Bits of Boardgames

Mix of reviews, critiques on the classic games, and my random musings about board games.

Archive for David Montgomery

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Star Runner Part 1, A Game Design report

David Montgomery
United States
Modesto
California
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Original Post and pictures:http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/04/star-runner-par...

Friday marked a completely new experience for me in my board game life. I played a game of my own design. Yes, that's right, a design of my own creation and a lot of help from a few friends came together in paper and cardboard to make a board game. If you hadn't guess from the title, the game is operating under the name Star Runner. Star Runner stared as a rough concept in the summer of 2009. I wanted to design a game based on Firefly, so my first thought was to use different elements of that universe and figure something out to make it work. As I worked on it, I realized I wanted some more creative freedom, so the Firefly cannon was dropped, but some ideas still exist from that.
Some of those ideas are found in the set-up of the game, which is get a ship, get a crew, find a job, try to make money, and stay out of trouble.

It's still very early on, but I spent 3 hours printing everything (thanks to my generous aunt and her color laser printer) and then the better part of a week gluing, cutting and sleeving everything. As my friends will attest, I kept telling people I was cutting something for my game, and I felt it was all I was ever telling them. I would cut while watching TV or listening to podcasts, and use my friends as nice breaks from the strain of scissors.

I think the components look pretty good, especially for testing. I'm using old Star Trek CCG cards as backers for the big cards, and the US Ticket to Ride cards as backers for the small cards. Fortunately, they don't detract from the game play, though the sleeves get annoying for shuffling at times. The good news with shuffling is that most of it is done in the beginning, and after that, there's very little, so it keeps things moving. It took us about an hour to go through set-up and teaching, but that's because I was the only person setting up, and next time it should go faster, at least I can hope.

One of my biggest fears going in, besides the fear of complete rejection and not having a fun game, was that the market system would crash and burn. As it turns out, it was a pretty clear system with two players monitoring it. Everyone ended up having a job or two of their own. One player was the banker for money, two managed the market, and helped with cards. One also helped manage the movement arcs, and I took care of drawing market and inspection tokens. Several other things crashed and burned, but we tweaked what we could while playing, and wrote down changes that we think will work better next time. Next time is also the best news I could ever get, because it means they liked the game.

Speaking of the fear of rejection, it really is unnerving to place something you've created in front of other people for the first time. I've invested parts of the last 30 months into this, and a good portion of the last 3 months, so to have that go to waste would be deflating.

The crucial thing I learned with testing this was how to make adjustments on the fly. We saw that something wasn't working, and we came up with a way to fix it. Some other things are design elements I have to go back and rework, but I have a much better idea on how the game plays, and thus how to design it how I want it to play.

I hope this post also clarifies why I've been a bit sparse with my postings. Trying to get a design to prototyping was a big push, and once I could see it close, I just had to get there. My original plan was May 1st and I'm proud to say I beat that arbitrary deadline by 2.5 weeks.

If you'd like to know more, leave a comment with any questions, and I will answer them to the best of my ability in Part 2.
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Sat Apr 14, 2012 11:47 am
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SORRY! Well, not really, but it's the name of the game.

David Montgomery
United States
Modesto
California
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Originally posted on my blog
http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/03/sorry-well-not-...

Today, we're talking about the classic game Sorry. For those of you who don't know the game, here's a brief rundown. Each player has 4 pawns that start in a safe start area. You have to play a 1 or 2 to get a pawn out. Then your goal is to get each of your pawns to your own home area, which consists of going through almost every spot on the board.

There's a lot of luck in Sorry, as you've come to expect from most mainstream games. Sorry comes down to draw a card, play a card, so there's not much strategy for most of the game. One change I've seen that allows for a great deal of strategy is to have players maintain a 5 card hand. That way they can choose when to play a Sorry! card, when to pull their pawns out of start, and when to simply move. It's not a perfect change, but it's a good one.

I still enjoy Sorry, especially when I play with the 5 card hand rule. It's a game as written that I can play with young kids, and as they get older, I'd add in the hand element to teach them some strategy. It's fun moving pawns over the board, and oddly satisfying to get a Sorry! card at that key moment.

Sure, Sorry isn't the most grueling mental exercise, but as a way to pass time with every player having an equal chance to win, it's a pretty good game.

While we're on the topic of Sorry, let me bring up Sorry Sliders. Sorry Sliders is a dexterity game that happens to use the Sorry name for recognition. Some of the rules do translate, such as having 4 pawns at start which you are trying to get home, but the game is all about sliding these cool pawns that have a ball-bearing in them to slide along the track. Once again, it's not a complex game, but still a lot of fun to be had by players of all ages.

On a personal note, I haven't been playing many games lately, my gaming family has been fairly busy, but to that end, I'll be in Santa Barbara this weekend, and have Friday night and all day Saturday scheduled for game playing, so look for a post on that either as I'm playing or in the days following.
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Thu Mar 29, 2012 8:24 am
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Life: If only it were as easy as start with a car, get a job, get married, get a house, have kids, retire.

David Montgomery
United States
Modesto
California
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http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/03/life-if-only-it...
Today we're talking about the classic game LIFE. I have to be honest upfront and say that this is one of my least favorite classic games. My sister loved it, but to me, the biggest choice was which path to choose when they went separate ways, and if I should buy stock in a number or not. To me, the game was far too much luck, and no choice, but I'm getting ahead of myself here.

There are a few things to like about the Game of Life. It is a fairly accurate portrayal of the major events that can happen in one's life. It does reward going to college, so that's something positive to take away. It does require one to get married before having kids, and not to play any kind of personal view card, but being married before having kids is a good value to teach kids playing the game. The board is visually appealing, especially with the hills and buildings giving it a 3D view. In the version I have, the pieces are of good quality, the people pegs fit in the minivans without issue, and the tokens and cards are high quality.

As for the negatives, there are many. A player is completely at the mercy of the spinner most of the time. Spin high consistently and you'll finish early, but the odds are you won't have enough life tiles to actually win. Spin low consistently and you won't get bonuses at the end, but you should have a lot of life tiles to make up the difference and then some. That brings me to the next point, life tiles. The distribution is too random. Someone could get 3 tiles, and each have $250,000, while someone else gets 6 tiles at $50,000, and is nowhere close to the person who only got three. In addition, the job pool is fine, but determining salary based on a random pull is just an odd choice, same thing with the house. In fact, it's better to have the cheapest house possible because there's no appreciation or resale of the home at the end. It's a great idea for a house, but the mechanic makes no sense.

I don't want to bash Life too much. It was a game that my mom and sister would actually play, and that resulted in some good family time. It is an easy enough game to play with young kids, and it gives people a journey to go through. There isn't a lot of competitiveness or player interaction here, but it's kinda fun to watch what other people are doing.

One improvement I would offer is to use a d6 for movement instead of the 10 spot spinner. It would make the game a bit longer, but it would also keep players closer, and give more chances to earn life tiles.

There aren't many hobby games that use the theme or the mechanics of Life, so it's hard to find a comparison. Games where you roll the dice, or spin a spinner and see what happens just don't make for strategic gameplay. The closest game I know of is This Game is Bonkers, but that's only in mechanics.

I have played and enjoyed Star Wars Life, but copies are hard to find these days, and only getting harder to find. If you like Life and Star Wars and you see this at a garage sale or thrift store, PICK IT UP! It's worth it.
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Mon Mar 5, 2012 4:36 am
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Keystone Games

David Montgomery
United States
Modesto
California
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Original Post http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/03/keystone-games....

Many people enjoy playing board games, but the main question is how to start a collection of games. Sure, it's "easy" to go out and buy 20 different games, but that costs a lot of money. A lot of people are very careful with how they spend their money these days, so I want to take a look at games that give you a lot of bang-for-your-buck, and that give you a good variety of games.

The goal here is to give you some ideas for games that give you different play experiences, work for a good player range, and don't cost all that much money. Consider this the starter set of games. It can be expanded, games can be interchanged, but these are good ones to start with, and games that will give you a good collection.

Now, not every category is relevant to every person, nor is this list comprehensive, but I feel it's a good place to start.

The Short Family Friendly Game
We need a game or two that is short enough to play while dinner is close to ready, or a game before bed on a weekday. Some good suggestions: Incan Gold, Can't Stop, No Thanks!, High Society.
For this, I recommend Tiki Topple. The production quality here is excellent, and the game plays in under 30 minutes, typically closer to 20 minutes, but can be made shorter or longer by changing the point total to win. For more on Tiki Topple read my spiel on it in the Top 42 list.

Party Game
Every gamer needs a good game they can pull out with a large group of people and have a good time playing. It shouldn't be too long, and certainly not complex, but it should be something to get people talking.
Here, I offer a few suggestions. Apples to Apples is a good one to get people talking. Werewolf or Mafia is great with a group of people who know each other, also great for a large group. Tumblin' Dice is a lot of fun, but it's rather expensive, so it loses out on the Bang-for-your-buck aspect. Wits and Wagers works well for a more intellectual gathering. All of that being said, if you have to own just one party game, Say Anything gives you the best bang for your buck. It's ~$20, you can find it in most Targets and Toys 'R Us, as well as various online stores, and it was designed to get people talking about the questions. It's a great way to get to know other people in a fun and creative way.

Co-operative game
I think that a lot of people view boardgames as only competitive endeavors, but there are dozens of games where players are required to work as a team in order to achieve victory. I own several of these games, and I enjoy the ones I have for the most part, but the best one in terms of Bang-for-your-buck is Forbidden Island. It's the cheapest co-op game I own, but it's also on the same level of fun as the rest.
Some other co-op games that would be good for a collection, Pandemic, Space Hulk: Death Angel the card game, Defenders of the Realm.

Team game/co-op with a Traitor
Sometimes you don't just want to work together as a team, winning and losing together, so here's a category for you. For me, three games really stand out for this category: Shadows Over Camelot, Battlestar Galactica, and The Resistance. This category boils down to what you want out of the traitor mechanic. The Resistance is the shortest game, and you're trying to figure out who's against you, so they can't hurt your ability to win. I don't own the Resistance, but it seems like a good time. Shadows Over Camelot is a great theme implementation. The game boils down to finding the one traitor, if there even is one, and deciding when to win certain quests, and what can be lost. Battlestar is pure theme, with some decent mechanics. It's probably the most balanced of the games with traitors, but there's still a lot of luck. My advice would be to get The Resistance. It has a good player range, and it's the cheapest game of the three here.

Dexterity Game
Here's a category where even the best strategy can be mitigated by how well you can do some physical task. The best known game in this genre is either Crokinole or Pitch Car, but both of these get fairly expensive. So let's take a look at some less expensive dexterity games. Catacombs blends flicking with strategy, but even then it's a bit expensive. Pitch Car Mini is another good option, still pricy, but feasible. Ultimately this category comes down to 2 games for me - Bisikle/Roadsters and Sorry Sliders/Sorry Sliders 2. Roadsters has the better quality components, but Sorry Sliders 2 just seems more fun. There's a lot more you can do in terms of hazards and track arrangement with what comes in the box.
Therefore, the pick for dexterity game is Sorry Sliders 1 or 2.

Random Skills Game
This is for those games that involve some kind of skill that isn't normally seen in games, but that people use in life sometimes. These typically aren't high strategy games, but they have their place on our gaming shelves. Two games come to mind for me: Dixit and Aargh!Tect. Dixit is a game about telling a concise story as a clue so that at least one, but not all, players can figure out which card is yours. You also have to figure out other players' clues when you aren't giving them. This isn't all that abnormal, but the story-telling aspect isn't seen often. Aargh!Tect is unlike any other game I've ever seen. There are two teams competing to arrange pieces to form the building that the manager has. The manager has to give directions to the builders, but the manager has an inflatable club, and can only use caveman language and certain motions. When players get it right they get 1 tap from the club, but when they get it wrong, it's 2 taps.
Aargh!Tect is my choice based on the experience alone. You grow to fear the club coming down on you, but it's all in good fun. Dixit is the cheaper option, and probably better for some groups, so it's really up to you.

2 Player Only Game
There are a lot of 2 player games on the market, and many of them are good games. These aren't my forte since I rarely play only 2 player games, but I have a few I like, and some others I know enough about to recommend. I have four 2-player games that I play every so often: Memoir '44, Mr. Jack, 1960:The Making of the President, and Twilight Struggle. All three games have good parts and drawbacks for me. If you like political games, either 1960 or Twilight Struggle is a good call depending on if you want to focus on US Politics or Global Events of the Cold War. Mr. Jack is good if you're looking for a deduction game, but it lacks great replayability in my mind. Memoir '44 is a good WWII game with pretty good mechanics, and a ton of expansions. From what I've heard, Lost Cities the card game is a great two-player game. It's been described as a great couples game. So even though I haven't played Lost Cities, I'm going to recommend it as the 2 player game to own.

Introduction Game
There are three big games when it comes to intro style games, and I don't think you can go wrong with any of the three. Those three are of course Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride. They're all good games, but if I had to pick one that works to teach people about hobby boardgames, I'd have to choose Ticket to Ride. Your mileage may vary of course, but the variety of Ticket maps gives players more options.

Advanced - non brain-burning Game
I suppose we can call this category the next step games. There's a lot of games that could fit in here, but I'll give you a few of my favorites. Small World and 7 Wonders both fit here. Yes, I know a lot of people say 7 Wonders could be an intro game, but I really think it's a next level game. Kingsburg would also be a good fit, though it has a fair amount of dice, it also has strategy. Any of these games would work well depending on your predilections, but my choice here is Cosmic Encounter.


Brain Drain Game
Here's a category for those times when you want to sit down and play a game for 2+ hours and really get into it. I know these kind of games aren't for everyone, but sometimes it's nice to have a complicated game to play. I've personally only played one of these, Agricola, and I enjoyed it. So Agricola is my recommendation. Personally, I'd rather play a variety of games than one brain-burner, but Agricola is still a good one to have around. Some other games that fit the category here: Puerto Rico, Brass, Le Havre, Caylus, Twilight Imperium III. None of these games are cheap, but Agricola is reasonably priced and has a lot of replayability in the box.

Card Game
This isn't for your traditional deck of cards game, but rather for a game that is all, or essentially all cards. This includes the better CCGs, like Magic and Pokemon, Living Card Games such as Call of Cthulhu, Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, as well as deck-building games like Ascension, A Few Acres of Snow, Thunderstone, and my personal pick Dominion. The base game is very reasonably priced, and has 3,268,760 differ possible card sets. I'd say that's good variety.

Dice Game
The last thing that every collection needs is a dice game. There are many games that use dice, but this is for a game that makes dice the main or only portion of the game. There are a lot of good games that are basically just dice, LCR and Liar's Dice come to mind; but the best dice game I've played is Roll Through the Ages. It's fairly inexpensive and has a lot of variety and strategies to it.

Recap
Here's the list of my recommendations
Tiki Topple
Say Anything
Forbidden Island
The Resistance
Sorry Sliders 1 or 2
Aargh!Tect
Lost Cities
Ticket to Ride
Cosmic Encounter
Agricoa
Dominion
Roll Through the Ages
If you wanted to start a game collection, or boil a collection down to 12 games, I think this list would give you a good variety of themes, styles, and player range (2-10).
Is this comprehensive? By no means. I don't even own 3 of the games, though I've played 2 of them.
I suppose my main point here is, when you're looking for new games, variety is key. Expansions to what you own are great, and take up less shelf space, so that gives you more of the same type of play experience.

Sorry for the short novel on building a collection, but I feel it's a necessary thing to have.
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Sun Mar 4, 2012 2:05 am
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February 2012 Monthly Update

David Montgomery
United States
Modesto
California
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http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/03/february-2012-m...

Welcome to March!
February only saw two good game days, so the play count was down. I logged 14 game plays not counting expansions, bringing the running total to 50. It's a little behind, but March shows a lot of promise with Spring Break allowing Aaron to return home for some Risk Legacy.

I acquired two new games, Ascending Empires and Twilight Struggle, as well as Dominion Hinterlands. I also have a preorder for the new Cosmic Encounter expansion, so that should arrive shortly.

My unplayed game count is now at 14 due to playing Ascending Empires and Twilight Struggle from the new games.
Tales of the Arabian Nights (soon)
RoboRally (soon)
Zooloretto
Coloretto (Soon)
Descent (Summer hopefully)
Scrabble Slam
Monopoly Express
Clue Express
Battleship Express
Crappy Birthday
S'quarrels
Risk 2210 AD (Risk Legacy takes precedent)
Settlers of Canaan (no rush since I have other means of playing Catan)
High Bid
February saw the 2,000th page view for this blog which is incredible in under 3 months, thank-you all so much for that.
I finished my top 42 list, so that was exciting to get through. I spent a lot of time on random musings articles, but also found time for some reviews on
Scrabble
Clue
Risk
Scary Tales
Wits and Wagers Party
February was a slow month because I only got a new camera on the 20th, plus I was spending a lot of time on the custom work for Star Trek Fleet Captains.

March should hold a full review for the following
7 Wonders
Rattus
Star Trek Fleet Captains

I plan on taping a how to play video for 7 wonders, since there have been some requests. This will take time, but hopefully it will be out soon.
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Fri Mar 2, 2012 12:41 am
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It's All About the People

David Montgomery
United States
Modesto
California
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http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/02/its-all-about-p...
I was listening to The Dice Tower Podcast, episode 243 the other night, and the segment the Chief presented struck a chord with me. He spoke about a gaming buddy who really wanted to play Battlestar Galactica at a conference, and it made him realize that he was fortunate to have so many people who like to play games in his life.

This made me remember again how many amazing people I have met through boardgames, and how many more I hope to meet in the future. I have a gaming family who opens their house to me nearly every weekend to come and play games, and then on top of that, they feed me wonderful food. More than that though, they've welcomed my friends over to join in, and I think everyone who's gone over has had a wonderful time. They've truly become my second family, and a home away from home, even though it's 5 minutes down the road.

Secondly, I have my college friends who endured my overzealousness with boardgames and constant pleas to play. I've talked a lot about those them, look for other history posts, but I'll say one big summation about my college years. I would not have enjoyed school nearly as much if it wasn't for the people who played games.

I have a lot of other people who play games. I have friends who invite me over to play with their parents, or their siblings, friends who will come over and play a two-player game with me, and one of my cousins who has a conglomeration of various people who will play games occasionally.

So here's to all the people I count as friends who play games. Your time spent gaming is a source of joy in my life. You have been the inspiration for this blog and the driving force in my life.

Too often it takes tragedy to make people remember what's truly important. Well, no tragedies in my life right now, just a 2am rambling, and a good perspective on things.

Take time to thank the people who play games with you. It's amazing how much a thank-you and a smile can go.

Until next time, remember, games are rather boring if we have no one to play with.
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Fri Mar 2, 2012 12:40 am
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Yes Virginia, There is a Secret Santa, He Just Doesn't Have a Calendar

David Montgomery
United States
Modesto
California
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Friday, February 17, 2012
http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/02/yes-virginia-th...

Valentine's Day (ok 3 days after) is a lot better timeframe than Easter.
Tiny bit of backstory to make that make sense, last year I was the last person to get games from Secret Santa, but it was all worth it in the end, as Santa was immensely generous.

So as Christmas drew near and nothing showed up, I was thinking "Here we go again!" I came home on Christmas night and found a GM from Santa, saying he had some delays, but was taking care of things. Then February rolled around, so I inquired about things with Octavian. Got a response on Thursday Feb 16th. Turns out my first replacement had something come up, (hey, life happens, no harm done), so I had a second and games were on the way.

Today (Friday), I hear the doorbell ring, and there are 2 packages on my doorstep from Amazon. I figure it's something my mom ordered, but then I see my name on both of the boxes, and they're heavy!

I break out the pocket knife and open the boxes to find them wrapped with a little card on each one saying "Enjoy! From Your 2nd Secret Santa"

The small box has one game, a little bit long and flat, so I take that out but leave it wrapped. The bigger box has two games roughly that Ticket to Ride box size. I open one of the bigger boxes and find Dominion: Hinterlands. Awesome, it's the expansion I need to complete things for now, still need to get sleeves though (not Santa's fault, just my own pickiness). I know this one will get played, as I've played a bunch on Isotropic.

The next big box contained Ascending Empires. I love Catacombs, and I love sic-fi games, so this seems to be a great fit. I've heard a lot of good things, and look forward to playing this one.

That smaller box that I mentioned early was the true surprise - Twilight Struggle. I've really enjoyed 1960:Making of the President, but the guy I play with and I are both looking for something with even more tension. I was born right at the end of the Cold War, so I don't have a full appreciation for the tension, but I've heard it's an amazing design, and a great game, so this will get played. It might be a bit, since I don't play 2 player games often, but I'll get it to the table eventually.

Big Thank-you to Secret Santa and BGG for taking care of things. I know it's odd to be on the "snub" list two years running. By snub I mean needing a replacement Santa.

The JOY of Secret Santa is in the giving. I wish more people understood that.

Thanks for reading. Hopefully I make a post like this in December 2012 and not in early 2013!
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Thu Mar 1, 2012 7:52 am
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Murder? OR Mr. Boody is Dead, Which One of You Did it? Oh Wait, It's ME!

David Montgomery
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http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/02/murder-or-mr-bo...

This week for Not In Candyland, we're talking Clue, or Cluedo for the Brits among us.

I write this with the disclaimer that Clue was and is still my favorite mass market game, I even went to a character night as Mr. Boody, it was easy, white dress shirt, black bow tie, jacket, dress pants. But I digress.

Clue is the classic who done it game. Essentially it's a race to figure out who did it, what they used, and where the murder took place. Now, the fact that you don't know where the murder took place, yet you have a body is odd, as well as the fact that your character can be the murderer and you don't even know it. Those bits aside, it still is a reasonable deduction game.

I like the aspect of figuring out what's missing from the deck. You have to use the cards in your hand to help do that, but you have to be careful because everyone else hears your suspicions, meaning if something goes around the table with no response they know either you have those cards, or that is the set of mystery items. When I first played the game it was all about me figuring things out, but then I learned to pay attention to what everyone else was asking. I started to notice patterns with what people asked and I was eventually able to figure out what they had in their hand.

I won't go too much into the strategy behind clue, since that eliminates some of the fun. Also, my ideas are by no means perfect, but I do tend to win a fair bit. What I have noticed is that players spend most of their turns rolling dice and not making a room. I think an improvement to the game would be to make sure players could go to a room each turn. As the board is now, some rooms are much harder to get to, i.e. Kitchen, Billiard Room, and others are easy. The secret passageways do help movement, but it leads to clumping of characters. It's also annoying when someone suspects you, forcing you into a room you don't want to be in, so you have to start your trek all over again. The other thing is that sometimes luck hits on the first turn and a player knows one or two parts of the case, which isn't much fun for everyone else. I've never seen a one turn win, but I know it's possible.

What's to Like?

Good introduction to deduction games
Plays up to 6 people
Simple rules
Short playtime
What's not to Like?
Luck with movement
Too much luck in terms of guessing clues
Location being determined by other players
Overall, I like Clue for what it is. There are better mystery games out there, which I'll get to in a moment, but Clue has a unique blend of fun and simplicity with a good logic challenge.

If you like Clue, but you're looking for a more in depth game, here's some options.
Code 777 - this is more of a logic game with numbers, but it also has deduction aspects.

Mystery of the Abby - a clue-like game where the deduction comes from figuring out which Monk is missing by asking careful question. This is Out of Print, but worth playing if you have it or know someone who does.

Mystery Express - the game that replaced MoaB in DOW catalog. It takes the what's missing and twists it so there are two copies of each card, and players have to figure out which card exists only once in each category. It's not perfect, but it is fun every once in awhile.
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Thu Mar 1, 2012 7:45 am
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I Tried and I Tried and I Tried

David Montgomery
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(but everybody wants to pull me down, they say I'm going crazy. Lyrics from Somebody to Love)
But that's not why I wrote this article. I want to talk about games that we've given a chance or two or three, and they just don't work. Now, my goal is not to attack specific games, but rather talk about why they don't work. This is highly subjective, and something that flops for me may be a great success for you, so don't take it personally.

Two games specifically stand out, though others exist. Both games are published by the same company and have long rulebooks. Now, I enjoy other games from this company, so it isn't a widespread problem, but these games have both lead to ending the game halfway through. Both games had themes which I thought would be interesting in a boardgame, but the implementation of them seemed clouded in terms of game design. Maybe I've been spoiled with the elegance of games like Ticket to Ride and Cosmic Encounter, but when a game feels more like work than fun, a red flag goes up.

There's no hard and fast rule as to how long a game needs to be played in order to determine if it's a hit or a miss, but I'd say 3-4 hours is a good starting point. For one game, we'll call it game "A" the issue was to knowing what it really took to win the game. Now, this is fine in a game like Dominion where you play for ~30 minutes, and then it's over, but when you're facing a 6 hour playtime, that's not such a good thing. Game A also had a lot of sub quests that players could partake in order to score points, which is interesting, but once again, without understanding how they relate, it's hard to know what is worth it and what isn't for your specific character. Game A is the only game that I played once, stopped part way through, and completely refuse to play again unless someone who knows the game sits down and teaches it to me.

The problem with game B was a dependance on each player to keep the others in check. This is Game of Thrones, the first edition. There has been a reprint which incorporates expansion elements which supposedly balance the game so that any house can win. The problem we ran into was probably more in play styles such that we didn't want to work together, so attacking was rare, and it became a giant stalemate.

So what causes games to flop in general?


First, games that make players play the game a specific way. Most people like to try their own strategy and do something different, so forcing them to play a specific way in order to win isn't much fun. Players want the ability to make choices and still win the game even if they didn't make the right choice every single time.



Second, convoluted rulebooks. I'm not opposed to long rulebooks; complicated games are great fun every so often, but the game needs to be teachable. The Ares Project took an interesting approach to this problem by having essentially a learning game rulebook. It takes the big rules and boils them down to maybe 33% of what the full game has. This gives players the ability to try and make mistakes without becoming overwhelmed. If the game is going to have a 30+ page rulebook, there needs to be some form of teaching guide included, and if possible a way to learn without playing the whole game.



Third, theme. Not everyone worries about the theme in a game, but to others, it can be the sole reason to play or not play a game. Personally, I don't care for zombie games with high zombie theme, or horror for that matter, yet I play Give Me the Brain, which is lightly zombie themed, and Space Hulk: Death Angel, which has a dark side. Those themes appeal to certain people, and if you love them, great, there's games out there, but they don't strike everyone's fancy.



Fourth, playtime. This isn't saying that any particular playtime is good or bad. I like 10 minute games, I like 3-4 hour games, if I had a longer game that I liked, it would be good. What I mean by playtime is that the game should be engaging for the duration of the time. Players should be involved and choices should matter. You don't want to feel like you're going through the motions, but you also don't want to play a 2+ hour game knowing you have no chance at winning.
One play is rarely enough to determine if you like a game or not. If the entire group isn't enjoying it, then the odds are it will never work for that group, but maybe another group will love it. Many games depend on the people playing it, so don't give up after one play. Also, don't force a game you don't enjoy on people with the hope that it will get better. I guess what I'm saying is that there's a balance between a flop of a game and a flop for a group, try not to confuse them, else you might miss out on some good games. The flip side, if a game doesn't work for you, don't be afraid to sell it, trade it, or carve it up for spare parts.
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Thu Mar 1, 2012 7:43 am
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Why We Play

David Montgomery
United States
Modesto
California
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bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com My Game Blog
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http://bitsofboardgames.blogspot.com/2012/02/why-we-play.htm...
As children, many of us would play boardgames with our families. It was something we could all do together, and it didn't involve the television. Personally, I played many games with my grandpa. It was something we could both enjoy and it kept me out of my parents hair for awhile. There were also the New Year's Eve games of Monopoly with aunts, uncles, and cousins. I grew up with 4 older cousins who would all play Risk. I was too young to play with them, though I suspect that they just wanted to keep the game shorter, something I can't blame them for attempting. We saw various editions of Monopoly come and go, Star Wars (Original Trilogy), .com, Millennium, and others, but we were always together having a good time. If you went bankrupt in Monopoly, you simply watched TV or ate food, or did something else with the rest of the family; that's the advantage of ~16 people hanging out. As my cousins got into High School, the games seemed to stop. People had dates and everyone was just busier in general. Sure, I still played games with friends every once in awhile, but video games had taken over. It was the time of the N64 and eventually the Gamecube, and that's what people wanted to play.

Now, I suspect elements of this resonate with every gamer, but we all found a path to games. Maybe it was a college roommate, maybe it was a significant other having an interest in the hobby, maybe it was a longing for the togetherness we felt as children playing games with our friends and family.

I submit to you my readers that the main reason we play boardgames is to be together.

I am an introvert by nature, as I suspect many board gamers are, yet in playing boardgames I have become more of an extrovert. It's an amazing social lubricant, by which I mean that games give people a medium to organize their interactions where they can feel safe and have a good time. I made friends because of boardgames that I would probably have never even talked to if it wasn't for games in some way. I look at the college majors/degrees that people I played games with at some point and basically everything is covered. I have a Math degree, and others have Psychology, Chemistry, Biology, English, Music, Spanish, Philosophy, Physics and Computer Science. Now, this isn't every major, but it shows the variety of interests and personalities that I spent a good deal of time with.

The two things that brought portions of that group together were dinner and boardgames. When you're in college, specifically a residential campus, you're around people all the time, but it's hard to find closeness there. People are around all the time, but until you sit down and do something, it's not the same.

Some other reasons we play boardgames

Fun
Games are certainly a lot of fun, but others are strategic. Still, it can be enjoyable to just do something more than sitting and talking.

Cost Effectiveness
A boardgame is a great investment. Figure your average game costs ~$40, and that you'll play it 10 times at about an hour a play. That's still only $4 an hour per play. Good luck finding something else you can do for $4 an hour for a group of 3-6 people. (Yes, I know things exist, but they're harder to find.)

Brain Engaging
Some people like games because the games make them think. Many games present you with a problem and limited ways to create the best solution. Some games are economics driven, where it's all about building a good "engine." Other games are a puzzle with only one right solution, and it's a race to see who gets it first. Boardgames are more thought driven than watching TV or playing most video/computer games.

Stories/Memories
This refers to both stories about the game and the people who play. Take a moment to come up with a happy memory about playing a game. I bet it doesn't take more than 15 seconds. That's the power of games. We remember playing them because of the people. It gives us something to talk about with that group, and new people when they join in. This is why I always try to share something personal about a game when I do a review.

Competitiveness
I won't say that this is the best reason to play games for me personally, but it is a reason nevertheless. Sometimes it's nice to play a game where someone gets to be the winner. It gives individuals a chance to put their skills to the test and see who's the best. Now, you have to remember that it is just a game, and when the game is done that's that, but winning is a very satisfying feeling.

To wrap things up, there are many reasons why we play boardgames. There aren't really any wrong reasons to play, though gambling/financial gain may be one of them. Whatever your own reasons for gaming are, be sure you know them. I'd love to hear why you play games, especially if I've missed a big reason. So please, leave a comment and let me know why you play boardgames.
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Thu Mar 1, 2012 7:40 am
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