Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Showing posts with label Viva Java. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Viva Java. Show all posts

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.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

PrezCon 2014 Part 1: Thursday

A couple of weeks ago, I enjoyed four days at my favorite gaming convention, PrezCon.  There were several hitches this year, a few things that didn't go right, but nevertheless I had a great time.  The next several posts will share some highlights.

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.

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.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

UnPub 3 Part IV: Brewing beer and getting GIPF

Brewmasters
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.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

WBC: Designers' forum

One of the great things about a convention like the World Boardgaming Championships is having the opportunity to interact with fellow designers.  The open gaming room at WBC was practically an informal design laboratory of demonstrations and playtesting.

TC Petty III's Viva Java
Image courtesy of
Dice Hate Me Games
My friend Keith F. and I had only the briefest chat with one of my favorite designers, T.C. Petty III, whom I met at WBC last year when he was demonstrating the semi-cooperative Viva Java, a game that has already seen its successful Kickstarter campaign and has a Dice Hate Me release expected this month.  T.C. is working on a couple of ideas that sound characteristically original and off-beat.  It will be fun to see what creations find their way to production out of his unique perspective on game design.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Theme matters? Maybe for getting me to open the box

Last year, when Worthington Games first showed me the box art for Trains Planes and Automobiles, I wrote a post on the importance of a game's cover to getting me to open it and try it out.  Lately I've started thinking the same thing about the theme of the game.  Recent discussions with publishers, vendors, and others at game conventions have made me aware that there is a heightened industry interest in certain themes that seem to sell to American audiences - or at least that the publishers hope will capture interest.

Zombie games seem to be in vogue.  A search on boardgamegeek.com yields over a dozen independent titles related to zombies.  Some time ago, our good friend Grant G. gave our kids a copy of Zombies! (designer Todd Breitenstein, artist Dave Aikens, publisher Twilight Creations).  My reactions to this game have been mixed.  For me, the zombie theme does nothing at all; if anything, I find it a little off-putting.  But I understand that people are into the zombie thing.  Now, the gameplay is rather fun.  Players make their way through a gradually-revealed city trying to find the airport and escape or combat the somewhat-randomly emerging zombie horde.  The tension is quite reminiscent of the classic zombie movies, in which our lowly protagonist only has so many shotgun shells, and you never know when he or she will discover another zombie - or six - around the next corner.  But I have a hard time with the action card art, which is just a little too grotesque for our family's taste.  So we haven't played it nearly as much as the fun gameplay would suggest we might.

(c) Worthington Games
Used by permission

There's a whole vampire thing going in the film and book media, as some readers may have noticed, and that can translate to publisher interest in finding a vampire game that catches interest.  Again, a boardgamegeek.com search yields dozens of titles.  It's hard to tell if any of them is any good; I can't remember anybody saying, "you've got to play this great vampire game..."  On the other hand, if box art is any indication, BloodLust (designer Mike Wylie, publisher Worthington) has got an eye-catching cover.

Space games have been around a long time.  I think their numbers have waxed and waned with general public interest in science fiction movies.  I've posted here a couple of times about my concept-in-progress called "Gold on Mars," as just one example.  It seems a number of new games have come out based on a space theme lately, and I wonder whether it's part of a new trend or just a transitory fad.

If there is publisher interest in seeking designs based on certain themes - zombies, space, vampires - does that mean that people buy games based (at least in part) on theme?  Or is it true that a good game is a good game, and the theme is immaterial to gameplay?

(c) Dice Hate Me Games
Used by permission

Let's consider some unlikely themes - and by that I mean, games I'd never give a second thought based on the game topic.  I mentioned recently that at WBC I playtested a game called Viva Java (designer T.C. Petty, developer Dice Hate Me).  I had read about this game on Dice Hate Me's blog, and really had almost no interest in looking at a game about developing coffee blends.  But my friend Keith F. and I gave it a shot, and we were both surprised at how fun and innovative the game turned out to be.  So in this case, an unlikely theme might have masked a potentially really good game.  Dice Hate Me also recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for Monkey238's design, Carnival.  Again, managing a set of amusement rides never struck me as a particularly engaging theme for a game, and yet the more I read about the nature of the game, the more I want to give it a try.

Sometimes a theme really gets in the way of my acceptance, even if I read a strong review on the gameplay.  The Opinionated Gamers recently posted Jonathan Franklin's first impression review of Perfect Stride (designers and artists Kay Darby and Jeff Timothy with T.K. Labus, publisher Fun League), which he describes as "meatier than Mille Bornes or Gamewright's Horse Show [but] lighter than Dominion or 7 Wonders ... an excellent family game."  As I read his description of the solid gameplay, I kept thinking that it would be a game I would enjoy playing - except for the fact that the game art and theme are obviously tailored to appeal to girls who love horses.  That's fine, and if I had a daughter, I'm sure I'd pick it up, but for some reason, in this case, I just can't get past the target audience.  It would be like playing Mystery Date, which could have the best gameplay mechanics in the world, except that I'll never know because I'll never play it.

