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Boardgames To Go

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

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Coup on GameNight! (with me!)

Mark Johnson
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Hey, while waiting for another BGTG episode (two have been recorded, to be posted in early January), you can watch me play a game of Coup with my friends Lincoln & Nikki on their video series, GameNight!. As far as I'm concerned, Coup is better than its hidden-role grandfather, Werewolf, and also better than the current minigame favorite, Love Letter.

Even if it wasn't, though, it's always great to play games with friends like these: Lincoln, Nikki, Dave, Stephanie, and Aldie. Check it out!
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Fri Dec 27, 2013 7:54 pm
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BGTG 143 - Post BGG.con 2013, part 2 (with Greg Pettit)

Mark Johnson
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Who really believed me when I said I'd get Part 2 of the podcast out this week? I realize my credibility for prompt podcast publication isn't great. And yet--here it is!

As I said in the first part, this is my now-traditional interview with my friend & BGG.con regular, Greg Pettit. He goes to the convention every year and plays a ton of new Essen releases. I'm quite jealous, and hope to finally make it back there myself in 2014.

We pick up the podcast halfway through our discussion about these games. Towards the end I get to offer my opinions about some new ones Greg didn't get to. The conversation also meanders a bit sometimes about keeping versus selling/trading games that don't make it to the table anymore, etc.

-Mark







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Thu Dec 12, 2013 3:52 am
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BGTG 142 - Post BGG.con 2013, part 1 (with Greg Pettit)

Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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Although I've only made it to one BGG.con so far (the first one, I think), my buddy and frequent BGTG guest Greg Pettit is a regular attendee. For the past several years he's joined me on the podcast after the event to tell us all about it, especially the new Essen games he was able to play. I love hearing about them.

Something else that fascinates me is the slippery topic of figuring out which new games are the best ones. Not to get too highfalutin, but this is really the timeless matter of judging art. Why are some artistic works better than others, and do those opinions hold over time? In our little way, I like to explore this topic by prompting Greg for a "star rating" for these games (adding my own where I can)...and then revisiting those ratings a year later. It's only one year, but that's enough for the bloom to be off the rose for some new titles. Even some that we honestly love struggle to make it back to the table. Most interesting of all, a select few appear to be new classics--or at least personal keepers. Gosh, I love this topic, as subjective as it is.

Want to follow along, and even add your own star ratings? You can do it on the companion geeklist I've posted for this show. You can also go back to the lists we did in 2012 & 2011 to do the same, or measure our prognostication skills.

Greg played so many games this year (and I added some of my own), that the podcast got to be quite long. For that reason I've split it into two halves. I'll post the first half now, and the second half at the end of the week.

-Mark










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Tue Dec 10, 2013 6:00 am
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I'm the guest on Stacking Benjamins

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This week I'm on someone else's show! BGGer Joe Saul-Sehy (Domino Man)
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has a humorous & informative podcast called Stacking Benjamins about personal finance and planning, and he invited me on to talk about boardgames. This guy knows money, is a long distance runner, appreciates Bloom County, rates Big City a 10, and has listened to Boardgames To Go since my beginnings. All good in my book! Too bad he lives halfway across the country from me--I'd like to play some games with him. Maybe the two of us will meet next year at BGG.con.

With the holidays coming up, games can be a good thing to bring out with family. For a long time they've had a reputation of being economical forms of entertainment. Whether that's still true for those of us with hundreds of titles in our collection hardly matters--we're having fun!

On the episode he asked me to give some quick suggestions for games about finance, as well as some party games. I thought it over and came up with For Sale, Chicago Express, and Power Grid, followed by Telestrations, Say Anything Family Edition, and Dixit.



-Mark
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Tue Nov 19, 2013 11:38 pm
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BGTG 141 - 100 Great Games, part 4 (with Stephen Glenn and Mark Jackson)

Mark Johnson
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Stephen Glenn
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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 more 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 15 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 #41-55 on the list, counted down in reverse order as we discuss them on the podcast.

Now we're really getting into some notable titles with firm reputations of being great games. And yet, one or more of us keep finding games that we take issue with. There's nothing wrong with that, of course--these are the compiled results of many gamers, not just us. You should understand that we can respect a game, and its place on this list, even if we don't like it personally. In fact, I hope that sort of different opinion makes for a good listen, and will spark some feedback in the blog comments, below.


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).




#55 - Arkham Horror
Designers: Richard Launius & Kevin Wilson
Artists: Finér, Hrynkiewicz, Ludvigsen, Miller, Nicely, Schomburg
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Year: 2005





#54 - Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage
Designer: Mark Simonitch
Artists: Amoral, Doyle, Gondeck, Miller, Simonitch
Publisher: Avalon Hill/Valley Games
Year: 1996





#53 - The Castles of Burgundy
Designer: Stefan Feld
Artists: Julien Delval & Harald Lieske
Publisher: alea
Year: 2011





#52 - Saint Petersburg
Designer: Bernd Brunnhofer
Artist: Doris Matthäus
Publisher: Rio Grande/Hans im Glück
Year: 2004





#51 - Galaxy Trucker
Designer: Vlaada Chvátil
Artist: Radim Pech
Publisher: Czech Games Edition
Year: 2007





#50 - Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper
Designer: Mike Fitzgerald
Artists: Conrad, Poshkus, Boginski-Barbessi, Van Duyn, Hoffmann, Stephan
Publisher: U.S. Games Systems
Year: 1998-2009





#49 - Blokus
Designer: Bernard Tavitian
Artist: Alan D. Hoch
Publisher: Educational Insights
Year: 2000





#48 - Combat Commander: Europe
Designer: Chad Jensen
Artists: Brimmicombe-Wood, Jensen, MacGowan, Myrick, Simonitch
Publisher: GMT Games
Year: 2006





#47 - Show Manager
Designer: Dirk Henn
Artists: Hartwig, Horst, Schlemmer
Publisher: db Spiele, Queen Games
Year: 1996





#45 - TransAmerica
Designer: Franz-Benno Delonge
Artist: Marcel-André Casasola Merkle
Publisher: Winning Moves
Year: 2001





#45 - Civilization
Designers: Francis Tresham & Mick (Mike) Uhl
Artists: Dovey, Kibler, MacGowan, Rohmer, Sheaffer
Publisher: Avalon Hill
Year: 1980





#44 - 1830: Railways & Robber Barons
Designer: Francis Tresham
Artists: Atkinson, Blando, Kibler, Talbot, Zug
Publisher: Avalon Hill
Year: 1986





#43 - Le Havre
Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
Artists: Klemens Franz & Uwe Rosenberg
Publisher: Lookout Games
Year: 2008





#42 - Risk Legacy
Designers: Rob Daviau & Chris Dupuis
Artist: uncredited
Publisher: Hasbro
Year: 2011





#41 - Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition)
Designer: Kevin Wilson (plus Clark, Konieczka & Sadler for 2nd ed)
Artists: Ejsing, Goodenough, Walls (1st ed) / Henning Ludvigsen (2nd ed)
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Year: 2005, 2012











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Mon Oct 28, 2013 9:17 pm
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BGTG #140 - SR & Feedback (Clubs, Augustus, Via Appia & more)

Mark Johnson
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During the summer I hurried to play all of the Spiel des Jahres nominated games as quickly as I could, then record a podcast about them. I already knew & enjoyed Hanabi, the eventual winner, but hadn't played Qwixx or Augustus. Though I didn't move fast enough to get a SdJ-prediction episode out there, it was still fun to familiarize myself with the nominees. The only one in the big box, I supposed like many that Augustus would win. My favorite of the three is Hanabi...though I have to admit I've played Qwixx the most of all. (I've still only played one of the Kennerspiel nominees--my preferences run more to the SdJ titles.)

Although my SdJ plans for the podcast didn't work out, it freed me up to talk about other games, such as Clubs. I don't accept review copies very often--usually only for a game I'm pretty sure I'll like. That means there are a lot of Kickstarter concepts with dragons or spaceships that I turn down, in preference to something like Clubs: a quasi-traditional card game that bears a resemblance to Tichu, a classic euro card game I already enjoy. What Clubs has that so many games don't is a high degree of development, of polish & attention on the little things. Instead of dazzling me with geek themes (which wouldn't work anyway, you know), it wins me over with smooth gameplay, crisp rules, and a physical production that invisibly makes everything easier and more pleasant. THAT is something I like and am happy to crow about on my podcast.


An unusual thing for me in this episode was going to a couple different Meetup groups with strangers. I know people use this service, whether gamers or not, yet I never had. But there I was, in a different city on an extended business trip, and these boardgame get-togethers were beckoning me. Why not check it out? I got to play some fun games (Settlers, Qwixx, Castles of Burgundy, and Via Appia), as well as meet some interesting people. It's not the same as my own local groups with established friends, but it was worthwhile in its own way. The triple-play of boardgames, brewpub, and Indian food at Yak & Yeti was something special, that's for sure.




Links:
You Don't Know Theme, by San Il Defanso
Games Mech-Somethings, by Alfred ???


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Mon Oct 14, 2013 6:13 am
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BGTG #139 - Essen Anticipation 2013 (with Dave Gullett)

Mark Johnson
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[Warning: At 2+ hours, this is a really long episode. There are just too many interesting games to discuss and speculate about!]

After years of doing these podcasts where I pore over Eric Martin's Spiel preview list, taking note of the games that spark my interest, I quit doing them last year. Remember that? I wanted to, I even got started, but then gave up and let the tidal wave of titles wash over me. I just couldn't keep up anymore. Besides, I didn't have any special insight or information about the games before anyone else. All I was doing was sharing my own "window shopping" excitement.

And yet...people said they liked these episodes. Maybe it's just fun to share in the excitement. At times I tried to get a little analytical, looking over previous years' anticipation lists and checking my own powers of prediction. Never mind about picking the top titles--could I at least figure out my own personal favorites based on preview/marketing information and a couple photos? Maybe. I also tried to psychoanalyze myself. WHY did those particular games catch my eye, and not others? Often it was the publisher, sometimes the designer, occasionally the "look" of the game, and--too often--a theme or setting I knew probably wouldn't come through in the gameplay. But I'm a sucker for those anyway.

Even though I cried uncle in 2012, skipping that year's Essen Anticipation podcast, here I am trying again in 2013. I don't know what the difference is except that I got an earlier start. In fact, I recorded the podcast an entire month before Spiel begins in Essen. The only downside of that is the fact that the podcast won't know about the titles which are announced in that interval. Oh well.

For the first time, I've got a guest for this particular episode. It's Dave Gullett, who you've heard on the show before. You'll hear how he doesn't normally even look at the preview list, being content to wait until well after the show for the news about notable titles to percolate up through BGG discussions and local gaming friends. I got him to look over the list and take some notes this year, but it still makes for a slightly different perspective.

Similar to other years, I made a Geeklist for Dave & I to refer to during our recording. You may like to look at it as well, either to follow along during our discussion or just comment on individual titles. We even had one person comment on the Geeklist, hoping for a podcast while we recording the episode! Spooky...

What games are on your watchlist, or even your preorder list. Why those? Will you place an order from Germany, wait to try them somewhere first (perhaps at BGG.con?), or get around to buying these games six months from now after everything has shaken out?

You know, something I didn't touch on much are the videos that are now pretty common for new games. Either Eric Martin himself has a preview video, someone has an advance copy with review, or even one of those silly unboxing videos. (Though since I often use a game's setup photo as a useful barometer for whether I'll like it, I shouldn't turn up my nose at those unboxing videos. I guess.) My problem with videos is that I never watch them. I listen to podcasts while my eyes are doing other things, like watching the road. However, I'm a 47 year old dinosaur. Perhaps you get more out of the videos than I do.


-Mark


Links

W. Eric Martin's Spiel 2013 Preview list

My Geeklist containing game titles & notes for this episode


If you're curious, here are also my podcast and geeklist from the last time I did this Essen Anticipation topic, back in 2011. How right was I?


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Fri Sep 27, 2013 7:32 am
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BGTG #138 - Experience Games (with Greg Pettit)

Mark Johnson
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Do you know the term, Experience Game? I thought everyone did, but in prepping for this episode I found that it's used a lot less often than I thought. Not only that, but I learned it's a term that was used more often in the early days of hobby boardgames, by which I mean the 1990s. Well, let's bring it up to 2013. (Actually, it IS still used sometimes.)



What I'm talking about are titles where the experience is more important than the gameplay. This is easiest to think about in terms of roleplaying or party games. There I think most people understand that the group experience is the objective, more than the mechanics--certainly more than points and winning. This can be true of boardgames, too. For some, that's an obvious concept, and it's in some of the games they love the most. If you're a diehard eurosnoot, however, this may make no sense! Why would the point of a game be anything other than the gameplay?! There's an aesthetic and even kind of a "story" to Tigris & Euphrates or Settlers, but the point is playing a friendly competition against your friends, right? Take an abstract like GIPF and that's all it's about, I'd say.

When I thought about some of the games I've enjoyed quite a bit, I found they were ones that focused on the story quite a bit more than the mechanics of playing the game, or even winning it. You know me, though--I'm turned off by the many games with stories about orcs, spaceships, or zombies. Are there games that take "serious" or historic subject (like Brass does with the Industrial Revolution in Lancashire) but then are happy to downplay the gameplay in service of the story and the shared experience the players have together? Yes!

In this discussion, I drew upon my personal history with roleplaying games more than I thought I would. Although I don't play RPGs anymore, I did for a long time during high school and college. (It even led to a few projects for Steve Jackson Games' GURPS, which is why I've got that spiffy Game Designer geekbadge under my name.) When they're working well for the player, I think experience boardgames can give some of the shared story payoff of a roleplaying game with your friends.




Believe it or not, I'm not trying to make an objective analysis and come up with a crisp definition in this episode. I'm really not! It may be unsatisfying for me to retreat to the subjective experience games are in the eye of the 'experiencer' nonsense statement, but that's basically where I ended up on this topic. Some titles like Tale of the Arabian Nights are unequivocally experience games, while others like Medici are clearly not, but Greg and I had different ideas about other titles such as Arkham Horror or Galaxy Trucker.

By the way, a game I completely forgot to bring up is Source of the Nile. Or maybe I subconsciously wanted to wait until I actually finished a game, and I'm not there yet. Right now I'm using Vassal to slowly work through a play-by-email version of this 1970s classic. Being from Avalon Hill in the 70s (though originally published by someone else), it's got rules up the wazoo. Nonetheless, it very much feels like the point of the game is the experience, rather than winning or losing. One of these days I'll finish the sucker and talk about it on the podcast. Pax Porfiriana is kind of the same--I mentioned it briefly on the episode, but will talk about it more after I've got more experience with it.

Oh, and do check out the BGG Glossary. I don't think enough gamers know about it.


-Mark




P.S. Here are the different graphic presentations for Nemo's War


Nemo's War published graphics | Tracy Baker's new graphics | Tim Allen's steampunk version


P.P.S. For those curious about WGTG, my first episode talking about Gettysburg is coming along...



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Mon Jul 15, 2013 3:29 am
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BGTG #137 - SR & Feedback (Vinci II, TransAmerica/Vexation, Eclipse on iOS)

Mark Johnson
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I've been doing this podcast now for more than eight years! I can't quite believe it myself. In the beginning, more than a handful of shows were audio session reports, which I then combined with feedback that I read "on-air." These are simple episodes, inevitably solo shows, and I often used them to go between episodes with a guest about a particular subject. Especially as those shows are getting more and more meta about the hobby itself, a simple "session report & feedback" episode is kind of a relief. I hope you like them, also. I particularly like reading feedback on the podcast, as it reminds me of the Letters section in Sumo, Counter, or other boardgame zines. Those were always the best part.

Naturally I've been playing all sorts of games since my last SR & Feedback episode many months ago. Even some relatively new stuff like Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar and Terra Mystica, two recommended games on the Kennerspiel list this year. But I'm not talking about those yet. They're not really my kind of game, being more "2010's euro" than "1990's German," if you know what I mean. Instead, I talk about Vinci II, TransAmerica (with Vexation), and Eclipse on iOS.




Vinci II are a set of variants or expansions to my beloved, original Vinci that are available online at [url="http://yucata.de"]Yucata.de[/url], the website that has established itself as the premier play-by-web site for boardgames. (There are others, and I like them, too, but Yucata is now the king.) I'd probably be drawn to any Vinci site or good variant, but this is even better because original designer Philippe Keyaerts is involved. You can hear how he takes some of the ideas (improvements?) from Small World, but still keeps this game grounded in the history of real civilizations and where they come from. I enjoy it, and hope these ideas are someday issued as a new edition of the boardgame.

TransAmerica has been a good pick for our lunch group, something I bet is true of others' lunch hour game groups, too. Have you tried the micro-expansion, Vexation? I've had it for years, but didn't try it until last week. It adds another layer--including the opportunity for some confrontation that my work buddies enjoy. Recommended.

As I type this, I'm losing a 2-player game of Eclipse, which I'm playing against BGTG listener Chris Ross on the iPad. He's in my same time zone, but that's as close as it gets. We're a few hundred miles apart. That's one of the beauties of a digital version that supports multiplayer: the chance to play with someone far away. Not only that, but I get to play the game far more often than I would otherwise. I've played the physical copy of the game twice, but don't own it myself. On the other hand, several of my friends & I each own the iPad version, and I've played many games against the AI and a few online multiplayer. The implementation of the game is pretty great. What about the game itself? As I said on the previous podcast, I like it, but don't love it. Still, there are good reasons to keep playing games like that.

The feedback section includes some good suggestions to help me rationalize the screwy economics of train games. Remember how I'm bugged about earning more for "inefficient" networks that transport colored cubes further than necessary? Also some good ideas for future episodes

Oh, and though I don't really say too much about this yet, here's a hint at something else I'm working on...




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Fri May 31, 2013 7:16 am
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BGTG #136 - 100 Great Games, part 3 (with Stephen Glenn and Mark Jackson)

Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
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Stephen Glenn
United States
Virginia Beach
Virginia
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Mark Jackson
United States
Goodlettsville
Tennessee
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Am I a man or am I a muppet? If I'm a muppet then I'm a very manly muppet!
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Stephen Glenn and Mark Jackson rejoin me (Mark JOHNson) to continue this series. In 2012, the two guys polled a number of experienced gamers (a few designers, many reviewers, all enthusiasts) for their top games, consolidated the results, 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 more 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 15 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 #56-60 on the list, counted down in reverse order as we discuss them on the podcast.


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

Mark Jackson's personal blog

Tao of Gaming's "8 Layers of Crap"

-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).




#70 - Notre Dame
Designer: Stefan Feld
Artist: Harald Lieske
Publisher: Alea/Rio Grande Games
Year: 2007





#69 - Goa
Designer: Rüdiger Dorn
Artist: Oliver Freudenreich
Publisher: Hans im Glück/Rio Grande/Zman
Year: 2004





#68 - Take it Easy!
Designers: Peter Burley
Publisher: FX Schmid/Ravensburger
Year: 1983





#67 - Dixit
Designer: Jean-Louis Roubira
Artist: Marie Cardouat
Publisher: Asmodee
Year: 2008





#66 - Caylus
Designer: William Attia
Artist: Cyril Demaegd
Publisher: Ystari
Year: 2005





#65 - Tikal
Designers: Michael Kiesling & Wolfgang Kramer
Publisher: Ravensburger/Rio Grande Games
Year: 1999





#64 - Entdecker
Designers: Klaus Teuber
Artists: Franz Vohwinkel
Publisher: Goldseiber
Year: 1996





#63 - Mare Nostrum
Designer: Serge Laget
Artist: Franck Dion
Publisher: Eurogames
Year: 2003





#62 - RoboRally
Designers: Richard Garfield
Artist: Phil Foglio
Publisher: Avalon Hill (Hasbro)
Year: 1994





#61 - Outpost
Designer: James Hlavaty & Timothy Moore
Publisher: TimJim Games/Stronghold Games
Year: 1991





#60 - Eclipse
Designer: Touko Tahkokallio
Artists: Ossi Hiekkala & Sampo Sikiö
Publisher: Lautapelit.fi
Year: 2011





#59 - Die Macher
Designer: Karl-Heinz Schmiel
Publisher: Hans im Gluck/Valley Games
Year: 1986





#58 - Thebes
Designers: Peter Prinz
Artist: Michael Menzel
Publisher: Queen
Year: 2007





#57 - Summoner Wars
Designer: Colby Dauch
Publisher: Plaid Hat Games
Year: 2008





#56 - Schotten Totten/Battle Line
Designer: Reiner Knizia
Publisher: ASS/GMT Games
Year: 1999











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Mark Johnson's occasional & opinionated podcast about family strategy boardgames
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