Thursday, November 7, 2013

A gaming historian....

Well here's a job I'd love to do!  This British museum curator studies the history of board games:
This pattern of what Finkel calls "spread and evolution and decline and rescue and unstoppability" is at the heart of what fascinates him about board games. Intermittently, governments have tried to curb them: China outlawed mahjong during the Cultural Revolution, and the Taliban threatened chess players with execution. But games defy control, mutating and leaping boundaries with an inexorable life of their own. Pachisi, says Finkel, was played in India for centuries, jumped to Britain by 1875 and was repackaged there as ludo, which was exported back to India around the 1960s: "Nowadays, Indian children play ludo completely oblivious to the fact that it is a monstrous decomposition of their own fantastic board game."
My only objection is Irving Finkel's comment on his favourite game Monopoly that "the idea of renting out a square was the last 'momentous' innovation in board games."  Right.  This article was from 2008 so I hope he's done a bit more research since then....

(Thanks for the tip, Matt!)

Monday, September 30, 2013

Via Appia....

I have been accused on more than one occasion of purchasing and loving games purely for their quirky features (I'm looking at you, Mord Im Arosa and Master Thieves!)  And I can't really deny it. I'm a sucker for a gimmick.  So when I heard about the stone pushing mechanism of Via Appia released from Queen Games this year, my little heart skipped a beat.

You remember that game in the carnivals, where you dropped the coins in and they landed on a moving platform and if they landed just right they'd push other coins off the edge and you'd get to keep those ones?  Well someone's distilled that into a fun, albeit VERY light, euro strategy game.

Best just to watch the clip below from our first game (sorry for the weird angle).....

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Today in awesome....

I stopped playing Settlers years and years ago.  But these socks at one my favourite online retailers are so awesome I just had to order a pair.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

First plays: Targi....

I love a good strategic 2-player game that I can carry with me wherever I go - Lost Cities and Roma being prime examples of these.  One particular week in Cuba with my partner a couple years ago was filled with games beside the pool and ocean.  Ah, magic.   So I was definitely open to playing Targi at Origins this year after the buzz I'd heard about this game from the Kosmos 2-player line.  Unfortunately I was extraordinarily hung over when I tried it so maybe not the best first impression.  Fast forward to 2 nights ago and Vince and I sat down for a game.  And what a game! Quick-moving but meaty, this game takes a good hour to play and seems to have quite some interesting strategies.

The actions
It really is a worker-placement game but with a positional twist:  the first 3 workers you place determine where in the grid your last 2 workers will land.  It's a simple interesting mechanic that really elevates this game to something new.  As well, as you build your grid of tribe cards, many of them allow you to break certain rules in the game or provide end-game points.  The strategies and combinations from these seem endless given the number of tribe cards that will show up in any one game.

Tribe cards
Definitely looking forward to exploring this little gem more.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

FanExpo 2013....

Oh, the humanity!!!!!
For probably the 5th year in a row, I attended FanExpo this August at the enormous Toronto Metro Convention Centre.  In case you don't know, FanExpo is Canada's largest fan convention for comic book fanatics, trekkies, gamers, writers, sports fanatics (this year!), and almost every other nerd grouping you can think of.  And this year, it seems to have been the biggest one yet.  My partner is an artist and he sells his creepy, beautiful poster prints like hotcakes at these shows.  So for a couple of days of hard work at our booth I get a full exhibitor pass for the whole weekend and I get to skip all the lines!  This year was our best year yet as the show keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Vincent's booth this year
I was even able to take the Saturday off from selling to attend the Great Canadian Board Game Blitz which is always hectic fun.  If you haven't heard of it before (like, say in my previous posts), it's a very friendly competition where everyone plays a bunch of games and gets a score according to their ranking in each game.  At the end of the day there are prizes for highest scores as well as some random draws, too.  What's really nice is that after the first couple of rounds the players with the lowest scores get to pick which games they play first which is kind of a natural catch-up mechanism in the greater meta-game being played over the day.

First time playing San Juan at the Blitz, GREAT little game!
I played lots of great games that day including the heavy (Goa) and the light (Tsuro).  I was quite excited to play and also win one particular game, Trains & Stations, by Eric M. Lang of Quarriors fame.  Eric, who has a great first name and also resides in Southern Ontario, was kind enough to explain to us how to play the game.  T&S is mainly a dice game but there is a lot more going on than just that.  There is route and station-building, set-collection, tickets to complete straight outta Ticket To Ride, and even a bit of a stock market element.  It's quite a dense little game considering how quickly it plays and how light the dice make it feel.

