Saturday, March 30, 2013

Buried in the sands of time....

Will we still be playing board games in a few millenia?  Check out this article about game designer Jason Rohrer, who won a design contest after burying his board game in the Nevada desert. Seriously.
Rattling off a list of board game materials that would be unlikely to last the intended passage of time (wood, cardboard, aluminum, glass), Rohrer ultimately decided to make the game from a resilient metal. He machined the 18-inch by 18-inch game board and the pieces future players will use out of 30 pounds of titanium.

Rohrer laid out the game's rules diagrammatically on three pages of archival, acid-free paper, hermetically sealed them inside a Pyrex glass tube — which were then housed inside a titanium baton — and set about burying them in the earth.
Although some 900 clues were handed out at the conference, Rohrer suggests it could take 2700 years to finally unearth the game.  (I imagine the desert will have expanded greatly by then.)

Sadly, no one but a computer has actually played the game or seen in it in its entirety which seems like a waste.  It definitely makes it impossible to predict whether it'll be a candidate for the 2736th annual Spiel des Jahres award or even whether the Kickstarter campaign will get funded.  Sigh.

(Thanks for the tip, Sibs...)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Two short reviews of the excellent Toc Toc Woodman...

I must admit that recently I have become quite a big fan of dexterity games.  Perhaps I'm just getting sick and tired of explaining long boring rules over and over again.  We've played a ton of Riff Raff recently (which I highly recommend) and I love flipping crepes in A la Carte.  So I was happy to receive a copy of Toc Toc Woodman a few weeks ago from Mayday Games although I must admit I didn't quite know what to expect. 

The premise is simple:  build a giant tree made of plastic pieces with a central core and outer bark.  Then use the plastic axe to knock the bark off for positive points.  Careful how hard you hit, though, as each piece of the core that falls off is worth -5.  And that's it.  Obviously this is a game geared more to kids then adults so I decided to provide two perspectives - one from the perspective of some innocent children and the other from a group of rather inebriated friends of ours.

First, the drunken adults:  Having counted myself one of this group, I can happily say that this game is a riot.  It's far more clever than can be seen at first glance.  In fact we were all a little dissuaded when we first saw the sticker on the box stating "The Smash Hit Korean Game!" (that I've never heard of....)  But after setting it up, we immediately saw how clever the toy/game design.  Each level of the tree has a central piece with outer bark connected to it loosely.  When stacked everything is very stable but once a level moves out a bit from the others, the bark actually falls off quite easily.  It's a bit hard to describe but elegantly simple once you see it in action.

Setting up the tree
Every turn you get two hits with the axe which seems simple.  But every hit you make doesn't just move the one piece but the whole tree.  And as it sways more and more, of course the game is just that much more entertaining.  The only drawback to the game, I'd say, is that you have to set the tree up every time but that takes no more than a minute and you can get chopping again. 

Getting precarious....
Now, the target audience - the kids:  The next day, one of said inebriated adults (now not inebriated) brought the game home for his kids to play.  His 6-, 3-, and 1-year-old all loved it despite all having very different experiences.  For the 6-year-old, it was a good introduction to negative and positive numbers (4 pieces of bark + 1 piece of trunk = 1 below 0) and he realized quickly that there really would be no game if the centre trunk pieces had a positive value.  Smart freaking kid.

The 3-year-old understandably didn't get the points system but seemed to understand not to knock the trunk pieces off as they were "bad".  The 1-year-old just whacked the shit out of the tree until it fell.  Awesome.

Overall, the response was that it was easy to set up, clear goals even if the points system is too complex, and quick playing which allowed many rounds. 

So in summary, this game is awesome.  That's kind of it.  Us adults loved it and it sounds like the kids did, too.  A simple, quick diversion that seems like more of a toy than anything else but I would heartily recommend at the end of any evening.  Highly recommended.

(The video below is sideways but it gives you some idea.  And he was lying.  He loved it.)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuesday, March 19, 2013



Thursday, March 7, 2013

The 6 worst board games ever made...

...and what you should be playing instead are compiled in this very funny article from Cracked magazine.  My favourite paragraph describes how Connect Four perfectly:
"Also, it's not a game. There's more multiplayer strategy in sudoku. Connect Four was entirely solved, twice, two decades ago. The first player either wins or is an idiot. There's a sequence of utterly unbeatable moves, meaning this isn't skill, it's extremely crude abstract pointillist color-it-in. Even without the unbeatable moves, it's built entirely around mutual spoiling tactics. You don't work toward cunning victory -- you repeatedly frustrate each other's attempts to get anywhere until one of you screws up and the other finally gets to win and leave. That isn't a game, it's a simulation of a failing adulterous marriage."
Can you guess which game came out as the worst?  C'mon, just guess. 

(Thanks to Robby for the link.)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Tabletop Day, March 30th!

If you haven't seen the TableTop videos on YouTube, you should try taking a look at their channel here.  It stars Wil Wheaton (yes, of ST: TNG fame - and who we saw at Origins last year) and Felicia Day, who is well known among fanboy circles for her work on Dr. Horrible and The Guild.

On each episode, they play through a modern board game and then subsequently the game sells out across North America and the game company is quite happy (this is partially why I couldn't find a damn copy of Pandemic this past Christmas).  I imagine they now get sent a LOT of review copies....

Anyways, on March 30th, they've declared it TableTop Day, a day across North America where people get together at local board game shops, libraries, and friends' houses to, yes, play lots of games.  And despite the mild bit of hubris it takes to declare a special day after your own web series, it still will be kind of cool if it brings more people into the hobby and more events to your FLGS.

Check out the video below for more details.

I'm totally not famous at all, but a 'Death Of Monopoly' day could be fun, too.  People could trade in copies of Monopoly for real board games donated by companies and then we could play them around campfires made from the burning of old boards and Monopoly money.

Burning Monopoly money...  boy, that would make me feel so rich.