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  •  

    About four years ago there was a great blog post by Ancient_of_MuMu called The Moustaches of Sci-Fi Calender. I'm not going to do a calendar. I could force another seven characters onto the list, but frankly the eye-patch look is harder to pull off than you might think. So I'm going with the Top 5.

     

  • My local gaming club has fallen from the dizzy heights of about eight regular members when we started six months ago to a paltry two. But Rob and I keep slogging on, rain or shine, to get down the pub to play games and drink beer religiously on a Monday night. There are a couple of others who come on rare occasions but everyone else seems to have vanished. They don't even answer emails. Either I'm too abrasive or they were just too much of a Euro loving crowd. I did try to please them. I even agreed to play Race for the Galaxy for fucks' sake.

    But for now it's just me and Rob. The two good things about this arrangement are that Rob & I have a fairly similar taste in games, and that he owns hardly any games which means I can inflict whatever I'm feeling like that particular evening on him without feeling guilty about it. Last night I exposed him to Nexus Opsfor the first time.

    Our first game was unfortunate as a learning experience because I had the majority of the mines on my side of the board, and whilst he struggled valiantly to raise victory points I just swamped him with troops, and managed to keep the Monolith for most of the game. The second was rather more competitive. This time it was me who couldn't get on the Monolith for love nor money - one battle we hard ended up with everyone on both sides dying but he played a Force March card on his turn to re-occupy it. Seeing it was a lost cause I gave up, and focussed on fulfilling those secret objectives instead to the exclusion of all else, even defending my mines. I raced up to 11 points in double quick time, and had four rock striders against a human to take my last point and win the game. And all four dice fluffed! Disaster! That sort of thing would be infuriating in a longer game, but in Nexus Ops it's just funny.

    So we finished the night with honour even and one game apiece.  But I came away with a newfound respect for Nexus Ops. Although I've always thought it fun to play, the lack of metagame and the rather repetitive nature of the cards and units lead me to label it as a game with a poor shelf-life. Now I'm not so sure: there's actually quite a bit of subtlety and creativity in the tactics, and there's some hard choices on offer too.  The fact it's short and simple is just the icing on the cake.

    Rob wants a copy, but I've no idea where he'll find one in England. Anyone have any ideas?

  •  

     

    Of all the themes in gaming that have been given the proverbial shaft, I’d put professional wrestling at the top of the list. To my recollection, the last noteworthy wrestling game to have been published would probably have been Avalon Hill’s Wrasslin’, which unfortunately is long out of print.

    It was with great excitement when I saw that Gen X games (2 de Mayo) were bringing their new game Total Rumble at Essen in 2010. Total Rumble is a wrestling card game by first time designer Óscar Arévalo, which pits 3- 12 wrestlers in a Battle Royale styled match to vie for the coveted Champion’s Belt.

    Unfortunately this is not quite the game wrestling fans like myself who have been clamouring for. Although it’s a pretty straight forward game to play the rulebook comes in two languages Spanish and Babblefished English. It’s rife with duplicated passages, spelling errors and poor translations. I had to email the designer a few of times for clarifications and on one occasion discovered that a couple of rules were missing.

    Where it loses points with this wrestling fan is by ignoring standard wrestling tropes like kicks, grapples and throws then replacing them with numbers.

    The game comes with standard-sized cards that make up the common draw deck and 12 over-sized wrestler cards. The draw deck consists of two types of cards: “Numeric” cards and "Special Action” cards. Each wrestler comes with a unique ability and X amount of health points that ranges from 8 to13.

    The core of the game is essentially like “hot potato”. A player’s hand will consist of three cards from which they will play one on their turn.  The next player must then play a card which is equal to or greater than the previously played card (for example Pam plays a “4” card, then Eugene plays a 6 card) or avoids playing a numbered card playing a Special Action card. If a player can’t match or avoid the number in play they have to take damage. Taking damage consists of looking at your 3 cards in hand, choosing one with a number and placing it in front of you (for example Wendy plays a 6 card; Eugene has a 3, 3 & 5 in hand so decides to play a 3 as damage).Take too much damage and you’re out of the game.

    Special action cards can be played instead of numbered cards. They usually allow that player’s turn to be skipped by changing the direction of the turn order or by targeting a specific player for example.

     

    There are also ladder, chair and table cards that will either provide modifiers to cards or add extra damage to players. Any narrative potential is quickly put to rest as players usually say,  “Yes! I gotta chair!”followed up by “Sooo… that turns this 6 into… a 7!”

    And that’s my biggest problem with the game, it’s really about trying to “manage” a hand of three cards (which is pretty small), adding or subtracting a number and trying to remember what direction the turn order is going. At no point do I feel as though I’m battling for my life  in the ring against the Titans of the Mat.

     

    Now, I love games with asymmetrical player powers but the other problem I discovered was that some wrestlers powers were incongruous with the HP given.


    For example the card above says (which I've translated for clarity) " When you play a damage card (i.e.  a "3" card), all players reveal their hand. Any player that reveals one or more of the same number value, must take one and add it as damage to themselves."  That's fucking huge as this one player could lay some serious damage to other players in addition to being able to see what cards all other players are holding. To top it off his HP is 13! You would think it would be lower given his two abilities. Another wrestler can discard all his/ her cards then draw 3 new ones and yet has an 8 HP value. Even though a wrestler’s special ability can only be used once it can be regained whenever the draw deck needs to be reshuffled.

    As a wrestling card game I’m afraid Total Rumble doesn't quite fit the bill for me. As a fast paced hot potato-styled game it's fun, I only wished it gelled better with its wrestling theme. 


    My wrestling influences:

    •Stampede Wrestling (1948-1984)

    •The Dynamite Kid

    •Davy Boy Smith

    •Pro Wrestling for the NES

    •The Undertaker vs Mankind in the famous "Hell in a Cell" match

    •Chris Benoit

    •"Beyond the Mat" - A wrestling documentary

     Disclaimer: The reviewer received a complimentary copy of this game

     

  • Flailed through a learning game of Touch of Eviltonight. It's kind of Talismanlike. You need to get a lair card instead of a Talisman, and then go fight the big bad. We flubbed a couple of things, but mostly got it right enough to get a sense of the game. I liked it, but the Man was disappointed.

    I have to play it a couple of more times to really judge, but in the light, 90 minute horror themed, beat on monsters game class, I think Buffyand Last Night on Earth are more fun. But ToE will get played, since it is a different style of game. It's a bit more subdued, and requires very little brain power to play.

    I'd say it would be another good game to play with middle school aged kids, but the boys I know would much prefer to play LNoE, and the girls won't come near my horror games. When I was punching Betrayal at House on the Hill, one of them saw the counter marked "pool of blood" and went screaming out of the room. Now, when she comes to visit, I use the pool of blood counter to chase the girls out of the room when I want them out from under foot.

  • Last night I demoted Touch of Evil. I took all the bits out of the fancy organizer boxes I had put them in and bagged them into regular old baggies. I also reclaimed the card box. Touch of Evilwas then put on the shelf in the back room. Gak, this game was a huge disappointment. Just looking at the pictures of the guys wearing two jabots sets me off. It will probably go up on my for trade list when I get around to it. I always feel a bit guilty when I trade off a game that I think sucks.

