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It’s a well documented fact that boardgaming has been undergoing a renaissance in the past decade. Kickstarter has been a useful metric for recording this rise. The total $ pledged for tabletop games on kickstarter has increased from just over $20,000,000 in 2014 to over $50,000,000 in 2016, and board games share in that market relative to other hobby games has increased. As board games become a more established entertainment medium, creators are pushing the boundaries of what board games can be.
Before 2014, only Tales of the Arabian Nights, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases, Mage Knight Board Game, Gloom, and Battlestar Galactica could really lay claim to being widely-known and established immersive storytelling board games.
In the past 3 years, a dramatic shift towards this genre has occurred. Beginning with the re-release of Betrayal at House on the Hill in 2014, and continuing through the release of games like Above and Below(2015), and SeaFall (2016), the number of storytelling games in the gaming collective consciousness has increased dramatically. In particular, the dungeon-crawling sub-genre has broken new narrative ground. The wild success of the kickstarter campaign for Kingdom Death: Monster(2016) can be in part attributed to the awe-inspiringly beautiful world and gripping gameplay narrative created by Adam Poots. Hot on it’s heels, Gloomhaven (2017) was described by reviewers on BGG as 'unadulterated discovery,’ ‘unique,’ ‘immersive,’ and ‘refreshing’ and has met with commercial success proportional to this lofty praise.
There are several plausible explanations for why storytelling board games are gaining increasing prominence in the hobby. The first is that the rise of legacy games, spearheaded by Rob Daviau Risk Legacy, Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, and Seafall, has enabled designers to tell stories that span multiple gaming sessions, and consequently wetted the gaming appetite for narrative-driven experiences. After all, it’s much easier to get players to feel immersed if they know they can tell some of the story themselves. Furthermore, it’s much easier to reward this engagement if the thematic decisions players are presented with can have a mechanical effect on future games.
Another plausible explanation is that these new board games are filling design vacuum that no other entertainment medium has reached before. On the spectrum from word-and-mouth storytelling to eurogames , these new games fill in the gap between RPG’s and Ameritrash, providing more structure than the former, and more freedom than the later. Unlike app-based games, that have achieved only limited success because of competition with existing PC games, storytelling games have been able to scratch an itch nothing else can touch.
In turn, the storytelling revolution can be conceptualised as equivalent to introducing a new species to an environment with a natural predator and without much competition for food. Of course the number of such games are multiplying!
A third possible explanation is that there are simply more games around in general, and hence more games of this genre being produced. However, while this would account for an increased number of immersive narrative games, it does not account for their increasing prominence. The ‘collective gaming consciousness,’ by which I mean the group of games that most people in the hobby know, doesn’t increase proportionally to the total number of games out there.
In summary , It is my contention that the number of storytelling games in the gaming consciousness has increased at a faster rate than the total number of games in the gaming consciousness has increased. From this it would follow that the market share of such games in the hobby has increased. Furthermore, given the popularity of new releases like Gloomhaven and Time Stories, I suggest market forces will push publishers to make more and more of these types of games. In turn, as the ‘centre of gravity of the hobby’ shifts towards the immersive narrative end of the spectrum, by definition, games which rely solely on mechanical excellence will become less prominent. This prediction is already beginning to be borne out. Euro-ish games like a Feast for Odin, which Shut Up and Sit Down described as making Caverna: The Cave Farmers and Agricola obsolete, haven’t made as big a splash has cleverly themed (and perhaps less rigorously designed and balanced) games like Terraforming Mars. However Charterstone turns out, it will be an interesting test of this prediction. Jamey Stegmaier finger is right on the hobbies’ pulse, and where he chooses to place more emphasis- on telling a story or on mechanically excellence, should tell us a lot.
That’s all for this week. I appreciate I said a lot of things that I didn’t have time to fully explore or justify, and had to make a bunch of gross generalisations. But one kind of has to when discussing a hobby that’s so all-encompassing, and so rapidly evolving!
Anthony Howgego- Game Developer http://itbboardgames.com/
Fri May 26, 2017 11:36 am
Thank you DjaliRiot and chadnorth !
Miniature gaming and collection can be a true addiction. A healty one (if you don't accedentally inhale glue or spraypaint vapours).
I already had a nice High Elves collection, but now and then when I find a bargain at eBay I cannot resist...
Here's the latest batch:
A Phoenix Guard regiment, a cavalry hero, an extra Repeating Bolt Thrower and some loose miniatures to fill incomplete infantry units.
