28 December 2019

Screwage: 'Take That' Mechanics in Games

A cartoon image of a person making a 'thumbs-up' gesture despite having several knives sticking into his back.

Veteran board gamers are familiar with the concept of 'take that' mechanics. The idea is that players take actions in a game that are intended to be harmful to another player's plans, or ability to score points, or otherwise be detrimental to that player.

This is not the same thing as working to achieve victory yourself. Some games operate in a directly antagonistic manner. Games that involve combat, or have area control mechanics, like Risk or Axis and Allies, do not count as 'take that' games. Rather, 'take that' mechanics are specifically about hampering other players' abilities to take action in a game, as opposed to gaining an advantage for yourself even if that advantage serves as a detriment to other players.

The various Munchkin games are great examples of 'take that' mechanics; aside from the many cards that can be played which will prevent an opponent from winning a combat, there are cards that reverse an action that was just taken (for example, there are cards that you can play when you are helping another player which will cause your assistance to benefit the monster that the other player is fighting instead of benefiting the player you're supposedly helping).

21 December 2019

Board Game Review: Decrypto

The game box. The cover art makes it look like a piece of electronic technology from at least twenty years ago, with switches, levers, buttons, vents, wires, and an oscillator screen. Across the top is a stylized banner with the title and the tag line 'Communicate safely.' A cartoon character that resembles a computer from the 1990s is winking and holding up a thumb as he peeks over the top of the banner.

One of the new games I got to try at Geekway this past May was an interesting game called Decrypto. John's daughter discovered it, and insisted that she and her friend play it with me and John. It was a fun game, and I bought a copy so that the Dork Spouse and I could play it with our friends Gemma and Caroline. So I think I should review it for you now.

Decrypto, by Thomas Dagenais-Lespérance and published by Le Scorpion Masqué and Iello, is a teams game in which you want to communicate a code number to your teammate(s) without the rival team discerning the number.

Let's start with the usual numbers:

14 December 2019

PinkFae Archive #54: How to GM Part 9: Handling Player Conflict

This is the final entry in the PinkFae Archives. It is also the final entry in the 'How to GM' series. It was originally published on 18 February 2017.

Two warriors, a human in armour casting a fireball spell and an elf wearing only trousers wielding a large sword, fighting against one another on a bleak landscape with streams of lava flowing by. It is implied that these are the characters of two players letting player conflict spill over into the game.

 Player conflict is a problem that all GMs must face at least once in their life. It may result from any number of causes. But regardless of the cause, it can result in a total disintegration of the gaming group. Even if everything else is going well, two players (or their characters) being antagonistic towards one another can ruin the game for everyone.

Ideally, you'll be able to assemble a group that gets along well enough that this won't be an issue. But sometimes, no matter what you do, two people may develop an insurmountable conflict in the course of playing. Even worse, a disconnect may arise between a player and you, the GM. How do you handle this situation?

In today's entry, we'll look at ways to minimise potential player conflict, and how to handle it when it does happen. Whether vetting potential players or mediating between players once the game has started, there are always ways to avert this possible crisis.

07 December 2019

PinkFae Archive #53: Board Game Review: Power Grid

In this, the penultimate entry from the PinkFae Archives, we have the last board game review I wrote for that site. It was originally published on 11 February 2017.

The game of Power Grid in the course of a four player game. The board represents a map of the continental United States with various cities connected by network lines. Wooden house tokens in the various players' colours have been placed on many of the cities. Along the bottom of the board are black, brown, orange, and yellow tokens representing the various resources. Cards and more tokens lie around the board on the table.

In my quest to play eighty of the top 100 board games, I have finally been able to play Power Grid. I first heard of this game when I read the Cracked article 6 Board Games that Ruined It for Everyone. That article lists Monopoly as the worst board game of all time. Perhaps it's only fair to say it's the worst widely known board game of all time. But the article goes on to recommend Power Grid instead. The article states:
Power Grid is everything Monopoly should have been. You're genuinely aiming to build a monopoly, earning ever-increasing fountains of money, but you still have to spend every cent to stay ahead of the competition.
I've only been able to play once, but I already know I need to own a copy for myself. Let me explain why.

Let's look at some ratings:

30 November 2019

PinkFae Archive #52: How to GM Part 8: Awarding Experience Points

As we near the end of the PinkFae Archives, we come to the second to last entry in the 'How to GM' series. This article was originally published on 4 February 2017.

A variety of medals on blue ribbons lying in a pile, representing the concept of rewards, which is how many players perceive experience points.

 The evening is over, and the game is finished for tonight. Everyone is ready to go home. There's one last thing left to do. It's finally time to award experience points. For some players, this is, in some ways, the entire point of the game. They see it as a reward for having done a good job. Getting a lot of experience indicates that they're a proficient gamer. After all, it helps them feel as if they were useful to the completion of the goal. For that reason, awarding experience points is an important and often delicate task.

Depending on the system you're using, this can be a very easy task, or it can be daunting. Let's look at some of the intricacies involved in effectively awarding experience.

23 November 2019

Board Game Review: War Chest

The components of War Chest. A game board, with several cards arrayed to one side, the velvet bags on the other side, a tray of tokens behind it, and the game box lying open nearby.

When I went to Geekway to the West back in May, I won a copy of the game War Chest by Trevor Benjamin and David Thompson, published by Alderac Entertainment Group, in the play-to-win drawing. I think the time has come to review that game for you!

The premise behind the game is that a grizzled warrior gives a gift to a young prince to help him prepare to be a great leader in times of war. The gift was a War Chest, a crate of tokens used to play a game designed to help the future king learn to adapt to the constantly shifting conditions in a battle.

War Chest is that game.

Let's start as we always do: with some numbers.

16 November 2019

PinkFae Archive #51: Fate Core: An Overview of a Great Roleplaying Game

We are getting closer to the end of the PinkFae archives! After today's entry, there are only three more archives left!

This article was originally published on 28 January 2017.

The Logo for the Fate Core System, which is the word 'Fate' in large stylized block letters, with the A rising higher than the other letters, in white on a blue gradient background, with the words 'Core System' in smaller white block letters underneath.