    The worst is that I had pre-ordered not just one, but two copies based on the strength of  Last Night on Earth and the early buzz. I gave the second copy to my brother Strider a.k.a. Douchie Boy, as a birthday gift. I hope he likes it more than we did. He might as, his gaming interests and needs are different than mine are.

    One of the chit boxes was moved to my new darling, Ghost Stories. Most of my "fancy" chit boxes are found items, like the tiny sectioned case that was the packaging for some picture hanging hardware. This one was for a tiny first aid kit. It is just 5" x 3". All the chits for Ghost Stories fit in the top section, and everything else, except the ghost figures and cards fits in the bottom.

     

     

     

    To set up, I just lift the top section out of the box, and it becomes the "bank." I know that sounds totally OCD, but if you like a game, it's going to get played often, and having the bits well organized makes set up and clean up that much faster. Plus, the room that we play in has an oriental carpet and an upright piano, so dumping bits out of baggies onto a table and watching as one escapes and rolls off the table is a nightmare.

  • "Hey, why don't you loan me that," I once said as I pointed to the thin but alluring box on the top shelf of my friend's game closet. "I'll learn it and then we can play it and see if it's all it's cracked up to be."

    "Sure," she said, "If you think you can. Al and I once tried all summer to learn that game and failed. Even when we had a friend come over who knew how to play and showed us we still had no idea what was going on."

    "No problem," I said boastfully, "I can handle it.

    And so it was that the game was transferred from Shellie's game shelf to mine. Where it sat. For a long time. I won't say it was ignored but I did spend a lot of time avoiding direct eye contact. It mocked me and taunted me. It had a reputation of delivering one of the greatest gaming experiences ever but there's nothing in this life for free and the cost would be a great deal of time and brain power. Then, of course, I would have to teach it. I would look, think about it, then avert my gaze, slump my shoulders, and shuffle off to the familiar embrace of my other games.

    The man himself

    The game in question is Richard Hamblein's classic adventure game Magic Realm produced by Avalon Hill way back the late 70's.

    Avalon Hill of the old days. The good old days? Hardly. I don't let nostalgia color my vision when I think of the games of yore. There are a few, a precious few, games of that era that really deliver an experience that make them worth owning or learning. Most were far more trouble than they were worth. Magic Realm, though, is considered to be one of the best.

    One of the things Avalon Hill was known for were their rule books. Dense microscopic text in double columns on every page. The rules broken down like the judicial code by section and subsection. This does not make for an easy read. It's dull as dishwater. What it is good for is, later when the game is learned, referencing specific rules during play.

    Now Avalon Hill was primarily a maker of war games. And their rule books for those games with concepts and mechanisms that they were intimately familiar with were, for the most, part pretty good. It was when they delved into games with new ideas and novel procedures that they would fumble. Those rule books could be so bad as to be unusable. Magic Realm was a case of the latter and the rule book has a reputation the direct opposite of the game itself. It is laughably known as one of the worst.

    Ad from the General

    One thing Avalon Hill did do, that is to their credit, is in some of the most complicated games they broke the rules down and presented them in episodic fashion so that a person who knew nothing of the game could learn a few of the rules at a time and then play a scenario or stripped down version of the game. In this way, a game that would certainly overwhelm a normal person would become less daunting. Squad Leader, the original, did this quite well and was how I learned that game. Magic Realm does it too and I decided that I would try use it to master this game.

    So, I blew the dust off that thin box and pulled out the rules. The first section, called an "Encounter", is really not that long at all and in it are described the game set up and the movement rules.

    The game is played on a set of hexes that are set up at the start of each game so that the playing area is different every time you play. If you've played Twilight Imperium 3 or Settlers of Cataan, you know the idea. No big deal, in the 21st century we've seen this in games time and time again although I imagine in 1978 it was pretty unique and explains why they take close to a whole column of text to explain the tile placement rules that boil down to the idea that the tiles need to be placed in such a way that the roads make sense and there must be a path from the start tile to the new tile.

    "Peshaw!" I thought. "These people who say that this game is hard, they don't know what they are talking about."

    The next rules were the movement rules and these too are not so hard. The game uses preplanned movement, an idea that is long out of style, but wasn't so uncommon in the old days. Write down four moves ahead of time, player order is chosen randomly, execute the moves in player order and if you find yourself in situation where what you wrote down can't be done, then tough luck, it doesn't happen.

    "Alright, piece of cake."

    It's at this point the rule book says to STOP! and play the encounter which was useful mostly for the set up and becoming familiar with "warning tokens" which will be important later, I assume. The movement rules themselves are pretty straight forward with the exception of the "blocking" rules which are worded horribly but that I worked out after reading them five times in a row.

    So now I have taken the first baby step. I'm on my way. The next encounter introduces combat. I have a feeling it's going to be a bit harder than the first one.

     

     


  • Violence is not the answer, it is the question. The answer is  "Yes!"

    I was confident. I had this under control. The first "encounter" had been no big deal. The set up of the modular board,  the pre-recording of a character's actions for a turn, the resolution of those actions via a chit pull, certain terrain costing more actions to move through than others, all of this was familiar to me. 

    Now it was time to move on to "Encounter Two" which covers combat. I got out my microscope and began to read through the actual rule book. I must admit I made a mistake in my reporting in episode 1 of the Tow Jockey Crusade. I said the rule book had two columns of teeny text but in actuality it is three.

    This too did not seem overly complex. Different, certainly, but not hard.  It uses a die roll but not in the traditional way and while planning seems, and I say "seems" because I'm no expert in it yet, possible there is still a whole lot of luck in it.

    Combat occurs at the end of the day/turn. The rule book first describes player vs player combat. You place your chit on an opponents order sheet to indicate that  you are going to try to fight. He may or may not be able to flee depending on desire and how fast he is. 

    Now if the fight takes place you have to flip over your order sheet to the "battle" side which is really a sort of clunky flow chart to help you through the battle. Each character has a selection of move and attack chits which have variable speeds and strengths. Each player secretly chooses an attack chit and places it on his flow chart in either the high, medium, or low attack box. He also has the option to put a move chit in one of three other boxes indicating an evasive maneuver. Then based on the positions and speed of the attacks in relation to your opponent's maneuver, you may or may not hit him. If you got lucky and landed a hit and did it with sufficient oomph then more likely than not, unless your opponent was wearing armor  he is now dead.

    Pretty unforgiving, right?

    It was here that I made a misstep. Hubris took control and I began to believe I could just push ahead. Player vs Player is all well and good but as my first plays are going to be solo, I wanted to know how monsters were encountered and how combat with them worked.

    A voice inside me cautioned me not to get ahead of myself. To stick with the program. That I wasn't ready yet. But as it's the same voice that tells me quite often that I don't need that sour cream doughnut, I have a great deal of experience in telling it to shut up.

    So I pushed on and read the rules regarding encountering monsters. I say read but I really let them wash over me because they make a great deal of references to the "Set Up Card" and rolling dice and manipulating things based on rows and columns on that card.