Another spraycan that has been very busy yesterday was YELLOW. I leave it to you to guess which of my armies also got reinforcements...
Okay, so in the beginning of this week it took me by surprise to learn the Spiel des Jahres nominees were announced. As I have played each of the three nominees by now (altogether 20 times, even though that includes only one play of Magic Maze) I try to look at which game has the best chance to win.
Building landscape player tableaus using domino rules, player order tinkering and scoring it with multiplier scoring by Bruno Cathala.
Spiel des Jahres pro:
This is the easiest, lightest, simplest game of the bunch (yet it still offers quite a good content in such a small package).
It uses a mechanism (dominoes) known by non-gamers which always helps beginners learning games.
I think this is the most attractive-looking one with lots of fine details in the artwork (there is a lot to discover for kids and geeks alike).
While the designer's name should not be a factor, it might still have an effect on the decision: despite many great and popular games, Bruno Cathala has never won a Spiel des Jahres before (except from a special award for a co-design more than a decade ago).
Spiel des Jahres con:
Nothing extremely special or novel.
While it can be replayed as soon as the game ends, it feels like it lacks the depth to be replayed really lots of times, for years to come. You might argue with this; yes, I think I'll play it more than 30 times while I own it, but that's because it's an easy filler that can be played with 15 seconds set-up time, also I can play it with my kids, and not because I really want to play it so often (yes, this is my first dime of the bunch).
It has the smallest box of the three which is probably not an important factor (especially since Hanabi won) but still might matter a bit.
And an even weaker con is that I don't feel like this one really needs (or could have) interesting expansions.
Wettlauf nach El Dorado
Dominion-like deck building serves a racing game on different terrain types by Reiner Knizia. See my review here.
Spiel des Jahres pro:
Depth and content: Of the three, this game feels the least 'shallow', it might be the most rewarding and as W. Eric Martin notes in his love letter to the game, it feels the most likely that I'm going to play it several times in the years to come, not only in the months after I buy it. Call it a 'classic' feel.
Even though this is the most complex game of the bunch, it can be learned gradually - for example the short and simple board suggested for first play can be won without strong deck-building (and especially discarding) and you can learn things (not rules - more like tactics and nuances) by going through the pre-set boards. In this way it provides a more family-friendly introduction to deck-building than Dominion (the game that was one of the main reasons why Spiel and Kennerspiel des Jahres were split in the next year).
It also has an attractive look (none of the component problems of the previous - also very good - Knizia-Ravensburger game, Orongo) and this is the only real "big box game" (box size of Colt Express, Camel Up, Kingdom Builder, Qwirkle, Dominion, Keltis, Zooloretto, Niagara, Ticket To Ride, Villa Palletti, Catan... ) in the bunch.
Reiner Knizia's name might help slightly as well - since his win for Keltis a decade ago, he's shifted focus to easy family games, kids' and solitaire games, so one might think it could give some incentive to the old master to make more games like this again...
A really good replayability: by the time you play the 7 maps included in the rulebook you can learn how the possiblity to combine the maps as you like (as heavy/simple, as short/long etc.), also to play with or without cave tiles, provides a great replayability to the game.
It has the most informative rulebook with a clear layout. Yes, it is important in case of Spiel des Jahres.
I think this game could get the most interesting expansions.
Spiel des Jahres con:
No real novel mechanism (although you might call the market a great design idea) - racing on hexa-boards was awarded two decades ago (Mississippi Queen), deck-building won the award a decade ago (Dominion).
This is the most complex, most thinky game that needs the most planning, so in this aspect this is the least beginner-friendly one.
Also it's the longest one (still not very long).
Beginners will surely find the game below a lot more fun.
Advanced Escape: The Curse of the Temple without dice but with each player being able to move the pawns in one direction only. Cooperation is crucial!
Spiel des Jahres pro:
Just like El Dorado, Magic Maze also can be learned gradually with scenarios adding more and more ruels, but this game isn't even really complex.
In other words it is light and can be replayed fast (also, can be replayed many times because of the many scenarios).
It's also cooperative which means winning can be fun for everyone. (Interestingly, cooperative games won many special awards, also Kenner- and Kinderspiel, but Spiel des Jahres only once - Hanabi).
Of the three games this one has the most novel and most unusual mechanism.
It is also the most fun to play until it lasts.
Expansions can be added easily (just take clues from Escape).
Spiel des Jahres con:
Probably I shouldn't say it after one play only, but while replayability is good, long-time replayability might not be as good here (I'm not sure you want to play it many times after winning all the scenarios, many of which really don't even seem to be that different). It might or might not be a problem; as the SdJ jury usually replays the games many times, they will know.
The look is okay, but the other two games are more eye-pleasing, more attractive.
If you don't know Escape, this game offers no familiar mechanism ideas for you (which might be a problem for beginners) while if you know Escape, it already won't feel so novel (I still love that direction-tinkering idea!).
Unknown (beginner) designer: there have been first-timer Spiel des Jahres-winners before so it's not unprecedented, still might be a factor somehow.
Slightly fiddly/messy rulebook: it is usable, but the other two are better-structured, more clear. Also the rules and the set-up are quite different with any player numbers.
Well, looking at the points above by the numbers it might appear like I suggest El Dorado should win but the factors of the decision have different importance. (Maybe some aren't important at all.) What's more, light, easy-to-learn rules, also innovation, are among the most important ones - and El Dorado might be the weakest entry in these aspects. So, as a result of this,
HAVE NO IDEA WHICH GAME IS GOING TO WIN.
A lot will depend on what the actual jury finds the most important this year. It hasn't happened since 2009 (when Fauna, FITS, Finca, Pandemic and Dominion were nominated) that I had no idea. I think it all depends on personal (?) preferences this year. And I don't find that to be a problem - what's more, it means I think for the first time since 2009 all the nominees are good choices for the award, not only for the nomination. So whichever wins, I'll be happy and satisfied with the results.
Game 93 of The 100 Play Challenge of Smash Up
Date: May 25, 2017
Thursday Game Night at Tabletop, Overland Park, KS
Player 1: Mike (me)
Factions: Star Roamers and Warriors
Player 2: Brian
Factions: Ninja and Superheroes
Player 3: Kara
Factions: Tornadoes and Dragons
1. Mushroom Kingdom
2. Birthday Party
3. Out in the Woods
4. Antarctic Base
5. Dread Gazebo
6. Hive of Scum and Villainy
7. Tornado Alley
8. Mushroom Kingdom (2)
9. Field of Honor
Birthday Party: Brian 3, Mike and Kara 1
Antarctic Base: Mike 5, Brian 3
Dread Gazebo: Brian 4, Kara 2, Mike 1
Tornado Alley: Brian 4, Mike 3, Kara 2
- Brian scored 1 using Field of Honor ability
Brian has been coming to Tabletop game nights for a while but had never played this game before. Kara (his lady friend) was new to this game night.
Ruins was played on the Birthday Party, denying Brian and I VP.
Not in Kansas was played on the Mushroom Kingdom to make way for Tornado Alley. Mushroom Kingdom did make a comeback shortly thereafter.
Weird New Worlds brought out the Field of Honor.
Brian got his final VP using the Field of Honor ability.
Monsters on the Antarctic Base? Yes, to up the breakpoint to 30. Warriors are so underused and easily misunderstood. They pair okay with the "Trekkies."
7 more games to go.
Faction Use Tally:
Elder Things 16
Mad Scientists 16
Miskatonic University 16
Bear Cavalry 15
Cyborg Apes 15
Kitty Cats 15
Mythic Horses 15
Mythic Greeks 14
Minions of Cthulhu 13
Time Travelers 11
Killer Plants 10
Star Roamers 10
Super Spies 10
Giant Ants 9
Rock Stars 5
Teddy Bears 5
Well, as Tony can do irregular film reviews, live music /comedy posts and be a food critic (beetroot salad topped with pork pie a particular favourite of mine) I thought I'd bring you something (even) more highbrow.
National Theatre Live do a programme of live (duh!) screenings of plays in cinemas and other places for a fraction of the cost of a ticket for the 'real' performance. Luckily for us one of the places they are screened is at the Amey Theatre which is part of Abingdon Boys school (v.posh) and so on Thursday evening we went along to watch the Tom Stoppard play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead starring, amongst others,
Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe.
We've seen many plays in this way and this particular one has shot straight in at the bottom of the rankings. It's described as an 'absurdist' (twaddle) and 'existential' (thinks it's cleverer than it is) play that is part musing on what the characters Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are doing and thinking when they are not on stage in Hamlet and part musing on death both generally and their sense of their own impending fate.
It would really be a benefit to you if you had a very good knowledge of Hamlet, or had watched it recently (as Mrs B had) prior to seeing this as there are a lot of in-jokes that I missed. As such the whole thing came over as the worst kind of "for those in the know" Theatre that belied the earnest speeches prior to the showing from the plays director and stars that these screenings and The Old Vic (the famous London Theatre where this is currently running) bring diverse opportunities for everyone to get into Theatre without needing to be "well read". As I mentioned, I've enjoyed every play I've seen screened this way but if this had been the first I doubt there'd have been a second.
The only bright spot was older British sitcom actor David Haig (above, centre) hamming it up panto-style as the leader of a troupe with all the funny lines and clearly having a whale of a time. As an aside I've never liked Daniel Radcliffe in anything, including any appearances on QI - he was the worst thing about The Woman in Black and is the most boring and dull character/ actor in those kid's Wizard School films and I will automatically discount anything that he's involved with in future (no offence Daniel!)
Other opinions on him, and this play, are available and seem to be uniformly pretty positive all round.
So there's your cultural review, in summary - I'm something of a wasteland.
I did get an evening out with Mrs B and had a beer, so every cloud and all that...
Glass Bead Board Games
Read my blog
Tuesday night saw two of my closest friends joining me for a few fairly light games. I've known Ginge since we attended nursery 28 years ago; and Chris I work with, so we’ve known each other for around 10 years. We probably don't meet up as often as we should, but when we do we always have a good laugh. Here's a little about what we got up to on Tuesday night…
We started the evening with a bit of a personal favourite of mine. I was lucky enough to to find a German Edition of the Kingdom Builder Big Box at Essen a few years ago. Kingdom Builder is simple enough to be accessible to new players, but also has enough depth to keep people engaged and interested. The variable set up really makes it for me, as every game feels a bit different to play; at the start of each game, three random scoring cards are drawn dictating how the points will be scored in that particular game. We drew The Miners (points for settlements next to mountains), the Workers (points for settlements next to locations and castles) and the Hermits (points for each separate cluster of settlements). Ginge got a bit unlucky early on in the game, being unable to pick up many location hexes, while Chris and I bagged five each over the course of the game. Chris was placing a lot of extra settlements with his locations abilities, and was able to end the game early, however I had managed to build up a fairly large lead by this point, and won the game comfortably by scoring well with all three scoring cards.
1st - Allen 67
2nd - Chris 45
3rd - Ginge 29
Next up was Quadropolis, and as neither of the others had played the game before, we stuck to the basic rules for the game. I haven't played Quadropolis as much as I would have liked to. The game falls into a sweet spot for me; simple, strategic, and very little downtime. And though I do much prefer the advanced game, Quadropolis doesn't lose too much enjoyment in the basic game. Ginge focussed on stacking apartment blocks, while Chris focussed on positioning his factories for maximum points. Chris ended up making too my power and lost points at the end of the game for unused pieces. I managed to score a little in all areas to win, but then I had played the game plenty of times before. I aimed for harbours and town halls, and almost managed four of each. I missed out on a fourth town hall in the fourth round because I couldn't place it in one of the last spaces. Chris and Ginge loved the game, that’s the most important thing.
1st - Al 53
2nd - Ginge 41
3rd - Chris 34
We finished the game with a game of Kingdomino, which is nominated for this year’s Spiel des Jahres. I really hope that it wins too, it has certainly been one of my favourites of the last year or so; there's just something about the way in which the tiles fit together that soothes my autism. This one was really tight between Ginge and I, with both of us connecting huge regions on the board; and although I didn't manage to place every piece, my last domino added another crown to a large region, edging me ahead in the end. Another great night with two great people, thanks for playing games with me guys!
1st - Al 45
2nd - Ginge 40
3rd - Chris 33
On a separate note, the part of England that I live in is right next to the city of Manchester, which was tragically attacked this week in an act of terror. The last reports that I heard were that 22 people had died and 59 were injured. The attacker targeted the kind of concert that attracts young children rather than adults, which really is a special kind of evil in my opinion. Manchester is an amazing city, I spent much of my youth going back and forth to various concerts and events, then as I got older I attended the University of Manchester for three years to complete my Master’s degree. I feel genuinely hurt by the events of this week, and my thoughts go out to everyone affected by this tragedy; I've always felt somewhat shielded from terror attacks because in the back of my head it was something that happened somewhere else in the world. Now it’s right on my doorstep and it makes me feel so uncomfortable. I'll leave you with song from the greatest band to come out of the city of Manchester: the Happy Mondays (yes I like the Smiths too). Thanks for reading!
Welcome...to my Shed!
Traveling day... long! My gaming Con gaming partners had to cancel their trip, so it was just me. What could have been a long trip by train with some friends and board games, over a train table, turn ou to be a long bus ride, with a makeshift "table", where I could try and play something....
Aquaducts is always the first in line when the space is tight. But even this time it was hard! Buses bounce and shift much more than semi "bullet trains" and it was really difficult to keep the city in the same place. It was almost a dexterity game! Out of practice, the first session was a disaster. I big chunk of the city was left to build in the end. The second time it fare better. Just three more cards to bump the Public Favor to six and it would be a long overdue victory!
A most dexterous Aquaducts.
Since I wasn't in the mood for more dexterity city building, I packed everything and resume the trip, watching castles and the eternal Alentejo sun yellowed pastures that stretched forever. I had missed this landscapes that for years I called home...
Typical bus view while crossing Portugal's historical cities.
Half an our in Lisbon, to change trains is also enough time to do some boardgaming related activity! I had to people waiting for me. One of them was a recent math trader that couldn't attend to RiaCon. And since I had to gave him my end of the bargain, Baba Yaga, I served as a courier to take is end of the trade. Some meeples from the Orléans: Fan-Kit and a strange card game with a duck as a Mona Lisa!
The other fellow waiting for me was a seller. He too wouldn't attend the Con, so the purchase I made a couple of days ago, had to finalize in these 30 minutes between buses. I've read the reference "Grail Game" a couple of times in the geek. Usually referred to a game, normally OOP and/or very hard to find, that's been in someones wishlist for a looooong time. Well this game, is neither OOP or hard to find, but has been on my whislist since day 1, when I first started to use the BGG to do some serious game searches. Back then, I typed Arctic somewhere and this was the first in line. A Rahdo video later, and it was on the wishlist in a flash!
Finally, I have a copy of Expedition: Northwest Passage. ...and for the first time in a long time, my gaming crave kinda of disappeared. ...time to cull the "meh" games and polish the true silver?
My own personal grail game.
Photo & Image credits: ZombieBoard, matagot_contact
Jaipur (2p, won)
I am probably not counting Decktet games in this blog. I've played a few rounds of a few solo games. Maybe I'll count them if I end up playing multiplayer games.
In Citadels players are going to be building up the city by leveraging the powers of powerful personalities in the city. The game is played between two phases.
In the fist phase players will pick a role. How many roles are available and how many are revealed to all changes based on the number of players. In a two player game players will actually take two of these roles. These roles do a wide variety of functions many of them provide a money bonus based on the number of buildings matching the color. Others have "take that" abilities such as making a player lose a turn, taking money, or destroying buildings. Most editions contain some alternate roles that can switch out the basic ones, and in a two player game this is probably a good idea.
In the second phase starting with the #1 role and going up players reveal their role. They may then choose between either taking two coins or taking two cards and keeping one. Then in either order players may use their character ability or build a building.
Each building has a cost which is also how many points it is worth. There are five colors of buildings and there is a bonus for having all of them. The purple buildings tend to also have special text.
The game ends the round that a player completes their eighth building. Points are then added up and the most points wins.
We are using a custom rating scale. Each game will be evaluated by both of us on 1 to 10 scale in five areas. When combined, this creates a possible score out of 100.
My Comments: I really like role selection, and this was my first experience with it. The game still holds up.
Her Comments: Most of the rules are good, but I do not like take that elements.
My Comments: The theme is stretched thin, and in the fantasy flight silver line version we have the uneven and odd art work does not help that. However the experience of trying to figure out the best role and guess what others are going to do holds up every time.
Her Comments: I do not find this game particularly engaging.
My Comments: This game has been around for years and is still going strong. I think that speaks highly to its replayability. This is a game that repeated plays does not wear out, and the inclusion of additional roles and cards helps increase that.
Her Comments: The replayability is decent but it is not one I want to play often.
Pacing and Flow
My Comments: I think this is a real strength of the game. It has a great flow going from selecting roles to building and then back to selecting roles. This creates a good rhythm and the game is constantly engaging.
Her Comments: This game is fast moving, and it has a good feeling of progress as the city gets built up.
My Comments: This is a game that I think has aged very well, and I still enjoy playing it a good deal.
Her Comments: This game is OK. I could take it or leave it though.
This is a game that I like quite a bit more than my wife. We have only played it together a handful of times though because this game really needs four to five players to really hit the sweet spot. It's engaging game play means this still has room in a game night bag, and its small shelf presence means it is not hard to justify keeping it.
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