Trains & Stations board with dice (trains) played and resource cards
In general, players are rolling their dice to try and get train symbols to place on the board or to build stations.  When rolled as train symbols, the dice themselves are placed on the board to try and build routes between cities.  These routes can be left unfinished and other players can add their own dice to finish them, yielding points to all players involved.  An interesting strategy, of course, is to piggy back on as many routes as possible to score on each completion.  Stations attached to completed routes generate resource cards for their owners and there are bonuses at game end for the player with the most in each resource.  In a very "Acquire"-y twist, once a resource runs out a better resource replaces it and players have the option to trade-up 2 for 1 for the newer more valuable resource.

"All the pretty dices......."
All this is quite fascinating and an interesting mix of mechanics that I REALLY like.  But it's a very short game - 30-45 minutes - and the dice and cards inject a hefty dose of luck.  On the last round of turns, the player before me completely crapped out on her roll and was unable to do anything and then on my turn I managed to roll well enough to complete some excellent routes which let me draw more cards.  These cards just happened to give me the majority in a couple of resources allowing me to secure the win.  So I'm not entirely sure what I think of the game yet - it's lots of fun with many strategies for play, but the ruleset is a bit long for such a short game and the swings of luck seemed to often dictate the strategy you take.  Still, I really want to play this again and that's a good sign.

Completed route tickets
Overall, it was an awesome day packing 6 games into 7 hours and meeting lots of new people.  And I was lucky enough to win a random draw and snatch a copy of Tsuro which I had already been considering buying after playing it that day.  Thanks again to the online game store Fun Games Cafe out of Mississauga for providing some of the prizes, including the one I took home.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Alan Moon Interview

Last April I had the joy of finally meeting one of my board game design hero's. The real treat was finding out he is also a great person. Alan Moon (designer of Ticket to Ride) really left an impression on me. He was always smiling. He was not only hospitable, but seemed to really take an interest in everyone attending the Gathering of Friends. The interview you find below was captured during my time at the Gathering of Friends. It was filmed by Douglas Morse, as part of his documentary "Adventures On The Tabletop". Im not sure if it will be included as an extra feature, but I recommend if you enjoy the videoclip, be sure to purchase the movie when it is released.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Eric M. Lang Q&A from FanExpo....

I plan to do a full write-up of FanExpo this year including pics from The Great Canadian Board Game Blitz and Eric Lang's clever new game Trains & Stations which was a hit with a lot of new people.  But until I get to that, check out this Q&A session with Eric Lang (who co-designed Quarriors, amongst other great games) who actually hails from right nearby in Guelph, Ontario.  Lots of great design talk.

This was filmed by my buddy Matt at The Busted Couch v-blog who seems to have taken a shining to board games now, too.  Thanks, Matt!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

FanExpo 2013....

If you're in Toronto this weekend and happen to be attending FanExpo, Canada's largest fan convention, I recommend you check out Stephen Sauer's booth A27 in Artist's Alley (Stephen co-designed the fantastic and soon-to-be-published Londonderry with DOM co-blogger Daryl Andrews.)  This year Stephen has designed some delightful prints for sale including the 'Sherlock playing Settlers' piece you see below.

And while you're there come stop by the Rue Morgue area and catch me selling my partner Vincent Marcone's spooky artwork at booth 1624.  Unless it's Saturday from 11-5.  If it's Saturday, I'm at the Great Canadian Board Game Blitz finals with Daryl.  Come play some games with us there! 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Hot tip of the day....

Any new Days of Wonder release is a reason to get excited (although I must admit I have yet to play a few of them....)  Up and coming this fall is a new game entitled Relic Runners which looks nothing short of spectacular thanks to the usual DOW gorgeous production and what looks like really interesting gameplay. And there's path-building.  I LOVE path-building.

I recommend you check out the full rules online here, if only to ogle the pretty plastic relics.  But also in the ruleset is one particularly good tip for those of us constantly unboxing and punching out pieces for games:
If this is the first game you play, punch out all the pieces from the game’s punchboards. Rather than discarding the empty frames, insert them under the vacuum tray inside your game box; this will help your tray stay flush with your game’s box top, preventing pieces inside from spilling over when storing your game.
Well, I never thought of that.  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

World's oldest board game?