I've played a lot of roleplaying games in my life. I've talked about some of them here before, like Changeling: The Dreaming. The first I ever played was Marvel Super Heroes from TSR. I've tried the big, well known ones like Dungeons and Dragons. I've also played many small obscure ones, like Albedo, The Whispering Vault, and Tales from the Floating Vagabond. Although I'd heard of the Fate system, it wasn't until last month that I got to actually play it. A friend invited me to play in a two-session Dresden Files RPG game, which uses Fate. He then loaned me his copy of the Fate Core book.

I am a convert.

Let me tell you why.

09 November 2019

PinkFae Archive #50: Board Game Review: Five Tribes

This week's entry is another one from the PinkFae Archives. It was originally published on 21 January 2017.

A view of Five Tribes being played. There are 30 square location tiles arranged in a five by six grid. Each tile has a representation of a location from a stereotypical Arabian city, as well as a victory point value and an action icon. Distributed amongst these tiles are meeples in various colours, wooden camel tokens in various colours, wooden palm tree tokens, and wooden Arabian palace tokens. Around this playing area can be seen various resource cards, djinn cards, victory point tokens, a turn order track with Arabian-style towers marking players' turn order, and reserves of the various wooden meeples/tokens.

 A couple of weeks ago, I was looking through the top 100 ranked games on Board Game Geek. I noticed, to my dismay, that I had only played about seventeen of them. That was when I decided I needed to fix that. So I made a new year's resolution for 2017. Before the end of this year, I want to, at some point, be able to say that I've played at least 80 of the games on BGG's top 100 list. This led to me playing Five Tribes with some friends last week.

I'll talk more about this resolution on my other blog, where I'll also keep track of how many I've played. But for now, I will use the opportunity to review a wonderful game. At first, I was hesitant to try it, based on the relevant episode of Tabletop. I have learned that I need to be less reliant on that series. Games that look uninteresting to me turn out to be a lot of fun. That was the case with Five Tribes; I really liked it. So let's see why, starting with the numbers:

02 November 2019

The Power of Good over Evil

A greyscale photo of a man against a black background. Only half of his face can be seen, and he is holding up his hand along the line dividing the visible half of his face from the half shrouded in darkness. This image is mirrored so that the man appears to be split in half with some space between the two halves of his face. On the left side of this man is the word 'good,' and on the right side is the word 'evil.'

I was rereading some of the more recent entries in the archives of The Order of the Stick. I came across the strip in which Durkon was talking about how being 'good' can be just as alluring as being 'evil.' And I found myself thinking about that. I'd like to share my thoughts on that topic with you now, if you don't mind.

Again, I know this isn't strictly game related, but it is sort of game-adjacent, especially if we're talking about roleplaying games. Even though I'm not fond of Dungeons and Dragons and other games based on that system, the fact that it is such a ubiquitous game means that the concept of 'good vs. evil' (especially in games that use those sorts of alignment systems) is a pretty frequent occurrence.

Before we get started, though, I want to make sure we understand what the terms 'good' and 'evil' mean. It's important that we all are working from a common ground if this bit of navel-gazing is to be at all productive. So this is going to be a little uber-philosophical for just a moment.

If you're ready, then here we go.

26 October 2019

PinkFae Archive #49: How to GM Part 8: The End of a Game Session

Today we have another entry from the PinkFae archives. This article is part of the 'How to GM' series. It was originally posted on 14 January 2017.

Four gamers sitting at a table playing Dungeons and Dragons. There are character sheets, dice, and pencils on the table, as well as empty food bowls and several empty (or almost empty) drink glasses, indicating that the game is at an end.

The evening is drawing to a close. The session is ending. You're nearing the end of the time allotted for tonight's game. All done, right? Time to say, 'See you next session!' and pack up your stuff and go?

Not quite.

The end of a game session is at least as important as the beginning. Before you call it a night, there are a few important details that you should cover. In this entry, we shall look at some of the essential issues to consider at the end of your session.

19 October 2019

TokenCon 2: Electric Boogaloo

The TokenCon logo: the title in a stylized balloon-like font, with the OK in 'Token' larger than other letters and the hole in the middle of the O shaped like the state of Oklahoma, and the O in 'Con' replaced by a six-sided die.

A couple of weeks ago was the second installment of Oklahoma's first and (so far) only board game convention: TokenCon! As should be no surprise to anyone, I had to attend. This year, it has expanded, both in terms of size and in duration; it was three days this time! Sadly, I wasn't able to attend on Friday, as there was a special event at work that day which lasted well into the evening... still, I was there for a good chunk of both Saturday and Sunday.

I am pleased by the overall direction of the convention. It is definitely growing; there were more people there this year. It took up more space. The gaming hall seemed more full than last year. I had a good time, and I don't regret the money I spent. Granted, I bought one of the 'early bird' tickets, so it wasn't quite as expensive for me this time. Still, I don't feel as though the ticket cost was too high this time around, as I did last year.

So let's talk about what I saw and did there.

12 October 2019

Board Game Review: Cheer Up!

The box cover for Cheer Up! A light blue background with the title in white text at the top, under that is a cartoon drawing of a king charles spaniel.  The tagline reads 'The Ultimate Party Game' and  black banner beneath it reads 'Waring: Adults Only!'

I'm going to lay all my cards on the table, just as soon as you forgive me for that terrible pun. I only sort of like Cards Against Humanity. Sure, when I first played it, I thought it was delightfully funny in a darkly immature way. But after a while, I got tired of it. Mostly because it was the only game that many of my friends wanted to play. Yeah, it's offensive in that way that non-uptight adults living in an incredibly uptight culture appreciate it. But CAH ultimately is just offensive jokes for offensive jokes' sake. There's no creativity, no strategy, no skills. In the end, it all boils down to 'which player happened to receive the card that the judge finds most humorous this turn?'

But, as I said, it's the only game that many of my friends like to play. There's a certain group of people that I like, but I can't spend much time around them because the only thing they ever do for fun is get drunk and play games, usually CAH, or if not, then one of the JackBox games.

So when I saw Cheer Up! by Chris Rio and published by Cheer Up Games, I wondered if maybe I had found a game that would appeal to those who rely on CAH for their 'gaming' needs but still provide me a little more engagement than the normal CAH-style party game so that I don't feel resigned to my fate when everyone else wants to play it.

