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Boardgames To Go - Season 6 (2010)
Mark Johnson
France
Paris
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Mark Johnson's occasional & opinionated podcast about family strategy boardgames
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Episodes
BGTG 100 - SR & Feedback (Tobago, Numeri, Polar Derby)
BGTG 101 - SR & Feedback (Dog, Keltis Way of the Stone, Sorry Sliders)
BGTG 102 - Games Played in 2009 (with "Davebo" Gullett)
BGTG 103 - SR & Feedback (Pandemic On the Brink, Caylus Magna Carta, Patrician)
BGTG 104 - Boardgame Themes (with Greg Pettit)
BGTG 105 - Games of the Decade (with Dave Arnott)
BGTG 106 - SR & Feedback (Super Slapshot, Age of Industry)
BGTG 107 - Handcrafted Games (with Lincoln Damerst and Greg Wilzbach)
BGTG 108 - Essen Anticipation 2010 Part 1 (with Scott Alden & Lincoln Damerst)
BGTG 109 - Essen Anticipation 2010 Part 2
BGTG 110 - All About the Easy Play games (with David Arnott)
BGTG 111 - Post BGGcon (with Greg Pettit)
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1. Board Game: Numeri [Average Rating:5.75 Overall Rank:6770]
Mark Johnson
France
Paris
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Jan 5, 2010

Yea! When I started this podcast nearly five years ago, I had no idea I'd still be doing it now. The pace certainly slowed down from the early days, but I'm so pleased to have stumbled across the finish line to episode 100! Except that this isn't really a finish line--I'm going to keep podcasting, and I hope you'll keep listening.

I thought about some big celebration or other special show for my 100th episode, but after talking with friends (some of whom you've heard on my podcast before), I decided instead to keep it simple. After all, that's what Boardgames To Go has always been: a simple, no-frills podcast that reflects my own interests in analyzing what it is about these games that makes them fun (or not), along with some good feedback. It's the feedback that has always kept me going, so it's a real pleasure to include it on episode 100. In future shows there will still be more opportunities to discuss special topics, have guest co-hosts, and maybe even some more All About episodes.

In this episode I start with some discussion about my favorite new Essen game, Tobago. True, it's the only real Essen game I've got my hands on yet, but I like it so much I'm confident it will remain a favorite even after I've had a chance to try the others, perhaps finding more keepers. It was a title that jumped out at me during my annual pre-Essen anticipation, and it was easy enough to order domestically right away. Another new Essen title is Numeri, which I've at least played in its online incarnation on brettspielwelt. This is a modern reprint in Schmidt's fun Easy Play line that had a much earlier life as a boardgame. In between there was an edition with some particular theming that I'd like to know more about--does anyone have it? Finally, I discuss Polar Derby, a kids' game from Gamewright that feels like a Knizia game . . . because it IS a Knizia game. Hear about how the clever folks at Gamewright put a German game design through the American-izer.

-Mark
 
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2. Board Game: Dog [Average Rating:6.41 Overall Rank:2155]
Mark Johnson
France
Paris
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Feb 10, 2010

First show of the new year, and it's another session report & feedback episode. Though I originally just picked three games I played recently & wanted to discuss, as I prepped for the show I found a number of related points between them. That's why I mentioned this could also be called "The Crossover Show." Maybe I should ask Shannon Appelcline to produce one of his snazzy relationship diagrams like he's done for designer ludographies and other relationships he's mapped. :-)

Dog has a Canadian heritage, along with handmade boards displaying real craftsmanship . . . like Crokinole . . . which is like Sorry Sliders in its gameplay . . . even though its in the franchise family of traditional Sorry . . . much like Keltis: Way of the Stone is in the new Keltis franchise family . . . though there's still some connection to Sorry . . . which is itself a "circles & cross" traditional boardgame form, like Dog . . . but Dog is a partnership game, like Crokinole . . . and both Crokinole and Sorry Sliders depend on some quality production and design so that their physical play can really soar.

Once Knizia comes out with the physical flicking game of Keltis Stones, I'll have to revisit this. :-)

I neglected to mention that this Keltis game is also listed as the Keltis Mitbringspiel, the latter word being German for "travel edition." (I suppose a more literal translation would be "take-along game.") I happen to be using Mitbringspiel as a search term as my friends & I are placing an order from Amazon.de.

-Mark
 
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3. Board Game: Cheeky Monkey [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:1876]
Mark Johnson
France
Paris
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Mar 10, 2010
David G.
United States
Moorpark
California
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For more than a decade now I've kept track of the games I played over the course of a year. For nearly as long I've reviewed those lists after each year passed. First I posted on Usenet or my own website, later boardgame mailing lists, my blog, and lately this podcast. Like a lot of you, I find it interesting to look back over the stats from the previous year, noting increases or decreases in the number or variety of games played. I'm also looking to see whether I'm making the time & effort to get my favorites to the table--if you're not careful they can get crowded out by the steady advance of (sometimes forgettable) new titles.