    "Well", thought I, "I should set up the set up card so I can see with my own baby blues what all this jibber jabber actually means."

    And so I came face to face with the horror that is the "set up card".  This card, actually a piece of flimsy card stock the size of the box, is covered with tracks and boxes and pictures of chits. Everything that may or may not get placed onto the board during the game is kept on this card. To set it up you need to arrange every damn one of the 200 or so chits in the game in a relatively specific way. 

    Chits and tokens by the truck load and all of them stuffed into tiny zip lock bags in a way that probably made sense to the person who last put it away but to a novice such as I, who has never really played the game, they may as well have been dumped into a coffee can and been well shaken. 

    And please don't get me started on the so called "cards" used to represent the treasures and spells an adventurer might find in the Realm. Cards? Ha! Cards are the things GMT puts in a box that have such stiffness and mass that they can slice the top of a cat's head off if thrown with sufficient velocity! Cards have a suitable size so that I don't feel like Gulliver at a Lilliputian's poker game when I use them.

    These pathetic slips of what is but one tiny step above paper? These things that appear to be something cut out off the back of a cereal box? These are not cards. Nothing measuring 1'x 2' can be considered a card! 

    In any case, after an hour of sorting chits and cards I was almost done. Just the monster tokens remained to be placed. The rules blithely tell you to put the monsters on the matching box based on size and image with the light side up although to tell you the truth if there is a right answer to which is considered the "light side" when discussing light blue and light gray I don't know what it is. Even so I figured that would work itself out later but that is when I found it...

    The Giant Octopus!

    The Giant Octopus seemed not to have a place to go. So did several monsters that were duplicates of ones that DID have places.

    "Speak, Octopus!" I commanded! "Reveal your secrets unto me!"

    The Giant Octopus remained silent.

    I went into deep thought mode which consists of me placing my head in my hands and muttering vulgar oaths under my breath. This allowed me to arrive at my default course of action in such circumstance which is to say "fuck it" and proceed trusting that it would work out in the end.

    I reached for the rules to begin going step by step through the encounter procedure.

    What's that, you ask? Where does one keep the rule book during this process? Why on the opposite side of the table. And one does this so that, when standing up to be able to reach said rule book, one might clip the edge of that damnable set up card and send those countless chits and slips of paper skittering helter skelter across the table.

    I re-entered deep thought mode.

    This time "fuck it" meant to pick all that crap up and come back to it later when thoughts of Giant Octopi on fire were less compelling. It was then that I found it...

    The space for the Giant Octopus had been there the whole time but was buried under 10 chits and four of those tiny cards.

    I will be back for you, Giant Octopus...Oh Yes.....I will be back!

     

     

     

     

     

  • Yesterday while I was chatting with a co-worker, he was playing one of those tower defense games.  You know the type, a bunch stuff is trying to break through and you build up different types of towers to try and stop that stuff.  Anyways, we were talking about process improvement ideas and I was watching the game and it go me to thinking.

    Those games are the perfect metaphor for corporate America.  You are the faceless entity that is trying to make a breakthrough within your company.  Arrayed against you is a number of obstacles that pick away at you until you finally disappear (or melt into the culture...take your pick).  If you make it through, there are always more levels (well not quite).   As the company gets larger, it can implement more things to pick away you.

    So those towers represent all the procedures, forms, etc. that stand in your way to progress....


    anyways...random thought.

  •  After seeing  Dr_Mabuse's really sleek and sharp dice tower, I was inspired to try to make one too:

     

     

     

    I made the tray black because I like how the dice jump into view. I used foam board and Gilad Yarnitzky's design. I stuck black glossy card stock on the outside to give it a clean look. I sprayed a couple of coats of low odour acrylic spray to protect it and make the black even blacker.

     

    I used a wooden skewer as a pin to make the tower attachable/detachable:

     

     

    Attaching the tray makes it easier to move the tower around during a game if you need to. 

  • So anyways , I just got back from seeing Toy Story 3 (in 3D).  And I'll have to say that it was a pretty good movie.  The story was pretty good.  The acting pretty good and the animation up to the normal Pixar standards.  My only real complaint is that the 3-D didn't really seem to add to it.  It didn't have the wow factor that it did during Avatar.  If you enjoyed the other two, go see this one.

  • We decided to cut the cable and trade in brain dead TV and annoying commercials for the Roku and instant downloads of  Nymphoid Barbarians in Dinosaur Hell.

  • Goozex Dinosaur or something.In earlier posts, I have tried to find a "BoardGameGeek" for my video game collection. That has met with some success , and while soliciting candidates, "Goozex " was mentioned to me a couple of times. As a database, it's not so hot. What it does do, however, is provide a pretty painless place to trade video games.

    I say "pretty painless" because most places that facilitate video game trading are either (1) Screwing you, (2) Have a small audience, or (3) Both. The "Screwing you" camp consists largely of brick-and-mortar establishments like GameStop. They will take your games for pennies on the pound and then immediately sell it for pound on the pound. You played that game already, so you don't care; but if you ever buy used video games from them--you should know that you are eating a big markup there. The store spends nothing but shelf-space and the practice is incredibly lucrative. The "Small audience" camp is other online forums or things like Craigslist.org that won't end up screwing you over on value, but may take forever to find someone willing to take that game off your hands for that other game that you want. If you aren't looking to trade Madden '08 for Halo 2, your audience may be shockingly small at any one site.

    So, by providing a service that minimizes the expense associated with B&M trading and proving a pool of Games Out and Games In for trading, Goozex has hit a nice middle ground. Here's how it works:

    You make a list of games you are willing to trade away. You can decide to trade away the complete kit (game + manual + box), just the game + manual, or just the game.

    You make another list of games that you want, and whether or not you'll accept just the game, the game + manual, or only the complete kit.

    Every game has associated queues of Requests and Offers and you get lumped into them as you set up your lists. If a lot of people are trying to trade away a certain game, you'll have a wait a while to trade it away. For example, 88 other people will be asked to trade away their Disgaea for PS2 before me. Similarly, 59 people will have BoomBlox sent to them before I get a crack at it.

    Here's the rub: Goozex decides what a game is worth, and games that trade as complete kits are not worth more points than just the game media on its own. So, you might think your minty fresh Wii control Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 with all the manuals and handouts and shit is worth 500 points, but Goozex disagrees and that's that--you trade it away, you get 350 points. End of story. Game valuation does trend downward. I got two notices that a requested game became "cheaper" in 50 point increments before I received it. There's no exposed algorithm, but the site clams it's a mix of demand, resale market value, and age. Because folks can Request top be sent only the complete package--there is a slight queue bonus for you if that's what you offer. If 80 people want a game, but 20 of them want only the complete package--someone offering only the game disc is going to get passed over every so often even if at the top of the Offer queue.