So let's look at those numbers:

05 October 2019

PinkFae Archive #48: Geocaching Game Designer J Keller (Interview)

This article is another entry from the PinkFae Archives. It was a follow-up to archive #47, the board game review of Geoquest. This article was first posted on 7 January 2017.

A photo of interviewee J Keller and his son, co-creator Jason Keller, standing outside during a geocaching excursion.

Last week, I posted a review of the game Geoquest. This week, I have the privilege of sharing an interview I was able to do with the creators, geocaching enthusiasts J Paul Keller and his son Jason. Unfortunately, the audio recording I made of the interview did not record Jason's input, so his dialogue will not be included. However, pretty much everything he said was reiterated by his father, so don't feel like you're missing out on anything just because his words don't appear below!

PinkFae: So what made you guys decide to make this game?

J Keller: We love games, and we're pretty active in geocaching. I think we ended up looking for one, and there wasn't anything out there, and we thought we could probably do that. It kind of evolved about ten years. We made a prototype, and it was fun, and it started getting better and better, so we thought, 'Let's see if we can actually do this.'

28 September 2019

PinkFae Archive #47: Board Game Review: Geoquest

Today we have another board game review from the PinkFae archives. This one is for a game released through Gamecrafter called Geoquest.

The front cover of the box for Geoquest. The title, in yellow, with a compass rose in the center of the capital letter Q, in the upper right, with the subtitle 'Geocaching Adventure Game', superimposed over a photo of wooden steps built into a trail leading through a forest.

One of the advantages of living in the early 21st century is that there are print-on-demand services available for just about everything you might want. Games are no exception; through the Gamecrafter website, anyone can design and sell their own board or card games! This means that if anyone wants to play a game based on a certain topic, but such a game does not exist, they can make their own. Such is the case with the new game Geoquest.

J Keller and his son Jason are board game enthusiasts who wanted to find a game that captured the enjoyment they get from their other hobby, geocaching. They were unable to find such a game, however, so they created their own. It's only just recently become available on Gamecrafter, but they were kind enough to send me a copy. I was able to play with some of my friends, so today I will review it for you.

And as an added bonus, next week, I will post an interview I had with the creators! Until then, we start as always with the ratings.

21 September 2019

PinkFae Archives #46: Party Gaming: The Dangers of Playing with Non-Gamers

This week's entry is another one from the PinkFae Archives. Today's article focuses on playing 'party games,' or perhaps 'games in a party context.' It was originally published on 18 December 2016.

A group of people at a party sitting around a table playing The Resistance.

I recently went to a November holiday party. We played The Red Dragon Inn and a few other games. I became quite angry during the course of the evening, as people were playing the game wrong.

OK, that's not really a fair statement. Technically, there's not a wrong way to play a game, as long as everyone is having fun. But, of course, I was not having fun. And that can be the problem with playing games at a party. People play games for different reasons. The problem comes in when those reasons are at odds with one another.

This is not to say that board games have no place at a party. Rather, that the decision to play a game depends on several factors. Not least of which is the people with whom you are playing.

14 September 2019

Board Game Review: Azul - Stained Glass of Sintra

The game components alongside the game box. There is a pink bag with translucent tiles in various colours that resemble small pieces of glass, about the size and shape of starburst candies. There are several round tiles, a scoring board, long rectangular tiles with notched bottoms that come in four sets of eight, and wide rectangular tiles with notches along the top designed for the long pieces to fit into. There are also four plastic pawns and a tall but skinny cardboard box decorated to look like a tower of stained glass windows..

Last year, I wrote a review of the popular game Azul. Not long after that, they released a sequel in which, rather than tiling the walls of the building, you're installing stained glass windows. Needless to say, when I got a chance to play it at Geekway to the West earlier this year, I took it. And I really enjoyed this game. It's similar enough to the original that it definitely feels like it's in the same family, yet different enough to justify owning both.

So now, let us look at Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra by Michael Kiesling, published by Next Move Games. I'm going to approach this review as if you've never even heard of the original, just in case there's anyone out there who is brand new to the Azul family. I ask that everyone else bear with me.

We start, of course, with the numbers:

07 September 2019

My Review of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

The promotional poster for Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. The three main characters, the gelflings Deet, Rian, and Brea, standing on a rocky mountain surrounded by purple glowing filaments of energy, looking at the crystal of the castle in the background, as the three suns of Thra are setting beyond it.

I don't know if you know this, but I am a huge fan of The Dark Crystal.

Ok, that's a paltry attempt at humour. If you read this blog at all, you know that I hold The Dark Crystal up as the greatest example of true fantasy that has ever been created. I have written before about the astounding amount of creativity that I feel went into this film. Tolkien did something wonderful when he created Middle Earth; he took elements of existing mythology, added many of his own ideas, and blended it all together into a cohesive (and incredibly well-detailed) world.

Almost all fantasy (excluding 'modern fantasy,' obviously) has followed on that pattern to some extent. Some fantasy worlds do away with non-human races (like Game of Thrones), others add or remove or alter some non-human races (Earthdawn added the Obsidimen and T'skrang, for example), but they're otherwise all more or less the same basic idea of pseudo-medieval settings with magic.

This is not the case with The Dark Crystal.

31 August 2019

Educational Games

A man sits at a table with two children who appear to be in kindergarten or first grade, playing a board game with them. The game is a modular board made up of tiles containing roads through grassy fields, and the players are placing brightly coloured plastic pieces on the board.
This image is from the K-State Research and Extension, made available under a Creative Commons CC BY 2.0 license.
When I think of educational games, I tend to think of boring, clunky games that simply ask players to perform the task they're supposed to be learning. For example, a third grader who's supposed to be learning multiplication might play a game in which they draw a card with a multiplication problem on it, and if they correctly solve that equation, they get to move their piece along the track on the game board.

Boring. Clumsy. Essentially no different from flashcards.

Of course, a lot of games that exist teach valuable skills without making it the point of the game. Dungeons and Dragons gives players lots of practise at basic mathematics just as a result of the bonuses, penalties, buffs, and so on involved in rolling dice for task resolution. Abstract strategy games like Chess, Go, Santorini, and Hive hone players' planning, reasoning, and critical thinking skills. Most games offer opportunities to refine social skills. And so on...

