31 December 2016

The Best Games of 2016

So here we are. The last day of 2016. And a few days ago, I found an article on Ars Technica entitled Game on! The Best Board Games of 2016. They list the 20 games that they played most often in this past year.

Sadly, I don't have as much time to play games as I would like. And what time I do get is often spent on older games that I've played before. Which is not a bad thing; getting to play a great game more than once is always a good thing! So before I get to the main part of my article, a quick overview of the games that I played most often in 2016, regardless of when they were first published:

Most of these are because they're games that I own and other people enjoy. When I'm at other people's places, we usually end up playing something I've never played before. Which is also not a bad thing.

17 December 2016

Board Game Review: ...and then we held hands

Most board games fall into one of two categories: fiercely competitive or humorous (sometimes both). Even in the case of co-operative games like Pandemic, Lord of the Rings, Hanabi, or Ghost Stories, there's still a strong component of competition. Although the players are not competing against each another, they are competing rather intently with the game itself, leading to strong feelings of tension. A handful of games are more story-oriented, where players are trying to tell amusing stories rather than to laugh or compete.

Another interesting phenomenon is the scale of how many players can play in a specific game. Seldom do I get to play two-player games any more. The Dork Spouse doesn't generally like the same sort of games I do, so there are few two-player games on which we can agree, and when I'm playing with friends, there's usually more than two of us there. Even on those few occasions in which I am playing with a single other player, we almost always end up playing games designed for 2 to 4, or 2 to 6. So the number of games I have that were designed specifically as two-player games almost never get taken off the shelf.

And when you combine these, the phenomenon gets even more interesting. By which I mean: when's the last time you heard of a two-player co-operative game?

Sure, most of the co-operative board games mentioned above can be played with two players, but they can handle up to 4 (Pandemic, Ghost Stories) or 5 (Lord of the Rings). It seems that co-operative games are not intended to be limited to 2 players.

...and then we held hands turns all of these ideas on their heads.

A game of ...and then we held hands, ready to begin. The board is in the centre, made up of three concentric rings made up of dots in blue, green, black, and red. On each side is a five-space sliding scale of negative two to positive two. There is a red glass bead on the centre space of the left scale, with another red bead on the space of the outermost ring closest to that scale. Two blue beads are arranged in a similar fashion on the right side. On both the right and left side are six emotion cards, each of which covers half of the card below it, and the top card half-covered by a plain white and grey cover card. On the far side of the board are three stacks of eight goal cards, with one card turned face up next to the first stack to show the red 'anger' icon.

10 December 2016

Games Storage

How many games do you own? 10? 20? Are you a semi-serious gamer like me, who owns nearly 100 board games, and several RPGs with supplements? Are you a super-serious gamer like John, who owns somewhere in the area of 800 board games and multiple book shelves laden with nothing but RPG books?

Even if you only own a handful of games, you may struggle not just with how to store the games themselves, but storage of the game components within those games. This is growing to be a major concern in the gaming industry. We're going to talk about about storage of games and game components.

04 December 2016

Collapsed Games

Remember a few months ago, when I mentioned that I was going to be streaming a Changeling campaign over Twitch?

That didn't last very long. We had a total of two actual game sessions. And it became apparent to me during that time that I was the only one actually invested in the game.

I could sit here and wax poetic about the reasons why the other players weren't into it. I could gaze at my navel and ponder whether they really were invested, and I just couldn't tell. But the fact is that gaming is my creative outlet. Especially when I'm GMing. It's not just a hobby for me. It's how I express myself.

I've said it before, but it's very true. Some people paint. Others write. Some compose, perform, and record music. I even know people who express their creative urges through creating board games and card games.

I run game sessions.

26 November 2016

Board Game Review: Harbour

Two players contemplating their next move at Harbour. Both are sitting at a table looking at the components of Harbour, which are spread out before them.
Are you ready for a surprisingly great find? A friend introduced me to Harbour a couple of weeks ago. It's a game about owners of shipping companies building structures on the harbour to increase the amount of goods you can purchase and sell. That sounds really lame, doesn't it? And yet, between the humorous artwork and card text, the innovative mechanics, and the robust, competitive game play, this game turns out to be extremely enjoyable.

Don't believe me? Just look at the ratings:

19 November 2016

A Followup to Last Week's Entry

Last week, I posted an entry about Kickstarter. Specifically, I was talking about how some projects are on there because it's a new company (or perhaps just an individual) who has no way of bringing their idea to fruition without crowdfunding. Other projects are there as a way of gauging interest; some creators put their ideas on Kickstarter to see how many people are willing to back it, and if the project doesn't reach its goal, then it's probably not a viable product.

But there are quite a few people who use Kickstarter only as a way of funding a project without having to spend any money themselves.