    Here's rub #2. Unless you part with games and/or $$$, you won't be getting any games back. To receive games you have requested, you must meet these conditions:

    1. You are at the top of the Request queue for that game.
    2. Your account has sufficient points in it (from trading games away or paying $5 for 100 points.)
    3. You have at least one trade token (gotten from trading away games and paying $1, you get one for joining the site, three for getting positive feedback on your trade, one if you talk someone else into joining using a referral link, or you can pay $5 for 5 tokens.)


    Shipping games is a snap. Goozex provides a service for USPS Priority mailing labels with delivery confirmation or even printable envelopes (pre-marked folds on the paper help you contruct it). They are hooked up to PayPal and a credit card service to handle the ~$3 mailing label charges too, and process gift cards and points purchases.

    Here's my testimonial:

    I signed up, got some envelopes at Target (about $0.60 each) used the Goozex USPS labels with shipping confirmation ($3 each) and shipped off the following complete kits:

    • Wii Play (game only) for Wii - 100 pts
    • LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga for Wii - 350 pts
    • New Super Mario Bros. for DS - 450 pts
    • Mercury Meltdown Revolution for Wii - 250 pts
    • Super Smash Bros. Brawl for Wii- 700 pts


    So I'm out $18 and five games, but I accrued 1850 points (their current value is 1800 pts--Goozex keeps track of how much you got and how much the games are now). I've received:

    • Grim Grimoire for PS2 (media only) - 350 pts
    • Battalion Wars 2for Wii (complete kit--in shrink no less) - 450 pts
    • Opoona for Wii (complete kit) - 500 pts
    • Super Puzzle Fighter II for GBA (media only) - 250 pts


    Four games back at a cost of 1550 pts (current value is the same, but one's gone up, another down).

    This is the experience you can have without buying anything directly from Goozex or whoring your referral link and praying for trade tokens to be reaped. We can compare this to GameStop and its ilk where I would have gotten about $56 in credit and not been able to find any of the games I wanted, and if I could, would have been able to get two of them. We can also compare it to eBay, which is a pretty rough place for sellers now. I'd expect to clear about $78 and pay about $7.50 in fees. The games I've received are about $45 + shipping ( so, about $65 or so).  The games I want aren't exactly widely available though--Grim Grimoire has had one auction in the last 60 days. 

    On the whole, I'm happy. The available game pool totally outstrips my neighborhood B&M establishments. At the same time, I know someone's getting and enjoying my traded-in games and the facilitator, Goozex, makes about $1 per trade for making it happen. So, if you have games you don't want, and don't live near a place like Luna Games , give it a shot. And get there using my referral link so I can't get more stuff.

    One last thing: My Referral Link .

  • A classic topic on gaming related websites as long as they have existed is the creepy gamer story.  With some of the extensive game store experience some of the folks on this site have, I am sure there are some hilarious tales of social ineptitude, personal hygiene failures, and all manner of gamer craziness. 

     I encourage everyone to regale us your tales of gamer creepiness.  There is only one rule in the creepy gamer story crypt- change the names!  The last thing we want is your stalker-rific, thinks he is a cyborg vampire, ex-dungeon master blowing up our servers on some mountain dew-fueled fantasy shadowrun.

     cryptkeeper.jpg



  • I am dead tired. It is a good tired though. It is the kind of tired that lab monkeys get when they electrify  pleasure center so many times that they pass out. It has been a whirlwind of activity until just now. The last guests are on their way home. The last beer bottle has been picked up. The last game has been shelved.

    I had made a ton of plans before everyone showed up – probably too many plans. One by one they got stripped away because of time/complications and what was left was just a bunch of fun people who were focused on a good time. And at the core – that is what the event was. Everyone was dead set on having a good time. Amazingly there was no drama amongst us (well except for me- at one point I was freaking out because I thought I had 13 people to get home and cars for only 8. It was 1 in the morning and my brain had stopped working 4 hours earlier.)


    I am so thankful that everyone came down and contributed to a wonderful time. It also makes the experience difficult to describe because the sum is greater than the whole. Everyone contributed to the weird party/gamer environment. It was like camp for F:ATties. I half expected pillow fights and ghost stories around a campfire. Thank God everyone was so easygoing because there were quite a few snafus. Despite little sleep and cramped quarters everyone stayed in good spirits.

     

    Everyone showed up almost exactly at the same time- the one hour I was away picking up BillyZ. Pete was driving me over to the Marta Station because my wife had the car (the other car broke down Tuesday.) Up until then it was just Chis and me. Me and Chris. Staring at each other. Chris wondering why I had gotten him down here all alone for a long weekend…

     

    But that all changed as soon as I left the house. I came back and everyone was milling around trying to figure out who was who. It was like speed dating for F:ATties. I threw out some games and food though and everyone reverted to game nerd mode. Years of conditioning has made gamers a well oiled machine. Just put table +food + game and they instantly know what to do.

     

    Once it got late people grabbed a section of floor. I had snagged lots of bedding and sleeping bags but still- that is not too comfortable. In the future I’m going to highly recommend the $16 air mattresses.

    Dave rolled in at 1:30. I felt so bad for him. Atlanta has like 50 roads named Peachtree and 50 more with the word “Ferry” in it. He probably saw them all.

     

    We woke up every morning rehashing the jokes the night before. Early risers like me would get in a game downstairs at the dining room table while others would stumble in bleary eyed. Because we were carpooling there was a lot of hurry up and wait and people would shoot the shit about comics, games, and geek culture while the stragglers got ready. It was like reading the forums and I visualized Rick Moranis’ face as JoshLook spoke about Marvel titles he liked.

     



    The clubhouse was already rocking though I was surprised that quite a few locals weren’t present. It was a good thing though because 2/3 of the air conditioning when out. The clubhouse has an annex to it that was nice an cool but it is also all tile and VERY LOUD. Frank had brought a bit of weirdness Chaosle, which is destined to never be a big hit despite the cool figs and sculptural board. We spent a lot of time that day bouncing between loud/cool and comfortable/hot. Aaron Tubb and his wife rolled in. He had some amazing games with him and we played a bunch of them. First up was his Thunder Road (with his pimped rules and micromachine cavalcade of cars.) Then we had an extremely entertaining game of Fireball Island. Fireball Island has moved to my “MUST HAVE” list and I’m already thinking of how I can fabricate a board.

     

     I got  in a cycle of gaming with Paul Geradi, Zev, Janna Nelson, and Aaron Tubb. Janna always volunteers to play AT games ever though she is a dedicated Eurogamer. This time I insisted she pick a game- any game and I would play it. She chose Karnaxis (pronounced karn- AX-Is -then you cross your arms in an X) which is the eurogame equivalent of the game of life complete with tax accountants and insurance policies. I had set a private goal to myself of never getting a job. It is not part of the game- just something I wanted to do. About half way through the game I was up to my eyeballs in debt and struggling to pay yearly taxes. Suddenly though I had an epiphany- I could use my special powers to blackmail the other players. I took control of the stock market and threatened to reroll  the stock die (my special power) if people didn’t cough up $5. You should have seen the look on Janna’s face. Her eyes went hard and her movements went stiff as I racked my fellow players over the coals. Then I bottomed out all the stock then took out the maximum loan and bought $1 stock and flipped it. We still had another hour left in KarNAXis when everyone realized that I was going to dick them over and had broken the game.

