Carl's Ponderings On....

A place for me to post my thoughts on games and gaming related topics.

Archive for Carl Garber

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Designing a Boardgame

Carl Garber
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So a couple months ago my wife made an offhand remark of, "Hey, you spend so much time on boardgames why don't you just design one?" To which I laughed and said, "I could never design a game! I don't even know how these designers come up with these ridiculously interesting and innovative mechanisms all the time!" or something to that effect. While I enjoy and analyse boardgames, I couldn't comprehend ever having an idea good enough that other people(or even myself!) would actually want to spend time playing!

Fast forward to a couple nights ago where I couldn't fall a sleep. As I lay awake my thoughts turned to boardgaming in general and Stefan Feld games in particular(a rare occurrence I assure you ). I thought how crazy it was that he has come up with so many interesting uses with dice. And then I asked myself, "What else could you really do with dice that hasn't already been done?" And as I lay there contemplating that thought an idea formed in my head. An idea of using dice in such a way that seemed actually interesting to me!

The funny thing is that it was not just an isolated idea. It was a whole bunch of ideas that seemed to fit together! A picture of a gameboard came to my mind; a resource generating mechanism based on Macao; a way to incorporate "special power" tiles; a way to spend the these collected resources; a way to randomize both the costs and location of resources; the way to move around the board to gather resources and spend them.

The ideas were coming so fast and were so cohesive that I stopped for a moment and thought to myself, "What should I do with these ideas?" My first thought was to simply pass on my ideas to Stefan Feld(you know, because that guy OBVIOUSLY needs help coming up with ideas for boardgames), but then an even more ridiculous thought came to my mind, "maybe I should just try to design this game and see where it goes?" And so I grabbed up my iphone and started typing down my ideas.

The idea of designing a boardgame still seems crazy to me. And I would be shocked to see my idea ever come to fruition. But yet still I think it will be fun to see where things go. So far I drew up a map and personal player board. I've already identified areas that didn't work and ways to make them work. I have thought more "big picture" thoughts like what sort of choices I want players to make, what sort of dynamics do I want them to deal with? I have also thought in terms of logistics as well: what sort of components will make this work? How do things need to be laid out? How can I avoid "fiddlyness" and annoying upkeep throughout the game?

I am miles away from putting it all together, and even more miles from even playtesting the thing. But I thought I would share with you all the journey of this idea of mine. It might be interesting to see what a guy with no background in math or game theory does with an idea for a boardgame!

Besides writing all this, I would like to ask for your help as well! I am still fairly new to boardgaming and so I am curious if my idea has already been done in some shape or form so here is my question:

Can you list for me some true pick up and deliver games? Games where you move a meeple to a space and then that meeple actually will move with the goods it picks up to another place where it will then spend/store those goods?

The game I am designing is such a pick-up and deliver game and so I want to see if something like it already exists. If so, than my journey will come to a quick end(and then I can just go buy the game I was going to make!).

Thanks in advance for any input!
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Wed Sep 4, 2013 12:11 am
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Castles of Burgundy: How my thoughts on strategy have developed over time

Carl Garber
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Hi All! So awhile back I posted my thoughts on strategy in the Castles of Burgundy forums. However,at the time of my post I was writing as one who didn't really understand the game that well as I would consistently lose. After that initial post I have added five updates which were session reports with a focus on what I learned as I continued to play. However, I am aware that many people likely will not see my updates as the thread is now quite old.

I have decided to simply repost that thread here for people who might be interested to see one man's exploration towards playing Castles of Burgundy better. I would love to hear your thoughts and rebuttals in the comments section! Also, I will be updating this blog post with at least one more update so feel free to subscribe if you want to read my thoughts after my next play(s).

And with that introduction, here is the original post along with the updates. Enjoy!

Original Post:

Hi all! I have played CoB 9 times now and have only won twice. 1 of those wins was against a beginner in a two player game and the other was against my wife who was 8 months pregnant and had baby brain. My wife routinely kills me at this game and I just couldn't get my head around it.

Some background:

I normally win with those that I game with. I normally see the optimal strategies faster, I adapt once others learn these strategies, and I generally see things during game play that gives me the edge to pull out victory. That is not the case with this game.

Most games I discover strategy as I play, however this time I decided to sit and think about it. I decided this for a couple reasons.

1) I got tired of losing
2) I like to write reviews after 10 plays but I do not understand the game well enough at this point to write a meaningful review.

My last game of CoB I came in with this simple strategy:

1) All players will pretty much get the same amount of points for completing regions therefore I must win the pasture battle as well as the knowledge tiles that give you extra points alongside shipping. If I can do better than my opponents in those areas I should win the game.

I managed to pretty much draw even in the shipping department and won in both the pastures and knowledge tile departments.....yet still lost. It was closer, but yet I still lost. The winner won many tile type bonuses, and yet after doing the math, even without those he still would have beat me by a couple points.

So after further analysis this is the strategy I will use going forward:

1) at the beginning of each round come up with a 10 dice plan that will net me the most points. Generally speaking the focus will be on completing the smallest regions for the first 3+ rounds and then shifting to regions 6 or larger in rounds 4 or 5(if there are any). Some exceptions to this general rule are 4 or 3 animal pasture tiles and point getting knowledge tiles.

2)win or at least tie in these 3 areas: shipping, knowledge tiles, pastures.

3) at the end of round 3 evaluate which tile type bonuses I can compete in and which tile type areas I need to abandon.(if I am set up for mines or castles these will likely already be accomplished by here.

4)early game priorities:

a) 4 animal tiles(especially if only one one the board)
b) the shipping knowledge point tiles
c)completeing regions
d) building knowledge point tiles

This is my plan laid out simply. Of course there will be many tactical decisions that will have to be made but this will be my main approach. I will report back here with the results of my future CoB games in which I use this strategy.

Early Thoughts on Pastures

Hey I am all for efficency and using the buildings to get other tiles (If I can use a building to get an animal tile I am all for it). But there is just too many points to be had in the pastures to avoid animals. especially since, if you avoid them your competitor will have an easier time taking advantage. Lets say on the base board a player fills it all up with sheep. If they get the sheep in say this order: 4,3,2,3,3 that would be worth 20 + 12 + 6 + 6 + 3= 47. add to that the 15 points a 5 tile region is worth and then maybe a 2 point completion bonus(last rd) and you are looking at a total of 64 points for 5 tiles. or roughly 13 points per tile. That's better than completeing 5 one tile regions in round 1 even. So yes, pastures are definately something to consider

First Update

Alrighty...So this is round 2 of this post. I made the mistake of typing a lengthy post and pressing send without saving it somewhere. Unfortunately I accidently pressed the wifi button on my laptop so I lost the post. This one will be a lot less long winded

So I finally got to play this game today and try out my new approach!

It was a three player game between myself, my wife, and my sister.

I won with a score of 230, my wife was second with 224. My sister was quite a bit behind us. So it was nice to see my new appraoch bring me victory!

I used board 2 and started in the bottom left. My wife used board 4 and started on the bottom left, my sister used board 1 and started in the middle.

Going first greatly benefitted me as I was able to pull of a church/mine combo in the first two turns. Also, since I had good access to ship spots I went first most of the game. I got a great knowledge tile early that really helped me this game. I got the one that let you adjust dice for taking any tile from the board. Between that tile and another that gave me workers for mines I only had to use the worker option with my dice twice(possibly 3 times).

I wasn't able to complete any regions in the first phase, but I was able to set myself up nicely with that knowledge tile, a mine, a ship, and another church(to do the church/mine combo again in phase 2).

In the 2nd phase I was able to close 4 or 5 regions as well as grab both the 3 points per shipped good tile and the tile that gives you a worker per mine. I also think I worked my way up to the large pasture and bought a 4 pasture sheep tile.

For the rest of the game I worked alongside the right side of the board trying to complete these small regions as quickly as possible. No sheep came up until the last round which limited my growth in that area. I did, however manage to grab two 4 pigs in round 4 which I played in the small pasture, and bought the other 4 sheep in the last round.

At the end of round 4 I had 4 buildings on the 8 building region with two in my storage. I decided to wait to phase 5 to see if it was even possible to complete the region. I had the knowledge tile that lets you buy from all spots by then so I knew I had a good opportunity to get them if they appeared(I also had all my ships done by then so was first). Unfortunately they didn't turn up so I scurried for the points I could get in other ways.

Here is the breakdown in scoring for the main areas between my wife and I.


wife: 32 points
me: 24(2x4 pigs, and 2x4 sheep)

knowledge tiles:

wife: 36 points(9 x 4 buildings -she had 4 building knowledge tiles)
me: 30 points(18 for different goods, and 12 for shipped goods)

completion bonuses:

wife: 15 points
me: 24 points

As you can see it was a tight game! It was my early completions of many small regions and a few extra shipped goods that were the difference. Also, the fact that I only had to use dice to get workers 2 or 3 times was key as well. (Also that knowledge tile that let me adjust +/-1 in selecting tiles from the board, coupled with me being first most of the game was huge as well).

While I was unfortunate that not more sheep came up and that I wasn't able to complete the 8 region(my biggest completed region at the end of the game was only 2!). I was fortunate to grab four 4 animal pastures as well as both of those shipping knowledge tiles as well as those good worker saving knowledge tiles. I feel that it all balanced out and that in the end 230 is probably a decent score overall. I am curious how high a score I could've gotten if everything broke right.

So far my strategy has proven good for me, although I was delighted by how many tactical decisions I still had to make even with this approach. The interplay of what gets taken every round forces you to always adjust on the fly. I feel like my better understanding of the game helped me enjoy my play better.

I will post again here after my next play to see how my approach does next time!

Happy Gaming

Second Update

Played another game of CoB to try out my new approach. This time a 2p with my wife. The Final Score was:

Kelsey: 199

Farms: 23
End Games Bonus Tiles: 28
Completion Tiles: 10

Carl: 183

Farms: 25
End Game Bonus Tiles: 22
Completion Bonus Tiles: 10


Kelsey used board 1 while I tried board 5. Besides what is mentioned above, Kelsey also shipped 13 goods and completed both 5 tile regions. I shipped 9 goods and my biggest region was a 3. We both had the same amount of tiles in our kingdoms.

I can pinpoint the errors I made and they have all helped to mold my strategy going forward. I will number my mistakes below:

1) I chose to start on the bottom left of the board when I should have started bottom right. Why do I say this? turn order is very important in this game, but especially in 2p where options are so limited.

2)I didn't grab the bonus 4 points for the Watchtower tile when it was available. If you notice above, I have it lower down on my priority list. I think this is because I have played more games 3p than 2p and in 3p quite a bit of the tiles come out and so you can usually wait a bit for these tiles and focus elsewhere. However in 2p CoB there are quite a few tiles that don't come in to play and so you need to grab these tiles when you can. In our game only 2 of these bonus tiles came up and one only in the last round.

3) I didn't play tighly enough to my strategy. What I mean is that I kind of went with the flow of the game instead of re-analysing the gamestate at the start of each round. This led to some shortsighted moves. In many games I play I can intuitively know what I should do, however not in CoB, I need to have a more intentional "mathy" approach in the future.

Aside from these there were a couple things that simply didn't go my way. Only two Cow tiles showed up the whole game so I couldn't complete my cow bonuses in the one field. Also, as mentioned before there was a lack of those bonus tiles in this game as well.

My main take aways from this game are that turn order is important and I need to set myself up ship wise, And also in 2p game bonus tiles are at a premium and I should grab them when I can.

Lastly, I think CoB for me will eventually come down to a set approach per playing board. For example, from now on I will start bottom right for board 5. That said I still think there should be plenty of tactical decisions to make even with pre set approaches per game board(but we will see with more plays).

After 11 plays my impression is that CoB is a solid game(currently I rate it 8.4) but no where near the brilliance of Feld's Macao.

Happy Gaming!

Third Update

Played another game of CoB this time a 4 player game with 1 newbie, 1 person who had played once before, and my wife.

This was a weird game that I can't beleive I lost. I actually went over the scores at the end to figure out what happened...and then stayed awake until like 2 in the morning mulling it over....yeah there IS a down side to OCD apparently

Anyways here is the breakdown between my wife and I(we finished 1-2 as expected).

Kelsey 244 points

farms 33
knowledge tiles 46
shipping 44
towers 4
completion 18
subtotal: 145

Carl 242 points

farms 52
knowledge tiles 35
shipping 24
towers 20
completion 18
subtotal: 149

As you can see I barely edged out my wife in the subtotal and she beat me because she did a better job of chaining and completed one more section than I did. I ended up getting three mines by the 2nd phase and she avoid mines altogether. However, she got the tile that gives to silverlings when delivering goods and so she ended up producing the same amount(ish) of silverlings as I did as well.

The numbers that really jump out at me are her 46 knowledge tile points and the 44 shipping points. obviously I needed to do a better job at blocking, as well as I needed to compete better in the shipping category. I am realizing how powerful shipping is in a 4p game where each good is worth 4 points. I find it interesting how tile values differ depending on player count. for example I managed to get 5 towers in this game(due to the knowledge tile that lets you put same buildings in the same city) along with the knowledge tile for it which is normally quite powerful in a 2p game especially. However, she had 4 shipping houses and the knowledge tile for that. As I was thinking about it she was essentially getting 4 points like I was for each of those tiles as well as an additional 1/2 action because of the coin...adding to this her knowledge tile that gave her an additional silverling ofr shipping and she was set! Also, even though I acknowledged the importance of turn order in my last post, I played in last place for much of the game. Meanwhile she was often first and it fit nicely in with the rest of her shipping strategy.

After breaking things down it was interesting to see how well I was able to do with being lower in turn order. I think having two newbies had to do a lot with both my wife's success and my own....I feel I played well, but so did she, and she ultimately edged me out....I felt her strategy was better though as she had a bit more potential at the end of the game than I did.

So takeaways from this session:

1) shipping houses are fairly powerful especially in 4p game swhere shpping in general is a priority action.
2) When possible I need to chain actions when going after non-action giving tile(ie. if I want a farm tile, instead of just grabbing it, try to get the building that allows me to grab a farm tile...this will give me an action and net the same result). My wife routinely does better at chaining than we and I am shocked it took me this long to understand that it gains an action...If there is competion for a tile I will still grab it, but if there is not I will try to chain for these tiles.
3) Mines early are great to pick up despite my wifes dislike of them and her win %
4) In a 4p game where all the animals will come out and there are 4 animal types it is less important to focus on farms as you will have good opportunityies there as others will likely try to focus on a different animal type...It is reasonably easy to get a good animal score with only half focus on pastures(ie. try to chain a couple 4and 3 of the same together but maybe not go for a whole field of the same animal).
5) keeping up in shipping is essential in a 4p game.
6) Some mathy stuff I have decided upon:
a) I am going to aim for 250 points each game
b) 150 points from pastures/shipping/towers/knowledge/completion
c) 100 points from finishing off areas
d) I am going to think of each action as worth 4 points(or rather needing to produce at least 4 points)50 dice x4 plus 12.5 actions through chanining or buying = 250 points. I am simply going to use this to try and evaluate the relative value of the various tiles for different play counts.

