Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Family playtest of East India Company

My mother-in-law Agnes enjoys the occasional boardgame, and she is not afraid to try out something new.  She was even one of my early playtesters of East India Company in its most rudimentary form.  Sunday afternoon, she agreed to revisit the game in its latest rendition, along with my wife Kathy and son Patrick.  I am grateful to get this shakedown of the current form of rules about three weeks prior to the Unpub 3 event in Dover on Martin Luther King weekend.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Shadows and Assassins

Last Tuesday night my friends and I played an "after school special," a gaming get-together after work at Game Parlor in Chantilly, Virginia.  There's one almost every week, but I usually only get to about one a month, so I always enjoy the opportunity to get with a larger group and play something different.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Wiping out Pandemic

It has been a long time since Kathy and I have beaten Pandemic (designer Matt Leacock, artists Josh Cappel and Régis Moulun, publisher Z-Man Games).  We usually don't play it in a two-player setting, but today I got a hankering to pull it out again, and I'm glad we did.  Since we had such early success with the game in "easy" mode, we've been playing in "normal" mode for quite some time but somehow never managed to beat it at that level of difficulty.  We've run out of cubes of a color, we've reached the end of the Outbreak track, we've run out of player cards ... basically we've lost every way there is to lose.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

WBC: Thinking about August in December

I'll preface my remarks by stipulating that I am a relatively new member of the Boardgame Players Association, and all I know is based on what I read in the newsletter and elsewhere online.  None of this represents any kind of official news or information from the BPA.  Caveat lector.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Clash on the Coral Sea

My friend and colleague Frank H. and I met again over the game table.  Over the last few months we've played three rounds of Midway (designerLarry Pinsky and Lindsley Schutz, publisher Avalon Hillwith a number of optional rules attached.  This time, Frank broke out his copy of the "Coral Sea" expansion, and we set our clocks back to May 1942 to determine the fate of Port Moresby, New Guinea.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Bellwether interview

About once a month, Bellwether Games interviews a game designer on their blog.  Over the last year and a half, they've asked some illuminating questions of designers in the field.  This month, they were gracious enough to ask me to take a turn in the barrel, and I took full advantage of the opportunity to espouse my thoughts on games and game design.

Oh, and by the way, I happened to notice (no, they didn't ask me to mention) that Bellwether is selling Drop Site (designer Dennis Hoyle, artists Guray Emen and Paolo Vallerga) at 30% off, plus free shipping.  I first heard of this game when it won the Carta Mundi prize for Best Card Game in the 2010 Premio Archimede game design competition.  I haven't played it myself, but from what I've read, it looks like an excellent candidate for a stocking stuffer.

Go forth and see last month's answers

Tom Gurganus posed a provocative "Question of the Month" for October:  "Where are the new game mechanisms?"  He received a fascinating variety of answers from a number of thoughtful designers.  Worth a perusal.

Coming up:  An interview with Bellwether Games

Friday, November 23, 2012

Holiday gift guide

(c) boardgamegeek.com
Used by permission
Occasionally I'll get requests from friends for boardgame recommendations, and I've posted some targeted lists for specific demographics and situations (see links below).  But today I'm going to tip my hat to the folks at boardgamegeek.com, who have assembled a terrific holiday gift guide.  The recommendations on their list are uniformly excellent.  I could certainly come up with my own holiday list as well, but if anyone asks me for recommendations for boardgames as gifts, boardgamegeek is the first place I will send them.

The boardgamegeek holiday list has but two shortcomings.  First, it does not include my own Trains Planes and Automobiles, which is appropriate for any family with kids ages eight and up.  (Okay, shameless self-promotion complete.  Moving on.)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A game of "A Game of Thrones"

(c) Fantasy Flight Games
Used by permission
Last night my friend Brian G. had five of us over for a six-player game of A Game of Thrones (designer Christian T. Petersen, artists Tomasz Marek Jedruszek and Henning Ludvigsen, publisher Fantasy Flight).  I'd played this once before, at Grant G.'s house, and really liked it.  This time I played as the House of Lannister.  I started quick and moved out into the front of the pack in number of castles and supplies and expanded out into the center of the board, in direct violation of my two general rules for multi-player every-man-for-himself wargames:  Don't peak too early (and make yourself a target for everybody else) and don't be in the middle of the map (and make yourself a target for everybody else).

