Boardgames To Go

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

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BGTG #135 - Boardgaming Road Trip (with Dave Arnott)

Mark Johnson
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Board Game: Tikal
Board Game: Mississippi Queen
Board Game: Excape

Board Game: Africa
Board Game: Walnut Grove
Board Game: Harry's Grand Slam Baseball Game

Board Game: Walnut Grove
Board Game: Suburbia
Board Game: Olympia 2000 (v. Chr.)

Board Game: Valdora
Board Game: Show Manager
Board Game: Africa

Have you ever gone a boardgaming road trip? I expect quite a few people might drive a few hundred miles to go to a game convention, but I've never done that. Games Days on Saturdays are local for me, about the same hour's drive I do on my daily commute. Recently, though, my buddy Dave Arnott drove the two of us halfway up California to spend a weekend of games, food, and conversation with other gamer friends. That was different, and a complete blast!

This is sort of like a session report show--remember when I did those? The podcast goes a little long, but that's because we were having fun talking about games on the drive back. That's right, we recorded the podcast about the road trip while we were still on the road trip. Vroom!
cool

We got to play a whole lot of great games: a few new ones and several more old favorites. Jeff Myers is working his way through Spiel des Jahres winners on his blog, Gameguythinks, so we made sure to play a couple more of those classic titles, Mississippi Queen and Tikal. Other old faves we played were Africa, Show Manager, Olympia 2000 (v. Chr.) (1994!), and Harry's Grand Slam Baseball Game (1962!). The newer ones were Suburbia and Walnut Grove. I'll cheat a little and include Excape, too, since there was a recent reprint. In between is Valdora, which seems to have slipped past people but is really pretty great. Has EnderWiggin does one of his awesome photo-reviews of Valdora? Seems right up his alley.

Besides the boardgames, we get to tell a couple side stories. We stopped at a thrift store where I grabbed a few bargains (or not--you tell me). Another of Dave's hobbies is Letterboxing, which is described as "an intriguing pastime combining navigational skills and rubber stamp artistry in a charming 'treasure hunt' style outdoor quest." Perfect for a road trip! We did that, and we also got to stop at the warehouse for wargame publisher Decision Games. I picked up a couple items in-person, but also had the fun of seeing what goes on at the publisher of Strategy & Tactics, as well as many good wargames.




Board Game: Rage
Board Game: Mille Bornes
Board Game: Blockhead!
Board Game: Cactus Air Force: Air War Over the Solomons
Board Game: Leningrad



Links:
Gameguythinks
Letterboxing
Decision Games
Webcams for SoCal's Grapevine Pass (no snow most of the time!)



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Wed Mar 13, 2013 6:42 am
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BGTG #134 - A Look Back at 2012

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Board Game: A Few Acres of Snow
Board Game: Hanabi

Board Game: The Speicherstadt
Board Game: Walnut Grove


Board Game: Onirim
Board Game: Mr. President

Board Game: Reiner Knizia's Decathlon

Every year I like to look back over the previous one in boardgaming, and reflect on what happened. At the most basic level, this means reviewing my statistics, the number of distinct titles played, as well as the overall total of games played. For me that's typically about 100 titles, 300 total plays, but you'll hear how 2012 was a bit higher than normal. I'm not entirely sure why that was, though I have some ideas. I also talk through my "nickels & dimes" list of games played at least five or ten times.


However, those sort of stats aren't as meaningful for self-reflection as it is to remember some particularly notable games or individual plays. Some games just stand out, regardless of the number of times they were played. My games of Olympia 2000 (v. Chr.) and Reiner Knizia's Decathlon, played during this summer's real Olympics in London are an example. So is my partnership game of Mr. President, played during the last US Presidential campaign season is another.



I often play games online, though Play-By-Web sites like Yucata.de, Michael Schacht's Boardgames Online, or Brass Online. Not everyone agrees that these plays "count," but I do. More important, they let me keep playing games with friends I don't see during the week, or even friends that are in distant places like Houston or Afghanistan. (For what it's worth, I don't log iOS plays, even if they're against a friend. As the games on that platform get better & better, that could change in the future.)


