Jenn BartlettUnited States
This poor blog has been abandoned since the end of October, and my apologies. Work, life, and many other things have gotten in the way of frequently updating this blog. #noexcusesthough
I received a call a couple of months back from someone who had attended my presentation at Trade Day at Gen Con 2017, first telling me how my presentation had inspired her to go back to her own library and start a gaming group, and then reminding me of the usefulness of what a year of circulating board games was like to my fellow librarians. How did it go? How have they been received? What are you doing with lost pieces?
This phone call was not only humbling, to hear how your work had impacted someone else's work, but a good reminder for me to update this blog.
Well, months later, here I am writing this blog post!
It has been a phenomenal year for the board game collection here at the Manchester Public Library in Connecticut. I had high hopes that this would be a service the community would respond to, but my expectations have been far exceeded.
In April I started a very small Teen Game selection with roughly 30 games. Space in that department is limited, so I had to go off what space I had. All of these were purchased with gift money, or donated by private citizens. Initial titles I added were: Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal: Board Game; Codenames: Marvel; The Grimm Forest; One Night Ultimate Werewolf;Kingdomino, as well as others. The focus on the teen games was to add items I thought teenagers would like with IPs they would be familiar with, or mechanics that would appeal to 13 year olds (a fair amount of "take that" games entered my collection, like Sheriff of Nottingham and Gloom). The other intent was to select games that would not be terribly difficult to play or learn to play.
Games in the Teen section were processed the same way as they were for the Adult section (see earlier Chapter on cataloging/processing), except to differentiate from adult games, these received a neon green circle sticker on the left side box cover.
One of the major things I learned with the Teen selection was everything I thought would be popular for teens, was not. Grimm Forest sat on the shelf for months, until I started selling it to patrons. Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Skull & Shackles – Base Set and Millennium Blades seemed to be intimidating to patrons because of the number of cards in each. Another issue was placement. I had trained people to go to one location to select games to bring home, but I had to draw up signage in the lines of "Did you know we have board games in our Teen Area too?" with a huge arrow point that way. Many of my regulars are still surprised when I tell them that there are games in that area.
Right about that time, it was becoming plainly clear I needed to add difficulty stickers to the front of box. This feeling most particularly came from, of all games, Dominant Species. Right away it was flying off the shelf, and then immediately coming back. My other heavy games, which are mostly from GMT Games, were not experiencing the same thing. And Dominant Species was coming back in a mixed up jumble of pieces strewn all over the box, not separated in to their respective bags. I came to the hypothesis that people were likely checking it out because of the "cute" dinosaurs on the cover. Not looking at the back (the back of any GMT box can intimidate even the most season gamer), they brought it home, opened up the box, and probably lost their nuggets when they saw the sheer amount of pieces. Patrons perhaps tried playing, but quickly got overwhelmed. This of course, is just a thought, and certainly does not count the people who I know actually played it.
I ordered four different color circle stickers, and set each game's difficulty based on the weight here on BGG. My classification regarding difficulty went as such:
1-1.99 weight: Blue sticker; Easy
2-2.99 weight: Green sticker; Easy/Medium
3-3.99 weight: Yellow sticker; Medium
4-4.99 weight: Orange sticker; Medium/Hard
I'm sure you can guess which game got the orange sticker.
Difficulty stickers are placed on the right front box cover, and have the difficulty rating written on the actual sticker.
The purpose of this was not just singularly for Dominant Species, but for overall confusion many patrons seemed to be experiencing. Many times I walk by the adult board games and see either a look of "I have walked in to Disney!" or "Holy Ma Moly I have no idea where to start". I wanted to remedy that latter problem so people's expectations could be met. I did not want patrons taking games home that were too difficult for where they were at that moment, and for them to get frustrated, return what they had checked out, and never take out a board game again.
The effect and impact was immediate. Once patrons started noticing the stickers, they could pick out appropriate games for their current stage in gaming. All games now are cataloged with the difficulty stickers. I file this under "Things I wish I had done right away". A good lesson to learn.
From October 3rd, 2017 to September 1st, 2018, our board games circulated 1,224 times, an astronomical amount for a special collection. Turn-over for board games was higher than non-fiction materials, and many other collections. It was shocking to see the number as to how popular it had been. Seeing the shelves emptying is one thing, but to see that hard data is another.
Librarians love data, so here is some data:
As of several weeks ago, our Top Ten most checked out games were:
2. Sushi Go!
3. We Didn't Playtest This At All
6. Tsuro of the Seas
8. Escape the Room: Mystery at the Stargazer's Manor
10. Above and Below
At the end of every month, I have to run a weeding report, where I go through and take games out of the collection. This is a natural part of what librarians do, as so many of us do not have the physical space to house every single material we have ever owned. Most times items are weeded from a collection because they simply are not going out anymore. Little has changed in the Top Ten most popular games since I started weeding at the end of September.
This list has been interesting for me to look at, because it helped give me better direction and guidance about what our patrons were looking for and which ones they wanted. It became clear that gateway games are the most popular items patrons are looking for. What I love about that data is that it shows me how many new people are joining the herd, or attempting to get friends and family to also become part of the board game crowd. This information helps me purchase more games in that category, and fewer that are more specialty.
So let's talk lost parts. When a patron brings a board game back, our circulation staff immediately checks the item in and puts it on the designated to be counted shelf. From there, two trained staff members count each and every game. If there is a discrepancy between what the inside of the box says and what the number currently is, they pass it off to the other staff member. From there, a Problem Shelf slip is written up with the patron's information, the title of the game, and what specific pieces are missing. I get the lovely job of calling patrons and telling them something is missing. I check the item back out to patrons and put a message on their account. Many people are embarrassed that they returned it missing pieces, and 95% of the time patrons find the missing piece(s). On those very rare cases when patrons cannot find a replacement piece, I typically contact the publisher and inquire what their replacement parts policy is. Most publishers, except one, do not charge at all for the missing pieces. This is an enormous help for us on our end, as we do not have a 3-D printer to make up replacements. If the game is no longer in print, or if publishers no longer have replacements for that particular game, I have to make a decision. How essential are the missing pieces to that game? Most of the time, we make corrections on the inside of the box cover, and send it back out for circulation.
There have times when boxes have come back completely mangled, and we have to charge a processing fee to repair the box. Wits & Wagers came back one time, clearing looking like a puppy had a feast on the box. We would never let anything circulate looking like that (although patron claimed it was like that when they took it out- Ummmmm no). Patrons have lost games, and the responsible ones have paid for them. The others, well, are not responsible.
There was a lot to reflect on, and I hope that for those who are considering circulating board games in their libraries, this was helpful information to you. If you have specific questions, or want to chat board games in libraries, I invite you to send me a direct message and we can talk over the phone after that.
Adventures, musings, reviews, and miscellany from a librarian in Connecticut.
- [+] Dice rolls
29 Sep 2018
Kingdomino: Age of Giants
Designed by Bruno Cathala
Published by Blue Orange Games
Number of players: 2-5 (adds 5th player)
20 minute playing time
Number of times played: 4
*Per usual there will be very little rules explanation in this review*
Kingdomino is one of those games that you can teach to anyone- a three year old or a ninety-three year old. It is one of the beautiful aspects of this game, that in terms of complexity, it is very accessible and a wonderful gateway game. Language independent as well, it crosses many barriers, appealing to those who also love traditional dominoes. Since we introduced it at my library in April, it has been consistently checked out. Easy to play and teach, Kingdomino has a lot of strategic game play and depth underneath.
Having owned both Kingdomino and Queendomino, I was super stoked at the announcement of Kingdomino: Age of Giants. Both of the previously mentioned games have places in our collection; Kingdomino can be played at restaurants and breweries as it is portable and easy to set up and take down, while Queendomino adds a higher level of strategic game play. The addition of Kingdomino: Age of Giants is smack in the middle. For this review, I played this expansion to both games with just Kingdomino. I did not play it with Queendomino, as I feel it is pretty complete and fine the way it is without any added expansions.
Kingdomino: Age of Giants adds challenge tiles for end game scoring, a fifth player, giant meeples (Gieeples?), new dominoes with giants and footsteps on them, as well as a 3-D castle. All dominoes from the base game and expansion are shuffled together and placed in the castle. At the start of every turn in a two player game (which I played twice), five dominoes are taken out of the castle, put in numerical order (letters at the beginning of the row), and the middle tile is taken out of the game. Game play proceeds as usual, however, when you select a domino with giant on it, you must place it on a tile that has a crown on it, blocking end game scoring. Dominoes with footprints on them allow you to "gift" a giant in your kingdom to another player, and they must place the giant on a domino with a crown on it (their choice which tile). Challenge tiles give players things to aim for the end of the game. There are challenge tiles that are easier to accomplish than others, and are a variety of end game points.
I played Kingdomino: Age of Giants twice at two players, once at four players, and once at five players, and I enjoyed it much more at four and five players. In both games that my husband and I played, there were often many rounds when no giant dominoes came out of the castle, and it was like playing a regular game of Kingdomino. However, at four and five players, it was exciting seeing all of the tiles come out and giants passed back and forth. However, the take-that of the footprint tiles can be problematic in larger player counts, as there is nothing stopping someone from getting picked on the entire game. I can see how people could get very upset by this. This is something that I would house-rule in future games- once someone has been selected to receive a giant, they cannot be picked on again until someone else has gotten a giant. In two player games, this is not so problematic as you expect to be picked on!
The challenge tiles are the star of the expansion for me, and I could play a game of Kingdomino and add those in, without adding in the giant dominoes. For those looking for a more strategic game, this adds just a little something extra and adds some replayability that the original was starting to lack in our house (we have played maybe 20-25 times at this point now).
The components are outstanding. The dominoes are the same thickness of cardboard, have the same glossy shine, and adorable artwork with Easter eggs on them. Sometimes it is just as fun to look at the artwork on the dominoes as it is to play the game! We did not have to sticker the giant meeples (a huge plus, always!) and were previously printed. The castle is the most practical and wonderful thing in this expansion too- no gimmick here! Instead of using the box to house dominoes and drawing from there, you pull from the castle instead. I also love how clever it is that when you put the three boxes of "dominoes" together, it forms one continuous picture.
Overall, I very much enjoyed Kingdomino: Age of Giants, but I do not think it is an essential expansion. If you are looking to spice up your games of Kingdomino, then I would consider it a must buy. Many people may enjoy the simplicity of the original and may not like the "take that" element added from this expansion. But overall, very good!
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
*I received a copy of this expansion from Blue Orange Games and did not charge for my review.*
- [+] Dice rolls
Before we left for Gen Con 2018, I received Geek Mail from Az Drummond, Communications and Community manager for Mythic Games, looking to set up a time to speak at the convention. I was flabbergasted to read Az's message, which had so many complimentary things to say about my segment "From the Page to the Table" on Board Game Breakfast- I still feel like a small fish in a big pond, and the fact he even knew who I was (and tracked me down on BGG!) was baffling. We set the time for Saturday at 3pm to chat about Solomon Kane, a wonderful pairing for me, since it is based on the books!
I spent a fair amount of time at the Plan B Games booth during Gen Con, and oddly enough, diagonally across the aisle was the booth for Mythic Games. I got to see firsthand the goings-on at their booth and the camaraderie amongst the workers. Every time I looked over, they were having so much fun, showing people how to play their games, and joking around. They had not a single product for sale at their booth, as everything is either in Kickstarter fulfillment stage, or headed to Kickstarter, but they had many tables set up to demo their games, as well as painted miniatures in glass cases.
My husband Matt and I met Az, and I immediately felt at ease and comfortable with him. I don't know if it was that British accent, or the fact that he offered both of us a huge plastic bag of traditional American snacks to eat (the story goes from Az that he went out on their first night in Indianapolis and picked up snacks for the Mythic Games team. There were a lot of Little Debbie and circus peanuts in that bag. Apparently it is a tradition in conventions when you go to another country to bring snacks from your home country, or share those from the one you are visiting.). That generosity right away set the tone for our meeting.
Our meeting was very casual. I took no notes, brought no video camera, or podcast recording equipment, which would make my former journalist heart cry. I wanted to be in the moment, and keep my focus on him and the game, not on the media stuff. Poor Az probably felt I was the most disorganized reviewer he had ever met, but honestly, at least on my end, this kept the conversation very natural, and my focus was on the experience. Meeting with Az was one of my favorite moments of Gen Con 2018, I think mostly because it was it was so casual- it was like meeting a friend and playing a game, not a meeting. We were just three gamers, sitting around a table, playing a game, and talking about the industry.
Solomon Kane is a cooperative, narrative-based, adventure-style board game with miniatures for 1-5 players, based on the wonderful pulp classic books by Robert E. Howard. Howard wrote during the same time as his good friend, H. P. Lovecraft, writing iconic characters like Solomon Kane and Conan the Barbarian. Today's readers may find Howard (along with Lovecraft and Burroughs) to be very much of their time, with flat depictions of women, as well as other races and ethnicities. Going in knowing that however, readers may enjoy the adventure story, as well as Solomon Kane. Kane has been described by book reviewers as a deadly, dour Puritan, with a fanatic's faith. He adventures from New England to Africa in Howard's stories, fighting natural and supernatural forces (demons and ghosts to name a few) along the way. This is, at least in my frame of knowledge, the first board game to take on this universe.
In Solomon Kane the board game, designed by Jake Thornton, you are playing as one of the four cardinal virtues: Courage, Prudence, Temperance, and Judgement, as you help Kane on his mission. Howard's tales are retold in Act format, which each Act broken down in to chapters, comprising a possible larger game session. This gives some flexibility in how long you want to play, as you can break everything down after just one Chapter. We played one Chapter with Az, and got a great feel for the game. The AI can be very challenging to defeat, which provides a wonderful puzzle to try to beat. Gameplay involved a lot of planning ahead, sharing dice for players who may need them for future turns, and storytelling.
Playing the game, I had never read any of the Solomon Kane novels, but felt the game did a great job of making it inclusive for those who were not familiar with the universe or Howard's works. Playing the game made me want to read the books, a fun turn around for a librarian to say (since we're always saying read the book first when it comes to movies!)!
One of the things that was most impressive to me was the quality of the miniatures, and everything that we saw and played with was still in pre-production status. These are miniatures that are begging to be painted (and the ones we played with were- someone did a super job!). Very high quality materials used, with clear definition of features. I am admittedly not a miniatures gamer (although I do play Star Wars: Legion and Star Wars: Armada), but admire and appreciate those games, as well as the gamers who spend their time painting them. Miniature games are works of beauty and wonderfully tactile.
One of the other impressive things about not only Solomon Kane, but Time of Legends: Joan of Arc is that the female miniatures are well-proportioned and appropriately dressed. For some, this may not be a huge concern, but my interest in Batman: Gotham City Chronicles went from high to zero after the Batwoman miniature was announced (she is super scantily clad [I also know Monolith used panels from comic books, Jim Lee among them, but seriously, come on. So many options in those story lines]). I am weary of so many miniature games with female characters that have more than a bra and panties on (I exaggerate, but it seems like it) and are disproportionately large chested. This is one thing that Mythic Games is doing differently, and as a consumer, I am most appreciative of, because it seems like they are listening to what people want.
We left Az, feeling like we had made a new friend, and both Matt and I are looking forward to seeing what Mythic Games does next. If you are interested in Late Pledging Solomon Kane, you may do so at: https://www.gameontabletop.com/crowdfunding-136.html. Mythic games is releasing updates every week on Wednesdays called "What's Up Wednesdays" on their Kickstarter page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1162110258/solomon-kane.... Everything that is pictured here was in development and not final.
Many thanks again to Az and the Mythic Games team for their time!
- [+] Dice rolls
08 Sep 2018
Warsaw: City of Ruins
Designed by Filip Miłuński
Published by North Star Games
Number of players: 2-4
60 minute playing time
Number of times played: 3
*Per usual, there will be very little rules explanation in this review*
Warsaw: City of Ruins is a tile-drafting and city building game where you are maximizing areas on your tiles to score the most points. After six epochs, the game ends, with World War 1 happening after epoch 3 and World War 2 occurring after epoch 4. Players start out with a starting tile and build from there. Each round players pick one tile from their starting hand of four and pass the rest. From that tile players can either pay the cost to place it in their city (or overbuild, paying the difference), or discard it to gain three coins. Players will want to arrange their city to maximize points and income. For example, by placing residential areas next to parks, players score higher and higher points. Each residential area next to a commercial area gains income. Tiles may be built on top of other tiles, paying the difference from the original tile (perhaps 2) to the new tile (perhaps 4- for a cost of 2). A player's city may not be more than four by 3 or three by four, or unless you get the special public building that allows a four by four.
There are milestones that can be gained after epochs one through five that players are vying for. For example, at the end of epoch one, the person with the most areas gains Wilanow Palace, and places it in their city. Each milestone tile is double-sided, allowing for some replayability. As referenced earlier, World War 1 happens at the end of epoch 3, where players lose one tile from their city (again, unless you have the special public building that saves one building during war). Players lose two tiles during World War 2.
There are many things I very much enjoy about Warsaw: City of Ruins. The public buildings used in the game are actual locations in Warsaw and there are wonderful histories of them in the back of the rulebook. As someone who has never been to Warsaw and knows little about the city's history, I very much appreciated this. Great time and care went in to selecting buildings and researching them (there's even a library!). The game is also thematic in the theme of overbuilding. What I know about Warsaw is that it is a city that has undergone many changes over the ages, many natural, and many from war. The war stages ring particularly true in term of leveling the city and the damage Warsaw sustained during these conflicts. And while the mermaids with swords and shields may seem unusual as scoring pawns, the history of the mermaid as the protector of Warsaw is fully explained on the back of the rulebook. Artwork on the public buildings is also very nicely done, and the insert is one of the best I have seen this year.
All that being said however, I did not love this game, which was unfortunate since it was one I had been interested in at Gen Con. I played it twice with my husband Matt, and thought it was fine- I was not overly blown away by it. Matt however, strongly disliked it. He felt that if it had perhaps come to the United States in 2016 he may have liked it more, but in 2018, it brought nothing new for him. I can't say I disagree with him necessarily. Tiles in the last epoch are also very expensive (perhaps reflecting modern construction costs?) and many times you were discarding tiles to just gain money. When I taught this at four, I warned players that tile cost would ramp up significantly at the end. When they received their hand of four during epoch six, there were collective "Woah- these are expensive!" from around the table.
In terms of graphic design choices, the score tracker spaces could have been larger. If both Matt and I had five points, our mermaids were hanging off the board since there was not enough space on the board. There are also only three scoring aids (cheaters, I call them), in a four player game. I gave up mine so a new player could use it, but I was constantly referencing his and apologizing for borrowing it.
Many have likened Warsaw: City of Ruins to 7 Wonders, except with tiles. I am not a huge 7 Wonders fan (Duel, yes), so perhaps this was another reason why it fell flat for me. In the game of four that I taught (and got mansplained and talked over with rules- let's not even go there today), one player who had been itching to play it was very pleased and told me they would play again. I like to stress in reviews that I do, that just because it was not for me, does not mean it will not be for you. Everyone's tastes are different, as well as their preferences, and I was glad that the one who had wanted to play had an enjoyable experience.
Warsaw: City of Ruins is the kind of game that I love to recommend to patrons at the library who are looking for an easy to play, easy to learn, gateway-style game. Games like this are easy for me to sell to patrons, especially those that I know that are looking to ease their way into modern board games. With few rules, few pieces, and a hook (you are building and rebuilding the city of Warsaw throughout the ages), games such as Warsaw: City of Ruins tend to circulate very well at my library.
Rating: 7 out of 10. (another low one, I'm sorry!) Not for me, but I appreciate the historical aspects and research.
*I received a copy of this game from North Star Games and did not charge for this review.*
- [+] Dice rolls
Designed by Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc
Published by Blue Orange Games
Number of players: 1 to 4
15 to 20 minute playing time
Number of times played: 4
*Per usual there will be very little rules explanation in this review*
For this review, I have invited my husband Matt,
Any time I hear Bruno Cathala has a new game releasing, it is like catnip. Bruno! Must try! Cathala is my favorite designer, with favorites including Five Tribes and Shadows over Camelot. So when I was going through the Gen Con preview list and saw Scarabya posted by Blue Orange, I was immediately interested and added the title to our list. Matt and I always do research before Gen Con, looking for reviews, play-throughs, and images. There was very little about it online, except for some very early previews from the winter when gameplay and artwork did not seem final.
What I knew about the game was that it was an abstract puzzle-style game where you are covering up things and trying to score the most points.
After receiving a review copy of this, Matt and I sat down at Gen Con to punch out (so we don't have to bring the cardboard home!) and immediately I was a little underwhelmed. Blue Orange typically has games that are solid quality. We have Photosynthesis, New York 1901, and Kingdomino in our collection, all of which have great production values. Punching out the pieces for Scarabya, one could tell the pieces, especially the player's outside board, were not their usual quality. The game however is brightly colored, with desert, arctic, ocean, and rain forest-like artwork and pieces.
Matt is the rules learner in our house, and one day when I came home from work, he said to me, "I'm not sure you are going to like this game." Matt's inclination was correct.
The object of the game is to use the many-shaped pieces to cover up squares on your player board, being careful to create a space of four or less, ideally with a scarab(s) in the enclosed spaces. You are avoiding the rocks and trying to enclose as large a space as possible while not covering scarabs, which is how you score points.
Gameplay is very easy. A card is flipped at the beginning of the round, or mission, and you place the coordinating tile on the board, starting from the center. Tiles cannot be placed diagonally and cannot overlap your personal frame.
At the end of our first game together, I looked at Matt and went, "This is it?" I am all for simple, easy to learn, play, and teach games, but this seemed overly simple and kind of a snooze fest- almost like it was a design that had been in the designer's back pockets for a while. Thinking it was just my mood, we played again, and it was a similar experience. I also experienced severe analysis paralysis (AP), something which I almost never suffer from. Each consecutive time we played, the AP got worse and worse as I agonized over where each piece was going to go, and covering the scarabs. Now, to be fair, puzzle-style games are not necessarily my wheelhouse, but we have Patchwork and Bärenpark and that occurrence of Analysis Paralysis does not happen in those games.
There are others out there who have already mentioned that one of the most dynamic parts of the game is the box cover. I would not disagree. The vibrant and colorful artwork on the cover would lead you to believe you are on a grand adventure, digging for scarabs. I found no great adventure while playing this game. I am also not sure the $30 price tag is merited in gameplay and components.
Here is the thing though, and Matt and I say this all the time: Just because the game was not for me, does not mean other people might not like it. And here is also the thing: Blue Orange does family weight games, and this is definitely a family style, gateway game. I can see this game appealing to people who have not played puzzle style games, or play with a lot of non-gamers. This could be an excellent introduction for someone who likes to do puzzles, but has not played a modern board game. I can also see this being a fun game with children, or in a non-traditional setting, like a brewery, or on vacation.
I do however think this would be perfect in a library setting and can see myself promoting this to families or new gamers. This weight game goes over very well with the board game group I have at my library (as do all Blue Orange games), and I can appreciate it for that.
Rating: 6.75 (low for me, I know! Sorry ). Not for me.
I received a copy of this game at Gen Con for review, and I did not charge for this service.
Hey there, everyone. After taking a look at Jenn's review of Scarabya, I have to say that while most of what she said is agreed with on my end, there is just a few things which I would say is different for me. While the first play for me seemed bland, the more I played the game, the more I could see the merit of it. While Jenn's experience got sour the more she played it, I enjoyed the experience the more we played. I'm not sure exactly what it was, I do love puzzle games, but it was becoming more enjoyable with more plays. This a family weight game, something which Blue Orange thrives under, and if you go into gameplay with that in mind, I think this is solid. To expect something else from both Cathala and Maublanc is merited, but to see it coming from a company that focuses on the lighter weight games changed that expectation for me.
So this brings me to my second point, the $30 price tag. Most people would see that price and be surprised that the price is so low for the size of the game, I mean box size. We even have some other games from Gencon with the same price tag that have offered the same experiences. I have heard people say that they would pay around the $20 mark for this game but not $30. That was a sentiment which I agreed with at first, but I now disagree with. We are in a hobby that has games reaching $95 for cardboard and wooden meeples, to $150 for large scale miniature warfare. Looking at the components that come in the box, I think $30 is about right for a company that wants to make some sort of profit from the game. It comes with twelve puzzle pieces for each of the four players, along with all the plastic rocks for each, eight, I think. It also comes with the player boards, the cards, and all the score chits. Other games like this are at either ends of the extreme when it comes to price either lower than Scarabya or massively higher, I'm looking at you, Cottage Garden.
In the end, if I had to wrap up my two points on this one, I would say this. It's a good light weight family style game that has the potential to teach kids puzzle solving. But it also has that potential to be the game which gets new people in the door. The very nature of the puzzle game has aided our hobby in the growth it has seen for the past five years. And for that, I've got to give the game credit. I wish it were a bit longer, but for once the box did not lie to me about game length. Fifteen to twenty minutes seems right. As for it being a bit to expensive, I have to chuckle at that one. I think it's a fine price, close enough to other puzzle games like it, yet not as expensive as others which have that puzzle feel with a bit more length. I think when we don't like a game, we have a tendency to say, "well, I wouldn't pay that much for it, more like a little less." But in the end, when you look at what is in the box, I think the price is justified.
Overall, this game gets a solid 7.25 out of 10 from me. I like the puzzle nature of the game, the pieces are worth what you pay, and it keeps my brain going for the fifteen to twenty minutes to box promises.
- [+] Dice rolls
11 Aug 2018
I wanted to take a few days after getting home from Gen Con 2018 to reflect on the convention and gather my thoughts. I feel like I am still riding high even after convention!
I am very glad however, that we chose to go to Gen Con this year. Matt and I have gone four years, and this was our most productive time visiting the convention so far.
Our journey out to Gen Con starts very early every year, and this year was no exception. At 3:30AM Matt and I got in the car and started for Indianapolis, still sleepy, but very excited. We ate our breakfast and lunch on the road, stopped to switch every two hours, chatted, listened to music, and started a new audiobook. Spending this kind of quality time with my husband cannot be bought, so I look forward to every moment we get to spend together.
We arrived at our hotel at 5:15PM and checked in. The first year we went to Gen Con, we stayed at the Wyndham Wingate at the Intech Commons and very much enjoyed our experience there, but each subsequent year we kept booking a different Wingate- and not always having a great experience. Each year Matt and I talk about staying within walking distance, and then the hotel prices come out and we go "OH NO"at the cost. Maybe someday we will splurge, but this year was not that year.
Our first stop was for the Block Party and Untapping Party for Sun King's special Gen Con Beer, Everlasting Gamer. It has been a tradition for Matt and I to go the the party in the years that we have gone to celebrate our long drive with a refreshing beer, dinner from the food trucks, and some music. It was a beautiful night out, the beer was perhaps our favorite of the special Gen Con beers we have had, and a good atmosphere.
After that we headed over to the Alexander Hotel to pick up my exhibitor badge from Mike Young, who works for Plan B Games, as well as learn Reef. I was scheduled to demo Reef by Emerson Matsuuchi each day of the convention from 10-2 at the Plan B booth. I had never met Mike before, only through conversations on Facebook, and Mike instantly became one of my favorite gaming people. He was funny, honest, and an all-around great person. I immediately felt like I was part of the Plan B extended family. While sitting down learning to play Reef, and figuring out how to teach Reef, I see Emerson from the corner of my eye. I was trying to not fangirl out and go "OH MY WORD, I LOVE YOUR GAMES; I wanted to play it cooooollll. My plan was to finish the game and introduce myself (and rehearse in my head what I wanted to say), and then Emerson leaned over and said to me "Are you the Board Game Librarian? I love your segment!" I almost died. I had heard how amazingly nice and wonderful Emerson was, and this was just one instance to me of that kindness. I stammered and stuttered like a fool, and somehow managed to get out something along the lines of "Oh my. Thank you. No- you're the best. And your games are awesome." So I ended up sounding like a crazed fangirl anyway. Honestly though, this was mind-blowing, and I am wonderfully thankful to him for this kindness. This encounter was one of my favorites of Gen Con.
My Thursday at Gen Con started with an eerie opportunity to get in early to set up for the VIG entrance at 9am. I had never been in the exhibit hall when it was not crowded with a wall of flesh, and it was a little creepy to be able to walk about freely with the lights partially on. I had been warned by Mike and others that my day would fly by, and fly by it did, on all four days. Working 10-2 the day went by extremely fast. People lined up at the booth right away, looking to purchase copies of Coimbra, Reef, Century: Eastern Wonders, and many others. Others dashed for demoes of games. The booth was busy the entire time I was there, full of excited and happy people. I loved the energy and enthusiasm of my fellow booth workers. My goal was to ensure that people not only got to try an awesome game, but had an enjoyable experience as well as having fun. I cannot speak highly enough of the Plan B team and how things were run at that convention. Matt and I had been big fans of their games before, but my respect for them as a company has increased.
This year I had several meetings with publishers and marketing managers, including Brandan from Blue Orange Games, Ross from IDW Games, Az from Mythic Games, Bruce from North Star Games, Aly from Pressman Toy Corp.. I'll highlight those in future posts, but each and every meeting was positive and informative. I hope to continue these relationships in a productive fashion and to continue to spread the word about gaming in libraries.
I did not get to do a lot of gaming this year while at Gen Con, but I did play one game of Railroad Ink: Blazing Red Edition, The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game, Arboretum, and Reef. Not a lot, which made me kind of sad, but I am looking forward to diving in to our loot with gusto.
I also got to film my "From the Page to the Table" segment with one of my favorite gaming people, Christian Waters of Osprey Games, to talk about the relationship we have built between a publisher and a library. Christian has been an immeasurable support of our mission to the public, and it was a delight to have him on the segment!
Food was hit or miss in many places, but a highlight continues to be Nada. Excellent margaritas, gazpacho, queso, chips, and eats. Matt and I are almost never disappointed in their food or decor at Nada. Food trucks were mostly "meh"- in years past we have had awesome cupcakes from trucks, and the one we had was dry and just ok. Cannot all be winners! We often have a tougher time in Indianapolis being vegetarian as there are not always wonderful options for us, beyond pasta and veggie burgers.
More highlights included stopping at the actual Sun King Brewery, which Matt and I have talked about for years. It was a super fun place, with a great vibe, and tasty pretzels with cheese pimento sauce. Yum! We also stopped at Monument Circle, which we have passed by so many times. The monument is quite a thing to behold, commemorating conflicts Indiana was involved with throughout our nation's history. I love looking at monuments and recognizing other's sacrifices; so many are beautiful pieces of art. Families, teens, and couples were all out enjoying the beautiful day.
Matt had warned me before we left for the convention that a lot of people would recognize me from Board Game Breakfast, Instagram, or Favorite Game Friday, and they would want to come up to me and talk or take pictures. I had said, "Oh, sure, right. I'm just a librarian who does things on social media- I'm not that super popular." Matt's expectations were correct- the number of people who came up to me, talked about my segment, talked libraries, talked about how much books and board games mean to them just blew me away. I don't do all of the things I do to get recognized out in public- I do them to support and promote a mission of gaming in libraries. Everyone was so kind and had positive things to say. The kindness of these strangers was very touching, and I will never forget it. When you do things like I do, sometimes you think no one is watching, or that it does not matter. But it does, at least to some people, and you can influence someone in a positive way.
Matt and I also met up with, or met for the first time so many people we follow on Instagram. I know I am going to forget some people, so I won't name anyone in particular (many are in the pictures below!), but here too we had wonderful and positive interactions with everyone that we encountered. We had dinner with one couple, hung out with another person, chatted and talked games, took pictures. The IG community has always been deeply supportive of each other, and getting to meet so many people that we had followed for some time was like meeting old friends. We talk a lot about the ills of social media; how we all spend too much time on there; how its an addiction; how none of these relationships are truly real. For us at Gen Con, all of these relationships were real. We made many new friends that convention and I cannot wait to see them again at future event.
After all, going to a convention to pick up new games is great, but we go to make new friends, to reconnect with old, and to spread of love of the hobby. That's why we game, right? To have joyous and wonderful experiences with others. Matt and I were blessed to have a great convention. Many thanks to everyone who made that possible.
And to Michael Devito from Th3rd World Studios, hope you're feeling better. Remain the Rock of Gencon!
- [+] Dice rolls
31 Jul 2018
In my line of work as a public librarian, providing new books, DVDs, CDs, audiobooks, and e-material is our lifeline. If we cannot buy new books or movies for our patrons to check out, we lose a huge portion of our circulation every day. At my library, we circulate the fourth highest amount of books and media in Connecticut, and a huge portion of that are new materials. Librarians scour journals, reviews, magazines, and the New York Times Best Seller list to find the latest and greatest debuts, newest in series, and hidden gems. New materials are often how we get people in the door, since so many can't afford the latest and greatest. I know patrons and fellow staff members who only read new books. They thrive on finding that undiscovered author, continuing with a favorite, or catching up with a series. And no one blinks an eye. We encourage patrons to read whatever makes them happy and whatever they enjoy.
So why then, gaming friends, do we shame those who are cult of the new?
I must say that I have grown extremely weary of this phrase. This is something I have ruminated on quite a while, and with Gen Con starting tomorrow, this is something I felt strongly enough to write about.
My husband Matt and I have been called out numerous times as cult of the new, hype machines, etc. That claim makes us chuckle, because if you were to go through our collection, many of our games (and favorites too!) are not brand new. It also makes us very mad.
It makes me very mad because a lot of work with my library gaming group is about bringing new, hot games to teach attendees. This provides them the opportunity to try new titles without having to go out and buy them beforehand. Many simply can't afford to keep up with the hottest games.
It makes me mad that we as gamers feel the need to shame each other on our personal tastes. That because you dislike new games, or quirky indie games, or tried and true classics, you need to make someone else feel bad. Many of the people I game with, including myself and my husband, were nerds as children and teens. We were bullied because of the nerdoms we were passionate about. And it saddens me that so many others, who experienced the same thing, perpetuate this bullying. Who cares what you like? I say to patrons: it is wonderful that there are so many different books in the world; there is a book for every taste and opinion. This is the same for board games.
We all spend money on something, right. We all have a thing, a beloved hobby that we spend our hard earned cash on. I don't know if some people are jealous because other spend money regularly on board games and they cannot, so they turn around and make others feel awful for purchasing the latest and greatest. As long as you are paying your bills and saving money for the future, who cares? Or perhaps others think it is a waste of money to buy new games, because, as I have often heard, where do you store all of those games?
New games are often trying to be innovative, building on games of the past. You never know which game may become a new modern classic. Another thing that is wonderful about new games is the variety of themes that are available now. To me this indicates an opening of the hobby, welcoming those who were not gamers in the past. A theme for everyone, right?
If new games are what you like, shiny, hot-off-the-presses new, full of the hype machine, embrace it. Don't let anyone try to bring you down. It's a reflection on them, not on you. We all need something in life that brings us joy, happiness, and excitement, and if new games are it, then keep on doing it.
Game on, friends. Be kind to each other.
- [+] Dice rolls
Designed by Conor McGoey
Published by Inside Up Games
Number of players: 1-8
20-45 minute playing time
Number of times played: 3
*Per usual there will be very little rules explanation in this review*
Ever since my husband Matt and I played Indulgence and The Fox in the Forest last year, we have been obsessed with trick taking games, especially those that can accommodate two players, as that is typically what we play at.
I first saw the artwork for Gorus Maximus on a board game group on Facebook and it immediately garnered my attention. Matt and I binge watched Spartacus the television show a couple of summers ago, and have been looking for a gladiator style game that played for two. Illustrated by Kwanchai Moriya, the cover of Gorus Maximus is vibrant, action-packed, and a bit, well, gorey. This is definitely not a game for children, or those who are squeamish, as the artwork reflects the action of the arena.
Having gotten the opportunity to preview Gorus Maximus, the bloody and cutthroat artwork matches the game play! This is a trick taking game with no holds barred, which I appreciate. The goal of the game is to accumulate three crowd support points through a variety of turns. At the end of each turn, the player with the most crowd favor earns 1 crowd support.
I played this exclusively at 2 players, so I cannot speak for solitaire or larger player counts, but this is a very solid two player trick taking game. One of the unique aspects of this game are the opportunities to challenge. In a challenge, a player matches the rank (not suit) of the last gladiator played, immediately changing the preferred school (trump) to the school of the new gladiator. This did not occur a lot in our games, but I can see that happening much more in larger player counts. This adds variety to a standard trick taking game (although Fox in the Forest does employ this to some degree with their number "3" fox card). Another unique feature of this game is that many of the cards give you either positive or negative crowd favor points. Therefore, not all cards are desirable when winning a trick. For example, while playing a card with a value "13" may win you the trick, it has -2 crowd favor points. Part of the strategy is when to play those negative crowd favor cards. As well, the "0" card can either be 0 crowd favor points or 5 crowd favor points, depending on whether or not that school is the preferred school at the end of the round.
The two player variant of Gorus Maximus really helped the game shine for us and set it apart from other trick taking games that we own or have played. Each player is dealt 10 cards and at the end of their turn, they each draw a card until no more cards can be drawn. This way, your hand of cards is always changing, and counting cards becomes more difficult.
Graphic design is clean and easy to understand, and artwork is as previously mentioned a highlight for me. Characters on the cards are diverse, including both male and female gladiators. What I liked was the inclusion of animals on the cards, as animals were used in the arenas.
I do wish that the cards were lefty-friendly for those of us who are southpaws, but I'm not sure that with the artwork that they could be. This is a small negative for me, but nothing that would detract a purchase. I often found it difficult to remember to draw a card at the end of my turn in our two player variant, but this is perhaps more a commentary on my memory than the game.
Other than that, if you are looking for a trick taking game that accommodates solitaire and two players, as well as a larger player count, and are not bothered by the intense artwork, this is a great option for you! If you missed the Kickstarter, preorders are still available: https://app.crowdox.com/projects/insideupgames/gorus-maximus....
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
*I received a copy of Gorus Maximus and did not charge for this review*
- [+] Dice rolls
Gen Con 2018 is almost upon us, and my husband Matt,
The first Gen Con we attended was in 2015 as part of the Ares Games demo team, showing attendees how to play War of the Ring: Second Edition and The Battle of Five Armies. We have gone since then, bringing friends with us.
This year I am working a few hours for Plan B Games as part of their demo team, so please stop in and say a quick hello at the booth, as well as try their amazing games! I will be teaching Reef.
The Gen Con preview list has been slow going, and even at this point, a week and a half to go before the Con, there are not a lot of games that seem like they will be blockbuster hits. There are always one or two duds each year which we get really excited about and then are just for whatever reason do not work for us. You can do a ton of research beforehand, watch reviews, how to play videos, etc., and some times they fall flat. That being said however, Matt and I put together our own lists of nine games that we are anticipating. Enjoy! You'll notice quite a bit of crossover between our games. Can you tell that we have similar taste...??? LOL! Let me know in the comments which games you are highly anticipating, and hope to see you there!
Jenn's Top 9 Gen Con Games
In no particular order!
1.Brass: Lancashire Martin Wallace), but we have generally had excellent luck with Roxley and love Lina Cossette's artwork. The board looks phenomenal and the revised rules make it more appealing.
2. Disney Villainous
3. Reef I have grown an affinity for abstracts and Emerson Matsuuchi's designs overall and this hits on both points. A theme that is different, has brightly colored, chunky pieces, and easy game play make this one I have been looking forward to since I saw it previewed on the Dice Tower.
4. Coimbra Coimbra is another game that I saw previewed on the Dice Tower and have been excited since then. When I heard it was Chris Quilliams's artwork that immediately caught my attention. I am looking forward to trying the new dice drafting mechanism that is referenced in the description here on BGG!
6. Welcome To... I have seen so many people playing and enjoying Welcome To... on Instagram and it looks like a blast! I love that this is a play on the roll and write, of which we have just one. The theme on this one is one that we don't have either (I already have a book picked out for Board Game Breakfast too!) and we love games that have a small footprint and have a huge pad for lots of plays.
7. Carson City: The Card Game Carson City last year at Gen Con and have sadly only played it once. We played at the full six players, which I can't say I was super jazzed about, but I did enjoy the game play, components, and theme. We have talked about playing it with just the two of us and getting a better feel. Carson City: The Card Game however, is a trick taking game, another genre I have grown to love in the last year. Finding a good trick taking game for two players can be tough, and an Instgram friend, Marlon, has been featuring it on his feed.
8. Victory & Glory: Napoleon Glenn Drover designs, most specifically Empires: Age of Discovery which is one of my all-time favorite games. We also do not have any games in our collection which center on the Napoleonic Period, and I may have a book picked out for this too for Board Game Breakfast...
9. Forbidden Sky This is showing up in many highly anticipated games for Gen Con, and one I believe many will make a run for it on Thursday morning. Forbidden Island is one of my go-to gateway games, and one I love recommending here at the library to new gamers. Matt and I have taught this game to family, friends, and former co-workers who have enjoyed it, and were introduced to cooperative games for the first time via Forbidden Island. Forbidden Desert is definitely more gamer-y, and who doesn't love flying their airship when (ha!) they win? I am concerned about this one selling out, and the fact that you need batteries for it- supposedly you are connecting electricity in the air. It also does not come in the traditional Gamewright tin.
Matt's Top 9 Gen Con Games
In no particular order:
Yet another game by Emerson Matsauchi that I am looking forward to. The concept of this one is quite interesting and I enjoy this company's products. The abstract nature of the game might put off some people, but I think that it will be one of my favorites from this year. There is always one game from Gen Con that we play ad nausea once we get home and I think this one might be it.
With my Instagram name as Dice Chucker, any game with dice is something that I enjoy. The Voyages of Marco Polo and Rajas of the Ganges are some of my favorites and with Coimbra looking to have some of the same things in them, I am anticipating it.
3. Founders of Gloomhaven
My wife and I have been enjoying Gloomhaven so this one was almost an instant for me. I understand that this is a completely different game, but I do enjoy the universe and cannot wait to see what the designer has done with it.
4. Brass: Lancashire
First of all, I think Roxley does some fine work with the games they produce. We only own a few of their games, but I have enjoyed each of them. To see this one back in print, and some of the mechanisms buffed out, was a welcome sight.
5. Brass: Birmingham
Thought this one should be the same as above, I understand that it is not exactly the same thing and merits another spot on the list.
This was one that I wasn't expecting. When I first saw the list, it was something I was interested in, but not fully sold. Once I saw some pictures on Instagram and a few other things, I was sold on this one. While some might compare this one to Manhattan, I think it will be an interesting one for me. The designer also lives locally to us in Connecticut.
This is a game that I was surprised to see on the list. There are so many games based on the Disney license and I'm glad to see that there is finally one based on the villains. I hope that there are more villains coming, but I'm sure they want to see if this one is successful first.
8. Forbidden Sky
I was surprised to see that this was even coming out, and to have it come out at Gen Con was also a surprise. I thought this would have been an Essen release, but it looks to be another Matt Leacock classic.
9. Welcome To..
I seems that this is the year of "roll and writes." I know that there are no dice in this one, but the concept is still interesting to me. Thankfully we were able to preorder this one before the convention.
- [+] Dice rolls
18 May 2018
If you are looking for board games that are family friendly, easy to play with gamers and non-gamers alike, and simple to teach, look no farther than FoxMind.
At my library, I have a circulating collection of about 200 games. One of the most popular titles in our collection is Maze Racers, designed by local designer Andy Geremia. I had invited Andy several years ago to a Silk City Board Game Group event to show off Maze Racers, and since then the game has been immensely popular. In Maze Racers you are going head to head, using foam pieces to create the most complex maze you can. The game is timed, however, giving you limited time to build your perfect maze. At the end of the time you switch mazes and race each other! Like most other Foxmind games, Maze Racers can be explained in five minutes or less, and be enjoyed by a variety of gaming skill levels. I have had great success introducing this game to new gamers, especially families, because of the tactile nature of it. For children this game encourages logic, thinking creatively outside of the box, and creating complex routes. Replayability is high, as the possibilities are endless with how you create your maze.
Also designed by Andy Geremia is Sports Dice: Baseball. A small box game, Sport Dice: Baseball is portable and can be played in a variety of locations. Simulating a real baseball games, players roll wonderfully chunky dice and pick the highest bunch (i.e.: most strikes, most home runs, etc). If you do not mind a great amount of luck and dice rolling, as well as the baseball theme, Sports Dice: Baseball could be the game for you. One has the option to play either a short game (three innings) or the full game (nine innings). I think for a lot of non-gamers who are baseball enthusiasts, this would make a good gateway option. This game has just two pages of rules, making it another Foxmind game that is easy to learn and teach to others.
If you enjoy speed and pattern making games, Match Madness designed by Jeppe Norsker may be an excellent option for your family. I would describe Match Madness as a companion to Dr. Eureka. Both have a speed element but while Dr. Eureka has dexterity mechanics in it, Match Madness encourages matching patterns on cards. Match Madness can be played very quickly and allows you to decide how many cards, or rounds you would like to play through, as well as the card difficulty. The blocks are chunky, bright, and colorful, making this a great game to play with children (recommended age is 7+, but could be played with younger children). Match Madness encourages correctly making patterns and matching colors, making it an excellent teaching tool. Game play can be deceptively challenging, allowing more difficult modes for seasoned gamers.
Museum Heist designed by Alex Randolph has wonderful artwork and uses real pieces of art that were actually stolen at one point. In Museum Heist you have seven character cards in your hand, one for each pawn on the board. At the beginning of the round you secretly select one character you want to steal the artwork. During a series of rounds you are moving the pawns closer to the art, but bluffing along the way. At first glance, this game may seem very easy, however, the trick is in outsmarting your opponents and not moving your selected character only. Players can challenge you, naming a particular character. If they guess correctly, they win the art. Museum Heist had been on my radar and was surprisingly more abstract than I thought it would be. The bluffing mechanic cannot be underestimated either, and I believe this would make a great introduction to children for both mechanics.
Slide Blast designed by Evan Song and Sam-goo is a great next step for families and new gamers who have enjoyed the Tsuro games. Like Tsuro, you are building paths for your adorable sliding meeples to travel on. On your turn you draw a tile and play a tile from you hand, extending a slide. You may potentially move your own pawn, but an opponent's pawn as well. It is hard not to cry "Weeeeee!" when doing this. Along the way down the slide you will collect bonus tiles and the game ends when there are no more tiles left. Rules are a mere three pages.
If there is anything I really love, it is adorable maples. And Head of Mousehold designed by Adam Wyse has the cutest mouse meeples and artwork. Head of Household is probably the most difficult and most strategic game that I am highlighting here and would perhaps be a good next step after playing Museum Heist or Match Madness. In Head of Household you are a clan of mice, looking to snare the tastiest piece of cheese. You will have to manage your hand, bluff, and deduce along the way, as well as avoid getting caught by the cat. One does not want to be the first mouse at the trap, or even the second or third, depending on how cards have been placed. Round events spice up the game, adding variety to play. This is my favorite of the ones I am highlighting, as I enjoy games were I am encouraged to go into the thought process of my competitors. Small box game with a larger footprint, it can play up to five.
A highlight in general to me about Foxmind games are their rulebooks. Each is easy to understand, provides examples, and is short. The most complex rulebook is for Head of Household, but that is also the most difficult that I mentioned. Component quality is very high as well, and price point is not out of reach or excessive for what you get. Foxmind games have been items that I have consistently recommended for new gamers and families.
*I received copies of the above mentioned games as donations for my library. I was not paid to do this spotlight or give positive reviews.
- [+] Dice rolls