     


    By Saturday the A/C was working again and I was starting to realize I couldn’t pound beers and still stay awake through the day. We broke out Omega Virus, Cosmic Encounter, magical Athlete, Summoner Wars, and Epic Duals (with the Hirst space station.) Mostly though I spent time BSing and ended up killing a lot of time at lunch (Moes) and dinner (Outback Steakhouse.)

    By that point I could have spent the rest of the night sucking down brews but instead finished out the evening as the bad guy in Mousquteers du Roy. I love that game and had a great time raking the Launius over the coals.

     

    Sunday we had planned to go to Franks but Frank's grandfather had passed away.  instead I was going to host and had lined up some peeps to come join us. Then at 3 in the morning Will Kenyon called and volunteered to host. He lives right next to the airport and the more I thought about it the more sense it made. We could pop people over to the airport then jump back into gaming. So we all headed down.

    The only problem is that he didn’t tell his wife- She was pissed! That is classic Kenyon. Ida was a good sport though and decided to vacate. After the dust settled we ended up playing Cosmic Encounters and Alien Frontiers. Both games let me prove what bastard I am though Cosmic went to Chris Tandemieyer (a strange Aeon) who turns out is also a bastard. After Zev, Paul, and Billy flew out we returned home for some Nexus Ops and Dinosaurs of the Lost World.

    Loter, Joshlook and Bernie decided to drive through the night. I felt confident the Loters upbeat teen pop music would keep them rocking the night away though the absence of the Macerana could have possibly been the dealbreaker.

     

    The very last game played by anyone was “Quest for Shan Gri La” which is the Insane Clown Posse’s version of Talisman. Chris was absolutely infatuated by the game. I was just happy to have my character Killnor have a huge posse of homies decked out with 9’s and shotguns. We were jacking juggalos and rednecks left and right, and though we didn’t play the full game, I’m sure I could have taken down the mystic ninja with ease.

     

     All in all, the whole thing was a ton of fun and a big success. In retrospect I wouldn’t have changed a thing…Well possibly the toilet exploding. That was just nasty.

     

    Steve”Mr. Plumber”Avery

  • Trasfest NW posterFor years I've had to endure yearly posts about FATties gathering en masse for the tribal rituals called TrashFest; a call that brought FATties from all parts of the globe including my beloved Canada. Even the bloody Brits got in on the act a couple of years ago and they don't even have dentistry for Baal's sake. Well rest easy friends, all my pent up angst was finally quelled on Feb 15th of this year when I held the NorthWest’s first TrashFest in Vancouver, BC.


    The Fest got underway at 9am, when two of my gaming buddies showed up (one of them being the ribaldly hilarious Keith of the awesome Ask Keith Anything blog . Being that it was early morning, naturally we wanted to ease into the day with something light so we chose Blast City’s Mushroom Eaters (c’mon this is a TrashFest, what the fuck did you expect Mediterranean Spice Merchants?). I have a review of it in the works, but I will say it’s a really good old school Euro game with a unique movement sequence.

    dudes playing Mushroom Eaters board game



    FATtie JonJacob arrived later with his buddy Noel and they launched into a game of X-Wing, while at another table Rampage was set up with the inevitable carnage to follow.


    due setting up Rampage

    At this point Mushroom Eaters wrapped up, more gamers arrived and new games were started. I ended up with JonJacob, Noel and Shannon (founder of Vancouver’s newest gaming con Terminal City Tabletop Convention ) in a tight game of Clash of Cultures.

    dudes playing Clash of Culture

    Here Merchants and Mauraders was being tabled with my regular gaming crew of Mark, Scott, Vuong and his buddy.

    dudes playing Merchants & Marauders

    Keith, Brendon and his lovely wife Bree were going head to head…to head with my second favourite deckbuilder , the lamely named DC Comics Deckbuilding Game. Rune Age, my favourite deckbuilder unfortunately didn’t make an appearance that day.

    dudes and dudette playing DC Deckbuilding game

    As the day went on people came and went but gaming was consistent throughout.  
    Small games like Perudo (yeah!) and Ricochet Robots (blah!) were busted out.

    dudes playing Perudodudes and dudette playing Ricochet Robots

    Two dudes were introduced to the crazy ass world of Magical Athlete and loved it of course. What other roll and move hobby game can elicit such amazing reactions like laughing and cursing so consistently? None I tell you.
    dudes playing Magical Athlete
    At some point a few of us were drunk-taught A Study in Emerald. That’s a TrashFest requirement, no? I had no idea what to do in the game but I’d be willing to give it another go in the future, albeit without the drunk instruction (love ya Rob!).

    By the 10th-ish hour what had once been at max 14 people was down to 6. That meant bringing out a group favourite, Total Rumble the wrestling card game. I was cool on it in my initial review, but since then it has risen sharply on my non-existent top 5 filler game list.

    dudes playing Total Rumble wrestling card game

    In the end, the Blacksmith (Vuong) walked away the Champ with the Strap in tow.  

    Vuaong sporting the Strap

    TrashFest NW came to a close the way it started with myself, Keith and Mark. We battled it out kaiju-style in King of Tokyo.

    dudes playing King of Tokyo
    My wife asked if I thought it was a success and I honestly couldn’t answer her. I really hope people had a great time and I was overjoyed that even one person showed up let alone fourteen. My reasons for doing this were purely selfish ones; I got to play a shit tonne of games and hang out with people new and old that I really really dig for 12 STRAIGHT HOURS!

    So I guess my answer would be; hell yes. See you bitches next year!

     

  • Board Gaming Goon

    Another TrashFest NW come and gone! This year saw a new set of faces as well as old haggardly ones and there were a few surprise guests in attendance. This year's event was to have been held in February but due to  a couple major boardgame conventions starting up then, I thought it was wiser to move it to January. I think this month will be chosen for future TFNWs. 

    My mind midway through the day was kind of foggy so details will be sketchy and I tried to get pictures of as many games as I could but I probably missed a few.

    I was hoping to start the day off with something a bit more off the beaten path as last year the first game played was The Mushroom Eaters. As there was a new person joining in the early festivities we chose King of New York. For some reason this took away longer than it should (1hr+) and in the end I think all monsters were destroyed.

    Kaiju of New York

    A few others showed up around the end of this game, including a dude who I never met before and assumed he was a buddy of someone's. 

     

    UNKNOWN DUDE: Hey, I'm here for TrashFest.

    ME: Cool, are you a friend of Jacob's?

    UD:  Uhh..., no I'm Dave from Fortress Ameritrash.

    ME: HOLY SHIT! ARE YOU ALMALIK?!

    UD: Yeah.

    ME: HOLY SHIT!!!

    First surprise. I just have to give a little backstory. Almalik and I have exchanged PMs about trying to meet up for a couple of years, but life happens and it never panned out. I invited him to TF last year but he didn't make it out. I kinda teased him about it and then felt totally bad. I invited him this year but didn't hear back from him. I'm not a super social guy so i get it. That being said I really dig my people here on F:AT and get childishly anxious at the prospect of meeting you all in person. (I'm already sweating about the possibility that Superfly and Stormseeker may try to make it out next year.) 