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Rules redlines

East India Company
prototype photo
Just a quick note that I've made some modifications to rules to "East India Company" based on the 8 November playtest.  The most drastic change was to move all the ship operations and unloading steps from the end of the turn to the beginning of the turn.  "Mike from Boston" made this recommendation after having read the actual rules while watching us play.  It makes a lot of sense for several reasons.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Carthage and Old Dominion

Pondering my next action
in Traders of Carthage
Last night Kathy and I played Traders of Carthage (designer Susumu Kawasaki, artists Peter Gifford and You Satouchi, publisher Z-man), which is quickly making its way onto our "regular" list of cocktail-hour games.  We are each beginning to dive deeper into the tactics and strategy of this little gem of a card game.  I came away with a substantial victory this time, but not for lack of some excellent play on Kathy's part.  ToC can be a real, fun mental exercise.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Trade triangles in "East India Company"

Perhaps the most infamous trading triangle, slaves
for agricultural products for manufactured goods
Source: African Cultural Center USA
A very brief note on a subtle change to "East India Company" tonight:  In my last playtest, Mike R. recommended that I modify some of the commodity tiles, deliberately duplicating some of the key production or buying tiles so as to strengthen the probability of creating a "trading triangle."  Most students of history are already familiar with the concept - a product is purchased in Port A and shipped to Port B, where it is sold and the proceeds used to purchase B's product.  That product is now shipped to Port C, where it is sold and the proceeds used to purchase C's product.  That product in turn is shipped back to Port A, where it is sold to restart the cycle.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tsuro, Settlers, and Time Travellers

(c) Calliope Games.
Used by permission
One of my posts last Thursday described my initial impression of Tsuro of the Seas, a recent variation on the Calliope Games gem Tsuro (designer Tom McMurchie; artists Shane Small, Cathy Brigg, and Sarah Phelps; publisher Calliope Games).  Playing TotS made me want to revisit the original Tsuro, which my good friend Grant Greffey had given us for Christmas a couple of years ago.  As it happened, we had in turn recently given a copy to our friend Jeff, so on the occasion of having a number of friends over for dinner and games, he was happy to break it out and give it a spin.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Running the numbers in East India Company

I've mentioned several times that I'm worried about game length in "East India Company."  Each turn has a "New Colony Phase" in which a tile is drawn from a bag and added to one of the seven colonies on the board.  There are 21 tiles, three for each colony.  My previous rules held that the tile draw would trigger game end when all seven colonies had at least two tiles.  But the Congress of Gamers playtest ran the maximum possible length, when the second China tile didn't come out until all 18 tiles on the other six colonies had been drawn.  That turned out to be too long.

After-school special: East India and Tsuro of the Seas

My friends Frank Hodge, Keith Ferguson, and Mike R. and I got together this evening for a couple of games at Game Parlor in Chantilly, Virginia, after work today.

East India Company
The guys were gracious enough to agree to another playtest of "East India Company."  It was Mike's first time with it, but Keith and Frank had each played at least once.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I increased the ship speeds, allowed for ship upgrades as an alternative to building ships, and added a new game-end trigger condition.  The first two measures were intended to improve the cost-effectiveness of investing in ships, and the third was intended to shorten overall game length.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Playtesting preparations

Tomorrow after work I plan to bring my prototype of "East India Company" to Game Parlor in Chantilly, Virginia, for a playtest session with some of my gaming buddies.  One problem I had with this prototype at the UnPub ProtoZone event at Congress of Gamers last month was that the labels I had made for the ships didn't stick well to the spray-painted basswood ship pieces that I'd made.  So I spent this evening re-gluing all the labels with Elmer's white glue.  I'll leave them to dry overnight in the hope that they won't start peeling off again tomorrow afternoon.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Reading all the rules

I can't count the number of times I've gotten rules wrong in learning boardgames.  It seems as though every time I learn a game for the first time, I get something wrong.  Even worse, I am often the person in the group charged with reading the rules and then explaining the game to the other player(s), so I propagate my misunderstanding to other innocent souls.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Close Camels in Samarkand

Cocktail hour came with camels, pretzel chips, and hummus as we broke out Samarkand: Routes to Riches (designers David V.H. Peters and Harry Wu, artist Jo Hartwig, publisher Queen Games).  I really like this game of Middle East merchant families and camel caravans.  Both Kathy and I have come to appreciate the scoring focus on expanding trading routes to products whose cards we hold and especially on forming trade relationships between families in which we have an interest.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lessons Learned in Le Havre

For today's cocktail hour game, Kathy and I selected one that we both like but are still getting the hang of, the worker-placement masterpiece Le Havre (designer Uwe Rosenberg, artists Klemens Franz and Uwe Rosenberg, publisher Lookout Games [website in German]).  We've played three times before; Kathy won the first two, and I managed to win the last one.  This time we fell into a familiar pattern - Kathy kept beating me to the punch, with the knockout blow being a big shipment of leather and bread for 26 Francs.  I had some high-point buildings, plus both an iron ship and a steel ship, but it wasn't enough to overcome Kathy's strong position (including the 22-point steel mill), so she won 117 to 96.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Is two-player St. Petersburg a runaway?

