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Blooming big boxes.

Caroline Black
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I love BGG. Only on the forums of this very site can be discuss at length boxes. In this case big boxes. Of course I had to have my ten cents.

Big box organizers are a disappointment

Board Game: Chess


I first encountered the big box when my Snowdonia: Deluxe Master Set arrived. It also ignited another hate. The box sleeve. More of which later.

I didn’t know how to organise it. I don’t remember it coming with a guide but I just organised it intuitively. I posted some pictures as well. In fact it was one of my first BGG contributions. I didn’t really assess whether or not it provided a good storage solution.

From gallery of CarolineBlack


I didn’t get another big box until late 2020. It was Glen More II: Chronicles. I had to watch a video to work out how to organise it. No doubt I moaned about it on my blog. It’s an Ok insert. Not brilliant. At least is has a lid.

Board Game: Glen More II: Chronicles


My next one was The Isle of Cats: The Big '2-minute' Box. It took me by surprise how big this was. Obviously you would expect it to be bigger that the original box. But not that much bigger. You can easily pack the boat boards and first expansion in the base game box so this seemed unnecessarily big. That said it did have a good insert all be it, because it’s wood, it’s heavy. It was also a sod to put together.

I decided to keep the original box so I can take it to board games club. Which sort of defeats the object of having a big box. Now The Isle of Cats takes up most of a Kallax cube.

From gallery of CarolineBlack


Next was Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Collector's Edition. This is quite big and heavy. I thought the insert worked pretty well. At least the game boards are on the top. The resource containers that do directly from box to table are good. I like the way you can orientate the board to either be long or square.

But again the box is huge. Much bigger than the original boxes. A pattern was starting to form. I gave my original copy to my daughter. This is a game I rarely take to board game club anyway as it’s more of a family game we play at home. For years it lived in the Kitchen.

Board Game: Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Collector's Edition


Then Everdell: Big Ol' Box of Storage turned up. This was a late decision as I amended my pledge on Kickstarter. Originally I only backed the two new expansions. The big box was only an extra £39 and provided a comprehensive storage solution. It also had a few extras like metal coins, stickers and a complete rule book.

It was good value but I was genuinely shocked at how big it was when it arrived. Again I’ve kept the old box. So I can transport it to board game club. The game with expansions would be too much for a pub table but I still like to be able to take the base game. Besides the art of the boxes is so good it seems a shame to confine them to the lift. But again it’s another Kallax cube for the originals and two Kallax’s cubes for the new one. We had to modify the Kallax taking out an up right to fit it in.

The sleeve for it is totally impractical. Who thought this was a good idea? Box sleeves are for most part totally useless. Difficult to get on and off. My heart sinks when I see them as a stretch goal. It’s a bit like UV varnish. Just why?

The design of the insert is Ok. I like the card organiser. But there is a lot of wasted space.

Board Game: Everdell: The Complete Collection


I was going to get Wingspan: Nesting Box but at £99 the price was too steep for me. It included Wingspan Asia but I rarely get the other expansions to the table. I have played the European one three times and Oceania once. I’ll just wait for the cards to come along. I don’t need a two player option or a seven player option.

I am sure the nesting box is very well designed. Stonemaier Games stuff always is. But an additional £60 at the time (£65 now) just seems crazy for a storage solution. And it would be yet another original box I needed to store.

From gallery of jameystegmaier


So now the question is, do I get an after market insert for Wingspan? Thing is that’s going to cost a lot as well. The one I’ve got my eye on costs €41 plus postage.

Board Game Accessory: Wingspan + European and Oceania expansion: Game Tamer Organizer

Agricola (Revised Edition) is one of my all time favourite games. So Agricola 15 yes or no? I’ve heard bad things about the quality. But it does come with exclusive promo content. And a much better first player marker. And bigger food. I’d love to see it in the flesh. But realistically that’s not going to happen. It’s £85 and I am going to have to try and sell my original copy. I’ve heard the box isn’t every sturdy either. At least the big boxes I’ve mentioned so far are robust. So I think not. Probably treat myself to Agricola: Farmers of the Moor instead.

Board Game: Agricola 15


Finally the other big box I have is Museum. Again it’s much bigger than I expected. It’s massive. I am actually thinking of just trying to sell it. The thing is I want to keep the second edition cards though. I can’t see myself ever buying any of the expansions for it.

Board Game: Museum: Deluxe Edition


When Foundations of Rome turns up that’s going to be an enormous box as well. However, the insert seems really well thought out. I like the way you score based on the empty spaces in the tray.It’s a really neat idea. Especially since city building games in a shared board are difficult to score.

Board Game: Foundations of Rome


I never know why all publishers don’t ask the after market insert companies, like Game Trayz to do their inserts. You never hear anyone criticising Creature Comforts or PARKS for having a rubbish insert. They have so much more experience than most of the publishers. They seem to much better able to utilise the space. Having turned my hand at trying to design them myself I can attest that it’s not easy.

Board Game: Creature Comforts

So that’s it. Big boxes have been a big let down for me.

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Sun Nov 27, 2022 8:58 am
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Designer Questions - Shem Phillips

Caroline Black
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So I have continued cheekily messaging designers and asking them to reply to my questions. Today it is the rock god designer Shem Phillips who has designed the North Sea Trilogy, West Kingdom Trilogy and more recently South Tigris Trilogy and of course his most esteemed work Shelfie Stacker.

I always find his games interesting and different. In Architects of the West Kingdom I particularly like the way you can only go to the black market and don’t have to pay tax if your virtue is below a certain point whereas you can’t build the cathedral unless your virtue is above a certain point.