     

    Anyhow, Dave is AWESOME (naturally) and I had a great time gaming with him. Here he is (on the left) playing Galaxy Trucker.

    Galaxy Truckers

    Next up for me was a 4 player game of Sons of Anarchy, which I really dig. I enjoy Spartacus more but the playing time for Sons is more manageable.

    Sons of Anarchy

    Over at another table my buddy Keith (of the Ask Keith Anything blog) taught Colossal Arena to a group which included a precocious 11 year old (our first child attendee, I think he went away with a few new words added to his vocabulary).

    Colossal Arena

    Almalik explored the 'Verse during a game of Firefly.

    Firefly

    After Sons, I joined Keith, the boy and his Guardian (Rob Bottos of BottosCon) to play Space Hulk: Death Angel. We were destroyed in the penultimate room quite quickly.

    Space Hulk: Death Angel

    Almalik and I joined in a game of my just sold copy of Cyclades (to the dude on the right). The dude on the left snuck out the win.

    Cycl-ass-des

    Surprise number two:early in the afternoon my brother (artist and musician called Talwst) who was in town on business dropped by unexpectedly. The last time he played games with me was about 20 years ago when I convinced him and our other brother to play Talisman with me. He's not a gamer and eyed the stack of games cautiously but fortunately Keith roped him into a game of Skull and Roses which he really dug. (Yes, jokes of "Is that your "brother" or is that your"BROTHER" gleefully filled the hall.)

    Yes, that is my BRO-THA!

    FATie JonJacob came out again this year and set about playing Wings of Glory.

    Wings of Glory

    Almalik and I played Mysterium. The dude on the right expressed what I felt inside. It's Clue and Dixit mixed together. My least favourite game of TFNW.

    Mysteri-SNORE

    JonJacob teaching my brother and others Love Letter. Another hit with my brother. 

    Love? Let her.

    Magical Athlete was a blast of course. My favourite moment was a race that was being won by the dude on the right (Andrew Laws, a scenario designer for Combat Commander) and as his athlete neared the finish line we were all chanting "one" "one" "one", on his turn, He rolled. 1. Cheers went up. Next time around for him. Chants. Roll. 1. Cheers again. Next time around, Chants. Roll. 1. Were were fucking hysterical. He came in second but boy, those rolls were classic Magical Athlete.

    Magical YES-lete

    Things were winding down at this point (7pm) when (surprise number three)I get a call from none other than FATtie mikecl! When he finally found the place he showed up with XIA, the Drift System (?). It looked amazing but I think most people were looking for lighter fare at this point.  I would love to give it a go at some point.

    Jonjacob (second from left) , mikecl (third from left), and Almalik (in red) ended up playing Skull and Roses. I had to get this shot to show the historic gathering of the Four (okay, I wasn't in the picture, but still) Horsedudebros of the FATpocalypse (Western Canadian Division) really happened!

    SKULLZZZ

    Shortly after the game ended people started heading out. Almalik had to catch a ferry back home. This blew my mind that he came all the way for my stupid little event. Thanks Dave!

    To end the night Keith and I played the DC Deckbuilding game which I really enjoy despite not being a DC fan.

    Last two jerks standing...or sitting.

    All in all I think everyone had a good time (at least I hope so) and by my count there were 17 of us. I'm not one who takes initiative to organize things but this? I fucking LOVE doing this. Thanks to all that came out and thank you Fortress Ameritrash for giving me inspiration to do this as well as giving me a little space of the internet to call home.

    See you bitches next year!!!

  • Trip is going well. I need to sit down in the evening and upload photos. Been to Whisky museum, spent two afternoons in the National museum, and hoofed it all around town. Now have a very nice bottle of Isley 8 year old whisky. Wales played Scotland in Rugby Sunday, and beat them, lots of red shirts in town. Chatted with old men at the bar, which was fun.

     

    Tonight going to go to a listed boardgame night upstairs in a bar (there was a link on TOS for it) and try inflicting Battlelore on Scottish buddy. Now off to see the castle. will try to do the underground thing later this week!Also Zoo, and some dungeons?

  • My lunch group at work has played a lot of games, but we mostly gravitate towards trick-takers and Magic. As a result, and because I got bored playing Spades and Rook all the time (see below) I've accumulated a number of good and unusual trick-taking games, and thought I would write them up.

     

    You won't find Tichu here because I don't like climbing games much.


    will always play


    These are all great for one reason or another.


    Spades and Rook

    I wouldn't mention these except to note that we have modified both of these traditional games extensively so they are much crazier.


    Was Sticht - 4 player

    First you draft what contracts you are going to try to make (take exactly 2 tricks, the most tricks, the least, etc). Then each round you draft your hand while trying to deduce what trump is. The dealer, who knows what trump is, has to prevent someone else from making their bid while doing it instead, which is pleasingly hard to do. Cardplay is standard. Surprisingly easier to play than it sounds, with a good balance of luck and skill.


    Mu - 4-6 player but best with 5

    Learning this is a bit of a challenge (the iOS app helps) but it really isn’t as complicated as it seems. The bidding system is what makes this game; you bid cards from your hand and whoever wins gets to pick one of the trumps based on what she played and a partner based on what everyone else played. The runner-up gets to pick the other trump and can't be partner. This makes bidding very exciting once it gets going, although we've toyed with forcing everyone to bid at least one card to give it a boost. Groups that are more aggressive with bidding won't need this. Cardplay is pretty straightforward, really this is about the bidding.


    Cosmic Eidex - 3 player

    This game is insane and probably my favorite in the genre. The game is absolutely as complicated as it seems - cards are worth different point values whether it's a trump hand or no-trump hand, and no trump even has top-down and bottom-up varieties. You can trump at any time...except when you can’t. Overall you're vying with the others to be closest to zero points or closest to 100 without going over (lots of mental arithmetic). And then there's the special powers which is where the Cosmic comes in. Every game you get a special power which can vary from the mild yet occasionally powerful (change the direction of play twice per hand) to the completely game-changing (whoever gets the black jack loses this round, nothing else matters). It's definitely not for everyone and I love it.


    Tekeli-li - 4-6 players, best with any

    This game is on the keeper list because it’s ridiculous and yet stays fun to play. This is a game where the loser will become “frighteningly havocked”. Gameplay involves trying to go nil (take no tricks) as much as possible, which is one of my group’s favorite things to do in a trick-taking game. The game stays interesting for four reasons I can think of. One, the high cards in each suit can cancel each other so they are no longer taking the trick, which adds just enough of a wrinkle. Two, there is a “long trip” card which causes the trick to last one extra card from each player. Played at the right time this causes great reactions. Three, the person to the left of the trick winner leads, which is infuriating and fantastic. Finally, the hands you think are the best are usually the worst and vice versa, which is entertaining. Still, of the games at this tier this is the one closest to dropping down to the next. I don’t think I could play this every day.

     


    once in a while


    Sticheln - any number

    aka "the pain game" - so named because you want to avoid your pain suit and take everything else. Cleverly you can play any card but everything other than the lead suit is trump, so you often don't want to. With lots of players (inevitable with our group) you learn the gotcha plays very quickly and it becomes rather rote with only one pain suit, so we of course up it a notch to multiple pain suits, some of which are picked randomly or are hidden or both. This has the side effect of making it somewhat random. We keep a low score sheet with this to make it more entertaining (no one cares who actually managed to score positively).


    Trump, tricks, game - 3 or 4

    Stupid name aside, this is a neat game that requires a different approach. The cards you take every round are your cards for the next round; however the suits that are worth points also change from round to round. There's also a bonus the last round for each suit which is unfortunately always the same, and randomly the suit that is worth the most at the end always seems to be the suit worth points in the last round as well, which spoils the endgame a bit. Still, there's a nice balance between trying for immediate scoring and shooting for a large endgame bonus. After about a week of this I'm sated for awhile, so I guess there's something missing, but I can't think what.


    The Hobbit - 3-5

    Worth a laugh now and then because it's short, has player elimination, and features the world's most useless dwarf. What to play is pretty apparent most of the time but it's still fun to assign damage, especially when a player has to do so randomly and inevitably kills his own team off. Stupid Thorin. May have run its course after about 10 games.

     


    ok but something is missing


    Pala - 3-5

    The draw here is that the suits are different colours and you can meld them together like the colour wheel to change the suit of the trick. Which is almost really cool, but by the rules as written it doesn't really happen as much as I'd like. If you lead a primary colour, everyone has to follow suit and not meld, which means by the time you can meld more than half your options are gone. I want to change that rule but I don't think others are interested enough to try it. We've only played the going nil version of the rules, so I don't know if the other version works better.

    This still gets play at lunch, so it does have its fans.


    Chronicle

    The descriptions I read of this made it sound right up my alley, where every card value has a special ability and the goal changes from round to round. In practice though we found every hand playing out similarly and the whole thing repetitive and a bit tedious, and it didn't have the humour or cleverness of Tekeli-li.


    Stich-meister

    The players determine, from various goal cards they play, what trump, scoring, and other possible rules are in effect every round. Crazy! Limitless possibilities! But ultimately not that exciting. Because the rule cards have to effectively be standalone, they really can't be all that complicated, and it turns out that the occasional perfect craziness of 3 great rules interacting is offset by the more usual mundanity of 2 of the rules barely interacting and the 3rd just being there, or effectively clobbering one of the others. Possibly a handcrafted set of more interesting rule choices would make this great, but I haven't put the effort in yet.


    The Bottle Imp (Flaschentueful) - 3-4

    It's kind of sad to put this here because I like the way it ties to the story and the little wooden bottle it comes with, and to an extent the gameplay. It's just that it feels like there's one correct way to play and once you figure out the strategy...there's nothing more. It's the same puzzle every time.

     


    needs more play


    Victory and Honor - 4 player

    I like this game a lot. You play three simultaneous tricks, your cards have different and interesting abilities without being overwhelming, and ultimately you're trying to take cards that fit well with what your partner has taken. The learning curve is steep and I think really that's the only reason this hasn't gotten more play.


    Day of the Dead - 4 player

    Had to mention this of course. Thanks Frank! My wife and I played this several weeks in a row with the same couple and really enjoyed it. I like the powers each number has (compare to Chronicle which has much less interesting powers) and the theming tied into the scoring. Need to bring it out with the lunch group and see if it gains traction.


    You Suck (a tick taking game. hyuk) 2-6

    It's fun just having this game on a shelf at work.

    Positive initial impressions but it hasn't come back out. Playing multiple simultaneous tricks is neat. I'm not sure if the various special powers you can earn are interesting enough, but they might be fine.

     


    absolutely terrible


    Myth: Pantheons

    I got this because there were somewhat positive mentions here on F:AT. Holy fuck this game is terrible. It is incredibly convoluted, much more so than even Cosmic Eidex because it adds a ton of completely bizarre and annoying chrome, made worse because the rulebook has insane terminology and buries necessary rules in obscure places. In addition, there’s some component problems - a good number of the tokens are indistinguishable, even at close range. When we finally struggled through a game, there just was very little point to all of it. The extra chrome bogged the game down in uninteresting ways and it seemed to be very easy to get into broken states. After one play I was willing to give it another go but no one else was.

     


    would like to try


    The Dwarf King seems like a light take on Barbu, which I've always wanted to try anyway.

    I've waffled on gettingDie Sieban Siegal (also published as Zing!) for ages but now that I've typed it up I think Was Sticht may be better anyhow.

    ebbes, in which you don't know what trump is until partway through the trick, sounds good.

    Njet! mucks with bidding in potentially agreeable ways.

    Trick of the Rails may be too much train game.

    And finally,Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (aka Twilight) has piqued my interest forever but unfortunately not enough to get it and now it's basically out of print except in Germany.

    And of course anything anyone mentions that sounds cool.

  • Trying to define “the board”

     

    On LinkedIn someone asked if there were industry definitions and names for the various aspects of a game board.  There aren’t any that I know of, but it’s worth trying to analyze what we actually have in a “game board”.

     

    We’re accustomed to thinking that a video game has an interface, but so do tabletop games.  The interface enables the player to see what’s happening in the game, and to manipulate the game, to tell the game what the player wants to do.  This is non-technical in tabletop games but still exists, and can still be better or worse depending on how it’s arranged.  The board is the principle part of the interface that reveals what’s happening, whether it’s a physical board or on the screen in a video game.

     

    Typically, in a tabletop game we have something that lies flat on the table that stores information that we call a board.  In video games the board is frequently an array in memory, and each pixel on the screen may be a slightly different location, or a more conventional square or hex grid might be hidden from sight but still in use. From the player’s point of view the screen is the “board.”  Recently some tabletop games have gone from a shared board to individual boards, often called player layouts, that store information.  Team sports have “boards” that we normally call fields, as in a football or baseball field, the ice in hockey, the court in basketball, the pitch in soccer.  They are still places where information is stored, but because the athletes act on the field we tend not to think of those fields as boards.

     

    A traditional game board - and an athletic field - records the results of maneuver, placement, and location of “pieces.”  In most board and video games the board is digital, that is, it has discrete parts/locations, whereas sports fields tend to be analog, with continuous flows rather than discrete separations, though we also have discrete locations in, for example, the penalty area and six yard box in soccer or the bases in baseball.  Maneuver always involves location because what makes maneuver important is the spatial relationship between “pieces” in their locations on the board.  Placement (as opposed to maneuver) provides the spatial relationship but without the possibility of moving pieces that are already there.  Instead pieces are placed, as in Tic-Tac-Toe.

     

    Insofar as many games represent warfare, and warfare is largely about maneuver, it’s not surprising that most classic games are games of maneuver and location, though some (such as Go and Tic-Tac Toe) are games of placement rather than maneuver.

     

    Area control in modern Eurostyle boardgames is a matter of placement and spatial location, and sometimes of maneuver as well.  Worker placement, on the other hand, is usually a matter of storing status information, not of spatial activity.  For example, in cases where placing a worker at one point means someone else cannot place one there, you could just as well use tokens or cards to keep track of which functions have been allotted to which players.