Around the discussions about specific games are other observations about the recovery of my local gaming group, my rekindled interest in wargames, the undeniable impact of Kickstarter (not necessarily on me), solo boardgaming, and why I'm sometimes reverting to the term German Games instead of euros. It has to do with my preference for a style of shorter, elegant game that's more at home in 2000 among Carcassonne, Africa, or Bohnanza rather than 2012's overburdened euros with their resource economies and player status boards. The criticism of my favorite style of boardgame is that they're "superfillers" that are just chasing the Spiel des Jahres for wide, family appeal. Even with a group of gamers over on Friday night, those are the sort of games I like.

Video Game: Battle of the Bulge
Board Game: We Must Tell the Emperor






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Mon Feb 25, 2013 1:00 pm
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BGTG #133 - 100 Great Games, part 2 (with Stephen Glenn & Mark Jackson)

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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 #71-85 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

-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).



RPG Item: Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (First Edition)

#85 - Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (First Edition)
Designers: Dave Arneson & Gary Gygax
Artist: David Sutherland III
Publisher: TSR
Year: 1977




Board Game: Commands & Colors: Ancients

#84 - Commands & Colors: Ancients
Designer: Richard Borg
Artist: Rodger MacGowan
Publisher: GMT Games
Year: 2006




Board Game: Apples to Apples

#83 - Apples to Apples
Designers: Matthew Kirby & Mark Alan Osterhaus
Artist: John Kovalic
Publisher: Out of the Box Publishing
Year: 1999




Board Game: Empire Builder

#82 - Empire Builder
Designers: Darwin Bromley & Bill Fawcett
Publisher: Mayfair Games
Year: 1980




Board Game: Cockroach Poker

#81 - Cockroach Poker
Designer: Jacques Zeimet
Artist: Rolf Vogt
Publisher: Drei Magier Spiele
Year: 2004




Board Game: Montage

#80 - Montage
Designer: Joli Quentin Kansil
Publisher: Gamut of Games/Gryphon Games
Year: 1973




Board Game: Railways of the World

#79 - Railways of the World
Designers: Glenn Drover & Martin Wallace
Artists: Kurt Miller, Paul Niemeyer & David Oram
Publisher: Eagle Games/Winsome Games
Year: 2005




Board Game: Navegador

#78 - Navegador
Designer: Mac Gerdts
Artist: Marina Fehrenbach
Publisher: PD-Verlag/Rio Grande Games
Year: 2010





 

#77 - Diamant/Diamant
Designers: Bruno Faidutti & Alan R. Moon
Artist: Claus Stephan/Matthias Catrein
Publisher: Schmidt/Sunriver Games
Year: 2005




Board Game: Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game

#76 - Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game
Designer: Corey Koneiczka
Artists: Kevin Childress, Andrew Navaro, Brian Schomburg, WiL Springer
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Year: 2008




Board Game: Mamma Mia!

#75 - Mamma Mia!
Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
Artist: Franz Vohwinkel
Publisher: AbacusSpiele/Rio Grande Games
Year: 1999




Board Game: Ricochet Robots

#74 - Ricochet Robots
Designer: Alex Randolph
Artist: Franz Vohwinkel
Publisher: AbacusSpiele/Rio Grande Games
Year: 1999




Board Game: Wildlife Adventure

#73 - Wildlife Adventure/Expedition
Designers: Wolfgang & Ursula Kramer
Artist: Gerhard Schmid/Jo Hartwig
Publisher: Ravensburger/Queen
Year: 1985




Board Game: Ghost Stories

#72 - Ghost Stories
Designer: Antoine Bauza
Artist: Pierô
Publisher: Repos/Asmodee
Year: 2008




Board Game: Stone Age

#71 - Stone Age
Designer: Bernd Brunnhofer
Artist: Michael Menzel
Publisher: Hans im Glück/Rio Grande Games
Year: 2008











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Thu Feb 7, 2013 4:27 am
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BGTG #132 - GameNight! (with Scott Alden and Lincoln Damerst)

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Have you seen the latest video project on BGG? It's called GameNight!, literally hosted (i.e. in their home) by Lincoln Damerst & Nikki Pontius, as well digitally hosted by Scott Alden on BoardgameGeek's YouTube channel. On this podcast I got to talk with both Scott and Lincoln about GameNight!. At the time of recording they'd put out one show, but by now there are three episodes up.thumbsup



But first, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to ask them about BGG.con. In one of my previous episodes you heard glowing praise from Greg Pettit about the entire event and the new venue (as well as his impressions about the games he played there). It was nice to hear that Scott was very pleased with the way BGG.con is developing, too, particularly this year's enhancements. It really sounds like a fantastic time, and I dearly hope I'll make it back there. I'm pretty sure I will at some point.

Then it's time to talk about GameNight! in detail. To be honest, it kind of slipped my mind that BGG already had its own webshow, All Things Geek. The guys explain how that project has been sidetracked while its host Jess got the chance to live & work overseas for a while. She's young, and everyone should be able to understand you've got to take those opportunities while you can! (I wish I'd had the chance to live & work in another country in my earlier days. Maybe it could still happen for me later.)

Lincoln & Nikki use some of that spiffy video equipment BGG purchased for annual Essen coverage, and they're putting it to good use during the rest of the year. It sounds like Lincoln saw the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: put up some video content on BGG and regain his own game group night. How? By recording the game session, simple as that!

Board Game: King of Tokyo

Ok, it's not that simple. Lincoln has to set up all of the video recording equipment, play the game with friends on-camera, and then edit the multi-camera footage into a file that can be uploaded to YouTube. Nikki also plays the games with friends and she does graphics & other editing. It sounds like a lot of work to me (of course it does--I don't do much podcast editing!), but Lincoln assures me that he's getting this down to a routine.

In the inaugural episode, Lincoln & Nikki have Dave Arnott (who you've heard on this podcast) and Aaron over to play Richard Garfield's King of Tokyo. I think this is a good one to start with, because it's short & fun, crossing over different boardgamer interests. (For my part, I think it combines refined/elegant push-your-luck dice mechanics with an exciting/funny theme about giant movie monsters destroying Tokyo).

There are a lot of videocasts out there about boardgames, and the obvious one to bring up in comparison is TableTop, the professional webshow hosted by writer/actor Wil Wheaton on one of YouTube's new professional channels, Geek & Sundry. (It was also professionally funded. Check out this Forbes article where G&S is one of the channels that split $100 million to get started. Wow! Good for them!) The comparisons between GameNight! and TableTop are unavoidable. Both feature friends playing these games we love. However, TableTop uses more video production (titling, acceleration) and semi-gamer guests to focus on introducing & describing games to potential new gamers. I really like how Scott said he wants GameNight! to demonstrate a game night with your friends even more than the game itself. I can't remember if I left it in the edited podcast or not, but Scott said he thought TableTop has done a ton of good for our hobby, and he can see the effects directly on BGG. Besides TableTop, we talk a little bit about some of the other videocasts like Undead Viking's videos and the amazing WatchItPlayed show.


BoardgameGeek TV channel on YouTube
GameNight
All Things Geek

TableTop
Geek & Sundry

UndeadViking's videos
WatchItPlayed


And no blog entry about videocasts feels right without a link to Boardgames With Scott.



-Mark

P.S. I think my next podcast will be my 2012 year-end retrospective.


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BGTG #131 - 100 Great Games, part 1 (with Stephen Glenn & Mark Jackson)

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Several years ago, Stephen Glenn and Mark Jackson polled a number of experienced gamers (a few designers, many reviewers, all enthusiasts) for their top games. I was pleased to be part of it. They consolidated the results, and published them with commentary in a blog called "The One Hundred." It carried the tongue-in-cheek subtitle "The Official & Completely Authoritative 100 Best Games of All Time Ever Without Question...So There!" Not everyone got the irony of that title, but if you knew these guys you'd know they never take themselves too seriously.

Now in 2012 they felt it was time to do the survey again, adding some new people to the mix to get a broader range of input. I was happy to be asked for my input again, and then pleasantly surprised that they asked for my help with Boardgames To Go to get the survey results out via podcast. Hurray! This time around, I really like how Stephen describes it: "a fun list to discuss over coffee & pie." We were asked 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 faves.

It's going to take a little while to talk about 100 titles, so this will be a podcast series for BGTG. In this first part, the three of us talk about the survey itself, then launch into descriptions of the first fifteen games, #100 to #86. In future episodes, we may add another voice to the mix as we work our way up the rest of the list. At fifteen games apiece, then a last show for the top ten, this will be seven episodes in the entire series. I'll be sprinkling them in between other episodes in my podcast feed throughout the early part of 2013.

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).



And now, starting our countdown with the first fifteen titles, from #100 to #86...



Board Game: Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation

#100 - Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation
Designer: Reiner Knizia
Artist: John Howe
Publisher: Kosmos/Fantasy Flight
Year: 2002




Board Game: Torres

#99 - Torres
Designers: Wolfgang Kramer & Michael Kiesling
Artist: Alessandra Cimatoribus/Franz Vohwinkel
Publisher: Ravensburger/Rio Grande Games
Year: 1999




Board Game: Fairy Tale

#98 - Fairy Tale
Designer: Satoshi Nakamura
Artists: Satoshi Nakamura/Yoko Nachigami
Publisher: Yuhodo/What's Your Game?
Year: 1999




Board Game: Thunderstone

#97 - Thunderstone
Designer: Mike Elliott
Artist: Jason Engle
Publisher: AEG
Year: 2009




Board Game: Hoity Toity

#96 - Hoity Toity
Designer: Klaus Teuber
Artist: Cornelia von Seidlein/Michaela Keinle
Publisher: FX Schmid/Avalon Hill/alea/Uberplay
Year: 1990




Board Game: Paths of Glory

#95 - Paths of Glory
Designer: Ted Racier
Artists: Rodger B. MacGowan, Mark Simonitch
Publisher: GMT Games
Year: 1999




Board Game: Space Alert

#94 - Space Alert
Designers: Vlaada Chvátil
Artists: Radim Pech & Milan Vavroň
Publisher: Czech Games Edition/Rio Grande Games
Year: 2008




Board Game: Mü & More

#93 - Mü & More
Designers: Frank Nestel & Doris Matthäus
Artist: Doris Matthäus
Publisher: Amigo/Rio Grande Games
Year: 1995





Board Game: Diplomacy

#92 - Diplomacy
Designer: Allan B. Calhamer
Publisher: Games Research Inc/Avalon Hill
Year: 1959




Board Game: A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (Second Edition)

#91 - A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (Second Edition)
Designers: Christian Petersen & Kevin Wilson
Artists: Tomasz Marek Jedruszek & Henning Ludvigsen
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Year: 2003




Board Game: A Few Acres of Snow

#90 - A Few Acres of Snow
Designer: Martin Wallace
Artist: Peter Dennis
Publisher: Treefrog
Year: 2011




Board Game: Titan

#89 - Titan
Designera: Jason McAllister & David Trampier
Artista: Ken Nishiuye & David Trampier/Mike Doyle
Publisher: Avalon Hill/Valley Games
Year: 1980




Board Game: Cartagena

#88 - Cartagena
Designer: Leo Colovini
Artist: Studio Tapiro/Christoph Clasen
Publisher: Winning Moves/Rio Grande Games
Year: 2000




Board Game: Elfenland

#87 - Elfenland
Designer: Allen R. Moon
Artist: Doris Matthäus
Publisher: Amigo/Rio Grande Games
Year: 1998




Board Game: Heroscape Master Set: Rise of the Valkyrie

#86 - Heroscape Master Set: Rise of the Valkyrie
Designers: Rob Daviau, Craig Van Ness, and Stephen Baker
Publisher: Hasbro
Year: 2004









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Thu Dec 20, 2012 2:05 pm
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BGTG #130 - Post BGG.con 2012 (with Greg Pettit)

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[This show is longer than my usual ones, stretching to two hours. There's simply a lot of interesting stuff to talk about when you've got an event like BGG.con!]


mark wrote:
Note:

If you aren't receiving the new shows in your normal podcast subscription, try resubscribing to the feed through iTunes or equivalent (or go directly to http://feeds.feedburner.com/BoardgamesToGo).

-Mark

Board Game: Hanabi
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Video Game: Artemis: Spaceship Bridge Simulator

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Board Game: Ginkgopolis
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Board Game: Kolejka


As he's done for the past few years, Greg Pettit joins me on the podcast to talk about the annual Boardgamegeek convention, BGG.con (do they still call it "dot con"? I always thought that was clever.) I didn't go to the convention. In fact, I've only made it to the first one, and I hear it's only gotten bigger & better since then. Greg, on the other hand, goes every year. I really need to make it back sometime.

Occurring the week/weekend before Thanksgiving here in America, the convention is timed to include a lot of brand new Essen titles in its famous game library. Even I might succumb to the "cult of the new" a little bit when presented with the opportunity to try so many brand new, exciting titles that have barely made it to this country yet. Greg is like that, too, and it's great to talk with him afterward about so many of these brand new games. With that in mind, I can chime in on a few new titles I've managed to play somehow, even though I didn't make it to the convention.

For this show, Greg and I prepared a Geeklist to go along with it. This was for our own notes & preparation, but we found in prior years that it's fun to share with everyone. I always like comments here on the blog, but you may want to comment about individual games over on that listt. Towards the very end of the show, we also take a brief look back at our similar list from the previous year, too. Though we don't spend too much time on them, you know that I'm always fascinated with analyzing or merely reflecting upon what makes some games longterm keepers, and which ones we're finished with in less than twelve months. In some cases that's completely ok to have "short-term games" like that, but mostly I'm interested in those permanent keepers.

Board Game: A Few Acres of Snow
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Board Game: Walnut Grove
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Board Game: Upon a Salty Ocean



(Hmm, "short term games" might be a good meta topic for a future podcast. If I have anything more to say about it.)

Greg also tells how the convention itself was, in terms of the hotel/facility, organization, opportunities for food, and so on. By his account this event took a big step up this year. It was already good, but the new location & hotel/event staff improved things further.



Post BGG.con 2012 Geeklist

Post BGG.con 2011 Geeklist




-Mark



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Wed Dec 12, 2012 2:45 pm
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BGTG #129 - Boardgame Blogging (with Jeff Myers)

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mark wrote:
Note:

If you aren't receiving the new shows in your normal podcast subscription, try resubscribing to the feed through iTunes or equivalent (or go directly to http://feeds.feedburner.com/BoardgamesToGo).

-Mark

From gallery of MarkEJohnson

Do you read boardgame blogs? I mean, besides this one?

My friend Jeff Myers is a boardgame blogger, and he joins me on this episode to talk about the subject, both as a reader and an author.

In some ways, I think blogging is a lost art...and the literary form has only been around since the late 1990s. Perhaps that's because they've developed along with the Internet during that same time period. Though they started out as humble web-logs by quirky, individual authors who wanted to write about something, they exploded into the commercial and professional media world who displaced those private authors.

Except that they didn't.

While the New York Times, Huffington Post, Daily Beast, Wall Street Journal, and even consumer products such as Coca-Cola and Volkswagen have things they call blogs (and I guess they are), the blogs boardgamers care about are still around. I'm talking about individual authors with their personal point-of-view, writing style, and a talent for giving us good stuff to read. It's about the boardgames, yes, but it's as much about the author. You find a few you like, you subscribe to the blogs, and (hopefully) give the blogger some feedback. Here are just a few...

From gallery of MarkEJohnson

Gameguy Thinks... by Jeff Myers
Castle by Moonlight by Giles Pritchard
Mechanics and Meeples by Shannon Appelcline
Tom Rosen's posts on Opinionated Gamers
(a multi-author blog)
Gamer Chris by Chris Norwood
The Tao of Gaming by Brian Bankler
Gameblog by Mikko Saari
(btw, Mikko gave BGTG its first webspace many years ago, in its pre-podcast days! Very nice guy)
On Gamer's Games by Jesse Dean (a BGG-hosted blog)
Empty Nest Gamers by bgg user Hobbes (another one here on BGG)
jergames.com by Yehuda Berlinger


When I said blogging was a lost art, my fear is that blog reading is what we're losing. I hope I'm wrong. Just going to a website regularly and looking for new content works ok, I guess, but the real way to enjoy this form is to subscribe to the blogs and use a blogreader. They have them for every conceivable platform, Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, and even cloud-computing web apps that are device-independent. A lot of good blogs are hosted right here on BGG, but there are others out there on their own websites. BGG has a subscription button, but you can easily keep up with any blog (including ones on BGG) using a blogreader. Here are a few good ones:

Google Reader
Feedly
Bloglines
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At the end we try to be technology futurists and imagine what's going to happen to blogging in the next decade. Social media has transformed interaction online, and that world is due for another technological generation. Something that facilitates thoughtful writers who want to do more that just tweet in 140 characters.


-Mark



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Wed Nov 28, 2012 1:44 pm
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BGTG #128 - The Value of a Boardgame (with Greg Pettit)

Mark Johnson
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mark wrote:
Note:

If you aren't receiving the new shows in your normal podcast subscription, try resubscribing to the feed through iTunes or equivalent (or go directly to http://feeds.feedburner.com/BoardgamesToGo).

-Mark
From gallery of MarkEJohnson

Greg Pettit must enjoy talking about meta topics on my podcast as much as I do. After helping me on my shows about game themes (for grown-ups or otherwise!), he told me he'd been thinking about the value of a boardgame. Not boardgaming, the entire hobby, but an individual title. And not in a strictly dollars & cents way, but more of a holistic, personal value of an individual game. Ever read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? It might be good background for Greg's thoughts in this episode.


We start off with the usual--but false--comparison of the cost of a boardgame compared to "dinner & a movie." If you've been in the hobby for long, no doubt you've come across this one. However, that comparison breaks down quickly, to the point where it's only importance may be as a rationalization (to your spouse?) for buying more games! No, when thinking about the value of an individual game, our thoughts quickly converged on the time we spent playing the game, and the quality of that time. It's not simply a matter of multiplying game length x number of plays to get some total number of hours. It's not as mechanical or clinical as that. From there Greg is able to point out the value a game can have regardless of the number of plays you have of it...or that game has in it.

Just as much fun as the zen-like discussions about game values are every gamer's personal stories about games that mean something special to them. That's because we came to the conclusion that a game's value is multi-dimensional, sometimes difficult to describe, and very often personal to the gamer. Maybe it relates to a particular game experience playing it with friends, a theme that resonates so strongly, or even the effort it took to acquire the game in the first place.

Board Game: Reef Encounter
Board Game: Risk Legacy
Board Game: Air Baron

Board Game: En Garde
Board Game: Kingdom Builder
Board Game: Saturn
Board Game: Dune



My only regret about this episode are some of my opening words, where I praise Greg for helping me get these podcasts out with more regularity. Since I haven't really done that, it makes it sound like Greg bears some responsibility for that. Of course that isn't true! This episode was actually recorded three months ago, and it's for my own reasons that I didn't post it until now. Why I do this to myself and my friends is a podcast for another time.
whistle


-Mark



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Mon Nov 19, 2012 8:57 pm
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BGTG #127 - Essen Anticipation 2012 (sort of...)

Mark Johnson
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mark wrote:
Note:

If you aren't receiving the new shows in your normal podcast subscription, try resubscribing to the feed through iTunes or equivalent (or directly to http://feeds.feedburner.com/BoardgamesToGo).

-Mark

Every year I get excited about Essen, even though I'm not able to attend. For the past several years, I've used the podcast to share that excitement, and even try to analyze it a bit. Why do I think I'll like some games more than others? Looking back, how often am I right about that? It's a hobby within a hobby.
From gallery of MarkEJohnson

To my surprise & delight, some of my listeners really like listening to these shows, and even ask for them. Really? My own personal wishlist for Essen is something you find interesting? Well, I guess I understand that, as the explosion of personal Geeklists used for shopping at Essen (real or vicariously) is something I like to look over, too. In fact, the tremendous volume of information we now get prior to each Essen Spiel increases the value in looking over someone else's pared-down list. Otherwise, it's too much.

That's what I certainly discovered this year. In 2011 I think I was on the verge of being overwhelmed by the volume of new titles and all of the pre-event info (previews, photos, rules, impressions, etc.) we have about them. This year, I finally admitted to myself that I could no longer keep up. That's why this year's episode isn't really my entire list of games that catch my eye. I wasn't able to even make that list this year, because I couldn't keep up with everything. For me, this represents a sea change in my experience with Essen.

From gallery of MarkEJohnson

However, all is not lost. Far from it, in fact. When I think back on it, I realize that I've had a few different "sea changes" with Essen already. Back in the 1990s I got my info from Mike Siggins, Ken Tidwell, Alan Moon, and the like. That would come in the form of a text report shared via email or the web, filled with well-written firsthand accounts of games previewed, purchased, and only rarely played to completion more than once. Often they were getting by on incomplete rules translations or memories of how the demo worked.

And I loved it! It was fascinating to read those accounts, imagine what Essen might be like, and wonder if/when I would get a chance to see or play some of those games.

By the early 2000s we now had larger numbers of English-speakers going to Essen, and more reports coming back. Digital cameras were becoming common, and we had some photos sometimes, too. I even managed to attend for one day in 2003, while on an anniversary vacation with my wife in Germany. Between these accounts and Rio Grande/Mayfair, we now got some pretty complete accounts of the games being published there, and had pretty good opportunities to acquire them ourselves, sometimes before Christmas.

Now we have realtime video of the games being demonstrated! We have a multitude of reports about the games acquired, played, and played several more times. Though there will always be some small card games and niche publishers who have limited or no availability in the US, those are the exception. I know some American gamers have great heartburn over the months it can take for a surprise hit like Eclipse or Agricola to become widely available back at home, but you know I'm not one of those. I'm drowning in new titles at Games Days and the like even while I'm still looking for my first play of some titles from 2011 (Trajan? Ora et Labora?).

It's with these thoughts in mind that I considered the discussion between Doug Garrett and Tom Vasel about the importance of covering Essen (or Gencon) on boardgame podcasts. My conclusion was that Essen is still a big deal to me, but it doesn't really matter if I "cover" it or not. I'm not a news source (clearly!). I don't try to monetize my podcast, and I'm under no obligation to discuss anything in particular. My podcast is more like a personal blog, just in audio format, and I'm just tickled that anyone finds it worthwhile to listen to. I think this is how most hobby podcasts should be, too. Yeah, there are some more expenses with a podcast than there are with a blog (nearly free), but it isn't so much, really. This is a labor of love, and a chance to write & record some opinions to engage in discussion with like-minded friends.

Anyway, even though I can't keep up with Essen this year, I'll still enjoy hearing all about it, and looking back at what its hits were once we know for sure. Like in 2014.

-Mark

P.S. I forgot my normal microphone, but was out of time to record this show. So I just used the built-in mic on my laptop, and it shows in the sound quality. Hopefully it's still worth listening to.



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Tue Oct 16, 2012 11:16 pm
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Recent gaming, an Essen show coming, and a chapter in life

Mark Johnson
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Santa Clarita
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I've got another podcast recorded already, another interesting discussion with Greg Pettit, this time about the value of a boardgame. Not retail (or resale) value, but more of its holistic value. The time you spend, the enjoyment you have...that sort of thing. I won't give more away--I'll save it for the podcast.

From gallery of MarkEJohnson

But before that goes up, I'd better set aside some time to record my typical "Essen anticipation" episode. There are a ton of personal geeklists that cover this same ground, and now even a separate webtool provided by a clever boardgamer to help you organize your thoughts (or shopping list). I'm neither going to Essen, nor placing an imminent game order, but I still like to window shop at all of the new titles, and play the metagame of determining which ones appeal to me the most...and why. Last year I had more of a system for denoting that, which I recorded in a geeklist and accompanied the podcast. I aim to do the same again this year.

From gallery of MarkEJohnson

From gallery of MarkEJohnson

The reason I'm telling you about shows I'm going to post (instead of just posting them), is that I've got a big chapter in life coming up. My oldest kid is leaving for college this weekend. Some of you have gone through this already, and other fathers with young ones don't have to think about it yet. We're really excited for my son, and he's equally excited to jump into this new adventure, but that only lessens the sting of seeing him go. The college is about 7 hours' drive away, so that's a perfect distance for visiting often...but not too often. Best for all of us. Besides the logistics of prepping for college in the final weeks (tuning up the bicycle, getting stuff for the dorm room, troubleshooting our Skype connection, registering for classes, and making the first payments), my thoughts and leisure time have been turned to him more than boardgames. Though he plays them once in a while, the gaming we actually share are co-op videogames. These days, those are almost limited to first-person shooters. We need another good Star Wars splitscreen, dual cockpit game. (Or my favorite stage, when I was the tailgunner in a captured Imperial Shuttle in some game we played together on his old Gamecube.) Anyway, I'll get back into the boardgaming--and blogging/podcasting about it--soon enough.

Funny story about my son & the podcast: If you're a longtime listener, you may recall that he was a "guest" on the show once. That was an episode I did with Dave Gullett, who had his sons on the podcast, as well. This was way back in episode 54, recorded in March 2006. That means my son, who's about to go off to double-major in Philosophy and Plant Biology, was finishing the 6th grade back then. Dave has told me that I really ought to re-listen to that episode. Just last night, I was testing my Skype video connection with Aldie on the other end, and he also mentioned that particular episode, which he still has stored on his old, original iPod. He uses it with a boombox dock for music, but occasionally my old podcast with my son gets shuffled to the playlist and he hears a tiny bit of it again! Podcasting offers some interesting audio snapshots in time, doesn't it? I do intend to re-listen to the episode...but not just yet. Definitely not this week!

(I'm not going to post the actual podcast here, otherwise it'll go out into the subscription feed like a new show. Of course it isn't a new show, and I don't want to pawn it off as one. But if you're curious about it, you should be able to re-download episode #54 in iTunes, or play it from http://www.boardgamestogo.com/2006/03/bgtg-54-april-1-2006-n... .)

That's it for the personal stuff. How about a little recent gaming?

Board Game: Coloretto
From gallery of MarkEJohnson

I introduced the lunch group (which plays every other week if we're lucky) to Coloretto. For the first hand they were a little boggled by my lightning-rules (but complete, thankfully), then it all clicked. They really enjoyed it, proving to me once again that Coloretto is simplest and the best of this mechanism. I think I've tried all of the other permutations, including the dice game, and keep coming back to the original. Lean & mean is best, in my book. Games like this one are why I think designer Michael Schacht has been the heir to Knizia's previous place as the master of the small eurogame. It's why I always take a special look at what Schacht has coming next (a theme that will come up in the Essen preview, of course--scanning for designers.)

From gallery of MarkEJohnson

The Santa Clarita Boardgamers have played a bunch of things lately, but two I want to point out are Eketorp and Elder Sign. Eketorp is a game I first saw in its barebones edition from designer Dirk Henn's self-publishing (?) house, db Spiele. At the time, it didn't appeal because it didn't look much. Though I saw vikings on the cover, the name sure didn't sound like a viking name to me, and I figured it was a pasted-on theme and I wasn't going to get sucked in. Fast forward several years, and Marcin bought it from a clearance pile. Now I was looking at the Queen edition, and of course they did a fantastic job with the production. They always do. This time, I didn't resist playing the game. Even more important (for me), I did a little research before we played. Hello! Eketorp really is a historic placename. In fact, it's a UNESCO World Heritage site, an Iron Age circular fortress (one of many, actually) on the large Swedish island of Öland. Suddenly the game was a lot more interesting to me, and the building of circular fortresses was clearly thematic and historic. Hurray! The fighting between viking clans is probably pretty historic, too, but the collection of resources is very much a game mechanism. I was pleasantly surprised by this under-the-radar game (published first in 2003, then by Queen in 2007). It's worth a look.

Board Game: Elder Sign

As for Elder Sign, you'd be right in thinking this isn't my kind of game. But you'd be wrong in guessing that I avoided it. In fact, it was my copy. I ordered the darned thing as soon as my son's girlfriend brought it up! She was walking past one evening while the gamers were playing, and asked if we'd ever played Elder Sign. None of us had, and though I knew this wasn't my sort of game, she said she'd played a time or two before, and would like to play again. Wow, can you believe it?! I don't know if that will ever happen, and if she'll rope my son into joining us, but it's certainly worth a shot, right? How many gamers like me are just looking for an excuse to buy something new. It wasn't long after that the YouTube channel TableTop featured the game, and the Wil Wheaton effect was felt in our group. (It also helped get Dixit to the table one night.)

We played Elder Sign once, laboring unduly to get through the finicky rules of what's fundamentally a simple co-op dice game. What did I think? Eh. Without the above connection, I wouldn't think much of it at all. But that (potential) connection and opportunity to play with the kids remains, and the other gamers liked it quite a bit. For the moment, then, it's a keeper.

Even if it is fantastical and childish.
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Thu Sep 20, 2012 11:29 pm
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