November 6, 2019

A Beautiful Mess: Frameworks, Sandboxes, and Avant-Garde Designs


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Warning: This is going to be a meandering post on a topic I’m struggling to wrap my brain around. The intent of my fumbling is to trigger a discussion on the topic at hand, and thus better illuminate the subject and my own understanding. Let’s see if I’m successful.



Over the past few years I’m finding myself increasingly drawn to games that I have affectionately started to describe as “beautiful messes” to my compadres. A game that is a beautiful mess, in my mind, is one that dispenses with some portion of conventional gaming wisdom in order to do something strange, unusual, and often viewed as imperfect - and often results in a very different feeling experience.



November 1, 2019

A nearly-random perusal of Essen's "GeekBuzz" and what caught my fancy


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So I was reading the news and stumbled upon a Geek Buzz List related to Essen (which recently ended). Wanting (of course) to stay on top of what all the cool kids are doing, I took it upon myself to breeze through the top 50 or so the most buzzy of the titles to see what stood out to me, given my proclivities.

Really, this was a thinly veiled experiment in confirmation bias.




September 27, 2019

6 (or 7) Zones of Play & Design Implications


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I caught a recent Ludology episode, which covered the 6 Zones of Play. For those who haven’t seen or heard of the 6 Zones of Play, it’s a concept framed out by Scott Rogers that breaks down the “physical” board and play space into… wait for it.... 6 zones! A cliffhanger, I know.



September 18, 2019

Shakedown: Tabletop Game Classification and the BGG Database


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If you haven’t seen the news, BGG has launched a major change to the game database. The mechanisms/mechanics descriptors for game entries has been greatly expanded in alignment with a recently published book on game mechanisms, Building Blocks of Tabletop Game Design (2019) by Geoffrey Engelstein and Isaac Shalev.

The synopsis is that we’ve gone from 51 terms for mechanisms to 186 terms. The new set is, by virtue of the sheer number of them, considerably more detailed. Instead of a singular “worker placement” we now have seven different mechanical nuances defined for worker placement games.



July 31, 2019

Smorgasbord: Summer '19 Report


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Times seems to fly these days.

Here we are, 6-months later, since the last report on my boardgame activities. My last post was about my game collection woes - and perhaps tipped off by a recent thread, I figured this was good timing to circle back on what I’ve been playing of late and how “the collection” is faring.

First of all, I did a little reorganization of my BGG inventory, and if you click HERE you’ll get a list of ~110 games that I “own” and consider principally part of my collection. I realized one little fatal flaw with my usage of the “has parts” tag to denote games that my household owns but that I don’t consider “mine” - which is that I started getting peppered with requests for game parts! Whups!

Now, I simply take all my owned games and then use the “want to play” flag for those games that I could conceivably desire to play sooner or later (rather than never). This gets us to 110 games and excludes from the list all the assorted kids games (2x copies of Candy land, etc.), games I want to sell/trade away, and other games that would require a “family discussion” were I to try and purge them from the shelf. It’s a reasonably-sized feeling list - and while there are few in there still listed for trade, unloading them is a low priority.



April 19, 2019

Keyforge: IMPACT Deck Analysis


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Like many, I heard about Keyforge, from Fantasy Flight Games, last year, months before its proper release. As a former Magic: The Gathering player (circa 1994-1997 and sporadically thereafter) I was curious about Keyforge and how it would play. As a designer, I was downright intrigued by Richard Garfield's creation. As a gamer staring down the barrel of less free time, the prospect of playing a collectible card card (CCG) game without the expense and time most CCG’s require - what with all the card collecting and deck construction furor - was enough to sell me on the idea.




January 17, 2019

Stellaris is Dead... To Me


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First, a disclaimer: This whole post is like just my opinion, man.

Now onto the grave business at hand…

I was listening to Three Moves Ahead 2018 yearly review of strategy gaming, and the conversation inevitably swung around to how things went for Paradox this year, which unsurprisingly gets us to Stellaris (which has been the hottest space 4X videogame since 2016 - for those that might be wondering). One of the panelists made a comment to the following effect (I’m paraphrasing): I finally have to come to terms with the fact that Stellaris is increasingly not - nor likely to ever be - the game I imagined it would be.

I couldn’t agree more.




October 9, 2018

The Inglorious State Of 4X Games


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NOTE: This article was originally posted at eXplorminate. Head over to eXplorminate to get your fix for 4X and strategy game news, reviews, and more.




Greetings! If you haven’t listened to the 33rd Strategic Expanse – 4th Anniversary Hangout featuring all of the lesser (I’m jesting) eXplorminate staffers then please stop reading this and go listen to that first. The rest of this little rant (thoughtful article?) will make a bit more sense with the proper context. With that out of the way…

I’m elated that, despite my absence on the podcast episode, my name was referenced (usually couched in swear words) a significant number of times. That means you’re all listening to me, which is good because it makes me feel a little less like a crazy person screaming into the wind – and more justified because I’m sure you’ll agree that I’m right. And if you don’t agree now, then maybe you’ll agree to agree with me sometime in the future. Only time will tell.

Alright, alright, enough of the snarkiness.




August 30, 2018

Visualizing the BGG Game Database with Gephi. Whoa!


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So I stumbled into an interesting post over at r/boardgames from reddit user Shepperstein, who had downloaded a trove of data from BGG’s database. He then used Gephi to create some fantastic network models (aka graphs) depicting relationships between game categories. Very cool stuff. I urge you to check out his post and links to his analysis.

Of course, I immediately wanted to start playing around with the data myself!

Fortunately, I’m no stranger to excel AND I used Gephi several years ago, so I was already familiar with its basic functionality. Shepperstein also kindly provided a direct link to his database, so I could tap into that information directly. Are we excited yet?





August 18, 2018

Rhine & Rhone: An express version of T&E (or Y&Y)


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Alright, so having recently acquired Yellow & Yangtze I'm now getting all reinvigorated for the Tigris & Euphrates-style gameplay.

However, one thing about both games is that neither are particularly portable and games can run on for a while. My kids and nephews have really taken to Y&Y (yes!!!!) but sometimes we don't have the time to play a full game but still want something along those lines. Also both games are not very portable. And so I got thinking...