24 August 2019

PinkFae Archive #45: How to GM Part 6: Beginning a Campaign or Session

Today we have another entry from the PinkFae Archives. This one is another installment in the 'How to GM' series. It was originally published on 10 December 2016.

A road, beginning at the bottom of the image and stretching away from the viewer into the background, fading in the distance. In the foreground, the word 'start' is stenciled on the road in large white letters.

Last time, we talked about running a game session. However, there is an important corollary that goes along with this idea. That is the the understanding of how to begin a game session. But this concept of a beginning doesn't apply exclusively to game sessions: the beginning of a campaign is just as important (in some ways, more so!). So we're going to talk about beginning things in today's session.

For those less familiar with gaming, a trope exists about most campaigns beginning in a tavern. The location of the beginning is less an issue than the nature of the characters themselves. I wrote an in-depth discussion of the concern on my other blog. In short, the first session of a campaign often starts with the characters, who have never met, in the same tavern. There are problems with this approach, which we will discuss later in this article. The important point here: the beginning of a campaign or game session is very important.

17 August 2019

PinkFae Archive #44: Board Game Review: Widow's Walk for Betrayal at House on the Hill

Today's entry is another PinkFae Archive. This one is another board game review, but unlike most of the reviews I've written, this one is a review of an expansion. It is thus far still the only review I've written for an expansion. It was originally published on 3 December 2016.

A display photo of the Widow's Walk box.The cover art shows a three-storey mansion in silhouette, with a pair of tombstones nearby, as a creepy old woman, perhaps a ghost or witch, looms over the mansion, grinning wickedly, as she reaches her hands down towards the mansion.

Back in 2004, Avalon Hill released an innovative board game called Betrayal at House on the Hill. A friend had a copy, and I got to play it, and loved it so much I bought a copy. It became popular, and many of my friends loved playing it. It soon went out of print, though... but demand increased. So in 2010, they released a second edition, with improved parts and corrections. It continued to be popular. So everyone continued to wonder why such a popular game had no expansions. Earlier this year, they announced the first expansion: Widow's Walk.

This review is going to be a little different. Instead of reviewing the game itself, I'm going to review an expansion. If you're not familiar with the base game, you can read my review over on my other site.

10 August 2019

PinkFae Archive #43: Fantasy: Defining a Genre

Today's entry is another article from the PinkFae Archives. It was originally published on 26 November 2016.

Fantasy: noun, plural fantasies. 1. imagination, especially when extravagant and unrestrained. 2. the forming of mental images, especially wondrous or strange fancies; imaginative conceptualizing. 3. a mental image, especially when unreal or fantastic; vision: a nightmare fantasy. 4. Psychology. an imagined or conjured up sequence fulfilling a psychological need; daydream. 5. a hallucination. 6. a supposition based on no solid foundation; visionary idea; illusion: dreams of Utopias and similar fantasies. 7. caprice; whim. 8. an ingenious or fanciful thought, design, or invention. 9. Also fantasia. Literature: an imaginative or fanciful work, especially one dealing with supernatural or unnatural events or characters: The stories of Poe are fantasies of horror. (Taken from dictionary dot com)

Normally, when someone says the word 'fantasy,' a person is most likely to think of one of two things:

  • A literary genre, or films and television shows in that same genre, involving magic in a world, most likely in the milieu of the European middle ages, that often includes elves, dwarves, goblins, and other semi-mythological beings.
  • A desired or preferred sexual activity.

Obviously, we're not going to talk about the second of these. But as gamers, we often find ourselves in games that fit the first.

03 August 2019

Board Game Review: Charon Inc.

The cover art for Charon Inc. Slightly simplistic crawing of various sci-fi buildings with different coloured domes for roofs, on the moon Charon, with pipes running along the surface subdividing the surface into areas, with flags of different colours at the junctions of these pipes. There are rocks and crystals in yellow, green, and blue lying on the surface. A rocket ship is seen blasting off in the background and an artificial satellite hovers in the distance.

John recently mentioned to me that he missed having a copy of Charon Inc. by Emanuele Ornella and Fred Binkitani, published by Eagle-Gryphon Games. He had had a copy previously, but had lost it recently. So I felt moved to buy him a copy. He was so excited when I gave it to him that we played it that very night. I'm so glad we did, because I really enjoyed it. Now I will review it for you!

The premise of this game is that players represent CEOs of mega-corporations exploiting Pluto's moon Charon for mineral resources to build various buildings, which score victory points. And with that, let's take a look at the ratings!

27 July 2019

PinkFae Archive #42: How to GM Part 4: Running the Game Session

Today, we have another installment of the PinkFae Archives. This article is the next in the 'How to GM' series. It was originally published on 19 November 2016.

Four people sitting at a table playing a roleplaying game, one person is GMing, and the others are playing.

Finally, the time has come to play! You've assembled a gaming group and you've chosen a game. You designed the campaign, and you're ready with the story for the first session. Now you're sitting at a table with your friends, dice nearby, and the players all look at you. What do you do now?

20 July 2019

PinkFae Archive #41: Board Game Review: Tides of Madness

We come once again to a PinkFae archive. This article is another board game review. It was originally published on 12 November 2016.

A game of Tides of Madness in progress. Two face up cards are clearly visible in the foreground, with a number of face-down cards and a couple more face up cards visible beyond them. In the centre of the table are some madness tokens.

Earlier this year, Portal Games released a Cthulhu-based card game called Tides of Madness. It was a rework of their game Tides of Time, which was released last year. It's a surprisingly enjoyable game, given that it consists entirely of eighteen cards and a handful of tokens. I got to play it a couple of weeks ago, so I will review it for you today.

13 July 2019

PinkFae Archive #40: Descriptive vs Statistic: An Evolution in RPGs

Today's article is another entry from the PinkFae archives. It was originally published on 5 November 2016.

The current cover art for three descriptive roleplaying games: Bluebeard's Bride, Fiasco, and Fate Accelerated

 Last week, when I posted the interview with Whitney Beltrán, I had to cut out a lot of material. The transcript of our conversation was over 5,000 words long. I usually try to post articles of around one thousand words. Generally, I keep a thousand five hundred as an upper limit. Even cutting out entire sections of the conversation, it was hard to get the article down to two thousand words. This is especially disappointing to me, as there were some really interesting topics that I had to remove entirely. The interview I posted absolutely stands on its own. It does a great job of communicating the important aspects of the game. But one of the topics I had to eliminate was a discussion of the evolution of roleplaying games. In particular, we discussed how roleplaying games are becoming less statistics-based, and more descriptive.