(c) Z-man Games
Used by permission
In another Opinionated Gamer review on an unlikely theme, Tom Rosen revisits an October 2008 look at Fairy Tale (designer and artist Satoshi Nakamura with Yoko Nachigami, publisher Z-man) in an exploration of games that seem to start simple but gain depth with subsequent plays.  To read Tom's description, the rules are very simple and the game very easy to learn, but as the players gain an appreciation for the card interactions, Fairy Tale becomes more interesting and complex.  For my part, I can easily accept a fairy-tale theme for a game with that kind of emerging depth.

Bruno Faidutti designed one of my favorite recent discoveries, Citadels.  He recently posted an interesting discussion of thematic consistency and the degree to which a poorly constructed theme can get in the way of the acceptance and enjoyability of an otherwise well-designed game.  Dinosaurs are an obviously appealing theme to some audiences, but Faidutti complains that they are terribly misapplied in Carl Chudyk's Uchronia, set in ancient Rome.  Dinosaurs in Rome?  Yes, Faidutti's point exactly.

(My friend Grant G. recently called my attention to a new series of miniatures involving World War II German troops mounted on dinosaurs.  Okay, whatever.)

So like box art, game theme serves as both an invitation and a filter to the potential buyer or player.  Some people will buy a title based on the theme with no other knowledge of the game.  On the other hand, there are some themes that I simply won't touch, no matter how good the game, for reasons that I can't entirely explain.  But in the general case, once I'm playing a game, the theme can become secondary to the gameplay depending on the nature of the game.

In a subsequent post, I'll explore the question of gaming vs. simulation and the role of theme in each.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Third day at World Boardgaming Championships

Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson
Saturday was all about Wooden Ships and Iron Men.  Tim Hitchings set up a fleet action in an engagement between British and French fleets in a hypothetical scenario with several players on each side in which the British fleet attempted to intercept a French fleet leaving port.  Tim gave me command of the British fleet.  The entire action ran about seven hours, with a short break for lunch.  A number of people dropped out, and others dropped in over the course of the scenario.  The battle itself was exciting and engaging, as the British became almost completely surrounded by the more numerous and better-reinforced French.  British superior crew quality and gunnery, however, helped the Royal Navy withstand the onslaught of the French fleet.  Despite one or two of the British ships having to strike colors under heavy rakes from multiple directions, we were able to sufficiently bloody the French that Tim declared the Royal Navy team to be the winners.  He gave me a prize as the best captain in the British fleet.

Later that day, I faced Evan Hitchings in the semifinals in a very even match-up of two 74-gun SOLs.  Again I was able to practice my tactical doctrine of concentrating fire on the rigging of the lead ship to reduce maneuverability, then focusing all squadron fire on a single ship's hull to take it out of action before turning to the other target.  In relatively short order, I had taken out the mast of the lead enemy ship and forced the second ship to strike her colors.  My ships had suffered a lot of damage in the process, however, and after some amount of time, my opponent was able to force one of my ships to strike her colors.  He had also inflicted a waterline hit on the other ship that induced flooding, so that a third of my crew had to be taken out of the gunnery teams to operate the water pumps and keep the ship afloat.  All else being essentially equal, my remaining ship - down one crew section - was not able to keep up in the battle of attrition that followed with the remaining enemy ship.  When the timer was up, it was clear that Evan had inflicted more damage on my ships than I had on his, so he won our semifinal matchup and advanced to the final.  We both agreed that it was one of the most exciting battles either of us had played in the tournament.

Keith and I met Chris and Cherilyn from dicehateme.com in the open game room, where they invited us to playtest a game in development called Viva Java.  The premise is that players collaborate to invent blends of various coffee beans that will be profitable on the premium coffee market.  The game involves a number of innovative mechanisms, the most interesting of which is the formation of players into temporary teams who try to combine their resources to come up with the most optimum blend on the market.  Players can invest in each others' projects if they think they will be profitable.  The cooperation is always transitory and self-serving, so there's a constant interplay to juggle benefits of collaboration with the game goals of beating your opponents.

I have been reading the Dice Hate Me blog for quite some time, so it was great to meet Chris and Cherilyn and discuss their game projects as well as share Trains Planes and Automobiles with them.  Their energetic enthusiasm for gaming is infectious.  Likewise, Josh Tempkin of Tall Tower Games shared some fascinating insights into how he and his partner developed a carefully researched and tested set of design principles on which they base all their game projects.  The results speak for themselves in the gameplay of their project Wartime, which I consider to have the potential to be a groundbreaking development in table-top gaming as a fundamentally new paradigm.

Keith, Brian, and I got together afterward for a number of games - Tikal, Citadels, and 7 Wonders.  Keith had competed in the finals for Conquest of Paradise, and Brian had made the finals for Tigris and Euphrates.  So, in short, there's been a lot of boardgaming going on this week...