By the way, for those of you who are curious, Conspire managed to get funded with just hours to spare. They finished at 101%, beating their goal by a mere $101. It was close; I wasn't sure it would make it. I was actually checking in every 20 minutes or so to see how they were progressing.

Anyway. Whether or not a creator truly needs the money is only one consideration in deciding to back a project. Another factor is the stretch goals (for those of you who don't know, a 'stretch goal' is an extra something that will happen if the project reaches a certain goal). A perfect example is the Order of the Stick Reprint Drive. Rich Burlew, an independent artist responsible for The Order of the Stick webcomic, wanted to get his older books back into print, but didn't have enough money to do this on his own. He wanted to reach a goal of just under $58,000 to bring volume 3: War and XPs back into print.

12 November 2016


I was talking to a good friend recently about backing new games on Kickstarter. He brought up an interesting point. He described the criteria he uses to decide which projects to back. The way he described his approach, he would back games from new producers who looked like they have the potential to become something noteworthy. If it's a producer's first game, he's willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Subsequent projects will be judged on how he felt about the first project.

But one thing he said that was really interesting was that he won't back projects from big companies.

This is of particular interest to me, as I watch people going crazy for the new game from The Oatmeal. The game is called Bears vs Babies, and is currently sitting at nearly 25,000% funded.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that Bears vs Babies is a bad game. I'm not even saying that the previous game, Exploding Kittens, was a bad game. I've played it, and enjoyed it, and am not averse to playing it again.

05 November 2016

Board Game Review: Terra Mystica

A game of Terra Mystica in progress. The board, made up of a series of hexagonal spaces, each representing a different terrain type, some with discs to indicate that it has been changed to a different terrain type, is covered with wooden pieces of various types, some of which have cardboard tokens indicating that they've been turned into cities.
I recently got to learn a hefty game called Terra Mystica. Being the dedicated game reviewer that I am, I will now review it for you. As always, we start with the numbers.

30 October 2016

Loot & XP

It has been nearly a year since the local board game cafe opened. I'm sure you remember me posting about it when their Kickstarter went live. I also briefly mentioned in another post that I had attended their backer party the night before they opened. But I haven't yet written an article about them.

I will rectify that right now.

Loot & XP (the gaming hub of Norman) is the local board game cafe. They began a successful Kickstarter in August of last year, and opened their shop on 12 December 2015. The venture was undertaken by five friends who owned a massive game library, and decided to share their love of games with their home town. They held a series of public events at the local library to generate interest, which paid off in the long run.

23 October 2016

Mobile Games

I've mentioned before that I'm not a fan of computer games. There are a few that I enjoy, but on the whole, I don't play them. Usually, it's because (as I've described previously), I enjoy games that allow me to engage in social interaction in a manner that is less stressful than normal.

You Don't Know Jack is an exception. Whereas most computer games are either single player, involve taking turns so that you have to switch places with the other player, or are played over a network so that you're not actually in the same room as the other players, YDKJ has all the players with their hands on the keyboard simultaneously. This makes the game more social in nature.

Hypothetically, games on smartphones would be similar, right? To an extent, they are. However, there are a couple of games that serve to foster interactions, rather than replace it. I just discovered one last week.

15 October 2016

Board Game Review: CV

A couple weeks ago, I got to play an interesting game called CV. That's short for curriculum vitae, which is Latin for 'the course of life.' Although the term is used in the UK to refer to a usually two-page document similar to what Americans call a 'resume,' this game is based on the idea of telling the story of a person's life.

But we're here to hear the story of a game. So let's start with the statistics:
Strategy: 4
Randomness: 3
Complexity: 2
Humour: Implicit
Attractiveness: Pretty
Average Length of Game Play: 1 hour
Gamer Profile Ratings:
  Strategy: Low
  Conflict: Low
  Social Manipulation: Medium
  Fantasy: Medium

08 October 2016

Board Game Week at Geeks Are Sexy

The fine folks over at Geeks Are Sexy decided to spend a week looking at board games. If you don't regularly follow that site, first off, why the heck not? And secondly, here's a list of the five articles they posted as part of that theme:
I thought that these articles were fairly well written, for the most part. I especially liked days 1 through 3.

I kind of disagreed with Day 4, though. Perhaps it's just my personal preferences, but I wasn't impressed with their picks. The first suggestion, Pick-omino, I had never heard of. But even after watching a video tutorial, I'm still not super impressed. The second one, Zombie Dice, runs into my dislike of zombie themes. I've played it once, and wasn't too keen on it anyway. Their final suggestion is Fluxx (or some variant thereof). I've played a few different iterations of this game, and they are all basically the same. And my problem with them is the same as well: they have very little player agency. Sure, players get to decide which card they want to play on their turn, but the winner is basically chosen at random by whoever happens to draw the needed cards when the correct Goal card is in play.