06 July 2019

Board Game Review: Architects of the West Kingdom

The cover art for Architects of the West Kingdom. The top half is a painting of a king, a battle-scarred knight, and a noblewoman, all looking at the viewer. The bottom half is a Gothic cathedral midway through construction, covered with scaffolding and surrounded by wooden cranes. The painting is done in a moderately cartoon-y style that has more of an avant-garde feel than a childish feel.

I've posted before about the reasons why I don't like worker placement games. I find that I don't like feeling like I have no good options available to me; most worker placement games limit the actions I can take, either by restricting how many tokens can occupy a single space or by providing me with a very small number of tokens to place. Often both. So when I see that a game is a worker placement game, I tend to be reluctant to try it.

I am pleased to report that Architects of the West Kingdom does not suffer from these annoying factors. I was pleasantly surprised by this game, and I ended up enjoying it quite a lot. So for today's entry, I will review this game. Starting, as we always do, with the numbers:

29 June 2019

PinkFae Archive #39: Bluebeard's Bride: An Interview with Whitney Beltrán

This article is an installment from the PinkFae Archives. It was originally published on 29 October 2016.

The cover art for Bluebeard's Bride. Bluebeard himself holds his wife in an awkward embrace, as she holds a ring of keys and hesitates, unsure of her husband. The image is in greyscale, except for Bluebeard's hair, which is blue, and the ring of keys in the bride's hand and some accents in the bride's dress, which are a muted bronze colour.

About a week ago, I received an email from Whitney Beltrán, one of the creators of a game called Bluebeard's Bride. I agreed to do an interview with her. We sat down over Skype, and I am pleased to share a condensed version of our conversation. We started with the usual pleasantries, before I described PinkFae's mission.

Whitney Beltrán - That's a pretty fascinating intersectionality. Because Bluebeard's Bride is specifically a feminine experience, whether you are a man or a woman or somewhere in between. It would be really interesting to see what trans men or trans women think of this. Would they react any differently than anyone else? Probably not, but would there be special purviews where they would identify with things more strongly or less strongly? It's a whole separate bag, that I am not super qualified to talk about, because I am not trans. But I would be interested to explore.

22 June 2019

PinkFae Archive #38: Board Game Review: Steve Jackson Games Triple Threat

This week's entry is another board game review from the PinkFae archives. It is also an entry in the series of articles on Gen Con 2016. It was originally published on 22 October 2016.

A banner made up of three images fading into one another: on the left, a photo of the board from Bill and Ted's Excellent Board Game (cartoon-style temporal pathways in the style of the original movie) with cardboard pieces representing the players in phone booths and characters from history). In the middle is the cover for I Hate Zombies (a cartoon style man, grimacing in anger and covered in bandages, with a horde of zombies behind him). On the right is the box for the Simon's Cat Card Game next to several of the cards from the game, all decorated with the character from the titular comic.

For my last entry about Gen Con, I'm going to do three board game reviews in one article. Why? Partly because the games are all short and simple. Partly because they're all from Steve Jackson Games. Partly because it's time to finish up the Gen Con posts and get on to something else! So we're going to look at the three games they demoed at their 'Play New Releases' table: Simon's Cat Card Game, I Hate Zombies, and Bill & Ted's Excellent Board Game.

Strategy and Randomness are rated from 0 to 6. A 0 means the rated aspect plays no part in determining the game's outcome; and a 6 means that it is the only factor that determines the game's outcome. Complexity is also rated from 0 to 6; a 0 means that it's so simple a six-year-old can play it, a 3 means any adult should have no trouble playing, and a 6 means that you'll need to refer to the rulebook frequently. Humour can be rated as 'None,' meaning the game is not meant to be funny, or it may have one or more of the following: Derivative (meaning the humour is based on an outside source, such as a game based on a comedy film), Implicit (meaning that the game's components are funny, such as humourous card text), or Inherent (meaning that the actions the players take are funny). Attractiveness has nine possible ratings. Ideal: the game is beautiful and makes game play easier. Pretty: The design is beautiful and neither eases nor impedes game play. Nice: The design is beautiful but makes game play harder than necessary. Useful: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but eases gameplay. Average: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Useless: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Utilitarian: The design is ugly, but eases gameplay. Ugly: The design is ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Worthless: The design is ugly, and makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Average Length of Game Play describes how long an average game will probably last, give or take. Gamer Profile Ratings measures how strongly a game will appeal to players based on their interest in one of four areas. These areas are measured as High, Medium, or Low. Strategy describes how much a game involves cognitive challenges, thinking and planning, and making sound decisions. Conflict describes how much direct hostile action there is between players, from destroying units to stealing resources. Social Manipulation describes how much bluffing, deceiving, and persuading there is between players. Fantasy describes how much a game immerses players in another world, another time.

The Ratings

Here are the ratings for all three games.

15 June 2019

Board Game Review: Mixed Company

The game box, a green box just large enough to hold a couple hundred normal-sized playing cards. The box is green, with the name and logo on the cover. The cover sits next to the bottom, which holds a number of cards. Some of these cards are lying on the table next to the box. Some cards are face down, so you see the back, which consists of the name and logo. Others are face up, so you can see that they have a white speech balloon on a green background, with a variety of different text in the balloons.

I didn't mention in the article I wrote about Token Con back in October, but one of the things I did was learn about an interesting new game called Mixed Company. As I was walking through the company booths, someone at one of them said, 'Would you like to play a game?'

I responded, 'Is that a trick question?' I sat down and learned how to play. It was a fun little game, and after we played a round and the designers were discussing some of their plans for the development, I asked them, 'Is this game just a way to trick people into learning good discussion and debate skills?'

Their answer was, 'I think that "trick" is a strong word. Maybe "encourage?"'

Being a big fan of rational discourse, I was of course intrigued. Additionally, the game was fun! So I followed their facebook page, and as soon as their kickstarter went live, I immediately backed it.

I've received a reviewer copy, and have played again with some other people, so I think the time has come to review this game so that you can decide if you want to back it.

08 June 2019

PinkFae Archive #37: How to GM Part 4: Preparing a Game Session

This entry was part of the 'How to GM' series on PinkFae. It represents a brief break in the entries about Gen Con. It was originally published on 15 October 2016.

A line drawing, coloured, of a swan standing on a large stone telling a story to two other birds standing nearby. In the background is a castle near some farmland and some clouds. This image is meant to be symbolic of a GM leading a game session.
A swan telling a story. Much like the GM tells a story to the players in a game session, often of fantastical tales, such as a swan telling stories.
I have one more post to write on Gen Con. But we've been hearing about Gen Con for months now. Let's take a break before we finish it up. It's been a long time since we've had any installments on the Analysis of GMing series. Let's get another one of those in! This time, we'll talk about planning a game session.

So you've chosen a game, gathered a group of players, and have a design for the overall campaign. It's time to start getting into the nitty-gritty. Before you meet up with your players for that first session, you need to know what's going to happen in that session. So let's take a look at that.

01 June 2019

Geekway to the West

The Geekway to the West Logo: a green meeple under a blue arch that resembles the Gateway to the West arch in St Louis. Next to that, in white letters, is the title, with a white arrow pointing to the right under the 'to the' part of the title.

My friend John has been trying to get me to go with him to the Geekway to the West convention in St. Louis, MO, for several years now. I wasn't able to go, because work obligations prevented me from being able to take the time off when the convention was happening.

Until this year.

I went to the 2019 Geekway, and boy did I have a great time!

For those who don't know, Geekway to the West is a board game convention that takes place annually in the St. Louis area. Unlike Gen Con, which is dedicated to tabletop gaming of all sorts, and which has tons of panels on all sorts of gaming-related topics, Geekway is focused exclusively on board games. Pretty much everything there is about playing, buying, selling, or trading board games. They have some tournaments, and a few special events (like the 'fancy gaming' event, and the game design contest, and the craft fair), but other than that, it's all board games all day.

25 May 2019

Board Game Review: Ginkgopolis

The cover art for Ginkgopolis. A man and a woman in vaguely futuristic clothing looking at some technology that appears to be planning the construction of a futuristic city, standing on a metal platform in a grassy area with a few trees, as a path runs towards some sci-fi buildings in the background.

Not too long ago, I got to try out a game that you may have heard of. It's called Ginkgopolis, by Xavier Georges, from Z-Man Games. I had fun learning it, and am anxious to try it again, now that I know how to play it! See, it's... not quite an area control game, and not quite a deck-builder, and not quite a resource management/building game... but it's got elements of all of those things, all crammed together in a most intriguing little mechanic!

But I seem to be getting ahead of myself again, as I am wont to do. So let's pause for a moment and take a look at the numbers:

18 May 2019

PinkFae Archive #36: ZOE (Zombie Orpheus Entertainment) - A Great Little Company

This article is another entry from the PinkFae Archives. It is another in the series I wrote about Gen Con 2016. It was originally published on 8 October 2016.

The ZOE logo: a white circle with five hands rising up from the bottom in silhouette, as if they were the hands of zombies erupting up out of the ground. A short arc, about a quarter the circumference of the white circle, concentric with the white circle, runs along the bottom edge of the circle, bisecting three dots. This logo, which is white on a background of dark blue fading to black in gradient, is the inverse of the normal colours: a black logo on a white background.

One of the booths I stopped at whilst I was at Gen Con was the Zombie Orpheus Entertainment booth. I knew I wanted to see what they had, because I'd enjoyed Dark Dungeons so much. ZOE was the company that had produced that particular film. So I stopped by and talked to one of the representatives for a moment. This is what they had to say.

11 May 2019

PinkFae Archive #35: Board Game Review: Tell Me a Story

This week's entry is another PinkFae Archive, this one being a review of the game Tell Me a Story from Escape Hatch Games, by Kirby Atwood, Cody Faulk, Brent Woodside, and Kayla Woodside. It is also an installment in the series I wrote about Gen Con 2016. This article first appeared on 1 October 2016.

The box, about 3 centimetres by 7 centimetres by 5 centimetres, with the game Tell Me a Story. The box is black with various white line drawings all over it, and a large speech balloon with the title n the front and the lid.

A brand new company called Escape Hatch Games had just released their first game a month or so before Gen Con. As I was wandering around the exhibit hall, I saw their booth, with the name of this first game proudly displayed on a banner behind them, and I knew I had to check it out. I stopped to ask them about it, and they did a quick one-round demo with me, and I knew I had to have it. Last week, I finally got to play a full game for the first time with three of my friends. It was epic. So now I shall review for you, my loyal readers, the wonderful game called Tell Me a Story.

04 May 2019

PinkFae Archive #34: MetaArcade: A New Frontier in Roleplaying Games.

This week's entry is another PinkFae archive from the series I wrote about Gen Con 2016. This article is a look at MetaArcade, an online platform allowing solo gaming using the Tunnels & Trolls system. This article was originally published on 23 September, 2016.

The MetaArcade Logo: The word MetaArcade in stylized letters, the first four in blue and the rest in red.

One of the more interesting things that I got to see at Gen Con was the MetaArcade booth. They're working on an interesting new concept: digital roleplaying. That sounds like computer or console-based RPGs, like the Final Fantasy series or Secret of Mana. But it's not. Here, let me explain. In order to explain, we'll need to go back in time to 1975, in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Tunnels and Trolls logo: the words in a fancy serif font, coloured yellow, curved up in the centre, with a troll's head at the end of the text.

Tunnels and Trolls

A librarian by the name of Ken St Andre read a friend's copy of Dungeons and Dragons, and loved the idea of fantasy roleplaying. However, he thought that D&D's rules were too complex, and the need for multiple polyhedral dice would intimidate new players. So he wrote his own game in the same genre, calling it Tunnels and Trolls. Although it was very similar to D&D in feel and style, the rules were more straightforward, and it only required six-sided dice. St Andre self-published the first edition, and in July of that year, Flying Buffalo mass produced the first commercial edition.

