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:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Daryl chats with William Attia at GOF...

Daryl Andrews & William Attia (Gathering of Friends 2013)
Where do I start?! I have spent the last 4 days at the Gathering of Friends and it has been beyond amazing. I confess I am not even sorry for not posting much about it, because I have been busy enjoying it too much. So many highlights to share. Where do I start?!

Today, I played a prototype copy of Spyrium designed by William Attia (maker of the great game Caylus - basically the best classic heavy euro game of all time). You can see a picture of us above. First off, the game is amazing! It does everything I love in games. Its deep, with tough decisions and never enough turns to make them all. Every turn is fun, and even in your downtime you are engaged and care what other players are doing. 

Jay Cormier teaching us (Ian, Debbie, Jeff, & I) Spyrium 
However, this was not the highlight of my interaction with William. Later I found out that he is also keeping an eye out for games for Ystari publishing AND he wanted to see my game Londonderry that I co-designed with Stephen Sauer. WHAT?! We played the game and it was tons of fun. Thanks to Gord Hamilton & Ian Mackey for joining us. William expressed Londonderry is not necessarily his taste in games, but offered great feedback and encouragement. My bias but favourite comment after he found out I liked the game "Rialto" by Stefan Feld, "well I can tell why you like that game because this game reminds me of it very much, but I like your game more." 

After I came back down from cloud 9, William spent a significant amount of time sharing his story, talking about his progress as a board game designer. It was so amazing to hear a candid and personal story from such an accomplished designer about his journey. From a simple beginning of organizing a Puerto Rico tournament in game store in Paris, meeting the shop owner that hosted the tournament, becoming friends, helping him develop a game called Ys, which lead to his friend starting Ystari board game company, to initially starting to design Caylus in January 2005 and having it out in print by October 2005. And still today most would say its the greatest worker placement game ever designed.

I doubt Londonderry will get published by Ystari, but after such an amazing experience meeting William, and hearing about all the care and development Ystari puts into their games, I must confess I really hope some day I have the honour and privilege to work with them in the future. They sounds like a great company that cares about games and wants to work to make the best products possible for their customers. And you can tell when you play Spyrium, it is amazing. I plan to buy that game. And every person I have at GoF who has tried the game, is planning to buy the game too. Its that good!      

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tzolk'in expansion??!?!

Exciting news about my favourite game of the past year!  This coming from the latest Gathering of Friends (where our giddy contributer Daryl just spent the weekend):

"Tribes and Prophecies"
Looks like special starting powers for the different players
You should check out Dale Yu's complete article at OG for more details about a few other games....

Friday, April 12, 2013

Gathering of Friends 2013

Wow - one more day until I (Daryl Andrews) attend the "Gathering of Friends", an invite-only 9 day board game event hosted by Alan Moon (board game designer of great titles like: Ticket to Ride, San Marco, Elfenland, Union Pacific, and many more). I feel so honoured and excited to attend. Looking forward to meeting lots of great people and playing amazing games.

Many of my favourite designers will be in attendance like: Alan Moon, Vlaada Chvatil, Tom Lehmann, Christian Leonhard, Kevin Nunn, Ted Alspach, Dominic Crapuchettes, Mike Gray, Andrew Parks, Chris Handy, Dale Yu, and many more. And of course I got to mention my fellow Game Artisans of Canada designers who will be attending (also many are my fav designers too): Jay Cormier, Sen Foong Lim, Josh Cappel, Rob Bartel, Catrin Berghoff, Gavan Brown, Martin Ethier, Gord Hamilton, Mike Kollross, Al Leduc, Jasen Robillard, Roberta Taylor, Matt Tolman, Michael Xuereb (hope I'm not missing anyone).

Plus other board game legends like Scott Nicholson (Board Games with Scott), Zev Shlasinger (Z-Man), and Scott Alden (co-founder of BoardGameGeek) will be in attendance. And many publishers will be in attendance including: Stronghold, Asmodee, Repo Productions, Filosofia, FRED/Eagle, Rio Grande, Hans In Gleuck, Abacus, Czech Games, Mattel, North Star, Toy Vault, R&R, Mercury Games, Grey Ghost Press, Eggertspiele, Academy, Valley, 2F, Hasbro, Z-Man, ThinkFun, Ascora, etc.

So any photos of upcoming games I can share (with their permission) I will to post on here. Also, you can follow me on Twitter @darylmandrews (+ Instagram too).  Also, I hope to find a publisher who is as excited about Londonderry as I am (it's the game I co-designed with 
Stephen Sauer). Thanks to everyone who has playtested and helped with the design. You can see our sell sheet below (front and back):

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Holy guacamole!

The great thing about writing a blog about the fairly niche topic of board games is that once people know about it, they start sending links to you.  Sure makes it easy to come up with posts.

Like this little animated video from last year shown to me by my friend Richard, which also happens to be the shortest film ever to be nominated for an Oscar.

Monday, April 1, 2013

It's the first day of April....

...and I heartily recommend you check out the Boardgamegeek website.  It's pretty hilarious.