Today in cool, Gizmodo points us to a cool discovery in Turkey - 5000 year old board game pieces:
The extensive set is made up of 49 small, carved stones that wouldn't be entirely dissimilar to chess pieces if not for the fact that, in addition to black and white, the tokens also come painted in red, blue, and green and were accompanied by poorly preserved wooden sticks.
These may date as far back as the oldest know game Senet or even further.  Very, very cool.

(Thanks for the tip, Matt)

Monday, August 12, 2013

First plays: The Palaces of Carrara....

One of my favourite lighter strategy games from the last couple years was Kramer and Kiesling's perfectly-tuned Asara.  Asara is a worker-placement, majority game which slickly used cards for the placement making it feel deceptively different.  What stuck with me was just how amazingly well all the overly familiar mechanics in Asara fit together - it was like everything had been playtested 1000s of hours to create that perfect experience.  I feel the same about my all-time favourite game The Princes of Florence, also co-designed by Kramer, although PoF is a much heavier experience.

The latest game from K&K (I like that!) is called The Palaces of Carrara and was up for the Kennerspiel des Jahres award this past year.  And after a couple of plays I'm happy to say it's just as magical as Asara.  Familiar mechanisms meld together in familiar ways and yet everything feels intentional and fresh.  Carrara combines a clever decreasing market for blocks which are bought to let you build buildings.  The buildings are then scored in various ways to get players more money and victory points.

The board and the stone wheel
And everything has been seen before but in this game it all clicks together so damn well!  The players choose when and what they score reminiscent of Dorn's classic Arkadia and the "coins to resources to buildings to points" has been done again and again.  But the game plays so smooth and quick that it doesn't matter and after the first few turns of my first game strategies and plans were already starting to emerge in my mind.  And included with the game are advanced rules which will give the game endless replayability - a set of cards which determine the endgame conditions and probably should be included as soon as everyone's tried the game once.  We haven't tried them yet but I think it will be a necessity from here on in.

Player's building and scoring mat
Anyways, only played this a couple times so far but I think the depth will be endless once we bring in the endgame cards.  And the feeling while I'm playing every time I get a great deal from the revolving market on expensive building blocks is the same feeling I get from a great find at Winners - SWEET!

Very much looking forward to exploring this gem.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Geek Girls

I love this video. 
Even though the writers for this blog are all guys (so far), 
we each proudly know many amazing geeks girls. 
Enjoy the film! Spread the word.
And you might even spot some famous people in the video...

Monday, June 24, 2013

Randolph Pub in Montreal

Last week I got the pleasure of visiting Randolph Pub in Montreal. It was the last item on my long list of must-do things in Montreal. Well you know what they say, save the best for last! And I did. 
Originally, I had plans to visit Randolph pub with a few different friends while in Montreal. However, they all seemed to fall through for a variety of reasons. However, my amazing wife offered to go with me instead. No offence to the others, but this was an upgrade in my books. 

We arrived shortly after 4pm, when the doors open to this board game paradise. The pub already had a few people playing games & enjoying the happy hour specials. I bumped into Justin, one of the four owners, and he was gracious enough to show me around the place. Justin explained some of the history of the establishment and showed me the numerous improvements they keep adding to Randolph pub. The picture above shows Justin in the newly renovated upstairs space. With the new bench seating, and the high end air conditioner installed, the upstairs space can now comfortably handle an additional 100 customers beyond the the main floor of the pub. 

Tanya & I enjoyed some delicious food and drinks. Tanya had a yummy Quiche with salad, and a Pop Shoppe cola. I must confess, I love Pop Shoppe, as its from London, ON and I lived many great years there. I enjoyed a delightful panani sandwich with tortilla chips, and a smooth St. Ambroise Scotch beer.  

I had a great date night with my wife at Randolph Pub. We ended up staying for about 4 hours and enjoyed some good food, drinks, and fun. We managed to play Roll N Bump, Cinque Terre, Augustus, & Qwixx (a home made copy as the game is not released in N. America yet). The staff were very helpful, recommending/teaching us a variety of games. Overall, a fantastic example of what every board game cafe/pub should and can be. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Adventures on the Tabletop

Only 3 days left! If you havent heard already, an upcoming Board Game documentary is on Kickstarter. But only 3 days left to help this project be even better. I highly recommend you help sponsor this project by signing on to Kickstarter and finding a funding level that interest you. If you like board games, you are going to want to see this movie.

