, or anywhere else outside its boardgamegeek entry.  This evening, Kathy and I played another game only slightly more recognizable, Traders of Carthage (designer Susumu Kawasaki, artists Peter Gifford and You Satouchi, publisher Z-man).  The whole time we were playing, I kept remarking on the tight, agonizing decisions, turn by turn.  Nothing is obvious in this game; every choice has two sides - risk and opportunity, benefit and consequence.  I wondered whether ToC, like Alexandros, might qualify as a little-known gem that deserves more recognition.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Birthday dinner gaming

Yesterday was my beautiful wife Kathy's birthday, and we celebrated by having our good friends Glenn, Jeff, and Rebecca over for dinner and boardgames.  We customarily get together every few months or so to socialize, most recently in November when we played Tsuro and Settlers of Catan at Jeff's house.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Who loves you, Alexandros?

Today, Kathy and I played Alexandros (designer Leo Colovini, art by Grafik Studio Krüger, publisher Rio
Kathy's green generals govern some
high tax-earning provinces in the west
).  I'd blogged some time ago speculating that this game might have a runaway leader problem, but that was not in evidence in our game today.  Although I jumped to an early lead and tried to continually levy taxes to open my advantage, Kathy gamely and gradually caught up to me.  She accumulated cards to knock me out of my high-earning provinces, one by one.  She timed it perfectly, so that she passed me on the high end of the scoring track and maintained the tax-collecting momentum to win by a substantial 120 to 97 points.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Romance on the train: Love Letter and Ticket to Ride

Sunday afternoon, Kathy and I played Love Letter (designer Seiji Kanai, artists Andrew Hepworth and Jeffrey Himmelman, publisher Alderac Entertainment Group) for the first time.  This microgame poses some neat little logic challenges and opportunities for second-guessing, although in our first play, we didn't find it quite as "brain-bending" as Citadels, our favorite hidden-role game for getting inside each others' heads.  As it happens, we played two rules incorrectly.  First, in the two-player game, we failed to turn three cards face up at the start of each round to reduce the size of the playing deck and gain early insight into which cards were already out of play.  Second, we thought (incorrectly) that the Guard could target another Guard in an attempt to eliminate an opponent.  Since there are five Guards in the deck (as opposed to one or two of any other character), that made the Guard extraordinarily powerful in our game.  I've written before about my propensity for getting the rules wrong the first time I play a game, but fortunately, we still had fun, and the game was over in less than half an hour.  LL is a quick little diversion that I expect will get more play - and that I hope will become more intricate in the tactics and counter-tactics of anticipating each others' cards.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Love Letter arrives in the mail

Love Letter: A good thing in
a small package
Kathy recently placed an order with amazon that, by itself, would not have qualified for free super saver shipping.  So she asked if there was anything I'd like to add to the order.  I went straight to my boardgamegeek wishlist and picked out Love Letter (designer Seiji Kanai, artists Andrew Hepworth and Jeffrey Himmelman, publisher Alderac Entertainment Group).  I'd heard some very interesting hype about this little 16-card microgame.  Not every review was positive, but many were enthusiastic or at least intriguing.  I am most fascinated by the concept of a game of so few components that carries so much player interaction, logic, and second-guessing.  Coup falls into this category and, in some respects, Citadels.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Getting serious about East India Company

I've had some time over the last few days to start really stepping out on my plan for "East India Company."  I've completed a survey of candidate publishers.  I've decided that I should have a second prototype in hand ready to ship in the event that I get a positive response from a submission letter.  So my current effort is geared toward making a second prototype that reflects the lessons I've learned from my first printing foray and from the playtesting I've done with it.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday afternoon Probe

This afternoon we had a family game of Probe (Parker Brothers, 1964), an old stand-by that we played way back when we were kids and that we have since passed down to the next generation.  I managed to guess Kathy's diaphragm under the "Interruptive Rule" with five letters unexposed, which gave me a 100-point bonus.  The 17-year-old's fax lasted a long time, until his having to expose blanks made obvious just how short his word was.  The 12-year-old's toxicity lasted the longest; Kathy managed to guess it at her very last opportunity before the end of the game.  My wishful was guessed the earliest in the game, but I ended up with the high score and the win.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Hive at work, and the Top Ten Lunch Break Games

Today my friend Glenn Weeks and I got together during our lunch break at work, and we took advantage of the opportunity to play a game of Hive (designer and artist John Yianni, publisher Gen42).  This turned out to be the perfect lunch break game for two.  It occupies very little table real estate, takes less than five minutes to teach, and has a playing time of about 15 or 20 minutes.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"For the Win" on the deck

For the Win final position
This evening I got home from work late, so we only had time for a quick game out on the back deck before Kathy made dinner.  So we played For The Win (designer Michael Eskue, artist Eric J. Carter, publisher Tasty Minstrel), a nice little open-information zero-luck abstract that I picked up in the first Kickstarter I ever backed.  We hadn't played since last July, when I wrote about my initial impression of the game in some detail, so it was fun to come back to this one with fresh eyes.  We just had time for one game, but it was a nice satisfying diversion while the chicken marinaded until it was time to put it on the grill.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Signs of spring: The first backyard boardgame of 2013

Spring has made its long-awaited appearance here in northern Virginia.  The birds are singing, the Washington Nationals are winning (or at least they were before they went to Cincinnati), and the boardgames have finally started to come outside.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Back to Midway

On Wednesday, Frank Hodge and I returned to fight the battle of Midway (designerLarry Pinsky and Lindsley Schutz, publisher Avalon Hill).  Frank has spent considerable time refining his variable order of battle to the AH classic, and this time we had quite  a lot of fun beefing up both fleets to fight the battle in grand style.  A significant change that we prefer is that the Japanese invasion force is represented by five AP transports, rather than abstractly handled with the cruiser Atago according the rules.  The only other variation we added was the submarine optional rule from Alan R. Moon's "Pacific Theatre via Midway" article.  We didn't use B-17's in this game, and we didn't miss them.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Boats, coffee, and gladiators: Gaming after work

Yesterday after work, a bunch of us gathered for games at our Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS) Game Parlor Chantilly.

(c) Calliope Games
Used by persmission
Tsuro of the Seas
Not all of us had arrived before five of us (Keith Ferguson, Carson, Brian, Grant Greffey, and myself) got impatient enough to start a quick game of Tsuro of the Seas (designers Tom McMurchie and Jordan Weisman; artists Ilonka Sauciuc and Dawne Weisman; publisher Calliope Games).  In our limited experience with this game, the dragons that were added to the original Tsuro only serve to prolong the game and randomize the outcome, so we elected to play with just the original rules and no dragons.  I didn't realize until at least halfway into the game that the TotS board is actually larger than the original - I think seven-by-seven squares rather than six-by-six.  Regardless, the game play is largely the same, and with five players, it unfolds much as you would expect.  Four of us made something of a beeline for the center, while Grant meandered in looking for a good opening.  Of course, once the wakes start to meet and players find themselves facing the same empty tile space, the real strategy comes in.  Tom and Traci M. arrived just as things were getting frantic, and it wasn't five minutes before players started falling off the map one by one until I had the last boat left facing the last empty tile space on the board to win the game.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Could 1955 go on forever?

For Christmas, my friend Paul R. gave me 1955: The War of Espionage (designer Kevin Nunn, artist Haley Ross, publisher APE Games).  I had it very high on my wishlist after some positive mention on DiceHateMe's "State of Games" podcast (starting at 42:45) as a nice tight two-player game.  Kathy and I played it once before a few weeks ago (which she won by securing my home country), and tonight we thought we'd bring it out and try it again.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Numerical analysis of "East India Company"

At UnPub 3, during the three-player playtest of "East India Company," Ben Rosset expressed concern that in the game, the dividend track wasn't rewarding enough to justify the cost.  He felt that in general, money can be better spent on ships and goods that will yield a better return on investment than declaring dividends.  It was an observation that I took very seriously; I hadn't had a playtest in which anybody completely ignored the dividend track before.  I wondered if it was a weakness that would emerge with extensive play and end up being a superfluous element of the game.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Dice Hate Me trifecta!

(c) Dice Hate Me Games
Used by permission
In just the last few years (as anyone who has followed Man OverBoard already knows), I've had the pleasure of getting to know Chris and Cherilyn Kirkman of Dice Hate Me Games.  Dice Hate Me was one of the first blogs I ever started following, and it was great to meet them at WBC 2011.  That's where they introduced me to T.C. Petty III, with whom they were playtesting VivaJava: The Coffee Game.  I've since had the opportunity to hang out with Chris and T.C. at multiple conventions over the last couple of years.  They also introduced me to Ben Rosset at PrezCon 2012 when he was playtesting "Stranded."  Last summer I got to try out Ben's Mars Needs Mechanics at WBC and have since had a number of great conversations with him about our thoughts on game design.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Stalemate at Santa Cruz

