Monday, December 28, 2015

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

This is a guest post from Jacob Valdez, a regular at Nerd Night and a lifelong tabletop gamer.

Okay, I've got six wires running vertically, and some have lit LEDs and stars.
Huh? Oh, found it....great, a Venn diagram. I'm terrible at those.

Your confidence makes me fear for my life. So what do I do?
Um...okay, it looks like we have to go one wire at a time, and you tell me what color it is, and whether the LED is lit, and also if there's a star there.

Wow. All right, first wire is red and blue striped, unlit LED, with a star.
Sounds coloring...uh, blue coloring...has star. Um...

Come on, 30 seconds left!
Uh...okay, P...Got it -- cut the wire if the bomb has a parallel port!

A what? Lemme rotate this thing. What's a parallel port look li--- BOOM!!

You killed me again!
Sorry, man, I guess I have to work on my Venn diagrams.

No time like the present. I just clicked Retry - 5 minutes on the clock.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Unboxing Tokaido Collector's Edition

Delivered today, one of the biggest things I've ever backed on Kickstarter. A few delays in delivery, but by the looks of it the minis are beautiful and detailed and well worth the wait!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Mega Civilization: 18 Players, 12 Hours, Infinite Fun

This isn't a review, per se, so much as my recalling of a play session. Mega Civilization is a re-imagining of Advanced Civilization, developed for the last 15 years and released in a $200 box. Learn more about Mega Civilization on

After purchasing Mega Civ at BGG.Con in November, I arranged an 18-player game for December 20th, 2015. We had 18 players join, and 17 players finish the game (one player had to leave early). We stopped two turns short of the end of the game because of time constraints, but I feel like we had a near-complete experience. 

Here's the Mega Civilization map (click for larger image)

I won with 92 points, Ace got 2nd place with 88 points playing Dravidia, and Clancy got third playing Indus. The game took about 11 hours, and would have taken about 13 had we not finished early. I ran the game, and had help from my friends Mark and John, who were captains for their sides of the board (East/West). 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Objective/Subjective Note Taking

In the past, one of the game-design-related things that I wasn’t good at was everything. But, two of the specific parts of everything that were particularly problematic were keeping the two halves of my playtesting notes (the subjective and the objective) separate and recording enough detail.

Definitionally, by objective, I mean the facts about the test. What was the score at the end? How long did the game take? Who went first? What did players say during the game or during feedback? How many times did players check their phones? In short, things that, if multiple people watched a video of the test that captured everything, they would necessarily agree about having happened.

By subjective, I mean everything else. Do I think that Joe didn’t like the scoring because he lost due to his bad decisions? Do I think Becky didn’t enjoy herself even though she said she did? What ideas does this playtest give me about the game, either in the moment or upon reflection?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Facebook Poll: Your Three Favorite Games This Year

Click this link to view the poll in DFW Nerd Night - tell us what your three favorite games are this year!

I'll consolidate the votes and use them in our Nerd Nighters year-end recap episode later this month, then post those results back here at The Nerds' Table.

Thanks for your help! :D


Monday, November 30, 2015

Fantasy Fantasy Baseball, by Daryl Andrews & JR Honeycutt

I don't normally post about my own games here, because it feels like shameless self-promotion. That said, Fantasy Fantasy Baseball is the product of a year's worth of work with one of my best friends, Daryl Andrews, and I want to share it with you.

Fantasy Fantasy Baseball is a game about managing a roster of ridiculous monsters with magic powers, and using those powers to win more games than your wizard manager opponents. We feel like we've nailed the middle ground between "fun for sports fans" and "fun for fantasy fans" and turned it into "fun for everyone". Also, we're really proud to be huge fans of both sports and fantasy - something that many people share with us! This game is about celebrating what we love in both genres, and bringing it together in one AMAZING package, thanks to CSE Games and art by Rob Lundy.

Watch the video below, and if you're interested in the game, please click this link to visit the Kickstarter page, which will be live until December 23rd.

Thanks for your support! Please comment or tweet if you have any questions!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Metatopia 2015 - Writing a Rulebook for your Board Game

Interesting and useful recording of a panel from Metatopia - Gil Hova, designer of Bad Medicine and the Networks, and Geoff Englestein, host of the Ludology podcast and designer of Space Cadets: Dice Duels, pair up to talk about how to write rulebooks, a subject near and dear to my heart.

Monday, November 9, 2015

"Metatopia, will you marry me?"

