Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

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.