The film maker is Douglas Morse. I had the pleasure meeting him at the Gathering of Friends a couple months ago. Doug's goal with this movie is to make a film for board game fans, that helps pull back the curtain on the whole board game design/publishing process, and let everyone see the adventure games go through to get to our tables.

I am a little bias, as I might be featured in the film, but even beyond that, I am very confident the content in this film will be amazing. Some of the exclusive and candid interviews Doug Morse has been able to attain are priceless. The chance to hear from legendary board game designers like Alan Moon, and significant publishers in the industry like Hans Im Gluck, is incredible rare and will be very entertaining. We are talking about people who love and make games. Of course they are fun people.

So check out the preview below, and please consider supporting this project. Also, please go out of your way and recommend this project to a few people you know who might be interested in the film. At the very least you will earn some bonus points with your friends & family that you recommend this to them, because it shows you were thinking of them.

-- Daryl Andrews
(PS - you can see me at 0:48 & 2:25 in the preview)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ultimate Tic-Tac-Toe....

I know, I know.  I don't post for weeks and then you read this title.  Hear me out - work is crazy, dog is quite sick, and basically the only time I've had off was last weekend.  Speaking of which, we went to Origins for another fun weekend and I'll post some convention pics by the weekend.

But seriously, check out this link.  I scoffed at first but then I read ALL the rules.  It is actually a pretty clever and rather tricky variant.  Which is probably why it showed up on a math blog.  And yes, it's probably eventually solvable but then isn't every abstract?

(Thanks for the tip, Gilad...)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Settlers is the new Risk....

For a good laugh, check out this list of nasty things to do while playing Settlers.  Definitely gonna try #2 if I ever get dragged into playing the game again.

(Thanks for the tip, K-Stew....)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

First Play: Copycat....

The hobby gaming obsession has exploded so much so over the past decade that many games have come out with themes and mechanics that reflect humourously on hobby gaming itself.  And there's so many of us suckers now that these games are even finding a market - The Boardgamegeek Game and Cleopatra's Caboose are prime examples.  Copycat, by the brilliant and weird Friedemann Friese of Power Grid and Black Friday fame, is another prime example of this.  Friese decided he wanted to steal mechanics from the top-rated games on BGG and put 'em together to create something new.  Of course, this is a not-so-subtle commentary on the endless variations of modern game mechanics that we're seeing over and over - worker placement, deck-building, you name it.  So Copycat steals the worker-placement/action card reveal from Agricola, the deck-building and coins for buying from Dominion, increasing values of unused actions from Puerto Rico, and the sliding card row from Through the Ages as well as tossing a few more clever ideas into the mix.

Red cards are useless, you know, like licenses and degrees and stuff
And I daresay that my first play of this was rather magnificent!  Once the fog had lifted from trying to parse yet another confusing Friese and Rio Grande ruleset, we really started to get into the game.  Not knowing what I was doing and not knowing that money would be really hard to come by later, I tried my classic "Chapel" strategy from Dominion of burning down my deck and then building it back up.  Unfortunately I used more actions burning my deck then building it and so had to play catch up in the end game.  But man was this fun.  Long-term strategy from the deck-building and deep challenging tactical play every round from the action spaces and the cards on hand.  And a devious decision every round for turn order - which card to give up from a hand of only 5?  Delicious.  I'm looking forward to my next play of this, I must say, and seriously considering owning a copy myself.  Highly recommended, especially if Agricola and Dominion float your boat.

And you don't have to feed your family!!!!

Action spaces and "campaign workers"
UPDATE:  2-player game is way too easy.  Fun but devoid of tension.  4-player is excellent and illustrates the many ways to scoop points.  But for length of play I think 3 players is just right. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

On The Horizon: Euphoria....