This year I again have a guest on the podcast to help me recap the year with his own stats. "Davebo" Gullett has been on the podcast before, and we have some similarities--both of us play in some similar groups or get-togethers, we have roughly similar tastes in games, and we're both dads of multiple kids old enough to play boardgames with us. But while Dave has been successful getting his kids (especially his oldest) to play plenty of boardgames, I do that much less often.

On the other hand, I play a lot of online boardgames, both realtime on Brettspielwelt, and even more via play-by-web sites such as Mabiweb and Brass Online. We have some discussion about why I choose to include those online plays in my yearly stats, while Dave does not. It goes to the nature of those online plays, whether they're against friends or strangers, and what's the point of tracking plays at all.

-Mark
 
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4. Board Game: Pandemic: On the Brink [Average Rating:8.11 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.11 Unranked] [Average Rating:8.11 Unranked]
Mark Johnson
France
Paris
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Mar 18, 2010

I'm back with another session report & feedback show. These episodes are usually only about some games I've played recently. However, in this one I found another common thread between all of the games discussed, which makes this sort of a themed podcast, as well. In this case, the common thread is boardgame expansions. You may have heard me say before that I generally don't care for expansions...or at least I find them unnecessary. Here are three titles played with expansions that include that reaction, but also some others. I found it interesting to consider, and I hope you enjoy listening to it.

I'd forgotten about Jeff Myers' excellent subtitle to the blog, "Play a game. You'll feel better." Be sure to share with me other recommendations for boardgame blogs, and someday I'll do a podcast about those.

-Mark
 
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5. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.73 Overall Rank:56]
Mark Johnson
France
Paris
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May 8, 2010
United States
Houston
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Themes in boardgames are a favorite subject of mine. I'm sure I've said before how interested I am in the themes these games of ours have. Some themes instantly attract me to a game, while others are an immediate turn-off. When I'm playing a game, I particularly enjoy historic theming on the cards, or historic notes within the rulebook. You'd think that makes me a theme-gamer. I certainly thought so. But then I thought about the games that were my favorites, and in many cases they are those elegant German-style games that are pretty spartan when it comes to theme compared to recent titles from Fantasy Flight or Days of Wonder. In fact, I don't care for the those other games. In some cases it was because I didn't care for the theme itself (e.g. fantasy battles or dungeon crawl), but in other cases I didn't like how the themes I do like (e.g. gaslight London) overwhelm the game mechanics, taking aware from their elegance.

Enter Greg Pettit, who suggested that there are two distinct types of themes in games. Some provide the evocative experience with art, special rules, a story arc, character roles, and so on. That's what Greg calls "theme as narrative." The other type Greg calls "theme as metaphor," and it usually relates the subject of the game into its mechanics. Some games exhibit both types, others skew strongly toward just one type. I imagine everyone can appreciate those few games that manage to succeed with both of these thematic types, but when it's one more than the other you'll find your gamer preferences shining through. In my case, it's for theme as metaphor, which is why I prefer Vincito Small World, or Entdeckerto Blackbeard.

In this podcast Greg & I talk all about this topic, consider several games under his descriptions of theme, bring in the topic of simulation in wargames (a little), and think about why we prefer certain games and not others based on the way they implement their themes. Over on BGG I'm also posting a poll where listeners can rate a bunch of popular games low/medium/high in theme as metaphor, and theme as narrative.

-Mark
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6. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.10 Overall Rank:10]
Mark Johnson
France
Paris
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May 30, 2010
David Arnott
United States
Tarzana
California
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Now that the first decade of the new century & millennium is past, Dave & I reflected on what that ten-year span meant for boardgames. Back in late 2007 he & I recorded a decade+1 retrospective for episode #75, but that had a little different focus. For that earlier show, we tried to talk about our own introduction and growth in the hobby, like what games we first learned about & played, how we used rec.games.board for scraps of information, the importance of Sumo magazine and The Game Cabinet website, etc.

For this show now, we're talking about a different time period (somewhat), and about the games themselves that are notable. What do the titles that were successful in the "oughts" tell us about the direction the hobby is going? Sales figures might be the most important data for this sort of discussion, but those aren't available. Instead, I drew from critical & popular reaction, as evidenced by Boardgamegeek ratings and boardgame awards (especially Spiel des Jahre).

I came away thinking there was a pattern emerging, especially in the latter half of the decade. I'm seeing a resurgence of some deeper, more analytic and longer duration games that took a back seat while publishers chased the commercial success associated with a family-friendly Spiel des Jahres winner. (I imagine even the games that were nominated for an SdJ get a healthy boost in sales. Don't they still get to put that recommendation sticker from the SdJ jury on their boxes?) Maybe some of the other game awards that reward deeper games have had an influence, or maybe the continued growth of the Spiel at Essen and its increasingly international new publishers can be credited.

-Mark
 
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7. Board Game: Slapshot [Average Rating:6.32 Overall Rank:2441]
Mark Johnson
France
Paris
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Aug 15, 2010

At long last, another episode, and a long-winded one at that! These session report & feedback shows are supposed to be easier episodes for me to bang out--I need to remember that! Doing them more often will work through the response backlog and make them easier & shorter. We'll see how well I do at remembering that... :-)

In addition to a lot of great comments about past shows, I talk about two games I've played recently (two games which couldn't be more different). The first is an old "beer & pretzels" card game themed around ice hockey, Slapshot, only I was playing a geek retheming by fan Kwanchai Moriya called Super Slapshot, using a deck of cards made with Artscow. The other title is a brand new game, Martin Wallace's deep game of the spread of the industrial revolution, Age of Industry. This is a reworking of the earlier title--and huge favorite of mine--Brass.

How do I feel about AoI compared to Brass? You'll have to listen to the show for a full discussion. In a nutshell, though, I felt AoI didn't offer enough of an alternative (especially a quicker, easier alternative) to prefer it over the intense history that takes place in Brass. In fact, it was the trigger to finally make me order my own copy of Brass. I really hope the online or iPhone implementation rumors for AoI prove true, because I would love to explore it as deeply as those formats would allow.

-Mark
 
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8. Board Game: Speculation [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:2046]
Mark Johnson
France
Paris
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Lincoln Damerst
United States
California
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Greg Wilzbach
United States
Valencia
California
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Aug 25, 2010

I grabbed two of my artistically talented friends (Greg did my podcast logo!) and put them on the microphone to talk about their hobby-within-a-hobby: handcrafted games. These guys have both taken a known, existing boardgame or two and hand made their own copies. It might have been to create something that's hard to get, or it might have been to make a personalized, deluxe version of a favorite game. In any case, it's a labor of love, takes time & money, and takes some real craftmanship & technique. I found their stories fascinating, as much because they're so beyond anything I could accomplish myself.

Lincoln Damerst starts by talking about his copy of the old Parker Brothers proto-eurogame, Survive! In fact, he posted a good description and photos of the process. Greg Wilzbach talks about his copy of Spekulation, which Lincoln also did! Though he didn't finish the goal (and never posted images of his efforts), Greg also talks about making his own deluxe versions of Wiz-War and Up Front.

The game I tried to pimp out was Kings & Castles, but I'm not finished. It won't end up looking like the fancy games Greg & Lincoln are doing. I'm just trying to replace the boring cardboard counters with colored wooden discs, hand-inked with simple icons.

Want to see that metal version of Big Boss that Lincoln mentioned? Here it is. Whoa...

I talked about Artscow.com in my previous podcast, and here it was mentioned again. That's for images printed on things (cards, throw pillows, watch faces, you name it). For 3D objects made to custom designs, Lincoln mentioned Shapeways.com. Custom dice are just the tip of the iceberg. You could make custom icebergs!

Merchant of Venus is a handcrafted title these guys haven't done--but admire someone else's work. And someone else's. Maybe there's more of this stuff going on than I realized!

Lincoln's wife Nikki Pontius made a very clever graphic overhaul of Würfel Bingo into something that's improved for its theme: Waffle Bingo!

Be sure to check out Harbor Freight for your laminator and lamination needs!

Thanks to Lincoln & Greg for joining me on this show. It was like I was a member of an audience, just hearing these guys tell great stories.

-Mark

P.S. Sorry about the occasional nose-whistle going on. Not sure who that was, but I'm afraid it was me. :-/
 
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9. Board Game: 7 Wonders [Average Rating:7.84 Overall Rank:32]
Mark Johnson
France
Paris
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Scott Alden
United States
Dallas
Texas
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Aldie's Full of Love!
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Lincoln Damerst
United States
California
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Oct 15, 2010

It's that time again. Time for excitement about the Spiel game expo (Internationale Spieltage) held in Essen, Germany every October. Even when my fall season gets busy with work, kids' school, and other activities, there's always this time when I start living vicariously through the pre-, post-, and (now) during-the-event reports. Over a decade ago we heard about the new titles debuting at Essen through reports from Mike Siggins, Ken Tidwell, and others posted to The Game Cabinet in the weeks following. Then we started getting more contemporary online reports from Frank Schulte-Kulkmann & other attendees. People started taking digital cameras with them, and we got to SEE the games we were hearing about.

Last year the Boardgamegeek team had a booth at Essen for the first time, and they improved the vicarious experience for us again with live video, recordings of the same, and Geekbuzz. This year they're returning with the same goals in mind. In fact, the video turned out to be such an exciting feature that they've got a schedule loaded with designers & publishers anxious to show off their new offerings. It's going to be fun for many of us sitting at home to tune in and enjoy Essen from afar. Not as much fun as being there, of course, but at least it's something! Hey, take some of that money you saved on international travel to buy some new titles, or throw a little donation money toward BGG for providing this.

In part 1 of my Essen Anticipation show, I called Scott Alden and Lincoln Damerst to talk about BGG's presence at Essen next week. This year Aldie is staying home to mind the store for BGG, but he's always full of ideas. Lincoln is returning as one of the guys at the booth, and his job is being in charge of the technology they'll use (cameras, mics, laptops, networks, etc.). These guys talk about their plans for Essen, and drop a few references to games they're looking forward to, as well.

In part 2 of the show (posted later), I'll record my own personal list of games to watch out for, as well as a quick look back at what I thought was going to interest me from Essen last year.

-Mark
 
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10. Board Game: The Great Fire of London 1666 [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:1612]
Mark Johnson
France
Paris
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Oct 16, 2010

Whew! I hurried up and recorded Part 2 of my annual "Essen Anticipation" episode so I could get it posted before the Spieltage itself. Hopefully some of the people who wanted to listen to it before the show opens (even when traveling there?) will get it in time.

This episode is more like my Essen shows from previous years. I talk a little about about general things, then launch into a long list of titles that catch my attention for one reason or another. Either they are high-profile titles that don't interest me for some reason, or more likely they're a game that looks good and hopefully I'll get a chance to play sometime soon. If you want to follow along, this year I again took some notes in a private geeklist.

Finally, I wrap up with a quick overview of the games I was anticipating last Essen. Which ones turned out to be as good as I'd hoped, which didn't, and which have I not bothered to track down at all? Similarly, I look over last year's Fairplay Scout Aktion and Geekbuzz lists of the top games from Essen. I maintain that these early indicators--despite all of the reasons they shouldn't be accurate--actually turn out to be good predictors of the best games released every year at Essen.

-Mark
 
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Mark Johnson
France
Paris
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Nov 15, 2010
David Arnott
United States
Tarzana
California
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At long last, another "All About" show, the format in which a guest and I talk through a particular game in great detail. This time we tried something a little different, discussing the entire series of fast-playing games in small, square boxes called Easy Play by German publisher Schmidt Spiele. Since we covered so many games in this episode, this is one of my longest shows ever, nearly two hours. I'd posted a question about that on Facebook/Twitter beforehand, and the answer was for me to put the show out as-is, not breaking it up into multiple episodes. Feedback is welcomed.

The Easy Play series consists of
Big Points
Burgen Land
Drachen Wurf
Finito!
Level X
Los Banditos
Numeri
Tiki Topple

Only some of the games have been published in English, but most can be purchased by gamers intent on finding them. Dave & I have played them all, and discuss our impressions of them. We naturally talk about some other titles by way of comparison. Finally, we briefly discuss (speculate, really) on the new Easy Play Kids line of MauseSause, Rakete, and Tipi.

-Mark
 
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12. Board Game: i9n [Average Rating:6.19 Overall Rank:9162]
Mark Johnson
France
Paris
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Nov 28, 2010
United States
Houston
Texas
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After my annual "Essen anticipation" show, perhaps it's only natural that some listeners ask me for a post-Essen show where I can share my opinions about the new games after I've played them. The only trouble is that it will take me some months to get all of those plays in, since I didn't go to Essen myself and haven't hardly had any chance to play (or even see) the new games. Here in the US, the best chance to play all of those games--and quickly, right after they're released at Essen--is to go to BGGcon in Dallas, Texas, hosted by our friends at Boardgamegeek. And while I didn't manage to go there, either, I have good friends who did. One of them, Greg Pettit, took some notes and then was happy to discuss his impressions with me for this podcast episode. As you can see from the list below, Greg managed to play lots of the new titles we're curious about.

You may prefer to follow along to the discussion with this "read-along" geeklist showing all of the games Greg played.

In the podcast I briefly mention another gamer's post-BGGcon impressions. That's the excellent report from Tom Rosen in his column at Boardgamenews. Check it out for another perspective, sometimes similar, sometimes different than Greg's. Finally, you can still review the Geekbuzz results from BGGcon, or other reports tagged from that event.

-Mark
 
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