Thanks for reading and happy gaming!

Fourth Update

I played another game of CoB yesterday. This timea 2p game with my wife.

I used board 5 and she used board 4.

Here is the breakdown of our scores:

Carl 220 points

farms 20
knowledge tiles 52
shipping 26(13 goods)
towers 0
completion 10(two large bonuses)
subtotal: 108

Kelsey 172 points

farms 41
knowledge tiles 14
shipping 18?(9 goods?)
towers 4
completion 5(one large bonus)
subtotal: 82

As you can see it wasn't even close. I think I completed 13 sections this game, while Kelsey only completed 9. I think 52 points through knowledge tiles is a new high for me. I got 15 points for the shipping knowledge tile, 13 for the tile that gives you a point per shipped tile, I got 16 points for the tile that gives you 4 points per animal type, and 8 points for having two banks. Besides these I also had the knowledge tile that lets you take goods from two adjacent depots as well as the tile that gives you two silverlings per goods shipment. As you can see I had very good synergy going with those knowledge tiles as they all fed into a shipping focussed strategy.

There were a couple interesting aspects to this game.

1) I made a small error in putting a black backed 3 chicken tile on a far space. This happened because the black tiles and the animal tiles were side by side and my wife accidentally flipped the chicken tile over. Being that we needed one more animal(and being that I thought it was an animal tile she flipped over) we grabbed that one. However, this happened for the last round and my wife had already collected 3 chicken tiles previously. That chicken tile gave me a total of 10 extra points(not counting what would have happened if I selected a different tile instead). I am glad the win margin was so large so that there was no controversy attached to the win.

2) This was by far my wife's worst game ever. And I didn't help matters by aggressively denying her the tiles she needed to finish her 2nd 5 building region. I discovered after the game that my wife doesn't mind agressive plays like that in 3 or 4 player games, but hates it when just the two of us play. I promised her that I would not intentionally try to deny her a tile in the future(the tile had no value to me, it was purely a spite play on my part). I found out this was the main reason she doesn't like playing this game 2p with me. Hopefully, now that we have talked about it, CoB will get played a bit more just the two of us.

3) If you look two updates back you will see I had used board 5 back then as well. In that summary I decided one of my big mistakes was my initial castle placement. I was curious to see how things would go differently this game as I started in the bottom right which I determined last time was the best starting spot. I found this greatly affected the game as it allowed me to maintain first player for most of the game, it also allowed me to build an early mine in the first round(I didn't build any more after that), as well gave me close access to regions of all tile types as well as let me complete many small regions early. It was good to see an improved result playing board 5 as I thought it should be played.

4) I have no new takeaways from this play. I placed an emphasis on turn order and shipping and won the scoring areas battle as well as the quick area completion battle. I made a point of trying to remember to chain actions more, but that focus only changed my play once in the whole game. But I suppose every little bit counts. I also focussed on the shipping tile and got two of them which helped quite a bit.

Happy Gaming!

Fifth Update

Played another 2p game with my wife. I used board 4 and Kelsey used board 6.

Here is the breakdown of our scores:

Carl 198 points

farms 9
knowledge tiles 40
shipping 24(12 goods)
towers 0
completion 15(three large)
subtotal: 88

Kelsey 172 points

farms 20
knowledge tiles 30
shipping 10(5 goods)
towers 12
completion 12(two large, one small)
subtotal: 84

This was a weird game in that the farms didn't really work for either of us. Fortunately it was a tacked on area for me whereas Kelsey was focussing on it but was ultimately frustrated in it. She was hoping to chain both sheep and cows, however at the end of the game she ended up with 3 sheep tiles in the 4 tile pasture, and 1 cow tile in the two tile pasture thus scoring no points for completing those regions. I completed only one 3 tile pasture region and picked up a trio of 3 animal tiles(of different animals) as I also had the animals knowledge tile.

You can see that our subtotals are fairly close but I think these numbers show the difference:

Carl: 26 total tiles, 12 areas completed(one five region), 1 tile in an unfinished area.

Kelsey: 27 tiles, 9 areas completed(one six region), 5 tiles in unfinished region.

My wife chained buildings well as she usually does(she used up all her building spaces) but she made some bad choices as she ended up wasting 5 tiles that didn't score her completion bonuses.

For myself, I only managed to chain once or twice but I had a good economy going as I built 3 mines as well as had the knowledge tile that gives you two silverlings when shipping goods. So while I chained less, I was competitive in tiles bought. Also, I ended the game with 9 coins so I could've even bought more(however at that point it was no longer worth it). Also, I only had one wasted tile when it comes to completion bonuses.

My focus this game was on shipping, mines, and knowledge tiles. I actually only played 6 buildings total in this game. I am noticing that I have been leaning fairly strongly to a shipping strategy these last couple plays, especially in a 2p game where animals are so unpredictable. I think the advantages are too strong to ignore. Here is the advantage to a shipping over animal strategy(in a 2p game):


1) dependant on what comes up and in what order.
2) gives you nothing to help during game play; only gives out points.
3) If done right can net you a ton of points(50+).
4) only takes 12 total actions to get you those points.
5) There are only 2 knowledge tiles that can fall in line with this strategy and one is only worthwhile if you get it early and the other will likely only net you 8 points.


1) no dependance on what order things come out.
2) gives you turn order advantage alongside goods.
3) If done right can net you decent points (26ish).
4) takes more than 12 total actions to accomplish this.
5) all the actions over the 12 for taking and placing the ship tiles(shipping goods) net you income to help during game play.
6) There are only 2 knowledge tiles that score you points through shipping but they are not time dependant and one can be worth arounf 18, and the other around 12ish(if played well).
7) On top of these two point knowledge tiles there are many other knowledge tiles(extra silverling, extra worker, grab tiles from two adjacent depots) that can also flow into the shipping strategy

But this is the main one:

8) Because you have turn order advantage, you can more than likely get these beneficial knowledge tiles to increase your score. On the flip side you can deny someone focussing on an animal strategy decently easily. So when that 4 animal tile comes up you can give yourself those 4 points and limit the big pay out for your pastured focussed opponent. Also, you will have turn order advantage to snipe one of the animal knowledge tiles(the one that gives you points for different types of animals) that fits nicely with a shipping strategy where your focus is not on animals.

Shipping just gives you a whole lot more control on the game. It gives you the first crack at the best tiles, it puts you in a situation to mess with your opponents plans, you can find more synergies with more of the knowledge tiles, and you can net yourself more income along the way.

So I guess my main takeaway from this game is that the superiority of the shipping strategy has been made more clear to me. I am interested to see if my opinion of shipping will be the same with higher player counts. I am also interested to see if a shipping AND pastures strategy is a possibility. I am also curious how dynamics shift if multiple players focus on shipping(pastures with their crazy point multiplication seem to entice newer players).

One more update to go and then I will attempt a review!

Happy Gaming!

Sixth Update

To be continued....
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Tue Dec 4, 2012 7:06 pm
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A Random Boardgame Experience with a Weatherman

Carl Garber
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So I had a fairly random boardgame experience last month that I thought I would share with you all here on the good ol' BGG.

My wife and I currently live in Vauxhall, AB. But just last year we lived in Hepburn, SK, and were involved with a youth group there. We were invited to the Hepburn High School grad by a couple of the youth from the youth group and so set out for Hepburn on June 26th.

We had made plans to stop in Saskatoon to hang out and to have supper with some friends of ourse before finishing our journey to Hepburn. These friends had introduced me to Puerto Rico a year earlier, and I had introduced them to Stone Age and (I think?) Thurn and Taxis. So the unstated plan was dinner and a game. I packed a suitcase(travel size) with Stone Age, Macao, Flashpoint, and For Sale(I usually have room for one more but can't think of what else I would have brought). Besides these friends I had taught the youth many games and planned on playing some with them as well(one girl actually made sure there was a boardgame table set up for her aftergrad get together).

As we came to Rosetown I asked my wife: "Do you think we can make it to Saskatoon or should I just gas up here?" She told me we would be fine. About 15 minutes outside of Saskatoon and my fuel dial already touching red I decided to pull in to a small town gas station to fill up(I'm the nervous type like that, didn't you know?). I pulled in behind a car at the pump and waited my turn. By then it was raining pretty hard and was quite windy. After a couple minutes and no sign of the owner of the car in front of me I ventured out to see what was going on. I found out the power was out and so the pumps didn't work. I set back on the highway towards Saskatoon.

Entering into Saskatoon the weather turned from bad to worse, It was really coming down! On top of that the traffic was backed up pretty badly. I was so worried I was going to run out of gas I decided to ride drive on the shoulder to try and make it to a gas station. A few panicky moves later I found myself in a good ol' Petro Canada gas station(or was it Esso?). Unfortunately the power was out for half the city of Saskatoon and there was no power to the pumps here either. We texted with our friends back and forth as to what to do, they offered to pick us up for dinner...and then realized they couldn't get out of their garage because of the power outage.

So there we were, stuck with no fuel sitting in a gas station parking lot....when along comes some random guy looking up at the clouds. I made some small talk and he started explaining to me what the cloud's were doing. I found out that he was the new weatherman for Global Saskatoon, Kevin Stanfield.

He said that he was coming for fuel himself and explained that he only lived a few blocks away. He offered to drive us to his house to hang out there while we waited for the power to come back on.

So my pregnant wife and I hopped into some random guys car to be driven to his house. As we were about to drive away a thought crossed my mind..."Hey Kevin, do you like boardgames?" "Sure!" He replied. So I hopped out and grabbed my boardgame suitcase and away we went.

Now Kevin had just moved to town so his pad was definately bachelorpadish. He didn't really have a table to play at so he grabbed a small end table type thing and brought it to his bedroom(which had a window that had some nice light coming in). we put the table next to the bed and sat on it while my wife sat on the sole chair around this end table. We brought in a flashlight to assist a bit as well.

I then took out, explained, and we played a game of Stone Age! Kevin quite enjoyed it and my wife actually won for the first time!(she bought 8 buildings and had had ALL the building multiplier guys....I blame the poor lighting for letting that happenwhistle). After the game Kevin dropped us off back to our car but the power was still out at the gas station. Since the traffic had died down though we decided to try to make it to the side of town that had power. Kevin offered to drive behind us just in case. Thankfully, just across the first intersection we came to there was a working gas station! We filled up and went on our way!

At the time nothing seemed terribly out of the ordinary to me. Just a nice guy willing to offer a helping hand to some people in need that happened to enjoy boardgames. However, seeing an advertisement featuring Kevin in it(how weird is it to see someone you know on TV?) and thinking about the circumstances and the rare friendliness shown by him, I can safely say that this will likely be the most random boardgame experience I will likely ever encounter.

And that's my story and I'm sticking to it!(except for the gas station...maybe it was a Shell??)

PS- In other news I just finished my 3rd boardgame review. This one is for the game Strasbourg by Stefan Feld. Coming Soon to a review section near you!!(it might already be up by the time you read this).

Happy Gaming!......and reading......
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Thu Jul 19, 2012 7:57 am
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My Journey with Flashpoint: Fire Rescue

Carl Garber
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So my journey with Flashpoint: Fire Rescue has been largely different than with most games in my collection. You see, most games get into my collection because I really want them after hours of research. That was not the case with Flashpoint:Fire Rescue. Let me tell you the story:

It all started back when I was celebrating my birthday in October. My wife had planned a big birthday party to celebrate my 30th as well as to have people into our new home in the town we had moved to just a few months before. We had about 30 friends of ours over from mainly Calgary but from a few other places as well(I was born and raised in Calgary). It was a great birthday! Lots of food and chatting. Some of us played a game of soccer outside while some others were enjoying a game of Taboo indoors. After soccer I did some more chatting and then later on in the evening sat down to play a game of Puerto Rico with 4 friends.

During the course of the evening I got to visiting with my firefighting buddy Tim. Tim is a casual gamer that likes to play games and I thought I had just the game for him.

Carl: "Tim! How's it going buddy? When's your birthday? I got just the game for you!"

Tim: "Oh yeah? What is it?"

Carl: "Dude! They actually made a game about firefighters fighting fire! How sweet is that! I instantly thought of you when I saw it!"

Tim: "That's sweet! What's it called?"

Carl: "Flashpoint!"

Tim: "Awesome! I'm totally going to buy that for you for your birthday today!"

Carl: "...uh, I was going to get it for you though..."

Tim: "No way man! It's your birthday, consider it already bought!"

Carl: "...but.."

Tim: "It's gonna be awesome!"

Carl: "...Thanks..."

Now I had looked into Flashpoint a bit, enough to think it would make a decent gift for my buddy, but as for myself I was on the fence. But here I was with the game on the way. I almost thought to say, "Hey, if you really want to get me a game there's this game Trajan I've been dying to get..."whistle But I didn't want to come across as ungrateful or that I was going to get him an "awesome" game that I apparently didn't think was all that awesome. Ah, the things we get ourselves into...shake

Now don't get me wrong, Flashpoint was on my radar but it was more in the "thinking about it" category than any other. You see, while it looked interesting and cool, I had a few reservations.

First of all, I had a negative experience with Pandemic and was therefore suspicious of all cooperatives. Won't they all just eventually devolve into one guy telling everyone else what to do?

Secondly, the board graphics didn't look all that great.

Thirdly, I generally prefer 16th century mediterranean trading as my theme of choice and wasn't sure if I'd like a game set in modern times.

So I waited patiently for Flashpoint to finally come to me. Finally, I think in May, my buddy texted me asking when I was coming to Calgary next. I knew he finally had the game and wanted to give it to me. Being that we were having our holidays in June, we eventually made plans to visit with them on June 14th.

These plans starting making me feel nervous about the game: Will I like the game? Will it be fun? Will I have wasted my buddy's money on a game I don't like? Will my buddy find the game fun? Will he be disapointed if it looks like I don't like it?

We got to his house and visited for a bit and had supper. He then asked, "Hey, do you want to play that game that I bought you?". I said I like to read the rules ahead of time and that, since we were staying at their place overnight, I would read the rules that evening and then we could try it the next day. I introduced them to Strasbourg instead that evening and we had a great time with me winning only by a couple points(low scoring game, I think I won with a score in the mid 50s).

I read the rules that night and found the rule book tougher than I am use to. Out of all the games in my collection I think this one is written the most unclearly. I think I spent a good hour or two trying to piece things together.

The next day after breakfast the three of us, Myself, my wife Kelsey, and my buddy Tim, sat down for our first game. I had misunderstood the rules so that while we were playing the game on the easiest of the "experienced" rules, we started the game with 11 hotspots instead of 5. We also started off playing the fire captain wrong using 4 AP for the fire captain himself and 2 to use on others. These factors combined for an exciting but quick loss.

Since it was over so quickly we decided to play again. I realized we had played the hotspots wrong and fixed that for this game. We decided to try Veteran since our first game had been probably that difficult already. Also, we avoided the fire captain who seemed lame(with our wrong understanding of his abilities).

This 2nd game went quite well and we won easily. Almost too easily. While we enjoyed the win the game lacked the tension of the first game. I realized later I had forgotten to do flashover properly and we had been turning fire into smoke in places where it would have instantly reignited.

Later that day we went to my bro-in-laws house and played a game with him and my sister. We played again on Veteran and won easily. Everyone enjoyed the game but had no real desire to play again. Once again, a fun time but lacking tension. After this game I decided that our next one would be either on Heroic or that we would try the harder side of the board on Veteran.

A few days later we had some youth over to play some games and we decided to give Flashpoint a whirl. I opted to try the beach house again on Heroic. The first game was over quickly as we got pounded by the dice! We instantly regretted having the deckgun guy last in turn order. But that beautiful tension was there so we decided to try again!

Our second game was going well but we had to stop it midway through as the youth had to go home. Two days later they returned and finished the game. When they had left we felt like we had the situation under control even though we had some tense moments getting to that point. However, when we resumed playing the fire got out of hand and we lost, rescuing only 5 people in the end I believe.

But we all wanted more! So we played again. We quickly lost that one so we started another! This one was a tense game coming down to the wire. We had 6 people out with another person one space away with me right there to carry the victim to safety. The player ahead of me rolled the dice.....and the house came crashing down (3 firefighters were lost that day in the fire...only deckgun guy survived).

And that brings this story to the present time. If you were tracking well you would have counted 7 games of Flashpoint:Fire Rescue played so far.

So what are my conclusions so far?

Why let me number them for you:

1) What makes this game fun is the tension. Depending on the rolls the Veteran game can produce this tension. However, playing on Heroic almost ensures that there will be tension at various points throughout the game.

2) This game is quick either way. If you win it will take about 45 minutes but you can lose much more quickly than that.

3) This game feels nothing like Pandemic. Like Ender says in his review, this game draws you into the theme. I almost unvoluntarily make an explosion sound when the dice hits fire. Everyone is actively trying to think of how they can save these people trapped inside. Also, the various characters have different roles so you actually feel like a team. I'm still not sure if I like cooperatives but I do know that I like Flashpoint!

4) People are drawn to this game. It has been an instant hit with everyone, especially with the ones that experienced the game with tension. It is already one of the youth's favorite game.

5) Due to the rule book, this game is best to be taught by someone who knows it. I love and play boardgames and struggled with this rulebook, I can't imagine a nongamer understanding it easily. Once learned, however, it is a pretty easy game to play as well as one to remember how to play.

Well, that was my journey with a game I wasn't sure I wanted. If only all such journeys could end so well!

Happy Gaming!

PS- Heroic or Bust!
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Fri Jun 22, 2012 2:31 am
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Settlers of Catan: from the perspective of "The Guy Who Always Wins"

Carl Garber
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Alright, so I don't ALWAYS winmodest, since I have kept track of my win/loss stats I haven't even won 50% of my games of Settlers. But early on when my main group played pretty much exclusively Settlers, I would win almost every time. I am also the one of the group that has gotten seriously into this hobby of ours and in most games we play I win more than my fair share.

Now don't take this as me bragging about my crazy good boardgame skillzwhistle. You see my winning ways are a product of many different factors:

1) I got into the hobby the earliest of my friends and had a huge leg up on boardgame strategy.
2) I play more games than anyone I game with.
3) My main "gaming group" is my wife, bro-in-law and his wife. While they play too many games to be described as casual gamers, they are closer to that title than most of us BGGers.

So why prattle on about me dominating noobs at Settlers? For one simple reason: To explain how "The Guy Who Always Wins" approaches Settlers and how it might differ from other gamers.

You see, many people talk about how Settlers takes social skills as well as gaming skills. They'll say stuff like "you got to be good at making deals to win at Settlers". But I got news for them: when your "The Guy Who Always Wins"(TGWAW) this interactive deal swinging aspect of Settlers goes out the window.

TGWAW: "I'll trade you 2 Ore for 1 Sheep"
Opponent: *mistrustful death glare* "3 Ore and a wheat and we got a deal"

So how does a TGWAW approach Settlers? Well, I can't speak for all TGWAW's but this is my approach:

1) Look For Monopolies

There has been much written on initial placements in Settlers. For me, my approach varies depending on the set up but one thing I always look for is potential monopolies. These are found when the numbers on most of a type of resource are low probabilities except for one. If you can corner that one resource than that can often ofset the disadvantage you face of no one trading with you.

Similar to this(and far more common) is when there are only 2 good spots of a certain resource. For example, consider brick with a 6 on one hex and a 5 on another. While that 6 may get easily surrounded by your opponents, if you can corner the 5 this may be more advantageous for you then even being on the 6. Why you ask? If you shut down that 6 by robber or soldier you not only cut off a high number for your opponents but you also cut off their ability to build roads and settlements at a cheap price while you can still build both relatively easily. Which leads us to #2...

2) Always Go For Development Cards

This is almost a rule for everyone as it is hard to win a game of Settlers without the extra VP's you get from this deck. But for the TGWAW this is even more important. You see while many players groan to pick up "another soldier"shake the TGWAW smiles as it gives him more flexibility. You see the soldier is the best way to shut down that key resource to create a monopoly. The soldier is also the key way to slow an opponent down who is in the lead. The soldier is also the key way to free your hex's from the expected barrage of attacks from your opponents. The Soldiers are also key in getting you 2 VP. While I rarely get the longest road, I often get the largest army.

One quick note on the use of soldier cards: use then wisely. Early game use them to create monopolies. Later in the game when your opponents have expanded around your created monopoly, use them to free up your key hexs. So, for example, sometimes the robber will be attacking me but not where it hurts that bad(Say if it is on brick when I am looking to build cities) I will simply leave it there until getting brick becomes important. Use those soldiers only when needed.

3) Create Opportunities For Trades and Trade Fairly

Now, generally people won't trade with the TGWAW. But there are some exceptions.

1) if a monopoly has been created someone may trade with you for that needed resource(however, this is rare as they are ticked that you created that monopoly in the first place).
2) if all other opponents are trying to leverage them and you give a fair "one for one" deal.
3) if you look like a lesser threat than someone else who is "about to win". People will often avoid trading with you like the plague.....until victory is in sight for themselves and they see another opponent ahead of them in the arms race. You need to highlight their opponents potential to win and in the future be available to trade (again "one for one"). Highlight these threats before looking to trade, otherwise it looks like you are creating a false threat to create a trade.

4) Metagame Well

1) don't whine when people are ganging up on you(you win all the time why would they NOT gang up on you?)
2) let other people initiate trades and then offer "one for one" deals with them. They are less suspicious because they are initiating the process.
3) point out threats in a helpful way without looking to benefit from them.
4) create an environment of "they are about to win!" when anyone gets to around 7 points but with DC's.(every DC is a potential VP right?). If you can shut down the trade channels for everyone else by this point than you are finally on an even playing field. hopefully by this time you have gotten into a competitive position.
5) play fairly and be straight forward with other players so that, when that other guy is being obnoxiousarrrhdevilninjasoblue, maybe it wouldn't be the worse thing in the world to trade with the TGWAW even if it MIGHT help the TGWAW win yet again.

5) Favor The City/DC Strategy Above Other Strategies:

From what I have said about the importance of soldiers this is probably fairly obvious. Aside from this, this strategy requires less building and thus less need for trading(Possibly a classic 2 Roads, 2 Settlements, 3 Cities, Largest Army, 1 DC VP win).

Well, that is pretty much how this TGWAW approaches Settlers alongside the usual strategy. Not the most grownbreaking stuff but hopefully helpful to some of you out there that wonder how that TGWAW still manages to win his fair share even though everyone in the game is against him.

Would love to hear the responses/rebuttals of other TGWAWs in response to this(heh, the responses/rebuttals of non-TGWAWs are fine too).

Happy Gaming!
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Thu Jun 21, 2012 3:40 am
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An Introduction

Carl Garber
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What do you do when you want to write more substantially on games and gaming related topics that don't quite fit under the headings of Reviews or Session Reports? Why you write a Blog of course! Instead of having random entries in various game and BGG forums, this will now be the place where I post my longer thoughts about games and other gaming related topics.

So without having to look through my profile what should you know about me? I am an outgoing 30 yr. old Associate Pastor that has been married for 5 years and is about to become a father. I live in a small town now, but was born and raised in the city of Calgary. Because of my ministry position, I game with teenagers and 20somethings quite a bit. My gaming partners can definately be described as casual gamers.

I can not pin down when I came into this hobby or discovered BGG...I think I was exposed to Settlers in the early 2000s and then got further exposed to more eurogames at Bible College in 2005-2007. I think I also started lurking around BGG around that same time. Near the end of 2010 I finally started an account on BGG and have been a fairly active member since.

I would define my gaming tastes in this way:

1) I love eurogames
2) I love interesting and innovative mechanics
3) I prefer non-obvious decisions(probabilities, timing, contingency plans, and risk/reward type decisions)
4) Stefan Feld games(ie. all of the above)
5) I don't care much about theme except for how it relates to the art of a game. I like themes(non-themes?) that Tom Vassal finds annoying, and I dislike these themes: sci-fi, space, fantasy, dark, zombie, non-christian religious, and modern day.

I am also a big sports fan(Raptors, BlueJays, Milos Raonic, Roger Federer, Flames).

And also love statistics and classifying things.

That should be enough for an introduction. I hope you all enjoy what I write here as much I will enjoy writing it!

Happy Gaming!
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Wed Jun 20, 2012 2:10 am
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