....or the full title - Euphoria:  Build a Better Dystopia.  (If you're not sure what a dystopia is, think the opposite of a utopia.  Or just play the excellent video game Bioshock: Infinite.)  The Kickstarter campaign for Euphoria launched today and I'd be promoting it just cuz the designers are such nice guys.  But after having read the rules, I can happily say this one looks pretty darn cool, too, and dripping with theme.  Yes, dripping with theme much like their previous game Viticulture... which should be arriving in the mail for me next week!

This upcoming game is a heavy worker-placement game like many designs out today, but its definitely got a few clever twists.  The cleverest part of the design, in my opinion, is that workers are represented by dice (a bit like Alien Frontiers) and the higher the value of the die (knowledge) the better the actions it can do.  However if the sum of your worker dice (knowledge) exceeds a certain amount, then one of your workers runs away.  Aha!  Get it, they're getting too smart for their own good and seek freedom.  As well, there's buildings that once completed take away options from the players who don't help construct them.  Nasty, and again totally integrated with the dystopian theme.

Definitely check out their Kickstarter campaign and take a look at the rules.  The images so far are gorgeous and if Jamey and his team over-fund this campaign as much as they did Viticulture last year, then the bonus pieces will be just as magnificent.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Most Complicated Board Game Ever

Enjoy this hilarious video paying tribute to how complicated board games can feel sometimes.

''Learning to play a new game has never been so painful.''

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Guest post - First play of Factory Fun....

We played this last night. It's a game of machine building, input and output power sources, and pipe laying. Vaguely reminiscent of the old school Waterworks, only way more technical. It doesn't sound like a lot of fun, and it definitely isn't one of the prettier board games I've seen, so I wasn't sure what to think.  I don't know if it was the "post-birthday" sugar coma or the after effects of a house full of shrieking 5-year-old girls... but this one was a bumbling, brain fogging, head scratcher!  

It took us about 90 minutes to play from set-up to completion. Two of us have never played it before so the initial rules and strategy explanation was slow and overwhelming.  My husband caught onto the concept quicker than I, although he hit a major stumbling block when he cleared his factory floor completely and then couldn't reassemble all his machines the same way.  His blunder, however, game me a good half hour to leisurely peruse the rules while he tried to lay his pieces again. I can't say that by the end of play, I had completely caught on, but I was taking more risks in grabbing machines. 

We discovered a significant error on my board about halfway through the game, as well, where I had inputted into an output piece, or something like that.  A few hastily purchased pieces of pipe fixed it right up, though.  By the end I was letting my husband tell me what pieces to play where.   In other board games, his habit of "helping" pisses me off.  Last night, I actually found myself asking for his advice.  From a fluke of luck, or my lack of impulsivity in the grabbing pieces round, I didn't come in dead last.  The engineer at the table won, actually, so of course I accused him of stacking the odds in his favour.  He insisted, "No, no, I normally lose," and "I'm not that kind of engineer!"  Hmm... maybe he's a Ticket to Ride engineer ...  but I digress.  

Factory Fun is a puzzle game (I'd venture to say a very complicated puzzle game) and I love puzzle games.  I'm generally quite good at them.  And I did find myself wishing it was a few rounds longer as it started to make more sense to meBut I'm not going to judge it by my virgin experience... it was awkward, messy, and frustrating. It left me feeling unsatisfied and wishing it had lasted just a little longer.  But I can already tell that it'll get easier, so it's definitely a game that deserves a second play.  

- Laura Freeman, mother of 4, social worker, soon-to-be-published author, and all-around great sister

Monday, May 6, 2013

"Go directly to hell, do not pass go, do not collect 200 souls..."

Clive Barker has always been one of my favourite authors, although I know his particular brand of gruesome ain't for everyone.  He has quite the library of fiction and film and you can tell he loves his fans because he is always featuring their artwork on his Facebook page.  And some of it is pretty cool, like a recent post about this wicked Hellraiser Monopoly board made by fan Brian Sharp.

Click to embiggen
If you've read The Hellbound Heart or seen Hellraiser, then check out the original post to see more of the awesome handmade Cenobite pieces.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A love letter to Love Letter.....

I'm starting to believe there is a bit of a renaissance occurring in board game circles, a rejection of the new and shiny and complex.  The complexity of modern games has left a lot of us with a sour taste in our mouths.  What happened to the simple, elegant brilliance of Modern Art or Ticket To Ride or even Power Grid?  Or even short games like the excellent Coloretto or For Sale?

Okay, maybe it's just me.  But still, I gotta think people are looking for more simplicity when gamers keep mentioning Love Letter in every second post and article I read.  If you haven't heard of Love Letter, then you probably don't read too many board game blogs.  So why is a game that costs $7, plays in about 5 minutes, and uses 16 cards and a few red cubes suddenly the darling of the game world?  Well, maybe that's just it.  Simpilcity.  10 seconds of rules explanation which yields, I daresay, a great half hour of fun, albeit very light fun.

So how does Love Letter work and how can it play so well with only 16 cards? (The cubes are really extraneous and serve only as scoring markers.)  The rules are dead simple.  You hold one card and on your turn you pick up a second card.  Then you have to play one of your cards face up and do what it says.  That's pretty much it.  The goal?  Be the last player left in the round or be the player holding the highest card when the draw pile empties.

It's overly simple but what makes the game interesting are the card powers.  Cards are numbered 1-8 and the different values all have different actions.  One lets you look at another player's card, some let you guess an opponent's card and eliminate that player if you're right, one makes you discard your other card of a certain type, and so on.  Each option is simple but the interplay of the actions is what creates such an enjoyable little round.  It's entirely possible to be eliminated on the first turn but when rounds can run under 2 minutes this doesn't really bother anyone.  Shuffle 'em up, deal another one! 

Yes, Love Letter has a hefty dose of luck but I've never seen so much fun packed into such a short, simple package.  Do yourself a favour and pick this lovely little filler up - anyone can learn it and anyone can play it and everyone will love it.  And for 7 bucks, that's a pretty awesome deal.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Sum Wars on Kickstarter...

My family has been subjected to many games over the years and there are a few that can get a bit rowdy, particularly with my mother.  She's a sharp player and picks up rules very quickly, but throw a frantic game at her where everyone plays at once and she comes out swinging.  HA!  My sister and I can recall many rounds of Dutch Blitz which got way out of hand.  Another game which was a frantic, violent favourite of ours is called Pick Two.  It was basically Scrabble on speed.  Players draw two tiles at at time to add to their crosswords and once one person uses them all everyone immediately has to draw two more, whether they want to or not.  It's a riot. 

Well, a new game Sum Wars is currently campaigning on Kickstarter and it's kind of like the mathematical heir to Pick Two.  And since I loved Pick Two and I studied math in university for far, far too long, I am particularly interested in this game.  In Sum Wars, the crosswords are now built with simple equations and you always have access to the addition, subtraction, and equal tiles.  There are also bomb tiles which allow you to remove other players tiles and will add more to the interaction and nastiness.

I'm an avid supporter of math education and if Sum Wars does for numbers what Pick Two did for spelling, then I imagine it would be an excellent addition to any math classroom or even just your own board game collection.  Check out the video above or the Kickstarter page here for more info.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

My teenage years encapsulated in a picture....

A friend just posted a pic of my old homemade Settlers edition on Facebook which she has held onto for 10+ years.  Back in '96 in northern BC, it was very hard for a 15-year-old to get a copy of Settlers of Catan without a credit card and before the current board game fanaticism brought everything to North America.  So I made my own copy with the rulesets I found online.  I think this picture foreshadows a lot. It's also a tad tragic - barns in farmland???  HA!

Double-click to embiggen the gloriousness
(Thanks, Shannon, for holding on to this piece of history!)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Reflection on the 2013 Gathering of Friends...

Last week I got to experience my first ever Gathering of Friends, an invite-only board game event hosted by Alan Moon. It took me the last 5 days to recover from this amazing experience. I didn't pace myself well. I ended up getting sick when I got home. Guess I was desperate for some sleep, home cooking, and getting back to a regular routine.

Me with Alan & Janet Moon. 
This was honestly the best board game experience of my life. I did some number-crunching and it looks like I played about 70 games total (a mix of prototypes, published games, and coming soon games). Of the 70 games, 40 were unique titles. And of those 40 titles about 30 of them were new to me. That's a lot of games!

One of my favourite games at GoF13 - Rialto by Stefan Feld
It was so amazing to get to try a bunch of games that are not out yet. I discovered some great games that are coming soon. Some highlights for me include: Terra Mystica, Brugge, Spyrium, Rialto, Tzolkin expansion (post coming), Russian Rails, Black Spy, Clubs (post coming), etc, not to mention all the great prototypes.

Quarantine by Mercury Games (Coming Soon)
A neat success story from last year's GoF is the game Quarantine by Mercury Games. Last year my roommate Jay Cormier pitched this game by Mark Klassen (fellow Game Artisan of Canada) to a new board game company Mercury Games (Canadian company!) at GoF12. Well this year, Mercury Games had a couple advance copies to preview at the event. I got to try the finished product of the game even before the designer! The game is tons of fun, and hopefully I will be able to get the game (reviewers copy?) in the future.

Vlaada playing Cards Against Humanity with GAC
However, the Gathering's real highlight is the people. As a member of the Game Artisans of Canada, I hadn't met many of the west coast and prairie members. What a great way to meet them! Above you can see us playing a game of Cards Against Humanity. Vlaada also joined in. But the list doesn't end there. I got to meet so many great people. Some of the more noteworthy examples are the publishers and designers I got to meet. I already mentioned Vlaada & William. I dont have pictures, but some of the other highlights include getting to do dinner with great designers like Kevin G. Nunn (1955: The War of Espionage, Rolling Freight, Zong Shi) & Kevin Wilson (Arkham Horror, Android, Cosmic Encounter, Descent, Elder Sign, Fury of Dracula, A Game of Thrones, Sid Meier's Civilization, etc). Also got to hang out with a variety of amazing board game reviewers. Basically every writer for Opinionated Gamers was in attendance at the Gathering.

Game Artisans of Canada (GAC) being interviewed

One of the more unique experiences of the Gathering, atleast for me, was being part of a documentary. As many of you know, I am a big movie fan, and really love documentaries. Well, it looks like I might be part of a board game documentary. Doug was able to capture many of my pitches to publishers and he said there is a good chance my story will be part of the finished product. So keep an eye on Kickstarter as he plans to crowd-fund his documentary. I honestly sometimes forgot I was being filmed and I know Doug managed to capture some amazing moments. From live pitches from a variety of designers, to back room interviews with publishers, to insider tips from industry experts, if you like board games, or are just curious about insider business tips, you will need to watch this film.

Sails To Steam presented to Hans Im Glueck & Z-Man
Talking about pitching games, I havent mentioned some of the great success stories GAC experienced at this year's Gathering. The main goal of GoF is not pitching games, but thankfully Alan Moon is okay with it happening at his event. The amazing thing is, the entire experience is very casual and personal. Instead of it feeling very rigid and business like, the entire pitch process is fun. Publishers like to hang out with designers, and listen to pitches over dinner or even a beer. Its a real win-win environment. I give all the credit to Alan for creating such an amazing atmosphere. 

At this point I wont go into much more detail about some of the GAC games that got picked up, because I wouldn't want to get in the way of any contract's being negotiated. However, I will be sure to mention them in the future, as paperwork gets signed, and designers are open to me sharing.

Prototype designed by Stephen Sauer & I
I will share a brief summary of my pitching experience. I managed to present Londonderry to 7 publishers at the Gathering of Friends. I was actually a little shocked they were willing to meet with me, as I am an unsigned designer. Each of them are amazing companies I would be honoured to work with. It is easy for me to say that I liked them all, when all of them had many great things to say about Londonderry. Even the one publisher who outright said he was not interested (yes, most of the companies said to keep in touch), did say the game was "flawless!" What?! The publisher said it wasn't his taste of game, but really nothing major should change about the game because there is a market for this game. 

Overall, of the 6 other publishers who expressed interest to keep talking, we decided to move forward (at this stage) with two of them who were most excited about the design. A couple of the publishers I talked to even suggested I move forward with one of these two companies as they thought it would be a good fit. One thing I learned from this experience, is that publishers really work well with each other. I find this very admirable about the board game industry. That does not mean either of them will for sure sign the game. But at this point, they wanted prototypes of the game to be able to give it a more thorough evaluation. If both publishers decide to pass, then we will pursue another publisher. I really look forward to getting past this stage in the process - and focus on developing and making this game incrediable.

Alan Moon & I with the prize I brought

Last but not least, the prize table. At the end of the Gathering, we have a big ceremony and people earn prizes. Everyone gets to walk home with at least one prize because everyone brings a prize. Above is a picture of the prize I brought (thanks to my co-designer Stephen Sauer for providing me with an amazing prize). Alan Moon liked the prize so much he placed it on his main table of his favourite prizes. Woohoo! Many of the prizes on his table went to tournament winners (I played in 4 tournaments and sadly never won. I did manage to get to the finals in 3 of them). But I ended up getting a pretty amazing prize, a jumbo version of Blokus (generously donated by Kevin O'Brien!) However, after the event, my friend Ben (owner of Snakes & Lattes) was heartbroken I scooped that prize on him, so I traded him the prize for a couple games. I know it will get lots of love at Snakes & Lattes, and I can visit my awesome prize any time I go.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A lovely little poem....

My dear sister is a writer in her off-time (although I don't know how she gets off-time with 4 kids and a full-time job!)  Lately she's been writing poems for a contest and she dedicated her latest to me.  It's a pantoum and she explains what that is in her original post

Once you've read the poem, I think you'll start to wonder about our family.  Thanks, Laura....

#9 - To Play the Classics
An honourable opponent,
She chose the thimble, I the shoe
She lived for the moment.
She rolled the dice, her roll was true,

She chose the thimble, I the shoe,
Thimble moving in a blur,
She rolled the dice, her roll was true,
The dice, they favoured her,

Thimble moving in a blur,
Properties collected,
The dice, they favoured her,
It was as I suspected.

Properties collected,
She played the banker, too
It was just as I suspected,
As her hotels and houses grew,

She played the banker, too,
I watched from my spot in jail,
As her hotels and houses grew,
Roll doubles; epic fail.

I watched from my spot in jail,
Gleeful, she grabbed Park Place,
Roll doubles; epic fail,
Smug grin upon her face.

Gleeful, she grabbed Park Place,
My heart sinking lower every roll,
Smug grin upon her face,
Her stack of money flush and whole,

My heart sinking lower every roll,
I slowly approached the blue,
Her stack of money flush and whole,
What was one to do?

I slowly approached the blue,
So close was I to losing.
What was one to do?
A final act of poorest choosing.

So close was I to losing,
I stood and tipped the table,
A final act of poorest choosing,
The legs must have been unstable.

I stood and tipped the table,
She knew what it really meant,
The legs must have been unstable,
For, I'm an honourable opponent,

- Laura F -

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Well, the good times continue at the Gathering of Friends....

Last night my friends Al Leduc (designer of Frankendie), Jay Cormier (co-designer of Belfort + Train of Thought), and I (designer of no games published) were looking to play a game in the late hours and noticed a person sitting solo. So we decided to ask him to join us in a 4-player game of Hanabi. Its a great game with a completely unique game experience. It uses an interesting interpretation of making a co-operative game impossible to be dominated by a single player. I personally love the game. I had tried Hanabi one time before, at a cottage with a bunch of board game designer friends (Game Artisans of Canada invite-only event, "Cardstockawa"). The game is all about giving each other clues, however collectively the players have very limited clues to give. The main way to win the game, is when the clues you are giving say more in what you dont say. However, you have to trust others will interpret what you dont say, the same way as you intend. Brilliant game with a simple ruleset.

Vlaada & Jay thinking about Hanabi
I guess I left out one awesome details from my story above. Who was the 4th player?! None other than Vlaada Chvatil (designer of: Through the Ages, Space Alert, Galaxy Trucker, Dungeon Lords, Dungeon Pets, & Mage Knight, but to mention a few). To put that in perspective: he has designed 2 of the top 9 all-time designed boards games on the planet right now (according to

Jay, Chris, Matt, Vlaada, & my belly (Daryl)
And I guess we didnt play too poorly because Vlaada decided to play another game with us today. This time Vlaada Chvatil joined us in a game of Cinque Terre designed by Chris Handy. He also decided to join us and play the game too. I got to hang out with Chris a couple days ago and do dinner with him & Jay, so it was great to finally get to try his game out. Cinque Terre is a game I know not only will my wife love, but so will Eric (main writer here on deathofmonopoly). It was super fun and simple to understand, but difficult to master. A game all about efficiency. Ofcourse Vlaada beat us all. However, Matt Tolman (game designer of 2014 - news still coming) made a massive comeback and only lost by 5 points (I lost by 35 points). Here is one last picture of the colourful board of Cinque Terre. Doesnt the score track around the border just make you want to smile?!

read more about the game at: