Boardgames To Go - Season 8 (2012)
Mark Johnson
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Santa Clarita
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Mark Johnson's occasional & opinionated podcast about family strategy boardgames
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Episodes
BGTG 119 - Euro Train Games (with Dave Arnott)
BGTG 120 - Favorites of 2011 (A Few Acres of Snow, Pergamon)
BGTG 121 - Secondhand Games (with Greg Pettit)
BGTG 122 - SR & Feedback (Würfel Bohnanza & Lords of Waterdeep)
BGTG 123 - Outdoor Boardgaming (with Dave Gullett)
BGTG 124 - A Sense of History (or European Vacation Part 2)
BGTG 125 - Boardgame Themes for Grown Ups (with Greg Pettit)
BGTG 126 - A Few Geeky Games
BGTG 127 - Essen Anticipation 2012 (Sort of...)
BGTG 128 - The Value of a Boardgame (with Greg Pettit)
BGTG 129 - Boardgame Blogging (with Jeff Myers)
BGTG 130 - Post-BGG.con 2012 (with Greg Pettit)
BGTG 131 - 100 Great Games, part 1 (with Stephen Glenn & Mark Jackson)
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1. Board Game: Union Pacific [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:426]
Mark Johnson
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Santa Clarita
California
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David Arnott
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Tarzana
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Mar 7, 2012

Train games mean something special, at least to train gamers. Usually they involve the 18XX system and hours of deep gameplay. Oddly, though, sometimes it means a very light game such as Express. Within hobby gaming, the term predates the German style of boardgames typified by Settlers and the like. Are there games that include some of what "makes" a train game, but also includes the design/gameplay & production advancements of euro games? I think so, and I discussed the topic with my buddy Dave Arnott. We cover the little bit of 18XX I understand (for context), then dive into titles such as Chicago Express, TransAmerica, Paris Connection, Union Pacific, and Railroad Barons.

-Mark
 
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2. Board Game: A Few Acres of Snow [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:207]
Mark Johnson
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Santa Clarita
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Mar 13, 2012

What?! Two episodes in the same month?! When was the last time I did that? Unfortunately, it's been a while. But as I say during the early part of this podcast, I've got a little more free time now, and I hope I can use it to publish podcasts a bit more frequently than it's been. This could change at any time, but for now I've got my fingers crossed.

In this episode I do a few things. Most of the time I talk about my two favorite titles from 2011, A Few Acres of Snow, and Pergamon. The first is Martin Wallace's deckbuilding wargame about the French & Indian War, while the second is an historically themed, 1990s-style euro in a field increasingly dominated by plastic spaceships and special powers. I also use the opportunity to quickly recap the games I played in 2011, at least the totals and Five & Dimes.

Finally, I dig through the musty mail bag to read some feedback "on air." That was always a favorite part, for me, and maybe if I keep posting some more podcasts I can get back into it.

-Mark
 
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3. Board Game: Thrift: A Banking Game [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
Mark Johnson
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Santa Clarita
California
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Mar 30, 2012

I'm still trying to keep podcasts coming out more frequently, and now I've got friends who are actively pushing me along. That can only help! In this case, it's Greg Pettit, who I thought of immediately when I decided to do a podcast about secondhand games. Whether you're acquiring Out-Of-Print classics or being economical about the Cult of the New-To-Me, sometimes buying used games is the way to go.
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As for selling, sometimes it's about subsidizing your hobby by turning a little profit on thrift store treasures, while other times you just need to clear some shelf space...to buy more games. Either way, it's handy to know how best to be a seller of secondhand games.

Finally there's trading, which has the potential to be the biggest win-win of all. Both of you exchange a game you aren't playing--or don't even like--for one that's exciting to acquire. Whether you ship them across the continent or hand them off at a local game convention, trading can be a great experience.

Greg and I discuss the many ways that all of these transactions happen, and some of the tools and marketplaces we use. There's ebay, of course, but BGG Marketplace is often better for all parties. In-person deals at big & small conventions are discussed, and we tiptoe into the hobby-within-a-hobby of thrifting.

At the very end of the show I raise the question of whether I ought to migrate the (future) show notes & comment feedback system over to BGG instead of here on my own blog. I resisted that in the beginning, but now in 2012 I'm beginning to think it makes more sense. I'd welcome feedback on that topic.

-Mark


Here are Greg's links to several resources relating to secondhand games

Thrifting for You List: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/99289/were-still-thrif...
This is an interesting part of the thrifting community on BGG. Basically, you add a game that you’d like to have. If someone finds it, they’ll send it to you for the cost of shipping. It’s completely voluntary, but over a hundred people have received games this way.

OLWLG
http://boardgamegeek.com/wiki/page/OLWLG JeffyJeff
Stands for “On-Line Want List Generator.” I call it the Owl just because I can never remember the acronym. This is an awesome tool for anyone participating in Math Trades (it may even be required these days). It helps you search through the often very long lists and prioritize what you want.

Math Trades
http://boardgamegeek.com/wiki/page/Math_Trades&redirectedfro...#
This is the BGG Wiki article explaining Math Trades.

BGG Auction Meta-List
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/66420/metalist-for-gee...
A nice meta-list for people to advertise when they’re holding a list auction. Subscribe to this list and you’ll be notified of new auctions as they appear. Administered by ColtsFan76.

BGG Auction Aggregator
http://bggauctions.workingasintended.com/auctions
This is a brand new tool jdludlow cooked up that searches BGG for List Auctions and compiles them in one handy list. Even better, you can enter your username and it will filter it to just games on your want list.

Spielboy Pricing Utility
http://www.spielboy.com/GeekPrices.php#
You’ve probably seen this one before. This is really handy when pricing items for the marketplace or auctions. It pulls data from BGG and shows you the historical sales prices for those games. Sometimes there are outliers that skew the graph, but they’re easy to spot. Plus, it gives you a better idea of the market trends, as opposed to the “average” that BGG offers.
 
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4. Board Game: Lords of Waterdeep [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:46]
Mark Johnson
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Santa Clarita
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Apr 27, 2012

Filling in the gaps between episodes with guests, I like to post episodes that let me simply talk about some games I've played lately, offer scattered opinions & thoughts about them, and then share some of the podcast's feedback. My listeners often have great suggestions and comments that expand upon topics discussed in previous episodes.

In this "Session Report & Feedback" show, I discuss Würfel Bohnanza, the new dice game version of one my all-time favorites, the original Bohnanza card game. Dice versions of games are hot right now, and I like quite a few of them (e.g. Settlers, Zooloretto).

Next I discuss Lords of Waterdeep. I didn't realize until researching for this episode that just about every other boardgame podcast has covered this one, as it's the "new hotness." Ha! I'm the last to the party. Well, it's a good game, worth discussing. In my case, what I like to talk about is my well-known preference AGAINST fantasy-themed games, yet how I like this one anyway because of it's smooth, positively euro-style gameplay...even while it keeps a trace of its Ameritrash/heavy-thematic roots.

From there, it's a funny contrast to consider The (Die) Speicherstadt, in some ways the quintessential "boring euro" with its historic theme, auction mechanics, and untranslated name. Yet it doesn't take me long to get enamored with all of those things, and now I've got a sight to see whenever I manage to visit Hamburg. :-)

-Mark
 
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5. Board Game: Hive [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:179]
Mark Johnson
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Santa Clarita
California
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May 28, 2012
David G.
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Moorpark
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The weather is great here in SoCal...but probably where you are, too, now that it's May/June. Do you ever combine our shared hobby and that glorious weather to play boardgames outside? It doesn't come naturally to me, and there are a number of games unsuitable for it, but many remaining that DO work. I've played boardgames outdoors a handful of times, and every time I wonder why I don't don't do this more often. That's what davebo & I talk about on the podcast.

Besides traditional classics like chess, dominoes, or mahjong, what sort of games lend themselves to outdoor play? There are a few like Hive, Qwirkle, and ZÈRTZ that are just as robust as those classics. Then there others like Carcassonne, Ra, or Tigris & Euphrates that could probably play easily outside. I maintain that the real obstacles are cards, which so many games have, and wind, which even nice days may also have. Do you have a good solution for handling a draw & discard pile of cards in a light breeze? I don't.

Here are some of the helpful Geeklists I researched before the podcast:
Get Out! Tell me how games do in the Outdoor Challenge
Games well suited for outdoor play
Indestructible Games - Second edition

-Mark
 
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6. Board Game: Fall of Berlin [Average Rating:7.22 Unranked]
Mark Johnson
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Santa Clarita
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Jun 14, 2012

This podcast is nearly an experiment. Though I cover euro style boardgames 99% of the time (or meta topics regarding the hobby), you may recall the very occasional podcast of mine mentioning wargames. I'm not much of a wargamer, never really was a grognard, but my very first entry into hobby gaming was through science fiction "microgames," as well as some air combat wargames. This was 15 years before euros made their appearance, back in 1978, junior high school for me...

In the decades since I've dabbled in wargames, at least the shorter/lighter ones, particularly as my interest in history deepened. Every kid seemed to have at least a moviegoer's familiarity with World War Two, but as an adult I started to study WW1, the American Civil War, Napoleonics, and other subjects of military history. From time to time, that meant trying another less-than-3-hour wargame.

Don't run away! You'll hear in my intro to the podcast that I'm concerned my normal euro-favoring(?) podcast audience will tune out when I begin to discuss wargaming, but this episode isn't just about that. My son will be heading off to college in the fall, and just this April we got to go on a wonderful trip--just the two of us--to take in some military history sites in Europe. In the podcast I talk a little about that trip, and more about the movie and game-based research I did to enhance my/our enjoyment of it. Between that angle the inherent father-son context for the discussion, I hope it proves to be a worthwhile episode.


We went to Berlin (for the Cold War), Verdun (WW1), Luxembourg/Bastogne (WW2 Battle of the Bulge), and Waterloo (Napoleon). I didn't actually have a movie or a wargame to help me research Berlin. After-the-fact, though, I discovered the solo wargame Fall of Berlin in the first issue of Gary Graber's Panzerschreck Magazine. I've got a copy on its way to me now. In the meantime, it's time to re-watch Run Lola Run. No, that's not about the Battle in Berlin at the end of WW2, but it DOES feature the city as its notable location. (Same goes for The Bourne Supremacy.) Still, there must be some good movies set in Cold War Berlin, if not WW2 Berlin, that feature the city itself. Maybe Valyrie? Not a great movie, but it's the locations I'm after.)


For the horrors of World War One on the western front we went to Verdun, especially the fortresses defending that historic city. This is where the war of attrition reached its most extreme form, with explicit plans to "bleed France white" by killing their defending soldiers faster than the Germans knew their actions would kill their own men. We visited the built-into-the-hill fortress of Fort Douaumont, both its dank underground corridors and its numerous gun & observation turrets on top. Less obvious but no less amazing was the undulating ground, now covered in grass but still churned into shapes by thousands of artillery rounds. For the game I played Trenches of Valor, a "microgame" from Victory Point Games. Not specifically about Verdun, but it evoked World War One strongly enough, especially considering we also got to see some of those trenches.

The movie I watched beforehand was Kubrick's Paths of Glory (1957). It definitely captured the mud, confusion, and horror of being ordered to launch an assault over the top of your own trenches...and through no-man's-land to the opposing side. Very compelling.




The trip to Luxembourg was meant to take in World War 2's Battle of the Bulge through the Ardennes forest. Luxembourg was a wonderful little country, and I hope I get to return for a few more days next time. The little town of Vianden where we stayed was right near the German border, so was actually taken by the Germans a month before the actual counter-offensive. (Some Luxembourgish resistance fighters had been reporting troop movements from Vianden's castle, a hilltop vantage point, and even launched a few small raids before being squashed.)

There are so many Bulge wargames out there, and I already owned two. Bulge '91 was Avalon Hill's attempt to make a simpler, more nimble wargame on this topic, part of the American Heritage/Smithsonian series. Although I loved seeing Vianden on its map, I didn't love the game, and gave up my solo contest partway through.

