Saturday, May 28, 2016

Thoughts After Playing the SdJ Nominees at BGG Spring

Each year, a jury of German-speaking board game critics evaluates dozens (maybe hundreds?) of board games and produces a list of nominees for the Spiel des Jahres (German for "Game of the Year") award, widely considered to be the most prestigious award in the board gaming world. For nearly 40 years this award has shaped public opinion of board games in Germany and abroad, and over the years two other categories have been added: Kennerspiel des Jahres (Enthusiast Game of the Year), and Kinderspiel (Children's Game of the Year).

As a burgeoning hobbyist swept up in the excitement and pomp of these awards, I've tried before to evaluate the list on our YouTube show and in print. It's our hobby's version of the Oscars - I just wish the award ceremony were televised! - and, along with the Origins awards and the Dice Tower awards, forms a triumvirate of accolades that I find deeply interesting.

Unlike other awards, the process for deciding the winners of the Spiel des Jahres involves no industry professionals. It's required that jury members be in no way connected to the board gaming industry, and as a consequence their nominations are often surprising. They're also restricted to only those games available in print in Germany (the motherland of our treasured hobby), so often games that are popular in the US aren't eligible yet, or at all.

BoardGameGeek, the hobbyist's source for all board gaming information, has in recent years hosted the Spiel des Jahres leaders at a local convention, BGG Spring, and provided a special section of the convention for all of the nominated games. The visiting SdJ folks take the time to teach these games to con-goers, allowing us the chance to experience the games that our German counterparts found to be the best of the year in the various categories.

For a full list of past nominees and winners, click here.

I played the nominated games at BGG Spring - continue reading for my thoughts!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Tesla vs. Edison: Developer Diary, Part 2

Developer's Diary, Part 2: 

In part 1, I talked about how I got involved in Tesla vs. Edison: Powering Up!, some of Dirk's original design goals in the game, and how we prioritized the balance between "adding new things" and "providing a familiar experience". 

After making the change to HQ cards, Dirk and I felt like the expansion started to hum. We started focusing on balancing the inventors against each other, creating abilities that were both thematically appropriate and powerful enough to be interesting, and tweaking various things to get the game length and experience where we wanted it to be. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Tesla vs. Edison: Powering Up! Developer's Diary, Part 1

Howdy - I'm JR Honeycutt, the developer for Tesla vs. Edison: Powering Up!, the expansion to Tesla vs. Edison: War of Currents by Artana. I'm writing this developer's diary to talk about some of the things introduced in TvE: Powering Up! and how I got involved. This is part 1 - parts 2 and 3 will come later in the campaign. 

The expansion is currently on Kickstarter, and I'd love it if you took a moment to click here and check it out! 

In November of last year I was at Rob's place in Massachusetts finishing up dev work on SeaFall. Dirk Knemeyer and Marcus Muller, the folks who run Artana, stopped by for a playtest of one of the early iterations of Chronicles: Stone Age, which I tagged along for since I was already in the room. 

It was a blast, and I noticed right away that I had good chemistry with Dirk and Marcus. They asked me to be involved in demoing the game at BGG.Con, which turned into a lunch conversation with Dirk about developing the Tesla vs. Edison expansion. 

I had never played Tesla vs. Edison when Dirk first offered to let me work on it, and it took me a few weeks to get it the table enough times to start doing real development. One of the criticisms of the base game was that the rulebook was hard to understand, and sure enough the first few times I played I got a fair number of things wrong. That was an early hiccup that Dirk and I worked through by playing together on Tabletop Simulator - an awesome resource for long-distance testing. Huge thanks to Andrew Christopher Enriquez for building the module for us and keeping it updated through the process.