In our "Pacific Theatre via Midway" campaign series, my friend Frank Hodge and I clashed once more in the Coral Sea, this time in the Santa Cruz scenario of Alan R. Moon's expansion to the Avalon Hill classic Midway (designers Larry Pinsky and Lindsley Schutz, publisher Avalon Hill).  Once more, I assumed command of the U.S. Navy forces while Frank controlled the fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Mr. Jack makes a first impression

One of my PrezCon auction store acquisitions was Mr. Jack (designers Bruno Cathala and Ludovic
(c) Hurrican Games
Used by permission
, artist Pierô, publisher Hurrican).  I'd run across it in a number of people's list of favorite two-player games, and reviews really impressed me.  The only reason I'd hesitated in the past to pick it up was its association with Jack the Ripper.  I've written a couple of times about the ethical implications of game theme, and I was concerned that, like Letters from Whitechapel, this game would cross a line for me.  But I recently read a review that indicated that Mr.J does not have the "Jack" player trying to perpetrate murder (as does LfW) but instead attempting to escape apprehension for an unspecified (if tacitly understood) crime.  In this respect, Mr.J is strictly a cat-and-mouse deduction game, and with that understanding, I thought I would pick it up and give it a try.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Excellence in Game Design - Leslie Scott

I received the January issue of the "Business of Play Inventor Newsletter" recently.  This newsletter covers the events surrounding the Chicago Toy and Game Fair, an annual occasion in November that includes a series of multiple of events, to include the International Toy and Game Innovation Conference (T&GCon), the International Summit for Professional Inventors (I-SPI), and the Toy and Game Inventor of the Year (TAGIE) Awards.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

PrezCon 2013 - Sunday

The final day of PrezCon saw me sleeping in just a little too late to make the final heat of Settlers of Catan.  So this year was the first time missing the SoC tournament since I first came to PrezCon some six years ago. It was SoC that first attracted me to the Winter Nationals, with the prospect of winning the regional qualifier and going to the national championship.  But that's okay.  Because later that morning, another game that I like just as much as SoC started up.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

PrezCon 2013 - Saturday

Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery
On Friday, during my walk-through of the vendor area, I'd seen Spartacus (designers Aaron Dill, John Kovaleski, and Sean Sweigart; artist Charles Woods; publisher Gale Force 9) laid out at the Gale Force 9 booth.  In fact, it was the only game that GF9 was selling at PrezCon.  The demo at the booth had given me a mistaken first impression:  The rep behind the table started talking about the combat mechanics, which seemed good but not great as skirmish mechanics go.  He kept saying, "There's a whole lot of other stuff with influence and bribery that's really important, too," but the impression that I left with was that the combat was central and that there was some kind of wagering that went on around it.  I just wasn't impressed.  That is, until Saturday...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

PrezCon 2013 - Friday

(c) Meridae Games
Used by permission
Garden Dice
Glenn and I met Doug Bass of Meridae Games for a demo of Garden Dice (designer Doug Bass, artist Joshua Cappel, publisher Meridae), which I'd seen on Kickstarter and which is now available.  Garden Dice is an interesting game of dice allocation in which players use a roll of four dice to acquire seeds of various values, plant them in a garden based on grid coordinates from two of the dice, and subsequently water and harvest them for points.  There are run and set-collection bonus scores at the end of the game.  The most interesting part is the geographic element.  Watering higher-value plants benefits adjacent lower-value plants, regardless of who owns them, so there is an opportunity to take advantage of an opponent's placement to get watering and harvesting actions for free.  Players also can add a sundial to the garden to modify the grid coordinate dice rolls or a garden gnome to improve rolls for acquiring seed, watering plants, and harvesting vegetables.  Players can further introduce a bird to the garden to eat other players' seed or a rabbit to eat vegetables before they are harvested, although seed can be protected by an upgrade of the sundial to a scarecrow.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Friday, February 8, 2013

Countdown to PrezCon

Okay, it's that time of year when my favorite convention, PrezCon, happens in Charlottesville, Virginia, the week of President's Day.  I've got a preliminary schedule laid out, which is pretty much carved in sand - except, that is, for Pillars of the Earth, which stands like an immense cathedral, a great pillar, on the landscape of my convention plan.  (I'm running the PotE tournament, so I'm pretty committed to it.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Multi-player games for two players

Ryan Metzler recently posted a top-ten video of his favorite multi-player games for two players - that is, games made for two or more players but that are his favorites as two-player games.  His video is both quick and informative, and I bumped up a number of games on my wishlist as a result.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Eastern Solomons campaign

About a month ago, my serial Midway opponent Frank H. and I got together for another scenario from the Alan R. Moon variant, "Pacific Theatre via Midway."  We returned to the Coral Sea, this time to fight the "Battle of the Eastern Solomons" (Midway designerLarry Pinsky and Lindsley Schutz, publisher Avalon Hill).

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Sunrise Serenade

So, now that I've taken a breath from four consecutive blog posts on my two-day experience at UnPub two weeks ago, I can settle into the pleasant task of cracking open a new game and exploring a published, finished product.  At Dan Yarrington's recommendation (or was it prodding? goading?), I bought Sunrise City (designer Isaias Vallejo, artists Sarah "Chip" Nixon and Chris Kirkman, publisher Clever Mojo via GameSalute) from Our Game Table.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

UnPub 3 Part IV: Brewing beer and getting GIPF

Chris Kirkman (left) fermenting a concoction in
"Brewmasters" by Ben Rosset (right)
In the last prototype game that I played at UnPub 3, I joined Chris Kirkman and Ben Rosset in a three-player round of Ben's "Brewmasters."  I have to say, this game is neck-and-neck with "Post Position" for my favorite game of all of those that I played at UnPub.  Players represent presidents of microbreweries, and the goal is to score the most points by producing beer.  Beer options include basic, tried-and-true recipes like porter, stout, and ale, while other more exotic concoctions like "pumpkin spice ale" score more points per unit brewed.  Players need to manage not only the acquisition of ingredients but the throughput of the brewing operation, from storage to fermenting to bottling to shipping.

Friday, January 25, 2013

UnPub 3 Part III: Three players, four publishers, and plenty of pancakes

East India Company - Three-player playtest
Ben Rosset (left) and Stephen Craig clearly enjoying the
game playing excitement that is "East India Company"
Late on the first day of UnPub 3, designers Ben Rosset and Stephen Craig joined me for a three-player game of EIC.  This game unfolded in a couple of unusual ways.  Ben gradually built up his fleet until he had four ships - two small, two medium - and fell into a pattern in which his four ships went to four different colonies, bought four different goods, and returned to Europe to unload all four ships in the same turn.  It was kind of an odd cycle, but it worked, because the diversification of commodities meant that he wasn't competing with himself.  Stephen tried a couple of different things before he eventually invested in a big ship and started making the long China spice run.  I think he might have made that trip twice by the end of the game.  I decided to try the "chaining markets" strategy of buying tobacco in one place, bringing it to another colony that bought tobacco and sold ivory, buying ivory to bring it somewhere else that bought ivory, and so on.  My method must have worked, because I ended up winning in a pretty narrow range of scores.  Although the game ran 150 minutes (a little on the long side for a three-player game), I was pretty happy with how it turned out.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

UnPub 3 Part II: Pig Pen, Playtesting, and Post Position

Kevin Kulp (left) explains Pig Pen to Jesse
Catron (right) and another gamer at UnPub3
Pig Pen
I first met designer Kevin Kulp at Congress of Gamers last October, when he playtested "East India Company."  He'd mentioned his set-building card game Pig Pen, but I never got to try it out at CoG.  So I was glad to find him and learn the game in a three-player session.  Pig Pen is just a fun, crazy draw-one-play-one game of assembling a pig pen consisting of four fences or walls, a gate, and a feed card.  Once those pieces are in place, a player can draw a pig and keep it in the pen - at least until something bad happens, such as an opponent taking a chainsaw to your wooden fence or detonating dynamite on your brick wall.  Then you've got one turn to repair the damage, or your pig runs away, potentially into the waiting arms of another player.  Oh, the betrayal!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

UnPub3 Part I: Power Playtesting

I have begun to catch up on my sleep, and now I will begin to catch up on my blogging with a series of postsUnPub 3 event in Magnolia, Delaware, where 45 designers plus other gamers convened to playtest unpublished games in an open forum over two days.
on last weekend's

Friday, January 4, 2013

New Year's Renaissance

The last several years, I've hosted a big game at my house on New Year's Day.  In January 2009, we played a Wooden Ships and Iron Men fleet action.  On New Years in 2011 was a multi-player game of PanzerBlitz.  Last year we played History of the World.  This year, Keith F., Brian G., Glenn W., and W.J.G. joined me to advance the civilization and develop the markets of Europe with the epic game Age of Renaissance (designers Don Greenwood and Jared Scarborough, artists Stephen Langmead and Kurt Miller, publisher Avalon Hill).