Boardgames To Go

Mark Johnson's occasional and opinionated podcast, Boardgames To Go, now has its own blog on Boardgamegeek.

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I don't get it

Mark Johnson
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My last two posts--which had no podcast--quickly accumulated about 50 thumbs. It takes about 30 right away to get visibility on BGG's daily front page of blogs (which then has a positive, snowballing effect). Now I post the podcast folks have been clamoring for, another 100 Great Games episode, and it languishes at a couple dozen thumbs, invisible to the front page. I'm not begging for thumbs here, I'm asking a question about BGG-as-social-media:

Do the actual podcasts get fewer thumbs because folks naturally want to listen to them first before they give a thumb or not (and then it's hard to remember to come back, I know)?

Or is it that a short post--even just an announcement that more podcasts are coming!--is easy to read & thumb immediately, because you're happy about more podcasts?


(As I've said on-air before: Please don't thumb the podcast if you don't want to. But also don't forget to thumb it if you like it! It helps my visibility and lets other people discover it in the first place. Thanks.)
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Mon Aug 18, 2014 8:14 pm
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BGTG 148 - 100 Great Games, part 6 (with Stephen Glenn and Mark Jackson)

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Mark Johnson's occasional & opinionated podcast about family strategy boardgames
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Stephen Glenn and Mark Jackson rejoin me (Mark JOHNson) to continue this series. In 2012, these two guys polled a number of experienced gamers (a few designers, many reviewers, all enthusiasts) for their top games, consolidated their answers, and asked to come on my podcast to count down the results. I was pleased to be part of the poll, and doubly pleased to have them on Boardgames To Go. I really like how Stephen describes this:

"a fun list to discuss over coffee & pie."


The poll was for our favorite games, not necessarily the best games. We even got to submit a top fifteen, which took the usual tough request for a top ten and gave us the breathing room for five more titles. I know in my case, it made it easier to add some very recent games to my longstanding favorites. On each podcast we're counting down a bunch of titles until we get to a final show with the Top Ten. I'll be interspersing 100 Great Games countdown episodes with my other podcast episodes.

Here are #21-30 on the list, counted down in reverse order as we discuss them on the podcast.

After the previous episode of 100 Great Games, we received some (ahem) feedback regarding the games we didn’t like (I’m looking at you, Taj Majal), or didn’t know much about (such as War of the Ring). I’m pleased to say we don’t have that issue this time. I get to look over the still-secret list going all the way to Number One, and I can safely say that we’re familiar with all of the remaining games. Which is as you’d expect, right? As we get near the top we’re getting into even more of the modern classics that every self-respecting gamer should seek out & play. But, since you’re only hearing three voices from a survey of many more people, we may not all LOVE the remaining games. But we certainly respect them. (And as you’ll hear, in many cases we do love them!)

We’re nearing the end, only two shows left after this one to finish the countdown! We’ve already had suggestion for a supplemental episode, and it’s under consideration. Other ideas are welcome.

Finally, taking a page from Geek Weekly, I’m going to try adding a poll to each of my podcast episodes. I’d like folks to check out the blog (perhaps comment below), and there’s always a good question to pose after a podcast. Be sure to listen to the episode first, to get the context for the question. In this case, it’s about the theming (or not) in Knizia’s Lord of the Rings.


Stephen Glenn's designer page at BGG (Balloon Cup/Piñata, 1st & Goal, You Must Be an Idiot!)

Mark Jackson's personal blog

-Mark

P.S. If you want to see the original version of the list these guys made it in 2005, it's still available at 100 Great Games, 2005 Edition (THE ONE HUNDRED).