Board Game: Architects of the West Kingdom


Shelfie Stacker is a really fun game. I much prefer it to Sagrada. I like the mechanics of choosing eight characters to help you and then deciding when to employ them based on how the dice come out. I always save character 8 to the end of the game so I can use any character’s ability.

Board Game: Shelfie Stacker


I am really looking forward to Merchants of the East Euphrates. (not really I made that up) Actually it’s pretty amazing that he agreed to answer anything after I dissed Viscounts of the West Kingdom the other day. As it turns out we made multiple rule goofs. I do really appreciate it if designers answer questions or respond to threads about their games.

So without further ado:

1. There seems to be a bit of a good/bad (virtue/corruption) vibe going on in some of your games. Is this something you are particularly interested in?

This came about first in Architects of the West Kingdom. The original design from Sam Macdonald had concepts around capturing greedy workers and sending them to prison. It also had players visiting the Black Market to get lots of resources. Those sorts of elements led us to create a virtue track during development. This was a way for players to track how "good" or "bad" they were being in the game. When it came time to design the follow up game of Paladins, we decided to create another similar system - and the same was also true for the third game, Viscounts. Sam and I both really enjoy how these systems give players more decisions around their actions in each game. But it's something that we wanted to keep just for the West Kingdom Games - so don't expect to see anything like this in the South Trilogy.

Board Game: Viscounts of the West Kingdom


2. Your games always seem to have fresh mechanics like the collision mechanic in Viscounts of the West Kingdom. Where do you get the inspiration from for these new ideas?

The simplest answer is that we want to make new games for us to explore. A big part of the development process is us playing the games over and over. So, we want to try make new systems and interesting mechanisms - not only so the game feels fresh, but so that we can have fun trying new things during development. Inspiration can come from playing other games, researching the theme we're working on, or just playing and tweaking the game as it's developed.

3. How long takes it take you to develop a game from inception to Kickstarter launch?

It depends on how complex the game is, and how fast things fall into place early on, but for most of our games it's usually around one year. There's often around 2-3 months of spit-balling ideas and experimenting with mechanisms. Once we feel like we have a game, development might be another 6 months. Then there's the final 3-4 months of getting artwork done, having samples made, and preparing for the Kickstarter.

Board Game: Wayfarers of the South Tigris


4. A lot of your games don’t seem to have a fixed numbers of rounds. Why do you design this into the games?

Both Sam and I don't generally like games with a set number of turns and multiple phases in each round. They can begin to feel predictable and too methodical - taking away from the fun of just playing the game. Of course, sometimes set turns and rounds can be a good thing for a game. However, even when we use rounds in a game, we still like to provide some variance for players. You can see this in Paladins, were players can try push out more actions during each round.

5. I love Shelfie Stacker is one of my favourite fillers. Do you have any plans to do anymore lighter games like this in the future?

Thanks! I do have some more games coming with similar mechanisms. Keep an eye on Arkus Games in the near-future.

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Sat Nov 26, 2022 8:30 am
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BGG’s most played.

Caroline Black
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I think the most played statistics are very interesting.

It doesn’t matter how pretty a game is or how detailed the miniatures are, at the end of the day what counts is how many people play it. In some respects it’s a better guide that the rankings. Although I would have thought shorter games get to the table more often.

Wingspan is the most played game. 4475 people played it. That’s some achievement. It’s head and shoulders above Ark Nova which is the next game at 3807.

BGG Top 50 Most Played - October 2022

Board Game: Wingspan


Wingspan doesn’t get much love amongst the serious gamers of BGG but obviously it’s beloved by more casual gamers. I like it. I’ve got 36 plays of it. It’s relatively short and a great game for newbies. I would also suspect that fact it’s got a good solo option helps. The rise in solo gaming has been the biggest change since I have been on the site.

I never know whether they count playing expansions in these statistics. If they don’t then I guess the number of plays would be higher. BGG inconsistent use of setting up different records for different versions of the same game drives me mad. I am not sure what impact it’s had on these statistics but clearly the top hundred has multiple entries for the same game.

Would Great Western Trail or Agricola be much higher if the multiple entires were added together? Talking of Great Western Trail I managed to bid on the first edition on ebay instead of the second. Which is annoying. This is what happens when you don’t do your research but just impulse buy. But picking up this game for £20 will still be a good investment in terms of gameplay.

Board Game: Great Western Trail


Ark Nova is more surprising. This is a long game but people are obviously finding time to get it to the table. I’ve only managed to play it ten times but I’ve really enjoyed it. Again the solo option will help.

I am currently off work Covid, so I’ve played it a couple of times solo. It doesn’t have a particularly sophisticated solo option but due to the large variety of cards it’s an interesting puzzle. It also plays much faster solo.

Board Game: Ark Nova


Cascadia is next on 3269. I have spoken before about my lack of understanding if why this game is so popular. It also gained a lot of new players last month. Still it’s nice enough just not amazing.

Board Game: Cascadia


Unsurprisingly Terraforming Mars is one of the most played games. 2517. The continued love for this game is amazing. I haven’t played it for years and I am strongly in the camp that prefers Ark Nova. I don’t actually get all the comparisons between the two. I don’t think they are that similar.

We haven’t managed to get the New Kickstarter edition of Everdell to the table but others obviously have. 2199 people with huge tables. This has risen 5 Rankings. I am actually suffering Everdell withdrawal symptoms. The new solo option on this seems very complicated although I played the original a few times as I picked up Everdell during lockdown.

Board Game: Everdell: The Complete Collection


Lost Ruins of Arnak is another big hitter you would expect on this list.

Board Game: Lost Ruins of Arnak


Flamecraft is number nine. The highest rise in players. It’s obviously hot at the moment. I like the components but I am just not completely sold on the gameplay. It’s very simple. I can see this as a potential winner of the Spiel Des Jahres next year. But what do I know by predictions are usually way off.

Board Game: Flamecraft


I am so glad to see Carcassonne on the list. 1490 unique plays. I really like the new box cover art. But it’s down a few spaces to 16. Also clinging on at number 22 is The Castles of Burgundy. 126 months in the most played list for both these games. An amazing achievement.

Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy


One of my favourites Fantasy Realms is at number 40. My most played game and worthy incumbent of this list. Other favourite games on this list include Kingdomino, The Isle of Cats, PARKS and Viticulture Essential Edition. It reads like my top twenty. Other games I own on the list are Point Salad and Cartographers.

Board Game: The Isle of Cats


Obsession is a new entry and it’s an amazing achievement for a game produced by one man. It’s basically a passion project and shows what Kickstarter should be about. Another new entry was Endless Winter: Paleoamericans and Twilight Inscription.

Board Game: Obsession


Obviously the list is dominated by shorter games as you would expect. But there are still some substantial games in there like Brass: Birmingham and Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion. Surprised to see CATAN in there but I guess so many people owning it, 181,000, it’s bound to get played a bit.

Board Game: Brass: Birmingham


The most popular year is 2019 which corresponds to my most popular year. There are three game published this year reflecting the latest hotness. So fifteen of my games in the most played compared to just seven in the top fifty BGG ranking. So for me a much better fit.

Edit
Thank you for all your get well wishes. I am all recovered but waiting for the lateral flow thingy to say I am clear. So still isolating for the time being.

Thank you for reading my blog. If you liked it then please click the green thumb Microbadge: You know what they say about guys with big hands... They give big thumbs! at the top of the page or if you are a real glutton for punishment subscribe.
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Fri Nov 25, 2022 6:12 am
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It finally happened…

Caroline Black
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So it finally happened, I’ve go Covid. Having dodged the Covid bullet for two and a half years I finally got it. I’ve no idea where I picked it up from. A friend’s got it as well but I only saw him for a couple of minutes on Saturday evening and that was outside, so I would be amazed if it was that contagious.

The first day I felt so rubbish I spent most of the day in bed. Yesterday I managed a game of Ark Nova solo. Today I am breaking out Concordia: Solitaria. I am also hoping my copy of Mists over Carcassonne turns up so I can give that a go.

Board Game: Concordia: Solitaria


Needless to say I was perusing BGG. I discovered quite a few things.

Firstly we are playing Fantasy Realms incorrectly. This is my most played game. We play with the expansion. The maximum number of cards you can play is nine. We have often played game when players have played ten cards, for instance if they have the Necromancer or the Leprechaun. I don’t believe it. It makes me wonder how many other games we are playing wrong. But thats the beauty of BGG. You pick up these things.

Board Game: Fantasy Realms


I played Ark Nova solo for the first time. It has a very simple solo option with minimal rules overhead. Which was perfect for someone nursing a headache.

The game is played over a set number of turns so it becomes a race. I must admit, I always treat Ark Nova as a race anyway. I play it the same way I play Viticulture Essential Edition to try and be first over the line. Sometimes it works and I win. Sometimes it doesn’t.

It was only recently it dawned on me that the points trackers are supposed to be corks. Now this has entered my consciousness, I might have to upgrade them to more cork like pieces.

Board Game: Viticulture Essential Edition


I often wonder if people say it takes them four hours to play Ark Nova, if they are playing it wrong. I taught this to three newbies the other day at board game club and we finished in less than four hours including the teach.

Anyways with a set number of turns it was obvious I had to try and get my cards upgraded ASAP. You start on twenty appeal so money is not tight. With fewer and fewer turns between breaks, the money is flowing in.

We play this normally with a house rule (very unusual for me. I hardly ever house rule games) which is we start with ten cards instead of eight. We have had instances where players have got really bad opening hands, with expensive animals that have prerequisites that are unplayable for ages and cards that don’t contribute towards objectives. Luckily I managed to pick three cards from my initial hand of eight that were playable.

One was a sponsor card which gave me an x token on upkeep. Very useful. The other was another sponsor card which gave you a kiosk every time you played a card from a certain continent. My objectives were diametrically opposed. One was blank spaces and the other was connecting terrain and covering edges.

Board Game: Ark Nova


I went for an early conservation project and scored two points. Thus was to upgrade a card. This proved to be a good decision, earning me a VP every break. I would definitely do this again rather than waiting to score more points later. I was being much more tactical in my placing of enclosures using them to cover icons to draw cards and get up the reputation track. The kiosks were useful for this.

As money was plentiful I was building big enclosures and getting big animals out like the Giant Panda. I was using my x token to do actions multiple times in a round. It gave me much more flexibility.

Luckily I had two sponsors which gave me end game points for three universities. Knowing your opponent can’t take a card meant I could just wait for cards I wanted to come into reputation rather than snapping for them.

One of the big dilemmas of Ark Nova is deciding what card not to upgrade. I normally pick the animal card, as I did this time. This was because I needed an upgraded sponsor card to play a sponsor and the build card upgraded to build on the edges. (I was using the standard map) But actually I think in solo play, it’s well worth upgrading animals so you can play them direct from the card ribbon. You have so few turns, that it’s about being as economic as possible. Anyways I just squeezed a win. So I was happy.

I also used my time to harass designers to answer question for my blog, including Shem Phillips, who answered!!! I contributed to practically every thread on BGG. I also wrote five blog posts so it will be interesting to see how well my feverish mind was working.

Board Game Designer: Shem Phillips


Portrait of Shem Phillips by The Mico - I must be in a minority of one but I don’t actually like the art in North Sea and West Kingdoms Trilogies. Although I appreciate from a marketing prospective how it unifies the collection and gives them a distinctive look.

I have read all the rules for Mists over Carcassonne and I am really looking forward to it arriving. That’s the first time I’ve read the rules in advance so I can play a game straight away for ages. Not since I was first in the hobby. Where did that initial excitement go?

There was no post yesterday. I guess Royal Mail are on strike again. It’s the first new content for Carcassonne for ages that I have been excited about. I really like the ghost meeples.

Board Game: Mists over Carcassonne


I own more or less everything Carcassonne (Well not the first edition with the score board that goes up to 75) so I ordered the 2022 promo tile as well as the final set of yellow scoring meeples. I already have the Ukraine tile.

I not really a completist but if it’s Carcassonne I am. I own six base sets. In the original Doris Matthäus art, in the new art, Carcassonne: Winter Edition, travel sets for both arts and of course Carcassonne: 20th Anniversary Edition.

Board Game: Carcassonne: 20th Anniversary Edition


I am not getting the 2021 edition with the rounded edges. The art difference is minimal except for the box cover. I am tempted to get the Muller winter edition with the frozen river but luckily my German is not good enough to negotiate their site and order it.

Board Game: Carcassonne: Winter Edition


Someone very kindly gave me Concordia: Solitaria at the Gathering of chums. Which was very fortuitous. The dice look really nice. I will be interested to see how is plays. Concordia is one of those games which never gets enough play as the box is too big to fit in my game bag.

I also been thinking about my collection and how it really needs curating. I am bidding on Great Western Trail on ebay. I was really impressed by this after playing it recently. I would like to get The Princes of Florence as well but I am waiting for the new edition. I also am taking pictures and setting up listings to sell some games I am not fond of like Fort and Fire & Stone.

Board Game: Great Western Trail


It amazing how much extra time you have when you are not eating. My appetite has completely disappeared and everything tastes of cardboard. Or boardgames.

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Thu Nov 24, 2022 7:46 am
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Designer Questions - solo

Caroline Black
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I am not much of a solo gamer. But I do remember being blown away by the concept of solo games. The first time I came across it was with Agricola. I’ve got the app for this and have played it solo loads of times seeing how far I can get in a solo campaign. I don’t know why I like it so much. I think it’s about making the most of the cards you have drawn. My favourite card is the House Goat.

I’ve also played Tapestry solo a few times and At the Gates of Loyang quite a bit. I often play solo to try out a game before playing it multiplayer.

Board Game: At the Gates of Loyang


I think some of the solo options are amazingly creative. I was impressed by Viticulture Essential Edition the first time I played it and the event deck in Villagers. Also The Isle of Cats has a great solo option. But my favourite is The Castles of Burgundy although I have never completely filled the grid. I am quite looking forward to playing Mists over Carcassonne solo when I get it.

Board Game: Mists over Carcassonne


So I was really excited when Morten Monrad Pedersen agreed to answer some questions. As you are aware I use my blog shamelessly to jump on any designer that replies to a blog post.

Morten is responsible for the solo options for Stonemaier Games including Viticulture Essential Edition, Wingspan and Tapestry and has designed the multiplayer game Skoventyr due for release in 2023. With art by Vincent Dutrait no less.

Board Game: Skoventyr


1. Have you always been a solo gamer or do you prefer to play multiplayer?

I’m old enough, that solo games weren’t a thing outside of grognard wargames, that AFAIK were often treated more as simulations to study, than as games played for pure fun. Writing that, I realized that I actually made several (awful) solo games as a child. Sometimes I played them by myself and sometimes my friends and I took turns playing them to see who did best.

I’ve been an avid multiplayer gamer for more than 40 years but when I discovered “real” solo games roughly 10 years ago, I found that I liked them just as much as multiplayer games, maybe even more - my favorite board game is the solo game (Dawn of the Zeds).

2. Which solo option you have designed for a game is your favourite and what do you like about it?

That’s like asking me to pick my favorite child – well, that would actually be easier because I only have one child.

I’ll pick the one I find the more interesting from a design perspective, not the most fun one. It’s a solo mode that few people have ever heard about: Youtoma for Rolling Realms.

Board Game: Rolling Realms


We only published it as a free download because it proved to be very divisive among the playtesters and we won’t commercially publish a solo mode that something like 40% of our core audience dislikes.

The reasons I picked it are:

a) I’ve never seen anything else like it.

b) Bots are in my opinion the best way to retain the competitive feel of a multiplayer game, but Rolling Realms has 0% interaction and bots are a bad fit for such games. This solo mode, though, tries to keep the competitive feel without having a bot.

It does this by adding a tweaked version of the game. First, you play the tweaked version and have to score as low as possible within a set of extra constraints. Then you play the game as normal and must score higher than the score you got in the tweaked game.

If I may be a tease, then I’ll end by saying that if we did this interview in a few months, then my answer would be different

3. What game would you most like to design a solo option for?

Tigris & Euphrates. That’s not because its ID number in the BGG database is 42 but because of its mechanisms for conflicts between the kingdoms in the game. They force me to think differently than in other games about spatial conflicts – it almost lit my brain on fire the first few times I played it.

Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates


A solo mode that captures the essence of the game would be hard to make and I probably couldn’t pull it off, but a guy can dream, right?

4. Will apps replace solo options in board games in the future?

I sure hope not .

One of the allures of board games is that they take us into the real world, away from the incorporeal objects of electronic devices and the distractions they bring.

5. Why is solo gaming just so popular at the moment?

After hundreds of millions of years of evolution in a physical world with a slow pace of life, animals including us aren’t wired for busy lives with hours and hours in front of electronic screens with incorporeal interfaces and constant distractions. Board games take us away from that and solo games in particular offer focus without distractions, with physical objects to touch and see in the real world. That’s much closer to what is natural for us.

While COVID-19 has been bad in numerous ways, it did help solo gaming get more popular than ever before, because numerous board gamers were stuck at home without anyone to play with and so they turned to solo games and got into it for the first time or leaned in harder into it.

These factors weren’t enough on their own, though. For solo gaming to go anywhere several things had to happen.

Until recently boards games were mainly either competitive multiplayer or banal card games that are often better described as time wasters than as entertaining games. A third category was solo wargames, but they were extremely niche and almost in a separate sphere of interest than other board games.

This meant that when someone thought about games, they were pigeonholed into thinking about something social and competitive, while solo gaming was considered something that you only did if you were bored and unable to find someone to play with. So, we got the stigma that solo gaming is for sad loners, which was quite a barrier for people to get into it.

In 2000 Reiner Knizia’s Lord of the Rings got the ball rolling slowly and in 2008 Matt Leacock’s smash hit Pandemic gave the metaphorical ball a powerful kick by putting cooperative games on the map: People realized that board games don’t have to be competitive.

Board Game: Pandemic


Some players noticed that cooperative games could often be played solo just fine and started talking about this and buying more solo-playable games. This led to enough interest that a few publishers took notice and made games that were solo-playable by intention, not by happenstance.

Publisher support led to more buzz among players, buzz fed more buzz etc. As more and more people tried out solo gaming many realized that solo gaming isn’t just for sad loners and the social stigma gradually faded within the hobby board gaming community.

Additionally, the barrier to entry for publishers have gotten lower because game designers no longer need to be able to make a good solo modes themselves, because you can now hire someone to make them, such as Dávid Turczi, David Studley, and David Digby as well as people not named David.

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Wed Nov 23, 2022 8:32 am
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Playing it wrong

Caroline Black
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I had a disastrous two player game of Viscounts of the West Kingdom. I got thirteen of my workers bumped from the central castle and lost by over forty points. It took four hours. It left a really sour taste in my mouth and I rated the game a three out of ten. I definitely didn’t want to play it again.

Board Game: Viscounts of the West Kingdom


I think playing two player is much more confrontational than multiplayer. Even the names are confrontational. 7 Wonders Duel or Splendor Duel. I am glad the two player version of Wingspan is called duet. In a multiplayer game losing doesn’t feel so bad especially if you come second or third.

Board Game: 7 Wonders Duel


It feels really horrible to play a game where another player can destroy what you have done. In this case dismiss a worker that your paid gold to deploy. And there is no way to defend against it. I just don’t know why games have this as a mechanic.

It cracks me up all the posts you see from gamers morning about how their girlfriends or wives won’t play with them. How can they be surprised? Who wants to be attacked by their loved one. I completely understand how reviewers like Rahdo, who plays mainly two player with his wife, refuses to play certain games.

The other thing is, that experienced board gamers that have played hundreds of games, are probably good at winning. I lose about ninety percent of the games I play against my friend Jez. He is an excellent player, who picks up games quickly and always works out a sound strategy. Obviously I wouldn’t want him to go easy on me or not play his usual style. But if we were in a relationship, I think it would feel a lot more personal.

Board Game: Res Arcana


He had already attacked everyone in Res Arcana with four dragons. I blame myself as I shuffled the cards. I have a love hate relationship with this game. Sometimes I really like it and think it’s the best game (I rated it my top game in 2020) other times, like this game, I loath it. That said he didn’t win. Often being aggressive in Res Arcana doesn’t pay off.

Board Game: Viscounts of the West Kingdom


As it was we found out that we played Viscounts of the West Kingdom wrong. I wasn’t getting the compensation from having my workers bumped, which would have made a big difference to the outcome of the game.

I thought the collision mechanic in this game was quite interesting. Depending on where you collided you got different either black or red deeds. As I wasn’t getting the virtue I should have been getting from my bumped workers, so I collided less than I should of. So I should have picked up many more deeds which would have ended the game much quicker.

It’s amazing how just missing the odd rule can dramatically change the outcome of a game and the playing experience. I need to go back and change my rating. But even so I am not sure I can bring myself to play it again.

I had lots of manuscripts which would have scored me points. The bit in the rule book about manuscript points was after the solo rules. So we missed them when scoring. The game would have been much closer. There was a footnote to page 37 in the scoring but I didn’t notice it.

As an older person, with a degenerative eye condition, I really struggle to read rule books in the dim light of the pub. Not to mention finding dropped tokens on the patterned carpet. Of course at home, on my high contrast ipad, I spotted the footnote straight away.

It’s a lesson learned. If something intrinsically feels wrong or unfair you’ve probably played it wrong. I’ve played a lot of Shem Phillips games before. I was very surprised that Viscounts was so much more aggressive, than say Architects of the West Kingdom.

Board Game: Architects of the West Kingdom


It not the first time we’ve done this. We made a similar mistake with Caylus 1303. I wonder how many bad reviews there are of games where the player has played it wrong?

Board Game: Caylus 1303


I love complicated games with lots of mechanisms but the rules overhead is a massive barrier to having a good experience. We also played Great Western Trail wrong at the gathering of chums. That said it was still obvious to me that is was a good game. Definitely one for the Christmas list.

Board Game: Great Western Trail


In fact we played nearly every game wrong. We had a minor error in Amsterdam. And our first play of Coral Reef. And The Princes of Florence.

Board Game: The Princes of Florence


I met Nick at the Gathering of chums. He is the designer of Pilgrim. And I had to embarrassingly admit I had never heard of it. modest Then guess what? Someone has it and so I will hopefully get to play it soon. It’s being taught by someone whose a teacher by profession. I think teachers are the best games teachers. I realised at the Gathering of chums I seriously need to up my teaching skills.

I think designers should aim to make sure that the points differential is not too big. It feels worse if you lose by a huge margin. That said you don’t want games to be too close either. There’s a sweet spot.

Board Game: Steampunk Rally


We played a six player game of Steampunk Rally on Saturday. It’s sort of a cross between Camel Up and Gizmos. I came joint first with my friend Simon. How are ties broken? There aren’t. Apparently you are life long rivals. Which more or less sums up our friendship anyway.

I think designers should also aim to compensate players that lose things they have built. As Shem did to be fair. I still don’t like destroying stuff as a mechanic but it does make the pill less bitter. Also in this case it ends the game more quickly. And if you are losing you sort of want the game to end as quickly as possible.

Board Game: Viscounts of the West Kingdom


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Tue Nov 22, 2022 8:27 am
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Money for nothing.

Caroline Black
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My metal coin addiction started with the metal coins for Viticulture Essential Edition. I researched for ages before I decided what to buy. I decided that the denominations and the good colour differentiation would make these the perfect set. But they weren’t because they don’t stack in a satisfying way. Nevertheless they really add to my enjoyment of the game. And that’s the problem, once you play with metal coins, cardboard money doesn’t seem good enough any more.

From gallery of CarolineBlack


I always thought I would just stop after one set and use it for all my games but I didn’t. Glen More II: Chronicles followed. These come in a nice little bag. I didn’t even own the game at the time, preferring to play the original. But in my defence I found them really cheaply. I think these are inked.

From gallery of CarolineBlack


That’s the thing about metal money. By the time you’ve added on the postage costs it would probably be cheaper to use proper money.

I think the next lot I got was from the upgrade pack from Tokaido. I have a lot of Asian games so I used these mainly for At the Gates of Loyang. Tokaido being a beautiful but not very interesting game and it being lockdown and I was playing At the Gates of Loyang solo. I do love these although you can get the same coin fix by buying a set of cheap Feng Shui coins from ebay.

From gallery of CarolineBlack


It was playing Nusfjord solo a lot as well so picked up the metal coins from Nusfjord: Plaice Deck. These are pretty rubbish to be honest but not as bad as the ones that come with Everdell: Collector's Edition.

The metal coins for Architects of the West Kingdom followed. These are even worse for stacking than the Viticulture one.

From gallery of CarolineBlack


By now my coin addiction was in full swing. I saw a cheap set for Little Town which is one of my all time favourite games. The denominations are a bit out on these. There are not enough ones which is the cost of activating a building.

Board Game: Little Town


When you do a post on metal coins someone always jumps in and says what you really need are iron clays. I have the Roxley ones from Brass: Birmingham (another game I don’t own) I like them but always forget to use them. I also own the wooden coins for Villagers which are a good multi use coin.

From gallery of CarolineBlack


Next came the coins for Lisboa. (Another game I don’t own) I had always hanker after the Nanty Narking ones for Obsession but bought these as a substitute. Then I found the Nanty Narking ones. I have amassed a collection of coins for games I don’t own.

From gallery of CarolineBlack


Coins are normally hard to get afterwards if they come with a kickstarter. That’s why I originally bought the Viticulture ones. They were readily available. Well Stonemaier Games knocked it out of the park with the Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest ones. Inked they are just gorgeous with a neat little container to keep them in. Just prefect for pirate themed games.

Board Game: Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest


My favourite metal coins aren’t coins. They are silverlings. I don’t know what I will do with the metal coins from the latest edition The Castles of Burgundy: Special Edition. I will probably try and sell them.

Another favourite is the credits for Underwater Cities.

From gallery of CarolineBlack


I’ve never succumbed to one of those metal coin Kickstarters. I tend to only buy the official coins.

Recently it just got completely out of control. Recently delivered Kickstarters with coins includes Flamecraft, Hamlet: The Village Building Game and Castles of Mad King Ludwig: Collector's Edition.

Board Game: Flamecraft


I would love to get the ones for Merchants of the Dark Road which have ceramic on them. I have seen them in the flesh and they look stunning. I don’t have any funny shaped coins. I probably would get these given the chance. But in general, I think the time is coming when my metal coin collection is complete.

Board Game: Merchants of the Dark Road


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Mon Nov 21, 2022 8:20 am
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My favourite mechanisms - tile laying.

Caroline Black
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The most prolific mechanisms in my collection is tile laying. I have over forty tile laying games. It amazing to see how designers utilise tile laying in different games. Most have a spacial element to them.

You see it used with area control (Carcassonne or Citrus), pick up and driver (Explorers of the North Sea and Akrotiri) and even auctions (Castles of Mad King Ludwig) and dice activation (The Castles of Burgundy and Rajas of the Ganges).

Board Game: Rajas of the Ganges


There is even tile laying games with action points like Lowlands and worker placement like Little Town or Keyper.

Line of sight is used in some tile placement games including Tang Garden, Limes and Crows. Adjacency bonuses are another frequently used mechanism like in . Often tile laying games are controlled by having a maximum grid size.

Some have hexagons like Keyflower or Lunarchitects, a few triangular tiles like Lost Valley but most are square. Some have Tetris style polyomino tiles whilst Hamlet: The Village Building Game has various different shaped tiles loosely based round hexagons.

I think of tile laying as one of the core mechanics you find in games like dice or cards. It creates an element of luck which is why I prefer drafting tiles to randomly selecting them.

Even quite complicated games like Terraforming Mars or Ark Nova feature tile laying as an interconnected mechanism with other mechanisms, like card drafting and engine building. It’s by far my favourite mechanism. If I look at my top ten games, six of them have tile laying.

For me there are four kinds of tile laying games.

Creating a landscape

I think Carcassonne still does this the best. It’s so satisfying creating a coherent landscape and usually multiple places you can place the tile. The game will need a way of connecting tiles to make the landscape coherent.

Board Game: Carcassonne: Winter Edition


Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King does this really well too but as you sell or buy the tiles it’s less random. Because it’s your own tableau your choices as where to place the tiles are much more limited. I also find it difficult to complete areas. You don’t have to match roads in this game which always feels weird.

The other game which does this really well is Tang Garden.

Board Game: Tang Garden


I like that you get a bump in your track for matching and completing terrains but the pebble paths add the option for coins or a bump if you match two.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig does it via the entrances on the rooms. My latest tile laying game Hamlet: The Village Building Game does this with little spots on the side of the tiles.

Board Game: Hamlet: The Village Building Game


Tile activation

I really like tile activation. There are several games that do it really well like Glen More and Santa Maria. Sometimes you can create a little engine that you can run. My favourite by a long shot is the deceptively simple Little Town.

In this game you place a meeple and then activate the eight surrounding squares. You can then use the resources you obtain to build buildings and feed your workers. There are buildings which can convert resources into food or VP. You are required to pay a coin to activate an opponents building.

Board Game: Little Town


Again new kid on the block Hamlet: The Village Building Game does this really well.

Fill your tableau

There has been an explosion of polyomino games recently with literally dozens on the market including Cottage Garden, Bärenpark and The Isle of Cats. These games don’t really create a landscape, it’s the shapes that matter. The goal is just to fill the board. I especially like The Isle of Cats as it’s got card drafting as well.

Board Game: The Isle of Cats


New York Zoo requires you to completely fill your player mat. You select polyomino tiles by traveling round a board. You can also get animals which you can put on the tiles in your zoo. If the progress marker elephant passes a breeding point you can breed each pairs of animals you have of that type in your zoo. Once you have completely filled an enclosure you can take an attraction to further help you complete your zoo.

Board Game: New York Zoo


Exploring

I don’t have many exploring type tile laying games but Explorers of the North Sea, The Cave and Lost Valley come to mind. In this type of games the tiles are used to create a variable landscape which you then go on to explore. They tend to use net work building or a point to point systems.

Board Game: Explorers of the North Sea


But where tile laying really shines for me is tile overlaying.

There are a couple of games that do this really well. In Cacao it’s really satisfying to use a tile position again and activate the adjacent tiles.

Board Game: Cacao


Another great one is Miyabi in which the whole game is about tile overlaying. Another polyomino game which allows you to build a bit of an engine.

You draft a tile and place it in your garden. The tile has to be placed so that the feature (stone, Koi Carp pool, Azalea bush, trees, pagodas and Maple trees) lines up with the correct row and lines up with a column that has a free lantern. The score when you place a tile is simply the number of features on the tile (one to three) multiplied by what layer the tile is on.

From gallery of CarolineBlack


It’s a straightforward system which reminds me of Kingdomino and it’s simple and clever. As the game progresses it’s possible to score more points each round. Put a three pagoda tile on layer three and that’s nine points. There are additional bonus points available to the first player who gets to level five and above. Not all the rows are the same value meaning there is a lot of competition for some tiles.

Llamaland is a newer tile laying game with both tile activation and tile overlaying. This adds a neat little wrinkle in that once you get a lama scoring card you have to take a lama which then blocks a space on your tableau making placing further tiles more difficult to place.

Board Game: Llamaland


Here here is my list of favourite tile laying games. I’ve been working on this for ages. It still doesn’t feature all my tile laying games but ever now and then I add a few more.

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Sun Nov 20, 2022 5:36 am
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Kennerspiel and Spiel Des Jahres games I have played - Part 3. (and other nominations that should have won)

Caroline Black
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I have never bought a game on the basis it’s been nominated or won the Kennerspiel or Spiel des Jahres. In fact when researching this blog post I was amazed at how many I had played. Fun fact Spiel des Jahres charge a licence fee to use their logo on the box. So lots of games don’t actually use the logo to promote their game. It’s a shame really.

Kennerspiel and Spiel Des Jahres games I have played - part 2.

2017

Winner of the Spiel Des Jahres was Kingdomino. The perfect game in my book. Simple and elegant. Again love the art on this (especially the dragon shadow tile, Loch Ness monster and Lord of the Rings tile) Really simple gameplay but strangely satisfying. This will never leave my collection.

Board Game: Kingdomino


Raiders of the North Sea is a solid game by Shem Phillips a prolific and good designer. It’s part of a trilogy of games. His games tend to be a bit more complex than this.

Board Game: Raiders of the North Sea


Finally the big beast which is Terraforming Mars. Beloved by gamers up and down the county. Surprisingly only a runner up in the Kennerspiel. This game has achieved amazing success. Currently number 5 in the BGG rankings. Probably one the most popular game to have be nominated.

Board Game: Terraforming Mars


2018

Azul is a simple game with nice bakelite tiles. Another worthy winner of the Spiel Des Jahres. This is becoming a real classic like the other games on this list.

Board Game: Azul


Now I am not a bit fan of The Quacks of Quedlinburg. It’s too luck based for me. But it feels really different and fun. The arts nice as well. I would have thought it a tad too simple to win the Kennerspiel but apparently not.

Board Game: The Quacks of Quedlinburg


Heaven & Ale is a great game too. I’ve only played it once. But I like the concept of the dark and light tiles. Also I like the fact you get to choose when to score. Always a nice mechanic in games (See The Palaces of Carrara from 2013)

Board Game: Heaven & Ale


2019

Winner of the Kennerspiel was Wingspan. Some folks reckoned Wingspan won it because it was designed by a women or because it was a Stonemairer game. They said Wingspan didn’t offer anything new. But I think it won because it is fun. Also due to the smooth gameplay and wonderful components. It had some stiff competition.

Board Game: Wingspan


I love Carpe Diem as well. Ok the arts awful but the gameplay is awesome. I like the scoring. Each game plays differently. You can’t go wrong with this.

Board Game: Carpe Diem


2020

Nova Luna Is a neat little tile laying game based on Habitats. You score the tiles based on the surrounding tiles. It’s got a bit of a time track going on as well which adds a bit of a twist. But I actually much prefer Habitats.

Board Game: Nova Luna


You can’t go wrong with Cartographers. We even played it by post and then on zoom over lockdown. I am absolutely awful at it mind you.

2021

Both runners up for the Kennerspiel Lost Ruins of Arnak and Fantasy Realms. Lost ruins was just top of the hotness for months. And it’s well deserved. I really like this game but there’s a lot going. It’s the only real Indiana Jones themed game I can think of.

Fantasy Realm is just brilliant. I love it. If you haven’t played it, you must give it a go. I still haven’t seen the deluxe edition up for sale. Surprised a simple game like this would get runner up in the Kennerspiel. The distinction between the two awards is very blurred.

Board Game: Lost Ruins of Arnak


2022

Cascadia won the Spiel Des Jahres. It a neat game but lets just say while I predicted it, it wasn’t what I wanted to see. The arts lovely. The gameplay smooth. But I don’t know, it lacks something for me.

Board Game: Cascadia


Cryptid has fantastic art on the box but is just a tad boring. I must admit I don’t really like this although it’s clever.

Of course the elephant (sorry) in the room is why Ark Nova wasn’t a runner up or winner. It’s a funny old world. I guess it’s too complex for either award but it’s a great shame. It says something about an awards when a game like this is just recommended. Maybe we need a new award?

So what other games should have won or been a runner up?

Board Game: Notre Dame


Through the Desert from 1998 is an obvious omission. Incan Gold from 2005.Hey, That's My Fish! from 2006. Two from 2007 Notre Dame and Vikings. But the biggest omission is from 2011 and The Castles of Burgundy. What were they thinking? Cacao was another huge omission from 2015.

Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy


But 2020 saw two of my favourite games overlooked Draftosaurus and Little Town. Such a shame they went for a reimplemented game rather than something a bit more unusual.

Board Game: Draftosaurus


The Kennerspiel doesn’t fair much better. 2015 Fields of Arle. 2017 Great Western Trail. 2019 Lowlands and believe it or not Architects of the West Kingdom.

Board Game: Res Arcana


Then 2020 it just goes to hell in a hand cart Res Arcana and Underwater Cities passed by.

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Fri Nov 18, 2022 6:19 am
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All creatures great and small.

Caroline Black
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Have you noticed how many games have photos with animals on them in BGG? It’s quite Amazing. Of course I have a photo of my cat playing Agricola but I am not the only one.

Board Game: Agricola


Sometimes people are inspired to include the pet due to the theme of the game. Of course if you have a pet rat you are going to include him in a photo of the First Rat.

Board Game: First Rat


Or your budgie playing Wingspan.

Board Game: Wingspan


Cats and dogs are the most common.

Board Game: Heroscape Expansion Set: Utgar's Rage


Especially cats in boxes.

Board Game: Dominion


and especially in The Isle of Cats boxes.

Board Game: The Isle of Cats


Or just with random game pieces.

Board Game: Root


But there are some much more unusual creatures.
Any one with arachnophobia do not click
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Board Game: Hive


And even bugs like this picture of Meadow.

Board Game: Meadow


In the dessert with Through the Desert.

Board Game: Through the Desert


Another game, another camel.

Board Game: Camel Up


This is the most revolting picture of a Meeple with a creature.

Board Game: Carcassonne


I prefer this cute alpaca with Altiplano.

Board Game: Altiplano


I love photo shopped images like this one of Hey, That's My Fish!.

Board Game: Hey, That's My Fish!


Of course animals are a popular theme now for games. But we have always taken pictures of games with pets or inanimate objects playing them. I can remember playing games with my dolls. Or course they lost.

Board Game: Chess


For all of you attracted here by the tags expecting some sensible discussion about your favourite game I apologise. I am thinking of going to Colchester Zoo at the weekend to see if I can get an elephant to sniff my copy of Ark Nova.

Board Game: Mansions of Madness: Second Edition


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Thu Nov 17, 2022 7:38 am
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