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.