After that I tried One-Page Bulge, and though I liked the gameplay better, the minimalist components eventually nagged at me. The game design was better than Bulge '91, but still a bit dated. I'm happy to know that even straightforward, smaller wargames aren't trapped in the mechanics of the 60s-80s. Wargame designers have made advances since then that deliver better gameplay with essentially the same components, and no great increase in rules (as we'll see later).

When it came to moves, I'm sorry to say that I was suckered by The Battle of the Bulge. I guess in my mind I thought it might be like The Longest Day, or Midway--a Hollywood production with multiple stars that still did a decent job telling the story of the battle. No way. That movie was a HUGE disappointment. I'm very sorry I had my son watch it with me. After we returned I re-watched Patton, which was so much better.





For our last stop we went to Waterloo, the scene of Napoleon's famous last battle. This was the oldest battlefield we visited, coming up on its bicentennial in three years, and the most altered. Though the rolling hills & fields are still visible--as are the significant stone farmhouses of Le Haye Sainte and Hougoumont--the famous "reverse slope" hill that hid the British forces from a French artillery barrage is mostly gone. It was scraped up and piled high to make the famous Lion mound and monument on top. These days, we don't do such a thing to historic sites. Not usually, anyway. Waterloo itself is a 21st century, small, Belgian town, but fortunately the battlefield is just a ways away.

Le Haye Sainte is difficult to get a good look at it because it borders a small highway, and you can't get too close. Hougoumont, on the other hand, is owned by a private party, but one that encourages tourists to walk around and see it from the outside. This was a high point for me, walking the perimeter of a place that witnessed such desperate fighting.

Just as this battlefield was a highlight, so was the wargame I played solo covering the same ground. Waterloo 20 is another small wargame from Victory Point Games, and one I'm very eager to try again. Designer and developer have worked together to create a playable, exciting, and historically-grounded game that is just right for me. Serious wargamers may scoff at its simplifications, but for me they mean the difference between a game that's played, and one that's merely read. Many of the mechanics are traditional (e.g. hexmaps, differential combat results tables), but some smart design choices (limited counters, no stacking, event cards) mean the game moves right along and includes unpredictable events that I know threatened (or happened) in the actual battle.

Not only were the battlefield & game satisfying, so was the movie I watched to prepare for both. Rod Steiger's Napoleon and Christopher Plummer's Wellington were both outstanding in the wonderful film Waterloo (1970), by Soviet director Sergey Bondarchuk. Seriously--seek this film out and watch it...then look me up for another game of Waterloo 20!

As I'd hoped & planned, the research I did for the trip enhanced the experience for me. The Wikipedia articles did that, the movies did that (even the bad ones), and the wargames definitely helped do that. Who knows? I may even get my son to play The Drive on Metz with me some day.

-Mark
 
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7. Board Game: Pergamon [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:889]
Mark Johnson
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Aug 3, 2012
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My friend Greg Pettit joins me on the podcast to officially kick off Boardgames To Go’s relocation to its new home on BGG by returning to our previous discussion about game themes, a favorite topic! Two years ago, in episode 104 we talked about Greg’s notion of two aspects of game theme:

• Narrative--the part of theme that includes the game's subject matter & physical production, telling its story

• Metaphor--the other part of theme that includes the game’s mechanisms, and how naturally they represent how the setting works

It was a great discussion, and many people chimed in with comments on the blog, as well as my BGG forum post.

This time I wanted to concentrate on the narrative part, the story. Specifically, I wanted to challenge the label that “thematic” games are just those ones about dragons and spaceships, and then go on to explain why I don’t like those themes, and wish for more “grown-up” games about history, economics, and—yes, trading in the Mediterranean Sea. A particular example is the interesting case of Vinci and Small World. Both are essentially the same game, from the same designer. The real differences are the theme: one is about the historic rise & fall of civilizations on a map of Europe, while the other is a territorial battle game between fantasy races on a fictional world. (Greg points out notable difference in the marketing muscle and publisher support behind these two games. Hmm.)



As you’ll hear, it turns out I had a lot of issues wound up in this discussion, and it was a challenge to my polite nature to share my honest opinions. I never want to offend anyone, yet I do want to have this discussion. And Greg was there to extract it from me. In fact, his alternate title for this podcast was, "On the Couch with Mark Johnson: Why Do You Hate AmeriTrash?"


At the end the episode, we close with two open questions. I’d love to hear my listeners’ responses to them. First is to offer your own suggestion for what the category of games like Descent, Arkham Horror, and Battlestar Galactica should be called. I don’t like BGG’s current label of "thematic," don’t think Ameritrash is right, either, and offered other suggestions such as heightened, fantastic, or geeky.

Second, I’d like you to think about the narrative themes (subject, story) of the games you enjoy playing, and analyze why you enjoy them. Is it because of the exciting, escapist subject matter about space empires or the undead? Perhaps it’s the chance to be exposed to something interesting in history and learn a tiny bit about it? Or maybe it’s just that the gameplay is competitive & challenging, and the narrative subject of the game doesn’t play a major role. You can guess what type of person I am, and I’d like to learn who you are.


-Mark
 
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8. Board Game: Mission: Red Planet [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:664]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
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Aug 9, 2012

It was good to get the opinions in the previous podcast off my chest, and the comments from listeners have been intelligent & polite...even when they disagree with me.

That's all well & good, but nonetheless I feel compelled to share some geeky games I do happen to enjoy. Do these poke holes in my earlier arguments? Perhaps. However, you'll notice these are all shorter games, and that's significant. I can more easily enjoy any game that doesn't hog the entire game night, and 1-hr games let me dabble in just about any theme and still have time for something historic and worthy of post-game Wikipedia research.




Magical Athlete is a Japanese design that's a decade old, but I just learned about it. Apparently Z-Man brought this to English-speaking audiences back in 2010, but it still flew under my radar. At it's core it's a series of roll-and-move race games along a simple (simplistic) linear track. What makes it a worthwhile game, however, are the movement-based special powers for each character, the way those powers interact, and the fact that the characters are drafted by players before the races even start. That permits a little bit of strategy, a fair dose of luck, and some silly interaction. If you're surprised I like a game with fantasy/manga theming, so am I. It's the gameplay that wins me over, much more than the theming (though even I got a kick out of the character artwork).


By now you've probably heard quite a bit about Richard Garfield's King of Tokyo, and for good reason. This is one of the best games of last year. Just like the last title rose above its humble roll-and-move origins, King of Tokyo takes the familiar Yahtzee mechanism of rolling a bunch of dice, freezing some during two re-rolls, and does something great with it. Starting with the theme of giant monsters destroying the city, the game uses fantastic artwork to cause instant fun. Though each player's monster looks different, they play the same until acquisition of special powers cards causes some differentiation. However, the core of the game is a finely tuned combination dieroll mechanism, where everyone can score points on their turn, heal damage, store up "energy" to buy more special cards...or inflict damage on the other players. That can happen to the point of wiping someone out--player elimination! And yet, it's so darn smooth, no one minds. In fact, it's fun to stick around for the ultimate outcome of a game in which you died. I've done that. The game had limited availability last year, but I understand that's improving now. Also, Garfield has an interesting expansion in the works, which you can hear about on his interesting podcast.

Finally, Mission: Red Planet is a steampunk-themed game about colonizing Mars in the Victorian era. Though the game mechanisms include some bits about that subject, it's the game's story told through its amazing artwork that really delivers the theme. Spaceships that blend Jules Verne's Nautilus with Buck Rogers deliver British aristocrats and soldiers to different territories on the Martian globe, with help and interference from other saboteurs, scientists, spaceship pilots, femme fatale, and so on. It's an area majority game merged with role selection, all wrapped up in that steampunk Mars setting that reminds me of the Space: 1889 (Original edition) rpg. Even though my real-life job is also focused on Mars, our spacecraft don't have these sleek and retro lines. Our vehicles have metallized fabric insulation, thrusters at odd angles, and a rover that looks like a Swiss army knife exploded. That's because it does so many things, we design for function over form, and it's all about optimizing mass & volume for the scientific mission. As of this writing, Curiosity landed in Mars' Gale Crater a few days ago, and all of us at JPL are tremendously excited. So, it seems, is everyone else. The goodwill is amazing!