Other conventions, you’re great. You really are. But Metatopia has everything I love about conventions (other designers, phenomenal panels, playtest upon playtest, and enough downtime to actually get to enjoy the company of my fellow designers) and doesn’t have the one thing that I don’t love: standing at a booth selling my game instead of playing games and talking with all sorts of awesome people. So, sorry, other conventions, but I’m going to convention-marry Metatopia. Vinny, Avie, and the rest of the crew who make it so awesome will hopefully perform the ceremony next year.

Say yes, Metatopia. Oh God, please say yes.

For those of you who haven’t been there, here were a few of my highlights and lessons learned there. But, back off: this convention is mine now.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Doug's Metatopia Schedule

This weekend, I'll be attending one of my absolute favorite conventions, Metatopia in Morristown, NJ. The convention starts Thursday and I'll be getting there mid-day, but there are no official events until Friday. For players, it's only $20 for the entire weekend!

If you're going, check out the events I'll be involved in, listed below the page break. Or, just find me wandering around and play some games with me! You're Fired takes about twenty minutes to teach and play, and if I'm available, I'd love to show it to you!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Publishers Answer: Would You Reject a "Good" Game?

After my last post about not being a publisher, I got a surprising number of comments disagreeing with the statement that if a game is good, a publisher will be interested, and if no publisher is interested, then the game isn't very good. JR and I asked a ton of publishers (probably literally) and they answered! Below, in alphabetical order by the publishers' last names, are their responses to these questions:

"Are there any reasons that you might reject a game that you think is both 'good' and finished? What, if anything, would you tell the designer in your rejection?"

Editor's Note: We've left responses in their original format. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Back It! with Diane Sauer of Looting Atlantis

Looting Atlantis on Kickstarter

Back It! with Orhan Ertughrul of Creature College

Creature College on Kickstarter

ACE talks about Tabletop Simulator on Steam

Editor's Note: When asked on Facebook to provide tips, tricks, and a general explanation of the benefits and drawbacks of Tabletop Simulator, Andrew Christopher Enriquez (ACE) provided this response. I think it's great, and worth posting for the world to see. I've made only minor edits. Enjoy! - JR 

Tips, tricks and best practices, this is going to be a long response so bear with me. In order for me to talk about tips and tricks I think it's important to first talk about the strengths and weaknesses of the system.

I should probably start with the bad. There are only a few downfalls of the system but they're important. First and probably most debilitating is the lack of user base. The system requirements and cost are currently prohibitively expensive for any sort of real mass play-testing. This could and probably should be fixed by allowing for a 'Developer' tier where we, the module creators, pay a higher cost, but anyone can use that specific module for free without having to buy TTS, this would have to have some real limitations but I'd use the crap out of it!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Scythe, by Jamey Stegmaier

A masterstroke in game design
I've struggled for more than a week to write this review. I'm still struggling. Usually when I enjoy a game enough to want to review it the words flow from my fingertips, pointed and descriptive. Scythe is so good as to almost defy description.

Let me explain. Scythe is a 4x game (kind of, more on that later) about gaining wealth in an alternate-universe, post-Great War Eastern Europe shattered by previous events. Players take on the role of faction leaders, competing to earn wealth, popularity, and a mandate to lead in this world. It's a hex-based area control and resource management game that makes use of restricted action selection and the threat of combat to maintain a constant pressure for you to be efficient, careful, and vigilant.

That's an accurate description of Scythe that places it somewhere between Kemet, Memoir '44, and Agricola, games I like, love, and detest (respectfully), and yet the sum of its parts provide something unique in my experience. Scythe feels a little like puzzle-solving, provides a little of the quasi-negotiation you get from a good game of Kemet, and a lot of the pressure to keep up that you feel in Terra Mystica.

See what I mean? In describing it, I've referenced four of the most popular games in our hobby without scratching the surface of what Scythe really is. That's the mark of something new - even in my most ambitious comparisons, I can only approximate its qualities. Read on, and I'll convince you to play it as quickly as you can.

(Full disclosure: I was provided a review copy of Scythe by Jamey Stegmaier, owner of Stonemaier Games. Scythe is live on Kickstarter now.)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Campaign Trail, by David Cornelius

I typically think politics belong in late-night Facebook posts and arguments with my Granddad, and certainly not in my board game sessions. There are few things more divisive than a quick chat about energy policies, or the role of government in healthcare, or the more hot-button issues that we yell about every day.

Somehow, Campaign Trail manages to avoid all of this negativity, while capturing the fun of watching the twists and turns of a Presidential campaign. Republicans have a 15% lead in Illinois? Just wait until the Independents launch their huge ad campaign and claim the state. Democrats are polling well on Environmental Issues in California? Great, but they've been overtaken by the Republican candidate with a strong message on international trade.