Poll
1. Do you find Knizia's Lord of the Rings to be thematic?
Yes, the cooperative mechanics invoke the feeling of the fellowship
Yes, but primarily through the artwork
Not really, it's mostly about Knizia's clever mechanisms
I haven't played it
2. How many of these games have you played?
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
      98 answers
Poll created by MarkEJohnson



#30 - Tales of the Arabian Nights
Designers: Eric Goldberg, et al
Artists: Peter Gifford, Dan Harding
Publisher: Z-Man Games/West End Games
Year: 1985, 2009





#29 - Lord of the Rings
Designer: Reiner Knizia
Artist: John Howe
Publisher: Sophisticated Games/Fantasy Flight Games
Year: 2000





#28 - Web of Power
Designer: Michael Schacht
Artist: Franz Vohwinkel
Publisher: Goldseiber/Rio Grande Games
Year: 2000





#27 - Twilight Struggle
Designers: Ananda Gupta, Jason Matthews
Artists: Rodger B. MacGowan, Mark Simonitch, Viktor Csete, Guillaume Ries
Publisher: GMT Games
Year: 2005





#26 - El Grande
Designer: Wolfgang Kramer, Richard Ulrich
Artist: Doris Mathäus
Publisher: Hans im Glück/Rio Grande Games
Year: 1995





#25 - Medici
Designer: Reiner Knizia
Artists: Dominique Ehrhard, Franz Vohwinkel, David Cherry
Publisher: Amigo/Rio Grande Games
Year: 1995





#24 - Memoir '44
Designer: Richard Borg
Artists: Cyrille Daujean, Julien Delval, Don Perrin, Claude Rica
Publisher: Days of Wonder
Year: 2004





#23 - Can't Stop
Designer: Sid Sackson
Publisher: Parker Bros/Gryphon Games
Year: 1980





#22 - Time's Up!
Designers: Peter Sarrett
Publisher: R&R Games
Year: 1999





#21 - Crokinole
Year: 19th Century (traditional)










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Fri Aug 15, 2014 11:30 pm
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Two podcasts "in the can"

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Episodes were a little more rare than I'd like during the first half of the year, but right now I've got two more recorded, and a third planned. Next week I plan to post the next installment of the 100 Great Games series, and following that I've got a fun discussion with friends who accuse me of "hating games."

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Tue Aug 5, 2014 5:59 pm
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Oldies but Goodies

Mark Johnson
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Those of you that follow my Facebook page (http://Facebook.com/BoardgamesToGo), which I think is also echoed to Twitter (@BoardgamesToGo), already saw this. When I looked back over the games we played on Friday night, I was struck with how much they fit my reputation of playing lighter family games...and old ones at that!



To be fair, it wasn't a normal game group night. Only one of the other regulars was able to make it, but we still had a full table of six players. My wife & daughter joined in, plus my daughter's friend, and her boyfriend Zac. The latter is a budding gamer, eager to play (and often win) everything. I mentioned him in the previous podcast.

With this group, I started the night off with a party game, Telestrations. A real favorite that we haven't played for a while. I need to get some better, replacement pens, but the originals worked ok. Of course we were sensible and didn't play with scoring. Just for fun.

Next was One Night Ultimate Werewolf. My daughter really wanted to play this again, while my wife did not. You probably know my feeling about this game. I like that it's clever & short, but I've never really enjoyed any Werewolf game after I got past the spectacle of watching mob mentality. I seem to be surrounded by friends who do like it, however, so it will be one of my nickels or dimes next year (despite my own feelings). Heck, I bought it because I knew this would be true. As a whole, the group liked it well enough to play a couple times.

Last up with the full group of six was Sharp Shooters. Know this one? It's a thrift store regular. Sometimes gamers just get for it's pile of dice & plastic chips. However, it's also a surprisingly good mass-market dice game. It's not really that similar to Yahtzee, but that's still a decent way to explain it to newbies. You're rolling five dice, trying to make poker hands. But each round has a smaller set of "hands" that will score based on their difficulty, and we complete them as a group. Not a cooperative group, though--only the person who places the last die of a hand will get to score it. To be honest, the gamers around the table got more out of it than the casual players, but that should be a mark in its favor.

At that point we dropped down to three players, with Zac eager to try stuff that was new-to-him. Greg & I went to the game shelves in my garage, and Greg suggested Dominion. This is the original set, the only one I own. It's been years since I played this deckbuilder--too long! I still think it's the best one of the style of game it created.

After Dominion, Greg picked another Spiel des Jahres winner, Mississippi Queen. This was one of the first games I ordered from Germany (actually had a coworker bring back with him from Germany). It's got its detractors (Dave Arnott & I discussed this on our "road trip" episode last year), but I've always liked it. More than any game in the 90s time, it blew me away with how the physical production of the game added to its charm. Not just the plastic paddlewheelers & southern belles. I love how the river segments fit together, and the use of the chunky die to lay out the river. Even I'll admit that the endgame "bumper boats" can be a drawback, though that didn't happen in our 3-player game. To me, this game is more than the sum of its parts. I miss Goldseiber as a publisher (though Queen & Days of Wonder do a pretty good job filling in).

Last was another classic, Knizia's Through the Desert, one that maybe should've won the SdJ in its year (it lost to Elfenland, also a fine pick). A year ago I had two copies of this, but decided to sell my Kosmos original in favor of keeping the smaller box from Fantasy Flight. Considering my dwindling storage space, that was probably the right move, but I didn't realize until now that I liked the Kosmos board more (thankfully, the iconic pieces are identical). Oh well. A classic I'd be happy to play every year, even though originally I thought it too dry & abstract. (More accurately, I think my issue with the game is perfect information. I'm not a huge fan of that.)

Did you notice how old most of these games are?! They were published in 2009, 2014, 1994, 2008, 1997, and 1998, for an average age of over ten years per game! As I say, oldies but goodies.

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Tue Jul 29, 2014 8:52 pm
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Spiel des Jahres, Kennerspiel des Jahres, and Kinderspiel des Jahres "episode"

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Not another podcast episode, but you can see me on some recent episodes of Game Night!, the videocast hosted right here on BGG. Thanks to my friends, this year I was able to play all nine of the nominated games for the three awards! I don't think that's ever happened before.

Even better, besides the shows where we play the games, Lincoln & Nikki have some special episodes where they discuss all of the games with Dave, Aaron, and I. You know me--I think the critique, analysis, and speculation may be the best part! All in all, I'm on a bunch of recent episodes:


Spiel des Jahres & Kennerspiel des Jahres discussion, picks & predictions

Kinderspiel des Jahres discussion, picks & predictions

Istanbul

Camel Up

Ritter Ritterschlag




Thanks again, L&N!
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Thu Jul 10, 2014 7:55 pm
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BGTG 147 - A Look Back at 2013 (with David Gullett)

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Mark Johnson's occasional & opinionated podcast about family strategy boardgames
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It's a little crazy to finally publish this long-delayed episode, but I'm doing it nonetheless. A look back at 2013 is kind of ridiculous in July of 2014, but I think it's interesting nonetheless because we also talk about broader topics like gaming statistics (personal & community), gaming trends, and looks forward into the "new" year (that's now half-over!).

Year-end stats often start with number of plays, and number of games. In my case, those numbers include online plays--which aggravates Dave!--but we're both beyond actually arguing about that. My numbers have remained remarkably consistent for many years: right around 300 plays, 150 titles. The actual numbers were 342 plays, 155 titles, 60 new-to-me. Dave's are somewhat higher (325 plays, 126 titles), but NOTABLY higher when you realize he's a purist that only includes face-to-face plays. However, I prove my point with a story about a game of Timeline: Music & Cinema that the two of us played online just prior to recording the podcast.

Another well-worn statistic within our hobby are the "Fives & Dimes," which even predate BGG and Mark Jackson's tally of this data. Sure, it always skews toward the shorter games, but even I get a good feeling when I see a beefier title like Brass show up.


Mark's dimes


Mark's nickels



Dave's quarters


Dave's dimes


Dave's nickels



Keeping basic stats is about all I do. I know some people keep more detailed game journals about their plays (either here on BGG or elsewhere, such as a physical notebook). I really love that concept, and even did it for a time several years ago, but didn't stick with it. Do you record data? I'd love to hear about that. I'll post a poll at the bottom, and encourage you to leave feedback.

Dave & I also have an opinion or two to share about these titles that were released in 2013. Not a whole lot, so don't get your hopes up, but no review of 2013 should omit this part. I'll really get into the 2013 games in about 2015, knowing me...



2013 games




Last is a touchy-feely part (but fun for me!) to reflect on the year that passed, and the year ahead. More than just statistics or new titles, now I'm thinking about more holistic, meta, or memorable aspects of the hobby. Still with me? Ha! Between the two of us, we mention things like wargaming, online plays, family gaming, a boardgame road trip (that you heard here on this podcast!), and getting old favorites back to the table. Looking ahead, I'm very much looking forward to attending BGG.con this year, and hope to meet some of my listeners!


Poll: BGTG 147 Poll
Do you keep records about your boardgaming? What sort of records do you keep? Click all that apply to you.
Titles
Plays
New-to-you
Wins
Color
Number of players
Player names
Playing time
Scores
Strategy notes
Anecdotes, stories
More/different stuff
I keep stats on BGG
I keep stats on my own
I don't keep stats
      96 answers
Poll created by MarkEJohnson



-Mark






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Tue Jul 8, 2014 10:01 pm
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BGTG 146 - SR & Feedback (Abluxxen, Walking Dead Card Game, Where's Bob's Hat)

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(Somehow, even though I've been recording this podcast for almost a decade, I made a rookie mistake. I positioned my mic too close and the audio gets a little fuzzy/clipped now & then. Sorry about that, and I hope it isn't too much of a distraction or drawback.)


Remember when I used to do "Session Report & Feedback" episodes? Me neither. These are when I'd just talk about some games I've played recently (not part of a meta topic, just a session report), and tack a segment on the end where I read & respond to some listener feedback. In theory these should be a show that's easy for me bang out every once in a while. They also have the potential of being shorter episodes.

At any rate, this time I stitched together some accounts of recent card games I've had on the table. The coincidence of a couple euro card games on the table recently sparked an idea for a future game group session that focuses on traditional card games. We haven't done that yet, but we're excited to try some titles like Euchre, Spades, 1000 (the marriage game), Cribbage, Pinochle, and so on. (I've also just joined an Up & Down the River card game group at lunch.)

But that's for later. In this episode I'm still talking about modern, euro card games with their unique decks, rules, and mechanisms. First up is Linko!, a clever card game from veteran designers Kramer & Keisling. I can't quite figure out what kind of card game it is. It's not a traditional trick-taker, nor a ladder-climbing game. You primarily want to "go out" by playing all of your cards, because when someone else does that you take penalties for cards still held. But you also want to play lots of cards in (mostly) escalating sets to the table in front of you, because that's how your score positive points. The clever bit is that there's a way that the set you just played can overtake sets that other players (one or several) have played. Though you take cards into your hand, this "capture" lets you play more cards later. Early in the game it's pretty clear that this is a good, strong move. Later, though, I found it was a more subtle decision. I only played it once, but that was enough to seek out a copy of my own immediately.

Also, Wolfgang Kramer maintains an interesting website of his own that sometimes includes designer diaries that aren't posted to BGG...they aren't even translated into English. So, just like in the dark ages of our hobby (the mid-90s), I fire up an internet translator, paste the German language in, and try to make sense of the babelfish oddities that come out as "English" on the other end. For example, what do you think this sentence is trying to say: "This led me to a specific situation, which I had not yet experienced the mirror blank Find to date." I'm not sure, either.


Next up is The Walking Dead Card Game, better known to many of us at 6 Nimmt! (or Slide 5). Stephen, Mark, and I discussed this one on a "recent" (ha!) 100 Great Games episode. It's a Wolfgang Kramer classic card game that's been a hit for a long time. This latest edition is a tie-in to the hit TV show (and graphic novels, I guess). Since I own at least two copies of the original game, there should be no need for me to get this latest one...except that I hoped the superficial theming would be a draw for my family (we're big fans of the show). And it worked! It's the kind of game that sounds weird and mind-boggling (despite the few rules) when it's explained to you, but it all becomes clear through demonstration. In fact, you could do well to play a few hands quickly, then start over once everyone has their ah-ha moment. The theming (card artwork) is really under-utilized, I think, and the one new variant offered (hero mode) was unsatisfying. But those aren't real problems. Get whatever version of this game you want, play the original rules, and have fun with it. And watch out for the 55 card.


The game that sort of started all of this discussion about card games was my rediscovery of Where's Bob's Hat?. It's a trick-taking game with at least one twist, something we used to see a lot more of in this hobby. Even back then, though, this style of game was more familiar than groundbreaking. I just like them. After we played it, I discovered Alan R. Moon's original version called Where's Bob's Hat? takes out one of those twists, leaving the rest and with better game components. Now I want to try Bob's Hat again, but played in the original style (ironically, without the Bob's Hat part). It was fun to remember and rediscover Bob himself, Bob Schwartz and his groundbreaking boardgame video series called The Board Room. Some (all?) of Bob's original shows can now be found on YouTube...even though he recorded them five years before that service even existed.









To round out my discussion of card games, some quick discussions about Coloretto (Russian card art version!), Sushi Go! (recently featured on GameNight!), and Bohnanza (I need to do an All About show covering this gem).

Then I get to dive into a backlog of interesting feedback I've received. I know I've got great listeners because I receive such thought-provoking feedback. I really enjoy that. (The Essen Geek Mini website mentioned in the feedback is at http://essengeek.dssr.ch/register.php)



-Mark




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Fri May 2, 2014 6:14 am
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More from me about Entdecker on The Long View podcast

Mark Johnson
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The host of The Long View podcast, Geof Gambill, welcomed me on his show to talk about a game I love, original Entdecker. Trouble is, the original was from designer Goldseiber, and never issued in an English edition. Then when Kosmos & Mayfair issued their remake, Entdecker: Exploring New Horizons, that kind of killed any chance of the original, superior version ever making it to a wider market.

If you've listened to my podcast for a long time, you've probably heard me talk about Entdecker before. For years I've claimed it's my favorite game, and it was the first I featured in an All About... episode. That was so long ago, however, that I figured it was ok to talk about this game again. It's still a favorite, and I get to describe how I usually play a mashup of the original game with a few of the remake's innovations that I really enjoy (and none of the ones I disliked). I love the way this game looks as it's played, and it's the cover image for my BGTG Facebook page, if you've seen that.

If you haven't listened to The Long View before, you should give it a try. Geof typically has guests and the two or three of them then talk about a game in considerable depth. Sometimes the first part of the show includes them talking about a series of games from a year in the past. It's kind of a warm-up for the main event.

Thanks, Geof, for having me on your podcast!

-Mark

P.S. I'm editing a show of my own (BGTG), to be posted soon.
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Mon Apr 28, 2014 6:20 am
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BGTG 145 - 100 Great Games, part 5 (with Stephen Glenn and Mark Jackson)

Mark Johnson
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Stephen Glenn and Mark Jackson rejoin me (Mark JOHNson) to continue this series. In 2012, these two guys polled a number of experienced gamers (a few designers, many reviewers, all enthusiasts) for their top games, consolidated their answers, and asked to come on my podcast to count down the results. I was pleased to be part of the poll, and doubly pleased to have them on Boardgames To Go. I really like how Stephen describes this:

"a fun list to discuss over coffee & pie."

The poll was for our favorite games, not necessarily the best games. We even got to submit a top fifteen, which took the usual tough request for a top ten and gave us the breathing room for five more titles. I know in my case, it made it easier to add some very recent games to my longstanding favorites. On each podcast we're counting down a bunch of titles until we get to a final show with the Top Ten. I'll be interspersing 100 Great Games countdown episodes with my other podcast episodes.


Here are #31-40 on the list, counted down in reverse order as we discuss them on the podcast.

This show was especially fun because BGG had gone down for maintenance when we did our recording! That meant that we had to go on our own knowledge and memories of the games' designers, publishers, and years, in addition to usual opinions about how they play. Fortunately, we're getting so high up in the list now that the games are very notable. I think we did pretty well without our normal reference material...but you tell me!

Note: we had a little audio problem with Mark Jackson halfway through the podcast, but stick with us! I edited around it as best I could, and it gets better after the Ave Caesar/Ausgebremst/Q-Jet discussion.

-Mark




#40 - Vinci / Small World
Designers: Philippe Keyaerts
Artists: Cyril Saint Blancat, Miguel Coimbra
Publisher: Descartes/Days of Wonder
Year: 1999, 2009





#39 - Merchant of Venus (second edition)
Designer: Richard Hamblen
Artist: Henning Ludvigsen
Publisher: Avalon Hill/Fantasy Flight Games
Year: 1988, 2012





#38 - Werewolf
Designer: (public domain)
Publisher: (public domain)
Year: ??





#37 - Pandemic
Designer: Matt Leacock
Artist: Josh Cappel, Chris Quilliam, et al.
Publisher: Z-Man Games
Year: 2008





#36 - Taj Mahal
Designer: Reiner Knizia
Artist: Franz Vohwinkel
Publisher: alea/Rio Grande Games
Year: 2000





#35 - Ave Caesar
Designer: Wolfgang Riedesser
Artists: Thomas Thiemeyer
Publisher: Ravensburger, Asmodee
Year: 1989





#34 - 6 Nimmt!
Designer: Wolfgang Kramer
Artist: Franz Vohwinkel
Publisher: Amigo
Year: 1994





#33 - Bohnanza
Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
Artist: Björn Pertoft
Publisher: Amigo/Rio Grande Games
Year: 1997





#32 - War of the Ring (Second Edition)
Designers: Roberto Di Meglio, Marco Maggi, Francesco Nepitello
Artists: John Howe, Fabio Maiorana
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Year: 2004, 2012





#31 - Wallenstein (first edition)
Designer: Dirk Henn
Artist: Jörg Asselborn, Christof Tisch
Publisher: Queen Games
Year: 2002












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Fri Jan 31, 2014 4:47 am
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BGTG 144 - Gaming with Regular People (with David Gullett)

Mark Johnson
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Mark Johnson's occasional & opinionated podcast about family strategy boardgames
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Have you ever played Bunco? I'm now in a couples Bunco group, a new thing for me. It goes without saying that this is not the kind of gaming group I normally have, and talk about on the show. These are not hobby gamers. They aren't even party gamers. They're just regular folks, all empty nest-ers (or close to it, like me), who get together to talk, have dinner & drinks. That we play a game or two at the end of the night for a few bucks' stakes is purely a social activity, absolutely not intended to be competitive. After Bunco kind of wore off, the group switched to LCR. Yikes!

Here's my Catch-22: I want a game that's more fun for me because it has a little bit of strategy, but everyone else wants a game that is so easy & automatic that it doesn't pressure anyone or limit conversation. Almost by definition, this is a no-man's land since it's looking for a game that has decision-making yet requires no thought.

Well, gamers often make suggestions about titles they think are light enough, but really aren't. Or we consider party games. In this podcast I cover that very topic with Dave Gullett, who is the rare gamer who understands my dilemma! In the show we go through a lot of ideas, and I proceed to basically shoot them all down for one reason or another. Am I the problem? Or is it basically un-solvable with the constraints I've given myself?

Look at all the types of games we consider, and please give me your own ideas. Particularly if you've had some success in similar situations, tell me about the games you played as well as describing that situation and its other players.


-Mark








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Mark Johnson's occasional & opinionated podcast about family strategy boardgames
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Mon Jan 13, 2014 7:07 am
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