-Mark
 
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9. Board Game: Monopoly: Essen [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
Mark Johnson
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Oct 16, 2012

Every year I get excited about Essen, even though I'm not able to attend. For the past several years, I've used the podcast to share that excitement, and even try to analyze it a bit. Why do I think I'll like some games more than others? Looking back, how often am I right about that? It's a hobby within a hobby.

To my surprise & delight, some of my listeners really like listening to these shows, and even ask for them. Really? My own personal wishlist for Essen is something you find interesting? Well, I guess I understand that, as the explosion of personal Geeklists used for shopping at Essen (real or vicariously) is something I like to look over, too. In fact, the tremendous volume of information we now get prior to each Essen Spiel increases the value in looking over someone else's pared-down list. Otherwise, it's too much.

That's what I certainly discovered this year. In 2011 I think I was on the verge of being overwhelmed by the volume of new titles and all of the pre-event info (previews, photos, rules, impressions, etc.) we have about them. This year, I finally admitted to myself that I could no longer keep up. That's why this year's episode isn't really my entire list of games that catch my eye. I wasn't able to even make that list this year, because I couldn't keep up with everything. For me, this represents a sea change in my experience with Essen.


However, all is not lost. Far from it, in fact. When I think back on it, I realize that I've had a few different "sea changes" with Essen already. Back in the 1990s I got my info from Mike Siggins, Ken Tidwell, Alan Moon, and the like. That would come in the form of a text report shared via email or the web, filled with well-written firsthand accounts of games previewed, purchased, and only rarely played to completion more than once. Often they were getting by on incomplete rules translations or memories of how the demo worked.

And I loved it! It was fascinating to read those accounts, imagine what Essen might be like, and wonder if/when I would get a chance to see or play some of those games.

By the early 2000s we now had larger numbers of English-speakers going to Essen, and more reports coming back. Digital cameras were becoming common, and we had some photos sometimes, too. I even managed to attend for one day in 2003, while on an anniversary vacation with my wife in Germany. Between these accounts and Rio Grande/Mayfair, we now got some pretty complete accounts of the games being published there, and had pretty good opportunities to acquire them ourselves, sometimes before Christmas.

Now we have realtime video of the games being demonstrated! We have a multitude of reports about the games acquired, played, and played several more times. Though there will always be some small card games and niche publishers who have limited or no availability in the US, those are the exception. I know some American gamers have great heartburn over the months it can take for a surprise hit like Eclipse or Agricola to become widely available back at home, but you know I'm not one of those. I'm drowning in new titles at Games Days and the like even while I'm still looking for my first play of some titles from 2011 (Trajan? Ora et Labora?).

It's with these thoughts in mind that I considered the discussion between Doug Garrett and Tom Vasel about the importance of covering Essen (or Gencon) on boardgame podcasts. My conclusion was that Essen is still a big deal to me, but it doesn't really matter if I "cover" it or not. I'm not a news source (clearly!). I don't try to monetize my podcast, and I'm under no obligation to discuss anything in particular. My podcast is more like a personal blog, just in audio format, and I'm just tickled that anyone finds it worthwhile to listen to. I think this is how most hobby podcasts should be, too. Yeah, there are some more expenses with a podcast than there are with a blog (nearly free), but it isn't so much, really. This is a labor of love, and a chance to write & record some opinions to engage in discussion with like-minded friends.

Anyway, even though I can't keep up with Essen this year, I'll still enjoy hearing all about it, and looking back at what its hits were once we know for sure. Like in 2014.

-Mark

P.S. I forgot my normal microphone, but was out of time to record this show. So I just used the built-in mic on my laptop, and it shows in the sound quality. Hopefully it's still worth listening to.
 
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10. Board Game: Air Baron [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:2685]
Mark Johnson
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Nov 9, 2012
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Houston
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Greg Pettit must enjoy talking about meta topics on my podcast as much as I do. After helping me on my shows about game themes (for grown-ups or otherwise!), he told me he'd been thinking about the value of a boardgame. Not boardgaming, the entire hobby, but an individual title. And not in a strictly dollars & cents way, but more of a holistic, personal value of an individual game. Ever read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? It might be good background for Greg's thoughts in this episode.


We start off with the usual--but false--comparison of the cost of a boardgame compared to "dinner & a movie." If you've been in the hobby for long, no doubt you've come across this one. However, that comparison breaks down quickly, to the point where it's only importance may be as a rationalization (to your spouse?) for buying more games! No, when thinking about the value of an individual game, our thoughts quickly converged on the time we spent playing the game, and the quality of that time. It's not simply a matter of multiplying game length x number of plays to get some total number of hours. It's not as mechanical or clinical as that. From there Greg is able to point out the value a game can have regardless of the number of plays you have of it...or that game has in it.

Just as much fun as the zen-like discussions about game values are every gamer's personal stories about games that mean something special to them. That's because we came to the conclusion that a game's value is multi-dimensional, sometimes difficult to describe, and very often personal to the gamer. Maybe it relates to a particular game experience playing it with friends, a theme that resonates so strongly, or even the effort it took to acquire the game in the first place.




My only regret about this episode are some of my opening words, where I praise Greg for helping me get these podcasts out with more regularity. Since I haven't really done that, it makes it sound like Greg bears some responsibility for that. Of course that isn't true! This episode was actually recorded three months ago, and it's for my own reasons that I didn't post it until now. Why I do this to myself and my friends is a podcast for another time.
whistle


-Mark
 
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11. Board Game: Travel Blog [Average Rating:6.14 Overall Rank:3410]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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Nov 28, 2012

Do you read boardgame blogs? I mean, besides this one?

My friend Jeff Myers is a boardgame blogger, and he joins me on this episode to talk about the subject, both as a reader and an author.

In some ways, I think blogging is a lost art...and the literary form has only been around since the late 1990s. Perhaps that's because they've developed along with the Internet during that same time period. Though they started out as humble web-logs by quirky, individual authors who wanted to write about something, they exploded into the commercial and professional media world who displaced those private authors.

Except that they didn't.

While the New York Times, Huffington Post, Daily Beast, Wall Street Journal, and even consumer products such as Coca-Cola and Volkswagen have things they call blogs (and I guess they are), the blogs boardgamers care about are still around. I'm talking about individual authors with their personal point-of-view, writing style, and a talent for giving us good stuff to read. It's about the boardgames, yes, but it's as much about the author. You find a few you like, you subscribe to the blogs, and (hopefully) give the blogger some feedback. Here are just a few...


Gameguy Thinks... by Jeff Myers
Castle by Moonlight by Giles Pritchard
Mechanics and Meeples by Shannon Appelcline
Tom Rosen's posts on Opinionated Gamers
(a multi-author blog)
Gamer Chris by Chris Norwood
The Tao of Gaming by Brian Bankler
Gameblog by Mikko Saari
(btw, Mikko gave BGTG its first webspace many years ago, in its pre-podcast days! Very nice guy)
On Gamer's Games by Jesse Dean (a BGG-hosted blog)
Empty Nest Gamers by bgg user Hobbes (another one here on BGG)
jergames.com by Yehuda Berlinger


When I said blogging was a lost art, my fear is that blog reading is what we're losing. I hope I'm wrong. Just going to a website regularly and looking for new content works ok, I guess, but the real way to enjoy this form is to subscribe to the blogs and use a blogreader. They have them for every conceivable platform, Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, and even cloud-computing web apps that are device-independent. A lot of good blogs are hosted right here on BGG, but there are others out there on their own websites. BGG has a subscription button, but you can easily keep up with any blog (including ones on BGG) using a blogreader. Here are a few good ones:

Google Reader
Feedly
Bloglines

At the end we try to be technology futurists and imagine what's going to happen to blogging in the next decade. Social media has transformed interaction online, and that world is due for another technological generation. Something that facilitates thoughtful writers who want to do more that just tweet in 140 characters.


-Mark
 
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12. Board Game: Kolejka [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:1140]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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Dec 12, 2012


As he's done for the past few years, Greg Pettit joins me on the podcast to talk about the annual Boardgamegeek convention, BGG.con (do they still call it "dot con"? I always thought that was clever.) I didn't go to the convention. In fact, I've only made it to the first one, and I hear it's only gotten bigger & better since then. Greg, on the other hand, goes every year. I really need to make it back sometime.

Occurring the week/weekend before Thanksgiving here in America, the convention is timed to include a lot of brand new Essen titles in its famous game library. Even I might succumb to the "cult of the new" a little bit when presented with the opportunity to try so many brand new, exciting titles that have barely made it to this country yet. Greg is like that, too, and it's great to talk with him afterward about so many of these brand new games. With that in mind, I can chime in on a few new titles I've managed to play somehow, even though I didn't make it to the convention.

For this show, Greg and I prepared a Geeklist to go along with it. This was for our own notes & preparation, but we found in prior years that it's fun to share with everyone. I always like comments here on the blog, but you may want to comment about individual games over on that listt. Towards the very end of the show, we also take a brief look back at our similar list from the previous year, too. Though we don't spend too much time on them, you know that I'm always fascinated with analyzing or merely reflecting upon what makes some games longterm keepers, and which ones we're finished with in less than twelve months. In some cases that's completely ok to have "short-term games" like that, but mostly I'm interested in those permanent keepers.




(Hmm, "short term games" might be a good meta topic for a future podcast. If I have anything more to say about it.)

Greg also tells how the convention itself was, in terms of the hotel/facility, organization, opportunities for food, and so on. By his account this event took a big step up this year. It was already good, but the new location & hotel/event staff improved things further.


Links
Post BGG.con 2012 Geeklist
Post BGG.con 2011 Geeklist


-Mark
 
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13. Board Game: Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:377]
Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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100 Great Games
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 |
Part 7 | Top Ten | Epilogue


Dec 20, 2012


Stephen Glenn
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Virginia Beach
Virginia
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Mark Jackson
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Goodlettsville
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Several years ago, Stephen Glenn and Mark Jackson polled a number of experienced gamers (a few designers, many reviewers, all enthusiasts) for their top games. I was pleased to be part of it. They consolidated the results, and published them with commentary in a blog called "The One Hundred." It carried the tongue-in-cheek subtitle "The Official & Completely Authoritative 100 Best Games of All Time Ever Without Question...So There!" Not everyone got the irony of that title, but if you knew these guys you'd know they never take themselves too seriously.

Now in 2012 they felt it was time to do the survey again, adding some new people to the mix to get a broader range of input. I was happy to be asked for my input again, and then pleasantly surprised that they asked for my help with Boardgames To Go to get the survey results out via podcast. Hurray! This time around, I really like how Stephen describes it: "a fun list to discuss over coffee & pie." We were asked for our favorite games, not necessarily the best games. We even got to submit a top fifteen, which took the usual tough request for a top ten and gave us more breathing room for five more titles. I know in my case, it made it easier to add some very recent games to my longstanding faves.

It's going to take a little while to talk about 100 titles, so this will be a podcast series for BGTG. In this first part, the three of us talk about the survey itself, then launch into descriptions of the first fifteen games, #100 to #86. In future episodes, we may add another voice to the mix as we work our way up the rest of the list. At fifteen games apiece, then a last show for the top ten, this will be seven episodes in the entire series. I'll be sprinkling them in between other episodes in my podcast feed throughout the early part of 2013.

Links
Stephen Glenn's designer page (Balloon Cup/Piñata, 1st & Goal, You Must Be an Idiot!)
Mark Jackson's personal blog

-Mark

P.S. If you want to see the original version of the list these guys made it in 2005, it's still available at 100 Great Games, 2005 Edition (THE ONE HUNDRED).



And now, starting our countdown with the first fifteen titles, from #100 to #86...

 
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