01 October 2016

The Little Guys

I've recently begun reading Redshirts by John Scalzi. I'm only 50 or so pages in, and already I love it. Not only because it's clearly a look at the plight of being a redshirt in the original Star Trek series, but because it's telling a story from the point of view of the lowest-ranking crew members on board.

The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode 'Lower Decks' is one of my favourite episodes of that series. It's a great story in its own right, but seeing the operations of the Enterprise from the perspective of junior officers, who don't know what's going on, was a fascinating change from the usual stories told in most media.

A friend once told me of a disagreement he had with someone, in which he was describing the reasons he didn't enjoy playing Dungeons and Dragons. The other person's response was that he 'liked playing characters that were larger than life.' That is very much a part of American culture, and informs a great deal of the stories told in this country. Nearly every movie, every TV show, even a majority of books and comics and other stories tend to have the leaders as the main characters. From Star Trek to Battlestar Galactica to the X-Men franchise to A Song of Ice and Fire to iZombie, the protagonists are always the ones with access to resources and in some sort of leadership position. That leadership may take the form of being a lone wolf (as is the case with The Doctor from Doctor Who, who works with a single companion at a time, or Conan, who works alone most of the time unless he knows he needs help), making him the leader of a gang of one (so to speak).

24 September 2016

Board Game Review: Hot Tin Roof

The cover of Hot Tin Roof: Three cartoon cats on the roofs of buildings in a city landscape. One appears to be dancing to a cartoon-style song.
Leo Colovini is the creator of one of my very favourite games: Clans. Hot Tin Roof has a very different feel. Instead of neolithic settlers coming together to form the first villages, players of Hot Tin Roof are moving cats around the neighbourhood, over buildings, across clothes lines and telephone wires, and through patios to collect the most fish.

I first played this game as a 'Mammoth' version at Gen Con. I thought it was cute, so I bought it as a gift for the Dork Spouse. Of course, it's a bit different when you're moving wooden cat meeples around a board, instead of adorable fluffy plush kittens on a carpet with the game board printed on it.

Still, it was a fun game, so I shall review it now. Starting, of course, with the numbers.

18 September 2016

What is a Hero?

Most modern adventure games, including both roleplaying games and video games, tend to gravitate towards the concept of heroism. Players are often looking for a chance to be the hero, and use games to vicariously experience the thrill of being the hero.

But what does it mean to be a hero?

The concept of heroism has changed over the years. Beowulf, for example, was considered a hero not only because of his strength and courage, but also his honour, loyalty, generosity, and hospitality. Compare that with many of today's heroes. John Wayne is often considered a hero by many Americans, due in large part to his integrity, his unwillingness to compromise his ideals. The Frankish hero of Roland was idolised for his bravery; he refused to sound the call for reinforcements until his army was nearly defeated and there was no hope of rescue. The Babylonian hero Gilgamesh went in search of the secret of immortality, only to have it stolen by a snake whilst he slept.

10 September 2016

Star Trek: Beyond

Back in October, I published my ranking of the Star Trek films. As I'm sure you know, a new Star Trek film was released almost two months ago. I really don't want this blog to turn into a movie review site, but I just have to express what I thought of the new one.

Be warned: This review contains spoilers. If you haven't seen this film and don't want it spoiled, DO NOT READ THIS ARTICLE.

In fact, I'm going to put this behind a cut just to make sure. Because


There. Now let's continue.

04 September 2016

Board Game Review: Imhotep

A friend of mine recently acquired a copy of Imhotep. He brought it to game night, and I got to play it. Now I shall review it for you.

As you may remember, last time I did a board game review, I added some categories based on the Quantic Foundry board gamer motivation profile tool. I have codified those into my ratings system. Here is the new one:
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, andmakes 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.

Strategy: 5
Randomness: 1
Complexity: 2
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Pretty
Average Length of Gameplay: 45 minutes
Gamer Profile Ratings:
   Strategy: High
   Conflict: Medium
   Social Manipulation: Low
   Fantasy: Medium

27 August 2016

Resources for Gamers

I recently stumbled across a fascinating twitter account. It's a bot designed to generate a new fictional map once per hour. These maps are designed to resemble the maps you'd find in the back of cheap paperback fantasy novels. It occurred to me that these maps can easily be adapted for use in original game worlds.

This started me thinking about other resources that GMs can use for their games. So here is a list of a few useful websites. Click on the images to be taken to that site!

20 August 2016

Streaming Changeling Is a Go!

I've just finished recording a test run at twitch.tv. Ok, technically, I've recorded several test runs, but the last one was the only one that worked as I had intended, so the others have been deleted.

