Matt's Board Game Back Room

Join me in my cozy little back room filled with games! Ooh and ah at some new releases. Learn about some more recent games. Or, look back at some older and classic games. From Euros to Ameritrash, kids games to grown-up games, easy to intense - nothing much is ignored in Matt's Board Game Back Room! (Updates will be cross-posted from my blogspot blog - click my Blogger microbadge to go there now)

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TIMELY TOPICS: Happy New Year! Here's to more gaming in 2015! Congrats for BGG supporter drive (SOOO CLOSE to 11,000!!) and my item Winner Announced...

-matt s.
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Happy New Year!

First, I got in nearly 400 FTF games in 2014 (394 that I logged at least - I think I missed a few though) and a ton of online gaming on Yucata.de as well. Here's to more good gaming in the coming year! I have so many games I haven't played yet that I own - I'm hoping to get more of them to the table this year!

Well, the BGG supporter drive easily cleared the goal of 9000 and nearly broke 11,000 supports in December (short by 9!! doh!!) Way to go supporters. I really love this site and truly appreciate it enough to support it each year. I am on it literally every day, several times a day! Its hard to stay away!

The main reason I love this site is there are so many great people on here that keep it generally positive. There are pockets of negativity which is still frustrating but probably unavoidable entirely. But it spurs healthy discourse so in that regard it has its place. The key is the swearing/shouting and general crappy behavior of people is usually kept to a minimum unlike so many other sites out there where people just yell at each other in the comments, call each other names, etc.

Also, there are just so many positive things that I love including insightful reviews, important rules clarifications, game designers and publishers interacting with gamers, useful files, fun contests and events, geeklists, the ability to sell and buy games that are otherwise hard to find, etc.

In past years I have only supported the site by contributing on January 1st so I could immediately get the the latest supporter badge. However, I felt like I was missing out on helping during the December supporter drive. So this past year I changed it up so I could do both - I contributed both on January 1st and in early December after the drive started so I could help then as well. And, I still am able to have adblock and all the other benefits even with splitting it.

I also contributed Snowdonia: The Daffodil Line as an item in the Item for Geeklist "2014 BGG Supporter Badge Drive / Rummage-O-Rama Give-Away - Free Games (some with Free Worldwide Shipping)" and just pulled the winner as:

Kevin A
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I will send a GM shortly (or you can send me one as well if you notice before I get to it)

CONGRATS!!!



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Thu Jan 1, 2015 7:56 pm
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TIMELY TOPICS - The future is now! 3D Printing Game Pieces for Morels

-matt s.
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So, last year a friend of mine introduced me to Morels. I had seen it before but never played it. I really enjoyed it and picked up a copy direct from the publisher. Unfortunately, it didn't have the nifty hand-crafted foraging sticks and plastic pans that came with the original Kickstarted versions:



The wood foraging sticks were originally made by hand by the designer, Brent Povis! Hundreds and hundreds of them! I missed out

My version came later and just had the cardboard chits:



I had thought I would make fimo ones like others had made, or make my own wood ones, possibly like these:


Then, last October, I saw these nifty little pans 3D printed by someone with access to a 3D printer at work:


That wasn't QUITE what I wanted out of mine, but it definitely inspired me to look into 3D printing further. I started reading more about 3D printing and online 3D modeling applications.

Then, I started out playing around with TinkerCad and really found it intuitive and easy to use (note that I used to do CAD, including some 3D, many moons ago, so perhaps was more intuitive to me than for some, but I have heard of kids using it fairly easily, so it really isn't THAT hard).

There are many 3D drawing applications out there and available. The thing I liked most about TinkerCad was it had a really innovative way of making things where you didn't worry so much about dimensions but more about choosing basic 3D shapes from a palette, crossing and merging them together to make new shapes, then adding in other shapes as 'holes' to create void space! Merging holes and solids together caused it to calculate and draw all the intersecting faces and such for you automatically. Really REALLY neat piece of software!

BTW, there's this other amazing application that is quite fascinating to play around with called Shapeshifter - try both this and TinkerCad, you'll really like them! Both applications are actually owned by AutoDesk, makers of AutoCad and such. They actually took over TinkerCad last year when it was about to be tanked by its owning company - I'm really glad they kept it alive!

Well, after getting up-to-speed with the tutorials, I then started on my project by first creating the pans which were relatively straight-forward, although I took a non-traditional approach and intersected a large parabola (well, two actually) with a squat cylinder to make the pan, then merged a long round ovoid piece to make the handle. Not much detail, just playing around a bit.

First 'cut' before merge:


Second 'cut' before merge:


Final version:


And, this is how the printed version came out:


Then I started messing with the sticks. I wanted to have a 'carved' feel to them, just like the hand-made ones. So, I started with a simple long, thin cylinder, then added two more smaller ones to make a 'Y'. Finally, I used a series of individual and grouped parabolas and cylinders of various sizes to 'carve out' areas along the edges.

Here's a late step of doing some of the final 'cuts':


This is a detail - see the dark areas on the orange stick? Those are the areas being 'cut away' when I do the merge:


The dark shaded areas are object 'holes' that, when merged, 'remove' material from the 'solid' object.

This is the final 3D model:


And, here's the final printed stick:


Because they are white its hard to see all the detail - I tried to highlight it against the dark pan and you can see some of the detail there.

These are how they look sent directly to me after printing at Shapeways which is an online 3D printing service where you can print in a wide variety of materials (depending on the size of the object, and the depth of your pocket book) ranging from plastic to chrome to gold to multi-colored ceramic, plus a variety or other metals and plastics. The great thing is you generally only pay for the amount of material used, plus shipping! (The shipping is the gotcha unfortunately when only printing small, cheap items). I paid close to $30 for my 12 sticks and 2 pans. OUCH!

BUT, I did it at Christmas time during a special promotion and got a $10 credit for future prints. AND, I didn't have to shell out thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of time to build, test, and calibrate my own 3D printer. In all honesty, it was truly a proof-of-concept for myself to see what it looked like, felt like, and what the entire process was, so was definitely worth it for me to get that experience.

I should note that Shapeways does a really great job of checking your work for holes or areas that are too thin and sending you feedback if there are problems. I should have started out right off with their recommended tools to check myself though - would have saved me a bunch of time 'debugging' my pieces in terms of thickness. They post all of their tolerances for each material type and you MUST look at those and figure out what the requirements are or it won't be printable.

As to the pieces themselves, the plastic has a sort of rough feel to it (which works well for these items) although they have some plastics that are smoother (or they put them in a tumbler to smooth them later). It can be painted which is my plan for these in the near future so the sticks will be in the brown/tan range. I may add some highlights to the pans as well to give them a more metallic look.

Well, that's my first look at 3D printing. I have been wanting to write this piece for a few weeks now and, because I JUST today received my 3Doodler it has got me thinking about 3D printing and the future that it holds. The 3Doodler is certainly NOT going to produce anything like this, but I think it may have some other applications such as with storage or simple custom on-the-fly made pieces. I'm also looking forward to just creating some neat 3D art pieces in general.

Hopefully I'll get it to the table soon and then show what some of the capabilities of it are in a future post.

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Thu Feb 6, 2014 1:30 pm
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TIMELY TOPICS - Enhanced Play Logging with Bookmarklets!!!

-matt s.
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Eugene
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Ok, I just discovered this nifty little tool recently (YESTERDAY) that makes game play logging WAY easier. WAAAAAAAAAAAY easier. It uses 'Bookmarklets' to enable better Play Logging. Basically, it is a set of 2 bookmarks with code behind them.

What it does is two fold:
1. It provides a Player and Location manager interface where you can create a list of places you commonly play and a list of players you commonly play with.


Manage Players and Locations v3.1

You can go in and update all of your information at any time and it will remember it. However, it appears to store it locally so you will have to enter it separately on different computers OR use the export/import option to transfer the data (just email it to yourself as its just text)


2. It provides an enhancement to the play logging feature either from a search results page (when you click in the Plays column and get the dialog) or from the game page itself (you don't even have to scroll down and click on the Play section).

Each location and player you entered with the Manager (above) will appear as a clickable button/area that will automatically populate the dialog with the relevant information.

This is especially nice for the players as there is no more having to click New Player for each one, or remember their BGG username, etc!


Enhanced Record Play Dialog v3.5


Information about this nifty tool can be found in a number of places, but here's the current 'good' locations to go:

Play Logging Bookmarklet: Code Repository

Taking Play Logging Improvements into Our Own Hands (which also has tutorial information)

The tutorial is nice, BUT very detailed.

Here's the easy way to do it:
1. Go to the Bookmarklet page
2. Drag each of the 2 bookmarks to your bookmark bar (in Windows - other platforms you will probably need to copy the link, then create a bookmark, edit it and paste the link in - see the Tutorials if you need details)
3. Run the Location and Player Manager by clicking the appropriate bookmark then saving your location and player information.
4. Go to log a play and click the Enhance dialog bookmark. Voila! Magic buttons! Just click them to enter your location and basic player info. That's all I normally do anyhow (other than changing number of plays) so works perfectly for me!

Wow, so much easier!

Be sure to give to:
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if you like the bookmarklets

AND:
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if you like the tutorial information.


Now go log some plays!!


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Tue Dec 10, 2013 1:00 pm
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Timely Topics - MY ESSEN PRE-PREVIEW - What I'm interested in (and a couple I'm scared of)

-matt s.
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It's almost time for Essen! ... less than a month away!

But, no, I don't get to go and don't expect I ever will get to go. But, I have a couple of friends that are going. And they always bring back a bunch of games to try out. But I still like to window shop anyhow and see what I might be interested in - and eventually get (or at least hopefully get to try out)

I've been picking through the Spiel 2012 Preview list (which is well over 800 games this year!) for a while now and have been tagging games of interest - mostly games that immediately seemed interesting to me, and a couple that 'looked' interesting but probably are not in my range of 'want to have'.

Now, I have other things I should be doing now in my personal life and at least one thing a couple of people have been nagging me about here on BGG, but I figured I'd spent the time looking and wanted to get my thoughts down. Note that more games have been added to the preview list and I just don't have any more time to go through it all again, so there are some others I'm interested in that aren't actually here. Also, I'm biased towards certain games so certain segments may be lacking here. Sorry.

