New To Me: Spring 2016

It’s been a weak quarter for new gaming for me. Because of a business trip and a vacation, I missed out on about a month of my normal gaming. Still, I managed to get in plays of almost a dozen new games, expansions, and variants — just barely enough to people a new New to Me article. 

As usual, this listing is games new and old that I’d never played before, rated according to how much liked them. Continue reading

Anatomy of Three Conversions: Burgundy, Ra, and Galaxy

Games can be defined in a lot of different ways. They can come in different styles, from American take-that to Eurogames, from party games to abstracts. They can can in different fictional genres, from science-fiction to history, and in different mechanical genres, from worker placement to auctions. Finally, games can also be parts of different mediums, primarily including board games, card games, and dice games.

Gaming mediums are particularly interesting because they seem to encourage conversions. Board games  become card games or dice games, and vice-versa. This trend seems to have been growing in the last few years, as Intellectual Property has become a byword of the eurogame community. Alea is currently be the poster child of IP conversions, with Broom Service (2015), Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game (2016), and Broom Service: The Card Game (2016) all being conversions of this sort. The last is particularly notable, since Broom Service: The Card Game began life as Witch’s Brew (2008) … a card game!

So are medium conversions good or bad?

Too frequently they result in a game that’s a pale shadow of its originator. I know I’ve played Euphrates & Tigris: Contest of Kings (2005), but I barely remember it, while Shadows Over Camelot: The Card Game (2012) and Bang! The Dice Game (2013) were more interesting, but in no way overshadowed the original. But, in some cases you get games that are quite exciting. San Juan (2004) is obviously the vest example of a game that managed to massively innovate its predecessor, creating something that was as good, in its own way.

This week I’m going to take a brief look at three games that were converted to new sorts of dice and card games: one of the newest entrants to the field and two that I think really worked.

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Making the Dick Move

Hollywood Blockbuster CoverWe were attending the last party in Hollywood Blockbuster (2006). That’s the Reiner Knizia game of auctions and moviemaking that’s also called Traumfabrik (2000) and Dream Factory (2009) because name changes sell games. I’d finished all my movies except one, and I hadn’t started that last one, so I had no use for any of the resources being offered.

Two players were going after me, and I glanced at each of their movie boards. One had a movie that was nowhere close to completion, but the other needed just a single audio effect to finish a film. I grabbed the only audio effect chit at the party, then tossed it to the side, unused.

That was the dick move. Continue reading

Co-Op Interviews: Eric B. Vogel & The Dresden Files Co-Op Card Game

Dresden Files CoverEric B. Vogel is the designer of multiple games, including two deckbuilding designs, Zeppelin Attack! (2014) and Don’t Turn Your Back (2015), that he’s discussed in previous interviews. This time around, he’s created his first cooperative game, based on the popular Dresden Files series of novel — a game that’s now available on Kickstarter.

I talked with Eric about the mechanics of designing a cooperative game in an email interview conducted over the course of April 2016.

Shannon Appelcline: Thanks for agreeing to talk about your new game design, Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game — or DFCO to use the abbreviation favored by your publisher, Evil Hat. It’s your first cooperative game. What made you decide to go with a cooperative design?

Eric B. Vogel: It was the publisher, Evil Hat Productions, who made the stipulation that they wanted it to be a cooperative game. That was not initially something I was happy about. I had done some development work on a cooperative game previously, but I had never designed one up to that point. So I started the project without any clear ideas for cooperative design. It took a few months of blind fumbling before I finally came up  with the core mechanic of DFCO. Continue reading

The Tao of Board Gaming VI

The Tao of Board GamingKoans I-III can be found in The Tao of Board Gaming I (December 2009). Koans IV-VI can be found in The Tao of Board Gaming II (April 2010). Koans VII-IX can be found in The Tao of Board Gaming III (October 2012). Koans X-XII can be found in The Tao of Board Gaming IV (May 2014). Koans XIII-XV can be found in The Tao of Board Gaming V (December 2014).

XVI. The Buddhist Nature of Munchkin

There was once a gamer who seemed to have a perfectly Buddhist nature. When he played Monopoly he simply nodded as all of his money was stolen away by fat cats. When he played Risk he had a light heart when his armies were cleared from the map of the world, even unto Australia. When he played Munchkin he smiled when he lost cards, and even levels, as his opponents cried out, “Take That!”

However the Buddhist gamer’s nature seemed to crack when his gaming group began to change their play from American games to their European brethren. He was still able to accept the loss of a meeple in Carcassonne, of a route in Ticket to Ride, or of a hex corner in Catan. However, he then took no joy as he collected his points, completed his tickets, and built his civilizations. Worse, he became agitated and unhappy, losing the Buddhist nature that was his core. Continue reading

New to Me: Winter 2016 — So Much Very Good!

Winter of 2016 was a somewhat unusual season of gaming for me. I played some new games and some older games that were new to me. Though I didn’t play any games that I ranked as truly great, there seemed to be more than the usual share of games that were Very Good — so many, in fact that I broke the category in two. Overall, it was certainly a strong season for gaming!

The Very Good

AquaSphere ThumbnailAquaSphere (2014). What a peculiar name, and it’s a peculiar theme too, with its board of a big underwater base. I think those two elements and the garish art put me off AquaSphere for a while, despite my love for Stefan Feld’s games. But, it turns out the theme is appropriate, because you’re programming robots. I actually ended up being  pleasantly remindedof Nautilus (2003) — a game that I wanted to be much better than it actually was because of its fun underwater theme.

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The Dissastisfaction of Victory

Codenames BoxCodenames (2015) by Vlaada Chvátil is a wonderful game. You work in teams, you come up with clever clues, you talk with your friends about possible solutions, you laugh at hilarious possibilities, and eventually someone wins. It often doesn’t even matter who wins because the gameplay is so much fun.

Except that a few months ago I played a game of Codenames that fell flat, and it was because of the victory. You see, my team won because our opponents guessed the assassin word (“mass”). Poof! Instant loss for them, instant victory for us. But it wasn’t because of our hard work covering codenames with red tiles. It wasn’t because of our cleverness. We won because our opponents screwed up.

And it felt empty.

Mind you, I think the assassin is a good deterrent for the game. It introduces tension. It sometimes creates obstacles when you’re trying to pick out a good clue. But when the assassin actually goes off and someone wins because of it, that can feel hollow. Continue reading