A Developer's Diary

It's 2020 and over the course of this year, I'll take a deep-dive into the Top 10 Things I Learned as a Developer that I first discussed in my Board Game Design Lab (BGDL) interview in 2019. In 500-1,000 words every month, I'll discuss some of the challenges and successes with the business, The Professor's Lab, which I've grown over the past decade.
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Top 100 Games ~ #100 - #91 ~ Making the Cut!

Joe Pilkus
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The Journey of 100 Board Games begins with #100...

We start our 100 board game journey this month with #100 - #91. These are games that get played occasionally throughout the year but there's something about them that continues to bring me joy...thanks, Marie Kondo!


#100 Point Salad by Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin, and Shawn Stankewich
From gallery of The Professor

Far and away, I played this game when it first came out dozens and dozens of times. It's fast, possesses fun art, and it's incredibly accessible to non-gamers (and folks you might convince to become gamers!). I've played this one with folks as young as 8 and as old as 80...and they all had fun!

Designer's Note: The thing I love about this one is that there's a delicious tension between grabbing the salad items you need to satisfy the victory point cards...and grabbing victory point cards!


#99 Space Alert by Vlaada Chvátil
From gallery of The Professor

I defy you to find a more perfect game for teaching communication skills across a group of people. I have used this game in law enforcement and intelligence circles and it continues to satisfy. It's a brilliant design by a brilliant designer and it's no surprise that Vlaada makes my list a few more times.

Designer's Note: It's a great tool for communication as I stated earlier, but moreover, this can be a great game for families to work together this maddening puzzle as meteors and alien ships are causing no end of mayhem.


#98 Caylus 1303 by William Attia
From gallery of The Professor

Here's a game with about as much "take-that" as I can take (unless the entre game is "take-that" and well, that IS the game). Unarguably one of the first worker placement games and while it showed its age, the new form in 1303 does a great job of embracing its history while still making it feel fresh

Designer's Note: The agency that you provide the players in terms of how long the game lasts is a triumph in design and one of the first places we see this concept in action. As a designer and developer, I enjoy less the timed-round idea, though it works and instead prefer allowing the players to dictate the tempo. As a quick aside, the original version of this game is the only game, among a dozen or so against Isaac Childress where I actually tied him for first place.


#97 Sagrada by Adrian Adamescu and Daryl Andrews
From gallery of The Professor

For me, this is at the top of the list for beautifully incorporating components into the very essence of the game. I'm currently serving as a play-tester-cum-developer for [game=321320] and AJ Plank's use of glass, small wooden tokens, and rounded-edged cards with white on one side and evocative (distractive) art on the other is simply brilliant.
In the same way, using translucent dice to evoke the sense of seeing those majestic stained glass windows of Europe is equally compelling

Designer's Note: Where possible, designers, and by extension, developers, should always be on the lookout for creating components which pull folks into the world their trying to create. Whether tactile pieces or beautiful art and illustrations, board games should transport you and make you feel a part of that world.


#96 Dark Moon by Evan Derrick
From gallery of The Professor

This one has only gotten to the table about a dozen times as you nee a large enough group and the right group , as is in most cases with social deduction games. I have found that this one, better than others, captures the nuance of dread.

Designer's Note: The use of dice is a great mechanic and of course something even non-gamers can get their head around when you're first teaching this title. I've been at parties where the folks simply watching the game seemed to have as much fun and were equally invested as the players.


#95 Spaceteam by Tim Hutchings and Mathew Sisson
From gallery of The Professor

Move your drinks and plates off the table, because there's no time to sit and play this game. From the moment someone asks (or more precisely, yells) for a Whatsahoosie or sadly gets sucked out of the ship, you're on your feet for the next ten minutes trying to piece together your ship as you hurtle through space.

Designer's Note: For pure fun factor, this one is great from the moment you deal out the cards. It's also one that plays fast enough that you can get this to the table again and again in a short time span.


#94 Kingsburg by Andrea Chiarvesio and Luca Iennaco
From gallery of The Professor

This adorable game is one that I introduce to new gamers as opposed to some other fan-favorites and people love chucking the dice and placing them on the board to gather resources. Additionally, they enjoy the decisions about which structures they'll build to protect themselves and gain victory points.

Designer's Note: Simple, elegant design which doesn't ask for too much in the way of cognitive load from its players and can be enjoyed by both new gamers and those who have dropped a couple of thousand dollars on a gaming table. The building of resources to fight an enemy is appealing and fun.


#93 Eminent Domain by Seth Jaffee
From gallery of The Professor

While not particularly new in terms of mechanics as we've seen in other games, the elevation of Eminent Domain is in its execution. It's still quite accessible and one enjoys the subtle difference Jaffee has brought to the follow-the-action mechanic seen elsewhere.

Designer's Note: Few designers will create a new mechanic...and that's fine. With already well over 100 of them, the combinations contained therein will not be exhausted in a thousand lifetimes. To that end, take those mechanics you enjoy and merge and meld them together in a way, not yet seen.


#92 Brass: Birmingham by Martin Wallace
From gallery of The Professor

I learned this game a few years ago from my friend Shai at a MicroCon (PiranhaPigCon hosted by Blue Peg Pink Peg) in Maryland. I was smitten by the design and had backed the Roxley production on Kickstarter but this title like a few actually intimidated me. In the end, it's incredibly straightforward and while I've played its sibling Lancashire far more in the past few years, this one deserves its place on my Top 100.

Designer's Note: Remember to make your games accessible and this one didn't mean to have erected some barrier, but there is something to "economic" games which, by their very nature can prove a bit standoffish.


#91 Stellar Leap by Carla Kopp
From gallery of The Professor

This adorable title I found while walking the aisles of PAX Unplugged a few years back. I had the chance to stop and chat with the designer, Dr, Kopp, though she was quick to have me call her Carla and we talked about her own experience as a scientist and how that cam to bear on her designs.

Designer's Note: Here I'll simply point out that writing or designing what you know can be a wonderfully satisfying experience.
A few years ago, I endured a nine-hour briefing by the various Department of Energy Labs. At the time, I didn't think they would serve me in the board game design space, but they certainly did in the way I approached a number of "scientific and technological" breakthroughs for my first published game, Tau Ceti: Planetary Crisis.


So, there you are...the first installment of ten dedicated to my Top 100 games and how they've influenced me as a designer and developer.

What games have influenced you in the hobby? Have your tastes changes over time and if so, how?

As always, I'd love to hear tour thoughts.

Cheers,
Joe
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