I tend to be long-winded when writing so I'm trying NOT to be here (actually, I think I did pretty good, except that I had a LOT of different games to write about). EDIT: Looking back now I see I still wrote a lot - ah well.

If you want the 'quick list' here's a link to the games I've tagged so far (this may get updated after I post this so you might check back in the future to see any changes)

So, I'm going to group these into a few categories to help qualify my interest. Here goes!



GAMES THAT ARE A MUST BUY
(or at least a LIKELY BUY)

Note that I'm trying to cut back on my game buying and trim my collection as well. No really. In fact, I've sold off 150+ games in the past 2 months.

Still there are some games I might not be able to resist getting.

The Ladies of Troyes - I love Troyes! (although I don't get to play it too often). This expansion adds 3 new character cards (the ladies) that offer alternative options for getting end-game points. You also get:
* The ability to move a guard along the walls to access 16 different activities outside the city.
* A purple die per player which is rolled and cannot be bought by other players - and it counts towards any activity color/die grouping.
* 27!! new Activity cards!!
* 6 new Event cards.
INSTA-BUY FOR ME!!

Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar - Terrific art, worker placement and a great theme! Of course, the most interesting aspect is the 'calendar' that progresses through the game as a giant turning cog that, in turn, moves the surrounding resource/action cogs. You place your workers on the cogs and, the further along they get, the more/better resources and abilities you get. This element of time passing in a physical way on the board is very intriguing. I predict I will really like this game...

Keyflower - A new game in the 'Key' series with the original core auction mechanic developed by Sebastian Bleasdale and further expansion of that work by both him and Richard Breese into a full game. A game takes place over 4 seasons with certain tiles only coming available in the appropriate season. Each season new workers arrive on boats and new buildings come available. The innovative auction mechanic is where your are bidding with your workers which new tiles you want to add to your village. Bids can only be made with workers of one color type and the same color must be followed on each bidding tile. At the same time, you must place workers to get special actions, so you must balance the 'bidding' part with the 'action placement' part. When you are outbid you can move those workers to other bids or actions but you cannot break up groups of workers that were used in bidding. Finally, you then get tiles you won and can build out your village. I haven't fully absorbed the rules yet and probably need to see it in action, but it's intriguing and I've always liked all the 'Key' games. Also, I have an interview I am working on with Sebastian that will be published in the near future, so stay tuned. NOTE: Pre-ordered!

Myrmes - Ystari games have generally been interesting games for me. The artwork on this is spectacular and I love the idea of ants building a colony. OK, I already have Antics! and really love the 'hive' building mechanic, but I also always felt there could have been a bit more to the game and perhaps this is it.

The Cave - I used to have a game on my old Atari 800xl when I was a kid called Spelunker. This game brings back fond memories of that. I love the idea of exploring a cave and having it be different every time. Ironically, I'm not particularly fond of the idea of exploring real caves at all - thus, I want this game to be able to do it safely in my own home.

Town Center - An interesting looking puzzly 3D stacking game with strategy. Reviews have been glowing. Unfortunately, 2nd edition (using Lego type blocks) is sold out. Sending email to the designer might secure you a 3rd edition version if enough people show interest. See this thread. I have a friend locally that I believe has it so hoping to maybe give it a go before I decide for sure.

<no image> Bora Bora - Yes I'm a big fan of Feld games. No, there isn't a picture or even much information about this game other than mention of Islands, Gods, Supergods, Villages, People, Shells, Sea Animals, and Tatoos. Still, I must have it! Problem is, it may not be ready until after Essen...

The Great Zimbabwe - A new Splotter Spellen game with network and monument building in Africa. Similar to Antiquity it has a feature where you choose in-game what your victory requirement is which I find very interesting. It's maybe at the lower end of 'must buy' for me, but I really like Splotter Spellen games in general so if I had an opportunity I very likely would pick it up. Thing is, my 'opportunity' is likely also very low since the cost is going to be very high. Maybe I should move this to the 'want to try' section....nah, I can still dream a little, can't I?

Dominion: Dark Ages - Yes, it's another Dominion expansion. I have all the others, so I need this one, too, right? And, it has Donald's favorite card: RATS! Seriously, this does look like a pretty decent set. And the family loves Dominion. So, it is a 'must buy' -- at some point in the future at least.

<no image> Rialto - Another Feld game, this time 'lighter' (if comparing it in weight to Strasbourgis considered lighter) where players select a set of cards (6 known, 2 unknown) and then each character is played during the appropriate sub-phase. The idea is to build buildings, gain influence in districts and then use the buildings to generate points, but also gain points from majorities in the districts. You can also build bridges and gondolas between districts. It actually sounds a little like San Marco but without the 'pie splitting' aspect and with buildings that do stuff. Another that might not be ready for Essen though

Salmon Run - You are a salmon trying to get up the river. Salmon!? Racing!? Interesting take on deck building. This is still on Kickstarter and has reached double the initial goal...but I might still wait until later to get it as I think it will be fun and definitely want to get it, but I don't that I have to be one of the first to get it.

Milestones - This is a new game by Stefan Dorra, a designer whose games I've consistently enjoyed. In this game you are helping colonize new shared territory. Each player has their own personal board with hired workers and action spaces. This board is a sort of rondel with hired workers at the top and action spaces at the bottom and I find this board/mechanic very interesting. You use the various workers to acquire resources then use the actions to build roads and buildings on the board. Finally, there is a castle that, when you reach it you must reduce your resources to 3 AND you lose one of your workers. So, you must plan ahead quite a bit on what you are going to do each go around the board. This game seems to fall right into the type of game I enjoy so I'm really hoping to get my hands on it. Also, I think this game is likely a strong contender for a SdJ award or at least a mention.



THE BUZZ
These are games that seem to be getting a lot of buzz, although I'm not sure how interested I really am in all of them myself...

Among the Stars - The 7 Wonders 'killer' (even though it doesn't currently play 7?) It's funny, despite having a decent interest in Science Fiction in general, for some reason space games rarely excite me just from the theme. There's no denying the artwork is fantastic in this game. And the comments are glowing for it based on PnP plays saying it is like 7 Wonders with the card drafting, but better/more strategic. I'm interested...but not highly interested myself. I predict this game will be very buzzy after Spiel though. I also predict it won't have impact on 7 Wonders in the slightest.

Love Letter - This is a game with fantastic art themed around The Tempest. The gameplay is centered around only 16 cards!!?? with a hand size of 1, and involves deduction and bluffing. Rounds only take a few minutes, only 15 minutes for a game. It's crazy and its portable and apparently it makes people laugh hysterically.

Fremde Federn (aka Copycat or False Feathers or....) - Friedeman Friese's latest game which is part of the Freitag-Project where he only works on the games on Fridays. It is a game which is both mocking and praising at the same time - it is about trying to become president by leveraging the influence of others. The game itself leverages mechanisms from some of the top rated (on BGG) games using deck building with hand of 5 cards (Dominion), limited setup with action reveal over the course of the game (Agricola), a selection of 10 cards to buy from (Through the Ages), added VP to unused actions (Puerto Rico), and others. It sounds really interesting. But, will it be a top 10 game? If so, will the sequel have to copy itself?

Doctor Who: The Card Game - It's a Martin Wallace game and it is based on the more recent incarnation(s) of Doctor Who. I never have watched that program which is probably why I'm not buzzing about it myself other than this snippet. Initial buzz is that it's got just enough theme/flavor and the card game is decent, but not terrific, as well.

VivaJava: The Coffee Game - I'm not a fan of coffee but this game got a lot of interest on KickStarter earning almost 4 times the initial goal. Try to find the perfect blend of coffee, sometimes working with other players and sometimes going it alone. This game plays up to 8 players, too!

Habani - Another Antoine Bauza game getting enthusiastic reviews. However, it's been out for a while now so not sure why it's on the Essen list. I will admit a cooperative game about creating fireworks displays does sound interesting to me...

CO2 - This is a game about converting from polluting power plants to clean power plants. If conversion is not done successfully, EVERYONE loses the game (this is not a co-op game though). Otherwise, the winner is the person who met their goals and gained the best reputation. This is a unique game theme and seems to have a fairly deep level of complexity to it. It is also getting a lot of attention not only for the game itself but also for the artwork.

Snowdonia - This game by Tony Boydell is also getting a lot of attention. It is a train game of another sort - players are 'working together' to complete the rail connection through the Snowdon Mountains to the summit. You must do the hard work of excavating, building the rails, and contending with the weather. As your own team meets contract goals you get bonuses that get you further along in winning the game. You can also purchase trains that give you extra workers and special abilities.

Orion Inc - This game won the 3rd Annual Greek Guild's Game Design competition getting both the Judge's and Public's award! The initial artwork is really nice. This is a worker placement game of a slightly different nature in that its possible for no one to win the game if all are unsuccessful at meeting appropriate goals (wow, this seems to be the 'new' hot idea in games this year).

Terra Mystica - A game about terra-forming in a fantasy land seems a bit strange to me. There seems to be a lot going on in this game including expansion, resource gathering, terraforming, increasing your abilities, upgrading buildings, etc. I'm surprised to see there isn't conflict though other than indirectly getting into someone else's way. There is a lot of attention for this game, probably due partly to the fantasy theme although the mechanics are a mix of some familiar with some new. I think it will be very popular for a while as there seems to be a lot of variability in the play. It is well produced and does have some interesting elements such as the 'Bowls of Power' where you move power tokens between 3 different bowls based on what you do and these give you special abilities by spending the power tokens in the 3rd bowl. Also, there are 14 different factions that can be in the game, each with their own ability. I guess I'm somewhat interested in trying it, but it might not be one I'd ultimately want to buy.



GAMES I DEFINITELY WANT TO TRY
(BUT NOT NECESSARILY BUY)


Urbania - Hand management game where you are building buildings in an urban environment and trying to achieve hidden end-game goals as well as score points along the way. City building/architectural games always appeal to me but the jury is out based on early descriptions. Also sounds like muddled colors might be an issue...

Escape: The Curse of the Temple - I'm not a huge fan of co-ops or even real-time, but this game sounds really fun. Try to escape the temple before time (10 minutes) runs out! Everyone is frantically rolling dice and running around doing things trying to collect treasures and find a way out. All players play simultaneously! Sometimes someone might get 'stuck' in a room and need to be 'rescued' by another player. Sometimes you need to work together to get enough symbols to complete a task. The more I describe it the more I'm inclined to move it to my 'buy' list...

Spellbound - Not the best name for a game (since there are already several with this name) but it's from Fragor Games so you know it will sell out. So, the Lamont brothers? Check! Fantasy Adventure? Check! Deck building? Check! Co-op? Hmmm. Maybe.

Saint Malo - Another game by Inka and Markus Brand (KdJ winners for Village). This time you roll dice and then draw (literally) on a wipe-off player board. Neat!

Qin - Yet another game from Knizia. Seems to be another tile laying game in the vein of T&E where you are connecting province areas of the same color and taking ownership of them. Then, provinces can grow and absorb other weaker provinces. In addition, connecting to villages also allows you to conquer them and take ownership. The scoring is simple in that whomever is able to place all their Pagodas (ownership markers) on the board wins! It is yet another thinly themed Knizia game, but one that sounds like it has potential based on a quick reading of the rules.

Ginkgopolis - A new game by Xavier Georges where you are building a sustainable city. The tricky part here is that everyone plays a card simultaneously, plays an appropriate tile, then passes the card to their left. Thus, not only are you trying to make strong moves yourself, you are trying to prevent your neighbor from doing the same. The information is sketchy beyond that though, but I find the concept intriguing.

Sunrise City - This is a Clever Mojo game (Alien Frontiers) that achieved 2.5 times the funded needed on Kickstarter and looks quite interesting. You are building a city and bidding on areas where you can build. Then you gain points based on what you did. However, there are two score tracks - one for points and one for 'benchmarks'. You don't win with points but with the benchmarks. The key here is you get more 'benchmarks' by hitting specific point values on the point tracker. Love the artwork!

Tahiti - This looks like a beautifully produced pick-up and deliver type of game. You sail around in your long boat picking up resources and bringing them home. Get points at the end for complete sets of resources, plus bonus points for picking up the most of your favorite type (hidden goal).

Fleet - This is a hand management card game with some boardgame elements. It was successfully Kickstarted (yet another common 'feature' of games this year) and I ALMOST bit on it. I think I'll wait to play it. I'm very interested in this due to the beautful artwork and the interesting gameplay. Also, it reminds me of watching 'Deadliest Catch' and so seems timely to that TV show.

Suburbia - Sadly, I missed playing this while Ted Alspach was attending our local EGG (Eugene Games Gala) con earlier this year. It sounded interesting and seemed to get good feedback. In this game you are trying to build up your city to gain higher reputation which then gains you more population (the measure of who wins at game end). There are goals that you try to achieve to further increase your population, plus the buildings will vary from game to game so strategies will have to change accordingly. I'm hoping to get a crack at playing this game as city building is one type of game I usually enjoy quite a bit.



GAMES THAT LOOK GREAT
(AND I WANT TO TRY, PROBABLY)


Pyramidion - Hand management card game with a board. And it has Pyramids!

Fallen City of Karez - Wow, amazing artwork (go look!) Dice rolling! Worker placement! Modular board! Might be a Must Buy for me... (Note: You can still get in on a Kickstarter copy if you want via the main game page)

Chicken Caesar -This game was Kickstarted and well funded. Really nice chicken art on the cards. I'm not a fan of negotiation/backstabbing, but if you are....

Nieuw Amsterdam - Nice art, great components (lots of nice wooden bits). Build your colony by trading with the natives, gathering/generating resources, and building businesses in the different districts. Auctions for actions combined with area control sounds interesting.

Medieval Mastery - Well, this was released in 2011 but it's being re-released/re-printed with new art and such. The cover art is fantastic and the rulebook is well laid out. I also like that it has a variable board, variable player powers, and lots of dice (60!) which lends itself to a lot of potential replay-ability. In fact, they state you can play multiple games simultaneously (I presume they mean 2+ tables of the game can be played from one box of components)

Tweeeet - That's 4 E's in TWEEEET in case you're searching for it later....I like Cwali games but this I'm not sure about. Is it a kids game? Adult game? The box art is cute but just OK for me, however the components are really cute!


Fantastiqua - Yet another deck building game with a 'fantasy' type of theme where you are trying to complete various quests. You will encounter creatures that can be 'subdued' when playing cards with certain symbols from your hand, then you can add the creature to your deck to give you additional abilities. The flavor artwork is taken from original pieces by famous artists so looks quite nice for the most part although the iconography I'm not sure about as it seems kind of clip-arty. Interestingly, there are varying levels of play so it can be a 'family' game or a more challenging game.

Sheepdogs of Pendleton Hill - This game got some good buzz, but not enough apparently as the Kickstarter funding failed. However, the game is still going to be produced and is accepting pre-orders on their website. I'd really like to try it - I suspect the theme is off-putting for some, but the artwork looks spectacular and those that like the game give glowing reviews. The game is you are a sheepdog trying to get your flock of sheep safely to the top of the hill. You can play actions that affect you OR other players. There is also a wolf that can come out and eat or scare away your sheep. I'm looking forward to trying it and maybe picking up a copy eventually.



GAMES THAT I HAVE A PASSING INTEREST IN

Foundation - An interesting looking abstract with simple rules. The pieces look Blockus-y although commentary suggests the game play is more Scrabble-y.

The Great Museum - By Richard Denning (The Great Fire of London) is giving us another 'great' game I like the idea of gathering artifacts to create good exhibits and get scored based on the exhibits. However, it sounds really familiar.....

Connections (aka Kreuz & Quer) - New game by Dr. Knizia. In the vein of Take it Easy! but trying to get the LEAST number of points ala FITS. Rehashes with a twist! I love me some puzzly games though...

Spice Merchant - Commodity speculation game from Korea and has a similar feel to Jaipur in art, but is for 3-4 players and plays like a filler.

Ragami - Players are Guardian Angels helping out people in a city. You can get points in a variety of ways by helping people, helping other Ragami, scaring off demons, etc. You can even move other people's pieces which may (or may not) help them in some way, but may also earn you VPs as well.

<no image> Nehemiah - A different twist on worker placement where labor cards change and, when you activate a card you can activate others in the same row by paying gold but possible better resource utilization. It sounds interesting, but not sure if the religious aspect will turn players off. And, no pics or other reviews and such.




GAMES THAT I'M SCARED OF
There are a few games I ran across that I feel I need to stay away from for one reason or another...mostly due to scary art or scary theme (or both):

Roll to the South Pole - Honestly, this game really does look interesting. But, the demon dogs on the cover frighten me...!!

Mayan Sun, Aztec Destiny: 500 BC – AD 2012 – Beyond∞ - The end of the world is nigh!

Czech Pub - Do I really need to write why I'm scared of this game??? surprise

Wind Runner - "A race where only skinny people can compete. Problem is, the stadium that holds the race has incredibly strong winds that can blow skinny people like you in directions you don't want to go. Can you win this race against the competitors and the devil winds?" Whaaaaaaaaaat??????

CLASH: Jihan vs. McWorld - I realize the 'original' box art is now rejected, but that is what really scared me the first time I saw it. The title still scares me. The game scares me in general. The tiles scare me, too:
(running away now....)




SPECIAL MENTIONS
Well, there are a couple of games that deserve special mention.

First, here's a list of reprints for those that are interested:
Homesteaders (master print edition with upgraded artwork and components), Luna, Crude: The Oil Game, Wilderness (with an actual printing rather than being hand-constructed in limited numbers) and Goa (ok, it already came out earlier this year, but I'm excited as now I can get a copy!). There were a couple of others but they didn't make my list and I'm not going to go looking for them now...

Also, earlier this year I won an early copy of
Madeira from the donor drive for BGG and have been watching the game's information with great interested. Disappointingly, but with hopefulness, it is being delayed as they are re-doing some of the mechanics of the game after having struck on a new (better) idea and did some initial tests to determine, yes, they want to delay the game to re-work it. So, I am eagerly awaiting it's release sometime next year (hopefully).




Well, that's my 'list' of games of interest from Essen 2012. There are SOOOO many new games coming out this year. There's a lot of 'seen that' in the mix, a lot of kids games I completely skipped, and, well, a LOT of deck building variations. Honestly, I'm interested to see where these deck building games are headed as I think there's a lot of potential there. I I know some people are tired/wary of it, but I am not...yet.


And to those of you going to Essen - have fun! Good luck finding the games you really want! Hopefully I've thrown some in here that will make your list just a little bit longer. And, if you want to send any my way that you don't like (or are just feeling generous) feel free! laugh



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Wed Sep 26, 2012 10:01 pm
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TIMELY TOPICS - What games should I play with my family this Christmas holiday? (or, Why do I keep buying games to play with my Family that they refuse to play?)

-matt s.
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So, something I've been pondering is how to get my family to play different games beyond a certain handful. Part of the question lies in WHAT would they like to play? This is a bit beyond the typical 'gateway' gaming question, more of a 'what the heck can I bring that everyone might want to play?'

Over the past 3 years I have purchased numerous games thinking 'my wife might like this' or 'this might be fun with my parents'. Then, I bring them out and describe them briefly and their eyes glaze over and they want to play something else instead.

Where I'm coming from
My perspective here comes from gaming with my wife and parents who live in Washington state (~4-5 hr drive from our home in Oregon). We get together at least 5-6 times per year, primarily for Thanksgiving, Christmas and my kids' birthdays, and we usually have some potential gaming time mixed in. I've introduced some gateway and non-gateway games in the past and it's always hit or miss. It's difficult to know what will work for everyone.

So, when the question comes up of 'what game should we play?' it invariably gravitates to the same games: Ticket to Ride (usually US map, occasionally one of the others), Dominion, Crokinole, Banangrams (although my Dad refuses to play that and most anything with a speed element), Blokus (played rarely) and ZOT (a form of Oh Hell!).

I like playing all of these but I also like to mix it up a bit from time to time.

ZOT we played for years and I'm a bit tired of it.

TtR (which we introduced to my parents 3+ years ago) is always good although I would prefer to play some of the other non-US versions more often.

Bananagrams was a big hit at a family reunion where everyone is into word games, but my Dad just doesn't like the speed element of it.

My Dad likes more 'thinky' or 'puzzly' games. We love to play Odin's Ravens although we've not played as much lately. My Mom and wife love playing Flowerpower but again it hasn't been as much lately. Plus, both of those games are 2-player only so not for all of us as a group.

A couple of years ago I taught my Dad Dominionand he totally latched onto it. In fact, we got my Mom to try it and she loved it too. They even had it set up permanently at their house for a couple of months surprise until my Mom got tired of it. Part of the problem was she refused to play with some cards - mainly some attack cards and also those that tended to force longer chains. I bought them an expansion (Intrigue) but she still seemed put off by some of the cards/combos. So, we play it infrequently now as a group.

Crokinole is great (and we even got my Dad a board last year with the Mayday games pre-order deal) but it doesn't get played often. We did have a good time at it during Thanksgiving but I am a good bit better than the rest of them and try to dial it down a bit but sometimes that's difficult to do....

Anyhow, as you can see, that leaves TtR, Crokinole and Zot the main games we play. We have experimented with some many other games over the past couple of years - many of which I will note here and there below. I will admit that I ruined Rummikub by crushing everyone the one time we played (oops - wasn't so tuned into the 'dial it back' thing back then)

Oh, and we play some games with everyone including the kids such as Apples to Apples (almost every time we get together) and Rat-a-tat-cat (not so much lately - hmmm, there's a trend here). We even pulled out Pictionary to teach my kids for the first time and had a blast.

Where we've headed
When I first started getting into gaming, my friend, Chris (cdefrisco), taught several games to my wife and I, one of which was Pirate's Cove. I enjoyed it and my wife REALLY seemed to enjoy it, which surprised me. So, she got a copy for Christmas. Unfortunately, it has been played exactly 1 time since we got it. We played with my parents and they both hated it. I think they didn't like the direct confrontation. So, it sits on the shelf - yet another purchase my family refuses to play

Interestingly, my Mom has been willing to dabble in some new directions. She and I played Tobago at Thanksgiving with the kids and she seemed to enjoy it, although I think the game went on longer than it should due to her and the kids taking a long time to take turns.

She gave Oregon a go last year but we only got a partial game completed although she seemed to enjoy it. I'm a bit concerned with that one though as now I've been playing it online a lot (and am ranked 18th currently out of 1000+ players) so would have to play very lightly to make sure I don't accidentally crush like in Rummikub.

Gaming Exploits with my Dad
Over time, I've come to realize my Dad is the most willing to try just about anything and is able to do well with some more complex or different types of games.

Now, to give some perspective, he has always been into computers, gaming systems and video games. Yes, he is over 60 and he plays video games. He probably plays them more than I do because it's something he can do by himself easily for short (or long) periods of time on the computer.

We owned an original Pong game way back when. We had an Atari 2600 when they first came out and later an NES. He bought pinball machines and an Asteroid Deluxe machine when I was a teen. Like me, he loves racing games, but he also loves a good adventure game, puzzle games, pinball games - you name it he's probably played it.

He even used to play games like Loom and Monkey Island. Later, he got into Doom, Duke Nuke Em, Tomb Raider and Quake. He played all the way through the original Zelda on the NES. He has more modern games that I don't even know what he plays (as I've veered directly away from them in favor of board games). And, now he has moved the large screen TV upstairs and bought himself an X-Box for Christmas to 'play with the kids'.....surprise laugh wait....shake

And now that I think about it, I guess he DID teach me how to play Chess when I was growing up, so he's always been into somewhat more complex games.

What usually happens during our visits is my wife and Mom will go out to lunch and then shopping and will be gone for several hours. This leaves time alone with my Dad and kids. So, we have played games like Nexus Ops, Dungeon, Qwirkle, Jaipur, Pastiche, Haggis, and some others that aren't coming to mind. These are not 'heavy' games, but certainly different and he usually does well in them even on a first play.

Heading in new directions
I'm not one to generally play the same game over and over and over again - I like more variety, to try out new games, or play known games with new people.

As a result, I try to get my family to play new and different games. I think my Dad is pretty much up for anything, as long as it doesn't have a speed element - he will flat out refuse to play that type as he likes to think about his moves.

Interestingly, my wife is the most resistant to 'new' games, if I can get her interested at all. She games when we're visiting with my parents, but it's difficult to get her to the table otherwise. My Mom is open to newer games, but generally not in the evenings when she's tired and wants to game more to relax and socialize at the same time.

It's a board game mine field I'm trying to navigate: something my wife is willing to play, something that's not too complicated for my Mom to play, and anything without speed elements for my Dad.

Last month at Thanksgiving I taught my Mom and Dad 10 Days in the USA. My wife bowed out. My Dad won with me 1 turn away from winning. And my Mom got mad, threw down her tiles and stormed off (i.e. she hated it).

Wow.

I'm generally not accustomed to gamers getting so emotional about games. Gamers typically go 'oh well' being happy to have played, win or lose, and are ready to move on to the next game or even try again to see if they can do better.

Family gaming with my parents and wife is not quite as simple unfortunately. They sometimes get emotionally involved and can push their limits sometimes - way beyond what they are used to or even desire, even if it seems like a 'simple' game. Ironically, some more complex games seem to be 'ok' depending on theme or interactions.

Where to go from here
I have to follow-up with my wife on this, but when I was playing Tobago with my Mom and kids, I think I heard my wife say something to the effect of "I don't like to think too much when playing a game". Whether that's what she truly said/meant or not, it did get me thinking - simpler games must be better for her. I think this also suggests playing the same games more often (i.e. playing more often means you understand it better and don't have to 'think' about it as much).

Also, my Mom seems to like card based games, and games with quicker/faster turns. I have a feeling she is also in the same boat of not having to think too much. Apparently 10 Days in the USA was 'too much' (well, too frustrating at least).

So, I'm starting to change my perspective on what my non-Geek family members (i.e. my wife and Mom) might like to play (and when I say 'might like to play' I mean, 'might like to play that is different for a change')

The the problem here is more about me I think - my expectation to get them to play more/different games. They tend to like to be comfortable with games and not be required to have to think too much and I want change and more complexity.

Over the years I have purchased many games thinking 'I bet my family might like playing this'. Then, I'll bring it. I'll set it out on the table. I'll show it to them. I'll show them several. Then we play Ticket to Ride. Or worse, Zot. And the new games go back on the shelf or into the tote. *sigh*

So, I seem to have a bit of a dilemma here - *I* want to be able to try out some new games. My family does not necessarily want to try out some new games. New games. No new games. Crap.

I guess a compromise is in order, and some more careful planning about new game selections, if I bring out any at all.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this yet - it's been a good thought process for me. I'm not sure any of you reading are in the same boat as me or not, or have come to similar conclusions, but if you have any ideas on where this is leading me let me know.

Here's my stab at this for me: 'simpler' card based games, quick turns, not too much thinking, probably shorter rather than longer (say 45-90 minutes per game).

Interestingly, this seems to lead me in a couple of directions:
* More modern card based games
* Co-operative games (short turns + encourages social interaction which I think my Mom likes)
* Maybe some shorter puzzly games
* Maybe simpler dice-based games

Here's a short list of games I've been thinking about:
* Bohnanza (although just played recently with my kids and they were just 'ok' with it - I kinda liked it but we had to stop mid-game just as I was getting into it)
* San Juan (perhaps still a bit too much)
* Forbidden Island, maybe Pandemic (we played Forbidden Island with my parents and kids and had a good time before - I need to bring it out again)
* Castle Panic (my Dad enjoyed it and I think it goes in the same direction - quick, fast, easy to learn and play)
* 7 Wonders (might still be too much)
* Blue Moon City (great theme, general mechanics are easy, but some complexity in the card play might be too much)
* Downfall of Pompeii (I think we actually played this a long time ago, but not sure what the feelings were at the time)
* Zooloretto (played once a long while ago - maybe need to bring out again)
* Lucky Loop (simple dice-rolling fun)
* Micro Mutants (fun dexterity game, although more with the kids)
* Mosaix (just picked up this simple to play puzzly game)
* Oregon (if I don't play too hard)
* Show Manager (no one seemed to want to play this before though - just a better sell is needed? I'm wondering if there is too much screwage)
* Straw (simpler card game but I still haven't played it myself and it seems maybe 'too' simple for my tastes)
* Andromeda (just arrived yesterday so haven't played myself yet, but is also by Alan Moon and somewhat luck based??)

I know not to bring ALL of these but want to narrow it down to a handful that might be easy sells. Any recommendations/suggestions would be great (preferably with games I already own)

Final thoughts
Now, one thing you may have noticed is that I've actually been able to get my family to try out a good variety of games - quite a few in fact. You may even say the are NOT non-gamers as a result. This may be true with my Dad, but with my Mom and wife I'm on the fence.

FOLLOW-UP
So, I thought about this independently of the list here and have a different list where I need to simply and also need to try to keep size down due needing to pack luggage and gifts in the SUV as well.

With just Dad:
* Tigris & Euphrates (chess-like, more depth/thought involved plus I've been talking it up for a while)
* Haggis (small, card based, played before and would like to play again)
* Jaipur (small, card based, might even try to play this with Mom)

With my Parents and Wife:
* Showmanager (fast, card based, although worried about screwage)
* Pandemic (co-op, card based)
* Straw (small, fast and simple, card based)
* Oregon (quick turns, card based, relatively easy play)
* Mosaix (small, fast, puzzly, dicey)
* Potion Making: Practice (relatively small, card based, although did not go over well with Geek gamers, but might be good for parents)

With the kids:
* Apples to Apples Sour Edition (my wife picked this up for the kids - has a twist with also picking the 'worst' card)
* Forbidden Island (relatively small, fast, card based)
* Rat-a-tat-Cat (small, fast, card based)

Other Possibilities:
* Micro Mutants (fun dexterity, but box is kinda big)
* Tsuro (got for xmas and haven't played yet so not sure....)
* Pizza Box Football (dicey fun and Dad loves football - haven't played yet but thrifted a decent copy so want to try)
* Dominion (with Hinterlands which I just got for Xmas and added to my combo box!)

Ok, ok, I know the list got a little too long. But I LIKE TO HAVE OPTIONS! Even though I know the X-Box may be the big hit over board games this year shake

And, even if they never want to play the games I keep buying and bringing for them to try.....I can dream, can't I?