     

    More recently in some tabletop games, boards have only stored status information having nothing to do with maneuver, placement, and location.  The board is used to record the state of various kinds of information that have no spatial relationship to one another, as in Kingsburg.  On a roulette “board” for example, players store the bets before the ball rolls.  In the inventory of a video RPG, the player stores his items in various “locations”, but there is no spatial relationship between one and another, even though items must (in some games) fit the shape of the storage area.

     

    Typically a player layout in a tabletop game is of this type if only because none of the other players has any assets on this “board,” so that a player layout is rarely used for maneuver.  (Maneuver typically implies maneuvering against pieces of other players, although technically the word does not necessarily include that aspect.)

     

     

     

    What do we call the parts of the board?  Generally where maneuver, placement, and location is important you have some kind of “grid.”  The most familiar grid is an area layout, like a map of the 50 United States or the countries of Europe.  The grid may be regular, as in squares, it may be hexes or a brick pattern that amounts to the same thing as hexes, it may be a series of concentric circles divided into areas.  It may be irregular, as in a connectivity diagram such as Merchant of Venus or Masters of Orion II or many board wargames.  In every case the grid amounts to an array showing connectivity between and consequently spatial relationships between locations.  (I made a connectivity diagram for the Britanniaboard once; but it’s easier to play on something that looks like a familiar map of Britain, than on a connectivity diagram.  Yet the so-far-unplayed card version of Britanniauses region cards placed in a pattern that amounts to a connectivity diagram.)

    [I’ll try to insert that diagram here, if not you can use this link (case sensitive): http://pulsiphergames.com/britannia/images/ConnectivityDiagramBrit.gif ]

     

    A special instance of this grid is the track, as in Monopoly, Parcheesi, as in Olympic swimming (each player has a separate track), and in many other race games.  A big difference is that even though the track amounts to a connectivity diagram, it is linear, there is no choice of where you can go, so practically speaking there’s no maneuver.  In fact you can see a track as more status track - where are you located right now - than anything like a playing field.  Yet some race games allow maneuver on the track, perhaps a going from inside to outside in a car or chariot race game.  This might be called a route rather than a track.  The classic game Careersuses a track that offers periodic choices to follow a different route into various “careers” that lead back to the main track.

     

    Aside from grids and tracks/routes we can have places on the board where something tangible is stored, as in the locations on the Monopolyboard where we store the cards.  In a data flow diagram these would be called “data stores”.  Perhaps we could call them “depositories”.  They provide a location for storage of something physical, such as cards, or something virtually physical, as when a boardgame is computerized but you can still draw “cards”.  A “magic shop” in a computer RPG also amounts to a not-wholly-random depository.

     

    Then we have all the locations that store status information, for example which worker has been allocated to which task.  A time record track or turn track stores status.  In every case, it should be possible to reflect the same storage by using cards or other tokens, but it’s often easier for all the players to see when laid out on a “board” of some kind.  I’ll call these the “status” or “status tracking” parts of the board.  (“Conditions” might be another choice.)

     

    Many boards also contain pure “information displays”.  These may be orders of battle or appearance of new assets (as on the FFG version of Britannia, along the eastern side of the board), they may be combat or other tables, they may show turn order, and so forth. They may remind players of specific rules.  (Ideally, allof the rules of a game would be on the board; but that’s rarely practical given limitations of space and eyesight.)   Status changes; information displays never change.

     

    Of course, we can also say that many game boards display information about terrain, economic values, and so forth even as they provide a grid for maneuver, placement, and location.

     

    These areas can be mixed, as in Monopolywith its track, depositories, and some information (the price of properties, the amount you get for passing Go); or Britanniawith an area grid, a status section (where players keep track of saved Increase Points), and an information display (the turn-by-turn appearance); or computer Civilizationwhere we have a square or hex grid, plus many, many status areas (if you click on cities), plus information displays.

     

     

    Must the board to be a single large layout?  I’ve mentioned games where there are player layouts, which means we have several “boards”.  What about card games where the spatial relationship of the cards is important, for example card Solitaire or Canasta?  (Most card games do not have the spatial relationship, for example Texas Hold‘em.)  These are boards of several parts.

     

    Then there are tile laying games, with tiles effectively substituting for cards, and all of it ultimately derived from dominoes.  The result of laying the tiles is spatial relationships: these are placement and location games.  For all practical purposes this is a board that is constructed as the game proceeds.  So cards can certainly be used for a board, whether they are laid out ahead of time or laid out as the game proceeds. 

     

    Settlers of Catan has a randomly tile-laid board: there is a spatial relationship, but not one influenced by the players.  Once the board is laid out, it becomes a grid for placement and location.

     

    When cards/tiles/dominoes are used as a board, almost always it will be a spatial board, one for placement (or even movement) and location.  It’s unlikely to be a board that will help keep status, or a depository.

     

     

     

    What is essential to a board?  Depositories don’t need to be on a board, we can place draw decks, piece supplies, the Monopoly bank, more or less wherever we want rather than on a board, without too much inconveniencing the players.  (Remember, this is all part of the interface, which is supposed to make it easy for the players to see what’s happening in the game, and to manipulate the game.)  Information displays can be on separate play aids, in a rulebook, in the software’s Help files.  But to improve the interface we may want some of this information on the board where everyone can easily see it.  Status tracking areas can be on individual player layouts rather than on the board, or may use tokens or cards, but once again the question is what’s most convenient for the players, what makes the game easier to play, status recorded on a central board, or on a player layout, or somewhere else?

     

    The one thing that almost has to be on the board is a playing field/grid, when the game involves maneuver/placement and spatial relationships (location), because the interactivity amongst the different players’ pieces just about requires a common visual display.  It’s not surprising that the boards of classic games like Go, Chess in its many versions, Parcheesi, Backgammon, Nine Men’s Morris, Tic-Tac-Toe, Hnefetafl, are all playing fields and nothing else.

     

     

    Some people will argue that everything we might do with a game board, can be done with arrays in a computer.  That’s likely true, but the purpose of a board, which is a major part of a game interface, is to make the players’ tasks easier, to help them see what’s happening in the game.  Putting all of that in a computer array hides it.  The assumption in a boardgame is that all information is visible.  The state of a computer game is that nothing is visible until a programmer causes the computer to make it visible.

     

     

    To go back to our original question, we have:

    •       regular or irregular grids or tracks/routes
    •       depositories where physical (or virtually physical) things are placed
    •       information displays, and
    •       status tracking areas.

     

    I should think someone has tried to define areas/functions of boards before, perhaps someone can point me to those attempts.

     

     

     

    My book “Game Design: How to Create Video and Tabletop Games, Start to Finish" is available from mcfarlandpub.com or Amazon. (Books-a-Million has an eBook version at http://bit.ly/PQQqh3.)

    I am @lewpuls on Twitter.  (I average much less than one post a day, almost always about games, not about other topics.)  Web: http://pulsiphergames.com/