But the point is, it looks like we're a go for streaming our first Changeling session this coming Tuesday! That's the 23rd of August, 2016, just in case you're reading this post in the future and the date has already passed. Sorry, future boy, you missed it. But you can watch the archived video for as long as twitch.tv keeps it up!

Anyway. This session will be chargen. The group will discuss how their characters are connected, and then I will guide them through the process of creating those characters. If you're interested in watching this video, you can tune in at 6:00 PM CDT (on the off-chance that you're watching from somewhere else in the world, you can check this handy time converter to see what time that will be for you).

13 August 2016

Board Game Review: Dead of Winter

A few years back, Wil Wheaton launched his web series Tabletop. This was very exciting to me; I like Wil Wheaton, and I like board games, so a series based on showing people new games to convince them to try them sounds like a great idea!

I'm beginning to realise, however, that the series is imperfect. I wish I had some advice on how to improve it; the one thing that I know is, in watching the show, I decided that there are some games that don't look interesting to me. Some episodes made me think that I'm just not interested in trying the games showcased in those episodes.

This can be a bad thing, because at least twice now, I've tried a game that I had previously thought I wouldn't like, only to find that I did like it. I'm not sure why that is, but with both of these games, I saw the Tabletop episode and thought, 'That just doesn't sound like it'd be very enjoyable to me.' Then when I had a chance to actually play the game, I found it was actually a lot of fun.

The first such game was Ticket to Ride. It's still not high on my list of favourite games; I doubt I'll ever feel a need to own it. But I won't be opposed to playing. The second game? That's the one I'm going to review today. That's right: Dead of Winter.

01 August 2016

Upcoming events and ...things

This summer kicked my butt. It's nearly over, but there's no end in sight for the butt-kicking. Which is not the same as the Butt-Kicker player type... anyway. My summer job did not go as planned, and I ended up having many other obligations on top of that. Most notably, a trip to Denver to see the Sting/Peter Gabriel concert (which was amazing, by the way). Next week, I'll be in Indianapolis for GenCon (about which I'm both excited and terrified). The week after, I start back at my normal job. This year, my responsibilities at this job will be expanded. Needless to say, I'm very scared of what this will entail.

In addition to all of this, I've started a new Changeling group. It's hard to make our schedules meet; too many people have had too many things going on this summer. Trips and holidays and family get-togethers and other similar obligations... we started back in May, and have had three total gaming sessions so far (not counting the chargen session). But it's still been a challenge to prepare the story for them.

And now, I've apparently decided to show just how crazy I really am, by starting up a second Changeling group. Two of my co-workers at my summer job have gamed with me before, and really enjoyed it, and wanted to start gaming with me again. Plus, a new person at the summer job that wasn't there last year has expressed interest, as has his wife (whom I've met and thought was pretty awesome). So we began discussing getting a new group going.

But wait! There's more!

23 July 2016

Wonder Woman

I just saw the first trailer for the upcoming Wonder Woman movie. Especially given that I had just moments before seen the trailer for an upcoming King Arthur movie, I am full of thoughts.

Again, even though it's not directly gaming related, I'm going to take a little bit of a detour and talk about something else nerd-related. Hold on to your hats, people, here we go.

Thoughts on Movies in General

I used to like watching movies. I really did. I watched quite a few of them. Then one day, when I was working at Blockbuster Video (many years ago, obviously), I looked out over the many shelves of films on both VHS and DVD, and found myself wondering how many different titles there were. I did a little calculating and estimated that there were probably around 700 titles in that specific location alone.

Just that one store.

16 July 2016

Board Game Review: Eclipse

Longtime readers of this blog may notice that I've already written an entry entitled 'Board Game Review: Eclipse.' That entry was not about Asmodee's space conquest game.

This one is.

The two games are very very different. This one (the Asmodee version) is a very heavy game. It usually takes around two hours or more, and has a lot to keep track of.

Speaking of keeping track, let's look at the stats, shall we?

Strategy: 5
Randomness: 2
Complexity: 5
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Pretty
Average Length of Game Play: 2 hours

09 July 2016

An Overview of the Original World of Darkness (Part 3)

(continued from part 2)

Other games in the original World of Darkness

I never played any of the games that came after Changeling. The first, Hunter: The Reckoning, went against everything I loved about the first five games. Mummy: The Resurrection was a reworking of an earlier supplement, and I felt that it ruined everything that was wonderful about the original version. Demon: The Fallen brought into the World of Darkness a religious aspect that had been absent from previous games, and I was very disappointed by that fact, so I never looked into it. And although I owned a copy of Kindred of the East, I never got to play it. In fact, I never got to read it, primarily because I knew I wasn't likely to get to play it.

They did also release historical versions of most of the original five. It began in 1996 with the release of Vampire: The Dark Ages. It was essentially the same as the original Vampire: The Masquerade, but it was set in 1197 CE. The primary vampiric sects (the Camarilla and the Sabbat) had not been created yet, and there were some other differences reflecting the state of the vampires at that time. The following year saw the release of Werewolf: The Wild West. As with Dark Ages, it reflected the state of the Garou in the late 1800s. The next year, they released Mage: The Sorcerer's Crusade. It had more changes than the other historical versions, as the mages had changed far more in their history than the vampires or werewolves. But it still reflected the state of the mages in the year 1466 CE. The year after that, they released Wraith: The Great War. This game reflected the status of the dead in the wake of World War I. It was the first of the historical games that was not a stand-alone game. It did not include all the rules needed to play; new players would have to already know the rules if they didn't want to buy another core rulebook in the World of Darkness line.

02 July 2016

An Overview of the Original World of Darkness (part 2)

(continued from part 1)

Mage: The Ascension: 

Players take on the role of a powerful wizard. There are three primal forces that work together to form the universe: Dynamism (creation and unbridled possibility, often seen as pure chaos), Stasis (order and lack of changeability), and Entropy (destruction and cessation of existence). There are four factions of mages: the Technocracy (representing Stasis, champions of safety and dependable mundanity; they see themselves as stewards shepherding the Sleepers — those humans who've not awoken to the true magical nature of the universe — into a paradise of technology and security), the Mauraders (those mages who have given themselves over to — or been overtaken by — the pure chaos and insanity of Dynamism), the Nephandi (mages representing Entropy who have 'sold their souls' to ancient demonic beings from other planes of existence, serving them in exchange for vast power), and the Tradition Mages (those who represent some level of balance between Stasis, Dynamism, and Entropy). Tradition mages run the gamut from traditional Hermetic magi (think Merlin or Gandalf) to shamans to Wiccans to the mentalist Buddhist-monk type, and even mad scientists or those who use computers to try to free the minds of the Sleepers.

25 June 2016

Board Game Review:Ghost Stories

Today is the day when I review another board game. For this outing, we'll look at a fun little co-operative board game. The name of this game is Ghost Stories, but don't be fooled by that name: it has nothing to do with sitting around a campfire trying to scare your friends. Instead, players are taking on the role of Taoist monks trying to defend a village that is being besieged by demons. It's hard, and it's maddening, and it's oh so much fun. But let's do this properly: I'll start, as always, with the numbers.
Strategy: 4
Randomness: 3
Complexity: 3
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Pretty
Average Length of Gameplay: 1 hour

19 June 2016

An Overview of the Original World of Darkness (part 1)

In 1991, Mark Rein•Hagen's game Vampire: The Masquerade was released. This game took the roleplaying community by storm, and soon was one of the most prominent RPGs in the hobby. It was the first of five games planned by Rein•hagen, who intended to release a game about werewolves next, followed by one about wizards, one about faeries, and one about ghosts.

The order and specifics changed a bit; the game about wizards came to be known as Mage: The Ascension, the one about ghosts was named Wraith: The Oblivion and was moved up to be released before the one about faeries, and that final one came to be known as Changeling: The Dreaming. But all five of those games were released:
  • Vampire: The Masquerade (1st edition 1991; 2nd edition 1992)
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse (1st edition 1992; 2nd edition 1994)
  • Mage: The Ascension (1st edition 1993; 2nd edition 1995)
  • Wraith: The Oblivion (1st edition 1994; 2nd edition 1996)
  • Changeling: The Dreaming (1st edition 1995; 2nd edition 1997)

11 June 2016

Large Group Games

The Dork Spouse and I haven't had a board game night at our house in several months now (with the exception of that dinner party the Dork Spouse hosted some weeks ago as a thank you to some people who helped her out at a big event). There are many reasons for this; we're super busy with other things; we're currently on Smart Hours for the summer which makes timing difficult, many of the people we invited often don't show up, etc). But one thing that always bothered me about Board Game Night when it did happen was that, on those few occasions in which more than a couple of people showed up, there are not very many games that accommodate a large number of players.

In our current inventory, the following games are the only ones that permit more than six players:
  • Bananagrams (2 or more)
  • Cards Against Humanity (2 or more)
  • Citadels (2 to 8)
  • Gloom (2 to 7, if you don't mind slow game play)
  • Tsuro (2 to 8)
  • Uno (2 to 10)
  • Pictionary (3 to 16)
  • Slap .45 (3 to 7)
  • Superfight! (3 to 10)
  • Winter Tales (3 to 7)
  • Apples to Apples (4 to 10)
  • The Resistance (and Avalon) (5 to 10)
  • Guesstures (4 or more)
  • Werewolves of Miller's Hollow (8 to 18)

04 June 2016

Board Game Review: Coup

Here we go with another example of a misnomer: Coup is not actually a board game, but a card game. No matter, though; I shall review this amazing fun and easy (and very quick!) game. Prepare for political upheaval: we're going into the world of The Resistance again to take a look at a truly enjoyable game called Coup.

As always, we start with the numbers:
Strategy: 3
Randomness: 2
Complexity: 2
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Pretty
Average Length of Game Play: 15 minutes

28 May 2016

How much is enough?

I've been feeling lately like I don't get to play enough board games. This is a strange feeling for me to have, because most Tuesdays, I go the the local board game club, and every other Friday, I go to my friend's house to play board games. I even get in a third session on some weeks, when we have special events, like when the Dork Spouse planned a special board game night as a reward for some people who helped her out at a recent event, or the Dork Spouse and I go to the local Board Game Cafe for kicks.

But I keep thinking about some of the games I have in my collection (51 distinct titles, not counting expansions or classic games like Chess or Backgammon), and how long it's been since I've been able to play some of them (it's been years since I've played Settlers of Catan, and I've owned Winter Tales for two and a half years now, and still haven't ever played it once). I also find myself thinking about how much I enjoy playing certain games with certain people (there's a young woman I know with whom it is very rewarding to play The Resistance: Avalon).

Remember, of course, that games are an important part of my social life, because they serve as a framework for me, around which I can build my social interactions. Sometimes, in fact, I feel as if games are the most meaningful social contact I am capable of having. When I lack that interaction, it can feel as if I'm not getting enough social contact.

22 May 2016

Road Trip to GenCon!

As most of you know by now, I've been writing for PinkFae for several months. This wonderfully progressive gaming site is in the process of becoming even more respectable and noteworthy, as the director intends to apply for non-profit status. To that end, I've been given the title of 'senior writer,' as well as a stack of business cards (which I've been passing out like candy, sheerly for the novelty of it). In fact, the director wants me to go to GenCon.

I applied for a press pass under the PinkFae banner, and was issued one. And last week, a friend and I booked a hotel together. Since the Dork Wife will not be attending (she is, after all, not as obsessed with gaming as I, and she looked into other attractions in the Indianapolis area, and decided that she was not interested in doing anything else there whilst I was at the convention), I needed to find someone to go with me so that I'm not making the 12 hour drive alone.

At any rate, the hotel has been booked and paid for, so this is something that is going to happen.

14 May 2016

Board Game Review: Firefly: The Game

As promised, this week is another board game review. Since I haven't yet (for some reason), I'm going to cover the great board game based on a great series: Firefly: The Game. We start, as always, with the ratings:

Strategy: 2
Randomness: 4
Complexity: 4
Humour: Derivative
Attractiveness: Pretty
Average Length of Game Play: 2 ½ hours

09 May 2016

Can card games be humorous?

Ok, the past month has been beyond insane. I spent several weekends working on my celtic folk music duo, and one weekend lying in bed for nearly two days straight because I was so ill. Then, this past weekend, I sat down to write a new entry for this blog... and came up completely blank. No matter how I tried, no matter what I looked at on boardgamegeek.com, no matter who I talked to, I had no ideas. So this entry is a couple days late. But I finally have an idea, so I'm going to run with it.

Obviously, the title is a little tongue in cheek. Of course card games can be humorous. But what I'm talking about here is the tendency of games to be card-text-heavy, which can slow the game incredibly.

Let me explain.

16 April 2016

Discrimination in the Geek Community (cross posted from pinkfae.com)

A friend of mine recently posted a link on facebook. This link led to an article about women experiencing harassment at gaming conventions. He also included a link to a second article discussing the same topic. Both articles were, I thought, well written, and described a common problem. The sad truth of the matter is that the geek community does include a lot of discrimination. Obviously, it's most commonly directed at women, but it's not limited to that demographic. There are examples of anti-LGBT+ discrimination as well. I would like to take a moment to discuss my thoughts on this matter today.


I'm going to be discussing some fairly bothersome topics in this post. In order to adequately talk about discrimination, I will have to provide some examples of that discrimination. This will include some language that will be offensive, as well as possible triggers. Please be aware that some of what I am about to say is going to bother some people. Use your best judgement in deciding whether to continue reading beyond this point.

26 March 2016

Board Game Review: Balderdash

Last week, I talked about games belonging to the 'pick the right answer' family of games. This reminded me of one of my favourite board games: Balderdash. Well, I haven't reviewed that game yet, so I will do so now. We start, as always, with the numbers:

Strategy: 1
Randomness: 1
Complexity: 1
Humour: Inherent
Attractiveness: Varies by edition. The one I have is the original, which I would rank as Average.
Average Length of Game Play: 45 minutes.

19 March 2016

'Pick the Right Answer' games

I was thinking about Dixit the other night, as a result of playing the game Mysterium. The latter was described to me as a combination of the former with Cluedo (or Clue for my American readers). This reminded me of one of my favourite board games: Balderdash. For those that don't know how it works, Balderdash has a set of cards, each of which contains five words that can be found in at least one English dictionary, but are not commonly known. This includes words like 'quincunx' and 'coprolite.' Players take turns as the 'dasher,' who reads off one of the words on the card. Everyone (including the dasher) writes the word on a slip of paper. The dasher writes the real definition of the word on his paper (the real definitions being provided on the back of the card), and everyone else makes up a definition for this word. The dasher shuffles all these papers together and reads out all the definitions. Everyone else then takes turns voting for the definition that they think is the right one. You get points for guessing the correct answer, and also for each person that voted for your own answer.

Dixit is essentially the same, but instead of making up definitions for words, you're coming up with simple (one to four word) descriptions of paintings. The cards are lavishly illustrated with elaborate artwork, often somewhat surreal in nature. Players take turns as the 'storyteller,' who chooses a card and gives a short description (something like 'Memory' or 'Loneliness' or 'Lost in the storm'). The other players then choose a card from their hands that they think can also be described by that word or phrase. All these cards are shuffled together, and players must choose which one they think is the storyteller's.

12 March 2016

Creating an Adventuring Party

'You all meet in a tavern...' so runs the cliched beginning of a great many roleplaying games. Even those that aren't set in a fantasy setting still have the PCs meeting up in a similar location (a dive bar for Shadowrun, just as an example). This trope is so overused and so well known that there are counter-tropes starting to show up. One example is the Giant in the Playground (the website where the Order of the Stick webcomic is hosted) forums, where some participants have sig files that read '78% of DM's [sic] started their first campaign in a tavern. If you're one of the 22% that didn't, copy and paste this into your signature.'

I honestly don't remember how I started my first campaign. I'm not even sure what my first campaign was. It may have been that game of TSR's Marvel Super Heroes. But I could be wrong.

Regardless, even if the adventuring party didn't start in a tavern, the existence of the trope points to a specific phenomenon within the gaming world: PCs who begin the campaign as strangers. This is by far the most common way for games to begin. For most of my early gaming experiences, this was the norm. In fact, it was so much the norm that when my gaming group started playing Werewolf: The Apocalypse, we ignored the pack rules.

05 March 2016

Board Game Review: Stratego

Most people who read this blog probably already know Stratego. But it's one of the games I most enjoy, so I'm going to review it anyway. That's right! It's board game review time, and this week, we're reviewing that old classic, Stratego! First, the numbers:

Strategy: 4
Randomness: 1
Complexity: 1
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Varies by version. The 'Nostalgia Series' version, which I have, I'd rank as Pretty.
Average Length of Game Play: 30 Minutes

28 February 2016

Myf and Idris

I've been spending so much time talking about storytelling lately that, along with contemplation of the rebirth of Changeling, that I'm in the mood to tell you another story, this time about faeries. So for your enjoyment, I wish to share with you now a story I wrote back in 2006. So here it is: the story of Myf and Idris.

In a small village in Wales named Porthgain, there lived a fisherman named Idris. He would go down every day to the shore and climb into his boat, push off into the sea, and cast his net. He worked hard to catch his fish, and at the end of each day, he rowed back to shore with his bounty. He set aside enough fish to feed him for the next day and took the rest to market, where he sold them for just enough to afford some bread and milk, the rent on his small cottage, and the materials to repair his boat and nets.

One day, he went to his boat and saw a small lagomorph nibbling on a flower growing from the pebbles beside his craft. As he approached, the creature, a brown hare, turned to peer unafraid at him, and did not run. Idris began to think that he would be able to catch the hare and cook it for dinner, to give him something to eat besides fish. He took a net and crept towards the hare, but just as he got close enough to toss the net, the hare darted under a nearby rock. Idris gazed at the animal, feeling somewhat lugubrious.

21 February 2016

A close look at combat and other systems

I was thinking this morning about the combat systems in roleplaying games. With the exception of Fiasco (and possibly Amber Diceless Roleplaying which I've never been able to try), the mechanics of any game system focus very heavily on combat.

Rules systems vary from incredibly complex and detailed, with exacting descriptions of any foreseeable permutations described (like those in Dungeons and Dragons or GURPS) to vague and intuitive (like Little Fears). But no matter the system, it is always the most detailed part of the rulebook (unless you count the magic system, but given how many of the spells described in most games are usually most applicable in combat situations, the magic section may as well count as part of the combat system).

This makes sense, given the way that roleplaying games grew out of miniatures war games. It's only reasonable that the first RPGs were, in essence, a system for emulating combat between individual characters.

13 February 2016

Board Game Review: Gloom

It's time for another board game review! Aren't you excited? Of course you are! This week, we're going to look at the wonderful game Gloom. Ok, yes, it's not a board game, it's a card game. Hush.

A table with several Gloom cards on it, the hands of some of the players visible as they reach for the various cards.

We can't have a game review without the ratings, can we? First, the new rating chart:

06 February 2016

Changeling Returns to Life

I just learned that there was a Kickstarter campaign that closed a couple of months ago for a new 20th Anniversary edition of Changeling: the Dreaming.

This upsets me a little bit. I really wish I had known about it. I would have pledged. I really hope that there's nothing available to the backers that won't also be available to non-backers at some point... if there are any books that I can't get, I will be seriously angry.

As anyone who's read much of this blog is aware, I am very fond of Changeling. I think I've done a pretty good job of explaining why I love it so much.

30 January 2016

And now for something completely different... Storytime!

I'm going to do something different again this week. I've been thinking a lot about stories lately; in particular, about how games that involve storytelling (such as Gloom or Fiasco or most tabletop RPGs) are so satisfying because they follow Freytag's Pyramid.

So I thought I'd share one of my favourite stories. This is the story of Alice. I first heard this story when I was in middle school, and a professional storyteller came and told us some stories. So now I will share the story with you.

23 January 2016

Board Game Review: Scotland Yard

This week is a review of the family game Scotland Yard. Don't be fooled by the fact that it's a Parker Brothers game marketed at families; despite its simple format and easy rules, it has a lot to offer the serious gamer. So let's get right to it and look at this fun little game.

The five clear, colourless plastic pawns from the Scotland Yard board game, on the game board. The board is a stylised map of London, with various street intersections labelled with a number. These numbers are connected by one or more lines of green, yellow, and/or red. The pawns each have a coloured dot to indicate which player's they are, except the one in the centre, belonging to Mr X, which has a white dot marked with a black X.

And much to the surprise of nobody at all, the first thing we see in reviewing this game is the ratings:

17 January 2016

Games as social interaction

How much do you know about autism spectrum disorders?

I know this seems a strange question to ask at the opening of an article about games, but bear with me for a moment.

In a sense, the autism spectrum disorders (on which, admittedly, I am no expert either, but my understanding is that it's not really a spectrum, though the various related disorders are still referred to under that umbrella term) are a lack of the normal social hardwiring in the brain that is usual for human beings. Let me explain a bit more in depth:

Whereas most animals developed certain physical or sensory advantages to allow their survival (for example, the web-spinning ability of many spiders, or the echolocation abilities of insectivorous bats, or sharks' teeth, and so on), the trait that allowed humans to survive was their social networks. Like wolves and other pack animals, humans developed an ability to co-operate that increased their chances of survival. Their need for greater inter-dependency developed a feedback loop with their intelligence; they needed to be smarter so they could support larger co-operative social groups, and they needed larger co-operative social groups so they could be smarter.

09 January 2016

Why do I like the games I like?

I have joined the writers at Pinkfae.com. I will be posting weekly articles over there as well as what I write here. Some of those articles will be duplicates of what I've written here (sometimes, I'll be writing about a topic I've covered before on this blog, and other times, I may just copy an article directly to that site).

I just submitted my second post to that site. As I was working on it this morning, I was contemplating the question, 'Why do I like the games that I like?' Most of the games I enjoy playing are of what I call the 'thinky-thinky' variety. They involve a lot of careful thought, weighty decisions, deliberate planning, and consideration of the actions of your opponents (and how those actions might totally hose you if you make a mistake!).

But then there are those games I like that do not involve much thought at all. Games like Panic on Wall Street, or The Red Dragon Inn. Why do I like these games that don't require the use of grey matter?

This got me to thinking. So I sat down and made a list of my favourite board games (and one roleplaying game that lasts a few hours at most, because it seems to fit better in this category than with traditional roleplaying games). Then I sorted those games into the different reasons why I like them. Here's what I came up with:

01 January 2016

Board Game Review: Star Trek Road Trip

As one of my christmas presents, I received the Star Trek Road Trip board game. When I went to Board Game Geek to update my collection, I discovered that there was virtually nothing in the entry for that game. No photos, no description, and just the tiniest hint of an overview in the text description.

In the course of working to update these shortcomings, I decided to write a review so that I could add it to the entry for this game. So today's post will be a review of Star Trek Road Trip. Activate inertial dampers, we're about to engage the warp engines!

Here's the damage report, captain:
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, andmakes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Average Length of Game Play describes how long an average game will probably last, give or take.
Strategy: 1
Randomness: 5
Complexity: 1
Humour: Derivative
Attractiveness: Nice
Average Length of Game Play: 1 hour