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playing and designing board games

Gaming blog about board games and board game design. Includes reviews and session reports, strategies and variants, thoughts on games in development, tips for hosting game nights, etc.

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Euronimoes 2.0 Released

Dave Ross
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I've released an update to Euronimoes. The rules can be found on my blog.

First released in 2011, Euronimoes is a Euro-style print-and-play game for 2-4 players requiring good hand-management skills, good resource-management skills, and a bit of puzzling ability, too. Best of all, it can be played with just a handful of poker chips and one or two sets of double-six dominoes. The game can be printed and made ready to play in about a minute, and playing time averages around 10 minutes per player.

Unlike a regular game of dominoes, each player has their own playing area that is not shared with others. Players buy a domino (with chips), add it to their hand, and then play down in such a way as to try to minimize their point count at the end of the game.

The pips in any column must form one or more sequential runs – at the end of the game, the value of a run is equal to its smallest number. A run of 6-5-4-3, for example, is worth 3; a run of 4-3-2-1-0 is worth 0. And again, players don’t want points.

One more thing. Players can reduce their overall score in two ways: (1) by getting a 6-5-4-3-2-1-0 (a “bomb”) worth -3 points, and (2) by playing dominoes on top of other dominoes (dominoes on the second level are worth -2 points each, dominoes on the third level are worth -3 points each, and so on).

It’s a simple game, but there’s a lot going on. Players of Euronimoes will quickly find that it takes plenty of planning, quite a lot of strategy, and at least a little luck to come out on top.

Give it a try, and let me know what you think.
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Sat Apr 25, 2015 6:52 pm
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core games 2014

Dave Ross
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Note: this article was originally posted on my blog. If all you want are the titles of the core games, read on. If you want all the links, too, then you'll have to visit my blog, playing and designing board games. I just can't bring myself to redo all these links in forum format. Sorry.


So I was looking through some of my BGG bookmarks recently, and I came across the link to this, the core games of 2008. And of course it got me to wondering what this list would look like in 2014. I did several different searches on BGG, but I wasn’t able to come up with anything. So I decided to create the list myself.

I used Tony Ackroyd‘s methodology, or something close to it: to be in the core games list, a game has to be ranked in the top 100 games, has to be in the top 100 owned games, and has to be in the top 100 played games. When looking at the top played games, he only counted plays by distinct users, so I did the same. I decided to look at all the plays in 2014, from January 1 to now.

First, I pulled up the top ranked games, then the top owned games, and finally the top played games. Then a little magic in LibreOffice Calc, and here they are: the core games of 2014.

Twilight Struggle
Terra Mystica
Agricola
Puerto Rico
Android: Netrunner
Eclipse
Mage Knight Board Game
Power Grid
The Castles of Burgundy
Le Havre
7 Wonders
Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game
Race for the Galaxy
Dominion
Battlestar Galactica
Lords of Waterdeep
Pandemic
Stone Age
Ticket to Ride: Europe
The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
Cosmic Encounter
Ticket to Ride
Galaxy Trucker
The Resistance
King of Tokyo
Love Letter
Small World

How does this compare to the list from 2008? It’s quite a bit different, really. Of the 27 games on this list, and the 38 games on the list from 2008, there are only 7 games that are on both: Twilight Struggle, Agricola, Puerto Rico, Power Grid, Race for the Galaxy, Ticket to Ride: Europe, and Ticket to Ride. Might be good to check those out, if you haven’t already. :-)
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Sun Nov 23, 2014 10:10 pm
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cult of the new?

Dave Ross
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Note: this article was originally published on my blog, playing and designing board games. I sometimes cross-post, but not always.


So I got to thinking the other day about the “cult of the new,” and I began to wonder if there was any way to see if there really was an effect along those lines at BGG.

How did I decide to go about it? Using two sets of numbers: first, a breakdown of the number of games in the top 250 ranked games by year, and second, a breakdown of the number of games in the top 250 most popular games by year (as measured by the number of players who have ranked the game).

Is this a perfect way to do it? No, there are obviously any number of factors that would tend to skew the data in one direction or another. But it isn’t bad, and all I was looking for was a back-of-the-envelope kind of calculation, anyway.

How did I get the data? With a little URL hacking, that’s how. (And if you want to see the URLs I used, with links, you'll have to go to my blog, since I can't for the life of me figure out how to insert the addresses here. Sorry. soblue)

On to the visuals. In the graph below, blue shows the number of games in the top 250 highest ranked games, broken down by year; yellow shows the number of games in the top 250 most popular games, broken down by year. Red and green show these same numbers while looking at only the top 100 games in their respective categories.



So what, if anything, does this graph tell us? Both the yellow and green lines (tracking the most popular games, as measured by the number of voters) peak in 2004 and then drop off. Both the blue and the red lines (tracking the highest ranked games), however, peak in 2009.

While certainly not definitive, this does suggest that (a) games take a while to be widely adopted by the BGG community, and (b) our ratings of these games do tend to fall over time. We tend to rank games more highly, in other words, when they’re still relatively bright and shiny, and we tend lower our ratings when games begin to show their age.

If I were on Mythbusters, I’d have to conclude that the myth was confirmed. What do you think?
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Thu Sep 27, 2012 3:56 am
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the stay-at-home vacation: a holiday from modern life

Dave Ross
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Note: this article was originally published on my blog, playing and designing board games. I sometimes cross-post, but not always.


What is a vacation?

Historically a vacation involved getting away, traveling to some different locale, seeing different sights, breaking out of one’s routine. A vacation was an escape from the day-to-day, a time to get away from work, a time to take one’s family on a bit of new-to-you adventure.

And that’s still true today, in a way, but times have changed.

I think more generally a vacation is an escape, a conscious break in one’s routine, a deliberate choice to get out of one’s rut. And in the modern, ultra-connected world, the best and most effective way to change one’s routine is to unplug, as it were, from the matrix.

Sure, you can still take the family to Yellowstone, but you’re not really escaping if you’re taking your mp3 player, your cell phone, your laptop, and your DVD player along. You’re not changing your routine if you’re still surfing the web, texting, reading your email, and doing all the things you usually do at home. You might not be working, but you haven’t really stepped out of your workaday reality. You haven’t gotten out of your rut.

It’s different now. Going physically to a new location isn’t a vacation anymore; shutting down the computer, unplugging the TV, and turning off your cell phone is.

====

A couple years ago the power went off for a couple hours one evening. There was an ice storm, and a tree went down and took the power lines with it.

When it first happened, I remember being frustrated and disappointed that I couldn’t continue doing whatever it was I had been involved with — watching TV, maybe, or working on the computer. I just sat there for a minute or two, waiting and wondering if the power was about to come back on.

It didn’t.

Eventually I got up, found the candles and the matches, and lit them. Then I asked S, my wife, what she wanted to do. “We could read out loud,” she said. So we did.

We read P.G. Wodehouse, but I forget which one. Maybe it was one of the ones with Jeeves, the butler, and his intellectually-challenged master, Bertie Wooster. Or maybe it was one of the ones set in Blandings Castle. Or maybe it was Uncle Fred Flits By.

Anyway, we took turns reading to one another for about an hour, and then we decided to make popcorn. Our usual popcorn maker was an air-pop job, and that took electricity. The microwave was out, too. So we got a pot, put some oil in it, tossed some popcorn in, and set it on the stove. To light the stove (we have a gas range), we turned the gas on and lit it with a match. Simple.

To keep the popcorn from burning, we’d shake the pot every once in a while. And when the corn stopped popping, we took the lid off (gotta have a lid!) and poured it into a bowl. A little salt, and voilà! It was delicious.

Better, in fact, than the popcorn we usually made. (We have since gotten rid of the air-pop job, and we only settle for popcorn in the microwave when we’re at work.)

But what to do while eating this delicious popcorn? We decided to play a game, I think it was Ticket to Ride. And it was lots of fun.

====

There were a couple of things we noticed when the power was off.

First, it was very quiet. The furnace wasn’t running, the refrigerator wasn’t running, the lights weren’t humming, nothing was making noise.

Second, it was very relaxing. Peaceful. Gentle. The candles helped with this, of course, but in general it felt very … nice. It was soothing, in a way, a kind of throwback to a simpler time.

In the beginning, we kept hoping the lights would come back on so we could get back to whatever it was we were doing. But as time passed, we started hoping that the lights wouldn’t come back on so we could keep enjoying the peace and quiet. As I remember it, the power still hadn’t come on by the time we went to bed. We went ’round the house and tried to make sure everything was turned off, since we didn’t want the TV to turn itself on at 3:00 in the morning.

It was one of the most pleasant evenings I can remember.

It was also one of the best vacations we’ve ever had, and we didn’t even leave the house.

====

I’m not suggesting that we all turn our clocks back to 1850 — instead, I’m suggesting that we occasionally take a break from modern life. Maybe we leave the lights on but shut the computer off. Maybe we leave our cell phones on but turn the TV off. Maybe we put down Angry Birds and bring out a board game instead.

S and I periodically do this: step away from our laptops, step back from all our technological gadgetry, step out of the modern world, and step into a quieter time.

We don’t turn our phones off, but we hardly ever use them, anyway. We don’t shut the lights off, as they’re actually quite handy. We don’t shut the TV off, since it’s hardly ever on.

We shut down our laptops, turn off the stereo, set down the newspaper, and breathe.

We don’t do chores, and we don’t run errands. We might take a walk, or we might ride our bikes. We don’t drive.

I might play guitar, S might knit, we might have folks over for dinner, we might bake bread or have a fire in the back yard. We might read out loud, might take a nap, might pet our cats or play a game.

We do quiet things, physical things, things that don’t require power. We disconnect from the web, and we connect instead with one another; we disconnect from the “news,” and we reconnect with our friends.

====

Why am I talking about all this in a blog about board games?

Board games are a great way to connect with family and friends in a physical, real, face-to-face kind of way. Most games don’t require power, they don’t require batteries, they don’t involve glowing screens or blinking lights or annoying beeps and bangs and buzzes. They’re delightfully, gloriously low-tech.

More importantly, though, they actively encourage people to interact with one another. In an age where many families don’t even eat together anymore, setting aside an afternoon or an evening for playing board games together is a great way to both make time for and spend time with the people you love.

What could be better than that?
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Sat Feb 25, 2012 5:25 pm
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board game links

Dave Ross
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Note: what follows is just a kind of outline. If you want the real deal, with all the links and all, you'll have to visit my blog, playing and designing board games. I just can't bring myself to redo all these links in forum format. Sorry.


It occurred to me the other day that I ought to share my ever-growing collection of board-game related links. I’ll try to keep them fairly well organized, and I’ll try to stick to ones that are particularly useful. If the post proves popular enough, I’ll make a more permanent version of it available in the menu bar.

Without further ado, here are the best gaming-related links I’ve found. If you have any other gaming-related links you’d like to share, please include them in the comments.

General Info about board games

BoardGameGeek. The granddaddy of them all, and the hub of the board game scene on the net. A great many of the other links listed below will be related to BGG in some way, whether by offering a new / different / better way to interact with the site, a way to aggregate information from the site, &c. It’s the best, and the one place to go if you want to learn more about board games.

The Spiel des Jahres. This is the Wikipedia page listing all the Spiel des Jahres winners and runners-up. A good place to go if you’re looking for entry-level family-friendly strategy games.

2011 board game gift guide. The 2011 edition of BGG’s board game gift guide. You really can’t go wrong with the games on this list.

Bruno Faidutti’s ideal game library. Bruno Faidutti is an excellent designer, and this is his list of good games — definitely worth checking out.

Buying board games

BoardGamePrices. Search a bunch of online retailers all at once to try to find the best price. Also handy for finding some games (like Ra, Steam, &c.) on some vendors’ web sites.

BoardGameSearch. Another way to search multiple sites for the games you want. I don’t like the interface quite as well, but I know some folks prefer it.

Boards and Bits. My favorite online retailer. If they have the game(s) you’re looking for, they’ll likely be the cheapest. $2 shipping for any order over $98.

CoolStuffInc. My second-favorite online retailer. A bigger selection, but slightly higher prices. Free shipping over $100.

Spielboy. Say you want to buy a game from the BGG marketplace, but you don’t want to pay too much for it. Sure, you can use the “Market Info” function in BGG itself, but I don’t find that particularly helpful. Spielboy plots out all the purchase data so you can see how the price has varied over time — just type in “ticket to ride: switzerland” to see how the market crashed for that game when the new map collections came out.

Amazon. Sure, everybody knows they sell books, but did you know they sell games, too? ;-) Seriously, their prices aren’t too bad, they tend to carry the more mainstream games, and you get free shipping over $25 on many items.

Handy tips and tricks

Tricks of the Geek and More Tricks of the Geek. These geeklists are chock-full of tips for getting the most out of BoardGameGeek.

And, since I’m not sure where to put this next geeklist, I’ll put it here. It’s called “Software Tools for Board Games, RPG’s, and BGG,” and that pretty much sums it up. Various apps for a number of platforms that help you choose a game to play, choose a start player, calculate final scores, search BGG, create tuckboxes, roll a pair of virtual dice, &c.

Board game design

Board Game Designers Forum. A forum dedicated to — you guessed it — board game design. :-)

There’s also the Board Game Design forum on BGG.

Prototyping and / or building Print-and-Play games

How to make your own prototypes. Lots of good suggestions on this Print-and-Play wiki page on BGG.

Which games to buy at thrift stores just for the components. Want a bunch of bits so you can make your own board games, but you don’t want to break the bank? Get the pieces you need by cannibalizing other board games. Just don’t do it with Jati. :-)

Game Prototyping Tools. A geeklist on BGG devoted to resources for people making their own games. Other threads have covered similar ground: build me a prototyping toolbox and help me build my print-and-play aresenal.

Also, a number of posts have been devoted to making specific types of components: custom dice, circular tokens and counters, and professional-looking cards. Personally, I just print my cards on card stock and sleeve them, but I know some folks want better results than that.

I’ve heard that Rolco Games, GameParts, Mr. Chips, and EAI Education are good sources for prototype parts, but I’ve never actually bought from them. Spotlight on Games has a good list of component sources, as does this thread. I’ve personally bought a number of things from jspassnthru on eBay, and I’ve found them to be reliable.

The best graphic design program for board game creation is without a doubt Inkscape. It’s a vector-based graphics editor, it’s free, it’s cross-platform, and it’s also extensible. Pelle Nilsson has created a number of useful extensions for it that are board-game-specific.

A BGG list of graphic design tools has links to graphics editors, fonts, clipart, and pdf-related tools.

Software versions of board games

Sebastian Sohn’s SoftBoard games. A huge list of board games that can be played using the computer. Some are Windows-based, some are Mac-based, some are Linux-based, some are flash-based, some are java-based, &c. I wouldn’t necessarily trust all the links (anyone can add to the list), but if you exercise basic caution, you can find a ton of good software renditions of board games. He also made a shorter, distilled list, though I’m not entirely sure what criteria were used to boil the list down.

Matthew Marquand has created a number of online implementations of existing games with AI: Ingenious, Callisto, Clans, Coloretto, and Lexio.

Print-and-Play Games

A number of geeklists have tried to separate the wheat from the chaff in the wild-and-wooly world of print-and-play games: PNP games people actually play, PNP games that might be worth printing, top 20 PNP games with at least 50 ratings, ranked PNP games, PNP freebies that are worth the effort, and excellent PNP games. There’s also the wiki page devoted to PNP game suggestions.

Or, if you’re a glutton for punishment, here’s the canonical list.

Of course, four of the best can be found right here on BoardGameForge: ScatterLand, Euronimoes, Wargame, and Horsefeathers. :-)

Print & Play Productions makes and sells PNP games, and he also sells individual components.

Print-and-Play websites

Superior POD is a print-on-demand site, as is The Game Crafter. Matt Worden’s Jump Gate (Games Magazine’s 2011 Game of the Year) was originally published on The Game Crafter.

Free expansions

Often, game publishers make expansions available at no cost if you’re willing to print them yourself. There have been several geeklists devoted to these freebies: Free PnP Expansions and Free Print and Play Expansions.
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Tue Nov 29, 2011 2:57 am
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Santiago: a game that deserves more love

Dave Ross
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Note: this content originally appeared on my blog, playing and designing board games.


The teaser.

Tastes differ, of course, but for the life of me I can’t figure out why Santiago isn’t a more popular game. It’s relatively quick, there are plenty of difficult decisions, and there’s a fantastic balance between cooperation and competition.

If I were to guess why it hasn’t gotten more attention, I’d say some people might not like the auction, the bribery, or the frequent opportunities for betrayal and backstabbing.

So it takes the right group to shine, but that’s true of any game.

The basics.


Santiago is a tile-laying game by Claudia Hely and Roman Pelek for 3-5 players. It came out in 2003, was published by Amigo, and plays in about 75 minutes (it says 60 minutes on the box, but BGG says 75 and that’s closer to my experience). AFAIK, it wasn’t even nominated for the Spiel des Jahres, and that’s a real shame. Maybe it was considered to be a little too heavy (its weight is listed as 2.5 at BGG, compared to 2.4 for Settlers of Catan).

What’s the big idea?


Players are trying to have more points than anyone else at the end of the game. Points are awarded both for money in hand (1 point per escudo) and for having placed workers in valuable plantations (1 point for every worker in a plantation multiplied by the number of tiles in that plantation). Since these “plantation points” tend to dwarf the points for money in hand, players are really trying to get as many of their workers as possible into the biggest plantations. It’s easier said than done.

There are five types of plantations (five colors of tiles), and these plantations grow throughout the game as players add tiles to the board. Workers can only be added to a tile when the tile is first played, however, and the number of workers that can be added is specified on the tile itself — some tiles allow just one worker to be placed, while others allow two.

Tiles are auctioned at the beginning of each round, thus reducing the “luck of the draw.”

Additionally, tiles and workers need water in order to survive. If a given tile doesn’t get water one turn, then one of the workers on that tile is removed; if there are no more workers to remove, then the tile is flipped upside-down and turned to desert. Tiles that have been flipped to desert don’t count in any plantation.

So what do you do?


In a four-player game, there are 11 rounds. And in each round, players do 7 things:

Quote:
1. auction 4 tiles. Each player ends up with one new tile. The trick is that every player has to bid something different, so there’s a natural order established — highest bidder gets first choice, second highest bidder gets second choice, &c.
2. determine who will be the canal overseer for that round (lowest bidder in the auction). Move the figure in front of that player.
3. place and populate the tiles that were won in the auction, trying to either add a tile to a plantation you’ve already invested in or place workers in a large plantation. The thing is, of course, that you can only rarely help yourself without also helping other players — even when you’re just trying to horn in on their plantation, you’re also making it bigger. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up giving more points than you get.
4. bribe the canal overseer to make the water go in a direction that helps you. You want all the tiles with workers of your color to have water. The thing is, the canal overseer isn’t required to take your bribe — he can choose to send the water somewhere else, paying the bank 1 more escudo than you offered. Bribing the canal overseer is therefore never a sure thing, though it does allow you to put a bit of pressure on.
5. optionally supply additional water (if a tile that’s important to you would otherwise go without). You can only do this once per game.
6. dry out any tiles that are not next to an active canal.
7. get 3 escudos (we just call them dollars) from the bank.

It’s a testament to the intuitiveness of the game that I was able to remember all 7 steps without having to look at the rules. Once you get the general “flow” of the game, each step follows logically from the last and the game proceeds smoothly.

The rules are simple, but the gameplay is quite complex — my favorite kind of game.

There’s a lot to think about.

In both of the two main phases of a given turn (first (a) auctioning and placing tiles and then (b) bribing the overseer and allowing him to determine where the water will go), there are plenty of tough choices to make. In the first phase, you want to bid appropriately to try to get the tile (or one of the tiles) you want. Or, if none of the tiles particularly appeal to you (or if the timing isn’t right, or if you don’t have much money, &c.), you can lowball the bid and hope to become the canal overseer — a great way to make money in certain situations.

Then you need to choose a tile, and often that choice isn’t obvious — in order to choose well, you need to think not only about what you want, but also about what the other players at the table want, too. And where they would likely want to put the tile they end up with. And how much they might want to bribe the overseer to supply it with water.

Then players actually place the tile they’ve chosen, and again, there are difficult choices to make. Do you play in a location that already has water, or do you count on being able to team up with another player to bribe the overseer successfully? Misjudging what other players will likely do often proves costly.

Players can talk all they want throughout this process, making offers, counter-offers, and sometimes deals. But the deals aren’t binding, so when it’s your turn to place your tile or offer your bribe, you can do whatever you think is in your best interest. It can get a little nasty.

Phase two (bribing the overseer) also offers a number of interesting choices. First, you have to decide where you might want the water to flow, and second, you have to decide how much it’s worth to you. Or rather, how much it’s likely worth to the overseer.

You’re also trying to figure out how best to encourage other players to go in on the bribe with you. Sure, you can go it alone, but it’s better and more powerful if you can team up with another player on a larger bribe. This puts more pressure on the overseer to accept your deal.

It’s all well and good to talk about going in on a combined bribe, but how do you divide the bribe? You both want the water to head in a certain direction, but how much is it really worth to you? How much is it really worth to your “partner”? You might agree that the combined bribe should be, say, 6 escudos, but you have to play first. Do you offer 2 escudos, hoping she’ll pony up for the other 4, or do you split the burden 50/50? What if she decides it’s not in her interest to contribute after all?

What I love.


This is what I love about Santiago: you’re simultaneously competing against and cooperating with everyone at the table, both in the growth of plantations and in the offering of bribes. You want other players to want what you want, but you want them to get just a little bit less out of the deal. You want their best play to help you more than it helps anyone else.

Potential drawbacks.


In addition to the potential difficulties mentioned above (the auction, the bribing, the backstabbing and betraying, &c.), I suppose the game could also cause a bit of analysis paralysis in some players. Players who typically want to explore every conceivable option and their likely consequences might find the sheer number of choices overwhelming.

You can always help them out with this problem by offering them some juicy deal, by giving them an offer that’s too good to pass up. And then, of course, you can fail to carry through with it.

Hey, it’ll work once.

The verdict.

It’s tight, it’s fun, and there’s a lot of gameplay packed into a small ruleset. Available for as little as $17.99 online, it’s worth every penny.
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Thu Sep 29, 2011 1:13 am
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Protospiel preparations, part III: playing Lemuria

Dave Ross
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Note: this content originally appeared on my blog, playing and designing board games. I cross-post about half the time.


After a couple weeks of hard work, I’m just about ready for Protospiel: I’ve got all three games assembled, the rules have all been printed, and pretty much everything is set. The one thing I had yet to do was play Lemuria again, just to jack it all back into my head. The last thing I wanted was to have to look up some rule as I was trying to explain the game.

It’s not that it’s so very complicated, it’s just that I hadn’t actually played the game in quite a while. I wanted to play it with more than just two, so I called up my friend C and we made it a threesome.

I had forgotten how much fun the game is. There’s a lot going on, but the rules are really fairly straightforward. There’s one or two things that might be counter-intuitive the first couple turns, but after that it’s pretty much smooth sailing.

The basic idea is that you’re trying to build the biggest network by the end of the game (when someone plays their last trading post). Since trading posts cost money, however, you have to deliver various goods to cities that need them if you want to be able to continue to build.

We played two games, and both were quite close. I set the first board up myself, explaining the game as I went (C had never played before). I talked about the price of building, the role of the builders, the flow of a single turn, how the points are awarded at game end, everything. The board I set up didn’t have any holes, and I used less than the regular number of blockers to decrease competition for routes a little. It was a fairly fast game. I went out but lost to S since she had two more cities in her network and three “Campaign Contribution” cards worth a total of 18 points. The final score was 88 to 83. C didn’t get the different pieces of his network hooked up in time and came in a distant third.

C set up the second board himself, introducing two holes into it. As this tends to create more competition anyway, I advised him to keep the number of blockers at a reasonable level. S got off to a fast start, but both C and I used various action cards to dog her builders and, as a result, she was trailing by a couple trading posts after the first few turns. S is yellow in the following picture, I’m red, and C is blue:



C and I played neck and neck for the rest of the game and finished quite close. I might’ve won if I had played things differently, but I opted for points instead of cash in one of my final draws and ended up just a couple dollars short in my final turn. C went out first and beat me by two points: 93 to 91. S had 79.

Here’s a picture of the game just a couple turns before the end:




All in all it was lots of fun, I enjoyed the game, and I was grateful for a chance to teach the game before Protospiel. I also really enjoyed the pizza. :-)
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Thu Jun 30, 2011 4:28 am
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Protospiel preparations, Horsefeathers score sheet, and Horsefeathers with two

Dave Ross
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Ames
Iowa
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Note: this content also posted on my wordpress blog, playing and designing board games. I cross-post about half the time.


I’ve been hard at work this weekend working on the graphics for RumRunners to get them presentable for Protospiel. And at this point, they’re passable. They’re not great, but they’re functional, and that’s about as good as I can usually hope for. :-)

Actually, I’m fairly proud of them. I’ve been learning a new program called Inkscape, and it’s really cool. It’s probably the most intuitive graphics program I’ve ever used, and you can get fairly nice-looking graphics out of it with just a minimum of effort. Here’s a portion of the board, just to give you an idea:



So I got that sent off to the printer this morning, and I plan to mount it on a piece of mat board after S picks it up for me tomorrow. Then I’ll hinge the board with packing tape, and the end result (I hope) will be the nicest board I’ve ever made. We’ll see.

I used mat board for the Coloronimoes tiles, and I was really happy with how they turned out. I used to mount everything on foam core, but I think mat board looks nicer and feels better. It’s a little harder to work with (a little harder to cut), but IMHO it’s worth it.

- – - – -

In addition to the new board for RumRunners, I’ve also been working on a score sheet for Horsefeathers:



The plan is to upload a PDF with this score sheet and a (very slightly) modified version of the rules so people can play the game with just one die, the score sheet, and a box of poker chips. Oh, and 1 counter per player to show who’s still in the round and who’s out. It’s not that assembling 12 dice is going to be impossible for most gamers, and it’s not that finding 21 tokens (for 8 players) or 8 reversible chips (1 per player) is that much of a hardship, it’s just that I’m trying to make entrance into this game as easy as possible. It’s been a consistent favorite at game night since I first started working on it, and I think most people would probably enjoy it.

Just to see how the new (prototype) score sheet might work, S and I took it for a spin this evening. The score sheet worked really well, even better than I had hoped, but the game (with two) was not so hot. I didn’t expect it to be. It’s not that it was bad, and in fact I can imagine that some people might really get into a head-to-head version of the game, it’s just not as interesting as the game with 3 plus. You keep bluffing (or trying to bluff) the same person, over and over again, and that’s not really my cup of tea. Kind of like Poker with two — some people get into it, but I find it more engaging when there are more players. YMMV. :-)
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Tue Jun 28, 2011 4:50 pm
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preparing for Protospiel

Dave Ross
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Ames
Iowa
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Note: this content also appeared on my blog, playing and designing board games. I cross-post about half the time.


I'm going to be going to Protospiel in Ann Arbor in a couple weeks, and I've been scrambling to get some prototypes ready for it.

The whole idea behind Protospiel is that designers get together to playtest one another's games, provide feedback, and generally help one another with the design process. I'll be taking three games to share.

The first is Coloronimoes, a more marketable version of Euronimoes. Much like Euronimoes, players are trying to buy 2-ended pieces that (a) fit well in their own personal tableau and (b) don't cost too much. Unlike Euronimoes, however, there aren't any numbers on the bones -- just colors. I've made a very nice prototype and have had the rules printed in color, so this one is all ready to go.



The second is Lemuria. Lemuria is a modular connection game where players try to connect resources to cities using trading posts. Trading posts cost money, though, so players need to complete outstanding orders if they want to continue to be able to build. The goal is to build the biggest network by game end.



Lemuria actually came about as a kind of hybrid between Empire Builder and Catan. I had always been somewhat frustrated playing Empire Builder, as I figured it should be sufficient to just connect the resource to the city -- why do I also have to deliver it? And when I first played Settlers, I was smitten by the fact that you could set the board up in so many ways. So I set myself a design challenge: make a connection game with a modular board.

It's not as easy as it sounds -- because the board can be set up in countless ways, there's no way to know for sure what the distance between a given resource and a given city will be, so there's no way to know what it will cost players to connect the two. And thus there's no good way to determine what the reward should be, either.

It took me a long time to figure out how to work it, but there are 8 cities and 10 different types of resources. Some resources are more common than others, however, and therefore less valuable. A whole lot of math went into this game -- I used one spreadsheet to track the modular panels and their contents, one to analyze the points awarded at the end of the game, and one (with four sheets and some very pretty colors) to look at the order card distribution.

The amazing thing is that it actually works -- unless you get completely crazy when setting up the board, every game has a similar trajectory and a similar feel. It's definitely my "biggest" game to date, though I'd say it's roughly comparable weight-wise to Settlers. Maybe a little lighter.

And the third game I'm planning to take is RumRunners. This one's based on an idea I had over 15 years ago -- play Mancala with different-colored pieces belonging to each of the players instead of stones "belonging" to everybody. For years, I called the game "Western Mancala."

I played it off and on for a long time, but it never really grabbed me. It seemed trivial, in a way, certainly not interesting enough to devote much time to it. But I kept adding things along the way: what about a 2-D board, instead of just a loop. That proved intriguing, but difficult -- that version lent itself awfully easily to analysis paralysis.

More recently I dusted the game off and tried to breathe new life into it: how about a grid, with intersections? A couple city streets, maybe? And each of the streets is one way, but there are still a number of choices a player can make in terms of where she goes. And then a theme popped into my head: revolutionaries! An uprising! And there are policemen on the streets, trying to shut it down.

The theme has changed a bit since then, and there are one or two key things I've neglected to mention (something about corruption, if I recall correctly), but it's a fun game. It's not nearly as polished as the other two, as some of these developments have come about just recently, but I should have a working prototype done in plenty of time. It might not have the prettiest graphics, but I don't figure that'll be much of a problem.

So this is pretty much all I've been working on in my spare time the last few weeks....
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Thu Jun 23, 2011 5:53 am
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Horsefeathers released as print-and-play

Dave Ross
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Ames
Iowa
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Can you tell when someone is bluffing?


Horsefeathers is a bluffing-and-betting dice game requiring only twelve 6-sided dice, a dice cup, a handful of tokens, and a box of poker chips in order to play. The goal is to have the most chips when the game is over (when all tokens have been taken from the center of the table). A game takes around 30 to 45 minutes. For 3-8 players.

Players roll one die each turn and add it to the dice that are already in the center of the table. These dice are grouped by number. When there is one die of a given number (say, one 6), it is referred to as a “single”; when there are two dice of a given number (say, two 3s), they are referred to as a “double”; there can never be three dice (a “triple”) of the same number in the center of the table.

When players roll their die, they conceal it under the dice cup and then declare its value. If, however, the number rolled would create a triple, then the player must call it something else. The player must lie.

Other players can challenge the declaration by calling “Horsefeathers.” If the rolling player was lying, then the challenge is successful and the challenger takes a token from the center of the table; the lying player is out of the round. If, on the other hand, the rolling player was telling the truth, then the challenger is out of the round.

The goal in each round is to be the last player standing — that player gets the pot of chips.

Play continues in this fashion until the last token is taken. The current round is finished, payouts are made based on any token discrepancies, and then the chips are counted. The player with the most chips is the winner.

If you’d like to give it a try, the complete rules can be found on the Horsefeathers page of my blog, playing and designing board games. It's just recently been added to the BGG database. Good, bad, or meh, I’d love to hear what you think of it. :-)
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Tue Jun 21, 2011 1:14 am
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