Have a Happy New Year!
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Mon Dec 26, 2011 7:25 pm
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TIMELY TOPICS - ESSEN release games that look interesting to me & why

-matt s.
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Eugene
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It must be that time of year to write up an Essen list of interesting games seeing as it's Essen week this week. Of course, I haven't done such a thing before. And, there really isn't a point to it other than sheer interest. Why? Because I'm not going to Essen and likely won't be picking up most of these - at least not for a while if I do.

My friend Lorna will be attending and she always brings back a good pile of interesting games and I usually get to give some of them a go, so I'll just be getting my fix that way.

Anyhow, my interest for games release Essen has generally been pretty low this year up until last week when I finally got the bug to peruse the Essen 2011 Canonical List. After I spent a few hours doing that my interest was starting to increase quite a bit - I was expecting to not find too many games to be excited about but as I read through I kept finding interesting items.

Then, as I started to prepare writing a blog entry about my findings, I ran across the Board Game News list: Spiel 2011 Preview which purportedly had even more games listed and seems to be a more 'official' list, if there is such a thing. Ok, time to spend a few more hours perusing. The interesting thing about this list is it uses a new headings feature that is being added to Geek lists in the impending site redesign; these headings are then designated as publishing companies and their games are then grouped together under them. So, if you like particular publishers you can easily find their newest games.

I then tore through this list and found a majority of them were the same items from the canonical list (there were some I hadn't recalled seeing before), plus some other more obscure titles and/or non-English titles. Ultimately, this seems to be the go-to list this year.

So, as I went through the lists I decided to tag each with an Essen2011 tag so that I could then have a compiled list to work from later. Here's a link to the list in case you're interested. I find tags OK as a feature, but you can't do too much with them as the entries aren't sortable in any way. But, there it is at least.

So, here's my rundown. I have organized them in categories of my interest or into logical groupings by type. The primary grouping is what drew me to them and then secondary either just a property of the game or the element that seemed to grab me. It's hard to explain but you'll see what I mean.

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This section is THE BUZZ - games that were buzzworthy that I also found some interest in. There are OTHER buzzworthy games but the didn't interest me as much (despite looking like good games overall)

The Buzz - Deck Building:
CORE WORLDS
Deck building in space where you work your way from the outer reaches to the inner core of civilized space - terrific graphics, improved gameplay from other deck building games, ability to keep cards in play until needed…

The Buzz - Different:
FLASH POINT: FIRE RESCUE
Co-op saving people in a burning building. Great graphics and interesting gameplay with good amount of variability. I'm not much into co-op play, but I really love the theme and the potential for excitement in trying to save people.

The Buzz - Different:
PRÊT-À-PORTER
Some say this is actually similar to Drum Roll - but putting on a fashion show instead. This one is more economically grounded (in fact was designed specifically that way) but both this and Drum Roll sound interesting for different reasons. I would say this one seems more 'serious' where Drum Roll is more 'fun'

The Buzz - Family Fun:
DRUM ROLL
You are the owner of a Circus and working to put on the best shows - the higher quality shows require better performers. You try to acquire equipment to let your performers perform at their highest. Once you have a successful show you have to decide whether to gain the prestige points or re-invest in making future shows even better.

The Buzz - Village Building:
KINGDOM BUILDER
New game by Donald X Viccarino - NOT Dominion although perhaps feels similar. The theme seems even thinner than in Dominion as this looks to be thinly veneered abstract with cardplay for the actions and more cards for the victory conditions. Lots of variability should still change it up a bunch but it's one I'll want to play before buying I think. Some elements look similar to Strasbourg.

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There are different reasons for MUST HAVE games for me - mostly these are expansions/additions to ones I already have.

Must Have - Deck Building:
DOMINION: HINTERLANDS
No details yet on any of the cards - it is a must have only because I have pretty much everything else. The only problem is that soon people that use my Dominion storage system are going to want new inserts for the cards in this game and that always takes a lot of time to put together.....gotta go, I can hear them beating down my door already!

Must Have - Dicey Fun:
DIE BURGEN VON BURGUND
Yes it came out last year, but only after Essen 2010 so this is on the radar officially for me. Hopefully more copies will become available…

Must Have - Different:
POWER GRID: FIRST SPARKS
Power Grid in the stone age!!!!! It is supposed to play faster than traditional Power Grid but still has the same overall flow, only set in the stone age where you want to expand your tribe to 13 meeples and be able to feed them at the same time. Very nice artwork and awesome meeples make this a 'must have'

Must Have - Different:
TOURNAY
Loved Troyes and, yes, I know this isn't the same sort of mechanic (no dice), but it looks great and suggests similar but different play - I wouldn't want a carbon copy of Troyes anyhow. Looking forward to giving this a go.

Must Have - Expansion:
FRESCO: THE BISHOP'S FAVOR
This expansion provides an extra benefit for completing a tile the Bishop is on. I recently got to play Fresco with all 7 expansions and now I MUST have this to be able to play with 8 expansions!

Must Have - Expansion:
STONE AGE: STYLE IS THE GOAL
One of my favorite games gets an actual full-fledged expansion! I think the title is ridiculous (and others think so too) but love what it does - adds another player color(!), allows for trading in resources to get other resources, and has another way to spend your resources by creating ornaments and jewelry. It also adds new cards and new huts to the mix. I am officially

Must Have - Family Fun:
DUNGEON PETZ
Love the art, love the idea of raising these interesting creatures. I think the kids will love it (and me too!)

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HIGH INTEREST games are ones that I found particularly appealing for some particular reason and likely want to get them in addition to playing them and would be likely to purchase without playing them.

High Interest - Art:
PALA
Color mixing as method of changing color (suit) of your cards in a trick taking/betting card game. Awesome idea! Plus, anything related to Art appeals to me...

High Interest - Different:
MELTDOWN 2020
Save people from being poisoned by nuclear fallout. This is one of 4 of the latest offerings from Cwali. This one I'm interested in giving a go and the theme is unique (although perhaps a bit morbid)

High Interest - Pick up and deliver:
UNDERMINING
Mining in space! It appears to be very configurable giving a lot of game variability, terrific graphics and theme, interactive mechanisms and double-sided board for more options. Work towards achieving short term goals which let you upgrade and eventually complete long term goals.

High Interest - Village Life:
HELVETIA
A Kosmos game from the designer of Glen More and Lancaster. Build up your village in the Swiss alps by using tokens to indicate which actions you will be taking. Actions include meeples getting married, having babies (which then can go to school then become integrated into the village), wake up tired sleeping meeples, and producing goods (among other things) and go to sleep. When producing goods there are simple goods and there are also production chains for complex goods.

High Interest - Village Life:
VILLAGE
Another village life game (duh) but here you are going for prestige in the village. There is an interesting time element and as time moves along your meeples die and go into the register indicating their prestige. In this game, the resources are: Skill, Persuasiveness, Faith, Knowledge, Time, Grain. Also, Plague exists which reduces life of your meeples. Again, you can marry, have kids, move up in society, etc. Something about this game and Helvetia really appeals to me.

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These games all have some sort of COOL COMPONENTS in them. I may or may not want to actually GET them, but they're great to look at.

Cool Components - Abstract:
CUBULUS
Puzzly looking 3D game with simple gameplay and looks interesting with a cage-like structure and balls that you push into it causing them to shift and form new patterns. Plays up 2 OR 3 players equally well.

Cool Components - Abstract:
TRENCH
The designer calls it 'the next big thing' - that we will have to wait to see. It is a Chess-like game abstracting war in the trenches with the board divided into two clear areas and movement is different along the dividing line (the Trench). If anything, it's an eye-catching work of art. I would likely buy this game without playing it if it was a reasonable price, but I'm not shelling out a ton for it without playing it.

Cool Components - Architectural:
CASA GRANDE
Build 3D buildings and get points or bonus points for others building on your builds. Interesting looking 3D construction game like Torres or Arkadia.

Cool Components - Family Fun:
SCHNAPPT HUBI!
This has a haunted mansion that you discover and put together as you go. It contains an electronic device that tells you if there is a wall or not when you try to move a particular direction, then you insert the necessary piece. Move your rabbit through the house to find the magic doors, then chase the ghost, Hubi, out of the house. Looks interesting and fun for the kids.

Cool Components - Family Fun:
SPACE MAZE
Looks a bit chaotic, but that seems to be the fun in this game - escape the maze using interesting mechanic of combining colors along tiles edges to 'mix' them to get the color you need for your alien meeples to move. Very cool alien meeples. Mazes, color mixing and aliens. Sounds like a perfect game to me! This might be one I'd buy without playing.

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This category has games that are being reprinted, expanded or are based on something that's already been around a while. I don't have super high interest in getting them but would like to try them at least.

Something new from Something Old - Abstract:
TALAT
An abstract designed ONLY for 3 players, originally published as Drei (3). It has 3 boards, one betweeon each 2 players. If you move a piece on one board you don'y get to move a pioece on the other. When no captures are possible on a board it is frozen. Once two boards are frozen the game ends and you get points for captures and piece advancements. This game seems to offer something a bit different in terms of abstracts and I'm interested to try it out.

Something new from Something Old - Different:
RISK LEGACY
Risk but with forced meta gaming - you record past results directly onto the game so that future contests will be affected by past results. I'm not sure if this is something I'll go for, but I like the concept.

Something new from Something Old - Related:
NEW SCOTLAND YARD: CRIME SCENE
Race around the city collecting equipment then evaluating the crime scenes and finally perform forensic tests to determine the evidence and solve the murder. I have recently been able to play the original Scotland Yard and, even though this looks like a different sort of game, I am interested to see what it brings to the table...

Something new from Something Old - Remake:
[thing=73421]UCHRONIA[/thing]
Glory to Rome with Dinosaur theme added…apparently theres's some litigation around this so it may or may not be available soon. Note there is also going to be an official 'Black Box' version of GtR with new cleaner/more muted graphics that looks pretty awesome as well.

Something new from Something Old - Remake:
BIOS MEGAFAUNA
American Megafauna but drastically changed. I have been peripherally following the design changes for this game as I am on the AM discussion list, but I have not played it myself. It sounds to be shorter and faster with significantly different gameplay (and yet still maintains it's true-to-science core). This is the first in what will be a 'BIOS' series of games coming from Phil Ecklund.

Something new from Something Old - Reprint:
ANTIQUITY
And there was much rejoicing for this reprint! Until they choked on the $125 USD price tag. It was available for Pre-order from Out of the Box but no longer is now that Essen has arrived. It sounds like some will be available @ Essen and perhaps from the Splotter website after Essen if there is any stock left. I just bought R&B and I don't know that my wallet can afford this as well now I am definitely tempted though....

Something new from Something Old - Rework/Reprint:
FIEF
This game originally came out in 1981, then was re-implemented/re-printed in 1989 as Fief 2. This game is listed separately so there must be something significant enough to make it different. This looks to be a heavy middle ages themed game with alliances and economic engine building. This might not quite be my thing but looks interesting and has terrific artwork as well.

Something new from Something Old - The Buzz:
ALBA LONGA
City/Civilization building game with interesting dice and multiple paths to victory. Uses dice selection, worker placement, combat between player's civilizations and comes with 3 in-box variants for even more playing possibilities. Apparently this won a game design award in 2009 and now is being officially published.

Something new from Something Old - Expansion:
POWER GRID: THE ROBOTS
Play Power Grid with 2 or 3 players using the Robots as an additional 'player'.

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These are games of particular interest to me because of the theme, but I haven't been especially excited by seeing them. I'd love to play them all, of course. You will note a particular lack of fantasy and horror type of games from my list - I guess they just aren't my thing. That doesn't mean they aren't worthy, just not for me. If you have interest in those areas keep this in mind as you will want to peruse the Essen lists yourself for those types....

Theme - Architectural:
CASTELLI
Gather resources and build castles - typical Euro but the resource tiles can be rotated to change distribution which makes for some interesting interactions between players.

Theme - Architectural:
CITÉ
Gather resources and build buildings with special abilities. Partnerships can be formed and trading of resources is crucial to building successfully. Simultaneously play occurs which helps make the games move along quickly.

Theme - Architectural (Are you seeing a pattern here?):
GIZA: THE GREAT PYRAMID
Manage resources and labor to most efficiently build parts of the pyramid. This has elements I like including worker placement and area majority. It also has bidding and cooperation.

Yes, I'm very much into architecture and even went to architecture school for 2-1/2 years. This type of game ALWAYS appeals to me. Always.

Theme - Architectural:
QUÉBEC
Worker placement with unique method of 'cascading' workers when you come out ahead.

Theme - Architectural:
URBAN SPRAWL
Another Chad Jensen 'simulation' game which abstracts out the buildings themselves but have different roles you can earn through 'elections' (evaluation of area majority). There are restrictions as to where the buildings can be placed and special action cards that allow you to break some rule of the game. Anything with city building related activities always appeal to me.

Theme - Area control:
SPACE BASTARDS
Funny name but ultimately actually looks like an interesting area control game - managing the 'relationships' between alien races changes how the interactions of the actions occurs. I think the name suggests some nasty are control going on despite the humorous alien graphics. I might be likely to buy this without having played it.

Theme - Bluffing, Party:
[thing=104559]BANKSTERS[/thing]
The box of diamonds is passed around and you must decide if you will be a thief or not (i.e. take some diamonds out of the box or not). Then the investigator asks questions to determine who the thieves are. Innocent players get points based on the number of diamonds recovered, thieves get points if they get away with stealing. Arrested thieves lose points. Reminds me of Master of Thieves (although the box isn't as cool as the one for that game)

Theme - Deck Building:
FREITAG
Part of Friedemann Friese's Friday (Freitag) project. It is a unique deck building game where you are Robinson Crusoe and his servant Friday trying to gather resources and prepare to battle the two pirates at game end. If you run out of health at any time you lose and you must defeat the pirates to win.

Theme - Different:
SANTIAGO DE CUBA
I really liked Cuba and this game is similar except you are driving around Santiago making deals to collect goods to ship out on 7 different ships throughout the game. With random board setup and ship demand it seems there is a lot of potential variability in the game. As to whether that variability is enough over time is something else to be seen.

Theme - Different:
ALCATRAZ: THE SCAPEGOAT
This is a co-op game where you are trying to Escape from Alcatraz. You must work together to get out of the prison, but then try to leave someone behind who ends up being the scapegoat - bluffing, negotiation, backstabbing, and variable play all make this sound interesting. As I'm not heavy into co-op I'm interesting in trying it but not sure about buying...

Theme - Different:
DR. SHARK
Antonio Bauza (7 Wonders) and Bruno Cathala (Mr. Jack, Cyclades) have worked together to make a different type of 'Dexterity' game - you are a spy and you must literally reach into a 'pool' and 'feel' around for clues. Each clue has a different texture (1 of 4 types) and you need to try to pull out the right kind of clue and avoid the sharks. And you only have 30 seconds to search for clues. I'm intrigued.

Theme - Dragons!:
DRAKO
Asymetrical gameplay with one person playing the dragon and one person a team of 3 dwarve dragon hunters. I'm not too much into fantasy themes but I do like dragons and this looks interesting.

Theme - Economic Engine:
UPON A SALTY OCEAN
Sail and go fishing, then process the fish and get them back to port to sell in the market. Each action, once selected, costs more for the next players to use them during the round so you much choose your actions wisely before things get too expensive. The theme I find interesting and the art is tremendous.

Theme - Family Fun:
EXPOSAURUS
Tile laying game where you are trying to get different sets of dinosaur artifacts grouped together. Theme is light and gameplay reminds me a bit of Mosaix but with a bit more going on with bonuses and such. Love dinosaurs

Theme - Family Fun:
THE IMPOSSIBLE MACHINE
Build a machine to accomlish a task Rube Goldberg style. I LOVE this type of game although I suspect it's fairly light - should be fun with the kids/family.

Theme - Graphics:
HAWAII
This game has a Vikings like player board but there is also shared island where you collect resources to support your villages. The island is tiered so as you work your way across it the benefits increase, take too long and you might miss out on those benefits, but but if you progress too quickly you might miss out on other important actions leading up to that spot.

Theme - Life and Death:
WILDERNESS
An interesting experience type of game where you are trying to escape being eaten/killed while surviving in the wilderness and get out alive. Options for a shorter or longer game along with a configurable board and setup make for potential variety of play.

Theme - Racing:
LAMBORGHINI: THE OFFICIAL RACE GAME
Another racing game. Yea!

Theme - Steampunk:
WIRAQOCHA
Far out there theme. Dice, Steampunk theming with terrific graphics, resource management and worker placement all in one game. It sounds like the game has a lot of subtle gameplay that requires multiple plays to get good at and may be brutal if you have a bad start.

Theme - Village Life:
MIL (1049)
Deeper Euro with similarities to Helvetia and Village but also includes war, soldiers and lineages. Too bad the meeples aren't soldier shaped instead of the traditional Carcassonne looking meeples included in the game.

Theme - Village Life:
WELCOME TO WALNUT GROVE
Carcassonne crossed with Agricola? Interesting. Progress through the years and maintain your ranch, feed your people, etc. Plus there is competition for land and the desire to build similar improvements together for better production.

----------------------------------------------
Some games look interesting but there's just not much information about the gameplay so I'm WAITING TO SEE what comes out of Essen (or later) before making any decisions on them.

Waiting to See - Abstracts:
SARENA
Requires strategy and bluffing(!?) to win.

Waiting to See - Architectural:
ANIMOCITY
Not a lot has been published about this, but the box looks interesting it looks like you are fighting for control and can steal points from other players. The only thing is it seems like a simpler version of Urban Sprawl so until more information comes out it could go either way for me.

Waiting to See - Architectural:
BIRUDA
City building but with some craziness/random powers so not quite sure. Artwork looks really nice.

Waiting to See - Bluffing/Deduction:
HATTARI
Discover the murderer from between 8 suspects. Plays fast with simple components. I'm always interested in deduction games and this one seems quite interesting and despite what appears to be relatively simple gameplay.

Waiting to See - Card drafting/Set collection:
PAX
Larry Levy is very interested so it must be good.

Waiting to See - Deck Building:
TERRA EVOLUTION
I love games related to genetics and evolution and this seems to go that direction. I'm actually getting to like deck building games and am excited to see where designers are taking them.

Waiting to See - Deck Building:
PERGAMEMNON
Deck building with much player conflict...sounds promising.

Waiting to See - Euro:
TRAJAN
Stefan Feld (I've been liking his recent games) uses a unique 'mancala' type of mechanic to determine what actions you can do and if you get bonus actions if done in a particular way. Other than the mancala mechanic, this could go either way as being a standard Euro or something greater.

Waiting to See - Family Fun:
PICTOMANIA
Pictionary with everyone drawing and guessing at the same time! My kids recently discovered Pictionary so may very well like this, too.

Waiting to See - Graphics:
FORTUNA
Great graphics - start as farmer and work your way up Roman hierarchy. Standard Euro fare or something more?

Waiting to See - Never will happen:
VERITAS
This has been on the Essen list since 2007 and seems to now be put on there as traditional only. - it will likely never see the light of day at this rate, but it's fun to mention it!

Waiting to See - Pick up and deliver:
VINTAGE
Yes, another wine themed game. I haven't played Vinhos or Grand Cru yet, both of which looked interesting to me, and this one looks interesting as well. The only drawback is that it may seem like too many other Euros already out there.

Waiting to See - Puzzly Fun:
PALENQUE
Very little is known but I like the artwork (I like that style)


Well, that's 'it'. I found 60+ games out of 700+ listed as Essen releases (or soon after Essen). That's actually quite a few. Of course, a much smaller subset are Must Buy or of High Interest. Plus, there are so many on the list it's hard to evaluate them all. The buzzworthy and the ones that just stand out due to graphics or components are what I tended to focus on. It will be seen what the Essen darlings and duds really are.

If you have comments on any of these or suggestions for something I missed, I'd love to hear about them - please post as a comment!


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Wed Oct 19, 2011 10:31 pm
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TIMELY TOPICS - Time to Game, Time to NOT game

-matt s.
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I was looking at my most recent posts and realized I've only posted twice this month! I've come to the realization that I probably will only be able to post once per week writing to the depth I've been writing in the past. This month has been particularly bad as I've been particularly busy.

And, I have a hard time just writing shorter posts in a quick manner as normal blogs tend to be written. However, I've seen other blogs with fairly short posts and they can still be interesting.

So, I'm going to try to fill in shorter posts about topics of interest without going into to much detail.

I can already see this is going to be tough for me.

So, my topic today is TIME. More specifically NO TIME to play games because life has just been too busy. I know this happens to many people and that's why I wanted to talk about it.

May and June are traditionally busy for our family due to birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, etc. This year it was PARTICULARLY busy as the kids were also doing softball/baseball plus dance classes. So, I decided to look back at the calendar and give the breakdown since June 13th (my last post):
* Ceremony where my daughter 'graduated' from Elementary school to Middle school
* 8 kids' baseball or softball practices
* 10 kids' baseball or softball games
* 4 kids' dance performance dress rehearsals
* 2 kids' dance performances
* 2 birthday parties for my son (one for 10 kids, one for family)
* 1 additional birthday party for my daughter to attend
* clean the house
* grocery shopping
* mow the lawns - twice (and it desperately needs it again now but will have to wait a bit longer)
* kids' field day on last day of school
* parents visiting in town
* cook full barbecue for 10 family members
* Father's Day
* 12th Wedding Anniversary
* Trip to the Oregon coast (had to cut this short to only 1-1/2 days
* Dinner out for my son on his actual birthday
* Birthday pictures @ JCPenny
* Son's baseball pictures
* Scouts awards/crossover ceremony and potluck

I think there was some other stuff too. And yes, that really was all crammed into 16 days! A couple of the days were absolutely non-stop.

Yes, I did manage to get a couple of games in this past weekend, mostly with my son and a couple of great games with my friend Bob on Sunday.

Unfortunately I missed the EGG Game Day on Saturday due to 2 baseball/softball games that exactly broke up the day enough that I couldn't fit in the EGG day.

I definitely work to try to find time to get some gaming in (I want to get all my games played as much as I can, right?), but I also work to balance that with regular life. My wife feels that I have been spending too much time on gaming related activities. It may definitely be the case that I spend a lot of time thinking about games, playing games, making game player aids and custom pieces, playing games, reading about games, buying games, taking pictures about games, writing about games, and playing games.

But I also feel like I'm not shirking my other duties to my family. I could just as easily spend all my time around TV or movies or rebuilding cars or whatever. It's the hobby I enjoy most so I can't help spending a lot of time on it.

I think the key is finding the right balance - when to game, and when to NOT game.

My wife has pointed out that conventions can be a problem. Gone all day for 2-5 days, maybe a couple of times per year. I admit that taking time off from work to go to the Gamestorm convention each spring is somewhat of a problem. No, a rather big problem really. I definitely feel guilty being gone for that amount of time, and it really irks me that it happens during Spring Break when the kids are off from school. I love going but it costs money and takes away from family time. Next year will likely be a break away from Gamestorm for me as a result.

Beyond conventions is the weekly gaming. If I could I'd be playing games every day, but that's just not happening. I've been very lucky to find lots of different gamers available in my area. I can usually coordinate gaming with someone on my own schedule. The important thing is to find an appropriate time.

In the past, I would have someone over when my wife would go out and do something with one of her friends or her mom. However, this became a problem because sometimes the kids needed managing (showers, homework, dinner, etc) and this conflicted with focusing on gaming and being a good host to my guests. Ok, mostly the gaming for me as most of my friends are understanding that I have kids to deal with. Anyhow, I would get frustrated and sometimes didn't give the kids the attention they deserved. But, I've been learning how to better balance that and take the time needed to get them going without being frustrated...as I said my friends are understanding. I still don't like leaving them sitting alone for extended periods though.

But, we are making a shift now so that either my wife or I will be available to make sure the kids get the attention they need. I also need to cut back a bit on how often gaming occurs. Or, at least try to keep gaming with friends to once a week or every 2 weeks, with maybe an extra day here or there, and then squeeze in gaming as appropriate with the kids. My son in particular seems to really enjoy gaming and has been getting into it more and more, although my daughter loves certain games like Dominion, Thunderstone and Stone Age.

I used to be able to get my wife to play games, but she seems to have backed off more and more lately. I even put together a Ticket to Ride based on her design idea that we entered into the TtR design contest, but I think she only played it twice total. Of course, I only played it a handful of times as well.

It's just not her thing so I don't try to push it on her anymore and encourage her to partake in activities she prefers instead.

Well, that's all I've got. I'm sure if I came back tomorrow I could write a ton more, but I'm trying to keep it shorter, right? Well, that failed I guess...

I'm curious as to how others manage their game time versus personal time. I suspect single people and people without kids will likely have more time to fit gaming into their lives, but whether that's true or not I have no idea.


BTW, check back for my next post. I'm going to start offering a monthly prize drawing to everyone that thumbs my blog posts in a month and thumbs to this post will count as entries for the prize I offer in July. And, yes, it will be game related! You'll have to wait for my next post to find out what it is!

Now, go find some time and play a game. I know you've got a few milliseconds in your schedule for at least a filler!
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Wed Jun 29, 2011 10:40 am
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TIMELY TOPICS - Confessions from an AP Prone Gamer

-matt s.
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I'm an AP gamer. I admit it. If I'm not careful I'll slow games down due to my over-analyzing of a game. The good thing is that I'm aware I have this problem, this affliction. The bad thing is that sometimes I fall into the realm of AP during a game and don't even notice it - and this can be an issue. If you game with me, you can expect it to take longer than what is suggested for the game. HOWEVER, I have been actively working to keep my AP problem under control, so when I say it may take longer, it now usually only takes a little longer. Most of the time....

WHAT IS AP?
In case you aren't aware what AP means, I suppose I should try to define it. AP stands for Analysis Paralysis. What it means is that a player can get stuck analyzing a situation on their turn for so long that they seem to be paralyzed with indecision and, in fact, they likely are - they can't get to the point of making a decision and completing their turn.

I'm sure you may have seen an AP gamer here or there. Nearly every gaming group has one. In reality, just about anyone can suffer from AP from time-to-time. However, a true AP player is someone who CONSISTENTLY takes a long time to take their turn, even if the choices may seem obvious to other players. A true AP player not only takes a long time, they often cannot decide which decision to make about a move and this may be truly baffling to other players.

Now, sometimes spending a long time on a turn is expected. Chess is a good example. People EXPECT you to take a long time on your turn. Chess is a notorious game for this sort of behavior. It is part of the culture really. Perhaps this is why some people are intimidated by Chess or refuse to play it...they can't deal with the length and depth of thinking that is required to fully analyze the current board position.

But, there's an important distinction here for what is expected/necessary for a game. Chess typically has players competing 'in their minds'. They are thinking of hundreds of possible move combinations in their heads. They are planning out multiple moves in advance for themselves while also trying to anticipate what the other player is trying to do and prevent anything catastrophic. This is especially important when you consider that money or prestige may be on the line. This isn't to say you can't plan out several moves in advance in other games, just that it's more critical in chess with the idea that several lines of planning should really occur to be successful.

However, I don't know that I would define that sort of behavior as AP. The reason is because they are still DOING something in their mind - it just takes a long time. But, it's still possible for AP to creep in, to get to the point where the analysis is leading nowhere and a decision cannot be made. This is why they have chess clocks, to force players to manage their time and keep them from falling into an AP mode.

On the other hand, AP gamers take a longer than expected amount of time on their turn. This idea is what I think is the crux of the problem - the EXPECTATION of HOW LONG a turn should actually be during a game. If one person is taking longer on their turn than everyone else expects them to be taking it, then they might be considered an AP player by that group, even if they aren't 'spinning their wheels' so to speak.

The interesting thing with this idea is that AP may mean different things to different groups. I, as an AP player, love taking my time on a turn and not feeling rushed about it. With some people I play with, me taking more time on my turn is fine and they aren't bothered by it at all. Other times, I might be playing the same game with someone else and, if I don't take my turn relatively quickly it becomes a problem for them.

How do I know it's a problem? Well, I'll get to that in a bit.

WHY AM I LIKE THIS?
So, what's the deal? Why am I an AP gamer?

My initial, knee-jerk response to such a question is: I don't know.

My next response is: Well, if I think about it longer maybe I can come up with some reasons why....ha!

Well, here are some reasons I have thought of that may suggest why I'm like this:

1. I'm hyper-competitive and I want to win every game.
* Because of this, I want to make sure I cover all my bases for every move, even if the move I want to do seems obvious. This sort of leads into the next item on the list, but in general, I'm just making sure I haven't overlooked everything - I want to make the best move possible.

2. I don't want to look like a fool for making a stupid move.
* I hate making a move and then realizing it was really dumb. Some groups/people will let me backtrack if this happens, especially if I'm a newbie, but I still don't like taking a move too quickly and just making a horrible move, especially if it will put me out of the game.

3. I sometimes get bogged down in the rules and don't ask for help.
* When I'm overwhelmed by the rules and possibilities, I can get stuck spinning my wheels because I just can't get a grasp on what's happening. This is why I LOVE player aids that spell out your possibilities - it at least gives me some options to work from.
* Also, I don't always want to ask for help. I might not want to reveal my move/position. I also might not want to admit I need some advice on a possible move because I have no clue what I'm doing. I'm an independent thinker and I know I can get to an answer. And, I likely can, it just may take a really long time.

There may be other reasons as well, but these are the most obvious to me. Of course, it would be ironic to make a huge, exhaustive list here, but I refuse to do it. See, I'm getting better already!

A TALE OF TWO AP PLAYERS
So, as I'm writing this I'm coming to a realization here. The symptom of me as an AP player is the amount of time I take to complete a turn and that length in relation to the expectation of how long a turn should take.

The CAUSE of this symptom is actually one of two possible things as suggested by my 'reasons' above - optimization and wheel spinning.

The Eternal Opimizer
I think I fall more into this category most of the time. I'm always looking for the best move or combination of moves. I spend a lot of time evaluating all of my options. To justify this, I feel that if I'm at least looking for good options and actually DOING something in my mind and considering the possibilities, that this is less of a 'problem'.

This problem can be addressed easily if I recognize I'm taking too long and just make a decision. It may not be the 'best' or 'optimal' decision, but at least I'm not holding up the games for others. This is especially important for me to do when there are multiple people and/or when I'm taking WAY longer than everyone else. It's also important when I'm new to the game - I likely won't understand all the nuances anyhow and so making what looks like a decent move should be sufficient.

Cutting off my thinking at a particular point can be a difficult thing for me to do, but ultimately I know it's beneficial to everyone (even myself even though I want so much to win). I don't want people to NOT want to play games with me again due to my AP, so I try to maintain a certain sense of balance.

It's funny, I sort of relate this to a chess program I used to have on our old Atari 2600 - Video Chess. It had 'difficulty' levels you could choose for the computer AI. If you chose something on the easy end (levels 1-3) it would 'think' with the screen flashing random colors from 10 to 45 seconds and then make a move. But at higher levels it would 'think' for much longer, flashing colors for up to 12 minutes or even 10 hours if you wanted it to, covering thousands or even millions of possible moves. This was very cool, but also very frustrating having to wait. I knew what it was doing - it was evaluating more and more possible future moves, traversing the ever expanding tree of possibilities into the great depths of the game. Sometimes, it might make the same move whether going to 2 levels or 7 levels of analysis. And this is one problem of the AP'er - exploring the depths of the game much farther than necessary.

When I recognize I'm taking too long, I think about that chess program and try to use my 'easy' settings so that people don't get tired of my colors flashing - and, besides, my level 2 depth of thought may be just as optimal as a level 7 depth!

The Spinning Mind
I sometimes fall into the category of the 'spinning mind' - getting stuck on your turn where you're not sure what you are going to do. Usually this involves a couple of possible things:

1. Having too many options and, even though I understand what my choices are, I'm not sure where to start or I get stuck in circular decisions or not seeing any good basic moves.
* This most often happens during new games where it may be explained well and might even have a good summary reference, but it's so open or has so many options that it's hard to know where to start. Sometimes this type of game it can be crucial to make good decisions early on and, when you're not sure to do I can kind of panic a bit and get stuck.

2. Not understanding the rules enough to make any kind of decision at all.
* Sometimes I might miss rules during the explanation (distractions, focusing on other rules too long, etc), sometimes I might not understand them enough to be able to parse them completely in my head, and sometimes there are rules that I just don't get. All of this can lead to having problems making a decision about my move. This may also include not even remembering what all of my options are.

The 'spinning' mentality was something that was more likely to happen when I was first getting back into gaming - all the 'common' mechanics were new to me, the depth was more than I was used to, and the decisions to make were often overwhelming, even in games that I now consider pretty easy. I sometimes even now can have this happen to me, but I think it happens less often now due to other actions on my part that I try to take.

Taking this into consideration along with my desire for not wanting to ask for help, it used to be a real problem and pushed me often into the horrible AP mode that can ruin games for other people.

THE PROBLEMS IT CAN CAUSE
When I first started getting back into gaming I would many times spend a lot more time on turns than I should have. Honestly, I didn't know. I used to play chess in Jr. High and High School so I was used to taking some time on turns and it didn't bother me.

One evening, I was playing these new and wonderful games with my friend, Chris, who was indoctrinating me. Unfortunately, he had to put up with my horrible AP. It obviously became really bad when we were playing Colossal Arena which is supposed to be a game of fairly quick decisions and play in under an hour. I don't know how long it took us but much longer than the suggested hour. MUCH longer. I was taking FOREVER on my turns. Honestly, I was even somewhat aware of taking a long time but I just wasn't sure what to do on my turns.

Chris asked me politely if I'd heard of the term "AP" and proceeded to explain what it was. I was a bit embarrassed and, honestly, I don't think it helped me much knowing what AP was. I was still stuck. I think we eventually finished the game, but I'll never forget that night, how I felt about realizing I was an "AP" gamer, even in my fledgling career as a Board Game Geek.

I know now that the real problem for me that night was not really understanding the rules, not really understanding what I was supposed to do on my turn, but still wanting desperately to win. I didn't ask for more help as I felt like I should be able to play based on the explanation, but it just wasn't clicking for me at all. I had a great time overall playing games that evening, but that memory leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth and it's something I try very hard to avoid now.

Here's something important I should say now: I'm REALLY happy that Chris was able to let me know about AP. I got the hint. I don't know that it particularly had an immediate impact for me that evening, but it at least make me aware of how I am and eventually led me to want to avoid being the AP player that slowed down the game and ruined everyone's fun. Thanks Chris!

(What do I do about it to avoid these issues ? Click to read the rest...)
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Tue May 31, 2011 1:35 pm
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TIMELY TOPICS - Tension in games - Ratchet it up, please!

-matt s.
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I love tension in games. I'm sure you know what I mean, those games where the tension builds and you can feel your adrenaline start to rise. You get that little bit of shakiness as you are about to pull off what you hope is a big move, but afraid of how the other person might counter.

The other night I got to play some good, tense games with my friend Cary. It's amazing how something as simple as a game with just cards, bits and a handful of rules can have such an affect on you. Your blood starts flowing and you get an almost euphoric feeling. Like I'm feeling right now after playing several tough games.

Tension is probably the biggest draw for me in a game - the tensest games are the ones I seen to remember and enjoy the most. Every move you make seems crucial. You can't let your guard down one bit or it will be the end of the game for you. You are engaged and focused on the game throughout.

What kind of elements seem to make a game tense for me? I'd say its a handful of things:
* The ability to plan ahead and make a clever move that surprises your opponent.
* The ability to quickly turn the tables then have it turned right back on you again.
* Racing to meet certain conditions in a set period of time (not just 'time' itself, but in the depletion of cards or resources)
* Multiple possible paths to victory.
* Auctions where every auction has value in it, either for what's in the auction or for the need to prevent someone ELSE from getting what's in it (or at least making them pay the price).
* Brinkmanship - taking a chance and putting yourself out on a limb in the hopes of achieving a goal before others can stop you (hopefully)
* Tight two-player games (this isn't crucial for me, but I love head-to-head competition and find it the most interesting in games) Don't get me wrong, multi-player games can also be tense and terrific at those higher numbers, but 2-player to me is where it's really at.

So, what specifically got me so amped up in these games we played? Well, let me tell you...

(read more....)
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Wed May 18, 2011 5:15 pm
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TIMELY TOPICS - Fear of the Unknown Box (Games I Have Avoided Playing)

-matt s.
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Howdy! Glad you could stop by today. I've kinda been busy and haven't posted here in a bit. What have I been busy with? Work. Kids stuff (soccer, dance, etc). Attending part of the EGG game day. Being sick. And creating a new Ticket to Ride map. Yes, a new map. Days of Wonder is holding a $10,000 contest for the best new map submitted and will be part of an anniversary box (or some such thing) that will come out next year (for DOW's 10th anniversary). My wife, Lynda, came up with an idea and I started running with it. I'm not saying anything else until we've submitted and it's past the April 15th deadline. Not that you'd copy our ideas or anything, right?

Anyhow, so I've been somewhat busy with that. We've barely play tested it though and I need to revamp the map and the tickets again but it's been a blast seeing it come together and having fun doing graphics stuff.

But, I've also been thinking about a topic that has intrigued me. I have noticed that there are certain games I've had a 'fear' of playing and tended to avoid. By 'fear' I mean having trepidation around playing them. I get that funny twisty feeling in your stomach when I think about playing them and I'm not sure if I really want to. I've been wondering why I was avoiding certain games because, when I finally got around to playing them, I often really enjoyed them! It is silly to avoid them because THEY ARE JUST GAMES! And, if I had continued to avoid them I might have missed out on the great fun and experience of playing them.

So, here are some of the reasons I've come up with for having 'Fear of the Unknown Box' and the games that fell into that category for me.

"IT'S TOO POPULAR" - Dominion
Some people are extremely averse to popular culture whether it is games, music, etc. I'm only slightly averse to pop culture. I avoid some of the more popular music much more than I used to but am still drawn to some of it as well. Games are the same for me. I tended to avoid Dominion for a long time after it came out and likely would never have ended up purchasing my own copy had not a friend of mine forced encouraged me to play (thanks Bob!). I'm not really sure if I had a specific reason to avoid it - maybe because it was Deck Building which I'd never really done before and maybe because it was just the 'hot thing' and avoided it as a result.

But once I learned it and then tried out Intrigue and Seaside I decided I liked it enough to have it myself. AND, later I taught it to my Dad and he instantly loved it and immediately bought his own copy. I've had a lot of fun playing with my family as well as many of my friends - it is one of my daughter's all-time favorite games, so I'm glad I gave it a go.

"IT'S TOO COMPLICATED" - Web of Power, Age of Steam
Now, here's the thing that I think has affected me the most: I get an idea in my head about what the game is about and end up making it out to more or different than what it really ends up being. In other words, after learning the game and playing for the first time I went "That's it?!" and I wondered why I avoided it to begin with.

Just last week I finally played Web of Power for the first time. I admit I was intrigued by it, but I had in my mind that it was a negotiation game and had all these complicated rules and powers in it. What it turned out to be was a fast playing area control game with a card driven mechanism. When Cary taught it to me I literally thought "That's it?" as I was expecting much more. Now, the 2-player game is a bit more complicated than that, but really not all that much more. 3-player this game really shined AND it's a pretty easy game to understand in terms of the rules. Of course, how you play the game is a bit more complicated. BUT, this was a game I was nervous about playing and then found my fears were unfounded.

Age of Steam (which I finally learned to play last year) was another game I imagined in my head to be more complicated than I thought. When you read through the rules and play a turn or two you realize there's really not that much to the system itself. You take shares (money), bid for turn order, build tracks, build cities, improve your shipping capabilities, ship goods and earn income. It makes sense. The money is really tight and you have to manage it carefully, but the mechanics are pretty straight forward. Again, it comes down to the game play and the interactions that are more complicated BUT there's really nothing to fear in the game itself. I found I loved it and, even though I got trounced my first game out, I have learned to love the game to the point of buying my own copy and several expansion maps.

"IT'S A CO-OP" - Last Night on Earth, Betrayal at House on the Hill


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Related geeklist: Fear of the Unknown Box (Games I Have Avoided Playing)
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Tue Apr 12, 2011 11:30 am
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