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Ranking the 2012 games I've played

Ian Noble
United States
El Dorado Hills
California
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2012 has been a crazy year for me, both personally and in the board game hobby. I have never purchased, played or traded more games than I have this year. Because everyone seems to be doing a Top 10 of 2012 list, I will be doing something a little different. I will be ranking the 17 2012 games that I've played, since we really won't be able to know which are the "best" for a few years. Here goes!

1. Android: Netrunner


I have played other LCGs from Fantasy Flight and they all seemed very dull to me. That is until I saw the core Netrunner set on Amazon for $20 and decided, with my friend, to take a shot at it. Boy was that a great decision. I've played multiple games as both the Runner and the Corporation sides. I've even started to deck-build, which is not something I've ever really done before. Magic: The Gather was not something I was into when I was younger. Luckily this form of deck-building is a much cheaper alternative to that. This is the best, most enjoyable game of 2012.

2. Escape: The Curse of the Temple

Great way to spend 10 minutes...that is if you can only play a single game at a time. I have yet to only play 1 game because it's so easy to reshuffle the tiles and go again!

3. Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game

A wonderful Christmas present from my wife. Played many times solo and multiplayer. Even though it can sometimes be easy, I enjoy the theme and the artwork enough to keep trying different combination.

4. Descent: Journeys in the Dark (second edition)


Our group started a campaign and had a lot of fun. I've also played a one-off mission as the Overload and it works very well in both settings.

5. Lords of Waterdeep

Hands down the intro worker placement game, now. I don't really care about the theme, the game just flows so smoothly.

6. Merchant of Venus (second edition)

Played the classic game a while ago, but the new version feels a lot more modern. Very much enjoyed the reprint. Looking forward to playing the reprinted, classic edition now.

7. Libertalia

This was pretty high on my wishlist all year. Although it didn't exceed my expectation, it was still a solid game with one of my favorite mechanics: role selection.

8. Fleet

Have only played it once and it felt like it required at least a couple plays to "get it." I could see the potential of a nice, quick auction/engine building game.

9. Morels

Solid little 2-player game. Would fit perfectly in the Kosmos line of games.

10. Empires of the Void


After a couple plays, I can't say that I'll want to buy a copy, but it was enjoyable. Would still rather play Eclipse.

11. Legacy: Gears of Time

I'm a sucker for everything that has to do with time travel. This does it pretty well, but the scoring brings it down for me. Just takes too long to explain and too long to execute.

12. Atlantis Rising

This game might move up the list, as I've only played it once solo. It was crazy hard. The graphic design is wonderful and there is no other game with a board like this game. I'm interested to playing it more to see if I can figure it out.

13. D-Day Dice

With high expectations coming from a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign, this was a bit of a disappointment. I was hoping for more tension and theme integration, but there are a few things that keep it from being a great game.

14. Infiltration

Because I really got into the Android universe, I picked up a copy of this hoping to recreate some of the Netrunner elements. It kind of worked, but we need to play it again with the mindset of it being like a party game (quick turns, trash talking, risk taking, etc.). Has potential.

15. Agents of SMERSH

Too long for what it is. The theme is very cool and underutilized in board games, in my opinion. Wouldn't work with a family as there are a lot of little rules.

16. Dominant Species: The Card Game

After my first play I was ready to throw this game out the window, but I played a couple more times and it didn't totally suck, like...

17. Sentinels of the Multiverse: Enhanced Edition

Ugh. Cannot see why people like this game. Didn't work for me, didn't work for anyone in our group.


Here are the 2012 games I or someone in my group owns and have yet to play (in no particular order):

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar
Mice and Mystics
Myrmes
Caveman: The Quest for Fire
Rex: Final Days of an Empire
Manhattan Project
Space Cadets
Ground Floor (BGG says 2012, but I think it's 2013 now)
The Resistance: Avalon
VivaJava: The Coffee Game
Farmageddon
Courtier

Here's to 2013!
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Wed Jan 9, 2013 11:26 pm
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Starting a board game club

Ian Noble
United States
El Dorado Hills
California
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Ever since I got into this wonderful hobby, I've been lucky enough to have a really great group of guys (and an occasionally appearance from my wife) to game with. But since every one is busy with their own lives, kids, work, etc. I found myself wanting to game more often than the group would be able to get together.

Not to knock our local meet-up group, but they have most of their meetings at least 30 minutes from where I live. Granted, that is not very far, but it would be so much better if there was some sort of group closer to where my friends and I live.

This is where I got the idea of starting my own local game club. Luckily the Raley's in my area has a free conference room that can accommodate up to 35 people and is in a very accessible area. As I started thinking about what the group would be about, I thought "how can I make a board game meet-up more accessible to new players, but also open to veteran gamers?" I also wanted to create something that is more of a social environment. Our local meet-ups are very gamer-centric, so much so that I've been intimidated to go very often. I want to have someone "in charge" of the meeting, so if people are looking to play a certain game or a certain type of game, I would be there to help facilitate that. I'd also like to have a Game of the Month where people pass the game around during the evening and report back with their opinions on the game, optionally of course.

We'll see how it goes. Our first meeting is scheduled for June 23rd! If you're reading this and you're in the area, come on by!

Folsom/EDH Game Club

More information on Facebook and the website.
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Tue May 15, 2012 11:30 pm
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Quick Bits: Playing the same game back to back?

Ian Noble
United States
El Dorado Hills
California
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One of the main differences between when I play games with my fiancee and when I play with my gaming group is that she loves to play the same game back to back to back to... This is something that never happens with the group, most likely because the games we play as a group are much more in depth and generally take much longer to "reset" in order to play a new game.

Just the other night Lisa and I played Zombie Dice about 4 times in a row followed by Seven Dragons about 6 times. Usually I get the "let's play again" request because I beat her and she just can't put the game away after a loss. Quite the competitive one, she is!

Do you find yourself wanting to play a game back to back or do you & your group like to change things up after one play through?

Post your thoughts here, Twitter (@ianoble) or Google+ (ianoble).
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Thu Aug 18, 2011 5:19 pm
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Quick Bits: The second half of 2011 will be a doozy!

Ian Noble
United States
El Dorado Hills
California
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It seems as if 2011 has been a banner year in the board/card game hobby. Just looking at the number of quality games that have been released in the first 6 months of the year, you could say this has been one of the very best years ever. And with still a whole half of year left, things don't appear to be slowing down.

For me the second half of the year is going to bring some big additions to my collection. Some games from new or very small publishers (thanks to Kickstarter.com), some games from the publishers we all know & love and a few reprints that I've been wanting to get my hands on for a long time. All in all, this is going to be one heck of a happy ending to 2011!

Here are all the games I have already paid for and will, hopefully, be able to add to my collection by the end of this year.

Kickstarter backed games:

BattleCON

Lisa and I have been playing the print and play version and a review copy for a couple of months now. It will be nice to see the fully produced version.

The Road to Canterbury

Another one  of Alf Seegerts games. We really love Trollhalla and the Canterbury Tales theme seems very unique.

Kamakura

A simple card game, but with fantastic artwork that really captures the Asian theme.

Dark Horse

This would be my first Wild West themed game.  I've heard really good things from people who've played advanced copies of the game. The artwork isn't in my favorite style, but I'm hoping the gameplay makes up for it.

Kingdom of Solomon

Neat looking worker placement game. Like Dark Horse, I've heard a lot of praise from people who have been able to play it.

Flash Point: Fire Rescue

Co-op with a fire fighting theme sounds awesome. The production value will be fantastic since Indie Boards and Cards will be producing it. Loved Triumvirate and Haggis.

 

Pre-orders:

Eminent Domain

Not much to say about this game. Pretty much everyone is looking to get a copy. I was lucky enough to play a prototype version at Kublacon. Confirmed my excitement to play the final copy.

Belfort

Brand new game from Tastey Minstrel that has a lot of different elements that I enjoy. With their special bundle deal a few weeks ago, I figured it was worth a shot, since I was really looking forward to playing the next game.

Homesteaders

I saw some folks playing this game at a party I was at. Unfortunately I was unable to try it for myself. The first printing had a lot of issues, so I'm happy to be able to get a copy that has been completely fixed.

Jab: Realtime Boxing

I watched a demo of the game at Kublacon and was very impressed with the pace of the game. Seemed to be pretty spot on in recreating a boxing match using a couple decks of cards. This was pretty much free with the Belfort/Homesteaders bundle anyway.

Ninjato

Ooh, this is a game I've had my eye on for a while! Z-Man games decided to continue to publish it after they were sold and I am grateful for that.  The theme is right up my alley. This looks like it has the potential to be a huge hit!

Twilight Struggle

I'm coming to Twilight Struggle very late to the party. But only now do I feel that I would be ready for a 2 player game this heavy. The newest edition has a few corrections, but it mostly just cleans up an already hugely popular game.

Dominion: Cornucopia

Yep, another Dominion expansion. It's becoming a bit silly with all the available expansions, but for $15 why not complete the current set.

 

Not too mention a few more games that I would love to pick up this year like Rune Age, Elder Sign, Quarriors and Drum Roll.

What are you looking forward to most in the second half of 2011? Hit me up on Twitter (@ianoble), Facebook and/or Google+ (ianoble)!
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Mon Aug 1, 2011 11:40 pm
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Kublacon 2011 Report

Ian Noble
United States
El Dorado Hills
California
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Day 1: Where are we and what is this all about?

Without ever going to a board game convention I didn't know what to expect. Weeks before it started I went through the events catalog and marked down a bunch of events, listed on the Kublacon website, that I wanted to take part in. When we first arrived it was pretty obvious that the heart of the convention was just finding an open table, some friends (or strangers) and playing whatever game you happened to have with you at the time. By the time we arrived, at 11:00AM on Saturday, just about every table designated for open gaming was full of people rolling dice, flicking discs or shuffling cards.

The first couple hours we spent just walking around, checking out the sites and getting the lay of the land. During that time, I was heckled by one GFBRobot (or Andrew in real life) while going up an escalator. Of course I had no idea who the heck he was...until he chuckled and introduced himself.

We really couldn't get involved with any games since I had my friend sign me up for a Dominion tournament at 1:00PM. In hindsight I probably should have skipped it since it was pretty disorganized and not all that fun. A good number of people who were on the list didn't even show up and they decided to change the structure of the tournament at the last minute. So, unless you won your game, it was one go 'round with the base setup (who plays with just the base setup anymore??) and done. No, I didn't win...in fact I was actually beaten by a 7 year old. He was 7 going on 25, seemingly, if that makes it any better. During my Dominioning Lisa, my friend and his son were able to squeeze in a game of Samurai. They looked to be have a good time with the Knizia classic.

Afterwards we were left on our own and decided it would be a good time to take advantage of the open table space. We got out BattleCON and went at it. Apparently being away from home doesn't slow down Lisa's gaming prowess as she crushed me. Oh well, this weekend wasn't about winning it was about the games! As if it was meant to be, as soon as we were finished I received an email from my friend asking if I would like to be the 8th player in an epic 8 player Heroscape game. Not having played Heroscape before I was a bit reluctant, but this is Kublacon baby! What better time to learn than now? The only bad part was that the game was supposed to last over 3 hours, which left Lisa out in the cold. Being a good sport she didn't mind and found herself enjoying a little R&R. I, on the other hand, was left to defend myself against Wyverns, giant flys, some fella named Drake and a host of all sorts of other menacing creatures! For not having played ever before, I was pretty happy with how long I stayed in the game. After the ice melted the two 4 players games merged together and our side found out that we were in for a tough fight. All in all I had a really great time and was glad that I got roped into it.



After that was over, we were just in time to hear Aldie from BoardGameGeek.com speak about the state of BGG. Afterwards we were able to get an early look at the new site redesign and speak briefly to Aldie. Kinda cool to be able to meet one of the most influential people on the board game hobby. After picking up Lisa from our room, so we could head to dinner, we happened to run into Seth Jaffe from Tasty Minstrel games in the elevator...although we didn't know it at the time. He asked us what the images on our shirts were and we told him they were the logo for my site. He told me he knew a board game publisher and maybe we could work something out in the future regarding getting games reviewed. He also asked if I wanted to check out some prototypes, of course I said yes, but that would have to wait for Sunday. Exciting, my first real perk of running this site! After dinner my friend and I joined a No Limit Hold'em tournament. Wasn't the greatest tournament every, but I love playing poker so I had a good time. We both happened to bust at the same time, which turned out to be a good thing since it meant there was still time to get a couple more games in before calling it a night! We couldn't convince the girls to join us, so we just got in a game Pergamon and Blue Moon (a game I've been wanting to learn), ending just before midnight. It was a good first day, that's for sure!

Day 2: Nothing but new games!

Since day 1 was all about getting our bearings and just figuring out where everything was, day 2 was going to be about gaming! In particular, playing new games. Since I figured my buddy GeekInsight might be interested in seeing a few prototypes, I met up with him in the morning and we went to find Seth. The first game he showed us was Jab: Real-Time boxing. Very interested boxing themed card game where dexterity is a huge part of being successful. You're basically playing cards from your two decks (left & right hand) on the other players person cards (head, left body & right body). There are ways to get combinations, haymakers, as well as blocking and counter punching. We were just spectators as he taught 2 other guys the game, but it seemed like they had a pretty good time.

Next up was a prototype that didn't have a name yet, but he was playing with Exibit This! or Exibit: Artifacts Through the Ages. The basic premise is that you are trying to buy artifacts with the hopes that they will be worth more than you payed for them once you put them in an exibit. This is done with a really clever auction mechanic and colored dice. They said it had elements of Liar's Dice, but without ever playing Liars Dice I just took their word for it. The 6 columns on the score sheet all corresponded to a color on the dice. Players start out with 3 dice. Each round they are rolled secretly and then each player bids on what they think the count of the color will be in hopes of winning artifacts. Because you only get 2 bid markers, you might have to sacrafice one artifact for one that is of less help to you. There is obviously a bit more to the game, but maybe if it gets close to being published I'll be able to write a proper article about it.



Our next game was all about dice. The game is called Dice Works (or Dice Werx). Every turn a large number of dice are rolled, then the players start grabbing as many as they can, with only one hand. The goal is to match combinations on your board in order to build some sort of machine. Unfortunately I didn't get a photo of the board, because explaining it is a little weird without seeing where the dice go. It was pretty fun, but not really my sort of game.

Then it was time for the big daddy: Eminent Domain. I've been kicking myself for missing the Kickstarter preorder, especially after hearing that their first two print runs have already sold out! Today none of that mattered because I was about to play a prototype copy. Having briefly looked through the rules, I had some idea what the game was about. Let me tell you, the comparisons to Dominion don't really hold up. I would say it is more closer to San Juan or Puerto Rico because each player must select a role each turn, which allows the other players to "follow" (or draw a card). So this brings in the that whole "do I choose a role that would really help me, but it would also help everyone else or do I pick something that only I can take advantage of with the hopes that one of the other players will select that other role?" decision making. I have to admit, I was not getting it the first few turns, but after colonizing a few planets which gave me the ability to produce resources (the way to score points), I was starting to get into the flow. This was just the learning game, too! We didn't even include the Research role which allows players to take advantage of more powerful roles. In the end I came out victorious, so apparently I understood it enough. Hopefully my order with ThoughtHammer was included in the second print run because I cannot wait to get this game. That was all the time we had with Seth, but I was very happy to see some new games that might be hitting the shelves soon along with being asked to give him feedback to help improve the games.



After the flurry of new games I was ready to get some food and chill for a bit. A little later in the day I met up with Andrew (GFBRobot) and we had a play through of some adventure style card game. I can't remember the name, but it was a good time. We made plans to meetup and play a little Mansions of Madness later that night.

When we found where Andrew and a couple of his friends started setting up Mansions of Madness we had a seat and joined the group of investigators looking to search the mansion for clues about a mysterious desease that struck our client's(?) child. Explaination was simple and the theme seemed to fit pretty well. With 4 investigators we were able to break up into 2 groups and take different wings of the house. This proved to be pretty important since each group had one character that was in charge of solving puzzles and one that would be the muscle, in case trouble showed up...and it did! The first round of zombies and a maniac wasn't so bad. We cleaned things up in a just a couple of turns. But the real trouble was towards the end of the game, after we discovered all the clues. It felt as if a helicopter dropped off a case full of zombies. Luckily for us we collected some pretty good items during our exploration, so fending off the undead wasn't all that difficult. We all made a run for the exit and burned the house down as we left. Mission accomplished! The only caveat was that we might have messed up one little rule that would have made the investigators a tiny bit more powerful. Since it was all in good fun, we ended up calling it a draw.



Keeping with the creepy zombie theme, Lisa wanted to take a walk over to the LARP tent and take a peak into that world. Well, I have to say that was quite an experience. I basically felt as if I walked into a bad night club. People in costumes milling around while light techno plays in the background of a large, poorly lit outdoor tent. *Shrug*, to each their own. I would rather be rolling dice and shuffling cards. Once we finished that bizarre experience, we decided we had enough for one day. Day 2 was another resounded success!

Day 3: One mission, play Through the Ages.

As our third and final day arrived I was feeling pretty good, but I knew that we wouldn't have time to get many more games in. My friend and I really wanted to sit down to a game of Through the Ages, since many of our plays these days are online. Luckily our schedules synced up after he decided to not do the Nexus Ops tournament. Unfortunately Lisa was not all that excited about learning this very complex game and we weren't even sure if we had enough time to be able to teach here anyway. Once again she was a very good sport and sat by my side reading her book and taking in the sites as we played our game. Each time I play TTA I love it more and more. So many interesting and tough decisions, such a solid game system and plays well with any number of players. I was very happy that was the final game to cap off a tremendous time at Kublacon. We will certainly be making this a yearly occasion.




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Wed Jun 8, 2011 6:01 pm
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Interview with Alex Montgomery of Dyad Games: designers of Kamakura

Ian Noble
United States
El Dorado Hills
California
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Board/card game projects on Kickstarter seem to be all the rage these days. Not that I'm complaining! The more games to get published the better, in my book. But because of this, I find myself needing to browse the Board and Card Game section on Kickstarter.com rather frequently, looking for something that might catch my attention. Kamakura was one that fit into that category. I'll let the guys over at Dyad Games describe the game for you:

Kamakura is a card game of feudal Japanese warfare in which you attempt to defeat an opponent by taking their territories before they take yours. This is done by carefully choosing combinations of weapons, soldiers, and arrow barrages to attack with while defending your own territories with a myriad of defensive techniques. Strategy, deception, and bravery will be your most valuable assets in the complex and varied game of Kamakura.

Since this was Dyad Games first venture into the analog gaming realm, I thought it might be nice to find out a little bit more about who they are and how they ended up creating a card game. Alex Montgomery was gracious enough to answer a few of my questions.

And after you're done reading this, check out the Kickstarter project and reserve yourself a copy of Kamakura today!



Kamakura has been progressing nicely on Kickstarter.com since you announced it. For the people who haven’t been following the progression and might not know what it’s all about, tell us a little about the game and how it came to fruition.

Well it started out as an Idea Orie Rush had that he initially shared with me and Lee. We used a regular deck of cards and we were laughing like little school girls when we started countering attacks and sending barrages back. We started to really refine the rules at this point. We always have projects we want to pursue, but this came up and we decided to give it a go. Through determination and 3-4 months of hard work we are now well on our way through Kickstarter.

The Japanese theme is persistent throughout all aspects of the game. Can you explain how challenging it was to come up with a theme for a game that is essentially just a deck of cards?

The initial Ninja, Samurai and Geisha weren’t too hard to work around because they are the most recognized in Japanese culture. We did end up doing research for the different clans and their symbols as well as how Japanese culture views unique weapons such as the Yumi and the Katana. We’ve been looking into expanding the game and it’s taking several iterations to find out the perfect balance and notability.

The artwork is really well done and very professional looking for such a small game company. Has that been a major focus when working on the game?

Thanks, the artwork for the cards was done by Orie Rush and layouts by Lee McIntosh, both apart of Dyad Games. These guys are amazing when it comes to artwork and they realized the potential for the card art and went at it. It’s definitely a nice touch to Kamakura and I don’t think we overlooked gameplay or game mechanics to have aesthetically pleasing cards.

What are some games that you think influenced the design of Kamakura? Also, what are some of your favorite board games to play?

As far as the Kamakura mechanics go, we were inspired by Settlers of Catan & Munchkin with minor influences towards Hero-Scape and D&D. Another key mechanic was card management where traditional card games like Euchre and 5 Crowns played a role. Some of our favorite games are Risk, Poker and BattleShip.



You guys went as far as creating a 10+ minute How to Play video for Kamakura. Talk about why you wanted to spend the time showing people how to play your game, rather than just giving them the rulebook?

The video was created by myself and voiced by Orie. We decided to make a video slightly on impulse, but with good intentions. A lot of times rules can be misinterpreted (ie. Munchkin, Yu-gi-oh), so we made a motion graphic video that explains the rules firmly and hypes up people to play. It took longer than I expected but I'm fairly happy with the outcome.

What’s the plan for the next month and then after the game (hopefully) gets fully funded on Kickstarter?

As far as the game-plan goes for Kamakara, we’ll be ordering high quality decks, printing off posters and ordering wooden felt cases. All the materials are shipping to our door, so we’ve got some work ahead of us. We’ll be keeping backers up to date every step of the way. We’re also a creative group so we’ve got our other projects like the band we’re in together ODDEPOXY. We’ll be writing some music this summer and we’re also headed towards some game development you can see on our blog.

Do you envision Dyad Games developing more board games in the future?

We really hope to release an expansion to Kamakura once it takes off that will really stir up the mechanics and make an exciting game that much better. We don’t have any plans to create a new board/card game at this point but you never know what the future holds!

Thanks for the Interview!




Kamakura has the makings of been another success story on Kickstarter. Thank you for taking time to talk about it and best of luck getting the game funded! Stay tuned for more information on Kamakura as we get closer to the final funding date.


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Thu May 19, 2011 9:54 pm
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Interview with Galen Ciscell, designer of Atlantis Rising

Ian Noble
United States
El Dorado Hills
California
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Galen Ciscell...you probably haven't heard of him before, but you will very soon. He is the designer of an upcoming Z-Man Games release called Atlantis Rising and this has "hit" written all over it! Don't feel bad if you know nothing about this game, the only reason I'm aware of it is because of a quick but friendly email sent to me from Galen himself. Basically he noticed that I posted an article about a couple cooperative games and how I'm very fond of that genre. So he just thought I should take a peak at what he's come up with. And luckily for me, I obliged. Sure enough when I dug into the details about the game, it started checking many of those "things that I like in a game" boxes. Co-op, check; 2-6 players, check; beautiful artwork, check; engaging theme, check...well, you get the picture. Then it hit me, I don't think I'm the only one that would be interested in a game like this. So I asked if he would be willing to spend some time and answer a few questions about the process of designing the game. He was also gracious enough to pass along some never before seen artwork from the game.

Without further ado, here is my conversation with Galen Ciscell.




Front/back box cover, artwork by Karim Chakroun


Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions about your upcoming game Atlantis Rising. It is really looking like something you can be proud of. Would you mind just briefly describing the game for people who are just now hearing about it?



Components cards, artwork by Karim Chakroun
Sure. As I’ve posted on the BGG page, Atlantis Rising is a fully cooperative board game in which the players must race to create a cosmic gate before all of the island tiles have been destroyed (the gate's components are variable and determine the difficulty level of the game - Easy, Normal, Hard, or Cosmic difficulty). Each turn players can choose to place their Atlanteans in any of eight different areas - with placements closer to the sea being more rewarding, but subject to a higher risk of flooding (and the subsequent loss of the associated action). The players must also contend with the continually escalating threat of their Athenian enemies, who may destroy one or more island tiles each turn if insufficient Atlanteans are allocated to the island's protection.


You have been releasing “Design Journals”, rather frequently, outlining how you came to decide different aspects of your game. What was the thought process behind wanting to write these and do you think people enjoy looking “behind the curtain”, so to speak?

I actually had several different reasons for wanting to publish my (semi)weekly Design Journals. The first, to be very honest, was to generate some publicity and interest in the game. The second was that *I* enjoy these types of articles. In addition to being an avid board gamer, I am also a roleplayer and I really enjoy the Design & Development articles on the Dungeons & Dragons web site. Finally, as a member of the BGG community, I have always appreciated when designers are active on the boards answering rules questions and discussing design decisions with other members. I figured I’d get a jump start on that interaction by posting a few of my design decisions before the game was released, as sort of an open invitation to other members to engage in conversation about the game.




Misfortune cards, artwork by Karim Chakroun


Where there any games and/or designers that helped influence the design of Atlantis Rising?

A couple that spring immediately to mind are Stone Age and Kingsburg. Stone Age is a wonderful worker placement game and the mechanic for collecting resources in Atlantis Rising is based on the mechanic for collecting resources in Stone Age (also, one of the uses of mystic energy is based loosely on the “tools” mechanic in Stone Age). The winter battle in Kingsburg was the inspiration for the Athenians Attack phase in Atlantis Rising - the idea of an increasing threat that forces players to dedicate a (growing) number of their resources to defense is one I thought worked perfectly for a game like Atlantis Rising. I’m actually planning an entire Design Journal about influences on the game, so I’ll leave the rest for that article!


There are a lot of people who are designing games these days, but many never get the funding to publish the game on a large scale. You are fortunate to be able to have your game published by one of the hottest companies going these days, Z-Man Games. Can you describe how you and your game got noticed by Zev?

I have actually known Zev since Z-Man Games first started, through a mutual friend, but aside from maybe getting him to actually look at Atlantis Rising (instead of just rejecting the game outright), I’m not sure our acquaintance really had any bearing on the game getting published. Essentially, I followed the guidelines for submitting a game posted on the Z-Man Games web site. I submitted a letter summarizing the game and game play. After reading the game summary, Zev asked me to send him the prototype (which I did) and playtested it with his in-house playtesters. He liked the game and we hammered out a contract. Unlike several other major publishers, Z-Man accepts unsolicited game submissions so anyone can propose a game to Zev and potentially have it published by Z-Man Games!


What are some of your favorite modern games to play and do you look at games any differently after going through everything to designing your own game?

In terms of new cooperative games, I’m really looking forward to Yggdrasil (I have it pre-ordered from my FLGS). Ghost Stories is my favorite cooperative game, although I always enjoy Battlestar Galactica when I can get it to the table (I find it’s really much better when all the players have seen the series). Kingsburg (with the expansion) is probably my favorite board game of all time and Stone Age is probably my favorite worker placement game (and worker placement games are my favorite type of game). My girlfriend just got me Cargo Noir for my birthday, which may become my new go-to gateway game to introduce non-gamers to the hobby.

I don’t think I really look at games much differently after designing Atlantis Rising, although I suppose I am more knowledgeable now. I have a better understanding what mechanics I like and don’t like in a board game, from researching mechanics to include in Atlantis Rising, so it’s easier for me to know at a glance if I’m likely to enjoy a game or not. I’ve always tinkered with house rules and homemade expansions to games and that hasn’t changed, but I don’t think I’m any more critical of games than I was before.



What’s next for you? Any other games being designed that you can talk about?

I’m currently working on a competitive, area-control game based in ancient Babylonia - the premise is that the Tower of Babylon is crumbling and you must spread the Speakers of your particular language as far and wide as possible before the last foundation of the tower falls. It has been a challenge for me, because unlike Atlantis Rising the game is not as near and dear to my heart, in terms of incorporating mechanics that I personally enjoy. I am actually not a huge fan of area control games in general, but the core mechanic of the game is something I am excited about and hope people will really enjoy.

 
It certainly looks like Atlantis Rising has the potential to be a huge hit. Thank you very much for your time and I wish you nothing but the best for you and your game!

Thanks Ian! We’re planning a few surprises leading up to the release, so keep watching BoardGameGeek, the Atlantis Rising facebook page, and the Z-Man Games site.


We thank Galen Ciscell for taking the time to answer a few questions. And if Atlantis Rising sounds like a game you are interested in, then you're in luck! Up to its release some time this summer, I will be posting even more artwork and hopefully one of the very first reviews to be published online. So keep your eyes out for more Atlantis Rising goodness!


Bonus artwork



Knowledge cards, artwork by Karim Chakroun



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Wed Apr 6, 2011 5:31 pm
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How I resist the "Cult of the New"...most of the time

Ian Noble
United States
El Dorado Hills
California
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With so many really intriguing new games coming out these days, along with my Twitter followers always trying and recommending new games, I’ve had to come up with some guidelines in order for me to resist becoming the newest member of the "Cult of the New".

First and foremost, it must be something that I can play with my fiancée. This means the type of game has to be one that we'll both want to play, along with having a 2 player experience that holds up just as well as playing with 3, 4 or 5. Sure, Through the Ages, Dominant Species and Memoir '44 might be great games, but they will all just sit on my shelf and never see the light of day, except for that rare time they might get played at game night or a convention.

Another thing I try and pay attention to is not buying a game that one of my gaming buddies already has in their collection. As far as I know, all of them wouldn’t be opposed to me temporarily borrowing or trading for a game if I wanted to try it out. Obviously if I'm confident that we will want to play it multiple times or it's just a game that I really want in my collection, I will make an exception. But for the most part most games will only need to be played once or twice before determining if it passes all these conditions. Usually that can be accomplished at a game night by the person owning the game bringing it to the table.

Lastly, say a game plays great with 2 players and none of my game groupers own a copy, there is still one more thing that will keep me from pulling the trigger: similarity to something that I already have in my collection. A great example of this is Thunderstone. Sure it works just fine as a 2 player game and none of my buddies have picked up a copy, but we really enjoy Dominion and I just don’t see the need to add another deck building type of game, especially one so similar in its approach. Stock piling games that give me an experience that is not all that different from something else, just doesn't make sense to me. Of course if a game manages to make that experience better, then I might just keep the newer one and try to find a new home for the older one. Not really any point keeping the older game around if I have a better alternative available, in my opinion.

Of course this limits the games that make their way into my shopping cart, but I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. Recently I have found myself wanting to really delve into some of the games I already have rather than getting the next big thing. 7 Wonders, Mansions of Madness and Nightfall all look like really cool games and I would love to try them, but I would almost feel guilty for picking up any of those when I have more than a handful already on my shelf with less than 2 plays.

So how do you resist the “Cult of the New”? What about that top game on your wishlist, what keeps you from placing an order for it right now? Heck, maybe you don’t resist, but hopefully you have given the games in your collection a fair shot before moving to the latest and greatest.


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Sat Apr 2, 2011 11:47 pm
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Quick Chits: Selecting games at game night

Ian Noble
United States
El Dorado Hills
California
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Original article on TheNobleGamer.com

Selecting games at game night

This past week my gaming group started up a discussion regarding how we go about selecting the games we will be playing at our bi-weekly game nights. The idea was brought up because it seemed that many of us have new games that haven't been played yet, combined with the fact that all of us are willing to play just about anything under the sun. Unfortunately we are only able to get together about twice a month, for a 5-6 hour period. This usually means that our group gets through 3, and on the rarest of occasions, 4 games a night. All of us are just happy we can find the time to get together at all, let alone be able to play our favorite games!

This last game night I introduced Earth Reborn (more on that coming soon) and even though the scenario we played was supposed to be the quickest available for 4 players, it still went on for 3+ hours, ending in a draw. Granted the first hour was taken up with me trying to explain the rules and setting up everything required for the scenario. Luckily I setup the board before my guests arrived, because they could have tacked on another 30-40 minutes. But I digress...

This brings up one of the problems we seem to always run into when selecting the next game to play, after finishing the intro game. Since usually our first game is a light filler where everyone knows the rules, or if they don't, can be taught very quickly. The second game, however, needs to be a good one because we are all "warmed up" now. But most of the time we try and find something based on 2 criteria:

1. Either everyone knows the rules or the person owning the game knows the rules well enough to be able to teach everyone else.

2. Has to be playable in less than 2 hours (including rules explanation and setup). Granted this is not a hard-fast rule, but it is usually implied.

This presents an interesting issue. Unless I own the game or have played it at a previous game night, I probably don't know the rules well enough to play it. Since I'm pretty much the low man on the totem pole, when it comes to my gaming experience, I'm the one they look at to see if anyone needs to be taught the game. So now we are trying to choose between a couple games that we've all played before and a few that are new that will require rules explanation. Usually the way this gets resolved is by one person just grabbing a game off the shelf and say "Here, let's play this one." Not once has anyone objected to the game that was selected, but the final selection came after sometimes as much as a 5 minute discussion. There has got to be a better way.

One idea that was proposed was for each person to select a game they really want to play, regardless of whether the others have played it before. We can then rotate through the group allowing each of us the chance to break open that game that's been sitting on the shelf waiting to get to the table. Personally, I think this is a very elegant solution, especially since there are only 4 of us and sometimes even 3. Sure, maybe one of us won't get our game played that night, but in that case we will just make sure that it's the first game to the table the next game night. This will allow us to select a game that maybe we don't have the rules down pat to and spend the time before game night learning the best way to teach it. Or, in my case, testing it out on Lisa. I do much better actually playing the game rather than just reading the rulebook or even watching video reviews online.

Question of the day

How do you go about selecting the games to be played at game night?

Do you leave it up to the host?
Do you follow the Bring-Your-Own-Game (BYOG) method?
Is it completely random and you choose based on what you feel like playing at that moment?
Or do you have another solution to this problem?

Feel free to comment on this article or send me a tweet @ianoble.


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Mon Mar 21, 2011 10:03 pm
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Quick Chits (3/10/2011): Adlungland & Rallyman

Ian Noble
United States
El Dorado Hills
California
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In today's Quick Chits I will be describing two promising new games that have moved up to the top of my wishlist.

Adlungland



Adlungland is a fairly light and simple game about building an amusement park. Each player takes on the role of vice president, hoping to build the most successful amusement destination. The game is made up just a deck of cards, with each card being used to assemble rides, following only a few rules such as placement next to existing attractions and price to build. Silvano Sorrentino designed this game using a very streamlined icon system allowing the players to track how scary rides are, the amount of money you receive after completing the attraction and the amount of time the ride takes to build.

Looks like it could be a nice little filler with a different enough theme to break into the usual pack of warm-up games. I was lucky enough to pick up the last copy from Time Well Spent, so I'll be able to give my impressions after it gets to the table.


Rallyman



Rallyman is a game for 1 to 4 players that simulates a rally event. Players move (drive) their cars around the track using a set of 7 specially designed dice. 5 black dice each have a gear number (1-5) indicating the gear the car is in or the gear you want to put your car in. 2 white dice are used to accelerate the car while staying the the current gear.

Each player is trying to navigate around the track finishing with the quickest time. Being a rally event, only the time matters so most of the time other cars won't be a factor. It's just the car against the track. And what interesting tracks there are! The stages are filled with many twisty sections where the cars must watch their speed (by down shifting into higher gears) or risk spinning out and crashing. Like any auto race, there is also a chance that something unexpected will go wrong (indicated by rolling an exclamation mark on the dice) sending the car into off the track and having to take damage, thus adding valuable seconds to the players lap time.

When the driver decides to end his turn (for not having more available dice or to avoid losing control of the car), he takes the Gear Card that corresponds to the last rolled die and puts it on the top of his stack of cards (the chrono pile) which is formed in front of the driver. After Œfinishing the stage, each driver adds the times of their Gear Cards accumulated in his chrono pile. The total time is recorded and the driver who has achieved the fastest time wins that stage.

The tracks are made up from beautifully illustrated boards that can be arranged to make a large number of different stages. The boards are even double sided, increasing the difficulty by introducing unfavorable weather conditions. Players will be forced to navigate across a snowy track, obviously making their traction less than ideal.

Right now the game is available at CoolStuffInc for $50, but once the stock runs out there is no telling when it will be available again. I have yet to pick up a copy, but it ranks very high on my wishlist.

To find out more about the designer Jean-Christoph Bouvier, check out a great interview by Little Metal Dog.


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Thu Mar 10, 2011 9:41 pm
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