These swings and targeted strategies push and pull electoral votes (the score markers in the game) and create some of the most compelling drama I've felt in a game. Keep reading, and I'll go into a bit more detail about what I like in Campaign Trail.

Updated Update: Campaign Trail is now live on Kickstarter, with a lower price, free shipping in the US, and a deluxe version available that I've happily snapped up. Check it out by clicking here! 

Back It! with Luke Crane, Head of Games at Kickstarter

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Self-Publishing Isn't a Hobby. It's a Hob.

Some people say they do their best thinking in the shower. I, on the other hand, am only nominally awake in the morning. My wife knows not to tell me anything important because I’ll forget it. And if I want critical thinking in my first half hour of being awake, I’m talking to myself. Like a crazy person.

"Heeeeeeeeeere's Dougie!!!"
So one morning, I was talking to myself about how stressed I was with some things going on with being a publisher. I’ll spare you the full details, but at one point, I told myself, “You started this as a hobby, but now you’re treating it like a hob. No, not hob. Job. Well, not a job exactly. Because you’re not really making any money…”

And then it hit me: “hob” is the perfect way to self-publishing. Making games started out as a hobby, but it ended up like a job. Just, you know, a job that doesn’t even pay as well as forced labor in prison. And that was the moment that crystallized everything for me: I don’t want to publish games anymore, even ones I’ve designed.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Back It! with Jeff Cornelius of Campaign Trail

Upcoming Interview with Luke Crane, Head of Games at Kickstarter

I'd like your help in picking questions to ask Luke Crane, the Head of Games at Kickstarter, in our upcoming video interview.

Kickstarter announced today that they've restructured their company to be a "Benefit Corporation", and also their intention to "commit to donate 5% of annual post-tax profits to arts education and organizations fighting inequality."

Luke and I have been working to schedule an interview for a while now, and this announcement gives us an excellent reason to finally video chat and have a nice discussion.

Please use the Google form below to submit questions on any gaming- or Kickstarter-related topic, and I may use your questions (and credit you, if you provide your name). Please keep your questions short, specific, and respectful.


Unboxing Tiny Epic Galaxies

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Battle of Wits, by Matthew O'Malley

A Battle of Wits, by Matthew O'Malley

Fans of The Princess Bride who’ve always wanted to see if they could outwit Vizzinni and survive the poison cup challenge - this is the game that you’ve been waiting for. Now, for once and for all, you can find out who is right - and who is dead thanks to Matthew O’Malley and Game Salute.

 Like this, but minus the actual dying.

First Impressions of Epic, by Rob Daugherty

$15 tuck box with four factions? Seems good...
Epic isn't just an exclamation anymore; it's also the next in the line of Rob Dougherty's genre-defining card games, which includes Star Realms and various Ascension expansions. Epic's not a deck-builder, so that's new territory from one of the hobby's giants, but the rest of the game will look very familiar to fans of Rob's previous work.

Epic was delivered to Kickstarter backers this weekend, and I've played about 10 games, including a quick two-player draft session. I've already had a half-dozen heated conversations on such subjects as "is it good" and "of course it's good" with my close gaming friends (also backers), so it's time for a quick first impression for those who aren't getting KS copies, or who may have a chance to pick up the game elsewhere. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Pixel Tactics, by D. Brad Talton, Jr.

"I'm too dumb to play this game," I said to Ben (who's the closest person to a gaming brother I have in the world) during the third round of our first game of Pixel Tactics. It was nearly 40 minutes into a "30 minute" game, and neither of us saw the end coming any time soon - especially because it's supposed to be best out of three victories.

"Yeah," he said. "There's too much going on here."

Ben's sort of right: there's a lot going on in Pixel Tactics, but, to be fair, part of our discomfort with it was that we're not used to playing tactical games. Each card in the game can have one of five effects - usually closely and thematically-related to the name of the card - based on whether it is played in the first, second, or third combat row, if it is played as the single Leader of the other units, or as an order (a one-and-done effect gained by discarding the card from your hand rather than playing it to the field).

However, by about the fifth round, we had the hang of it - though as first time players, I'm confident that we made a lot of tactical errors. If we had more time, we would have played again - but like I said, the "30 minute" play time is a significant underestimation, especially for a first game, which took Ben and me about an hour and a half.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Interview with Jason Tagmire

Jason Tagmire, head of Button Shy Games

Doug: Howdy, Internet! I’m sitting down today with Jason Tagmire, owner (president? CEO? boss?) of Button Shy Games. Currently, Jason is running a Kickstarter for the fifth, sixth, and seventh entries into his “wallet line”. Jason, you launched at 10 am on Wednesday, and when I checked back at 4 pm that same day, you were already 150% funded. At the time of publication here, you're 400.9% funded. You are KILLING it! That’s gotta feel good, right?

Jason: It does feel good! Kickstarter is always unpredictable. Even after doing this a handful of times, I still never know what to expect. It could be an off day. Another campaign might launch at the same time and take the focus away. So many factors. But this one is off to a great start. Keeping that momentum requires pulling out all of the stops and the Kickstarter tricks, so here we go.

All three games from the current Kickstarter.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

I'm Going to Be Bored This Summer

I'm an English teacher, and for English teachers, new years resolutions don't happen in December. They happen in June. And they go about as well as other resolutions go.

For me, every summer, it's going to be different. I'm going to do the things that I find fulfilling, and I'm going to stop wasting my time with things that don't advance my development as a human being - either intellectually or morally. I'm going to write some college recs before they pile up for the year. And I'm going to focus on designing games, not playing them on my phone or XBox. One summer it was Fallout 3. The next summer it was Fallout 3 - again. This summer it was Marvel's Future Fight, a freemium game about tapping your thumb on your phone to kill bad guys so that you can earn credits to upgrade your hero to kill harder-to-kill bad guys. I played for almost a month (I know because you unlock stuff each day you play!) During that time, I got Captain America to Level 40!

Good work, soldier!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Convert, by Ian Reed

This is the cover of Convert. When you see it, take out your wallet.

I first played Convert with Ian himself at Dreamation last February. The Yodeo Games table was a few down from mine, and during a lull, I figured I'd check it out. I played (a game takes about ten minutes, even with teaching, which takes about two), took out my wallet, bought a copy, and played two more games immediately.

Convert is that good. The ratings on BGG don't lie.

I normally don't include rules in my reviews - but since this will take me three sentences, I might as well. There are variously-shaped blocks in the box, half black and half white. They're placed on a 4x4 checkerboard platform, and as players move through the game, they score one point for each row "converted" to their color. Once all players have either placed all of their blocks - or when no one can play any of their blocks - players count up the number of spaces controlled by a color from a bird's eye view and adds one point for each to their score.

Image taken from BoardGameGeek

It's that simple - but that doesn't mean that the gameplay isn't complex, interesting, or clever. It's all of those things. Convert is easily one of the best games I've played this year - and everyone I've played it with has loved it. (My father actually asked me to get him a copy, which has never happened before with any other game. Well, that I didn't design.) And while a beginning player can get the basics nearly immediately, more experienced players will see that earning an average of one point per turn isn't that impressive. (Not that I've figured out how to do that, but...)

As an abstract game, too, there's a lot of room for variants to Convert, which Ian releases each month on his website. July's variant scores at the end not based on the bird's eye view but by seeing who has more of their color on each of the 12 edge spaces when viewed from the side. June's variant requires players to place only on the first four levels; the player to place a piece on the fifth level of the board (or who cannot place a piece) loses.

Convert is a game that I'll be playing for years and years to come, and I suspect that you will, too. It's the best game that I've played so far this year.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Darkrock Ventures: A Preview

Darkrock Ventures will be coming to Kickstarter on July 14th from a partnership between Gamelyn Games and Magic Meeple Games. I was able to play it a little early with my friend Andrew Enriquez. It was pre-production, and I have no idea of all of the cool things that will be coming, but I can speak to game mechanics and general enjoyment.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Jealousy in the Gaming Industry

This weekend, a lot of my friends will be having a very good time at Origins. Having lived in Columbus for two years, I can vouch for how remarkable having fun in Ohio is. I have little good to say about my time there except for “Go Buckeyes!” and “I prefer New Jersey.”

If New Jersey is the armpit of the nation, Ohio is the weird, hangy part of fatty flesh under the middle of its bicep. Go Buckeyes!

Yes, they’ll be at Origins. And I’ll be at work, furiously (in both senses of the word) grading students’ essays on The Great Gatsby or Jane Eyre. While my buddies are playing the new hotness and selling through scores of copies of their amazing games, I’ll be cursing myself for having my job and cursing them for having more fun than I get to have.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

JR reviews Rise to Power at Edo's Guest Reviews

Thanks to Edo for letting me post a video review on his channel! Check out the full geeklist of his reviews here, and if you enjoy the video, please like and subscribe to Edo's channel!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Interview about Cunning Folk with Jay Treat (designer) & Jason Tagmire (publisher)

Jay Treat, Designer
Jason Tagmire, Publisher

Howdy, Internet! Doug Levandowski sitting down today with Jay Treat and Jason Tagmire. Jay is the designer of Cunning Folk, a game being released by Jason’s Button Shy Games on Kickstarter until May 29th. Previously, Jay has published Possibilities (also with Button Shy Games), Legacy of the Slayer, and Intrigue (on iOS). Jason Tagmire is a publisher and designer. As a designer, he created Pixel Lincoln, Pretense, Wild Cats (with Marty Cobb), Maximum Throwdown, and Storyteller Cards - just to name a few. Guys, thanks for sitting down to talk with me today!

Jay: Thanks for having us, Doug!

Absolutely! So, to get this started, tell us a little bit about Cunning Folk, Jay.

Jay: Cunning Folk is a micro-game of bluffing and deduction. Players are investigating the small town of Ipswich for witches, trying to throw each other off the scent, so they can be first to expose an entire coven.

Jay: The secret that makes a 13-card game work is positioning the players to play mind games with each other, and then just getting out of the way.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Hogger Logger, by Shawn Duenas, Ryan Shapiro, and Charlie Winkler

Hogger Logger, which was successfully funded on Kickstarter last summer, will be released shortly, and, if you like party games at all, you should get a copy immediately. It's one of my four favorite party games - and only one of two that's published. Really, the review is as simple as that. What? I need to write more of a review than that? Fiiiiiiiiine... Keep reading.

Innovation, by Carl Chudyk

Imagine, if you will, the halls of the Hyatt Regency at DFW Airport in November 2014. A few thousand of my friends and I are huddled together, sitting, waiting for the great pearly doors to swing open and let us ascend into BGG.Con. It's warm inside. There are lawn chairs, and men lounging in them. It's morning, so the smell of fresh-caught taquitos is in the air. A fellow con-goer - lonely, bearded, and proud - looks to me and says, "Innovation is the only game you'll ever need to own." I pall, unsure if I should trust his wild eyes and be led into the darkness... 

Fast forward three months, into the bitter depths of a Texas winter fraught with frigid evenings and frantic gaming with my mates. We've played Innovation a half-dozen times, each round more topsy-turvy than the last. We've nearly lost our wits keeping up with the swirling madness pouring from that golden box. To contain the unpredictable malice that's enveloped us, a member of my crew utters these words of invocation, "Innovation is just Fluxx for smart people."

The enchantment momentarily broken, we force the cards back into the paper vault from which they came. Our breath returns in quick bursts as sanity settles into our minds once more. I wonder, which of these friends was correct? The one who insists Innovation is a vital organ, like a heart or dice tower, or the one who reduces it so aptly into an exercise in randomness? I am lost, I can't find my way. 

Come, join me as I search for my answer...

Monday, May 18, 2015

Castles of Mad King Ludwig, by Ted Alspach

"This castle has six rooms to sleep in but nowhere to prepare food!"

At a glance:
-Players build flat castle layout to score points
-Several clever mechanics working perfectly in tandem
-1 to 4 players
-90-120 minute play time
-Moderately heavy, easy to teach to a player with some experience but maybe not the best choice to introduce a new comer.

(Which I will abbreviate to ‘Castles’)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Eminent Domain: Microcosm, by Seth Jaffee

"Microgame" is an ambiguous term in the tabletop gaming world. It's kind of an "I know it when I see it" thing - Love Letter (16 cards) is definitely a microgame, and so is Tiny Epic Kingdoms (lots and lots of cubes and boards and pieces), but I don't often hear folks call Coup a microgame, even though it comes in the same size box as TEK and has fewer cards than Love Letter (albeit with some chips and other little boards).

I admit confusion at what constitutes "micro", but I still use the word to describe those things that definitely are a game in a small package. Not all microgames are created equal, and in a Kickstarter-led world of reducing components and size and weight to reduce shipping and printing costs, there's a whole host of games that are playable, but fit squarely in the "flash in the pan" variety. 

Not so with Eminent Domain: Microcosm. At 34 cards and about a playmat's worth of table presence, ED:M could absolutely be called a microgame, but I'd rather call it a great game. Just like its macro predecessor, Eminent Domain, there's nothing micro about the depth of choices and the various paths to victory that emerge during play. The experience lives up to everything I expect from larger, deeper two player games like Patchwork and Akrotiri, and for this I say it's one of my favorite games of the year! 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Patchwork, by Uwe Rosenberg

There are an understood set of popular themes for games that show up across our favorite titles - space, The Renaissance, exploration, nautical combat, high fantasy adventures, wild west showdowns - if I put up a poll, I bet I could get 20 examples of games that fit those themes. But what about quilting?

Patchwork is a two-player game about making a quilt. It's not a zombie quilt, or a space quilt, or even a magic quilt for Dwarves that live in a cave. It's a regular quilt, and you probably won't even finish it. You'll have some holes left, and it will be covered in buttons (???), and you'll feel so zen while you're doing it that you'll never poke fun at your grandmother's habits again.

With that, I invite you to join me as I explain why Patchwork is one of my top-five games this year.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Pit, and an Interview With a Competitive Friend

Age ain't nothing but a number
As I've become more and more immersed in this world of tabletop gaming, it's been easy to be consumed by the "hobby" game market and conveniently forget about - or worse, look down on - the millions and millions of people who play "mass market" games like Risk, Stratego, Uno, Clue, Whist, Euchre, etc in their regular play groups. 

For more than a century, at least four full generations of Americans have spent their evenings around the table playing a game about making markets and furiously trading cards in an attempt to collect sets and make money. It's not Monopoly - that mainstay of American tabletop gaming - but it is just as old. (Seriously, 1903 was a great year for game design!)

The game is Pit, and your great-grandparents learned it from their parents around the kitchen table after dinner, when the radio was newer and more interesting than Marvel's current cinematic universe and "Eurogames" meant the renewal of the ancient Olympics in Athens, Greece just a few years before. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

2015 Origins Awards Announced, and My Predictions

The nominees for the 2015 Origins Awards have been announced, and I'm surprised and pleased to see that I've played most of the games in the board and card game categories. Given my penchant for expressing opinions about games I've played, I decided to do a quick review of the nominees, and my make predictions for the winners. 

Some of these games were released prior to 2014, so I'm not sure exactly what the nomination criteria are, but I believe the lists represent a fairly well-considered splice of recent gaming releases, so I've got no beef with the nominations. 

If'd like to see the full set of nominees, click here! For my consideration of the nominees, and my predictions, continue! 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Siblings Trouble, by Edo Baraf

Limitation breeds creativity. If I ask you to tell me a story, chances are, you're less likely to be able to come up with something on the spot than if I ask you to tell me a story about two mongooses (not mongeese - I looked it up) who run afoul of a mean king cobra - at least in my experience.

For that exact reason, I thoroughly enjoyed Edo Baraf's game, The Siblings Trouble, which is live on Kickstarter right now. In this quick, structured storytelling game, you play the role of one of four of the titular siblings as you adventure through a cave you stumbled upon. The elements of the story are heavily influenced by the cards you flip, which follow an order outlined in the rules - a set pattern cards, mostly "path" cards (usually some kind of event that influences the flow of the story) and "location" cards (usually chances to face monsters and earn treasure).  In each game, there is also one "big secret" card (where one of the siblings reveals why you're really there), one "boss" card (the final monster you'll need to face), and the entrance card (to start the adventure) and the "heading home" card (where you wrap up any loose ends from your story and describe the journey home).

Monday, April 20, 2015

Shadows Over Camelot Reviewed by a Traitor

This is a guest post from Aubrey House, a regular in my Thursday night gaming group. Aubrey is a long-time MMO player who's new to tabletop gaming, and I've asked her to weigh in on various games to provide a new player's perspective. Aubrey has played Shadows Over Camelot twice, first as the traitor, then a few months later as one of the heroes.

Shadows Over Camelot is widely recognized as the first cooperative game to have a hidden traitor. It still compares favorably to the giants (Battlestar Galactica and Dead of Winter). I asked Aubrey to answer a few questions about her first time playing a co-op/hidden traitor game, both with and without the hidden traitor mechanic.

Please enjoy a Q&A session with Aubrey!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Specter Ops Unboxing Video

Here's my quick unboxing video of Specter Ops by Emerson Matsuuchi, published by Plaid Hat Games!

I'll review this in full once I've had a chance to play it a few times, but right now it's on my short list for most anticipated games of the year. Enjoy!

Rodney Smith teaches Specter Ops on Watch It Played

JR Honeycutt is a full-time husband and game-player, and co-host of The Nerd Nighters. You can find him on Twitter at @JayAhre or at a Friendly Local Game Store in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. Some of his reviews are also published in Ravage Magazine or at Tabletop Gaming News

Friday, April 10, 2015

Sheriff of Nottingham, by Sérgio Halaban, André Zatz, and Bryan Pope

Some say that Sheriff of Nottingham is a bluffing game, and while that's technically true, I tend to think of it as a bartering game. Bluffing is at the core of the experience, but the flavor of the game is the wheeling and dealing that's caused by it. It's the difference between Sheriff and Coup, or the Resistance, or any number of other bluffing games.

You see, if the Sheriff has a hunch that you're lying, that you're not just a simple farmer sending goods to market, you've got a chance to finagle your way out of a penalty. If you're a great liar, kudos to you. If you can't lie a bit, that's ok too, and there's a chance you could win. But if you're a great deal-maker, if you've got the blood of the merchant coursing through your veins... well then you're almost certain to claim victory in the famous town of Nottingham. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Knot Dice, by Matthew O'Malley

Full Disclosure: Matthew O'Malley, the designer of Knot Dice, is a friend of mine and as part of the review process, Matthew furnished me with a set of 18 Knot Dice to play with. In addition, I am working on developing games using these components. However, since they're also a component system, having designed with them allows me to talk about using them as components, which is important for the review.

  Who should buy Knot Dice? Anyone who likes quick, compelling games; anyone who wants a fascinating set of components for design; or anyone who just loves beautiful dice. 

The major difference between Knot Dice (the upcoming project from Matthew O'Malley of Black Oak Games) and most games is that Knot Dice is a component system more than an individual game, with games and sets of puzzles available on his website. Knot Dice functions - and functions well - on three different levels: as a set of games, as a component system, and as art. And they're worth the cost as any of those three alone.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Pairs Variant From the Editor

I'm a fan of light card games, particularly those that I can carry in my backpack and break out at the bar over drinks, or with my family at dinner. Pairs, funded through Kicksarter by Cheapass Games in 2014, fits this description perfectly!

I had a chance to play Pairs and Continuous Pairs with James Ernest, the designer and owner of Cheapass Games, while at GAMA Trade Show last week. I was inspired to try to design my own Pairs variant, and James was gracious enough to encourage me to post it publicly. Here goes!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Post Hoc Fallacy in Playtesting

This morning, my cats would not stop meowing when I was trying to feed them. (Even if you’re reading this on a different day than I published it, I guarantee that my cats meowed me to just about  the point of madness this morning.) Someone once told me that they do that because they learned it from meowing at their adorable kitty mommies when trying to get food as kittens, and the behavior just stuck.  I don’t know if that’s true; it makes me want to feed them less.

Every. Damn. Morning.

My cat, without knowing it (because cats don’t understand logical fallacies), is engaging in what philosophers and debate kids would call the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Wikipedia tells us that fancy Latin phrase literally means “After this; therefore, because of this”. It’s any time we claim that an event caused a reaction simply because it came before it.  I carried this rock around, and then I wasn’t attacked by tigers. Ergo, the rock must protect me from tigers!  (This logical fallacy is also called a "false cause" fallacy or "affirming the consequent".)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Interview with Jeff King & Jordan Steinhoff of All Us Geeks

Jeff King and Jordan Steinhoff, cohosts of All Us Geeks

I’m here today chatting with Jeff King and Jordan Steinhoff, the guys behind All Us Geeks, which, today, is celebrating its three year anniversary. All Us Geeks started out as a podcast, but now it's also a website, blog, YouTube channel - and anything else I’m forgetting?

Jordan: I have low grade plans for world domination as well as the current entertainment offerings.

Jeff: From a strictly All Us Geeks angle, I think you nailed it. We haven’t launched AUG Con yet or anything. ;-}

When you do, sign me up. For both. I want, like, a duchy or something after the AUG takeover is complete. And a booth at AUG Con. That’s probably easier. Anyway, you guys are coming up on your third anniversary. So, for people who don’t know what you guys are all about, give us a brief history of All Us Geeks.

Jordan: All Us Geeks started as Jeff and Michael, another host who is currently on hiatus.  I was invited for a review of the Walking Dead TV series and never left.  It was originally going to be audio and written game reviews with some general added geekery.  As we evolved, we lost a host, added some video work and created the United Geeks Network, a network of like minded geeky content. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Interview with Jamey Stegmaier, Matthew O'Malley & Ben Rosset about Between Two Cities

Jamey Stegmaier, Matthew O'Malley & Ben Rosset

Hi everybody! I’m here with Jamey Stegmaier, Matthew O’Malley, and Ben Rosset who currently have a Kickstarter up for Ben & Matthew’s Between Two Cities.  Jamey Stegmaier is half of Stonemaier Games and the designer of Viticulture, its expansion Tuscany, and Euphoria and is one of the leading experts on Kickstarter best practices.  Ben Rosset is the designer of Mars Needs Mechanics, Brew Crafters, Brew Crafters: The Travel Card Game, and co-designer of Between Two Cities.  Matthew O’Malley is the designer of Diner, Battle of Wits, Knot Dice, and co-designer of Between Two Cities. Phew. That’s a lot of designer cred in one interview! Thanks for talking with me, guys!

So let’s jump right in and talk about the project. Matthew, Ben, tell us all a little bit about Between Two Cities.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Mascarade, by Bruno Faidutti

Sometimes the fog of war and the din of battle are too much. Sometimes alien invasions are more than a person can handle. A person can only stop a world-wide spread of a disease so many times before needing some rest and relaxation. When world saving games and battling ancient evils gets to be a little too much, there’s always the Mascarade.

Hide behind your mask, bluff your friends, and collect the gold. In Mascarade you take on the role of a guest at a grand party and, using your wit and wiles, try to collect thirteen gold coins before the other guests. There are three potential sources of gold in the game. The courthouse, the bank, and other players. Each character has a unique ability that helps or hinders the flow of gold. The catch is that nobody, even you, can really be sure who you are.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Interview with Jeremiah Culp

Doug Levandowski here with Jeremiah Culp, who is currently running a second Kickstarter for his project, Board Games for Troops Overseas, a project seeking to get games in the hands of active servicemen and servicewomen. Jeremiah, thanks for taking the time to talk with me today - but more importantly thanks for your service to the country.  Can you tell us a little about yourself? When did you join the Marines? What got you into board gaming?

Hi, Doug, thank you for the opportunity to share my project with you.  I am originally from Des Moines, Iowa, and have been in the Marine Corps for 14 years.  I first starting playing hobby board games around 2008 when my wife purchased the Carcassonne Big Box for me for Christmas. I had stumbled into a game shop at one of the malls, saw the game, and immediately told my wife I needed the game!  Since then, I have slowly grew my own library to nearly 80 games.

I had a similar experience with Catan. That’s the gateway game that hooked me, but I’ve kind of fallen out of love with it in the past few years. How about you? What are some of your favorite games now?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Interview with Gil Hova, creator of Bad Medicine

Doug Levandowski here with Gil Hova, the man behind Formal Ferret Games and the creator of games like Battle Merchants and Prolix - and who’s now running a Kickstarter for his hysterical, inventive party game, Bad Medicine. I’ve played it, I love it, and I backed it the day it launched. Gil, can you tell us a little more about esteemed game designer Gil Hova?

Hey look everybody! It's Gil Hova!

Sure, Doug! I’ve been designing board games since about 2000, but it took me a while to figure out how to do it right. My first published game was the word game Prolix (Z-Man, 2010). Then came the economic strategy game Battle Merchants (Minion, 2014).

I’ve led a full life. I was a sound editor in film and television for five years (worked on the first two Pokemon movies!), played in an Indonesian gamelan orchestra for a month, done radio shows, interviewed heavy metal bands, recorded indie punk bands, programmed computers, and now I’m designing games.

About the ferret thing: I didn’t just pick a random animal. I’ve owned various ferrets for 20 years. They’re my favorite animals in the world.

So you’ve done basically everything then, huh? What’s the absolute worst job you’ve ever had? Or the worst part of one of your jobs?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Interview with Heather O'Neill & Heather Wilson, creators of Schrödinger’s Cats

Doug Levandowski here with the creator(s) of Schrödinger’s Cats, a card game for 2 to 6 players that’s on Kickstarter until February 19th. I’m chatting with the Heathers, Heather O’Neill and Heather Wilson, two of the three creators of Schrödinger’s Cats.

Before we talk about the game, tell me a bit about you. Who are ya? What got you into game design?
Heather O'Neill: I’m a creative and social person but love math, science and spreadsheets too! My day job is at AT&T in the construction and engineering department and I’ve worked at other engineering firms in the past. In additional to making games, I also run BestConEver which is a small event company that hosts game days and mini-conventions (50 people or less).

I am a tabletop gamer. I love strategy based games as much as bluffing, social and party games. Over the last 5 years or so I’ve been offering advice or suggestions on other people’s games but didn’t really consider making them myself.  Back in 2012 I created my first game with my husband Chris.  After that, I knew that I could actually do this and started working on a few ideas.  Schrödinger’s Cats is just such a marketable idea that we felt it should be the first one in (hopefully) a series of many.

Heather Wilson: I’ve always loved games but it never occurred to me I could actually make them myself (aside from the board games I created in elementary school) until I met Heather and Chris years and years ago. A couple of summers ago we decided to actually start producing more of the random ideas we had and Schrödinger’s Cats was the one we were the most excited to make. In my professional life I work in video game development. I sort of fell into it, but it’s a lot of fun. I’m currently working for Brace Yourself Games on their Crypt of the NecroDancer title. Before that I worked at Harmonix Music Systems, makers of Rock Band, Dance Central, and lots of other rhythm titles, for 9 years.

I definitely spent WAY too much money on Rock Band instruments and songs. I got the keytar and everything. Did working for Harmonix influence you as a designer at all?