27 April 2019

Board Game Review: Majesty: For the Realm

The cover art for Majesty: For the Realm. A queen stands in front of four other people; two look like warriors, one looks like a young peasant girl, and the last one looks like an old peasant woman. The queen is holding a fancy cushion on top of which sits a crown. These people are looking towards the viewer with fields in the background; windmills and other buildings can be seen in the distance.

I have been learning a lot of cool new games so far this year. One of those is Majesty: For the Realm. It's a quick but fun little game from Z-Man Games, designed by Marc André. The premise of this game is that the players are competing to claim the crown. Players must manage the subjects in their domains to amass more power than their rivals.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this game at first, but in the end, I found myself quite enjoying it. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, shall we? Let's look at the numbers for this box of fun:

20 April 2019

PinkFae Archive #33: Diversity Panel at Gen Con 2016: A Review

This week's entry is another installment from the PinkFae Archives. This one was first published on 11 September 2016.

The official illustration of Shardra, the first trans character in Pathfinder, an excellent representation of diversity in gaming. She is a dwarven female in elaborate shaman clothing, holding a large mace, with a fantastical lizard-like creature on her shoulder.

One of the panels I attended at Gen Con was 'Diversity in Gaming.' I expected it to be about ensuring an inclusive environment for all people in the games industry. Instead, it was three staffers from Paizo, the company that publishes the Pathfinder roleplaying game, discussing their company's policies on inclusiveness.

Not what I expected, but still worthwhile.

13 April 2019

Board Game Review: Santorini

I realised recently, much to my surprise, that I hadn't yet reviewed Santorini, published by Roxley Games and Spin Master Games. Let's fix that right now, shall we?

The cover art from the Santorini box.It shows a small island with buildings of the style of the Greek cities on Santorini being built by two cartoon representations of Greek Gods (specifically, Poseidon and Aphrodite). A few humans can be seen on the island, in the buildings, and on the nearby mainland. In the background, Hermes and Demeter are watching from a cloud.

This is a surprisingly deep and thinky-thinky game for as quick and simple as it is. It feels like it was designed as a kids game, and although the rules are simple enough that children can easily learn to play, there's enough strategic depth to satisfy most adults.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves, shall we? Let's look at the numbers:

06 April 2019

My Unusual Dice Collection

A couple of weeks ago, in my glossary of gamer jargon, I mentioned that I personally own some oddly shaped dice. I thought it might be fun to share some of those with you today. Of course, my collection is nowhere near as large as the amazing dice collection shown at dice collector dot com (warning: that site is very much stuck in the mid-90s, webdesign-wise). But I do like the small collection of odd dice that I have.

So, here we go.

Now, when I say that I have some odd dice, I'm not talking about dice that are just alternate shapes of 'normal' dice, like these two unusual d6s:

A small black ball with white dots painted on the sides as if it were a cube, and a length of a hexagonal steel rod with holes punched into the sides, a different number of holes on each side.

That's one that's a sphere (it has a small weight inside it, and ridges in which the weight can sit, so that it will always stop with one of the numbers on top, even though it's just a sphere) and one that's a length of hexagonal steel with 'pips' punched into the sides.

30 March 2019

PinkFae Archive #32: Board Game Review: Oceanos

This week is another PinkFae Archive. It is the fourth of the articles I wrote about Gen Con 49, which took place in August 2016. This article is a board game review of one of the new games that was debuting at that Gen Con. It was originally published on 5 September 2016.

A game of Oceanos in progress at Gen Con. Four people sitting around a table with their first row of ocean cards in front of them, and their modular submarine tiles nearby.

One of the great things about attending Gen Con was getting to play new releases, or preview games that were about to be released. Oceanos is one of those games. It's a new release from Iello, the company that publishes the King of Tokyo line. In this game, players control whimsical submarines exploring the depths of the ocean to collect animals for their aquariums. You also gain points for other items, such as treasure chests and coral reefs.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the beginning, by looking at the numbers for Oceanos.

23 March 2019

Gamer Jargon

A book, bound in black textured leather, entitled 'Gamer Jargon,' on a wooden surface.

Recently, as I was writing an article, I found myself using the term FLGS. It occurred to me that not everyone will know what that means, so I decided to spell it out. And then I decided, as this blog is meant to be welcoming to everyone, there might be some people who need to know, for one reason or another, what many of the terms that are frequently used in gaming circles actually mean.

So I decided to create a glossary. This entry is going to be a list of terms used in tabletop gaming, either board games or roleplaying games, that are commonly understood by serious gamers, but perhaps not so well known to new gamers or people who are not as deep into gaming culture.

I imagine this will not be an exhaustive list. I expect I will add to it occasionally. If there's anything I've missed that you think I need to add, please let me know in the comments, and I will get it in the list as soon as I can.

16 March 2019

Board Game Review: Churrascaria

The game components next to the game box. The box has an illustration of several large skewers of various types of meat. The components show the food deck with a few cards face up, the action/reaction deck with a few cards face up, the six food request tokens (three on sim - the 'yes' side - and three on não - the 'no' side), and a basic rules and a turn actions card.

A friend of mine, David Thomas, is one of the founding members of Absurdist Productions. This company recently produced, as a result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, a game called Churrascaria. That word, pronounced CHEW-huh-scar-EE-uh, refers to a Brazilian Steakhouse. This game is about diners eating at a churrascaria, earning points for gorging on meat and losing points for eating sides and desserts.

Bear with me, I'll expound on that in a moment.

But much to my surprise, I recently realised that I have not yet written a review of that game! So, in order to rectify that error, I shall review it now. Starting, as we always start, with the numbers.

09 March 2019

PinkFae Archive #31: Crossplay: A New Adventure in Geekdom

This week's entry is another PinkFae archive. The article is another entry in my series that I wrote on Gen Con 49 in 2016. It was a fascinating look at an interesting phenomenon in the geek community: crossplay and gender bending cosplay. It was originally published on 27 August 2016.

A young man demonstrating crossplay, dressed as Jinx, a character from League of Legends, with a blue wig with long ponytail braids, pink shorts, a bikini top, and a large fake multi-barrel firearm.