(c) Rio Grande Games
Used by permission
Hurricane Sandy motivated me to leave work early this afternoon, which provided Kathy and me the Saint Petersburg (designer Michael Tummelhofer alias Bernd Brunnhofer, artist Doris Matthaus, publisher Rio Grande).  I've really come to like St.P. as a multi-player game, and I really hoped that it would work well as a two-player option.  I have to say that the jury is still out, though, on whether this will become a cocktail-hour regular.
opportunity to play our first complete two-player round of

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Changing history and other fun things with card games

I had a string of boardgame losses last week.  My last post recounted my thumping at the hands of Frank H. in Midway.  The next evening, my wife Kathy beat me in 7 Wonders with the Pyramids of Giza over my Statue of Zeus in Olympia.  And then the following afternoon, she beat me in one of our very favorite games, Citadels in which we used the alternate Tax Collector and Abbott.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mauled at Midway

This evening after work, my colleague Frank H. and I met for a reprise of our customary (if infrequent) game of Midway (designers Larry Pinsky and Lindsley Schutz, publisher Avalon Hill).  Last time, we'd introduced a few rules modifications from the Wargamers Guide to Midway, most notably a variable order of battle (OOB) based on a chit draw.  Well, apparently that inspired Frank dramatically, because he spent quite a bit of time researching and revising the possible alternate OOBs as well as other optional rules, so that the game we played today was a considerably souped-up version of the Avalon Hill classic.

Monday, October 15, 2012


This afternoon's backyard boardgame session was cut short by Mother Nature.  We finished a quick game of Pirateer, but we hadn't got very far into a round of Ingenious Challenges: "Dice Challenge" before rain unexpectedly intervened and chased us inside.  That's the first time we've ever had a game interrupted by weather.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Backyard Traders of Carthage

My wife and I love this time of year.  The crisp air and the fall foliage call us to our backyard refuge, where we start a little fire in the firebowl, set out the cheese and crackers and cocktails, and play our afternoon game.  Today it was our new favorite, a bring-and-buy acquisition at Congress of Gamers - Traders of Carthage (designer Susumu Kawasaki, artists Peter Gifford and You Satouchi, publisher Z-man).

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

CoG Unpub Protozone Report, Part 3

Finishing up my after-action report on the Unpub ProtoZone event at Congress of Gamers.
[Edit:  The "Dr. Wictz" design team has changed the name of their game from "Pole Position" to "Post Position," so I have updated it here for correctness. - PDO]

Post Position
Austin Smokowicz and Aaron Honsowetz
with "Post Position"
The Unpub Protozone was organized to have us designers pre-register to bring our designs in for playtesting, but in fact the event was actually pretty open-ended.  Two fellows I'd never met before, Aaron Honsowetz and Austin Smokowicz, came in and asked Darrell Louder if they could get their game design playtested even though they hadn't pre-registered.  As it happened, there was an open table, so Darrell said, "Sure, no problem, go ahead and set up."  And thus the game "Post Position" was introduced to the Unpub.

Monday, October 8, 2012

CoG: Unpub Protozone Report, Part 2

Tonight's post continues my accounts of games playtested in the Congress of Gamers designers room last weekend.

T.C. Petty III considers his next
chemical concoction in
The game I specifically remembered from the CoG design room last year and really wanted to play again was Darrell Louder's "Compounded," a game of set construction with a particularly unique theme - building molecular compounds by combining elements.  Darrell calls it "better gameplaying through chemistry."  Players draw crystals from a bag whose six colors represent elements.  An array of 16 cards in the center of the table depicts different molecular diagrams that players can populate with element crystals to complete and score the corresponding compounds.  Some compounds are flammable and can be lost or even cause chain reactions.  All compounds score points when completed, but some also enable a player to draw more elements from the bag, store more on his workbench, claim more compounds for future scoring, or place more elements in a single turn.  Some also provide other particular special benefits.

Congress of Gamers: Unpub Protozone Report, Part 1

This weekend saw a two-day session of game design playtesting at the Congress of Gamers in Rockville, Maryland.  CoG was the venue for an Unpub Protozone event in which several designers convened to have prototypes playtested and to compare notes on game design, development, and publication.  I had a terrific time with a number of energetic, imaginative game designers and saw some clever prototypes.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Quick note on Congress of Gamers

A very quick note after the first day of Congress of Gamers 2012:  I spent most of the day in the designers room.  Detailed notes to follow in a subsequent post.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Prototype photos

At last, I've finished the second prototype of "East India Company," right down to the makeshift box art and player's aids.  This will be the copy that I bring to Congress of Gamers in Rockville, Maryland, this weekend.  I hope to gain a lot of feedback and really refine this rough cut gem into something special.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Prototype fever

Prototype art for English galleon game piece
As I mentioned Monday, this week is prototype week for "East India Company."  I've designed the stickers that will go on the ships and player tokens.  I picked up some bass wood and spray paint at Michaels craft store.  Last night I uploaded some updated gameboard art to the Superior POD website so they could finish my order and, I hope, ship it by tomorrow.

This evening I cut 25 "ships" out of the 1/16"-thick bass wood.  The next step will be spray painting all the wooden pieces in the five player colors.  I'm having a lot of fun spending time on the physical components; my first prototype was a very rudimentary hand-drawn paper affair - functional, not pretty.  It's nice to take the time to put together something that I hope will be nice looking as well as fun to play.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Favorite 2011 game

The following tweet inspired this post:
In that spirit, my Best Board Game of 2011 is Trajan. Last Will is a close second. Lots of games tied for third. Lots more unplayed.

Gil H. designed Prolix (artist Gary Simpson, publisher Z-man).  His tweet made me wonder, "how many 2011 games did I buy, and which would be my favorite?"

So as it happens, I bought seven games published in 2011:
  • Band of Brothers: Screaming Eagles
  • Belfort
  • Scrabble Turbo Slam
  • Sour Apples to Apples
  • Star Fluxx
  • Struggle for Catan
  • Trains Planes and Automobiles
So, the self-serving answer to the question would be that my favorite 2011 game should be Trains Planes and Automobiles.  And I do like my own game, but the fact is that TPA isn't the first of these seven that I'd choose to play.  It would be my first choice to play with kids, even over SAtA.  

But my favorite game of this list would have to be Belfort.  That's a game that has some depth and potential.  It's funny to find myself picking this game as my top acquisition of 2011 publications, given that Kathy and I found it less than satisfying as a two-player game.  But I was so impressed with it in the five-player session after work last week that I think it deserves top billing for last year's releases.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Battle Line in the Back Yard

Back yard setting for Battle Line
Fall is really our favorite time of year for sitting out back in the yard.  We have a fire in the firebowl, we set up cocktails and snacks, and play a small game on the little glass table outside.  This evening, after I got home from work, we sat down to beer and wine and Battle Line (designer Reiner Knizia, artists Rodger B. MacGowan and Mark Simonitch, publisher GMT).

I really like this game.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say Battle Line is my favorite Knizia game.  It's perhaps the most knife-edge card game I know.  You really never want to waste a move in this game, never want to make an unnecessary commitment of a card to a slot.  It's playing the odds, it's card luck, but mostly, it's calculated risk-taking.  Not exactly a push-your-luck game, BL is really a strategic game of options and opportunity cost.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Prototype progress

The last week has seen a lot of preparation for Congress of Gamers and the UnPub ProtoZone event on Columbus Day weekend in Rockville, Maryland.  I've been putting together a new prototype for "East India Company" in anticipation of getting some playtesting and exposure of the game in an exhibition environment.  My son helped me with the basics of Adobe Photoshop to put together a nice map layout.  I've got an order in to Superior Print-on-demand (Superior POD) for a mounted version of the mapboard that I hope will be ready in time for CoG.  Meanwhile I've been assembling materials to make up some nice game pieces.  So it has all been coming together, and I look forward to showing off my work-in-progress.

My focus has been more on constructing the prototype than on refining the gameplay, so the rules tweaks that will be in place are the ones I identified at the last round of playtesting at WBC.  I hope to get more comments and improvements out of the CoG designers room.  From there I should get a sense of how close to pitch-ready the game really is.  I'm getting pretty excited about EIC, and I look forward to sharing my excitement in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Building Belfort

(c) Tasty Minstrel Games
Used by permission
This evening after work, Frank H., Brian G., Mike R., Keith F., and I got together and cracked open Belfort  (designers Bamboozle Brothers Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim, artist Joshua Cappel, publisher Tasty Minstrel).  I had played a couple of times in its two-player form but never finished a game all the way through because my wife Kathy and I just didn't find it altogether engaging.  I hoped that perhaps the game would be more fun with more players.

Most of us are fairly familiar with the usual Euro game mechanics, and we found that Belfort is replete with those worker-placing, resource-gathering, building-constructing, area-occupying, hand-managing functions that characterize the genre.  Oh, and there's elves and dwarves and gnomes.  (Sure, why not?)  I'd set up the game by the time the fifth of us arrived, so we launched right into rules explanation and got started.  We had the occasional, "oh, I didn't know that" moments where yours truly hadn't quite explained the rules clearly (although I swear I said everything I said I said), but generally the gameplay went well.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Was Alexander the Great a runaway leader?

This afternoon, Kathy and I played Alexandros (designer Leo Colovini, art by Grafik Studio Krüger [website in German], publisher Rio Grande), which was a gift from some years ago.  Although we hadn't played in a while, we've both done well against each other, so it was fun to bring back to the table.

Alexandros is a semi-thematic game of area control and card management with an interesting mechanism for moving the neutral Alexander piece around the map of his empire and carving it up into provinces for the players to occupy and tax.  The map is clearly recognizable as a representation of the extent of Alexander's empire, and the roles of the players as generals fits with the historical fracturing of his empire.  Beyond that and the Hellenistic iconography, the game is fairly abstract. The decision space isn't very large, but it can be a brain-burner.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Boardgame landscape 76 years ago

Last year I wrote about the shortcomings of Monopoly as a case study for game design.  I caveated my criticism of the game with the observation that it is still among the best-selling games of all time.  One reader commented that there might not have been a lot of competition for Monopoly when it first caught fire as an American staple.  Re-reading that post inspired me to have a look at what boardgame options were available back when Parker Brothers introduced Boardwalk and Park Place to the gaming public.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day weekend gaming

We marked the three-day Labor Day weekend celebrating American workers with several boardgaming sessions.  (In other words, we commemorated work by playing.)

Image courtesy of
Rio Grande Games
Friday evening, Kathy and I had our friend Theresa H. over for a game of Puerto Rico, one of our very favorites but one that we seldom get to play in its original three-to-five player form.  The three of us ended up very close in shipping and building points, but Kathy won with a strong showing of bonus points from the fortress and city hall.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Thought processes and algorithms

I was recently asked to help design the Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithm for an iOS app based on a boardgame with which I am familiar.

[I admit to a pet peeve regarding the use of the term "AI" to represent algorithm-driven characters and players in computer games.  I consider Artificial Intelligence to be much more sophisticated than simple state-driven rule sets.  Few if any computer and video games are truly artificially intelligent.  But that's okay.  I accept the terminology for what it is - adulteration of the English language.  There.  I've said it.  Now I can let it go.]

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Worker placement gold standard - another Agricola session

It seems that I can never talk about worker-placement games without comparing them to Agricola (designer Uwe Rosenberg, artist Klemens Franz, publisher Z-Man), which I guess was my first introduction to the genre and the one nearest to my gaming heart.  It has become the standard against which I measure all other worker-placement games.  Tonight, Kathy and I decided to drag it to the table again, and this old favorite still satisfies as much as it ever did.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Worker placement - comparison and contrast

My wife Kathy and I have played two worker-placement games in the past three days, and we've come to form very different opinions about the two of them.

(c) Tasty Minstrel Games
Used by permission
Friday we played Belfort (designers Bamboozle Brothers Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim, artist Joshua Cappel, publisher Tasty Minstrel), which I'd put high on my wishlist based on a number of strong recommendations.  The appeal of Belfort is clear - it combines a number of Euro-game elements in a rather interesting format.  DiceHateMe Games called it the Game of the Year for 2011.  There is some area control going on, resource optimization, construction - all the things you expect in a Euro game these days.

Friday, August 24, 2012

American battleships at Midway

Wednesday afternoon, my friend and colleague Frank H. and I got together after work for our re-match in Midway (designers Larry Pinsky and Lindsley Schutz, publisher Avalon Hill).  We first clashed over the Pacific in June, when I played the Americans and Frank the Japanese.  This time, we switched roles, so that I commanded the forces of the Imperial Japanese Navy and Frank those of the United States Navy.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Lemming luncheon

My wife Kathy, my eleven-year-old son, and I inaugurated one of my WBC acquisitions this evening -- the light-hearted Leaping Lemmings (designers John Poniske and Rick Young, artists Rodger MacGowan, Leona Preston, and Mark Simonitch, publisher GMT).  This fox-and-geese variation is actually a symmetric game, in which each player has a faction of lemmings seeking to evade the eagles, whose control rotates among the players.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The game time conundrum

This isn't a new problem, but it's a problem that has recently really come sharply into focus.  I've been playing plenty of two-player games at home, and several multi-player Euros with friends.  But a number of other games and genres have caught my attention on which I'd like to spend more time and energy:

Friday, August 17, 2012

WBC: Acquire and acquisitions

Early in our game of Acquire.
I had a majority holding in Worldwide
(the purple hotel to the right), but
that wasn't enough to prevail
One of the great things about game conventions is that I get to play games that I never play at home.  One of those is Acquire (designer Sid Sackson, artist Kurt Miller, publisher Wizards of the Coast), which I played at WBC last week with Roger B. of Providence, Rhode Island, and the GM, Cliff Ackman of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  I first learned Acquire in a demo at PrezCon some years ago, and even bought a copy on eBay, but didn't give it much thought until my friend Rebecca E. remarked on it in comparison to Chicago Express last year.  That comment, plus a Little Metal Dog Show endorsement as a "stone cold classic," re-fired my interest, and I made a point to play Acquire at PrezCon last February.  I am definitely on a learning curve with this game.  I love the tense jockeying for majority shareholder investment, although I think that the tile draw aspect can introduce too much of a luck factor sometimes.  In our game last week, Roger couldn't draw a tile to start a hotel chain to save his life.  I thought I played reasonably well, but not well enough to beat the experienced Cliff.  I do very much enjoy Acquire, though, and I hope to get to play it more often.

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.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

WBC: Wooden Ships semifinal and final

I was pleased to qualify for the semifinal in the World Boardgaming Championships Wooden Ships and Iron Men tournament.  The previous year, I'd lost in the semi-final to Evan Hitchings, and as it happened, this year would provide the opportunity for a rematch.

Semi-final: Frigate frenzy
For the semi-final, we were each given the opportunity to choose from among three orders of battle:
  • Two elite-crewed American frigates, including one 44-gun ship
  • Three crack-crewed British frigates
  • Four French frigates - one crack and three average

Friday, August 10, 2012

Thursday, August 9, 2012

WBC: "Ethics in Gaming" revisited

At WBC on Thursday last week, Joel Tamburo hosted his annual seminar on Ethics in Gaming.  This was my second opportunity to attend.

I arrived a little late and found myself in the middle of a conversation on the interpretation of rules
Signing of the Constitution of the United States
U.S. Government.  Public domain
ambiguities.  Not entirely a matter of ethics, the question on the floor seemed to center around whether an unaddressed action in the rules should be allowed (because the rules don't prevent it) or prohibited (because the rules don't allow it or provide for it).  Peter, an attorney, likened the question to that of Constitutional interpretation, whereby some people hold that rulings on Constitutionality ought to depend on the intent of the founders at the time that they wrote it, as best we can determine from other writings at the time.  Others hold that interpretation of the Constitution necessarily changes with the times, and so it is with game rules:  It doesn't matter how the game designer wanted you to play the game; what matters is how the players want to play.  So, then, the question became, does the designer's intent matter?

Monday, August 6, 2012

World Boardgaming Championships: Wonders, ships, and farmers

Last Thursday, I arrived at the World Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with a "flexible plan" (which is just one step above no plan at all) of how best to enjoy this annual trek to the highlight event of the Boardgame Players Association.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

World Boardgaming Championships 2012: Quick note upon return

I just got home earlier tonight from the World Boardgaming Championships (WBC) in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  A quick note before going to bed, with more to follow:
  • 7 Wonders: quarterfinals, and the loss of a card
  • "Ethics in gaming" seminar
  • Agricola with the Interactive deck
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men:  Made the finals but lost
  • Acquire:  Still learning
  • "East India Company" demo/playtest
  • Heartland Hauling: first impressions
  • War Time:  Reprise
  • Mars Needs Mechanics:  Gaslight supply and demand
  • Trains Planes and Automobiles: My first event as GM
  • Acquisitions: Chicago Express, St. Petersburg, and Leaping Lemmings
  • A gift: 1949 edition of Clue