Gender identity is a hot topic at the moment. With issues like the current assault on the rights of transgender individuals in Texas, the nature of gender is at the forefront of socio-political discourse at the moment. This points to a current major trend in modern culture, with gender at the centre of that trend. Many people still firmly believe that sex and gender are binaries, and equivalent binaries at that. However, others realise that sex and gender are spectra which do not always correspond to one another. One of the more fascinating phenomena resulting from this is the concept of crossplay.

02 March 2019

Board Game Review: Antidote

Every Friday, I head over to my friend Zeb's house to play games with him, John, and (if I'm lucky) Zeb's wife Jenna. A few weeks ago, as we were sitting around the table deciding what we wanted to play that night, I asked about a game that was on the table near John. It was called Antidote. John was amazed that he had never played that game with me, and so they immediately set out to teach me how to play. Now I shall review it for you.

The game box. The cover art has an hourglass formed by two laboratory flasks, one inverted and placed on top of the other one. Several of the cards used in the game are displayed along the bottom edge. The text at the top reads 'A game of deduction, deception, and mortality.'

It was an interesting game, in large part because a kindergartener and a first grader ended up playing with us. The suggested ages on the box say 13+, but a six- and a seven-year-old were able to grasp the basics of play and do reasonably well.

Anyway. Enough of that. Let's get on with it!

23 February 2019

Hype in the Board Games Industry

It's late in February, and I still haven't done a 'Best of 2018' article. I did that last year for the best of 2017, but I chose not to do one this year for several reasons. Perhaps the main reason is because I was so focused on doing the 10×10 challenge in 2018 that I didn't have as much chance to play many of the new games that came out that year.

But another big part of the reason is because most of the games that came out that year didn't look interesting to me.

I tend to be hype-averse. If something gets really hyped, I'm likely to avoid it. I don't even always realise that I'm doing it; it just happens. As one example, I'll tell you about my experience with The Hunger Games. A good friend of mine recommended the series to me back in 2011. She told me a quick overview of what it was about, and it sounded like something I'd find interesting. I was waiting for a time to be able to pick up a copy and read it.

But before I had a chance, the release date for the first Hunger Games film was announced. All of a sudden, the internet was abuzz with people who were dying of anticipation. The vast majority of people were talking about how they couldn't wait to see the film! And the next thing I knew, I had lost all interest in reading the book or seeing the film.

16 February 2019

PinkFae Archive #30: Interview with Emily Whitehouse of On the Lamb Games

This week's installment of the PinkFae Archives is the second of the articles I wrote about Gen Con 49 in August of 2016. This article is an interview with Emily Whitehouse, one of the founders of On the Lamb Games, which sadly closed their doors in November of 2017. Hopefully, this interview (which was originally published on 20 August, 2016) will serve as a bit of a reminder of who and what they once were.

Emily Whitehouse (nee Fontana) poses for a photo in the On the Lamb Games booth at Gen Con 2016.

One of the things I was most looking forward to at Gen Con was getting to meet Emily Whitehouse. She's one of the co-founders of On the Lamb Games, a small company which is probably best known for their miniatures game Endless: Fantasy Tactics. I went by the On the Lamb Games booth and was delighted to meet Emily, whom I had until that point known as Emily Fontana. I would later learn that she had been married in June, so it's Emily Whitehouse now!

But we were able to find some time to conduct an interview. Now I will share with you, my faithful readers, the wisdom that she has imparted unto me.

09 February 2019

Board Game Review: Dinosaur Tea Party

The box cover: an orange dinosaur holding a teacup and a pale blue stegosaurus with green spots, both wearing fancy tea party clothing such as hats, brooches, and bow ties, at a table adorned with tea and small cakes. Under the title is the byline, 'A game of civilized deduction.' At the bottom it reads, 'Every game deserves another turn.'

I recently got to play an adorable little game. It's designed primarily as a family game, but it's got some depth to it. It's called Dinosaur Tea Party by Restoration Games, and it's a game in which players try to figure out which dapper dinosaurs the other players have in their hands. It's a little like the game Guess Who?, but with some extra mechanics to make it better in all the ways it needs to be better.

Sure, it's not going to satisfy your need for a heavy head-scratcher, but as a light game between bigger ones, or if you want to play a game with some young people that won't leave you completely bored, it's a great option.

Before we get any further into it, let's take a look at the numbers.

02 February 2019

PinkFae Archive #29: Gen Con: An Overview of an Awesome Convention

As a result of my association with PinkFae, I was able to attend the 2016 Gen Con on a press pass. I wrote a series of articles based on my time there. This is the first of them. It was originally published on 13 August 2016.

A view of the exhibit hall at Gen Con, with people walking amongst the booths, which have a variety of signs both on the booth itself and hanging from the ceiling, including a giant inflatable Pikachu visible in the background.

As most of you know, I was able to attend Gen Con last week. It was my first time ever to attend a convention (apart from the small local one that doesn't really count). I had no idea what to expect from conventions in general, nor from Gen Con in particular. Needless to say, I had ridiculous amounts of fun. I got to play lots of games, see lots of panels, learn lots of things, and of course, buy lots of games. I have a lot of ideas for articles about my time at Gen Con, so look for those in upcoming weeks. Just a small sample of some of the entries I'll be writing include:
  • An interview with Emily Whitehouse of On the Lamb Games
  • An article about crossplay and genderbending
  • Reviews of some new release games that debuted at the con
  • A discussion of Zombie Orpheus Entertainment
And more! So this space is going to be pretty busy over the next couple of months. Be sure to check back weekly to see if I've managed to get something new up.

26 January 2019

Board Game Review: Swordcrafters

I don't back many projects on Kickstarter. There has to be something extra appealing about it before I will throw money at it. But there has been just such an example fairly recently, and I finally got my copy of it not too long ago. And today, I will review that game for you. So here is my review of: Swordcrafters.

Most of the components of the game, next to the box. There is a score tracker with pieces for each player, a set of tiles representing a section of a sword blade, most with a single jewel in the centre, cardboard tiles shaped like sword hilts, plastic pommels into which those hilts can be inserted, allowing the sword to stand up, and some crossguard tiles.

I was intrigued by the game's primary premise: you are constructing a three-dimensional sword out of two-dimensional tiles. It sounded like an interesting mechanic, so I had to give it a chance. I became a backer, and I have not been disappointed.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Here come the numbers: